Written by L.J. Strom and Hans Beimler
Directed by Jonathan West
Season 5, Episode 10
Production episode 40510-508
Original air date: December 30, 1996
Station log: The Cardassians have returned an icon to Bajor that is the only rendering of the lost city of B’Hala. Sisko has used his influence as the Emissary to have it stop by DS9 on its way to the museum in Ilvia. He has it scanned also—at which point Kira remembers a prophecy stating that only someone touched by the Prophets could find B’Hala. “But no pressure,” Dax adds with amusement.
There’s a spire in the center of the city, as there are in all ancient Bajoran cities, which indicates the coordinates of the city in the cosmos. But the icon only shows one side of the spire, not the other two. However, Sisko discovers that another side of the spire is reflected in another building. He re-creates the spire in a holosuite, now with two sides visible (though the resolution on the reflected side is poor). He’s up half the night, but when he goes to remove the isolinear rod containing the images from the console, he gets a massive shock.
Odo arrests Quark for negligence for not maintaining the holosuites, while Bashir puts Sisko on restricted duty. The captain’s seeing shapes and colors more clearly—part of post-neural shock.
Jake makes dinner for Sisko, and talks about Yates’s imminent return to the station following her prison sentence. But Sisko is distracted by something—he cuts up the melon slices they’re having for dessert to make shapes that he thinks are the images on the still-blank side of the spire.
His work on the spire in the holosuite is interrupted by a call from Admiral Whatley with news: Bajor’s petition to join the Federation has been approved. There’s a celebration in Quark’s. Kira is actually happy about Federation membership, which she wasn’t five years ago, and she wants to congratulate Sisko. He’s still on the holosuite (Quark assures her that he fixed it), and she interrupts a vision he has of B’Hala, of being there for the Peldor festival. Kira realizes he was having a pagh’tem’far, a sacred vision. He continues to obsess over the spire, fobbing off greeting Kai Winn on Kira. (When asked for an excuse, Sisko says, “Just make something up.”)
Just as Sisko has a breakthrough as to B’Hala’s location, Yates arrives. After some smoochie time, he asks her to join him on a trip to Bajor to find it. She goes along—though she worries about his headaches—and sure enough, they find the lost city.
Kira is overwhelmed—Bajoran archaeologists have been looking for B’Hala for 10,000 years, and Sisko found it in a few days—and Winn is just as overwhelmed. The kai admits to Kira that she didn’t really believe that Sisko was the Emissary until he found B’Hala.
Whatley arrives at the station, and then has to schlep to Bajor because Sisko is too busy fangoobering over B’Hala to return his calls. Whatley is concerned about his talk of visions and moments of clarity, and orders him to report to Bashir the next morning for a full physical. There’s still a lot of work to do. The next day, before Sisko arrives, Whatley expresses concern, which only deepens when Sisko starts sharing prophetic wisdom with people on the Promenade—including Whatley.
However, Bashir’s examination reveals that his neural sheaths are depolarizing. Bashir can fix it—if he doesn’t, Sisko will probably die; but if he doesn’t, Sisko will continue to get the visions he’s been receiving, and the captain needs to see it through.
Sisko tells Jake and Yates, who are less than understanding. They think he should undergo the procedure, but Sisko insists that these visions are important—Yates is appalled that he thinks they’re more important than seeing his son grow up. Sisko then goes off with Winn, who has offered guidance, but not before telling Yates and Jake that he loves them both.
Most of the Bajorans on the station are in the temple praying for the Emissary. Dax and O’Brien are concerned—O’Brien says he’d rather Bashir take care of him than the Prophets—but Kira and Worf are sure that Sisko’s faith will see him through. With Winn’s help, Sisko exposes himself to the Orb of Prophecy.
Just as the signing ceremony is about to start, Sisko bursts into the wardroom saying it’s too soon. If Bajor joins the Federation, it’ll be destroyed.
Then he collapses onto the deck, having a seizure. Whatley insists that Bashir perform the procedure that will save his life, but Kira insists that he didn’t want that. Bashir quietly says that it’s not up to any of them—the only person who can override Sisko’s wishes (now that he’s unconscious) is his closest living relative. Jake looks like he’s going to throw up, but he can’t bear to live without his father. He authorizes the procedure.
Winn tells Kira that Bajor won’t join the Federation today. She also says that the Federation shouldn’t have interfered, but Kira points out that it wasn’t the Federation, it was an eighteen-year-old boy who didn’t want to lose his father.
Whatley isn’t happy, but he can’t remove Sisko from this post without risking alienating Bajor more. Sisko also is sure that Bajor will some day join the Federation, so Whatley says he’ll keep the champagne on ice.
Sisko returns to his quarters to discover that Jake has made jambalaya for Yates’s (belated) welcome-home dinner. Yates reminds him that he may have lost something important, but he’s held onto something more important.
The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko goes full Emissary in this one, experiencing visions, finding the lost city of B’Hala, making predictions, and coming incredibly close to finding out the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. Sadly, Bashir’s operation happened before he could discover that it was “42.”
Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira has done a full 180 on the Federation since “Emissary”—though that process started in that very episode when she admitted to O’Brien that it would be easier to manage the wormhole with Federation support.
Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo is frustrated by the politics of assigning quarters to high-ranking Starfleet personnel, as apparently size does matter. When Worf points out that a starship captain should have equivalent billeting to an admiral because it’s “naval tradition,” Odo snidely retorts, “so is keelhauling.”
There is no honor in being pummeled: While Worf does not believe in the Prophets, he does accept that Bajorans believe in them. At one point he tells Kira that Bajor’s gods have given Sisko a powerful vision—something Worf himself has experienced, as seen in “Birthright, Part I” and “Rightful Heir.” At another point, Worf reminds Quark of the old Klingon proverb, “you cannot loosen a man’s tongue with root beer.”
Rules of Acquisition: Quark gleefully unfurls a banner to celebrate the impending joining of the Federation by Bajor—unfortunately, he sets up the wrong banner, and unfurls “Welcome, Klingons!” to Dax’s amusement. Obviously, Quark is ready for anything...
For Cardassia!: Sisko sees a plague of locusts hovering over a reconstructed B’Hala—they blot out the sky and then move on to Cardassia. (It’s a prophetic vision of what happens in “In Purgatory’s Shadow” and “By Inferno’s Light.”)
What happens on the holosuite stays on the holosuite: Quark points out to Sisko that he has a wide assortment of pleasure mazes, and they all have a surprise at the end. Wah-HEY! In any case, we do get to see the holosuite used for research purposes, as Sisko is more readily able to study the icon there.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Sisko is very happy to see Yates, and even kept her old quarters intact for her. “I have some pull with the station CO,” he deadpans.
Keep your ears open: “Do not attempt to convince them, Major. They cannot understand.”
“Since when did you believe in the Prophets?”
“What I believe in is faith. Without it, there can be no victory. If the captain’s faith is strong, he will prevail.”
“That’s not much to bet his life on.”
“You’re wrong. It’s everything.”
Worf, Dax, and Kira on Sisko’s plight.
Welcome aboard: Penny Johnson is back as Yates, while Louise Fletcher returns as Winn. Ernest Perry Jr. is depressingly wooden as Whatley.
Trivial matters: This episode establishes a bit of a timeline problem. In “For the Cause,” Yates was sentenced to six months in prison. In “Broken Link,” a later episode, Garak was sentenced to six months in prison. Yet Garak was apparently back working in his tailor shop in “Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places,” and was seen in “Things Past” travelling to Bajor, yet Yates wasn’t released until shortly before this episode.
The crew is now wearing the uniforms that debuted earlier in the month in the movie Star Trek: First Contact. “In Purgatory’s Shadow” will reveal that Bashir has, by this time, been kidnapped by the Dominion and replaced with a changeling (as Bashir will be found in that episode in a Dominion prison camp wearing the old uniform), which means that a changeling performed all of Bashir’s (many) duties in this episode, including major surgery on Sisko’s brain.
It is assumed that the Borg attack in First Contact happened in the time between “The Ascent” and this episode. The events of your humble rewatcher’s eBook Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment help set the movie up, and also takes place shortly after “The Ascent” (as Nog has returned to DS9 as a cadet in the story).
B’Hala will next be seen in “The Reckoning.”
Sisko actually both fulfills and sabotages his mission on the station as given to him by Picard back in “Emissary.” Picard ordered him to get Bajor into the Federation, and he did—then kills it.
Sisko’s vision of locusts flying toward Cardassia will be fulfilled in “By Inferno’s Light.” He also predicts the upcoming war with the Dominion, which will occupy the final two seasons of the series. His prediction that Bajor needs to stand alone to survive will be fulfilled by Bajor’s signing a nonaggression pact with the Dominion in “In the Cards.”
This is Penny Johnson's only fifth-season appearance as Yates, as her shooting schedule for The Larry Sanders Show, on which she was a regular, precluded further appearances. She won’t be seen again until “Far Beyond the Stars” in season 6.
The person whom Sisko tells to go home will be revealed in the post-finale DS9 fiction as Yevir Linjarin, who will become a vedek, and be a candidate for kai.
Winn’s past during the occupation, as she describes it to Kira, is fleshed out in the Rebels trilogy by Dafydd ab Hugh.
Bajor never does join the Federation on screen, but they do finally join in the novel Unity by S.D. Perry.
It’s unclear why Winn is at the signing ceremony but First Minister Shakaar isn’t (though the out-of-the-box reason is that it wasn’t worth paying to have Duncan Regehr appear as Shakaar for a glorified cameo). It’s also unclear why there is so much Starfleet representation, and the ceremony is presided over by an admiral, yet there’s very little evidence of the Federation’s civilian government.
Walk with the Prophets: “The locusts, they’ll destroy Bajor unless it stands alone!” I’ve always adored this episode, in part because it deals with matters of faith, a subject that this agnostic has always found fascinating in all its forms. This episode deals very intelligently with it, as everyone here has a different approach to the Prophets, the visions, and the faith they have in their gods (if they do indeed have any kind of faith). The connection between Sisko and the Prophets—or, rather, the wormhole aliens who do not view time as linear—adds a scientific grounding to the visions that allows it to remain within Star Trek’s trademark rationalism. But never once does the episode reduce anyone’s faith to something idiotic or awful.
Well, almost never, but that’s the heart of the conflict. Sisko’s visions have given him a tremendous sense of clarity and a unique insight into the universe, and he doesn’t want to give it up—but his life is at stake, and he has to keep being reminded of that.
What’s particularly admirable about the episode is that it very quietly embraces cultural relativism without making a big deal about it. Winn is the orthodox hardliner, and she thinks that the Emissary must follow the path laid out ahead of him, regardless of the possible consequences to him or his family. Kira wants to respect Sisko’s wishes in much the same way Winn does, but she also has no problem deferring to Jake and respecting his decision to save Sisko’s life at the cost of the visions. Yates and Jake have no connection to Bajor or Bajoran religion, so they only see that someone they love is hurting and refuses to get help to fix it. (I especially like that Yates—who’s only just back after being in prison for six months—only urges Sisko to think of his son, not of her, since she’s not sure where she stands with him.)
But the episode is best encapsulated by the scene in Ops among Kira, Dax, O’Brien, and Worf. It’s honestly one of my favorite scenes in all Trek, because it embodies faith and self-determination and rationalism all at the same time. Dax and O’Brien are the ones whose lives revolve around science, and they prefer to let Sisko be treated by Bashir, while Kira and Worf understand the spiritual importance of what he’s going through.
(Speaking of Bashir, knowing what’s coming in “In Purgatory’s Shadow” and “By Inferno’s Light” really adds an interesting twist to the whole thing. How much of Bashir’s diagnosis was legitimate? Did he really treat Sisko, or did he contrive a way to make it worse so that his life would be in danger? Do the Founders have a vested interest in keeping Sisko from experiencing the full range of visions?)
Throughout all this are simply superb performances by everyone, particularly Avery Brooks. He’s been known to go way over the top more than once, but his obsession actually is tempered here. He also plays Sisko as not entirely there, as if he’s in two different worlds at once, and only occasionally pays attention to the one that isn’t visions from the Prophets. But we also see Sisko’s trademark enthusiasm for research and tinkering (last seen in depth in “Explorers”), now mixed in with prophetic visions.
Honestly, almost everyone shines here, from Nana Visitor’s passionate faith tempered just enough by reason, to Penny Johnson’s constant reminders to Sisko of the world he actually lives in, to Cirroc Lofton’s anguish as he tries to understand why his father is letting himself basically die for some visions, and again when he has to make the decision to save his father’s life against his wishes. Best of all, though, is Louise Fletcher, who gives Winn some much needed nuance, as she tartly reminds Kira that she fought the Cardassians in her own way, and has the beatings and imprisonment to show for it. Plus she finds herself set adrift by the realization that her opposition to the Emissary has been completely misguided. (The “almost” is necessary, sadly, thanks to a very weak performance by Ernest Perry Jr. as Whatley, the only flaw in an otherwise excellent episode.)
Warp factor rating: 9
Keith R.A. DeCandido reminds everyone that The Klingon Art of War is on sale now! You can find the hardcover at your local bookstore or you can order it in hardcover or eBook form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound, or direct from the publisher. Hear interviews with him about the book on the “Literary Treks” podcast from TrekFM, on TrekRadio, on The Chronic Rift, on The Sci-Fi Diner, on The G & T Show, and on Two Geeks Talking.