“In times of trouble, some people find comfort in hate and fear.”
— Constable Odo
With a quote like that, you’d think Odo was commenting on current events. That’s really what defines good science fiction: the ability to stay relevant many years after it’s released into the wild. Deep Space Nine is prescient to almost an absurd degree, but it’s no great magic trick how the writers managed this. People are people (as the philosophers of Depeche Mode once informed us), and as long as the stories spring from that essential idea, they’ll retain a position of truth. Odo’s not talking about current events; he’s talking about the persistent threads of history that have consistently led to the rise of organizations that feed on negative emotions.
In the context of the show, he’s talking about the rise of the Pah-wraith cults that are sweeping Bajor like a virulent case of Beatlemania. In the three months since the end of the previous season, and the permanent(?) closing of the wormhole, these cults, once considered jokes among the Bajoran populace, are growing in power and prestige. Seriously, does that sound freakishly familiar or is it just me? Sisko has remained on Earth doing little but working in his father’s restaurant. The horrible cost of his decision to go to Chin’toka has apparently broken him.
The season picks up on a quiet note. After the bombastic season openers that had become tradition (Go have a look and you’ll see a murderer’s row of huge episodes.), the writers wanted to start their final run slowly. Considering the massive 10-parter that closes out the series, this was probably a good choice. As the captain is always the main character of a Star Trek series (though less so with DS9 than some of the others), this episode appropriately enough marks the beginning of the end for Captain Sisko as he takes his final steps toward destiny. The writers approached his character from an almost meta standpoint, and though I’ll be getting into it in detail later, especially in the series finale, it’s worth noting where we are now.
While Sisko was supposed to be looking for a way to bring the Prophets back — he is, after all, Space Jesus, and that’s his job — he’s not really doing much of anything. He scrubs clams, he plays piano. Jake knows something is horribly wrong with the old man, but he’s helpless to do anything. Fortunately, just as things look hopeless Sisko has a vision. He’s on a desert planet called Tyree, and he’s frantically digging in the sand when he finally unearths a face. It’s a woman, and it transforms from stone to flesh before his eyes.
Sisko knows that this is what he’s been waiting for. The Prophets have sent him, their Emissary, a vision to save them and the Celestial Temple. His first step, he believes, is identifying the woman. While attempting to reconstruct her face on his tablet, Jake comes in and remarks that she looks familiar. He runs off and returns with a picture of the woman with Joseph Sisko as a young man. When Sisko asks his dad about this, Joseph storms out.
Meanwhile, on the station, Kira is still adjusting to command. It’s an interesting situation for her, as there was a time that Bajor was a provincial backwater, and her position was the Provincial Government’s way of getting rid of her. Now, DS9 is the focal point of the war, and Kira hangs out with Space Jesus socially. It’s also clear that whatever authority Bajor truly had over the station is all but gone, as Admiral Ross informs Kira of upcoming decisions as a courtesy rather than to get her opinion or support.
That most recent decision is the arrival of the Romulans. They (sensibly, but these are Romulans we’re talking about) want a presence on the station in the form of Senator Cretak, a pro-alliance politician, and her staff. Kira initially resists, but finds that Cretak is far more humble and reasonable than most Romulans. Of course, this is at least partially a guise. Cretak asks to build a hospital complex on an uninhabited Bajoran moon, and when Kira puts the request through, that complex instantly transforms into a fortified position. That wasn’t what was agreed, and Kira angrily demands that the Romulans get the hell off Bajoran soil.
The Dominion watches this with glee. “Romulans, they’re so predictably treacherous,” Weyoun crows on Cardassia Prime. Since the closing of the wormhole, the war’s been going better for the Dominion — good thing, since they can’t get any reinforcements form the Gamma Quadrant. The Federation-Klingon-Romulan Alliance’s (henceforth to be referred to simply as “the Alliance”) thrust into Dominion space has been stalled on Chin’toka. Now, this fresh Bajoran-Romulan tension is the kind of thing that could blow the fragile coalition apart.
Damar has been drinking. Remember, Damar hit the sauce pretty hard during the Dominion occupation of DS9. It would be simplistic — and I think wrong — to chalk this up to Damar being a fundamentally good man disturbed by the Dominion’s ruthlessness. Rather, Damar is a patriot the way Garak is, and the way Dukat never was. Damar is troubled by Cardassia becoming a mere cog in the Dominion machine, their culture being ground to dust under the bootheels of the Founders. Even though he has personal power — Dukat’s only true goal — Damar is more concerned about his homeland. He doesn’t see a way out, either. They are, after all, winning the war. For him, there’s no real way to win.
Worf is also locked in despair, though his focuses around the death of his beloved wife. His problem — which O’Brien finally gets out of him with several bottles of bloodwine — is that Jadzia was murdered rather than dying gloriously in battle, and thus, she’s not in Sto-vo-kor, a.k.a. Klingon Valhalla. The only way to get her there is to win a great battle in her name, and irony of ironies, Starfleet has the Defiant stuck on convoy duty. O’Brien enlists General Martok to help, and the one-eyed Klingon has the perfect mission: a solo attack on some Dominion shipyards. Worf signs on as First Officer. Bashir signs on as well, because he loved Jadzia as well, and this is a way to honor her. O’Brien is going too, mostly to keep Julian alive.
Later, back on Earth, Sisko gets his father to open up. The woman in the picture, the woman in Ben’s vision, is Sarah Sisko, Joseph’s first wife. She came out of nowhere, married Joseph, and just after giving birth to a child, abruptly vanished. Joseph tracked her down years later to find she had just died in an accident. And yes, this means Ben Sisko’s real mother is a woman he had never heard of before. This Sarah Sisko, whose face the Prophets are showing him.
Joseph digs out an old necklace of Sarah’s she’d left behind, and Sisko finds that it has an Ancient Bajoran inscription on the back, which translates to the “Orb of the Emissary.” No one has ever heard of this Orb, and Sisko believes it might be the key to connecting with the Prophets. Maybe this was the one Orb that never went dark, and if it’s anywhere, it’s on Tyree.
All three Sisko men get ready to go when there’s a knock on the restaurant’s door. They open it up, revealing a very small, very pretty young Trill. She introduces herself as Dax.
Next up: It’s Dax.