(written from a Production point of view)
The discovery of a thirty-thousand-year-old Bajoran tablet buried under the holy city of B'hala announces the Reckoning, the time when the future of Bajor will be decided.
At their regular staff meeting in the wardroom, the crew of Deep Space 9 review the state of the Dominion War. It is a time of great uncertainty as the threat of a Dominion attack on Vulcan looms overhead, and while the Romulans have retaken Benzar (home to the Benzites), there is no way to be certain they will relinquish control after the war. For now, Sisko, Kira and Jake are taking a trip to Bajor to visit a new discovery in the remains of B'hala. Although Dax observes how trivial such things seem in the midst of a war, the archaeologists have specifically requested Sisko's presence.
Ranjen Koral leads the trio through the ruins, where numerous tunnels have been dug and excavations have taken place since Sisko's last visit. Kira notices Jake is less than enthused, and Jake admits that he's concerned how seriously his father takes his role as Emissary now. Kira reminds him that, at the very least, it'll be a relief for the captain not to have to think about the war for a little while. The monk leads them to a pedestal underneath the old temple, thus older than B'hala, with some "interesting" writing in Ancient Bajoran; part of the text reads, "Welcome Emissary". As Sisko touches it, he is thrown across the room. He loses consciousness as the Prophets send him a vision in which they mention the end and the beginning and claim that the Reckoning is at hand.
Awakening, Sisko is adamant in discovering what the tablet says and takes it back to DS9, where he and Dax study it in a science lab to translate it. In the meantime, he greets Kai Winn at the airlock. She is visibly troubled by the removal of the tablet from Bajor. In her usual, subtle manner, she compares his actions to the plundering of historical treasures the Cardassians did during the Occupation. After refusing, Winn lodges a formal complaint with Starfleet Command, and Admiral Ross tells Sisko to stop meddling in Bajoran affairs and return the tablet.
Sisko discusses the situation with Dax, who muses about the time when Sisko thought of the Prophets as nothing more than aliens who lived in the wormhole. Sisko reminds her that, regardless of if they're Prophets or not, they have a relationship with Bajor which they proved when they stopped the Dominion fleet from reaching the Alpha Quadrant. Dax reminds him that he had to persuade the Prophets to help, and that they promised they would exact a penance. The conversation is halted when Dax discovers the meaning of the words on the tablet which say that, among other things, the Prophets will weep and the gateway to the Celestial Temple – DS9 – will burn.
Dr. Bashir, Odo, and Worf are sitting idly on the second level of Quark's, considering the repercussions. As Quark himself walks by, he complains about how bad business has been because of talk about the Reckoning, but their conversation is cut short as the station trembles and the wormhole begins to behave erratically. Meanwhile, Sisko and Winn have met in his office, where she informs him of flooding in Rakantha Province, earthquakes in the Kendra Valley and the like taking place on Bajor as they speak as a result of the shifts in the wormhole. She believes he has angered the Prophets by taking the tablet, and she has a written request from First Minister Shakaar stating as much with a warning that if Sisko keeps the tablet any longer, it will harm relations between Bajor and the Federation. With no other choice, Sisko agrees to return the tablet on the first transport to Bajor the next morning. He tells Dax she'll have to work off holo-recordings of the tablet, as she reveals more words have been translated. It's clear the Emissary will play a major part during the Reckoning; however, his role is left unclear due to damage on the tablet.
Later, Sisko discusses the situation with Kira in Ops, and they note their mutual dislike of Winn. Kira admits to feeling a little sorry for her in that she spent her whole life in service to the Prophets and was finally rewarded for her efforts by becoming Kai, only to be forced to share the role of spiritual leader with a non-Bajoran. She also admits that, like Winn, she is jealous of Sisko's relationship with the Prophets; however, unlike Winn, she doesn't resent him for it.
Late that night, Sisko is visited in his quarters by Jake who wanted to check up on his father. He admits that he worries a lot about his father's role as the Emissary, due to the fact that twice before in the past year, he has been rendered unconscious by visions and Jake has been called to the infirmary by Dr. Bashir on both occasions finding his father unconscious on a biobed. Ben reminds Jake that he didn't ask to be Emissary, it is just what he is, but comforts his son by reminding him he's also his dad.
Late at night, Sisko is unable to sleep and finally heads for the science lab. He angrily tells the Prophets that he's had enough of their mysteries and riddles and wants a straight explanation for once. After no response, he picks up the tablet and throws it against the wall in a rage, smashing it. As he looks down at its shattered remains shocked at what he just did, two energy discharges: one red, one blue, emerge from it and disappear through the ceiling.
Dax and Odo investigate the science lab, as Sisko explains he got an uncontrollable urge to smash the tablet. Dax sarcastically remarks that she gets feelings like that but does not act on them. They find no signs of such a discharge, although there is an unexplained energy drain soon reported on the station. Unfortunately, now Sisko has to explain it to Winn. She believes Sisko smashed the tablet just to spite her. He is emphatic that he is acting with the will of the Prophets, and that it isn't always easy to see the path that they lay before them. Winn notes again the hardships being experienced on Bajor, and that it must be clear the tablet should have been returned. As he tries to reassure her, he is called to the Promenade.
Upon arriving in the Promenade. Sisko steps out of the turbolift and finds Odo and station security gathered around the Bajoran Shrine, and Kira standing in the doorway. However, her body has been inhabited by one of the Prophets, with a blue glow and an electrical discharge flowing out of her hands. When the Prophet sees Sisko, it slowly walks toward him, causing damage to glassware and other breakable objects as it walks. She addresses him, and informs him it is time for the Reckoning.
Sisko tries to have it explain what the Reckoning is, but not much response. It says it awaits Kosst Amojan. Winn recognizes the Prophet's words and explains that Kosst Amojan is the evil one, a Pah-wraith that was banished from the Celestial Temple. She also realizes that this pertains to a prophecy. If the Prophet wins the upcoming battle, then Bajor will enter its Golden Age of a thousand years of peace. Sisko turns to the Prophet and asks what he's to do, but it replies he has "completed his task." Winn tries to talk to it directly, but it turns away without focusing on her. It simply stands, unresponsive, as Winn offers herself to the Prophet as its humble servant but is ignored.
Sisko tells the senior staff that DS9 is to be evacuated. Bashir balks at this idea, but Sisko knows the battle could destroy the station. However, Dax suggests not letting it be fought on the station. She suggests that they slowly, but gradually flood the Promenade with chroniton particles, which are fatal to the Prophets, which would force it to leave. Given what the Prophets have done for him and Bajor, Sisko refuses, saying that this is the Prophets' price for destroying the fleet of Dominion ships that would have most certainly overrun the Alpha Quadrant. Although they are worried for Kira's safety, Odo reassures Sisko that Kira would have been willing to surrender herself to the Prophets no matter what the consequences, even if it meant her death.
Worf and Odo find one another near the airlock as they oversee the evacuation of the civilian population. Worf admires Odo's devotion after what the constable said about Kira letting the Prophet take her, and he is unsure that he could have done the same if it had been Dax. With Kira on their side, Odo assures Worf the Prophets will be victorious.
Sisko is able to persuade Starfleet that DS9 must be abandoned given the Prophets are the only thing preventing the Dominion fleet from coming through the wormhole. Suddenly, Sisko is called by Odo to the Promenade as a group of Bajorans, led by Winn, refuse to leave the Promenade as they pray for the Prophets' victory. Sisko confronts Winn and threatens to personally order the people to leave as their Emissary. As Odo leads the group of Bajorans to the transports, Sisko and Winn begin to verbally spar once more when they're interrupted by Kira. The Prophet announces that Kosst Amojan has chosen his vessel. Sisko looks up to the second floor to see that it is Jake.
Sisko screams for the Pah-wraith to leave Jake and take him instead, but the Pah-wraith is simply amused and throws Sisko across the Promenade. Kira and Jake face off and energy beams, red from Jake and blue from Kira, come out of their chests and meet at the center. The spectacle continues as sparks fly and the energy buildup reaches critical levels. As the buildup could trigger an explosion at any second, Dax and Winn in an unusual state of agreement urge Sisko to leave the station; however, he is determined to stay and see the Reckoning through and also refuses to leave his son behind. He angrily orders them both to abandon the station. Dax contacts Worf in Ops and tells him they're leaving. Dax hurries to ensure that everyone is evacuated, and the final people are taken away in the station's runabouts; however, Kai Winn sneaks away in the confusion. The final runabouts leave and the station is empty save for Sisko, Jake, Kira and Winn.
The Prophet is winning the celestial battle and is on the verge of killing the Pah-wraith when she suddenly screams out in protest… Kai Winn is in Ops and has triggered the chroniton release herself. Both spirits are forced to leave the station, causing both Kira and Jake to collapse. Sisko immediately runs to an unconscious Jake's side.
- "Captain's log, supplemental. The station's population has returned, and repairs are underway. Major Kira has recovered from her experience, but my son is still in the infirmary."
Sisko visits his son in the infirmary, where Jake is still weak but will recover eventually. He tries but does not know what to say to his son to explain the incident, but no explanation is necessary. Sisko emotionally buries his face in his hands while Jake explains that he was able to feel the Pah-wraith's hatred and knew it had to be destroyed, even if it meant his death. He and his father embrace each other warmly.
As Odo and Kira walk together on the Promenade, she thanks him for his confidence in her and willingness to let her go if the Prophet's victory meant her death. His ability to let her die for her faith is flattering, although he reassures her that he still would have been happier if the Prophets had chosen someone else.
Kira then escorts Kai Winn to the airlock, where Winn claims Sisko should be grateful to her as her actions saved their lives and the station from destruction, as well as stopping the disasters on Bajor. However, Kira isn't fooled and knows Winn's true motive was not the good of Bajor but chose to stop the Reckoning due to not being able to handle the fact that Sisko has a stronger faith in the Prophets, to the point he was willing to sacrifice his own son. Winn refutes this and claims her faith is just as strong as Sisko's, but Kira knows that it's not Winn's faith that drives her but ambition. As the Reckoning was stopped, the evil still exists, and Kira warns that it's possible not even the Prophets know what is to come now.
"During the Reckoning, the Bajorans will either suffer horribly or... eat fruit."
"... Eat fruit?"
"Given the tone of the rest of the inscriptions, I would bet on the horrible suffering."
- - Dax and Sisko
"They seem to get longer."
"You'll feel better in the morning. Once the Kai is off the station."
"She may be the spiritual leader of millions of Bajorans, but she is not an easy woman to like."
"Well, if it's any comfort, I don't think she likes you either."
"I've known that for a while. I guess I should have consulted her before I brought the artefact up to the station."
"She would've tried to stop you."
"Ah. That's why I didn't ask her."
"In a way, I feel sorry for her. She spends her whole life in service to the Prophets, and then one day, after years of self-sacrifice and commitment, she gets her reward – she's elected Kai. It should've been the greatest moment of her life."
"But my being the Emissary spoiled it for her."
"The Kai has always been the spiritual leader of Bajor, but Winn has to share that role with you. And to make matters worse, you're an outsider, a non-Bajoran – that's something she can never forgive you for."
"I guess that's why she made such an issue of the whole thing."
- - Kira and Sisko, on Kai Winn
"Who knows? The rest of the tablet probably says "Go to Quark's. It's happy hour.""
"I like the way you think, Doctor."
- - Bashir and Quark
"I just had this uncontrollable urge to smash the tablet."
"Oh, I get those urges all the time."
- - Sisko and Dax
"May the Prophets forgive me."
- - Winn, when she drives off the Prophets and the Pah-wraiths with chroniton radiation
"I heard that you told the captain I was willing to give my life to serve the Prophets. I appreciate that you respect my beliefs."
"Just the same, I wouldn't have minded if the Prophets had chosen someone else."
- - Kira and Odo
Story and script
- According to Ira Steven Behr, this show came about because the writers felt they had tapped into something interesting with the creation of the Pah-wraiths, and they wanted to explore it further; "our feeling after "The Assignment" was that we had dealt with the Pah-wraiths way too easily. We thought there was more juice that we could get out of them, but we were juggling a lot of balls in the air, and sometimes balls don't drop for a long time." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. ?)) "The Reckoning" reintroduces the Pah-wraiths into Deep Space Nine, and from this point forward, they would go on to have ever greater significance, as seen in episodes such as "Tears of the Prophets", "Image in the Sand", "Shadows and Symbols", "Covenant" and the series finale "What You Leave Behind".
- Bradley Thompson describes his and David Weddle's initial idea for the show as being quite simple; "We were looking for the ultimate battle between good and evil. We thought, 'Let's put a Prophet up against a Pah-wraith and deal with some deep stuff'." When they pitched this idea to the producers, they were told that a similar story had already been pitched by writing team Harry Werksman and Gabrielle G. Stanton, so the producers purchased the Werskman/Stanton idea, and assigned Thompson and Weddle to compose the script. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. ?))
- Initially, Thompson and Weddle felt that the story should be handled very much like a horror movie, and when they told Behr the direction they were heading in, he loved it and told them "It's Godzilla versus Mothra, with a mummy movie opening." They took this to heart and wrote an elaborate opening sequence involving a vedek discovering a casket in a hidden chamber in the walls of B'hala. When he opens it, two entities escape, and the vedek has a heart attack and dies. The entities then disappear into the ceiling, and the camera pans upwards to reveal a large bird sitting on a wall looking down at the dead body. This opening was scrapped because it was felt to be too schlock-horror like. As Thompson explains, "It was way too mummy movielike." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. ?))
- Another idea found in Thompson and Weddle's script but not in the final episode was that it is Sisko who stops the battle by flooding the Promenade with chroniton radiation, choosing to protect the station and the people rather than respect the wishes of the Gods. However, after taking over the writing of the script, Echevarria was having a hard time getting this dénouement to work. As he explains it, "But then it hit us that this was exactly the opposite of what should have been. It wasn't that Sisko should put a stop to it, it was that Sisko should be the last man of faith. And if that was the case, then the combatants were wrong. Jake should be one of them, because Sisko would be like Abraham, being asked to sacrifice his own son." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. ?))
- In the first few drafts of the script, Kira is possessed by the Prophet and Kai Winn by the Pah-wraith, and their battle aboard Deep Space 9 was far more elaborate than that seen in the finished episode. Weddle and Thompson wrote them as having a running battle all over the station, throwing fireballs at one another and completely destroying the Promenade. The whole idea, however, became far too complicated from a logistical point of view, and René Echevarria was brought on board by Ira Behr to try to smooth things out and simplify the script without losing the essence of the plot. Apparently, when Steve Oster first saw Thompson and Weddle's draft he responded by proclaiming that it would be a fifteen-day shoot (a normal DS9 shoot is 6 days). (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. ?))
- The battle between the Prophet and the Pah-wraith as seen in the final episode was devised by Director Jesús Salvador Treviño. He saw it as a battle of wills rather than an all-action shoot-out, and the script was rewritten accordingly. However, while Treviño's solution might have made for some excellent television for viewers seeing the completed episode, with all the post-production effects work added, during the shoot itself, it all looked rather silly. As Dennis McCarthy, who scores an episode with a cut from raw footage, testifies, "They were just standing there, looking weird, like they were at the dentist's office, thinking of their upcoming root canals." Indeed, during the shoot of this super-serious battle, both Nana Visitor and Cirroc Lofton had great difficulty keeping straight faces long enough to get complete takes. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. ?))
- Footage of Jake and Benjamin Sisko lying on the floor of the Promenade was shot by A-camera on 25 February 1998. Multiple takes needed to be filmed, as Cirroc Lofton kept breaking into laughter. (What We Left Behind)
- This episode undoes the recent modifications in the character of Winn Adami, as seen in the fifth season episodes "Rapture" and "In the Cards". While it seemed as if her role as villain was being rendered more ambiguous, in much the same way as the writers had done with Dukat throughout the third and fourth seasons, and her relationship with Sisko was improving, this episode relocates her in her more familiar role of antagonist, a role she has occupied since her introduction in the first season episode "In the Hands of the Prophets". However, as some fans have pointed out, her sudden return to an antagonistic stance as regards to Sisko is somewhat unexplained; there is never any reason given for why she suddenly feels so much antipathy towards him again, when there was every indication the last two times we saw her that she was becoming more accepting of him. René Echevarria has acknowledged this discrepancy; however, he doesn't try to fill in the blanks; "In "Rapture", she seemed to be coming around to Sisko's side a little bit. But here she just cannot stand to see that once again he's going to steal her thunder. That was the biggest dodge we did, because we didn't really explain why she had a change of heart again." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. ?))
- Indeed, in relation to Winn, the events of "The Reckoning" foreshadow her ultimate betrayal of the Prophets in the final arc of the series, and in any case, Ira Steven Behr was much happier with the antagonistic Winn than the conciliatory one; "The episode gave us a more multidimensional Kai Winn. We had lost sight of what to do with her for a while. We loved having her as a villain, but this really made her a tragic figure. It made her a totally screwed-up figure, and we now understood her." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. ?))
- Bernhard Janzen, a German monk who was writing a dissertation about religious symbolism in Star Trek, compared Sisko's smashing of the Reckoning Tablet in this episode to Moses smashing the Ten Commandments in the Book of Exodus. 
- Louise Fletcher is not credited as "special guest star" for this episode as is typical.
- This episode represents the first time the Prophets are seen outside the wormhole, and it also represents their fifth appearance in the show (after "Emissary", "Prophet Motive", "Accession" and "Sacrifice of Angels") and Sisko's fourth encounter with them (all previous mentioned, except "Prophet Motive").
- Worf's line "The Prophets are the only thing keeping the Dominion from coming through the wormhole" establishes that the Dominion has still not brought any reinforcements from the Gamma Quadrant.
- In "The Assignment", Jake said he always wanted to see a Pah-wraith; in this episode, he is possessed by one.
- Dax states that the tablet says "The Bajorans will suffer horribly... or eat fruit." In the scene between Kira and Odo near the beginning of the episode, Kira is indeed eating fruit salad.
- The phrase "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die," quoted by Quark and Bashir, is a common conflation of two quotations from the Bible: "Eat, drink and be merry" from Ecclesiastes 8:15, and "Eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" in both Isaiah 22:13 and 1 Corinthians 15:32.
- This episode contains a great number of references to previous episodes:
- There are numerous references to the blossoming relationship between Kira and Odo, which began in the previous episode, "His Way".
- Sisko's claim that the Dominion "has solidified its hold on the Kalandra sector. They're trying to establish a supply line running through Betazoid space into the Argolis Cluster," refers to the episode "In the Pale Moonlight", where Betazed fell to the Dominion.
- Similarly, his claim that "The Romulans have forced the Dominion to retreat from the Benzite System" also refers to that episode, where the Romulan Star Empire joined Starfleet and the Klingon Defense Force in the Dominion War.
- The visit to the ruins of B'hala recalls the fifth season episode "Rapture", where Sisko first discovered them, and excavation began.
- The phrase "Of Bajor" is once again heard in relation to both the Prophets and Sisko, recalling the episodes "Accession" (where the Prophets say they are of Bajor) and "Sacrifice of Angels" (where they tell Sisko that he too is of Bajor).
- Sisko's claims that he is no longer uncomfortable in his position as Emissary of the Prophets refers to the 'Emissary Trilogy' ("Destiny", "Accession" and "Rapture"), which charted his gradual acceptance of his position. Indeed, "The Reckoning" could be seen as something of a sequel to the trilogy insofar as it is the first episode to show just how deep his newfound faith has become.
- The 'penance' mentioned by Jadzia Dax refers to "Sacrifice of Angels", where the Prophets tell Sisko that they will destroy the Dominion fleet in return for an as yet undisclosed penance.
- Sisko's comment that Winn and Shakaar have never agreed about anything before refers to the third season episode "Shakaar", where Shakaar defeats Winn to become First Minister of Bajor, and the two are shown as being diametrically opposed in their ideologies.
- Jake's reference to twice seeing his father lying in the infirmary because of visions sent by the Prophets refers to the episodes "Rapture" and "Far Beyond the Stars".
- Kira's comment at the end of the episode, "The evil still exists. And I'm not sure even the Prophets know what that means for Bajor," has great implications for the future, something which will be confirmed in the sixth season finale, "Tears of the Prophets". Indeed, Kosst Amojan will return in that episode (although that the Pah-wraith seen in "Tears of the Prophets" is in fact Kosst Amojan will not be confirmed until "Shadows and Symbols") and will go on to play a large role throughout the seventh season, especially in the series finale, "What You Leave Behind".
- While Keiko had been possessed by a Pah-wraith in "The Assignment", this is the first time the glowing red eyes and metallic, echoing voice effects were used.
- Colm Meaney (Miles O'Brien) does not appear in this episode.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 6.11, 2 November 1998
- As part of the DS9 Season 6 DVD collection
Links and references
- Rene Auberjonois as Odo
- Michael Dorn as Lt. Commander Worf
- Terry Farrell as Lt. Commander Dax
- Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko / Jake Alien / Jake/Pah-wraith
- Armin Shimerman as Quark
- Alexander Siddig as Doctor Bashir
- Nana Visitor as Major Kira / Kira Alien / Kira/Prophet
- Patti Begley as Bajoran officer
- Dorothy Hack as Bajoran woman
- Karlotta Nelson as Bajoran woman
- Mark Allen Shepherd as Morn
- James Lee Stanley as Bajoran deputy
- Michael Wajacs as Bajoran civilian
- Unknown performers as
30,000 years ago; 25,000 years ago; 20,000 years ago; Alpha Quadrant; ancient Bajoran; ancient texts; archaeological site; archaeologist; Argolis Cluster; Bajor; Bajoran; Bajoran bat; Bajoran city; Bajoran history; Bajoran language; Bajoran prophecy; Bajoran wormhole; banishment; Benzar; Benzite system; Betazed; Betazoid space; B'hala; biobed; blindness; Bolian; Cardassian; century; chroniton radiation; chroniton generator; circle; civic duty; constable; corporeal; dad; Deep Space 9; defense perimeter; dictionary; Dominion; Dominion fleet; Dorala system; earthquake; Eminence; Emissary of the Prophets (aka "Emissary"); energy discharge; evacuation; Evil One; excavating; faith; Federation; First Minister; flood; fool; formal protest; fruit; future; Gateway to the Temple; generation; Golden Age; happy hour; harvest; holo-recording; holy city; homeless; icon; ideogram; infirmary; infidel; inscription; internal sensor; Jake-o; kai; Kalandra sector; Kendra Valley; "laid eyes on"; leap of faith; Martok; modern Bajoran; monk; Occupation of Bajor; "off the hook"; "Old Man"; order; outsider; Pah-wraith; path; penance; possession;prayer service; priceless; Promenade; Prophets (aka wormhole alien); Quark's; Rakantha Province; Ranjen; rebirth; Reckoning; Reckoning Tablet; religious artifact; Romulan; root; Ross, William; ruins; sacrilege; scholar; servant; services; Seventh Fleet; Shabren; Shabren's Fifth Prophecy; Shakaar Edon; skeleton crew; slab; space; spiritual leader; stone; supply line; Sybaron; syntax; Tamulna; Temple of B'hala; Tibor Nebula; time; tornado; translation; tricorder; translation program; turbolift; vacation; vedek; Vedek Assembly; vessel (aka "instrument"); vision; Vulcan; wall; war; weep; wheat; worrier; worst case scenario; writing
Antares-class (unnamed); Bajoran interceptor (unnamed); Bajoran vessel (unnamed); Danube-class; Defiant-class; Defiant, USS; Galaxy-class (unnamed); Klingon attack cruisers; Miranda-class (unnamed); runabout; transport; Yeager-type; Yeager, USS
Unused script references
- "The Reckoning" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "The Reckoning" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "The Reckoning" at Wikipedia
- "The Reckoning" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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