Airdate:April 29, 1998
143 of 173 produced
143 of 173 aired
The discovery of an ancient artifact on Bajor precipitates a long prophesied (but little mentioned) conflict between the Prophets and their enemies the Pah-wraiths.
Kids, cosmetic contacts and coke benders DON'T MIX.
Kevin: I suppose on the one hand, I am glad that they haven't completely forgotten Bajor, so I get why they revisited this story. On the other, it does take the momentum out that we had built with In the Pale Moonlight. I did like the opening discussion though, particularly questioning if the Romulans would relinquish reclaimed Federation territory. That's a fun, big question, and a consequence we didn't really explore before bringing them in.
Matthew: The sense of storytelling whiplash here is pretty significant. It's been nearly a season since the Prophets impacted a story, and nearly two full seasons since we heard anything about the Pah-wraiths. That means there are a bunch of leaden expository scenes that try to catch us up to speed - and I don't think they entirely succeed, either. The conflict between Winn and Sisko didn't do anything for me, for instance. It's been a season since we've seen her, too. She is jealous of Sisko - I get that, and can enjoy it. But what they're fighting over, a hunk of rock, isn't exactly scintillating.
Kevin: As we have discussed before, the whole Emissary arc never quite gets the energy or resolution it needs given its place in the narrative. Per Memory Alpha, the writers came back to this story after thinking about the consequences of introducing the Pah Wraiths in "The Assignment" and that's the problem in a nutshell. You can't make this up as you go if you want the grand story to feel intentional and resolved by the end. The Pah Wraiths in that episode were a bit of a retcon, and now there's a new heretofore unheardof piece of Bajoran theology that also happens to be somehow a centerpiece of it. We get the impression that the events here are somehow supposed to resolve Sisko's role as the Emissary, but it never feels that way.
Kevin: There are things I like about this episode. Much like "The Rapture" we get to see Sisko both accept and rebel against his role as the Emissary and that's fun. We also get an inversion of Jake's decision about his father, with Sisko deciding whether or not to save his son. They portray the conflict well, but I actually think it would make more sense for Sisko to be the one to shut it down in the name of saving his son, either instead of or even in concert with Winn's ambition. I just don't quite buy Sisko and Jake as an Abraham and Isaac. And, as always, I love watching Kai Winn swan onto the station to be a bitch. It just always makes my day. I love how grandly petty she can be. She's subverting the Apocalypse because she doesn't like the bit part she's been cast in. That is just fun to watch. I also enjoyed Kira's line about how she doesn't resent Sisko, but the Kai does. It's a nice look at both characters. I also enjoyed that the Starfleet officers in the group had the correct reaction to all this. Cultural relativism aside, the station is a critical piece of the war effort and should not be abandoned for this reason. It was fun to see the pushback.
Matthew: Although they've been mentioned in one prior show, it can't help but feel as though the Pah-wraiths are a bit of a retcon, apparently intended to make the Prohpets anything but deathly dull. I don't think this episode did enough to render them "real" to the viewer. The analogs I can imagine are either Satanists within the Christian culture, or competing religious traditions on Earth. Either one of these scenarios could have been really rich. I think I would have gone for Satanism, since everyone knows the Prophets actually exist. It could be interesting to see people, with potentially quite good arguments, who believe that the Prophets are either wrong or outright evil. It could also be interesting to see how Bajorans treat a subculture, especially given their certitude about the Prophets. Would they be tolerant and liberal, because they are not threatened; or would they be hard-line and fanatical in trying to wipe them out, because they know with certitude that they are wrong? But as it stands, all we got were a bunch of half lines about prophecies and reckonings and Kosst Amojans. You can tell that we're not being given enough when the Memory Alpha article can't even discern whether the Kosst Amojan is a particular wraith, or a group of them! One bit I did like is Sisko smashing the doo-dad. It references several idol-smashing instances in human religions.
Kevin: Overall, I liked Kira's character in this episode. Her decisions and other's decisions to respect those decisions and her beliefs felt organic. Our other issues with the Kira/Odo romance aside, his respect for her position even though it was obviously costing him personally was well done, and would have read equally well even if they had remained just friends. I like overall the way they have come to pitch Kira's faith. It's deep and it's personal, but it's not evangelizing, if you get the distinction I'm making. Particularly for a show so dedicated to secular humanism, it's interesting to see such a portrayal.
Matthew: I liked how the Prophet ignored Winn. I thought that was a really interesting note, and helped to preserve a bit of mystery and majesty for the Prophets. But the theology of it all is mystifying, and not in a good way, for me. Is Kosst Amojan a fallen angel? Why did it fall? What was the source of disagreement between them? Doesn't this seem like a potentially dramatically interesting question to ask and answer? Why does a battle between it and the Prophets precipitate a golden age? Why do they need to be embodied at all? It seems like all they do is have a blue vs. orange light show, anyway.
Kevin: One element I actually enjoyed and wished they explored more was that scene at the end with Kira and Winn. Kira posits that by stopping this, Winn has set in motion a sequence of events to which not even the Prophets know the outcome. Our biggest issue with the religion of the Bajorans from a narrative standpoint is that it's a religion with objective scientific proof of its validity. The way around that is to have some fun with that idea. Okay..God exists, but what if you actually could free will your way out of prophecy? What would that say about the nature of God? So much of the story regarding the Prophets has focused on their non-linear nature and the insight that obviously gives them into outcomes. What if you actually could surprise them? There's a fun story in there, and I wish they had explored that idea more.
Kevin: I think everyone colored cleanly inside the lines. The Starfleet officers were sober in their analyses. Fletcher was appropriately manipulative as Winn. Particularly in that first scene where she compares Sisko's taking the tablet to Cardassian theft was just great. It's so nakedly manipualtive you almost want to applaud. Brooks did a good job with the range of emotions in this one. The only real shouting seems to happen when there was a wind machine on the Promenade, so that's fine. I also think Visitor did a good job with the nuances of portraying her faith as something thoughtful rather than merely reflexive.
Matthew: I agree that Louise Fletcher did her level best to animate a so-so script. Whether or not the story was clear, her jealousy and pettiness were, and that helps me maintain my interest in what are otherwise rather deathly dull scenes. I thought both Visitor and Lofton did a nice job taking on different physical mannerisms when they were possessed, and it made those scenes fun to watch.
Kevin: I want to give an additional shout out to Farrell, whose line reading of "suffer horribly...or eat fruit" always slays me.
Matthew: I have a hard time believing that an ideographic language has characters that similar for suffering and fruit eating.
Kevin: For mid-90s CGI, the light effects were pretty good. If nothing else, they were crisp on the screen and the cumulative effect was not to render either the effects nor the real scene too muddy. The caves were...cavey. I wish they had gone more of a Pompeii feel rather than straight up Planet Hell cave, but budgets I imagine forbid.
Matthew: They certainly weren't awful effects. They added some squib effects to give us sparks and explosions, too. Personally, I would rather have seen both Kira and Jake transform a bit more, maybe over the course of a few hours, into something more elaborate and gnarly. I guess that's a way of saying this was a really talky episode in which the only real visual interest was during the two minutes of "fighting."
Kevin: I'm going with a three here. I wish the Prophet and Emissary stories had more cohesion, but it would be unfair to lay that all on this episode. For much of the reasons we like "Rapture" I liked this one well enough. The stakes felt personal enough and sufficiently high for Sisko to make his decision feel interesting, even if I don't necessarily agree on the decision he makes, and anytime Winn gets to be imperious on screen, I'm a happy camper.
Matthew: I think "Rapture" was way better than this, precisely because it made Sisko's personal experience the centerpiece. This never got to focus on Kira, let's say, because there was so much else going on - the rock thing, conference scenes about the Dominion war, Winn being jealous about the rock thing, etc. And without that deeper focus, nothing really overcame the "this story is about an underbaked make-believe religion" factor that many Bajor-centric stories suffer from. So I'm going to have to go with a 2. That makes our total a 5.