Jun 28 2013 3:00pm

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “In the Hands of the Prophets”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on In the Hands of the Prophets“In the Hands of the Prophets”
Written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by David Livingston
Season 1, Episode 19
Production episode 40511-420
Original air date: June 20, 1993
Stardate: unknown

Station log: The O’Briens stop by the Promenade so O’Brien can get a jumja stick, which—he’s reliably informed by Neela—is a natural sweetness. Neela is working out better than “the last one” (presumably Anara), as she’s an excellent engineer. Keiko teases O’Brien about being careful who he shares his jumja with and then goes off to teach. Today’s lesson is about the wormhole, and it’s interrupted by Vedek Winn Adami, who objects to Keiko’s secular discussion of the wormhole—to Bajorans, the wormhole is the Celestial Temple and the aliens Sisko met in “Emissary” are the Prophets. Keiko tartly points out that teaching Bajoran spiritual beliefs is Winn’s job, not Keiko’s, and Winn just as tartly says that Keiko’s opening the kids’ minds to blasphemy, which she can’t allow to continue.

O’Brien joins Neela in Odo’s office, where she’s already finished a repair to one of the security systems. A special tool is needed to close the panel—but it’s missing from O’Brien’s toolbox.

Keiko goes to Sisko, who brings Kira into the discussion. Winn is from an orthodox order, and one of the candidates to become the new kai. Kira is singularly unhelpful, since she’s actually on Winn’s side of the argument, and thinks that maybe there should be a separate school for Bajorans—which Sisko rejects immediately. Keiko is livid at the notion of being dictated to about how to run her school.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on In the Hands of the Prophets

Sisko meets with Winn, who calls Sisko the Emissary, and makes it clear that if Keiko doesn’t de-secularize her curriculum, she can’t be held responsible for the consequences—a very obvious threat.

O’Brien and Neela are still looking for the missing tool, and now there’s also a missing officer—Ensign Aquino hasn’t reported for duty, isn’t on the station, and didn’t log out. They find a tritanium source in a conduit, where it shouldn’t be, and they find a misshapen lump that appears to be the tool, all nice and melted-like by the conduit. O’Brien also finds traces of organic matter, and sends a sample to Bashir, who confirms that that lump is also all that’s left of Aquino. His last log entry was that he was going to work on that very conduit, and he apparently got zapped by the plasma.

The next morning, O’Brien shares all this with Keiko while he walks her to school—and then O’Brien is refused a jumja stick by the merchant. O’Brien is livid, and has to be physically restrained from hauling off and belting the merchant by Keiko—who is then confronted with Winn leading a demonstration outside her school. Winn requests that Keiko not teach anything about the wormhole, secular or religious, but Keiko won’t back down. Winn says she’s tried to be reasonable, which she totally hasn’t, and then takes all the Bajoran students out of the school. Only five students, including Jake, are left.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on In the Hands of the Prophets

O’Brien is iffy about Aquino’s death—he took a tool without asking, which is spectacularly out of character. It’s enough for Sisko to request that Odo investigate Aquino’s death, just to be sure. (Anyone who thinks this is too thin to base starting an investigation on has obviously never known any engineers...)

Jake talks to Sisko about his day at school. Keiko’s response to Winn was to teach her remaining five students about Galileo. Jake condemns Bajoran religion as “dumb,” but Sisko tells him he can’t afford to think that way. Belief in the Prophets was one of the things that kept Bajorans going during the occupation, and their unique interpretation of time means that “prophet” is an apt term for the aliens Sisko met in the wormhole. Besides, condemning Bajoran religion out of hand make him no better than Winn.

Sisko travels to Bajor to meet with Vedek Bareil, the leading candidate to become the next kai. Sisko wants to address the vedek assembly, but Bareil says that’s not possible. Some fear him because he represents the Federation, some fear him because he’s the Emissary, and some fear him because Winn told them to. Bareil can’t afford to be Sisko’s friend right now, not if he wants to actually be kai. (“The Prophets teach us patience,” Bareil says sagely, to which Sisko replies snidely, “It appears they also teach you politics.”)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on In the Hands of the Prophets

Three Bajorans called in sick to work, which does not fill Sisko with warm fuzzies, and he tells Kira in no uncertain terms that they’d better get well soon. Odo and Bashir then report that Aquino wasn’t killed by the plasma—he was killed by a directed energy weapon and then his body was placed in the conduit to hide the evidence. Odo also traced Aquino’s movements, and—the log entry notwithstanding—he wasn’t at the conduit to repair it, he was at Runabout Pad C. O’Brien and Neela investigate the pad and don’t find anything. But later, O’Brien runs an across-the-board diagnostic, and finds a security bypass on Pad A. It doesn’t make sense to O’Brien, since Aquino didn’t go there, but Odo puts it together: Aquino saw a security anomaly at Pad C and investigated, caught the saboteur in the act, and was killed. After disposing of Aquino’s body in the conduit, the saboteur moved to a different pad. But no runabouts are missing, so it’s unclear what the bypass was for.

Further speculation is interrupted by an explosion on the Promenade. Someone blew up the school. Luckily, class wasn’t in session. The evidence points to a simple homemade bomb, which means anyone could’ve done it. Winn expresses relief that the Prophets were kind enough to keep the school empty, but Sisko angrily retorts that the Prophets had nothing to do with what happened. This was the act of a disturbed mind who listened to Winn. Sisko sees the leader of an obscure order who’s gotten more attention from this series of incidents than she’s gotten in a long time; Winn counters that she sees a Federation without a soul and she refuses to let them drag Bajor into their darkness.

Sisko then gives an awesome speech about how the Bajorans on the station have worked together these past few months. They don’t always agree, and they have a lot of nasty-ass arguments (Sisko looks right at Kira when he says that.) But they come away from those fights with a better understanding of each other. Sisko makes it clear that the school will reopen, and Keiko plans to hold classes in the cargo bay until the school can be rebuilt.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on In the Hands of the Prophets

Bareil comes to the station. Sisko is pleasantly surprised, and says they won’t have time to clean up the Promenade damage. Bareil says he can help with the clean-up—it’s the least a friend can do. That gets a smile from Sisko, as it’s his first victory since this whole thing started.

Neela meets with Winn and tells her that they found out about the runabout, so she no longer has an escape route. Winn makes it clear that she must go through with what they have planned even though she’ll likely be caught and executed.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on In the Hands of the Prophets

Bareil arrives on the station to great accolades—he’s obviously very popular—and meets with Winn, asking her to join him in front of the school where perhaps they can find a peaceful solution to this mishegoss.

O’Brien finds a program in the security subsection that’s encrypted and password-protected—on O’Brien’s authority, supposedly, but he knows nothing about it. Dax is able to hack through the encryption, and they discover an override of force fields to provide an escape route. They scan the Promenade and find an override of some kind in the security office. O’Brien goes to check it while Dax searches for anything else that might have gone wrong. He finds the anomaly in the very same section that Neela repaired the other day, and it’s affecting the weapons detectors in the Promenade. They read as normal, and O’Brien realizes that his assistant is a saboteur—and possibly a murderer. O’Brien informs Sisko, who finds Neela in the crowd, whipping out a phaser. Her first shot is spoiled by the crowd around her, and it just misses Bareil. Sisko takes her down as she gets another shot off, which fires harmlessly to the deck. As Odo carts her away, she keeps repeating, “The Prophets spoke to me, I answered their call” over and over.

Kira is livid, as she realizes that the whole thing, all the way back to the bitching and moaning about the school, was a plot by Winn to get Bareil out of his monastery and onto the station so he could be assassinated, getting rid of her primary competition for kai.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on In the Hands of the Prophets

Later Sisko talks to Kira. Neela insists she was working alone. Kira marvels at how much has changed in the past year, and she wishes her faith was as strong as Winn’s. Sisko insists that it is, and the two of them go off together to write a report for Starfleet.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity?: You need an EJ7 interlock to completely seal a wall panel for a secure system (including the ones in Odo’s office). Presumably it supplies extra security and also lets security know if someone has improperly shut a panel after, say, sabotaging it.

The Sisko is of Bajor: Winn and Bareil both refer to Sisko as the Emissary of the Prophets, and it’s a role that Sisko isn’t at all comfortable with. His initial discomfort, and growing acceptance of the role, will be a running theme throughout the series.

Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira goes right along with Winn at first, believing that Keiko should modify her curriculum. However, as soon as Neela tries to kill Bareil, she realizes what’s going on. She later tells Sisko that she wishes her faith was as strong as Winn’s, but it’s actually stronger—Kira, at least, didn’t use a veneer of faith to cover up a move that was purely motivated by cut-throat politics.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on In the Hands of the Prophets

Rules of Acquisition: Odo tells Quark to keep his ears open for any news about Aquino’s murder, and Quark assures him that that’s the Seventh Rule of Acquisition.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: When members of Winn’s order show up on the station to support her, Quark opines that he’s going to need twice as many dabo girls. “These spiritual types love those dabo girls.”

Keep your ears open: “Are you okay?”

“Okay? I’ve forgotten okay. I haven’t seen okay in what seems like years.”

Sisko asking a standard rhetorical question, and Kira giving a way more honest answer than is normal.

Welcome aboard: Two recurring characters have their debut in this one: Louise Fletcher (best known for her Oscar-winning role as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) as Winn and Philip Anglim as Bareil, both of whom will continue to show up periodically. In addition, Robin Christopher returns as Neela, having made a cameo in “Duet,” and of course we have Rosalind Chao as Keiko.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on In the Hands of the Prophets

Trivial matters: Surprisingly, given how much of an important underpinning of the show it is, it is not formally established until this episode that Bajorans consider the wormhole aliens who spoke to Sisko to be the Prophets of their religion and the wormhole to be the Celestial Temple. This is also the first time since the pilot that Sisko has been explicitly referred to as the Emissary. Kevin G. Summers wrote a story called “Ha’mara” in the Prophecy and Change anthology that had Kai Opaka officially declare the wormhole to be the Celestial Temple found and Sisko to be the Emissary, a story that takes place some time between “Emissary” and “Battle Lines.”

This episode establishes the Bajoran religious structure, which bears a strong resemblance to the medieval Catholic church: led by a kai, as we already learned in “Emissary,” but also with vedeks who serve as cardinals to the kai’s pope. Like the medieval church, the religious authorities have a strong influence over Bajor’s politics.

A new kai has to be elected following Opaka’s disappearance in “Battle Lines.” Bareil and Winn will continue to fight for the hearts and minds of the Bajoran religious faithful, with a decision finally to be made in “The Collaborator.”

Winn claims to have been spoken to by the Prophets, but she’ll later admit (in “The Reckoning” and “’Til Death Do Us Part”) that the Prophets have never spoken to her.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on In the Hands of the Prophets

Walk with the Prophets: “We are neither the enemy nor the devil.” A nice bookend to “Emissary,” and a good setup of future storylines involving Bajor. The analogy to debates in the U.S. over the role of science vs. religion in schools is (depressingly) just as relevant now as it was twenty years ago, and if anything, not enough is done with it. This was a blown opportunity, really, as it was a chance to make Keiko’s ridiculous role as a schoolteacher actually meaningful, but it’s really only two scenes (and an off-camera decision to teach about Galileo) before assassination plots and religious politics take over. I’m especially disappointed that Kira never has a resolution scene with Keiko, especially given that Kira’s going to be carrying Keiko’s baby in a couple years. Kira was really snotty and condescending to Keiko in Sisko’s office, and that scene really needed a followup.

Still, we do get the introduction of two important new characters. Philip Anglim is hit-or-miss as Bareil, but this is one of his better performances. His conversation with Sisko in the monastery is brilliantly done, with his serenity act serving the dialogue well. (Avery Brooks is a nice contrast, as he’s frustrated with Bareil’s unwillingness to do anything. I particularly love Bareil telling him to stay in the garden as long as he wants, and Sisko looking around trying to force himself to enjoy the lovely view of foliage and failing because he’s too damned pissed.)

And Louise Fletcher is deliciously evil as Winn. I would’ve preferred not to have had the scene in the station temple that confirmed Neela’s being the saboteur and Winn giving her blessing to, in essence, three deaths (Aquino’s, Bareil’s, and Neela’s when she’s caught and condemned), because I like the idea that nobody’s entirely sure how much of a bad guy Winn is. She cloaks everything in reasonableness and kindness and forgiveness, even as she pulls the “I tried to be reasonable” card when she offers a totally absurd concession that is justifiably rejected by Keiko, and then throws up her hands saying that she tried to compromise and oh well!

Neela’s role as the saboteur is less than compelling, since she’s the only character we don’t know. Had the original intention of seeding O’Brien’s assistant back in “The Forsaken” worked out, that element of the story might’ve worked better, but because we only saw her for two lines in “Duet,” she’s so obviously the saboteur by virtue of being the only new person. Also, Robin Christopher just isn’t all that good....

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on In the Hands of the Prophets

Brooks also deserves tremendous credit for his speech to Winn about how the Bajorans and Federation have been working together in fits and starts. It’s delivered compellingly, and compassionately, and really sells what the show’s about.

After years of ever-diminishing season-ending cliffhangers on TNG, it’s refreshing to end a Star Trek season with a story that’s actually an endpoint, bookending nicely with “Emissary” while beautifully setting up what’s to come. (Indeed, this is very much a prelude to the three-parter that opens the second season.)


Warp factor rating: 7

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at WizardWorld NYC on Sunday at 2pm to do a panel on “Storytelling Across Genres” with fellow writers Myke Cole, Alaya Dawn Johnson, and Kaila Hale-Stern, moderated by Cici James of Singularity & Co. Come on by!

1. RobinM
Is it wrong guest stars on this episode and went well that's the Nurse from One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest and she must be EEVIL. Also hey it's the priest kid from Thorn Birds and look he's a GOOD Priest. However I did enjoy the story and wanted to see what happens next.
Matt Stoumbaugh
2. LazerWulf
I also could have done without the Neela/Winn conversation. In the scene where Sisko gives his "We are not demons" speech, the two share a knowing glance, and that right there told me all I needed to know. Neela's claim that she acted alone might make you wonder about Winn if we hadn't SEEN them plotting together.

And I did notice that the school issue was shoved aside for the assassination plot, which makes me think that Winn didn't REALLY care about the issue at all. She just wanted something to be uppity about (though from what I saw of her character, she doesn't really need an excuse).
Christopher Bennett
3. ChristopherLBennett
This is a good one, and it was nice to see ST take a stand against the hypocrites who think that banning the teaching of things like evolution in schools is somehow an expression of faith. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you really have faith in the strength of your beliefs, you don't feel threatened by the existence of alternative viewpoints. The kind of people who try to suppress or censor any ideas that conflict with their religion are in fact revealing their own profound lack of faith -- admitting that they consider their own belief system to be a flimsy house of cards that can't withstand the slightest challenge. With true faith comes confidence -- the kind of confidence that Bareil or Opaka possess, which lets them accept and respect alternative beliefs without considering their own to be threatened.

I think the producers agreed with you, Keith, about making Winn too overtly villainous here, since after this they made her more ambiguous until the final season or two. Which always frustrated me, because it felt like her attempted assassination plot here was forgotten even by the characters who were aware of it. Although it's not the first time this show has forgiven and forgotten a character's involvement in an assassination attempt -- cf. Rom in "The Nagus." Not to mention what later seasons will do with Dukat, at least for a while.

My favorite part was the climactic scene, particularly Dennis McCarthy's music in the slow-motion sequence. Very suspenseful and effective. It was unusual at this point for the music in a Trek episode to stand out, but it worked very well here. That cue is fortunately included on the DS9 soundtrack box set that went on sale a while back.

I could've sworn that "Battle Lines" had Opaka refer to the wormhole as the Temple or something along those lines, but I checked the transcript and apparently she didn't. Interesting.
David Levinson
4. DemetriosX
Yeah, the scene between Winn and Neela really should have been dropped. It sets Winn too firmly in the bad guy category. Mind you, Louise Fletcher (whom you oddly call Louise Jameson in the Welcome Aboard section) always plays Winn as pretty nasty and more interested in politics and power than the tenets of her faith. Also, I think if they had not had the scene, they would have had to shoehorn the reveal in somewhere down the line.

This may be a standalone episode that makes a nice bookend on the season, but it also makes a pretty good prologue for the three episode arc that starts season 2.
Raymond Seavey
5. RaySea
I've always kind of felt the allegory in this episode failed and for one simple reason: the Prophets' aren't God. They have a verifiable existence. It’s clear by this point that aliens exist within the wormhole, that they have a non-linear perception of time, and that they have sent numerous orbs to Bajor and been worshipped as Prophets. Kira actually makes this argument to Sisko at one point, in season three's "Destiny", if memory serves. The point is, this isn't a matter of faith or religious dogma, it’s all verifiable reality. Now, sure, expecting Keiko to teach actual religious doctrine would be wrong, and she should still teach the scientific nature of the wormhole, but not mentioning that it plays home to beings that the Bajorans worship feels like a pretty big omission.
Joseph Newton
6. crzydroid
@5: I also felt that Keiko could say that the Bajoran religion considers the wormhole residents to be deities, though I don't know that Winn would've been happy about that. But it seems to go without saying that she could mention something like that. She's not endorsing the belief, but she's mentioning as a belief...and on a station so close to Bajor and filled with Bajorans, it seems entirely relevant.

@3: Being threatened by opposing beliefs or not, I feel like people have this tendency to put all of the burden of teaching everything on schools and then wash their hands of it. It doesn't have to be just religion, it can be other things, as an episode of South Park points out with the issue of sex education. Whether it's religious beliefs or sex education or whatever, the parents have a responsibility to be involved in the education of those things. Even if you're sending your kid to a private school that teaches your beliefs, I feel you should know what is being taught and you should discuss it and possibly supplement it. So let's say there's a case where a child goes to public school and the parents don't believe in evolution. In that case, the parents have a duty to sit down and explain their own beliefs and arguments. If you believe in God, for example, and you know that a lot of people don't, then it only stands to reason that the people who don't will come up with explanations for things that you may have already explained through your belief in God. This is part of the world you live in. So it just seems expected that you should always have to know how to handle this, rather than try and make a law saying that public institutions not affiliated with your religion should teach your beliefs.

Was Nog still not going to school at this point?
Keith DeCandido
7. krad
DemetriosX: Okay, I have no idea how the hell I conflated the actor who plays Winn with the actor who played Leela on Doctor Who. Blargle. It's fixed, which also gave me the opportunity to edit in a reference to Fletcher's most famous role, which I meant to include in the first place....

RaySea: As Keiko said, teaching Bajoran religious doctrine is Winn's job, not Keiko's.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Keith DeCandido
8. krad
crzydroid: Nog was taken out of school in "The Nagus." I don't think he ever winds up back in the school again.....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
David Levinson
9. DemetriosX
@7 krad
And Fletcher joins Christopher Lloyd and Vincent Schiavelli in the list of Cuckoo's Nest alumnae to appear in some form of Star Trek. Brad Dourif joins the list in the later seasons of Voyager.
10. Scavenger
I have no idea how the hell I conflated the actor who plays Winn with the actor who played Leela on Doctor Who.
Were you perhaps thinking of Vedeck Winn in Leela's leather bathing suit?
Del C
11. del
Keith, is the reference to "A Clockwork Orange" a joke? I don't get it. The link correctly goes to "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest".
12. Brian Mac
Since apparently nobody else is going to comment on it -- DANG, but I love Louise Fletcher's Sydney Opera House hat. I always wanted to know if there was some particular religious signifcance to it -- it's not something only the kai wears, since Opaka doesn't. Maybe it's traditional vedek clothing, and Winn wears it because she's orthodox, and Bareil doesn't because he's reform? Yes, OK, I've put too much thought into this, but the uniforms in Trek always have meaning if you know what they are, so I look for meaning in the other characters' clothing as well.
13. TBonz
Fletcher played Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest, not A Clockwork Orange.
George Salt
14. GeorgeSalt
This episode rehashes the seemingly unending debate over science and religion and for me it falls flat. It adds nothing new to a contemporary debate that has pretty much settled into a standoff. The viewpoints presented by Sisko and Vedek Winn are stale and unilluminating. I certainly don't expect a TV show to resolve in 60 minutes a debate that has raged for over a century, but perhaps that is a good reason not to go there in the first place.

I'm not sure Bajor is a good setting for this debate. As others have pointed out, the existence of the Bajoran prophets is verifiable and the prophets communicate with the Bajorans with physical artifacts. There isn't a good analogy between the Bajoran religion and any of our major religions. It feels like this issue has been unartfully shoehorned into a Bajoran setting.

I regard this episode and others like it much the same way I regard broccoli: I don't like it, but it's good for me, so I tolerate it. I didn't particularly enjoy this episode but it does provide plot details that will be important in later episodes.
Christopher Bennett
15. ChristopherLBennett
@5: "I've always kind of felt the allegory in this episode failed and for one simple reason: the Prophets' aren't God. They have a verifiable existence."

Their existence is not the issue. It's generally accepted that there really was a historical figure known as Jesus -- there's some debate on that point, but there are a smattering of non-scriptural references to him from the writings of Tacitus and others -- but Christians and non-Christians disagree on whether he was the son/incarnation of God. Many Christian fundamentalists would be offended by a curriculum that taught about Jesus only as a historical figure without acknowledging him as divine. Similarly, many Muslim fundamentalists would likely be offended by a lecture that said Muhammad wrote the Qur'an without acknowledging that he was transcribing the verbatim word of God. In those cases, the dispute wouldn't be over the existence of a given entity, but over its meaning, over whether the class is teaching children to think of it in secular terms or to revere it in religious terms.

Moreover, since Winn is intolerant of opposing viewpoints, she assumes everyone else is too. When she sees an offworlder teaching about the wormhole in purely physical terms, not discussing its religious meaning at all, she doesn't see that as neutrality toward the religious question; she sees it as a willful rejection of the religious interpretation, an attack on her faith. People like her don't understand neutrality or objectivity; ideologues assume that everyone else is an ideologue too, that every point of view has an agenda behind it, and that anyone who isn't with them is actively against them.
Raymond Seavey
16. RaySea
@Krad in 7: Absolutely. But saying “these aliens live in there, they’ve historically interacted with Bajor, and the Bajorans call them ‘Prophets’” isn’t teaching religious doctrine, it’s acknowledging an established fact. That’s the big difference between the Prophets and real-world religions. In the real world, religion is a matter of faith and belief. On Bajor, their gods are a matter of scientific record, at least to some degree. You can prove that the Prophets exist. That’s why I felt like the analogy failed.

EDIT: I just want to say that I wrote this before reading comment 15, which is actually quite well reasoned. Good show.
Ryon Collins
17. Ryon_Collins
I will stick with KRAD on this one. It is a pretty good story. Far better Season Finale than we usually get from Trek and a perfect setup for the first few episodes of Season Two. However, KRAD...SPOILER ALERT!!! Kira carries Keiko's baby??!!! What? What? What? Some people, not me, but some people are watching this series for the first time. LOL. Oh and TOR needs a Like button so I can give #15 CLB a big thumbs up!
Keith DeCandido
18. krad
What's really hilarious is that I put the right link to Fletcher's Oscar-winning movie role, I just typed the wrong title for reasons known only to the voices in my head. *sigh* It's fixed. Thank the Prophets for the edit function....

Ryon: Not to be mean or anything, but tough noogies. I refuse to put in spoiler warnings for a 20-year-old television show.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Raymond Seavey
19. RaySea
Crap...DS9 is 20 years old, isn't it? Ugh, now I feel old.
20. Alright Then
Aside from Sisko's cliched slo-mo "NOOO!!!," this was a good episode.

But seriously, could dramas stop doing that? It's terrible. Or hey, since we're not supposed to know the outcome in that climactic moment, how about a slo-mo "MAAAYYYBBBEEE!!!"
21. Clomer
@17 I'm with Krad in 18. Spoiler warnings are out of place. This is, after all, a rewatch - it's kinda assumed that everyone reading this has already seen the series through at some point.

Spoilers are possible in these blog posts for any and all of Star Trek, up to and including the recent movie Star Trek Into Darkness. Though, in that case an argument could be made that a spoiler warning is appropriate, as that is a recent movie that is still in theaters.
22. Crusaader75
The school issue strikes as a heavy-handed straw man political, particularly since Winn was such a slimy mustasche twirling villian (figuratively). The plot pretty much assumes that Keiko is right. Her stance that she won't have any one dictate to her is only laudable if you believe that her curriculum is correct. She could be teaching utter nonsense and make the same argument, and then Sisko shuts down any alternatives. It is an arrogant stance by the two of them, and it is no wonder Winn is able get support after that.
23. Thugnderdome
@5, 16 - If I recall correctly the issue of the Prophets' existence is actually addressed during Keiko and Winn's first interaction. Keiko acknowledges that on Bajor the wormhole aliens are worshipped as prophets and states that she respects the Bajoran belief that the wormhole houses the Celestial Temple; and for the reasons that @15 described, Winn isn't satisfied.
Chris Nash
24. CNash
I really rate this episode, and I think it's a great season-ender - one that (as Keith says) nicely bookends "Emissary" in developing the Bajoran faith that forms part of the show's rich background. Louise Fletcher is excellent in her debut as Winn; every religious aphorism that she speaks carries with it a sense of falseness, and later menace. Even without knowing what's to come for her character, her self-serving nature and political motivations are clear.

The two action scenes are both memorable, too. The explosion in the school happens in the middle of Odo and O'Brien's discussion; it's shot dynamically, with the two of them racing to the scene and Odo having to physically hold O'Brien back until Keiko arrives. The second - Neela's attempted assassination of Bareil - is memorable to me for probably the wrong reason... because Sisko's reaction is so funny! The clichéd "NOOO!", and the shot of him tackling Neela to the ground, never fails to make me laugh. I always freeze-frame Sisko in mid-leap just to see the expression on his face!
25. Mac McEntire
It’s odd how Kira is so adamantly against the school in this episode. A lot of writers fall into the trap of having characters only exist to represent an opinion, and that’s what they’re doing with her here, as if all the high drama from a week earlier never happened. Fortunately, that little look between Sisko and Kira during his big speech made up for a lot. Applause to the actors for bringing necessary nuance to the scripts, just as great actors are supposed to do. Plus, as Nana Visitor once said in an interview, it’s important to remember that Kira is an alien, and her thought processes are not what we measly humans are used to.

I like that Winn is established as pure evil. That way, in future episodes, when she makes with the sickeningly sweet routine, we KNOW she’s up to no good. There’s a huge grey area around the best Trek villains. As time progresses we’ll see a more sympathetic and, dare I say, human side to Dukat, but Winn remains downright nasty for most of the show's run, and that’s great fun. I like ambiguous villains as much as anyone, but sometimes you just need a total moustache-twirler to shake your fist at, and that’s our Winn.

Finally, this is the episode that has station security putting out the fire with those air gun things, correct? What ARE those things? Are they really more futuristic than a fire extinguisher?
26. tortillarat
Couple things:

Nog is back in school, as is mentioned in Season 2's "The Siege" (the answer to this question was timed perfectly; I read the question in the comments and right after that the answer came as I was watching the episode). Jake and Nog have a conversation and Nog says that as soon as they get back to the station they'll "be back in school driving Mrs. O'Brien crazy."

The episode's topic is still depressingly relevant today with the creationism and intelligent design nonsense wandering around in science classrooms. Maybe more could have been done with that aspect of the story, but I think the point was less about the debate itself than the politics of it. I see Winn as a commentary on that; politicians in the US have used the issue as a way of cementing their standing among their base and raising their profiles as Winn does here. The debate itself is a matter of faith, but the politics of it are divisive and opportunistic.
27. tortillarat
Couple things:

Nog is back in school, as mentioned in Season 2's "The Siege" (the answer to this question was timed perfectly; I read the question in the comments and right after that the answer came as I was watching the episode). Jake and Nog have a conversation and Nog says that as soon as they get back to the station they'll "be back in school driving Mrs. O'Brien crazy."

The episode's topic is still depressingly relevant today with the creationism and intelligent design nonsense wandering around in science classrooms. Maybe more could have been done with that aspect of the story, but I think the point was less about the debate itself than the politics of it. I see Winn as a commentary on that; politicians in the US have used the issue as a way of cementing their standing among their base and raising their profiles as Winn does here. The debate itself is a matter of faith, but the politics of it are divisive and opportunistic.
28. RobertX
I might be the only one but I hated the whole "prophet" story line.
Christopher Bennett
29. ChristopherLBennett
@25: "It’s odd how Kira is so adamantly against the school in this episode. A lot of writers fall into the trap of having characters only exist to represent an opinion, and that’s what they’re doing with her here, as if all the high drama from a week earlier never happened."

Huh? Why should Kira's stance on religious vs. secular education have been changed just because she softened her stance on whether Cardassians were all bad? The one has nothing to do with the other.
30. Steven Harper Piziks
You're right about Keiko's role being diminished--again. As a school teacher myself, I was bothered by this episode. Any half-brained teacher when confronted by an intruder like Winn in the school would have said, "Oh! I'm not an expert on Bajoran spirituality and many of my students are Bajoran, so I would LOVE to have you in as a guest speaker. Now isn't convenient because we're in the middle of a science lesson, but would Friday at 1:00 work? Perhaps you could come in after class today and we could discuss it further. We welcome you in our school!" Duh.
alastair chadwin
31. a-j
Ah, Kai Winn, one of my favourite villains of all time, the Queen of passive aggression. It hadn't occured to me that it would have been better not to establish that she was planning the assassination but now I think about it, might not the episode been even better without that plot and instead had concentrated on Winn using the school debate as a power grab with dramatic tension provided by acts of protest culminating in a potential riot. Or maybe not.
I also find Sisko's 'NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!' slow-mo dive deeply embarassing. I had completely forgotten about it and watching last night wondered what on earth the director was thinking was. Was this already a cliché at this point? I'm assuming so.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
32. Lisamarie
I'm the one that hasn't seen most of the episodes before, but it's okay. Actually, when I saw the mention of Kira and Keiko's baby I had a rather gibbering moment, mentally, but it just made me feel intrigued, not spoiled. Also, being married to a Star Trek fan means that he had, at some point, sat me down and explained the general basics of what was going on with the Bajorans, Cardiassians, the Dominion, the Prophets, Odo, etc, since I've watched a few later in the season.

As for the episode itself - I liked it a lot as a season ender - in fact, I liked it better than a standard cliff hanger, which always seem a bit forced to me. That said, it was a bit uncomfortable for me to watch since I am a practicing Catholic (and I consider myself relatively well educated in matters of the faith, liturgy, theology, etc) who, until recently, has pursued a career in sciences (microbiology, with special focuses on genetics/genomics - but now I actually work at a software company and am hoping to go back to school and become a software developer). I'll just say that I'm aware that, if Catholicism and Science had facebook accounts, the relationship would be 'It's Complicated' at various points in history ;) And the whole Galileo affair is also a little more nuanced than some believe (and of course now we have the benefit of hindsight and modern scientific knowledge), but it still doesn't mean the Church's hand weren't a bit dirty there. Anyway, I'll just say that in my experience, the relationship between faith and science/reason has not been an adversarial one. I'm not a proponent of creationism or even intelligent design or the idea that schools should censor facts - crzydroid and CLB have basically explained that pretty well.

I'll just say it IS a little irritating to, again, have the debate portrayed as so rigid and one-sided with Winn as the obvious religious fundamentalist villain. Kira's sudden fundamentalism did kind of strike me as odd - how can she, somebody who serves on this space station and has seen what she has seen, suddenly be okay with not teaching the scientific facts of what is in the wormhole? Did it not occur to her until now that it was a supposed conflict of her faith - not that I personally think it is a conflict, but it was just strange to me that she suddenly jumped up to defend Winn, who they state doesn' teven represent the majority of Bajorans, but rather an extremist sect. Hopefully Kira will continue to develop as a character who shows that being a religious person doesn't have to make one into such a caricatature.

I also thought Sisko was being a bit wishy washy. Yes, it is great that the Bajoran faith got them through hardships, etc, but I've never been a big fan of adhering to religious belief just for comfort.

Yes, the NOOOOOOOOO took me right out of the moment. I couldn't believe it was actually happening, haha.

Oh, and Vedek Winn totally reminded me of Dolores Umbridge. I could totally see her punishing little Bajorans with a sadistic quill...

Lastly, I'm not going to include a link since I might get marked as spam, but the general modeling of the Bajoran structure on Catholic hirearchy reminded me of the 'All Christianity is Catholic' (and poorly researched Catholicism at that) trope on TVtropes.
Christopher Bennett
33. ChristopherLBennett
@32: I wouldn't say the episode is one-sided toward religion, because it not only introduces the fundamentalist Winn but gives us the fair and tolerant Bareil in the same episode. Bareil follows the same faith as Winn, is part of the same clergy, but he's able to be spiritual in a way that's admirable and does no harm to others. So that's a pretty clear statement that the problem with Winn is not her religion, it's her.
Keith DeCandido
34. krad
Lisamarie: As I said in the trivial matters section, it was based on the medieval Catholic church, which was virtually the only Christian church at the time -- and in fact, the corruption of that church was a big reason why there are so many more flavors now than just the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox there were at the time.

And Winn was specifically established as part of a small, obscure orthodox sect of the Bajoran faith, and, as Christopher said, we also had Bareil, the front-runner for new kai, who is very much not a reactionary twerp like Winn (nor a conspirator to commit murder).

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
35. Lisamarie
Well, to me, the Catholic Church is one continuous, universal thing so while I get the distinction you are making, I am still a part of that Church. But that's getting a little mystical ;) Yes, I do agree with you that they contributed in their own way to the fractures that were to come. But at the same time, I don't think the medeival Church was all bad, either, there are some beautiful things there. Nor are things perfect today, by a long shot. But at any rate, I didn't feel like anybody here was being one sided.

Back to the topic at hand, I don't recall Vedek Bareil contributing much to the debate about the school and how science and religion interplay. Also, I haven't yet decided how I feel about him, either - he may end up being another wily politician (although it sounds like maybe I'm being paranoid here, based on some of the more experienced commenters?). I very much liked Kai Opaka, so I am not saying that the portrayal of Bajoran religion has been one sided, just that the science v. religion debate was portrayed with the person on the religious side being pretty closed minded.
Christopher Bennett
36. ChristopherLBennett
@35: Well, this was an allegory for the creationism issue in American schools, and the so-called "religious" side there (so-called because creationism is incompetent religion as well as incompetent science) is staggeringly closed-minded to the point of willful self-delusion. That's the whole problem. They're fanatically closed-minded to the point of not wanting to allow anyone else to think things they don't like. And you can't condemn that attitude if you don't portray it.

And no, Bareil didn't directly involve himself in the debate, but that's the whole point: that teaching science in schools is not a threat to religion and thus not an issue that any informed religious person should have any reason to be concerned about.
37. Patrick Depew
Ah, yes. The introduction of Kai...uh, Vedek Winn. The character I best describe as "if you're not a fan of organized religion and the political games it plays, she's the one that will make you hate it even more."

I found her character to be less and less welcome as the series progresses, which is kind of the point, I suppose. Louise Fletcher always did a great job playing the character, however.

I did enjoy this episode overall.

I don't really want to wade into these waters, but I always thought that the Bajorans were supposed to be an approximation of Judaism. They have the "prophets," their world was conquered and their people subjugated and preyed upon for years, stuff like that. I'm not an expert on religion, I was born Catholic but haven't practiced in over a decade, so maybe I'm off, but that's what always struck me.

This draws a somewhat personal parallel for me right now. I'm finishing up a class on human evolution right now, and the subject I intend to write about for my final paper is the teaching of evolution in schools. Almost kinda sorta what the initial plot of this episode was.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
38. Lisamarie
@36 - Well, I share your opinion that it is a stance worth condemning, from both a religious and secular view. And so I certainly don't disagree with the episode on that front. It's just that in my experience, I have definitely met people who do seem to think those are the only two options, or that all religious people fall under that umbrella. So it would have been NICE to see a more nuanced viewpoint. I know that is asking a lot for a short TV episode though.

As for Vedek Bareil, I think I am ultimately going to have to disagree there from an in story perspective (I can totally understand from a writerly perspective why you wouldn't go into all of this in the course of an episode). Yes, the teaching of evolution in schools is not a threat to religion, but that doesn't mean that a religious person or leader wouldn't be involved in the debate or be concerned with it - even if for no other reason to set the record straight and provide guidance and teaching as to how the two integrate, as well as point out (in a religious context) areas where there may be differences in philosophy or worldview. For example, Pope JPII published encylclicals and made various statements on the subject that are very interesting (to me). If a Vedek really is supposed to be analagous to a cardinal, then that is part of their duty - teaching and shepherding the flock. They're not contemplative monks to be locked away from the public sphere. Granted, the Bajoran religion is NOT the Catholic Church - but as somebody has already made this analogy, so I'm playing along :)

This does not mean I think they need to be like Vedek Winn, of course, and intrude or impose authority in an area where it is not appropriate - we've seen where that leads to, and it's not good. But, my first impression of Vedek Bareil is that he was kind of sketchy in that he didn't seem willing to offer any sort of opinion, which to me made it seem like he was just trying to wait it out and see who was going to get the advantage. As Sisko said, politics ;)
Scientist, Father
39. Silvertip

As a biology educator who has been part of some of these arguments, I'm going to agree with you that, for the most part, the Catholic church has played a pretty constructive role in the evolution-teaching scuffles, including the JPII statements you mention. Every so often an individual Cardinal or Archbishop decides to quote some Discovery Institute talking points or something, but on the whole the Church has been pretty supportive of education in science classes being based on (gasp) science. (A couple of the statements you're referring to, in addition to many from other denominations, are quoted in a booklet available online titled "Voices for Evolution"). In the U.S., unfortunately, the same cannot be said for some (only some! but typically the ones that get the most press ...) of the evangelical Protestant denominations, and that is where most of the problems have come from.

In the context of a one-hour-less-commercials episode, I actually took a more sympathetic view of what the writers did with Bareil than you did. He seemed to me to obviously be there to make the point that Winn was not intended to be representative of all religious denominations or all religious leaders, but to represent a particular strain of cynical and power-hungry intolerance. This could only be fleshed out so far, but imagine how different--and much less open minded-- the impact of the episode would be if the Bareil character were eliminated.

40. CounsellorDeannaTroi#1Fan
This episode is also a good analogy for another contemporary issue in the US: same-sex marriage.

We've had two precedent-setting rulings on same-sex marriage by the US Supreme Court recently: one case eliminated California's Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, and the other struck down a part of the Defence of Marriage Act from the mid-1990s. The part that was struck down was a section of the US Code that stated the federal government cannot give any federal rights and benefits to same-sex married couples, even if their own state has recognised their marriage contract as equal.

I think opponents of same-sex marriage see their position as an expression of faith and frequently say they want to "protect marriage and families."

They have never shown how recognising same-sex marriages in any way undermines or threatens other families who are not involved.

Here in North America, something like 50% of all opposite-sex marriages end in divorce, and I have rarely found any families that broke apart due to a same-sex marriage. Usually, greed, dishonesty, selfishness, drugs, or abuse are the reasons opposite-sex marriages collapse.

The reality is I find most opponents of same-sex marriage show how little faith they have. If they truly are strong in their religious convictions, they should not feel their relationships or faith are threatened by the existence of people with different belief systems.

Christopher Bennett hit the nail on the head: it boils down to the idea that you are either with them on every issue, or you are against them.
41. Zabeus
This discussion has really deviated from anything implied in the episode.

I agree with Lisamarie's original comment, except that I don't think
Bareil needs to be more assertive in representing the balanced, softer side of religion because I don't think Winn represents the fundamental sect of religion (or even a strawman viewpoint of it) after it's revealed that she's just a scumbag politician and murderer, not a spiritual ideologue.
42. CounsellorDeannaTroi#1Fan
The episode made no mention of same-sex marriage.

I was simply analysing the arguments and the parallels between the evolution issue and the marriage issue. I think this is the new "Scopes Trial" of our time.
Scientist, Father
43. Silvertip
Zabeus @41,

You raise perhaps the central question about the character of Winn. Is she at root a religious fundamentalist, who has refined this into an ends-justify-the-means terrorism and utter unscrupulousness in the pursuit of what she believes are truly holy goals? Or is she (as you imply) at root a cynical politician who has judged that the holier-than-thou wagon is her best ticket to power, but doesn't necessarily believe anything she's saying? I'm not sure this episode allows us to judge, but it's worth paying attention to as the rewatch goes forward, I think.

To expand on my first possibility: Regrettably, "spiritual ideologue[s]" and "scumbag politician[s] and murderer[s]" can be and too often are the same people ... and it's a particularly dangerous combination, especially when marbled with sufficient charisma and talent and growing in the fertile soil of an oppressed and war-torn population. Our world has seen plenty of *that* even since DS9 aired, after all. Brrr.

Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
44. Lisamarie
@43/41 - Right, I assumed that Winn believes, she just has lost her way (unknowingly) and sadly there are people (Fundamentalist, Catholic and other religons) who DO fervently believe but have still taken things into their own hands and resorted to violence. But I also accept that perhaps she is just hijacking religion for her own purposes and is fully self-aware of that.

Or maybe both, I sometimes think that people who do horrible things in the name of religion might still end up doing horrible things for other reasons even if they weren't religious, and especially if they haven't really critically thought about their religion and what it actually means, it's an easy way to justify things, or maybe they just like being part of a group and seeing others as 'other', or they like feeling self-righteous, or as part of an elite or like they're following 'the rules' or are otherwise in the know - with varying levels of self awareness of that fact.
45. redheadedfemme
Silvertip @43,

What's with your striking through most of your second paragraph?
Scientist, Father
46. Silvertip
@44, oh yes, I have had occasion in my life to come literally nose-to-nose in a counterdemonstration situation with people ostensibly motivated by their own religion who were attempting to (from my point of view, naturally) deny freedom of action to women who didn't subscribe to their same teachings. What very rapidly became clear to me is that this group was mostly composed of pure bullies -- if it hadn't been the issue at hand, or religion at all, it would have been something else motivating them to be out there trying to tell other folks how to live. I think those are the sorts of people you're talking about. They'd probably have followed Winn right to the barricades (see Bridget, I'm still on topic, honest!).

@45, seems to have been a glitch -- I didn't do it and couldn't fix it in edit. Seems to be gone now in my browser at least.

47. McKay B
Frankly, I always thought Keiko's stance was a little extreme. OK, partly that's because she's reacting defensively to someone who she doesn't answer to, telling her what to do. And that's understandable.

But even in the oh-so-careful-to-stay-secular public school system of California, one can occasionally find a class on the Bible. Focusing on its literary virtues rather than its doctrine. And the basic beliefs of Islam are taught openly, in the hopes of fostering understanding and tolerance. Teaching "this is what X people believe" isn't considered a violation of separation of church and state, because Islam isn't the majority religion, and because teachers are trusted not to turn the curriculum into an opportunity to proselytize for Islam. Buddhism, too. (Frankly, in Northern California I think teaching Christian beliefs wouldn't cause any problems either -- except that it would give the teachers in Louisiana who *would* use a curriculum as a platform of indoctrination more argumentative ammo.)

Point is, under many circumstances there's nothing wrong with a school teaching religion in the context of "this is what people believe; we are not influencing you one way or the other about whether to believe it." And with the Federation's majority "religion" being (apparently) agnosticism, and the Federation as a whole being in no danger of getting commandeered by religious agendas, I think those circumstances are met in this case.

None of this argument even depends on the facts that the Prophets and the Tears and so forth are demonstrable, historical existences. But surely that would make teaching the religious aspect even more defensible.

Of course, teaching both the secular and religious interpretations of the Wormhole, in parallel, wouldn't have been enough to satisfy a (pretended) fanatic like Winn, even if she wasn't just using the whole issue as an excuse to raise a stink. But it's a compromise that I would have liked to see Sisko propose as a way to mediate between Keiko's and Kira's positions.

I'm all for separation of church and state. As a physicist, I'm certainly in favor of science (evolution, wormhole astrophysics/exobiology, whatever) being taught in school. But as a religious person, I DON'T like how separation of church and state sometimes drifts into the realm of "the official state religion is antipathy towards religions." And I think Keiko was kinda in that realm.
48. McKay B
And a few more esoteric, less passionate responses:

- Dropping the Winn/Neela scene would have been fine, but I don't feel like it was a big problem either. As others have said, SD9 has a sufficient quantity of morally-gray characters that it didn't really need another one.

- I don't think enough has been said about the look between Sisko and Kira when Sisko mentioned lots of disagreements and arguments. Another brick in the fantastic tower of character development that is their relationship. Sisko's snarky "Apparently they also teach you politics" also deserves more praise.

- I'm kinda embarassed to admit it, but I kinda liked the "NOOOOOOO!" :) Maybe because of the music (thanks, @3).

- I agree that a reconciliation between Keiko and Kira would have been a very good idea, especially before the carrying-her-baby plot arc.

@6: So very true.

@32: Yep. And no one nowadays seems to know that Galileo was actually WRONG about his position in his biggest clash with the Catholics. :D

@40: I don't really want to get into it here, but the issue is more complicated than that ...
Christopher Bennett
49. ChristopherLBennett
@47: But Keiko wasn't teaching a history or social studies lesson at that point; she was teaching a science lesson. Nothing in the episode suggested that Keiko refused to teach about Bajoran religion at all; it just wasn't what that particular lesson was about. Asking people to teach about religious belief in a science class, which is what Winn wanted and what creationists want, is as incongruous as asking a history teacher to instruct her students in football or a dance instructor to teach a botany lesson.
50. USER
Reviwer KRAD of the Sexism Police SVU purports to be standing up for womens in complaining about Chao as lowly schoolteacher but really he's just insulting schoolteachers. Oy what a servile & menial task to mold the minds of future gens.
Keith DeCandido
51. krad
USER: No, that's not the problem at all, as I explained in my rewatch of "A Man Alone." My issue is that Keiko becomes a teacher with absolutely no training whatsoever, which is insulting to the profession of teacher.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment