To Sisko’s credit, initially, he was uncomfortable with it, as well. The “Emissary Trilogy” of episodes, which unfolded over three seasons with “Destiny,” “Accession,” and “Rapture,” was at least partially about growing more comfortable with his role. Just for a quick refresher, in “Destiny,” Sisko got to watch a prophecy come true, in “Accession,” he had to fight for the role of Emissary, and in “Rapture,” he gave himself over to prophetic visions that nearly destroyed him. That hard-won comfort is referenced when he casually refers to “the Prophets,” and Dax says wryly, “I remember when you used to call them ‘Wormhole Aliens.’”
This episode begins with B’hala, the legendary lost city that Sisko’s visions helped find in “Rapture.” The archaeologist monks (which might be the coolest idea for a spinoff ever) have found a tablet bearing the inscription, “Welcome, Emissary.” Sisko takes it back to the station for study, where Dax gets to work translating. It warns about an event called The Reckoning, a time of tribulation for the Bajoran people, that, if everything goes well, will lead to a new golden age. The thing is, it might not go well. There’s uncertainty in the prophecy, which definitely isn’t normal.
Kai Winn arrives at the station to formally protest Sisko borrowing the tablet. While I hate Winn with the fire of a thousand exploding galaxies, I actually see her point here. For eighty years, the Cardassians plundered Bajor at will. You can understand why they might be a wee bit touchy about something like this. This episode turns away from the more recent characterization of Winn as a figure of sympathy. She’s depicted more as a villain, and that’s where I want her. She’s incredibly compelling that way, simply because she’s a bad guy that Sisko can’t shoot. She must be dealt with, and dealt with carefully. As evidence for the need of the tablets back on Bajor, Winn points to a series of disasters afflicting the planet.
What the Reckoning is, is still vague. The Bajoran on the inscription is archaic, and as evidence, Dax points to a symbol that could mean the Bajorans will suffer horribly, or eat fruit. In an earlier scene, Major Kira is shown eating lunch, and it’s a fruit salad. The Prophets work in mysterious ways. There is a lot of consternation about how vague the prophecies can be, but if you look at it logically, it makes sense. The Prophets exist out of time, so to them, it doesn’t matter when you send a vision. For the Bajorans receiving these visions, they don’t necessarily understand what they’re seeing, or what’s important. So, they write it down as best they can, and then, presumably, over the years they get translated and re-translated, and some of the meaning is inevitably lost.
Kira, despite - or maybe because of her rocky history with Winn, is able to explain the basic problem Winn has with Sisko. The Kai has always been the spiritual leader of Bajor, but now, she has to share that with someone. Worse, she has to share it with an outsider. I imagine it would be kind of similar of all of a sudden the Pope had to deal with a returned Jesus and learned that he was a Raelian or something. It puts Winn’s antipathy in some context, and while it doesn’t forgive her, it at least explains her.
Sisko smashes the tablets in what looks to everyone like a fit of pique, though he claims he had an irresistible urge, implying the hands of the Prophets in the act. When he did it, he saw a release of blue and red energy, but it’s not detectable by conventional means. Then, Kira shows up on the Promenade crackling with energy and with creepy, ice blue eyes. She reveals that she is a Prophet, and this vessel (Kira) was willing to be possessed. Hilariously, she’ll only talk to “the Sisko,” completely ignoring Winn’s entreaties. This is a subtle point about what the episode is truly about, which is faith.
The Reckoning turns out to be a battle between this Prophet and the Pah-wraith Kosst Amojan, who is basically Space Satan. For his vessel, Space Satan chooses Jake. The battle is alleged to be incredibly dangerous and likely fatal for at least one of the parties. It also might destroy DS9. The crew has a solution: They can flood the Promenade with chroniton radiation, which will drive the fourth dimensional beings out. Sisko says no, and that’s the crux of the episode.
See, the Prophets saved the entire Alpha Quadrant, when in “Sacrifice of Angels,” they destroyed the incoming Dominion fleet. They told Sisko they would exact a penance from him, and he’s figuring this is it. He needed something from the Prophets and they came through for him, and now that they need something from him, he won’t let them down. He also has something he never thought he would: faith. He believes with every fiber of his being that the Prophets would never allow harm to come to Jake. This is why he insists that the Reckoning be allowed to happen.
It is Winn whose faith falters. In the beginning of the episodes, she once again references the fact that the Prophets have never spoken to her, her envy of Sisko oozing past her icy façade. She is Kai because of political maneuvering, not unshakable faith. Winn worships only power -- or perhaps herself. She ends up using the chroniton radiation to stop the Reckoning, not able to handle that Sisko’s faith was stronger than hers. Kira calls the Kai out for this, as Kira herself proved her faith when she allowed the Prophet into her. Odo even showed stronger faith than Winn -- or perhaps merely respect for others -- when he said the chroniton plan would be against Kira’s wishes, even if the Reckoning cost her life. It’s only Kai Winn who believes in nothing.
The terrifying thing to the prophecy-obsessed Bajorans is that there is no roadmap after this. The Reckoning had to happen and it didn’t. There’s no way to know what could be next. And fundamentally, it’s Winn’s fault.
Next up: Starfleet Academy might want to consider its work study program.