Sunday, November 20, 2011

3-15. Destiny.

Sisko struggles with his role
as the Bajoran "Emissary."


With the treaty between Cardassia and Bajor in effect, two Cardassian scientists come to Deep Space 9 in an attempt to establish a communications relay within the wormhole. If successful, this will allow the station to maintain contact with ships and colonies in the Gamma Quadrant - not only a boon for logistics, but also a potentially considerable advantage against any hostility from the Dominion. But Yarka (Erick Avari), a Bajoran Vedek, urges Sisko to stop the experiment, insisting that a Bajoran prophecy spells out doom should it continue.

Sisko dismisses Yarka's claims. Given that the Vedek assembly has also ignored him, Kira is inclined to do the same. But gradually, elements of Yarka's prophecy begin to come true. First, an additional Cardassian joins the scientific team, matching up with his claim of "three vipers." Then an unusual comet appears, its tail resembling the "sword of stars" in Yarka's prophecy. As the coincidences mount, even Sisko has to wonder if this effort truly is cursed.


Commander Sisko: We have already seen Sisko's discomfort with his role as the "Emissary" of Bajoran legend. It's not just that Sisko doesn't believe in the Bajoran prophecies - He desperately wants not to believe, to the point that he tries to shut out the evidence as it comes. In the scene in which Kira confronts him with all the elements of the prophecy which have already come true, she ends by noting that one of those is his presence as the Emissary. Sisko turns away, his face a picture of denial, doubt, and general insecurity. He sees himself as simply a Starfleet officer.  He cannot reconcile his view of himself with the Bajoran insistence on imbuing his very presence with special meaning.

Major Kira: Kira gets her third strong episode in a row. With most characters, I'd start to feel a sense of overkill. But Kira has become so complex that each episode is able to show some new side to either her character or Nana Visitor's performance. Here, we focus on the contradiction Kira experiences between her religious beliefs and her status as first officer to a man her religion insists is an icon. As an officer, she believes in pursuing any project that will help cement peace between Cardassia and Bajor. As an officer, she agrees with Sisko that there is no reasonable cause to suspend the experiment. As a Bajoran, however, she believes in prophecy. She may initially distrust Yarka's interpretation, but as elements seem to come true, she cannot ignore her beliefs. And finally, as she reluctantly admits to Sisko, she cannot help but view her commanding officer as "The Emissary," however much she may not wish to.

O'Brien: Strikes up a fractious relationship with Gilora (Tracy Scoggins), the Cardassian engineer. She treats him dismissively until he finally has enough and snaps at her, which - all too predictably - causes her to develop feelings for him. This subplot is pretty standard stuff, though Colm Meaney's performance when he finally recognizes Gilora's interest and tries to defuse it is very enjoyable, and Scoggins is quite fetching, even buried under a mountain of alien makeup.

Dax: Her friendship with Sisko allows her to snap him out of his doubts when he begins wondering if the Bajoran prophecies truly are real. During a rare moment of indecision, Sisko wonders if he should expel the Cardassians, as Yarka urged. Dax asks him what he would do if he had never heard of the prophecy, then tells him that he has to choose whether he will be guided by religious prophecies or whether he will make his own decisions. It's all the urging Sisko needs to return to himself for the episode's final stretch.


Destiny is the first episode to deal in any depth with Sisko's ambivalence about his role as "Emissary." That's somewhat surprising, given that we're now in the second half of Season Three. Still, seeing this background strand brought to the fore is extremely welcome, particularly in a script that deals with it in a complex way. We see Sisko's frustration at being thrust into a role he doesn't want. We see Kira's difficulty, trying to deal with Sisko as her commanding officer (one with whom she often argues) while at the same time viewing him as a religious figure. And we see the complex role of prophecy itself, with the metaphoric language open to so many different interpretations as to make firm predictions meaningless.

Ultimately, as both Dax's scene with him and the ending of the episode indicate, Sisko is probably best advised to simply make his own decisions based on his own good judgment. Any other option would involve second-guessing himself. In a crisis, that could lead to disaster.

The script is well-structured, and makes good use of the ensemble. Only Bashir and Jake really get left out (and for the latter, at least, that's nothing new), while even Odo's small role is used to bring out Sisko's central dilemma. Good use is made of continuity, from mentions of the aliens inside the wormhole to the use of the Bajoran/Cardassian treaty. At this point, the show is starting to really coalesce into an ongoing narrative, an element of the series which seems to grow stronger and stronger as the series progresses.

Another major strength of this episode is the effects. The visuals of the comet, its impact on the wormhole, and Sisko's flight through the wormhole while shielding the comets... These are wonderful visuals, dynamic and beautiful at the same time. That some of Deep Space 9's best effects are couched in such a smart script is a particular joy, as it shows that intelligent drama and outstanding effects do not have to work against each other.

All in all, another first-rate episode in a season that's shaping up to be the series' best yet.

Overall Rating: 9/10

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