Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine



Air date: 2/26/1996
Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by Les Landau

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"No more ceremonies to attend; no more blessings to give; no more prophecies to fulfill. I'm just a Starfleet officer again. All I have to worry about are the Klingons, the Dominion, and the Maquis. I feel like I'm on vacation." — Sisko, on relinquishing his role as Emissary

Nutshell: The ending is too easy, but overall an extremely intelligent, probing episode.

A Bajoran ship emerges from the wormhole after disappearing into it some 300 years earlier and being suspended in time by the wormhole aliens. The pilot of the ship, a Bajoran man named Akorem Laan (Richard Libertini), wakes up in DS9's infirmary with a new purpose in life—his encounter with the Prophets leads him to believe he is the Emissary to the Bajoran people.

With the assurances that the changes would be accepted by the Bajoran populace, Sisko relinquishes his title of Emissary to Akorem, who, unlike Sisko, has the time and dedication needed to carry out the duties of a Bajoran religious icon. Starfleet has, after all, always wanted Sisko to distance himself from the religious implications his post has demanded of him.

Unfortunately, Akorem's new agenda—along with the support of a fundamentalist Vedek named Porta (Robert Symonds)—includes the return of an abandoned Bajoran caste system known as the d'jarras. Before the Cardassian Occupation, the d'jarras would dictate the role of Bajorans based on their family titles. Akorem believes he was spared the Occupation so that he could return this caste system to heal Bajor. Such caste-based discrimination would not be permitted by the Federation, and if Akorem were to successfully bring this back to Bajoran society, Sisko is certain Bajor's admittance into the Federation would be rejected.

"Accession" is a show that has a lot to say about Bajor's religious side and where Sisko stands in the eyes of the Bajoran people. It's a story with numerous messages which sometimes prove difficult to discern, and with a number of subtexts that a viewer may or may not see. It has dialogue, particularly near the end, which is open to a great deal of interpretation.

This is very good in some important ways. It's fresh and provocative, and it treats the audience with a respect for their intelligence. It's also a sort of throwback to the "old-school DS9"—that being analysis of religious, intra-political Bajoran/Federation issues which were the primary focus of seasons one and two; rather than the action-centered, inter-political Federation/Dominion and Federation/Klingon issues common to seasons three and four.

At the same time, I defy anyone to tell me exactly what this episode boils down to in terms of series or character development after only one viewing. It took me two viewings to reflect on what the episode was trying to say. And after this reflection I still wasn't sure that the episode was as broad and consequential as it should have been.

The show is thoroughly riveting for its first four acts. It effectively sets up an uneasy situation and foreshadows the consequences of changing political administrations where the incoming and outgoing parties have two distinctly different views. Everything surrounding this set-up feels right, from Kai Winn supporting Akorem's radical initiative, to the powerful early scene where Akorem gives his promenade speech while a subtle trace of concern develops on Sisko's face as he listens to what is being said. Even Kira, whose faith couldn't be much more devoted, obviously has second thoughts about where Akorem is bound to take Bajor with his reforms.

This clash of old beliefs and new world culminates with an incident where Vedek Porta kills another Bajoran simply because of the man's "unclean" d'jarra—intolerable murder justified by Porta's religious extremism. This, in combination with Sisko's vision where Kai Opaka (Camille Saviola) appears to offer ambiguous words hiding apparent advice, finally makes Sisko realize that the d'jarras are not going to do anything but erase all the progress he has worked for. He decides he must ensure the d'jarras are not re-instituted.

The story's conclusion, however, does not feel quite right. Sisko doesn't want to challenge Akorem's claim, as that would divide Bajor and cause chaos. Instead, Sisko and Akorem go into the wormhole to ask the Prophets who is really the Emissary, and if they intended Akorem to bring the d'jarras back. The wormhole aliens answer the question with a variety of intriguing but ultimately incomprehensible riddles (it boils down to "no"), and they are able to send Akorem back to the century he came from.

This is simply too easy. It's evident the wormhole aliens have no clue or care about Bajoran politics or religion. Yet, with a convoluted explanation, they are able to convince Akorem that he was making a false presumption that really had no basis, while simultaneously telling Sisko that he is the real Emissary since he taught them the meaning of linear time. It took me a while to put my finger on why I didn't find this completely satisfying, but I think it's because the aliens' answer seems too arbitrary. Instead of working the problem at hand, the writers use this device to simply delete the problem to a point where one would almost never know it existed in the first place.

In fact, it surprising how little this all affects the series or the characters. Based on the subject matter, the episode initially appears to be headed for a major series self-statement. Instead it's almost a Reset Button Plot that ends up right where it starts. Take, for example, the moving but overstated and oversimplified scene where Kira tells Sisko that she plans to resign her post to move back to Bajor and follow her d'jarra. Would she really give up everything in her life to be a sculptor simply because the new Emissary says so? The episode says yes, but other elements of the show cast doubt. Odo's line "Your faith seems to have led you to something of a contradiction" is a very relevant comment, and, in retrospect, the way Kira shrugs it off is simultaneously an interesting truth about faith and a puzzling oversimplification that disregards common sense. The conclusion should have seriously taken a look at this side of the show. Instead, the issue rides on a single decision by Sisko, which is made too easy with the cut-and-dry ending.

The only real consequence of the show is Sisko finally coming to terms with his role as Emissary. While I do like this, I really hoped for more large-scale development from the episode—which, because of the ending's ineffectiveness, we don't really get much of. Still, "Accession" made me think hard on numerous occasions (this review feels more like a discussion than most I've written), which is a most definite plus.

Also, let's not forget the B-story involving Keiko O'Brien's return to the station. This is absolutely top-notch B-story material, featuring a great performance (marked by some moments of subtle hilarity) by Colm Meaney as the everyday family man finally getting his family back (soon to be a bigger family with the announcement that Keiko is pregnant). The humor surrounding his new dilemma—that he has to get home in a hurry every night and not drink or play darts with Julian—is a load of fun. This has to be one of the best B-stories of the year.

It's too bad "Accession's" ending isn't a little more realized, because it dilutes what could have been an absolutely riveting show. Still, I highly recommend the episode, because it holds many good moments and discussions. It isn't perfect, but it's very good.

Previous episode: Bar Association
Next episode: Rules of Engagement

Season Index

53 comments on this review

Joost - Fri, Mar 21, 2008 - 12:56pm (USA Central)
As i am viewing this show right now, i realy do have an unsettling feeling about it. There is something wrong with those un-linear prophets.

PS. I like your reviews
AeC - Wed, May 21, 2008 - 8:54pm (USA Central)
I'd long given up on usenet by the time of this episode, but I'd imagine that Sisko's vision of Kai Opaka repeatedly asking, "Who are you?" must have had the B5 fans on R.A.S. up in arms when this episode aired.

A good ep, but the depiction of the Bajorans as, frankly, sheep willing to go wherever the Emissary tells them is a little troubling to me. Kira's comments about faith were valid, and I appreciated seeing some concerned looks on her face and on the faces of other Bajorans when Akorem decreed the reintroduction of the caste system, but I would have liked to have seen more resistance to the idea. I don't know how it could have been worked in dramatically within the episode's 45 minutes, but the blanket depiction of all Bajorans humbly and blindly following this radical path just felt wrong, even taking the strength of the culture's spiritual beliefs into account.
matt - Fri, Jun 27, 2008 - 12:41am (USA Central)
Yeah AeC, I do not think we ever see a single Bajoran in the series who thinks the whole prophet thing is a bunch of nonsense. In star trek, only humans are really allowed any diversity, all other races are pure stereotypes, but an episode about some secular nonbelieveing bajorans would have been interesting.
Straha - Thu, Jul 31, 2008 - 3:27am (USA Central)
Indeed this could have been a great (maybe one of the best) shows if only the ending wouldn't have been botched. The whole business of reintroducing a caste system into a modern society should have provoked civil war all by itself, even without Sisko challenging Akorem's claim. I would have liked to see an ending where Akorem eventually realized that and stepped aside willingly ...
Josh - Wed, Sep 3, 2008 - 1:52am (USA Central)
"I'd long given up on usenet by the time of this episode, but I'd imagine that Sisko's vision of Kai Opaka repeatedly asking, "Who are you?" must have had the B5 fans on R.A.S. up in arms when this episode aired."

Right, because no one's ever written "Who are you?" in a sci-fi show before. I love Babylon 5, but when fans try to tell me DS9 ripped it off, I refer them to the Lord of the Rings, which Babylon 5 ripped off so blatantly I'm surprised JMS was never sued.

Khazad'Dum vs Z'ha'Dum
Shadowmen vs Shadows
Sauron calling his armies to him vs the Shadows are returning to Z'ha'Dum
Episode "The Long Dark" vs. 'The Long Dark of Moria'

And my personal favourite, Lorien vs Lorien.

AeC - Sun, Sep 14, 2008 - 12:00pm (USA Central)
Not saying I agreed with the charges of plagiarism, Josh, just remembering the "You got your peanut butter in my chocolate" / "You got your chocolate in my peanut butter" arguments about which series ripped off the other. Had I frequented the newsgroups when this aired (and had I watched B5 at the time), I imagine hearing that line and thinking, "It's gonna be a bumpy ride for the next week or so."
Anonymous - Wed, Nov 12, 2008 - 8:42pm (USA Central)
This episode is very unrealistic. If the Pope asked all practicing Catholics to renounce their jobs and give away all their wealth do you think it would happen? And seriously, Kira, the rebel who killed Cardassians, decides to become a potter in a span of 3 days? Sometimes the religious mumbo jumbo doesn't make sense. There is more to an organized religion, especially on Bajor, than some emissary.
Destructor - Sun, Jul 19, 2009 - 7:53pm (USA Central)
I thought the scene with Opaka asking: "Who are you?" nicely foreshadowed 'Far Beyond the Stars' where Sisko asks: "Please... who am I?"
Nic - Wed, Dec 16, 2009 - 10:42am (USA Central)
I agree with the above comments, I think this episode was overrated. It simply wouldn't be so clear-cut in real life, it would have more shades of gray. It also exemplifies the weak direction Kira's character has taken this season.
And why was it necessary for someone to be killed before Sisko realized that Akorem's plan was wrong? He should have made the challenge at least one act earlier. Though I don't mind the ending as much as most commenters seem to. The Prophets said they sent Akorem to the wrong time "for the Sisko" because it was what Sisko needed to finally accept his role as emissary. So it wasn't a reset button because Sisko came out of the experience a changed man.
I thought the B-story was a little trite, but loved the last scene where Keiko tells each friend that the other is "depressed"!
Daniel - Tue, Dec 22, 2009 - 1:21am (USA Central)
I just saw this episode for the second time (wow, 13 years gone by). The review certainly doesn't seem like the review of a 3 1/2 star episode (then again, the reviewer has become a much better writer, methinks, in 13 years); I'm not sure the attack against the review (on the grounds the episode was "overrated") is warranted since the substance of the review is rather critical.

And there is much to criticize in this episode, written by (I now discover) Jane Espenson, who had a way of oversimplifying complex issues involving faith, loyalty and sacrifice as a writer on BSG (come on, no complaints that "you got your peanut butter in my chocolate again?" BSG certainly ripped off elements of this show. Of course, the issue artistically is not whether something is ripped off but whether it is ripped off WELL).

The problem I have with this episode is the lackluster manner in which it plays out. Maybe it was shot right after Thanksgiving and the cast and crew were tired. Here we have an episode involving Sisko resigning his post as Emissary; another person taking that position; Kira resigning her post as first officer; a man being killed by a religious fanaitic because of the man's last name; a visit from Kai Opaka; and an apparent decision by Sisko to, for the first time in his life, truly embrace the role of Emissary, and yet everything plays out so.... quiet.. The episode lacks energy and effective pacing; the issues are introduced and argued but not explored in any depth; this episode kind of just... sits there. The ending isn't so much pat as it is confusing... "Of Bajor" - what is that supposed to mean? To Whom? Was the prophecy misread, or were the prophets saying it was written on purpose to retroactively confirm Sisko as the True Emissary? (I liked the way a prophecy played out as a means of generating storytelling interest in the episode "Destiny," where the prophecy was ultimately true and had to be re-evaluated in light of new facts; here it seemed to exist for the impostor Emissary to effetely and effectively whine that he was the Emissary and bigotry had to be returned to Bajor, case closed). Jammer was right that Bajoran politics and their interplay with the Bajoran religion took a backseat to other stories (i.e. the war, the season 4 emphasis on the Klingons, and so forth).... a shame. Still the best Trek series overall, but the "Homecomning/Circle/Siege" arc that opened Season 2 showed how the series' mythology could have been enriched if the series returned once in a while to its Bajoran roots/origins.

Caliburn - Sat, Mar 13, 2010 - 3:31pm (USA Central)
I think, given the restrictions the writers were under, this came off beautifully. In my ideal version of DS9, this would either have been a two-parter or it would have moved the B-plot to a different episode. That would have allowed more time for complex reactions among Bajorans to the idea of returning to the d'jarras, without taking away time needed to tell the *real* story, which is Sisko beginning to accept his position as Emmisary.

The problem with doing this in reality is that, as I understand it, the studio was opposed to stories about Bajoran internal issues, and especially Bajoran religion, because these stories had not performed well ratings-wise in the past. Therefore, I don't think the studio would have been happy about a two-parter, which would take a story they already had doubts about and stretch it out even longer.

As for moving the B-plot elsewhere, the B-plot serves to give residuals to the actors that aren't used in the A-plot (O'Brien, Bashir, Worf, and Quark) . . . without a B-plot, they would have to be incorporated into the A-plot in some way. That might be workable, but it's tough to imagine how these characters could meaningfully contribute to what Sisko and Kira are going through (unlike, say, Dax and Odo, who have very relevant roles to play for Sisko and Kira, respectively). It is true that these other characters (O'Brien, Bashir, etc.) could give voice to different opinions about the whole d'jarras situation, but I don't think anyone in the viewing audience really wants to see the regulars pass judgment from above on the Bajoran situation, we'd rather see the Bajorans themselves express those different opinions.

In a single-parter, then, with an A and B plot, I really don't think there would be enough time to show significant Bajoran opposition to the d'jarras without the viewer expecting some kind of follow-up and eventual pay-off to that opposition. For just one possible example, more opposition might lead Bajor to the verge of civil war as some posters here are proposing, perhaps with Akorem eventually realizing he needs to back down. If that happened, the story would become in danger of being more about the d'jarras and Akorem than it is about Sisko and his position as Emissary. The limited time of a single episode with a B-plot wouldn't allow both stories to be treated with equal care, in my opinion. The writers chose the right one to treat as more important: Sisko as Emissary. Akorem and the d'jarras are mostly just a plot device to serve the Sisko story, however fascinating a plot device they happened to be.

Hence the "easy" solution of going to the Prophets. Yes, it's too easy a solution to the d'jarras and Akorem, but the real climax of the story begins when Sisko decides that he wants to regain his position as Emissary. From that point on, other sources of conflict have to rapidly
resolve, or else the narrative won't work. The only significant source of conflict that remains is whether Sisko really is the Emissary or
whether Akorem is. Going to the Prophets is the only way to resolve that with certainty, though I'll grant that an uncertain conclusion could have been interesting if it were workable.

As the episode stands, Kira's mixed feelings are meant to be the encapsulation of the mixed feelings of Bajoran society as whole, I think. We also have indications that some people embrace the change (Vedek Porta, Kai Winn--though the latter is probably motivated more by political
considerations than faith-based ones) and some resist it (or else why would the unclean caste Bajoran man have refused to give up his existing
position as a monk?). Thus we do get hints that not everyone on Bajor feels the same about the issue, and most people aren't sure *what* to feel. That's about as much opposition as could be shown, I think, without the viewer beginning to view the opposition as a set-up that requires a pay-off.

So, granted that showing only limited opposition among the Bajorans is expedient from a writing point of view, is it realistic? Maybe not, but if anything, this is where it actually helps that the situation is raised and resolved so quickly. Any longer and I think there would have to be more opposition, for the situation to bear any resemblance to real life. As it is, the short time frame makes it a little more believable that the one conflict we see (the murder) is "just the beginning" as Sisko puts it.

Now, I still think my ideal version of DS9 would be pretty cool--among other things, in my ideal version, Bareil would still be alive, and as the most liberal/progressive Bajoran spiritual leader that we've seen on DS9, he would have made an interesting factor in this plot as someone skeptical about the return to the d'jarras, even if he wasn't willing to openly oppose such a return. But without the added time of a two-parter to make it possible to give closer to equal weight to the d'jarras and the Sisko as Emissary plots, I think the writers did about as good a job as could be hoped. To me, this earns its three and a half stars, and I only wish stories like this didn't have to become so rare in seasons three to seven of DS9.
Elliott - Sat, Dec 25, 2010 - 11:26pm (USA Central)
You know, I don;t like Kira very much as a character, but I can appreciate that most of the time she is intelligent and insightful. Whenever she starts talking about faith she sounds like a complete boob--"What the Emissary is asking of us is soooo difficult..." sounds pathetically infantile.

Next, I was hoping for the show's sake that they wouldn't fall prey to another "orb experience"--sigh, it's just so convenient to have a voice in your head telling you what the right thing to do is. If it's Sisko's duty as a SFO to bring Bajor into the Federation, then that's all the authority he needs to make a plea to the Bajorans. The idiocy of their religion (as evinced in Odo's comments to Kira) does however provide an explanation of why it's taking so damned long for Bajor's admittance. Frankly, who can deny that the Bajorans' story is a tragic one, but what exactly is it about them that has everyone (including Picard) so determined to admit them?

The ending is more than just a botch, it's skin-crawlingly trite. There's no examination of how easily Kira and the rest of the Bajorans' faiths in specifics about their beliefs sway in the span of a few days and what that says about that faith, just a gag involving one of Kira's sculptures. Also, how is it no one even mentions the issues with Sisko's interference with the timeline? "The prophets work in mysterious ways"...yeah, to set up silly and convenient plots.

A few more gripes, Sisko's experience with the prophets was here far less engaging than that in "Emissary" yet it only takes some silly attempts at "alien code prophecy" to convince him to turn 180 degrees in his beliefs and embrace his rôle. It's these kinds of moments which make it impossible for me to believe Sisko's verbal declarations about loving the Federation and Starfleet. Next, with so much going on in regards to a number of running arcs, the B-plot, however well executed (a point which I would also contend with Jammer), is totally unnecessary. We know Bashir and O'Brien are friends, I get it. The opportunity existed here to draw a powerful parellel in the person of Molly with the Barjorans' childish behaviour, but I suppose someone would have found that insulting.

The series continues to look better and get worse every episode.
Polt - Wed, Jan 26, 2011 - 8:43pm (USA Central)
Not a fan of this episode.

I'd just like to say I think the example given above about the Pope telling Catholics to give up their lives, I think Rings hollow. Wouldn't the Kai be comparable to the Pope instead of the Emmissary?

To continue the Catholic analogy, if Christ himself returned to earth and told people they needed to give thier lives to do something else, don't you think a lot of Catholics (and Protestants too for that matter) would consider doing it?

I think that analogy is more accurate. Oh, and love the reviews!
Elliott - Wed, Jan 26, 2011 - 9:54pm (USA Central)

I think you're absolutely right, many of them would, which is a terrible and ridiculous truth about our world which should have been adressed objectively rather than focusing on trite character interactions.
Jay - Sat, Feb 5, 2011 - 9:00pm (USA Central)
This episode has about as much relevance as the Reckoning.

DS9 essentially borrowed Voyager's reset button.
Nic - Wed, Mar 23, 2011 - 1:16pm (USA Central)
This is a non sequitur, but getting back to Josh's comments about B5 vs. Lord of the Rings, there's another one I've noticed: both use the word "eleventy", though strangely enough not with the same meaning. In LOTR "eleventy" means 110, while in B5 the Minbari (who count in base 11) say "eleventy" to mean 11.
Nebula Nox - Sat, Mar 31, 2012 - 7:43am (USA Central)
Although I like this episode, if I were Kai Winn or someone who doubted Sisko's role as the Emissary, what happened here would make me doubt him even more. He flies into the wormhole with his main rival and comes out alone.

Why doesn't anyone suspect him of murder?

Or of having something to do with the disappearance of Kai Opaka earlier?

If I were Winn - or even Shakaar! - I'd be demanding an investigation.
Cindi - Mon, Aug 13, 2012 - 4:27am (USA Central)
Sure, DS is not so loved as TOS or TNG preciesly because of the brooding political/religious overkill and not enough brawls, warp speed chases and Q's pranks (at least in the first 3 seasons) but episodes like Accession lift the show above the common TV averageness (just like TNG and "Measure of a Man").

It discusses extremelly intriguing and important issues - cultural and mental development of a society, relevance of religion in a modern age, losing faith, reconciling old and new traditions, the importance of thinking for yourself and so much more.

And to the guys who criticize the episode for being shallow and "urealistic" - remember it's a 40 minutes TV episode, not a 500 pages novel. Considering those limitations it's a miracle what the authors managed to pull of.
Jay - Sat, Oct 13, 2012 - 8:11pm (USA Central)
@ Nebula Nox - I would tend to agree, but I suppose they made the mention of the finished psalm or whatever at the end, so history would now reflect that Akorem lived out his whole lifetime. So depending upon how time works (Star Trek plays it all over the map to please the plot at hand), either the people in the present will notice the historical change, or the new history will be what they've always known, and Sisko will never have had Akorem with him in the wormhole at all.
Chris - Sat, Dec 1, 2012 - 4:00pm (USA Central)
Apparently Winn has a proper djarra, otherwise I can't imagine her going along with this as Akorem says. How convenient.
David - Sun, Dec 9, 2012 - 5:44am (USA Central)
"It's evident the wormhole aliens have no clue or care about Bajoran politics or religion. Yet, with a convoluted explanation, they are able to convince Akorem that he was making a false presumption that really had no basis, while simultaneously telling Sisko that he is the real Emissary since he taught them the meaning of linear time. It took me a while to put my finger on why I didn't find this completely satisfying, but I think it's because the aliens' answer seems too arbitrary"

I think the issue Jammer is identifying here is that this is the episode where the characterisation of the prophets really begins to change. They were previously portrayed as barely aware Bajor existed. For the first half of the series they were "wormhole aliens", but they really became "prophets" towards the end, they became beings who cared about Bajor and protected Bajor.

Of course, their nature of sitting outside of time makes it hard to tell if this is a retcon or development, haha. By plucking Akorem up and using him to nudge Sisko on the right path, they would seem to have been in "prophet" mode 200 years ago, before they met Sisko or understood what baseball or Bajor were. On the other hand, there is no 200 years ago for them. Maybe by being nonlinear, they are both aware and not aware of Bajor at the same time?

Eh, strictly speaking, in the real world, I think it's a retcon. And that's the problem this episode has, it tries to have it both ways. The prophets can't directly refer to having an "emissary" or to "prophecies" because they don't seem to care about these terms. The writers need them to confirm that Sisko is the emissary without actually admitting that the prophets *have* an emissary, so they just sort of faff around for awhile until Sisko and Akorem get the gist. It's all very awkward!
Nick P. - Thu, Mar 7, 2013 - 1:03am (USA Central)
@Anonymous, to answer your question from 5 years ago :)

"If the Pope asked all practicing Catholics to renounce their jobs and give away all their wealth do you think it would happen?"

I would say RIGHT NOW the answer is no, but if the jewish people had a pope shortly after WW2 and he asked that, would they? I think that answer is a little more difficult. they didn't even have a pope, and many of them did, simply in the belief in their people and their religion. I am not surprised when a largely non-religious audience doesn't understand why someone would give up their life for a religious purpose. Of course Kira would give up everything if the person she believes speaks with prophets told her to.

I loved this episode, but man I am getting SICK of Kiko. Talk about not paying attention to your husband. I am starting to think she may in fact be having an affair.
Jay - Sat, Jun 29, 2013 - 2:14pm (USA Central)
@ Chris...that could potentially be an issue, but the dialogue says that the djarras lasted until the Occupation, and it's possible that Winn is old enough to have already undertaken the Vedek path when the Cardassians invaded.

Every other Trek race conveniently seems to have a longer lifespan than humanity does. Bajorans are probably no exception.
Kotas - Wed, Oct 23, 2013 - 6:06pm (USA Central)


Jack - Wed, Jan 1, 2014 - 12:46am (USA Central)
So what exactly was the point of this episode. The light ship didn't enter the wormhole, so the Prophets suddenly upchucked it. Why did the Prophets do it, and why now? Time isn't linear for them, so what was this...a test of Sisko?
k - Fri, Jan 10, 2014 - 8:44am (USA Central)
I would guess that the djarras where never really all that rigid in reality. When people try to recreate that past, they often attempt to create something that never really existed in the first place. It may be that what they were attempting to recreate was an idealized version of the djarras, rather than what they were actually like.

Perhaps the Bajorans would have done whatever the Emissary wants, but I don't think this would have worked in the long term. It was leading to people doing tasks that they were not qualified for, and even to murder. Here on Earth, no leader of a large religion truly has the power to get all the members to accept radical changes without conflict. IF a religious leader pushes to far, there is schism and internecine warfare.
Jons - Mon, Feb 3, 2014 - 5:39am (USA Central)
I feel like it could have been so much more! The premise of the Djarras is fascinating but there's a disconnect between the lack of reaction of the people (and their immediate submission to it, which is never explained) and the changes the Djarras would bring (i.e. a man from a higher caste can kill an "unclean" one just because he feels like it).

I agree that religious people are irrational BUT precisely because religion is completely irrational, it can be made into what one wants, especially when it goes against one's own interests: I have a hard time believing that the lower-caste people who have risen to positions of power wouldn't have found a way to challenge the new emissary's orders, by pointing out that he may very well be an imposter for example. Just as "higher" caste people who have descended into misery after the occupation would have seized the opportunity immediately to reclaim their family's position. That's how people are.

Or if people were really being submissive, there would have had to be some plausible but overt explanations. For example:
It's a bit unrealistic how somehow Bajorans have managed to completely upend the caste system within only 50 years. If the Djarras were in place up until 50 years ago, you can bet that a large part of the Bajoran population has jobs that are in line with their family's Djarras, would still believe more or less in the caste system, and I have trouble imagining discrimination would have disappeared...
In any case, it should have been explained, because the sudden change (suddenly people who are supposed to never have known the caste system immediately give up their seat for others??), literally overnight is just very strange.

I strongly feel this should have been a two parter, with one part focused on the effects on Bajora (conflicts? civil war? opposition? what of people inter-marrying? What of the First Minister being a farmer? Surely his opponents would have used it against him immediately!) and the other part on Sisko's personal journey.

This episode just underlines how season 4 has been unequal: Lots of great, profound episodes about interesting matters and lots of other completely useless filler episodes...
Jack - Thu, Feb 13, 2014 - 4:55pm (USA Central)
Would have been nice if the Prophets, when sending Akorem back, also restored the Vedek whose death he caused.
Dusty - Mon, Feb 17, 2014 - 1:36am (USA Central)
This is a good episode, but it could've been even better. I wanted to learn a little more about the Djarra system, but it was clear that the new guy's proposals were impossible. Bajor can't just turn back the clock and pretend the occupation never happened. You can't ask those people to revert to a stifling caste system that would alienate them from the Federation. You might as well just invite the Cardassians back in! Why didn't anyone bring that up? If a casual fan like me can think of that, it's hard to give the writers an excuse.

There were quite a few parallels here to religious problems we face in real life. The big difference is that HERE, our gods do not appear to us and tell us who's right and who's wrong. That part seemed like a copout. I think the episode should have been more about Sisko and Kira working together to preserve the new peace they've created, with Akorem being revealed as a fraud, or a new villain who really believes the prophets want him in charge. I didn't like how they dropped Kira at the end. She should have felt more strongly about this. She's not a weak-willed follower, she's a soldier. Let her be who she is. That's why we like her.

On the bright side, what happened to Keiko? Sure she's still a bad actress, but her character was actually decent in this episode. No whining, no sniping at Miles or making him feel bad for missing Julian. Seems very unusual for her. xD
Vylora - Mon, Feb 24, 2014 - 5:55pm (USA Central)
The one bit of dialogue that stands out for me is between Kira and Odo. When he states that her faith seems to be at a contradiction and she counters saying if you don't have faith you won't understand. If you do have faith then no explanation is needed. In storytelling terms, specific to Kira in this case, it makes sense from what I've learned of her and her faith. In realistic terms, it shows the circular argument that blind religious following has as part of their case for faith. The argument itself allows the believer to remain ignorant to reality by basically a cop-out. But does that mean Kira is wrong? In my mind, yes. But in context of the overall storytelling arc of her character, the writing itself, the dialogue given, is not wrong. It would make much less sense to me if she suddenly abandoned her faith.

This is a small example of the bigger picture of religion inherent to any characters. Just like any other choices made by the characters - they should be made in accordance of what we know about the character and not necessarily of how we would agree/disagree with them in real life. I would like to have seen an episode where Kira questions her faith and began more logically looked at the reality of the situation. Of course it wouldn't be sudden but would be an interesting arc. But it is not to be and just shows her a flawed Bajoran that makes good and bad choices. The difference between her and, say, someone like Winn, is that Kira is more selfless and works to better herself despite (and sometimes working with) her faith. Winn mostly utilizes her faith, and her post, for political and selfish gains. I enjoy the episodes where Winn seems to want to change for the better. It adds more to her character but ultimately she reverts to her old ways. I'm oversymplifying there a bit but holds true for the most part.

As for the political ramifications on Bajor (or lack thereof) per the ending of this episode - I was under the assumption that, because Kira saw with her own eyes the newly completed poetry, that would also be the case for most of everyone involved. I agree that the ending was a bit tidy though and could have used a bit more in the way of expansion of the dialogue. While I liked the B-story quite a bit, this seems to be a case where an A-story can be improved without it and without missing out on anything in the process.

There really is a lot to like on here and I'm finding myself on the fence of 3 or 3.5 stars. One hand it's definitely a good-quality episode that's made better with some great storytelling, meaty dialogue, and great direction. On the other hand it's sports the hallmarks of a near-classic episode that's held back by a somewhat-too-tidy ending, and an amusingly likeable B-story that could have been sacrificed for the A.
Garrison - Sun, May 4, 2014 - 10:04am (USA Central)
Dusty asks, 'On the bright side, what happened to Keiko? Sure she's still a bad actress, but her character was actually decent in this episode. No whining, no sniping at Miles or making him feel bad for missing Julian. Seems very unusual for her. xD'

I figured she was finally happy finding a purpose in life.

Best exchange in my opinion -
Quark: Mr Worf, did you hear? Keiko's having another baby.
Worf: Now??!!?? (Remembering the events of TNG's "Disaster".)
Yanks - Tue, Jul 29, 2014 - 1:38pm (USA Central)
Just watched this one last night.

Before this ep I didn't realize that any society that employed a cast system could not get into the Federation. Interesting.

This episode is an interesting one that bring up all kinds of issues, questions, etc.

"I pushed him" Wow, didn't see that one coming. The Crusades anyone?

Then Kira letting Sisko know just how much power/influence he had over the Bajoran's, whether he accepted it or not:

"KIRA: Maybe you never realized this, Captain, but we would've tried to do whatever you asked of us when you were Emissary, no matter how difficult it seemed. I'd better get to Ops."

Kira just chokes me up seemingly all the time. What an emotional scene here. Much more of a punch here than when she was reassigned in 'The Homecoming'

"SISKO: I don't doubt I can find someone to fill your post. But to replace you?"

I've seen this ep probably 6 times and I tear up every time. Kira's silent response, that look in her tearing eyes.... (snif) A REAL bond between these two and Kira comes off as so damn genuine. I love her for that.

A-hem... (clears throat)....

Sorry, Yanks swallows...

Onto this episode.

I don't see this as one of those "reset button" episodes. What did you want, to be drug through the D'jarras crap for 4 or 5 episodes? Sisko saw things were not working out, that this was a step backward for Bajor, that in Star Fleet's eyes he had failed so did something about it!

My problem with the solution is this exchange inside the "temple". This catches my ear every time I watch it.

"KIRA: The Sisko taught us that for you, what was, can never be again."

Now this was fine in 'Emissary' when they were talking about Jennifer's death, but just how does it apply here?

Also, I remain a little confused about the 200+ year thing. Just why did they keep this fella for so long if it wasn't to satisfy the scripture? Why didn't they ask him the same questions they did "The Sisko"? I'm OK with him stumbling upon the wormhole, and them helping him, but why keep him? Quite the premonition if this was a test for Sisko.

But it was nice to see Akorem realize these circumstances were not as he saw them and not to fight the emissary thing. But if the prophets don't understand linear time, how do they put him back at the right time in history?

Puzzling... I'm open to answers it anyone has them.

I LOVED the whole Worf, Keiko pregnant thing. I had forgotten that Work delivered Molly on the Enterprise. Very funny there when Work says he's scheduled to be off the station 7 months from now :-)

I didn't want to kill Keiko this episode. I thought it was nice that she saw Miles had developed a relationship with Julian. Miles' initial reaction to her being pregnant was a little “WTF” though.

2.5 for me. Probably a 3.0 or even 3.5 if I understood the whole exchange at the end in the wormhole.
Robert - Tue, Jul 29, 2014 - 1:54pm (USA Central)
"Also, I remain a little confused about the 200+ year thing. Just why did they keep this fella for so long if it wasn't to satisfy the scripture? Why didn't they ask him the same questions they did "The Sisko"? I'm OK with him stumbling upon the wormhole, and them helping him, but why keep him? Quite the premonition if this was a test for Sisko."

It's not linear. Sisko discovered the wormhole first, Sisko made first contact with the wormhole aliens (even first is too linear of a word, but it's tough to explain things otherwise). Just because Akorem got there 200 years before Sisko by our understand doesn't mean they kept him for 200 years or that he didn't get there second by their understanding.

Because they don't understand linear time before they meet the Sisko it's my best guess that their contact with our realm happens in a non linear fashion. I believe that when they open the wormhole they can decide when to let you out the same way that you can tell an elevator what floor you'd like to get off on.

If I want to look for a file on my computer and I can't figure out what folder I put it in or what I named it I might think "when did I work on it" and search for a date range. For them these things are all the same, when is as tangible for them as where and what are to us.

I think from their perspective time doesn't move. They simply exist. They encountered the Sisko and thus had always been aware of him. They encountered Akorem and thought he might be useful to the Sisko so they changed the exist point (in time) of the wormhole and sent him out elsewhen.
Robert - Tue, Jul 29, 2014 - 1:57pm (USA Central)
"But if the prophets don't understand linear time, how do they put him back at the right time in history? "

I'm not convinced this is true. They DIDN'T understand linear time before they met the Sisko, at which point they have always understood it. Well enough, in fact, to send Jennifer Sisko to his father (yes, I think they did that after they met Sisko for a famous Trek paradox).
Yanks - Tue, Jul 29, 2014 - 4:47pm (USA Central)
@ Robert.

Ah, thanks. That makes sense.
Yanks - Tue, Jul 29, 2014 - 5:05pm (USA Central)
@ Robert - Tue, Jul 29, 2014 - 1:54pm (USA Central)

Sorry, I got ahead of myself. :-) I was using Jammer's comment browser and didn't see your first response.

I'm not sure I understand the "it's not linear" thing. Whether they understand it or not, it was linear for us.

But, that said, I suppose we are talking about something that is as foreign to us as linear is to them. So being confused is authorized! :-)

So... how does this "Orb Shadow" play? hmmm... this is sounding like maybe a test? Is this a method of communication to Sisko from the prophets?

Loved seeing Opaka once again. I forgot to mention that.

It was nice to see her "shadow" tell Sisko "You are of Bajor". Stuff like this always meant more to me coming from her. I guess we are right to assume this is coming from the prophets.

Robert - Wed, Jul 30, 2014 - 9:23am (USA Central)
I always thought the orbs exist partially in the prophet's realm and that exposing yourself to it brings you in connection with that realm.

An orb shadow is because it's not linear, so technically once you've been exposed to the prophet's realm a piece of you is always there, since, from the perspective of their realm your exposure is not "in the past".

I'm not saying it all makes perfect sense (and as you say we might not be able to grasp it entirely if it did), but it works a LOT like the Nexus with Picard being able to come out minutes after he was absorbed, Kirk coming out a century later and a piece of Guinan still being connected to it.
Yanks - Wed, Jul 30, 2014 - 11:24am (USA Central)
@ Robert.

Good points all. I like that take on the orbs.

I don't know that the Nexus compairison is the right one though. Linear time was never an issue with it. One exited when one wanted to, not when the Nexus said to.
Robert - Wed, Jul 30, 2014 - 12:39pm (USA Central)
I guess I just mean that Kirk didn't seem to have been in there 100 years and that a piece of Guinan still seemed to be connected to it. I don't mean that it's entirely un-linear, it just didn't feel as linear as our reality. Certain things about that realm seem to work like the prophet's realm. It's probably over complicating it though to compare 2 things we don't understand with each other.
Stuart - Tue, Aug 12, 2014 - 7:25pm (USA Central)
A couple of things that weren't mentioned:

1) Does anyone else think Keiko was a bit of a b*tch for telling Miles they were going to have a baby by letting Molly tell him?

2) I was so convinced that the new Emissary was going to be a shapeshifter. I mean, if the Dominion was watching these goings on from afar, surely they would be kicking themselves that they didn't think of it themselves! How can Sisko not have thought of that possibility? They just accept a guy on his word when he says he's a famous guy from 200 years ago???
Yanks - Thu, Aug 14, 2014 - 4:54pm (USA Central)
@ Stuart.

Many here including me already think Keiko is a b*tch. I didn't need this to convince me :-) I didn't think having Molly tell Miles was that bad. I had more a problem with her reaction to his.

"KEIKO: Yeah. I thought you'd be happy. I mean, we talked about it and decided we'd start trying."

*** Heard with that evil Keiko voice accompanied with that evil Keiko expression ***

The "new" emissary being a changeling never occurred to me.
Brian S. - Wed, Jan 28, 2015 - 2:21am (USA Central)
"To continue the Catholic analogy, if Christ himself returned to earth and told people they needed to give thier lives to do something else, don't you think a lot of Catholics (and Protestants too for that matter) would consider doing it?

I think that analogy is more accurate. Oh, and love the reviews!"

That's probably true. Hell, I'm Jewish, and if JC was resurrected and came back to life (and that was somehow verifiable)--or if like Akorem a literary icon from 200 years ago like Mark Twain came back to life-- I'd probably listen, too.

My religious "faith" would probably be a lot stronger if there were physical orbs spread across the planet that led to direct communication with actual aliens.


As for the B-story, I would have much preferred a script that focused more on Molly's refusal to interact with her father.

The writers played up the bit about Miles missing Keiko while she was away, but they gave virtually no credence to the relationship between Miles and his daughter (a relationship that was arguably far more subject to damage by the long time apart).

In this episode, Molly is supposed to be about 4 years old. She hasn't seen her dad in 6 months, and has barely seen him at all over the course of the year. This could have had a crippling effect on Miles as a father. And when Molly refused to play darts with him, even though the writers clearly didn't do anything with it, it hit a nerve with me.

As a father to two small girls, it hurts deeply when work forces me into scarce appearances at home. My baby still lights up at my presence, but my toddler will turn to Mommy for everything. If I try to pick her up, she screams, "No! Want Mommy!" I understand why....it's because my wife is able to be at home more. But it still stings a bit. And that's just after a few late shifts. Molly was gone 6 months. Most kids that age in that position would be standoffish towards the previously absent parent.

Devoting more exploration to that dynamic wouldn't have merely been realistic, it could have made for a very powerful arc all on its own....whether for soldiers who have been deployed, or simply parents who have to work long hours at the cost of their time with their young children.

Miles has essentially missed 1/4 of Molly's entire life, his own daughter regards him as virtually a stranger....and all he can think about is getting back into the holosuites with Julian? That rings extremely hollow for a character who is a supposed family man.
MsV - Thu, Feb 12, 2015 - 7:19am (USA Central)
Sisko did not want to be the Emissary and Akorem wanted the job, but akorem was not qualified. He wanted to bring an old system back that would have destroyed Bajor enternally. Sisko reaiized what he had done and wanted to rectify the situation. The prophet, in their usual cryptic fashion conirms Sisko as Emissary. The show is setting the tone for future shows. Sisko has to come to full terms in order to fulfill his destiny as Emissary.
MsV - Thu, Feb 12, 2015 - 7:23am (USA Central)
I was surprised that no one even thought that since Sisko came back alone, that maybe there was some foul play.
Robert - Thu, Feb 12, 2015 - 9:37am (USA Central)
"I was surprised that no one even thought that since Sisko came back alone, that maybe there was some foul play."

I'm assuming that since he finished his poem they know he went back home.
Icarus32Soar - Sun, Mar 8, 2015 - 9:23am (USA Central)
Waste of 43 mins. Stupid premise about the 200 year thing & Sisko was turned into a wuss.The highlight was Kira's bird sculpture. Enough said.
Teejay - Wed, Jul 1, 2015 - 6:11am (USA Central)
Bad episode, possibly the worst of the season(along with "The sword of Kahless, although in that case, i'll admit I'm just not a fan of Klingon centric stories). The Bajorans come across almost as bad as the rubes following the crazy lady in "Paradise".

Only thing worth seeing in this episode is Worf's reaction to the news that Keiko is pregnant.
Easter - Sun, Sep 27, 2015 - 8:00pm (USA Central)
Kira: "we would have done anything you asked when we thought you were the emissary" No? you wouldn't? You went against his orders and requests literally all the time? There was constant tension on DS9 between bajorans and starfleet which you clearly opposed?

Also the Wormhole Aliens care about Bajor now? What?

This episode was a retcony mess
methane - Sun, Oct 4, 2015 - 6:38pm (USA Central)
-This is 3 stories: a personal story about Sisko finally accepting his status as Emissary (as he's confronted with an alternate Emissary); the story of Bajor dealing with changes brought by a possible new Emissary; and the "B story", Keiko returning to the station. The first works quite well and the last works fine; the middle story is much too simplified. How highly you rank this episode depends on how much you forgive that simplification. As others have pointed out, it's pretty much a given that you can't fit that story into a 45 minute episode while giving it the complexity it deserves.

-Sisko's personal story I think is well done. I would consider the story of Kira in this episode a part of Sisko's story. These 2, as well as Odo, seem to be behaving consistently with how their characters have been defined, and Sisko undergoes a transformation as he decides to accept his role as Emissary, a major change for the series (which is why I wouldn't say this story was a 'reset button' story).

-That middle story is the weak link. As others have pointed out, not every Bajoran would accept this change, and surely some Vedeks would publicly say so. And some of these opponents would justify their position by saying Sisko is the one true Emissary and he can't resign the position. Bajor is a planet with millions of people (I forget the exact number), so there will always be some necessary simplification in these stories. This one simplifies to much, but I'm not really sure how much more in depth they could have added without going to a 2-parter. The story of the TV series is always primarily going to be about our regular and recurring characters; it's a given that Sisko's personal story will get more attention than that of Bajor's populace.

-Others have pointed out Jane Espenson's work on Battlestar Gallactica; I remember her more for her work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where she wrote several humorous episodes. This subplot definitely seems to have her humor. The fact that she is a woman is probably a reason why Keiko comes off better than normal (there weren't many DS9 episodes written by women).

-Overall, I supposed I'd give it 3 stars. Sisko's personal story by itself would probably get 3.5 stars. I'm being forgiving about the problems on the large scale depiction of Bajor; I certainly understand why others will think differently.

-[Spoilers for the very, very end of DS9 follow.] For the discussion about the prophets: Since Sisko joined the prophets at the end of the series and since the prophets are non-linear, he has always been inside the wormhole. I always imagine him being the 'prophet' who has the most opinions on the outside world & is the driving force when they interact (except in the pilot). Sisko-in-the-wormhole is doing what is necessary to get present-Sisko to man up and embrace being the Emissary. That implies some circular logic (Sisko is doing what Sisko did before) which is always present in certain time-travel stories, but it also fits mythic stories of fate.
Markz - Thu, Nov 12, 2015 - 3:34pm (USA Central)
Bajorans seem so primitive and superstitious; how did they ever invent warp travel?
William B - Tue, Nov 24, 2015 - 12:24pm (USA Central)
This is an effective dramatic work when it's zeroed in on Sisko's POV, and to an extent when it focuses on Kira, though there is something crucial missing from the Kira side of things. Zoom out, and this is actually a pretty damning portrait of Bajoran society at large, which goes mostly unacknowledged by a misleading ending.

To recap, here is what the ending says: the Prophets, seeing that Sisko was not taking his Emissary status seriously enough, sends him an ancient poet to go take over the Emissary position, and so to sow chaos through his attempt to heal Bajor through bigoted classism. Then after a guy gets MURDERED by the episode's main Vedek for being an unclean undertaker and not showing enough respect, Sisko realizes he has to take charge, prove he's the real Emissary and then set things right by telling the Bajorans to ignore what Akorem had just said. The episode basically has the Wormhole Aliens, who now declare themselves to be Of Bajor (which they hadn't before), causing havoc on Bajor until Sisko agrees to toe the line; it has the Bajorans basically agreeing to whatever their religious leader who claims he is the Emissary says, to the point of self-destruction; and it has Sisko deciding it is his responsibility to be full-on a religious icon for the Bajorans, partly because apparently it's Who He Is now, but also because if Sisko doesn't embrace his Emissary role, some other rube will come along, fill that role, and lead the lemminglike Bajorans off a cliff. That Sisko basically has to act as religious figurehead to prevent the Bajorans in general, and Kira in particular, from screwing up their lives, is maybe an ending that needed a little more ambivalence than we got; Sisko now likes doing blessings, yay, but basically Bajorans were willing to change their entire lives based on the supposition that Akoren must have been sent by the Prophets to tell them what to do, which as we see is false. I mentioned The Simpsons' "Last Exit to Springfield" when talking about "Bar Association"; now I'm reminded of Homer's reaction to Gabbo's upcoming first appearance after he had been affected by weeks of content-free advertising: "HE'LL tell us what to do!"

It does make sense to me that the Bajorans are a fragile people, because if nothing else this series (and TNG too, in "The Drumhead" e.g.) reinforces that all society is essentially fragile and requires constant vigilance; Sisko narrowly stopped a Starfleet coup on Earth a few episodes before, the Klingons have flipped recently, Tain brought the Obsidian Order to ruin, etc. But the episode has the Bajorans really just do everything that This Guy says, because he disappeared into the wormhole and came out of it; he was not told he was the Emissary, but inferred it from having spoken to the Wormhole Aliens, and that is good enough for Bajorans. That the Wormhole Aliens actually exist means that the Bajorans *AND SISKO* should think hard about whether they should actually reorder their lives based on the W.A.'s teachings, let alone that they already know that their ability to interpret what the Word of the Prophets actually is is very suspect. Really, there is something condescending, paternalistic, and frightening about the way the Prophets engineer Sisko into taking on the superior role as their puppet/intermediary by sending an alternate Emissary to show not why it's crazy for Bajorans to follow their Emissary wherever he goes, but that it's crazy for them to follow the "wrong" Emissary.

The thing is, I don't mind this as a story...IF the series as a whole allowed for how unsettling this all is. In some ways, of course, Sisko becoming a religious icon specifically so that he can *not* force Bajorans to follow him blindly is far preferable to the alternative presented by Akorem, and Sisko seems to have basically the role that Clone-Kahless has in the Klingon Empire -- a religious figure who has no actual political power. However, the point of "Rightful Heir" is that Clone-Kahless did actually have things to teach about what being a real Klingon is; Sisko, at this point in time, has nothing to teach the Bajorans AS THE EMISSARY, and indeed there is the implication (i.e. from Opaka) that this is why Sisko was chosen -- because he is a blank slate when it comes to Bajoran spiritual life. This actually makes me quite cynically think that he is a convenient tool for the Prophets because he can be, over the long run, manipulated into being their instrument with none of his own (religious) biases, which, well, more on that when we get to "Rapture." But that Bajor "needs" "the Sisko," and needs the Prophets and needs some intermediary, even if it is just to placate them with blessings, is basically unavoidable as of this episode. And Sisko really shouldn't be so happy about it as he is at the episode's end. If Sisko is being set up by the Prophets to interfere directly in Bajor, it is problematic for all the reason that the Prophets interfering in Bajor is problematic, and if he is being set up by the Prophets simply to be there and be a lightning rod for religious devotion, this is a problem too. Ultimately, within the context of this episode, the Prophets have no real message for Sisko or Bajor besides that Sisko should be the Emissary willingly, and not what he should do with that title (besides, not impose classist structures).

I will say that I don't mind the "retcon" of Kira saying that they would have done anything Sisko asked of them. I do think it contradicts the whole way Kira carried herself around Sisko pre-"Destiny," to say nothing of weirdos like Col. Day who tried to murder Sisko for no reason in "The Siege" (and killed Li instead). But Sisko kept his Emissary and Commander Of Deep Space Nine roles separate, in particular distancing himself from Emissary all the time, which means that I think it's pretty plausible that the Bajorans would have done whatever he said if he had claimed the Emissary title...or, at least, THAT KIRA WOULD, and that Kira assumes the rest of Bajor would have followed suit. In reality I think large sectors of Bajor would have opposed the idea of an outsider as religious icon had Sisko tried to do anything with it, but that Kira's particular kind of devotion would mean she would follow Sisko strikes me as plausible.

I think that part of what episodes like this help establish is that DS9's model in telling religious stories really has something to do with epic tradition; methane's last (spoiler) point is a very good example of what the show seems to be trying to do. And that very abstract Epic story of the Joseph Campbellian hero having to accept his destiny is a good story and in that sense the episode mostly works...except that within the context of the Trek universe, the Wormhole Aliens cannot quite function as Greek/Roman gods but are aliens. More to the point, even in that Epic mode, the consequences of Sisko's Destiny have to be examined on their own terms, and that the whole of Bajor would do whatever he wanted if he told them to is pretty weird/screwed up and needs further elaboration even if Sisko will restrain himself from using that power -- which considering he is the guy who cannot have a labour dispute on his station without starting to issue threats is something I find hard to believe. Sisko is maybe a T.E. Lawrence figure, an Outsider who takes on quasi-mythic status (or Paul Atreides in "Dune"), and that is very interesting, potentially, if the series would examine it more closely, and, most importantly, allowed the more worrisome aspects of Sisko being in this position, not as inconvenience for Sisko but for its implications about the Bajoran psyche, to breathe. This episode brings up the problems and then the end of the episode promptly drops them -- which would be okay if it weren't that the series largely drops them as well.

End of part 1 of my comment. Part 2 will be shorter and will talk more about the smaller-scale effectiveness of the story, and the B-plot.
William B - Wed, Nov 25, 2015 - 11:15pm (USA Central)
Part 2 of comment, which alas is not shorter at all:

I talked this episode over with my girlfriend a bit, and we discussed how the Bajorans' total eschewing of personal responsibility in letting the Emissary and tradition dictate their lives to them really does seem realistic. While Akorem having that much personal power and instituting changes so suddenly is implausible, the overall idea that big changes in opinion can happen very quickly, even on large scales, does seem valid. Given that it seems likely that a conservative/reactionary contingent of Bajorans, probably represented by Kai Winn, might have been stoking the fires regarding what has been lost in discarding d'jarras, it also seems as if Akorem may have been something of a figurehead for this change; he remains on the station, no doubt to be closer to the Prophets, but it also means that he does not set foot on Bajor. In that sense, what happens on DS9 seems to be Vedek Porta's trial run for what will become widespread on Bajor. That Bajor is damaged by the Occupation and is searching for a planetary identity in the wake of massive destruction means that returning to a caste system for religious reasons has got to be tempting to a lot of people.

So really it's not quite *what* happens that is my problem with the episode, though maybe aspects of it do bother me. The episode also obviously has the d'jarras be a Bad Idea, and so it is not as if the episode is advocating the instituting of a massive caste system for religious reasons. The issue I have is that the episode drops a bomb here -- the Bajoran social fabric is on the verge of being torn apart by an instability that zeroes in on the intersection of trauma, tradition and faith -- and then the episode just resolves it with "Prophets work in mysterious ways" material. Most particularly, that the Prophets set this in motion to force Sisko into taking on his role means that Sisko basically does come to accept responsibility for a whole planet of people, and while there no doubt are Bajorans out there able to see the problem of Akorem's social changes and the problem of Akorem having that much power just as much as Sisko is, it is ultimately only Sisko who can affect change, and within the episode it is only Sisko who is able to stand up for Bajor against Akorem's (sort of) well-meaning tyranny, and he can only do so by getting the gold star from the Wormhole Aliens who dictate who it is who gets to dictate social policy. Some of this is valuable to help Sisko recognize how much he cares about Bajor, but it leaves a pretty big gap in the story.

The episode shows the Bajoran perspective largely through Kira, who is ambivalent about Akorem's d'jarra policy, seems not to like the idea very much, does not particularly believe she has artistic talent and would have no interest in following that path, left to her own devices. But she is willing to try, and, eventually, willing to resign her commission and essentially give up her life on the station, which has become most of what her life *is*, because she would see herself giving up without devoting herself fully to her d'jarra as a failure of faith. Kira fights hard against external oppression, but her instincts telling her that this is not her path and not what she wants to do are helpless against commands from Above. Her scene with Odo as Akorem announces his Emissarydom officially highlights that the rapidly shifting Absolute Faith in individuals and how confusing this is to someone who is not locked within that faith; Sisko's word *as Emissary* was infallible and she would follow him to the ends of the galaxy, until Akorem, who says completely different and even opposite words, comes in and has the new infallibility, until Sisko gets it back, and we learn that Akorem didn't have all the answers after all. Kira mostly shrugs it off, and then the last scene she laughs about her sculpture and then gets weirded out by the (pretty unnecessary in this episode) time paradox and that's it. That Kira was willing to give up her self-direction entirely because Akorem insisted this was the way and he seemed to be the holiest of men, until he wasn't, goes mostly uncommented on.

Anyway, I realize that my biases are colouring my reaction here, so let me step back a moment: it is not Sisko's place to impose a set of values on Bajor, and to some degree it is not the place of the audience to fully judge them. As the discussion has been going in the "Bar Association" thread, to some degree we are meant to get into the minds of other societies and to take those values on their own terms. I am not exactly doing that here, and that suggests the ways the episode is both more and less complex than it seems: maybe Bajor has some sort of symbiotic relationship with its "gods" which is too precious for the Federation (or the Klingons or Cardassians or Ferengi or...) to mess with, and as long as it's possible that the Prophets really did intend for Akorem to be The Emissary, and that he would thus have the place to dictate what is and is not a holy manner of living, it may be hard to say for certain that the Bajorans are "wrong" to institute their caste system. The thing is, TOS explored what it meant for there to be powerful beings worshipped by humanoids all the time, and the powerful beings usually turned out to be computers that Kirk decided he should destroy to force people into freedom. Here, there are powerful beings who may or may not be "of Bajor," who may or may not have an actual hand in Bajoran history, especially since they have previously claimed total disinterest in corporeal life forms.

It's all very messy. In any case, if Jaro succeeded in taking over the Bajoran government and instituted the d'jarra system, Bajor's admittance into the Federation would be off the table, and the Federation and probably Ferengi and maybe even modern Klingons would recoil a little at the caste system being imposed on the Bajoran people. The Federation philosophy would oppose the restrictions on personal freedom, the Ferengi would oppose the idea that a person is limited in what they can acquire (though they have gender discrimination), and while the Klingons had a caste system there are implications that this is slowly dissolving and that people can succeed coming "from nothing." (Spoilerish: see some of the discussion in s7's "Once More Unto the Breach.") However, Bajorans are the only ones who should boss around Bajorans is the general rule here, and the Prime Directive does and should apply -- Sisko could make an impassioned argument against Jaro or Winn or Shakaar or Bareil or Kira or whatever other Bajoran political or military leader's decision about Bajoran people, but ultimately internal matters are internal. And hey, maybe the d'jarras work for Bajorans. We hear about the possible advantages of the d'jarra system, and it is consistent with the picture of a Bajor which is an artistic haven, that there really was an artisan class who *could* produce art and things of beauty without "having to" put up with the stuff of mere survival. I am not advocating for such a system, any more than I advocate for Klingon warrior ethos or Ferengi uber capitalism, but it makes sense to allow the Bajorans to decide what system works for them. And on that level for me to blithely suggest that Bajoran society is imploding because they are instituting a caste system is silly.

HOWEVER, we have never heard of the d'jarras before this episode, and Kira is basically our entire picture of the Bajoran reaction. Vedek Porta is part of the religious authority and he fully supports the Emissary, to the point where he later murders a guy. But Kira is the "everyBajoran," and mostly what we learn is that the d'jarra sucks for her and she would not be considering it at all if she didn't believe that the d'jarra suggestion had divine providence. Now, the necessity of Kira being the whole of Bajor in this episode is part of the problem with one-episode stories, and with the episode's introducing and removing it. If the d'jarras maybe could be "good" for Bajor -- or, more to the point, if a large proportion of Bajorans agree with Akorem that the d'jarras are a good idea, and the possibility has just not come up recently -- then that is interesting and should be taken on and weighed appropriately, and then the primary problems become whether or not the d'jarras are good for Bajorans as a whole, how they affect individual Bajorans, and how they affect Bajorans' relations with other cultures. However, if Kira is representative and it seems largely as if the d'jarras are taken for granted as an antiquated notion which has no place in modern Bajor and which are wholly inconvenient, BUT WE'LL REORGANIZE OUR LIVES TO FOLLOW THEM IF THE EMISSARY TELLS US TO, then the primary problems have to do with whether it makes sense for Bajorans to follow the Emissary wherever he tells them. I have largely been assuming the latter case -- that the d'jarras are far in the rear-view mirror for most Bajorans and that for the most part only remnants of the former aristocracy would want it to be reinstated, and even relatively few of those, Kira for one being much happier where she is. Moreover, I tend to assume that Sisko did not actually tell Bajorans as the Emissary to stop with this d'jarra stuff, which means that the fact that the d'jarra issue instantly disappears, at least from our perspective as audience members, suggest that the d'jarra enthusiasm was primarily based on the presumption of Akorem's divine inspiration and nothing else. And so it does seem that the issue is then all about how Bajorans relate to their Emissary.

So that being the case, the big questions that always come up come up here. Bajorans having a religion that dictates a lot of their spiritual life is an internal matter, if their Gods don't actually exist. Once they do exist, and communicate with them, then there are verifiable/non-verifiable claims, and moreover the noninterference becomes tricky because suddenly there is no "internal to Bajor" anymore, and the Prophets are as external to Bajor as the Cardassians (more so, in many ways), and so the question of how exactly Federation interlopers like Sisko are supposed to respond, particularly when they drag him into things as their Emissary. And again, it is really important to note that there are multiple levels here: Bajorans presume that the Wormhole Aliens are morally infallible and sit in judgment, etc., etc., and they also presume that they can interpret what the Prophets say, and then they also presume that if some guy saw the Prophets in the wormhole and then went through time, that they have to do everything he says because they presume that that is what the Prophets wanted. This episode resolve the telescoping issues by having it made clear that, no, Sisko is the real Emissary, which only scratches the surface of the issues here. Sisko is the Real Emissary, and Akorem is not, and that's great, but whether Bajorans should give the power to the Emissary that they do, or to the Prophets that they do, or that Sisko as Emissary should give himself over to the Prophets as much as he does here, are questions that remain unanswered and almost unexamined. Of course, this is an episode in an ongoing narrative, and that helps and harms it: it helps it because not everything has to be dealt with now, but it harms it because it may be that the issues are never really examined closely enough to disentangle them.

Oh and also, Bashir and O'Brien are friends. I actually like the subplot and I think that Keiko does indeed come across better than in other episodes (I agree with methane that Jane Espenson's good humour and perhaps female perspective helps). I agree with, eg., Elliott above that this seems unnecessary, especially in the middle of this particular episode. However I am inclined to think that more work to solidify the Bashir/O'Brien bond may be in order a few episodes before "Hard Time," and so I don't mind the subplot for itself, even though this is probably not an episode that should have housed it. It is interesting that O'Brien's joy at Keiko's return and his realization that he's going to be a father a second time is very shortly eclipsed by how he misses Bashir and Molly is not as fun a darts player, but I digress. Best moment of the episode probably is Worf's panicked reaction to finding out about Keiko's pregnancy.

I maybe make it sound like I don't like the episode, but that is not the issue exactly. I think that what it does, it does fairly well, but it is very difficult to ignore what the rushed ending leaves unsaid. 2.5 stars, I guess.
William B - Wed, Nov 25, 2015 - 11:19pm (USA Central)
Summary: Jammer is right when he says the first four acts are much better than the last. The first four could have been a part of a great story, if the story were allowed to continue on. And even if the episode's material were largely dropped, the Sisko character development could go very interesting places...if the full implications of the Wormhole Aliens putting him through his paces to make him toe the line were examined. The series never quite points out how screwed up the way the Prophets treat Sisko and Bajor as a whole is.

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