The Great Star Trek DS9 Rewatch: In the Hands of the Prophets

When a Bajoran spiritual leader objects to Keiko teaching about the wormhole as a scientific phenomenon, tensions are raised between the Bajorans and the Federation. Can Sisko smooth things over, or will there be an explosive outcome?

DS9 season one has felt like a bit of a slog, but we’ve finally made it to the end, and now better seasons are in sight. This season finale promises much, but ultimately fails to deliver; what begins as a tense stand-off between science and faith ultimately turns into “Vedek Winn is evil and manipulative”, a theme that will continue throughout the series. There’s so much tension on display here, as the Federation swoops in with its logical and scientific approach, leaving the Bajorans resentful that their faith is more patronised than accepted – but it feels like it’s all healed over the instant it becomes clear that Winn was just plotting to kill her rival Bareil. These feelings are real, but exploring them would be too difficult, so let’s just wrap everything up in a nice little package at the end, and then everyone can get back to being friends. I appreciate it’s a difficult topic that raises heated feelings here in the real world, but isn’t Star Trek’s remit to tackle these difficult questions under the guise of an abstract sci-fi story? Maybe Roddenberry was right to want to keep religion out of Star Trek entirely.

Bajoran line-up

This episode introduces two new important recurring characters – Vedek Winn, the evil scheming bitch, and Vedek Bareil, the progressive good guy. We also say goodbye to O’Brien’s assistant Neela, who managed in the space of a single episode to go through an entire character arc from talented and awesome to fanatic assassin.

Kira is quick to feel resentful towards Sisko and the Federation for being all scientific, but she quickly forgets all that once it becomes clear that Winn was orchestrating events. I guess we didn’t have time in the last two minutes to really explore how betrayed Kira might feel that one of her trusted religious leaders used something as important as faith as a tool for manipulation.

This episode also marks the first time since the pilot that something has been made of Sisko being the Emissary and the wormhole being the Bajorans’ Celestial Temple. Previously even the Bajoran staff aboard DS9 have been ignoring all the religious aspects and just calling it the wormhole along with everyone else.

Summary – In the Hands of the Prophets: I really fancy a jumja stick.

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