Written by Harry Werksman & Gabrielle G. Stanton and Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Directed by Jesús Salvador Treviño
Season 6, Episode 21
Production episode 40510-545
Original air date: April 29, 1998
Station log: Sisko holds a meeting to discuss how the war is going, ending it by saying that he, Kira, and Jake are taking a trip to Bajor. They’ve excavated something cool in B’Hala and they want the Emissary to see it.
Ranjen Koral leads the three of them to a cavern that’s beneath the city—apparently there was another settlement 10,000 years prior to B’Hala. After it was abandoned, it was buried by sediment, and B’Hala built over it. They found a tablet that is in a very old form of Bajoran, but Koral, Sisko, and Kira do recognize one phrase: “Welcome, Emissary.”
And then Sisko has a vision from the Prophets, who say that the circle is complete and it’s time for the Reckoning. They speak in their usual riddles and hit most of their high points about “The Sisko” and being corporeal and the usual jazz, and then when the vision ends, Sisko gets tossed across the cave.
Sisko brings the tablet to the station and assigns Dax to examine it and translate the writing. Sisko actually considers going to services at the temple, but before he can enter, Worf informs him that Winn is en route to the station. She objects to Sisko taking a Bajoran religious artifact away without consulting the vedek assembly, even going so far as to protest to Starfleet Command, resulting in Sisko being ordered to return the tablet. But he won’t obey that order until he knows what the Prophets expect of him—Dax reminds him that it might be the penance they said they’d exact when they stopped the Jem’Hadar reinforcements from coming through after the minefield came down.
And then Dax gets a partial translation, saying that the time of the Reckoning is at hand and it will endanger the gateway to the temple.
Worf, Odo, Bashir, and Quark discuss the translation, with Bashir being dismissive, Odo being pessimistic, Worf agreeing with the captain and reserving judgment until they have a full translation, and Quark bitching that business is slow. Bashir’s skepticism is leavened by the wormhole opening for the first time in ages, which also shakes the station.
That’s not the only side effect: there’s flooding in the Rakantha Province, an earthquake in the Kendra Valley, and a tornado in Tamulna. Winn demands again that Sisko return the tablet, and this time it has a request from Shakaar backing her up. It’s the first time the kai and the first minister have agreed on anything, and Sisko finally decides to acquiesce, planning to send it back on the morning transport.
Dax has the night to translate more, and she confirms that there will be a lot of suffering suffered by the Bajorans during the Reckoning. Sisko and Kira have a deep talk about Winn’s dislike of Sisko (it’s partly jealousy that she has to share being spiritual leader of Bajor with him), Kira has a deep talk with Winn (where she reveals that she expects to continue to disagree with Sisko, which annoys Kira), and Jake and Sisko have a deep talk about his role as Emissary (and how it’s almost gotten Sisko killed more than once).
Unable to sleep, Sisko goes to the lab and starts yelling at the tablet, saying that he’s tired of the obfuscation, the vague prophecies, the lack of specifics, and he breaks the tablet—only to see two flames, one red, one blue, come out of it and bugger off into the rest of the station.
He summons Odo and Dax to the lab. They find no residual energy, but there’s a power drain on the station. Sisko thinks that this is what the Prophets wanted him to do.
Sadly, explaining it to Winn is problematic, as she doesn’t believe that the Prophets wanted him to smash a priceless artifact of Bajor’s history. He believes that there’s a plan the Prophets have for him, and it included smashing the tablet. To add to his case, Kira becomes possessed by a Prophet and says she awaits Kosst Amojan—identified by Winn as a Pah-wraith who was banished from the Celestial Temple. They are to do battle, and if Amojan is destroyed, it will fulfill Shabren’s Fifth Prophecy: Bajor will enjoy a golden age of peace for a thousand years. The Prophet possessing Kira awaits Amojan’s vessel.
Sisko wants to evacuate the station. Dax and Bashir provide an alternative: flooding the Promenade with chronitons. They can do it slowly so the Prophet won’t be permanently harmed, but will have the chance to flee Kira’s body. But Sisko refuses—he owes the Prophets. And, as Worf later points out, the Prophets are all that’s keeping Dominion reinforcements from coming through.
The station is evacuated, with only a skeleton crew, and a bunch of devout Bajorans (led by Winn) remaining behind. Sisko convinces Winn to let the Bajorans go—but Winn herself refuses to depart. She’s sure that the golden age is upon them.
But then the other shoe drops: Amojan’s vessel is Jake.
Sisko asks that Amojan take him instead of his son, but Amojan tosses him aside. Sisko won’t leave Jake alone, despite the implorations of both Dax and Winn. He orders everyone else to evacuate on the runabouts.
The Prophet and Amojan exchange blasts of energy, which takes its toll on both Kira (bloody nose) and Jake (veins popping on his forehead). But then Winn goes to the now-abandoned Ops and engages the program that floods the Promenade with chronitons, ending the battle before it can finish.
Sisko visits Jake in the infirmary and apologizes to him, but Jake knows that the Pah-wraiths needed to be stopped, even if it meant his death.
Kira expresses confusion at why the Prophets chose her—Odo opines it’s her combination of faith and humility regarding that faith—and then she castigates Winn for stopping the Reckoning, meaning the evil that the Prophets could have stopped wasn’t actually stopped. Yes, the earthquakes and floods and tornadoes have receded and yes, the Emissary, his son, and the station were saved, and Kira’s sure Winn will take full credit for it. But even the Prophets don’t know what will happen next.
The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko is given an impossible choice: let the Reckoning play out and let his son die, or save Jake’s life. He decides to have faith in the Prophets that they’ll save his son.
Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira’s faith is sufficiently strong that the Prophets choose her as their vessel. Odo tells everyone in Ops that she would be willing to die for the Prophets, though he later admits that, for all that he respects her faith, he still wishes the Prophets had chosen someone else.
Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo is still maintaining his gruff exterior for everyone else, but in private with Kira, he’s all gooey and stuff.
The slug in your belly: Dax doesn’t have her best day ever, as she’s forced to translate the tablet and routinely give Sisko advice he doesn’t heed—give the tablet back, let someone else do it, use chronitons to get rid of the Prophet and Amojan, not let his son stay in danger…
There is no honor in being pummeled: For someone who was on Sisko’s side when he let the Prophets give him visions in “Rapture,” and who is generally of a spiritual bent, Worf is uncharacteristically skeptical in this episode.
Rules of Acquisition. Since business is slow, Quark decides that every hour is Happy Hour—at least until business picks up.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Odo and Kira’s relationship is going great guns, with Odo happy to just sit and watch her eat (which probably isn’t perverted…).
Victory is life: Having conquered Betazed in “In the Pale Moonlight,” the Dominion is now establishing a supply line between that world and the Argolis Cluster (established as being part of Dominion territory in “Behind the Lines”), which would give them a path to attack Vulcan. However, the entry of the Romulans into the war in that same episode has led to the Romulans liberating Benzar from the Dominion.
Keep your ears open: “I had a pretty good idea what this was the minute I laid eyes on it. That scan proves it—it’s a slab of stone with some writing on it.”
Dax’s sardonic appraisal of the tablet upon its arrival in her lab.
Welcome aboard: Louise Fletcher returns as Winn, while James Greene plays Koral.
Trivial matters: This episode serves as a kind of sequel to both “Rapture”—in which Sisko located the lost city of B’Hala—and “Sacrifice of Angels”—when Sisko was told there would be a price for the Prophets’ aid in stopping the Jem’Hadar.
Jake mentions that twice in the past year, he’s been summoned to the infirmary to see his father unconscious because of the Prophets giving him “visions or something”—those occurrences happened in “Rapture” and “Far Beyond the Stars.”
The Pah-wraiths officially become recurring antagonists with this, their second appearance after “The Assignment”—also the episode that established that chronitons can harm the wormhole aliens. The Pah-wraiths will be back in “Tears of the Prophets,” and recur throughout the final season.
This is the first mention of the Bajoran religious rank of “ranjen,” which is somewhere between a vedek and a prylar.
René Echevarria did an uncredited rewrite of the script to make the final battle a bit less outré than it was in Bradley Thompson & David Weddle’s original script, originally conceived as a huge, monster-movie-style battle.
Winn admits to Sisko that the Prophets have never spoken to her, even though she claimed in “In the Hands of the Prophets” that they had.
Walk with the Prophets: “The Reckoning must begin.” What a piece of crap.
Okay, we start with the absurdity of the premise. Having already given us the “evil Prophets” in the ridiculous Pah-wraiths, we now get them having a battle of super-powered beings on the Promenade as their ray beams shoot at each other.
And then we have Winn. It’s not enough that Dukat has had all his nuance drained from him in “Waltz”—that, at least, had a reason, if a misbegotten one. But the complexity that Winn had been developing slowly over the course of her appearances is all flushed away in this episode, as she’s set up to be The Bad Guy—even though she’s the one who actually saves lives—and she ends the episode much less interesting than she was previously. Worse, it sets up her absurd arc in the closing episodes of the show, which we’ll get to (and complain about) in due time.
One of my dearest friends was a rabbi, David M. Honigsberg (he died in 2007). David wrote a wonderful sermon that made me look at the famous story of Abraham and Isaac in a new light. David’s thesis was that Abraham failed God’s test by going ahead and trying to sacrifice his son, pointing out that God stopped speaking directly to Abraham, and indeed he had no significant contact with God or any angels, after his failed sacrifice. It’s possible that God wanted Abraham to reject his request, to not put his son ahead of his deity. I’d recommend reading the sermon, because it makes that particular sequence of the Bible a lot less horrible than I’d always thought of it in the more common interpretation, that the supposedly loving Lord of the Old Testament wanted Abraham to sacrifice his son.
And maybe that colors my perception of this episode, because the person who actually saves lives in this episode is Winn, and she’s portrayed as the bad guy because of it. There is something to Kira’s argument—Winn herself said that the golden age would mean no vedeks, no kais, no Emissaries, and that means she’d be out of a job. But Winn has every right to be angry about the lack of gratitude because she saved people’s lives.
Yes, Kira has faith, and yes, that’s important, but that also meant that her being a vessel for the Prophets is legit—as Odo said, she’d die for the Prophets. But Jake wasn’t given that choice—I guess that’s part of what makes the Pah-wraiths evil, they pick someone against their will?—and Sisko is willing to let him die for that, which strikes me as a violation of Sisko’s character. His dedication to Jake has always been a cornerstone, and now he’s wavering in it out of faith for aliens who had to be put in a headlock in order to help Bajor and the Federation and Sisko himself out. (Dax pointed that out to Sisko in the lab.)
One of DS9’s hallmarks has been its complexity, which was at its best only two episodes ago. But this? This is just an insultingly simplistic story of “good” vs. “evil,” and I put those words in quotes because we only know that one is good and one is evil because we’re told it. Yes, the Prophets have generally done good things, and all we know about the Pah-wraiths is that they possessed Keiko, but there’s not enough there to justify the stark black-and-white story.
Warp factor rating: 1
Keith R.A. DeCandido’s Carter-and-Teal’c-focused Stargate SG-1 short story “Time Keeps on Slippin’” can be found in the brand-spanking-new release Far Horizons from Fandemonium Books, currently available as an eBook via Smashwords, Amazon, and Amazon UK (and will be available on Barnes & Noble’s site soon). The print edition goes on sale on the 6th of November.