Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

“Shadows and Symbols”

3.5 stars.

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

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

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

Review Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next week: Ezri Dax rediscovers Jadzia's life.

Previous episode: Image in the Sand
Next episode: Afterimage

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Comment Section

122 comments on this post

    The Dominion War has been going on for what seems like ages now, and I must give props to Ron Moore & co. for letting the war actually unfold and for taking some risks in allowing episodes that fit within the greater arc but are pretty non-sensical on their own.

    I do think that the Changelings have been surprisingly quiet for a really long time now- too quiet. Perhaps their being cut off from the Gamma Quadrant has made the Changelings stuck in the Alpha a lot more cautious and unwilling to risk themselves in espionage and sabotage?

    I just wanted to point out some things that really bothered me about this episode and I was surprised that you made no mention of them.

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

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

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

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

    Am I the only who's bothered by this?

    Actually I hadn't thought about that ET, but I must say I totally agree with you. Especially about O'Brian going along. I know if my husband went off on a suicide mission to help another man's wife get into Stovokor, I would not be best pleased!

    Good point about all three going on this mission actually.

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

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

    As for the Sto-vo-kor mission, I agree with the above readers' comments completely: O'Brien the family man should have better things to do that going on suicide missions. Not only that, but what the hell did Quark *contribute* by HIS presence (besides "honoring Jadzia" as Worf puts it)?? The inclusion of O'Brien has some sense because he is an excellent engineer, and one can always use a doctor on board... but a bartender? Did the mess hall shotglasses need to be cleaned? The three characters' inclusion seems nothing more than giving the actors a chance to appear in the episode, almost as if by contractual obligation. Too much of a stretch I think...

    It's funny you should mention the episode's "ability to balance these three plotlines", because that was my main problem with this episode - that it jumped too often from one story to another and as such, I couldn't really get involved in any of the stories. The attempt to link all three together didn't quite work either. Kira basically went "Oh look, the wormhole's back! And now we must get back to fighting the Romulans..."

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

    One thing I did love were Ezri's two scenes (the one at the beginning and the one at the end where she arrives on the station), even if they was totally unrelated to the rest of the episode. They felt very real.

    Considering how often Trek has struggled with just a B plot, never mind a C plot, they did really well making all 3 work and the transition between them so seamless. Great work.

    Interesting points on O'Brien. I think maybe Keiko would've understood to a point (it almost seems quite a Japanese philosophy to be willing to die for a friend's honour), but wouldn't have been to happy about it. Seeing this would've been good. Unfortunately I guess when juggling 3 plots there just wasn't time!

    But Quark and Bashir luuuurved Dax. O'Brien just went along to make sure they didn't get killed.

    I gotta disagree with one thing Jammer wrote: The high point being the whole Benny Russell part of it. I detest that whole storyline. perhaps because i didn't like the whole episode it origianlly appeared in. Anytime I see anything from that storyline, I sigh, my eye glaze over and i tune out slightly.

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

    I was never a fan of those whole mysticism angle used in DS9 (prophets, Emmissary, etc). It only gets worse this season i know.

    the federation didnt have much of a choice, i believe the bajorans specifically requested Sisko remain the captain of ds9.

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

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

    miles is a military man, keiko should expect now he would head into battle (for whatever reason, and especially considering both obrien and keiko have know worf for a long time).

    loved the 3 generations of Siskos on an adventure

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

    thankfully they introducd teh oldest sisko in season 5


    Tyree looks exactly like the desert of Southern California! crazy!

    This episode crystallizes one of the oddest quirks in the entire Star Trek canon: the fact that each series required at least a season and a half to get its sea legs -- except TOS, which was off and running in a month.

    Let me explain.

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

    This strange Trek pattern is brought into stark relief here, by the appearance of Nicole deBoer as Ezri Dax. In my opinion she is a subpar actress anyhow, but leave that aside. She has NO depth of feeling for her character (yet). Her acting resembles a young girl in her third school play -- not awful, but clearly leagues below the rest of the cast. I'm not sure I ever warmed up to her as Dax, but for me her appearance taints this episode simply because it reminded me of just how uninspired TNG and DS9 could be during their first two seasons.

    You make interesting points Stubb, though without wanting to insult TOS, I think the characters weren't as complex back then, so it didn't take as long for the actors to settle into their roles.

    It seems you can't have it both ways. Either the first season of a TV series will be terrific and it goes downhill from there (which I have found is the case for most current shows), or the first season will suck and then keep getting better and better. I have to say I prefer the latter variety, saving the best for last and getting a more 'epic' feel.

    Agreed, Stubbs. If you just compare the First Seasons of the 3 24th century Treks, Voyager wins easily. Its cast "gel"d teh fastest. Unfortunately, it never rose to the heights both of its predecessors later reached.

    To say that the Benny Russell bit was a false vision sent to Sisko from a pagh-wraith is only one interpretation.

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

    What I like about the way the writers have handled all this is that they haven't simplistically opted to indicate that either interpretation is the "real" one; they co-exist as possibilities.

    I maintain that the Benny Russel angle is easily the best mythical element ever written into the story. The problem I have with it is it's too sparse. The implications of reality and time are fascinating and inspired, but they are given absolutely no resolution. Rather, the writers choose in most cases to opt for the comic-book angle and have "epic" and pointless celestial battles through the puppet characters of Sisko, Dukat and Winn.

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

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

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

    3 stars I think is the highest I can go with this one.

    For those that seem to be concerned that O'Brien may have stepped out of character to go on the mission with Worf, it should be remembered that Worf delivered his and Keiko's baby. The real question is not so much why he went but why he waited until he found out Bashir was going before volunteering !

    Stubb nailed it. It's foolish to introduce a character with such emotional complexity in the final season because the actor needs to discover the character. Reintroducing Dax was a mistake.

    Throughout the series' run I've been thinking that they haven't introduced enough recurring secondary characters, like O'Brien in TNG. They needed people with names and faces in the background who could step up when main characters died.

    This is where the series started to downfall. Bring a new Dax and Ezri especially (a little unsecure and whiny child) was a mistake. I never warm up to her and she took so much time from other plots and she made the final season mediocre at best. The best the writers had to do was to give Jadzia her own command and keep her as a recurring character as Terry Farrell wanted. Or leave the Dax symbiont away from the station to an unknown host and spent an episode with Worf and Sisko visiting Trill and meet the new host (a male preferably) and have closure. Bringing Ezri in hurt the finale season. Also having the new host assigned to DS9 was a mistake for Ezri too. What that tells us? That she was an insecure kid and joining with the Dax symbiont basicaly made her abandon her life, her friends and her previous position and take over Jadzia's life. It's like Ezri lost all her will and was taken over by Dax which was an epic fail considering everything the writing told us before about Trills and what the purpose of joining really is.

    Re: new Dax...I agree it was a mistake to bring a new Dax (and a new character) on. Andrew Robinson was in every way a regular by this season (how many episodes wasn't he in in S7), so they should have just promoted Andrew to the opening credits.

    Ezri ruined the Dax character. The only good scenes in the episode were Worf fighting to get Jadzia to Sto-vo-kor. That was very touching. The rest of the episode was garbage.

    I don't get it. I watched the very first episodes after watching this one, because it seemed to me that the prophets were being very inconsistent. In the first episodes, the prophets don’t know what linear time is. They don’t seem to know what Sisko is. They even conclude that he must be destroyed! He has to argue with them to save himself! Now, late in the series they are written to have reached far across the quadrant to take control of a human woman to produce Sisko himself. Making Sisko what exactly? A human/prophet hybrid? The son of the gods? The savior of the wormhole? To do all this, it seems to me a species needs to have a pretty firm grip on what linear time is. It’s clear that the writers have gone too far with the whole emissary thing. Throughout the series it seemed like they were really pushing to go too far with it, and in this episode, they finally did it.

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

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

    Fitz... Understanding linear time before they learn about it is one of the kooky things Prophets can do.

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

    This episode was not the first time regular characters went on a mission for no logical reason (e.g. Odo in "The Adversary"), but it is one of the more egregious. Quark, Bashir, and O'Brien needed their own plot.

    @Lt. Fitz
    You have to keep in mind one thing about the Prophets: they do not experience the passage of time. For them, the first encounter with Sisko, Sarah's "possession" and everything up until Sisko's final encounter, all happen simultaneously for the Prophets.

    In fact, the only reason they experience a "first contact" with Sisko in the pilot, is because of their interaction with his point-of-view.


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

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

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

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

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

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

    Ezri's... physically cute?

    The nature of the prophets is certainly confusing, but that might be the limitations of my linear existence =)

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

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

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

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

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

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

    @ DavidK

    Your explanation works fine for me on the technical level. I myself don't often feel the need to jump through these hoops with fiction in order to set every plot-stone in its proper place. Your last paragraph is the crux of how tenuous and ultimately vacuous idea is--WHY do the prophets care about Bajor or Bajorans? The only answers that make any sense are the most common and banal of human failings: jealousy, pride, megalomania, etc. These traits so profoundly contradict what the prophets are portrayed as being about that the series just about implodes, in my view, from a philosophical perspective.

    I liked quite a lot the subplot of Kira and the Romulans. Credible scenario, interesting character development for Kira's character now that she got a position of command.

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

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

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

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

    For me, those magic plots are becoming barely unwatchable.

    Wow, I just read the perfect @Lt.Fitz's comment after posting mine. I quote:

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

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

    Thanks @Lt.Fitz, you found for me the words I've been looking for to express my problems with the late seasons of DS9.

    While I'm not sure that the likes of Q or similar "omnipotent" beings are any less "space fantasy", I agree with the above broadly speaking. I think the Prophets/Emissary thing works insofar as Sisko was "destined" to be a sort of link between the "wormhole aliens" and the Bajorans/Federation, but by this episode I feel like the writers had written themselves into a corner and weren't sure how to get out.

    In the end it still works, though just barely, and suffers in "What You Leave Behind" because Paramount cheapened out (unforgivably I'd say until the cheapness of Nemesis). Overall it's not a bad concept at all; as ever, it's all in the execution.

    My interpretation is that Sisko is not "half prophet". Here's how I saw it: the paghwraiths wanted to prevent Sisko from being born, so they attempted to manipulate Sisko's mother so she never marries Sisko's father. The prophets fix the timeline by making sure that Sisko's mother does marry his father and gives birth to Sisko.

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

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

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

    Since we live in linear time, we only see the final result.

    I found it ridiculous that the Sarah Prophet would go all the way to Earth to spawn an Emissary, rather than conceive one on Bajor. It's really quite insulting and offensive to Bajor and Bajorans, the people who revere them, if you scrutinize it at all.

    It's second only to the Borg Queen in absurd retcons.

    I'm really confused that no one has pointed out the obvious with Ezri Dax. That she's now the naive ensign in the relationship with Sisko that he was when he first met Curzon. It's a flip with Sisko now being the mentor that Curzon was to him.

    One of the best episdoes of the series. The part where Benny rights "Sisko opens the box." was extremly climatic and excellentently played out. The new Dax I feel works out well, she's played as fresh-faced and new to the crew, and the actress does this well.

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

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

    Overall I felt that this episode is very good and what they writers are doing with the prophets is genius! They could've left them as wormhole aliens and tried writing them off as that but they do everything they can to show the Prophets as more than just aliens, potentially even "gods" as the Bajorans believe.

    The prophet that was stranded in the Tyree orb seems to travel to the wormhole instantaneously...apparently prophets can travel at close to Warp 10

    Actually the Prophets travel at impulse and then go back in time to whenever the heck they want.

    Agree with the consensus here that the episode is good but has a few massive problems in the C Plot with O'Brien and Quark going along on a suicide Klingon mission just just stretched credulity a bit too far - most of this stuff could have been folded back up into a parallel of the B Plot with Kira's blockade and I would have been fine with an alternative of Worf and Martock blowing stuff up and O'Brien/Quark/Bashir emoting about the loss of Jadzir Dax.

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

    The mental asylum scenes were a bit of a risk and I give them credit for that but seem a bit forced.

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

    DS9 has gone loony tunes...

    ...and Jammer gives this 3.5 stars?

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

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

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

    Good time for an attack Dominion?

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

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

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

    (comes back in, smelling of bloodwine…)

    If someone can make sense of this and explain it to me I’ll listen for sure. I’ll wait a little before I post my rating. Right now it’s very low…

    Late answer! The Pagh Wraiths are not locked up in the wormhole. I think the one got in and closed the gate, but the rest are in the fire caves. If you had no issue with them sending Winn a vision in the finale (and the fact that they obviously talk to Dukat).

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

    The top question...

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

    DS9 has gone loony tunes..."

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

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

    I don't know that this will improve your score or if you buy ANY of what I'm selling, but maybe one of those answers will resonate a bit. Not arguing that there are holes, I just don't see them as gaping as you :)



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

    As for the Paghwraiths... (I hope I don't have my timeline messed up) .... the PW's that Dukat released and he used to silence the orb are in the WH with the prophets. The ones in the Fire caves haven't been released and can't do anything until that text from the book (Khosta Mojin) is read to them. So I'm not sure either of the entities should be able to communicate with Sisko until the Emissary's Orb has been opened. (I'm pretty certain the prophets could not, I remember Sisko saying they went silent or something like that)

    I assumed the Pagh Wraiths in the caves are the ones that sent Winn her vision. If they are the ones Dukat released into the wormhole then perhaps I am incorrect. But if the ones in the Fire Caves can send out visions, then you would be right. Of course it COULD be the Pagh Wraith that escaped after the Reckoning (unless you ascribe to that being the one that possessed Dukat).

    As for the timeline... "I guess my point is all those "countless time travel trek" plots require an understanding of time and aren't conducted by those that don't understand it." They DO understand linear time, because Sisko explained it to them. And after he gave them the understanding of linear time they were able to plan his birth in the past. We already know they can change the past (as they did when sending Ankorem back). You don't have to buy/like that answer, but I do think it's what the writers intended (although I have no confirmation of such).

    That meant to say "if the ones in the Fire Caves CANNOT send out visions, then you would be right"

    @Robert :

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

    I quite like Yanks' idea that what should have happened was the resolution to the Fire Caves Mumbo Jumbo would have meant the Wormhole Aliens sealing themselves away in the temple and the Bajorans putting away their credulity for a unified future with Cardassia.

    If the occupation never happened Bajor wouldn't be what it is today and Sisko wouldn't have been assigned there. The prophets are probably not heartless, but I don't think they have compassion the way you or I do.

    Everyone keeps mentioning obrien leaving his family. The writers should have had Keiko and obrien divorce. They weren't happy or at least Keiko wasn't. I've noticed the show keeps making excuses for why she's not on the station. Obviously the actress was busy and they didn't want to pay her. And obrien is so eager to go on dangerous missions that it reinforces the fact that he doesn't like her. Look at the episode Homecoming. He goes to cardassia 4 with Kira to rescue Li. Kira says either we rescue him or we don't come back and obrien says ok. The exception is in Children of Time when it took some convincing but be did end up staying on the planet.

    @DavidK (from a year and a half ago, damn this linear existence):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I came here to write a pretty negative review of this episode and slap a 2-1/2 rating on it, but... honestly? My comment isn't all that negative, is it? (It's pretty long, though...) And now that I've written my thoughts out, I find that "Shadows and Symbols" is secretly pretty good. I'm still skeptical about the Sisko birth twist, but this episode is far from being *just* about that. I don't know - this is a pretty good episode, guys, and a solid enough closer to this three-part arc. 3 stars.

    Was anyone else very disturbed that the prophets raped Sisko's mom and his father as well? They took over Sarah's body and forced her to sleep with Joseph and they kind of did the same to Joseph by misrepresenting who he was sleeping with in order to have a baby.

    So Sisko learns that the prophets did this to his parents and does his get mad? Not really. Does he go back to Bajor and tell the people the worm hole aliens did this to a woman on earth for their own purposes? I don't think so. We don't know. We do know he told cassidy because she mentions it later so we can assume Kira knows. But this doesn't shake Kira's belief that these aliens are nice gods. It's rediculous. I mean Sisko had to teach the prophets about linear time (the same linear time in which Bajor and Sarah live in). Negus had to teach the prophets about profit even though Bajor has money. I love DS9 but the writers really made Sisko look dumb by following these aliens after all they've done. Kirk and Picard would have condemned these aliens for their actions and definitely wouldn't have left star fleet to live with them.

    So, remembering back to the series pilot episode "Emissary" when Sisko explains the concepts of linear time, death, and procreation to the would seem they already know all about those things.

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

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

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

    Jack you said you can't believe that a prophet would go to earth and not find a Bajoran woman to be Ben' mother, (paraphrased). I agree with the earth part, but if a Bajoran woman was used, Ben would have been a product of the occupation and would have suffered just like the other Bajorans. They could have found a Vulcan, Andorian, or Tellerite woman to be his mother lol

    I mentioned in the runner-up to this episode, 'Image,' that I was rather fed up with Kira's animosity at the Romulans bringing weapons to the hospital. In this episode it's stoked to fullblown irritation. I found it perfectly reasonable that the Romulans would ship their medical supplies via warbirds, since the whole neighbourhood of DS9 was one of the most strategically important military zones in the Alpha Quadrant and therefore it was going to be one of the most dangerous warzones in the sector. What was Kira expecting, luxury cruisers? In fact, Kira represents a lot of what I felt was wrong about the Bajorans in general - they were never happy with anything, laid it on far too thick with the whole "victimisation" mentality which got stale very quickly, resented Federation "interference" but at the same time didn't hesitate to go running to the Fed when they needed their help.

    I feel that the ST in general presents a rather biased view about racism. Apparently it's okay when the Bajorans and Klingons and even Federation make racist, sweeping generalisations about whole species and dislikes them simply because of whom they are. This sickening racist attitude is shown yet again in this episode, where Worf's condescending attitude to Quark is one of the running themes of their plot. Notice how Worf has never ever called Quark by his name, but only ever by his species? Yet somehow it's not okay when the Cardassians or the Romulans (or even the Borg) do, because they're the "bad guys."

    Kira's irritation with the Romulans was not unfounded. The Romulans were notorious for keeping the planets they captured during a war. Odo mentions this in "The Reckoning". They may have been sincere this time but the Bajorans had no reason to trust them. Now we are talking about racism, the Romulans would not treat wounded Vulcans who were taken to the hospital. It should have been easy since they are close cousins biologically and physiologically. By this behavior, they were taking a chance of gutting the alliance, since Vulcans are Federation citizens. Remember their underhanded way of trying to destroy the wormhole and the DS9 in "Visionary," they can't be trusted.

    I think DS9 handles time like Timecop the present is immutable but the past isn't. It's possible Sisko, Dax and Bashir impacted their own histories in 'Past Tense' and maybe 'Trials and Tribblations' and the Prophets saved them by fixing a few threads that modified the present.
    Sisko is now compatible to join the prophets because Sarah and Joseph were originally meant to be together but the premature death of Gabriel Bell and who knows who else in Past Tense unraveled all that, changing their characters and fates. I recall in season 2 Sisko talked as if Joseph had died years earlier but he pops up alive in season 4.

    Been revisiting posts made after mine which I made some time ago on this site since I have been watching some Trek again. Having read all the interesting explanations commenters have provided on this thread, I still feel that the whole sisko being a product of god-alien manipulation is just cheap and definitely the writers trying to get themselves out of a big hole they dug. I expect the commenters providing explanations here spent more time trying to understand the problem than the writers did. The sisko scenario presents a major problem I also have with religions that include predestination as a doctrine: If the god-aliens knew that making something happen long ago in the past would have a definite result in the future, then that implies that Sisko has no free will. He didn't chose to do anything in his life. It was all set up by the god-aliens. Also, as someone else eluded to, if the god-aliens have that kind of power, can't they just do something in the NOW that solves whatever problem they are trying to solve? It's all absurd. The writers tried to do a pull a “chosen one” messiah story out of their butts, and they did it terribly sloppily. Happy holidays all!

    A pleasant enough episode, but when you think about it, it's ultimately meaningless. Not only do I not really care that Sarah was Sisko's mother (since we have never even met his "real" mother), I don't care that the prophets were responsible for her meeting Grandpa Sisko. I mean, is that supposed to be some kind of shocking revelation? It simply means nothing to the viewer.

    I also felt the desert scenes were superfluous. Jake and Grandpa were just hanging around doing nothing, with Ezri looking after them all. It would have been better if they had something more to do, maybe telling Sisko more about his family past. I don't think the writers thought the whole thing through very well. It feels like a long running soap opera without the emotional investment of having years of connection to the characters. I mean we only found out about Sarah an episode ago.

    I will say that Ezri is a breath of fresh air, though she should have been introduced earlier. I had always thought Jadzia died around the start of Season 5 and was surprised that it was much later. I felt she had largely outstayed her welcome by S7 - there was already not much depth to her character and by the end Farrell sleepwalked through the role. It would have been for the best to turn her into a martyr to fan the flames of the war, the young and bubbly character that left us too soon.

    This tries to pack a lot in and seems to rush the endings of all 3 story lines in the dash to the finish. For me, the Kira and Worf plots are OK but nothing spectacular - although some of the character interaction in the latter is a highlight.

    I have more problems with the Sisko story. For me, making Sisko the literal instrument of the Prophets seems like a poor choice, but then I'm not so keen on how that whole plot is developing anyway. The Benny Russell scenes represent an interesting callback, but it seems clear to me at least that this is a vision from the pah wraith, which undermines the earlier episode (not that I thought too much of that one either). And a lot of time is spent walking through the desert...

    On the plus side, I really liked Ezri. I thought it was a good performance and captured a variety of conflicting emotions well. 2.5 stars overall.

    I admit that I'm not actually sure what this title means -- I don't actually recall any shadows in this episode, especially since it seems that most of it took place in different kinds of blinding light (the desert, near the sun). Once again I *mostly* proceed in ascending order of rank as an organizational strategy, but this time I will start with Weyoun & Damar --

    Weyoun & Damar: Damar drinks! He flirts! Sex seems to be one of Dukat's addictions which Damar has taken on, showing that he has learned something from his old superior. That Damar is very desperately trying to distract himself from his situation does much to set up his later arc. The other useful thing about this is to establish how important that shipyard is before Worf blows it up, which—well, I’m not really convinced (the war is so abstracted that it rarely seems like any victory carries over even into the next episode).

    Worf (Julian, Miles, Quark, Martok): The question of how much this particular victory honours Jadzia's memory is a bit of an open one, still, though I guess she would like the idea of going to Sto-Vo-Kor (or, equivalently, being given a place among Klingon culture as an honoured deceased). The conflict between Worf and the others, especially Quark, is maybe best understood as a conflict over who Jadzia was, with the question being whether she was indeed Worf's Wife, a Klingon woman in Trill skin, or was the multiculturalist partier, scientist, tongo player, flirt that she, uh, really was. That Jadzia was kind of obsessed with Klingon-ness and became more so after she met Worf makes Worf's attitude not wholly wrong, but it does seem as if the victory here is so Klingon in scope that it doesn't really seem to represent the whole of who Jadzia was, even if Worf at least can make the concession that she also loved Bashir and Quark (and, apparently, O'Brien). It seems to me that Worf was at that point by "Change of Heart," where he was betting on her as a tongo player, but I can see how grief will set him back somewhat, and Quark *was* being quite annoying. So I’m glad that Worf came around, though I wish that it manifested in something to honour Jadzia’s memory that was not so totally Klingon in nature. On a dramatic note, the battle didn’t seem that impossible as it happens, which is one of the usual problems with “impossible odds” situations, especially ones people enter into willingly. Worf in particular didn’t seem to do much. The “going into the sun!” situation made me wonder where Crusher is when you need her.

    Kira (Odo, Cretak, Ross): I do think that it’s possible this story was just done to give Kira (and Odo) something to do, but it does help establish that Kira can take care of herself and Bajor in Sisko’s absence, which is good in the long run. The politics of the situation are a bit tricky—it is too bad that Ross basically had to step in to resolve the situation, which, on the one hand, it is probably the right thing to do since it is clear to me anyway that Kira is *right* about Bajoran space and weapons, but on the other it more or less demonstrates that Bajoran autonomy continues to be founded entirely on Federation protection, which means that their autonomy is always going to be at least somewhat compromised. Bajor must stand alone, and also have Starfleet always there to protect it, I guess. This reality, which Kira does take into account, is something I wish were explored a little more. Noteworthy: the film of Kiss Me Deadly, at least, ends with (spoiler) a nuclear Armageddon so it could have been worse! I wish that Cretak were allowed to be a more complex character.

    Sisko (Jake, Joseph, Ezri, Sarah): I am not really sure that I like Benny Russell’s second appearance, since in some ways it cheapens FBTS, especially since it’s revealed this one was just by the Pah-Wraiths trying to put him off. But the basic idea still has some strength to it: Sisko is a creative agent who is being stifled, who is told that he must stop “telling his stories,” which more or less fits with where Sisko has been since the end of s6—guilt over Jadzia’s death convincing him that he should stop contributing and shrink into himself. That Benny is in an asylum does match up with Sisko’s increasingly bizarre behaviour.

    The reveal that the Prophets took over Sarah’s body to produce Ben Sisko because “there could be no one else” is one of those things that really undermines the Prophets as being anything but self-serving, for me, and undermine their moral authority. The episode brings Joseph along for the desert trek but avoids actually having a scene where he might react to the devastating news that the real Sarah never loved him and had been raped (had her body stolen from her) by a Prophet because of their need to produce their Emissary, because without him who could open that damn Orb which is on Tyree for some reason? Also they can control the trajectory of Sisko’s baseball. The Sarah revelation also makes Sisko’s behaviour entirely the stuff of Destiny, so that his free will is compromised. The mysticism of this storyline really doesn’t work for me, I’m afraid, especially since Sisko’s ultimate action in this episode is to open a box.

    Ezri watch: I wouldn’t describe myself as an Ezri hater, but I did find her off-putting and annoying in this episode, unfortunately. Anyway, the idea here is that Ezri was an unwilling host, has not had the proper training to receive the symbiont, and is now confused and overwhelmed by the emotions within her. So far, what we learn is that Ezri feels distant from everyone on the Destiny, and as such she sought out Ben on leave. This makes sense to me, for what it’s worth, but I have some problems with where Afterimage takes this.

    I guess I’ll say 2.5 stars—all three plotlines had some good elements and some disappointments.

    @ William B,

    Benny was in an asylum because he had a nervous breakdown at the end of FBTS. The stresses of his vision being denied broke him but he chose to be broken rather than to submit. The scene in the asylum is a natural continuation, since he would surely have been committed after that explosive scene in the office.

    What I think the viewer might misunderstand is that the false vision wasn't of Benny being in an asylum; that part was Sisko's 'reality'. The false vision sent by the paghwraiths was of the appearance of Dr. Wycoff, who seemed to be there to help Benny but really wasn't. His being played by Damar is the tell that this wasn't a real vision from the prophets, since they aligned the real DS9 characters with similar counterparts in the Benny Russel story (Dukat and Weyoun as racist cops, Quark as a misanthropic but caring dissenter, Odo as the maintenance of order, etc.). When we see Damar appear we should know that he's not a good guy and that his advice would be harmful to follow. But it sounds so reasonable to an audience that doesn't really buy into losing sanity for the sake of a religious vision that we almost want Benny to take the first step towards recovery. That's why I think the vision sequence is well written; it makes the paghwraith temptation alluring and even rationally correct.

    I think this episode add substance to FBTS, since we now know exactly why Sisko is the dreamer and the dream: because he is both prophet and the one who fulfils the prophecy. Naturally this is a larger metaphor for life and creative agency, but in the particulars of the story it means that Sisko having faith in the prophets isn't just a matter of surrendering his will and being their servant. On the contrary, he's in part one of them, which means that faith in them mean having faith in himself, which is the whole point of the Benny Russel sequences and ties in nicely with one of the challenges of being a Starfleet Captain.

    @Peter - Well said. This vision for me does everything the other one doesn't. If FBTS was as organically integrated into the station plot as this episode is it'd go from a 3.5 to a 4+ for me.

    @Peter G., I got why Benny was in an asylum (based on FBTS), and I also recognized that Casey Biggs' character was clearly meant to represent the enemy and, more particularly, the Establishment (similar to how Marc Alaimo and Jeffrey Combs also played Establishment forces who were going to hurt him); obviously Benny is meant to triumph over Wycoff. I had thought, though, that the whole vision was created by the Paghwraiths in a way that matches up with his own vision and experiences, rather than that Wycoff alone is a representation of the Paghwraiths' presence. I felt that the Paghwraiths simply inadvertently hurt themselves in presenting their temptation for Sisko in terms which were clearly narratively engineered for Benny to triumph over the Damar (enemy establishment) analogue, but it makes sense if the writers' framing of the material matches with the Prophets', and that Benny's independent existence continues despite FBTS ending. That helps clarify the matter further; I guess the analogy is that within Benny universe, which is allowed some sort of independent existence (if only as a narrative), Wycoff is a figure who represents the forces that the Paghwraiths control, which then means that he represents the forces that the Paghwraiths are meant to represent and thus the opposition to Sisko's liberation of the Bajorans. I guess I was pretty glib in my take on that plotline, reading what I wrote again.

    Continued to Peter G.: I do agree with the interpretation of "dreamer and the dream" and the possibility of Sisko being a creative actor (not just in the "artist sense" but in the sense of making his own choices of how best to do good) while also following the path laid out for him, and I think that does get at the mythological elements here. Benny choosing to continue to write his story and Sisko choosing to open the box do work together quite well. Really, the "temptation" the Paghwraiths offer maps on very well (and perhaps is the same) to the one that Sisko gave into for a time -- of leaving his life on the station behind after Jadzia's death and stopping to attempt to fulfill his roles as Emissary or Starfleet captain (or, for that matter, friend or boyfriend -- the only relationships he maintains are his family relationships). The asylum as prison maps onto Sisko locking himself away from life, and the asylum as "place for the 'crazy' people" maps onto Sisko's increasingly erratic behaviour once he starts "writing" again, i.e. once he starts trying to follow his divine inspiration/intuition to save the wormhole.

    In practice, I still have a hard time seeing Sisko as an active agent in making choices; while it is true that he has faith in himself and that is the key element for Benny, Sisko's faith still must be faith in himself insofar as he has faith that his faith that his Prophets-inspired vision/intuition that he should open the box is not misplaced. Either the Prophets gave him visions/are guiding his actions...or Sisko himself has Prophet superpowers which allow him to "know" that Ezri throwing the baseball to a random spot on the desert means that is the place where they should dig. The latter is more appealing, but still is very heavily abstracted. Sisko's faith in himself means faith that he has Prophet-based superpowers, rather than that he can rise to difficult occasions, though I guess him having Prophet-based superpowers is the Hero's Journey equivalent of having faith that he can rise to difficult occasions. So I take back what I said about this material cheapening FBTS and that the vision coming from the Paghwraiths mitigates its narrative impact; the Benny flashback is effective, but I am still uneasy about the Sisko-frame material relying so heavily on Sisko's Prophet-mystical intuition. Still, I do very much like that the real development here is for Sisko to return to the station (and his life and his responsibilities) as a result of his Orb of the Emissary experience, which means that Benny continuing writing the story rather than being wholly cowed by his breakdown signals that Sisko is ready to move forward past his loss of self-faith in "Tears of the Prophets."


    On another topic:

    Looking at some of the comments here and rereading what I wrote, I think that how one reads the Worf plot depends on how seriously one takes the "suicide mission" aspect of things. The episode tries to play it as a Very Dangerous mission, but the portrayal of it is pretty unconvincing...which to my mind is something of a benefit. Because, you know, given that Bashir and Quark don't have much reason to believe in Sto-vo-Kor, for them to give up their lives to send Jadzia there doesn't really fit them, whether they loved Jadzia or not, and within the episode most of the material focuses on whether Quark deserves to be there on this mission where Julian and Quark seemingly have nothing to contribute. It really does seem as if they are there to *prove a point*, Quark especially, to tell Worf that he has the right to die for Jadzia, rather than because he thinks it's a good idea. And even if they did decide to go, for O'Brien to basically sign up to die because he and Bashir are best friends is very silly. But honestly, despite the dialogue about how dangerous this mission is, no one seems all *that* concerned about it or that worried that they will die. We could see this as *extreme* grace under pressure, which is possible, or we could say that it's simply bad characterization, or we could accept that everyone knows that it's a risky-but-not-THAT-risky assignment, so that it is not that foolish to sign up for the mission just to prove a point. I tend to do the latter, in which case the plotline loses a lot of its heft -- the "suicide mission" stuff is overwrought -- but the character dynamics make more sense. It becomes a somewhat lightweight story, not that riveting but okay, rather than a hugely dramatic story which (arguably) forces much of the cast out of shape to do it.

    @ William B,

    The mapping of Benny/Sisko as you describe is what I see too. I'll add in one more thing, which goes to the basis for why a lot of people have a problem with DS9. Wycoff/Damar's suggestion that Benny give up the wild dream sounds like good advice. Good, rational, Starfleet-type advice. The crossroads in the asylum is not dissimilar from the ultimatum Admiral Ross gives Sisko about choosing between the hard-reality of the Federation or his role as Emissary. And this, in turn, leads us to something DS9 subtly deals with that TNG never did, which is the difference between Starfleet and the Federation. Gene's vision was never about some great space navy, but rather about a great Federation of different peoples (UDIC) where tolerance and understand begin by not pre-judging others' differences. The prime directive plays right into this theme, and supposedly takes priority over every other consideration for Starfleet.

    Here we are shown the narrow, wrong way to view a humanistic future, which is to think that only standard methods of evaluating normalcy should be called rational. The wormhole aliens think and operate on some bizarre other level? Well they're just some weird damn entities, pay them no mind. We need to think about real facts, dammit, not some religious nonsense. But the wormhole aliens *are* that new life and new civilization, and the fact that the Bajorans created a religion around them has nothing to do with what they are: an alien intelligence of unknown proportion. This is not unlike what Arthur C. Clarke and Carl Sagan gave us in Rama and Contact.

    Starfleet is largely a military organization, and it's all too easy for that kind of organization to lose the balance between being explorers like Picard and being rank-and-file soldiers. TNG ignored this by always allowing Picard to have his cake and eat it too; by being both strictly bound to his duty as well as free to make moral Federation decision. DS9 shows how this may not always be possible, especially during a war. In the aftermath of Wolf 359 and then the Dominion, we know that Starfleet began to massively produce starships and then warships. This kind of arms race erodes the philosophical properties Starfleet was supposed to represent and make it more military, and I think in this episode we see how far that's come and how it's a dangerous trap. Admiral Ross is even contemplating allowing the Romulans to basically Annex Bajor in exchange for their continued alliance during the war, so we can see how desperate things have gotten.

    I see the scene between Benny and Wycoff as being not only about Sisko the man/prophet, and about the mythos of the prophets/wraiths, but also about Starfleet itself and how in times of duress the dream of the Federation is in danger of being lost in favor of victory. I think the message is that even when things appear to be beyond repair and lost the faith in the dream of the Federation must be maintained even if that means edging away from strategic cold facts. To be a leader in the Federation you do have to be a sort of dreamer, rather than an organizational bureaucrat. It's not supposed to just be a better society, it's supposed to involve better people, who turn their dreams into reality. As I see it Kirk was a good example of the romance of fighting for that reality, Picard embodied the logic of it, and Sisko is the heart of it. As of DS9 season 7 I think we now have the complete package of what the Federation is supposed to be about. Faith in the prophets isn't just about some religious nonsense, it's about what it takes to have faith in the Federation and its destiny.

    I do think it was a mistake to have Sisko's birth directed by the prophets. I don't have a problem with the logic of it (Sisko teaches aliens that exist outside of 'our time' about linear time; with that understanding they can do things at any point of 'our' time, including our past). I just don't think it adds anything to the series and probably detracts from what's happened so far (spoilers for the finale: I think it also detracts a bit from Sisko's ultimate fate).

    While I wish they decided to tell a different story, I think they tell their story well here. Each part of these episodes work reasonably well.

    William B said:
    "I think that how one reads the Worf plot depends on how seriously one takes the 'suicide mission' aspect of things. The episode tries to play it as a Very Dangerous mission, but the portrayal of it is pretty unconvincing...which to my mind is something of a benefit"

    That was how I saw it. I think the characters thought it would be a dangerous mission (something they do often), but not truly a "suicide mission". Klingons are prone to hyperbole, after all. That, combined with the fact that it was an attack against the Dominion, is enough for me to believe that they would be willing to go, and that Starfleet would be OK with it.

    As to Ezri Dax, I certainly understand those who missed Jadzia and were disappointed to see her replaced. While I don't think she was always given the best material by the writers, I think Ezri was sensibly thought out. If you're suddenly a new person (neither Ezri nor Dax, but a melding of the two), it's certainly reasonable to think you'd be a bit of a mess who would slowly gain both self-knowledge and self-confidence. Overall, I think Nicole de Boer was fine in the role; frankly, I think she figured out Ezri Dax better than Terry Farrel ever figured out Jadzia Dax.

    I think she works fine in these episodes. Presumably, as they settle into their new existence, newly joined Trills spend some time with the teachers and advisors they had before the joining, people who can offer both familiarity (they knew them previously) and understanding (they comprehend that this is now an entirely new person). Sisko, the one person in Starfleet who knew Dax well in 2 different incarnations, is perhaps the one person that can offer that familiarity and understanding to Ezri Dax, so it's natural that she seeks him out for support.

    On the other hand, she can also offer support for Sisko at a point in time that he needs it. With his understanding of his own family being turned upside-down, she can be a family member who isn't related by blood. Plus, last season's finale would lead us to believe that Sisko blames himself at least somewhat for Jadzia's death. Ezri (as Jadzia's pseudo-reincarnation) can provide forgiveness, helping him move on.

    There's a lot I like here. I suppose I'd give these two episodes 3 stars; if I didn't have such problems with the whole prophets-creating-Sisko's-birth idea, I'd might go 3.5 stars.

    The destruction of the shipyard, Pretty brutal even considering there is a war on. Klingon's don't care about collateral damage though or innocent replicator repairmen working on the shipyards being vapourised!

    OK, the episode itself. Quark's behavior on the ship was annoying and jarring, especially when Worf was apologizing. A shame as it was a good scene.
    The Kira thing was OK. Haven't we done the whole calling Kira's bluff in the first episode with the Cardassians! Ross almost replicates O'Brien's line about not wanting to get into a game of Poker/Rolatan Wild Draw.

    The Sisko stuff was great and I really enjoyed Brook's twitchy, giggly portrayal of a clearly unhinged Benny.
    I missed quite a few episodes of season 7 so I've decided to watch them all from the start. Hopefully I can get a better feel for Ezri, that said I liked her from what I've seen in other episodes and I liked her in this.

    Great episode, only partially spoiled by Brooks's outrageously over-the-top, all-body-part-tremors acting in the Benny & digging-the-sand sequences..

    Please, no more Benny! And not because of Benny's story line, but because of Brooks's performances as Benny in the climactic scenes in "Far Beyond ..." and in this episode.. Enough theatrics. Phew!

    More Benny!!

    I liked this episode. Quark especially -- I am so happy when this show lets his character be what it should be instead of a bumbling scared moron. To the commenters upstream complaining that he should not have been on that mission -- Quark often does surprising things. He has alwasy been an imperfect Ferengi, because as much as he tries to fight it and hide it he cares about things other than profit.

    Weyoun was in excellent form as well.

    I remember being annoyed by Ezri the first time I watched this series, but on reviewing I found her to be adorable and funny in this episode.

    In the desert they should zip their Bedouin suits, which would do a good job of keeping them cooler if they were worn properly.

    Interesting that several years later Buffy the Vampire Slayer did almost exactly the same mental hospital patient writing his/her own story plot.

    The pah wraith/wormhole stuff was the weakest part of the episode. How did it jump across a galaxy to the wormhole?

    Admiral Ross should take negotiation lessons from Quark. Really, all he's gonna do is sit there?

    Except for Quark and his interaction with the Klingons, very little to say about Worf's story. Obviously they were going to be successful; they wouldn't kill off that many main characters at once.

    2.5 stars. Middling

    The worf plot wasn't any more compelling or interesting than in the first part. THe only part of that I enjoyed was the epic visual effect of the flare wiping out the ship yard which was beautifully rendered

    Like the Worf plot, the Romulsn vs Kira was not that strong. Kinda boring actually. Like a lot of this episode felt like filler which in the final season isn't what you'd expect with do much ground left to cover

    The Sisko plot --which was the strongest-- in Image in the Sand falls victim to the malaise that plagued the other two subplots. Way too many scenes of them traipsing through the planet side. I did appreciate that the writers didn't leace Joseph back on Earth. Often tv shows seen to leave the older actors and characters out of the exciting events so having him come along I applauded. Unfortunately I was disappointed he pretty much tagged along rather than being in the thick of things.

    The Prophet stuff on the show doesn't get the same sort of care and detail that other important things get which is too bad. It seemed contrived actually. Why wait three months to appear to Sisko? Why was the Orb on Tyree? What was going on inside the wormhole this whole time? So that part wasn't as polished and therefore not as satisfying. Although I did like the notion that the tides of fortune/higher powers what have you switched in favor of the good guys as soon as the wormhole was restored.

    As far as Ezri--I'll admit I like Nicole deboer and Ezri more than I liked Jadzia but with all the more exciting things the show has going on and all the more interesting characters in play she gets lost in things for me

    One thing that always bugged me, what or where is Tyree? Are we supposed to know this world? Why does Sisko recognize it immediately?

    Jason R.,

    I swear, since the first time I saw this ep I always think of TOS "A Private Little War" when I hear talk of the Tyree system, the name of Kirk's friend in that episode.

    Fun fantasy: What if Kirk's assistance in Tyree's civil war leads to Tyree's victory, but the assistance didn't stop with muskets and escalated until that world was using advanced weapons brought there by the Klingons. So the people there wipe each other out and the surface is left barren, but not before Tyree had installed himself as king and renamed the planet Tyree. Once they were wiped out the system would be known as a model of what happens when the PD is violated, and the prophets chose that planet for the orb in order to ironically show that interference is ok when you can see the future and know what you're doing, but isn't for amateurs.

    There was enough about the various subplots that I didn't like that made me indifferent about the episode for long stretches. But this episode does go to the very basics of DS9 -- Sisko and the Prophets and ultimately the wormhole -- which gets the series back on the usual track but how it happens is too farfetched for me.

    As for the Prophets, so they're another one of these Trek creations -- superbeings like Q, the Organians -- who have unlimited/undefined powers. You can't evaluate them and whatever the writers want to do with them goes. So there's pros and cons to them. DS9 toes the line between sci-fi and fantasy -- it's just that the fantasy (or faith) can flick a switch and make things whatever way they want.

    As for the episode -- it's "Image in the Sand" with the same 3 plots being followed along, but I slightly prefer the parts from that episode more than this one.

    What didn't work for me on the Worf/Martok mission was having Quark there. He was just annoying. He should have never been allowed on Martok's ship. And how does Bashir know how to operate a console on a Klingon ship?

    The ending picked things up a good bit but it's still a bit of a stretch in suspension of disbelief. That the Orb of the Emissary re-creates the wormhole, that Martok's ship (in the nick of time) manages to unleash some kind of solar flare to destroy the Dominion's ship building yard (and 3 Jem'Hadar ships) and Kira's bluff wins out -- the last one is the only tolerable and believable end result.

    The whole part of Sisko's journey is a bit too much "Raiders of the Lost Ark" for me. The whole reason of Sarah's marrying Ben Sisko's father and all that stuff revealed -- we're now clearly out of the realm of sci-fi and firmly into the realm of fantasy. But that's a Prophets-based subplot for you.

    With the flashback to "Far Beyond the Stars" and Sisko in the looney bin with "Damar" as the psychologist -- that was intriguing and when it happened, I was like WTF? But the Prophet appearing as Sarah and explaining it, it makes sense but in an episode trying to juggle so much, it made it even more disjointed.

    And then there's Ezri Dax -- she joins up with the Sisko quest but for introducing a new character to Season 7, she does make a different kind of impression. Very talkative, very junior -- no idea what she'll contribute in future episodes but I'm ambivalent now. Giving her the benefit of the doubt.

    I think the best part was the Weyoun/Damar dynamic taking a turn south. There's something building here and it's intriguing. Damar's seems to have other things on his mind -- his drinking and womanizing is a facade for bigger issues.

    "Shadows and Symbols" only gets 2 stars -- have to compare it to the prior episode and felt that this one wasn't quite as good, despite resolving the 3 subplots. The quest through the desert dragged -- and where were the unfriendly Bajorans along the way? Kira's standoff with the Romulans -- it was foolhardy on Kira's part but the wormhole and the prophets reappearing helped her resolve and the Romulans didn't call her bluff. All pretty fantastical resolutions but not elite Trek.

    I always thought the idea of the prophets existing outside of linear time was pretty fascinating. It is Sisko in the first episode who teaches them about linear time when they appear to have no knowledge of it and no interest in “corporeal matters.” To the prophets all of this is happening simultaneously whether it’s past present or future. In fact, one could suggest that Sisko introducing the prophets to linear time and corporeal matters is what causes them to send orbs and prophecies to the Bajorans in the past. Sisko really is the emissary because without meeting him, do they even know enough about time to contact Bajor in the past through the orbs? SIsko makes them realize they have an interest in corporeal matters such as Bajor, and in “Accession” and “Sacrifice of Angels” the prophets return the favor by making him realize he is “of Bajor.” And here they arrange his birth because they recognize that he needs to be born in order to teach them about linear time so all of this can happen. What appear to be inconsistencies with how the show treats the prophets (such as their level of interest in the Bajoran people and level of influence on Sisko’s life at various points in the past or future) actually makes sense when you think about. Because they exist outside of linear time, the prophets can essentially “retcon” themselves, doing things in the past because they gained knowledge from the future.

    Something I didn't see mentioned is how Kira's plot is a reflection of her plotline in "Emissary" A potential occupier has come to Bajor, and through turns of events, mistrust and arrogance, Kira must face down this force with her own limited resources. In both episodes the conflict is resolved after the wormhole opens and a Starfleet officer asks Kira to remind them not to play cards with her due to here ability to bluff.

    This isn't a simple retread however, oh no. In "Emissary" Kira was facing off against the Cardassians, who for Bajor are the big bad guys, but are lets be honest, a second rate power. Here, both she and Bajor have grown to the point they're facing off against one of The Big Three Alpha Quadrent powers.

    In this episode the conflict is resolved without firing a shot, whereas in "Emissary" the Cardassians did some damage to the station.

    Now, while in both episodes the situation was resolved by a Starfleet officer. However in Emissary those on the Station were trying to buy time for a Fed ship to rescue them, here Kira is on her own. In Emissary the situation is resolved by the fortuitous return of Sisko. In this episode it is Kira herself that affects the outcome.

    She's also way less aggressive and angry here. This plot really shows how far she and Bajor have come.

    Sisko is a rape baby. Full stop. What the Prophets did was unforgivable, but it's shocking that Ben Sisko never condemned them for it. I know the writers always felt that the Federation needed to be darker, but this perhaps crosses the line.

    "Sisko is a rape baby. Full stop"

    The Prophets don't care, full stop.

    They're basically Gods.

    What would you have Sisko do, lecture the Prophets about consent for the rest of the season? Demand that they go back in time and annul his existence?

    Anyhow, "rape" isn't even an accurate description. That's a term for forced physical/sexual invasion, which wouldn't apply to Joseph since he fell in love with his wife *after* she was possessed. So in his case he was entirely willing. To make the claim of the possession itself being a sort of 'rape' you'd have to demonstrate that she was unwilling, however we have evidence from The Reckoning that the Prophets look for a willing vessel, which would seem to indicate that Sarah was also willing to serve the Prophets in some way. Presumably they'd have known she was willing...because she always had been. That is, there's be no sense of doubt on their part, future/past means nothing to them.

    I don't think The Reckoning helps all that much. The Prophet specifies that they had to make The Sisko "because it could be no one else." It sounds to me like it meant that they needed The Sisko, and thus specifically needed Sisko's mother, i.e., a *particular* human woman. In The Reckoning they just needed any willing vessel on a station filled with Bajorans who worshiped them. The Reckoning implies that they'd take a willing vessel over unwilling ones if they are available, which distinguishes them from the Pagh-Wraiths who will take unwilling ones, so that's something. But even the Pagh-Wraiths seem to prefer willing vessels (i.e. Dukat) to unwilling ones, and that doesn't mean they won't use unwilling ones.

    I think the burden of proof is on the claim that a human woman was willing to give up her body and two years of her life to some distant, non-linear aliens, particularly when, as far as I can tell, none of the dialogue in Shadows and Symbols indicates any evidence she was willing, and some of it -- Sisko's hurt description of how Sarah did not choose her father and left -- suggests that she was unwilling, or at least that Sisko might be thinking that. I say that as someone who always took from this episode that Sarah was likely an unwilling vessel and that this is what Sisko believes, and that there's no indication of the Prophet attempting to dispel this notion.

    However, I will grant that it's possible that Sarah was willing. Normally people don't give up parts of their life to some distant religion, but if the Prophets could convince her somehow that her possession baby is necessary for the salvation of a planet full of people (and also the galaxy) I guess she might go along with it. I'm still pretty skeptical for a number of reasons: for one thing, could the notoriously cryptic Prophets really communicate the importance of this possession baby well enough to convince a human woman to give up her body to them for a bunch of years?

    @ William B,

    Yeah, that's the case that has to be made: what is "willingness" when it comes to sharing an existence with non-corporeal aliens. That's why I find it hard to brand it as simply "rape" and be done with it, because we're dealing with vague concepts that we don't understand.

    Could the prophets communicate to Sarah to obtain consent? What is consent for a being out of time - does it have to be "before the fact"? What if Sarah one day realized how good it was that she had Benjamin and regretted nothing - is that post hoc realization "consent" since the prophets exist outside of time? Or what if "consent" isn't a conscious agreement in this sense but rather that Sarah 'fits' with the prophets in some obscure sense? That she's suited to them?

    It's all very hard to parse, of course, and then we could get into the question of whether any of what the Prophets do is "good" in some colloquial sense. Are they 'moral' in some way we'd understand? Or do the ends justify the means for them and they'll do whatever it takes to produce the timeline they want? I could see an argument either way, that their meddling may be beneficient, or rather that perhaps they should be seen as antagonists who toy with the futures of others for their own purposes. Of course, since the 'technology' exists to do what they do, and the alternative are clowns like the pagh wraiths, maybe it's for the best that the Prophets are the ones driving the DeLorean.

    I took it as pretty much the text that Sarah was unwilling. But I'd say that the notion of Gods messing with unwilling mortals goes back to ancient Greece and to the Book of Job.

    I think the ancients figured out that Gods will do what they're going to do. Trying to throw human morality in their faces is as futile as trying to win an argument with a hurricane.

    The mature and adult response is what Sisko does; express displeasure and make your feeling known, but realize it's a fait accompli and wringing your hands about it is pointless.

    I think the problem I have with Jason R.'s point is that the Prophets are also aliens, and the main reason to consider them Gods is because they are powerful and the Bajorans say so. The problem is that the same argument applies to the Pagh Wraiths and the Founders. Overall, the series more or less deconstructs the Founders' claim to Godhead, but it's not really even their moral bankruptcy but that they are weak enough to be defeated that proves they're not gods. Is the only real reason to treat the Prophets with more respect because they appear to be more powerful than the Founders? Because even then, the Prophets clearly need physical vessels. As Peter says, maybe we should be grateful that it's the Prophets rather than the Pagh Wraiths (or the Founders) who are running things because they appear to sometimes have something that looks like recognizable morality sort of, and seem less obviously motivated by the baser impulses that we see in the PWs and Founders. Still, that's not that much of a comfort.

    To put it another way, the proper comparison in the ancient world might be less the Abrahamic god or even Greek gods' interventions but someone like a Pharaoh god-king, who has tremendous power but is still not *actually* so powerful or so different from us that it's pointless to apply human moral calculus to them, and their taking on the god mantle is mostly a way to consolidate their power and make it easier to do things ordinary mortals are forbidden from doing. That seems to be the take the show -- and, especially, Sisko -- has on the Founders and it's not obvious to me why the Prophets are so different. The Founders' collective identity is similar to the Prophets' non linear time identity in being sufficiently different than ours that maybe we can't reasonably judge them, but their actions are still recognized as wrong. I guess conversely, the Founders' expansionist policy is way more consequential than the possession of Sarah.

    Probably we should say that in places like Rapture and especially Sacrifice of Angels, Sisko basically has to choose to commit fully to the Prophets in order to anticipate and defeat the Dominion, so basically he had to choose which gods he wanted.

    The episode isn't even about rape, it's about Sisko discovering he had an immaculate conception which connects him to the Prophets. We never meet the human that was his biological mom, thus we have next to zero information on the circumstances of how the prophets conceived Ben with Joseph.

    That said, the show operates under the premise that the prophets are good and just, so I'm willing to accept that the prophets didn't violate anyone without permission.

    Chrome pretty much said what I wanted to, but better and more briefly. I never took it as the text of the show that the Prophets had committed a crime against anyone, just that they operate on some level beyond our ken and it undermines are regular sense of how things work - even to the point of "parentage" being non-linear which then beggars the notion of knowing where you come from.

    I just want to mention something that bothers me about this ep every time I see it:

    A few seasons ago Sisko was at his wits end about his father's heart condition and frail health, and how he wouldn't look after himself. Now he has no problem with dragging him through an interminable hike through trackless desert, dehydrating and exhausted?

    Yes, sorry to burst your bubble, but it is rape. I mean, consent cannot be given if you have no control over your body, which she did not due to mind control, and worse is that it's implied Sarah somehow knew she was being used against her will to produce a child. Why else would she leave without another word? If she was waking up out of a dream, she'd have just demanded to know who Joe is, which he never said had happened. I have heard the entire DS9 writing staff was male, and while this was bred a lot of great stories, they could have used a few women around there at one or two times. I mean, they would have told the boys what a bad idea this was without further fleshing out, because the implications are horrifying.

    @Elliot W

    "I mean, consent cannot be given if you have no control over your body, which she did not"

    How do you know she wasn't a willing vessel for the Prophets? Maybe they communicated to her that they needed her to help to save the AQ and she decided she'd let them use her on the condition she could live her life on her own after the Prophets' task was complete. It all happened off screen, so any possibility of "rape" is speculative, at best. What's more, your whole case runs contrary to the spirit of how the Prophets operate in DS9.

    Because she left the moment she had control back. Sisko even comes to this possibility and confronts the Prophet who gave birth to him by it. It is something he "wishes" he'd never found out, but there's not a strong enough emphasis on how he's disgusted that Sarah Sisko was used that way. Seriously, look up a transcript sometime. That's how I know. Watch the episode.

    SARAH: The Sisko has completed his task.
    SISKO: Sarah?
    SARAH: The Kosst'Amojan no longer threatens us.
    SISKO: You mean the Pah-wraith? It's no longer in the wormhole?
    SARAH: I have cast it out.
    SISKO: Is that why the Prophets sent me to Tyree? To release you from the Orb?
    SARAH: The Kosst'Amojan tried to stop you with a false vision. But you did not waver. You fulfilled your destiny.
    SISKO: My destiny? You talk as if my life was over.
    SARAH: The Sisko must still face many tasks.
    SISKO: I don't suppose you'll tell me what they are.
    SARAH: The Emissary is corporeal. Linear.
    SISKO: Linear or not, I need some answers.
    SARAH: The Sisko is intrusive.
    SISKO: Are you Sarah Sisko? Are you my mother?
    SARAH: Sarah Sisko was corporeal. For a time, I shared her existence.
    SISKO: You took over her body, made sure she married my father so that she'd give birth to me.
    SARAH: The Sisko is necessary.
    SISKO: And once you didn't need her anymore, you left her. No wonder she walked out on my father. She didn't chose him, you did.
    SARAH: The Sisko would prefer different answers.
    SISKO: What you're telling me isn't easy to accept. You arranged my birth. I exist because of you?
    SARAH: The Sisko's path is a difficult one.
    SISKO: But why me? Why did it have to be me?
    SARAH: Because it could be no one else.

    @ Elliot Wilson,

    I feel like you're cherry-picking the one or two lines in the conversation that support your argument. But follow it through to its conclusion: what is Sisko really concerned with here? He learns that the Prophet used Sarah Sisko to mate with Joseph, and realizes that Sarah leaving must have meant that it was *entirely* the Prophet that chose Joseph rather than Sarah's personal taste. The implication is clear: Sisko is concerned with the fact of the Prophets *choosing Joseph*, not with the fact of the Prophets abusing Sarah. The sequence of his chain of reasoning is clear:

    a) You made sure Sarah married Joseph.
    b) When you left Sarah she left Joseph, ergo the Prophet was the one who wanted Joseph.
    c) What the Prophet is saying isn't easy to accept, because it means Sisko's birth was arranged.
    d) Why did it have to be me? As in, why did you arrange my birth?

    The point made about possessing Sarah fits into the argument because it demonstrates that it was the Prophets who chose Joseph in order to made Benjamin. It's hard to accept because it means his birth was arranged. At no point does he object to the possession, nor does any statement here imply that Sisko considers the act to have been immoral.

    You said: "It is something he "wishes" he'd never found out, but there's not a strong enough emphasis on how he's disgusted that Sarah Sisko was used that way."

    But not only isn't there a 'strong enough' emphasis on his disgust - but rather there is *no* emphasis on it. Meaning, he isn't portrayed as being disgusted.

    Are you blind? Sisko flat-out deduces right in front of the Prophet that they used her to get him created, then left once she had control back. The Prophet doesn't contradict this.

    Is it so odd? Human religions of various forms are full of the gods using women to conceive children as breeding stock, not people. And the Prophets are gods.

    And Trek has a long history of misogyny dating all the way back to the 1960s. This is not surprising to me. Remember how insensitively they handled the episode with Kira's mother and the topic of "comfort women" and wartime rapes during the occupation of an enemy homeland which at times in real history has stretched up to millions of women and children? This is one of the consequences of having a nearly all-male writing staff. I don't see it as terribly surprising.

    @ Ellliot Wilson,

    "Are you blind? Sisko flat-out deduces right in front of the Prophet that they used her to get him created, then left once she had control back. The Prophet doesn't contradict this."

    And? You're the one suggesting that the scene also directly states that it was a rape and that Sisko wished he never found out, and it doesn't state either of those two things.

    Okay, so there wasn't much to like in this episode. I kept waiting for the old man to die, it just seemed so likely. It's really a wonder anyone like Ben Sisko can stay in Starfleet. I didn't go for the Horndogs of Jadzia group on a Klingon ship - I really would've expected Julian and Quark to be killed, at least. It's as distasteful as them drinking it up over her being pregnant. She's a married woman, she was married in Quark's bar, Bashir was part of the wedding party. Normal men just don't act that way unless they're really starved for sex. I thought it was a raunchy and sour tribute to Jadzia Dax. I really don't recall any interactions between her and O'Brien being notable; and Bashir went after her like a randy little academy boy and embarrassed everyone. I'm sure Quark respected her, but it just doesn't make sense, it's just too much of a gimmick to feel real or respectable. It would have been more meaningful if it was just Klingons. Also, the birth mother of Benjamin going back and contriving his birth seemed, well, very contrived, plus shamefully stupid. Not knowing your mother is no joke, and could have easily been an episode on its own.
    The Benny Russell scene was truly brilliant writing.
    My other highlight would be Nicole DeBoer, the camera loves her delicate beauty. I really find her much more approachable as a character than Jadzia, who seemed a bit of a Mary Sue. Ezri seems like a better fit for the Dax worm.

    Ezri seems OK.

    The part with Kira was hard to buy.

    The part with Ben had so much going on in it, my head spun.

    I didn't like it very well. Average at best.

    I forgot to mention the Worf story. I would have liked this a lot better without the introduction of more of that unrealistic pining from Quark and Bashir, and the pointless addition of O'Brien. It was as artificial and inappropriate as it was when it was first conceived to add . . . poignancy(?) . . . to Jadzia's death.

    The Ben story just had so much happening: The news that Ben was conceived by the Prophets, Visions both false and real, and Suggestiions that the Prophets used humans against their will - both Sarah and Joseph were used. (Sarah directly had her body used while she remained conscious, a true horror. And Joseph married and lived with and made love to his wife, not knowing the body's true owner was being forced to comply the entire time, through every interaction - that would be no fun to find out, I would think). On top of all that, we have Joseph physically struggling in the desert, our first outing with Ezri, and we see Russell again, suggesting the characters are all in Russell's mind.

    The Kira story - I didn't think it was likely, that the Romulans backed down first. Just didn't sell me. And I've yet to be sold on Kira and Odo.

    Ultimately, I thought the myriad storylines, and the events and news within them, made this episode a crazy, cacophonous mess.

    Sisko basically says the prophets abused his mother and by extension his father, but then he’s smiling happily after learning it. And he doesn’t think his dad’s up to refilling everyone’s wine and chatting in his restaurant but he’s definitely up to being physically dragged through the desert by Jake. (Why couldn’t Sisko find it on foot and the others beam down to his location, anyway?)

    The prophets are clearly awful, worse than the Q, and even contaminate whoever they touch. I mean, at least our Q realises he has to have a human woman’s consent if he wants to impregnate her, even if we are lowly linear beings. At this point I’m rooting for the pagh wraiths. When they possessed a woman, which I’m not denying was creepy!, they didn’t make her have sex with someone she hadn’t chosen for years and have a baby with them. Ugh! (Also they have sick fire powers)

    This episode also makes me wish Jake/Ezri was a thing, if they were determined to pair her off. They’re closer in age than her and Bashir for starters and I just liked their scenes somehow. The way they resurrected Bashir’s thing for Jadzia just for more drama killing her off has been embarrassing (and besides, we all know he only has eyes for Garak). A brief “oh now I guess we definitely never have a chance” scene with him and Quark mourning her would be fine but they made it as if they’re both so stupid and lovesick they really thought so and had been thinking so for years.

    Was there a republican president when they were making this, and someone at paramount wanted to get them onside? I half expected the planet they visited to be called Naz'reeth and Sisko's mother to be called Mary. Starfleet seriously equips away missions with three wise men garb? And Sarah was possessed by the holy spirit and gave birth to the messiah, and shortly after he was tempted by Satan oops I mean a Pah Wraith... and lo, The Prophets looked down on Deep Space Nine and saw that it was good.

    Glad ezri is back but Star Trek: New Testament is starting to grate.

    Not sure if this is the best place to put my thoughts on Jadzia/Ezri Dax but I'd like to echo the sentiments that Ezri popping up almost instantly after Jadzia died was kind of obnoxious.

    The Trill were an interesting concept as a species, individuals who carry whole lifetimes worth of knowledge and experience within a single individual. And yet the Trill with the most screen time behaves like a (competent) twenty-something party-girl who spends most of her time hobnobbing around with the Klingons, one of the most overtly corrupt and warlike races in the galaxy. And then when she dies the Trill is shipped right into another body that's even cuter and whiter than the last. Wooow, good for you!

    Eh. I actually like Ezri more than Jadzia; she has doubts, insecurities, and an actual personality. Part of that is the writing, part of it is the actress is just kind of... better. And I understand the writers didn't really know what to do with Jadzia at the start and so tried to play to Farrel's strengths (or lack thereof, IMO) but still. Kind of a missed opportunity with a cool concept for a sci-fi species.

    Watching the hefty recap at the beginning of this episode, my partner commented on just how much it was trying to summarise: "if I were a regular viewer tuning in, I would be *really* confused right now". Indeed, the fact that the recap's doing such a crappy job of what it's got to handle is emblematic of DS9's shift towards serialisation -- in full swing by this point -- and quite possibly of how unsuitable the series was for 90s TV. Good thing we have Netflix these days, eh?

    I wasn't actually expecting this one to be a two-parter. I got suspicious that it might be a sneaky feature-length episode somewhere towards the end of 'Image in the Sand', when the ep was getting overly long with no resolutions in sight, but then the cliffhanger and credits proved me wrong.

    As far as this two-parter goes, though, it really does manage everything on its plate. We can afford to have a B-plot *and* a C-plot when we've got a whole two-parter to cover it all -- and the interesting thing is, I could imagine either of those plots managing to take up full episodes, if we had more time in this final season for them.

    I will say, though, that the B- and C-plots didn't grab me as much as much as the A-plot does. That's to be expected -- if they were *more* compelling, you'd imagine they'd take the A-plot spot -- but I personally did find myself getting impatient through them. The B-plot (Kira's Romulan standoff) was more guilty of this than the C-plot (Worf, Bashir and Quark all being Sad about Jadzia, and doing Big Klingon Things to make up for it with O'Brien along for the ride) -- which surprised me, given that I found the Bashir and Quark elements of 'Tears of the Prophets' tiresome, and I generally love seeing Kira take action. But while 'Image in the Sand' set up something fascinating with Cretak -- a nice Romulan senator who almost seemed too nice to be too good to be true -- seeing far less of her in the second half felt like a bit of a letdown. I hope we get to see more of her later on. On top of that, I think waiting through the blockade kinda wore me out and killed a bit of the tension it should've had.

    And on the C-plot's end, I'm always a sucker for Klingon battle shenanigans. But I did feel it was a little odd not to mention the potential future of the Dax symbiont at all in that plot -- they're all concerned with Jadzia's afterlife there, but not once does anyone mention that she's not quite as dead as your average doornail. In fact, I was half-expecting the mention of Worf's unusually long mourning period to lead into him having difficulty with the complicated nature of death for Trills (though we got Klingon battle shenanigans instead, so I'm not complainin'). But it's most likely better for the sake of the character we had with Jadzia that we deal solely with her in that plot, and leave the complications that Ezri brings for Worf to future episodes.

    Anyway, Sisko's story! That's the real meat here, no doubt about that. I love how the Sisko family is put at the heart of this (and of course it's especially fitting once the question of Sisko's mother comes into play). Between the S6 finale's final shot and this two-parter, you get a poignant sense of Sisko's troubled healing process -- isolating himself, throwing himself entirely into work. And the younger and elder Siskos worry from afar. (Looking back on this from further into the seasson, I reckon this'd be interesting to compare/contrast with 'It's Only A Paper Moon' -- but I'll cover that over there.)

    Then we've got the introduction of Ezri Dax, slotted into that. If there's anything her very brief intro (showing up at the Sisko family's door) at the end of the first ep tells us, it's that she's got the knack for dramatic timing...! Conveniently, Sisko gets to have both halves of his grief (the wormhole and Jadzia) dealt with at the same time. Partner and I had differing levels of knowledge re: Ezri. I knew full well that she'd be turning up at some point... but spent the whole damn time in 'Image in the Sand' wondering "where the hell is she". Meanwhile my partner had no idea. That could've just been any old Starfleet blueshirt at the door, and then he got a good look at the spots -- "is that Dax???" (He's developed a big ol' crush on Terry Farrell over the course of the series, but his verdict on the new Dax is: "she's still cute".)

    First look at her is decent, I guess. In spite of the confusion and spacesickness so far (I hope they don't last *too* long... though the fact that she only ever gets one season is reason to worry in itself), she is a cute character, and she gets some laughs here. "You have DEFINITELY gotten stranger." Her scene with Jake is pretty sweet, too. (Given that Ezri's only an ensign and Jake must be roughly 20 by now, these two may well be about the same age. I did get the feeling here, at least, that they were starting to set something up between the two of them.)

    Loved the desert scenes. (What IS it with DS9 and deserts? They're consistently beautifully shot, but that can't be fun for the actors.) Interesting note: the hooded white desert robes worn here by our Emissary's entourage feel like a light mirror to the red robes that the pah-wraith cultist/would-be assassin wears.

    And wow, the 'Far Beyond the Stars' reprise! I wasn't expecting that! I commented on that episode's page about how the vision's framing in the DS9 context was essentially an impassioned plea for Sisko to remain a Starfleet captain. This inverts that entirely: a desperate attempt to have Sisko give up his role as the Emissary. In that respect, I think it's well-used. And I can't help feeling for Benny Russell, no matter how real he might be -- the man *is* right, dammit, and deserves far better than this.

    (Also, for completionism's sake: good to finally see 'Far Beyond' Damar. Can't think of any character insights to be gleaned from his role as Wykoff, though.)

    And then finally the orb vision reveal. The Prophets, non-linear as they are, are kind of difficult to talk about -- as a bog standard linear being, I'm having a little trouble expressing my next idea here, but bear with me. I can't help but wonder if the Prophets might've arranged Sisko's birth *after* having met Sisko, to whatever extent they even can have an "after". Picture it like this: "for the sake of our Greater Plan, we need to have X person in Y situation, and we need to make this happen ourselves" -- but that would have had to take place with an awareness of who The Sisko was, which must've been post-'Emissary' in some way. Who knows. The Prophets work in mysterious ways.

    Interesting commonality between Sarah Sisko and Ezri Dax: each of them has suddenly found herself having to "share her existence" with a being greater than their own self, for the sake of that greater being's continued existence, and with no choice in the matter. Only natural that they end up sharing the same space of the episode, but then I don't feel the episode really does much/anything with the parallel... though perhaps Ezri's total confusion (finding herself saddled with years of things that she herself didn't do) can give us a bit of an insight into what Sarah lived off-screen.

    Regarding "Sisko is a rape baby" talk up above: yeah, I wouldn't disagree. If she'd gone through this on a voluntary basis, or wanted this husband and child in her life, I doubt she'd be leaving them out of the blue. And they've had no problem inflicting things on people unwillingly before (lest we forget that weird ep where they brainwashed Grand Nagus Zek). It's not like much can be done about it, though, with Sarah dead and the Prophets as amoral superbeings that you can't exactly punish for this (I mean, Jason R jokes above about Sisko going into the wormhole and lecturing them about consent, but he *is* the guy who taught them about linear time in the first place... it wouldn't be the first thing he'd lectured them on...) Regardless, it's a mark against the Prophets as the "Good" side, as far as Grand Cosmic Scale Battles of Good And Evil go...


    ... and it could've made for an interesting stick to beat Kira with in 'Covenant'. Who knows if the truth of Sisko's parentage ever made it into the mainstream of Bajoran religion, or if it had remained a secret between Sisko, the Prophets and potentially his immediate family (I feel it'd most likely be the "secret" option) -- but if it was the former and it became public knowledge, I could definitely imagine Dukat using it to try and make a point. As in: sure, he took advantage of one of his followers and got her pregnant in the process, but hey, that's *nothing* compared to taking over a woman's life, getting her pregnant with a baby she doesn't want, and making her spend a year of her life with a husband and child she didn't choose to have. So who is Kira to say her Prophets are better than his pah-wraiths?

    Note that this is hypothetical Dukat making that case here, deliberately trying to shake Kira's conviction. They're definitely not equivalent situations, but I can easily see Dukat Logic working that way. I imagine Kira's response would be something along the lines of "you're just a dirty old creep who fetishises Bajoran women and abuses his power to get them into bed; they're gods who know far more than we Mere Mortals ever can, and sometimes have to allow bad situations for the sake of good" (in line with how she might justify the Prophets allowing the occupation of Bajor). But despite how *obviously* awful Dukat's side of it is... could the Prophets' side do something to dent Kira's faith regardless?

    Nice review, Fenn.

    I agree that it's possible to imagine the Prophets not only seeing things in non-linear manner but also being to interact in a non-linear way. If they could do this it would make them far more godlike, verus them merely having extra-chronological vision. I mean, at that point they would virtually be only a step or two removed from the Q.

    Regarding the ongoing rape debate, I agree that Sarah vanishing would be the one point suggesting 'something wrong'. Beyond that one fact I don't know how I would guess how willing or unwilling she was. Even in Zek's case - are we 100% sure the Prophets simply reprogrammed him? The irony is that we've already seen that he's much more willing to become progressive regarding women than we would have thought. Maybe they just tapped into a potential character development for him and accelerated it? Anyhow, if we think of a symbiotic (even willing) merging of Prophet and Sarah, and as the duo they go marry Joe Sisko, once the Prophet leaves "they" no longer exist and Sarah is not the same person. Imagine waking up and remembering everything you've done for the last few years but realize "it wasn't me doing it." Willing or unwilling that might be hard to deal with, and some people run away when they don't know how to deal with a situation. My point is that it's too weird a scenario to just judge out of hand, and people seem awfully quick to jump to assuming rape when we simply don't know.

    About this:

    "Also, for completionism's sake: good to finally see 'Far Beyond' Damar. Can't think of any character insights to be gleaned from his role as Wykoff, though"

    There is, actually - but you will have to wait for more in S7 for that. I will say no more about details, but try to think of it as - man who tries to pretend that a situation that is not ok is ok. In this ep it's Benny in an asylum; in the regular series you'll have to decide for yourself :)

    Unfortunately, Damar as Dr. Wykoff seems to a matter of "wait, who's left?"

    And they’re off! The starter’s pistol has fired and the story arcs are racing towards the finish line!

    In the lead, we have Sisko, eager to get to the end of his increasingly convoluted plot. Along the way, he’ll pass the discovery that his mother was actually a prophet, in the best traditions of mediocre soap operas the world over. But we don’t have time to consider the ramifications of how the prophets deceived his father (and arguably raped and then perhaps killed his mother), nor even how a Prophet would be able to exist in “linear” time for two years without anyone suspecting anything. Surely, all the conversations about “what should we do yesterday?” would have given something away? And let’s not consider the fact that this reduces Sisko to little more than a tool built by the prophets for their own purposes. Still, there’s no time for questions like that - we have vast swathes of sand to plough through! Though Sisko will get the chance to have a bit of a rest when he reaches the 1955 checkpoint, so long as he can remember where he put his pencil...

    Coming up close behind - and occasionally helping when he staggers on the dunes - is the new Dax. Who’s surprisingly similar to the old Dax - cute as a button, bubbly and (consciously or otherwise) mimicking a lot of Jadzia’s mannerisms. I can’t help but wonder if this was an easy way for the writers to avoid rewriting too much of the early S7 plotlines following Terry’s departure. Any which way, she’s gamely doing her best to plough along through the wake of Sisko’s over-acting.

    And then there’s Worf! Oh so angry Worf, being angry, in the best Angry Klingon tradition, ploughing along like a Cardassian Stud boar on heat, even though he’s having to drag half the DS9’s command crew behind him, eager to join in with the massacre. Sadly, for all that it’s an impressive spectacle, this little sequence does raise some questions (above and beyond the Death Star question about the murder of all the non-military people present at the shipyards): if it’s so easy to trigger a focused solar flare which can scorch anything clear out to 100 million klicks (aka: all the way out to Venus!), why isn’t this used more often? And why would anyone build any infrastructure close enough to the sun to be vulnerable? Surely something like this (and the various planet-destroying tricks used in previous DS9 and TNG episodes) should be covered by some form of interstellar Geneva convention.

    Be that as it may, thousands - if not millions - of soldiers and civilians are murdered in cold blood, regardless of whether they were sleeping, eating or working - and most definitely without the chance to retaliate. As tactical moves go, it’s quite an impressive slaughter, but I’d question whether it truly qualifies as a battle worthy of Klingon Valhalla. Still, at least Worf gets to keep trudging on towards the finish line after a heart-to-heart with O’Brien, Bashir and Quark. Won’t it be a nice surprise when he finds who’s waiting for him?

    Meanwhile, Kira’s bringing up the rear, doing her best to maintain the pace while dragging 7,000 Romulan plasma torpedos behind her. It’s a believable plot line, if somewhat pedestrian when lined up against the more melodramatic elements of this episode. And once more, we get some incredibly precise timings, as Sisko’s actions to restore the wormhole are concluded at the exact moment when the Romulans are about to piledrive over Kira’s ships. Whodathunk it, eh?

    Finally, there’s Damar and Weyoun. Sadly, Damar swigged a bit too much Kanar and is currently draped over a toilet, while Weyoun sent some Jem Hadar in his place and is currently sat in his office trying to decide if the splatter from Damar’s vomiting counts as art. After all, it’s not that far different from the pieces in the nearby Cardassian Modern Art gallery...

    It’s a fairly action packed episode, even if there’s a notable number of plot holes and the desert scenes with Sisko drag on. But arguably, it’s little more than an oversized Reset Button: the wormhole’s back, the war with the Dominion remains as-is, relationships with the Romulans return to BAU and new-Dax is a bit shorter, but otherwise pretty much identical to old-Dax.

    Which doesn’t bode too well for the rest of the season!

    As someone who is watching the series from start to finish for the first time, I can't believe how much/quickly DS9 has fallen apart at this point, from the moment the wormhole aliens (COS THAT'S WHAT THEY ARE) disappeared the Dominion in season 6.

    The cringeworthy Pah'wraith 'good vs. evil' magic possession nonsense has really spoilt the nuanced science / religion dichotomy it took them seasons to build. The Prophets have gone from ethereal aliens to Gozer the Gozerian, while Sisko has become a simpering ideologue. Even Dukat has become a parody of a parody.

    Also, I honestly cannot believe they tried to shoehorn Benny Russell into this episode. What next? Perhaps the founders turn out to be tribbles.

    And Dr. Bashir joining a suicide mission (and not even as a doctor) so his dead friend can get into Klingon heaven? WT actual F.

    How, in any quadrant, is this a 3.5 star episode?

    Ugghhh. For some time, I had been thinking that this was looking like the best Trek series. Some really good episodes, touching at times and hilarious at others. But I have a bad feeling about Season 7. I can't stand all the mystical mumbo jumbo, and what's up with implying that all these characters are a figment of someone's imagination INSIDE THE SHOW??? Ezri seems like a useless, immature juvenile. At this point, I barely even feel like I want to finish the series.

    " what's up with implying that all these characters are a figment of someone's imagination INSIDE THE SHOW??? "

    It was dumb when St Elsewhere did it and it's even dumber on DS9. I also (kind of) agree about Ezri. I don't hate the character, but I hate that she was introduced at the height of the Dominion War story. Every episode that doesn't feel tied to the main storyline in some way feels like a distraction to me.

    I do urge you to finish the series, however. There are a several more episodes coming up soon that you will probably dislike, but there are still some very good ones too.

    p.s. Nice to know that I'm not the only one not enamored with Far Beyond the Stars.


    Season 7 is DS9's best season IMHO although it starts out weakly. Stick with it!

    @ Robbie

    Unless Ezri is talking to Garak or with Worf behind enemy lines, you can skip every scene she's in and not miss anything relevant.

    She's my least favorite character in ALL of old school Trek, a total waste of precious screen time.

    "She's my least favorite character in ALL of old school Trek, a total waste of precious screen time."

    There is no way that Ezri is worse than Rom, Neelix, Wes, Chekov, Yar, or Troi.

    Look, I think they picked an awkward time to introduce the character, and "Field of Fire" and "Prodigal Daughter" felt shoehorned in at the last minute, but on the flip side, I'm not very confident that the writers would have substituted better episodes than what we got. There were two lame holodeck episodes that season, a terrible follow-up to "Statistical Probabilities" and a combo Ferrengi/Mirror Universe episode. They would probably have snuck in another Lwaxana episode in if they had had an available slot so count your blessings.

    This episode seemed to bite off more than it could possibly ever chew. Plot A, Sisko Family on desert planet, was not too bad, but I did feel that Pappy Joseph was being stressed to the point of cardiac arrest. Any decent son, or grandson for that matter, would have made him wait in the ship. He could have been making gumbo for everybody to share once they returned. I don't want that recipe going with him to the grave, so just let me stay on the runabout whipping up some of his specialties for G___'s sake!

    A real problem for me was Ezri throwing the baseball but not knowing its significance. If she has Jadzia Dax's memories, she would have known that the baseball was 'a most important thing'. I am watching all this for the first time, so forgive me, but how could the writers not make a connection between Bajor and Baseball. Do they?

    Does Benjamin have the baseball because he just happens to like the game, or was he given the baseball by this mysterious Sarah? I hope at some point in the series, the directors give us a close-up of the baseball, and then do a fade-dissolve to planet Bajor as seen from space. Too few transitions of this kind in the show for my taste.

    Now that I think of it, when the Orb of the Emissary was opened, a baseball, or something like it, but 'of the wormhole' so to speak, should've been inside. I know it's a bit tacky- (a DS9 Rosebud), but it sets up a decent mysticism to work through in what's left of Season 7.

    Correction: "so just let him stay on the runabout whipping up some of his specialties for G___'s sake!"

    Poor Pappy Joseph! :)

    I thought it was great two part opus to kick off the final outing of a very underrated trek show, once again , just like season 6 , Kira makes from some interesting B story (or this case 2 B stories and 1 A story) , with some station intrigue when Sisko is absent .

    That being said, as time goes on I find myself appreciating more the introduction of Ezri Dax, it's role reversal where Sisko has to guide Dax and not vice versa, and it's a welcomed change.

    This might sound strange but for me the low point was the reintroduction of Benny Russell , to me it seemed like Russell was a one of episode that the writters tried to somehow work him into the prophet construct, it worked well in far beyond the stars . Here it confuses the viewer more then anything , false vision or not...

    This episode quite aptly shows what a fuddy dud Worf was on DS9. If this were an odd thing because of Jadzia, it would be one thing, but this was his character throughout good stay on the station.

    I'm not the biggest fan of Quark, but I'd rather have 5 Quarks than deal with this Worf.

    Otherwise, The Sisko story is very good, and the Dr Wykoff and heralds the completely unexpected rise of Damar as a main character.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, I like the fantastical elements of DS9. They never overdo it, 95% of the show lacks them. And they expertly blend faith, powers beyond our comprehension, science, and politics into a coherent story.

    I saw some people claiming that DS9 wasn't really Trek. Like...what? Did you watch the original series? Every other episode had a godlike this, or energy being that. Space magic was bleeding out its proverbial backside. DS9 just did it well, so we don't purge it from our memory like we did for TOS.

    Ignore all the distractions, and Sisko's arc throughout the last 3 episodes boils down to this: losing faith when the wormhole (heaven) disappeared, Sisko went wandering in the desert (like Jesus), found a religious box, opened the box, released a good spirit which flew away and defeated the bad spirit which had hid the wormhole, thereby restoring heaven for all to see. Sisko then learns that he was immaculately conceived by God.

    This is all very New Testament. I'm not sure what the show gains by this. It doesn't feel interesting in a transgressive or Gnostic sense. And it's not good science fiction, as no interesting scientist characters are allowed near these plot beats.

    This episode also contains a subplot about Klingons battling a space-station, and Worf trying to bring Jadzia (fittingly, given Sisko's arc) to Klingon heaven. I wasn't too impressed by this.

    Most interesting is the episode's arc involving Kira and the Romulans. The Romulans want to put weapons on a moon, and Kira and the Bajoran government don't want them to.

    Does Kira's personality throughout this two-parter make sense? Surely she's too savvy now, and too adept at realpolitik, to waste time squaring off with the Romulans. In my mind, this episode should have been about the Bajoran government being irate about armed Romulans, and Kira and the Federation trying to convince that that it's no big deal.

    If you accept that the Bajoran government is right, though (perhaps they're fearful that the Romulans will one day use the moon as a staging ground, perhaps even to control the wormhole), then their tactics are quite cool. They punch above their weight, knowing the Romulans and Feds are too scared to risk a breakdown of the Alliance.

    Why did they have to walk across the desert when they could have just used the runabout?

    I think Stargate handled super aliens better than Star Trek (with the exception of the Q continuum), especially the ones pretending to be gods. However, I really don't see how people keep getting the wormhole aliens so wrong. As someone mentioned above, there is absolutely no plot hole with regards to the Prophets both learning linear time from Sisko and engineering his birth. It's exactly the same as the Protagonist in Tenet recruiting Neil long after he both met him for the first time as a member of the agency he himself began after he was recruited by that same agency. SPOILER ALERT ( He probably saved Neil's life as the child of the woman he helped only to get him killed at the end of the movie as an adult before he bids him farewell for the final time.)

    It's no different than Louise in Arrival deciding to give birth to a daughter whom she's been having visions about the whole movie and who's destined to die of childhood cancer before she's even been born. We're not just talking about linear time. We're talking about nonlinear time interacting with linear time. The Prophets are looking at all these sequence of events as a library of holonovels telling variations on the same tale. They are NOT omniscient or omnipotent. They just have a far broader perspective than any character in any version of the story. They also have many limitations.

    They can interact with the holonovels by rearranging code in the overall program, such as globally erasing objects or adding properties to items and characters. They can also interact with a given version of the holonovels by interacting with specific characters by 1) sending messages to a specific character in a specific version at specific points in a novel or 2) taking over the role of a specific character of specific version at one of those points. It looks as if once they have done either 1 or 2 they can't affect a specific version of a novel at that point again, so they do so sparingly. Otherwise, they can only mess with the code of the whole holo suite of novels. But they cannot do so willy nilly as it would destroy whatever they're trying to accomplish.

    Again, I think Stargate pulled this off much better and more clearly with its Ascended Beings. However, I do not dislike the approach of DS9. They introduced some rather interesting aliens and explored them well.

    Good lords above, this was awful.

    The Cisco (or "Space Jesus," as a brilliant commenter christened him) has totally lost the plot. He wanders around some barren landscape for forty...minutes, desert garb and all, starts having hallucinations, digs up some box, re-buries it, doesn't, opens it, it vomits out some shiny sheet... Yeah, about as legit as the burning bush story. Stay off drugs, kids, m'kay. Surely he's going to be booted out of Starfleet ipso facto et manu militari after these shenanigans, right? RIGHT!? Anyway, terrible story arc. Is it over now?

    Keera and Dodo against the Rommies. Much more interesting. Enjoyed it... - right up until the final act. What a balloon fart of a resolution...

    The Klingon mission. Very good; definitely the highlight, especially once they got to the star but even in the preceding sequences (Quark providing some light relief was great, as uzh). I do have to wonder: How on earth did Worf keep a straight face intoning all that crap in made-up "Klingon"?? Hilarious!!

    Dax v.8 comes across as too bubbly, too Gilmore-Girls for my taste, but okay. I'm hoping she grows on me.

    Yeah, a couple (=2) stars for this one again.

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