Enlightenment > Star Trek > DS9
DS9 3-15

DS9 3x15

Original airdate: 2/13/1995
Rewatch date: 8/7/2013

Cardassian scientists come to Deep Space Nine to help set up a communication line to the Gamma Quadrant, while Sisko struggles to deal with a Bajoran prophecy that seems to predict imminent catastrophe.

Spoiler-free notes:

We're picking up a political reality left dangling by the introduction of the Bajoran/Cardassian treaty in "Life Support." A major point of conflict in this episode is driven by the repercussions of that treaty's creation.

At the start of the episode, as Sisko is discussing security measures in anticipation of the Cardassians' arrival, I am again forced to wonder what happened to Eddington and why he isn't involved in the security arrangements.

That Bajoran prophecy sounds a lot like a Nostradamus quatrain: completely vague and open to interpretation, but seemingly specific and compelling despite being so general that it could mean anything. Good job, writers.

This is another good chance for DS9 to contemplate the friction point between science and religion, something the other Star Trek shows haven't been so willing to do.

There's a lot of subtlety in practically every scene, highlighting a mixture of thematic motifs: personal confirmation bias, the pressures to conform to a predetermined cultural identity and/or stereotype, faith versus reason, etc. Kira is being pressured to embrace religious prophecy, the Cardassian scientists are being pressured to act more Cardassian, Sisko is pressured on all sides, O'Brien isn't supposed to be a good engineer because he's a man, etc.

Dax is really good at manipulating Sisko. By framing his decision as, "make this choice yourself or let you choice be dictated by prophecy," she pushes all the right buttons. It's a false dichotomy, to be sure, but it's the kind of argument Sisko responds to. It's also the closest the episode gets to coming right out with its moral. This episode, ultimately, is a commentary on whether we should let faith or rationality decide how we should act.

This is a good story that hits all the right notes, and it's a brilliant way to force Sisko to confront his "Emissary" label, to force him to consider the possibility that Bajoran spirituality is more than just religious hokum. Still, I always find a plot driven by how a prophecy is interpreted to be tiresome and cliché. The most notable example here is the post-climactic scene where Kira and Sisko spell it out, which is excruciatingly amateurish writing in the midst of an episode that is otherwise full of excellent writing. I grant that the story is clever enough to present a re-interpretation of the prophecy in the end, but in allowing Sisko to become credulous about this new interpretation--which is really further evidence that prophecy is too vague to be a tool of a rational mind--it refuses to have the balls to say what it's trying to say. Granted, the writers are clearly endeavoring to make Sisko more spiritual in the long run, so perhaps making him a more hardened skeptic wouldn't be in keeping with their plans for his character.

DS9 3x14
"Heart of Stone"
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
DS9 3x16
"Prophet Motive"
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