(written from a Production point of view)
An ancient Bajoran prophecy of doom complicates the first joint Bajoran, Cardassian and Federation science mission: an attempt to establish a permanent communications link through the wormhole.
- "Station log, stardate 48543.2. A team of Cardassian scientists is coming to the station to assist us in deploying a subspace relay in the Gamma Quadrant. If successful, it will allow communication through the wormhole for the first time."
Constable Odo, followed closely by Commander Sisko, enters one of the station's many living quarters. He explains that he has assigned the senior Cardassian scientist, Ulani Belor, to these quarters with her colleague, Gilora Rejal, being accommodated in the adjacent room. Sisko immediately notices the unusual warmth in the room, believing Odo has adjusted the environmental controls to suit the scientist's needs and he is right. Odo further explains that he has also had Chief O'Brien reprogram the replicators to produce Cardassian food and has assigned two deputies to watch them carefully during their trip, though the commander tells him to keep his distance; he wants the scientists to feel like guests, not prisoners. Odo, in typical fashion, replies with the caution of a security officer. As he explains, there are still some elements opposed to the recent Bajoran-Cardassian Treaty on both sides and so they have to be prepared for trouble. Though Sisko agrees with the statement, he also wants the Bajorans to get used to seeing Cardassians "walking down the Promenade, buying from their shops, eating from their restaurants. Getting to know them as something other than brutal overseers."
Just then, they are interrupted by Lieutenant Dax, who reports she has just received the scientist's designs on the proposed transceiver for the communications relay, but she isn't entirely convinced it is going to work. Sisko assures her the Cardassians are certainly confident of success, to which she smiles and expresses her hopes it will be too. Before the three of them can discuss it further, Quark enters with two bottles of kanar and expresses an interest in which of the scientists will be staying there; Gilora or Ulani. Odo seems surprised that Quark is aware of their names, particularly since he only found out an hour ago. "Odo, please…", Quark smiles. Managing to evade the question, he reveals he has brought a bottle of kanar for each of them with a "personal invitation" to Quark's. Dax also seems surprised, but for a different reason. She asks the Ferengi where he has managed to obtain real kanar, to which he explains he has had three cases of it sitting in his storeroom since the Occupation and there hasn't been much call for it the past few years. But that's about to change, he says, as there are sure to be more Cardassians visiting the station as a result of the new peace treaty. Dax smiles, quoting what she believes is the thirty-fourth Rule of Acquisition; "Peace is good for business", however Quark soon corrects her – the thirty-fourth is "War is good for business", but he can see how she might have got them confused.
Back to the topic at hand, Quark believes it won't be long before there's a permanent Cardassian presence on the station. "Scientists, diplomats… spies…", all of whom would be welcome at Quark's. In fact, he says he may even rent the shop next to his bar and open up some Cardassian gaming concessions. Sensing trouble, Odo quickly reminds him there will be no live Vole fights on the Promenade, and Sisko backs him up.
Content to make some sacrifices, Quark goes on to envision his new enterprise where his bar is known for having the best Cardassian food and drink in the sector though this is sadly interrupted by Dax, who informs him his kanar has gone bad. Odo instructs Quark to leave, half-seriously saying he may well have to arrest him for attempting to poison their guests. Quark makes a hasty departure, taking along the kanar.
A little while later, Sisko is in his office working on a PADD when Major Kira notifies him a Vedek Yarka has arrived and requests to meet with him urgently. Sisko nods to Kira, who gestures to Yarka standing outside. The Vedek rushes in with some urgency and reveals he has an important warning from the Prophets; if he allows the Cardassians on the station, he will bring destruction upon them all.
Vedek Yarka explains that it has all been foretold in Trakor's Third Prophecy;
- "When the river wakes, stirred once more to Janir's side, three vipers will return to their nest in the sky."
The river has awakened, he says to Sisko. As Kira reveals, he is referring to the Qui'al Dam which has just been put back into operation to divert water to the city, and the Cardassian scientists – the three vipers – are now on their way to the station, their nest in the sky. The Commander seems skeptical of the whole thing but nevertheless asks how their arrival will bring destruction on them all. Yarka continues to recite the prophecy;
- "When the vipers try to peer through the temple gates, a sword of stars will appear in the heavens. The temple will burn, and its gates shall be cast open."
He compares the scientist's attempts at communication through the wormhole – the Celestial Temple – as the vipers trying to peer through the temple gates. If they do, he says, the wormhole will be destroyed. Kira points out to him that only two scientists will be arriving on the station, not three, and asks if it is possible whether there could be more mistakes in his interpretation. But Yarka is adamant; "There will be three vipers, you will see", he asserts, but Sisko still isn't convinced. He illustrates the benefits of the communication relay for Bajor, how they will be able to communicate with ships on the other side of the wormhole and facilitate exploration, how they can monitor the Dominion in case of attack, but the Vedek dismisses the benefits as irrelevant, sure that they are on the verge of a great disaster. Sisko asks him if the Vedek Assembly is aware of the prophecy. Yarka says both the Assembly and Kai Winn know of it but choose to ignore the signs. The Commander reiterates his stance; in common with the Bajoran government, he has no intention of calling off the project. Yarka expresses his dismay at the decision but informs Sisko he and his followers will remain on the station, praying he changes his mind. As the Vedek leaves, Sisko instructs Kira to have Odo find out everything he can on him and his followers. He doesn't want them causing any trouble while the Cardassians are on the station.
In the airlock, the large circular doors are wheeled back to reveal the two Cardassian women. Sisko welcomes them both to Deep Space 9 on behalf of the Federation and Starfleet Command, while Kira stands in silence. After a brief introduction, she too welcomes them on behalf of the Bajoran Provisional Government, hoping this project will mark a new era of peace between Bajor and Cardassia though she is clearly uncomfortable with the situation. With the formalities out of the way, Sisko asks them how their trip was. Ulani, seemingly more relaxed, jokes it was very exhausting though preparing for the trip was equally as tiring. She explains how guls she has never even heard of before have contacted her about the mission, reminding her of the importance, to which Sisko relates, commenting on three calls he has received from Starfleet Command just that morning. In a more serious tone, Ulani expresses her gratitude to Kira for allowing them to conduct their work on the station, much to Kira's surprise. "I'll work with anyone who's interested in peace", she replies.
After resting in their quarters, the scientists meet up with Sisko, Kira, O'Brien, and Dax for a briefing in the wardroom. On the wall, there is a diagram of the wormhole with Deep Space 9 at one end and the communication relay at the other. Sisko explains the plan is to place the relay two kilometers away from the far side of the wormhole, while Gilora begins to describe the transceiver they will be installing. Part way through, she stops herself, realizing she called the station by its old Cardassian name, Terok Nor. After quickly correcting herself, Dax asks Ulani what sort of carrier wave they will using to counter the interference inside the wormhole. She responds with a trial and error approach to testing several different soliton pulses, certain one will prove successful. O'Brien recognizes the plan as one they attempted a year ago without much success, though Gilora, confident in her ability, believes the problem was in the phase variance of the transceiver coils. Defending his skills as an engineer, the chief says the variance was less than point zero one percent but yet again, Gilora argues, saying it was too high and their new design has less than half that variance. The chief isn't convinced and wants to go over the plans himself. Ulani then interrupts, realizing an argument is developing. She reminds Sisko that a few adjustments will need to be made to the station's signaling array so that it can accommodate the transmissions, who assures her Chief O'Brien's people can handle it while they take the USS Defiant to the Gamma Quadrant and deploy the relay. With that, the meeting concludes and Gilora and Ulani head back to their quarters. Turning to Kira, Sisko jokes, "Now those are about the two friendliest vipers I've ever met" which elicits a few strange looks from Dax and O'Brien. Sisko tells them he will explain himself later.
Just when it seems like everything is in order, Ulani returns to the wardroom and informs Sisko that another of their colleagues, Dejar, will be arriving later in the day. Sisko politely says that quarters will be arranged by the time she arrives. Ulani thanks him and heads out, leaving Sisko to brief his senior staff on another issue. However, just as the commander takes his seat, he pauses, noticing an expressionless Kira staring at the bulkhead. He asks her what is wrong. "There are going to be three of them…" she quietly replies, "Three vipers… just like in the prophecy…"
In the security office, Odo reveals that Vedek Yarka is no longer a Vedek at all; he was stripped of his title just two months ago because he didn't adhere to Bajoran beliefs, at least that is the official reason. Odo happens to know from his sources that Yarka led a series of protests against the Vedek Assembly when they endorsed the peace treaty with Cardassia. Sisko theorizes that Yarka is using the prophecy as a way to scuttle the treaty. Odo agrees, saying it is also coloring his view of it as well just like Sisko's agenda colors the way he sees it. The Commander defends himself, saying he wants the project to go ahead in the interests of peace and if he thought for a moment that the wormhole was in danger, he would put a stop to it. But that isn't what Odo is referring to. He has observed how Sisko prefers to distance himself from the title of "Emissary", that he has never been comfortable with it. Sisko sighs in agreement, "I can't deny that", he says before realizing Odo may be hinting at something more. He asks him if he thinks he is dismissing the prophecy too easily because he doesn't want to be the Emissary. Odo says he isn't suggesting anything. It has simply been his understanding that all humanoids have an agenda of some sort, an agenda that can influence their decisions without them knowing it.
Meanwhile, Kira and Doctor Bashir are taking a walk down the Promenade, discussing how Morn was taken ill by a bad glass of Quark's kanar. Kira quips he should get a refund, though, as Bashir explains, the odd thing is it was on the house. Half-way down the Promenade, they are interrupted by Yarka. After Bashir excuses himself, Yarka implores Kira to talk to Sisko about the prophecy and convince him not to go ahead with the project but Kira denies him, explaining that he is her superior officer and she must deal with him on that basis first, thereby keeping her work and beliefs separate. But Yarka continues to insist she not turn her back on her faith and present his case to Sisko. "Without your faith, Nerys", he says, "…what do you have left?"
In Quark's, Dax is discussing Cardassian poetry with Ulani and Gilora, while a bored O'Brien looks on. She reveals that one of her previous hosts, Tobin, actually got to meet Iloja of Prim during his exile on Vulcan, much to the scientists disbelief. At that moment, Quark arrives and presents their colleague, Dejar. After the necessary introductions, Ulani expresses her surprise at her early arrival. Dejar explains that she was able to arrange special transportation. There is an uncomfortable aura between the two which Dax and O'Brien seem to pick up on. Quark certainly does as he attempts to alleviate it by presenting some traditional Cardassian food; Tojal in yamok sauce and Regova eggs. Though Dejar seems to enjoy it, Gilora and Ulani admit they don't really care for Cardassian cuisine, to everyone's amusement, that is everyone but Dejar.
Later, in Ops, O'Brien is assisting Gilora with the work needed to interface the transceiver with the station. As she pulls away one of the panels in the engineering pit, Gilora gasps in amazement at the sight of the modified conduits. O'Brien explains he had to make some modifications in order to meet Starfleet codes and regulations which require a secondary backup system. Gilora points out that the chances of both the primary system and its backup failing at the same time are extremely unlikely and although O'Brien agrees, he says he wouldn't like to be caught without a secondary backup in a crunch. She reluctantly decides to find another way to go about the modifications and begins making some calculations on her PADD. When O'Brien tries to provide some assistance, she shuts him out, requiring some time to think. "Fine", an annoyed O'Brien says, sitting himself quietly down on one of the consoles. Unaware of her obvious abruptness, she then asks him to get her a cup of red leaf tea. "Why not?!" O'Brien sarcastically responds, climbing out of the pit.
On the Defiant, Kira reports the communication relay has been loaded into the cargo bay and the Chief should be ready in four hours. Sisko acknowledges the information and instructs Dax to set a course for the wormhole. In the Gamma Quadrant, Dax runs a complete scan of nearby space, checking for any Dominion presence. The scan initially turns up negative but just as Sisko gives the order to deploy the relay, sensors detect a rogue comet just inside detection range. Dax reports that it contains an abnormal amount of silithium giving it an unusually bright tail. As Kira observes the comet on the viewscreen, she remembers four words from the prophecy, "The sword of stars."
Ulani says Kira's choice of words is a very colorful way to describe a comet. She replies by saying it's simply a figure of speech. Ulina turns her attention back to her work, noting the comet will pass close to the wormhole but shouldn't interfere with their plans. Sisko orders Dax to begin a final systems check on the relay station, to deploy it within the hour, before summoning the Major to another room for a more private conversation.
They arrive in one of the crew cabins where the Commander instructs her to keep the prophecy to herself, especially while on the bridge of the Defiant; he doesn't want the Cardassians finding out about it. Kira agrees. Sitting himself down on one of the bunks, Sisko sighs, correctly ascertaining that she believes the prophecy is coming true. Kira tells him that he has a decision to make here and now, confessing she has always believed him to be the Emissary of the Prophets. "It's hard to work for someone who's a religious icon", she smiles. But Sisko doesn't share her convictions and reminds her that he considers himself a Starfleet officer, not an Emissary, and if he is to call off this mission, it would have to be a solid reason, a Starfleet reason. Kira proposes that the Prophets – or wormhole aliens – passed their knowledge of the future onto Trakor who then wrote it down in the form of his prophecy, and now, three thousand years later, they are seeing those events unfold. "To me", she argues, "that reason sounds concrete, solid, I'd even call it Starfleet." Just then, Dax interrupts over the comm, advising they are ready to deploy the relay. Kira looks at him with hope in her eyes, hope that he will change his mind and stop the project. But where she sees a prophecy, Sisko sees a comet. "I'm on my way", he responds.
Back on the station, Gilora is working on an ODN relay while O'Brien stands watching in the background. She complains of all the modifications and replacements he has made which makes her job even more difficult. O'Brien tries to convince her that if she would explain to him what she intends to do, he could help. She responds by admitting it is because he is a man that she is so reluctant to accept his help. "Men just don't seem to have a head for this sort of thing", she says. The chief is persistent, telling her that nobody knows the systems better than him… including her and she would be wise to accept his help. Gilora concedes, handing him the laser torch she was using.
On the other side of the wormhole, the relay is in position alongside the Defiant. Dax reports she is ready to initiate the relay's transmission array. Dejar reports the test signal from the relay is coming through clearly while Ulani instructs Dax to initiate a carrier wave in the Delta band frequency. She explains that if the station receives it, they will send an acknowledging signal on the same frequency. Sisko smiles in anticipation, while Kira remains noticeably concerned. After a few seconds of silence, it becomes apparent that the transmission was unsuccessful. Pressing a few buttons on her PADD, Ulani then instructs Dax to initiate the signal along the theta band frequency. Almost immediately, it becomes clear that something is wrong. The wormhole springs open, emitting a massive neutrino surge, rocking the Defiant back and forth, just as Kira reports the its gravity well has increased by a factor of three. Sisko quickly orders Dax to terminate the carrier wave, closing the wormhole. Sisko seeks an explanation but nobody can provide one – the signal should not have affected the wormhole at all. Before anyone can theorize what happened, Dax announces the comet has been pulled off course and it's heading straight for the wormhole. If it enters, the silithium will cause a cascade reaction, collapsing the wormhole permanently.
- "Commander's log, supplemental. With less than five hours before the comet reaches the wormhole, I've brought the Defiant back to the station and convened a meeting of the entire science team."
Everyone is assembled in the wardroom where Dax explains the carrier wave they transmitted created a subspace inversion in the wormhole, which caused the gravity well to form. Ulani reveals the possibility of a subspace inversion was present in one of their simulations but it only presented less than a two percent risk so they chose to leave it out of the information they sent. Sisko tells them they prefer to examine all possibilities before conducting field tests, to which she agrees, however, the Cardassian Science Ministry falls under the purview of the military and they are always instructed not to make a project look unnecessarily dangerous. The Commander advises them all to keep that in mind when they resume work on the relay. Dejar, who has been quiet up until now, declares a new team will most likely be assembled prior to another attempt. Turning their attention to the comet, Dax explains that a tractor beam would most likely cause it to fragment into more pieces, creating a bigger mess. Gilora comments the same thing would happen if they tried to destroy it with a phaser beam though O'Brien's not so sure. He thinks that he can modify the Defiant's phaser array to be wide enough to encompass the entire comet. Sisko directs him to start right away and concludes their meeting.
On the Defiant, O'Brien, and Gilora are working away in one of the jefferies tubes. The chief explains what he is attempting to do but it seems Gilora is far more interested in O'Brien himself than the work. As he reaches into an emitter coupling, she grabs his hand and holds it up to hers. "You have very steady hands", she says. A confused O'Brien doesn't quite know what to make of it, simply replying, "Well, they get the job done," before removing his hand from hers. Attempting to get back to his work, O'Brien leans inside the emitter and continues his adjustments, before she suddenly surprises him yet again. "I am quite fertile…", she says, prompting O'Brien to bang his head on the paneling in shock. "I could provide you with many healthy children, if that's your concern, but frankly I think you're getting a little ahead of yourself." O'Brien is astonished by what she is saying, and says that he already has a child and a wife. It seems that she mistook his irritability for a desire to pursue a physical relationship. The chief suddenly understands and says that he is not remotely interested in her. Just as the words escape his mouth, he realizes he has said the wrong thing and tries to soften the blow, but Gilora understands what his feelings are towards her and, turning around, crawls back out of the Jefferies tube, leaving him to finish the adjustments on his own.
Dax arrives in Sisko's office, reporting that O'Brien says the phasers will be ready in half an hour. Sisko acknowledges her but seems to be more interested in what's on his computer display. He states that he has been looking through the Bajoran prophecys and nearly all of them can be considered accurate if they are interpreted in a certain way. Dax observes he is afraid that Trakor's Third Prophecy will come true unless he sends the Cardassians home; "The gates of heaven will burn and be cast open." She asks him what he would do if he had never heard the prophecy. Sisko obviously replies that he would continue to work on the relay, to which Dax offers him two choices; he can make his own decisions or allow the prophecies to make them for him. The commander leans forward and turns off his monitor, before standing up in front of Dax. "As soon as the Defiant is ready", he says, "…have the Cardassians meet us on board."
The time soon arrives. The Defiant exits the wormhole and Sisko orders Dax to place them within ten kilometers of the comet. As soon as O'Brien reports the phasers are locked on target, the Commander gives the order to fire. But something goes wrong. The entire weapons relay blows, sending sparks flying across the bridge. Dax reveals the modified phasers never came online and they actually fired at the comet with standard phasers, fracturing it instead of vaporizing it as intended. There's now three fragments and they're only twenty six minutes away from the wormhole. Without weapons, there is no way to stop them.
O'Brien explains that the main emitter coupling has been depolarized, something which must have happened when he tried to modify the power flow. He is noticeably annoyed with himself as it's something a first year engineering student wouldn't miss. Throughout the whole thing, Gilora and Ulani each send an icy glare at Dejar as if they know something. Dejar stares back defying them to say anything, but Gilora does. She reveals that Dejar is a member of the Obsidian Order and was assigned to them for security. Sisko then puts two and two together. The Obsidian Order has long been opposed to the peace treaty with Bajor and would happily see the project fail if it damaged Bajoran relations. Dejar unconvincingly insists it's all speculation, but is confined to quarters nonetheless. With Dejar out of the way, they begin to develop a plan on how to stop the comet. Ulani suggests expanding a subspace field around the fragments, which might just be enough to contain the silithium during transit through the wormhole. O'Brien suggests using the warp drive to generate the field, but as the Defiant is too large to maneuver in between the fragments, Sisko decides they'll have to use a shuttlepod and he is going to be the pilot. After ordering Kira to assume command and take the ship back to the Alpha Quadrant he starts to head off, but is soon stopped by the Major, who expresses her desire to join him, to help her Emissary. Not needing much convincing, Sisko hands the bridge over to Dax instead.
In the shuttlepod, Sisko lays in a course for the tail-end of the fragments, allowing them to easier position themselves between the large chunks of rock and ice.
Meanwhile, the Defiant exits the wormhole on the side of Alpha Quadrant. Dax orders the helm to maintain position and ready transporters, just in case.
Assuming the position, Kira activates the subspace field, encompassing all of the fragments in one bubble. From inside the cockpit, the wormhole can be seen as it flashes open in a bright light, dragging the pod and the fragments through. At first the field seems to be holding, but it soon begins to lose integrity as small amounts of silithium slip through. Sisko instructs her to route power from the engines into the field. Their own inertia will have to carry them the rest of the way.
On the Defiant, O'Brien detects the standard neutrino surge as the wormhole opens to reveal the shuttlepod, intact with the fragments. Sisko sighs a sigh of relief as he deactivates the subspace field holding them in place. Just as Dax checks they're alright, O'Brien announces the test signal from the relay is being broadcast through the wormhole. It turns out the fragments left just enough of a silithium trail to allow subspace signals to pass through.
Kira realizes that all this time they had misinterpreted the prophecy. The "three vipers" didn't mean the Cardassians, but the three comet fragments; "peering through the temple gates" was a reference to the attempt to establish the communications relay in the first place. "Burning the temple gates" referred to the silithium's reaction with the wormhole itself to create a subspace filament through the wormhole; which in the end did provide a communication pathway, "so the temple gates would never close again. And the "sword of stars" used by the Emissary referred to the comet's silithium tail itself.
Back on the station, O'Brien is walking Gilora back to the airlock. He thanks her for what she did back on the Defiant and hopes she doesn't face too much trouble when she gets back to Cardassia. She believes her superiors will protect her from any serious repercussions and that Dejar will be the one in trouble when the Obsidian Order finds out she failed in her duty. As they reach the airlock, she turns to the chief, telling him he has a lucky wife. Giving him a small kiss on the cheek, she finally says, "Goodbye, Mister O'Brien", before turning and heading out towards the airlock, leaving the chief to reflect on recent events.
Shortly thereafter, Yarka is walking with Sisko down the Promenade. He takes the opportunity to apologize to the commander for doubting him and admits his own distrust for the Cardassians "blinded him to the Prophets' words." As they continue walking, he reveals something more; there are signs of Trakor's Fourth Prophecy coming true in the near future and it includes the Emissary. Thinking about it for a moment, the commander replies, "Tell me about it".
"And as the 34th Rule of Acquisition states: 'Peace is good for business'."
"That's the 35th Rule."
"Oh, you're right. What's the 34th?"
" 'War is good for business.' It's easy to get them confused."
- - Dax and Quark, on the subject of Cardassians returning to Deep Space 9
"There'll be no live vole fights on the Promenade, Quark"
"I would never be party to anything so cruel and inhumane. But, of course, if some Cardassians happened to bring their voles along and they happened to get into a fight, I could hardly be held responsible for…"
"Oh, yes you could."
"And you will be."
- - Odo, Quark, and Sisko, on Quark's idea to open up a Cardassian gambling establishment
"Thank you for seeing me, Emissary"
"What can I do for you?"
"I am here with a warning from the Prophets. They don't want you to let the Cardassians come aboard the station. If you do, you will bring destruction on us all."
- - Sisko and Yarka, warning of Trakor's Third Prophecy
"So we need to discuss what we're going to do about…" [Notices Kira's expression] "What's wrong, Major?"
"There are going to be three of them…"
"Three vipers… just like in the prophecy…'"
- - Sisko and Kira, after the revelation that Dejar will be arriving on the station
"Do you really believe I'm the Emissary?"
"I guess I always have. But I've never wanted to admit it to myself." [Smiles] "It's hard to work for someone who's a religious icon."
- - Sisko and Kira, discussing the prophecy
"It seems perfectly reasonable that they could've communicated knowledge of the future to a Bajoran named Trakor. He wrote down that knowledge in the form of a prophecy and now, three thousand years later, we are seeing those events unfold. To me, that reasoning sounds concrete, solid, I'd even call it Starfleet."
"But that all hinges on how you interpret an ancient text that's been translated and re-translated over the centuries. Words that were couched in metaphor to begin with. I'm sorry, Major, but where you see a Sword of Stars, I see a comet. Where you see vipers, I see three scientists. And where you see the Emissary, I see a Starfleet officer."
- - Kira and Sisko, as she tries to convince him to abandon the project
"I assure you, I'm quite fertile… I could provide you with many healthy children, if that's your concern, but frankly I think you're getting a little ahead of yourself."
"Children? What are you talking about? I already have a child. And a wife."
"Then why have you been leading me to believe that you… wanted me?"
"I haven't been. All we've done since we met is argue."
"I took your overt irritability toward me as a signal that you wished to pursue some physical relationship."
"Of course! Well, that's how Cardassians… do things."
- - Gilora and O'Brien, during their work together on the Defiant
"Then it seems to me you have a choice. You can either make your own decisions or you can let these prophecies make them for you."
- - Dax advising Sisko before they continue the plan to destroy the comet
"There are signs that Trakor's Fourth Prophecy will soon come to pass as well."
"Don't tell me this has something to do with me."
"You, Commander? Well, it's a prophecy about the Emissary."
"Tell me about it."
"The Fourth Prophecy says that the Emissary will face a fiery trial and he'll be forced to choose…"
- - Yarka and Benjamin Sisko, referring to the eventual events of "What You Leave Behind"
Story and script
- This episode was originally pitched by David S. Cohen and Martin A. Winer as a second season episode. It was purchased by the producers, who assigned Cohen and Winer to write the teleplay, but it never made it into production, primarily because it focused on a prophecy of happiness and joy, an idea that, according to the producers, didn't make for a very exciting episode. Rene Echevarria, who made an uncredited rewrite of the script, recalls, "The early draft had a lot of nice stuff in it. It was done very lyrically and the writers had a lovely poem concerning Trakor's prophecy […] a wonderful thing that was going to happen, a miracle, and Sisko was told that he was going to be a part of it. A miracle was happening. So why was that bad? Why would Sisko not want to be a part of it?" (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (pp. 210-211))
- The original story idea revolved around Starfleet seeking to relieve Sisko of his post. As David Cohen recalls, "We had enjoyed Deep Space Nine's pilot and the mythic overtones it suggested, as [Commander Sisko] was believed by an alien race to be the 'Emissary' from their gods, as prophesised in their scriptures. It occurred to us that Sisko's bosses couldn't be very comfortable with that. What if they pulled a Heart of Darkness on him and sent someone to extract him from this situation? The perfect chance to do so, we decided, was if there was some specific prophecy, that would, ipso facto, prove he's not the Emissary. We'd raise the stakes by having a pencil-pushing staff officer threaten to transfer him to another command if he doesn't end this 'Emissary' talk." They decided the problem was that, "Sisko really was the Emissary, so every effort to extricate him from this situation only furthered the prophecy. By the end, even the pencil-pushing staff officer has played a role in the prophecy and is in it as deep as Sisko, so Starfleet Command decides to just live with the whole situation." The "pencil-pushing officer" mentioned in the original story was named "Marlowe" as an homage to the character in Heart of Darkness. (Screen Plays: How 25 Scripts Made it to a Theater Near You - For Better or Worse, p. 9)
- After the writing staff reconsidered the story, Cohen and Winer had another go at writing it. The new version turned out better but the staff still believed something was missing. Finally, Ronald D. Moore joked, "Jesus, this should be a prophecy of doom." Suddenly the story made sense because, as Echevarria notes, "[Sisko]'s a Starfleet officer, because he doesn't believe this 'Emissary' stuff. And suddenly there was dramatic tension galore: Sisko versus the Bajoran people, Sisko versus Kira, Sisko versus himself." The "fiery trial" prophecy that Yarka tells Sisko at the end of the episode is the prophecy that was in the original draft. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (pp. 211-212))
- Ronald D. Moore remarked; "It just took us a while to figure out how to do it. We wanted to deal with the Emissary, we wanted to do a Bajoran-orientated show. We also wanted a communication relay in the Gamma Quadrant anyway, and since it was following "Life Support", we could make the Cardassians integral to it and include the peace treaty. It all just started to come together for us." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 92)
- The original draft included the Rule of Acquisition, "faith can move mountains of inventory", which was created by David Cohen and Martin Winer. Though this did not make it into the final script, Ira Behr liked it so much that he included it in his books The Ferengi Rules of Acquisition (p. 50) and Legends of the Ferengi (pp. 86-87), where it is #104. (Screen Plays: How 25 Scripts Made it to a Theater Near You - For Better or Worse, p. 10)
- Cohen and Winer also consulted science advisor Andre Bormanis for the specifics of the comet. Bormanis recalls, "They knew what a comet was, but they were a little shy on details. Things like, 'How big is a typical comet? What is it made of? How do they travel through space? And how fast and in what kind of orbit?' And they wanted one sort of unusual effect associated with this comet, so we came up with an invented name of a substance that was found in the comet, the 'maguffin', as they say." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (pp. 211-212))
- Echevarria oversaw most of the final stages of the story development, and even came up with #34 and #35 of the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition, with the approval of Ira Steven Behr. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 211))
- The prospect of introducing two sympathetic Cardassians was done as a way of showing there are different kinds of people in Cardassian society. As Robert Hewitt Wolfe explains, "At the height of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, there were sympathetic scientists, people we could work with and talk to." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 211))
- Indeed, the parallels between this and the Cold War were intentional. The script describes the scene where Sisko and Kira first meet Gilora and Ulani; "This is the first joint project between two powers in an uneasy peace, so the scene plays out like a meeting between Americans and Russians at the height of the Cold War – a lot of diplomatic language is bandied about to cover everyone's discomfort." 
- The character of Yarka was named after one of David Cohen's favorite theater professors at SUNY Albany, Jarka Burian. (Screen Plays: How 25 Scripts Made it to a Theater Near You - For Better or Worse, pp. 9-10)
- A copy of the script for this episode was sold off in the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay. 
- The scene in which Quark provides Gilora, Ulani and Dejar with some Cardassian cuisine originally ended with Quark returning to the table, seeing Dejar is the only one eating and offering some more food. Ulani then replies that more of the "special Cardassian delicacies" would be appreciated before Quark, oblivious to the underlying tension in the air, heads off saying "It's working!" to himself. The rest of the scene was ultimately cut from the final episode but can be read in the episode's script. 
- One of the sets that was created for the Defiant is the generic crew cabin where Sisko and Kira go to discuss "the sword of stars" which, thanks to three removable (or "wild") walls, has a number of possible looks. As Robert della Santina explains, "There's only one wall that isn't wild. It's the one that includes the doorway. That's a double-faced wall that also serves as part of the corridor. But the director can pull out any of the other walls to give the room any one of three different looks." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 211))
- The comet the visual effects team developed for the episode was a model built by Tony Meininger, and not a computer-generated image. The artistic challenge, according to Gary Hutzel, was determining what the inside of a comet looks like. "A lot of people describe a comet as a big chunk of dirty ice, so we took it that way. It had a rocklike surface but the inside was transparent, like ice or crystal." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 212))
- The relay station is a reuse of the Amargosa observatory model from Star Trek Generations. Gary Hutzel also had the job of adjusting it to appear in this episode. "In the feature, it has extremely long extensions on it. So basically, I took a saw to it! We cut off the extentions and redesigned a couple of elements and did a new paint job." The script describes it as being "the size of a runabout, with high-tech antennae and communications gear." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 212); )
- In a 2010 interview, Erick Avari recalled some of his personal experiences during production of this episode; "[It] was a very talky piece and I played a very serious character. We worked 12 to 16-hour days, which Star Trek was famous for. So it was a grind, and I tend to get really giggly when I'm really tired, and if I get the giggles I'm in deep trouble and I know it. Tears start running down your face, your make-up starts to smear and then you can't get through your lines. No one thinks it's funny and you know that. Nina Craft was my makeup woman for this episode, and she got me going in-between takes. At one point it was one o'clock in the morning and the two of us were just laughing like silly schoolgirls. The director then said, 'Places everyone,' and I thought to myself, 'OK, I've got to straighten up.' I had this long, wordy scene that I was supposed to be very serious in. It was about doom and gloom and prophecies to come, and all I remember is just praying that I would keep a straight face through the take. So that was a fun episode." 
- While in full Cardassian makeup, actress Tracy Scoggins (Gilora Rejal) took the opportunity to walk around the Paramount lot, "scaring schoolchildren on buses" before security called the DS9 set, saying, "Could y'all do something about keeping your aliens contained over there?" 
- Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko) does not appear in this episode.
- Referenced Rules of Acquisition: #34 ("War is good for business") and #35 ("Peace is good for business")
- This episode makes reference to the Bajoran-Cardassian Treaty established in "Life Support".
- Yamok sauce was first seen in the first season episode, "Progress", and was created by former series Producer Peter Allan Fields. Behr said of its inclusion in this episode: "Two of the things [Fields] gave us were yamok sauce and self-sealing stem bolts. They're silly names and I like silly names, so every now and then we just like to bring them back." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 211))
- The Defiant's Type 18 shuttlepod first appeared in the two-part episode "The Search, Part I" and "The Search, Part II". This episode marks its last appearance on the series.
- Trakor's Fourth Prophecy, which begins "The Emissary will face a fiery trial, and he will be forced to choose…", may refer to the events in the series finale, "What You Leave Behind". However, there are a number of other events, both immediately before and during the Dominion War, to which the prophecy could also apply.
- Sisko's behavior in this episode, and his attitude to his role as Emissary, contrast sharply with how he would ultimately feel about being a religious icon. Throughout the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh seasons, Sisko would become more and more comfortable with his position in the eyes the Bajoran people, a process which is played out over the course of the fourth season episode "Accession" (where he is forced to fight for his right to be Emissary) and the fifth season episode "Rapture" (where he receives visions of the future from the Prophets), as well as in his interactions with the Prophets in episodes like "Sacrifice of Angels", "Image in the Sand", "Shadows and Symbols", and the series finale "What You Leave Behind".
- Robert Hewitt Wolfe loved the idea of the prophecy: "A rare case where we actually did produce a spec script from outside writers. We really fell in love with the idea that the prophecy, no matter what you do, ends up coming true. We had a lot of trouble making it work because the concept was difficult, but I think it was Rene [Echevarria] who finally cracked the show." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 92)
- René Echevarria himself commented, "I like ['Destiny'] a lot. It's really interesting regarding the Bajoran religion. Kira and her beliefs and Sisko trying to walk the line – is he the Emissary? It's a real Deep Space Nine. I'm very happy with it." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 92)
- Ira Steven Behr said of the whole writing process, "It was stubborn. It was a very difficult show. It's amazing it ever got made." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 210))
- Writer David S. Cohen was not happy with the finished episode: "Not a word of our dialogue made it in, not even that Rule of Acquisition they'd liked so much […] so as far as I'm concerned the story basically makes no sense. Buncha guys running around trying to stop Sisko from doing something, without ever saying why it matters whether he does it or not. I still get a headache when I watch it […] Later, a TV development executive at Wind Dancer told me that he had a friend who loved 'Destiny' and said it was his favorite Deep Space Nine episode. Go figure. Hell, it's not even my favorite Deep Space Nine episode." (Screen Plays: How 25 Scripts Made it to a Theater Near You - For Better or Worse, pp. 13-14)
- Andre Bormanis details the historical relationship between comets and superstitions, akin to Tokar's Third Prophecy, in his book Star Trek Science Logs (pp. 98-100). He describes the 1066 appearance of Halley's Comet, which proved a bad omen for King Harold, who later died in the Battle of Hastings; how, in medieval Europe, comets were portents of disease and pestilence, wars and the deaths of kings; and how, in ancient China, they were considered harbingers of future events. On balance, Bormanis also explains the scientific theories, writing, "Comets brought ices and complex organic molecules to the surface of the Earth in the chaotic years of our planet's youth, spreading the chemical seeds of the multitudinous forms of life that flourish here today." Visual Effects Artist Doug Drexler also created an okudagram graphic of the comet and the Bajoran wormhole as illustration for the book.
- Authors Mark Jones and Lance Parkin wrote of this episode, "Tried and tested stuff made interesting by Sisko and Kira's conflict of interest. Sadly, it descends into some awful exposition towards the end, where the self-evident prophecy is painstakingly explained." (Beyond the Final Frontier, p. 212)
- Though he did praise the scenes in which Odo and Kira confront Sisko about his role as the Emissary, Star Trek author Keith R.A. DeCandido described the episode as "a little too paint-by-numbers," and criticized the fact none of the characters thought to interpret Trakor's Prophecy in a different manner. Furthermore, DeCandido enjoyed seeing the broader range of Cardassians beyond the guls, legates, and spies, but classified the episode itself as "a whole lotta meh." Overall, he gave the episode a "warp factor rating" of 5/10. 
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 3.8, 26 June 1995
- As part of the DS9 Season 3 DVD collection
Links and references
- Rene Auberjonois as Odo
- Siddig El Fadil as Doctor Bashir
- Terry Farrell as Lieutenant Dax
- Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
- Colm Meaney as Chief O'Brien
- Armin Shimerman as Quark
- Nana Visitor as Major Kira
- Tracy Scoggins as Gilora Rejal
- Wendy Robie as Ulani Belor
- Erick Avari as Yarka
- Jessica Hendra as Dejar
- Ivy Borg as Rita Tannenbaum
- David B. Levinson as Broik
- Michael Prokopuk as Starfleet command officer
- Michael Wajacs as Bajoran civilian
- Michael Zurich as Bajoran security deputy
- Unknown performer as
7th century BC; 2369; 2370; Alpha Quadrant; Bajor; Bajorans; Bajoran-Cardassian Treaty; Bajoran prophecy; Bajoran Provisional Government; Bajoran religion; Bajoran sector; Bajoran wormhole; bearing; bridge; Cardassia; Cardassian; Cardassian Central Command; Cardassian cuisine; Cardassian government; Cardassian guls; Cardassian history; Cardassian Science Ministry; Cardassian vole; cargo bay; color; comet; cup; Dax, Tobin; Defiant-class; Defiant, USS; defrocking; delta band frequency; DNA; Dominion; Emissary of the Prophets; engineering student; exile; faith; Federation; fertility; field coil; field test; figure of speech; First Republic; Gamma Quadrant; gravity well; Gul; ice; icon; Iloja of Prim; Janir; Jefferies tube; kanar; kilometer; nest; O'Brien, Keiko; O'Brien, Molly; Obsidian Order; Orb of Prophecy and Change; Occupation of Bajor; Pelian; phaser; phaser array; poison; Promenade; Qui'al Dam; Quark's; red leaf tea; Regova egg; rehearsal; renting; replicator; Rules of Acquisition; sabotage; science team; scientific methodology; scuttle; sensor range; serialist poets; signaling array (transmission array); signaling platform; silithium; soliton pulse; Starfleet; Starfleet Command; storeroom; subspace; subspace frequency; subspace inversion; subspace relay station; Sword of Stars; theta band frequency; Tojal; tractor beam; Trakor; Trakor's Third Prophecy; Trakor's Fourth Prophecy; transport ship; Type 18 shuttlepod (Shuttle 01); viper; vole; vole fighting; Vedek Assembly; Vulcan; warp drive; Wormhole Comm Relay Project; wormhole relay station; yamok sauce
Deep Space 9 schematic: cargo turbo subsystem; crew quarters; crossover bridge; defense sail; defense systems monitor; deflector emitter; docking clamp; docking control cabin; docking pylon; docking ring; docking ring airlock; environmental purge/fill station; exhaust cone; fusion reactor assembly; habitat ring; ops module; ore processing center; phaser strip; photon torpedo launcher; power transfer conduit; promenade; radiator; reaction control thruster; runabout pad; sensor array; structural assembly; subspace antenna farm; tractor emitter; tug tractor emitter assembly
- "Destiny" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Destiny" at Wikipedia
- "Destiny" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Destiny" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
"Heart of Stone"
|Star Trek: Deep Space Nine