“In the Hands of the Prophets” is the twentieth and final episode of the first season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe and directed by David Livingston, the episode originally aired in broadcast syndication on 20 June 1993.
Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures on Deep Space Nine, a space station located near a stable wormhole between the Alpha and Gamma quadrants of the Milky Way Galaxy. In this episode, friction escalates when Bajoran cleric Vedek Winn (Louise Fletcher) arrives on the station and finds Keiko O’Brien (Rosalind Chao) teaching Bajoran children that their gods are wormhole aliens.
The story was originally proposed as a crossover episode with Star Trek: The Next Generation, but this idea was abandoned in favour of ending the season with the same religious theme initially raised in “Emissary“, the series premiere.
“In the Hands of the Prophets” first introduces the audience to Bajoran politics and religion and highlights what happens when the values and beliefs of one culture are imposed on another.
The episode features the first appearance of Louise Fletcher as Vedek Winn and Philip Anglim as Vedek Bareil. 8.8 million people viewed the episode on its first broadcast, the lowest of any first-run episode during season one. Critical reception to the episode was positive, with Fletcher and Avery Brooks receiving praise for their performances.
Chief Miles O’Brien (Colm Meaney) walks his wife Keiko (Rosalind Chao) along the promenade to the school where she teaches students on the station. They discuss Bajoran culture, a topic Miles learned about from Neela (Robin Christopher), his Bajoran assistant. At the school, Keiko teaches her class about the science of the Bajoran wormhole and the aliens that live inside it. This scientific view is different from the religious approach taken by the Bajorans, who believe the wormhole is the legendary Celestial Temple inhabited by their “Prophets”, whom they worship as gods. Her class is interrupted by one of Bajor’s spiritual leaders, Vedek Winn (Louise Fletcher). Winn questions why Keiko doesn’t teach Bajoran religion in her classroom. Afterwards, Keiko reports the incident to Commander Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks). When Sisko asks Winn about the dispute, she says there may be consequences if Keiko refuses to teach religion. Meanwhile, Miles discovers an important engineering tool is missing, but is distracted when he and Neela discover the remains of a Starfleet ensign.
Outside the school, Winn and a group of Bajorans protest Keiko’s teaching methods. Winn offers Keiko a solution – all she has to do is simply stop teaching about the wormhole. When Keiko refuses to accept Winn’s proposal, Winn leads the Bajoran parents to take their children out of school. Sisko visits Vedek Bareil (Philip Anglim) for advice on the problem. Bareil opposes Winn’s views but he cannot support Sisko as he is attempting to become the next Kai, the leader of the Bajoran religion. Sisko returns to DS9 and asks for help from Major Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor), but she also refuses to help. Meanwhile, Odo (René Auberjonois) and Doctor Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig) finish investigating the remains of the Starfleet ensign Miles and Neela found earlier. They discover that the ensign had been murdered by a phaser when he became aware of someone tampering with the Runabout security controls.
Later, an explosion occurs inside the empty school, destroying it. Sisko confronts Winn, blaming her actions for increasing the risk of violence on the station. Neela meets with Winn, revealing that the two had been working together. She informs Winn that her escape plan with the Runabout will no longer work. Winn tells Neela to continue with the plan, even if it means Neela must sacrifice herself. Bareil arrives at the station to help, and at the same time, Miles and Lt. Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) discover a hidden sub-program on the station’s computer created by Neela. The program controls a timed delay of forcefields running from the promenade to the Runabouts. They alert Sisko who is nearby, just as Bareil and Winn begin to address a crowd of Bajorans on the promenade. Sisko searches the crowd just in time to see Neela raising her phaser at Bareil. Sisko tackles Neela to the ground and saves Bareil’s life. Kira suggests that the assassination attempt was planned by Winn to secure her position as the new Kai, but Neela insists she was working alone. Kira later apologises to Sisko, and agrees with his earlier sentiment about Winn’s actions.
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Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): David Livingston.
- Writer(s): Robert Hewitt Wolfe.
- Release Date: 20 June 1993.
- Running Time: 45 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.