|Episode:||20|||||Writer:||Robert Hewitt Wolfe|||||Air Date:||20-06-1993|
This week on Sci-Fi Adventures, I'm going to go through the final episode of Deep Space Nine's first season and write words underneath my screencaps. This is it, the end's in sight, I just have to clear these last 40 minutes or so and I'll have fulfilled the promise I made all the way back in my Emissary review to write about every episode in season one!
In the Hands of the Prophets is the first Deep Space Nine episode with 'Prophets' in the title. I wish I could say something like "when the word 'Prophet' appears in the title you know something huge is about to go down", but to be honest it only appears in three episodes titles throughout the entire seven year run, and one of them is a Ferengi episode. The writers resisted the prophet/profit pun for two and a half years, but in the end they were only human.
Plus this is the first Trek season since The Best of Both Worlds to not end on with part one of a two-parter. Voyager would later carry on Next Gen's tradition of making people suffer for months with a cliffhanger, but DS9 preferred to leave viewers with a feeling that next year shit's going to get even more real.
Alright I'm going to go through the whole damn episode and write anything that jumps into my mind along the way, so there will be SPOILERS for this story and other Trek episodes that came before it. I'll not spoil later seasons though.
This scene's also setting up that the Starfleet crew are getting to know Bajoran culture from their co-workers, as his assistant's introduced him to these weird misshapen jumja sticks. At first I thought they must be a rare expensive treat on her world as it's all this guy seems to sell and he's only got five of them, but then the camera pulled back and revealed the rest of his shop.
Keiko's currently trying to teach the class about that wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant that's sitting outside the station, which I guess is the equivalent of teaching modern children about the Panama Canal. If the Panama Canal was only found a few months ago and was built by aliens worshipped as gods by the locals.
She's interrupted when a well dressed Bajoran woman suddenly invites herself in, but she thoughtfully allows Keiko to continue the lesson. So she does! I guess she sees nothing wrong with letting a stranger hanging around her students.
It's funny how the woman chose this exact moment to appear, as it seems she takes issue with Keiko calling the wormhole aliens 'entities' instead of 'the Prophets'. Keiko tries to get on with telling 9 year olds about verteron particles, but the woman just has to keep interrupting. She's very nice about it though.
Keiko points out that she's teaching the kids facts, as teaching them religion is her job. So I guess she must know who this is then. Whoever the stranger is, she seems very regretful about the fact that Keiko's teaching blasphemy and that she cannot permit these lessons to continue.
Uh-oh, it's a science vs. religion fight!
Seems that they need a security interlock to close this particular panel... and O'Brien's has gone missing. Which is a bit of a concern, seeing as the tool's used for opening security panels. It also raises the question of how they got it open in the first place.
I've talked about Neela before by the way, as she was the nameless Bajoran tech who broke the rules of nameless Bajoran techs by saying words on camera in Duet (not to be confused with Anara, the Bajoran tech who got a few lines back in The Forsaken). It's a shame the writers didn't plan ahead and introduce her even earlier as she works well in this scene.
Kira supports Winn, saying that maybe it's best to revise how they're teaching the Bajoran children, while Keiko's vehemently against the idea of letting a religious leader decide what's taught in class.
They have a lot of dialogue here about potentially segregating the students, and how pure science without a spiritual context can be considered a philosophy, but Kira's got no suggestions for how Sisko can make everyone happy.
Oh damn, she's calling him the Emissary! It's only taken a whole damn season but we're finally getting some follow up on the fact that Sisko's considered a religious figure in his own right for finding the Celestial Temple and speaking with the Prophets.
Winn claims that the Prophets have spoken to her as well, through the Orbs, and that she's been given the task of defending the Bajoran faith. Funny, I thought the Cardassians had stolen all but one of them. She says that she can't be responsible for the consequences if Keiko doesn't back down, but she definitely gives the impression that she'll be setting those consequences in motion.
They also find organic traces, presumably the remains of a missing Ensign who thought he'd borrow one of the Chief's security keys and go play in a deadly conduit with it. That's all that's left of him, traces. The two of them are surprisingly calm about all of this, considering that they're also inside the tunnel of inside death. I'm not overly claustrophobic, but personally this would be about the time where I freaked out and got myself elsewhere before the conduit killed again.
Now I'm wondering if Ensign Aquino here is the first dead Starfleet officer on DS9. That seems like something I should've been watching out for!
I'm not sure whether the Bajoran shopkeepers have started to turn away Starfleet officers or if it's just Keiko they don't like, but either way this escalated in a hurry.
He's seriously considering getting a transfer and going elsewhere (seems that everyone but Sisko's allowed to chose their own posting in this series), but Keiko doesn't run from a fight. A philosophical fight I mean, she's not going to go back and club the jumja guy over the head later.
She feels the O'Brien's anger towards her... and she forgives them for it. She even agrees to make the first concession, but Keiko stands firm. If she can't teach about the wormhole, then what happens when she gets to theories of evolution or the creation of the universe?
Keiko's never been the most likeable character in Star Trek, but put her against Winn... and she's still not entirely likeable. But Winn is downright punchable with the way she manipulates and patronises everyone, and what's worse is that she's good at it. Keiko's relying on pure stubborness to get her through, but Winn's got an actual game plan and she's running rings around her.
Wow Jake can just take a turbolift right up to Ops huh? They really need better security on this station. Also I've only just noticed that they're still giving Starfleet officers pointy sideburns. Funny how that fashion hasn't died out in a hundred years.
Only five kids turned up to school in the end, so Keiko decided to teach them about how Galileo was tried by the Inquisition for the crime of believing the Earth moved around the Sun. The 'pour fire on the flames' approach to education. Now Jake's all fired up, wondering how people could've been so stupid, and annoyed that the same thing's happening now.
So Sisko has to pull him back a little, explaining that the Bajorans used their religion to get them through a brutal 50 year occupation, so it makes sense that they're going to be a bit concerned when outsiders say it has no place in one of their schools. Plus these folks have been contacted throughout their history by godlike beings that exist outside of the normal flow of time. Just because they have a scientific explanation for the wormhole, it doesn't mean that the Bajoran interpretation of the facts is wrong, and if they start acting like Vedek Winn they'll lose everything they've worked for.
So he's going to Bajor to find some help.
Emissary. Well, slightly prettier anyway. It wasn't all that bad back then really, but they've cleaned it up over the last few months and the sun's come out.
You know what's weird though? There's no people on the streets. It's not a huge surprise that they're not using cars, but those roads are entirely abandoned.
I've stitched together some frames from the panning shot this time, which was kind of tricky due to the way the foreground scrolls by faster than the background. Last time I saw it I was convinced that they used a model in front of a matte painting and this time I'm doubly convinced. It's the reflections in the windows that's the real giveaway. It's the good kind of giveaway though, that makes it look more tangible and realistic.
Sisko's here to have a talk with Vedek Bareil, the other main contender for the position of Kai. The guy doesn't immediately grab his ear like Kai Opaka and Vedek Winn did so they get on well right from the start. He's the less orthodox, more laid back priest that the viewer's supposed to like.
Sisko observes that the Prophets have also been teaching him politics. He was supposed to be the likeable vedek, but he's as calculating as Winn is! Though he comes across as less selfishly motivated.
So it turns out that Sisko's wasted his time here and they had this whole location shoot for nothing. I suppose it was a bit of a long shot though; the vedeks likely have bigger issues to discuss than a one room schoolhouse on a tiny space station out in the Denorios belt.
Dramatis Personae even more now for making this seem less important than it is. The Bajorans know they need the Federation around to protect them from the Cardassians, but their religion is just as important to them.
Sisko's so stressed out that he actually snaps at Kira here, saying he's not here to protect their borders, he's there to build a relationship with them and he's sick of feeling like he's the only one making an effort.
Then to bring just that little bit extra joy into his day, Bashir shows up with his report on the organic remains O'Brien found in the conduit. Turns out that the Ensign was killed by phaser and then placed in the conduit to dispose of his body. They've got a killer on board, someone skilled enough to override the safety systems in the power conduits. I guess they haven't seen Star Trek 6 yet though or else they'd have known that you can vaporise evidence just fine with a phaser.
We learn that Neela didn't know the murdered Ensign all that well, as Bajoran and Starfleet officers don't hang out much. I bet if I go back through earlier episodes and look through scenes we've had of people hanging out in Quark's that'll be proven wrong in about five minutes, but I'd rather lose all those scenes and keep this episode to be honest.
O'Brien thinks back to his wife's teasing in the teaser and gets concerned that their chat's getting a bit too intimate, so he decides to finish the check by himself.
Actually first there's a short reprise of the Quark and Odo scene from Duet last week to give the guy some screen time, only with him talking about getting orthodox priests to his Dabo tables instead of labour camp survivors. But then O'Brien comes and reveals that he checked the other two runabout pads and found yet another override device hidden in their systems. Though fortunately this is the kind that overrides security like in The Passenger rather than the kind that gives everyone an aphasia virus like in Babel.
Odo deduces what must have happened immediately. The person who planted this was originally going to set up an escape route through to Runabout Pad C, but got caught by the Ensign. They killed them and hid the body, but knew that the pad would be investigated and that they needed to rig a different runabout to escape in. But escape from what?
And then the Promenade explodes.
Well actually it was only the school, but that's still an impressive display of pyrotechnics. This isn't an an optical effect, they did this for real, so it's even more impressive that they had a set left afterwards. Incidentally if you're wondering how they put out fires on a 24th century alien space station, a guy runs over with a fire hose and sprays water on it.
Fortunately Keiko and kids weren't there at the time and the O'Briens find each other and hug.
Winn hopes the Prophets forgive Sisko for abandoning them. But Sisko tells her to quit it with the 'I speak for the Prophets' crap, as she's part of an order who's barely listened to in her Vedek Assembly. Winn doesn't much like that, so her real teeth come out (figuratively speaking), and she accuses him of trying to destroy Bajor! He has no soul, the Federation exists in a universe of darkness and they want to drag everyone in with them.
Sisko's had a very commanding presence all season but I'm not sure I've found him all that likeable most of the time. Here though I want to give him a round of applause as he takes the vedek down with the full force of all the goodwill he's earned from the crew. Captains like Kirk and Picard are explorers who boldly go after the mission's complete, but Sisko's a builder and he's been building a community here all season... possibly. I'm struggling to remember any episodes besides Emissary where he's been shown doing that, but let's just say that he has.
I was deliberately keeping an eye on her here, so I can't tell whether this is a subtle clue for people to look out for on a rewatch, or an obvious clue for people who notice what the background characters are up to when they're moving around in the middle of the screen, but either way it was nicely done.
Plus they've got Dax in the shot as well so that everyone can turn and look at her when she reports that Vedek Bareil is phoning up from a Bajoran transport.
The crew finally get some good news this episode as Bareil has accepted Sisko's invitation to tour the station! He didn't actually make an invitation, but it'd certainly work out better for all of them if they carried on as if he had. Sisko apologises for the mess on the Promenade, but Bareil says that he might be able to help them clean it up. It's the least a friend could do. These vedeks do try to be clever with their lines.
Elsewhere on the station, Aquino's murderer is meeting with their boss to discuss the 'oh shit, O'Brien's discovered my escape route' situation.
This is why the writers gave Neela that scene in Duet, so that viewers wouldn't instantly peg here as being the murderer here. Though I'm not sure I would've even noticed they were the same person if I hadn't been told about it.
To be fair, the original plan was to give her two appearances leading up to this episode, which is why Anara had so much to do in The Forsaken. But that went out the window when they switched actresses for whatever reason, which probably explains the line Keiko has in the teaser asking if Neela's working out any better than the last assistant.
It's also why the secret file O'Brien discovers in the computer is called A-N-A.
The thing is, I don't remember anyone mentioning that he was searching the computer, so this kind of came out of nowhere for me. It's a shame really as the episode's been doing really well so far otherwise.
Oh wait, he mentioned something about 'checking for any other anomalies' during the conversation with Sisko earlier. I guess I was so focused on Neela's reaction in the background that I missed the line. Plus to be fair he makes it sound like he's checking down at the runabout pads.
Move Along Home?
|1-10 - Move Along Home|
I realise that building physical models cost a lot of money and they had to reuse what they had, but it'd be nice if they'd at least kept their Gamma Quadrant and Alpha Quadrant ships separate. That way I can at least imagine they're buying ships from the same place, or being inspired by neighbouring races' technology.
Sure there's no reason why Gamma Quadrant aliens would be any more 'alien' than any other race in Star Trek so far, a planet next door can be as weird as a planet halfway across the universe, but it would've made the place feel more exotic and distant if they were.
Hey, I recognise that computer display showing forcefields getting shut down from Dramatis Personae! It seems like those crappy earlier episodes served a purpose after all, as they gave them footage they could reuse for a much better one. And this really is a step up from the average season one story so far; there's an urgency and tension to it that's been missing in other episodes, a feeling that what's happening here actually matters.
O'Brien scans the Promenade and discovers something was activated in the Security Office 9 minutes ago. You'd think that this would be the point where he calls Sisko or Odo, but nah he's going to go investigate by himself. They're probably both busy escorting the two leading candidates to be the next Kai around the Promenade right now anyway.
Meanwhile O'Brien discovers that one of the panels in Security Office has been sabotaged to disabled the weapon sensors... and it just happened to be the panel he and Neela were working on earlier!
I wonder if he ever managed to get that locked up again properly, seeing as his tool got stolen and melted. In fact I'm starting to wonder if they ever actually turned the weapon sensors back on, considering how many people manage to sneak guns onto the Promenade during later seasons.
Hey the extra standing next to her has the old school V-shape ridge on her forehead that Bajorans had in The Next Generation. You don't see that often at this point, even Ensign Ro in Next Gen eventually had her makeup appliance redesigned.
I was expecting Sisko to dive over and tackle Bareil to the ground to get him out of the line of fire, but nope he yells at the crowd and then charges right into it! The crowd knows better than to be in Sisko's way when he's got places to be, so they move back, knocking Neela's arm, and her phaser shot hits the railings behind Bareil. It's a damn miracle no one gets hurt or killed.
Amazingly no one is hurt this time either and even the floor escaped unscathed. Doesn't matter if you bomb it, shower it with sparks, or shoot it with directed energy weapons, nothing singes a Cardassian carpet.
And then the credits roll.
Kira's amazed that she's come so far in just a year, from fighting the Cardassians in a swamp to wearing a uniform and protecting a wormhole. The 'Celestial Temple', Sisko reminds her. And then they go into his office to write up a report before they head to their beds.
Wait they're just going to leave Ops abandoned then? There's no night shift? The station might be on an artificial day/night cycle, but incoming ships aren't going to wait until 'morning' to dock, especially if they're from worlds which haven't even heard of Bajoran Mean Time. Plus they've already established that there's no security in place to stop civilians coming up and pressing buttons. No wonder ensigns are getting fried in power conduits in the middle of the night.
One of the original ideas for Deep Space Nine's first season finale was for an epic crossover with Next Gen, where Sisko's crew would join up with Picard's crew to fight off a Cardassian invasion. So it says a lot about how much I liked In the Hands of the Prophets that I'm glad they didn't go that route. They couldn't have pulled it off properly at this point anyway, the effects would've been too expensive and the Cardassians haven't had enough set up yet.
Well that's not entirely true, as Next Gen had been working to build them up in episodes like The Wounded and Chain of Command, but DS9 itself has done next to nothing with their main antagonists in 18 episodes! They'd done next to nothing with anything in fact, so it came as a bit of a surprise to me when no less than two characters referred to Sisko as being the Emissary here. The fact that it's taken the series an entire season to get around to dealing with Bajoran beliefs regarding the wormhole, Starfleet's influence on their culture, and Sisko speaking to their gods is amazing, and it makes a lot of the stories up to this point feel like filler.
In the Hands of the Prophets works where earlier episodes failed because it comes back to the premise of the series, Starfleet officers trying to build a community with a very spiritual and mistrustful alien race on a wrecked space station, and features an issue those characters would naturally have to deal with. Then it takes it up to the next level by introducing characters with agendas trying to use the situation to their own advantage, and introduces interesting new ideas like tension and urgency. Plus it helps that Louise Fletcher absolutely kills it as Vedek Winn.
It's only her first appearance and Winn's already manufactured a religious controversy, murdered a Starfleet officer and blown up a school just to set up an opportunity to assassinate her rival, and she was amazingly morally superior and patronising the whole time. It made me want to reach through the screen and punch her, but in a good way! I suppose Winn's plan seems like kind of a long shot as it relies on Sisko deciding to call Bariel for help, but I don't see that as a flaw. She kept escalating the situation until she got the result she was after, and if it hadn't worked out it was hardly a huge hardship for her to hang out on a space station stirring up trouble for a couple of days.
Plus you can't go far wrong with a plan that relies on Keiko being stubborn and Sisko being pragmatic. Keiko plays straight into Winn's hands as she sticks firmly to her Federation beliefs without compromise. Maybe she was right, maybe she wasn't, but she never questions those beliefs and that doesn't help her come off as sympathetic. Not that anything she did would've resolved the situation as Winn would've just moved the goal posts. Then Sisko puts the next part of Winn's plan into action by not imposing his own ideology on the station. Well he doesn't impose his beliefs on religion or education anyway. Sisko personifies Starfleet's stated philosophy here, as he believes in respecting other cultures and finding strength in diversity, so he tries to work with the other vedeks... and inadvertently brings one into the crosshairs (literally).
This is all so much more interesting than milkshake monsters, Next Gen guest stars and imagination aliens, and it puts the humans and Bajorans in conflict without having to infect them with a telepathic matrix that makes the whole drama utterly meaningless! I guess if there's one flaw I can find in the episode, it's that there's very little Quark. But then Duet had very little Quark in it as well, and that was awesome too, so perhaps that's actually a virtue. Maybe the guy just works better in small doses.
I was worried this episode would be a let down, as a season of mediocrity had dampened my expectations, but nope this is solid 90s television. Plus it bookends the season well, showing all the progress they've made so far, retroactively making this a season about building a community, and hinting at how complicated things are going to get now that Bajor's recovered enough to stab itself in the back. If you watch only one episode from season 1, make it this one... and also Emissary and Duet, and maybe Past Prologue.
Thanks for reading and extra thanks if you've decided to share your own thoughts in the comment box below.