Deep Space Nine – s03 e15 – Destiny

Cardassian scientists
Cardassian scientists

Another good, indeed very good episode, the more so for maintaining a clear, distinct, single story throughout the full episode (with the exception of an extended open that set up the situation whilst doing its best to ruin it with Quarkian comic relief).

What made ‘Destiny’ so good was its careful combination of elements, based on a strikingly simple story. Two Cardassian scientists, both female (guest appearances from Wendy Robie, of Twin Peaks and Tracey Scoggins, of Lois and Clark) are coming to the station for a joint Bajoran/Cardassian attempt to establish a sub-space relay through the Wormhole,  allowing communication with the Gamma Quadrant.

But, as delivered in melodramatic fashion at the end of the open, an obscure Vedek, Yarka, demands the Cardassians be barred from DS9, by reference to Trakor’s Third Prophecy, delivered three thousand years ago.

The Prophecy is couched in splendidly metaphorical terms – peering through the Temple Gates, Three Vipers. A Sword of Stars, What’s more, it also centres upon the Emissary, who of course is Sisko.

Sisko’s status as the Emissary was established in the pilot episode, but very little has been done with or about it since, and the episode took the opportunity to examine how Sisko’s unwanted status plays with both him and his First Officer, Major Kira.

In essence, the Prophecy claims that the attempt to look through the Wormhole will drawn down this ‘Sword of Stars’ to close it forever, destroying the aliens who live within it, outside of linear time, who are the Prophets of Bajor’s religion, the appointers of the long-foreseen Emissary.

Sisko automatically rejects Yarka’s concerns, and the Prophecy. He believes it to be based in Starfleet rationality, and it primarily is. But Odo introduces him to an aspect he is deliberately self-blind towards: Sisko does not want to be the Emissary, it makes him incredibly uncomfortable. It leads to his rejecting the Prophecy because he does not want it to be true: it will overturn too much of his thinking.

In contrast, there is the Major. She is second in command to Sisko, she has to deal with him as her Commanding Officer, not as the Emissary, and she is aware of his discomfort. But when pressed upon her faith by Vedek Yarka, Kira has to admit that she does believe, and that she does believe Sisko is the Emissary.

The experiment progresses. Chief O’Brien and the younger scientist, Gilora (Scoggins) clash over upgrades the Chief has made to the station, which her calculations haven’t taken into account. They even clash over her belief that (Cardassian) men can’t do Engineering, all of which leads to a modestly amusing and tangentially relevant micro-sub-plot in which she interprets his defensive irascibility as Cardassian mating ritual (and she’s interested).

Once the Defiant is piloted through the Wormhole to set up the Receiver, the elements of the Prophecy fall into place with startling (but predictable) rapidity. A comet with a silithium core is passing nearby: one of the wavelengths used produced an unexpected, inexplicable, MacGuffinesque gravity surge that draws the comet towards the Wormhole: the silithium will collapse it,fulfilling the terms of Trakor’s Third Prophecy.

All hands on deck to avert this. The Chief and Gilora clash over his proposal to modify the Defiant’s phaser banks to produce a beam wide enough to vapourise the comet, but it fails, merely splitting the comet into three pieces. It seems to be a schoolboy error from O’Brien, but Gilora, having understood his pride and wishing to repay the embarrassment caused, reveals that the third scientist, Dejar, is a saboteur, of the Obsidian Order, who are opposed to peace.

The last desperate attempt to rescue the situation works. By using a space pod to get in between the comet fragments, Sisko and Kira are able to create a subspace field holding everything in. A trail of silithium escapes, but instead of destroying the Wormhole, it creates a filament, keeping the Wormhole fractionally open permanently and enabling communications.

To their joint amazement, and in different degrees of awe, Sisko and Kira realise that the Prophecy had been misinterpreted, and that their actions have actually fulfilled it.

So all is well, and the episode is even bold enough to close on a note of fore-shadowing, the first such since the series began. Yarka is glad to admit that his distrust of the Cardassians had coloured his interpretation of Trakor’s Third Prophecy. Oh, and incidentally, the Fourth Prophecy also concerns the Emissary: that in only a very short time, he will face a great and fiery trial…

Yes, a very good episode, and would that there had been more of this standard, and this seriousness, before now. I wonder how long it swill be before we see the terms of that Fourth Prophecy: it sounds like it would make a glorious season-closer.