Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Rapture"

****

Air date: 12/30/1996
Teleplay by Hans Beimler
Story by L.J. Strom
Directed by Jonathan West

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Before Captain Sisko found B'hala, my path was clear. I knew who my enemies were. But now nothing is certain." — Kai Winn

Nutshell: One of the series' most deftly written shows. Absolutely stellar work concerning complex issues.

"Rapture" is the embodiment of DS9's most respectable and intriguing qualities. Here is an excellent story—easily among the series' very best—with brilliantly realized layers of subtlety and complexity that will reward faithful followers of Deep Space Nine most of all with some of its finest writing. The best way I can sum things up is to say that there is so much resonating substance in this episode that it's almost amazing.

Like last season's "Accession" (a terrific show in its own right but not as great as this one), the writers of DS9 decide to return to the series' true roots—and prove that they still have the ability and desire to do intelligent, probing Bajor stories that believe in mystical spirituality and the unusual and inexplicable.

Beginning as Sisko and Kira admire an ancient iconic Bajoran painting depicting the long-lost ancient city of B'hala, the story quickly sets its tone—one shrouded in mythical larger-than-life aspects from the far past. It's interesting the way Sisko is instantly taken with amazement of B'hala. By the end of the teaser, the captain has scanned the painting into the holosuite computer, in an attempt to use the latest technology to decode a mystery Bajoran archaeologists haven't been able to do for 20,000 years... to find the forever-buried B'hala.

While in the holosuite Sisko is knocked unconscious by a powerful electric shock, and when he comes to he begins to see things in a new light. In one sense this is explainable: Bashir explains that Sisko's neurological system has been overloaded and will be more aware to sensory perception for a few days. Shapes will appear to be more focused and better defined for a while. "Enjoy the show," the doctor tells him with a slight grin (one of many subtle details that the episode gets just right).

But there's much more here. Before long, Sisko begins having powerful visions that encompass time and space, the past and the future. For brief moments he has divine understandings of the universe, and it isn't long before he begins to see the foreshadowings of Bajor's fate.

And it can't be a coincidence that it's about this time that word comes from Starfleet Command that Bajor has been accepted into the Federation—not a lightweight statement considering that this has been the ultimate goal of the series since its first episode. I must admit that it came as quite a surprise to me when that line came. I wasn't expecting it for quite some time—maybe not even until near the very end of the series' run. But as Admiral Whatley (Ernest Perry, Jr), who brings the news, states, Bajor's acceptance into the Federation is just the beginning—now the difficult tasks of integration begin. I couldn't agree more. I'm very glad to see that the writers understand that this goal represents only one leg of the issue, and that Bajor achieving this goal will lead to new issues to deal with.

But "Rapture" does not really choose to deal with this issue just yet. The episode is more about Sisko and his visions, and what happens when he begins having such foreboding, prophetic insight. A big part of the story's success can be attributed to the fact that it uses mysticism as an approach. It's particularly nice to see that the show doesn't pull its punches and try to explain these miracles using the typical sci-fi terms. These visions are visions, no doubt about it. They may be a side effect of Sisko's injury, perhaps, but that doesn't change the fact that they're miraculous gifts that, like existence itself, lie in a realm beyond our comprehension—maybe because we're just not intended to understand.

The spiritual implications alone are a major positive because we're invited to reflect upon them at almost every turn. But another big part of what makes "Rapture" such a brilliant story is the fact that these visions have such startling repercussions—repercussions that prove consistently thought-probing. For instance, Sisko's insight leads him straight to B'hala itself, the underground coordinates of which he locates after a mere few days of staring at a representation of a B'halan obelisk from the holosuite program. The story's execution of this search is absorbing; the episode works up a fascinating sense of wonder for its discovery of the lost city. What's most relevant and astounding here, though, is Sisko's character, who cares deeply about his find and its meaning. Noteworthy is the way this demonstrates how far Sisko's role in Bajoran mythology has come since "Emissary." Here he finally seems comfortable and devoted to taking his role in Bajoran mysticism (opposed to his attempts to distance himself from it in "Accession"), and that's a powerful realization that's worthy of respect and awe—of both Sisko's character and the DS9 writers.

Sisko's discovery of B'hala has a domino effect that leads to several other brilliantly realized character turns. Most notable is the change in Kai Winn's attitudes, which she voices to Kira in two separate, wonderful exchanges. Winn admits to having been wrong about doubting Sisko as the Emissary, for the one who found B'hala must be the one who was sent by the Prophets. This isn't so much a change in heart as it is something that challenges the direction of her beliefs. As she states near the end of the show, things are no longer simple. Her path is no longer clear, and she doesn't know who her enemies are.

This is fascinating stuff because it's such a perfectly truthful example of cause and effect. It's completely warranted, credible, and follows from the past actions of Winn's character—which is wise writing. It's true character evolution, the type of thing that really works while simultaneously being the type of thing that is particularly challenging to pull off. It's something that's bound to be overlooked in this episode, but one of the best examples of faith and direction that the series has displayed.

This new problem is something that Winn doesn't take lightly. Indeed, faith is all that she has, or has ever had. During the Occupation she had the strength and will to continue teaching her beliefs at the price of Cardassian beatings. And unlike those in the Resistance, as she pointedly explains to Kira, she didn't have weapons—all she had was her faith. Kira's response is one of the many sensible subtleties of reality that makes this episode such a winner—she's disquieted with solemn surprise, perhaps understanding Kai Winn for the first time in her life.

Winn has always appeared to be a tad underhanded, ever since "In the Hands of the Prophets." But "Rapture" implicitly explains a lot about Winn and her motives and history, and the results are stellar.

But turning back to Sisko, as he's the real focus of the story, it should be noted that Avery Brooks turns in an interesting, textured performance. After the visions begin appearing, Sisko has a sedate and peaceful aura about him, mostly in the way he speaks. It's indeed spiritual, as if he has briefly seen something—or everything—that has given him an understanding of, as he puts it, the very universe itself. One serene, engaging sequence has the captain literally walking through the promenade telling fortunes to complete strangers.

It isn't long before Sisko becomes obsessed with his new gifts, and the new problem becomes trying to balance his interests in Bajoran mysticism with his Starfleet job. Admiral Whatley is obviously not pleased with Sisko's visions interfering with his duties, but I think there's even more to this conflict than meets the eye. In some ways, I think Whatley is a symbol for Starfleet and their possible dismissal, even fear, of Bajoran faith. (Even if Ernest Perry, Jr. is a tad wooden as Whatley, what he represents is quite effective. Granted, Sisko's problem is an extreme circumstance, but I can't help but be reminded of Eddington's speech on Federation assimilation back in "For the Cause.") If the Federation does represent a sneaky, even if unintentional, assimilation of culture, then Benjamin Sisko represents the true liaison between Bajor and the Federation. Here is a man who can "be a Starfleet officer" yet values and heeds the Bajorans' beliefs at all costs. This is great stuff.

It's no doubt, then, why Sisko allows his obsession with his visions to escalate to the point of threatening his life. He sees something disturbing in the future: a horde of locusts hovering over the rebuilt B'hala on Bajor before leaving to fly to Cardassia. But what does it mean? He's not sure, but Bashir may not be able to let him find out. The electro-neural activity in Sisko's brain is all wrong, and Bashir needs to perform a crucial operation or Sisko could die. Sisko refuses. The changes in his brain would likely cause his visions to stop, and that's something he can't allow until he understands the meaning of the locusts.

This is where the family scene enters the picture. With the return of Kasidy Yates (who has completed her six-month prison term for helping the Maquis in the aforementioned "For the Cause"), Sisko would be leaving behind two loved ones if he traded his life for these visions. Is it worth it to sacrifice himself? Jake sure doesn't thinks so, nor does Kasidy. Understandably, they suddenly find themselves looking at a man they thought they knew everything about with a sense of total incomprehension. But there's a bigger question here: What if risking your life would put the understanding of the entire universe in your hand? That's a pretty tough argument. It's a credit to the writers that they came up with something so audacious yet so human.

Speaking of tough arguments, there's also an intelligent scene in ops where Worf argues on Kira's side for faith against a reluctant Dax and O'Brien. "Since when did you believe in the Prophets?" Dax asks him. "What I believe in," he answers, "is faith." "That's not much to bet his life on," Dax says. "You're wrong. It's everything," Kira responds with a distinct aura of certainty. The subtle complexity of the acting in this argument is interesting. And by commenting on the plot, the characters not participating in it are put to a very reasonable use.

Eventually, with the surprise help of Winn and a Bajoran Orb, Sisko realizes that the swarm of "locusts" will destroy Bajor if it joins the Federation now. "It's too soon!" Sisko desperately tells the Bajoran ministers. The vote to join the Federation is later defeated by the Bajoran chamber of ministers based on their faith in the Emissary. Sisko collapses unconscious and near death.

Jake, as the closest relative on the station, allows Bashir to override Sisko's ultimatum that he not operate and "take away" Sisko's visions. It's an inevitable step that Sisko loses his gifts, but putting the choice in the hands of Jake because he needs his father is a dramatic point—further proving that life-in-jeopardy plots are best when having character choices and meaning within them.

All around, "Rapture" is one of the most complex and multi-dimensioned episodes of any Star Trek that I can remember. It's riveting and adds up to a lot. I'm also interested by the allusion to the coming war with the Dominion. (Could the "locusts" perhaps have been a Dominion strike, with Bajor being the first Federation casualty? Interesting... but never mind that now.)

The closing scene—where Kasidy reminds Sisko that although he has given up something important, he has also held on to something important—is a little schmaltzy in execution, but it works fine in context nonetheless. After all, a little schmaltz can be warranted considering such a unique and wonderful outing.

"Rapture" is about as perfect an episode as I could hope for.

Previous episode: The Ascent
Next episode: The Darkness and the Light

Season Index

57 comments on this review

Blue - Tue, Mar 17, 2009 - 7:45pm (USA Central)
Meh, this episode was OK, but it still suffers from classic Trekkian overplaying of everything. Sisko on the promenade telling fortunes was just cringe-worthy, as was the general treatment of his sudden I-CAN-SEE-EVERYTHING state. I liked that Kai Winn's becoming a deeper character, but this seemed like too radical a departure from the woman who sent murderers after people she didn't like. If they wanted her arc to really to go that way, they should have spent more time developing it; this was much, much too fast.
Damien - Wed, Jul 22, 2009 - 9:46am (USA Central)
I agree with the review, it's certainly one of the best, complex and intelligently written Trek episodes out there.

I was reminded of a CE3K scene as Sisko was playing with his food and saw meaning in the arrangement of his vegetables! :)
Jay - Sun, Aug 30, 2009 - 5:28pm (USA Central)
Why was Kai Winn there at the signing rather than the First Minister of Bajor (still Shakaar at this point in time I think)? That was a glaring plot hole.
Nic - Sun, Mar 7, 2010 - 9:28pm (USA Central)
I honestly don't know whether I liked this one or not. On the one hand it was very powerful, but on the other there were just to many coincidences for me to take any of it seriously. Yes, Shakaar should have been there. Yes, Sisko has his communicator on wrong. Yes, there should have been more people from the Federation CIVILIAN government. Yes, Penny Johnson's performance was a little off... but what's important is the big picture. I guess I'll have to see this one again.
Lee - Mon, May 10, 2010 - 12:27pm (USA Central)
New uniforms in this episode. They suit DS9 (ha ha) a lot better than the old ones. I think they get a mention at the beginning of the episode, but otherwise I'm always a little surprised by how underplayed the transition is. The Starfleet uniform is so ubiquitous, it just seems odd that this didn't get a little more discussion.
Jay - Sun, Nov 21, 2010 - 2:20pm (USA Central)
Well the "real" reason the uniforms changed here is that it was the first episode to air after the new uniforms got their opening reveal with the theatrical release of First Contact. The episode wasn't exactly going to say "Hey, we can wear these now because Picard and Co. got to inaugurate them."
Elliott - Mon, Dec 27, 2010 - 3:54am (USA Central)
Can someone PLEASE explain to me how granting credence to the ridiculous is automatically virtuous? Bashir's duty is to relieve Sisko of duty until his "visions" cease. Plain and simple. But no, this is DS9 where nonsense is treated like literary gold. As I said before, season 5 is truly the place in which the crap this series sowed from the beginning erupted to the surface and stunk up the alpha (and gamma) quadrant.

"Miraculous gift"? i'm sorry it's one thing to talk about spirituality and how the commonality of the Bajorans' religion helped them survive the Occupation, but this stupid crap is beyond acceptable in a Trek--why aren't Jesus and Mohammed hanging out in the wormhole too? Just shoot me, please.
jon - Thu, Jan 27, 2011 - 6:26pm (USA Central)
What treating religous people with respect is a bad thing Trek's about tolerance is odd given it's attidude towards religion and people who believe in religion. Allright name the time and the place and i'll do it want do you want single bullet straight to the head? drive by? you name and i'll be happy to do the deed
Elliott - Sat, Jan 29, 2011 - 6:38pm (USA Central)
First of all, I shouldn't grant you even the slightest attention by responding since, unless I misread that, you just threatened to shoot me in the head for being intolerant...

not cool.

Second, tolerance of peoples' differences in WHO they are is not the same as WHAT they think. Obviously one should always be open to new ideas and never harm someone simply for being different, but the idea is that human beings have evolved beyond their use for religion. If the Bajorans want into the Federation they had better evolve beyond it too. If not, then more power to them.
Polt - Sun, Jan 30, 2011 - 6:53pm (USA Central)
I've got to disagree with you on this episode. It found it boring, overacted, predicable and trite. And when he playing with his food, Richard Dreyfuss' mashed potatos in Close Encounters was running through my head.

How could Bashir NOT relieve him of duty until he was back in perfet health? How could the admirla not relieve him of duty due to the "hallucinations"?

Bajoran spirituality is an interesting concept, but Sisko always having 'visions' and such and no one who's NOT into the Bajoran religion even raising an eyebrow over it. I mean, I'm not Catholic, so I don't follow all his pronouncements. Why do Starfleet personnel, who don't follow the Prophets, cow-tow to the Emmissary?

Besides these, Sisko once again overacted. And did anyone NOT see it coming that his 'visions' would result in pronouncements that would keep Bajor out of the Federation?

Not a bad episode, just one that bored me. By that's just my opinion.
Polt - Sun, Jan 30, 2011 - 6:55pm (USA Central)
Oh this is what I get for not proofreading.

I should have said since I'm not Catholic, I don't follow all the Pope's pronouncements.

As well as the misspellings. Sorry.
Weiss - Fri, Feb 25, 2011 - 12:14pm (USA Central)
Great episodes, captivating. reminds me of the TNG episode with Barclay turning into a superbeing, except this one had more consquence and had more development of character. It is good they only did a few of these mystical episodes, because the revelations are so powerful when they do occur (similar to Coming of Shadows in Babylon 5, Mollari's dream...it will end in fire!)

--
just because you dont follow the pope, does not mean he does not have policital influence and that his pronouncements cant affect the public policy that affects your life (eg. war, peace, abortion, etc, governments base their decisions on plurality and constituents. If enough constituents have a shared belief that translates to votes and can affect a course of action and policy. regardless of positive or negative, liked disliked, or if you agree with that belief.)

So yeah, I think Sisko role as Emissary is important to the people of Bajor, and Starfleet doesnt have much choice in accepting/rejecting his pronouncements.

Now, I would question, why the Federation would allow him to command DS9 since it seems like a huge conflict of interest. But then again Picard was the arbiter of succession for the Klingon Empire (I think handed down from the dying words of the previous arbiter), and starfleet allowed that role to continue! and removing their Emissary from command would not be a sign of trust between a would be member.

--
why would Bajor have to give up religion to join the Federation. I thought Picard had mentioned that Earth had moved beyond religion. Dont recall him saying the federation explicity requires members to not practice religion, or it being a condition for membership?
Flask - Mon, May 9, 2011 - 10:45am (USA Central)
Yeah, what Polt said. I just don't see the appeal of "Rapture", which has too many darn holes in it to ascribe this kind of 4-star accolades. Two additional comments:
1. Brooks' overacting nearly kills the episode all by itself. In at least three instances I felt like I was watching Third Season "Plato's Stepchildren" Kirk. "You're half crazy because...!"
2. Bajorans have been hunting the famed Lost City for 10000 years. Sisko finds it in three days. OK, I might, repeat MIGHT buy that. But the whole monolith image-reflection bit? Whether or not the Cardassians stole the artifact, are you telling me that a spacefaring planet's best scientists never thought of that in 10000 years of analysis???
Aaron B. - Sat, Sep 3, 2011 - 3:56pm (USA Central)
This is when Winn became interesting. On most shows, it's a given that the evil, ambitious religious leader is not a believer at all, but only mouths the cant to hold power and milk the followers. But Winn truly does believe in the prophets and the Bajoran faith. Sure, she'll be back to scheming and grasping for power in no time, but always within that context of trying to follow the prophets (until she rejects them, which a non-believer couldn't do). Her interpretation of what the prophets want, of course, but still. That makes her much deeper and less of a caricature than she appeared to be early in the show.

Nic - Wed, Oct 12, 2011 - 3:27pm (USA Central)
Wow, I can't believe what I wrote above. This episode is now one of my favorites, definitely in the top 10 of the series. I credit DS9, and this episode in particular, with making me more sympathetic and understanding to people who have strong faith (I still consider myself an agnostic borderline atheist). It's not perfect (see above comments) but it does so many great things that I find it hard to understand that a fan of the series could dislike it so much:

-It adresses one of the earliest goals of the series: getting Bajor into the Federation.
-Winn finally becomes a three-dimensional character (too bad it didn't stick)
-It hints at events that would occur throughout the rest of the season
TDexter - Tue, Nov 1, 2011 - 7:49pm (USA Central)
I'm an atheist but the comments above are proof positive of the fact that being an atheist does not come with a free Ph.D. and complementary membership in Mensa.

The Federation wants Bajor. Bajor is deeply culturally religious. The Bajorans think of Captain Sisko as the emissary of their prophets.

Therefore, on the day of Bajor's acceptance into the Federation, the last thing the Federation wants to do is insult their culture. Therefore, they can't relieve Captain Sisko of duty. They can't do anything with Captain Sisko if they don't want to upset the Bajorans. QED.

This is also why Sisko gets to keep his job at the end.

Even the most generic understanding of politics should make this obvious. No need to be soapboxing about atheism.
Rachael - Sun, Nov 20, 2011 - 10:16pm (USA Central)
Elliot, I think it's at best an inference and at worst personal projection to suggest that the Federation and humanity are atheist and/or utterly without religion. The only legitimate source for that I can think of are some silly throwaway comments from Picard in early TNG, which was still being overseen personally by the atheist Roddenberry and which therefore smack far more of Roddenberry's personal wishful thinking than reality. The fact that Trek never chose to explore any non-Bajoran main characters' spiritual beliefs implies more that that show a) isn't about religion and b) didn't want to open a can of worms that could end up offending a bunch of people than it does to any sort of official interpretation that you have to be a card carrying atheist to join the utopia that is the Federation. Besides, if renouncing your culture and religion and becoming another bland drone was part and parcel of joining the Federation, I have a feeling Bajor would not even consider joining. And yet they are, so clearly the Federation is not as anti-religion as you want it to be.

I cannot for the life of me understand why so many atheists are so incapable of accepting that there will always be people who choose to have faith. If the Federation is even remotely the "tolerant" place we're told it is, it has a place for religion, or else Eddington really is right in "For the Cause" - they're worse than the Borg.
Elliott - Mon, Nov 21, 2011 - 12:48am (USA Central)
@Rachael :

For the record, my boyfriend is a devout Orthodox Christian, and his father is a priest. I have no problem accepting people of faith either philosophically or personally.

This show did not do a very good job of portraying religious people as particularly enlightened or redeeming. The Bajorans' religion is farcical; who needs faith when your gods destroy entire fleets before your eyes?

Regarding the nature of the Federation, Picard makes clear the nature of the Federation and religion in "Who Watches the Watchers" and episode from season 3, which is of course also the season of "BOBW," which few people will deny all but defines the TNG era Star Trek universe.

In that episode, it is made clear that being without religion is seen as an inevitable and necessary step in a culture's evolution--concurrent in fact with the discovery of warp drive. That may be a totally arbitrary and perhaps even slightly bigoted view, I'll grant, but it's established lore.

Even in our own age, which is hardly atheist, if a world leader or military leader were making command decisions based on "visions," he would be relieved of duty, regardless of what the visions might mean to him personally. The show had multiple opportunities to show how a religious belief might affect a person internally, where it really counts, in the person of Kira, but instead chose to make the series' gods corporeal wormhole aliens and Changelings. By doing so, all the power and mystery of real myth is circumvented and turned into something taudry and banal.

One further note about this episode; if the prophets really do care about Bajor enough to keep it out of the coming Dominion War AND have the power to vanish entire fleets of starships on a whim, what kind of sadistic creatures are these to allow the war to happen in the first place? Again, if the Bajoran religion had been something which actually embodied the nature of the mystical and required actual faith, this would have been a non-issue, but the show, rather, chose to shove down our throats the idea that because in this particular contrived context, the religion turned out to be "right" (whatever that's worth), all religion is somehow "right." This is childish, and it seems like a reason to criticise a show written with such a blatant agenda. But instead, this posturing is praised by those who think themselves post-modern progressive in their "tolerance" of religion.
Rob - Sat, Feb 18, 2012 - 10:06am (USA Central)
To Elliot: It wiuld be more accurate to describe the prophets as indifferent to the lives of non-Bajorans - not sadism or malice. The only reason the Prophets took direct action in the war was at the behest of 'The Sisko' who is very much ' of Bajor'.
It's also not just indifference, but a difference in understanding. Before the Emmissary, they had no concept of linear time, or more importantly, death. The end of life in the Alpha Quandrant is, for the Prophets, a non-issue, except as it touches Bajor.
For there to be malicious intent in the actions or inactions of the Prophets, they would have had to understand what lfe and death meant.

I suppose you could argue that, as non-temporal beings, the Prophets, once they understood the lessons that Sisko taught them, would have ALWAYS understood those lessons, and retroactively should have gone back and prevented all pain, suffering, and death in the universe since the dawn f time, but that's going a bit too far, and makes my head hurt to contemplate :)
Elliott - Sun, Mar 25, 2012 - 10:47pm (USA Central)
@ Rob :

But, if the Prophets care about preserving life only "as it touches Bajor", they must understand what life and death are. If they want the Bajorans to remain alive as a species, they must understand what kind of species the Bajorans are--that is to say, hardly distinguishable from humans or Cardassians. They actively choose to favour the Bajorans, even going so far as to prevent genocide, ONLY to save them, not anyone else. This means they only care about the "linear" species which worships them as Gods and Ben Sisko. This, to me, is incredibly egotistical and malicious.
Brian H - Sun, Mar 25, 2012 - 11:46pm (USA Central)
"Rapture" and "In the Pale Moonlight" are my personal favorites of the series. Listen to Jammer, he knows what he is talking about. Excellent reviews as always.
Justin - Mon, Mar 26, 2012 - 4:15pm (USA Central)
@Elliott, so the Prophets' otherwise choice of non-interference = sadism? That doesn't quite tally with your vaunted "Roddenberrian" ideal, does it.

@Brian H, I completely agree. "In The Pale Moonlight" and "Rapture" are in my top 10 favorite episodes of DS9. The others in no particular order are:

"Far Beyond The Stars"
"The Visitor"
"Hard Time"
"Duet"
"Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges"
"The Siege Of AR-558."
"...Nor The Battle To The Strong"
"Rocks And Shoals"
Elliott - Mon, Mar 26, 2012 - 4:27pm (USA Central)
@ Justin :

You prove my point exactly--the Prophets DO interfere on very specific occasions to purposefully favour the Bajorans--although, not to prevent the Occupation; maybe they felt the Bajorans needed to learn a hard lesson, those benevolent gods...

The prophets needed a Prime Directive. Hell, that could have been a major arc in the show beginning the first time they meet Sisko--the Prophets learning, as did the Q, what humanity has to offer through the Roddenberrian filtre. But that was not to be; the Prophets are capricious and self-serving thugs.
Mario - Wed, Apr 18, 2012 - 7:17pm (USA Central)
I really really could not disagree more. Zero stars from me for this religious propaganda fantasy episode.
Justin - Mon, Apr 23, 2012 - 5:08pm (USA Central)
First the easy one. Mario, this is a made up religion we're talking about. Yes, I know what you're going to say - all religions are made up, but that's beside the point. This isn't Judaism or Islam or Catholicism. Sure, parallels can be drawn, but no one's insidiously couching the scripts with the teachings of Moses or Mohammed. Or Cathol.

Elliott, one of the things that survived the founding of The Federation is Freedom of Religion. Bajor is an aligned planet, so they at least pre-qualify for Federation membership. And probably for a line of credit from the Bank of Bolius, but I digress. Their religious fervor (not to mention the fact that Sisko is a religious figure) makes them a bit dodgy, but hey, welcome to the Federation. Live and let live, right? Besides - Wormhole.

Now, while I think your labeling The Prophets as "sadistic thugs" is more than a bit extreme, your point that they could use a Prime Directive of their own has merit. But they don't, and that's part of what makes them so interesting. Besides, maybe Prophet Sisko is teaching them about the Prime Directive right at this very mo- never mind, they exist outside of our perception of space-time, but you get my meaning...
Elliott - Mon, Apr 23, 2012 - 6:00pm (USA Central)
@ Justin :

The show preöccupied itself with questions of faith about beings whose existence was unquestionable--it was a false argument. But putting in lines like Kira's "you don't understand it, you just have it" or whatever she said, bear the appearance of deep and controversial thought. If the series had bothered to ask whether the Bajoran gods were trustworthy or not, whether including them in the Federation (which would be implicit in annexing the wormhole) were wise, I would say kudos to the argument. The only character to voice something resembling this was Dukat in the 7th season by which point he'd become an uncomplicated cartoon villain.

The writers were clearly confused about what these prophets really were and chose to simply let that confusion permeate the show and pass it off as noble ambiguity, but this is dishonest writing.

The prophets are gods who can perform magic...but they are also transdimensional aliens...

The prophets are non-corporeal but they live "inside" the celestial temple...

The Federation does not acknowledge the divinity of these creatures, but doesn't classify them scientifically or instruct Sisko, who has regular contact with them, to study them scientifically...

Stupid, horrendous in fact, though it was in execution, TOS has an episode designed specifically to establish that the Federation is not a space-dwelling hippie commune ("The Way to Eden"). "Live in Let Live" is not a philosophy I've heard a character espouse on Trek (a good character anyway)--it's more like "Live to Make Life Better--Everyone's Life, not just Your Own."
Justin - Tue, Apr 24, 2012 - 2:02pm (USA Central)
@ Elliott, by "false argument" I take it that you mean the concept of the Bajoran faith is unworthy of being taken seriously because the Wormhole Aliens/Prophets' existence is unquestionable. I would argue that Jesus' existence is also unquestionable. It's the NATURE of his existence that the Christian faith is built upon. Likewise with the fictional Bajoran Prophets. A believer sees them as Prophets, while a non-believer sees them as Wormhole Aliens. A believer sees Jesus as divine, while a non-believer sees him as merely a man. Only a fool believes he never existed at all (not that you fall into that category).

The question of The Prophets' trustworthiness is a valid point, though, and it definitely should have been explored more by the writers. Like with many great shows, it's a thread that was left incomplete. But while such an exploration would probably divide the lines of Faith vs. Science a little more neatly, it would also add nuance and still leave the question of the nature of the Prophets' existence open to interpretation.

Fine, change "Live and Let Live" to a more apt "Live For the Betterment of All." It still doesn't alter my opinion.
Elliott - Mon, Apr 30, 2012 - 10:25pm (USA Central)
@Justin :

I do mean to say that the concept of Bajoran faith is unworthy of being taken seriously; it's not merely a question of the aliens' existence, but what they can do and what it means. The Bajorans "believe" that the prophets guide and protect Bajor in return for being worshiped. This is not a belief, this is a fact. The nature of that protection is something I, for one, find repugnant, but it does not call into question issues of faith that have anything to do with real religion. In Sci-fi, one has the opportunity (and frequently the responsibility) to allegorise. Fake science is frequently a substitue for real or potentially real science as should be fake religions.

The writers chose simply not to disclose information about the prophets, but failing to disclose something doesn't make it "interesting" or mysterious, just poorly characterised.
Snitch - Tue, May 1, 2012 - 4:12am (USA Central)
I liked the episode, since it addressed the problems family have with deciding what to do in a medical emergency. Star Trek and religion is always, they want the Cake and eat it, are the worm beings Supernatural and want to be worshiped or not. They never make up their mind, so their take on religion is always a cop out, its not really shown divine powers but they do not dare to say its all science. Voyager had the same problem.
3 stars from me
Drachasor - Wed, May 30, 2012 - 10:10pm (USA Central)
I have to agree with those that say Bajoran Faith is really not examined that well in this episode. The Orbs of the Prophets actually have powers that can be verified. They have prophecies that are pretty straightforward and come true. Their "gods" are beings that actually exist and seem to show concern for Bajor (though that's perhaps a bit of a retcon compared to how they were at first). They also seem to have taken a liking to Sisko as numerous witnesses can confirm.

What episodes like this never really think about is whether Bajoran Faith is always the same as the faiths of other religions. Bajoran Faith CAN be more like trusting a friend than other religions that have no evidence for the existence of their deities.

Starfleet is often forced to act in a rather bizarre way here. Starfleet officers have met beings with power far beyond the Prophets like Q. Yet somehow Starfleet's official stance is to act like the Wormhole Aliens have no relationship to Bajor or Sisko, despite a great deal of evidence to the contrary. Indeed, we see Dax and O'Brian have apparent shock that people believe in the Prophets, we they know dang well they exist and do interfere.

I find Worf's comments to be a little bit out of character here, though perhaps that's just part of how he uses "faith", which isn't a very clear word. Worf seems like the sort of person who'd talk about strength of will or character, and might see what Sisko was going through as a some sort of test. Afterall, Klingon culture is replete with these sorts of painful and sometimes near-fatal tests. On the other hand, Klingon beliefs hold that they killed their gods and he's seen a number of fake gods while serving on the Enterprise. I could see him being against listening to the visions.

This of course gets to a very significant question that is undiscussed by anyone in this episode. Does it make sense to trust the Wormhole Aliens/Prophets? Given the nature of the visions, it seems pretty clear they are involved. Why doesn't the Admiral or anyone else question whether they should trust the source of these visions? Surely the Wormhole Aliens [WAs] have their own agenda? Does it necessarily line up with Bajor? The WAs claim it does, but that doesn't mean they aren't lying about that and other things. Perhaps the WAs are a force working against the Federation -- they don't seem to have a problem (at this point in the show), letting the Dominion come through the wormhole and muck up the Alpha Quadrant. If you claim the WAs aren't connected enough to the normal flow of time to be judged this way, then that casts doubt on the validity of following those visions as well.

An interesting fact about the show that people often don't consider is this. When you look at the series as a whole, it certainly doesn't seem like the Prophets consider themselves divine and they seem rather oblivious to worship. The implications of this on Bajoran society is never carefully considered.

Elliott brings up a good point here as well. Why didn't the Federation ever consider having the Prophets join? The Federation certainly has a lot of strange and bizarre races that are part of it. The Medusans from the original show are energy beings that drive people insane who view them -- they are members. There are other beings from the original show and TNG with other strange powers equally as bizarre. The WAs wouldn't really be out of place, and there's no particular reason why they couldn't join. Heck, it might have been interesting to explore the idea that they already consider themselves members (and how Starfleet deals with that), given their temporal troubles.

A really thorough examining of the WAs would also have made a great counter-point to the Dominion, where the Changelings are likewise considered divine. The WAs are benevolent, but out of touch, whereas the Changelings are domineering and favor micromanagement. Both have people that worship them (whether these "gods" are really aware of it or care is another matter).

That said, I think this episode is very entertaining. I'd still give it 3/4 Stars. It would have been better if they didn't dumb down the situation into a simple blind faith vs. non-belief when the actual situation is much more complex.
Cindi - Mon, Aug 13, 2012 - 1:04pm (USA Central)
Man, do I agree with the review here. Another fantastic take on religion, with all the complexity and subtlety we're used to from DS9.

Although I also think Brooks' acting awkwardness and directing averageness almost kills the episode. But the script is so strong it's manageable. If Sisko were played by Patrick Stewart and the episode directed by David Livingstone (who did a stellar job on "Visitor"), this would be right up there with Inner Light.
Hegemon - Wed, Nov 7, 2012 - 10:06am (USA Central)
This episode is another of many that highlight why DS9 is simply not "real" Trek. Im not talking about whether its well written or acted or anything like that but it betrays some of the core principles that Star Trek is built around.

Roddenberry was himself a secular humanist and his vision of the future and therefore Star Trek was a world where humanity had accepted this worldview. He made this clear to the shows writers. Brandon Braga has said that Gene made it clear that not a single human being believes in anything supernatural.

It's OK if you dont like that but if you think religion and supernatural belief's are a natural fit for Star Trek than you're under some false impressions of the nature of Trek.
Josh - Sun, Nov 25, 2012 - 12:51am (USA Central)
Roddenberry's vision is not the last word on what Star Trek is about or ever was about. It's not as if the writers followed his directive either. For that matter, there's ample evidence in TOS and the movies that Kirk and co. weren't atheists. Roddenberry's vision also includes the Vulcan "katra" and a vast array of omnipotent beings who behave like the gods of the Ancient World.

Plus, in "Data's Day", Data makes mention of the passing of the "Hindu festival of lights". Are we supposed to think that non-humans were celebrating it?

As for the episode, it's always been a favourite of mine. But then I like stories with mythic aspects that aren't written to confirm with an arbitrary Trek mythos or "vision".
Sam - Mon, Dec 10, 2012 - 3:23pm (USA Central)
Everybody get over the Patrick Stewart and Avery Brooks comparison. There is none. There is a reason why Deep Space Nine is the most critically acclaimed Star Trek series of them all. It's because the writers were inspired by Avery's performance. To think that Patrick Stewart is so brilliant because of "Inner Light" is ludicrous. Scott Bakula was an wooden and empty captain. William Shatner was a wise-cracking pretty fly-boy. Patrick Stewart was decent enough but was boring and Kate Mulgrew was average but spunky, while Avery was commanding with his deep baritone voice, was tender as a father and sociable with his fellow officers. When he reprimanded you, you froze but he was also flexible as when he quietly helped O'brien help Tosk or when he provided Kira a runabout to rescue a Bajoran prisoner. He was a brilliant engineer (was part of the team that designed the Defiant at the Utopia Planitea Yards), was a master strategist (taking command of an entire armada of Starfleet vessels). He was a deeply religious man (the Emissary). You think an average actor would have been given such a character profile? Hardly. Again, Deep Space Nine was the most expensive and most acclaimed series of them all and this was due to not only the excellent production values, writing, cast ensemble but ultimately the strength of Avery Brooks commanding portrayal of Captain Benjamin Sisko, the Emissary.
David - Tue, Dec 25, 2012 - 6:08am (USA Central)
Not touching Sam's post.

But to Hegemon, I'd say DS9 seems pretty consistent with that rule. All of the human characters don't express either way if they're religious or not, those sorts of concepts all come from Bajorans in the episode and, obliquely, from Worf.

Also as has been pointed out, while the Bajorans couch it all in "religious" terms, Starfleet sees it as non-linear aliens living inside a womrhole, so it doesn't seem like it would be very complicated for them.

Now, whether the Federation accepts religious members is an interesting question posed further up. I'd say when that candidate has access to a stable wormhole, the Federation would let them in regardless.

Also regarding the episode, the revelation in Season 7 that Sisko is part-Prophet makes his ability to see the future here quite interesting. I suppose it depends on if their non-linear nature comes purely down to knowledge, or if it's an inherent part of them that was passed down in some fashion.
Josh - Wed, Mar 6, 2013 - 8:15pm (USA Central)
I just noticed tonight a nice little touch during the scene in Quark's celebrating Bajor's pending Federation membership. Dax and Worf are drinking from glasses with little Federation seals on them - a nice detail to be sure.

Avery Brooks provides an interesting performance. Most of the time Sisko is fairly down-to-earth but here he always seems a bit eccentric-unhinged by his visions. It's almost a subtle touch, but he modulates his voice and mannerisms in such a way that in just about every scene he seems noticeably different.

I've been doing a season five rewatch and it holds up very well so far!
William B - Thu, Apr 11, 2013 - 8:56am (USA Central)
Re: why Bashir didn't relieve Sisko of duty

It's true that there are political reasons, but there a much simpler explanation for why *Bashir* didn't relieve Sisko of duty in this episode. Hint: it's revealed in "In Purgatory's Shadow." :)

(I kid -- that doesn't change the substance of the discussion in any major way.)
Corey - Thu, Aug 8, 2013 - 1:15pm (USA Central)
Just want to echo agreement with Jammer's rating for this episode. Star Trek has always been a commentary about the human condition. Religion has been, and is, part of the human condition, and most likely will be for a very long time, and this episode touched on the issues well. Jammer already covered why this is a good episode, so 4 stars here.
Kotas - Thu, Oct 24, 2013 - 9:43pm (USA Central)

The Bajoran religion is not interesting to me.

2/10
eastwest101 - Thu, Nov 21, 2013 - 4:19pm (USA Central)
While I agree with most of Jammers reviews - I found this episode very very dull, lumbering and pedestrian effort. Brookes performance was as wooden and scenery chewing as ever, and I found myself actually bored.

A bit of a tiresome new age unfocussed bother to watch.... only one star from me - for the development of Kai Winn and the good scene with Worf, Kira, Dax and O'Brien in Ops
Ric - Fri, Dec 6, 2013 - 3:45pm (USA Central)
How an episode like that can be rated fours starts out of four, is beyond me. Of course I read the entire Jammer's review, as I always do. In fact I've been reading the site for a while, but this is the first time I felt compelled to comment. And why? It is simple.

In this episode, we see Sisko having visions about the future. There is not even sufficient technobabble thrown on the table to try explain how Sisko is supposed to have those spiritual visions of the future. In this episode, Star Trek starts getting a Star Wars flavor that it shouldn't have ever get.

Not that I despise religions, or even think that humans are all necessarily atheistic or even agnostic in the Roddenberrian future (although most humans certainly are, considering the tips given in past Trek). This is not the point. The points are: 1) how can someone have such visions of the future without a good rationale explanation in the Trek world; 2) how can a Starfleet Officer make judgements and huge calls as Sisko made here, based on those visions, without being released of duty either before that (by Bashir, as Elliot mentioned above) or after (as deserved punishment) those decisions.

This is not a merely odd episode. Those were not merely awkward decisions in a Trek universe. Those wer huge plot changing decisions in a hugely plot chaging episode, once it delayed the entrance of Bajor in the Federation of Planets.

I can see many good things in the episode regarding the writing, the character development, even some acting moments, etc. But how can those things surpass the atrocity that the plot injures Trek with, is just beyond any coherent reasoning I can find. Sorry guys, I liked the structure of the episode, but a huge plot change caused my unexplained religious visions of the future in a Star Wars way? No, sorry.

2.5 or 3 stars to the episode structure and writting. 1 star to the plot. On average, 1.5 to episode as a whole.
Grumpy - Fri, Dec 6, 2013 - 3:57pm (USA Central)
Ric: "There is not even sufficient technobabble thrown on the table to try explain how Sisko is supposed to have those spiritual visions of the future."

(babble babble) wormhole aliens (babble babble) non-linear (babble babble).

You don't have to like the show's reliance on magical, godlike entities, but you must admit they explain a lot. So anytime you see something like that, a Prophet did it.
Elliott - Fri, Dec 6, 2013 - 7:15pm (USA Central)
@Grumpy: Um, so because they happened to have mentioned "non-linear" prophets, that makes any action they take defensible? So if in the 1st season of Voyager, Harry Kim invented a self-powering shuttle replicator, no one would criticise the incredible supply they seemed to have? Just having an explanation, no matter how stupid, is sufficient?
Ric - Fri, Dec 6, 2013 - 11:25pm (USA Central)
@Grumpy I see your point and I am glad you came with this. But what amuses me is that not even the babble-babble wormhole, babble-babble non-linear card was effectively used in this episode. In fact, they sort of took it as granted that we would just recall and rely on those babbles.

Or in other words, in this episode authors seem convinced that, as @Elliott has just said, anything written for the show that does not immediately fit into the fictional reality of Trek by default, will be automatically accounted for by a magictechnobabble that is not even present neither in this episode, nor in any recent episodes. This is just too lazy and too easy an approach to, saying the least, be praised as an outstanding episode.

In the same tone, regarding the magical godlike entities, I agree with you that at this point it is an explanation. But it is not certainly an elaborate one. It is not only a matter of taste. I dislike other things in this and other Star Trek shows, as it is normal regarding any show. But here we are talking about something that is very contradictory to the Trek reality so far: magic-like technobabble. It does fit, into the reality proposed by Star Wars, to have such a thing as the Force. It does not fit in the reality we've been presented in Trek to have magic god-like creatures without careful explanation. Take, for instance, Q in the TNG show. Of course he had godlike powers as we think of gods, but in every Q episode we were exposed clearly and coherently to how he has been messing things around and how humans reacted coherently to that. In the current DS9 episode, this is not the same. We are exposed to Sisko having an electric shock when playing with ancient religious pieces, then Sisko just starts seeing the future and making decisions solely based on that, without the natural consequences.

If the idea was to do with Sisko similar something similar to what happens to Pickard in “All the good things…”, it clearly didn't work the same. And why? We just have to compare how both episodes were built and explained. In the TNG one, the causes for Pickard seeing the future were made very clear and had rationale; the reaction of Starfleet and even the Enterprise officers to Pickard traveling his mind through time was very credible: distrust and consternation; and the decision to alter events based on a knowledge of the future was made by Picard after a good deal of philosophical dilemma. Nothing like those things came even close to happening in this DS9 episode.
Ric - Fri, Dec 6, 2013 - 11:31pm (USA Central)
Btw, do not get my whole thing wrong. I really like DS9 in general and its provocative sort of anti-Roddenberrian ideal world. But starting to rely on such things as magical-because-nonlinear-things, as an excuse to do any plot change they desire without the limits of credibility, is just something that cannot be praised as a gold medal episode. Instead of as an at least flawed one, even if having its qualities.
Elliott - Fri, Jan 17, 2014 - 4:32pm (USA Central)
Ugh. Every time I watch this episode I find something new to hate--did anyone else catch that line from Worf? He essentially says (and Kira backs him up) that supernatural faith in ANYTHING is simply, automatically good, no matter what. Does anyone else say, "I don't see the evidence for that." or "Could you be more specific?" or preferably "That's fucking stupid." Nope. All we get is Dax and O'Brien saying, "gee I hope that's true for Sisko's sake." I have seen more cogent religious debate on the 700 Club. How anyone can call this writing "deft" must, in my view, be so anxious to see Star Trek apologise for its atheistic origins as to miss the gross contrivances which piece this episode together.
Elliott - Fri, Jan 17, 2014 - 4:33pm (USA Central)
Ugh. Every time I watch this episode I find something new to hate--did anyone else catch that line from Worf? He essentially says (and Kira backs him up) that supernatural faith in ANYTHING is simply, automatically good, no matter what. Does anyone else say, "I don't see the evidence for that." or "Could you be more specific?" or preferably "That's fucking stupid." Nope. All we get is Dax and O'Brien saying, "gee I hope that's true for Sisko's sake." I have seen more cogent religious debate on the 700 Club. How anyone can call this writing "deft" must, in my view, be so anxious to see Star Trek apologise for its atheistic origins as to miss the gross contrivances which piece this episode together.
Jack - Thu, Feb 20, 2014 - 3:09pm (USA Central)
Don't even try to figure it out, Elliott. In Accession, Odo calls Kira out on the "Sisko's the emissary, now suddenly Akorem is" nonsense, and she retorts this gibberish:

"That's the thing about faith. If you don't have it you can't understand it. And if you do, no explanation is necessary."

...and then that's it. The episode acts as if Kira was struck a mortal, logical blow to Odo's whole question, when she did nothing of the kind.
Dusty - Sun, Feb 23, 2014 - 10:25pm (USA Central)
This one was really heavy. Heavy, illogical, and weird. I don't dislike it exactly; I just thought it was overdone. Sisko wouldn't go from grounded authority figure to starry-eyed prophet just because he had a few visions. The writers should have been less out front with the religious stuff and offered a stronger secular/scientific perspective--i.e. Sisko's obsession + aftereffects of the power surge cause him to have hallucinations. I'm not against Bajor and its religion being a factor, but stuff like this is too heavy-handed and you can't expect a sci-fi audience to buy it.

Still, it was compelling, though I agree more with O'Brien and Dax than Worf and Kira--who remains an awesome character, even with her head in the clouds.
Vylora - Wed, Feb 26, 2014 - 5:21pm (USA Central)
Seems episodes such as these are a major point of contention for quite a few people. I stand by my belief that when a show enjoys the ability to touch on many aspects in life, then there's no reason not to.

I'm glad Star Trek didn't barricade itself into the "since religion is not a major issue for the Federation then let's just say there's no other species where it is". Now not only does that free the writers to delve into another aspect of life with a sci-fi bent. But they even took it a little further with the involvement of it while being careful not to let it overshadow things. It's not always perfect but then nothing is. Look at ST:V. That was a horrible convoluted mess on almost every level.

I'm not going to really get into the specifics of the above comments, though. I have my own reasons why I like this episode. There's a few lines of dialogue that are a bit out of place and could have been better given more thoughtful rewrite. However, the direction and acting were reliable as ever. The purposeful foreshadowing and overall cohesiveness was admirable.

In my opinion, great stuff but not among the best. 3.5 stars.
Matt - Mon, Jul 21, 2014 - 9:45pm (USA Central)
Funnily enough the uniform change led me to believe that the whole episode wasn't "real".
I first noticed the difference after he was shocked and was talking to bashir, which seemed to me a designation of the difference between reality and wherever the event were happening in. Very confusing.
Yanks - Mon, Aug 11, 2014 - 11:04am (USA Central)
"It's because the writers were inspired by Avery's performance."

.... wow ....

"I found this episode very very dull, lumbering and pedestrian effort. Brookes performance was as wooden and scenery chewing as ever, and I found myself actually bored."

Agree whole-heartedly.

Unbelievable that Sisko wasn't temporarily relieved by Bashir or the frellin ADMIRAL that was there.

Character building for Winn? lol ... really? Kira BEAT her previously because Kira has always believed Sisko was the Emissary.

Only after Sisko's actions follow the scriptures does she come to Kira with this:

"WINN: But it is what you think. Those of you who were in the Resistance, you're all the same. You think you're the only ones who fought the Cardassians, that you saved Bajor singlehandedly. Perhaps you forget, Major, the Cardassians arrested any Bajoran they found teaching the word of the Prophets. I was in a Cardassian prison camp for five years and I can remember each and every beating I suffered. And while you had your weapons to protect you, all I had was my faith and my courage. Walk with the Prophets, child. I know I will."

She's just trying to justify herself to Kira. She suffered more, blah, blah...

This is kin of like the "friendship" that Dukat envisions is present with him and Sisko.

No character development her at all for Winn, she hasn't changed at all. She HAD to admit she was wrong, that's the only reason she did it.

1 star because Sisko keeps Bajor out of the Federation so I guess he IS "for Bajor". The only reason I watched this one is because I'm grading all the episodes.
KanarWithDamar - Mon, Aug 11, 2014 - 11:59am (USA Central)
It's been a long time since Sam posted but you must be smoking some bajoran weed if you thing Brooks is a better actor than Stewart. Maybe you've seen his other film work or something. I haven't. But in ds9 his voice sounds creepy. Sometimes when he's talking to Cassidy he'll almost whisper and sound like a crazy person. Or out of nowhere he'll read his lines like he's in a Shakespeare play. Go back and watch that ep rocks and shoals. Great ep but when they are debating killing the jem hadar he says something like "if it's them or us there is NO CHOICE. He rolls his tongue and sounds so funny you can see colm meaney trying to hold back a laugh.

As for the characters Sisko is the worst captain. What did it is him being fooled by the wormhole aliens into believing they are Gods. Both Kirk and Picard have run into powerful beings who portray themselves as God and sometimes to planets they look over. But Kirk and Picard are never fooled by them. I mean Sisko had to teach the aliens about linear time. The same linear time the bajorans live in. Picard and Kirk would never have been dumb enough to be fooled to
the point of risking their son's life and the life of their crew to allow the aliens to battle it out on their ship. And they definitely wouldn't have abandoned they family and starfleet to join the aliens. Sisko had some great qualities in the early seasons but once the aliens got him to follow them he turns into a trajic figure who also decides to throw away many of his morals for either what he sees as the greater good or for whatever the aliens need him to do. Wow. That was a lot of typing. I will say that quark is a great character though.
$G - Wed, Sep 10, 2014 - 10:32pm (USA Central)
@ Jack:

"Odo calls Kira out on the "Sisko's the emissary, now suddenly Akorem is" nonsense, and she retorts this gibberish:

'That's the thing about faith. If you don't have it you can't understand it. And if you do, no explanation is necessary.'

...and then that's it. The episode acts as if Kira was struck a mortal, logical blow to Odo's whole question, when she did nothing of the kind."

Not sure this comment will be seen by anyone who's already posted in this thread, but:

Kira's justifications are cringe-worthy to adamant non-believers (like myself), but I'm not sure the episode *necessarily* sides with her, just like I don't think other episodes side with her on issues of terrorism (i.e., "The Darkness and the Light"). Though I admit the exchange you mention leaves a lot to be desired - a lot of “Accession” is undercooked to begin with. There needed to be more there.

"Rapture", however, is much better - if only because the episode is written and shot to feel more like a milestone than as a freelanced one-off. "Rapture" could have easily been a procedural of Sisko figuring out B'hala, but it included the Bajor-Federation plot, Winn's soul searching, the return of Kasidy, proclamations for the series' future, AND it put Jake in a rough spot.

B'hala itself is fascinating - adding scope and historical weight to the Bajoran setting we're already familiar with. Sisko seeing the fabric of the universe is provocative as well, a great twist because it's been simmering so long. It's the first time Sisko-as-Emissary is given cosmic heft. The stakes have risen and we're careening towards revelations we didn't know were coming. Until now, the Emissary story has been largely political at times and not-unlike other convening-with-deities episodes at others. Here, Sisko is temporarily granted clairvoyance which is plausible given what we already know about the Prophets and Bajoran mysticism and which is alluring because Sisko is unable to maintain it. Sisko finally throwing his hat in with the Prophets feels earned as well, and the various reactions of the crew are a nice look at how different viewpoints interpret “revelations” like this.

Jake's decision to go through with the surgery, urged by Bashir, is well done. Here, rationalism wins out, despite what some posters are calling propaganda. If Winn had her way, Sisko probably would have died even though she and Kira both thought the Prophets were watching over him (which is the case, yes, but not a certainty that they'd prevent him from dying). Winn's ugly comment about Jake being selfish is damning for her character, and actually strikes a balance between giving the Bajoran religion credence (the Prophets do exist) while also still illustrating the flaws of faith (assuming the Prophets are benevolent without evidence).

For handling all these elements, I think "Rapture" is a standout episode of the series. It used to be one of my favourites, but re-watching it again reveals that it isn't perfect:

-Admiral Whatley, never seen before, has no gravitas. Admirals usually don't have much presence on this show, but in this case they really needed one. In fact, DS9 probably should have had a go-to admiral character to be Sisko's contact at Starfleet by this point. I know they eventually get one, but Sisko's mission being a political one he really needed a higher-up to put a face on the Federation Council. Someone that already has a rapport with Sisko; someone whose presence in the flesh indicates a big deal. Instead, Whatley comes off as relatively weak, especially his weak-ass reprimand of Sisko for botching the induction. That scene should have been fiery, at the very LEAST.

-Sisko bursting in on the delegations and his "locusts!" line. A little bit... too dramatic. The Bajorans aren't signing their souls away, so stopping them minutes from putting pen to paper seems a bit forced. I would have liked to see a scene with Sisko speaking with Winn and Shakaar (whose absence is another flaw) and having THEM make the decision without any fireworks.

-Sisko walking down the promenade making pronouncements to people. This show usually lays it on a bit too thick at some point in every episode, but here it seems especially silly. He tells that one Bajoran, "You don't belong here. Go home." The extra just nods and walks off screen. Okay...?

Other than these quibbles, "Rapture" is stand out. Jammer compared episodes like "The Sword of Kahless" to Indiana Jones, but *this* is the episode that exudes that Jones-like wonder in the weight of myth for me. It's not my favourite hour of DS9 anymore, but it's still quality and its influence is a cornerstone of the series. 3 1/2 stars by Jammer's system.

---

One more thing I want to mention, because a lot of people are hung up on the R-word:

Tolerating the beliefs of others does not mean one shares those beliefs. The Federation wanting Bajor is a mark in their favour – but full-on assimilation, including Bajorans giving up their religion, is not the goal, despite what characters like Quark, Garak, or Eddington say. The show pokes some holes in the Federation's facade but still shows that it is ultimately a force of good in the Alpha Quadrant.

Assuming the show DIDN'T depict the factual existence of the Prophets, the Federation would still be in the right to want Bajor to join up. If you're looking for where the line should be drawn on accepting counter-philosophies, “Accession” is it. The Federation will rightly tolerate benign beliefs, but will absolutely not help oversee a caste-based society or any philosophy that arbitrarily limits the freedoms of its citizens. The cultural relativism ends there as far as the Feds are concerned. As it is, the Bajorans have their faith and harm no one in the process (outside of some instances of extremist violence, but which isn't shown to be a basic tenet of the faith) – one either accepts them or casts them out. Exclusion requires significant justification, and I don't think there's adequate justification for denouncing the Bajorans.

For an indictment of the ugly side of dogma and belief, there's the Dominion. Its followers murder and suicide for their gods, believing only because they've been bred to. The Dominion doesn't keep to itself. It doesn't care if you believe in the Founders because the imperial religion of the Dominion espouses no philosophy and enriches no one's life and doesn't seek to. Joining them and following their rules is enough for them – the belief part is only there to get the imperial ball rolling so others can be dragged into the fold. The show makes no bones about the evil of the Founders and the damage done to the races under their control. The Bajoran religion, on the other hand, has its own problems which are depicted fairly sensibly. Why have two concepts act as foils to one another only to subject them both to ridicule and exclusion?
Charles - Sun, Dec 14, 2014 - 3:03pm (USA Central)
Interesting that Jammer put 4 stars to this episode, because personally that's the episode where DS9 started to piss me off personally, talking about religion and gods like it's a real thing, and crossing from "star trek" to supernatural bullshit. I'd give it 0 stars.

Charles - Sun, Dec 14, 2014 - 3:17pm (USA Central)
PS: Agree 100% with everything KanarWithDamar says in their comment. Sisko is the worst Captain for these reasons (and actually more, but regarding this episode and the whole Bajoran religion thing this is enough). That's the episode when he starts to believe in himself as the emissary, which if I had been the Federation, would have been reason enough to cut him as a captain to DS9. Of course, DS9 is a TV show, and the character was written that way (and we're supposed to admire him for it), so the fault lies entirely with the writers of DS9.
Del_Duio - Tue, Dec 16, 2014 - 8:33pm (USA Central)
"that's the episode where DS9 started to piss me off personally, talking about religion and gods like it's a real thing, and crossing from "star trek" to supernatural bullshit."

Yeah but the prophets / wormhole aliens ARE real in the DS9 universe. Many characters on the show have had run-ins with them or more. They aren't some intangible thing, otherwise you would have made a good point.

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