This is it, the first season is coming to a close and what a season it has been. We have met a multitude of strange beings from other planets, faced threats and had an interactive game night. However, there are greater threats to be had, including a threat from within. Originally airing on June 20, 1993, this is In The Hands of the Prophets.
Station Log Stardate Undetermined: In the Hands of the Prophets
A new religious leader has emerged and she is causing trouble aboard Deep Space Nine by insisting that Keiko O’Brien not be allowed to teach non-religious teachings concerning the wormhole. Things go from bad to worse when one of the crew is found dead.
Keiko O’Brien is teaching a lesson about the wormhole when Vedek Winn arrives and instantly begins to challenge Keiko’s lessons claiming Keiko is teaching blasphemy against the Prophets. Keiko takes the issue to Sisko when she learns that Major Kira is in support of Vedek Winn’s position. She is firmly in the opinion that any teaching regarding the wormhole must include the religious teachings as well.
Sisko takes this issue to Vedek Winn herself where he encounters a deeply religious person who borders on being a zealot. She is determined that if Keiko does not repent her teachings, something bad is going to occur.
Miles O’Brien finds himself working with his top Engineer, a Bajoran named Neela, when he discovers that an important security tool is missing. He begins searching for the tool and soon discovers that one of his engineers is missing. Scanning for the tool, he finds it melted in one of the power conduits along with some biological residue. Bashir soon determines that the remains belong to the missing engineer. Believing it could be more than an accident, Sisko orders Odo to begin an investigation.
Soon the O’Briens find themselves under the scrutiny of Vedek Winn and the parents of Keiko’s students. Winn is determined to undermine Keiko’s classroom and tells the parents of the students to remove their children from Keiko’s classroom as ‘Keiko will not be reasonable.’ Ben goes to Bajor to find help in the situation where he encounters Vedek Bareil, a more open minded member of the Vedek Assembly. There Sisko learns that both Bareil and Winn are candidates to become the next Kai. He also finds that there is no chance for help thanks to Winn’s influence, but should Bareil become Kai, he will be happy to extend a hand in friendship when needed.
The investigation into Ensign Aquino’s death has escalated and they soon find that there is every chance he is murdered. They track his movements to Runabout pad C where O’Brien and Neela begin their inspection. During their investigation Neela makes Miles a little uncomfortable by complementing his demeanor. Soon O’Brien finds some evidence and informs Odo of his findings. Just as they are about to investigate further, the school explodes. Miles rushes in to save his wife only to be held back from the flames. Keiko arrives showing that she is safe.
Vedek Winn arrives claiming that the ‘Prophets have been kind’ as no one was hurt. Sisko challenges Winn’s motives claiming that she and her sect are extremists and are trying to cause problems. Winn accuses Sisko and the Federation of living in a world of darkness, accusing him of being evil. He informs Winn that she is not just mistaken, but in over her head as he and the Bajorans on board DS9 have worked together for the good of Bajor. In the end, Winn nods to Neela, giving her silent instructions to act soon.
Vedek Bareil soon chooses to visit just as O’Brien discovers that there is a secret routine built into the system to allow someone a quick escape from the Promenade. As O’Brien rushes to determine what has been done, Bareil and Winn visit the school to show their mutual support to put an end to any hostilities. O’Brien finds a device in the security office and realizes that Neela has been up to something on board the station. He believes that she has disabled the weapons detectors on the Promenade in order to try to kill someone. O’Brien informs Sisko just as Neela moves in for her attack. Neela fires barely missing Vedek Bareil. It is then that Kira realizes that this entire plot was just to kill Bareil to prevent him from becoming Kai and it was Winn who was behind it all. It seems that the crew of DS9 still have their work cut out for them.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
As the finale of the first season this episode really sets the tone for the rest of the series. In many ways, this episode is really where this series begins. Introduced here for the first time, we meet Vedeks Bareil and Winn who will both go on to become very influential and important characters in the seasons to come.
Star Trek has always been good about bringing up key Socio-Political topics but many turn out to be heavy handed and even blatant in their deliveries. That is not the case with this one, though, somehow this episode is able to make the argument for open education without the interference of religious doctrine all the while throwing in some political intrigue, a minor murder mystery and setting up the chess pieces for seasons to come all in the course of 45 minutes. Quite the achievement for any show, let alone a science fiction series.
So far in the series we have come to see the Bajoran people as a Spiritual and open people who seem willing to embrace others and are not afraid to ask for assistance when needed. Like all social groups, there is a less tolerant underbelly however that makes itself known in the form of Vedek Winn, played by the incredible Louise Fletcher. Winn is a Zealot in every meaning of the word but not only that, she believe that she herself is responsible for not only spreading but interpreting the ‘Words of the Prophets’ in her own twisted way. Winn is as much a danger to Bajor as the Cardassians were but in a way that is more seductive and insidious. She is using the very beliefs of her people to gain power over those who oppose her world view, the scary thing is, she doesn’t see herself as doing anything wrong. In fact, she justifies her every action by claiming that she was just ‘Following the will of the Prophets’ and who is going to argue that with her?
There is a great moment in the episode where Jake talks to his Father about how he is seeing history repeat itself as Winn and her followers accuse his teacher Keiko of blasphemy. She had just been teaching them about Galileo and how he was accused by the church of blasphemy for claiming that the Earth revolved around the sun. When Galileo discovered this, his teaching were considered heretical and was persecuted for these teachings. Jake, having trouble with what the Bajorans are doing to Keiko begins to shut himself off from their ‘stupid religion’. Ben Sisko encourages his son to not turn away from the Bajorans but to be tolerant of their beliefs, telling him that should Jake only see one side of anything, he will be no better than those who are trying to force their beliefs on others. This is one of those moments that really drives home the lesson of the episode in that Tolerance of others is key, but being tolerant does not mean that you allow yourself to be beaten up without standing your ground.
All in all, this is a wonderful finale that firmly sets the pieces in place for the next season but also managing to tell a self contained story in the process. So, Onward to season two!
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
This episode marks the first appearances of both Vedek Bareil and Vedek Winn, you can be certain we will see them again.
We see the Bajoran sweet Jumja for the first time. Reminds me of a giant chunk of Tamarindo.
Rules of Acquisition mentioned:
The 7th rule: Keep Your Ears Open.
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Late To The Game 1/10/2021 (Originally published 4/8/2019)
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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