In the twenty-first episode of the sixth season of Deep Space Nine, I figured that an episode called “The Reckoning” would be hell, and yet, I was still completely not ready for this. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
What the fuck. WHAT THE FUCK.
This is one of those episodes where hindsight is a surreal thing. “The Reckoning” started off so small, and now this huge new mythology has been unleashed – literally! – into this world, and I AM STILL NOT READY. I’m so thrilled that Star Trek decided to address religion through the Bajorans and the Emissary on this show because it’s given us such a rich, complicated world, and episodes like this are evidence of just how ridiculous the writers can get while still keeping true to the show as a whole.
In another context, this whole trope of ancient evil fighting ancient good would not have worked for me. Seriously, a tablet holding two “spirits” that erupt into war once they’re freed from it? That seems way more like a fantasy narrative or a horror flick than anything Deep Space Nine would cover. Yet this worked for me. Why? How could a mythical tablet fit so well within this show’s normal tone and storytelling?
Because, in the end, it’s still about people.
The Prophets had warned Sisko that he’d have to pay a price for what they did after preventing the Dominion from using the wormhole. (Which meant I got real scared during the final battle, since I began to think this meant that Jake would be the penance paid.) So when the tablet starts interfering with life on the station and all over Bajor, it seemed obvious to me that this was the other shoe dropping. The Reckoning was the next chapter.
Except that the writers personalize the whole thing, and it’s fucking brilliant. See, I initially thought this would be about the struggle between Winn and Sisko after Sisko removed a piece of Bajoran history without consulting anyone. There’s certainly an interesting story there, given that occupations/colonial empires do exactly the same thing. (I totally want an episode to deal with this. If DS9 can’t do it, then let Voyager. It’s a great topic to address!) Yet the power struggle is so much more intimate than that. Kai Winn’s resentment of Sisko is what fuels the conflict here. Yes, the war between one of the Prophets and the Evil One is the means by which this plays out, but it’s a means to tell another story, too.
The main three players end up being Kira, Sisko, and Winn, all of whom have different roles within the Bajoran religion. Yet their growth matters so much. Would this episode be the same if Sisko were still the same skeptical man we saw at the beginning of the show? What of Kai Winn, who finally gained the highest honor of being Kai to the Bajoran people, only to have to share that power with an outsider like Sisko? Would she have behaved as she did if she hadn’t had years of bitter development written into her character? There’s Kira, who is happy with her newfound love of Odo, who is also more confident and sure of herself and her faith than she ever has been before.
All these features are a major factor in the conflict. No matter how often Sisko does what he thinks the Prophets want of him, Kai Winn can’t let go of her own ambition. There’s an incredible moment that’s not that dramatic in the midst of all of this where Kira explains how envy affects her and Winn. Both of them are envious that Sisko, a non-Bajoran, has become such an important part of their faith, that he’s the only person who actually gets to speak with the Prophets. Yet there’s no bitterness in Kira’s voice when she notes this. She accepts that this is the will of the Prophets, and then she acts to help Sisko. Kai Winn, however, cannot ever resist doing whatever she can to make Sisko’s life more difficult, even if it is at expense to herself or to her people.
Look, I sympathized with her when she was angry that Sisko took the tablet to the station. She had a completely valid problem with Sisko! She escalated things to the point where she threatened Bajor’s relationship with the Federation, but even then, I understood her. That thing wasn’t Sisko’s, and he could still analyze it without physically having it. However, her choice to flood the Promenade with radiation, prematurely ending the fight between the Evil One and the Prophet, was just… lord, y’all. I WAS SO SHOCKED BY IT. I mean, that whole fight itself was one of the more dramatic things I’ve seen on this show. Hell, the evacuation alone felt HUGE. And just like that, Kai Winn undid it all. Oh, she later claimed it was to save the station and Jake, but did she really care about those things? Did she really believe that she was doing what the Prophets wanted, or did she want to put herself in the middle of a struggle that she’d been left out of?
I bet that all the strange weather and geological problems caused by the tablet only went away because of what Kai Winn did. Not only that, but they’ll be back. The Reckoning didn’t actually happen, and it’s only a matter of time before it does. So who will get possessed by the Evil One next time? What if the outcome is worse?
Kai Winn fucked everything up, didn’t she??? OH GOD.
The video for “The Reckoning” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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