Vedek Winn wants Keiko O’Brien to teach the controversy of the Prophets of the Celestial Temple or be branded a blasphemer. Keiko just wants to teach science.
*There will be spoilers.*
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Seven months have elapsed since the Federation began administering Deep Space Nine for the Bajorans. On the surface, it appears that the Starfleet crewmen have integrated well with the Bajoran crewman. The station is repaired, and traffic through the wormhole has greatly aided Bajor’s resurgence following the occupation. People are building lives with each other. The O’Briens exemplify this: Miles is working well with his fellow officers, particularly a young protege named Neela, and Keiko’s school has grown to include over a dozen children, many Bajoran. What starts as a typical day ends in scandal.
While teaching her class the science of the Bajoran wormhole she’s interrupted by a Vedek (Bajoran bishop) inquiring why she is not referring to the wormhole aliens as Prophets. Keiko tries to explain that the class is meant to expose children to science, not teach religion — the teaching of religion being the Vedek’s job. For her trouble, Keiko is dismissed as a heretic.
This particular Vedek, Winn, is from an orthodox order on Bajor; some see her as a contender for the next Kai — a position left empty since Opaka was marooned in the Gamma quadrant. During a heated discussion with Sisko and Keiko, Kira reveals that she too supports Winn’s campaign for Kai. Their disagreement over the science lesson reaches a point where Kira suggests separating the Bajoran students. Scandal!
Sisko goes to the station’s temple to meet Winn in hopes of understanding her perspective on Mrs. O’Brien’s school and the lessons she is trying to teach. Winn exchanges pleasantries, then refers to him as the Emissary “to” the Prophets rather than “of” — it’s one of many subtle digs she’ll make against him as they clash through the run of the series.
“I once asked Kai Opaka why a disbeliever was destined to seek the Prophets. She told me that ‘One must never look into the eyes of one’s own Gods.’”
Opaka also suggested Winn spend a day in darkness for expressing her desire to meet the Prophets herself.
In the middle of all this drama, an ensign has gone missing. After failing to report for duty, it’s discovered that Ensign Aquino appeared to borrow some of O’Brien’s tools without asking and left them in a crawl space near a power conduit. Also discovered are traces of organic material. Mystery!
Back on the Promenade, the O’Briens are strolling along. Miles tries to buy sweets from a Bajoran merchant and refused service. Keiko drags him off only to discover that Vedek Winn has gathered a crowd outside the schoolroom. Winn loves an audience almost as much as she loves props. She successfully gets Bajoran parents to remove their childrens from the school, prompting Keiko to teach her remaining five students about Galileo and the Inquisition. Jake relates this to his father, prompting a wonderful discussion with Benjamin.
“You’ve got to realize something Jake. For over fifty years, the one thing that allowed the Bajorans to survive the Cardassian occupation was their faith. The Prophets were their only source of hope and courage.”
-Jake, “But there were no Prophets, just aliens who found a wormhole.”
“To those aliens the future is no more difficult to see than the past. Why shouldn’t they be considered Prophets? ... It may not be what you believe, but that doesn’t make it wrong. If you start to think that way you’ll be acting just like Vedek Winn, only from the other side. We can’t afford to think that way, Jake. We’d lose everything we’ve worked for here.”
Sisko travels to Bajor to meet Winn’s competition for Kai, a reformist named Bareil. Bareil thanks Ben for going to such trouble, but relates that the Vedek Assembly would never meet with Sisko to discuss Winn for a variety of reasons: that he’s a godless Starfleet officer, that he’s the Emissary of the Prophets, that Winn would tell people not to meet him.
Back at the station, Bajoran crewmen have stopped showing up for their duties. Sisko and Kira almost get into an argument before Bashir interrupts them, tellign them that the organic material O’Brien and Neela found was the missing ensign. He also informs them that Aquino was shot with a phaser set to kill before the power converter was turned back on. Odo suggests that this was all staged. O’Brien traces Aquino’s duty logs back to a Runabout pad. Finding nothing wrong he decides to go to one of the other pads, where he discovers a security bypass: someone was trying to steal a Runabout, but was it Aquino or his murderer?
Then there’s an explosion on the Promenade. The school was bombed. Winn wastes no time blessing the Prophets for sparing anyone from being injured. Sisko disagrees.
“The Bajorans who have lived with us on this station, who have worked with us for months, who helped us move this station to protect the wormhole, who joined us to explore the Gamma quadrant, who have begun to build the future of Bajor with us, these people know that we are neither the enemy nor the Devil. [looking at Kira] We don’t always agree. We have some damned good fights, in fact. But we always come away from them with a little better understanding and appreciation of each other. You won’t succeed here. The school will re-open. And when your rhetoric gets old, the Bajoran parents will bring their children back.”
Back in Ops, the investigation into Aquino’s disappearance has revealed a bizarre computer program that no one can access. Neela leaves and informs Vedek Winn, revealing herself as one of Winn’s acolytes and Aquino’s killer. O’Brien and Dax work to open the program as Sisko finds out Bareil is coming to the station. Pieces of the puzzle start falling into place. O’Brien discovers that the program was put in places at spots on the station he worked on with Neela, and that the program was designed to disable the weapons sensors on the Promenade, and deactivate forcefields leading from the Promenade to the Runabout pads.
Bareil meets Winn at the station temple, and the two walk to the school. The Promenade is packed with Bajorans eager to meet the Vedek. Neela can be observed carrying a disruptor, she’s planning to shoot Bareil for Winn, but is interrupted by Sisko who pulls a Kirk and takes her down, literally. She’s dragged away proclaiming, “The Prophets spoke! I answered their call!”
An incensed Kira goes up to Winn, “It was all to get him here, wasn’t it? The school, the protest, the bombing, you knew it would get him out of the Monastery. You did it all to kill him, to stop him from becoming Kai.” Winn just walks off sulking. Back in Ops, she confides in Sisko:
“[Neele]’ll never tell us the truth. We’ll never be able to prove that Winn was involved.”
-Sisko: “You okay?”
“Okay? I’ve forgotten ‘okay.’ I haven’t seen ‘okay’ in what seems like years. I was just sitting here thinking: last year at this time, I was fighting the Cardassians in some nameless swamp. And if you’d stopped by and told me that just one year later they’d be gone, that I’d be wearing this uniform up here in charge of protecting some wormhole ...”
-Sisko: “Protecting your Celestial Temple.”
“I envied Vedek Winn because she was a true believer. I wanted my faith to be as strong as hers ... Commander, I heard what you said to Vedek Winn at the school. I just wanted you to know you were right, what you said about the Bajorans, at least about me. I don’t think that you’re the Devil.”
-Sisko: “Maybe we have made some progress after all.”
- Vedek Winn, played by Louise Fletcher, begins her turn as antagonist/opportunist.
- Vedek Bareil, played by Philip Anglim, begins his turn as a foil to her antagonism.
Rules of Aquisition
- #7: Keep your ears open.
Fun Facts from Memory Alpha
- First aired June 22, 1993.
- This episode sets the tone for the politics and hierarchy of Bajoran religion: Vedeks from different orders vying for Kai, based on 15th & 16th century Catholicism.
- This episode is also an analog to the teaching of evolution in schools, specifically how scandal is manipulated for political gain.
- Episode writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe: “I have a serious objection to people trying to impose their values on other people. And that’s what this episode is about. No one has the right to force anyone to believe the things that they believe. That’s one of the beautiful things about Gene Roddenberry’s vision of IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations), and that was one of the things that we really wanted to hammer home here. Sisko does everything not to impose his values on the Bajorans, but Vedek Winn is determined to impose her values on everyone.”
- Colm Meaney: “[the episode] dealt with religious fundamentalism … With all sorts of fundamentalism going on today, that’s a very interesting topic. People are getting into very rigid ideas about how other people should behave. Star Trek is at its best when it’s dealing with something that has a contemporary echo and I’m very glad to see that we’re carrying on that tradition.”