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Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Reckoning

Sisko: “And then she contacted Starfleet and lodged a formal protest.”
Dax: “Is that why Admiral Ross wanted to talk to you? Well, how'd it go?”
Sisko: “He told me to stop meddling in Bajoran affairs and return the damn tablet.”

A Prophet and a Pah-Wraith go at it, endangering the station and especially Jake Sisko, while making us wonder about the importance of faith.

This episode brings together certain strands that will be significant as the epic of Deep Space Nine continues. The Pah-Wraiths were introduced earlier in season five in “The Assignment”, and they will be important later in the saga, so we’re getting a much needed reminder about them here.

Sisko goes to an ancient city (see the episode “Rapture”) where the monks show him a recently excavated tablet with some intriguing words: “Welcome Emissary.” As he’s the Emissary, he assumes the tablet is for him, and he takes the tablet to the station so that he can get it translated.

Now, I must say, I liked how Kai Winn objected to what Sisko did. She makes terrific points, about his not being an expert in translating ancient Bajoran. She reminds Sisko that Bajor was deeply wounded by how the Cardassians helped themselves to Bajoran relics. Sisko tries the old trope, "I’m the Emissary, that gives me the right to do what they want." "Sure," says Winn – and then calls Sisko’s bosses.

Faith is important in this episode, especially the faith in Captain Sisko as the Emissary. Dax, Winn and Jake have their doubts, and the Federation is uncomfortable. Of course, this is not the same question of faith that exists in so many religions, for those who are wondering whether or not God exists. In Deep Space Nine there should be no question as to whether or not the Prophets exist, and enough has happened to convince even the most skeptical that Captain Benjamin Sisko has a special relationship with these Prophets. However, not everyone is keen to let the Prophets be worshiped or to be in charge in every situation.

The tablet doesn’t make it to Bajor, because Captain Sisko smashes it, and claims again (!) the Prophets told him to do this. Unsurprisingly, most everyone is aghast by his action, but of course the Emissary is proved right. The tablet contained a Prophet and a Pah-wraith who are planning to battle it out on the station (and this is the actual 'Reckoning'). Each of them chooses a vessel, which helps us poor humanoids see what is going on.

The Prophet chooses Kira as its vessel, which is not surprising as she has proved her faith over and over. But what was unsettling, and what I did not expect when I watched this the first time (although, with a score of years gone by, I might be savvier now), was the Pah-wraith’s choice of Jake Sisko. It was perfect for the pressure it put on the Emissary, and besides, Jake had expressed some distaste for the Prophets.

So, who wins, Prophet or Pah-wraith? We don’t find out. Jadzia Dax, always searching for a technical way to get out of a bad situation, creates a method of releasing chronitons, (imaginary) particles of time, that will make the station intolerable to the creatures (but slow enough for them to escape unharmed). However, it is Kai Winn who releases the chroniton radiation particles. This, to me, feels out of place. With some difficulty I can accept that she would want to do this. Winn’s decisions are often murky; she may have worked against the Cardassians and the Dominion, but her character is ambiguous but consistently ambitious; if the Prophet wins and the Golden Age of Bajor arrives, she would no longer be needed as Kai.

Even if we accept that Winn would choose to stop the Reckoning, I have trouble accepting that she would know how to implement it. She is not trained in Ops, which is a Cardassian station with a Federation – Starfleet overlay. How could she know where to go and what to do? I didn’t see a post-it note saying “Push this button to banish Prophets and Pah-wraiths” (which would not have been a bad idea, rather like in case of fire break glass that we see everywhere).

Despite my objections, the battle is stopped. Kira, instead of Sisko, escorts Winn to the shuttle to take her back to Bajor. Winn tries to reassert her religious dominance over Kira, but her words ring hollow. The Prophets chose Kira as their vessel and not Winn – in fact, they have never spoken to Winn. This makes me question Winn’s relationship with the Prophets.

Title musings. “The Reckoning” is the title of this episode. It refers to the prophecy, but there are additional interpretations. A reckoning can mean considering things in more depth, such as Jake's realization that the Prophets are much better than the Pah-Wraiths. It can also mean the settling of accounts coming due, such as the price Sisko must pay for getting the Prophets to save Bajor back in "Sacrifice of Angels" – possibly having his dear son die.

Bits and pieces

I was glad to see the Federation showing some respect to the Prophets. After all, the Prophets are the only force blocking the wormhole from becoming a conduit to millions of Jem’Hadar (Sacrifice of Angels).

In a way, I find it annoying how Sisko has always been right with respect to the Prophets. Of course, it has to be that way, as he is their Emissary. However, later he will disobey them and something bad will happen.

There’s something creepy about nosebleeds.

Quotes

Sisko: Have you made any more progress? Good news or bad?
Dax: That depends.
Sisko: On what?
Dax: What this ideogram means. The computer has given me two possibilities.
Sisko: They are?
Dax: During the Reckoning, the Bajorans will either suffer horribly or eat fruit.
Note that Major Kira eats fruit in one of the scenes.

Kira: In a way, I feel sorry for her. She spends her whole life in service to the Prophets. Then one day, after years of self-sacrifice and commitment, she gets her reward. She's elected Kai. It should have been the greatest moment of her life.
Sisko: But my being the Emissary spoiled it for her.

Jake: It's this Emissary stuff. It scares me a little. Twice now, twice in one year, Doctor Bashir's called me down to the Infirmary to tell me something was wrong with you. And there you were, lying unconscious on a biobed, having visions or something. And all I could do was stand there and wonder if you were going to wake up.

Odo: So, what did happen?
Sisko: I just had this uncontrollable urge to smash the tablet.
Dax: Oh, I get those urges all the time. Of course, I never act on them.

Winn: You expect me to believe that the Prophets wanted you to destroy a priceless piece of Bajor's history?
Sisko: That's exactly what you have to believe.
Winn: And why would they do that?
Sisko: I wish I had an answer for you.
Winn: Well, I'm sure you'll come up with something.

Dax: That is your son out there!
Sisko: Don't you think I know that? The Prophets will protect him.
Dax: They're trying to kill him.

Kira: I heard that you told the Captain that I was willing to give my life to serve the Prophets. I appreciate that you respect my beliefs.
Odo: Just the same, I wouldn't have minded if the Prophets had chosen someone else.

Winn: My faith is as pure as the Emissary's.
Kira: I think you're confusing faith with ambition.
Winn: I'm not confusing anything, child. You are. The Prophets chose you as their instrument. That doesn't mean you can speak for them.
Kira: Because of your interference, the Reckoning was stopped. The Evil still exists, And I'm not sure if even the Prophets know what that will mean for Bajor.

Overall Rating

Most of the episode is strong, but Winn’s ability to flood the station with chroniton radiation felt wrong. Three and a half out of four nosebleeds.

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

3 comments:

magritte said...

While you're right that the episode itself was mostly strong, it set the stage for the final plot arc of DS9, which was I was not a fan of.

Victoria Grossack said...

You're right; it does set the stage for what is to come. Now, I like much of the final plot arc, so I appreciate this episode more. At any rate, it is key to the series.

Trousers said...

I'm going to disagree with you that Winn would be able to set off the chroniton blast / wave / whatever its called.

Putting my geek hat on for a second, the station may be used by the federation now, but the computer systems are all still Cardassian. You don't see an LCARS interface on any of the computers in ops, they're all still Cardassian layouts, something that probably every Bajoran will have experience with over 50 years of occupation.

The language used will probably have been changed, but most likely to Bajoran, as the station is now Bajoran owned and Starfleet are only there to assist with running it.

(We'll skip over how all the Starfleet personnel can understand Bajoran. We've seen Starfleet understand loads of written languages over the years, even one they've not encountered before, so we'll have to assume the Universal Translator handles it somehow. Even if we assume that all the computers are in Federation Standard, we still have the issue of how all the Bajorans on the station can understand it)

So we've established that Winn can work the computers, so we've just got the issue that she doesn't have the technical background to set up the Chroniton pulse. There's no way that Dax, having figured out a solution, didn't knock up a quick macro for it, and put a big icon on the desktop for it titled "CLICK ME in case of Pah-Wraith emergency!"

Job done.

Now excuse me, I feel slightly dirty for having put that much thought into such a minor plot whole. I'm off to wash off the smell of nerd.