|Sisko investigates an impossible Bajoran artifact.|
Sisko takes a break from the Dominion War to view an archaeological find in the ruins of an ancient Bajoran city. A tablet has been discovered with inscriptions in Ancient Bajoran. One phrase has been translated: "Welcome, Emissary."
When Sisko touches the artifact, he receives a vision of the Prophets, in which he is told that "the Reckoning is at hand." Sisko takes the tablet back to the station, so that Dax can translate the rest. It doesn't take her long to decipher another phrase. "The Prophets will weep. Their sorrow will consume the Gateway to the Temple."
Kai Winn arrives soon after, demanding that Sisko return the artifact to Bajor immediately. Sisko agrees - only to then deliberately destroy the tablet with no explanation beyond an "uncontrollable urge." When he does so, two bursts of mysterious energy are released. One represents the Prophets, who take possession of Major Kira and prepare to battle their enemy. The other energy is that enemy, the Pah'Wraiths... And for their vessel, they select Sisko's son, Jake!
Capt. Sisko: Has completely embraced his role as Emissary, and even enjoys it. As Kira observes, going down to Bajor to look at a recently-unearthed artifact is a welcome relief from the pressures of the Dominion War. When he destroys the tablet, he is convinced he must have done so because it was the will of the Prophets - something Kai Winn refuses to accept as anything more than a facile excuse, until he is outright proved correct. Kira and Dax both make observations about Sisko's faith in these Bajoran gods, whom he no longer refers to as "Wormhole aliens," and he demonstrates that faith at the end when, like Abraham with Isaac, he appears willing to sacrifice (or at least jeopardize) his son rather than interfere in the Prophets' battle.
Kira: Watches out for Sisko, as concerned with his morale as with his physical well-being. When Jake complains about taking a trip to see some Bajoran ruins, Kira tells him to at least pretend he's enjoying himself, telling the young man that it's good for Sisko to have something to focus on other than the Dominion. Her new relationship with Odo appears to be a happy one for both of them, and refreshingly they both remain very much who they've always been. Kira appreciates that Odo respects her religion, even if he doesn't share her beliefs; Odo, for his part, continues to expect the worst from every situation.
Dax: Gets a fair amount to do in the first half, as she works on translating the tablet. In these scenes, she plays the rationalist opposite Sisko's increasing spirituality. She reminds him that it wasn't too long ago that he was desperately uncomfortable with his role as Emissary, and that he used to refer to the Prophets as "the wormhole aliens." It's clear that Dax was more comfortable with that arrangement, and tells him that she hopes he doesn't mind that she'll continue to call them "wormhole aliens."
Jake: Is even more uncomfortable than Dax with how seriously his father now takes his role as Emissary. In a very good character scene, he reveals why: Twice in the last couple years, Sisko was left lying in a hospital bed, in danger of dying because of his visions, leaving Jake to watch helplessly and wonder if his father would pull through.
Kai Winn: Kira observes that one reason for Winn's animosity toward Sisko is jealousy. Winn pursued the role of Kai ruthlessly, only to find herself sharing the role of spiritual leader with Sisko. At the start of her tenure, she was only credible as a political leader because of the aid of Vedek Bareil, her former rival. Not longer after Bareil's death, she lost secular political power to Shakaar, another rival. Then in this episode, she actually sees the Prophet possessing Kira talk to Sisko with respect. When she approaches, the Prophet ignores her, treats her as irrelevant - Something that likely feeds all of the doubts and fears about herself that she already carries. Winn's action at the episode's end is entirely defensible - But Kira is probably right that what she does is for selfish reasons, to rewrite the narrative with herself as the hero.
The Reckoning is an episode of two halves. The first half is largely excellent. There's a nice build with the mystery of the artifact, and the conflict between Sisko and Winn feels organic to who these characters are. Indeed, one can actually see Winn's point when she compares Sisko's unauthorized confiscation of a Bajoran artifact with the Cardassians' similar behavior during the Occupation.
Character work is generally excellent. Kira's protectiveness toward Sisko speaks to their strong friendship, and her willingness to offer herself as a vessel for the Prophets fits absolutely with her strong sense of religion. Jake's increasing worries over what being the Emissary costs his father also fit, and the Sisko/Jake material is some of the strongest in a while.
Also effective are the background mentions of the Dominion War. Sisko's plan to bring the Romulans into the war is having its desired effect, as the Dominion is forced to retreat from one sector. As in a real war, this creates complications in itself, with Odo warning that their next problem might be getting the Romulans to relinquish the territory they're now claiming. Much like the post-World War II map of Europe, the post-Dominion War map of the Alpha Quadrant is likely to see its borders and balance of power much-changed.
But as the episode moves into the second half, it becomes progressively sillier. After Kira is taken over by the Prophet, it slides into bad TOS territory - And when the possessed Jake shows up with demonic red eyes (to show he's evil, of course), that slide is complete. Their big confrontation is an uninvolving light show, with Sisko left to stand on the sidelines watching.
In the end, that campy climax just undoes so much of the good preceding it. The episode is worth watching for the character work and performances... But the actual title event is poorly-done and does not feel really of a piece with the rest of the show, leaving the episode a near miss - Plenty of good elements, but they just don't come together.
Overall Rating: 5/10.
Previous Episode: His Way
Next Episode: Valiant
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