Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Accession"

***1/2

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

31 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 rĂ´le. 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)
@Polt

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)

Meh.

4/10
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".)

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