And so the first season comes to a close, showing exactly the direction DS9 intends to take where the major issues are concerned: Bajor and its politics and philosophies. "In the Hands of the Prophets" explores what happens when Federation secular teachings and Bajoran religion collide.
Bajoran Vedek Winn (Louise Fletcher) publicly denounces the classroom teachings of Keiko O'Brien's school. The result is a sudden rift between the Bajoran and Federation peoples, undermining everything Sisko hopes to accomplish. As with the best philosophy-oriented shows, this season-ender brings a great deal of probing substance to its plotting. Scenes like the one where Sisko fairly explains the meanings and intentions of Winn and her followers to his son are what really makes these events and attitudes believable. This is not simple by any stretch of the imagination, and by not reducing any of the characters to single dimensions, the script does a superb job of handling its premise.
Sisko attempts to seek help from another Bajoran religious establishment, introducing the character of Vedek Bareil (Philip Anglim), who cannot immediately offer help. ("It seems the Prophets also teach you politics," Sisko remarks very correctly.) Meanwhile, a subplot involving the mysterious death of one of O'Brien's engineering staff opens up hints of a conspiracy, which ties in beautifully with the main story. The bombing of Keiko's school complicates matters, and is enough to convince Bareil to come to the station to offer his religious perspectives on the matter.
There's a lot of plot here, and pretty much all of it works when it comes together, tying Winn in cahoots with O'Brien's Bajoran engineering assistant Neela (Robin Christopher) and revealing their intentions to assassinate Bareil—Winn's opposing candidate. The episode sports standout performances from everybody, but especially from Avery Brooks who plays Sisko with a commendable passion for his mission. The ending displays the understanding that the Bajorans and Federation have come to in the past six months, but it's easy to see there's much more to come in terms of political intrigue next season.