In the fifteenth episode of the third season of Deep Space Nine, Kira and Sisko clash over a Bajoran prophecy foretelling doom. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Wow, this was uncomfortable, and when Deep Space Nine gets awkward, it’s often because the storytelling is great, too. I admit that it’s a little strange that Sisko’s role as the Emissary is rarely brought up, but even if the writers have largely ignored it, I think that fact works here to the betterment of “Destiny.” In short, Sisko has an entire life built around him that has nothing to do with being a “religious icon.” The Bajoran faith holds no real personal meaning to him either. It’s not that he hates it or even mildly dislikes it. It’s just… not his life. For someone like Kira, this religion is one of the main – if not sole – guiding principals of her life. While the writers pull conflict from that contrast, it’s not done in a disrespectful or exploitative manner.
No, the main tension here comes in the audience’s inability to know whether or not the prophecy that Vedek Yarka brings to Sisko is true or not. Kira is inclined to believe it and Sisko is not. But that’s not the sole conflict at work here, and I found this to be an engaging examination of both the religious issue at hand and the on-going peace efforts between Cardassia and the Federation. That’s the balance Sisko has to manage anyway, isn’t it? You can’t do Bajoran diplomacy without a healthy respect for and acknowledgment of the Bajoran faith. It’s inseparable from their politics.
The complication, of course, comes from the fact that Bajoran prophecy can sometimes be… accurate? See, here’s the difficulty: it all depends. Interpretation of prophecy could fall on either side of the “truth,” which is subjective in this instance anyway. The message that Yarka shares is dire, yet it is so frustratingly vague that Sisko has nothing he can act on. Vipers? Sword of the stars? The doors of heaven? Sure, if you interpret each line in a specific way, you might get close to something approximating reality, but how can you really be sure that a prophecy is intended to describe one specific incident in history?
While I saw “Destiny” as a commentary on the nature of prophecy, the writers also complicated this further because of past canon. It’s not like there is no real evidence of what the Bajorans believe in. While Sisko learns in the first episode of the show that the “prophets” are actually beings who live inside the wormhole, that doesn’t invalidate what the Bajorans worship. If anything, it makes their beliefs even more intensely important to the story! That plagues Sisko’s decisions throughout this episode. What if Yarka is right? What if the three vipers are the three Cardassian scientists? What if this whole mission causes the wormhole to collapse permanently? (Though my first reaction to this was, “Well, at least the Dominion can’t get through.”)
I loved that this was not just political for Sisko but personal, too. His relationship with Kira is such a powerful force in the show, and this is the first time in quite some time that she’s been put in a situation where she is reminded that he was chosen as the Emissary. Does that change who he is to her or vice versa? How much does that matter? I found it rewarding to see these two characters ask themselves these kind of questions, especially if Sisko being the Emissary is going to matter more in the future. (WHAT IS THE FOURTH PROPHECY, OH MY GOD.) It’s possible that their dynamic might change because of this, too! It nearly does in this episode, since Kira starts to treat Sisko as if he is part of a greater plot, rather than her superior officer.
Yet in the end, Sisko’s choice to do what he thinks is best still matters. Even if he might have been part of the original prophecy (and there’s a really awesome canon explanation provided by this episode as to how that can actually happen), he still affected history in a positive way by choosing to be his own person. Does that mean he was destined to make these choices? No, not at all, and this episode provides a pretty stunning case for individual will mattering more than anything else. There’s that great (but brief) conversation that Sisko has with Jadzia about what he should do, and I believe it summarizes the theme of this whole story. Is Sisko going to do what a prophecy tells him to do, or will he do what he thinks is best? Thankfully, he chose to move forward with the communication experiment and make his own destiny.
And jammed right in the middle of this is a weird subplot between Gilora and O’Brien. You know, if you’re gonna pull the whole “reverse oppression” thing, you should just… not do it? If only because it feels clumsy 99% of the time, which includes this episode. Like, having O’Brien angrily tell a woman that she needs to hand over the tools because he knows more than her is ALWAYS GOING TO STING. Yes, there’s a context to the scene, but it still feels super strange. It doesn’t help that Gilora’s role here is to make one mistake or misjudgment after another, while O’Brien is perfect and manly and knowledgeable and oh god, this is kind of a mess. You know, there are two separate stories here jammed into one, and neither one gets the length it deserves.
The video for “Destiny” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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