Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Destiny

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

In this episode, two characters, Sisko and Kira, move closer to accepting their destinies.

This episode opens with Odo and Sisko inspecting some quarters on the station. The peace treaty between Bajor and Cardassia is about to be put to the test, as several scientists from Cardassia are on their way to the station in order to work on a joint scientific project involving the wormhole. But not everyone is pleased by this collaboration; there have been threats and Sisko and Odo are intent on protecting the scientists and the project – without making the Cardassians being guarded feel like prisoners themselves.

Quark appears with bottles of kanar as welcome gifts for the scientists, and dreams of serving many Cardassians (of course that’s what he has the most experience at). He then gives two of my favorite rules of acquisition: War is good for business. Peace is good for business. This is another reminder that not everyone wants peace, and not just because they are gripped by the thrall of hatred stoked by decades of conflict, but because war is a source of revenue.

The episode’s main story is introduced when Vedek Yarka arrives in Sisko’s office and proclaims that he has come with a warning from the prophets. He explains that a prophecy shows that the arrival of the three Cardassian scientists, who he calls vipers, will burn the celestial temple.

Sisko is torn. He wants this project to go well, because the project is supported by Starfleet, the Bajoran government, and at least some people on Cardassia. He is also extremely uncomfortable with his position as the Emissary and does not want to be influenced by entities considered gods by anyone. He questions the prophecy, or at least the interpretation of the prophecy (and it's not as if the prophets can't communicate with him more directly). On the other hand, he doesn't want to offend the Bajorans – or the prophets.

Kira is also conflicted. She has more faith in the prophets, but her own position is awkward. As Sisko’s first officer, she knows how uncomfortable he is with the religious icon role, and so far she has interacted with him as if he were only a Starfleet officer. Vedek Yarka tells Kira that she is the one who is supposed to help the Emissary; that that is her destiny, and that she can no longer compartmentalize her faith from her work.

Kira listens to him, and so for one of the first times, Kira declares herself a believer in Sisko as the Emissary and makes the argument that the prophecy can be interpreted as absolutely rational. Her case is, in my opinion, pretty good. The faiths we have on Earth generally require more, well, faith, and although some people claim to have interacted with God/gods, those interactions are not well documented. Sisko comes from a culture of doubters, and although he’s pretty respectful of the rights of believers, those beliefs make him uncomfortable. But in Deep Space Nine, the wormhole aliens are actual beings with great powers and who exist outside our confines of time.

A second storyline is developed, in which the Cardassian Gilora Rejal opines that men can’t be engineers. The expression on O’Brien’s face when she orders him to get her a cup of tea is priceless. Then, in a reversal, she becomes interested in Chief O’Brien because he is an engineer. It’s not the best storyline, especially as Gilora becomes an idiot when she thinks O’Brien is interested in her. However, she recovers her dignity, by defending him when there’s a question of sabotage and at the end when they say good-bye.

They have problems with installing the communications relay, due to a stray comet, incompatible science protocols and systems – and sabotage. The sabotage originates not on the station (Sisko’s initial worry) but with the Cardassians. Dejar, the third scientist, is a member of the Obsidian Order, which is against the peace treaty with Bajor. Remember, war is good for business, and so is mistrust, especially if you belong to a spy agency.

The Emissary has to make a decision, and Dax asks Sisko what he would do if he did not know about the prophecy. He decides to follow her advice – this time. The prophecy, of course, is fulfilled – but in a different manner than they expected.

Both Kira and Sisko make progress on their journeys. Kira realizes she is supposed to support the Emissary. Sisko takes a big step towards accepting his role himself.

Title musings. “Destiny” works well for the Kira and Sisko threads, as well as for the prophecy, but it does not apply that well to O’Brien or the Cardassians threads.

Bits and pieces

Loved how Quark’s kanar has spoiled.

Odo brilliantly points out that everyone is being influenced by their own agendas.

Wonder why Vedek Yarka was defrocked, exactly; he did not seem that irrational to me. The Vedek assembly must be pretty political.

I have the feeling that whatever Sisko decided to do, the prophets would have made it turn out OK. They seem to just be working to get him used to being the Emissary.

Kira gets to “detain” a Cardassian spy. Old times for her.

Quotes

Sisko: There are only two Cardassians coming to the station. How much kanar do you think they can drink?

Kira: I’ll work with anyone who’s interested in peace.

Kira: It’s hard to work for someone who’s a religious icon.

Dax: You can either make your own decisions, or you can let these prophecies make your decisions for you.

Overall rating

A quiet episode, but very competent, with rich themes, and supplying significant stepping stones in the overall arc. Kira’s faith is the strongest of anyone’s, and so when she tells Sisko that she thinks he’s the Emissary, it’s a BFD. Sometimes the episode seems a little slow but that may have more to do with the fact that it’s a couple of decades old and since then, the pace of TV has picked up. The slowness may also be me; I watched it in English for the first time in many years (I learn other languages through Star Trek). Three out of four spoiled bottles of kanar.

Victoria Grossack loves math, Greek mythology, Jane Austen and great storytelling in many forms.

4 comments:

Patrick said...

This episode was always one of my favorites, in large part because I love how much this show delved into the topics of religion and faith. Those two things are what make the relationship between Sisko and Kira so interesting to watch develop, and this was a big story for the two of them.

CoramDeo said...

Patrick, I agree 100% on the exploration of religion and faith here. It's so much better than the usual patronizing 'Religion was a necessary part of our history, but we've moved past it now' stuff Trek often feeds us. I love that both the Fed's scientific humanism and the Bajorans' (and others') faith were treated as legitimate positions that could be held by mature, intellectual adults. This is one of the things that makes this my favorite show of all time.

Victoria Grossack said...

Of course, in DS9 there is no question about the existence of the wormhole aliens/prophets, whereas for many other religions at least outsiders may doubt the existence of the God(s). But there is still the questions of (1) do you worship/honor? and (2) do you trust these creatures that you call deities?

CoramDeo said...

That is a good point, Victoria, although I would probably say it isn't always so simple as belief in the existence of God. Most people agree that, for example, Jesus or Muhammed were real people, but debate still rages on over whether or not Jesus was God or whether or not Muhammed received the Qu'Ran from the mouth of Allah. I would say that makes DS9 a closer parallel to real life than it might at first seem.