"The Reckoning" 
Season Six, Episode 21
Written by Bradley Thompson and David Weddle
Directed by Jesus Salvador Trevino
Music by Dennis McCarthy
Main Cast:
Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko
Rene Auberjonois as Odo
Michael Dorn as Lt Cmdr Worf
Terry Farrell as Lt Cmdr Jadzia Dax
Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
Colm Meaney as Chief Miles O'Brien
Armin Shimerman as Quark
Alexander Siddig as Dr Julian Bashir
Nana Visitor as Major Kira Nerys

Guest Stars:
Louise Fletcher as Kai Winn
James Greene as Koral 


Captain Sisko is called to Bajor, where excavations at the ruins of B'hala have unearthed an ancient stone tablet which appears to be addressed to the Emissary. Sisko takes the stone tablet back to DS9, where Dax tries to translate the inscriptions. Sisko has a vision from the Prophets and is told that he is to be part of "The Reckoning", a battle between the Prophets and their adversaries the Pagh Wraiths. Meanwhile, Dax has translated the inscriptions, which speak of the destruction of the "gateway to the Temple" -- Deep Space Nine.


Hmmm. I don't quite know where to start. There's some fascinating stuff here. One or two problems as well, but for the most part The Reckoning is a compelling, intriguing and long overdue return to Bajor and the issue of Sisko's role as Emissary. 

First of all, I can't believe there are some people who consider Bajoran-related stories boring! No, wait a sec, I can actually believe it only too well. That's why the large majority of television shows these days have about as much depth as a cereal bowl. When a series such as DS9 tries to dig deeper and explore important issues such as politics, religion and spirituality it gets chastised for being boring or too mystical. I am certainly aware that there are a certain number of fans that are uncomfortable with deeper issues and find space battles and technobabble more fulfiling. What I don't understand is why the writers seem to have caved in on this, limiting our Bajoran stories to one per year. Yeah, some people may not like them, but that's as much an indication of the audience than the quality of the stories. The Ferengi episodes are even less popular, but we still get sometimes three times as many of them than we do the far more important Bajor episodes! I don't get it. 

Nevertheless, whilst The Reckoning may not be one of the best Bajoran stories, it's still exceptionally compelling viewing. I love the rich, epic, mythic quality of the whole thing. With ancient prophecies left right and centre, "judgement day" arriving for Bajor and some tough choices for Sisko, this is really interesting stuff. Perhaps the most interesting element is the continuation of Sisko's arc as the Emissary. 

Over the past few years, Sisko's role as Emissary has become one of the best-developed, most compelling aspects of the series. It's been fascinating watching Sisko gradually come to terms with his role in Bajoran society, and eventually embracing it. I've had a sneaky suspicion for a while now that as DS9 heads toward its home run, the connection with Sisko and the Prophets and Bajor is going to become a key element. I've never been more convinced of that. Never before have we seen Sisko as immersed in his role as Emissary -- never has his faith been stronger. He was even willing to sacrifice Jake's life to serve the Prophets. He now believes that the Prophets have some kind of "plan" for Bajor. This is endlessly fascinating. There will undoubtedly come the day when Sisko must choose between being a Starfleet Captain and Emissary to the Prophets. Right now he's leaning heavily toward the latter. I really look forward to seeing what's going to happen down the road. 

Another wonderful component of The Reckoning was best highlighted by the Odo/Kira scenes. I wasn't happy with the first scene between the new couple, which took place after the meeting - it was overplayed, cloying and it jarred. But the subsequent exploration of Kira's spiritual beliefs and Odo's reaction to it was sophisticated, subtle and very effective. I particularly liked Kira's "I don't know how people get through the day without [faith]". I've often wondered the same; I have a firm belief in God and practise various forms of Buddhism. I understand what Kira means; it seems to me that life must be tough for those who don't believe in anything outwith our understanding. I often wonder what it must be like to think there is no life after death; no purpose to our lives beyond the mundane. Odo's response is about the only reasonable one you could expect; "we manage." I liked how they both respected each others beliefs, and when it came to crunch time, Odo had enough respect for Kira's faith to stand up for it. I was initially a little wary of the Odo and Kira pairing in His Way (primarily because to get there both of them were somewhat out-of-character), but if the writers keep it as mature and sophisticated this, it could yet become one of Trek's most effective relationships. We're off to a good start, anyway. 

Is it just me or does this episode feel a lot like the fifth season's Rapture? That's no bad thing considering Rapture was probably the best episode of last season. As well as Dennis McCarthy's score (which sounds very similar to the score he did for Rapture), the episode builds up to a dramatic conclusion with numerous little character vignettes. We have the Odo/Kira stuff, the return of Kai Winn, more Starfleet vs. Bajor conflict for Sisko, and some nice insight on Jake and Ben's relationship. But like Rapture it is the involvement of the entire cast that I particularly liked. For the most part this season, the writers have isolated one or two characters and built a story around them. There's nothing wrong with that at all, but it's very often the case that the rest of the cast only make very brief, token appearances. There's been precious few episodes of late that involved the whole ensemble. Therefore it's particularly nice to see everyone involved in one episode; the charactes work together well and it's great to see how everyone reacts differently to the unfolding events. As in Rapture and Children of Time, the different reactions and beliefs of the characters makes for good drama. And The Reckoning utilises this to very good effect -- it's an excellent ensemble piece. 

The character interaction is enjoyable and the dialogue suitably spicy. I must say that Dax absolutely stole the episode! From her reaction to having the difficult task of translating the tablet to her playful ribbing of Sisko when he smashes it ("I get those urges all the time...of course I never act on them!") to that little kiss she gives Sisko after he leaves the room, she was an absolute scream! No one does good-natured sarcasm as well as Terry Farrell does and I'm really gonna miss her when she goes (I know, I know -- it's the two-hundredth time I've said that! But I will!). It's nice to finally see some reaction from Jake to the whole Emissary business, and it's no wonder he's a little uncomfortable with it all. Any scene between the two Sisko men is automatically guaranteed to be an effective one -- I've said it before and I'll say it again, Avery Brooks and Cirroc Lofton have such great chemistry that you really believe you're watching a father and son. 

Still on the subject of characterisation, we also saw the return of Kai Winn. It's about time, too! Louise Fletcher is a marvellous actress and she's simply splendid as the Kai we love to hate (keep an eye out for the final look she gives Kira in the last scene!). But as nice as it is to see good ol' Winn, I'm not that happy with her portrayal here. Last season she embarked on an interesting new path after she finally accepted Sisko as Emissary and in her last appearance, In the Cards, even begged him for his advice regarding the Dominion. I liked the interesting new twist the character took, but here she seems to have reverted back to square one. She's portrayed as far too petty and selfish, which seems less like character development than character regression. I can't say I'm happy with this, but I guess it's hard to go wrong with Louise Fletcher. It's interesting the supposition that she's jealous of Sisko and the scene where she gets down on her knees and begs the Prophet to no avail is actually very poignant. Despite the iffy characterisation of Winn here, I hope it isn't too long before we see her again. 

As for the actual heart of the episode, the Reckoning; interesting concept, kind of parallels the biblical "judgement day" type concept. Sometimes life does seem like a battle of good and evil (though, of course, we don't see folk about town possessed by God and Satan duking it out! I'm speaking more figuratively). The episode builds up beautifully to the battle and there's really a feeling of chaos; of all hell about to break loose. The shots of the station evacuating cutting to Bajorans praying on the Promenade for the Prophets really created a kind of Armageddon-ish tone (no, I'm not talking about the film - I'm trying very hard to forget the film!). That's captured wonderfully, and the battle was nicely executed, if a little unimaginative. Why do the Pagh Wraiths now make your eyes and voice change when they possess your body? They didn't do that for Keiko O'Brien when she was possessed in The Assignment (though I suppose that might have made people a bit suspicious! :-)). What makes the battle really interesting, though, is Sisko's reaction. He's got an inordinate amount of faith in the Prophets -- even willing to sacrifice the station and his own son for them. When he later realises what he's done and fails to find rationalisation for it, his reaction is quite wrenching. It would have been even more interesting if Jake hadn't understood and found it difficult to forgive his Dad. 

I'm not too sure about the actual resolution, though. It's a bit of a cop-out, kind of freeze-framing the battle before it ends. I still don't understand why Winn did what she did -- for all she knew it could have angered the Prophets; conditions on Bajor might have worsened tenfold. But thankfully it can't really be called a "reset button" ending, as we will undoubtedly see follow-up (starting with Tears of the Prophets) and the consequences of these events. I'll be very interested to see what happens. 

On the whole, then -- very compelling stuff. Only two minor problems -- the inconsistent characterisation of Winn and the abrupt save-it-for-later ending -- tarnish an otherwise excellent episode. 

Rating: 8.5

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