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Sun, Aug 30, 2020, 12:38pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S5: The Darkness and the Light

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

We begin with another round of DS9 Religious Action Madlibs.

“I am Vedek [so and so]...and I welcome you to the [made up place] retreat. Today we begin [things religious people do all the time] prayer and meditation as preparation for our Days of [vaguely Christ-y word] Atonement.”

The Vedeks all do their thing and appeal to the gods, but they are apparently in a vengeful mood as So and So is blasted by the Arc of the Wormhole or whatever.

Over on DS9, Kira is looking for pregnancy remedies from Bashir when Odo interrupts to deliver the news of the of sacercide. It turns out So and So was an old Shakaar Cell friend of Kira's. She returns to the O'Brien's quarters and her own (very little) room to say a prayer for the dead Vedek, but is interrupted by news of a short message. She plays it back, a Jigsaw-esque “That's one!” and an image of So and So on her screen. Creepy!

Act 1 : ***, 17%

Kira, Sisko and Odo deduce that Shakaar (the cell, not the guy) is the general target of this Jigsaw Person. Odo wants to up the fascist ante on incoming ships, of course, and Sisko agrees...of course.

SISKO: I'm sorry about your friend.
KIRA: He died serving the Prophets. They'll take care of him.
SISKO: I'm sure they will.

Oh? Are you having visions again, or are you just being polite, Captain?

The next morning, Miles finds Kira on the Replimat to let her vent. She's frustrated that her unexpected pregnancy is keeping her from tracking Jigsaw Guy down and defending her friends from potential assassination. Thank the Prophets for that. Kira has been way too nonchalant about this baby she didn't ask for cramping her style. I mean, I think Kira's insane half the time, but ever since Ziyal moved onto the station she's been kind of, well, boring. Miles reminds her that her job is to be a womb, apparently, but Odo interrupts this low-key sexist remark with news of another message for her.

She arrives in Ops to receive the message and Sisko tells her to keep the messenger talking for a bit so they can trace the call, you know like in the movies. The messenger is a woman called Fala (la la la, fa la la la...'tis the season to be jo--). Kira assures the command crew that she's harmless but has a good reason to try and keep her location a secret. You never know when Jack Skellington might show up and steal your mojo. Kira continues the conversation in relative privacy. Jingle Bell Rock here is certain that she's going to be the next person on Jigsaw Guy's kill list, and begs Kira to help her out. She promises to reroute Dax and Worf to Bajor, pick her up and bring her to safety on DS9.

Well, in case you didn't get enough of Worf's and Jadzia's toxic relationship in “Let He Who Is Without Sin,” we pick up with them bickering on a runabout. Jadzia lost a bunch of latinum gambling. Awesome. The woman in the relationship isn't good with her money, how original. Ugh...won't something end this hackneyed misery? Oh good, another murder! This one is actually murder-by-transporter (don't tell Reg Barclay). They try to beam Deck the Halls aboard but some sort of interference causes the transporter to cook her body to a crisp. Gruesome.

Act 2 : ***.5, 17%

Bashir confirms that the pile of ashes on the transporter pad is indeed dead (thank you, doctor) and Odo confirms that this was not a boat accident. Jigsaw Guy has a sophisticated understanding of Starfleet security, as well as an intimate knowledge of the Shakaar Cell. Strike the Harp here was not officially a member, but she fed the cell information for years from her position as a janitor for the Cardassians without being caught.

KIRA: But she was always so afraid. Afraid that she'd be caught and executed. But she never stopped. I once told her that I thought she was braver than all of us, because she had to live with her fear every day. Even after the occupation was over, she didn't want anyone to know that she was secretly helping us. She was worried that someone would come looking for her for revenge.
SISKO: Looks like her fears were well founded.

Sisko...did you really need to have the last word in this scene? Jesus...

Jigsaw Man leaves Kira another recording in a case of brandy. But Quark got his hands on it first and so the message is playing right out on the promenade. Classy.

Kira and Odo continue the investigation into Jigsaw Man's identity, likely a victim of a Shakaar attack in which Kira played a prominent role. And while they're talking, a third message (and third murder victim) comes in on Odo's monitors playing “that's three.”

KIRA: No, I'm not all right! I haven't slept in three days, someone is killing my friends, and my back...!

Well, Kira now has a security detail in and around the Chief's quarters. She goes to her room to lie down but hears a scuffle in the living room. One of the few possessions she's kept with her in her tiny room is naturally a gun, so she takes it out and prepares to ambush the phantom behind the door.

Act 3 : ***.5, 17%

For...drama's sake I guess, Kira turns off all the lights and then enters the living area as stealthily as a pregnant woman can. Finally, we learn that the intruders are Nick Fury and Leukocyte from “Shakaar.” They reprise their whole 1990s rogues with hearts of gold shtick and explain how they bypassed all the new security measures. That's reassuring. Regardless, Kira's happy to see them. They're confident that as soon as Odo comes up with a name, they'll be able to take care of the rest. Hubris, you say?

KIRA: The occupation is over. We can't go around fighting private wars. Times have changed. We have got to change with it. Leave this for the authorities.

LUPAZA: Maybe you feel that way now, but trust me, when you find out who killed Latha and Fala, and maybe now Mobara, you're not going to want to leave it to someone else. You're going to want him dead and you're going to want us to do it.
KIRA: Maybe so.

The re-appearance of these two makes this an obvious sequel to “Shakaar,” but for Kira, this is a thread that goes all the way back to stories like “Progress,” “Necessary Evil” and “Collaborators.” For the first time, Kira really seems to have internalised the lesson she kept failing to learn. The fact that her instinct is to scold her friends over this issue testifies to this change. Of course, the question remains, if pushed hard enough, will Kira revert to her old ways?

FUREL: We'll sleep out here. The couch is a little short, but it's probably as comfortable as our bed.
KIRA: Well, since Keiko's visiting her parents with Molly, I guess there's room.

Thank you Exposition Fairy! Anyway, after a gag where Nick Fury and Leukocyte nearly shoot Miles in the face, Odo confirms to Sisko that the third victim is indeed dead. Not just dead, but exploded. As in his head exploded. Yikes. While they speculate on Kira's fate at the hands of this wacko, she, Dax and...I guess Nog is back home...are analysing the audio recordings.

NOG: It's a female. And it's not Cardassian.

I I'm just going to sweep this one into the “it was the 90s” bin. There will be more appropriate times to tackle this subject. Together, they discover that the voice being used to record the messages is Kira's own. This means that the seemingly practical step of disguising the voice was just a red herring, an intentionally sadistic and “unnecessary” step in all of this. Unnecessary to the efficacy of the murders, but not necessarily to their larger purpose.

Did I say sadistic? Well, a bomb has gone off in the O'Brien's quarters which means, of course, that Nick Fury and Leukocyte are dead as disco. In the commotion, Kira has stormed her way down to the habitat ring, driven purely by rage and anguish. She punches her way past Starfleet security (I don't know if this says more about Kira's badass-ness or Starfleet security's infamous ineptitude). Before she can expose the station, herself and the O'Brien's baby to space (the explosion caused a hull breach), the baby seems to object and causes her to collapse with pregnancy pains.

Act 4 : ****, 17%

When Bashir awakens her in the infirmary, Kira immediately cries out for the baby, clearly horrified that she may have hurt it. It turns out that everything is okay. Bashir leaves and Odo enters the scene. The lighting, set-dressing and deliberate symmetry of the camera all cast a spotlight on Kira and her dilemma; the stage has been set for a soliloquy and Visitor delivers.

KIRA:...And when that hatch opened and that first Cardassian stepped out, I just started firing. And I didn't stop till I'd discharged the entire power cell. When it was all over, I was so relieved that I didn't let anyone down that I was almost giddy. Furel kept telling me to stop grinning, that it made me look younger, but I couldn't help it. I was one of them. I was in the Resistance.

I'm reminded of Bitchwhore's line from “Rapture” about how Kira and the Resistance “had their guns” while she “had only [her] faith” to protect her. What becomes clear here is that the violence with which Kira was raised, which brought her through adolescence into adulthood, was inexorably linked to the adopted family which kept her alive and gave her purpose. The darkness and the light of her past can't be separated. The darkness IS the light. The suffering IS the hope. The anger IS the love.

Odo explains how the latest execution took place and admits that he's narrowed down the list of 25 suspects to a few Cardassians with the skills, motive and opportunity to carry out the attacks. Kira asks to see the list, but Odo is worried Kira would take it and go right for the counter-revenge vendetta. She asks to be kept informed, but the moment Odo leaves the room, she hauls her sore, pregnant body to the control panel and beams herself into his office. She steals the list and beams herself away (a pre-programmed protocol, it should be noted) just before he strolls in through the door and issues a knowing “harrumph.”

We see that Kira has stolen a runabout and that she erased the names on Odo's list to prevent her friends from tracking her.

SISKO: Prepare the Defiant. I want to leave in ten minutes. See if we can pick up her ion trail.
WORF: It will be difficult. Our sensor logs show that Major Kira masked her engine emissions with a polaron field. The runabout's particle—
SISKO: I know what the difficulties are. You have your orders. Dismissed.

I did enjoy that little bit of self-aware technobabble-dismissal.

Kira logs her progress and we learn that she's “eliminated” three of the suspects already...and thankfully clarifies that she means “from suspicion,” because at this point, I could believe her plan was just to kill all 25 people on the list. The fourth name leads her to Jigsaw's lair where a holographic decoy allows Jigsaw himself to stun her. He's cast in shadow, almost identically to the informant from back in “Improbable Cause” (and it turns out for similar reasons). He throws her onto another biobed under moody lighting, mirroring the scene of her soliloquy, and places a restraining field around her. She awakens to the sound of Jigsaw objectifying her situation in overwrought prose (“ a needle to its heart”). However, his rambling leaves no ambiguity in his certainty that Kira will die.

Act 5 : ***.5, 17%

After a little mutual repartee, Kira is able to get Jigsaw to break his objectifying prose and address her directly.

SILARAN: No, Kira! I didn't murder anyone. You did! You killed them all.
KIRA: There. That wasn't so hard, was it? Now we can talk.
SILARAN: I thought you might have changed, might have found a path out of the darkness.
KIRA: What am I supposed to be repentant for? What're you talking about?
SILARAN: That is part of your guilt. You did this to me...
[Jigsaw reveals his horribly mutilated face]
SILARAN: ...and you don't even know who I am.

Kira doesn't budge. She's confronted this issue before, she thinks. In “Collaborators,” and in “Indiscretion” both, she made it clear that she isn't going to be compromised by moral subtleties. They were at war with oppressors, fighting for their lives and their freedom. Buuut...

KIRA: None of us liked killing.

That's not exactly true, is it. “Liked” may be an insufficient word to capture it, but Kira certainly *liked* the feeling of discharging her phaser on her first night as a soldier with the Shakaar. And her friends certainly *liked* the prospect of killing Jigsaw here in retaliation for his murders. This hearkens all the way back to “Duet” and Marritza's chilling lines about feeling “clean” while covered in blood. This was revealed to be an intentionally hollow sentiment. One does not feel clean with blood on his hands. Kira has had the opportunity over the last four years to redeem herself, to find new meaning and shed herself of the stains of the Occupation. This poor bastard may not have had that opportunity.

Jigsaw justifies his actions by noting that his murders have been discreet. He took extreme care to target only those whom he has deemed guilty and sparing entirely any bystanders, the other monks, O'Brien and his family...and he's going to be equally discreet with Kira. He won't kill the baby, only her. Of course, Jigsaw's discretion is purchased by the luxury of his position. His only goal is retribution against the people who maimed him, while the Resistance was trying to overthrow an occupying force.

I sidestepped a different timely issue with Nog, but I have to draw the connection between this story and the current hot topic of protests and looting. Like Jigsaw, many claim that the indiscriminate destruction of property condemns the actions of such protesters. The reaction against this of some others is to separate the light from the darkness and note that only *some* of the protestors are destroying property or behaving violently. And, like Jigsaw, this betrays a luxury of purpose in such thinking. It suggests that protests aren't something anyone *needs* to do, that there isn't a Cardassian-Occupation-level systemic issue looming over a particular class of people. When the people are looting and rioting, or when they're committing terrorism like the Shakaar, it is a symptom of systemic rot, not an individual behaviour to police. There are complexities and ironies to Kira's motivations and justifications that she needs to consider (see before when she “eliminated” some of the suspects on Odo's list, culling the light from the dark), but in the end, she's still right. In the face of systemic oppression, the casualty of innocents is ultimately the fault of the oppressors, not the resistors. This is the same reason why, even though Dukat may have been right that Bajor came into its own because of its resistance to Cardassia, he's still wrong. This is why, even though the Prophets may have a plan for Bajor enduring the Occupation, it's still sadistic of them to let it happen. And this is why, even though it may be true that innocent bystanders may have their property destroyed or even be injured in the chaos of mass protests, it is wrong to condemn the protests on that basis. You can't separate the darkness from the light. Muddying this truth only serves to justify and prolong the oppression itself.

But as I said, Kira does need to face up to the ironies and complexities of her position. Politically, it's fairly clear-cut, but personally...well, now she's begging Jigsaw not to induce the birth of the baby, which has complicated medical needs, not to mention belongs to other people to whom she swore to be its protector. She manages only to convince him to give her a sedative...which is perhaps a little too easy, but the rest of this is so compelling, I can overlook it. Yes, even when Jigsaw releases the restraining field for absolutely no reason just because he thinks Kira's been sedated. And so she escapes and shoots Jigsaw, putting an end to his misery.

Sisko and co. eventually arrive so that Bashir can explain how he Herbs she's been taking all episode prevented the sedative from working. I think Linda has the correct interpretation (from her comment in 2017) of the final line: Kira recognises that she has real guilt, despite the existential needs that drove her and the rest of the Resistance. It wasn't all a matter of fulfilling those needs, she took some measure of pleasure and joy in her actions. I don't think this is wrong or inexcusable—I think it's very human. But it is complicated. What still doesn't hold up for me is that, exactly like in “Shakaar,” Sisko is going to take zero actions to hold Kira accountable for what she did here. Like, I get that Kira has been through a lot, but she's your first officer and she went completely rogue, stole files, stole a ship, put her life at risk and killed a man without a trial. Yes, it was self-defence, but she shouldn't have been there in the first place. Given how easy it was for Kira to track him down, Odo would have before long. This was not a matter of existential need. This was personal.

Episode as Functionary : ***.5, 10%

William B correct that Jigsaw Man is a dark mirror for Kira herself. He was innocent of the crimes of his people, insofar as one can be innocent (did he have an obligation to fight back, to resist his own evil government?), just as Kira was an innocent. But the Occupational violence against her people turned her into a killer, and in turn, her actions turned Jigsaw Man into a deformed murderer. I appreciate the complexity of the issues here, the subtlety of the messaging and focus on character. This really does feel like a throwback to Season 2, but in a good way. Most of the issues that dragged that season's episodes down for me have been ironed out, and the production is excellent, with striking visuals and engrossing performances. Sisko is still...Sisko, but that isn't a huge deal here.

One detail in the story that I think is under-appreciated is how well the side characters are integrated into the narrative. Kira's journey is being established by her relationships with a foetus, a couple of characters we've only seen once before, and a couple of new characters that get killed minutes after they are introduced. It may have been even more effective to have all the characters Jigsaw kills be people we've met before and care about (like Shakaar himself?), but I think the writers strike just the right balance between drawing upon continuity and asking the audience to use its imagination to fill in the gaps with the new characters.

The main negative to the story is that it does chicken out from having Miles confront Kira. I thought his early comments to her were on the unfortunately misogynistic side, but even I think he deserves to have some words with her over her choices here. They've all decided this baby is going to come to term—and we see that Kira is sincerely concerned about it—so methinks there has to be some sort of reckoning over this.

Final Score : ***.5
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Sun, Aug 30, 2020, 8:29am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

@Jason R

That's the most obtuse argument I've seen in a while on this site, and that is saying something. Plenty of men and women consent to all sorts of sex acts, all of which (including the most vanilla) could be dangerous depending on the situation. I'm not continuing this debate as it is so far out to sea at this point, Davy Jones would ignore us. I'm telling you, as a gay man, that there was some low-key homophobia in Cody's reaction to Booming's intentionally provocative escalation. That's the last thing I want to say on the subject.

"it isn't really the act that matters but who the perpetrator and who the victim was."

All of these things matter, actually.
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Sun, Aug 30, 2020, 7:51am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture


For something to be rape, it has to be non-consensual. There's no reason to infer anyone's comments about Tal or Chakotay were meant to be non-consensual. If the only distinguishing feature between the two sex acts is the gender of the participants, then this is homophobic.

@Jason R

15 year old with a medical degree, huh? Poor taste makes for bad jokes.
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Sat, Aug 29, 2020, 9:12pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

Wow, is this still going on?

1. Yes, Cody, it was a bit homophobic.
2. No, Trent, I don't think rape was implied; it was just an unnecessary and juvenile comment.
3. DS9 generally sucks at talking about religion.
4. As Janeway said, William B, "We didn't ask to be involved, but we are."
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Fri, Aug 28, 2020, 12:59pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: VOY S3: Fair Trade

Teaser : **, 5%

Neelix is playing an old tape with Tuvok, insisting he's ready to be a full-fledged security officer and complaining that he wasn't invited (again) to a training session.

TUVOK: If you recall, Mister Neelix, I did not guarantee you a position.
NEELIX: I've been working hard at this. I really do feel I have a great deal to contribute to the Voyager beyond my current role.

It is very difficult to make a character with Neelix' role work on Star Trek. Guinan was typically great, but she was a secondary character, not a main cast member; they brought her in when they needed her. Quark has the advantage here because his job connects him to various facets of the DS9 universe; he has history with the Bajorans and the Cardassians, he has an ongoing subplot related to his own people, he has under-the-table dealings with various space mafiosi, AND he's the bar tender for DS9's Starfleet personnel. He can put on various hats as the story demands, and he can even be the hero of the small Ferengi stories like “Looking for Parmach...” without watering down the main thrust of the series. Ever since his introduction in “Caretaker,” Voyager has been casting about for ways to make Neelix seem useful, from “Parturition” and “Investigations” to “Warlord” and “Macrocosm.” But in pretty much every instance, this effort only serves to highlight how useless he is. The smartest thing about the set up in this episode is that Neelix seems to be conscious of this dynamic. A lot of the time, you really want to strangle Neelix (hi Tuvok) and tell him to shut up and be grateful that he gets to take a daily bath. But we know from “Jetrel” especially that Neelix has a massive inferiority complex. That's a very real facet of human nature to explore, but it isn't heroic. Voyager finally seems to be accepting this fact and looking for ways to continue his arc without pissing off the audience.

I also want to briefly mention the complaints about the Kes breakup here. If the breakup happened in “Warlord” (and it did), then we barely saw either him or Kes in “The Q and the Grey” (just that paycheque-collecting scene in the beginning), and then we saw a bit of Neelix in “Macrocosm.” Given what happened in “Warlord,” there is absolutely no chance that a Neelix still in a relationship with Kes would have arrived at a ship with a missing crew and not gone on and on about needing to rescue his “sweetie.” There would have been an exchange where Janeway reassures him, yadda yadda. We know this. On the contrary, his new ambassadorial role and pestering of Tuvok all suggest that he's looking for ways to fill the void left by the breakup. Do we really need to have a scene where he gives a personal log explicitly stating that he's feeling lonely now, or can we read some context clues?

Anyway, Tuvok isn't the only victim of Neelix' ennui, as his next stop is to pester Torres over a similar gambit to become a grease monkey. As we might recall from “Threshold,” this is probably a bad idea. The scene also introduces us to Ensign Vorik who decided to change his name after “Lower Decks” so they wouldn't blow the budget paying Rene Echevarria every time he shows up. With Hogan and Jonas dead, and Joe Carey trapped in a pocket dimension or whatever, Torres needs a new number 2. I do like the idea of having more than one Vulcan around. It can feel a little pat sometimes when Spock, Worf, Data, Troi, Guinan, Odo and Dax are the only members of their kind to interact with.

Janeway calls Neelix to the bridge before Torres sends him to the sickbay with a bloody nose. The Voyager has encountered some lightning-filled purple dust in space which Neelix identifies as the Naked Expanse or something. Sounds fun.

Act 1 : ***, 17%

JANEWAY: Looks like we'll be counting on your knowledge of the Delta quadrant even more than usual, Neelix.

Just a little twist of the knife. Neelix does know of a small trading depot on the outskirts of the expanse, but its exact coordinates elude him. The first time I travelled to Europe, it was alone and to countries where I barely spoke the language, and it was in the days before smart phones. I spent hours memorising maps and street names so that I would be able to get around and avoid getting conscripted into a sexually confusing music video or whatever else happens to lost teens in Berlin. Now, I don't think I could find my way to the nearest hardware store without google maps. The actual point of the exchange is that Chakotay finds the station with sensors and everyone is happy to proceed, but Neelix feels like a bit of a failure.

The Voyager makes contact with Baccarat or whatever, the station administrator, and make plans to board and trade for provisions. Paris does his job of post-conversation one-liner and then is assigned to the away team with Janeway, Chakotay, and of course Neelix. Janeway herself meets Baccarat in his office, which is essentially the nightmare scenario you imagine when you're in a public bathroom. He has cameras fixed on seemingly every corner of the station and sentinels the activities of every visitor and inhabitant all by himself. If not for the fact that this eats up so much of his time and attention that he can barely make eye contact with Janeway, you'd be forgiven for assuming this to be his masturbatorium.

While she puts up her spatterguard, Chakotay and Paris apparently look like they're in the market for some space LSD. They reject the dealer's offer in a way that would make Tasha Yar very proud and Tom makes yet *another* post-conversation quip.

Neelix meanwhile is scouring the station for a map of the Naked Expanse but also receives something he didn't bargain for, an old friend called Wix. I think about this episode every time I have to update my website. Too bad Echevarria didn't think to copyright that name instead of Taurik. The two Talaxians get caught up over space beers and Wix finds himself impressed with Neelix' lot on the Voyager. Impressed and a little jealous. See, Wix hasn't had an easy time of it, coincidentally, ever since he and Neelix last saw each other.

NEELIX: I don't think I ever told you how much I valued what you did.
WIXIBAN: You'd have done the same for me.
NEELIX: Yes, I would have. But you were the one who got caught. I owe you a great deal. If there's anything I can do to help...

Like I said, this is a brave thing to do. The implication here is that Neelix most definitely would not have “done the same” for his friend. Our introduction to Neelix in “Caretaker” saw him lying to the Voyager crew to save his girlfriend and showing little remorse for it. And he admitted to hiding from the draft on Talax not for the sake of pacifist convictions, but simple cowardice. That doesn't mean he lacks convictions but he isn't heroic. This is substantially different from the “grey” characters over on DS9 who may choose to do awful things for potentially good reasons. No one accuses Sisko, Garak, Eddington or Sloan of being cowards (well, except for me). Depending on what side of the ethical/moral debates you land on, all of them are aspirational in some way. It is remarkable that the writers chose to make a non-aspirational character like Neelix a protagonist in the show. For the most part it backfired, but I think what makes Neelix appealing in a limited way is the fact that he represents the selves we are ashamed to admit to.

After putting his good fortune to words, Neelix' shame surfaces as he tells Wix he suspects his time on the Voyager is about to end. Remember what Q said in “The Q and the Grey”:

Q: I understand that you acquire things for [Janeway], create little interesting diversions, prepare little tasty treats. After all, why else would she be so fond of your fur-lined face?

Neelix rebuffed him, but, yeah, I think this struck very close to home, which is why he tells Wix:

NEELIX: The main reason Captain Janeway needed me was as a guide, to give her information about this quadrant. But I've never been beyond the Nekrit Expanse. I can't tell her anything about what's ahead...They don't really need a cook, and I don't think our Captain really requires an Ambassador. I've tried to find some other area where I might be useful, but, the truth is, I'm not needed.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

While Vorik makes some repairs to Neelix' replicator in the Mess Hall (I'm guessing the All Leola Root Buffet wasn't popular), Chakotay shows up with Wix in tow. Neelix' old friend managed to find the actual gadgets Paris and Chakotay were looking for when they were offered drugs AND he takes the time to talk up Neelix' “varied” talents. Philips makes the most of the uncomfortable set-up here managing to induce genuine feelings of anxiety while still being funny.

He dismisses Vorik and confronts Wix over what he assumes was stolen goods acquired for his ship.

WIXIBAN: Of course not. I wouldn't do that to you. Neelix, I need the work. I don't live on a comfortable starship. No one looks out for me except me. Maybe you've forgotten what that feels like...I've been stuck on that trash heap of a space station for three years. My ship's been impounded. I can't afford to give Bahrat what he wants to get it back. Do you begrudge me an opportunity to make a *fair trade?*

Ooo ooo he said it, he said the name of the thing! Wix is actually bursting with good news, having located some perineum or whatever it was Janeway was looking for and even a map for Neelix. Getting the map will require Neelix to help his old friend with another trade. He's going to help some dying orphans with a lung disease by trading in medical supplies. Aww. And as luck would have it, this beneficent trade will make Wix juuuust enough money to get his ship back from Baccarat. Gee willickers. Neelix is so myopic about his own needs (as he is wont to be) that he misses the obvious truth-massaging going on here. Wix needs Neelix to help him procure a shuttle to acquire the “medicine” AND he needs Neelix not to tell anybody what's actually happening, because Baccarat will keep 20% of the profit, darn him! Neelix clearly knows that he's being lied to, but feigning ignorance is the only way he's going to get his hands on the map. And at this point, while he wouldn't *want* to screw Baccarat out of his commission necessarily, he owes Wix a big favour and this is about as severe a crime as fudging write-offs on your tax return. Again, Neelix isn't aspirational, but he's relatable.

Next thing we see, Neelix and Wix have already picked up their goods and are shuttling back to the station. Neelix is irritable. At first it seems like this is because Janeway's supply of perineum is less than half what he promised, but...

NEELIX: I don't like keeping the whole truth from Commander Chakotay. It's not honest.
WIXIBAN: I don't remember you ever being so squeamish about twisting the truth.
NEELIX: Wix, I'm not what I used to be.
WIXIBAN: Neither am I. We've both tried to change our lives. You've done it. Now I have the same chance.

I really like this juxtaposition. Neelix has “made” a better life for himself in that his material conditions are better than they were. But his methods aren't really any different from Wix'; he's lied, padded his own experience and abilities (remember his alleged survivor skills from “Basics”?), and manipulated Captain Janeway into keeping him around, just like Q said. I'm reminded of Sisko's line from “The Maquis”: “It's easy to be a saint in paradise.” The solution, then, is to make more paradise. More paradise, more saints. Neelix didn't actually earn his place on the Voyager, and that doesn't matter. He's become a better person by proximity. But old habits die hard, and at this point, Neelix' reform only manifests as guilt, not action.

Wix grabs a phaser before the pair beam to the station (“just a precaution,” don't you know?). The cargo bay they find themselves in is lit in Nouveau Ominous Noir, but Neelix' consternation over this obviously bad idea is interrupted by the arrival of the contact, who just so happens to be LSD man. Well it turns out Wix may be slimier than Neelix, but hardly any brighter as LSD man shoots at the pair instead of paying them. In the end, the phaser fire sets off an alarm, LSD man is shot by Wix, the drugs they were smuggling are stolen, and the Talaxian pair are forced to beam away empty-handed.

Act 3 : ***, 17%

Neelix is angry (with himself) and insists they come clean to Janeway immediately.

WIXIBAN: Do you really want to do that? How is it going to look to your shipmates when they find out you were once a contraband smuggler, and that you were involved in this ugly business tonight? You think your position on the Voyager is precarious now? Wait till they discover the whole truth about you.

Twist the knife.

WIXIBAN: So you'd let Bahrat put me in cryostatic suspension? I guess you would. You did let me spend a year in that Ubean prison...I never told you what it was like in there, did I? About eating worms to stay alive. Sleeping in a cell where the vermin chew on you all night. Being punished in ways you couldn't imagine.

Twist again. Neelix agrees to keep the incident a secret but considers his debt paid and their relationship at an end.

Oh did I say twist? Well when Neelix returns to the Voyager, Baccarat is there along with a livid Janeway informing the senior staff that LSD man was actually murdered. They don't know by whom, but they've identified the energy signature of Wix' phaser. Whoopsie.

Tuvok is assigned to investigate and the next thing we see, Neelix is entering his office for an interview. He's obviously extremely nervous, but Tuvok is only suspicious of Wix. He wants Neelix' help questioning his friend, er, “acquaintance.” And so, we see the trio aboard the station. Tuvok is his usually inscrutable self, Neelix is dripping with guilt and fear, and Wix seems to be a skilled liar.

TUVOK: Where were you at the time of the shooting?
WIXIBAN: In bed, asleep.
TUVOK: Can anyone corroborate that?
WIXIBAN: Alas, Mister Tuvok, I sleep alone.

Alas, Wix' quarters don't seem to interest Baccarat and his creepy voyeurism. Anyway, Tuvok leaves for now and Wix has even worse news to share; the people supplying the drugs (“mean as fire snakes!”) aren't happy and are demanding something in payment, a sample of the Voyager's warp plasma. Wix has promised them that Neelix can acquire it. Despite their conflicts, Wix is so confident that Neelix will look out for Number One in the end, that he doesn't even wait for him to answer. He just tells him when and where to meet him for the trade.

Act 4 : ***, 17%

Paris is looking for a containment unit for bio-memedic gels they're going to collect tomorrow. File that one away. Of course, the specific unit can't be replicated and is instead somewhere in this disorganised room full of empty containers because...Anyway, Neelix arrives to give him a hand and provide a little character follow-up to “Investigations.” He asks Tom what it was that landed him in prison.

PARIS: I've thought a lot about that, and it comes down to one simple fact. I didn't tell the truth. I made a mistake, which happens to people, but if I'd admitted that mistake it would have been a lot better. But I lied about it, and it nearly ruined my life.

I like the sentiment here, but this is contrived as hell. I think a scene with Harry, Torres, Tom and Neelix in the Mess Hall or at the resort would have worked much better.

-Torres makes a biting but still flirtatious remark about Tom's time in prison.
-Neelix over-politely asks Tom if he wouldn't mind explaining just what got him there, pulled out of the reverie of his own predicament.
-Tom tells a somewhat smoothed-over version of events.
-Harry shakes his head and bluntly reminds his friend that it wouldn't have been so bad if he hadn't lied about it.
-Paris admits that this is true.
-Torres, Kim and Tom take a drink in quiet unison.
-The camera lingers on Neelix, who's left his cup untouched.

There was an opportunity here for a more fleshed out scene that felt natural and conveyed the message without feeling like an after-school special.

Under the pretence of logging some time near the engine, Neelix gets Vorik to grant him access to the warp core. We see him crawl his way to a port and prepare to steal three grams of plasma. The camera lingers on Neelix' face, a look of pained resignation washes over him and he slumps, defeated.

Then we see Neelix meet Wixiban on the station. He tells his friend that he couldn't go through with it. One touch I like is how Philips is playing this with something like joy. He's in big trouble, but Neelix is happy that his ethics have outgrown his self-interest. And that is how you take an unlikeable protagonist with non-aspirational characteristics and make him an effective hero in a Star Trek story. Well done.

Ah, but we have one more knife-twist before the final act. Baccarat and his guards arrive and order “you two” to be still and prepare for arrest. But the “two” in question aren't the Talaxians, it's actually Tom and Chakotay who are hauled off. Baccarat presents his circumstantial evidence to Janeway, footage of her men having that anti-drug PSA in Act 1. One interesting touch here is Baccarat's admission that he has to charge *somebody* with a crime or risk anarchy on the station. This reminds me a bit of “Tribunal,” where the carceral system was shown to be more about servicing political ends than actually delivering justice, which, you know, it is. Defund the damned police.

Act 5 : ***.5, 17%

Given the increased stakes, Neelix and Wix confess their crime to Baccarat, but Neelix proposes a Fair Trade for letting them off the hook for it. The pair convince the administrator that his threats of imprisonment and mass surveillance masturbatorium aren't particularly effective in deterring crime. It's far more likely that minor offenders like Wix end up paying for the unpunished crimes of the big players like LSD man and his ilk. Boy this sounds familiar...Anyway, if Neelix and Wix can turn the king pin over to Baccarat by pretending to deliver the warp plasma, the charges against them will be dropped. Baccarat will also provide a sample of plasma to use instead of the Voyager's. The details of Neelix' plan are left intentionally vague. Once again, it's self interest (Wix' only option other than death and imprisonment is to go along with this, and the likely outcome is that the pair will die and Baccart won't have to deal with them anymore) facilitate this slight of hand.

So, the Talaxian duo find themselves in a dark alley once again while Baccarat observes his cameras being tampered with and prepares to move in and make the arrest. When the drug kings arrive, Neelix presses a button on the plasma storage unit. The dealers immediately discover that the sample isn't pure, but Neelix informs them they're under arrest...oh and that he opened up the unit to leak plasma into the air, meaning any weapons discharge or transporter beam would kill them all.

TOSIN: Then you will die with me, little man.
NEELIX: No problem at all, if it means getting rid of an Orillian lung maggot like you. Go ahead. You'd be doing me a favour. I have nothing to lose. Fire away!
WIXIBAN: Neelix!
NEELIX: Shoot. What are you waiting for? Fire!

Between the cinematography, the music, and Philips' chilling nihilistic performance, this is a substantially dark turn for this episode. While the leap to suicide is more abrupt than in “Hard Time,” I do think the story manages to earn this moment; Neelix isn't being motivated solely by his guilt and his fear like O'Brien was, but there is a degree of positive emotion in the mix. He found that his conscience was stronger than his ego and if Neelix were to die right now, he could actually live with himself. Additionally, there's the looming prospect that even if his plan works perfectly and he and Wix aren't killed, Neelix will be left behind as Janeway not only will have no more use for him, but she'll be motivated to put someone who lied and nearly stole from her off her ship. Well, Baccarat shows up, someone panics and there's a great big explosion that vaporises at least one person while the Talaxians duck for cover. (Yes it's that same big dumb green explosion from “Macrocosm”)

Jump cut and Neelix is awakening in the sick bay. The EMH and Kes get a couple of cameo lines and Tuvok informs him that all the loose ends have been tied up; Chakotay and Tom are free, the drug dealers are in custody, and Wix has departed. We are left to wonder what kind of choices he might make now that he's had a brush with paradise.

Janeway arrives, seething in that oh-so-JaneWay of hers and the rest of the cast disperse. She demands an explanation.

NEELIX: I just took one step. A step that seemed perfectly reasonable. And that step lead to another and another, and before I knew what I was involved in something I didn't know how to handle.
JANEWAY: What was it? What was so important that you were willing to throw away your principles?

File that one away, too. Anyway, Neelix explains about his inadequacy and his fears of being put off the ship. Janeway quotes “The First Duty,” which is amusing on several levels given the re-named Taurik and Paris play peripheral roles in this story. It's also a way to acknowledge Neelix' efforts to find a job with Tuvok or Torres—if Neelix is going to take on Starfleet duties at some point, he's got to get the basics first.

NEELIX: But, I can't guide you. I can't advise you. I don't know what's coming.
JANEWAY: Well, that's not the point, is it? None of us knows what's coming. That's what Starfleet is all about. We are all in this together, Neelix, and we have to be able to count on each other no matter how hard it gets.

A little schmaltzy and on the nose? Yeah. But Neelix' effervescent gratitude at being assigned the “Learning Curve” toothbrush-scrubbing of shame punishment made me crack a smile.

Episode as Functionary : ***, 10%

I don't have too much to say here. I think the writers had a specific task of rescuing the Neelix character from the lows of Season 2 and setting him back on the path we saw in “Jetrel.” They pulled it off without ignoring what transpired in between, showing us the way his relationships with Tom, Tuvok, Janeway and Kes have changed. Wixiban made a good foil, the plot was sensible, the production was smart, and Philips delivered the goods. The Naked Expanse begins the Voyager tradition of temporarily introducing unique areas of space for the ship to pass through and communicate progress on its journey back to the Alpha Quadrant to the audience. For the first two seasons, it felt like the Voyager was spinning its wheels in space given how they kept running into Caligula and Seska. There were a couple of things that could have been better here; the conversation with Paris was way on the nose, and there's maybe one too many clichéd elements, but I'd say the writers succeeded in their task and created an enjoyable episode in the process.

Final Score : ***
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Tue, Aug 25, 2020, 8:28pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

@Peter G

"I'm not sure, in any case, why your argument needs to rest on this being true while the Greek gods are not moral authorities. So what? Your overall point is that Abrahamic religion is not about physical reality (which is incidentally not true) while pagan religion was and is therefore made obsolete by science; and therefore the Bajorans' view is both Abrahamic and yet apparently made obsolete by science, and therefore doesn't fit into this schema."

Because without that schema, there is no allegory to actual religion. And without the allegory, the messaging around the topic is fallacious. Think of an episode like "Hero Worship." The actual condition of a child imitating an emotionless robot is entirely fictional. But the boy's and Data's situation fits into the same schema as certain kinds of trauma and personal development respectively. But unlike Trent, I actually think nuBSG did religion correctly. The gods of that Universe may very well be real or they may not be, meaning that the degree to which the characters manifest faith in them actually matters.

"But objectively saying they're misrepresenting Christianity or something just seems way off base to me."

That's not exactly what I'm saying. The Bajoran religion uses a pastiche of religious imagery (which I do find irritating in the same way I find things like "Oprellian Amoeba" and "Rigellian Field Mouse" annoying), but structurally it works pretty much like any contemporary Western faith (including a westernised version of Buddhism) except in the most important way, which is what this entire debate is about.

"The Bajorans have largely decided to follow those goals, and it's no surprise that the entire planet is practically unified in belief in them, which also pretty much invalidates direct comparison to Earth religion. They are united for obvious reasons, because their religion is based on a real, demonstrable thing. "

I have two thoughts about this. First of all, most alien worlds in Trek are united in a way that likens them more to modern nation states than planets. Klingons are all united and Romulans are all united and humans are all united in their respective belief systems, are they not? But more importantly, the real and demonstrable part of their religion didn't become apparent until Sisko made contact with the Prophets five years ago. I think it would have been unrealistic and silly to have Bajor become a planet of agnostics after this, but for there to be no theological reaction to the discovery the gods are actual a collection of monotone afterimages hanging out in vanilla soft serve should have a consequence or two.

"Either way I can't help but feel that all of these objections are really just objections to religion, and that the only tolerable presence religion could have in media (for you, I guess) would be where it 'knows it place' and admits that it's basically nonsense for making people feel good."

This is a projection. I will praise a depiction of religion that is thoughtful, nuanced and relevant. This ain't it.


I didn't realise you were German. I actually wouldn't be surprised if some of the communication problems between you and the rest of this group aren't at least partially a result of a language barrier.

@Jason R

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Tue, Aug 25, 2020, 2:40pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

@Jason R

I mean possibly, but we all do that. What is objectively true about the structure of their mythology is that the interests of the gods were at odds with each other and frequently with the interests of human beings. In Abrahamic religions (including the way they tried to write the Bajorans), there is one absolute moral authority. There may be many Prophets, but they don't diverge from each other in terms of their plans for Bajor.
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Tue, Aug 25, 2020, 2:31pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

@Jason R

"I could be wrong, bit I always presumed that ordinary Greeks would have worshipped various Gods in a sincere and not cynical way. So when an ordinary Greek put an offering out for Zeus he wasn't secretly thinking that Zeus was a virgin raping capricious bastard to be bought off out of fear."

It is possible to be both cynical and sincere.
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Tue, Aug 25, 2020, 2:24pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

@Peter G

The text of the show is that the Bajorans' view that the WAs are divine is justified because the aren't linear beings. Every time there is an episode about proving the Bajorans right, this is the framing:

"In the Hands of the Prophets"

SISKO: To those aliens, the future is no more difficult to see than the past. Why shouldn't they be considered Prophets?


KIRA: The prophecy came true. All of it. We just misinterpreted Trakor's words.


SISKO: The Bajorans believe you are their Prophets, that you've chosen one of us to be your Emissary.
PROPHET 1: We are of Bajor.
SISKO: Go on.
PROPHET 2: They are linear.
PROPHET 3: It limits them.
PROPHET 4: They do not understand.


WINN: What is it, Emissary? Have the Prophets revealed something to you?
SISKO: Locusts. They'll destroy Bajor unless it stands alone.

The Bajorans should be allowed to have faith in unprovable, divine beings. That creates all the space that is needed to talk about the value of faith and the conflicts it creates. These writers so completely miss the point that they want to prove the Bajorans aren't dummies for believing in things that can't be. That's not *my* assessment of religion, that's *their* assessment. They have no confidence in being able to write about actual faith.

"So no, the Ancients didn't believe their own gods were immoral."

You are misinterpreting what I have written. The Greeks followed the laws of their gods, yes, but that was out of punitive fear. The laws of the gods provided structure in Greek society (which is of course the underlying reason Socrates was executed). My point is that the Greeks believed Zeus held you to specific standards of conduct for his own reasons, not because it was immutably "good."
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Tue, Aug 25, 2020, 1:52pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture


1. I appreciate the monicker of whistling butt admirer.

2. "Blossoming flowers? Bajoran orbs? Wormhole aliens? The miracle of life? A growing tree? These visible or testable phenomenon are proof of the divine! And if your science begins to explain them, then it has only explained God's immutable laws!"

Yes, but you are describing the numinous dimension of the Universe, which I already concede is precisely the dimension of life religion tackles. A blossoming flower can be understood scientifically in terms of the intersection of chemistry, physics and biology, but the 'divinity' and 'miraculousness' of the flower is a theological question that can't be answered by science. These things intersect for religious people, but one can't substitute the other. Some religious people certainly deny science when it conflicts with their beliefs; that's a part of the experience and something they tried to manage in "In the Hands of the Prophets," but the series is very careful not to depict the Bajorans this way. Kira isn't a science-denier.

"If Jesus or Vishnu were to appear on Earth today, religious believers would be like the Bajorans. They'd be scientifically advanced people who attribute divinity and mystery to the new arrivals. Be something known or Unknowable, visible or supposed, they're going to appeal to God."

Let's stick with Jesus as something I think is a little more theologically familiar on this site. Christians believe Jesus to have existed on Earth as a man. But this is understood to be a specific, partial and temporary divestment of his divine nature. Most Christians believe Jesus performed miracles, for which there is of course no evidence. The paradigm is still in place where the supernatural elements require faith in the unprovable.

@Jason R

"Okay but you realize in Greek myth, to use an example, mortals could at times impact, even injure their Gods and did so in Greek myth all the time."

I'm not sure if you're aware of the fact that you keep repeating points I've made many times in this debate, but yes to the first part--the Greek gods are an example where, like the Prophets, the deities are subject to the laws of the Universe. They can be injured, have sex, etc.

"And yet, contrary to what you asserted, the Greeks nevertheless considered at times their Gods as moral authorities in a manner analogous to the judeo christian God."

This is absolutely not true. The Greeks did not view the gods as especially virtuous, let alone arbiters of virtue. The gods were capricious and mortals felt the need to appease them in order to be successful in life. The gods took sides in human affairs for their own petty reasons all the time. They were jealous and vindictive.

"If a Bajoran has faith that the Prophets are good and have a righteous plan for Bajor, notwithstanding the knowledge that they are actual aliens who can be affected (even killed) how is that any different than a Greek worshipping Aphrodite, notwithstanding the knowledge that she could be influenced by or even injured by mortals or demigods?"

I think that should be clear now; ascribing moral authority to a deity requires that the deity exist outside the Universe's physical laws. If a god can be pricked by a pin, then he can be struck with jealousy. And no sane people would view a god who can be jealous as immutably good.
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Tue, Aug 25, 2020, 12:04pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

@Jason R

YES! That's the point I've made a hundred times now; when you lack a scientific understanding of the world, gods fill that void; they provide creation myths and explanations for weather, etc. Barring that lack of knowledge (or wilful ignorance), in the real world, the purpose of god(s) is about something else, it's about the numinous, which is to say, a part of the universe isn't measurable or appreciable by science, no matter how advanced. The Bajorans don't have any illusions about what makes the weather. They don't attribute natural phenomena to the Prophets. They treat their gods the same way modern Christians, Muslims and Jews treat their god. That's why the allegory falls apart, because the god of Abraham can't be vaporised by a space station or imprisoned in a fire cave. If the writers tried to make Bajoran religion like that of pre-Enlightenment nature-god pagans, they would be forced to depict them like, say, the Mentakans, a people who haven't yet developed technology or science to the point that they understand the natural world.
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Tue, Aug 25, 2020, 11:35am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

The issue with DS9 vis-a-vis religion isn't that it presents the relatively controversial perspective (for Trek) that maybe having religious faith is good actually, it's that the arguments within the show on the topic use strawmen for actual religious faith. If a "non-believer," like Dax were to say "I don't believe in the Prophets," she looks like an idiot because they're right fucking there, in the wormhole, doing stuff. One doesn't have to be a member of the Bajoran religion to recognise that the beings they call Prophets both exist and can do things. In the real world, saying "I (don't) believe in God," is an assessment of something unprovable. How such belief or non-belief affects your life is a topic worthy of exploration but that conversation is circumvented in most of the allegories we see in DS9. It is my opinion that this is partially the result of an overzealousness on the writers' part to present an anti-TNG perspective on their series. We see this on a number of topics, like the military aspects of Starfleet, economics, etc. In trying way too hard, they end up punching straw men. Not always, I think they get it right sometimes, but with religion, it's pretty much always a fallacious allegory.


Hindus do not expect to run into Vishnu. The polytheism isn't the distinguishing factor here.


You can just say "they/them."


What makes me sad is that I think you're actually right about a number of conclusions you draw (not all of them), but the way in which you make your arguments makes it nigh impossible to side with you. Like, I think Cody B has some messed up politics based on the very limited window I have on their views through this site, but you threw every ad hominem, stereotypical grab-bag of anti-right slurs one could think of at them. That's not going to convince anybody of anything other than that you're too angry to have a conversation with. And this is coming from someone who is probably one of the most left-wing commentors here.
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Mon, Aug 24, 2020, 2:42pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

@Peter G

"Faith can also mean 'they've done right by me before and now I choose to trust them.'"

Forgive me for being more than a little frustrated by this, but I've addressed this half a dozen times already. Religious faith and the faith you're describing here are not the same thing. To describe faith in god like having faith in your buddy (or your captain) is insulting. Religion is about the unprovable, the un-demonstrable. If DS9 wants to talk about religious faith, they have to show people who actually possess it. The way the Prophets are presented makes that impossible, and therefore discussions about religious faith using the Prophets as an example or allegory are fallacious and pretentious.

"No one ever gave that as their answer, so not sure why it's on the table."

From "Sacrifice of Angels"

SISKO: What about Bajor? You can't tell me Bajor doesn't concern you. You've sent the Bajorans orbs and Emissaries. You've even encouraged them to create an entire religion around you. You even told me once that you were of Bajor. So don't you tell me you're not concerned with corporeal matters. I don't want to see Bajor destroyed. Neither do you. But we all know that's exactly what's going to happen if the Dominion takes over the Alpha Quadrant. You say you don't want me to sacrifice my life? Well, fine, neither do I. You want to be gods, then be gods. I need a miracle. Bajor needs a miracle. Stop those ships.

@Jason R

"I realize in retrospect that your objection here seems to be to the Bajorans being grateful to the Prophets in spite of the occupation rather to any specific action or inaction by the deities."

Please show me where I mentioned anything about gratitude. I'm talking about deification. I am just cataloguing the evidence in the show. The Prophets sometimes choose to take life, to restore life, and to allow life to be taken. They make active decisions in the lives of Bajorans and the conceit here is that there is a purpose to these decisions. Unlike with actual gods, the Prophets can be interrogated about those decisions. It is that and the related fact that the Prophets themselves can be destroyed, coerced, etc. by corporeal beings like the Nagus, Akoram, Keiko and Sisko that make it impossible to consider the Prophets gods in any sense except in the way the Greek or Norse gods were considered gods. Those gods never, never, never possess moral authority over human beings; they only possess coercive power over them. The Bajorans' religion is the kind that assigns moral authority to its deities, yet the construction of those deities is of the type where moral authority is impossible. It is an incompatible design, therefore it allegorises nothing, therefore any alleged meaning or lessons it pretends regarding religion are fallacious.

"You seem to have an inherent distrust / contempt for faith, which I suspect is the real source of your problem with this storyline. You want DS9 to spit on religion, but it insists on addressing it on its own terms rather than on yours."

The fact that you keep saying that, over and over, doesn't make it any less untrue. DS9 has pretences about religion, but no actual lessons.
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Mon, Aug 24, 2020, 12:42pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

@Peter G

"Objecting to the Prophets' 'allowing' the Occupation to happen is sort of like objecting to Roddenberry's idea that Eugenics Wars and WWIII lead to the Federation. How can Roddenberry allow bad things to happen to future humanity if his vision is so cheery?"

I think you know this is an unfair comparison. Roddenberry is not a deity in the Federation. Humans may recognise that the dialectic of history got them where they are but that doesn't mean they are *grateful* to, say, Q for allowing WWIII etc. to happen when he could have prevented it. The Prophets claim a mantle of taking personal responsibility for Bajor, so it is completely fair to ask what gives them the right to make that determination. If the only answer is "because they can," then that is not a sign of being good stewards, it's a sign of monstrosity.

@William B

"Sisko is not allowed to "go on the space ship" at the end because Jake forces him not to, and Sisko forgives him for the moment because there's nothing else that can be done. "

I see what you mean, and it's true that the episode gives itself outs on all the fronts Sisko is facing. I don't mean to imply that the episode doesn't have excuses for its resolution, it certainly does, from Whatley's comments about the Bajorans reacting negatively to Sisko's firing to what you say about Sisko forgiving Jake. My problem is that without consequences within this story, I don't have a reason to care about Sisko's journey. If Roy were told that he couldn't go on the space ship at the end, that would have made for a darker film, but he still isn't going back to his family. That ship at least has sailed. If the idea is, as you suggest, that this is all set up for later resolutions, then that's fine, but doesn't make for a particularly satisfying episode. I suppose it isn't irrelevant that I know how the show ends and am not pleased with the eventual resolutions either, but in a vacuum, I find that this strategy makes "Rapture" pretty mediocre over all.

"I think I get what you are saying, and it's hard to take Winn seriously after we've seen her scheming, assassination plans, etc., but I think the "meow/Karen" stuff is not quite in keeping with the "I was beaten daily for five years" content of Winn's speech. I think we're meant to see her as sincere here, and if she's laying on a passive-aggressive guilt trip, it's based on real suffering she experienced, rather than how I understand the Karen meme stuff."

I was just having a bit of fun. I take Winn's comments seriously, but it can't be denied that she relishes the opportunity to put Kira in her place and there's nothing particularly humble about it. She could have made her point without paying Kira back for her backhanded compliment before ("looks can be deceiving") but she didn't because, that's not who she is.
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Mon, Aug 24, 2020, 11:12am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

I would have gone with K*ren, but alas she was named many years ago, in the before time.
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Mon, Aug 24, 2020, 10:36am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

In a (likely futile) attempt to subvert the flame wars of comments past (of which I was often a participant), I'm going to try and confine this to the running threads from my own chronological reviews. I think there were some excellent points made by William B in 2016 and I don't want to just repeat what's been said. I want to contextualise my comments and think it would be good to revisit the Prophet-centric episodes thus far.


Up until the events of this episode, the only thing that was known about the Prophets is that they sent the Bajorans orbs which somehow affect the mind, granting visions...or time-travel as the plot demands. That the Bajorans formed a religion around these mysterious objects over past millennia is not especially remarkable. It's a pattern we have seen dozens of time in Trek with relatively primitive people making a best effort to understand technology that is beyond their comprehension. That the Bajorans developed advanced technology akin to Starfleet's and yet chose to remain *intentionally* ignorant of the orb technology says something important about the sort of people they are. Chakotay mentioned in “Sacred Ground” how he was initially disappointed when his people uncovered the science behind their psychedelic stone magic, but chooses to lead a spiritual life anyway. The nature of his people's faith had to adapt to new information. Science took the place of the supernatural, but that didn't mean there wasn't room for spiritual explorations of the self. The Bajorans thought, apparently, that a scientific exploration of their spiritual totems would break their religion, and that was too dangerous to attempt. This suggests that the Bajorans value credulity *for its own sake.* Regardless, when the Cardassians occupied and subjugated Bajor, we are told that the Bajorans' faith was an invaluable source of strength that helped them survive. That faith is intentionally vague, but I think it's safe to interpret this as faith in the WILL of the Prophets. In other words, the Prophets have a plan for Bajor and that times of trial, like the Occupation, are a necessary means to the end of that plan, which must be good. Therefore, one is impelled to endure such hardships in deference to the Prophets' will and the fulfilment of their plan.

Now, within a period of about a month, the generations-spanning Occupation ends thanks to the Bajoran resistance, AND a new alien overseer, Sisko, discovers the Celestial Temple. He speaks with the Prophets. He touches them insofar as they can be touched. He *influences* them, striking up a bargain for the use of their physical home as a means of transportation to the Gamma Quadrant. He assigns Dax to do what the Bajorans wouldn't and analyse one of the mysterious orbs. This is culture-shattering stuff which is only mitigated by the actions of the Kai. Opaka, guided by sincere belief, subconscious instruction from the Prophets, deft political instincts, or a combination of these declares Sisko to be the Prophets' emissary to her people. She in essence takes these culture-shattering events and recuperates them to the end of prolonging Bajoran credulity as it has been. The Sisko and his actions, however much they should disrupt the status quo, are fitted into the divine the plan. Opaka's tendency towards these kinds of moves are backed up in quotes we get from her later on: “Prophecy can often be vague,” and “One should never look into the eyes of one's gods.”

Sisko himself is being influenced by a number of factors that we see:

1.He is apathetic about his assignment; his general professional motivation is to do his job quickly and then get on with his life.
2.His interaction with the Prophets results in an unintentional therapy session which forces him to confront lingering demons around the death of this wife.
3.Although he is reluctant to assume the role of Emissary, it is nevertheless a call he had not anticipated, a purpose which may potentially hold more meaning than his Starfleet duties.

“In the Hands of the Prophets”

While “Battle Lines” was annoying in several respects, it's here that we see DS9's religious straw man being fully stuffed for future crow-deflection. Vedeks Bitchwhore and Driftwood are juxtaposed to show us the difference between “bad” religious people and “good” ones. Bad religious people plan assassinations to further their ambitions while good ones are never expected to answer difficult questions. Is it a problem that the Bajorans are willing to abandon their alliance with the Federation over the secular teachings of a school teacher? Eh, who cares? Bitchwhore is the bad guy, you see. The only sincere secular perspective is given to Jake, a preteen at the time. While Jake will often show insight beyond his years about art and relationships, his opinion is pigeon-holed as something childish and intolerant. Sisko makes the argument that because the Prophets have an ability humans and Bajorans lack (essentially, the ability to see into the future), the Bajorans' treatment of them as gods is justified. Again, barring a contemporary understanding of physics, this would be true, but Sisko employs the classic deflection tactic of bringing up the Occupation; it would be wrong to rob the Bajorans of their beliefs because those beliefs were instrumental in their surviving a great evil. What is accomplished here is, using the straw man of Vedek Bitchwhore, Sisko is nudged closer into alignment with the will of the Prophets, transforming him into an apologist for Bajoran credulity. It's actually pretty ironic that he would wield the tools of manipulation like this when Opaka was wielding him in the same way at the start of the series.


So far, “Destiny” represents the low point in the series as far as its Prophets plot. This is because there isn't anything driving the story other than the writers' ignorance about the nature of religious belief. It has all the problems of “In the Hands of the Prophets,” but with none of the redeeming qualities like Keiko's advocacy or a compelling character-driven mystery. Instead the episode actively celebrates the logical fallacy at the heart of the writers' ignorance, conflating the Prophets' ability to predict the future with their right to be divinely worshipped in just about as brazen a manner as one could imagine. In bending over backwards to present an unrequested salve to the humanism of TNG, the writers end up painting their ally gods as truly sinister. As I wrote, “for whatever reason, the Prophets feel entitled to be worshipped. The Prophets chose to share knowledge of the future with ancient Bajorans—who of course regarded such abilities as supernatural. By the time Sisko discovered the wormhole, it should have been clear that their gods aren’t really gods. Their religion should have either changed dramatically or fallen apart.”

In the words of Patton Oswalt: “'You gotta respect everyone's beliefs.' No, you don't. That's what gets us in trouble. You have to *acknowledge* everyone's beliefs. And then you have to reserve the right to go 'That's fucking stupid, are you kidding me?'”


Here we saw a fleeting possibility for the series to self-correct on this topic. For one thing, we learn that the Bajorans are capable of letting go of traditions, despite Opaka's concerns. The Dijaree-doos represent a kind of wooden-soled Puritan stage of development for the Bajorans and their spirituality. The needs of the moment allowed them to retain their beliefs while allowing them to change for the better. And yet, the totality of what it means to have a religion is not shied away from. We don't just have random holidays about atonement (“Fascination”) or months of fasting that make them seem more spiritual; the religious life is a conviction that pits faith against reason.

Unfortunately, “Accession” ends up fumbling the ball. When Cardamom and Sisko enter the wormhole to ask the Prophets who's supposed to be the the real Emissary, they explain that they are intentionally exploiting their ability to move freely through time in order to manipulate the linear being called “THE Sisko.” So the concepts of linear time *do* have meaning for the Prophets, provided they are afforded a furthering of their own agenda. The religious experience is supposed to deal with the unchanging, the numinous and the immaterial. That the Prophets are non-linear is, conceptually, a great way to explore this notion. But by making them creatures with an agenda, puppet-masters who manipulate our characters for their own ends, you remove all of the subtlety and destroy the potential for this experience to have any connection to actual religious life, except in the most superficial ways.

Teaser : **.5, 5%

We begin in Valhalla, I mean B'hala, I mean a fragment of a painting of the lost city of B'hala. Kira, Sisko and Dax (in the new uniforms from FC) are staring at the recently-recovered artefact in the wardroom.

KIRA: Jadzia, you're looking at the most important Bajoran icon ever painted. The only known proof that B'hala actually existed, and all you have to say is “hmm”?

Oh gods, where to start? So we have the word “icon” being tossed into the mix of religious-sounding words meant to lend credibility to our terrible allegorisation of actual religion. An icon is a work of art with a specific religious purpose. It depicts a person or scene from religious history in order that said depiction be used for religious devotion. In other words, it is the visual version of a religious parable or gospel. An icon of the virgin Mary, for example, is designed to give Christians an image of the mother of Christ on which to affix their prayers to the “actual” Mary ascended in heaven. It is not, and has never been considered to be, an historical accounting of Mary of Galilee. So right away, we have the DS9 writers conflating things. B'hala represents a sacred city in the Bajoran religious canon for which this icon was painted, to give Bajorans a devotional image of an important religious symbol. It is not, and cannot be, “proof” of the city's existence. Once again, we are trying to prove the existence of God and his stuff which entirely misses the point of faith.

Now, in an “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” or “The da Vinci Code” adventure story, this kind of historicity hiding within religious paraphernalia can be fun and deeply entertaining. I won't deny this story that possibility. But those kinds of stories are NOT about sincere Christian faith. And when you conflate them, you—and I'm sorry to have to play this record again, but it's true—pretentiously insult both people of faith and secular humanists. Everybody loses.

Okay, okay, I had better get past the first 15 seconds of this thing. Sisko has used his position to steal himself a look at the painting, which has been recovered from Cardassia, before it is sent to a Bajoran museum. This I like. We are cued in to the continued weakened state of the Cardassain Empire and reminded that Sisko has immersed himself in Bajoran texts and artefacts going back about two seasons. The painting includes an obelisk that contains coordinates which are supposed to reveal the city's actual location on Bajor, but the 2D image only shows two of the four sides.

DAX: You're going to study it? Maybe see if you can find the lost city?
KIRA: I was just thinking about Zocal's third prophecy. It said only someone who had been touched by the Prophets could find the ruins of B'hala.

What a fucking convenient prophecy. No unnecessary metaphors like swords of stars and vipers this time? Just “only he who had grown a goatee and knoweth the secrets of jambalaya could ever hope to unlock the Big Secret.”

Later, Sisko examines a scanned image of the painting and realises there is a reflection of the back of the obelisk in a waterfall. Maybe Zocal should have prophesied about advanced C.S.I. technology. Eventually, Sisko recreates the obelisk in a holosuite. He makes a great deal of progress enhancing the image...somehow. All we get is “computer enhance” three or four times...until Quark interrupts him to remind him his time is up. This is when Sisko reminds *him* that he wouldn't have a job or a bar or ownership of the holosuites if Sisko hadn't bailed him out. I'm kidding. Quark is here to suggest Sisko spend his valuable time fucking holo-whores, but Sisko decides to save the programme and go to bed. In his attempt, he's zapped by the control panel. No surprise there. This is (ostensibly) Star Trek; consoles exist to explode in your face.

Act 1 : *.5, 17%

Odo has arrested Quark for neglecting maintenance of his holosuites. It's unclear what the point of this scene is unless we're just supposed to assume Quark is lying about his request. Is it a comment on Quark's miserliness? I don't see how considering O'Brien doesn't charge Quark for maintaining the station. Is it a backhanded swipe against Federation communism? Now that Rom is part of the socialised workforce, Quark has to get in the proverbial breadline and things will inevitably go to shit? Meh.

Well anyway, Bashir informs Sisko that his shock has had a psychedelic mushroom effect on his brain, causing some Ted Turner colour saturation in Sisko's eyes and a condescending aloofness in his tone of voice.

One side effect is that Ben seems to appreciate the meal his son has over-cooked for him later that evening. This meal gives Jake the opportunity to exposit that Kasidy Yates is returning from her prison sentence and he expects Ben to wine and dine her. Personally, I think Jambalaya is an iffy meal to prelude conjugal visits, but to each their own.

JAKE: Dad, Kasidy's spent the last six months in prison for helping the Maquis. She's paid the price for what she did.
SISKO: I suppose so.
JAKE: I just hope you give her a chance that's all. You two had something together.

I actually think Jake is right about this. I said in the S4 write-up that Kasidy seems to bring out the best in Sisko's character and in Brooks' acting. So if they have to sweep the very real need for some counselling and couple's therapy under the rug to bring these two back together, I can accept it. Just so long as we never have to hear from Eddington again.

For the moment, Sisko is strolling down the Roy Neary path and constructing ominous shapes with his food. “Close Encounters” is actually a good reference point to bear in mind throughout this story (not just because of the forgivable plagiarism). That was a story that gave room for its main characters to have psychological, if not spiritual journeys. Critically, the spiritual introspections and revelations, while induced by an alien power, were *internal to the characters.* The aliens had an agenda: to make contact with humanity. And the people who mistook their agenda for that of a genuinely supernatural deity were portrayed as foolish.

Sisko returns to the holosuite to continue his mashed potato sculpture, but Dax calls to inform him that he's got a call from Admiral WHATley. The “what” stands for “what the fuck are you doing, Ben?” For now, he's got some good news to share; Bajor's petition to join the Federation has been approved.

WHATLEY: Congratulations, Ben. You've done a hell of a job out there.

Oh? To my recollection, since this series began, the Federation has been infiltrated by shape-shifters, gone to war with their former allies, and been unable to quell an internal rebellion by a bunch of selfish Victor Hugo cosplayers. The “good” things that have happened, like the collapse of the Cardassian Empire, the Tal Shiar and the Obsidian Order have pretty much nothing to do with Sisko's actions. The only (good) thing we can credit Sisko with is the discovery of the wormhole (again, an accident, but he did sort of make peace with the Prophets).

But leaving all of that aside, this is supposed to be about Bajor, right? That's the premise of the series; Bajor needs to be admitted into the Federation for some reason. In season 1, Bajor wasn't ready. From “Emissary:”

PICARD: [The withdrawn Cardassians] left the Bajorans without a means of being self-sustaining. The relief efforts we've been coordinating are barely adequate. I've come to know the Bajorans. I'm a strong proponents for their entry into the Federation.
SISKO: Is it going to happen?
PICARD: Not easily. The ruling parties are at each others throats. Factions that were united against the Cardassians have resumed old conflicts.
SISKO: Sounds like they're not ready.
PICARD: Your job is to do everything short of violating the Prime Directive to make sure that they are.

It's a little vague, but the implication as far as I can see is that like the Kesprit from “Attached,” Bajor was too divided by internal loyalties to be considered a worthy applicant. We saw this trend continue all the way through “Shakaar” in Season 3. Since then, the dynamics which drove the conflict between Bitchwhore's faction and Shakaar's haven't abated, but the open conflict apparently has. The only peek we had at Bajoran politics following the collapse of Cardassia was in “Accession,” which I already touched on. The Bajoran people have shown absolutely no positive growth since the end of the Occupation. On the contrary, they've become more theocratic, with the space pope as the de facto head of state, and shown that the slightest push will regress their culture by more than fifty years to the point where they would observe a caste system that condones the open murder of priests. While Sisko is responsible for preventing the realisation of this system, he did so only by openly embracing a position of religious power. He can command the Bajoran people not to do stupid things because of religious authority. That may be what the Prophets want him to do, but it's explicitly what Starfleet does not want him to do. So, the idea that anything has happened to make Bajor ready to join the Federation is dubious at best, and the only deliberate actions which Sisko has taken to bring about this end are in direct conflict with his assignment.

There is another possibility, of course. Given the recent Borg invasion(s) and the imminent conflict with the Dominion, Starfleet may be looking to admit as many member worlds as it can to bolster the Federation's political position. That's the cynical view expressed later on in “Insurrection,” anyway. I hate this, but it at least makes sense. Given that, Whatley's praise of Sisko is self-conscious bullshit. The Federation wants Bajor because it wants asses in uniform to fight the Dominion and is willing to overlook the obvious fact that Bajor is no more ready now than it was four years ago to be admitted. Sisko hasn't accomplished anything, but praising him is part of the ceremony that is supposed to justify all of this. I should note that this is the best explanation I can come up with, but it still doesn't actually make sense, annoyances with this cynical view of the Federation aside, because the Federation expends a lot of resources *helping* Bajor recover its self--sustenance and lost artefacts and establishing doomed colonies and whatnot. It's not really possible to reconcile that fact with the notion that Bajor's admittance will somehow make the Federation better able to survive a coming war, which means the whole train of logic pretty much falls of the rails anyway.

Whatever. It doesn't make sense, but the premise is fulfilled so the series is over now, right?

Well, no. First we have to have a gag with Quark and Worf that returns us to the subject of root beer. B- on that one. Here's an interesting Freudian slip. The written script has this line:

DAX: As far as I'm concerned, the Federation should accept a new member every week.

But Dax actually says “Starfleet should accept a new member every week.” Mhm. You're letting your hand show, Ira. Kira reflects on the last five years, realising she now embraces Federation membership, and attributes her change of heart to Sisko.

KIRA: No doubt about it. He made me a believer.

The episode is deliberately couching Kira's feelings about Sisko and the Federation in religious language. This goes back to a discussion on the word “faith” back in “Accession.” One can substitute the word “belief” here and get the same idea:

“Kira '[believes]' in Sisko because he's proven to be a good captain....erm, allegedly. But that is not the same as religious [belief]. Religious [belief] is by definition not about being proved correct or likely. That's what makes it special...The point isn't to be pedantic about language here, but conflating different ideas, simply because they can be described with the same word does a disservice to what those ideas represent. Having 'faith' [or belief] in a deity is distinct from having 'faith' in a person or a process or an institution. The former is specifically about irrational belief. This is not meant to be derogatory, but it is a feature of religious conviction. Kira didn't have any 'faith' in Ben Sisko the man or the Federation the institution in 'Emissary,' but when Opaka declared Sisko to be the Emissary, she did have *religious* faith in Sisko the Emissary. That is what her comments to Sisko about being willing to follow him this whole time or her brushing off Odo's line of questioning about her contradictions are all about—irrational, religious, devotional [belief]. At this point in the series, Kira *also* has evidence-based [belief] in Sisko the man and possibly the Federation, but that is completely different. She has arrived at this [belief] through experience and evidence. That's why, despite the fact that she only knows Akorom as an historical figure, she is willing to immediately follow his new edicts, even if they are extremely difficult for her. She may be willing to do the same for Sisko *now,* but she was always willing to do so for The Emissary, whoever her gods told her that was.”

This is what I mean when I talk about the double-edged sword of a continuity-heavy series. Conceptual problems like these are baked in so that it almost doesn't matter how well a scene or premise works in a vacuum. If I stepped into DS9 at the start of Season 5 and picked up from context what was going on, Kira's lines here tell me a lot about her, about Sisko, and about the dynamic being explored. It's a good storytelling device. But because I know what this dialogue is built upon from past episodes, I have to hold these lines to account for being problematic.

Well anyway, Kira finds Sisko back at his potato pile, seemingly so entranced by the obelisk that he ignores her. But she quickly discovers that he's not just entranced but open-eyed comatose.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

Just kidding. Sisko snaps out of it and explains to Kira that he was having a vision of being in Valhalla.

SISKO: I was standing in front of the obelisk and as I looked up, for one moment I understood it all. B'hala, the Orbs, the occupation, the discovery of the wormhole, the coming war with the Dominion...For one moment, I could see the pattern that held it all together...I don't know what I had, but it felt wonderful.

This feeling is what gives the title its double meaning. “Rapture” as a religious idea relating to the end of days and all that fun stuff didn't develop in (some) Christian theology until the mid 19th century, but the feeling associated with being carried off into an ecstatic state of bliss and understanding certainly existed before this. “Raptura” actually means “to seize.” Ironically, being raptured is a state one would usually associate with religious prophets, because (as I tried to explain before), a prophet doesn't “predict the future,” he is able to explain the present with some degree of divine understanding. Even without the confirmation we will get later from Bashir, we can deduce that Sisko's vision is being induced by the same mushroom explosion console effect that is making Jake's food delicious. Many religions invoke the use of psychedelic drugs and/or fasts, etc. to induce euphoric states (of rapture). This was something I brought up in “Sacred Ground.” Janeway, too, had a rapture in that episode. “She was forced into a situation where her access to information was artificially restricted, and in that state, she had a religious experience. It was moving for her. And that's because the ability to have those kind of transcendent episodes relies upon a certain degree of detachment from reality, of purposeful ignorance. Janeway learns that it can be meaningful to intentionally enter Plato's Cave, chain oneself up and observe the shadows on the walls. They can be really beautiful, those shadows.” Sisko is experiencing the opposite effect; his access to information is being artificially enhanced (by the Prophets). In his state, he's having a religious experience, and it's moving for him. But in the end, this transcendent episode also relies upon a degree of detachment from reality.

Sisko is again interrupted on his magical bus ride by a call from Ops. This time it's to inform him that everybody's favourite Space Karen, I mean Pope, I mean Theocratic Despot Kai Bitchwhore is coming to the station for the first time in a long while. Sisko tells Kira to stall for him because he's going to be too busy not giving a fuck and playing with his mashed potatoes.

WINN [to Kira]: Greetings, my child. You look...(observing her engorged belly)...very sweet.
KIRA: Looks can be deceiving. But you don't need me to tell you that.


WINN: You know, our culture has had only five short years to recover from the occupation. Only five years of freedom. It hardly seems enough time, does it?
KIRA: Well, Bajor's still going to be free. Joining the Federation isn't going to change that.

Here's the thing. Why is Bitchwhore against Federation membership? What is Bitchwhore's only ever motivation? Protecting her own power. Why would Federation membership threaten that power? Because, despite some possible desperation on Starfleet's part, Federation membership inexorably leads to secularisation. Kira doesn't seem to realise this. Yes, Bitchwhore is the bad guy, but, just like in “In the Hands of the Prophets,” if Kira really stopped and examined her own thinking, she should realise that her views align with the bad guy's. She should be asked to reconcile that contradiction, but, spoiler, she won't be. Again.

Kasidy officially re-enters the series and greets Sisko in the holosuite. Seemingly on a whim, but in truth driven by his enhanced senses and rapture, he asks her to go to Bajor with him immediately and uncover the hidden city of Valhalla, which he believes he's found. Maybe they can squeeze in their jambalaya and sex on the ride over. She humours him and accompanies him to the cave set and, despite some headaches (literally), badda-boom badda-bing he discovers the underground gate to the ancient city.

Act 3 : **.5, 17%

Odo, Worf and Kira are dealing with trying to accommodate the apparent legions of Federation dignitaries about to arrive on DS9 for the induction ceremony. Worf is giving Odo shit for failing to observe some arbitrary dick-fluffing of the Starfleet brass.

WORF: It is naval tradition.
ODO: So is keelhauling, but right now we should focus on accommodations.

Oh, now you know Odo is all about bringing back that tradition.

KIRA: I was just thinking about Captain Sisko finding B'hala. Bajoran archaeologists have been searching for the sacred city for ten thousand years. He found it in just a few days.

Wow. What an fucking clumsy and lazy line. Poor Kira is apparently tasked with the chore of filling in the gaps for the audience. Bitchwhore interrupts (apologising) Kira's latest episode of “everything that happens confirms my bias for my religion” for a private word with her. See, since Sisko discovered the lost city, Bitchwhore has realised that she is on the wrong side of the religious conflict, at least as far as this supports her own power. While she's being motivated by a desire to align herself with what the Bajoran people accept as gospel for her own ends, I don't think she's feigning this contrition. I think she sincerely believes herself to be destined to be the Kai and is trying to make up for past actions which now jeopardise this. Federation membership is a threat to her power, but if she opposes The Sisko, she'll lose it anyway. Her best hope is to follow him and make the best of it. But she definitely doesn't miss an opportunity to Karen:

WINN: 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.


Whatley makes his way to Valhalla to congratulate Sisko for his big discovery. The admiral is portrayed as a little cartoonishly stuffy, but he makes it pretty clear that despite pleasing the Bajorans with his actions, Sisko's total immersion into his visions is compromising his duties.

SISKO: There's clarity here. I wish I could explain it better, but I can't.

In “Rightful Heir,” Worf's crisis of faith led him to some minor dereliction of his duties and Captain Picard told him to take a vacation and sort his shit out. Whatley doesn't need to deride Bajoran credulity or diminish Sisko's ardent feelings here to recognise that Ben needs to be relieved to duty. Not maliciously—Ben says he needs time and he should get it. But if he can't do his job, he can't do his job. Whatley settles for ordering Ben to the doctor's office first thing in the morning.

Next thing we see Sisko is late for his appointment. Given that the brain mushroom effect hasn't let up, Bashir considers aloud a surgical procedure that would end the trip, but he says this would be a last resort.

WHATLEY: So in the meantime he's going to keep having visions. I knew we were headed for trouble the minute he allowed the Bajorans to call him Emissary.
BASHIR: He didn't have much choice. The Bajorans are deeply committed to their spirituality, not to mention incredibly stubborn. They believe that Captain Sisko is the Emissary and nothing's going to change their minds.

That is some impressive ret-conning there, doctor. Once again, in “Accession,” the Bajorans very happily accepted Cardamom as the Emissary to the point where they were sculpting birds and murdering priests. It wasn't their Kai who told them Sisko was the true Emissary, it was Sisko himself, after being pressured to assume the role by the Prophets. According to the show, their minds can in fact be changed very easily.

Sisko finally arrives, doing the whole Jesus back from the Desert shtick, predicting the future and telling people what they should and shouldn't be doing with their lives.

WHATLEY: What is it, Ben?
SISKO: Your son. You can stop worrying about him. He forgives you.
WHATLEY: How the hell did he know that Kevin and I weren't getting along?
BASHIR: He's the Emissary.

Ha ha. That's funny, Julian. Your captain has developed oracular super powers and you're making jokes. So funny. Hey remember when Picard was able to travel to the future in his mind and Beverly was just like, “eh NBD, that's our Jean-Luc!”?

Act 4 : *.5, 17%

On an infirmary bed, Sisko's visions seem to be intensifying. He mentions a swarm of “locusts.” I'm actually going to defend this (lazy) choice of metaphorical insect because it's being interpreted by Ben, who is a human familiar with Christian history (c.f. “Far Beyond the Stars”). The locust is a very location-specific image for Mesopotamian people, but it's also a very religious-y sounding touchstone. Most Americans would recognise locusts as one of the plagues visited upon Egypt.

Anyway, Bashir may not be concerned that his captain is having oracular visions, but those headaches are a real worry, apparently. For STAKES, we learn that these visions are actually going to kill Sisko eventually. Pin that one up on the board for now. Sisko refuses treatment for this condition because he doesn't want the visions to stop. Jake and Kasidy are understandably incensed by this news.

KASIDY: I cannot believe what I'm hearing. Listen to yourself, Ben. Sitting there, telling us that this mystical journey of yours is more important than watching your son grow up.
JAKE: Dad, please think about what you're doing. These visions, they're not worth dying for.
SISKO: I remember the first time I held you in my hands. You were only a few minutes old and when I looked down at your face, it was almost as if I could see your whole life stretched out in front of you. All the joys it would bring, and the bruises. It was all there, hidden in that scrunched up little face. The baby that I'm holding in my hands now is the universe itself. And I need time to study its face.

When the trappings of Bajoran religion are stripped away, as they are here, and it becomes a “Close Encounters”-styled journey of the self, I think the material is compelling. The Wormhole Aliens are trying to communicate with Ben and he's interpreting their call in ways that *raptura* him away from the things he supposedly holds dear, his duty, his partner, and his family. Just like Roy Neary, it can't be denied that Sisko's actions are selfish, but when the opportunity for something so profound presents itself, I think most of us would act selfishly. Remember that Roy was permanently transformed. He never went back to his wife and kids. He permanently abandoned them. Obviously, they're not writing Sisko off the show, but if this transformation is really going to mean something, the relationship between Sisko, his job and his loved ones has to *permanently* change. There's no going back from this.

A wrinkle arrives in the form of Bitchwhore who has arrived to *help* the Emissary interpret his visions. How convenient. There are of course no other religious figures on Bajor who could help him, or at least none with as much to gain from being seen as the Emissary's personal spiritual guide.

KIRA: The Captain is not going to die. He is the Emissary. The Prophets will take care of him.
O'BRIEN: With all due respect, Major, I'd rather see Julian take care of him.
KIRA: Chief, I know you're worried, but the Prophets are leading the Emissary on this path for a reason.
WORF: Do not attempt to convince them, Major. They cannot understand.
DAX: Since when did you believe in the Prophets?
WORF: What I believe in is faith.

What? …...... WHAT? I'm sorry this review is so long, I really am, but come the fuck ON, episode. “Believe in the Prophets”? They're right fucking there. They have special abilities. You, Dax, were carried in an hourglass made of cream of mushroom soup from their wormhole back to this very room by their powers. Religious belief is a non-factor in all of this. The question is whether one believes the Prophets will kill Sisko to achieve their ends. That's an open question, but we've seen that they allowed millions of Bajorans to die in the Occupation for what Sisko now claims is a larger purpose, and they brought Cardamom back to life for the same illusive reasons. So, yeah, debate that if you want, but this has nothing to do with belief IN the Prophets. And Worf. Mother fucking Worf. “What I believe in is faith.” Well, Commander, what I feel are feelings, including the overwhelming feeling that vacuous, smug platitudes like that are the reason humanity will probably never actually achieve the utopia of Star Trek. Fuck these people.

Bitchwhore gives Sisko access to the orb of prophecy, says a little prayer and invites him to begin, despite the fact that it “taxes even the healthy.” He insists he has to go through with it and she leaves him to it.

Meanwhile, the station is abuzz with activity around Bajor's admittance ceremony. Bitchwhore explains to Whatley why Sisko is so late. Whatley (in a fair episode) would feel like a buffoon for insisting Sisko be a part of all this after seeing him plunge off the deep end in his last scene. Well, they finally decide to proceed without him, but of course that's the moment Sisko chooses to barge in and reveal the “locusts” will destroy Bajor if it joins the Federation. He then collapses and starts writhing about.

Act 5 : **.5, 17%

Bashir is unwilling to perform surgery on Sisko given his refusal for medical intervention. If you recall “Sons of Mogh” however, there is apparently a rule that says your wishes can be overridden by a family member, so it's up to Jake to decide whether to let his father die. Karma's a bitch, isn't it, Ben?

JAKE: Dad, I know you want to see this thing to the end, but I need you. I'm sorry.

Gosh, maybe after the events of “The Visitor,” Ben should have tried to lessen Jake's debilitating dependence on him. Karma really is a bitch, isn't it, Ben?

During surgery, Bitchwhore and Kira have another confrontation.

KIRA: He's an eighteen year-old boy who doesn't want to lose his father. What would you have done in his place?
WINN: I would trust the Prophets.
KIRA: Maybe we're the ones who need to trust the Prophets. For all we know, this is part of their plan. Maybe they've told Captain Sisko everything they want him to know.

“Everything that happens confirms my bias for my religion.” Bitchwhore informs Kira and us that Sisko's little speech has delayed Bajor's admittance and made her own job of being the bad guy more complicated.

Sisko awakens from surgery and is utterly destroyed by the loss of his visions. As I said, there is no going back. And yet, next thing we see is Sisko back in uniform, in his office. Whatley wants to pull his commission over this, but the optics of firing the Emissary would alienate the Bajorans. It does occur to me that there may be one more horribly cynical reason the Federation is willing to bend over backwards to accommodate the Bajorans; the wormhole. Unfortunately, that's the only explanation that really makes sense. The Federation doesn't want to lose control of the only conduit between the Alpha Quadrant and the Dominion. bleak.

Anyway, Kasidy and Jake welcome Sisko back in what Jammer describes as a “schmaltzy” scene. The “schmaltz” is actually the part that I think works about it. Kasidy is a grounding presence and, since this show must go on, I'm glad she's sticking around. What doesn't work is that Sisko is apparently never going to be held to account for his actions. Obviously, Jake and Kasidy aren't going to stop loving him, but either Sisko went through something so profoundly transformational that he cannot go back to his family, or that profundity was just a bunch of hot air and exploding console mushroom-induced hullabaloo. The episode is content to undermine itself by settling on the latter. What a shame.

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

Fundamentally, this story fails for the same reason as “Destiny.” Instead of asking interesting questions around the subject of faith and belief, the episode is written by religion apologists. I don't get the sense that the creators are especially religious themselves, because there is profound lack of understanding when it comes to that subject. It's more like when your coastal limousine liberal friends invite a black couple to their wedding so that their photos showcase some diversity. “See, I can't be racist. Look at my friends of colour!” The plot of this episode is: Wormhole Aliens are fucking with Sisko's brain in order to keep Bajor out of the Federation (for now) so that the locusts (Dominion) won't destroy it later on. For Sisko, the experience of having his brain fucked with is a(n ostensibly) profound spiritual experience. For Starfleet, their point-man on this apparently important diplomatic mission is compromised by an alien presence that won't stop interfering in the affairs of Bajor. For the Bajorans, anything and everything that happens is a part of the divine plan their gods have for them, the chosen people.

What is appealing about this episode is the blend of elements from the stories its plagiarising. We have shades of “The Last Crusade” in here and of course “Close Encounters.” Indiana Jones confronts a supernatural force that leads to amazing discoveries cloaked in the mysticism of Christian apocrypha. That's a great deal of fun, but at no point does Indiana *convert* to Christianity. That would completely undermine the story. Indiana may not understand the supernatural forces at work, but he is objectively outside of them. That's why he gets to emerge from the experience as himself and continue his relationships and adventures thereafter. Roy Neary on the other hand is not outside of the forces at work on him. Those forces are not supernatural, but they may as well be from Neary's perspective because the alien technology is so far beyond his understanding. He is profoundly affected by his experience and emerges from it a different person, unable to reconnect with his old life and instead taking a journey to the stars. “Rapture” attempts to combine these incompatible stories so that Sisko is inside the experience like Roy but emerges as himself like Indiana. This all goes back to Kira's line in the beginning of the episode:

KIRA: He made me a believer.

Sisko *convinced* Kira that the Federation was good for Bajor. When gods have to *convince* people to believe in them, that's not religion, that's manipulation. If the show wants to explore the concept of faith, it has to present people who believe in things without evidence. That is what religious faith is all about. Everything that happens to Sisko has a scientific explanation, just like Janeway's experience with the comatose Kes. That doesn't mean, like Roy Neary, that the experience he has can't be incredibly profound and spiritually significant for him. On the contrary, that kind of character development is very welcome. The problem is the writers never want to go there. Sisko is supposed to be at odds between this Moses journey he's being set upon by the Prophets, his connection to Jake and the possibility of restoring his sense of family, and his job. But every time something like this happens, he's rewarded in every dimension of his life. Jake is devoted to him, now Kasidy is devoted to him, he keeps getting promoted. Whatley says he wants to revoke Sisko's commission at the end, but not 20 seconds later they're joking around about how Sisko is certain as The Emissary that Bajor will eventually join the Federation. So that's a completely hollow gesture. We know Sisko's going to be given more and more responsibility as an officer as the series progresses. If these different facets of his life don't cost anything, if he gets to have and eat all the cake all the time, then none of them are especially meaningful. If Roy's wife and children forgave him for abandoning them, that would severely diminish the film.

The actual plot of “Rapture” is pretty good. It's certainly consistent with the Prophets' characterisation that they would behave this way and they make for a believable way to prolong the premise of the series. Folding Bitchwhore and Kasidy back into the picture after a period of Klingon-happy dormancy was a good move, although their appearances are both marked by some pretty clunky Exposition Fairy dialogue. And I think Brooks does a good job with the material. It's not easy to portray the state of rapture for 45 minutes and keep it fresh. What elevates this episode above “Destiny” is that there is much more going on than clumsy and insincere propaganda accompanied by a flaccid B-plot. The character journey for Sisko was enjoyable. But with the writers chickening out at the end I can't give it much more than a passable score over all.

Final Score : **
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Sat, Aug 22, 2020, 9:38am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S4: The Drumhead

@ Peter G

"I think PIcard is actually the force of conservatism in the episode, or shall we say classical liberalism (which can have commonalities). He is the one upholding the cherished Federation values of being fair, decent, and honest; and he is the one deeply suspicious of a sudden movement looking to overturn the established understanding of how things on the Enterprise work."

I think you make a fair point here, but Picard also suggested that he should rethink his whole practice regarding how he uses Troi in diplomatic situations. He wasn't committed to tradition or to radical change; he wanted to conserve those practices which upheld liberty and autonomy and change those which inadvertently curtailed such rights.

I'm not going to say much in response to the conspiratorial garbage being thrown around by DLPB and co., but I think the best way to evaluate so-called Cancel Culture is through a utilitarian lens. As Trent eloquently alluded to above, if the systemically marginalised (bluntly, the poor and working class) were being de-platformed somehow, then a constitution of workers' rights would be necessary to correct this unintended injustice. But that's not what's happening. The only people who are de-platformed wield enormous power and wealth to begin with, actors, political power-brokers and their puppets, media moguls, celebrity artists, internet personalities, etc. Until that changes, we aren't dealing with an issue which is in any way allegorised by this episode.

Simon Tarses is intentionally written to be a small, quiet person being parried about by these gigantic figures on the Enterprise. What I wish had been addressed by the episode is whether Worf's racism is emblematic of the post-W359 Federation at large or isolated to a few fringe people. If Tarses is correct in his assumption that his career and livelihood would be damaged by a public admission of his ancestry, then THAT is a serious problem that should concern Picard. That would be totally unacceptable. The episode is written ambiguously on this point, leaving the possibility that Tarses is unnecessarily paranoid, that that paranoia caused him to panic and lie, and that his lies at least should be held to account.
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Fri, Aug 21, 2020, 12:58pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: VOY S3: Macrocosm

@Jason R

I took a look at the average differences by season between the scores and the EAFs:

DS9 1: +.145
DS9 2: +.154
DS9 3: +.270
DS9 4: +.170
VOY 1: +.053
VOY 2: +0

As you can see, DS9 benefits a bit more from the disparity. This is probably because I'm more likely to disagree with a direction or premise on DS9 than I am on Voyager.

@ William B

EAF^2!! Coming to you in the Fall of 2025
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Fri, Aug 21, 2020, 10:56am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: VOY S3: Macrocosm

@Jason R

I was curious about what the patterns were regarding EAF scores and final grades. So far, the vast majority of the reviews I've done (4 1/3 seasons of DS9, 2 1/3 seasons of Voyager and 2 films) would have seen *lower* grades if not for the act-by-act execution. The exceptions to that rule (where the execution actually hurt the final score of an episode) are

DS9 1: "Emissary," "The Nagus," & "The Forsaken"
DS9 2: "The Homecoming," "The Siege," "The Alternate," "The Wire," & "Crossover"
DS9 3: "The Die is Cast," "Family Business," & "The Adversary"
DS9 4: "Indiscretion," "Bar Association," "Hard Time," & "The Muse"
DS9 5 (so far): "Trials and Tribble-ations," & "The Ascent"
VOY 1: "Caretaker," "Prime Factors," "Jetrel," & "Projections"
VOY 2: "Initiations," "Cold Fire," "Alliances," "Lifesigns," & "Tuvix"
VOY 3 (so far): "Remember," "Sacred Ground," & "Future's End II"

ST FC is also in this category.

So, out of 160 episodes and films, only 30 episodes were hurt in the act-by-act, whereas 61 of those would have received lower scores without the play-by-play.

Alright, I had better stop procrastinating on "Rapture" and rip off that bandaid already.
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Fri, Aug 21, 2020, 9:00am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: VOY S3: Macrocosm

@Peter G

I'm certainly not going to defend this episode, but it's pretty harmless, regardless of intent. That's why it gets the score it gets from me. It's brainless, pointless, boring fluff.

@Jason R

The Episode as Functionary is--forgive me--the macroscopic view. If I make a blanket judgement of the whole episode in terms of what I gather the intended *function* to be (a farce, a serious commentary, a world-building story, a character piece, etc) and how well it succeeded at this aim. The act by act scores assess my enjoyment of the episode as it's happening. Sometimes I enjoy an episode far more or less than it "deserves" based on its overall success and that can affect the final score. There might be a great scene somewhere or a memorable performance that helps a bad episode or a pitiful production or cringey scene or bad characterisation that hurts a good episode. I hope that helps.
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Thu, Aug 20, 2020, 3:00pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: VOY S3: Macrocosm

Teaser : ***, 5%

Neelix and an alien are performing the world's worst pantomime of Dragonball Z known to man while Captain Janeway watches with a mixture of bemusement, horror, gratitude and disdain. Our heroes discuss whatever it is we just saw (which I should add was brief enough to be fairly amusing) on their shuttle ride back to the Voyager. The alien was from a race called the TikTok. Ah that explains why they're so annoying; they're a specious made entirely of Teen Influencers. Janeway thanks Neelix for his apparent instinct in mimicking the absurd gestures that accompany the TikToks' language. Well, it took five years, but we finally found a species more irritating than the Waadi from “Move Along Home.”

JANEWAY: It's a good thing you were there, Mister Neelix. I might have been shot at dawn.

Twice in as many weeks. For his ability to discern superstitious dance moves, Janeway “officially” promotes Neelix to the post of Ambassador. Considering the Voyager isn't likely to circle back to chat with most of the species it happens across, this is less insane than it sounds.

Anyway, just like in “Timescape,” the shuttle arrives at rendezvous coordinates only to find that the mother ship is adrift a lightyear away. They're unable to make contact with her, the escape pods are in place and, just like in “Genesis,” there's a bioelectric field in place blocking their scans. So Janeway tells Neelix to arm himself as they prepare dock. This teaser relies almost entirely on the ease of the dialogue and rapport of the characters which, considering one of them is Neelix, works quite well.

Act 1 : *.5, 17%

A quick review of ship's systems reveals some main programmes offline and a ruptured gel pack in the Mess Hall. Remember the gel packs? That computer circuitry that can catch a cold? The pair continue to wander about the ship in search of clues and crews. They stop by Sam and Naomi Wildman's quarters to see that Neelix' YouTube cooking variety show from “Investigations” is running on the monitor. They piece together that the mysterious catastrophe happened about eleven hours prior and then are distracted by what sounds like a giant wasp buzzing through the corridor. They follow this to the transporter room and find a hole with green goop dripping from the edges. Alien snot...

You know, I'm finding that I don't have anything to add to the observations about all the clichéd plot elements. I saw “Alien” once as a kid and don't really remember it. While I find the production, acting and music adequate for this milieu, mindless action of any sort does very little for me. I'm going to streamline a little to avoid the tedium.

While Neelix prattles on about his summers on Rinax, Janeway stares at her tricorder for absolutely no reason and barely tries to make conversation. I found that hilarious.
Neelix reminds Janeway that he only has one Ocampan lung. It's like continuity happy theatre day.

Act 2 : *.5, 17%

The crew keep a supply of big guns and bombs in a locker next the warp core. What could go wrong?

I actually think Mulgrew's choices in the action scenes are smart for the character. Janeway is being a badass because she has to, but she looks extremely awkward in the effort. She's a scientist first and her constant, by-the-books procedural pointing of her big ass gun showcase a real discomfort that help give a little insight into Janeway's frame of mind. Like Picard dealing with brats in “Disaster” or Sisko learning to perform Bajoran weddings, here we see the lead clumsily adopting new skills to cope with their circumstances.

Why to the macroviruses (er, spoiler I guess) buzz like insects? Do they have wings?
The mosquito-sized viruses emerging from the wound on Chakotay's neck was effectively disgusting.
The CGI for the beachball sized viruses in embarrassingly bad.

Act 3 : *.5, 17%

The Doctor's narrated flashback includes establishing shots of the Voyager over the alien planet. Amazing.
Robert Picardo manages to make the Magic Schoolbus Science seem almost plausible with his excited, childlike performance.

CHAKOTAY: Compassion is nothing to be sorry about, Doctor. It won't be the last time you're faced with a moral dilemma in the field.

File that one away.

The Doctor's flashback includes a flirtatious squabble between Torres and Paris. I'm calling it a draw because Beltran and Dawson have good chemistry.
Why exactly is Tom the backup cafeteria chef, anyway?

Act 4 : .5 stars, 17%

The macroviruses are driven by instinct. Of course they are.
I wonder if any of the Maquis crewmembers would be “I'm not wearing a mask, you pussy liberal cucks!” types. I can see that Bajoran kid from “Learning Curve” fitting the bill.

Act 5 : .5 stars, 17%

EMH: ...then I crawl through access port nine, go past three airlocks and then two decks down. Environmental Control's at the end of the hall. Now I remember. Who designed this ship anyway?
JANEWAY: Good luck.

If there had been any dramatic tension to speak of during this action climax, the arrival of the TikTok captain with his jazz hands completely vaporised it.
In this instalment of continuity happy theatre day, we are reminded that the holodecks have an independent power source from the rest of the ship.
An antigen bomb. I can't say more than that.
It wasn't earned, but I kind of liked the light jazz outro while Janeway did some painting. This is a little callback to “Sacred Ground,” where she lamented that it was her sister who was the artist in the family. In the wake of her little workout, she's taken up the hobby.

Episode as Functionary : *, 10%

The only parts of this episode that work are the inoffensive interstitial bits which could have (and should have) gone into any other episode. The production design elements fluctuated between adequate and laughably silly. The laborious action plot is poorly thought-out and pointless. I'm giving a single star instead of .5 (reserved for episodes that are so bad they're good; this one's too boring to qualify) or zero stars (reserved for episodes like “Tattoo” and “Let He Who is Without Sin” which actively damage the series or its characters). This one took itself a little more seriously than “Genesis,” which is to its detriment as there is something redeeming in the kitschiness of Deanna the Frog and all of that. Definitely skip “Macrocosm.”

Final Score : *
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Wed, Aug 19, 2020, 9:30pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S1: In the Hands of the Prophets


Yes, I agree. That is why the Prophets (and the Founders) do not work as analogues for post-pagan religions.
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Wed, Aug 19, 2020, 8:59pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S1: In the Hands of the Prophets

@Jason R

That’a simply not true. In BSG, for example, I think the topic was mostly handled well, because the way that universe was constructed allowed the divine to be unprovable. There could have been some deistic force, or it could have been coincidence. The characters’ responses to those circumstances made for an engaging exploration of faith.

There are a few episodes of Star Trek that actually deal with religious faith in a positive and nuanced way. The way the Prophets manifest as the Benny Russel story is an excellent example from DS9. But DS9, despite pretences, treated real theology with about as much respect as “Threshold” treated evolutionary biology.
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Wed, Aug 19, 2020, 2:42pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S1: In the Hands of the Prophets


The issue is whether or not the Prophets deserve religious authority over the Bajorans, not whether they exist. There's a missing step that was never explored in the show, or rather was just sort of assumed to have been resolved. For me, that's the glaring misstep in the way DS9 handled the topic of religion.
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Wed, Aug 19, 2020, 2:38pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: VOY S3: The Q and the Grey

@Peter G

That's where we part ways a bit. As I said, I think the idea set up in "Death Wish" of exploring how the Continuum works and that their supposed omnipotence was more politics than science (or magic) was excellent as well as morally necessary. In order to demonstrate the way the old propaganda would have to die, the allegory would have to use an historical event that had a similarly zeitgeist-shattering effect on humanity. The Civil War wasn't that at all, and that's why the episode breaks trying to cram the Q's struggle into that allegorical framework. Choosing something like WWII (or better perhaps WWI) would have made it much easier for the Continuum's struggle to overlay onto the allegory.

Basically, the metaphor they chose doesn't allegorise the story they're trying to tell, so the whole thing is meaningless. In the absence of meaning, the contrivances leap to the front of our consciences and make the episode that much less enjoyable to watch.
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