In the Hands of the Prophets (****½)
I love politics, it's my sport. To me, watching a man screw up an election by saying the word "envelope
" gives me the same feeling I imagine many people get when someone scores a winning point at some sort of ball-related game. Politics is about winning over hearts and minds by using words, being able to convince people that your point of view is the correct one. And that's what's at the core of this episode, strip away the conspiracy angle and it's about Sisko, Winn, and Bareil attempting to win over the Bajoran public to their point of view. Sisko is under the most pressure, he's an outsider attempting to preach tolerance to an alien race while struggling to maintain it in himself. Not to mention the fact that his job is on the line, as well as one of his central goals in life, to bring the Federation and the Bajorans together in a relationship of mutual respect and understanding. Winn's job is easier, all she really wants is power and she's willing to say and do anything to get it, which is why she's so effective at first. Bareil, too, wants power, but he's willing to stand up for his principles if he really needs to.
The episode works so well in part because it introduces characters and concepts that would go on to be important parts of the show, and they're dealing with an issue that truly applies to Bajor. In fact, I'm surprised something like this didn't come up sooner, but I suppose The Storyteller
and The Passenger
seemed more important at the time.
Winn is a great villain, and I couldn't help but think during her first meeting with Sisko about their last meeting together in the finale. Those two sure do go on quite a ride. This episode also brings back the Sisko as Emissary concept from the first episode that went MIA for the rest of the season. Once again, that's something that should have been addressed ages ago, but at least it's not been forgotten about altogether. This episode also does a good job of tying together the A and B plots in the end. Neela was the obvious suspect for the murder as she only showed up last week, but how that murder tied into the main plot was pretty well constructed.
I also liked that this episode didn't finish on a cliffhanger. Ever since BOBW
, TNG ended all its seasons with cliffhangers, and while I do enjoy them sometimes, their overuse made them tiresome. This was smarter, and it wraps up season 1 in a way that makes the whole feeling greater than the sum of its parts. When Kira tells Sisko that she no longer sees him or Starfleet as the enemy, it reminds you of the good episodes, which mostly focused on Kira's growth, and makes you forget about that time she danced along to Allameraine. And when you think back to this episode now, just think of how different the galaxy would have been had Winn succeeded. Without Bareil's help, the Circle would have taken control of Bajor and forced the Federation out, allowing the Cardassians to seize control of the wormhole. They would have been the ones that made first contact with the Dominion. That would not have gone well.