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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – In the Hands of the Prophets (Review)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is twenty years old this year. To celebrate, I’m taking a look at the first season. Check back daily for the latest review or retrospective.

Both Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation allowed their first seasons to run an episode too long. The City on the Edge of Forever, the penultimate episode of the first ever season of Star Trek, is a genuine classic. I don’t envy any story that has to follow it, especially not something as mediocre as Operation — Annihilate! While Conspiracy, the second-to-last episode of the first season of The Next Generation, is hardly a classic in the same league, it does up the stakes on the show’s first year, and tie up a dangling plot thread. The Neutral Zone, on the other hand, is a bland return to form, with a particularly insufferable b-plot.

So the excellence of Duet might offer the viewer cause to worry. A penultimate first-season episode which is significantly above average? One would be forgiven for wondering if the first season might have been best served to wrap itself up at that point, going out in a high, safe in the knowledge that it had contributed one classic episode to the Star Trek mythos and with the potential to offer quite a few more. Quit while you’re winning, and don’t tempt fate with another superfluous episode.

In the Hands of the Prophets, however, puts those fears to rest. Serving as a companion piece to Duet, it’s another one of those “only on Deep Space Nine stories, closing out the first season with a reminder of what makes the show unique. In the Hands of the Prophets is another classic piece of Deep Space Nine. It might not pack quite the punch that Duet did, but it’s a compelling piece of drama which demonstrates just how much Deep Space Nine has to offer the Star Trek mythos.

Beyond belief...

Beyond belief…

Social commentary is a tricky thing. You often run the risk of dating yourself. After all, who can say if a big issue of the day will remain relevant in ten or twenty years time? There’s every chance that commentators and writers will look back on your work as something of a historical text, an interesting look at how a particular debate went, rather than a compelling and probing exploration of the issue itself. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has been, broadly speaking, lucky in how its social commentary has aged.

The whole “Changeling threat” arc in from the show’s third season on now seems weirdly prescient. The threat posed by an enemy that can look like anybody, capable of silently infiltrating our homes without declaring itself, is a potent metaphor for the climate of fear created by the War on Terror. The political commentary of Star Trek: Into Darkness feels quite like a retread of ground Deep Space Nine covered years before September 11th in Homefront and Paradise Lost. Then again, more people saw Into Darkness on its opening weekend than will likely ever see Paradise Lost, so it’s hard to be too critical.

Everybody Winns!

Everybody Winns!

In the Hands of the Prophets is a blatantly political piece from Robert Hewitt Wolfe. However, it’s political on two levels. There’s the surface level, the debate playing out over what can and can’t be taught in the schools on Deep Space Nine. However, there’s a more subversive commentary on the kinds of people who so often rally around these sorts of causes, trying to excite public outrage about something which could easily be discussed reasonably, hoping to escalate what should be a small and rational debate into a wave of heated argument they can harness and ride to their own advantage.

It’s very strange that the debate about religion in schools should be even more heated today than it was when the episode first aired. I suppose that the debate about the role that religion should play in union with (and potentially to the exclusion of) science has been thrown into stark contrast in recent years due to a number of factors. The rise of high-profile combative atheists like Richard Dawkins probably doesn’t help to calm the debate, and the resurgence of the religious right in America in the early part of the twenty-first century has only turned this into an even hotter issue than it was back in 1993.

An explosive conclusion...

An explosive conclusion…

In the Hands of the Prophets doesn’t dwell too heavily on the educational debate. It’s really just a springboard. However, it does raise some interesting questions, and is more concerned about how we discuss the issue than the issue itself. Star Trek is, broadly speaking, a very atheist franchise. Indeed, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (aka the one we don’t talk about) features Kirk facing the only enemy William Shatner deems truly worthy: God. Well, maybe a being posing a God. It’s nebulous. Anyway, the film’s happy ending features Kirk killing God (or a being impersonating God) as the being’s religious followers are exploited and manipulated. As you do.

While it’s an extreme example, it is roughly in keeping with Star Trek‘s attitude towards organised religion. If Kirk or Picard stumbles across the natives worshiping something, the odds are that it’s just an advanced computer or an alien conman. While Picard might get all angsty about meddling, Kirk will just blow stuff up, and the franchise is broadly in agreement that religious devotion is not a good thing. This reflects Gene Roddenberry’s own atheistic beliefs.

Her theory has some (worm)holes...

Her theory has some (worm)holes…

Deep Space Nine actually takes an approach much more consistent with the philosophy of Star Trek as outlined by Roddenberry. Roddenberry dared to imagine a future built on mutual respect and tolerance, so it seems strange that this tolerance never really extended to freedom of worship. In the Hands of the Prophets offers both sides of the debate, and is even a little critical of the Federation perspective. However, Sisko comes down firmly on the side of tolerance. “My philosophy is that there is room for all philosophies on this station.” In other words, infinite diversity in infinite combinations.

Sisko’s position is the most rational and easily defensible – tolerance for a variety of viewpoints as long there’s no harm involved. In a way, it’s far more tolerant and understanding than hard-nosed atheism, accepting that religious and scientific beliefs are not mutually exclusive. What’s interesting, then, is not only that Sisko’s perspective seeks to balance the two, but also that Keiko’s position is portrayed as almost as hard-lined as that of Kai Winn.

And the children shall be led...

And the children shall be led…

“Do you believe the Celestial Temple of the Prophets exists within the passage?” Vedek Winn asks here. Keiko diplomatically responds, “I respect that the Bajoran people believe that it does.” However, Keiko refuses to compromise on the issue. Vedek Winn talks a lot of hypocritical self-serving nonsense in the episode, but Kira scores points when Keiko argues that schools do not exist to endorse a particular philosophy. “Some might say pure science, taught without a spiritual context, is a philosophy, Mrs O’Brien.”

Keiko gets a bit of a hard time as a supporting character. Many viewers are quick to dismiss her as shrewish and to suggest that her marriage to Miles O’Brien is not a happy one. I’ve never really subscribed to that view, but In the Hands of the Prophets does portray Keiko as stubborn to a fault, with a bit of a persecution process. To be fair, A Man Alone established how difficult it was to establish a school on the station, so one can understand how she’s upset.

A simple investigation...

A simple investigation…

However, she seems openly combative. When Jake comes home from school, he reports she made an unscheduled change to the curriculum. “There was only me and four other kids left, but she still kept the school open,” he explains to Sisko. “She changed the lesson to teach us about Galileo.” In case we don’t get her subtext, Jake asks, “Did you know that he was tried by the Inquisition for teaching that the Earth moved around the sun?” Talk about a persecution complex. And this is before the situation begins to escalate out of hand.

While Keiko scores points for being more reasonable than Winn (her contributions to the debate don’t amount to bombs and assassination attempts), there’s a sense that she’s not really contributing to the discourse. She’s unwilling to meet with the Bajoran parents and to hear their concerns out. When Winn causes a scene, she runs straight to Sisko to invite him to back her up. It’s Sisko who invites a Bajoran perspective into the meeting. Winn isn’t interested in debating, but one wonders if willingness to engage from Keiko might have prevented Winn from gaining traction.

The Kai's the limit...

The Kai’s the limit…

Which brings us to Winn as a character. Continuing the first season’s trend of placing various supporting characters on the board for later use, In the Hands of the Prophets gives us the character of Vedek Winn Adami. She’ll be important later, but she makes quite an impression in her debut. Casting Louise Fletcher in the role is one hell of a casting coup for the series. This is an Oscar-winning actress who is instantly recognisable to an entire generation. And In the Hands of the Prophets got her to sign on board on the strength of the script alone.

I feel like I say this about a lot of the show’s recurring cast, but Fletcher is amazing as Winn. Winn is just this absolutely perfect character for the actress, and one she very clearly relishes playing. Battle Lines took the benign Kai Opaka out of Bajoran politics, which opened up all manner of storytelling possibilities for the show. Sisko had been introduced to the Bajoran mythology, and welcomed as a messiah, by Opaka. However, “everybody gets along” is not good drama, and giving Sisko a Bajoran antagonist is a very shrewd move.

Planting discord...

Planting discord…

After all, it seems quite logical that Bajor should be politically unstable and that Sisko’s job should be more than just a glorified babysitting assignment. Bajor just emerged from a horrific Occupation. Shortly after that, their messiah figure basically abandoned their spiritual leader (the woman apparently largely responsible for shepherding Bajor through the Occupation) on a rock on the far side of the galaxy. Bajor should not be a happy place.

And we’ve seen hints of instability. Progress suggested that the Provisional Government had to make tough calls. Duet revealed that Bajor was still nursing deep wounds. Even The Storyteller suggested that land disputes were fairly common on the surface of the planet. However, In the Hands of the Prophets scales upwards. It suggests that Bajor’s entire political structure is in upheaval. It’s the first time we’ve really engaged with the Bajoran religion in a meaningful way since Emissary, and it does not paint a pretty picture.

In the hands of the Vedeks, more like...

In the hands of the Vedeks, more like…

Winn raises an interesting point here, albeit only in passing. Sisko has been named the Bajoran Emissary to the Prophets. He is an outsider. He’s not even Bajoran. While we’ve seen relatively little of the day-to-day impact of the title on his work on the station, it’s nice to see the subject addressed, as Winn broaches the fact that Sisko is not – from her perspective – “of Bajor.” She ponders, “I once asked Kai Opaka why a disbeliever was destined to seek the Prophets, and she told me one should never look into the eyes of one’s own gods. I disagreed. I told her I would do anything to look into their eyes.” Later, she refers to Sisko’s “godless Federation”, clearly trying to erode his influence on Bajoran affairs.

To be honest, it seems like Winn would object to any Emissary who would not bow to her wishes, and it’s nice to get a sense that Bajor isn’t one single homogenous culture. It’s something that has been hinted in stories like The Storyteller and Progress, and we get a sense here of how divided the planet must be. The death (or departure) of the Kai leaves a void, and it’s nice to see the show mining the power vacuum for drama.

Talk about a heated debate...

Talk about a heated debate…

Winn is so fascinating because she is a very shrewd character. She’s multi-faceted even here. Beneath her condescension and attempts to sound perfectly reasonable, there are two competing causes for concern. For one, she’s a fundamentalist. She’s hardcore. She doesn’t compromise, even when it’s in everybody’s best interests. More than that, though, she’s also a massive hypocrite. The whole school debate is engineered by Winn as a smokescreen. There is a sense that she believes in what she’s saying about the “godless Federation”, but there’s also a sense of opportunism at play here.

Winn’s problem isn’t here faith. It’s her inability and unwillingness to seek a peaceful solution. As Sisko tells his son, “My point is, it’s a matter of interpretation. It may not be what you believe, but that doesn’t make it wrong. If you start to think that way, you’ll be acting just like Vedek Winn, only from the other side. We can’t afford to think that way, Jake. We’d lose everything we’ve worked for here.”

Firing some shots off more than Bareil's bow...

Firing some shots off more than Bareil’s bow…

How much or how little Winn actually believes is debatable, and it makes her a more complex character. She’s willing to exploit the faith of her followers for her own ends. At one points, she talks to her assassin in a manner which recalls the logic of Islamic extremists. “The sacrifices the Prophets call on us to make are great sometimes, my dear, but the rewards they give will last through eternity.” In the Hands of the Prophets has become even more pointed in the years since it aired, with the rise of that sort of extremism in various forms.

Winn is a terrifyingly prescient glimpse at the ideology of Al-Qaeda and the Westboro Baptist Church, cynical organisations justifying suffering through faith. “The Prophets spoke! I answered their call!” Winn’s assassin declares when arrested. Her madness matra continues as she is pulled away. “The Prophets spoke! I answered their call!” Winn’s pragmatic exploitation of this faith is terrifying.

Blaming his tools...

Blaming his tools…

Then again, as Quark observes, it’s often the most valiant protectors of public decency who are the most corrupt and decadent. One noting the arrival of several orthodox clergy on the station, Quark is ecstatic. “Orthodox? In that case, I’ll need twice as many dabo girls. These spiritual types love those dabo girls.” It’s an observation that seems particularly pointed in the wake of various high-profile scandals involving various moral crusaders like Newt Gingrich. It is often quite difficult to live up to your own standards.

As Sisko notes, all this is just manoeuvring. I don’t doubt she believes her actions are justified in the name of the Prophets, but I’m not entriely convinced she truly believes in anything beyond herself. “You claim the Prophets as your personal constituency, Vedek Winn,” Sisko argues. “I’m not convinced that’s justified. Who do you speak for? An order that is barely listened to in your Assembly. So you come here looking for a more receptive audience.”

"You'd be surprised how often this happens..."

“You’d be surprised how often this happens…”

And yet, despite that, Winn is more than just a one-dimensional villain for Sisko to tackle. There is a sense of insecurity in her admission that she would do anything to look into [the Prophets’] eyes.” This hints at something the show would make clear in The Reckoning and Til Death Do Us Part, the suggestion that Winn hasn’t actually spoken to the Prophets in the same way that Opaka, Bareil and even Sisko have.

She does claim to have encountered them. “The Prophets have spoken to me through the orbs, Emissary,” she advises Sisko. “I understand my duty to defend the Bajoran faith.” However, it’s possible she’s just telling a self-serving lie. After all, to concede that her gods have abandoned her would undoubtedly undermine her bid for the Kai-ship-thing. This suggestion actually humanises Winn just a bit. She’s no less hypocritical or malicious, but it seems her anger is at least rooted in an insecurity we can almost understand.

Preaching to the converted...

Preaching to the converted…

In the Hands of the Prophets also introduces the character of Vedek Bareil, who will become almost as important to the show. There’s a sense here that Bareil was intended to be far more interesting than the two-dimensional zen master he eventually became. In the Hands of the Prophets indicates that Bareil is both street-smart and politically astute. Explaining why the Vedek Council will not see Sisko, Bareil observes, “Some fear you as the symbol of a Federation they view as godless. Some fear you as the Emissary who has walked with the Prophets. And some fear you because Vedek Winn told them to.”

When Sisko appeals for help, Bareil is quite hesitant. “Today, I am only a Vedek. If the Prophets will it, someday I may be Kai, and I can be a better friend to you then.” As Sisko observes, “In other words, being my friend now might hurt your chances.” Bareil tries to deflect with a bit of mystical nonsense. “The Prophets teach us patience.” Sisko retorts, “It appears they also teach you politics.” Although Bareil’s conscience eventually gets the better of him and he does journey to the station, there is at least some hint of self-interest in the character which makes him seem like more than a convenient source of new age philosophy.

Anglim for his own political gain...

Anglim for his own political gain…

He’s not exactly a complex character here, but those edges would be softened in his later appearances, turning him into a more generic (and more boring) “goodie-goodie” character, to the point where Ronald D. Moore would concede that the writing staff “simply isn’t interested in Vedek Bareil.” I suspect that Philip Anglim’s portrayal had a lot to do with this. His relatively bland line readings and generic pleasantness hardly lend themselves to the nuance of a shrewd political operator. Even though In the Hands of the Prophets tries to hint he has some political acumen, it is quite apparent even here that Winn is going to eat him alive.

The only potential problem with the plot is the character of Neela. Realising they needed an assassin for In the Hands of the Prophets a few episodes earlier, the show invented a Bajoran assistant for O’Brien. The logic was that the audience would be less likely to suspect one of the show’s few guest stars if that guest star were recurring. However, the character of Anara didn’t quite work out in The Forsaken, with actress Benita Andre looking like she might have difficulty acting her way out of a paper bag.

Jumja stickin' it to the man...

Jumja stickin’ it to the man…

So the character was hastily reconceived as Neela, who popped up briefly in Duet, although not enough to allay suspicion here. In the Hands of the Prophets at least cheekily acknowledges this switch. When Keiko hears that Neela is working with her husband, she slyly asks, “So, is she working out any better than the last one?The code for Neela’s plan conspicuously begins “A-N-A.”

Robin Christopher is much more convincing than Benita Andre, but the episode struggles to try and disguise her guilt. The teleplay ultimately opts to add a small personal subplot for O’Brien. It is a clever way of dealing with the problem, as it looks like Neela exists to playfully develop the whole “Bajorans and Federation working together” theme, by intimating O’Brien and Neela might work together too well. “On your toes, O’Brien.”

"And all that in only twenty episodes?"

“And all that in only twenty episodes?”

However, there’s a problem here. The subplot is so tiny it barely registers and thus can’t really distract from the role that Neela is clearly intended to play. In a sense, that’s perfectly reasonable. If they made the plot any larger, it would eat into the meatier subject matter. As it stands, however, the fact that Neela is the only possible culprit does undermine the mystery a great deal. That said, it’s less of a problem on re-watch.

In the Hands of the Prophets is a powerhouse of a season finalé, one which book-ends Emissary surprisingly well. It’s proof that – even if there have been a few missteps along the way, Deep Space Nine is at least moving in the right direction.

You might be interested in our reviews of the first season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:

12 Responses

  1. A sharp analysis of a great episode. The empathy and fairness with which this episode treads both politics and religion is deeply impressive.

    I think the episode deliberately used the political-religious climate of the U.S., almost directly. It shouldn’t have worked. It should have been awkward and either offensive or shallow, but it’s not.

    I think this was also the episode that made feel like I had permission to see Kira as a surrogate Evangelical, since prayer in schools was one of the Evangelical hot-button political issues.

    I don’t doubt she believes her actions are justified in the name of the Prophets, but I’m not entriely convinced she truly believes in anything beyond herself.

    I agree. I think as Winn’s character arc progresses, her faith becomes vaguely more genuine. I think she comes to convince herself that she really does believe. However, it is later shown that her faith was never more than a thin veil for her pride. At any rate, the character is an amazing exploration of belif, pride, and hypocrisy!

    • Yep, Winn is an absolutely fantastic character. I don’t want to be too harsh to Philip Anglim, but I can’t help wonder if Bareil could have been this interesting if not for the actor. Bareil is a very different character in In the Hands of the Prophets than he appears in later episodes. He is written less zen and content, and a bit more radical and canny. I guess we’ll never know.

  2. Like you, I also appreciated this episode’s attempt to treat religious believers fairly. I grew up in a conservative Christian family and even today might be labeled “fundamentalist” (although I should note that few conservative Christians use that term for themselves–we prefer “evangelical” or “pietist”), but I also have always loved Star Trek.

    I do have trouble with Winn using the education debate as a smokescreen for her political machinations; this reveal seems to imply that religious conservatives get involved in broader social issues only because they have some sinister hidden motive. However, Kira’s character, with her undoubtedly sincere faith, helps balance this characterization somewhat.

    All in all, this episode succeeds in not directly insulting devout religious beliefs, something that I can’t say about other Star Trek episodes that deal with religion.

    • As you point out, I think Kira is key here. Her faith is genuine in a way that Winn’s is not necessarily. (Although Winn would disagree, which is – I think – what’s so fascinating about her. What makes the DS9 villains so interesting is that characters like Winn and Dukat genuinely believe themselves to be the hero of their own narratives, as opposed to just scenery-chewing bad guys. Although they get moments of that as well.)

      I suspect Winn is informed by the high-profile cases of moral crusaders who failed to live up to their own moral standards; although it’s well after the episode was aired, some of the more high-profile people calling for Clinton’s impeachment were ultimately involved in extramarital affairs themselves. Winn is more Newt Gingrich than Mary Whitehouse.

      • “What makes the DS9 villains so interesting is that characters like Winn and Dukat genuinely believe themselves to be the hero of their own narratives, as opposed to just scenery-chewing bad guys.”

        Even though he’s not a villain, one could argue that the one of the key parts of Bashir’s growth as a character is him gradually coming to understand that he’s not the hero of the grand epic he’s living inside.

      • That’s a great point, actually!

  3. As I’ve made clear in your Battlelines review, I don’t care for Winn as a character at all. To go back to my WWII metaphor, Winn is the equivalent of a Jewish Rabbi, jealous of the resistances that fought against the Nazis because she herself did not get all the credit for the Nazi’s withdrawal, therefore condemns the resistance. Then will begin supporting an extremist organization (the “circle”) that are supplied by the Nazis to get rid of the occupying allies, and is willing and happy to oppose a prophet ordained from God to do it. And to top it all off, she will work with a former Nazi concentration camp commandant to read a satanic book to summon demons upon the world. And she does all this while retaining a strong Jewish following, despite lacking all the key talents a politician would need to pull that off, she’s rude, insufferable, condescending, a giant hypocrite, and devoid of cunning. Her plans are always putting Bajor and her followers in danger, she keeps burning bridges with allies, and she’s constantly being fooled and made a puppet by Cardassians. Theirs is no way she’d end up as Kai, in fact, she’s so unpleasant, you can’t help but wonder if the Cardassians left her alive during the occupation, just so she could continue to inflict herself on the Bajorians.

    It’s as if this character was designed to be totally exacerbating. The frustrating thing about Winn is that she’s completely transparent, you can see through all her motives after her introductory episode. The character is no doubt reminiscent of Alexis from Paradise, given they both rail against science and seek power. The thing is, Alexis is a completely loathsome human being, willing to render lives cheap and disposable over her own personal philosophy, which made her a giant hypocrite against technology was that it made life cheap. It was obvious that Alexis cared about power and the submission of all those around her, and the frustrating thing is that she always had the full support of her community, the one she has inflicted numerous deaths of, forced sexual slavery (to bend Sisko to her will) and torture, likewise, Winn will continue down the path of power, evil and hypocrisy, and she has her people’s support. Sure, her faithlessness contrasting with her position and ambitions was interesting, but she can’t oppose the Bajorian Messiah constantly, and expect to climb the religious office ladder. And trying to release the pai-wraiths? REALLY??

    Maybe the reason Winn makes for such a poor villain because when compared to Ducat, or even Garak, she’s so simple. With Ducat or Garak, you always had a hard time pinning down their motives, never sure which was a half-lie or truth from a certain perspective. Garak would have done a better job as Kai, since he’s capable to selling lies with sincerity, and burying his motives that even Odo, the practiced observer, would need some time to find his angle. Dukat and Garak’s ambitions and machinations will have galactic scale consequences, while Winn only cares about herself, which makes her so miserably small in this franchise.

    If you want to see a self-serving, selfish character that becomes the leader of their people, look to Baltar from BSG. What helps Baltar is that he isn’t trying to summon demons, or demand Galatica abandon the civilian fleet, or plot to assassinate opponents, and he seems to legitimately oppose President Roslin. In fact, he doesn’t even like power, he hates responsibility, but he runs because his character is driven by vanity, that becoming president will be the ultimate vindication that he’s escaped the dead-end farm life. Even when he’s deposed, he still works as a subversive because he points out hard truths, big problems that the main cast can’t easily fix. Winn however, latches onto a legitimate topic in this episode, but since it is clear she resents her faith so that it is obvious she doesn’t believe what she is saying. The other problem is that if Keiko had not been as stubborn, there wouldn’t have been an issue at all, which would have meant Winn’s assassination plan would have been DOA. The episode’s problem is that the episode isn’t about Winn’s hypocrisy (which you pointed out, the loudest politicians tended to be the biggest hypocrites, if an episode was about this, it would have been really interesting), it is about the assassination plot, which was built on a flimsy house of cards. The education debate was interesting, until we learn the episode isn’t really about that.

    • I’d argue Winn’s simplicity is her strength. She’s the kind of person who is monomaniacally focused on her own lust for power in her (relatively tiny, in the scheme of the Star Trek universe) sphere and is driven by her own sense of self-righteousness. I think she’s interesting precisely because she lacks the charm of Dukat or Garak, in that it’s hard to believe that anybody actually likes Winn. She has just been in the right places at the right time, and used that to build a base. She reminds me a lot of people I knew in college, who would get into stupid arguments about their own fiefdoms, and turn common sense decisions into arguments of fundamental principle to ensure they held the trump card. These were people who could never survive outside of their little eco-system, but somehow rose to the top of it. And that meant you had to deal with them, even if it was time-wasting and soul-sapping.

      From the news coverage of the Democratic Congress, she reminds me a bit of Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

      • I think my biggest problem with Louis Fletcher is that she’s not quite right cast as religious leader. She too cold, rude, and lacking any kind of spiritual personality. I can’t imagine anyone wanting seek her guidance or going to her for a confession. She doesn’t seem to be a great religious leader, so it’s odd that she would seek power in religious matters, the job doesn’t seem to bring her joy, and we never see why she wants power. Is Louis Fletcher had been cast as say, the head of Bajorian intelligence, and was formerly a terrorist against the Cardassians. She is one of those actresses with an intensity and ruthlessness to her that I could buy if she got Garak into an interrogation room and managed to break him to spill his secrets. Her willingness to use assassins and bombs would fall more in line with the idea that this was the way it was under the occupation, if you wanted something done, you denoted a bomb, and if she was seeking power, she’d want to be the leader of Bajor, not the leader of religious matters. Having to fight against the Cardassians, I could buy that she’d seek power as a reaction of not having control during the occupation. But as a religious person, her attempts to bomb a peaceful opponent in a democratic election makes her seem tactless and obtuse. And frankly, it’s rather strange for her to resort to such means when she wasn’t even part of the resistance. I’d figure the former terrorists would be more likely to make happy with the bomb assassinations, not the supposed peaceful religious figures. And frankly, as Kai, Winn couldn’t get Garak to confess to eating the holy banana-cream pie that was left as an offering to the prophets, much less admitting to being a spy, which seems to be a huge waste of Louis Fletcher’s talents.

  4. I wonder if DS9 did not simplify the issue with religion a little bit because (!) it made the Bajoran religion so complex (at least at this point; later on the Prophets got simplified to some good-evil-dichotomy). The Bajorans got orbs, they even got the wormhole aka temple and “physical proof” of the wormhole alients aka Prophets. This is decidedly different from any other world religion where you basically have to believe in other people’s belief (scripture, witnesses, etc.). It all comes down to the question if you consider the wormhole aliens as Prophets or as, well, aliens. We got no wormhole or orb to even debate about this. In the case of the Bajoran religion any atheist critique would be (even more?) narrow-minded than today’s.

    • PS: The school issue has not really been resolved. And what if Bajoran religion would contradict “Federation atheism” even more (like circumcision or something really brutal like sacrificing the weak as gifts to the prophets on the station in front of the wormhole)… What would Sisko’s philosophy answer to challenges like this?

    • That’s probably fair. (I do love the episode.)

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