"Tears of the Prophets" 
Season Six, Episode 26
Written by Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler
Directed by Allan Kroeker
Music by Jay Chattaway
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:
Andrew J. Robinson as Garak
Jeffrey Combs as Weyoun
Marc Alaimo as Gul Dukat
David Birney as Letant
J.G. Hertzler as General Martok
Aron Eisenberg as Nog
Casey Biggs as Damar
Barry Jenner as Admiral Ross
James Darren as Vic Fontaine
Michelle Horn as Saghi
Bob Kirsh as Glinn 


Starfleet decides to take the offensive against the Dominion and Sisko is chosen to plan the invasion of Cardassia. But he receives a vision from the Prophets on the eve of battle, warning him that he must not leave Bajor. Ignoring their warning, he leads the assault against Cardassia, leaving Dax on charge of the station. But Dax finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time with tragic results...


Whew! You'd be hard pressed to find an episode of Trek that had more going on than Tears of the Prophets; they packed just about everything they possibly could into the space of forty-five minutes. We've got the Federation invasion of Cardassia, a baby on the cards for Dax and Worf, a whole host of character vignettes, Vic sings a song, Sisko must finally choose between being the Emissary and a Starfleet captain and take the rap, Dukat returns hell-bent of revenge, there's a devastating development in the Prophet/Pagh Wraith "Reckoning", not to mention the fallout from all this...oh, and let's not forget, my favourite character is killed!! It's taken me a little while to digest all this! :-) There's often a feeling that these different elements have been rather clumsily thrown together in a mish-mash, but it's a pivotal episode and, at a crunch, it gets us where we were going. If only the writers hadn't made that fatal mistake... 

One of the advantages of being behind the latest DS9 is that I've had about nine months to prepare myself for Jadzia's demise. I totally understand Terry Farrell's reasons for leaving, but I'm really gonna miss her! Despite the fact the writers abandoned her character, she brought that extra something to the show and it's not going to be the same without it. Still, I'd had time to come to terms with it (not that I take TV shows too seriously or anything! :-)) and  all I was hoping was that they'd given her the send-off she deserved. But, as you might guess, I was sorely disappointed with the way that The Powers That Be handled Jadzia's death. Part of me feels she deserved a more heroic death but I remind myself that as much as I love these characters, they aren't real. But Miss Farrell is real and I feel she deserved more. Was it too much to ask for a decent send-off? Come on, something must have gone seriously amiss somewhere -- this was even lamer than Kirk's death in Generations! 

I was pretty peeved that Dax barely made a couple of appearances before her ill-fated trip to the Bajoran shrine -- which, let's face it, was a rather contrived means of bringing her face-to-face with Dukat in the first place. The actual scene itself was strikingly well-done and possibly among the most shocking, eye-popping sequences I've ever seen on Trek. It's a case of calm before the storm; one moment Dax is quietly thanking the Prophets for her baby, the next moment a gust of air blows out the candles, Dax turns to be confronted by Dukat who has beamed in out of nowhere. Before she has a chance to do anything, the Pagh Wraith-possessed Dukat scoops her off the ground with a wave of his hand and electrocutes her in a cloud of sizzling fire. By this point I'm hiding behind a cushion as Jadzia falls to the ground, Dukat steps over to her and unleashes the Wraith onto the Prophets' Orb which fizzles out into darkness...at the same time the wormhole violently explodes...and aboard the Defiant, Sisko collapses as he hears the Prophets scream out to him. As Kira takes command of the ship we cut back to DS9 where Dukat, now free of the Wraith looks down at the the unconscious Jadzia and says "I know this is small comfort, but I never intended you any harm..." ironically with about as much sincerity as we've ever heard from his lips. As he beams out we close in on the dying Jadzia. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more shocking sequence than this, and thanks to the strong helmsmanship of Allan Kroeker, the performances of Terry Farrell and Marc Alaimo and even the effects and music composition it is very well executed and haunting to say the least. 

Sadly things fall apart after this; despite Farrell's painfully convincing performance her "deathbed scene" was far too rushed and I for one was annoyed that they didn't let Jadzia and Sisko say farewell (their relationship has been a highlight of the series long before Worf poked his crinkly head aboard). Jadzia has been an integral part of the team since day one and we needed to see her friends react to her death. We needed time for it to sink in -- why the hell didn't we get to see her funeral?! And I'm not gonna accept "because we saw Lisa Cusack's funeral in the previous episode" 'cos that is just getting priorities ever so slightly muddled. We needed time for her death to sink in and whilst the scene where Sisko stands over her coffin was beautifully performed by Avery Brooks, the speech is quickly turned around the highlight Sisko's own problems. And whilst that was a vital component of the story it was premature. It felt like we were being shown the consequences before we'd even had time to accept the fact that Jadzia is gone. 

The rest of the episode is a jumble of just about everything under the sun, including as I noted above, a number of character vignettes which seem to compete with each other in the pointlessness stakes. We have a mercifully brief look at Odo and Kira's first argument, which seems only to have been included for the sake of it. It wouldn't have been as bad if we hadn't already had an Odo/Kira-related sub-plot in the previous episode, but I could really have done without this regardless of whether there were two scenes or ten. Then there's Dax and Worf's decision to have a baby which at least was nicely foreshadowed by Time's Orphan a couple of episodes back. I don't have any real problem with this -- it seems only natural to have a married couple deciding to have a baby -- but why couldn't they have done this a while back? It seems rather cheap doing this when we all know what's going to happen to Dax before the episode closes. 

One thing I did have a problem with was the reaction on the part of Bashir and Quark. I don't much care for the way their crush on Jadzia, which seemed to have been laid to rest back in the second season, has been recently been resurrected. I guess it's kind of understandable, she is a total babe after all, but their jealousy seemed childish and out-of-place, particularly on Bashir's part. The past few seasons his relationship with Dax has grown to become a strong mutual friendship and having him slip back into lovesick puppy mode seems uncomfortably out-of-character. Quark I find hard to take seriously right now (as you might guess after Profit and Lace) but if Bashir's feelings were meant to be taken seriously we ought to have seen some reaction on his part when Worf and Dax first started courting or when they got married. As a former Jadzia/Julian fan who gave up all hope of seeing them together a year or so ago, this somehwo feels like adding salt to an old wound. I've also a sneaky suspicion that this whole sub-story was merely an excuse to drag back James Darren for a return appearance as Vic Fontaine. Whilst I loved him in His Way, I suspect he'll outstay his welcome pretty quickly if the writers keep forcing him into stories like this. As it stands, I feel that all these character pieces were a waste of precious time and space. Dax only had a couple of very brief appearances before she made her fateful trip to the shrine. I'd much rather have seen more of her in action one last time than Quark and Bashir moping in a holosuite like silly schoolkids or Odo and Kira's pointless bickering. 

Aside from those niggles, the core of the story is actually quite strong. It's nice to finally see some development in the war, particularly as Starfleet actually shows finally some backbone for once! The briefing scenes were a delight courtesy of the Martok/Romulan bickering ("Klingons can be quite entertaining, can't they?" sneers the Romulan senator. "Every Romulan zoo should have a pair!"). Where has Martok been all season, anyway? He's easily the show's most engaging Klingon character and JG Hertlzer always does a splendid job -- in fact, it would be nice if we saw more of Martok next season and less of Worf! The invasion itself wasn't particularly well-dramatised, lacking the tension it needed and feeling a bit too easy -- besides, anyone with foreknowledge of the show will be more interested in what's going to happen with Dax on the station. Still, the special effects were gorgeous! Occassionally shots were a bit too "busy" to be able to easily follow but generally they were pretty spectacular -- far more impressive than those in Insurrection, which is ironic considering Tears of the Prophets was most likely on a fraction of the budget. 

One of the more interesting aspects of Tears was the continuation of the Reckoning, the battle waged between the Prophets and the Pagh Wraiths; God versus God. Dukat makes a return, certain that he can use the Pagh Wraiths to destroy the Prophets, having finally realised that he's wasted years fighting the Bajorans when it's their Gods they should have been fighting. Well, it's about time someone's started taking the Prophets seriously! After all, it was the Prophets that thwarted the Dominion fleet and saved the day in Sacrifice of Angels (Starfleet in particular owes them credit). The actual execution of this storyline was a little shaky in places, particularly the need to give Dukat glowing red eyes and a synthesized voice when he's possessed (sometime that was admittedly started back in The Reckoning). Why was I reminded of the villain in The Mask? There's also the question of what the Pagh Wraith was doing in a statue -- how did an all-powerful being become stuck inside an old Bajoran artefact? It would have made more sense if Dukat's chant had been used to invoke the Wraith. It's never explained why the Pagh Wraiths need to possess a corporeal body in order to attack the Prophets -- and while we're nit picking why did Dukat travel all the way to DS9 to use that particular orb? Surely the Cardassians still have one or two of the orbs themselves? I find it hard to believe they've returned all the orbs to Bajor. Logistical questions aside, this marked an interesting turn-of-events with regards to the Prophets and I'm very interested to see how things will play out next season. 

Speaking of Dukat, his role in this episode comes across as more of a plot element than anything else, but it seems evident that the writers are intent on dragging the character, kicking and screaming, into a strange new direction. I can't say I'm happy with what I've seen thus far -- a "state of total clarity" is all very well, but there's nothing quite like it to strip away the depth, ambiguity and appeal of a once multi-faceted character. Sadly "new Dukat" is a tad cartoonish for me -- he declares with a snarl that his primary motive now is to "destroy Captain Benjamin Sisko once and for all!" But while the writers do strange things as they dismantle the character of Dukat, Weyoun looks set to inherent the title of "DS9's best villain". Here he nabs most of the best lines and as usual Jeffrey Combs is absolutely superb in the role, imbuing the role with subtle depth and remaining an absolute joy to watch. 

Easily the most effective element at play here is the advancement of Sisko's "Emissary arc" which remains one of the most interesting, best-developed components of the series. At it's core Tears of the Prophets is Sisko's story and it works best on that level. He is finally forced to choose between being a Starfleet officer and the Emissary to the Prophets -- and perhaps against his better judgement he chooses Starfleet. Some might say that he was an fool to ignore the Prophet's warning, but I can understand that he has devoted his life to Starfleet and has based his life upon their ideologies. On the other hand his role as Emissary was imposed upon him and although he's embraced it to an extent, he still has little clue what it's all about -- so he chose the option he felt safest and most secure with. Who can blame him for that? He made a mistake as we all do, and he has to take the wrap. 

Often the Trek characters are portrayed as flawless heroes who never fail to pull through, but DS9 is much more realistic in that respect in that here we have a very human character who makes a very human mistake and must face the consequences. I don't know about you, but I find that a whole lot more interesting! Of course it's something of a double whammy because not only must Sisko deal with the loss of the Prophets and what that may mean for Bajor but Sisko also sees himself responsible for the death of Jadzia, his closest friend. "I've failed as the Emissary and for the first time in my life I've failed as a Starfleet officer," he says at one point. He feels the need to get away from it all to try and clear his head and figure out how he can fulfil his promise to Jadzia and "make things right again". The episode closes as Sisko returns to Earth, a broken man, and he sits outside his father's restaurant scrubbing clams. Most interestingly the music that plays in the background is very reminiscent of Dennis McCarthy's score for Far Beyond the Stars. And then it dawned on me. 

The story of Benny Russell was as much a prophecy as anything. There were a number of parallels between Benny and Sisko's lives; primarily that they both had a tremendous fight on their hands. Benny fought the racial oppression of the era while Sisko waged war against the Dominion -- and in Waltz it was implied that there was an element of racism at the core of the war, certainly as far as Dukat was concerned. Think about it, Benny loses one of his friends (Jimmy, Cirroc Lofton's character) to his enemies (that were in the persona of Dukat and Weyoun no less) and now Sisko has lost an equally dear friend, Jadzia, to his enemy. Just as Benny suffered his breakdown as he was defeated by the evils he strove to overcome, Sisko has been defeated by his enemies and coupled with his loss of self-respect from the events of In the Pale Moonlight he is a broken, defeated man who's witnessed his life shatter before his very eyes and doesn't know how to deal with it. I'm pretty certain that this has all been planned out in advance and that the events of Far Beyond the Stars were intended to foreshadow this. (Incidentally: Having read a recent interview with Cirroc Lofton I also believe that originally Jake was to have been killed in this episode, leading to Sisko's collapse. Obviously when the writers learned that Terry Farrell was leaving they decided to let the axe drop on Jadzia instead. Could be wrong, but it certainly fits…) 

I like this a lot -- this season it's become clear that the writers really seem to know what they're doing with regards to the direction the series and characters are heading and nowhere has this been more noticeable than the character of Ben Sisko. It's been a delight to watch the character grow and indeed the three best episodes of the season have all centred on him. That the events that occur here have, in essence, been cleverly prophecised in an earlier episode emphasises that at its best, DS9 is one of the deepest, most sophisticated shows on the box. I sincerely hope the creative staff can keep up this momentum and use it to construct a suitably satisfying end to the series. 

To summarise; Tears of the Prophets is one of the most ambitious episodes of DS9 yet. I'm not convinced it lived up to that ambition -- that the death of Jadzia, the first main character ever to leave the show, was blatantly rushed was unforgivable given the time wasted on inconsequential filler which served no purpose other than taking up precious time and space. The characterisation of Dukat was iffy and the details surrounding the Pagh Wraith plot were a little questionable in terms of logic. But if a little more attention had been paid to structuring the story we would better have been better able to appreciate that "Tears" is at core a multi-layered, thoroughly compelling episode that sees DS9's continuing narrative take a large step forward. As the sixth season draws to a close, DS9 has entered very dark, bleak times indeed -- the Prophets are gone, leaving Bajor in turmoil as the Bajorans face up to the loss of their Gods...Jadzia, a vital and much-loved component of the DS9 crew, is gone forever...Sisko has departed, blinded by his grief, guilt and sense of failure. Things can only get better, and I'll be along to see that they do! 

Rating: 7

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