Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Shadows and Symbols"


Air date: 10/5/1998
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by Allan Kroeker

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"But why me? Why did it have to be me?"
"Because it could be no one else."

— Sisko and the Sarah-prophet, on Sisko's role as Emissary

Nutshell: There's lots of story, and most of it's very good.

"Shadows and Symbols" keeps the saga, as I'm inclined to call it these days, flowing well. It doesn't draw absolute conclusions over everything it says (there are more follow-ups in store, we presume), but it does tie up a chapter or two from last season and supply us with some answers that have fascinating implications.

There's plenty to digest with this week's installment, and I liked pretty much everything I saw. Naturally, I want to see more of what was set in motion, but the saying to observe these days, I believe, is "All in due time." For now, this is easily the best offering since "In the Pale Moonlight."

So far, the smaller details suggest that DS9 is planning its story moves carefully, thinking ahead. Within the plot of "Shadows and Symbols" are indications of things to come, some of them subtle and uncertain in scale, others likely to play into the grand scheme of DS9's end.

Case in point (for the "subtle and uncertain in scale" side of things, that is): we've got the ongoing exchanges between Weyoun and Damar as they continue to plan the war effort from Cardassia. Fairly routine—except that these days Damar just doesn't seem to care much about the war. In the scenes he's had so far this season, he's drinking. Or bringing would-be girlfriends to the command center. His attention is wavering. Is he sick of the war? Sick of Weyoun? Sick of being, as Sisko once called Dukat, a "Dominion puppet"? I'm not sure, but Weyoun is without a doubt taking notice. Where this goes from here is anyone's guess. Could this be the infant stage of serious problems between Cardassia and the Dominion? The long-term plot patrol awakens...

But let's talk about this week, shall we?

The story picks up each of the threads from last week's three-tiered structure. In story A, three generations of Sisko (Ben, Jake, Joseph), along with the new Ezri Dax, go to the desert on Tyree to search for the Orb of the Emissary. In story B, Kira risks a violent showdown with the Romulans by setting up a blockade to the Bajoran moon Durna, preventing the Romulans from delivering what might be vital components for a weapons system. In story C, Worf & Co. embark on a suicide mission to destroy a Dominion shipyard near a star, in order to assure Jadzia a place in Stovokor.

Lost? I wasn't. One key to the story's success was its ability to balance these three plot lines without overburdening the narrative or sacrificing cohesion. In fact, the balance was handled so well by director Allan Kroeker that I was caught up almost equally by each piece of the story. In this case, unlike many episodes with multiple plots, one didn't "interrupt" the other; each interruption was a continuation of something worth watching.

That's not to say I didn't have my preferences. The desert-based Sisko story was by far the most interesting, probably because it contains a much more vital and pivotal piece of DS9's larger scheme. There's a grandness to a quest with such intriguing possibilities, particularly because those possibilities are so personally important to the central character and his past. (Trivial coincidence note: For the past three seasons, the second episode—"The Ship," "Rocks and Shoals," and now "Shadows and Symbols"—was shot primarily in the desert.)

The high point of the story for me was in revisiting Benny Russell (the 1950s writer from "Far Beyond the Stars") through a vision Sisko has when he uncovers the orb. I had always hoped "Far Beyond the Stars" wouldn't be the end of what Benny Russell meant to Benjamin Sisko. Here we have proof that it wasn't. This time around Russell is in a mental institution, writing his Deep Space Nine stories on the wall. He's completely insane by nearly every possible standard—his behavior, his speech, his obsession—yet perhaps sane for one reason: because he's completely right. Everything he writes is true, so far as Ben Sisko is concerned. And Ben Sisko is Russell's dream. Or as "Far Beyond the Stars" put it, he's both the dreamer and the dream. But does this statement apply to Benny Russell, Benjamin Sisko, or both? My interest is definitely piqued.

Sisko's vision, admittedly, turns out to be a false vision from the paghwraith to mislead him. But I don't think that really matters. One could argue that the visions are manifested completely by something buried in Sisko's mind—or even his past. The point is that he has and likely will again experience Benny Russell plight, which will be significant to Sisko's character and the DS9 saga as it unfolds.

The way "Shadows and Symbols" conceives Sisko's insights is exceptional—both visually and emotionally. The mystical aspects of DS9 are quickly becoming the series' most compelling elements. In this episode, we have particularly good use of Sisko's baseball as a constant symbol; and the mysterious echoes of Doctor Wykoff (played by Casey Biggs), who is constantly being paged to isolation ward 4, are simultaneously eerie and wondrous.

Furthermore, once the crisis is averted and the Orb of the Emissary's power is released (bringing back the wormhole and casting out the paghwraith), the Prophets enlighten Sisko about his mother, Sarah, who actually was possessed by a prophet in order to conceive Ben Sisko. The implications of this revelation are staggering, setting off dozens of possible arguments, and even more questions. I won't go into such theories, but what Behr and Beimler have come up with for Sisko's arc is, in my opinion, very elaborate, neat stuff.

My one notable complaint is that Sisko's reaction to it all is a little too serene and accepting; he even smiles after closing the orb box. I don't think that's the right reaction; he should be disturbed at uncovering such a deep secret to his existence. Hopefully future episodes will deal with this aspect.

Of course, there's also Ensign Ezri Dax. I hate to slight her (there's just so much else going on here), because I liked what I saw. If this week is any indication, Nicole deBoer is going to work out very well as Ezri, the new incarnation of Dax. We learn that Ezri was joined with the symbiont as an emergency; she wasn't prepared for it. This puts a fresh spin on the relationships Ezri has inherited from Jadzia, while providing Ezri with a psychological inner struggle with all the symbiont's previous personalities. And deBoer throws herself into the role wonderfully: confusion, nervousness, charisma, trepidation, compassion, unexpected confidence—they're all here, and all well-utilized. I'll wait until next week (a Dax-oriented story) to say more, but I like her already.

As far as the B-plot and C-plot go, there was nothing particularly special about them in and by themselves, but they were nicely executed.

The station-based plot utilized Kira's no-nonsense mode very well (someone's gotta take a stand against the Romulans' encroachments). I'm glad the writers wisely decided not to throw away the Federation/Romulan alliance, but I'm also disappointed that we apparently won't see a Romulan presence aboard the station—it could've been a worthwhile endeavor. And as much as Admiral Ross didn't seem to be on Our Side this week (not being able to give Kira any help, and all), I could still understand his situation. He was stuck in the middle, as Kira and Sisko themselves have been. Ross didn't like the prospect of leaving Bajor to fend for itself, but let's face it: The Romulans ultimately are more important to the war effort. Sometimes common sense is simply unfortunate.

Worf's plot was the least of the three, but still entertaining. While I think the bickering between Quark and Worf was a little excessive and overly obvious in nature, it was true enough to their characters. Quark can be a selfish whiner and Worf can be an insensitive jerk, but they both have the ability to rise above those qualities and come across as reasonable, and both do in this case. As an action piece, this was completely predictable but perfectly okay—and I got a big thrill out of watching the Dominion's shipyards engulfed in a massive solar flare-up.

The suspense between the storylines is thoroughly milked as the episode cuts between the culmination of each thread, whether it's Sisko deciding to open the orb box, or Kira's time running out before the Romulans come charging in, or Martok's ship being pursued by Jem'Hadar fighters.

But ultimately, "Shadows and Symbols" is a winner because it's true to the primary focus—Emissary Benjamin Sisko—and because it tells its story confidently while still having plenty of questions to ask and answer. If season seven can stay on this track, we'll be in great shape.

Next week: Ezri Dax rediscovers Jadzia's life.

Previous episode: Image in the Sand
Next episode: Afterimage

Season Index

52 comments on this review

Blue - Sat, Mar 28, 2009 - 1:05am (USA Central)
The Dominion War has been going on for what seems like ages now, and I must give props to Ron Moore & co. for letting the war actually unfold and for taking some risks in allowing episodes that fit within the greater arc but are pretty non-sensical on their own.

I do think that the Changelings have been surprisingly quiet for a really long time now- too quiet. Perhaps their being cut off from the Gamma Quadrant has made the Changelings stuck in the Alpha a lot more cautious and unwilling to risk themselves in espionage and sabotage?
ET - Sun, Jan 24, 2010 - 11:21pm (USA Central)
I just wanted to point out some things that really bothered me about this episode and I was surprised that you made no mention of them.

1. O'Brien going on this mission. Seriously? A family man with a wife and 2 kids risking his life for another man's wife. I can understand if he received orders to go on this mission. What would Keiko think of this? I know what my fiance would think if I did such a thing and it would involve me never seeing her again.

2. Quark going on this mission. Get real. Not only does he not belong there, he also doesn't want to be there. He's a greedy Ferengi more concerned with profit and his bar than making sure Jadzia got into Stovokor.

3. Bashir going on this mission. The station's chief medical officer going off on a dubious adventure in time of war. His place belongs on DS9 to tend to the war wounded.

Seriously, with writing like this they're undoing everything the writers have built up to this point. O'Brien's responsible family man image, Quark's Ferengi code, and Bashir's medical ethics. Those parts just seemed so out of place and implausible, I have a hard time even accepting this episode as canon. It's like a mirror episode.

Am I the only who's bothered by this?
jmtaylor - Wed, Jun 16, 2010 - 7:14pm (USA Central)
Actually I hadn't thought about that ET, but I must say I totally agree with you. Especially about O'Brian going along. I know if my husband went off on a suicide mission to help another man's wife get into Stovokor, I would not be best pleased!

Good point about all three going on this mission actually.
Marco P. - Sat, Aug 21, 2010 - 6:21am (USA Central)
Interesting episode as far as the Benjamin Sisko storyline is concerned. What the Prophets did to Sisko's would-be mother is most troubling yet interesting, but I felt rather uncomfortable by the *means* that they used to achieve their goal (namely Sisko's birth). Surely the writers could have fed us something that was less... invasive, because in effect it took hostage of a person's life, forcing her to have a child (and live) with a man she did not even love for over 2 years. And then after that period, after Sisko's mother's body was "returned", and she left to Australia, it broke Sisko's father's heart!! I for one would have preferred something along the lines of "destiny" (as in Sisko's father & mother "meant" to be together, yet still "guided" somehow in their encounter by the prophets).

As far as Esri Dax is concerned, I first reacted very negatively when the character starts exposing how she became Dax, listing all the previous hosts the symbiont had, etc. "We're Trek fans damnit!! Give us some credit!! Stop reciting lines strictly for the newcoming viewwer!!!" I shouted. But then Ezri starts telling the story about how she came to be Dax's host by accident, and the character's confusion is in line with this new-found situation for her. I was more willing to accept the tiny bit of "exposition" after hearing that.

As for the Sto-vo-kor mission, I agree with the above readers' comments completely: O'Brien the family man should have better things to do that going on suicide missions. Not only that, but what the hell did Quark *contribute* by HIS presence (besides "honoring Jadzia" as Worf puts it)?? The inclusion of O'Brien has some sense because he is an excellent engineer, and one can always use a doctor on board... but a bartender? Did the mess hall shotglasses need to be cleaned? The three characters' inclusion seems nothing more than giving the actors a chance to appear in the episode, almost as if by contractual obligation. Too much of a stretch I think...
Nic - Tue, Sep 7, 2010 - 8:58pm (USA Central)
It's funny you should mention the episode's "ability to balance these three plotlines", because that was my main problem with this episode - that it jumped too often from one story to another and as such, I couldn't really get involved in any of the stories. The attempt to link all three together didn't quite work either. Kira basically went "Oh look, the wormhole's back! And now we must get back to fighting the Romulans..."

I think Bashir would have come along on Worf's mission, but not O'Brien and especially not Quark.

One thing I did love were Ezri's two scenes (the one at the beginning and the one at the end where she arrives on the station), even if they was totally unrelated to the rest of the episode. They felt very real.
Cloudane - Fri, Dec 3, 2010 - 6:59pm (USA Central)
Considering how often Trek has struggled with just a B plot, never mind a C plot, they did really well making all 3 work and the transition between them so seamless. Great work.

Interesting points on O'Brien. I think maybe Keiko would've understood to a point (it almost seems quite a Japanese philosophy to be willing to die for a friend's honour), but wouldn't have been to happy about it. Seeing this would've been good. Unfortunately I guess when juggling 3 plots there just wasn't time!
Latex Zebra - Thu, Jan 6, 2011 - 10:24am (USA Central)
But Quark and Bashir luuuurved Dax. O'Brien just went along to make sure they didn't get killed.
Polt - Sun, Feb 6, 2011 - 8:39am (USA Central)
I gotta disagree with one thing Jammer wrote: The high point being the whole Benny Russell part of it. I detest that whole storyline. perhaps because i didn't like the whole episode it origianlly appeared in. Anytime I see anything from that storyline, I sigh, my eye glaze over and i tune out slightly.

Seroiously, as many different and reoccuring hallucinations as Sisko suffers, how is he allowed in command of a garbage ship much less the most improtant piece of real estate in the Alpha Quadrant.

I was never a fan of those whole mysticism angle used in DS9 (prophets, Emmissary, etc). It only gets worse this season i know.
Weiss - Mon, Feb 21, 2011 - 3:50pm (USA Central)
the federation didnt have much of a choice, i believe the bajorans specifically requested Sisko remain the captain of ds9.

kira continued teh battle with romulans because after the wormhole came back, she was confident the prophets were back and somehow help her (call it faith)

quark being in the team, well there were many inane episodes involve him flirting with jadzia... so he deserved a place.

miles is a military man, keiko should expect now he would head into battle (for whatever reason, and especially considering both obrien and keiko have know worf for a long time).
Weiss - Wed, Feb 23, 2011 - 11:35am (USA Central)
loved the 3 generations of Siskos on an adventure

that family bond distinquished this from any other star trek tv show (movies are another matter). instead of a contrivance (like picard's son, or an annoyance like Worf's- the only thing I could think of during Alexander episodes was whether this was the same kid as in Family tie, I wish IMDB existed back then!)

thankfully they introducd teh oldest sisko in season 5
enniofan - Wed, Apr 6, 2011 - 9:57am (USA Central)

Tyree looks exactly like the desert of Southern California! crazy!
Stubb - Tue, May 17, 2011 - 3:05pm (USA Central)
This episode crystallizes one of the oddest quirks in the entire Star Trek canon: the fact that each series required at least a season and a half to get its sea legs -- except TOS, which was off and running in a month.

Let me explain.

Even allowing for two pilots (three counting "Corbomite Maneuver", in which the series was still feeling its way), TOS had some of its greatest successes early in its first season. Episodes like "Naked Time" showed that the actors 'got' their characters very early on, and the stories benefited accordingly. But TNG's first season and most of the second SUCKED. DS9 was slightly better, but also took awhile to get going. When I started paying attention to TNG again during the third season, I was surprised to discover that the actors had finally nailed their characters, especially Frakes and Spiner.

This strange Trek pattern is brought into stark relief here, by the appearance of Nicole deBoer as Ezri Dax. In my opinion she is a subpar actress anyhow, but leave that aside. She has NO depth of feeling for her character (yet). Her acting resembles a young girl in her third school play -- not awful, but clearly leagues below the rest of the cast. I'm not sure I ever warmed up to her as Dax, but for me her appearance taints this episode simply because it reminded me of just how uninspired TNG and DS9 could be during their first two seasons.
Nic - Sun, Jun 5, 2011 - 9:09pm (USA Central)
You make interesting points Stubb, though without wanting to insult TOS, I think the characters weren't as complex back then, so it didn't take as long for the actors to settle into their roles.

It seems you can't have it both ways. Either the first season of a TV series will be terrific and it goes downhill from there (which I have found is the case for most current shows), or the first season will suck and then keep getting better and better. I have to say I prefer the latter variety, saving the best for last and getting a more 'epic' feel.
Jay - Sat, Sep 3, 2011 - 3:09pm (USA Central)
Agreed, Stubbs. If you just compare the First Seasons of the 3 24th century Treks, Voyager wins easily. Its cast "gel"d teh fastest. Unfortunately, it never rose to the heights both of its predecessors later reached.
gtr - Tue, Sep 13, 2011 - 5:32am (USA Central)
To say that the Benny Russell bit was a false vision sent to Sisko from a pagh-wraith is only one interpretation.

Another is that Benny Russell is real, and he wrote that vision bit into his story...

What I like about the way the writers have handled all this is that they haven't simplistically opted to indicate that either interpretation is the "real" one; they co-exist as possibilities.
Elliott - Mon, Oct 3, 2011 - 9:57pm (USA Central)
I maintain that the Benny Russel angle is easily the best mythical element ever written into the story. The problem I have with it is it's too sparse. The implications of reality and time are fascinating and inspired, but they are given absolutely no resolution. Rather, the writers choose in most cases to opt for the comic-book angle and have "epic" and pointless celestial battles through the puppet characters of Sisko, Dukat and Winn.

I found the entire plot with Kira and the Romulans excisable--it seems to exist simply to give her and Odo something to do.

Considering how much time this series spends on questions of spirituality and religion, the Stovokor subplot comes across as very shallow; are we really supposed to believe that Bashir and O'Brien just jump into a suicide mission without considering the nature of death and love? Whether Jadzia would want to be indicted into Klingon religion?

These subplots get entirely in the way of the main story which is quite workable. The worst offense is that the scenes cut between things going on at DS9 or the shipyards in the 24th century proper and Sisko's vision/Benny Russel's reality. It's jarring and not in a compelling way; it gives the story an air of triviality.

3 stars I think is the highest I can go with this one.
Joseph B - Sun, Jan 8, 2012 - 11:20am (USA Central)
For those that seem to be concerned that O'Brien may have stepped out of character to go on the mission with Worf, it should be remembered that Worf delivered his and Keiko's baby. The real question is not so much why he went but why he waited until he found out Bashir was going before volunteering !
Krog - Sun, Apr 29, 2012 - 10:37pm (USA Central)
Stubb nailed it. It's foolish to introduce a character with such emotional complexity in the final season because the actor needs to discover the character. Reintroducing Dax was a mistake.

Throughout the series' run I've been thinking that they haven't introduced enough recurring secondary characters, like O'Brien in TNG. They needed people with names and faces in the background who could step up when main characters died.
Mara - Thu, May 3, 2012 - 4:10pm (USA Central)
This is where the series started to downfall. Bring a new Dax and Ezri especially (a little unsecure and whiny child) was a mistake. I never warm up to her and she took so much time from other plots and she made the final season mediocre at best. The best the writers had to do was to give Jadzia her own command and keep her as a recurring character as Terry Farrell wanted. Or leave the Dax symbiont away from the station to an unknown host and spent an episode with Worf and Sisko visiting Trill and meet the new host (a male preferably) and have closure. Bringing Ezri in hurt the finale season. Also having the new host assigned to DS9 was a mistake for Ezri too. What that tells us? That she was an insecure kid and joining with the Dax symbiont basicaly made her abandon her life, her friends and her previous position and take over Jadzia's life. It's like Ezri lost all her will and was taken over by Dax which was an epic fail considering everything the writing told us before about Trills and what the purpose of joining really is.
Jay - Thu, Jun 7, 2012 - 8:20pm (USA Central)
Re: new Dax...I agree it was a mistake to bring a new Dax (and a new character) on. Andrew Robinson was in every way a regular by this season (how many episodes wasn't he in in S7), so they should have just promoted Andrew to the opening credits.
Peter - Tue, Jun 19, 2012 - 5:24pm (USA Central)
Ezri ruined the Dax character. The only good scenes in the episode were Worf fighting to get Jadzia to Sto-vo-kor. That was very touching. The rest of the episode was garbage.
Lt. Fitz - Thu, Jul 5, 2012 - 1:22pm (USA Central)
I don't get it. I watched the very first episodes after watching this one, because it seemed to me that the prophets were being very inconsistent. In the first episodes, the prophets don’t know what linear time is. They don’t seem to know what Sisko is. They even conclude that he must be destroyed! He has to argue with them to save himself! Now, late in the series they are written to have reached far across the quadrant to take control of a human woman to produce Sisko himself. Making Sisko what exactly? A human/prophet hybrid? The son of the gods? The savior of the wormhole? To do all this, it seems to me a species needs to have a pretty firm grip on what linear time is. It’s clear that the writers have gone too far with the whole emissary thing. Throughout the series it seemed like they were really pushing to go too far with it, and in this episode, they finally did it.

I now understand why a lot of Trek fans had problems with DS9. It was mostly working for me when I could frame the prophets as a difficult-to-comprehend race of aliens that the Bajorans were mistaking for gods who must have been inadvertently interacting with the Bajorans simply because their planet was in the vicinity of one end of the wormhole. But now, I don’t know what to think. Their nature is so inconsistent that they have become completely inconceivable to me. When a story includes such inconsistency, it strikes me as carelessly written. Even the most bizarre circumstances in the previous series could always be explained in general scientific terms within the rules of the Star Trek universe as it had been defined. But in the DS9 universe, literally anything can happen and no explanation is required. DS9 definitely took Star Trek from science fiction to space fantasy, which is a bit of a downer for me since I greatly preferred Star Trek being science fiction. If I wanted space fantasy, I could always turn to Star Wars.

This is not to say that I dislike DS9. I generally like it. But, as I read someone else comment, it’s not really Star Trek. I just wish that it would have remained consistent within its unique universe, but it really didn’t.

Grumpy - Wed, Aug 15, 2012 - 7:18pm (USA Central)
Fitz... Understanding linear time before they learn about it is one of the kooky things Prophets can do.

According to the Trek chronology, Sisko was born the last time the Nexus passed by, prior to Generations. Maybe it's a non-linear habitat like the wormhole, and Sisko's mom was hitching a ride.

This episode was not the first time regular characters went on a mission for no logical reason (e.g. Odo in "The Adversary"), but it is one of the more egregious. Quark, Bashir, and O'Brien needed their own plot.
Kaiyuss - Mon, Oct 1, 2012 - 12:29pm (USA Central)
@Lt. Fitz
You have to keep in mind one thing about the Prophets: they do not experience the passage of time. For them, the first encounter with Sisko, Sarah's "possession" and everything up until Sisko's final encounter, all happen simultaneously for the Prophets.

In fact, the only reason they experience a "first contact" with Sisko in the pilot, is because of their interaction with his point-of-view.
DG - Fri, Dec 7, 2012 - 5:19am (USA Central)

Can I kill "Benny", please? PLEASE!?

The loopy crazy wookie wonky nuts of it all reminded me of Red Dwarf Lister and Oroborous--and then because they *had* to bring Benny into it all, I remembered Lister and Sisko are both black...

So... Kirk is white and leads (or klutzes) on his own ground. Picard is white and leads through the Power of Awesome. Sisko is black and can only lead through being half deity? Aaaaargh!

7th season started and I kind of find myself longing for Picard to show up and fix everything. This is... dreadful.

The whole thing has become collectively ridiculous. This episode is like X-Files meets the few episodes of Lost I've seen meets... Gilligan's island?

Sisko's nuts. Kira's boring. Odo's confusing, Quark's on a Klingon ship wtf, I keep wondering if O'Brien will suddenly go gay or something...

Ezri's... physically cute?
DavidK - Tue, Jan 29, 2013 - 5:35am (USA Central)
The nature of the prophets is certainly confusing, but that might be the limitations of my linear existence =)

I suppose they already picked up Akorem 200 years ago so he could appear in Accession and nudge Sisko in the right direction, so they've been in "prophet mode" even earlier than Sisko's birth. But...it was Sisko himself who taught them (tainted them?) with linear time, so if they took actions to cause his birth, they indirectly caused themselves to learn about linear time...but I think they needed to understand linear time to want to cause his birth at all?

Here's my fanwank attempt to make it work. Think of time, as Picard would say, as a tapestry. They see the completed project all at once. Some form of Ben Sisko, who is not an Emissary and not part-prophet, is assigned to DS9 and teaches them about linear time. He continues to function in the role as we know it, but he doesn't inspire the Bajoran people, he doesn't in turn take strength from them, his actions in the Dominion War are not as decisive and the Federation loses. Bajor is occupied.

Now the prophets, looking at this tapestry after they have learned linear time, decide to use their Q like powers to give the Bajorans a better future because they kind of like them for some reason. So one of them exits the wormhole as an energy being, possesses just the right person with just the right genetic makeup to create exactly the Ben Sisko that is needed to give the Bajorans the best outcome. And, since he's imbued with prophetness, Kai Opaka declares him the Emissary and the rest is as we saw.

How's that? For this to work, it means that the prophets aren't just existing out of time, when they peer out of the wormhole, they see all possibilities of time at once too. They don't just see the whole timeline, they see all of them. I suppose they can glance through every version of history, see every person Joseph Sisko could have ended up with, and picked the one that would make whichever Ben Sisko was needed. Why they picked Ben Sisko, I suppose across all the timelines he was the keystone in a way, the thread that was easiest to pull to cause the right outcome.

But it does leave the prophets in an awkward spot. For them to learn linear time, then change their own past to a degree, they have to simultaneously understand and not understand linear time. But that must be true to some degree, because in Accession they sent Akorem back 200 years into the past, they sent him to a point before they understood "past", "before" or units of time at all.

So yes it's all a bit confusing but I think it works. Not sure why they care about Bajor so much though. I suppose if I found out a group of people thought I was a god and kept praying to me, I'd develop a soft spot for them too ("Hands off my pious minions, Dominion, they don't know any better!")
Elliott - Tue, Jan 29, 2013 - 1:02pm (USA Central)
@ DavidK

Your explanation works fine for me on the technical level. I myself don't often feel the need to jump through these hoops with fiction in order to set every plot-stone in its proper place. Your last paragraph is the crux of how tenuous and ultimately vacuous idea is--WHY do the prophets care about Bajor or Bajorans? The only answers that make any sense are the most common and banal of human failings: jealousy, pride, megalomania, etc. These traits so profoundly contradict what the prophets are portrayed as being about that the series just about implodes, in my view, from a philosophical perspective.
gmlcgond - Mon, Oct 14, 2013 - 11:42pm (USA Central)
Casey Biggs is tremendous as the Dr. In the mental hospital!!
Kotas - Mon, Nov 4, 2013 - 8:25pm (USA Central)

Not a good start to the final season.

Ric - Thu, Jan 2, 2014 - 2:50am (USA Central)
I liked quite a lot the subplot of Kira and the Romulans. Credible scenario, interesting character development for Kira's character now that she got a position of command.

Wolfe's subplot was also interesting for the the quick characteres interrelationships.

Also, I think the new Dax has potential due to the dilemmas caused by she being joined by accident. Acting was also much better than for Jadzia...

But the main plot, with Sisko receiving those over-the-top messages from the prophets, was ridiculous. He now speaks with prophets in a regular base, just as Dukat got superpowers in last season's final episode. I.e. it is now Jedis vs Siths. Trek? Not today, sorry. A magicalbabble recreates the wormhole, a magicalbabble shows everything to Sisko. The magicalbabble also ends in the most predictable, lame non-Trek conclusion: Sisko is the chosen one because he is son of the prophets. Star Wars fans, come along: [spoiler alert] "Sisko, I am your mother".

Note of caution: before someone comes up with the usual alien explanation for the magicalbabble, yes I know they are aliens. Just read magic-technobabble instead of only magicbabble, then my point stands intact. It is totally beyond me how people can be harsh on what they call technobabble while gladly accepting the magic-technobabble that DS9 uses (specially in seasons 5-7) ostensibly.

For me, those magic plots are becoming barely unwatchable.
Ric - Thu, Jan 2, 2014 - 3:13am (USA Central)
Wow, I just read the perfect @Lt.Fitz's comment after posting mine. I quote:

"I now understand why a lot of Trek fans had problems with DS9. It was mostly working for me when I could frame the prophets as a difficult-to-comprehend race of aliens that the Bajorans were mistaking for gods who must have been inadvertently interacting with the Bajorans simply because their planet was in the vicinity of one end of the wormhole. (...) Even the most bizarre circumstances in the previous series could always be explained in general scientific terms within the rules of the Star Trek universe as it had been defined. But in the DS9 universe, literally anything can happen and no explanation is required. DS9 definitely took Star Trek from science fiction to space fantasy, which is a bit of a downer for me since I greatly preferred Star Trek being science fiction. If I wanted space fantasy, I could always turn to Star Wars.

This is not to say that I dislike DS9. I generally like it. But, as I read someone else comment, it’s not really Star Trek. I just wish that it would have remained consistent within its unique universe, but it really didn’t."

Thanks @Lt.Fitz, you found for me the words I've been looking for to express my problems with the late seasons of DS9.
Josh - Thu, Jan 2, 2014 - 6:57pm (USA Central)
While I'm not sure that the likes of Q or similar "omnipotent" beings are any less "space fantasy", I agree with the above broadly speaking. I think the Prophets/Emissary thing works insofar as Sisko was "destined" to be a sort of link between the "wormhole aliens" and the Bajorans/Federation, but by this episode I feel like the writers had written themselves into a corner and weren't sure how to get out.

In the end it still works, though just barely, and suffers in "What You Leave Behind" because Paramount cheapened out (unforgivably I'd say until the cheapness of Nemesis). Overall it's not a bad concept at all; as ever, it's all in the execution.
K'Elvis - Fri, Jan 10, 2014 - 12:07pm (USA Central)
My interpretation is that Sisko is not "half prophet". Here's how I saw it: the paghwraiths wanted to prevent Sisko from being born, so they attempted to manipulate Sisko's mother so she never marries Sisko's father. The prophets fix the timeline by making sure that Sisko's mother does marry his father and gives birth to Sisko.

Original timeline: Sisko's mother and father get married, and have Benjamin. They later break up, with his father getting custody.

Paghwraith timeline: Sisko's mother and father never get together: no Benjamin Sisko.

Restored timeline: A prophet possesses Sisko's mother to undo the damage caused by the paghwraiths. Sisko's mother and father get married, and have Benjamin. They later break up, with his father getting custody.

Since we live in linear time, we only see the final result.
Jack - Sat, Feb 15, 2014 - 12:13pm (USA Central)
I found it ridiculous that the Sarah Prophet would go all the way to Earth to spawn an Emissary, rather than conceive one on Bajor. It's really quite insulting and offensive to Bajor and Bajorans, the people who revere them, if you scrutinize it at all.

It's second only to the Borg Queen in absurd retcons.
skadoo - Sun, Apr 6, 2014 - 9:09pm (USA Central)
I'm really confused that no one has pointed out the obvious with Ezri Dax. That she's now the naive ensign in the relationship with Sisko that he was when he first met Curzon. It's a flip with Sisko now being the mentor that Curzon was to him.
Bravestarr - Fri, Apr 11, 2014 - 11:16am (USA Central)
One of the best episdoes of the series. The part where Benny rights "Sisko opens the box." was extremly climatic and excellentently played out. The new Dax I feel works out well, she's played as fresh-faced and new to the crew, and the actress does this well.

I agree with all of you guys in regards to the crew joining Worf on his mission. It was a way to get the whole cast to "do" something but I felt it was too ham-fisted.

The Romulan blockade with Kira was very well done, although anti-climatic with the wormhole opening up and the whole plotline kinda peters out.

Overall I felt that this episode is very good and what they writers are doing with the prophets is genius! They could've left them as wormhole aliens and tried writing them off as that but they do everything they can to show the Prophets as more than just aliens, potentially even "gods" as the Bajorans believe.
Chris - Tue, Apr 29, 2014 - 11:39pm (USA Central)
The prophet that was stranded in the Tyree orb seems to travel to the wormhole instantaneously...apparently prophets can travel at close to Warp 10
Robert - Wed, Apr 30, 2014 - 12:54pm (USA Central)
Actually the Prophets travel at impulse and then go back in time to whenever the heck they want.
eastwest101 - Fri, May 2, 2014 - 6:10pm (USA Central)
Agree with the consensus here that the episode is good but has a few massive problems in the C Plot with O'Brien and Quark going along on a suicide Klingon mission just just stretched credulity a bit too far - most of this stuff could have been folded back up into a parallel of the B Plot with Kira's blockade and I would have been fine with an alternative of Worf and Martock blowing stuff up and O'Brien/Quark/Bashir emoting about the loss of Jadzir Dax.

My problem was the A plot was very uneven and worked in some places, but came undone again by Brookes over acting in places. Whenever Nicole deBoer is on screen she seems to light up the whole scene and has charisma in spades, I guess thats what they were going for with the loss of Terry Ferrell from the cast.

The mental asylum scenes were a bit of a risk and I give them credit for that but seem a bit forced.
Yanks - Thu, Aug 21, 2014 - 9:31am (USA Central)
Will someone please explain to me how the wormhole aliens (prophets), who've NEVER EVEN HEARD OF LINEAR TIME before 'Emissary' (or the father son relationship for that matter) now understand time enough to possess a human in order to ensure Sisko is born and can complete his "destiny" when he is an adult and becomes Captain of DS9?

DS9 has gone loony tunes...

...and Jammer gives this 3.5 stars?

O'Brien and Quark going along was stupid. Just think, who the hell is left on the station here? Not:

Jadzia (dead of course, but her expertise is not there anymore)

I guess that leaves Nog in charge!!! lol At least Rom can keep things working and Leeta can make that “noise” if something happens...

Good time for an attack Dominion?

eastwest101, I agree wholeheartedly. The Klingons could have blockaded that moon. That would have made more sense that Kira playing chicken with transports. What does Kira do if the Romulan’s don’t blink? Does she open fire on them and get all her people killed … or just let them go? It’s a good think ADM Ross finally acted like an ADM, eh? I guess he was enjoying watching a cat fight. Kira’s sign from her prophets (opening of the wormhole) almost got everyone killed.

I think the physic ward Benny flashback/vision/(whatever you want to call it) is .... I don't know what to call it. Just how the hell do the Paghwraiths give visions or influence dreams or change visions to Sisko? Aren't they locked up in the Wormhole too? Can the caged up PW's in the fire caves on Bajor all of a sudden reach out and influence things? Sisko can’t hear Jake speaking to him, but he can hear and understand Ezri? What the hell is going on here?!?!?!

Whatever... none of this makes any sense unless the entire series is Benny’s story. (throws arms up and leaves the room)

(comes back in, smelling of bloodwine…)

If someone can make sense of this and explain it to me I’ll listen for sure. I’ll wait a little before I post my rating. Right now it’s very low…
Yanks - Wed, Aug 27, 2014 - 6:51am (USA Central)
OK, no answer means their is no answer.

1.5 stars
Robert - Wed, Aug 27, 2014 - 8:12am (USA Central)
Late answer! The Pagh Wraiths are not locked up in the wormhole. I think the one got in and closed the gate, but the rest are in the fire caves. If you had no issue with them sending Winn a vision in the finale (and the fact that they obviously talk to Dukat).

I don't know that it'll raise the score, but I personally like the Kira arc in this episode and I had no issue with the Pagh Wraith vision.

The top question...

"Will someone please explain to me how the wormhole aliens (prophets), who've NEVER EVEN HEARD OF LINEAR TIME before 'Emissary' (or the father son relationship for that matter) now understand time enough to possess a human in order to ensure Sisko is born and can complete his "destiny" when he is an adult and becomes Captain of DS9?

DS9 has gone loony tunes..."

It's very simple. You either buy ALL of Star Trek's predestination time travel plotlines or you don't. If they aren't linear they could have ensured Sisko's birth by Prophet AFTER he visited them. It really is no more or less stupid than any countless time travel Trek plot (Time's Arrow, All Good Things, Children Of Time, Time and Again, etc.)

You either accept that predestination plots are totally cool or you don't. If you go back in time, marry your grandma and sire your dad it's because it was meant to happen, right?

I don't know that this will improve your score or if you buy ANY of what I'm selling, but maybe one of those answers will resonate a bit. Not arguing that there are holes, I just don't see them as gaping as you :)
Yanks - Wed, Aug 27, 2014 - 9:46am (USA Central)


I guess my point is all those "countless time travel trek" plots require an understanding of time and aren't conducted by those that don't understand it. Whether the prophets are linear or not, Sisko is. And he is what he is based on a prophet that took over Sarah before Sisko was born. This just can't work for me.

As for the Paghwraiths... (I hope I don't have my timeline messed up) .... the PW's that Dukat released and he used to silence the orb are in the WH with the prophets. The ones in the Fire caves haven't been released and can't do anything until that text from the book (Khosta Mojin) is read to them. So I'm not sure either of the entities should be able to communicate with Sisko until the Emissary's Orb has been opened. (I'm pretty certain the prophets could not, I remember Sisko saying they went silent or something like that)
Robert - Wed, Aug 27, 2014 - 10:17am (USA Central)
I assumed the Pagh Wraiths in the caves are the ones that sent Winn her vision. If they are the ones Dukat released into the wormhole then perhaps I am incorrect. But if the ones in the Fire Caves can send out visions, then you would be right. Of course it COULD be the Pagh Wraith that escaped after the Reckoning (unless you ascribe to that being the one that possessed Dukat).

As for the timeline... "I guess my point is all those "countless time travel trek" plots require an understanding of time and aren't conducted by those that don't understand it." They DO understand linear time, because Sisko explained it to them. And after he gave them the understanding of linear time they were able to plan his birth in the past. We already know they can change the past (as they did when sending Ankorem back). You don't have to buy/like that answer, but I do think it's what the writers intended (although I have no confirmation of such).
Robert - Wed, Aug 27, 2014 - 10:18am (USA Central)
That meant to say "if the ones in the Fire Caves CANNOT send out visions, then you would be right"
Elliott - Wed, Aug 27, 2014 - 10:43am (USA Central)
@Robert :

The problem with that explanation is the giant can of worms it opens regarding Bajor; once Sisko explained linear time to them (if indeed that gave them the power to alter history), why did the Occupation still happen? After all, the prophets can possess people right? Why not possess Dukat and some other leaders to have the Cardassians abandon Bajor before millions of those Bajorans who spend their miserable lives WORSHIPPING you die horribly? It's not so much that the explanation is in-universe implausible, it's that it makes the heroes into terrible, evil, heartless beings for whom we should have no sympathy.

I quite like Yanks' idea that what should have happened was the resolution to the Fire Caves Mumbo Jumbo would have meant the Wormhole Aliens sealing themselves away in the temple and the Bajorans putting away their credulity for a unified future with Cardassia.
Robert - Wed, Aug 27, 2014 - 10:55am (USA Central)
If the occupation never happened Bajor wouldn't be what it is today and Sisko wouldn't have been assigned there. The prophets are probably not heartless, but I don't think they have compassion the way you or I do.
Scott - Fri, Sep 5, 2014 - 3:00pm (USA Central)
Everyone keeps mentioning obrien leaving his family. The writers should have had Keiko and obrien divorce. They weren't happy or at least Keiko wasn't. I've noticed the show keeps making excuses for why she's not on the station. Obviously the actress was busy and they didn't want to pay her. And obrien is so eager to go on dangerous missions that it reinforces the fact that he doesn't like her. Look at the episode Homecoming. He goes to cardassia 4 with Kira to rescue Li. Kira says either we rescue him or we don't come back and obrien says ok. The exception is in Children of Time when it took some convincing but be did end up staying on the planet.
$G - Thu, Oct 16, 2014 - 11:51am (USA Central)
@DavidK (from a year and a half ago, damn this linear existence):

That's a neat explanation, and one that might even make sense. I actually really like the idea of the Prophets meddling with timelines for their own benefit after learning what time is.

But here are my questions: Do they want to ensure Sisko has a connection with them? Are the qualities of the WAs passed on genetically? Is this why, in "Accession", Sisko is suddenly cryptically told he is "of Bajor", because the Prophets had gone back and altered his existence? Is this why the events of "Rapture" take place? What's neat about this is that Sisko's visions in "Rapture" aren't Bajor-centric. Remember, Sisko sees the *universe* but still makes the choice to seek out Bajor's role and use that information for the benefit of the Bajorans.

On the other hand, this is all just fan interpretation, reasonable though it may be. "Shadows and Symbols" doesn't address it - it just drops the plot twist on us, which raises questions without answering them. This is the bad kind of ambiguity. It changes our understanding of a character's purpose in the story very suddenly, but since there's no groundwork to base the twist on all our hands go up at the end of class as the teacher is already out the door.

The episode in general is well put together but with some flaws. The Siskos + Ezri in the desert is good. Kira's story is strong. Worf's motivation is pretty good, even if the events on the Rotarran aren't.

Sisko saving the wormhole is okay, but it all seems... disconnected a bit. Opening the orb on Tyree to save the wormhole at Bajor is neat conceptually but a little too random for my liking.

Kira's storyline is good - so interesting, in fact, that I wish it had its own episode. Kira in charge of DS9 would have made for some great stories. The shot of the Romulans converging on the Bajoran moon is great.

The main flaw built into the episode is Quark. He ruins every scene he's in and nearly wrecks any intrigue in the Klingon op. Martok is a welcome voice of Klingon reason, at least. At least the effects that close out this plot are great. I really love that shot of the in-construction Cardassian warship being annihilated by the solar flare.

Ezri is okay. She doesn't hurt the episode but I think her inclusion might be one element too many. It still works, though. I mention it here because it sets up a really, really great moment right at the end when Worf straight up walks away when he sees her. After all his existential strife over getting Jadzia into Sto'vo'kor, here she is, reincarnated, in this elfish little ensign. A great little moment that grows naturally out of so many competing existential beliefs.

One thing I want to say is that, while this episode itself completely great, this series knows how to do epic and has really brought the Trek universe to life. Think of it, this is an episode that takes place on Earth, Tyree, Cardassia, in orbit of a Bajoran moon, and on a Klingon bird of prey sneaking through a Dominion shipyard. It even has time for a few Benny Russell scenes (which are, as Elliott mentioned above, one of the coolest metaphysical elements on the show).

I came here to write a pretty negative review of this episode and slap a 2-1/2 rating on it, but... honestly? My comment isn't all that negative, is it? (It's pretty long, though...) And now that I've written my thoughts out, I find that "Shadows and Symbols" is secretly pretty good. I'm still skeptical about the Sisko birth twist, but this episode is far from being *just* about that. I don't know - this is a pretty good episode, guys, and a solid enough closer to this three-part arc. 3 stars.
spindles - Sun, Nov 9, 2014 - 1:48am (USA Central)
Damn, Klingons cut themselves more than a 16 emo girl.
Phillip - Sun, Feb 15, 2015 - 3:55pm (USA Central)
Was anyone else very disturbed that the prophets raped Sisko's mom and his father as well? They took over Sarah's body and forced her to sleep with Joseph and they kind of did the same to Joseph by misrepresenting who he was sleeping with in order to have a baby.

So Sisko learns that the prophets did this to his parents and does his get mad? Not really. Does he go back to Bajor and tell the people the worm hole aliens did this to a woman on earth for their own purposes? I don't think so. We don't know. We do know he told cassidy because she mentions it later so we can assume Kira knows. But this doesn't shake Kira's belief that these aliens are nice gods. It's rediculous. I mean Sisko had to teach the prophets about linear time (the same linear time in which Bajor and Sarah live in). Negus had to teach the prophets about profit even though Bajor has money. I love DS9 but the writers really made Sisko look dumb by following these aliens after all they've done. Kirk and Picard would have condemned these aliens for their actions and definitely wouldn't have left star fleet to live with them.
Brian S. - Wed, Feb 25, 2015 - 5:48pm (USA Central)
So, remembering back to the series pilot episode "Emissary" when Sisko explains the concepts of linear time, death, and procreation to the Prophets.....it would seem they already know all about those things.

Personally, I found this plot twist very disappointing. Sisko's decisions and actions with regard to Bajor and the Prophets seemed far more meaningful when they were just those of a human interacting freely. Now that we know his entire existence is just a byproduct of Prophet manipulation, all of his current and past behaviors are viewed as being those of a baby Prophet rather than a human Starfleet officer.

Later in the season, they make a big deal about Sisko building a home on Bajor. And that would be a big deal, if Sisko were a human. But essentially he's not. He's half Prophet. His entire existence was conceived for the purposes of serving the Prophets and defeating the Paghwraiths. The Prophets are his family. Looking back over the series, it makes his acceptance of the Emissary role more of a pre-ordained inevitability than a conscious choice. Sisko's willingness to let go of his son Jake in "The Reckoning" now makes it look less like a leap of faith and more like something he was just supposed to do.

@Phillip: I hadn't thought of it that way before, but you are totally right. Sisko is a Prophet rape baby.

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