|Sisko becomes obsessed with a Bajoran lost city.|
The Cardassians have repatriated a painting of B'hala, a Bajoran city lost roughly 20,000 years ago. The painting is the only proof of the city's existence, with partial coordinates inscribed on one of the spires of a building in the painting. This prompts Sisko to try to puzzle out the location. He scans the painting into the station computer and enhances a reflection in the work to find another coordinate on another spire. Then he uploads it to the holosuites to work with it directly.
When he saves the program, the poorly-maintained equipment results in a plasma burst. Sisko is knocked unconscious, and wakes in Medlab with odd neural readings. Dr. Bashir tells him that he expects everything to reset itself in a few days, and to "enjoy the show" of more vivid sights and sounds in the meantime.
Meanwhile, the station receives word from Admiral Charlie Whatley (Ernest Perry, Jr.) that the Federation Council has granted Bajor's petition to join. There will be a signing ceremony, after which Bajor will finally become part of the Federation. But Sisko remains obsessed with the puzzle of the lost city - and when he experiences a vision, then follows it and actually finds B'hala, the entire situation becomes a lot less predictable!
Capt. Sisko: Avery Brooks' performance as this transformed Sisko is odd. I do think he goes a bit over-the-top in parts of the show. But that very quality actually works for the episode, particularly when there is a real sense of poetry to his delivery of his longer speeches, notably as he describes his first vision to Kira: "I was there. I could smell the burning bateret leaves, taste the incense on the wind. I was standing in front of the Obelisk. And as I looked up, for one moment, I understood it all. B'hala, the Orbs, the occupation, the discovery of the wormhole, the coming war with the Dominion... And for one moment, I could see the pattern that held it all together."
Major Kira: Her friendship with Sisko has converted her from believing that Bajor needs to stand alone to actually wanting her home planet to join the Federation. She is delighted that Bajor's petition has been granted, and looks forward to the signing ceremony. It is appropriate that she is the one to find Sisko in the midst of his first vision, as she is the one member of the command staff who will believe it is real and not a delusion. She defends his right to follow his visions at the risk of his health, believing the Prophets will protect him from harm.
Kasidy Yates: Her first appearance since last season's For the Cause, and it's a very welcome return. Kasidy holds no apparent bitterness over her prison time, and once it's clear that Sisko welcomes her back she seems happy to pick back up where they left off. She is taken aback by Sisko's welcome including a trip to Bajor to find a lost city, but she goes along with it. When Sisko's visions put his health in jeopardy, she argues strongly against his refusal of medical help, urging him to think about what he's doing to her and to Jake.
Kai Winn: When Sisko finds the lost city, Winn approaches Kira with an apology for never having truly believed the captain was the Emissary. Kira expresses surprise that Winn would have the courage to admit to ever being wrong. This prompts an angry response from Winn, who reminds Kira that she also suffered during the Occupation: "Perhaps you forget, Major, the Cardassians arrested any Bajoran they found teaching the word of the Prophets. I was in a Cardassian prison camp for five years and I can remember each and every beating I suffered. And while you had your weapons to protect you, all I had was my faith and my courage." Louise Fletcher puts just enough steel into it to let us know that Winn has added Kira's doubts as to her courage to all the other ways in which Kira has thwarted her, and is likely planning a suitable reckoning.
Bajor-centric episodes have become such a rarity that they are always welcome, and Rapture is a particularly good one. It feels like an important episode. I don't know that events necessarily move forward. It's more, as Sisko says when describing his vision, that it feels as if a pattern is being drawn together. We revisit Bajor and its relationship with the Federation, winn and her relationship with Kira and with Sisko, Kira and her admiration for Sisko.
All of these threads are not only touched on, but elaborated on. Winn may be a villain, but we are reminded that her spirituality is not mere opportunism. Her faith matters to her and has seen her through horrible times - and by detailing how she weathered the Occupation, we are encouraged to have some respect for her as a person, even if she is someone to distrust and even fear.
Season Four's Accession was the last episode to touch on Sisko's role as the Emissary. There, events pushed him to directly claim a title that he had previously tolerated as a burden. Here, we see him really acting in the role. Even before the accident, he shows a strong interest in the lost city of B'hala. After the accident, we see him touring the station, speaking with individual Bajorans about their problems and worries. Even Bashir responds to Admiral Whatley's questioning by stating simply that Sisko is the Emissary.
Hans Beimler's script keeps a potentially static episode moving forward with startling momentum. First, we are worried that Sisko may imperil his position. Later, we see that his life may be in jeopardy if he doesn't give up his visions. Scenes with Jake and Kasidy, who beg him to turn away from his path, emphasize how Sisko's death would affect those around him. Finally, the future of Bajor seems to hang in the balance, as Sisko gets his final vision and lurches to warn the Bajorans of what he has seen.
Beimler and director Jonathan West don't go the obvious route with this vision. Sisko gazes into the Orb of Prophecy, but we don't see any of what he experiences. There's no light show, no apocalyptic imagery. Instead, we cut to the Federation and Bajoran delegations, and hear from Sisko what he has seen - a garbled account that is probably just a fragment of what he truly experienced. We don't know what it means, but we are encouraged to take the warning seriously.
We end the episode with everything much as it was at the start. Bajor has not joined the Federation, but Sisko still believes it will in the future. Kai Winn still does not trust the Federation, and her doubts have likely been deepened by this experience. Winn and Kira still don't trust each other, though each believes she has the other's measure. Sisko is still the Emissary, now more than ever before. Not a thing has changed - And yet it doesn't feel like time has been wasted. There's a sense that things aren't quite as they were before, or at least that the pattern connecting the disparate strands here is a little clearer than it was before.
That, and the almost surprisingly compelling experience of watching an episode that sounds a bit dull on paper, make this a must see. Another excellent episode of a thus-far very good season.
Overall Rating: 9/10.
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Next Episode: The Darkness and the Light
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