Written by David S. Cohen & Martin A. Winer
Directed by Les Landau
Season 3, Episode 15
Production episode 40512-461
Original air date: February 13, 1995
Station log: Two Cardassian scientists are coming to the station to deploy a subspace relay on the Gamma Quadrant side of the wormhole, which will allow communication through the wormhole for the first time. Sisko goes over the security arrangements with Odo (the commander wants to make sure they feel like guests rather than prisoners, though Odo’s assigning guards to them is as much for the scientists’ safety from more militant factions opposed to the Bajoran-Cardassian treaty as it is anything else), the scientific data with Dax (who’s skeptical that the relay as designed will work), and, rather unintentionally, catering stuff with Quark, who finally has a use for the cases of kanar in his store room (though, to his chagrin, it’s gone bad in the years since the occupation ended).
Vedek Yarka arrives to meet with Sisko and inform him that allowing the Cardassian scientists on board will bring destruction to Bajor. Yarka’s interpretation of Trakor’s Third Prophecy is that this project will result in the destruction of the Celestial Temple of the Prophets—the wormhole. The prophecy speaks of three vipers returning to their nest in the sky, which he interprets as the Cardassian scientists coming to Deep Space 9, at which point a sword of stars will appear in the heavens, the temple will burn, and the gates will be cast open. Kira points out that there are only two scientists coming, so that doesn’t quite track. And, Yarka admits, the rest of the vedek assembly and the kai herself don’t agree with his interpretation—he’s gone to Sisko as the Emissary as a last resort, but Sisko makes it clear that he isn’t stopping the project.
Sisko and Kira greet the scientists, Rejal and Belor, when they arrive—there’s the formal greetings filled with platitudes, followed by a much friendlier conversation where both admit to exasperation with their superiors who kept contacting them to emphasize how important the mission was.
After a briefing on the project—which includes some snarking between O’Brien and Rejal—Belor mentions that a third colleague, Dejar, will be joining them. This throws Kira for a loop, as now there are indeed three “vipers.” However, Odo reveals to Sisko that Yarka isn’t even a vedek anymore: he was defrocked after leading a series of protests against the vedek assembly, mostly relating to his opposition to the peace treaty. Meanwhile, Yarka fails in his attempts to get Kira to convince Sisko to kill the project, even though he insists that the Prophets have chosen her for that role.
Dejar arrives while Belor and Rejal are having dinner with Dax and O’Brien. Quark brings them some Cardassian delicacies. Only then do Belor and Rejal admit that they’re not all that fond of Cardassian cuisine—but Dejar makes some pointed comments that reveal a certain tension between her and the first two.
Rejal’s plans for adjusting the communications equipment are foiled by O’Brien’s modifications to same, done to bring the equipment up to Starfleet code. Rejal is very dismissive of and snotty to O’Brien, and they continue to snark at each other throughout the modification work. Meanwhile, Belor and Dejara accompany Sisko, Kira, and Dax on the Defiant to deploy the relay on the Gamma Quadrant side. When they arrive in the GQ, Dax detects a rogue comet that has a high concentration of silithium. Kira realizes that this is the sword of stars from the prophecy, but her mentioning it out loud has Sisko coming down on her like a ton of bricks for talking about it in front of the Cardassians. In private, though, Kira does exactly what Yarka asked and urges Sisko to stop the mission, given how much of the prophecy has come true. But Sisko needs something more concrete than a prophecy to base it on.
One of the Defiant’s test carrier waves opens the wormhole and causes a gravitational shift. They terminate the wave, but this has caused the comet to divert and it will now enter the wormhole and the silithium in it will collapse the wormhole when it enters.
Sisko takes the Defiant back to the station, and Rejal reveals that there was a less than 2% chance of this sort of thing happening. But that wasn’t included in the material they forwarded to DS9 because Central Command’s policy is to not include any possibilities that remote, especially if it will make a project look more dangerous. (Gotta love bureaucrats…)
O’Brien and Rejal work on adjusting the Defiant’s phasers so it can vaporize the comet before it reaches the wormhole (standard phasers would only shatter it into smaller pieces and not solve the problem). Rejal is much friendlier to O’Brien now, coming on very strong. Turns out she mistook his earlier irritability for flirting when it was just irritability.
Sisko is having second thoughts, especially after reading up on some of the prophecies relating to the Emissary (some of which hit close to home), but Dax convinces him to make his own decisions, not let the prophecies decide for him.
The Defiant heads to the GQ to destroy the comet, but as soon as they fire, the weapons array shorts out. The modifications didn’t take, and only standard phasers fired on the comet, breaking it into three pieces. O’Brien checks and finds a stupid mistake he made—but Rejal then says that it wasn’t his mistake at all. Despite Belor’s attempt to stop her from saying anything, Rejal explains that Dejar was assigned to the team from the Obsidian Order to sabotage the project. Dejar denies it, but Sisko has her confined to quarters.
Since they can’t stop the comets, they can try to encase them so they won’t damage the wormhole. They can put a warp field around the fragments for its passage through the wormhole—but the Defiant is too large to fit, so Sisko and Kira take a shuttle and use that.
Dax brings the Defiant to the Alpha Quadrant side, and then the shuttle encases the fragments in the warp field. The field doesn’t maintain integrity, so some silithium leaks through. But once they arrive the signal from the subspace relay comes through—the carrier wave is the silithium trail left by the leakage. Kira realizes that the prophecy did come true. The three vipers are the comet fragments, the temple gates were “burned” by the silithium, and now the gates are thrown open, but not in a bad way.
O’Brien thanks Rejal for revealing the, ahem, viper in their midst, and she says that Keiko’s a lucky woman. Yarka meanwhile apologizes to Sisko, and also tells him about Trakor’s Fourth Prophecy….
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The Cardassians are intending to use soliton pulses as a carrier wave for the subspace signal through the wormhole. One assumes these are related to the soliton wave that we saw in TNG’s “New Ground.”
The Sisko is of Bajor: Odo has noticed that Sisko has tried very hard to distance himself from his role of Emissary. Later, Sisko does so verbally with Kira, saying he doesn’t view himself as an icon, religious or otherwise.
Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira admits for the first time that she believes Sisko to be the Emissary, and she also provides a nice scientific rationale for the prophecies: the Prophets (wormhole aliens, whatever) exist simultaneously in the past, present, and future, and it’s been established that they communicate through the Orbs, so isn’t it possible that they communicated future events to Trakor through the Orb he experienced?
Later, she insists on accompanying Sisko in the shuttlepod. She says it’s to help the Emissary, but honestly? She’s a better pilot than he is….
The slug in your belly: Tobin Dax met Iloja of Prim, the Cardassian poet, on Vulcan, where he was living in exile. When Jadzia informs Belor and Rejal of this, they’re impressed as all get-out.
Rules of Acquisition: We get quite possibly the two best Rules—#34 (“War is good for business”) and #35 (“Peace is good for business”), which Quark admits are easy to confuse with each other. In addition, the original script had a Rule that was not used in the final teleplay, but which Ira Steven Behr liked so much, he included it in the books The Ferengi Rules of Acquisition and Legends of the Ferengi: “Faith can move mountains of inventory.”
For Cardassia! The Cardassian science ministry falls under Central Command’s oversight, but the Obsidian Order is happy to place agents in there. The Order was against the peace treaty with Bajor, which is why they send Dejar along to sabotage the project.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Apparently, Cardassian men flirt by being irritable and argumentative. Rejal mistakes O’Brien’s natural irritation at Rejal messing with this stuff for flirting.
Keep your ears open: “There’ll be no live vole fights on the Promenade, Quark.”
“I would never be party to anything so cruel and inhumane. But, of course, if some Cardassians happened to bring their voles along and they happened to get into a fight, I could hardly be held responsible for—”
“Oh yes you could.”
“And you will.”
Odo putting the kibosh on Quark’s plans for more Cardassians showing up on the station, with Sisko putting an exclamation point on it.
Welcome aboard: Veteran character actor Erick Avari, last seen as a Klingon bureaucrat in TNG’s “Unification I,” plays Yarka, and veteran genre actor Tracy Scoggins, known for her roles in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Babylon 5, and Crusade, plays Rejal. Wendy Robie plays Belor and Jessica Hendra plays Dejar.
Trivial matters: During shooting, Tracy Scoggins wandered around the Paramount lot in full Cardassian makeup and frightened kids in buses. Security called the DS9 set asking them, “Could y’all do something about keeping your aliens contained over there?”
This episode shows the first practical application of the Bajoran-Cardassian treaty signed at the end of “Life Support.”
Although David S. Cohen and Martin A. Winer got sole credit (and sole benefit of residuals), the script was completely rewritten by Rene Echevarria. Cohen said in an interview that “Not a word of our dialogue made it in.”
This is Yarka’s only onscreen appearance, but he does appear again in the novel Objective: Bajor by John Peel.
Quark serves yamok sauce to the scientists. Back in “Progress,” he was complaining that he had no use for the stuff, so he’s happy with the peace treaty.
The GQ relay station will remain intact and useful until “In Purgatory’s Shadow,” where it will be disabled shortly after Worf and Garak use it to warn the station of a Dominion threat. A new relay station is activated after the Dominion War in your humble rewatcher’s novel Demons of Air and Darkness, in which they again use silithium to aid in the communications.
Kira’s unwillingness to admit that Sisko really is the Emissary prior to this is dramatized in the short story “Ha’mara” by Kevin G. Summers in the anthology Prophecy and Change, which takes place shorty after “Emissary.”
Yarka quotes Trakor’s Fourth Prophecy, but we only get to hear the beginning of it: “The Emissary will face a fiery trial, and he will be forced to choose…” This sounds a lot like what Sisko will go through in the series finale “What You Leave Behind.”
Iloja of Prim is mentioned a few times in tie-in fiction, most notably in the Titan novel Taking Wing by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin, which includes an interpretation of one of his quotes by a Cardassian cadet.
Walk with the Prophets: “I’m quite fertile—I could provide you with many healthy children.” I had very little specific memory of this episode when I sat down to watch it again, mostly remembering it as The One Where Tracy Scoggins Flirts With O’Brien, and that only because I was never all that enamored of Scoggins. In her defense, she had almost nothing to work with in Babylon 5 and Crusade (her role was created to fill a void left by Claudia Christian’s departure), and the less said about Cat Grant in the first season of Lois & Clark and Cassandra in Highlander, the better. But those two roles would’ve likely been awful no matter who played the parts.
With the distance of two decades, I’m much better disposed toward her performance here, as well as that of Wendy Robie as Belor. They both do excellent work in showing us scientists who are far removed from the politics and intrigue we usually get when Cardassians show up—though not as far removed as they’d like, as we find out when Rejal outs Dejar on the Defiant. However, the back-and-forth between Rejal and O’Brien is a blown opportunity, as O’Brien’s serious issues with Cardassians (first seen way back in TNG’s “The Wounded,” and shown any number of times on DS9, most notably “Cardassians” and “Tribunal”) never even come up. The storyline would’ve played out exactly the same way if Rejal had flirted with Bashir, and that’s a failure of storytelling.
Rewatching it now, I additionally remember it as The One Where Sisko First Deals With The Fact That He’s The Emissary. The show has mostly sidestepped it up until now, with Sisko not really addressing it one way or the other. However, both Odo and Kira hit him with it head-on here, especially since Yarka’s trip to the station is specifically designed to enlist the Emissary’s support as a last-ditch effort, since he hasn’t been able to get anyone else on his side.
This results in two excellent conversations with Sisko—the one in Odo’s office where the constable hits the nail on the head regarding Sisko’s discomfort with his role, and then one in the Defiant cabin where Kira and Sisko have their first real conversation on the subject of Sisko’s status as a figure in the Bajoran religion.
But the episode itself is a little too paint-by-numbers. There’s a prophecy of doom, there’s a growing sense of urgency as the prophecy keeps becoming more and more accurate, and then there’s a cheat at the end that allows the prophecy to be fulfilled in some way without anything bad happening. In this case, it’s that no one at any point—not Yarka who’s been studying the prophecies his whole life, not Dax the rationalist, not Kira the ordinary Bajoran, not Sisko the Emissary—ever once considers alternate ways to interpret, “The temple will burn and its gates shall be cast open.”
It’s nice to see the Bajoran-Cardassian treaty get taken out for a stroll, it’s always good to see the broader range of Cardassians beyond the guls, legates, and spies we generally see, and Sisko’s journey from being called “Emissary” by Kai Opaka to accepting that he is the Emissary will be a fascinating journey as the series goes on, but the episode itself is a whole lotta meh.
Warp factor rating: 5
Keith R.A. DeCandido has finally, for the first time since the late summer, released a new episode of his monthly (cough) podcast Dead Kitchen Radio: The Keith R.A. DeCandido Podcast, in which he discusses the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who and reads his Who short story “UNITed We Fall” from the 1996 anthology Decalog 3: Consequences. Keith also discussed the Who 50th in this incredibly brilliant (cough) article on this here web site, “A Moment of Heroism: Thinky Thoughts on Doctor Who’s ‘The Day of the Doctor’.” You should all go read it right now.