Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Destiny"

3.5 stars

Air date: 2/13/1995
Written by David S. Cohen and Martin A. Winer
Directed by Les Landau

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Where you see a sword of stars, I see a comet. Where you see vipers, I see three scientists. And where you see the Emissary, I see a Starfleet officer." — Sisko to Kira

It's a credit to the writers that despite the literally hundreds of stories on TNG and DS9 (and now Voyager) that have been aired over the last eight years, they can still come up with compelling, original ideas. "Destiny" is such a story, with a very clever script and very interesting dialogue, exhibiting some effective philosophical content alongside the best of "In the Hands of the Prophets."

In the midst of the first joint Bajoran/Cardassian cooperative mission—the installation of a communications relay outside the wormhole—Bajoran Vedek Yarka (Erick Avari) visits the station to inform Sisko of an ancient prophecy about the Emissary that is a warning of impending disaster—directly linked to this mission. The prophecy is a convolution of metaphors, but these metaphors come together to provide a seemingly striking message involving a number of distinctive elements.

Paraphrasing the prophecy: Three vipers will return to their nest in the sky in an attempt to peer through the temple gates. A sword of stars will appear in the heavens, and as a result, the temple will burn and will never open or close again.

Yarka argues that the "vipers" are the Cardassian scientists who are heading up the project. The "nest in the sky" is, of course, the station and "peering through the temple gates" is the attempt to communicate through the wormhole with the transceiver relay. He doesn't offer an explanation for the "sword of stars" but predicts that the temple burning, never to open or close again, can only be the disastrous destruction and permanent collapse of the wormhole.

This gives Sisko some rather weighty decisions to make. There is no foreseeable reason why this experiment should cause any sort of problem, let alone something as disastrous as Yarka claims. Should Sisko continue procedures as if he never heard the prophecy text or should he take it into consideration?

The episode's story structure is quite effective. As the narrative unfolds, every act culminates with some sort of unexpected surprise that makes the prophecy seem that much closer to coming true. Just when it appears Sisko is clear from any more problems, something comes up just in time to send us into commercial break.

For example, initially, there are only two Cardassians heading up the project, not three. Then there's the announcement that a third Cardassian will be joining the project. Kira's apprehension starts up, but neither she nor Sisko can see what could possibly go wrong because of this coincidence.

Then there's the appearance of a comet—is it the sword of stars? Kira's apprehension jumps up three notches. The comet has a course that puts it near the wormhole entrance, but not close enough to interfere with the project, let alone cause any disaster. Kira makes a passing remark about the prophecy within earshot of the Cardassians, prompting Sisko to request a private discussion with his first officer. The comment has no place on the bridge of the Defiant, he tells her. She agrees, but she also believes the prophecy is coming true based on the number of "coincidences."

This is the heart of "Destiny." It's a crossing of Kira's faith and her duty. How can she just ignore something she has believed her entire life? Kira reveals to Sisko her ongoing difficulty to see him as simply her commanding officer and not the religious icon he has become in Bajoran lore. At the same time, Sisko is put in the difficult position of being part of the prophecy. He's never been comfortable with the label of Emissary, and this episode is really the first to deeply look at how Sisko feels about it.

However, Sisko realizes he can't call the project off based on a retranslated prophecy that could be interpreted to mean any number of things.

But imagine everyone's surprise when a random variable in the communication test sequence causes the comet's course to be altered such that it heads straight for the wormhole. By this time, I'm thinking Kira's "concrete" justification for calling off the project makes a lot of sense. Sisko sits down and thinks the situation through very carefully. Dax asks him what he would do if he never heard of the prophecy. Continue with the project, he says. There's no reason at all why O'Brien's plan to destroy the comet with modified phasers should fail.

But then it does fail. The Defiant's phasers overload and fail to destroy the comet. With the comet headed directly for the mouth of the wormhole and the crew without phasers to destroy it, a disaster seems imminent. Maybe Yarka was right.

But the effectiveness of "Destiny" practically rides on whether the conclusion can live up to the rest of it. A contrived, last-minute solution to completely disprove the prophecy could have seriously sabotaged this show. Fortunately, the writers know how to finish a good story with a good ending, and they offer a satisfying conclusion that doesn't sell the episode short in any way.

Sisko and Kira manage to pilot the comet through the wormhole with a subspace field around it to prevent it from igniting the wormhole. They are almost successful. The wormhole does end up ignited by small amounts of comet fragments—just enough so the prophecy comes true. But the damage is only minor, and the wormhole doesn't collapse. It simply remains "cracked" open just enough to allow the communication transmission through, never to completely close again.

It's a very clever ending, as Yarka's misinterpretation of the prophecy proves ironic. At the same time, by having the prophecy still actually come true, the writers affirm that religion and Bajoran beliefs still remain characteristic of the series. They also prove that it's quite possible to do a story that isn't derivative. Kudos to this rather cerebral outing.

Previous episode: Heart of Stone
Next episode: Prophet Motive

◄ Season Index

120 comments on this review

Gatton
Sun, Apr 5, 2009, 8:02pm (UTC -6)
I'm surprised no one else has commented on this episode. I enjoyed it a lot and I thought the ending was very cleverly crafted to allow the prophecy to be true. I also enjoyed the scenes with Colm Meaney and Tracy Scoggins who despite a couple of pounds of Cardassian makeup can still be attractive.
Destructor
Mon, Jun 29, 2009, 9:40pm (UTC -6)
Watched this again last night and it's always been a favourite. In the constant tension between science and faith that is always being explored in DS9 (and later BSG), this is the episode that got the balance exactly right- it could have been science, could have been a prophecy. Two sides of the same coin. Very well done.
Jezetha
Mon, Aug 17, 2009, 5:09pm (UTC -6)
I too watched this episode again and admired the way in which tension is sustained until the end. Excellent!
Elliott
Mon, Dec 13, 2010, 11:21pm (UTC -6)
Could someone do me the favour of explaining why giving credence to the Bajorans' religion is automatically for the good? Here's another sabotage of the Roddenberry Universe...what is the message the writers are sending by designing an episode to essentially say that indeed, the prophets bestow knowledge of the future to Bajoran Vediics. Okay, well if that's the case, then explain it in those terms damn it. Have someone point out that the "prophecy" may very well be true because the wormhole aliens can literally see into our future because they're unbounded by time (which makes absolutely no sense, but whatever). Fine, it make sense, explains everything and maintains that the Bajorans' religion is silly, because it is. Rather, we get this idea that the issue is about duty and work in opposition to faith--it's manipulative and arrogant. 1 star.
Nic
Sat, Mar 5, 2011, 9:38pm (UTC -6)
The thing about prophecies is that most of the time they are so vague that even if you believe in them, you can never be certan that you're interpreting them correctly. A lot of prophcies in human history (such as Nostradamus) HAVE come true if you interpret them in a certain way. You cna choose to believe that Nostradamus really did somehow know what would happen in the future, or you can believe that any prophecy's interpretation can be modified to fit with actual events. My personal views would tend towards the latter, but I'm glad this episode showed both sides of the coin.
Keiren
Thu, Apr 19, 2012, 5:05am (UTC -6)
Nah...whats worse is that most of the human race doesnt understand how prophecy works.... or how to interpret it.... Saying that, I respect this episode for being balanced, i like this one
TMLS
Sun, Jun 24, 2012, 7:45pm (UTC -6)
Just watched it, regarding the last line... did they work the finale to fit that or was it planned all along? It works!
Roshard
Mon, Jul 23, 2012, 1:16am (UTC -6)
This is a great episode. Nic nailed everything about people misunderstanding and intepret prophecies different throughout history. This episode did a great job about using the bajoran prophecy in a realistic way.
N robinson
Wed, Aug 1, 2012, 9:57pm (UTC -6)
has anyone else noticed the Vedics final quotation of the fourth prophecy about the emissary

"The Emissary will face a fiery trial and will be forced to choose......"

Does this forshadow his eventual fate??

Nick R
Peremensoe
Wed, Sep 26, 2012, 10:08am (UTC -6)
Elliott, the line you're looking for about the wormhole aliens relationship with time *is* in the episode.

The Bajorans interpret everything about the wormhole aliens in 'religious' terms... but there's no need for anyone else to.
Elliott
Tue, Jan 29, 2013, 2:19pm (UTC -6)
@Peremensoe:

You missed my point. The Bajorans base the veracity of their religion on the quasi-magical abilities of the Prophets. If the Prophets' actions can be explained scientifically, the Bajoran religion should collapse and fall apart. Their belief system is akin to those Christians and Jews and Muslims and Hindus and whoever else makes the claim that their religion is "right" because it "explains" an aspect of the Universe which is entirely in the realm of the rational world. Let me be clear: not EVERY aspect of the Universe can be explained by science and there is certainly room for faith and belief, but not when it comes to those things which are plainly explicable by our reason!

These thoughts scream at me during an episode like this which is all about whether or not the "magical" part of religion is verifiable (which it isn't). That the question is never put to the fire is a huge disappointment and cements my distain for this series' take on religious matters as well as my flabbergast at the ability of other to either look past it or laud it.
Mike
Thu, Jul 4, 2013, 5:24am (UTC -6)
Elliot, what you are saying is nonsensical. I know you ALWAYS have an axe to grind with DS9 but there's absolutely nothing silly or irrational about the Bajoran religion within the context of DS9, because within that context the Prophets are established to be real. You may prefer to call them wormhole aliens, as I do, but they are clearly a "higher power" with an interest in Bajor. There's therefore nothing irrational about the Bajorans acknowledging the existence of the Prophets or even choosing to worship them, as the Prophets are invested enough in Bajor's existence and spiritual lives to wipe out an entire Dominion fleet and send Orbs, among other things. I'm an atheist, so I understand that you are clearly offended by the religious overtones, but comparing the Bajorans to Christians or Muslims is incorrect. The Prophets are provably real. God / Allah is not. If God were provably real, there would be nothing irrational about worshiping him / her / it. But even as I write this, I know your post isn't about rational debate, it's about shoving your opinion out there again and again. So, read this, know that you are being silly and just try to show a little more restraint in the future, because your little rants are all over this site.
Elliott
Thu, Jul 4, 2013, 11:07am (UTC -6)
@Mike:

"...there's absolutely nothing silly or irrational about the Bajoran religion within the context of DS9, because within that context the Prophets are established to be real...If God were provably real, there would be nothing irrational about worshiping him / her / it."

You state that the verisimilitude of a deity is the sole factor in determining the rationality of a religion. So the practices, beliefs and customs of a religious group bear no scrutiny--they are either rational if the deity exists or irrational if it does not? This seems very immoral to me. If the Prophets happened to be the sort of Old Testament-style deities which demanded Bajor take revenge upon its enemies, would you hold the same opinion of them? If, by religious conviction, Bajorans sought to exterminate the Cardassians, would you not "have an axe to grind" with this show?

Besides all that, if it is simply a rational choice for Bajorans to worship the Prophets (a silly name for the aliens, when you think about it) given their history and interaction with the aliens, then it ought to be a rational choice for anyone. Modern religions diffuse the "my God for my People" issue by claiming God(s) to be omniscient and having influence over all people, not just one tribe. Modern atheists also have a troubling tendency to placate the credulous and shield them from due criticism, as though their beliefs are so fragile and delicate they couldn't otherwise survive (which is insulting as much to religious people as to atheists).

You are not incorrect when you claim that the Bajorans' religion and modern Christianity or Islam cannot be compared because of the nature of their deities, which is exactly why the comparison in the show is so frustrating. When the specifics of the religion aren't discussed, the Bajorans are depicted as modern egalitarian democratic people...but their religion is actively the sort of backwater dessert nonsense which should be setting off alarm bells to the humans, at least.

It's an old and ultimately ineffective tactic to try and dismiss your combatant's argument in a debate by labelling something other than "debate" ("rant" in your case), but since we're offering advice: I would say, rather than analysing what you think the psychology of my arguments are, try focusing on the substance.
Grumpy
Thu, Jul 4, 2013, 1:30pm (UTC -6)
I think I actually agree with Elliott. Not about this being a 1-star episode, but its wishy-washiness reduces it to a 2.5 for me.

As Jammer said of Voyager's "Sacred Ground" the following year: "It wants to be a commentary, yet it still doesn't take any real stance on religion or science. It tries to have it both ways, by bringing up a question and then avoiding it... Yet it also walks a fine line around the issue so carefully that it ends up saying surprisingly little—and that is a flaw." Now, "Destiny" at least is less boring than "Sacred Ground" (although Janeway's personal drama is much more profound than any in this episode; even Sisko's ecstasy in "Rapture" was explained away as neurotransmitters) and it engages with the spiritual vs material debate throughout. But there's something missing.

The elephant being ignored is, I think, that although the Prophets' prophecies are objectively true, their interpretation is subjective (as discussed in the episode) and therefore the prophecies are as useless as any other metaphorical mumbo-jumbo. Granted, this wouldn't lead every Bajoran to the conclusion that prophecies are nonsense because they only make sense retrospectively, as Nic said about Nostradamus. Some, as Keiren pointed out, would take comfort in the objective truth of prophecies, even though their ambiguous wording makes them useless for guiding actions (as Dax says, pretend you never heard it). To me, the latter view is less correct than the former, and the episode's refusal to say so -- instead ending with "We were both right" -- is its biggest weakness.
Kotas
Tue, Oct 22, 2013, 6:55pm (UTC -6)
Pretty good episode considering it dealt with Bajoran religious mumbo jumbo.

6/10
Cheyne
Fri, Nov 22, 2013, 11:05am (UTC -6)
This is one of my favorites of the whole series, and perhaps the best exposition of Bajoran religion and Sisko's role as prophet, still within a reasonable framework.

Loved the vipers, loved the rogue vedik, loved Kira's exposition of her true feelings about Sisko as emissary and the conflict they cause, loved it all. Also, Dax wasn't as objectionable here as usual, especially in her chat with the Cardies.

As far as the religious debate, well, the prophets are beings outside time, why couldn't they share their knowledge through "prophecy"? For me it doesn't weaken the "Roddenberry universe" at all, as the prophets do exist as beings.

For me the true message of this episode is not science vs. religion, but Kira's conflicting roles as faithful Bajoran and second officer on a station, which it does present very well.
Cheyne
Fri, Nov 22, 2013, 11:29am (UTC -6)
Oops, should be "Sisko's role as emissary," not prophet, in the first paragraph.

But I'll take advantage of this correction to say that O'Brien's romance with one of the vipers was also enjoyable.
Vylora
Fri, Feb 21, 2014, 6:57pm (UTC -6)
I agree that this episode is more about Kira's struggles and how any prophecy can be translated to whatever circumstances one deems fit. I never really viewed this ep as "science vs religion" or at least it wasn't the main crux of the story anyhow.

Really their shouldn't be a "vs" to begin with. Religion is a concept completely man-made and any and all stories connected to any one of them have no basis in fact. Just because someone makes up an idea of god(s) doesn't all of a sudden mean its true. This universe has gone on for billions of years before our "ideas" and will survive just fine billions of years after us and our "ideas" are gone. Science is about experimenting and learning about how things work basically. It is not a philosophy nor is it a belief system and it most definitely is not a "flip side of a coin" to a belief system. We don't have modern conveniences and the ability to explore our solar system or even the explanation of how the sun comes up because we "believed" in them.

That being said, and as I've stated in another post, stories that involve religion into them don't bother me when done well. Fact is, is that there IS religion in real life therefore it makes sense to utilize it in fiction just like anything else in life. The knowledge that the Bajoran gods (Prophets, not a name any more silly than some real life names for deities) are a bit more tangible in a sense (sending orbs, the wormhole, etc) is probably what makes some of them hold on to there faith that much more. Yes there's scientific explanations for all of it but it would make much less dramatic sense for all Bajorans to suddenly "stop believing". A lot of them went through horrible times and it's the faith that helped them get through it. Is the faith correct? No. Do I wish people took less stock in religion in general and instead worked together to try to make our planet a better place? Yes. Does that mean religion should not be a storytelling device? No.

All in all as far as this ep is concerned it is well-written, adeptly executed, and adds more to the bigger picture of what's to come.

3.5 stars.
pip
Fri, Apr 18, 2014, 7:34am (UTC -6)
A big treat seeing Wendy Robie, one of my favourite Twin Peaks alumni. Almost unrecognisable without the eye patch.
Quarkissnyder
Sun, Jun 22, 2014, 11:03pm (UTC -6)
I thought the main plot was fine, even interesting. But the subplot with the Cardassians was so stupid. I hate it when Star Trek creates perfectly good alien races and then tries to show that "they're just like us." The idea that a Cardassian wouldn't like any Cardassian cuisine? That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. And the Cardassian scientist throwing herself at O'Brien? Just make it stop. Humans would be just as ugly to alien races as they are to us. And the idea that the scientists would suddenly out someone as a spy and saboteur, but that's okay because they'll be protected by their superiors? Sorry, that goes against everything we know about Cardassian society and government.
Yanks
Fri, Aug 1, 2014, 12:21pm (UTC -6)
This episode is DS9's way of slamming religion without slamming it. The prophecy was true without being true. It all depends on your viewpoint; which is as much true for the religious as the militant atheists in practice.

Brilliantly conceived and executed episode.

I enjoy this one each time I watch it.

3.5 stars for me.
Sean
Sun, Aug 3, 2014, 2:40am (UTC -6)
Elliott, they did indeed explain it. Sisko said exactly what you wanted the episode to say: that a man thousands of years ago saw this particular event in history because the prophets showed it to him through the orbs. Yet he had no idea what it meant since it was way beyond his technological level, so he wrote it down in his own terms.

The episode isn't validating the religion at all. It's saying that the religion exists because of the prophets showing people these things and them writing it down as prophecy. The episode itself isn't saying the religion is valid because of it. At least, I didn't interpret it that way.

Besides, the Bajoran religion isn't really much of a religion when the gods clearly exist and clearly do hand out scenes from the future to be written as prophecy. At that point it's very much so a matter of science because we can observe these entities. Although that said, no one knew the wormhole or the aliens in it existed until the first episode so there's that.

The show itself never really took a stand on whether or not it validated the Bajoran religion. At the very least they might have said they liked the idea of faith itself, but to be honest I never got that impression myself.

It's interesting to compare this religion with the Dominion faith in the founders. As you were talking about, what if the prophets were Christian/Muslim style gods that wanted the Bajorans to wipe out the Cardassians altogether? This is much what we see with the Dominion. Although the Dominion gods are obviously real, the belief in them as gods was programmed into their DNA. If anything, this is a very clear DS9 indictment against religion, as opposed to the treatment of the Bajoran religion, in that we see the Jem'Hadar and the Vorta have blind faith in their gods which does indeed cause them to do horrible things.

As for myself, I'm a huge DS9 fan, of course, but I don't know about the religious episodes myself that directly involve the prophets. They seemed too fantasy to me. Although that said, I did really enjoy the Dukat/Winn story arc that ended the religious themes on the show. Not necessarily the climax in the caves, but the build up to that was quite good.
Scott
Mon, Sep 1, 2014, 7:52pm (UTC -6)
In the first episode of the series Sisko has to explain time to the wormhole aliens. The same time in which the bajorans live. This should have been a huge topic of discussion. How are the aliens seen as gods of the bajorans if they need a human to explain the time in which the bajorans exist. And what does God even mean to the bajorans? Today the major religions believe in a God that created everything. People believe Gods can not be destroyed. Yet bajorans know that the wormhole aliens can be killed using technology. Kira has been upset a couple times when plans were being made that could harm the aliens. Ds9 talked about the wormhole aliens a lot but nobody ever asked Kira about the fact that their Gods can be killed. Worf also talks about klingon Gods being killed. So logic would say that bajorans don't think the aliens created the universe because they don't even understand the universe in which the bajorans live. This is why Sisko is the weakest captain. No other captain would be fooled into doing whatever the aliens wanted. I wish we could have gotten a scene where Quark tells Kira how the aliens evolved the Nagus and how Quark met with the prophets and explained profit. I don't think they could show that scene because Kira would have to question her whole faith with a plot that dumb.
dlpb
Fri, Dec 19, 2014, 6:46pm (UTC -6)
Brilliantly conceived and executed episode.
--------

Once again, have to disagree. Its whole premise is stolen from Babylon 5 again (The prophecies from Valen and the Vorlons), Except B5 did it much better, and over a proper arc.

Ignoring that, it's a decent episode, but also as the above poster notes, produced questions that the writers deliberately didn't try to answer because they couldn't.
Diane
Wed, Feb 11, 2015, 7:05am (UTC -6)
The one aspect of DS9 that I liked continually is the fact they had religion. This is the part that resembles real life. People have their gods. We cannot travel to the stars, at least not yet, and we don't have shapeshifters, etc., but we have our religions. Now, the way they portray it here is a little odd, but I can relate to the Bajorans.
Andrew
Fri, Jul 24, 2015, 9:28am (UTC -6)
A good episode but it felt weird for the usually open-minded Dax to be so dismissive of the prophecy, there it felt like the writers were just using the trope that the scientific are cold or hostile to religious ideas.
William B
Sat, Sep 26, 2015, 11:15am (UTC -6)
1. What is life like in a world where there are *accurate* prophesies? Prophesies that are genuine gateways into future events, not statements which happen to be right on occasion? Some theists believe that we exist in such a world, and so can supply an answer -- "look around you." Atheists, myself included (well, I am more broadly agnostic, but I am skeptical of any human theism so let's start with that), would not. Regardless, part of the problem with *prophesy* either in our actual world or in fiction is that they are tricky business -- they rely on interpretation, usually, which means that something can "come true" but in a very different way than the way the prophesy had been interpreted. So, okay, this has implications beyond prophesy, to all religious texts -- how do we interpret moral instruction that was written centuries or millennia ago and then translated multiple times, in a time in which human abilities and geography and the state of the world was considerably different? People cannot agree on what an individual holy text means. And this extends beyond religion to any human endeavour. Communication is hard, especially when through the veil of time.

In this episode, it's noteworthy that not only the religious but also the scientific predictions were wrong, though not entirely -- the scientific projection that communication through the wormhole would be possible was correct, but because of the comet rather than in spite of it; the religious prophesy was correct though its meaning was the opposite of what the Vedek believed. I am not saying that science and religion are comparable; most religious people tend to believe, too, that they represent different ways of knowing, different spheres of study. But this episode has some kind of a caution against being too certain of how one "reads the signs." Cause and effect are not necessarily as closely related as one might believe. It is only after communication is established that the full scientific and theological understanding, both, is conveyed.

It's a bit of a weird "message" -- whatever you do, you might not understand until after you've acted what you have just accomplished, so, uh, just do whatever, I guess. Sisko chose to follow his rationalist, scientific impulses, but the attempt to deflect the comet did end up significantly altering the wormhole rather than leaving it alone, so, basically, most of what Sisko accomplished in this episode was accidental. Accidents happen, and it is important to be humbled by the recognition that we cannot predict the outcomes of events. And I am in favour of praising humility.

2. Of course, the other message here is not "sometimes, things turn out differently than you had intended, and you can only understand what had just happened after the fact," and a suggestion of humility. The other element is that Sisko becomes both humbled and emboldened to believe that he *is* the Emissary, because through no wish of his own he acted out a vaguely worded prophesy about the Emissary and the wormhole. Sisko is uncomfortable with being the Emissary, and ends the episode much more comfortable with it, even though in the intervening time mostly everything he did had the opposite (proximate) effect. That means he must be blessed! Okay. That the Vedek's predictions of events were completely wrong, and the prophesy was only "useful" after the fact, once the wormhole's open communications were accomplished, should maybe be a signal to be wary of other Emissary prophesies, especially as interpreted by this Vedek. But in any case, Sisko wants to hear more, which is understandable at the very least because of intellectual curiosity, and the implication is that this event has turned him *somewhat* more, if not totally, into a believer that he has a divine role. It is a weird thing to think of: Sisko's believing that he is quasi-messiah is both diminishing of his own individuality and ability to make choices, and extreme self-aggrandizement. Maybe they are both the same thing.

It is nice to explore, *finally*, what Sisko's Messianic status means for Kira. Frankly, I can't think of a single incident in the first two and a half seasons which suggested that Kira did regard Sisko with awe at all, even if she, as she claims here, kept it locked down in work mode. So I find the discussion here, with Kira indicating that she has always believed that Sisko is the Emissary, a little difficult to swallow -- but then, I also can see how compartmentalization is bound to be not just a general tactic for people, but one especially for Kira, who had to kill people for freedom for years and then shift straight into a law-abiding/enforcing officer, as well as maintain her pious respect for all life with her hatred of her oppressors, etc. I am ultimately glad to see this out in the open, given that it's a part of the show, and I do think that the Kira/Sisko scenes were generally effective.

Still, while on this topic: the Bajoran religion is nothing like Earth religions -- except to a degree the quasi-religious despotic regimes that elevate Pharaoh or Stalin or Mao to God-King -- in that they *genuinely have an opportunity to talk to their Gods, right now*. Hey, could Sisko try asking the Prophets whether they actually did tell that Vedek back in the day about the three vipers, and if so, were the vipers Cardassians? Ask politely to borrow an Orb (or is that one Opaka gave him still on the station? I forget) and go in. The Wormhole Aliens might not respond, but it is worth a try. And of course, *ZEK* thinks of this in *literally the next episode*. The episode depends on divine prophesy given to Vedeks hundreds of years ago and treats it as equally nonverifiable (and, relatedly, nonfalsifiable) as Earth religious prophesies, but there is the wormhole right there -- you know, where they are trying to set up communications? That they know it is possible that the WAs communicated with a Vedek in their nonlinear way means that the prophesy is not just theological, but scientific/historical data, whose validity they can attempt to ascertain by going straight to the horse's mouth. But they don't, because this episode is on the confused side.

3. This is also an episode about Bajoran/Cardassian relations (and Federation/Cardassian), which fortunately gives the idea more weight than "Life Support" did. I like how the Obsidian Order's disruptive influence is a constant thread this season. I also really enjoyed the subplot with O'Brien, and the idea of Cardassian society having a particular kind of sexism that men are weak in STEM fields, which eschews the simplistic matriarchy concept from "Angel One" or "Sanctuary" and replaces it with a pretty interesting and believable kind of sexism which is more about order than anything else -- it is convenient to have strongly delineated roles for military (men) and science and tech (women) in a civilization that relies so heavily on order. And the flirting was cute. Some of the episode is really "should we trust the Cardassians," and the answer is, sort of -- the *actual scientists* were trustworthy, but the Obsidian Order is always there, and the forces in Cardassia that this represents are hard to distinguish from the friendlier side. I am not quite sure if I understood the Obsidian Order agent's plan. Given that the wormhole is of such huge strategic importance, would she really sabotage this thing solely to trash the Bajoran/Cardassian peace treaty? Either the Obsidian Order wants more wormhole access or would want to shut it off; I can't imagine them having any real investment in the B/C treaty in comparison to the wormhole's broader importance. Especially since we know they are already massing their fleet (from "Defiant")....

Anyway, I think the episode is fairly exciting and interesting, but the ideas are difficult to get a handle on because of the weirdness at the centre of the Bajoran religion -- that it is based on actual beings, who could at least potentially be contacted -- so that the implicit comparisons this episode makes with Earth religions remain frustrating pretty much throughout. I still like the episode somewhat though...but yeah, I think I'll say 2.5 stars (I could go to 3).
William B
Sun, Sep 27, 2015, 9:27pm (UTC -6)
I talked about it a bit, but I want to emphasize that there is something defeatist/destinyist in this show. No matter what Sisko et al. do, they cannot stop what is coming from happening, at least not as long as they believe in science. However, their belief in science ends up making the prophesy come true, which turns out to be a good thing (since the prophesy had been misinterpreted). That the original plan to get the wormhole communications relay set up probably wouldn't have worked is also somewhat implied, since it is only the selithium (sp?) in the comet that allows the wormhole to be permanently "open" and to let communication through. It is *very* much a "the Prophets work in mysterious ways" ending, which seems to suggest that a series of unlikely events came together to carry out what the Prophets foretold (through the orbs I guess) or even *caused* to happen through their will; this is what makes Sisko start to be a man of faith at the end.

Actually, this is not unique to this episode; in many ways, "Cause and Effect" and "Time's Arrow," while very...secular, also suggest something like fate operating (the glass that keeps breaking in "CaE," the way in which a series of unlikely events come to a head for Data...). "Time's Arrow" actually is very close to this episode, with the crew trying to avoid Data's death and yet bringing it about, but the literal satisfaction of the "Data dies" prediction does not necessarily work out as badly for him as it had to -- he survives, after all, even if his head does get severed and remain underground. The difference is that this uncanny and unsettling experience, which I think is something of an update of various myths featuring prophesies which come true in the attempt to defy them (ala Oedipus Rex or whatever), really is left in a separate category from religion, whereas "Destiny" very obviously puts this in a religious context. Which...is strange, because yes human religions are non-verifiable (and thus non-falsifiable). But within the context of this episode it mostly sort of works.

Anyway, I think I will go to 3 stars. I really enjoy the episode as a show, find its pacing and characterization generally strong. It is hard to quite get a handle on the show's religious dimension though, because of systematic elements of the show that I am uncomfortable with.
Jeffrey
Mon, Oct 19, 2015, 9:14pm (UTC -6)
Lol... I find it amusing that some people seem to desperately desire that Star Trek somehow more firmly "take sides" in real life when it comes to spirituality/religion versus secularism/science. As if there is any need or pragmatic reason why they should. Keep dreaming...
Diamond Dave
Thu, Nov 26, 2015, 3:58pm (UTC -6)
One of those episodes that has its cake and eats it in the discussion of the ancient prophecy. But nevertheless it does neatly skewer Sisko's avoidance of the Emissary question when Odo asks points out his agenda. And while Kira might believe the prophecy because of her faith, she also provides a cogent scientific reason that the Prophets/wormhole aliens might have foreseen events given they exist outside of time and communicated that. But at the end it was all a misunderstanding, and actually it wasn't a prophecy of doom but one of glad tidings and just as well we got all that sorted out for the good then. Seems like a bit of a cop out.

It was also good to see some interplay with Cardassians who are not military dictators, just for a change. 3 stars.
Luke
Wed, Mar 16, 2016, 7:59pm (UTC -6)
Just like "In the Hands of the Prophets", "Destiny" actually treats religious people with respect and doesn't just paint them as dogmatic idiots or simple-minded buffoons. Take, for example, Vedek Yarka. He's committed to his faith and his interpretation of Trakor's prophecy. However, when it's revealed that his interpretation was incorrect he doesn't act foolishly. He instead is presented as someone who is perfectly willing to admit his mistakes and own up to his prejudices. Also take for example Kira and her "Starfleet" explanation of how the prophecy is legitimate. Everything she says in that scene is completely rational, completely sensible and completely logical, so much so that even Sisko (who is determined to be the detached non-religious Starfleet officer) can't just easily dismiss it. Compare this treatment to the way religion is presented in TNG: "Devil's Due" and the differences are shocking.

And therein lays "Destiny's" greatest strength - almost all sides and characters are given equal shrift. The only noticeable exception is Dax, who gives a truly asinine argument to Sisko which isn't even challenged (she basically wants him to ignore the prophecy because you can't let inconvenient pieces of data get in your way?) (given that they're dealing with aliens that exist outside of time, that seems remarkably stupid!) (given also that just two scenes previous Sisko calls the Cardassians on the carpet for ignoring inconvenient pieces of data and Dax looks even worse). Still, everyone else is given a chance to make their case for or against the prophecy without judgements or condemnations. On top of that there's the amazing scene between Sisko and Odo where the writers fully admit that even detached Starfleet types can be influenced by their agendas and beliefs. A lot of times atheists and other secularists like to act like they alone see the world as it truly is, that only they are capable of viewing things impartially. The truth is that everyone, religious and non-religious alike, is influenced by their agendas and it's really nice to see Trek finally admitting that.

Also enjoyable is that the writers are finally getting back to examining Sisko's role as the Emissary, which (if I'm not mistaken) hasn't been that much of a focus since the first episode. Why they waited this long to get back to this rather crucial part of the tapestry is beyond me. But, it is nice to see Sisko taking his first steps towards his eventual embrace of Bajoran faith and his role within it. Having Sisko spend most of the episode doing everything he can to avoid the matter but ending up being interested in hearing about other prophecies is a nice touch. And just an aside - Trakor's Fourth Prophecy says that the Emissary will face a fiery trial and be forced to choose something? You might want to pay attention to that one, Sisko. Just saying. :-P

In the B-plot we get some fairly decent comedic bits involving O'Brien and a sexy Cardassian scientist played by Captain Lochley from "Babylon 5". Not much to say here other than that it's pleasant and enjoyable for what it is - especially the scene where Lochley thinks O'Brien wants to impregnate her.

WTF HAIR - 21 (+4)

9/10
DLPB
Wed, Apr 20, 2016, 9:02am (UTC -6)
Good episode - sadly the writers couldn't help but inject their silly leftism into it. The whole "Women dominate the sciences" nonsense.
DLPB
Wed, Apr 20, 2016, 9:04am (UTC -6)
Although, as I noted above - it wasn't executed too well, and it is stolen from B5.
Robert
Wed, Apr 20, 2016, 10:21am (UTC -6)
The women dominate the sciences isn't a leftist idea. It's just showing that Cardassians have gender roles that are atypical for humans
Luke
Wed, Apr 20, 2016, 1:00pm (UTC -6)
I'm about as conservative as they come on this site and I don't think it was a leftist message either. It was just something to make the Cardassians appear actually alien.
Yanks
Thu, Apr 21, 2016, 9:01am (UTC -6)
@ dlpb
Fri, Dec 19, 2014, 6:46pm (UTC -5)

Brilliantly conceived and executed episode.
--------

Once again, have to disagree. Its whole premise is stolen from Babylon 5 again (The prophecies from Valen and the Vorlons), Except B5 did it much better, and over a proper arc.

Ignoring that, it's a decent episode, but also as the above poster notes, produced questions that the writers deliberately didn't try to answer because they couldn't.
=====================================================

... and they did it well. That's all the really matters in the end. There is nothing new in TV/Movies, it's all a rehash/reinvention/reinterpretation of something that has come before.
DLPB
Fri, May 13, 2016, 8:23pm (UTC -6)
I'm about as conservative as they come on this site and I don't think it was a leftist message either. It was just something to make the Cardassians appear actually alien.
--------

lol. Really? You think the writers weren't trying to make some daft connection with the real human world in this episode? Come, now. Get real.
Skywalker
Tue, May 17, 2016, 6:49pm (UTC -6)
I love how potato-faced Irish handyman O'Brien gets all the exotic girls — Keiko, the crazy-murderer Bajoran engineer, and now Gilora the Trekkie-nerd-fantasy Cardassian scientist! Awesome. She really is stunning (why are Cardassian women so attractive? This is getting weird...). "I could provide you with many healthy children, but frankly I think you're getting ahead of yourself." Haha! Has Cardassian-Human fertility even been attempted? We've seen a couple Cardassian-Bajoran hybrids.

That "comet" was way too small! They should have made it a few kilometres wide to be more convincing. The Defiant could have just sat in front of the wormhole and blocked those tiny pieces.

But I really like how it ended. Nice episode.

I also echo how odd it is that they writers set up Sisko to be the Emissary in the pilot without doing anything with that fact for more than two years! The later seasons really developed this thread into what it was meant to be. Were they really just allowing the mundane DS9 universe to be formed for two seasons, knowing they would get around to Sisko-as-Emissary? Amazing gamble! Thankfully it paid off. ENT never got the chance to really come into its own; dutifully, in its 4th season, ENT became good, just like TNG and DS9 and VOY. But then ENT was canceled. Such a shame. The writers on all the series really took for granted that they would last for a multi-year run. BSG never needed that kind of buffer. RDM certainly raised the bar for Sci-Fi. Hopefully the new Trek TV series coming out in January will compare with the best of the TNG-era shows, plus the power of BSG or the fun of Firefly.
Vii
Sat, Mar 11, 2017, 1:16pm (UTC -6)
@Quarkissnyder: Humans would be just as ugly to alien races as they are to us.

----

I beg to differ, I found most of the Cardassian men very handsome, even with all that makeup, the grey skin, the snaking long necks and scales. I think it's something about how the reptilian design brings out their masculinity, especially in those broad shouldered uniforms. The DS9 Cardassian regulars were very easy on the eyes and improved with each viewing (Dukat, Damar and Garak), and some of the minor ones were real hunks. Glinn Tajor and Vornar come to mind. I believe the guy playing Tajor even turned to a career in adult films. I can think of lots of other attractive alien species too. One obvious example would be Spock from Vulcan (half human, but he still counts).

As for attractive Cardassian women, I thought Gilora was very cute, but Natima Lang gets my vote for being far and away the best looking Cardassian woman. Why is it that Quark always gets the stunners?!
tara
Sun, Mar 12, 2017, 9:37pm (UTC -6)
What Vii said about Cardassian males. Among other things, I love the way their uniforms come to a peak in the center of their chest. I don't know what's under there or why that slays my girlish heart so much, but there you have it.

Among female aliens: I find the Vulcans most attractive. Maybe that's just my taste for androgyny. YMMV.

On a related topic: I can't figure out why Wesley Crusher's GF on "The Game" is so widely adored (see the comments on that episode). I'm not a hater; I agree she's cute, but a million actresses are cute. I'm curious what her special appeal is. Off the top of my head, I'd give higher marks to Sonya Gomez, Minuet, Picard's wife Aline, the "Perfect Mate" metamorph, Vash, the Vulcan girl at Wes's Starfleet entrance exam, and probably a hundred others.
Chrome
Mon, Mar 13, 2017, 10:25am (UTC -6)
@Tara

"On a related topic: I can't figure out why Wesley Crusher's GF on "The Game" is so widely adored"

This was Judd's "break-out" role which led to her appearing in many other TV shows and movies in the 90s (and 00s). It's funny to see her as some one-off character in a geeky sci-fi show.
Welchie!!!!!
Fri, Mar 31, 2017, 2:21pm (UTC -6)
I like science and fiction so when artists decided to mold those two things into one I said"sign me up".
Vii
Tue, Apr 18, 2017, 12:11am (UTC -6)
@Tara, no prob. I appreciate your posts very much as well.

Yes, I love those pointy thingies on their chest armour! Boy am I glad that they decided to ditch those ugly clunky outfits and shudderingly hideous helmets worn by Gul Macet in TNG.

Vulcan women are attractive, for sure. I thought Sakonna was incredibly good looking in 'The Maquis.' Not to mention T'Pol, of course.

I liked Judd as Lefler. I think it had something to do with how.. wholesome she seemed? And the Perfect Mate metamorph was Famke Jansen of Jean Grey Xmen fame, LOL. I think Vash is incredibly attractive too.
Startrekwatcher
Tue, Aug 1, 2017, 10:17pm (UTC -6)
3 stars. Good solid hour. I preferred Civil Defense and Visionary more for this type of episode this season. And probably by no coincidence all were freelanced scripts

The Defrocked vedek was interesting piece.
Possibly trying to Scuttle Bajoran Cardassisn treaty interesting and sensible element to incorporate
The Imagery from the prophecy such as three vipers returning to nest neat!
Bajoran/ cardassian treaty put to good use
Didn't care for subplot obrien female Cardassisn but did like her standing up for him so as not to take fall for phaser malfunction. I also liked their final scene at end thumbs up. Their earlier scenes would have been more interesting and better if dropped the romantic misunderstanding angle and bonded over their shared technical wizardry
Smart to establish a relay to communicate between station and gamma quadrant thumbs up
Enjoyed teaser and quark seeing cardassians making a return to station as a boon for business
Continue Liking idea of rules of acquisition which adds realistic flare to Ferengi
Good Sisko- Kira scene on Defiant and Her attempt to sway sisko to end mission by appealing to a more grounded explanation for the prophecy
Rahul
Thu, May 3, 2018, 8:02pm (UTC -6)
Enjoyable episode -- having a prophecy involved (however it's interpreted) and seeing things coming true and forcing the characters to question themselves makes for a quality show. Having the Bajoran religious background along with memories of the Cardassian occupation provides plenty of fertile ground to build on.

Kira is particularly interesting here as her Bajoran beliefs take over as the prophecy starts unfolding whereas Sisko even starts to question himself. For me, the best scene was when he's talking with Odo and the shapeshifter talks about all humans having agendas. I didn't think Sisko had any agenda but perhaps he did about the Emissary role. Have to wonder how this show changes Sisko with respect to the Emissary role going forward.

The part with the comet heading toward the wormhole after the first test of the transceiver is something we can tolerate even if it may be arbitrary/farfetched. But what I thought was clever was the 3rd Cardy being from the Obsidian Order sabotaging O'Brien's phaser modifications and the the shuttle then guiding the 3 comet fragments through the wormhole (being the 3 vipers), thus fulfilling the prophecy. So there's maybe a bit of a stretch here but it's not ridiculous.

Aside from fulfilling the prophecy bit, there were some interesting character moments here where we can get more texture to the Cardies and their interactions with other races. The O'Brien cross-cultural misunderstanding was funny -- but it shed light on the female Cardies dominating the sciences (and that the sciences report to the military) and their bizarre courtship. Also thought the first scene when the 2 Cardy scientists meet Kira that there's an uneasy tension bordering on suspicion but Kira, I think, shows great restraint in acting professionally. It was a well-played scene.

I also wonder, just leaving the transceiver array in the GQ, surely the Dominion will do something with it -- it can't just stay there unnoticed.

Solid 3 stars for "Destiny" -- lots of good character interactions here that are lasting and impactful I feel. It's not a perfect episode as there are some seemingly arbitrary happenings, but it had a some good tension and suspicion surrounding the Cardassians. Nice how the prophecy winds up holding true and that it was just misinterpreted -- surprised that at the end of the episode Sisko even gives that Vedic a second of his time. A good episode to focus on and move along the Cardassian/Bajoran relationship.
CaptainBaggins
Fri, Aug 10, 2018, 3:51pm (UTC -6)
Ths DLPB cunt needs a slap.
Iceman
Tue, Aug 14, 2018, 12:03am (UTC -6)
"Destiny" is built upon interesting ideas, but it's not a very compelling episode. It can't really decide which of its interesting ideas to fully explore, and ends up saying almost nothing at all. A weak and fluffy B plot with O'Brien doesn't help, although Diamond Dave is correct that it adds depth to the Cardassians-not that they need it.

2.5 stars
grumpy_otter
Sun, Sep 9, 2018, 8:25pm (UTC -6)
There's that damn Cardassian coffee table again in the first scene! lol

Who thought that was a good idea? Look at the amount of space it takes up, then look at the amount of surface area it has for actually putting things on! Makes me laugh every time.

No live vole fights on the Promenade? Well darn, I was looking forward to that!

That one Cardassian woman looks like the female version of Garak!

And man, those two are really nice. I hope that doesn't mean (as so often it does) that they are hiding something diabolical.

I like this quote:

"I took your overt irritability toward me as a signal that you wished to pursue some sort of physical relationship!"

I think Miles was doing a little fantasizing about a Cardassian liaison!

But all that prophecy crap? I hate that shit. Vague words that can be interpreted in any number of ways and are only understood to have applied to the situation after the fact. Useless.
Peter G.
Sun, Sep 9, 2018, 9:10pm (UTC -6)
"But all that prophecy crap? I hate that shit. Vague words that can be interpreted in any number of ways and are only understood to have applied to the situation after the fact. Useless."

Except for the fact that Bajoran prophets get their messages from aliens who can literally see into their future.
Brian
Wed, Sep 19, 2018, 8:41pm (UTC -6)
Excellent episode, probably 4 stars from me. I love most of the emissary episodes, but I enjoy that sub genre of sci do.
grumpy_otter
Sun, Sep 23, 2018, 7:51pm (UTC -6)
Peter G., you said, "Except for the fact that Bajoran prophets get their messages from aliens who can literally see into their future. "

Yeah, I know--so don't give vague blah blah about a "sword of stars" and "vipers"! That's what I meant--the prophecies are so vague they can be interpreted any number of ways and it is only after the fact that it is clear they might have applied to this situation.

I am reminded of the annoying-as-hell Oracle of Delphi who acted the same way, once telling a king, "If your army invades the enemy, an empire will be destroyed." He thought that meant he would be victorious, but of course the Oracle meant HIS empire would be destroyed. Why didn't it just say, "Don't do it, dude. You'll be toast."? lol Fucking prophecies.
Peter G.
Sun, Sep 23, 2018, 8:45pm (UTC -6)
"Why didn't it just say, "Don't do it, dude. You'll be toast."? lol Fucking prophecies."

You presuppose that the oracle's purpose is to give the hearer the power to change the future predicted in the prophecy. But then it wouldn't be a prophecy! The actual function of telling a prophecy is to *create* that future, which is exactly what the Prophets do. It would be a mistake to think that the Oracle at Delphi told Oedipus his fortune in order to give him the power to thwart it; the theme of Oedipus the King is that you cannot thwart the god. Not only does hearing it not allow Oedipus to escape his fate, but in fact it's precisely the thing that sets that fate into motion.

Does that answer your question?
grumpy_otter
Mon, Sep 24, 2018, 6:02pm (UTC -6)
Peter, just to be clear I was talking mostly tongue-in-cheek, not angrily, but wow! You came up with an explanation for prophecy that actually makes some sense! I am very practical and hate mysticism of all sorts, so having some sort of practicality to a prophecy makes me pleased.

I am not sure if your reference to Oedipus was a reference to my presenting a prophecy--just fyi--I was referring to the prophecy given to Croesus before he attacked the Persians.

Appreciate your input!
Elliott
Wed, Oct 10, 2018, 3:39pm (UTC -6)
Teaser : ***, 5%

A team of Cardassian scientists are visiting the station in a joint project to create a communications link through the wormhole. Nice to see some diplomatic projects undertaken in the wake of the new treaty from “Life Support.” Odo and Sisko have taken measures to make the Cardassians feel welcome (warm quarters, Cardassian dishes...which I guess were expunged from the replicator data files), despite Odo's concerns over latent resentment from the Bajorans. Dax, meanwhile is a little skeptical of the science behind this venture, but that's hardly the point of their visit, after all. Quark is also looking forward to the prospect of new customers to consume his Kanar:

QUARK: There may only be two for now, but there'll be more, thanks to the peace treaty.
DAX: And as the thirty fourth Rule of Acquisition states, peace is good for business.
QUARK: That's the thirty fifth Rule.
DAX: Oh, you're right. What's the thirty fourth?
QUARK: War is good for business. It's easy to get them confused.

Zing. Quark carries on his comedy routine, which is unfortunate as the bit I quoted above would have been just perfect on its own. It's starts to wear thin when it turns out his Kanar has spoilt.

A Stanley Tucci Knockoff Vedek later visits Sisko in his office. He says the Prophets don't want the Cardassians boarding the station or there will be GREAT DOOM. Oh god, here we go...

Act 1 : *.5, 17%

Stanely Tucci explains to Sisko and Kira that a prophecy, delivered by a man called Trakor,
specifically warned against this visit. And by “specifically,” I mean he made a very poetic proclamation: “When the river wakes, stirred once more to Janir's side, three vipers will return to their nest in the sky. And when the vipers try to peer through the temple gates, a sword of stars will appear in the heavens, the temple will burn and the gates will be cast open.”

Apparently, “the” river has “awoken” in the sense that a dam has been built to divert water to “the” city. Uh-huh. Oh, and there are Cardassian “vipers” on their way to visit the sky-nest called DS9.

Okay, first question, if the wormhole aliens are called “Prophets,” what is Trakor called, a Prophet-prophet? If Bajoran priests are the ones who make prophecies, interpreting information from the Orbs, then why aren't *they* the ones referred to as prophets?

You've also got to love this line from Tucci : “I know it is difficult for you to accept because you are not Bajoran.” 15 seconds later : “That is why I came to you, Emissary. Because I have faith in you.” Even Quark wouldn't be this transparent. Oh yeah, I wonder if Sisko is going to tell this guy that he tried to destroy “The Celestial Temple” himself during that simulation in “The Search.”

Anyway, the Cardassian scientists arrive with much diplomatic flair. Kira struggles to be welcoming, but manages, through her teeth, to be an adult. The Cardassian scientists and Sisko commiserate over the pressure they're all under by their respective governments to see this peace venture succeed. The lead scientist, Ulani, thanks Kira personally for allowing the visit, as the ranking Bajoran officer on DS9. Overall, the two are extremely charming for Cardassians.

In the design meeting, Dax repeats her skepticism from the teaser to Ulani. The Cardassians, Dax and O'Brien quibble over some of the technobabble, with some minor hostility towards O'Brien creeping into their talks. Sisko makes a little joke about how friendly the “vipers” are right on cue for Ulani to get situationally ironic on his ass and inform him that another viper will be joining them. GASP! It's all true! The Iluminati are REAL!!

Act 2 : .5 stars, 17%

Odo reveals that Stanley Tucci has been defrocked over protesting the new peace treaty. So, he clearly has an agenda. And Odo, for no other reason than he's the writers' smug mouthpiece in this scene, tells Sisko that he *too* has an agenda. This is the same kind of whataboutism drivel from ItHotP. In that episode, Sisko said to Jake: “If you start to act that way, you'll be just like Vedek Winn, only from the other side.” As I explained in detail there, that's complete bullshit.

SISKO: Are you suggesting that I'm dismissing this prophecy too easily because I don't want to be the Emissary?
ODO: I'm not suggesting anything.

Oh fuck you, Odo, yes you are suggesting something. You are suggesting that genuine neutrality towards Bajoran beliefs is a mistake. You...you're acting like Zack fucking Brannigan: “With enemies, you know where you stand, but with those dirty Neutrals, who knows?”

Ugh.

Meanwhile, Stanley Tucci confronts Kira on the Promenade, his zealotry making her look positively secular by comparison. Because he's an opportunistic asshole, Tucci accuses Kira of lacking piety—much as Bitchwhore would—because she has chosen to defer to her commanding officer. Tucci's approach is essentially, do you believe in the Prophets? Yes. Do you believe in the Emissary? Yes. Do you believe in separation of church and state? Yes? Ah, well then you don't REALLY believe. And Kira, to my sincere and utter disappointment, falls for this manipulative and asinine display:

“It is not I who is asking, it is the Prophets. If you turn your back on them now, you're abandoning your faith. And without your faith, Nerys, what do you have left?”

Dude, eat a bag of dicks.

The Cardassian and Federation scientists are discussing Cardassian literature at Quark's when their third viper/colleague arrives. The two original ladies express their distaste for their own planet's cuisine, which Quark has happily provided. The new scientist, Dejar, chastises her colleagues for acting superior. Ironic, that.

Gloriana or whatever her name is later gives Miles shit for the modifications he has made to some of the tech tech in Ops. She's condescending and rude to him. Well, that's fun. Eventually, they all make their way to the Defiant and enter the wormhole to the GQ. On the other side, a rogue comet appears on sensors right nearby. Mhm. And I guess this comet has a little warp core inside, too, because there's no way in fucking hell the team on DS9, having spent three years in the GQ, wouldn't already have known about this comet being right next door to this unique spacial phenomenon. Can you say contrived? Ah, well, in addition to that warp drive, this comet has a mineral which makes the tail grow super bright, just like, dare I say it, A SWORD OF STARS! Oh, I don't have to say it, because Kira, again, mumbles this line from her station.

Act 3 : *, 17%

Sisko has everyone proceed as normal, but asks Kira for a word. To her credit, she apologises for bringing up the prophecy in front of the Cardassians, even as she admits she believes the prophecy is coming true. Oh, where to begin with this scene? Sisko tells Kira that he needs a “Starfleet” reason to call off the mission. What an ass. Yeah, he's so dedicated to the principles of the Federation and Starfleet that he's eager for an excuse to conform this religious nonsense to his duties. And then there's Kira who says aloud that the wormhole aliens exist outside of linear time, so there's a “Starfleet” reason for Sisko to heed the warning. Yeah. So, knowing exactly what your gods are and why the appear to have magical powers, remind me why you still FUCKING WORSHIP THEM, Kira! Modern religion (which is what the Bajoran faith is depicted to be) is founded upon the idea of exploring the numinous through unknowable mystery, not assigning arbitrary divinity to particular phenomena.

At any rate, she makes the point that Trakor's prophecy isn't a prophecy at all if you think of it like a message from the future, which the Prophets are capable of delivering. Sisko counters that the metaphorical language of the prophecy leaves too much ambiguity to be heeded in the way she's suggesting. He's right, of course, but this brings up a different issue. Religious texts, like poetry, intentionally utilise ambiguity because this is an artistic means of expressing that unknowable mystery I talked about. What makes such metaphors so beautiful and powerful is that very ambiguity. Now, Trakor's prophecy isn't especially beautiful, but more importantly, the ambiguity serves no function. … I will come back to this point.

Right now, I need to talk about Kira. Did she take Stanely Tucci's words to heart? Apparently, she does believe the prophecy is unfolding and her gods are about to be cut off from her and her people for ever. Um, loyalty to the chain of command is admirable, Major, but if you actually believe that the Emissary is about to DESTROY your people's conduit to their gods, why aren't you shooting the Defiant's warp core at this very moment?

On DS9, Miles and Gloriana are still bickering. It turns out she is a sexist. I guess Cardassian men are discouraged from participating in the sciences. So, we're dealing with a mini-”Angel One.” Great.

In the GQ, they've deployed the relay (an attractive visual) and the Defiant sends its test signal. After a few misfires, something goes wrong and the wormhole starts acting up. The gravitational surge has altered the magical comet's course towards the wormhole. Dax realises that the candy core inside will destroy the it. FOR EVER.

Act 4 : **, 17%

On DS9, they discuss the issue. It turns out that the Cardassians failed to include the remote possibility of this problem occurring in the data they shared. This was because the CCC demands no project appear “unnecessarily” dangerous. While this does fit in with the Orwellian system we have seen portrayed in episodes like “Tribunal,” it's frankly amazing that Cardassia doesn't have Chernobylesque disasters every other week under this kind of policy. O'Brien comes up with a plan to vaporise the comet before it impacts the wormhole. He and Gloriana find themselves in tight proximity in a Jeffries Tube and now, having been verbally smacked down in their previous scene together, she's in heat or something, and sexually-harassing the chief. Just what this story needs. So we get that old Trek standby; apparently Cardassians flirt with each other by being as irritable as possible towards potential mates. Sure. Sigh...Colm Meaney tries, but there's no rescuing anybody from this embarrassment, let's just move on.

Dax reports to Sisko who is reading up on prophecies about the Emissary.

SISKO: There are hundreds of them. Most of them are vague, some are contradictory, but just enough truth in a few of them to make me wonder.
DAX: You mean some of them have come true?
SISKO: If you interpret them a certain way, yes.

Mhm. And I can interpret the Bible in a certain way to conclude that Donald Trump is actually the Second Coming of Jesus; what's your point, Commander?

With the phasers ready, the Defiant returns to the GQ to vaporise the Sword of Stars. Something goes wrong—again--and the defensive system blows out. Meanwhile, the phasers didn't actually fire in the modified way, causing the comet to break into three fragments, still on course for the wormhole.

Act 5 : *, 17%
Gloriana reveals that the third viper, Dejar, really is a snake in the grass—a member of the Obsidian Order. She deduces that it was Dejar who sabotaged the Defiant. I guess the OO opposes the peace treaty, so she was sent to sabotage the mission and deteriorate the peace. Uhhhhh, well I can buy that, but what kind of idiot would wait to commit sabotage until the mission had changed from creating a communications relay to saving the wormhole itself? Does the OO want the wormhole destroyed? Why? Ugh.

Anyway, the nerds determine that they could save the wormhole by having a shuttle use its warp field (shuttles can go to warp now, I guess) to contain the candy core from leaking out. So Kira and Sisko launch a shuttle and proceed with the plan. While travelling through the wormhole, the field weakens slightly and a little bit of the candy core leaks out, causing the wormhole to remain very slightly cracked open. SEE? The comet fragments were actually the vipers! See? See? Trakor was right all along, motherfuckers.

Gloriana and Miles say goodbye while Sisko chats with Stanley Tucci. The latter apologises for letting his “agenda” of hating Cardassians cause him to misinterpret the Prophets' words. So, instead of apologising for being a shithead, this manipulative zealot has the Commander's ear, who is now very eager to hear about all the Emissary-related prophecies. Oh for fuck's sake.

Episode as Functionary : zero stars, 10%

Does anyone working on this show know what a prophecy even is? A prophecy is an interpretation of the will of god as delivered by...wait for it...a prophet. X WILL occur because god has ordained it to be so. A prophecy is not a warning label on your sex lubricant (Warning: do not ingest orally or get in eyes). If a prophecy is true, then is true; there's no avoiding it by taking certain precautions! Yet everyone from Tucci to Kira to Sisko wring their hands over what to do here.

So then. Why did the Prophets reveal this prophecy? In one scene, Dax asks Sisko how he would act if Stanley Tucci had never revealed the prophecy to him, and he admits he would of course proceed with events as they took place. The Prophets, we know, did not reveal this prophecy to Trakor to stop Sisko from doing something dangerous. They knew what he would do and fed images to the ancient Bajoran outlining these events. Why? What is the difference between events playing out with the prophecy as opposed to without? There's only one: Sisko's faith. The Prophets wanted to put Sisko on the path to belief in them as deities. That...that is sickening behaviour, manipulative, capricious, selfish and evil. The Prophets, ladies and gentlemen.

So, just as in “In the Hands of the Prophets,” the writers' attempts to show nuance with regard to Trek's view of religion reveals an incredible ignorance of both sides of the issue. Faith is portrayed as something that needs to be proven, a practice all but the most reactionary of religious thinkers have long since abandoned today. And atheism is portrayed like a stubborn refusal to acknowledge the miraculous, even though the sci-fi behind the Prophets' existence has been established—and reinforced by Kira herself in this episode—to be a physical, measurable reality. While the production and performances of the episode are all fine to good, its disgusting message sends this straight to the bottom of the barrel for me. A truly infuriating episode.

Final Score : *
William B
Wed, Oct 10, 2018, 3:51pm (UTC -6)
"Does the OO want the wormhole destroyed? Why? Ugh."

I don't think this need be all that mysterious. Hey, I wonder how Tain's retirement is going now that news of the Dominion has reached him.
William B
Wed, Oct 10, 2018, 4:12pm (UTC -6)
Though, it doesn't seem to be the episode's point, per se, regarding the OO sabotage. I guess it's just that the rhetorical question seems to me to be an easily answered one -- the OO might want to destroy the wormhole for the same reason Sisko did in The Search.
Elliott
Wed, Oct 10, 2018, 4:19pm (UTC -6)
@William B:

But the threat to the wormhole wasn't revealed to the Cardassians (even in its prophetic form) until the accident on the Defiant. Dejar was sent on the mission to sabotage the peace with Bajor--there was no way for the OO to assume there would even be an opportunity to destroy the wormhole, much less a reason.
William B
Wed, Oct 10, 2018, 4:28pm (UTC -6)
True, but what if the OO agent is a kind of Garak-ian improviser, who is told to seize that opportunity if it comes up? Though -- It's been a while since I've seen it and so maybe the ep precludes this.
Chrome
Wed, Oct 10, 2018, 4:31pm (UTC -6)
@William B & Elliott

Also, as of “Defiant” the OO was already working with the Romulans to amass a fleet to invade the Founder’s homeworld. That plan suddenly makes no sense if they destroy their own path to reach the Gamma Quadrant.
William B
Wed, Oct 10, 2018, 4:45pm (UTC -6)
@Chrome, unless there is internecine conflict within the OO. Destroying the wormhole is much easier than Tain's plan, albeit less glorious (and Tain partly wants it as his triumphant return).
Elliott
Wed, Oct 10, 2018, 5:07pm (UTC -6)
@William B

Don’t you think such a major plot development would need to be spelled out?

Anyway, I think this is just a plot goof. Dejar could have sabotaged the Definat’s computer core earlier and the effects only noticed when they tried to vaporise the comet. That could have upped the stakes a bit, too, potentially stranding the Defiant in the GQ.

Interesting that this plot hole has become the talking point for this episode ;)
Chrome
Wed, Oct 10, 2018, 5:11pm (UTC -6)
@William B

Surely the fleet from “The Die is Cast” could’ve destroyed the wormhole if it that was theiR endgame. Thus I think the correct reading of the scene is that OO/TS wanted a foothold in the GQ after they decimated the Founders. The one wild card is we don’t know how much of this GQ invasion scheme was coaxed by Changling infilitrators if at all.
William B
Wed, Oct 10, 2018, 5:28pm (UTC -6)
Yeah, yeah. I know it's not actually that important a plot element; I was just having fun speculating.

Re: The Die is Cast, yeah, I mean, the plan was to destroy the Founders, and then presumably expand into the GQ. But I think a big part of it was that Tain's ego demanded a big public victory for his comeback, and closing off the wormhole was in some respects the more prudent course that one would expect some in the OO to take.
Peter G.
Wed, Oct 10, 2018, 6:29pm (UTC -6)
I doubt that Tain's plan was shared with many people. There could have been factions in the OO that weren't part of it and had their own half baked attempt here. Or maybe they did it *because of* Tain's plan, to shut it down. In hindsight Cardassia would have been better off if Tain had stayed in retirement.
Chrome
Wed, Oct 10, 2018, 6:44pm (UTC -6)
@William B

Yeah, fair enough that a smart covert group like the OO would want to take a surgical strike at the wormhole. It’s just that the fleet that was building in the Orias system loses its purpose if the wormhole is destroyed.

@Elliott

“Modern religion (which is what the Bajoran faith is depicted to be) is founded upon the idea of exploring the numinous through unknowable mystery, not assigning arbitrary divinity to particular phenomena.”

I enjoyed spmeone going in-depth on this subject. It’s puzzling to decide if DS9’s writers understand how religion or faith works. It often feels like they’re subtly poking fun at Bajorans for worshipping a scientifically explanable alien species (like the Edo from TNG’s “Justice”). And yeah, a scientifically explanlable lifeform is pretty much at odds with a metaphysical deity religion revolves around.
Peter G.
Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 12:12am (UTC -6)
@ Chrome,

"It’s puzzling to decide if DS9’s writers understand how religion or faith works. It often feels like they’re subtly poking fun at Bajorans for worshipping a scientifically explanable alien species (like the Edo from TNG’s “Justice”). And yeah, a scientifically explanlable lifeform is pretty much at odds with a metaphysical deity religion revolves around."

I don't think they're poking fun, and I also don't think the Bajoran religion is supposed to be a cut-and-paste of 'modern religion'. As to whether the fact that the 'wormhole aliens' are scientifically explainable - are they? Federation science certainly cannot explain what they do, even though Federations scientists no doubt assume that they do it in some explainable way. But from 24th century standards it's a pretty godlike power. And this is, I think, where the spirit of the series must be understood to be: squarely in the Arthur C. Clarke camp that also underlay so much of TOS, where any sufficiently advanced science will be indistinguishable from magic.

Lots of TOS species (and the odd TNG one) can do things that are basically godlike, even though it's often said that they are merely more advanced species. At a certain point I don't think there's much point quibbling about which is which. Now, it would be another matter to say that one of these beings (like Q, or Kevin Uxbridge) is THE God. But to call them 'a god'? I don't see why not; it makes little difference either way and is functionally accurate enough. If a being could not only predict the future with 100% accuracy but also alter it to suit a given timeline with 100% accuracy - hot damn, that would be a good candidate for a being to follow 'religiously'. They'd sure be a lot more reliable in their predictions than scientists.

Now the question to answer there isn't whether it's reasonable to believe in the Prophets (who are never referred to as God, but as gods) and to worship them; of course it's reasonable, as it gets results and they are friggin powerful. But the better question, as has sometimes been posed here, is whether to trust their motives, and I think that's a good question to explore. Most of DS9 was hung up on "do you believe in them", which frankly is weak sauce and if anything showed Starfleet as being slow on the uptake. The real question should have been "are they allies?" No point picking on the Bajorans for worshipping these crazy powerful entities; one could hardly be faulted for doing what such beings say. It would be bad, though, to see such worship requiring Bajorans to, say, commit atrocities or deny obvious facts, and in that department I think DS9 did a good job showing the difference between reasonable Bajorans and unreasonable ones.

But I certainly wouldn't call controlling the future as "scientifically explainable". At least, not until it does! Until then that is some voodoo right there.
Elliott
Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 7:35am (UTC -6)
@Peter G

I definitely agree with you that the writers are not intentionally trying to poke fun at the Bajorans. But their understanding of what religion is/was/could be is incredibly problematic. Their relationship to to the Prophets is pre-modern in the Clarke sense you eluded to—they understand the prophets exist in their universe and are bound to its laws, even though their abilities exceed current scientific understanding. But the ethos of their religion is modern, in the sense that their gods provide an ethical and existential framework for their lives. Now, this may sound fine on paper, but it fundamentally misunderstands why religions function as they do. The reason Christianity supplanted the old Green gods in Rome, for example, is because a god who had no physical limitations, was the sole arbiter of right and wrong, and offered the promise of eternal bliss, well, that seems like a much better bargain than being subject to the capricious whims of gods who enable increasingly corrupt and unstable emporers to assume power.

More to the point, a modern god—who exists outside of the physical universe, who in fact, created the universe itself—can exist and be worshipped in a post-Enlightenment society. That is because the function of modern gods is not to explain why the seasons change or why there are thunderstorms, but rather to give meaning to life and death. Ancient religions, because they lacked science, concern themselves with the how, modern religions with the why. Ancient gods were worshipped because their followers could not make sense of the natural world without them—think of the Mentakans from “Who Watches the Watchers.” Modern gods are worshipped because, existing above and beyond the universe we understand, they have the authority to arbitrate morality.

So, a reasonable theist now in 2018 could observe an alien culture in Star Trek which worships a god or gods who exist *soley* in that planet’s mythology and say, yeah, I can get behind this—you call them Prophets, I call him Allah or God. We might disagree on the details, but that’s okay: let’s talk about abortion. A reasonable athiest could likewise say—well, I don’t believe in your gods any more than these earth deities, but, so long as you aren’t hurting anyone with your beliefs, I can respect your culture.

However, a culture that worships physical, measurable beings—beings who can be manipulated with science—would have to be understood to be pre-modern (and probably pre-warp). A theist would have to tell the Bajorans that the Prophets are still subject to the will and power of God who creates them, Bajor and the Celestial Temple. An atheist must tell them that their “gods” are just aliens who have no authority to dictate morality to anybody.

That the Prophets choose to maintain their fiction to the Bajorans people is rather sinister. For whatever reason, the Prophets feel entitled to be worshipped. Now, the Prophets chose to share knowledge of the future with ancient Bajorans—who of course regarded such abilities as super natural. By the time Sisko discovered the wormhole (probably way before, actually), it should have been clear that their gods aren’t really gods. Their religion should have either changed dramatically or fallen apart.

The writers attempt to mix and match incompatible religious ethoses, part of a larger attempt to distance their show from the antitheist ethos of Star Trek itself, ends up creating a situation where the show’s protagonists’ ancient wisdom character is actually quite morally reprehensible.
Jason R.
Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 8:16am (UTC -6)
Elliott you say that the writers don't understand how religion works. Do you?

The Greek and Roman Gods, plainly, were not abandoned because of improved scientific understanding of the universe. Indeed, their decline precipitated the dark ages. It wasn't another 1000 years before western cultures gained back much of the knowledge that was lost following Rome's fall, even basic concepts such as the world being round. Christianity's ascendence and supplanting of the Pagan order cannot possibly be explained in terms of scientific advancement.

I think Peter has it right - there is no law of the universe that says that a modern civilization cannot worship "gods" unless they are Gods in some Judeo Christian sense of total infallibility and omnipotence.
Elliott
Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 8:47am (UTC -6)
@Jason R

I think you misinterpreted what I wrote. I am well aware of Christianity's role in the dark ages and did not suggest that scientific advancement led to Christianity's rise. Rather, the Judeochristian concept of god is compatible with a post-Enlightenment understanding of science in a way in which the Pagan religions are not. What I wrote is that the Greek pantheon fell out of fashion in Rome for sociopolitical reasons. The Judeochristian God as an absolute arbiter of right and wrong provided an attractive alternative to the capricious and self-centred gods of old.

"there is no law of the universe that says that a modern civilization cannot worship "gods" unless they are Gods in some Judeo Christian sense of total infallibility and omnipotence. "

The onus is on you (or the show) to prove this, because your position has no real-world equivalent. No post-Enlightenment civilisation on Earth has ever maintained a religion around pre-modern god concepts. There is simply no reason to believe Odin is casting thunderbolts when one understands the physics of thunder, whereas it is possible to believe that God wants the thunder to split a tree for some divine purpose, and has created physical laws in the universe which enable this outcome.

I'm happy to point you to further reading on the subject: Michael Lambek's "Provincializing God?" is a good start. This is a well-researched topic.
Jason R.
Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 8:51am (UTC -6)
"In the first episode of the series Sisko has to explain time to the wormhole aliens. The same time in which the bajorans live. This should have been a huge topic of discussion. How are the aliens seen as gods of the bajorans if they need a human to explain the time in which the bajorans exist"

This always seemed a retcon to me. But after watching All Good Things the thought occurred to me that perhaps Sisko was as responsible for the Prophets as they were responsible for him? Perhaps in teaching the aliens about linear time, he encouraged them to become "Prophets" even to the point of sending orbs to the Bajorans in the past. As they exist outside linear time, what they "learned" from Sisko in the present would apply both to the future and the past. Indeed, Sisko may even have precipitated the intervention by the Prophets that led to his birth.

Not unlike Picard creating an anomoly in the past because of knowledge he gained in the future. A total paradox. Also a bit like Benny Russel where the future changes the past. Very much consistent with the idea of a race "beyond time".
Jason R.
Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 9:06am (UTC -6)
"The onus is on you (or the show) to prove this, because your position has no real-world equivalent. No post-Enlightenment civilisation on Earth has ever maintained a religion around pre-modern god concepts."

The Bajorans don't believe the Prophets create lightning - they believe they are beings with the ability to see and exist outside of time, which is factually correct. On what basis do you claim that they cannot view them as "Gods" on those terms?

Indeed, what you seem to be caught up on is the fact that certain physical processes (such as the weather) were used to explain such Gods in the past by people who had no other explanation for such phenomena, presuming that explanation of natural phenomena must have been the primary purpose for such beings being invented. But that is an assumption, not a fact.

You are confusing correlation with causation. That ancient Gods were always correlated with some explanation of natural phenomena does not prove that the inability to explain natural phenomena caused people to worship Gods.

I am reminded of the discussion concerning Space Seed and the innate human need to worship power. All over the world, powerful men attract worshippers putting themselves forward as nothing less than Gods to their followers. Men like David Koresh were provably human and mortal yet their modern post enlightenment worshippers believe them to be more than they were.

It's absurd to claim that modern people could not worship beings as awesome as the Prophets when people today do no less with flesh and blood men who have no special power beyond personal charisma.
Peter G.
Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 9:47am (UTC -6)
@ Elliott,

I agree with much of what Jason R. wrote. But just to answer a few points:

"the Judeochristian concept of god is compatible with a post-Enlightenment understanding of science in a way in which the Pagan religions are not."

The Bajoran religion isn't a pagan religion in the sense you mean, involving some abstract pantheon explaining physical processes. The Bajorans have no illusions that the Prophets created the universe or anything. And actually despite the awkward name for the gods (Prophets), it's actually telling that they call them by this name because it implies that they are aware they their powers are mostly to do with prophecy.

Jason R. wrote: "there is no law of the universe that says that a modern civilization cannot worship "gods" unless they are Gods in some Judeo Christian sense of total infallibility and omnipotence. "

Elliott: "The onus is on you (or the show) to prove this, because your position has no real-world equivalent."

I don't think the onus is on anyone to show that something in science fiction exists in the real world! Your whole argument seems centered on the idea that the Bajoran religion is meant to parallel some Earth religion and fails to do so and is therefore unrealistic. Except it clearly isn't meant to. Here's a good reason why: we don't have a wormhole nearby with aliens sending us orbs. Confusing their religion with Christianity or something is probably an understandable mistake given the subtext and tone of episodes like In the Hands of the Prophets, but on its face the facts on the ground do not support any such comparison.

In DS9 we're seeing a new religion and should judge it on its own grounds. Those grounds could include some of the following criteria:

-Does their belief make sense? Is it self-consistent?
-Do the people practice what they preach?
-Does practicing this religion seem to make them good people?
-How does following this religion affect their interactions with science, and with other species?

To me these are sci-fi questions that go somewhere. Saying that Earth history has "proved" that their religion makes no sense - that goes nowhere for me.
Chrome
Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 10:19am (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

“Most of DS9 was hung up on "do you believe in them", which frankly is weak sauce and if anything showed Starfleet as being slow on the uptake.”

This is usually what irks in the Prophets’ portrayal on this show. The Prophets clearly exist and have a plan for Bajor. There’s no faith involved in that conclusion. When you have a series of calculated intelligent real world phenomenon such as the Prophets interactions with Bajor, secular reasoning alone concludes that the Prophets are worthy of study and understanding. That Starfleet doesn’t have a team of scientists trying to communicate with the Prophets is just an odd conceit of the show; in this particular instance Starfleet isn’t interested in new life.

“Now, it would be another matter to say that one of these beings (like Q, or Kevin Uxbridge) is THE God. But to call them 'a god'? I don't see why not; it makes little difference either way and is functionally accurate enough.”

Contrary to the Prophets, TNG takes steps to show Q isn’t a God. Q can be made mortal, for example. More importantly though, Q explains to Picard on several occasions that he’s trying to prepare humanity for a time when humanity will be beyond Q in power. This means all the powerful actions Q takes will *some day* be explainable human science. Q’s role is apparently a mission to temper humanity to use its potential wisely (as he claims the Q do).
Akira
Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 10:28am (UTC -6)
"That is because the function of modern gods is not to explain why the seasons change or why there are thunderstorms, but rather to give meaning to life and death. Ancient religions, because they lacked science, concern themselves with the how, modern religions with the why."

This is a little bit unkind to religious people, is it not? Here you seem to be suggesting that anyone interested in religious questions isn't interested in truth at all, and their purpose is only to give life "meaning" regardless of veracity. After all, science's interpretation of the "how" of the universe is valid only to the extent you subscribe to its belief in the primacy of space and matter.
Elliott
Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 10:48am (UTC -6)
@Jason R

"It's absurd to claim that modern people could not worship beings as awesome as the Prophets when people today do no less with flesh and blood men who have no special power beyond personal charisma."

I think you are failing to appreciate the different meanings of "worship" being thrown around here. The ancient Egyptians "worshiped" the Pharaohs in the way you mean, assigning so much power to a person that their status was considered divine. But that is not the way the Bajorans are portrayed on this show. Everything about the Bajoran religion, from its customs, to its connection with attempted genocide, to the way in which it is described as being an article of "faith,"--all of that is directly borrowed from the meaning of "worship" which is a part of modern religions. "Worship" is a matter of supernatural exultation.

By doing this, the writers create a situation in which allegorising religion is impossible, and therefore any discussions on the show are virtually meaningless. We can't have an honest debate about the merits of faith v. skepticism because the Prophets' existence and abilities are not in question. But rather than just admitting the Bajorans are like the ancient Egyptians in that they place a particular alien species on a higher rung of social importance, the show insists that the Bajoran religion *is* akin to modern Judaism or Christianity or Islam, because that's how it's described whenever the particulars of the wormhole aliens aren't mentioned.

@Peter G

Everything in the Star Trek universe is allegorical. The Cardassians allegorise Nazis, the Klingons (and later Romulans) allegorise the Soviets. That is the conceit of the entire show. To pretend like there isn't an attempt to say something about the relationship between science and religion, belief and knowledge, etc. in the show's choice to make the Bajorans religious is super dishonest.

@Chrome:

I agree. Calling something a God, in the post-pagan sense is to ascribe it moral authority, which is exactly why TNG went out of its way to dissuade us of the notion that Q, the Edo thing, or Picard himself were gods in any sense.

@Akira:

"Here you seem to be suggesting that anyone interested in religious questions isn't interested in truth at all, and their purpose is only to give life "meaning" regardless of veracity."

Not at all. Religion concerns itself with truth in the same way that art does--with abstract truth. I would argue that discovering those kinds of truths is actually *more* important than the kinds of truths science provides. My point is that modern religious truth, at its best, and scientific truth occupy different dimensions of reality. Science cannot explain the numinous and faith cannot explain the physical.
Peter G.
Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 12:33pm (UTC -6)
@ Elliott,

"Everything about the Bajoran religion, from its customs, to its connection with attempted genocide, to the way in which it is described as being an article of "faith,"--all of that is directly borrowed from the meaning of "worship" which is a part of modern religions. "Worship" is a matter of supernatural exultation."

I'm not sure where you get this from. That's certainly not the dictionary definition, and seems more limiting than I've ever encountered in general usage.

"By doing this, the writers create a situation in which allegorising religion is impossible, and therefore any discussions on the show are virtually meaningless. We can't have an honest debate about the merits of faith v. skepticism because the Prophets' existence and abilities are not in question."

What the writers are avoiding is *trivially* allegorising the Bajorans' religion. It doesn't mean we can't talk about it, but it does mean that it's not just an Abrahamic religion dressed up with another name. What may rankle about this is that it's not easy to strawman the religion because it's not directly equivalent to something we've already heard of. What's more relevant than which religion of ours it's closest to is how to interact with a culture that has its own beliefs that are different than Starfleet's.

"Everything in the Star Trek universe is allegorical. The Cardassians allegorise Nazis, the Klingons (and later Romulans) allegorise the Soviets. That is the conceit of the entire show. To pretend like there isn't an attempt to say something about the relationship between science and religion, belief and knowledge, etc. in the show's choice to make the Bajorans religious is super dishonest."

I agree completely. The show definitely aims to portray what *we* perceive to be a tension between faith and science; this is especially present in S1 and maybe S2. But in context of the show I think they do a bit of work to demonstrate that this isn't really the important tension to discuss, if it is one at all. The important one is whether those of faith can agree on common goals with those of science. *This* is the allegory the show features, as we can see plainly it's not about dissecting the rationale behind the Bajoran religion and judging whether it's correct or incorrect. The reason Winn is an antagonist isn't because she's religious, but because she's political and corrupt. What people like Bareil and Opaka have in common with Sisko is that they all agree on some generalities to do with bettering life for everyone, and that this is better done through peace than violence. That's not a trivial thing to agree on! Contrast this with sectarian infighting and politics, and we do indeed get a good allegory - even more accurate to the present than it was in 1994.

There's a good reason DS9 has the prophets be explicitly real: because it takes off the table any possible discussion of the Bajoran religion being "nonsense". And that's a good thing to take off the table. In any reasonable discussion about whether religious people can find common cause with non-religious, the matter will always devolve when someone brings up "But their religion is dumb and makes no sense! Why should I respect them??" Here it's not dumb because it's based on facts, so that type of critique is off the table, leaving us to ponder how the people of faith can learn to work together with Starfleet. And that's as Trek as it gets.
Elliott
Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 1:19pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G:

"[This] seems more limiting than I've ever encountered in general usage."

How do the Bajorans interact with the Prophets? They pray to them, they interpret the words of those who claim to have communicated with them directly, and occasionally receive visions through sacred objects. The aliens are right there--if the Cardassians had managed to expose the wormhole during the Occupation, they could potentially have killed them. Do you really not see how these two ideas are incompatible? The Bajorans' behaviour treats the Aliens as deities because, to an primitive culture, they would appear to be so; the only reason this continues after "Emissary" is because the Bajorans self-consciously avoid interacting with their gods in a scientific way--which they are perfectly capable of doing. It's ridiculous.

"What's more relevant than which religion of ours it's closest to is how to interact with a culture that has its own beliefs that are different than Starfleet's." But that religion has to make contextual sense! The allegory has to hold up because overcoming these kinds of issues requires *understanding.* Earth religions which still exist have adapted to scientific advancement. Those who still deny evolution, for example, are self-consciously denying scientific reality--much like the Bajorans. Are we supposed to tolerate this? Are we supposed to allow schools to teach Creationism?

"There's a good reason DS9 has the prophets be explicitly real: because it takes off the table any possible discussion of the Bajoran religion being "nonsense"."

But that is unforgivably shallow! Religious people *do* have to contend with those who would dismiss their beliefs for being nonsense--and not just "bad guys." And atheists *do* have to contend with the fact that religious truth is able to deal with aspects of our existence which no science can explain. That's why I say that discussions of religion regarding this show are pointless because the Bajoran religion makes no sense--and I don't mean that faith is wrong, I mean we cannot see people in the real world with whom we disagree and might need to learn to co-exist in these fictional characters because the fiction is completely illogical.

Humans should be able to look at the Bajorans' religion (assuming it were properly executed) and say, "Your beliefs are nonsense," and get along with them anyway. *That* is a Trek message. When you take this off the table, you aren't saying anything at all. It's all form, no substance.
Chrome
Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 1:42pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

“There's a good reason DS9 has the prophets be explicitly real: because it takes off the table any possible discussion of the Bajoran religion being "nonsense". And that's a good thing to take off the table. In any reasonable discussion about whether religious people can find common cause with non-religious, the matter will always devolve when someone brings up "But their religion is dumb and makes no sense! Why should I respect them??" Here it's not dumb because it's based on facts, so that type of critique is off the table, leaving us to ponder how the people of faith can learn to work together with Starfleet. And that's as Trek as it gets.”

I can understand why you’d come to that conclusion, but the issue a religious believer would have with making miracles real and undeniable is that you’re robbed then of the chance to discover the metaphysical aspects of a God through hard-earned meditation and piety. I went to Catholic primary school and I can attest that much of what is studied is transient spiritual awakenings that made people like Saul of Taurus change his whole life to become comiitted to religion.

To give an example, let’s say someone discovered a scientific reason for how Jesus was able to come back to life and leave his tomb after appearing to be dead three days. On the one hand agnostics and atheists might be happy because suddenly they can debunk any spiritual relationship to the phenomenon. Christians, on the other hand, would be disappointed because one of the defining transcient miracles of their savior is no longer a religious miracle all. That’s why you can’t have your cake and eat it too like the writers of DS9 seem to think. If the Prophets’ abilities can all be explained and understood by nontheists to the point where faith is irrelevant, then the whole structure of the Bajoran religion as a faith-based contemplative understanding of the metaphysical, as the show often suggests, collapses.

It’s a difficult subject and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have all the answers as why a metaphysical relationship to God can work in a modern society where an ancient pagan one cannot. I do know that takes a certain leap of faith in believing in a force beyond what your senses perceive.
Skeptical
Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 2:52pm (UTC -6)
[In case anyone is reading through these comments while watching DS9 for the first time, this post contains spoilers. Ye be warned. Also, this post is way too long. Ye be double warned]

Elliot, I kinda agree with Akira here; you're approaching religion (and this entire episode) from an abstract academic perspective rather than accepting it for what it is. To make a point about your views on the episode, you state to Peter that everything in Star Trek is allegorical. Really? So the Romulans are allegorical to the Chinese in TOS (the secretive third power) or the Soviets in TNG (cold war politics). But then, why are they a Vulcan offshoot? What is that allegorical to? So the Cardassians are allegorical to Nazis. Then what is their eventual alliance and eventual eventual rebellion against the Dominion allegorical? What does that have to do with Nazism?

Certain elements may have been introduced as allegorical, but as creative writers come onboard and the universe-building expands, they take on a life of their own to create a consistent setting for the story the writers want to create. The Romulans being Vulcan may have started as an allegory of tackling racism among allies, given the way the one officer was attacking Spock throughout Balance of Terror. But then the story moved in an entirely new direction, using this connection for a faux love story in Enterprise Incident and then creating entirely new stories for Romulans in Unification. The original allegory became pointless as the universe expanded.

I mean, look at your logic here. You say that the Prophets must be allegorical to Abrahamic religions. Then you state that the fact that the Prophets have a known, quantifiable existence means it's not an allegory. And then you blame the writers for breaking the rule you imposed. Isn't it more likely that the writers didn't want the Prophets to be a 1:1 allegory to God? That they would use that allegorical construct when desired and not use it when not desired? I mean, when Kira asked the Prophets to go back in time so she can meet her mom, how was that allegorical?

But in any case, back to religion.

Again, you are looking at it in an abstract way. You state that religion concerns itself in abstract truth in the same way that art does. Except that's not true: art is subjective. Art's "truths" are personal truths, personal stories. Religion deals with the objective, actual reality of the universe. Yes, it gets into metaphysics, but religious people would not say that that makes it any less real or any less objective. It would be a poor Christian who said that it doesn't matter whether or not there was a real, historical Resurrection 2000 years ago in Jerusalem, or that there wasn't a real, historical Abraham 2000 years before that. It would be a poor Muslim who said it doesn't matter whether or not Muhammed actually talked to God or if he just made the Koran up. Truth, objective truth, about the nature of the world matters significantly to religions. Otherwise it's just more humanistic philosophy.

So to go back to your original post, you mentioned that it was "wrong" of the episode to have the Bajorans try to prove the prophecy was true. That such proof isn't needed for their religion. It's been a long time since I saw the episode, but I'm pretty sure you're interpreting that incorrectly (or I'm misinterpreting what you are saying). The Bajoran priest doesn't need to "prove" the prophecy except insofar as to get the skeptics in Starfleet to do something about it. And IIRC that's exactly what the episode was about. He didn't need to prove it to himself. And again, it sounds like you're saying religion is divorced from reality. But the Prophets are real. Their communications are real. Their knowledge of the future is real. It is just as real, just as objective as anything else in the Star Trek universe. So to the Bajorans, the events in the prophecy are going to happen. Period. It doesn't need to be proven, it doesn't need to be scientifically studied. It's something that is as absolutely certain as the sun coming up tomorrow. They just don't know when it will happen or what, exactly, will happen since the prophecy is confusing. But it will happen. And so the idea that the Bajoran priest is so gung-ho about this particular prophecy isn't because he wants to prove his religion, but because he knows the events in question are about to take place and wants to prevent the catastrophe.

As for the quality of the prophecy yourself, well, at first I agreed, but if your description of the ending is correct, then, well, what's the problem? You say a prophecy is immutable, that it will happen regardless of what anyone does. That's not necessarily true (there are plenty of conditional aspects in the Old Testament prophets, for example), but in this case it is. So what is it's purpose? The obvious one is Divine Revelation. You mock that as something cruel and spiteful, but why? Is not specific, direct Divine Revelation a reason for prophecy? And is it not possible that the Prophets would direct that Divine Revelation towards their servant, The Sisko? God doesn't do a song and dance for everyone, but Paul recieved a spectacular revelation, because Paul was needed to evangelize to the world. So if the Prophets manipulated history to bring Sisko closer to them, how is that a horribly incorrect approach to religion?

Furthermore, I think the weird, symbolic nature of this prophecy works well for the DS9 universe. God is omniscient, omnipotent, and has a clear, direct relationship with humanity. The Prophets, however, are mostly all-knowing, mostly all-powerful, and mostly have a relationship with the Bajorans. But as we see, quite clearly multiple times, their one weakness is the ability to actually communicate with linear beings. They're terrible at it! So the inscrutability of this particular prophecy may be due to the Prophet's inability to communicate clearly with whatever Bajoran wrote this prophecy down a gazillion years ago.

After all, we never see the Prophets for what they are. Every time we see them, they are communicating with someone through that person's memories. All of the visual representation of the Prophets are from the person's own experiences, not from an objective viewpoint. And the Bajoran would have no memories or experiences of space travel, of Cardassians, of Sisko or the Defiant. So trying to impart this visionon the hapless Bajoran would make things difficult, and could only use memories that he or she knew. Thus, it's vipers and sword of stars and stuff like that. The only clear, provable imagery is the river returning to whatever city, because he understands that imagery just fine. And as for why the Prophets didn't talk to someone who did have the astronomical expertise to have memories worth using, well, again, the Prophets aren't 100% all knowing; they are still very bad at linear time. So maybe they just screwed up. Or maybe it was to make the ending more spectacular, as a way to appear more miraculous to Sisko. Who knows?

Moving on, does this prophecy work within the context of the episode? There are flaws here, based on the idea that the writers are trying to make a statement (however muddled) about faith. Again, this is why stuff shouldn't be treated as exact allegories, and the writers do themselves a disservice when using them as a crutch without considering the broader universe. The "secular" explanation Kira provides is 100% obvious as soon as the prophecy is provided, it shouldn't take Sisko that long to consider that as an explanation. It's much like how Scientific Method on Voyager failed. We have to have the Starfleet person as the 100% stand-in for a non-magical world despite the fact they both know they live in a magical world (or whatever the Prophets or Q or whatever do).

However, this does bring to mind a way to solve the problem. We, the viewers, take it as a fact that the Prophets exist, and thus not "hidden" gods, because we saw the pilot episode. But in-universe, is it a fact? All we know is that something weird happened to a Starfleet Commander in the wormhole, and that the Bajorans have some weird relics. Is that proof the Prophets exist? We've never seen them, and even Sisko can't say what they look like. We don't have tricorder readings or video recording or anything of these events. We would have to take Sisko's word for it. Is that enough to convince Starfleet that hidden, all powerful aliens are living in a wormhole? Yes, eventually there are Pah-Wraith battles on the promenade and bonafide miracles in Sacrifice of Angels, but early season 3? I don't think they are proven yet.

So we STILL could have had a question of faith, but it couldn't have been Sisko as the skeptic. Instead, it would have needed to be Starfleet Command, with Sisko caught in the middle. Even if Starfleet accepts that something weird happened to Sisko, that doesn't prove the Prophets can see the future and leave messages in the past. He would then be accused of being too religious, even if he has a scientific basis for believing it. And even if he isn't religious about it, so we can still have something of a conversion in him at the end. And since the prophecy is vague, he can still struggle with what it means and if this is truly what it is warning against.

It's not 100% the same, but it could still work. As it is, I thought it was still an ok episode, but I never really worried about it from an allegorical perspective.

Anywho, as for the question of if the Bajoran religion makes absolute sense, well, why not? And to get to the question of worship, again, why not? It is clear that the Prophets are not Elohim - the God Most High. OK, then, why worship them? Does it need to be for the purposes of a better afterlife? There's no evidence the Bajorans have a "heaven", so if that's the purpose of worship then the religion is illogical. But much of Judaism is simply about the relationship with God on Earth, not the eternal soul. It is possible for worship to be solely about the Bajorly life rather than the afterlife. Is it because the Prophets produce moral clarity? Perhaps - although I admit we don't see that much (if at all). Is it that the Prophets provide protection? One might argue the Cardassian occupation says otherwise, but the reference I had to Jeremiah earlier is relevant - Christianity accepts that God's protection is not absolute, and perhaps that was the case for the Prophets as well. Is it just about power? Certainly not; Kira would never worship Q, for example.

So what is it? Well, the largest aspect of worship, regardless of the reason, is an acceptance of humility. To accept that someone else has power AND authority over you, and to trust in them to be right. This is true even if they barely use that power, even if they grant you freedom 99% of the time. I've seen plenty of comments, questions, arguments from atheists over the years, and reading between the lines this is almost always the stumbling block. Behind the scientific arguments, or moral arguments, or historical arguments, it always seems to boil down to: "why should God think differently then I do? Why can't He be more like me?" It's the hardest thing to accept, to accept that you are not the center of your own life, and that you SHOULDN'T be at the center of your life, and thus seems to me the biggest aspect of actual worship.

So back to the Prophets. Do the Prophets have power over the Bajorans? We rarely see it, but that's ok. The Lord moves in mysterious ways and all. But eventually, we do see that they truly do: they literally created Sisko. He was always destined to be The Emissary, and thus this entire era of Bajor's history is shaped by the Prophets. To some extent, it is clearly part of their Divine Plan. For what purpose, we don't know, but they do care about Bajor and do have plans for them. And do they have the "authority" to? That's... harder to say. Obviously, Judeochristian authority is because God is the Creator. But there's no evidence the Prophets created Bajor (and TNG's "The Chase" provides evidence against it!). Is the Divine Plan in the best interests of Bajor? Again, we don't know enough, but maybe? The Q set themselves up as the judges of humanity, and say we are destined for something greater, but that doesn't mean we have to accept that they have the authority to judge us, just that they have the power to. So why do the Bajorans accept it from the Prophets?

That's the hardest question, and ultimately it is up to the Bajorans to answer it. And they seem to say that yes, the Prophets do have the authority. When the false Emissary started changing society, they went along with it. Because they trusted in the Prophets, even if this was a mistake. Again, I can't answer the question, because this doesn't have the inherent logic of the Judeochristian God the Creator. Trek simply COULDN'T do that story, because then the Prophets would have been the God of everyone. And it simply strains credulity that Bajor exists in some weird pocket where the Prophets are Most High to them, but not to anyone else.

And yet... I can still see it working. Judaism is the belief that Yahweh is the God of EVERYONE, but that there is still a special relationship with one particular family. So what if the Prophets are, for lack of a better term, angels of God, sent to be the protectors of this one particular planet. That doesn't mean God has angels for every planet; perhaps it just means that Bajor truly is special among the galaxy (or the universe). Again, God made a special relationship with Abraham and no one else. Christianity believes it was in order to prepare for the Messiah, which would be for all the world. Is there something similar here? If the Prophets exist outside of time, can they see that, and some point, Bajor will be at the center of the universe? That Bajor must be guided in order to create some event to shape the entirety of the galaxy?

Is that worth worshiping? I think that's getting pretty darn close to it. So yes, I can easily see the logic in a Bajoran, knowledgeable about space, other species, and all else, worshiping the Prophets. I think it can fit.
Jason R.
Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 3:11pm (UTC -6)
"The Bajorans' behaviour treats the Aliens as deities because, to an primitive culture, they would appear to be so; the only reason this continues after "Emissary" is because the Bajorans self-consciously avoid interacting with their gods in a scientific way--which they are perfectly capable of doing. It's ridiculous"

One reason the Bajorans may have avoided "interacting" with the Prophets on a scientific level is because doing so is inherently dangerous, as Dukat and Sisko found out in Emissary, and as a Dominion fleet discovered in SOA.

I agree with Peter that this cannot be considered a Pagan religion yet there are very interesting parralels. The ancients certainly understood that you don't mess around with Gods - Greek myth is chalk full of the horrible consequencea of such "investigations".

I say it is an interesting parralel because the Bajorans are very much in a similar position to an ancient observing a thunderstorm. To such a person, one not need to resort to metaphor to explain God's power. One need not resort to faith in the modern sense. The lightning and thunder *is* the God from his point of view. He doesn't need to speculate much as the truth is manifest.

The Bajorans don't need to speculate or resort to metaphor. Their Gods are real period full stop. The power they possess can't be explained easily, or indeed, at all, using 24th century science. If we tale Q's musings in AGT about the time paradox and what understanding this could mean for a human mind, the Prophets may be as far beyond 24th Century humans as our science would be beyond the understanding of cave dwellers. What they accomplish daily makes Picard's insight in AGT look trivial in comparison. And unlike Picard, the Bajorans don't run elbows the the Q, the Dowd, Armis or others like that every Tuesday.

To say that the Bajorans could not see the Prophets as Gods because they have scientific understanding disregards the context of their religion.

You can say that this type of faith isn't really "faith" in the modern context or that such faith is less valuable or less fulfilling than what Christians experience - that's fine. But you'd also have to make the same point to the cave dweller trembling before a lightning storm, that somehow he doesn't have real "faith" either. You'd have to claim that his behaviour is absurd, his religion foolish or whatnot. Fine, but frankly, ridiculous.
Peter G.
Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 3:48pm (UTC -6)
@ Elliott,

"The Bajorans' behaviour treats the Aliens as deities because, to an primitive culture, they would appear to be so; the only reason this continues after "Emissary" is because the Bajorans self-consciously avoid interacting with their gods in a scientific way--which they are perfectly capable of doing. It's ridiculous."

I'm not even sure what you mean about interacting with them in a "scientific way". Do you mean shoving scanners in their faces? And where exactly are their faces? If you go into the wormhole you see a bunch of CGI and then come out the other side. The Prophets only interact when they choose to. But even putting this detail aside (although it's a serious one), why do you suppose that it would be good to insist on interacting with them in a way other than of their choosing? Do you think that it's police to barge into someone's wormhole and tell them the proper way to communicate? Respect for alien cultures would at the very least dictate allowing the wormhole aliens to use whatever form of communication suits them, and at such times as they're ready to talk; that's pretty much at the heart of Federation diplomacy. Nothing needs to be forced. If we wanted to be pedantic I'm sure we could assume that the Federation wasn't do dumb that they never sent a science vessel in there, and I'm sure they found nothing. So much for that, and why waste time writing episodes about it? It's pretty clear that communication will only ever happen when the aliens feel like it. And from a courtesy point of view, I don't see why the Bajorans in particular would even want to demand an alternate form of communication when they are very happy with the form they've always had. Why push it and be ungrateful?

"But that religion has to make contextual sense! The allegory has to hold up because overcoming these kinds of issues requires *understanding.* Earth religions which still exist have adapted to scientific advancement. Those who still deny evolution, for example, are self-consciously denying scientific reality--much like the Bajorans. Are we supposed to tolerate this? Are we supposed to allow schools to teach Creationism?"

I'm not quite sure what your argument is here. Are you saying that if the allegory doesn't conform exactly to how you think it should then it's nonsense? I think it works fine as an allegory about how to form bonds with people who believe in things you can't prove. That you need it to mean something beyond that (a 1:1 mapping as Skeptical put it) is your issue, but not the show's issue. And I see no evidence in the show that the Bajorans are anti-science; that seems to be you imputing things you believe about Christianity into the show.

"But that is unforgivably shallow! Religious people *do* have to contend with those who would dismiss their beliefs for being nonsense--and not just "bad guys." And atheists *do* have to contend with the fact that religious truth is able to deal with aspects of our existence which no science can explain."

People in the show *do* dismiss their beliefs as nonsense, and we *do* see them have to react to it. I'm not sure what your concern is here. What I said is that we, the viewer, don't have to contend with wondering whether their belief is nonsense; or at least, that's tabled as being a primary concern since we've given a rough explanation of where their beliefs come from. The *writers* are then free to discuss other issues besides whether the religion makes sense. But there are plenty of episodes featuring characters who don't think it does.

Overall it seems to me that your main objection seems to come from the place that the religion isn't allegorical enough to be likened to Abrahamic religions, and in turn it really seems like this irks you because you want to be able to definitively say that their beliefs are stupid. But since you can't your claim is that the show fails to portray them realistically, but in reality beliefs of such a people could be easily called stupid. I'm speculating here, but you can tell me if I'm right, that basically your position is that religion is a bunch of hooey and that it's two-faced to portray a religion that really is a religion and really isn't a bunch of hooey. It's hard to read your interpretation of the Bajoran religion in a way other than this, to be honest. It sounds like you want to call then anti-scientific wingnuts and regret that the show doesn't really supply the ammo for you to do that. Or am I wrong?

@ Chrome,

"the issue a religious believer would have with making miracles real and undeniable is that you’re robbed then of the chance to discover the metaphysical aspects of a God through hard-earned meditation and piety."

Why can't it be about a people who worship powerful beings? Must the issue always devolve into calling it miracles or a cheap substitution for God? I don't think it's supposed to be any kind of substitution for God, although certainly the issue of faith is treated similarly in DS9 at times to how it is in Abrahamic religion. And insofar as the Prophets seem to only communicate with worthy people and pass down information that it requires a priesthood to interpret, there is certainly good reason to need a faith life including meditation and piety to interact with them properly on a practical basis. And why must worship be impractical, anyhow?
Chrome
Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 4:31pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

"Why can't it be about a people who worship powerful beings? Must the issue always devolve into calling it miracles or a cheap substitution for God?"

It's DS9's writers who insist on making parallels to Abrahamic religions. If they treated Bajorans like the Edo who just worshiped a sufficiently advanced alien for understandable reasons then that would be the end of it. But there are intentional parallels to Earth religions precisely because DS9's writers wish to make commentary on contemporary religion. The issue here is that those comparisons ring hollow because they break down into apples and oranges when subject to any critical analysis as Elliott has demonstrated.
Elliott
Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 8:18pm (UTC -6)
I’m going to combine repeat comments from different posters for the sake of concision:

@Skeptical:

You’re being a bit obtuse about the allegory thing. That an allegory is meant to comment on a real-world issue doesn’t mean that every aspect of the allegory has to have a 1:1 correlary. That’s kind of ridiculous. The Cardassians allegorise Nazis primarily, but also the USSR in some domestic aspects. What is the point of putting totalitarian cultures on the screen if we aren’t meant to draw analogies with actual totalitarian states?

“You say that the Prophets must be allegorical to Abrahamic religions. Then you state that the fact that the Prophets have a known, quantifiable existence means it's not an allegory.”

Did I say that? I said the Bajoran religion is portrayed inconsistently—sometimes as allegorical to Abrahamic religions and sometimes more pagan. The inconsistency causes the writers to avoid discussing the issues regarding religion, from any perspective, I a way which has any bearing on the real world. That is my complaint.

“It would be a poor Christian who said that it doesn't matter whether or not there was a real, historical Resurrection 2000 years ago in Jerusalem, or that there wasn't a real, historical Abraham 2000 years before that.”

Well, I happen to work for the church and my mother has a masters in theology. Actually a lot of serious Christian thinkers do think of the biblical accounts as metaphorical, and not literal. Literalists are fundamentalists, but only they would be so arrogant as to presume themselves to be the only real Christians.

Science can prove that the biblical accounting of—well everything—is historically inaccurate. But because Christianity is about faith in interpretable ideas, like art, Christians are perfectly capable of acknowledging this without abandoning their belief

“The Bajoran priest doesn't need to "prove" the prophecy except insofar as to get the skeptics in Starfleet to do something about it. ”

Actually, Stanley Tucci is quite intent on proving the prophecy true. He promises to Sisko that a third Cardassian will appear, and when she does, Kira gets the vapours. At the end, Tucci arrogantly assers that he was basically correct, but fudged the details, which is nonsense. He was totally wrong. Even if Sisko is looking to read the prophecies, this is the last guy whose interpretation he should heed.

“So if the Prophets manipulated history to bring Sisko closer to them, how is that a horribly incorrect approach to religion?”

Precisely because this means the Prophets know the Bajorans worship them as gods, and not only don’t care, actively seek to maintain that relationship.

@Jason R

“The Bajorans don't need to speculate or resort to metaphor. Their Gods are real period full stop.”

Yes exactly. There is no faith involved in their religion. So why do they keep referring to faith in the Prophets?

@Peter G

“Do you think that it's [polite] to barge into someone's wormhole and tell them the proper way to communicate? ”

The aliens have intentionally allowed the Bajorans to consider them gods. We are way past polite.

“And I see no evidence in the show that the Bajorans are anti-science”

That is not at all what I’m saying. I am making an analogy; the Bajorans *know* that their gods are aliens, but ignore the implications of that reality, just as some Christians choose to ignore the science of evolution because it conflicts with their interpretation of the bible.

“People in the show *do* dismiss their beliefs as nonsense, and we *do* see them have to react to it”

Yes, but those people are always evil Cardassians—we can always dismiss it when Dukat belittles their religion, because he’s a fucking mass murderer. The only conclusions you might draw would be that questioning people’s beliefs makes you an asshole.

Your speculation is wrong, by the way. I have a great respect for people of genuine religious conviction who bother to understand the metaphysical implications of their beliefs. This show pretends to be nuanced but offers no challenge to the religious characters. Their “faith” is nothing of the sort. It’s insulting.
Peter G.
Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 11:10pm (UTC -6)
@ Elliott,

"“People in the show *do* dismiss their beliefs as nonsense, and we *do* see them have to react to it”

Yes, but those people are always evil Cardassians"

Chief O'Brien, Keiko, and Odo are evil Cardassians? There are plenty of people on the show who roll their eyes about the Bajoran religion, even though they do come to respect the people. Keiko in particular goes toe to toe in S1 on this subject, albeit with an antagonist who is lacking in honesty. But my point is that few characters on the show are actually sympathetic with, or even interested in the Bajoran religion. Kira goes to work every day with Dax, who she knows thinks of her gods in the temple as wormhole aliens. How easy can that be? I think showing that they become good friends anyhow is a strong message.

"Your speculation is wrong, by the way. I have a great respect for people of genuine religious conviction who bother to understand the metaphysical implications of their beliefs. This show pretends to be nuanced but offers no challenge to the religious characters. Their “faith” is nothing of the sort. It’s insulting. "

Sorry if my guess was wrong. So you are saying that if the show had portrayed the Bajoran religion with some more depth you would have been pleased to see them explore their faith in that context?

I actually do find the general treatment of the religion to be, well, a little unimaginative actually. Considering that it's a sci-fi show based on magic aliens outside of time, I expect there were more interesting things they could have done besides mumble about faith and belief. Those are relevant to understanding the characters and what got them through the Occupation, but not that helpful in getting us to understand the religion itself. Given the premise of some combination of predestination, prefect prediction, or even just time manipulation, I figure we were worth at least a few timey-wimey episodes about what it's like to have gods like this. Maybe even a comedy episode about whacky prophecies about trivialities coming true. So from that standpoint I would agree with a notion that the *details* of the faith were left mostly unexplored, especially to show how their faith might differ from an Abrahamic faith, so say nothing of what happens to a people when their heaven is literally discovered.

However despite the lack of these wishlist items, I do take in-universe canon pretty seriously and enjoy giving it thought, and nothing that appeared on DS9 ever struck me as either incoherent or contradictory with its own canon. It's a bit simple, but what they show seems legit and not to complicated to accept. I do think that in this episode in particular the ex-Vedek is deliberately made to look foolish to an extent, until the very end where ironically even though he is sort of defeated, at the same time he turns out to be more right than he thought from a certain point of view. In other words he was wrong about everything *except* that he was right to have faith in the Prophets. But what he could never be was right about the prophecies, because they're beyond his comprehension. The lesson is that it's possible to realize that something is true, and that it's also not understandable; or at least not yet. This is a tough pill to swallow for someone absorbed with his own sense of self-importance. So I like the lesson of the episode for that reason - that religion shouldn't be a vehicle for some person to elevate his own importance. In a manner of speaking this is the same thing Winn does, so that's something interesting right there.
Elliott
Fri, Oct 12, 2018, 7:37am (UTC -6)
@Peter G

I think this is a point at which we can agree to disagree--Keiko went out of her way to show respect for the Bajorans' religion, just not deference to it. My memory is fuzzy on Dax and Miles getting into it about the religion, so I'll save that for when it comes up in my re-watch; but the point is, no one--not even the Dukat--actually challenges the substance of their religion. No one ever says, "Have you stopped and thought about whether the wormhole aliens actually deserve your worship? Now, that you know exactly what they are and how they work, why do you call them gods?" I'm not saying the Bajorans should have all become atheists or anything...just that leaving these questions unasked meant the whole concept of their religion remained extremely shallow, and served no allegorical purpose. So, there's no more depth to this aspect of the show, really, than the fact that the Defiant has pulse-cannon phasers. It might be interesting; it adds to the mise-en-scène of the series; but it doesn't mean anything.

"So I like the lesson of the episode for that reason - that religion shouldn't be a vehicle for some person to elevate his own importance."

Yeah--except, at the end he goes from being an outcast Vedek to the Emissary's personal prophecy-interpreter. How is that a lesson about not using religion to elevate oneself?
Skeptical
Fri, Oct 12, 2018, 7:34pm (UTC -6)
Elliott, of course I know that every little detail being an allegory is absurd, that was my point! You were the one that said that in the first place. My point was that, if some stories of Romulans can be allegories, and some can be their own stories, then why can't the same be said about the Prophets?

Also, I'm confused as to why you and Chrome seem to think elements of the Prophets correlate to Pagan religions. Is it just that they have a specific, physical residence, a la Mt Olympus? Well, Catholics believe God is physically manifest in the Eucharist, so are we pagans too?

Pagan religions believe in a pantheon, of individual gods having human-like relationships (marriages, kids, jealousies, etc). The Prophets, as far as we know, have no individual personalities.

Pagan religions often have a local protector god for a family or city or nation. Again, since there are no individual Prophets that we know of, Bajoran's don't choose an individual Prophet to claim as their own.

Pagan religions believe the gods manifest themselves through nature, through weather or disasters or whatever. I don't believe this ever showed up in DS9.

Pagan religions have a contractual element to their rituals. If I do ritual X, then gods will grant condition Y. In contrast, Christianity's rites and rituals are more about a closer relationship with God, and even prayers and petitions is more about "Thy will be done" rather than "alright, I'm doing what You want, so this is what I expect out of You now." Bajoran rites seem closer to the latter, although I admit I'm not 100% sure of that.

So what about Bajoran religion reminds you of paganism? Is it about the orbs? Well, that's unique to the show, obviously no Earthly religion has magical items that can send us back in time or whatever. Is it just that they have a physical location?

But so what?

The Prophets, as far as we know, are NOT scientifically observable. Science says that, given certain stimuli, a certain reaction will follow. And science uncovers those reactions. But there are NO known stimuli that will elicit an observable response from the Prophets.

Look, if I bounce sunlight off of you and into a camera, I can observe the results in a picture I created. There's nothing you can do to stop that stimulus from creating a response (other than breaking my camera...). But tricorders pick up nothing. Running through the wormhole creates nothing. They may be willing to talk to Sisko, but they don't talk to almost anyone else. You can't force a conversation with them. Heck, even Changeling Bashir nearly destroying the wormhole didn't elicit a response. Even this asteroid threat didn't elicit a response (at least not in linear time). So not even threatening to harm them is enough of a stimulus.

So they aren't scientifically discoverable.

Q isn't scientifically discoverable either, at least not until the execrable Q and the Grey. So we have precedence for this.

Now, maybe the orbs are. But they were also in Cardassian hands for decades (or at least some of them were), so presumably some Cardassians tried to study them. And maybe nothing discoverable was present there. Maybe, in the hands of a nonbeliever, it's just an ordinary rock. Maybe it's no more scientifically discoverable than the Eucharist.

Which again, would put it at a parallel with an Abrahamic faith.

Why do you say that the Bajorans "know" that their gods are aliens? They know that their gods reside in the Wormhole. They know that these gods are real, and manifest themselves to certain people such as Sisko. They know NOTHING about the physical nature of these gods. They know aliens exist, they know Starfleet calls them wormhole aliens, but why does that necessarily mean they should be categorized the same as Cardassians or Romulans or even Edo?

Christians know that God is real, and that He manifests Himself to certain people. Christians know nothing about the physical nature of God. Granted, Christians don't know if aliens exist or not, or even if super duper powerful aliens like Q exist. But even conceding that point, how is that different?

And again, I just want to go back to one thing I said earlier to re-emphasize it: what proof is there, in-universe, that the wormhole aliens exist? The orbs, which may have been scientifically studied and proven to be ordinary rocks. The visions that the Bajorans have had over the years, which could be madness or dreams or drugs or lies. Sisko's experience. How is ANY of that more proof than the evidence for Christianity? Yes, we the viewers saw it and can thus presume it to be fact, but why should Starfleet believe in Wormhole aliens except insofar as they trust Sisko is telling the truth? Again, it's been a while since I last saw DS9, but as far as I know, at this stage, the in-universe evidence for wormhole aliens is extremely thin. In that case, Keiko calling them wormhole aliens was not a stand-in for atheism or secularism; Keiko should have been calling Sisko nuts!

So why are you saying it's not a matter of faith? Is it not a matter of faith that the Prophets, who are completely inscutable by secular terms, ARE looking out for the Bajorans best interest? Is it not a matter of faith that the Prophets DO consider the Bajorans to be their children or whatever?

You seem to be very hostile to even admitting the possibility that the Prophets ARE gods, and declaring the definition of "alien" to exclude "god". Why not? Again, just because they exist? That's a circular argument and extremely hostile to religion in general. As I said earlier, I posit that the definition of a god should be a being that A) has ultimate power over a people, even if that being chooses not to wield that power 99% of the time, and B) has the moral authority to wield that power. "B" has to be included; otherwise we could argue that Q is a god, and that's clearly pointless to the question of religion. Nothing in the show suggests that Q has any true moral authority except possibly All Good Things.

Weyoun, at one point, was told that the Founders undoubtedly genetically engineered them to see the Founders as gods. Weyoun's response was "of course, that's exactly what gods would do." Weyoun sees the Founders, as the authors of his genetic code, as having absolute power over him and his people. And he believes that they have the moral authority to do so, and thus accepts that worshiping them is natural. We tend to believe in equality, even among alien races, and thus do not believe the Founders have that moral authority.

But that's the tricky part of that definition I posited above; "B" is going to be highly argumentative. Humans can't even agree to what extent we have moral authority over animals, so how are we going to agree on if a superior being has moral authority over us (or our hypothetical peers, the Bajorans)? So people will have their own opinions on this, and that's fine. But because of that, we should also honestly be able to look at the opposite opinion and determine if it is at least plausible.

So can you do that? Can you look at the other possibility and see if the Prophets DO have moral authority over the Bajorans? You clearly disagree, given your moral outrage over the Prophets presenting themselves as gods. But why? Again, all I see is your demand that gods must not physically exist, even though all Abrahamic religions disagree with you.

In my previous post, I presented a possibility as to why the Prophets might have moral authority over the Bajorans, given their ability to see outside time. This is the only known stable wormhole. Presumably the Prophets built it. From what I can recall, there's no habitable planet on the Gamma Quadrant side. So why did they choose Bajor to build it? Maybe they did have a purpose to it? Maybe they are guiding the Bajorans to a higher calling?

Yes, I know Emissary showed they didn't understand linear time. But Season 7 showed that they created Sisko. I'm with Janeway, time travel gives me headaches. So these nonlinear beings still understand enough to make decisions, and influence reality, even if they needed a single instance in time to learn how to do it (darn paradoxes...). So while the Prophets' cavalier attitude towards Bajor in the pilot may be an argument against it, I posit that the nonlinear time shenanigans means it doesn't count.

I think DS9 is interesting in its treatment of religion, because it can ask the question about what the nature of godhood is. Obviously it can't do that with The God, but the contrasts between the Prophets and the Founders, and the contrasts between the Vorta and the Bajorans, works reasonably well.

Finally, because I just couldn't let this go unchallenged... "Actually a lot of serious Christian thinkers do think of the biblical accounts as metaphorical. Literalists are fundamentalists, but only they would be so arrogant as to presume themselves to be the only real Christians." I'm going to be charitable and assume your statement refers to the first 11 chapters of Genesis, because otherwise... what? If one assumes the Gospel is metaphorical, you CANNOT call yourself a Christian without completely twisting the meaning of words. It's as crazy as the people who say math is sexist or racist or whatever! Look, here's the simple logic (assuming logic isn't also racist...):

1) The word "Christian" means "follower of Christ"
2) To be a follower of someone, you have to (at the bare minimum) agree with that person's central, primary tenet
3) Christ said the central, primary tenet (the greatest commandment) is to love God with every fiber of one's being
4) Christ also said that He is God
5) It is impossible to love a being with every fiber of your being if you do not think that being exists
Therefore: it is impossible to be a Christian without also believing in the existence of Jesus

And also, if you pulled rank about your mother being a theologian, as will I. I have a PhD in sci... uh, engineering, but close enough. So I state with authority that your statement "Science can prove that the biblical accounting of—well everything—is historically inaccurate." is completely false. Again, I'll be charitable and ignore Genesis 1-11 for now. But that's not how science works, at all, since science is about repeatable observations and we have none here. And even if we include archaeology, your statement is wrong. Not only is there huge swaths of the Bible that are validated in great detail in the archaeological record, but there is nothing (again, past Gen 11) in the archaeological record that "proves" it to be false about "well everything", even if there is no evidence to support it either.

But anyway, that's enough.
Chrome
Fri, Oct 12, 2018, 8:45pm (UTC -6)
@Skeptical

“I'm confused as to why you and Chrome seem to think elements of the Prophets correlate to Pagan religions.”

At that point in the conversation “Pagan” had become shorthand for primitive peoples who believed Gods were directly responsible for what we now are natural and explainable phenomenon. That’s similar to the Bajorans in the sense that they know the physical location of their gods and can start a conversation with them if they want. Even non-believers like the Ferengi can talk to the Prophets. They’re not metaphysical, they’re physical beings.

“If one assumes the Gospel is metaphorical, you CANNOT call yourself a Christian without completely twisting the meaning of words.”

Theologists do in fact interpret the bible in different ways. The Catholic priest at my school with a degree theology said he believes the Old Testament was written symbolically instead of literally in many ways. For example, the number 40 comes up often in the bible (I.e. Moses spent 40 days in the desert) but modern interpretations are that 40 is not meant to be literal. Instead, 40 was used metaphorically to represent a significantly long period of time. At least, that’s the way I was taught. If you were taught differently, please don’t take this offensively, it just means different Christian scholars have different interpretations.
Elliott
Sat, Oct 13, 2018, 8:30am (UTC -6)
@Skeptical:

"Well, Catholics believe God is physically manifest in the Eucharist, so are we pagans too?"

Actually, Transubstantiation, and a lot of other Catholic/Christian symbolism, does come from pre-Judaic paganism: http://www.lazyboysreststop.org/apol8.htm

All the elements of modern religion which challenge scientific fact are throwbacks to the paganist roots of those religions, from Evangelical Creationism to Christian Scientist rejection of modern medicine.

"as I know, at this stage, the in-universe evidence for wormhole aliens is extremely thin."

Not at all. In the very episode which follows this one, "Prophet Motive," Zek and Quark are both able to contact the Prophets with little effort and the Prophets, twice, make psychological alterations to the Nagus as a result of that interaction. The Federation may not be able to replicate or fully understand the science behind this act--just like with Q--but it's most definitely happening. Eventually, [spoilers] the Prophets will delete an entire fleet of Dominion soldiers out of existence, cause neural trauma to Sisko, reveal that, in fact, they created Sisko--physically--and that's before all the Pagh Wraith crap.

Regarding scientific/archaeological evidence for the Gospel accounts--this is an enormous subject. I would suggest doing some further reading before making such assertions. If you're actually interested in the historicity of Jesus and the bible, good writers to begin with would be Craig Keener and Reza Azlan. I did not mention my mother's degree or my work to "pull rank," but just to demonstrate that this is not a casual subject for me. Many scientists take issue with several episodes of Star Trek, especially Voyager and Enterprise, for pretending to have scientific bases for their plots when they're just throwing around science terms with no accountability for actual science. That's how I feel about DS9 and religion--the writers clearly have no idea what they're talking about.
Peter G.
Sat, Oct 13, 2018, 4:40pm (UTC -6)
@ Elliott,

Actually it would be fun to rebut all of these individual points back and forth, but I think it's ok to simply disagree about how we perceive the details as shown in the show. One thing that I think bears mentioning, though, is the difference between something being a "belief", in the sense of some idea that interests you, almost like it was art or something, versus belief in the sense that it's someone's assessment of how reality really is. Skeptical mentioned that the distinction between the Prophets being "real" as compared to the Christian God is a distinction without a difference because Christians do believe God is real, albeit a different sort of affair than the Prophets are. It wouldn't even be accurate to say that the Christian God is incorporeal (to use a Trek term), because Jesus is depicted specifically as being corporeal, and so I think I agree with Skeptical that conceptual the dichotomy you're suggesting doesn't really work. Here's the chief case in point:

"Actually, Transubstantiation, and a lot of other Catholic/Christian symbolism"

It doesn't make sense to speak of the Eucharist as being a symbol and still say you're talking about Catholicism. According to Catholicism the Eucharist is a person, in the flesh (so to speak), more 'hard and real' than the Prophets seem to be. As a piece of anthropological cross-cultural analysis you might look at transubstantiation in all sorts of ways, comparing it to older religions and so forth, but at such a time as you do the discussion ceases to be strictly about the actual beliefs in the religion.

As you're interested in the subject I would say that the 'knife's edge' in this kind of area is to maintain the bird's eye view and see everything from above, while also bearing in mind the actual stated belief down on the ground, if you catch my meaning. To call something merely a belief sort of tacitly implies that it lacks veracity, which is a legitimate opinion to have but might well actually imply much more certainty than is intended (e.g. X belief is categorically false, which is a super-strong claim).
Chrome
Sat, Oct 13, 2018, 4:58pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

“It wouldn't even be accurate to say that the Christian God is incorporeal (to use a Trek term), because Jesus is depicted specifically as being corporeal, and so I think I agree with Skeptical that conceptual the dichotomy you're suggesting doesn't really work.”

Ah, but the key difference with Jesus pre-ascension and the Prophets is that people challenged Jesus’ claim to divinity during his life. This led to real and compelling discussions between Jesus and skeptics that make up much of the New Testament. It’s been brought up several times here, but neither the Prophets or the Bajorans are put to task about their faith despite contradictions that exist within the show. It’s to the show’s detriment these discussions never happened, and Prophets are just used as a sort of supernatural backdrop that frames the writers moral beliefs for the show.
Akira
Sat, Oct 13, 2018, 9:11pm (UTC -6)
Jesus may have been depicted as being corporeal, but didn't claim to be. In fact he claimed to be pure spirit many times. But when have Catholics been known to really take notice of what Jesus said?
RandomThoughts
Mon, Nov 5, 2018, 9:04pm (UTC -6)
Hello Everyone!

@CaptainBaggins

Wow. One message you respond that you are calling out fascists "Past Tense, Part II", and later the same day you pull out the "c" word in this thread? In polite company?

Wow. Just wow.

RT
Springy
Sun, Dec 16, 2018, 8:53pm (UTC -6)
Cross cultural misunderstanding.

Gilora, a scientist, is so upset over O'Brien's rejection that she abandons working on the project to save the wormhole. Wow. That's one emotionally fragile Cardassiannie.

I just don't much care for the Bajoran stuff, and Sisko-Emissary. I don't know how to express it beyond . . . if I can paraphrase Tom Hanks' character, Josh, in "Big,": "I don't get it. What's fun about that?"

Very meh.
Springy
Mon, Dec 17, 2018, 6:55am (UTC -6)
Wow, that's some discussion you guys have going here, about Gods and religion and such. Perhaps you have answered my "Big" question about these Prophet episodes, "What's fun about that?"

Wish I had the time and attention span to dive into this deep pool. Maybe after the holidays. I'm sure DS9 will provide more opportunities. But for now, I'm immersed in Earthbound religious celebratory practices.

The Bajorans should have some Santa Claus equivalent. A fun and magical representation that participates in their holy days somehow. Or maybe some sorta-Jesus equivalent, anyhow. A Prophet-alien sent to walk among them to experience linear time and such.
Landon
Sat, Jan 12, 2019, 8:39pm (UTC -6)
It's cool how this comment section has gone on for years. I'm also an atheist, and while I liked this ep, and ds9, and it's true that this ep doesn't endorse anything and just takes a curious look at something, and indeed these are confirmed non-linear aliens that makes sense of things scientifically, there is a hint here and elsewhere in the series of something Roddenberry might not have approved of, in giving a slight suggestion that there may be any validity to religion. Trek is founded on scientific secular humanism to the core, a big reason why I love it. Just watch Kirk's lines in the ep with Apollo or Picards in Who Watches The Watchers. I'm not sure they've violated anything Trekkian here, but it seems there may be a writer or two not completely on board. (Liked the suggestion above that Sisko in the pilot later caused the aliens to ensure his own birth in his past)
Peter G.
Sat, Jan 12, 2019, 10:10pm (UTC -6)
"there is a hint here and elsewhere in the series of something Roddenberry might not have approved of, in giving a slight suggestion that there may be any validity to religion. Trek is founded on scientific secular humanism to the core, a big reason why I love it."

This may be what Trek became in later TNG, but it's definitely not what it was in TOS. And while I would agree to an extent that secular humanism is sort of built-in to Trek, vis a vis the angle of "we can improve our society through technology and joining together in common cause", TOS certainly never took an approach for or against religion. Sure, you have the odd episode where on the one side Kirk tells Apollo that the old gods aren't needed anymore, and on the other where Uhura recognizes the inherent truth in the notion of the son of God. But the bottom line is that TOS is fundamentally about IDIC, which includes all religions and belief systems, so long as they learn to respect each other and work together. But it's certainly not about the triumph of "secularism" over religion or anything like that. And we must take with a grain of salt certain specifics, as they did have guest writers, and Roddenberry wasn't exactly re-editing scripts to fit his screed into them, whatever that may have been. And to whatever extent Roddenberry had an effect on TNG S1-2, we get episodes like Where Silence Has Lease where Picard's speech on life and death is anything but an atheist manifesto.

Overall I think the show's appeal comes from being agnostic on sectarianism, and strong on reason and the spirit of exploration. These should be things everyone can get behind, and they do tend to when it comes to Trek. But DS9 seems to turn many people off because they want it to be cynical on religion due to some idea that Trek always has been, which it certainly hasn't. On the other hand the writers did decide to beard the lion by bringing it up in the first place, so the controversy is no surprise either. Overall DS9 seems to very carefully avoid endorsing any particular view, but instead gives a sci-fi approach to looking a local religion (which TOS did all the time) and gives up a somewhat expanded view of it. What does, for instance, a religious culture have in common with Starfleet? And how can we easily differentiate between things science can currently explain, and things that are mysterious and that it may or may not explain one day?
Landon
Sun, Jan 13, 2019, 9:07am (UTC -6)
Peter G, Trek has never had an open and clear atheist manifesto, but look at the humanity of the future: it's completely scientific and secular. There are virtually no humans that have ever been religious, religion always being something the humans come across and study and deal with with other races in Trek, and that almost always anthropologically. Even in ds9 see the last ep of ssn 1 In The Hands of the Prophets. Go back and watch that Apollo ep, Kirk said a lot more than you think. Roddenberry was named humanist of the year and did an interview with a humanist magazine just before he died, go read what he said about religion there and elsewhere. Read what his reaction was when they tried to get him to put chaplains on TOS. Read about his rejected script for the first movie about a god and why it seems to have been rejected. Being open to other possibilities and being full of wonder and tolerance fits just fine with atheism and humanism.
Landon
Sun, Jan 13, 2019, 9:59am (UTC -6)
Peter G, please see:

https://thehumanist.com/magazine/july-august-2009/features/star-trek-made-me-an-atheist?

fbclid=IwAR3f3kzEQg07T8jBN2pdpSzh9d6Xg_lBAuUq9lFe2s-1x5wD68EKMJ7rx4I https://thehumanist.com/features/interviews/humanist-interview-gene-roddenberry

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qe7axuTmoUg&sns=fb&fbclid=IwAR3f3kzEQg07T8jBN2pdpSzh9d6Xg_lBAuUq9lFe2s-1x5wD68EKMJ7rx4I

http://trekinitiative.wikia.com/wiki/The_God-Thing?fbclid=IwAR3X7rr653XheS_kG-H7byY1WVOu3xz-x35Gxk1uxXenVZkFD0SfzigvgZA

" (PALAMAS)
I have a message for you…He wants us to live in peace. He wants to provide for us. He’ll give us everything we ever wanted.
(KIRK)
…Accept him and you condemn all of us to slavery…nothing less than slavery…Or perhaps the thought of spending an eternity bending knee and attending sheep appeals to you?
(KIRK)
Give me your hand…we’re the same. We share the same history, the same heritage, the same lives. We’re tied together beyond any untying. Man or woman, it makes no difference, we’re human. We couldn’t escape from each other even if we wanted to. That’s how you do it, lieutenant, by remembering who and what you are: a bit of flesh and blood afloat in a universe without end. And the only thing that’s truly yours is the rest of humanity. That’s where our duty lies!"
Peter G.
Sun, Jan 13, 2019, 4:43pm (UTC -6)
@ Landon,

I know very well that Trek portrays life on the ship in a secular way, and that the crew obviously don't sit on the bridge and pray together. To whatever extent the show is about public life and how to work with one another it no doubt is a secular humanist show. In other words, when considering the problem of how to co-exist with others, the question is how to be, and Trek tries to show us this. What it doesn't do is tell us how to be as individuals: and in fact TNG goes out of its way to show that this is very much an individual thing. I think it's inescapable that TOS has countless episodes about how it's bad for religion - or any kind of system - to control people, creating tyranny and overruling individuality. But this isn't a screed against religion, but rather against religious control over others. The problem in The Apple isn't that people have a belief system, it's that the belief system rules them so completed that they literally can't think for themselves and they know nothing about their environment. The problem in Return of the Archons isn't that there's a religious community, but that it's enforced through mind control and force. These are the recurrent Trekkian themes. Neither Kirk nor Picard ever suggested that any particular way to think is right. Picard never said that Worf's religion is dumb, but only that in practicing it he has to remain in bounds of Federation and Starfleet rules.

So this can be very confusing to viewers deadset on finding confirmation that atheism is the way to go, because I agree that there is material in Trek that at first glance can seem to confirm this. But I think it basically doesn't say anything about it at all, other than that whatever it is you believe, it had better not enslave others or take away the desire to learn, think, and explore. The morality preached in Trek is a public one: to find the necessary mutual respect to actually find IDIC, which religious fundamentalism seems unable to find. So an argument that the series is against fundamentalism would probably be a solid one. But beyond that the point of Trek is precisely *not* to denounce a belief system just because you don't agree with it, but to find in others what you can admire to try to work with them in harmony. That doesn't have to mean in agreement.
Landon
Sun, Jan 13, 2019, 6:44pm (UTC -6)
Peter G, as I said I acknowledge the Trek themes of tolerance and IDIC. But it is not just on the ship, but all of humanity, the utopian humanity of the future, in Trek that has entirely gotten beyond religion. Faith to my knowledge is never advocated or seen as a virtue or a way to solve problems. It's only ever seen as a foreign thing that has to be tolerated if not harmful.

For most people religion is nothing more than a substitute for a malfunctioning brain. If people need religion, ignore them and maybe they will ignore you, and you can go on with your life. It wasn't until I was beginning to do Star Trek that the subject of religion arose. What brought it up was that people were saying that I would have a chaplain on board the Enterprise. I replied, "No, we don't.
-Gene Roddenberry
Peter G.
Sun, Jan 13, 2019, 8:10pm (UTC -6)
@ Landon,

I never heard that quote but it doesn't surprise me at all. He also held personal views that even most Trek fans would find questionable, such as that if he had his way there would probably have been orgies on the ship too. Luckily for us IDIC made its way into the writing room too and other minds contributed some of what we see as the core of Trek. If it was completely up to Roddenberry I don't think the show would have been all that it is, and this especially seems to be the consensus about early TNG. So I hail his contributions with all respect, as did the original cast members, but I also see that Trek =/= Roddenberry. He may have felt that way, but I don't believe 'the show' does such as it is. It had the potential and the content to rise above the views of one man and to be about the views of all, and what we collectively need to understand. As I mentioned above, there is pretty much no sign on TNG that anyone thinks Worf has a "malfunctioning brain" to have his beliefs; and of all people, Pulaski, the hardened skeptic, seems to have even more respect for them than the others.

What I think DS9 succeeds at doing is showing religion in a more everyday sort of way without needing to also make a statement about it, pro or con. It's just there, and Kira and others say their piece. The fact that it's partly explained by wormhole aliens, you'd think, would actually appeal to atheists: "aha! it was based on something scientific after all!" Funny how so few come to that conclusion despite bashing the portrayal of religion on the show.
Peter G.
Sun, Jan 13, 2019, 8:10pm (UTC -6)
PS - the last line of my above comment wasn't directed towards Landon specifically, but was more of a general statement.
Landon
Sun, Jan 13, 2019, 11:08pm (UTC -6)
Peter G, I'm not entirely sure of my feelings on the portrayl of religion on the ds9, as I said I like ds9 a lot, though I didn't like it or get it for a long time. However, the bajoran religion IS entirely explained scientifically: the prophets are aliens. I'm friends with Roddenberry s long tine3 assistant Richard Arnold who I met at a convention, he's shared a lot about Gene ober the years. And Gene wasn't entirely opposed to the idea that ancient aliens were mistaken by primitive man for gods- kind of exactly the situation with the fairly primitive Bajorans. Also, I would have had bo problem with orgies, people are reluably stupid in their attitudes to sex-harm, responsibility, consent-thats what matters...but look, Brannon Braga is essentially an atheist now working with Atheist seth MacFarlane on cosmos abd3 the oriville, john de lancie is an outspoken atheist who was at the reason rally and on openly secular, Shatner is basically an atheist, Picard like Patrick Stewart is entirely secular, Will Wheaton calls himself a secular humanist thanks to Roddenberry, on and on. I'm sure some of the people involved in Trek were/are religious, but...Also Roddenberry was deeply involved in TNG for its first few years and its creation, and I can't think of a more direct and clear expression of secular humanism than TNG.

"They have abandoned their belief in the supernatural. Now you want me to abandon that achievement? To send them back into the dark ages of fear and ignorance and superstition? No!" - Picard, Who Watches the Watchers

"Isn't that the trouble with believing in a higher being? Figuring out what he wants?"- Troi, same ep
Chrome
Sun, Jan 13, 2019, 11:55pm (UTC -6)
I think “Who Watches the Watchers” and it’s cousin “Devil’s Due” are very different in that we know that the being purported as a god is in fact mortal. The Prophets, as they are portrayed on this show, just might possibly be supernatural too - the showrunners definitely wanted to keep that open-ended.

I’d even go as far as to say that theologians could make some good arguments that Q is a god or an apostle of god. He does play a similar role to the mischievous and testful God depicted in the Old Testament.
Landon
Mon, Jan 14, 2019, 7:41am (UTC -6)
Chrome, the ds9 prophets are mortal too, they talk about that more than once when someone is trying to kill them. The Q can die also, see Death Wish VOY ssn 2. The OT god is not mischievous, he's a vindictive, petty, misogynist, rape and slavery approving and commanding, angry, jealous, child killing, tyrant, a celestial Caligula. And is immortality a key charismatic of a god? That's another problem, "God" could mean all kinds of things, all kinds of beings or forces, conscious or unconscious.
Elliott
Mon, Jan 14, 2019, 9:34am (UTC -6)
@Peter G

"What I think DS9 succeeds at doing is showing religion in a more everyday sort of way without needing to also make a statement about it, pro or con. It's just there, and Kira and others say their piece."

Well...except that the Bajoran gods actively make life and death decisions for the entire quadrant, both through direct intervention like deleting the Dominion fleet or through their emissary, who is supposed to be a secular humanist Starfleet human. Klingon religion--though still problematic--is more the type of "this is my business and my custom" religious portrayal. Bajoran religion is definitely written with an agenda.
Chrome
Mon, Jan 14, 2019, 9:41am (UTC -6)
@Landon

I didn't mean to get hung up on the word "mortality". There's a fundamental difference between Picard being mistaken for a god because of technology explained in the show and The Prophets which perform acts where the show offers no scientific explanation. "Who Watches the Watchers" is not an indictment of all religion, but an indictment of mistaking science for spirituality.
Peter G.
Mon, Jan 14, 2019, 9:50am (UTC -6)
@ Elliott,

"Well...except that the Bajoran gods actively make life and death decisions for the entire quadrant, both through direct intervention like deleting the Dominion fleet or through their emissary, who is supposed to be a secular humanist Starfleet human. Klingon religion--though still problematic--is more the type of "this is my business and my custom" religious portrayal. Bajoran religion is definitely written with an agenda."

Yeah, that's a fundamental difference. I think DS9 offers a blend of TOS-style "primitive people met superior being" scenario, along with what we might call a modern "these are our beliefs and we can't prove them to you" scenario. The orbs make it different right out of the gate, although it's interesting that the orbs only work for the faithful; to any outside observer they do nothing, so we might well consider that the orbs would not be considered as relevent evidence to a scientist that the Bajoran beliefs are based on anything. Which basically reduces it to - from the perspective of a Cardassian or Federation scientist - the modern situation of "our beliefs can't be proven".

On the other hand we see first-hand an experience with Sisko in Emissary, which should convince *us* that there are aliens in there, and those that trust Sisko implicitly seem to believe it to, but it's not clear that everyone just takes his word for it. Naturally by later in the series it begins to more closely resemble the TOS scenario. But by "everyday" I meant that for the average life of a Bajoran, for instance during the occuptation when their gods 'did nothing', there are no powerful beings tromping around throwing lightning for them; they basically only have their prophecies. So I meant what I said just before in regards to the view from the ground. And funny enough, for those who doubt the Bajoran religion Kira never says "well just go into the wormhole and ask them!" So even though it's somewhat of a TOS situation, they sort of treat it like more of an Abrahamic situation in terms of "these are our beliefs and you can have yours."
Landon
Mon, Jan 14, 2019, 10:51am (UTC -6)
Chrome, it seems a bit more than that:


"They have abandoned their belief in the supernatural. Now you want me to abandon that achievement? To send them back into the dark ages of fear and ignorance and superstition? No!" - Picard, Who Watches the Watchers

"Isn't that the trouble with believing in a higher being? Figuring out what he wants?"- Troi, same ep
Chrome
Mon, Jan 14, 2019, 11:01am (UTC -6)
I'm sorry, Landon. What are you saying with those quotes? They aren't very specific and can be taken several ways.
Landon
Mon, Jan 14, 2019, 1:07pm (UTC -6)
Chrome,obviously they're about the supernatural and deities, as the quotes state. You're familiar with the episode.
Chrome
Mon, Jan 14, 2019, 1:22pm (UTC -6)
I agree, I am familiar with the episode.
Landon
Tue, Jan 15, 2019, 11:25pm (UTC -6)
"The Ship" DS9 ssn 5:

Vorta: Do you have any gods captain?

Sisko: There are things I believe in...duty, Starfleet, the federation...
Landon Haynes
Fri, Jan 18, 2019, 8:26am (UTC -6)
Worf: All our gods are dead. Klingon warriors killed them long ago. - DS9 ssn 4, Homefront
Chris P
Sun, Feb 24, 2019, 11:32am (UTC -6)
After reading the entire preceding discussion it feels awkward bringing up an issue I have with the plotting of the episode but this has been bothering me for a few days:

Clearly the Federation participants did not understand the full nature of the experiment. They put full trust in the most duplicitous race the Federation is aware of to perform a procedure on the sacred wormhole. Was Starfleet consulted on this or was this local diplomacy?

The pieces of a prophecy indicating destruction of the wormhole began falling into place. Legitimate concerns, since it was known that the wormhole aliens existed outside of linear time and had the means to communicate with Bajorans. Defiant arrived in the Gamma Quadrant and they saw a comet composed largely of a wormhole-killing substance. At this point Yarka's concerns should have been ringing alarms.

It is here that a decision was made: proceed or suspend. Proceed with the experiment of shooting a mystery beam at the mysterious wormhole. A beam created by a race of people who seem to almost religiously enjoy causing misery and chaos. Shoot this beam of theirs while a once in a trillion years wormhole-killing comet is RIGHT NEXT TO THE WORMHOLE...or suspend operations for a day to let it pass safely out of proximity.

So they launch the rocket during the worst hurricane in 100 years. They launch the boat from its drydock during low tide. They try to break the land speed record on a windy day. It predictably goes horribly and the Cardassians caused their chaos. But a clever Starfleet engineer has a solution! Alter the phaser cannons and eradicate the comet completely!

Sisko then ASSIGNS THE CARDASSIANS to help work on the modification.

...

...

He didn't have them locked up. He didn't have them confined to quarters. He let them put their eyes and hands on Starfleet equipment (ostensibly classified or at least highly sensitive technology) and, when the time came to depart to attempt to shoot the comet, he......took them along. And it turned out the phaser cannons were sabotaged by one of the Cardassians.

In-universe I'm wondering why Sisko was not demoted from his position after this? It all worked out in the end but this kind of negligence was beyond any captain who ever grounded their boat or steered into an iceberg. Out of universe I'm wondering why the writers felt comfortable with this story but I'm also realizing I may be the tiny minority who is bothered by overt contrivance like this, especially from a show that had a busy schedule and probably lacked the time to really tighten things up.

But still. Fuck.
Peter G.
Sun, Feb 24, 2019, 4:26pm (UTC -6)
@ Chris P,

Out of all objections I've ever heard yours is the most on-point, I think. Who would ever trust the Cardassians in this situation? I think it definitely needed to be specified that this was perhaps a Bajoran initiative to continue the peace with the Cardassians, and that it was being done over the Federation's tactical objections. Surely the Feds would know this is a mistake. And surely Sisko would pull the plug if it got dangerous; *unless* he was under orders not to, coming from the Provisional Government itself.

And when asking why the Bajorans would ever allow it, it's precisely *because* of destiny: they absolutely know (as far as they're concerned) that nothing happens to the wormhole now because prophecy shows future things in store with the Prophets. For there to be one dissenting Vedek going on about an obscure interpretation of one prophecy would be a dissenting voice; the guy no one listens to. And the episode could very well have focused on Sisko having to contend with the Bajoran insistence that everything is ok when it doesn't seem like it is. In the end it works out, for unknowable (except to the Prophets) reasons, and even the Cardassians are undone by circumstance. And the Federation could always chalk it up to good luck, while Kira could think whatever she wants.

So I agree that this needed to be in there, because it would make sense for the Bajorans to reject tactical logic in favor of faith in this dangerous situation. On the face of it the tactical situation does indeed seem untenable if we're going purely based on that.
CaptainEddieD
Sun, May 12, 2019, 5:04pm (UTC -6)
Always read these reviews (on my very, very slow watch of this) but have never commented. This was a pretty good episode. I feel like this is the point in the show when I need to start actually getting into it cause it feels like it's getting good.
akyra
Fri, Oct 4, 2019, 8:21pm (UTC -6)
Funniest line I have read all year:

Elliot writing the words “for the sake of concision,” In an apparent attempt to be concise
Eddie
Thu, Oct 17, 2019, 4:40pm (UTC -6)
I think DS9 suffers from some seriously lazy writing. I understand the Bajorans seeing the Prophets in religious terms. If some incorporeal alien that could tell me the future showed up I'd probably think they were God, too. But the Starfleet crew (especially Sisko) shouldn't be feeling this religious awe that the writers are so desperately trying to force.

Starfleet has tons of experience with incorporeal lifeforms, energy beings, etc... all the way back to TOS. And beings that can tell us the future or are weird about time? Tons of those on record, too. Remember that guy Q? He's been around and well documented for years at this point. Sisko talked shit to him and punched him! Now I'm not saying Sisko and crew should ignore the Prophets. If someone is trying to relay future intel to you, even if it's heavily couched in metaphor, you wouldn't just ignore it. But the sense of religious awe is completely misplaced.

No Starfleet officer would give this subject matter a second thought in religious or spiritual terms; everyone's used to various intangible time-aliens by now. This is all probably required first-year reading at the Academy or whatever. The idea that anyone other than Bajoran civilians would have this wide-eyed look of mysticism on their face as they wonder to themselves "Maybe they really are divine?" is absurd. It all seems forced and that's not a good way to develop characters.
DLPB
Fri, Oct 18, 2019, 10:38pm (UTC -6)
Spot on, Eddie. It's Ron Moore. He's not very bright.

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