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Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Tears of the Prophets

It's an ungodly hour to go to war.

War is ignited in the midst of celebration when the Federation decides to move in the war with Cardassia, unknowing that Gul Dukat is attempting to shift the tides of battle in ways that might prove disastrous for all of the Alpha Quadrant in the last episode of Season Six.

This episode is a fantastic example of how a storyline built over seasons can result in hugely satisfying payoffs! Even after several rewatches, this episode doesn't disappoint. Every character has been on a journey which takes them to new places, and each place is well-earned.

Great stories thrive on great villains, so let's start there. Dukat and Weyoun, and through them Cardassia and the Dominion, have become opposites trapped in a love/hate relationship:

Dukat: I no longer have a need for conquest or power. I'm far beyond all that. I exist in a state of complete clarity - a clarity I intend to share with the Universe.
Weyoun: You're right, Dukat, you have changed. You've gone from being a self-important egotist to a self-deluded madman. I hardly call that an improvement.

These two have exchanged places. In the beginning Weyoun and his kind were of a more mystical function, acting as voices and hands for their Gods, the Changelings. At the end of Season Six, they've taken the role of war leaders and commanders, and the Changelings have a diminished role. Conversely, Dukat, who started out as a highly strategic war leader, has abandoned all those stratagems and second-guessing schemes. He's a hunter now, hunting Sisko, with a hunter's clarity given to him by the loss of position and the death of his daughter. And as we move through this story, we see how many other characters and relationships have experienced similar topsy-turvydom shifts.

Sisko benefits from, and, in arrogance, betrays, the Bajorans

As the episode starts, Sisko showing his role with the Bajoran community, encouraging a festival to take place no matter what the situation with the war. Celebrations continue when he gets the Pike Medal of Valor for retaking DS9 earlier this season. Then, Sisko's asked to lead a charge against Cardassia. The Klingons and Romulans are called in, and again we see huge changes as we have a war council with differences, but essentially working together.

At the height of his preparations, the Emissary has a vision. Sisko is told by the Prophets that it is dangerous for him to leave Bajor – but no more information is given, although the fact that the Prophets took the character of Sisko's Federation commanders rather than his friends implies this is a kind of order. Sisko interprets this as meaning he must not go to Cardassia. The Admiral sees this as an either/or decision and tells Sisko he has to pick. Sisko chooses the Federation, and the Defiant.

At the same time, Dukat, back with Weyoun, has found a Pah-Wraith artifact and intends to embrace the Bajoran religion and culture in order to get power to achieve his goals. He becomes an avatar of the pah-wraiths, and heads like a missile to Deep Space Nine – targeting the Orb, killing Dax in the process, at the moment of her greatest happiness – and destroying the wormhole and the conduit of the Prophets to this world. At the same time, the Dominion and Cardassian forces are overwhelmed.

What would have happened if Sisko had stayed? It was Garak who found the weakness in the enemy defense platforms... Sisko arguably contributed nothing on the battlefield; Kira had to take over for him. On the station, he might have been an avatar for the Prophets, the role we saw Kira take earlier in the series. He might have confronted Dukat, preventing the death of Dax and yes, saving the wormhole – the Temple of the Prophets.

The death of Jadzia Dax

Goodbye, sweet one. You are absolutely my favorite character in all Star Trek. Jadzia Dax and the Trill have always read to me as a coding for being queer and trans in a time when it was a huge deal for Ellen to announce she was Lebanese on television (this literally occurred on the same day the episode Ties of Blood and Water was released, during Season Five.) In fact the race is often played that way, with people having to manage their unease at transition and the change from one thing to another. One thing that is a unique and special part of Benjamin Sisko has been his constant ability to see beyond the surface to the person beneath, and that cements the Dax/Sisko friendship.

And this character persisted in being brave and intelligent and curious and positive no matter what happened. She can solve a scientific mystery and be right up there fighting, with weapons, with the best warrior on the ship. Dax was just this side of being a Mary Sue, and the character earned it through her actions during the series and the character and its rich history revealed through her back story and the relationship she had with Benjamin Sisko. Sneakily, by pointing out the character's true age, the show also makes you reconsider how society envisions the elderly and what a mind with experience and maturity can do.

Her departure here feels unfortunately rushed and badly telegraphed through the episode, with almost every pre-death cliche being used (A baby? "Their marriage will last a lot longer than we thought?") and the whole becoming justification for a really useless storyline about Bashir and Quark pre-mourning their loss, which could easily have been about Bashir and Quark conspiring to ensure the gene resequencing worked or something more positive. It did lead to a pointless cameo by Vic Fontaine.

I love that Worf howled for her. I admit I cried when he said goodbye. Michael Dorn pulled off the more-stoic-than-the-Vulcans vibe, and here manages to open the door a little.

I was just as moved by Sisko's goodbye – a goodbye both to Jadzia and to Curzon.

The end – and a beginning

The war is over. Sisko, walking through the station, learns that all the Orbs have gone dark. He's asked by a child to find the Prophets – and implies he will do his best. It's clear, however, that Sisko feels he's failed, both to Starfleet and to Bajor. Instead Sisko leaves Deep Space Nine and heads home – and the crew in his office realize he's taken his baseball, implying he may or may not come back.

People talk about a play within a play in literature; this feels like a cliffhanger within an ending. In the midst of loss, change, and upheaval, Sisko has gone back home to the core of his father and his son. And again we're topsy turvy because at the end of Season Five Sisko was unwillingly evacuating Deep Space Nine and Jake was on the station. Will he find the Prophets again? Will he return to the station? Is Jake going to write the story of a man whose life has become undeniably operatic?

JRS Notes

I loved the miniature Jake storyline here. He's an adult reporter now, and his relationship with his dad is changing; little touches through the main storyline show how that relationship has and hasn't evolved.

The same for Kira and Odo – their relationship is a mini-backstory here, and does feel a bit rushed, but we're seeing them develop some complexity in their interactions.

Great Quotes

Worf: We were talking.
Quark: For an hour and 45 minutes?
Worf: It is a private matter.
Dax: We're thinking about having a baby!
Worf: It was a private matter.

Ross: Good luck, gentlemen – good luck to all of us.
Letant: Romulans don't believe in luck.
Martok: All the better! Leaves more for the rest of us.

Sisko: When I first met you, you told me that my relationship with Jadzia Dax wouldn't be any different than the one I had with Curzon Dax. Things didn't work out that way. I had a hell of a lot of fun with both of you. But Curzon was my mentor. You... you were my friend, and I am going to miss you. I should've listened to the Prophets and not gone to Cardassia. Then maybe you'd still be alive. ... I've failed as the Emissary, and for the first time in my life I've failed in my duty as a Starfleet officer. I need time to think. Clear my head. But I can't do it here, not on the station, not now. I need to get away - and find a way to figure out how to make things right again. And I have to make things right again, Jadzia. I have to.


This season has been one of incredible highs, from "Far Beyond the Stars" to "Waltz" to "In the Pale Moonlight." Season Six is probably my favorite so far because it proved the show was still willing to take risks and surprise its audience. Sisko retains a deep complexity which makes him my favorite of all the Trek show leaders, and this episode does the season justice. Five out of five ship-ful armadas.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations to the Deep Space Nine team for finishing season six!


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