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

109 comments on this review

Blue
Tue, Mar 17, 2009, 7:45pm (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
@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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
@ 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 (UTC -5)
"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 (UTC -5)
@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 (UTC -5)
@ 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 (UTC -5)
I really really could not disagree more. Zero stars from me for this religious propaganda fantasy episode.
Justin
Mon, Apr 23, 2012, 5:08pm (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
@ 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 (UTC -5)
@ 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 (UTC -5)
@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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)

The Bajoran religion is not interesting to me.

2/10
eastwest101
Thu, Nov 21, 2013, 4:19pm (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
@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 (UTC -5)
@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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
"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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
@ 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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
"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.
dlpb
Sat, Dec 27, 2014, 4:27pm (UTC -5)
You are totally missing the point, Del. The reason people believe in Jesus, or Allah, or other deities is because they are NOT tangible. They are not believed to be merely another species, but a great maker. If people found out tomorrow that Jesus was actually an alien from a distant planet, Christianity would be dead in the water.

The Bajorans have accepted, by and large, that their prophets are in fact aliens. So what makes them different to the Klingons? Oh, yeah, they can "see the future". No. It's also accepted in Trek's universe that this is not a special event. Q, for example, is far more god-like than the wormhole aliens, but they aren't worshipping him. The whole idea of the wormhole aliens as gods is absolutely idiotic.

This episode is entertaining, but has some very annoying parts, like all this religion mumbo jumbo badly written. But it is not helped by the disastrous acting of Avery Brooks.
Robert
Mon, Dec 29, 2014, 6:53am (UTC -5)
Ok, but but if Jesus is real he likely is another species. If an intelligent entity exists out there that is God it's not going to be human.

Zeus was the most powerful of the Greek gods but some priests served temples of much lesser Gods. Should they have only devoted their worship to the most powerful ones?

If we met God tomorrow and he was a Q and he could prove her created our planet and that he shepherds our souls into an afterlife you REALLY think nobody would worship him?

Now I'm not saying Bajorans go to the wormhole when they die (because I have no flipping clue), but their Gods clearly send them orbs while Q does jack for them.
dlpb
Mon, Dec 29, 2014, 1:26pm (UTC -5)
That isn't what I said at all, and nor is what the writers of DS9 are saying. They have shown that Kira and her people KNOW that the "gods" are aliens in the wormhole. Aliens just like any other, with the added ability to perceive time differently (like Q), and yet they still pray to them and worship them.

A religion does not work this way. It never has. It never will. That's the mistake the DS9 writers made (they don't understand religion at all), and it's the mistake you are making too.
Robert
Mon, Dec 29, 2014, 1:46pm (UTC -5)
Your comment was two fold

1) That we wouldn't believe in Jesus (or at least worship him) if he were "actually an alien from a distant planet".

2) That the wormhole aliens "powers" are nothing special (in Trek lore) and likely not even the most god-like of the god-like things Trek's travelers have encountered.

You don't have to agree with me, but I addressed both of those points. I think that we would worship a Q like being if we met one and he had a special connection to our world (maybe Jesus was a Q) and that the Bajoran affinity for the Wormhole aliens has more to do with their perceived parent/child relationship than their "limitless" powers.

It's a lot like the Edo and their God (only way more fleshed out).
Elliott
Wed, Dec 31, 2014, 12:34pm (UTC -5)
@ Robert and DLPB :

I have commented about this in another spot, but it's worth repeating. The source of the conflict here is in the conflation of two very different definitions of a god. The Abrahamic God (and a few other gods in more obscure religions), as DLPB pointed out, is intangible, omnipotent, timeless--it is literally *meta*physical in that it lies *outside* of the spheres of science. This is directly linked to the God's origins as a pre-scientific conceptualisation. It was born from a people who had not yet discovered science. For a believer in this god, all laws of nature eventually lead back to God; why does the Sun set? God. Why is there a bountiful harvest? God. Why did grandma die? God.

The gods of antiquity (and a few extant gods as well) can coëxist with science because they are bound by the laws of nature, not above them. These gods are metaphysical in the original Greek sense (naturally) in that they are an *abstraction* of reality. They are not a substitute for science, but a substitute for psychology.

The problem with the Wormhole Aliens is that the writers make them gods in the latter sense (those of antiquity) but make the Bajorans behave and worship them like believers in the former god (Abrahamic). The real-life consequences of believing in these different types of gods are stupendous, but the writers on DS9 treat them as interchangeable, which is what makes the Bajoran religion so infuriating.
Robert
Wed, Dec 31, 2014, 12:44pm (UTC -5)
So do you think if the real rapture happened and the second coming of Jesus turns out to be John DeLancie with Q powers that all Christians would stop worshipping him?

IE - Do you really believe that no ancient people worshipped an individual God (Zeus or Ares) in the sense of the way Bajorans worship their Gods?

And I'm not sure Bajorans believe bad things happen "because God". Kira doesn't seem to blame them for the occupation.

Actually the only ones in the entire series that really seem to expect the prophets to do ANYTHING are Sisko and Winn.
Elliott
Wed, Dec 31, 2014, 2:21pm (UTC -5)
@Robert, just think about what you're implying :

Q disguised himself as various figures in one obscure part of the world for thousands of years in order to manipulate the people there into creating a mythology (he created Judaism).

THEN, he appeared as a revolutionary Jewish figure (Jesus) for 30 years or so in order to *undermine* the very religion he created in order to create a second religion which would spend thousands of years persecuting believers in the former.

THEN, on some undisclosed date, he would "return" in order to complete the prophecy he himself invented in order to pull a GOTCHA on the those members of the religion who happened to be living in that particular moment.

And all of this to accomplish what, exactly?

Christians today would not believe Q if he claimed to be God ("Tapestry" anyone?) or to have always been God because Q's nature does not make him a god in the Christian sense--he may be powerful, but he is not metaphysical; he is not *above* the laws of the Universe, he conforms to them.

------------

I was unclear in my previous post--yes there were some ancient peoples who worshipped the Type A (Abrahamic) god; I only used the term "antique" as a label, not a generalisation.

------------

The fact that Kira does not blame the Prophets for the Occupation is a product of her own sophomoric psyche. So her gods wanted to impregnate Sarah Sisko, delete a Dominion Fleet and send her back in time to meet her mum? Sure. But no they had no hand in ignoring the half-century of suffering she and her people endured. That's called Battered Spouse Syndrome, not theology.
Robert
Wed, Dec 31, 2014, 3:22pm (UTC -5)
I get what you are saying about metaphysical, but I'm not convinced that Q isn't and I think he'd be able to pick up a following.

As to his motivations? Kicks and giggles if it were Q.

And as for the prophets, I think you and I have done that one to death :-)

Happy New Year!
DLPB
Sat, Jan 3, 2015, 9:07pm (UTC -5)
@Elliott
Yes. What you have written there is completely correct. We can at least agree on some things. The Bajoran "religion" was badly written, likely because the writers had no understanding of the points you have just made. Confused Matthew also makes a very interesting observation that when Dukhat closes the wormhole, the Bajoran people start to put their faith in the "anti-gods", the Pah-wraith. Even Kai Winn. Confused Matthew sums it up just like I would: "Religions do not work that way".

Moegreen
Sun, Jan 4, 2015, 7:37pm (UTC -5)
Great episode but I found it quite jarring that Sisko had to placate that admiral (deserves an award for bland characterization & bad acting).
William B
Thu, Jan 8, 2015, 2:31pm (UTC -5)
I don't mean to beat a dead horse, and this is nothing new, but the thing is, even if we accept that even if human religions largely don't work the way the Bajoran religion does, there's still precedent within Trek for something like the Bajorans/Prophets relationship taking on something like worship, and lots of effort being placed to point out why this is wrong. TOS had godlike aliens constantly, and even one who was ACTUALLY APOLLO (which doesn't make much sense, but it's TOS so I think it's just best to go with it). But the fact that Apollo was LITERALLY APOLLO doesn't mean he should be worshiped as a divinity in the sense of a being of higher moral authority, or someone whose decrees must automatically be followed, or whatever. The episode was very clear. Humans worshiped ACTUALLY APOLLO, in the "Who Mourns for Adonais?" version of history, because humans were naive and Apollo and the other "Greek Gods" had superpowers, and we are beyond that now -- which is partly an exploration of the way humans are now beyond the naive need to ascribe to deities natural or psychological phenomena the way they used to. Similarly, Picard immediately does everything possible to shut down being worshiped by the Mintakans.

The beings in TOS & TNG who declared themselves Gods or Devils, or allowed themselves to be worshiped as Gods, were always either deluded or drunk on their own power (like Apollo, or Gary Mitchell) or flagrantly using their divine status to do a scam (Ardra posing as "the Devil"), and they were all correctly identified as not actually being Gods deserving of worship. Heck, the correctly maligned Star Trek V had Kirk undermine "God" in ten seconds by asking what God needs with a space ship, thus demonstrating that this being was not the omnipotent being that God is supposed to be.

What's even weirder is that WITHIN DS9, they have a really obvious example which they fail to properly interrogate. The Founders declare themselves Gods so that they cannot be questioned by their underlings. This shows that they are evil, domination-craving creatures; and this has some precedent in human history, with some emperors and pharaohs declaring themselves God-Kings to keep the "rabble" in line. And this is obviously, totally wrong for the Founders to encourage this, and the only time I can think of when a non-Dominion-aligned character took it seriously was the way Odo and Kira sorta took pity on the "good" Weyoun in "Treachery, Faith and the Great River" and Odo consented to play a Godlike role for Weyoun at the end and Kira seemed to think that Weyoun seeing Odo as a God would be a pleasant thing for him. The most explicit dialogue linking the Founder/Vorta and Prophets/Bajoran relationship comes in this dialogue:

WEYOUN: Pah wraiths and Prophets. All this talk of gods strikes me as nothing more than superstitious nonsense.
DAMAR: You believe that the Founders are gods, don't you?
WEYOUN: That's different.
DAMAR: In what way?
WEYOUN: The Founders are gods.

The joke of the scene is that the Founders aren't gods, and Weyoun thinks they are because he's been programmed to by the Founders. But someone should listen to Damar, and someone should have turned the question around on Kira or someone. Swap "Weyoun" with "Kira," Damar with say Odo, and Founders and Prophets and you get:

KIRA: Founders as Gods. All this talk of gods strikes me as nothing more than superstitious nonsense.
ODO: You believe that the Prophets are gods, don't you?
KIRA: That's different.
ODO: In what way?
KIRA: The Prophets are gods.

Right.

One *can* argue that the Prophets aren't like the Founders because, unlike the Founders, they don't make the Bajorans worship them, and this argument might be true as of what we know of the Prophets in s1 or so. That still doesn't explain why the Prophets merely being worshiped by the Bajorans gives them divine status, but it at least would allow the Prophets to merely be powerful beings who happen to be worshiped and don't take the time (or nonlinear time or whatever) like Picard to clear up the misconceptions, which makes them irresponsible or, generously, unable to comprehend Bajoran worship at all, but not evil dominators like the Founders. Fine. But then as the series goes on, the Wormhole Aliens' protestations of being unable to understand linear time become less and less convincing, since they apparently give visions where they tell Kira who to date and who not to date ("Children of Time"), interfere in Bajor joining the Federation which is a way worse outcome than 60 years of Bajor being occupied by Cardassia ("Rapture"), make clear which of Sisko or Akorem is the real Emissary, implying that they *do* believe that an Emissary should exist and thus that they are at least a little bit aware of their "divine" status with the Bajorans ("Accession"), wipe out a Dominion fleet ("Sacrifice of Angels"), and apparently mindcontrolled of Sisko's mother in order to produce Sisko (s7). They needed to mind-control a woman in order to produce Sisko because, uh...um...because they needed him as their Emissary because, uh...well...I mean, who else would explain time to them using baseball metaphors, if they hadn't set him up to do so?

The Prophets' behaviour, in order words, comes to look basically the same as the Founders'; their taking over Sisko's mother to breed a Benjamin Sisko because they need a Benjamin Sisko for some reason is a more specific, less extensive, version of the Founders' genetic engineering program. They were taking an active role in choosing how the Bajorans would worship them, and via whom.

Some criticisms of the Prophets eventually come up, mostly through Dukat acting as mouthpiece for the Pah-Wraiths, but they get dropped quickly and are articulated by villains.

Meanwhile, the Prophets' motivations are never clarified, whereas the Founders' remain relatively constant. The Founders want to dominate or wipe out all life that can hurt them, because they believe that solids will always betray them unless they are genetically engineered not to. They want to bring Odo back to them, but also on their terms, which also means punishing him when he hurts them. There are individual points where the Founders' actions don't make sense given their general goals, but generally their goals are at least fairly clear. The Prophets, uh, want to protect Bajor except when they don't, talk Sisko into not joining the Federation because Bajor will be hurt by the Dominion and then destroy the Dominion fleet anyway, claim to have no ability to comprehend linear time and tell Kira whom to date, etc. The Pah-Wraiths are evil because they, uh, are fire? How is the Pah-Wraiths possessing Jake against his consent, which is shown to be evil (correctly), different from the Prophets possessing Sarah Sisko, which is just taken as fine and dandy? What is it about the Pah-Wraiths that is different from the Prophets, except that they're all red and fiery and stuff?

So even if we accept that the Bajoran "religion" is not meant to be analogous to human religions, which raises the question of why it's treated with human-religion-like terms all the time, the show *still* fails to point out that there is little distinction between the Prophets and the Founders (or the Pah-Wraiths), and relatedly why Sisko or Kira are ultimately different in terms of their loyalty to the Prophets from Weyoun's blind, pathetic loyalty to the Prophets. Except Weyoun at least had one clone who could think for himself about whether his Gods might be mistaken, whereas Kira never did that, and Sisko's "thinking for himself" is mostly shown to be a bad thing causing sorrow.
Robert
Thu, Jan 8, 2015, 3:11pm (UTC -5)
There are 3 separate issues here. So let's break it down.

1) Elliott, when speaking of the prophets, is fond of pointing out that the Bajorans should know better than to lend the prophets moral authority over their lives. "Following" a God's teaching is allowing it moral authority and is one aspect of worship.

2) Revering a higher power is a second element of worship. Think celebrity "worship". This can be connected with a) (ie, I'm going on some crazy diet or buying some random product because person X does so) or it can be separate from b) (teenage girls may have Bieber postered around their room in shrine-like fashion without lending him any moral authority in their life. The point I'm tossing out here is that 1 & 2 are related, but not always joined.

3) Belief. You either believe a God exists and has the power to do what it says it can do in your holy texts or you don't.

I'd argue that the only one of these things that is particularly problematic is 1. (3 is clearly a non-issue, the "prophets" are in the wormhole and do have the powers the texts claim they have) But the issues with 1 are 2 sided. The first is... why are we granting beings that don't even understand linear existence moral authority over our lives? The second is if we are even able to judge what the prophets want anyway. Kira and Bareil are seen to argue over prophecy and the Bajorans re-instituted a caste system at the behest of a false emissary.

So let me be clear that I think belief in a God and even reverence of a superior being (or the prophets) is not an issue or a weakness. When the Bajorans attempt to do the will of the prophets they often end up worse off and clearly shown to be wrong (this happens to Winn, Neela, Akorem, Yarka and others).

So I think the show agrees that it is a poor idea to put moral authority in a human interpreting the will of an entity they cannot understand. But how about Kira/Sisko who actually speak to the prophets occasionally and sometimes even get them to do THEIR bidding?

I guess that's just a question of faith in whether or not the prophets have their best interest in heart and know better than they do. Can someone who sees the future as though it was the present "know better" than you? Arguably yes. People put moral authority in their parents... even into adulthood sometimes. And one of Sisko's parents IS a prophet to boot.

Just random thoughts on the matter....
William B
Sun, Jan 11, 2015, 9:16pm (UTC -5)
@Robert, it is a good point that there is a distinction between the "worship" of a celebrity, say, (2), and worship in the sense of bestowing higher authority (1), and that these both are distinct from the pure belief that the gods really exist and can really do what they say (3).

I think the real problem is that the Prophets should have as much intrinsic moral authority to Sisko as Q does to Picard -- which is to say, none, until they demonstrate otherwise. Now, Picard does come to...almost trust Q, over the series, to recognize that there is something of value in the lessons Q imparts. But the tension remains between this and his recognition that Q is dangerous. His movement on Q has everything to do with Q bringing knowledge and wisdom that Picard comes to understand is valuable by testing it out and thinking about it. Sisko does start incredulous about the Prophets, and then moves toward credulity, and a lot of that is that they demonstrate that they can use their awesome power to provide security and illumination. It's not a wholly skipped arc. It's just that the big questions -- why did the Prophets not save Bajor during the Occupation? -- don't get asked by him.

I think the point about parental authority is a good one, which again suggests the contrast between the Vorta/Founders relationship and the Bajorans/Prophets. In some respect, there is another bit of mirroring, in that Sisko's eventually joining in the "Celestial Temple" and even discovering that he is part Prophet, as well as finding himself worshipped by the Bajorans, mirrors Odo's story, where Odo eventually joins the Great Link. Odo's acceptance of the Weyoun's worship in "Treachery, Faith and the Great River" has some similarities to Sisko's coming to accept Bajoran worship of him, at least to a degree, and to use that power when he thinks he needs to. Those parallels are interesting, but I think that for the series not to follow through on the fact that Kira's faith is just as blind as Weyoun's and not to ask why the latter's is clearly wrongheaded (because the Founders are the bad guys) and the former's is...well, at best the series takes a neutral position on it.

I wonder if a Sisko:Bajorans:Prophets :: Odo:Vorta&Jem'Hadar:Founders comparison leads to any other points of similarities.
Robert
Mon, Jan 12, 2015, 6:45am (UTC -5)
That's a very cool point about how later seasons have Odo very uncomfortable with the power he has over the Vorta/Jem'Hadar in a mirror of what Sisko went through with his role as emissary. And how they both ended up being one with those Gods and will have to deal with it later. I never picked up on that, but it's an interesting parallel.

And yes, I think I agree with you. Forget about why the Bajorans worship the prophets or not (Bajoran are as complicated as any other group of people... Opaka is a true believer, Bareil seems to be more grounded in his faith, Winn is wielding the name for her own power, Fala from "Covenant" does blame them for the occupation... etc.) it really doesn't matter.

"Bajor" might be a "character" on this show, but that's not a fair thing to ask a show to explore the faith of an entire race. But Kira is one of our mains (and the first officer even), so to give a character that strong kind of faith, make her Gods an important part of the show and then not really ever test her faith is.... a flaw for sure.

In truth, Kira is nearly always rewarded for her blind faith.
William B
Tue, Jan 13, 2015, 2:07am (UTC -5)
I had never thought of the Sisko/Odo comparison before I started writing that last comment! I think it is really cool and it's something I want to check out more of. I think I am probably going to do a DS9 rewatch with my girlfriend now that we're done TOS, but I'm not positive. I will watch out for Sisko/Odo material.

The point about Kira is basically what I was getting at :). And it's not that I think religion needs to be questioned for all characters, but it's such a big part of the show (and such an unusual kind of "religion" nonanalogous to certain aspects of human belief) that I think that Kira's faith in the Prophets needed to be examined. Some episodes went somewhat toward it, with her realization of the complexities surrounding Opaka, or "Accession," but it just didn't go all the way.
Brian S.
Tue, Feb 3, 2015, 4:53pm (UTC -5)
Rather than this episode being about religion (though it is to a certain extent), I saw Sisko's visions as being on par with Lt. Barclay's enhanced intellect from the TNG episode "The Nth Degree."

In that episode, Barclay encountered a probe from an alien civilization of significant intelligence that endowed him with extraordinary mental abilities no human had never experienced before and was somewhat reluctant to give up.

Here in DS9's "Rapture," Sisko consults with an orb (a probe) from an alien civilization with significant knowledge who endowed him with extraordinary mental abilities to comprehend time and the universe in a way no other human had experienced before (granted, the accident caused his visions, but Sisko had enough encounters and contact with these extra-temporal aliens that it seems plausible that the shock triggered something to allow him to explore the universe beyond normal linear time).

Like with Barclay, Sisko was flooded with this knowledge. And that flood was both beautiful and dangerous. It was hard to process it all at once, but both had a feeling that something special was happening to them and that they had to explore it. If I suddenly had the ability to see the universe outside of normal space-time, I would be desperate for more, too.

The Bajorans might have viewed Sisko's experience as a spiritual one through the lens of their own religious faith....but I saw it as an intellectual pursuit. An exploration of knowledge and the limitlessness of the mind. Sisko was right. When you get an opportunity--a gift--like that you don't just walk away from it. You study it and explore it.
MsV
Wed, Mar 4, 2015, 12:34am (UTC -5)
Oh Brian S your assessment of this episode is right on the money. Many times reading this I was tempted to comment on the religious comments but, I didn't. It made no sense. It was the accident that triggered the visions and I believe the aliens gave him the knowledge he needed or was compelled to explore.

It seemed to be a good thing, since this information saved Bajor during the war.

I love your explanation without trying to explain your beliefs or disbelief of religion and not stepping on ones toes who do believe.
M.P.
Mon, Mar 30, 2015, 11:40pm (UTC -5)
It is explicitly stated that one can have an Orb experience months or even years after the initial encounter. What were they called... orb flashes? In any case, it is possible the accident triggered and/or enhanced one of these flashes; starting the visions.
Trekker
Sun, May 3, 2015, 12:13am (UTC -5)
After watching this, I flipped back to Season 2 of Babylon 5. This is almost like an episode of Babylon 5 made around the same time, a certain foreshadowing of the future by the lead characters from a very powerful "mystical alien" power (Vorlon vs. Prophets). I get how the two series have comparisons between each other, because it actually has merit in this area at least.

The Locusts obviously represent the coming Dominion war, going to Cardassia foreshadows the destructive nature that such things will bring to Cardassians, nearly resulting in their destruction.

I wish they could have continued on pushing this path in the series, trying to blend religion, war, and science all together into a cohesive storyline (the next attempt was horrible). Too bad Bajor never joins the federation officially in the show, a major point of contention I would have wished they'd resolved at the end of the Dominion war.

The "non-canon" trek novels however do give me some solace that at least in one version of history Bajor will join the federation.
MsV
Tue, May 5, 2015, 7:52pm (UTC -5)
@ Jammer: 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?

You were correct in one aspect the Locusts "were" the Dominion, as for Bajor, the Captain saw to it Bajor stayed out of the fighting. Now every time I see the Dominion come out of the wormhole I think "Locust" in the deepest voice I can muster up. lol
Teejay
Sun, Jul 12, 2015, 1:45am (UTC -5)
Ok, this might come off as a bit of rambling nonsense, but I'm having trouble keeping it straight in my head(I don't have an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of Trek in my head to fall back on), and I'm hoping one of you might help me in this regard.

The Bajorans believed in the prophets well before proof of their existence (the discovery of the wormhole). I can see how this, coming almost immediately after suffering 50 some odd years of Cardassian oppression, would galvanize their beliefs.

The prophets, once the wormhole is discovered and their existence confirmed, don't seem to understand our existence as linear beings(Sisko tries to explain it to them in the pilot). It almost seems to me that they could be seen as discovering us at this same time. If they could not understand the concept of linear time, it is quite feasible to me that they would have no understanding of what it is to worship something, and thus would not understand the Bajoran worship of them, which could help explain how uninvolved they were in the Bajoran existence(why they didn't prevent the Cardassian occupation, for example). So the whole Bajoran/Prophet relationship could be seen as the Bajorans worshipping a power they can't quite comprehend, and the Prophets using them(and Sisko) to try to understand an existence they can't quite comprehend.

As the series moves on, the Wormhole Alien prophets, through more interaction with our linear existence and Sisko as the Emissary, come to understand us more and thus get more involved in what is happening around them(like destroying the Dominion fleet).

Now this doesn't entirely explain why the Bajorans began worshipping the Prophets in the first place. I also don't remember if there's anything that happens later in the series that would prove these ideas wrong. Like I said, just wanted to put it out there. If it's rubbish, so be it. Just needed to get it out of my head :)
Luke
Sun, Jul 12, 2015, 4:26am (UTC -5)
@Teejay,

You seem to be applying linear time standards to the Prophets, which is natural since that's how we all exist in the real world. But remember - the Prophets exist outside of linear time. Therefore, to apply "our" concepts of the flow of time to them isn't fair. It's entirely possible that from the perspective of linear time, the Bajorans started worshiping them only for the Prophets to later learn about the Bajorans through Sisko. All the while it would make perfect sense from their viewpoint.

The Prophets themselves somewhat explain this in the episode "Accession." When someone from the past appears and claims to be the Emissary, he and Sisko go directly to the Prophets to find out who is the true Emissary. The Prophets say that Sisko is indeed their Emissary even if the other guy "discovered" them first. They even say "they are linear; it limits them." Or, as Doc Brown would say - "you're just not thinking fourth dimensionally."

That might be a cop-out for the writers who, by their own admission, didn't really think that far ahead when they introduced the Prophets in the pilot episode, but I think it makes sense.
MsV
Sat, Aug 22, 2015, 11:42pm (UTC -5)
Rapture is by far my favorite Season 5 episode.
methane
Sun, Dec 27, 2015, 10:20pm (UTC -5)
I mostly agree with Jammer's review. Some of the non-regular actors weren't great, and some scenes (like the one where Sisko dispenses fortunes) don't come out quite right, but the positives here far outnumber the negatives.

Some comments:

-Government-run holodecks malfunction all the time. Oftentimes it seems the sole purpose of having holodecks on starships is for them to malfunction. Nobody's ever put in jail. So of course when the one privately-owned holodeck in Star Trek malfunctions, people immediately want to press charges! The writers appear to be making the usual Ferengi joke that capitalism is bad, but the franchise history of holodecks completely undermines the point.

-Lost in the "religious discussion" above is the fact that this is one of the few times in the series when the prophets/wormhole aliens directly help the Bajorans (through Sisko's visions). Knowing what happens later in the series, Sisko's vision did keep Bajor from destruction. Their faith might not have saved them from the Occupation (although it is possible that some prophecies enabled them to keep it from being worse than it was...we have no way of knowing with the information given to us), but it did help them at this point in history.

-Kai Winn, as Jammer & others pointed out, was interesting here. She appears to be a true-believer. Like many people who believe in a religion, she previously believed that her specific interpretation of the religion was correct. This endowed her with a sense of self-importance, moral superiority, & the belief that she is right to take any means to achieve her ends (since they coincide with the prophets'). However, here she had her interpretation of belief pretty much actively disproven, something nearly all believers in Earth religions do not experience*. The actress does a good job portraying a character who's trying to reorient herself after losing her central tenets. Her faith in the prophets remains, however, and she decides to follow Sisko, since she now fully accepts his "chosen" status.

Or you could believe the character herself never had faith in the first place & her outward "loss of faith" is really a cynical gambit to establish herself as a Sisko supporter, since there will likely be few Bajoran believers who don't now accept the prophets speak to him directly. This interpretation is hard to believe, as the character Winn never had any great ability to hide her feelings before.

-Winn had a line in this episode: "Major, the Cardassians arrested any Bajoran they found teaching the word of the Prophets". It caught my attention because I think William B. recently brought it up dissecting Winn's character in a previous episode. There must be some truth to this, or Kira would immediately disagree with her. However, it doesn't completely line up with what we know of the Occupation. In "The Collaborator", Odo names Prylar Bek as "the liaison between the Cardassians and the Vedek Assembly". This implies the Cardassians recognized the religion, but were trying to control it.

I'd interpret Winn's comment as hyperbole. It's likely the Cardassians arrested people who preached that the prophets wanted Bajorans to revolt, and/or there were periods of time when the Cardassians did try to arrest everyone who preached the native religion, only to ultimately decide it wasn't worth it. Either way, Kira would understand it's an overstatement & Winn likely was imprisoned, but we shouldn't take the sentence as 100% accurate.



*All the big religions nowadays avoid making any predictions that can be disproven. This helps cut down the crises of faith.
methane
Tue, Dec 29, 2015, 11:05pm (UTC -5)
Teejay above had questions about the prophets. You can't really consider our ordering of time when trying to understand them. I tried explaining this on the discussion of an earlier episode, but I've thought a bit more about it since then. Here are a few possibilities:

1) They truly have no linear time in the wormhole. If this is true, then they experience every moment moment simultaneously, and their existence is really hard for us to comprehend. Sisko pops through the wormhole explaining the idea of "linear time" which they already knew because it's the same instant they've always lived at & always will; the prophets sent the orbs through the wormhole at the exact same instant; the prophets also were having the discussion with Sisko from "Accession" at the exact same instant; everything else also was happening at the same instant for them.

You can't say they did one thing, then did the next; it's all simultaneous to them.

If this is true, then the Pah-wraiths are in the wormhole even after being exiled to the Fire Caves on Bajor. There isn't any before and after inside the wormhole, so if they're there at all, they're always there. If they're banished, they're always banished. So both are true, I suppose; it's all Quantum Mechanics.

2) They actually do have a form of time (although not our time), it's just not apparent to them until Sisko shows up. They had a completely static universe of their own, where nothing ever changed. Without change, there was no sense of time. Then, one day, Sisko pops through the wormhole into their reality. This is the first change of their environment and introduces the idea of time to them.

If so, this inverts traditional creation myths. Normally, the universe is static (a great void, a great sea, whatever), then a god or gods introduces change. Here a universe of "gods" is static until man (Sisko) introduces change.

Note, they still exist outside of OUR time. Once Sisko draws their attention, they can examine any instant of our time as they like. To them, our universe is like a book. They can open our universe to year 1 (page 1 of a book) or year 100000 (page 100000 of a book), so while they're doing things in an order to them, it may not be the order we experience it.

Anyway, for our wormhole residents:
--at (time=0), everything was as it always was
--at (time=1), Sisko appeared
--After (time=1), all the other actions the wormhole aliens would take before, during, and after the series happened in some order. We don't know what order they happened.

My version of their history would go like this: there was a great dissension over what to do with the new knowledge of time among the wormhole residents. They mistrust our universe, which they never really noticed before, probably seeing how powerful we'll eventually become*. "Prophet Motive" happens early on, as the episode shows them still learning about us. Alarmed by the bad humor the Ferengi represent, the disagreements between the wormhole aliens becomes open conflict**. They divide into 2 camps, the "prophets", and the "pah-wraiths". The prophets win & imprison the pah-wraiths on Bajor. Of course, if the pah-wraiths had examined the history of our universe closely enough, they would have known they would lose.

With the pah-wraiths gone, the prophets take a more active role in our universe. They decide to ally themselves more closely with Sisko and take actions at various points in history to ensure everything turns out right for him. You can decide they're being benevolent and mostly want to help Bajor (through Sisko), or you can decide they're being selfish and mostly want Sisko in place to protect them from the pah-wraiths should they break free of the fire caves.

I link this way of thinking about the wormhole residents. It's easier to understand than the first way, it fits with mythic storytelling, and I like the idea that Sisko's encounter in "Emissary" was with both the prophets & the pah-wraiths. I don't think it quite fits all their dialogue in the series, but it explains why they act somewhat inconsistently.

3) The wormhole aliens are misrepresenting themselves and are more like the Q than they claim to be. They always understood time but are claiming otherwise for their own reasons.

* According to TOS, races eventually "evolve" into powerful non-corporeal beings
**I'm mostly kidding about bad humor being the cause of the conflict!
methane
Tue, Dec 29, 2015, 11:11pm (UTC -5)
bleah, typos:

"I link this way of thinking about..."

should be:

"I like this way of thinking about..."

There's also a few more obvious ones.
William B
Tue, Jan 19, 2016, 12:34pm (UTC -5)
I am way behind and if I want to keep up at all I'm going to have to write shorter comments. We'll see how that goes. But if Jammer can post seven Star Wars reviews all at once, I can probably write a paragraph....

Sisko's condition in "Rapture" can be interpreted either religiously or secularly. Obviously he interprets it in the former way, but as others have pointed out above, in a lot of ways what Sisko goes through is not that different from Barclay in "The Nth Degree." Part of the problem is how to interpret it. If he really is going through a Barclay experience, at a certain point he maybe should be relieved of duty at least until it is clear what is happening to him (ala the crew's worried reaction to Barclay once it was clear what was happening). And if he's having a religious experience, well, maybe he should also be asked to step down from duty for a day or two until it's clear what's going on with him. I'm often unsure what to make of the Prophets on this show, but it's worth noting that this episode is actually pretty ambivalent about Sisko's transformation -- he is given insights into finding B'hala and he also is (SPOILER) correct in his locusts visions, but he also totally loses sight of Jake and seems willing to die so that *he* understands what he's seeing, without quite considering that if he dies he can't exactly communicate what he sees to others. I think the use of Kai Winn here is pretty great. Not only does she demonstrate that she really is a true believer in the Prophets and changes her mind on Sisko once he demonstrates that his Emissary status is no mere accident, *Sisko* suddenly starts trusting Winn to guide is visions. "You trust her? Since when?" asks Jake, his voice cracking with sadness. The truth is, Winn hasn't changed; Sisko has, and suddenly he needs a religious zealot the way he hadn't before. Winn encouraging Sisko to push himself further, and risk his death, is a nice callback to "Life Support" where she did the same for Bareil, and this time we see that Sisko is fully on board with it, and even encouraging it. In any case, the grand scale religion vs. politics material in the episode falls flat for me in that I don't really think that religious prophesy works the way it does with Sisko here; there seems to be some "following one's (religious) conscience vs. following one's duty" material here, but it's a false argument, since if Sisko really is getting visions from the future people should listen to him, or at least there can be an actual discussion about how trustworthy Sisko's interpretation of his visions is as a matter of policy. On a character level Sisko making a definite choice to honour his visions over his Starfleet obligations is a major step. Part of the reason I wanted to write about "The Visitor" before I wrote about this is that Jake once again is put in the position of having to decide whether to save his father, and the direct opposition between Sisko's connection to the Prophets and his actual *son* is highlighted. It's resolved for now with Jake's actions, but it's by no means over, especially since it was not the choice Sisko made or would have made. I don't really know how to rate this one, which I think is effective as drama and has much to recommend it but has some elements I'm not sure about; maybe 3 stars.
William B
Tue, Jan 19, 2016, 12:46pm (UTC -5)
OK, I can't actually resist writing more, as it turns out:

I guess the issue with Sisko's prophesies is this: Sisko believes them to be absolutely true, and part of that is that he is imbued with some sort of "faith," partly from his acceptance of his Emissary status in "Accession" and partly because part of whatever happened to him with that electric shock/orb aftershadow/whatever is this kind of obsessive certainty. So there is, for him, no "debate"; he knows with certainty the things he knows. That he might be wrong, that maybe that guy whom he told to leave because he doesn't belong there might actually have a different idea of his life for instance, does not occur to him, or if it does he ignores it. That kind of absolute certainty that he is right is scary, and is also some of what aligns him with Winn, who is a great reminder of the problem of believing oneself to be right at all times (in her case, to the point of seeing murdering the opposition as ethically justified). And that also is part of what distinguishes him from Barclay, who, after all, could not actually see the future but merely developed superintelligent insight. In any case, it really is a kind of religious fervour that convinces Sisko that his visions must be right, and again this does not really map well onto human experience where someone claiming they had visions for God would be rejected from office, one hopes. In his case the Prophets are real, and it seems the visions that they give him, or that are stimulated in him that connect to the Prophets in some way, seem to genuinely be prophetic, but that still leaves open the question of whether the Prophets should be trusted, and thus whether it is automatically necessary to follow whatever their dicta are.
Diamond Dave
Wed, Jan 20, 2016, 3:36pm (UTC -5)
This spins off in an interesting and perhaps unexpected direction, but I still found it difficult to get on board. And in all honesty I don't really know why. Certainly Avery Brooks' idiosyncratic performance drifts way out towards crazed prophet levels. It all seems just a little by the numbers.

What I did like unambiguously was Kai Winn, and the nuance brought to her character beyond that which we have seen previously. "Locusts" indeed. 2 stars.
BZ
Fri, Apr 15, 2016, 6:03pm (UTC -5)
I'm not going to try to impose my religion on the Prophets, but we believe that the concept of time was created by God, but the concept of cause and effect exists outside time. In this way the Prophets can be outside time and still experience cause and effect, just not necessarily in the order we perceive them.
Luke
Tue, May 3, 2016, 11:35pm (UTC -5)
"'Rapture' is about as perfect an episode as I could hope for."

Indeed! This might very well be the best of series thus far.

I suppose I should start my rundown of how awesome this episode is with the fact that it absolutely obliterates Trek's usual rational materialism right off the map. Okay, sure, Sisko's visions are started by a rather mundane (and easily explainable) malfunction in the holosuites, but that simply does not explain the total, 100% accuracy of these visions. There is no way a random power surge like this can explain how he finds a city lost for 20,000 years, or how he can know about the Admiral's family problems, or how he can foresee the coming war with the Dominion, or how he can deduce that Bajor must remain independent in order to emerge on the other side of the war unscathed. These definitely are visions and they are decidedly otherworldly or - dare I say it - supernatural. Even Sisko himself holds this view. When the Admiral practically begs him for a secular, materialistic explanation, all he can say is "it really was a vision." And yet, like so many treatments of religion here on "Deep Space Nine", all sides are given equal treatment. Whatley, the stand-in for the secularist/atheistic viewpoint, is not made to look like a fool. Kira's open religiosity is not mocked. The magnificent scene in Ops with Kira and Worf defending faith and O'Brien and Dax defending skepticism explores rather profound differences of opinion - which exist even among our main characters - and yet tolerance, actual true tolerance, is the name of the game. BRAVO!

Second, "Rapture" is a stellar outing in the characterization department. Everyone's character is utilized perfectly. Sisko, Kira, Jake, Yates, everyone is at the top of their game and completely acting in character. But, of course, the real stand-out here is Winn. Her transformation from a semi-antagonist to a possible, reluctant ally is superbly handled. And it fits with her established character from at least as far back as the Bajoran Trilogy in Season Two - when she turned on the attempted coup for reasons left unexplained.

Third, there's the family dynamics between between the Sisko family, including Yates. One the many wonderful things that "Deep Space Nine" did was humanize the main characters by giving some of them families. Sisko is a family man. O'Brien is a family man. Quark has an important relationship with his brother and nephew. On TOS, aside from Spock in "Journey to Babel" (probably not a surprise that it's my favorite TOS episode), none of the characters are given any familial ties. Oh sure, we met the wife and son of Kirk's dead brother in "Operation -- Annihilate!", but is anybody seriously going to count that? On TNG, Picard was a loner who hated kids and only slowly softened to them over time. Riker was a ladies man. Data manged to get some development with Lore and Soong. Troi had her mother but was never close to her. Crusher and Wesley were mother and son but their interactions (certainly family interactions) were extraordinarily few and far between. The closest we got was with Worf and Alexander, but even then there wasn't much. But here, the dynamics between Jake, Ben and Kassidy are extremely well written. Jake wants to understand the spiritual journey Sisko is on but is still just a kid who doesn't want his dad to get hurt. Yates, another skeptic, naturally sides with Jake. Sisko, while he feels it's necessary to see this journey to its conclusion still does everything in his power to comfort his son and girlfriend, like any good person would. Even the dynamics between other characters and the family work wonderfully. For example, another reason the scene in Ops works so well is that Kira and Dax, despite having diametrically opposing opinions, know that they will both be there emotionally for Jake and Yates if things go bad. The amount of love and sympathy on display is astounding. If only we could duplicate this in the real world when discussing politics and religion; the world would undoubtedly be a much better place.

Fourth - the mythology. The way "Rapture" handles so many different story arcs is astonishing. There are no less than six different arcs that come together here - SIX! There's 1.) the "Sisko as Emissary" arc, 2.) the quest for Bajoran admittance to the Federation, 3.) the Dominion arc, 4.) the Sisko family arc, 5.) Kai Winn's arc and 6.) the Maquis arc - tangentially, through the return of Yates to the station after her prison sentence. Each one is handled delicately and with wonderful success. Just focusing on the Dominion arc, the level of foreshadowing here is unprecedented for Trek. We get references to an upcoming war with the Dominion, a "swarm of locusts" heading to Cardassia, and a revelation that Bajor must stand alone in order to survive the coming calamity. Obviously the locusts represent the Dominion annexation of Cardassia. Jem'Hadar ships do look an awful lot like bugs, don't they? And the revelation that Bajor must stand alone is naturally a foreshadowing of the Non-Aggression Pact Sisko has the planet sign with the Dominion. All of this foreboding will come to pass by the end of the season. It's damn impressive and a wonderful use of the Prophets (without actually showing them on screen). There's also, more mundanely, the new uniforms (first established in "Star Trek: First Contact") which ties the series to the larger franchise.

Granted, there are some nitpicky problems with the episode. For instance, given what we later learn in "In Purgatory's Shadow", Bashir has already been replaced by a Changeling infiltrator by this point. That means that the Bashir Changeling was the one who performed the life saving brain surgery on Sisko. He must have been really prepared for his role! And there's the rather unnecessary scene of Odo man-handling Quark for a non-crime. There's also the scene where the Admiral and Winn are going to formally induct Bajor into the Federation, before Sisko stops them. Where the hell is Shakaar?!! This is one of the most important moments in all of Bajoran history - and that's really saying something since the Bajorans were producing literature and culture before Humans were even standing erect! And yet their political leader doesn't bother to show up?!! I'm assuming that Duncan Regehr's schedule prevented him from appearing again, but damn. At least the rest of the Bajoran delegation makes since - a mixture of civil and religious officials, which adds to my belief that the Vedek Assembly plays at least some role in Bajor's civil government. But the Federation delegation makes no sense at all. Where the hell are the representatives from the Federation government?!! Apparently they only sent one (and his aide) because the rest are all Starfleet admirals. Why is the U.F.P.'s military so heavily represented while the civilian government isn't? Or did Leyton manage to launch another coup on Earth from his prison cell without the audience being told about it? Still, these are all rather trivial problems that don't ultimately harm the episode.

The ultimate conceit of "Rapture" - that we live in an ordered universe and that you can access that order in a moment of religious ecstasy - and the open acknowledgement of the supernatural represents a very dramatic (and welcome!) departure from Trek orthodoxy and puts the episode in the running for "best in the franchise".

10/10
Void
Mon, Jul 18, 2016, 6:49pm (UTC -5)
I can't belive how this mockery of secularism and reason could possibly get a perfect rating. This is just lazy writing. The whole time the Prophets were just "Wormhole Aliens", and their artefacts granted insight into the future or oneself. Now, suddenly, they can magically imbue Sisko with the power to see EVERYTHING with absolute certainty. Or did they? That is not explained. Kira suspects that Sisko has a Vision from the Prophets, but that is just that, a suspicion.

For four and a half seasons, Bajor was on the verge of joining the Federation. That would of course have consequences. So, why even bring it into play here if they don't join anyway? To keep the plot alive for another two and a half seasons of course. This episode is completely pointless. Sisko, a man of reason, is suddenly a fanatic. Is it explained in the end? No. And seriously, locusts? A biblic plague, of all things? Not much imagination there either. I was fine with the treatment of religion in this series before, where Sisko sees the Wormhole Aliens for what they are, Aliens, and the Bajorans build their weird cult around it, but it was always clear that the Prophets don't really care about Bajor, because they don't even understand time. So how can they possibly be concerned with worldly matters? It was just an accident that their Orbs would grant visions. A technical error, so to speak.

But this episode turns DS9 into some religious fantasy, the hope that you can gain knowledge through "visions", and that if you believe in shit that shit turns into reality. That is the complete opposite of what TNG and Gene Roddenberry wanted to show. So I can only hope that his spinning in his grave becomes so powerfull that he creates a time line distortion that eliminates this episode from official canon.

And yet it was so simple to save this episode: At the end, just explain what happened. Maybe it really were the prophets who suddenly took an interest in bajor, maybe it just was a crazy scheme to keep Bajor out of the Federation. Something. Like the episode where Odo relives his only mistake, when he sentenced innocents to death.

-2/10, would look down again on the writers in disgust and agony again.
Void
Mon, Jul 18, 2016, 7:00pm (UTC -5)
PS: Since I cannot edit my comment here, a double post.

To all the people that are so elated that "Religion is treated with respect!": Well, look to the middle east for a place where religion is "treated with respect". Look at the people that kill hundreds of innocents in the name of God to see what "treating religion with respect" leads to as a final consequence. Respect has to be earned, and it can not be demanded, and when you grow up, they don't call it "Age of Reason" by accident. It is because you have to quit believing in Santa Clause and your imaginary friends and grow up, instead of daydreaming all day and imagening things.

And if you feel that I am offensive, or not sophisticated or understanding enough: This is what my God Sauron told me, so dare you not to speak ill of me, for it is my religion demanding me to say those things, and I find it deeply deeply offensive if anyone disagrees with me on such matters, and I might, just might, bomb the shit out of all you infidels so that you suffer for an eternity in a daily soap, where every day the same jokes are told and the canned laughter of the fake audience may haunt you for eternity.
Nolan
Mon, Jul 18, 2016, 8:04pm (UTC -5)
Sure, be lazy and blame religion for everything. Easy way gets the best results right? Nevermind that religion is just as often used as a reason to start wars that are in actuality about resources or land.

Furthermore sweeping generalizations never make the person saying them look like a total dingleberry with emotional issues.

Let's also not forget that redusing complex issues like religion and its relation to reason into a simple black and white, good vs evil conflict is definitely not a majorly close-minded, absolutionist thing to do, which as one arguing for reason, surely doesn't make you seem to be a flaming hypocrite in regards to a conflict over two things that clearly are mutually exclusive.

Hey strawman! You forgot your hat! And while you're here, recall that the Prophets or Wormhole aliens are ethereal beings with the ability to see all points in time, and that, as a serialized show, DS9 would very well provide some answers about this later. Also recall that DS9 is a show which lives to show grey, hard to resolve conflicts that Must inevitable result in trying to find co-existance between the two sides so they can work towards moving past that conflict. Which to me, is quintessential Star Trek.

As for Roddenberry's vision, I've never heard a more fanwank load of trollop. Roddenberry's Star Trek would've started with Mudd's Women as it's jumping off point. The vision of Star Trek was not created by one man with questionable morals, but by the many people who worked on and wrote for the show, building a world of cooperation and acceptance (to an extent) of a myriad number of cultures and beliefs, even if we don't fully understand them.
Chrome
Mon, Jul 18, 2016, 9:22pm (UTC -5)
Well said, Nolan. Also, let's try not to forget this show isn't specifically dealing with *any* Earth religions, but to the concepts of faith and the supernatural as they might exist in the possible future. While yes, contemporary religion wrestles with these concepts, they can also exist a secular world (i.e. faith in a philosophy or belief in powers beyond human capability).

To apply secular reasoning to this episode, one might simply interpret that as much as Sisko wanted Bajor in the federation, some gnawing piece of his subconscious picked up on the real possibility that being in the Federation would put Bajor in danger. Benjamin didn't need the visions to see this per se; he was already aware of the danger of the Gamma quadrant and the Dominion's ambitions for defeating the Federation. The visions just serve to punctuate Sisko's unique frontier experience, which the Federation politicians lack.
Peter G.
Tue, Jul 19, 2016, 12:46am (UTC -5)
Agreed with Nolan and Chrome.

@ Void,

I guess since "All Good Things..." was about an advanced being giving Picard visions of the past, present and future TNG must also be a stupid anti-Roddenberry religious show, right? ;)
Void
Tue, Jul 19, 2016, 8:08pm (UTC -5)
Oh, didn't notice I blamed religion for everything. I thought I had pretty specific examples (Middle East Clusterfuck, Suicide Bombers). If you correlate that with yourself, that's really not my problem (@Nolan). But hey. Besides, that was a comment commenting on the commentors, not the episode (@Chrome).

@Peter: No, that was perfectly fine. Picard did not have unexplained "divine" visions, Q did it. I guess you already know that, hence your ;) smiley, so, I won't elaborate.

@Nolan: Oups, rustled some jimmies, hm? Now I have emotional issues, how cute that you know me so well. And I find your first sentence especially agreeable, with you aknowledging that religion is all to often used as an excuse to start a war. Well, not exactly the strongest point to make for religion, hm?

But if you look closely, I don't even attack religion. I attack faith. I have no problem with the Bajorans and their funny rituals, or the Klingons, for that matter. Now that I think about it I may as well should have, but it is mostly tradition, and traditions are really a different can of worms than religion. I don't find them particulary interesting, but hey, to each his own, right? What I do have a problem with is a show like DS9 wanting me to accept that Sisko magically knows the future. Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought the Wormhole Aliens communicated through their orbs, right? So how can a holodeck malfunction turn Sisko into a blind believer? Acting completely against his character? You have to explain those things. Just show me Sisko with a white background and some Wormhole Aliens telling him "Yo, better don't let the Bajorans join the Federation Sissy" and I am fine (if Sisko acts a lot more like himself).

But that is not what happens, and I don't care if it is explained later. Kira just says "you had a pahk tem pha (?), a holy vision. The prophets chose their emissary well" or something like that. Thats it. Thats the whole explanation for everything. And for me, something like this does not belong in an episode of Star Trek. Especially not with Sisko acting like a religious zealot, leaving everything behind for his new found faith, even being willing to die for it. Without even as much as a shred of doubt. Call me close minded if you want, but I am afraid of people who have no doubts.

And now to the "Religion is a complex issue" thing: Well, is it? Is it really? You want something to be true, and persuade yourself that it is, and then its true! Or is it? Religion is not complex, it is simple, thats why it works. If it was complex or hard, most people would be to lazy to accept it, but they aren't. At it's core, religion is like a videogame. You get points for good behaviour and penalties for bad behaviour, but you can always be sure that there is indeed a right way, and that you always get another chance, and no matter what you do, if you make some right descisions, in the end, you get the happy ending. This does not sound complex to me. Granted, priests and "scholars" of all ages have made it seem more complex, shrouded it in mystery, written great poetry and created great art in its honor. But one simple fact remains: It is all made up! It is right there in the description: "Supernatural" means "outside of nature" hence unknowable. And then you get people who tell you THEY know whats UNKNOWABLE. Don't you see the contradiction? And everybody has his own interpretation of the divine truth. Well, if it is indeed divine truth, shouldn't it be obvious? Shouldn't it be eternal? But it isn't. Why? Because we humans made it up!

And about the "Fanwank": Well, I did not talk about all the people contributing to Star Trek, I talked about Roddenberry being a staunch atheist. And I think he would agree with me that he would disagree with this episode.

So no, I am not generalizing, or at least not in the way that you think. But I know why you think it. :) I am arguing that reason and faith are mutually exclusive. Faith by definition defies reason. You can only have faith in things for which there is no evidence. If there is evidence, then no faith is required. Reasoning is apllied to evidence. Without evidence, no reason. QED. This episode provided no evidence whatsoever, yet wants me to just accept it. And with that I take umbridge, for this simple reason: If you start acting without evidence to support that action, at some point, you become really dangerous. For yourself and for others. I will let you work that out for yourself. :)

And one final notice, while I am at it, and I obviously have time to spare: I have no problem with grey areas, or people coming to an understanding, overcoming differences. But thats not what this episode is about. Kira working with Gul Dukat to find the remains of some missing people, thats people coming together, in one way or another. Kira forgiving Odo (or at least that's implied) for killing innocents, and Odo losing his perfect image, thats grey and a real issue. Sisko poisoning a planet to arrest a single Terrorist: Oh boy, thats not grey, thats dark. But this? Please. This episode is showing people moving apart because somebody had a vision. I rest my case.
Chrome
Tue, Jul 19, 2016, 10:51pm (UTC -5)
@Void

By being disrespectful to other commentors and ignoring the episode you're really doing a disservice to your point (it's also disrespectful to Jammer).

When you're ready to discuss the episode with me civilly, let me know.
Peter G.
Tue, Jul 19, 2016, 11:55pm (UTC -5)
@ Void,

So let me get this straight. When Q (an alien) gives Picard visions, that's ok sci-fi according to you, but when the prophets (aliens) give Sisko visions, that's stupid religious nonsense coming from a divine source? The irony of your position on this is that you are calling the prophets divine, which actually means you're a religious believer like the Bajorans. I can certainly say I don't think the prophets are divine. If anything Q is far closer to the prophets to being divine, to the point where he jokes with Picard about being god, and it's not entirely out of the question that he is (or the closest thing to it). He certainly has power over time and space, and life and death. By the standard of divinity as we humans know it, "All Good Things..." is closer by far to satisfying your standard of a divine being who gives the star of the show magical visions to help him. I think you've bought way too much into the mystique the show gives the Bajoran religion when you assume they're right that the prophets are divine and therefore DS9 involves religious events. It's just aliens doing advanced things. TOS had countless occasions of far more godlike activity than merely giving someone visions.

As a side note, your pithy tautology about reason and faith being mutually exclusive may sound good to you on the basis of tidy axioms that you can string together, but let's just say that a philosophy department would not accept 'logic' of this sort. In point of fact the premise that reason and faith exclude each other is completely false, and such a premise betrays a deep misunderstanding of the place of reason within most faiths. Unfortunately it takes some years of study to realize why this is so, and requires real investigation and learning about what the faiths actually teach, rather than strawman versions of them that pop culture likes to toss around. I can't explain it to you better than this because there is no short sound bite that can detail how religions structure their beliefs. You'd have to be interested enough to find out for yourself, maybe by asking some experts on the subject (sans sarcasm). If you think you've got the entire matter QED solved in one short paragraph that should be enough evidence to anyone with intellectual integrity that the solution is BS.
Void
Wed, Jul 20, 2016, 3:50pm (UTC -5)
@Chrome: What, now I am disrespectful of the commentors? I thought I was disrespectful of religion. I wasn't the one calling people emotionally unstable. I argued that certain things are unacceptable from my point of view, if that is offensive to you, I am sorry, but I am not attacking anybody as a person. And I am not ignoring the episode, I've seen it a few days ago, thats why I wrote my comment. I know whats shown and what is not, and I know why I don't like this episode, and I think I explained that. You say that you can interpret it in a secular way, but I find that difficult to do when the religious interpretation is so much closer to what is actually shown in the episode.

@Peter G: No, as I said, I take umbridge with the fact that in this episode it is NOT shown that the Wormhole Aliens gave Sisko the Visions. If they were shown doing it, that would have been fine, as I wrote. To qoute myself:

"@Peter: No, that was perfectly fine. Picard did not have unexplained "divine" visions, Q did it."

As I said, I don't care if it is explained in a later episode, then that later episode gets the credit, but this one is still shit.

And honestly, I don't understand where you get from that I think the Wormhole Aliens (WA) are divine. I said this episode makes it look like Sisko gets a divine vision. Not "Sisko gets visions caused by the WAs". If I'd meant that, I'd said that. So, I really don't understand what you mean.

I try to be more clear this time:
This whole episode makes no attempt to explain Siskos visions, as no cause is shown for them. It could have been anything, Pah Wraiths, Mental Issues, Saboteurs, Kai Vinn, whatever. But there is NO EXPLANATION. Kira just says "You have a divine vision", and THATS IT. Now she may be right, maybe it were indeed the WAs giving Sisko the Visions (I think maybe from this part you get that I think the WAs are divine? That's not the case. Kira thinks the WAs are divine, therefore I can make the connection that she means the WAs when she says divine). But that is not shown in this episode. Therefore, Siskos whole act comes off as the ravings of a madman drunk with "Holy Visions", a complete 180° turn of his character, and UNEXPLAINED.

And about my "pithy tautology": If it's a tautology in the philosophical sense, it's true, isn't it? So please, tell me why it is not acceptible for philosophy? Why isn't it logical? I think we agree on the definition of faith and reason, don't we? So why isn't it logical that things mean what we agreed upon that they mean? As I said before, I am not attacking any specific religion, I am attacking the concept of faith. So I don't care what religions teach about faith and reason, because I think that faith and reason are mutually exclusive. If you can prove that to be untrue, please try, but for that you have to change the meaning of the words "faith" and "reason" I think.

Of course you can argue that one can apply reason within a fiction, like "Sauron did this and that, therefore this and that (in that world)". That still does not make it true, however, and does not permit you to say something like "Sauron said "Enslave all free people", therefore we have to go to Japan and enslave them all because they are free". That would be completely insane, because you take the fiction into the real world. In the same way as Sisko is portrayed taking his fiction into the reality of DS9, and acting upon it. And in this sense you can not apply reason to faith, because faith belongs to the realm of fiction, and you can not act upon a fiction (or at least you should not).

And just a final remark, why can the obvious and simple explanation not be true? Again, I am not critisizing specific religions, I am critisizing the portrayal of faith-based-action in this episode. I am not trying to solve complicated processes within religions, I am saying "faith and reason are mutually exclusive", nothing more, nothing less.
Peter G.
Wed, Jul 20, 2016, 4:02pm (UTC -5)
@ Void,

You don't seem to to understand that it's *your interpretation* of the episode that Sisko was given so-called "divine visions." The show never says so. Kira might say so, but who cares? So your entire objection is based on something you, yourself, made up. I never saw anything 'divine' about the visions; that's your interpretation of it, which is fine, but has zero basis in any facts presented. As to the fact that the origin of the visions is never given an explanation, give me a break. It is 100% obvious from the minute go that they were from the prophets. If you think this was in doubt then I would suggest you missed the point.

LATER ON we're given reason to be concerned about our certainty that Sisko's vision was from the prophets, in episodes like "Covenant" and later on "The Changing Face of Evil." But back in season 5 we're given no reason to believe that visions come from any other party than the prophets.

Remember, you are the one who claimed Sisko received "divine visions." The show doesn't make that claim, Sisko doesn't, and in fact it's not true, even on the basis of this episode alone regardless of what came later. You can't accuse the show of introducing something that, in fact, wasn't introduced and that only you have decided is what happened. That's why I compared you to a Bajoran believer; you'd have to be if your takeaway is that Sisko received divine anything. The only arguably divine event in DS9, to whit, in when Q visits the station.

As for reason and faith, no, we do not define reason the same way. I won't elaborate on this point further, but suggest that if you're actually interested in this you can read accessible sources on this such as Chesterton or others who discuss such matters. Or you can read some good apologetics if you like that also discuss matters such as reason and faith. In many religious circles there is no "vs." between reason and faith; that's a fiction made up as a strawman. Btw a tautology is something true because its own internal premises say it is. When an argument is called "tautological" that's another way of saying it's a circular argument, backed up by its own made-up axioms. Your argument about religion is about as QED as the famous tautological argument that God exists because the Bible says so and God wrote the Bible.
Void
Wed, Jul 20, 2016, 5:00pm (UTC -5)
Aaaah, now we are getting somewhere.

Yes of course it is my interpretation of this episode that they are "divine visions", because, as you said, there is no explanation for them. For you it is obvious that they come from the Prophets, for me, not so much, because on all previous occasions the prophets only communicated by means of Orbs or inside the wormhole (well, there was one occasion where there was some kind of "echo" from previous contact with an orb, but even then, his visions were clearly be shown to come from the prophets). So I immediatly got suspicious, and when nobody tried to stop Sisko and he acted like the way he did, and nothing was explained at the end, I took away from the episode that Sisko acted without evidence and the shred of a doubt, and the whole imagery and acting screemed "Religious Extremist" to me. And apparently thats fine, because Sisko is still supposed to be the protagonist, isn't he? You say we are given no reason do doubt that the visions come from the prophets, I say we are given no reason to even think that they come from the prophets. That's why I call them "divine", because they are unexplained, and for me it seems obvious that they were supposed to be unexplained, and the episode was supposed to show that there is such a thing as the supernatural.

But at least we can agree on which points we disagree now regarding the interpretation of what's shown in this episode. I think that this episode was lazily written and they way things were shown were not to my liking.

Please, just elaborate. I really want to know what you think.
Void
Wed, Jul 20, 2016, 5:20pm (UTC -5)
Addendum: I still don't really get your comparison with Bajoran believers. I said "divine visions", and meant "unexplained visions who look like they are supposed to come from some form of god". Sisko seems to be having a religous Eureka-moment, and he is supposedly understanding everything while gleefully accepting his own death in service to something supernatural. I shortened that to "divine visions" because that is how divine visions are portrayed. Does not however mean that I am in any way, shape or form believing in such things, it is just that this episode used so many tropes assosciated with religion and faith that interpreted it that way, and not the "Super Advanced Aliens seem like magic" kind of way, because those things usually show the Aliens or explain it in such a way at the end.
Void
Wed, Jul 20, 2016, 5:22pm (UTC -5)
*last sentence: "... tropes assosciated with religion and faith that *I* interpretad it that way ..."
William B
Wed, Jul 20, 2016, 5:44pm (UTC -5)
I'm not wading into real world stuff right now.

On the source of the visions within the episode: I largely agree with Peter on this...but I see Void's point. For the most part, as far as I can recall, all episodes before Rapture were consistent in having the WAs only interact via the wormhole directly, and indirectly through the Orbs, which are themselves ambiguous -- it is unclear whether the Orbs actually contain deliberately imparted information from the WAs or operate by a different physical process, using a combination of advanced tech and the user's own brain to bring about visions, and, as of Trials and Tribble-ations, time travel. Most orb experiences seem to be dominated by the thoughts of the user, but somehow it seems as if ancient Bajorans could predict the future, presumably via the Orbs, either indicating that the WAs can communicate through the Orbs or that the Orbs can show the future, and specific images therefrom. Why not. The pagh wraiths can possess people who enter the Fire Caves. But they have no established nonlocal abilities.

I do think the WAs gave him the visions and this always struck me as self-evident, and not a big leap from the level of power the WAs have to construct the wormhole and Orbs. That said, it's not given a traditional explanation nor is there much in the way of...reaction to the change in paradigm of how WAs can act.

I also think it's ambiguous whether the WAs are directly giving Sisko the visions or have "unlocked" or "added" some sort of non linear time ability within Sisko, and I suspect it's this one, though I think that the WAs are behind the initial electrical surge which started this process. The surge came from a data rod which was a scan of the painting. So it appears that somehow the painting contained information to zap the Emissary to give him visions, which is weird but not totally different from the probe in The Inner Light in function, or the library array giving Barclay the brain boost in The Nth Degree.
Peter G.
Wed, Jul 20, 2016, 6:48pm (UTC -5)
The moment we establish that the WA can construct a means of instantaneous travel (the wormhole) and also live outside of time it becomes fairly evident that their abilities aren't limited to just sitting in there and giving out advice. It's established right from episode 1 that the wormhole is artificially constructed, meaning whoever did that possesses very advanced technology/abilities. Since the WA are non-corporeal in the vein of TOS my guess would be 'abilities', although one way as well call those technology since practical implementation of one's knowledge of reality doesn't really make the distinction between technology and abilities very relevant.

Also regarding Sisko's ability to find B'hala, William B may be on to something when he suggests that the knowledge was already in Sisko and this unlocked it temporarily. Or maybe Sisko was always linked in some way to the celestial temple and the surge broke away his corporeal resistance to feeling that connection. It's hard to say either way. But one thing is clear, which is that the episode was using this as an opportunity to tell the view that Sisko being the Emissary was more than just being chosen as some messenger for the prophets. He obviously had a deeper connection to them than that, and so if the events of "Rapture" seem unprecedented...well yeah, that's the point. I agree with William, though, that more of a big deal could have been made about this. Kira's pithy reply about it being a holy vision didn't really cut it; we could have used a line from Sisko about how the prophets may have had more in store for him than he previously realized. Because the show had to be dramatic they put a lot of screen focus on Jake and Kasidy being concerned for Sisko's health, which is understandable but it's true I would have been interested to hear a word or two about how this mean the WA could do stuff other than just sit in their temple and chat through orb intercoms.

Chrome
Wed, Jul 20, 2016, 8:51pm (UTC -5)
@Void

The foundation for secular interpretations of the Prophets are scattered throughout the series. Indeed, they're originally classified as alien lifeforms by the main Starfleet characters. Now you can say their powers are similar to popular Earth religious lore, which was certainly the writers' intent, but DS9's writers were always careful to leave the door open to scientific explanations.

Moreover, whereas Earth religions believe based on spirituality and faith where true proof doesn't exist, Bajor's so-called "Gods" have interacted with the Bajoran sector so often that their existence is scientific fact. You want to meet the Prophets? Go to the wormhole. Even Grand Nagus Zek can do it. You want to meet the Christian or Muslim God? It's not that simple. This is a huge difference to me.

I think this also undercuts Kira and Worfs claims of "faith" to a degree too. Is Kira merely acting on faith, or is the fact she's seen dozens of Prophet devices like orbs and glowing artifacts that she believes in them?
Void
Wed, Jul 20, 2016, 9:29pm (UTC -5)
To add to my previous point: Whenever Sisko interacted with the WAs before, he remained himself. He argued with them, interacted, but did not change his character on a whim. That's why this whole episode does not make sense. It never explains itself. They could have used the usual way of showing Sisko interacting with an Orb, or the WAs, but they didn't, so I have to assume that they had something different in mind, and as Peter pointed out, in later episodes there is even cast doubt about the origin of the visions. So, why did they chose to present this episode in this way? I think it's because Roddenberry was dead and the show wanted to attract another kind of (American) audience. But that is just wild speculation.

Yes, those events are unprecedented, but the problem is, they are not explained. Whenever the WAs do anything, we have to be told that they are doing it, because it is impossible to tell otherwise.

The Wormhole aliens are the most abstract things imaginable.They aren't even aware of time, supposedly. That makes everything far more complicated, for it is impossible for us to explain anything about that. Experiencing all of time at once is like experiencing no time at all, and there is no causality anymore. If the future is the past, a future effect may cause a past action, or the other way around, in short, nothing makes sense anymore. So they should not even be able to communicate with Sisko, because that requires them to understand his actions, but if they see everything at once, nothing makes sense to them. Sisko speaking to them only makes sense if they understand the words (universal translator solves that one apparently) and understand the order the words are spoken in. But if everything happens simultanioulsy, nothing happens at all, because everything ends the moment it begins. The whole concept of "happening" is meaningless in that case.

So, apparently thats not whats happening, because we see the WAs interacting with Sisko and the Dominion fleet for example, so something different but still completely strange is going on. But that still has to be explained by the writers, because it is impossible to decide if the WAs can or can not do something.

@Peter G.:
I am still waiting for your definition of reason, if we differ on it. My definition is what Wikipedia says, whats yours? You seem to be fine with my definition of faith, "Belief in something for which there is no evidence or proof", so lets go on from there.

You say the "vs" of reason and faith is made up, I say it is there by definition, and I explained why, I think. Of course religious people don't want to think of it that way, but logic dictates otherwise. The only truly meaningful information is based on fact, not fiction, and facts have to be backed by evidence. Faith by definition excludes any evidence, ergo, it is meaningless. And tautologies aren't necessarily circular arguments, either. "You are either dead or alive" is a tautology, but no circular argument. Of course, there are a few assumptions that everybody has to accept, even though they can not be proven, like "We do exist". We can't proof that either. But aside from those basic assumptions, no faith is required.

So please, elaborate a bit more on your point, and explain to me where my logic broke down, because I don't think it has.
Void
Wed, Jul 20, 2016, 9:36pm (UTC -5)
@Chrome:

Sorry, hadn't seen your reply while I was typing.

And I am glad to say that I completely agree with you.

My point was that I did not see Siskos visions as interaction with the prophets, but something completely unexplained, that I thus termed "divine vision" for lack of a better word. I don't know why all the other commentors see it as self-evident that his visions came from the prophets, because the episode never made that clear, and given that Star Trek knows many seemingly omnipotent beings beside the prophets, and usually explains where things come from, this struck me as completely off. Thus I assumed that they were indeed ment as some kind of truly religous unexplainable visions. I think I tried to explain that in previous posts, but it seems I did a terrible job.
Peter G.
Wed, Jul 20, 2016, 10:52pm (UTC -5)
@ Void,

I'm still not sure what you're hung up about. In previous episodes Sisko was communicated with the same way as everyone else - orb experiences and cryptic statements. This is the first time he's getting a different kind of information, so obviously he's going to behave differently. This time he doesn't have to try to decipher what the WA are saying or decide whether or not to do what they say. This time he's seeing things as they see them. From what the episode shows us he gets a glimpse at non-linear time, and yeah, no kidding that will make you act differently. It's pretty damn easy to know what you're supposed to do when you've already seen yourself do it in the future. In fact, that is one of the primary topics of considering for the first two Dune books; what happens to a man who can see the possible futures and choose one?

Here Sisko only gets glimmers and so has to make do with the few insights he picks up from his visions. This gives him just about enough info to find the city and save Bajor from a bad treaty. The rest is shadows and suggestion.

I agree with Chrome that the factual presence of the WA's makes this more or less a sci-fi issue to do with a strange new race. It's no surprise that a primitive people would bow down to advanced aliens, but the interesting question about faith in this series isn't about whether it makes sense to 'have faith' in the prophets. The real question is whether to trust them entirely. After all, their powers are factually there. But what do they really want? That's a question I'd like for the show to have asked at some point. Still, I think it's fairly evident that they want what's best for Bajor, or at least something like that within certain parameters. They seem to have something in common with Federation ideals in terms of not overstepping too much, so from that standpoint they should probably have earned some trust by now from the Federation. Regardless, I take any question of "faith" brought up by the show to be chiefly a matter of whether one has faith in the prophets' good intentions; maybe even to an extent in their ability to really manipulate the timeline that effectively.

And no, I'm not going to get back into the 'reason' issue. I told you this isn't a subject to be broached in a forum like this. William B was right to sit this part of it out, and although I wanted to make a brief statement on the subject I'm stay out of it from here on in. No philosophical issue can be addressed or resolved through tidy little assemblages of self-referential axioms. That's not learning, it's just talking.
Void
Wed, Jul 20, 2016, 11:28pm (UTC -5)
I explained that already. I am hung up on the fact that this episode never made clear that Sisko got his visions from the prophets. If it had, I'd have no problems with it. But it isn't. You say it's obvious, I find it highly doubtful, given what the episode has shown and how previous episodes handled the prophets. I am hung up on the fact that this episode played out like some religious fantasy, and I stated my reasons for why I think so.

Well, thats the point, there is no faith required to believe in the prophets, they are testable. Where the faith part comes in is when, for example, the other emissary whos name I forgot told the Bajorans that they should return to their caste system and people started killing one another. He made that up, based on what he thought the prophets wanted from him. Kai Vinn does it all the time. The existence of the prophets requires no faith whatsoever, and neither do clear instructions from them.

Well, thats sad. I thought talking and thinking about things and trying to find meaning is what philosophy is all about. And since when is talking with one another not learning? And don't you start your arguments with axioms, and go off from there? But I guess you really don't want to talk about it, fine, but I honestly don't understand why not.
Quarkissnyder
Sat, Aug 20, 2016, 10:40am (UTC -5)
The religious/mystical aspect did not bother me. The prophets are an alien race that know the future -- even without understanding that it is the future -- and have the power to communicate in various ways with other races, including by sending visions. Sisko is himself (oops -- spoiler) a wormhole alien.

That does not make the wormhole aliens gods, it makes them a race that happens to have knowledge that other species don't have.

I don't think the series ever addresses whether that makes them good or evil or neutral. It seems like they are generally nice to Bajor in an intermittent, fairly passive sort of way, like we might be nice to a pet hamster.

I liked the treatment of Kai Wynn in this episode. I particularly liked when she said they should go ahead and vote without Sisko. She might have come round to believing he's the Emissary, but that doesn't mean she's not going to take every opportunity to aggrandize herself.

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