As I make my way through Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, I’ve been paying close attention to how the Bajoran faith is portrayed in the show, especially through the main character of Kira, our primary window into the Bajoran people. There’s an aspect of Kira’s character that I hadn’t thought about fully until this time around, that of Kira and Sisko’s relationship, not as first officer and commander of DS9, but as believer and Emissary.
The season three episode Destiny brings this aspect of their relationship to the forefront, as a 3000-year-old prophecy seems to address events going on at the station during the story. A Vedek (a religious title akin to Pastor) asks Sisko to cease the project the crew is working on since, according to his interpretation of the prophecy, it would mean the destruction of the Celestial Temple of the Prophets, aka the wormhole. Kira doesn’t buy it at first, but as events unfold that seem to match the prophecy, she begins to question herself and her role.
KIRA: What can I do for you, Vedek?
YARKA: Have you been able to convince the Emissary to reconsider his decision?
KIRA: I haven’t tried and I’m not planning to.
YARKA: But you must. If not, the Celestial Temple will be destroyed.
KIRA: I’m not convinced that’s going to happen.
YARKA: Don’t you believe in the Prophecies?
YARKA: And don’t you believe that Commander Sisko is the Emissary?
KIRA: Vedek, you have to understand my position here. Commander Sisko is my superior officer. I have to deal with him on that basis first.
YARKA: So you do believe he’s the Emissary. You just don’t want him to know that. I understand. You want him to know that he can count on you as an officer under his command. You want to keep your work and your faith separate.
KIRA: Yes, and for three years now I have.
YARKA: I’m afraid that’s no longer possible. The Prophets have chosen you to help the Emissary make this decision. A decision that has profound implications for all of Bajor. You must convince him to make the Cardassians leave before the Sword of Stars appears.
KIRA: Vedek, if you’re asking me to…
YARKA: It is not I who is asking, it is the Prophets. If you turn your back on them now, you’re abandoning your faith. And without your faith, Nerys, what do you have left?
That last line is kind of a low blow from the Vedek in order to push his agenda, but it does strike at the heart of Kira’s character and story arc: what is the role of Kira’s faith in every aspect of her life? This exchange between Kira and Sisko drives that question to the heart of their relationship.
SISKO: Do you really believe that I’m the Emissary?
KIRA: I guess I always have. I never wanted to admit it to myself. It’s hard to work for someone who’s a religious icon.
SISKO: I hope I don’t offend your beliefs, but I don’t see myself as an icon, religious or otherwise. I’m a Starfleet Officer, and I have a mission to accomplish.
Up until now, I hadn’t quite grasped how tough Kira’s position is, having to work at a strictly secular level under the direct command of a person who to her is, basically, her Messiah. As first officer, Kira has gone toe-to-toe with Sisko on many occasions without hesitation because that’s part of her job, but what effect this must’ve had on her faith? At the very least it must prove to be a constant test of her faith, to be faced continually with the mundanity of Sisko human nature while still believing him to be a semi-divine being.
Amazingly, Kira never wavers in her faith or belief. Somehow she manages to deal with the secular at the secular level, and the religious at the religious level. This episode, however, forces Kira to unite both sides of her being, to acknowledge that every action she takes serves the will of the Prophets. It’s only when she does that, when she’s willing to be both the first officer helping her commander AND the believer helping the Emissary, that she can truly help Sisko accomplish the mission to the benefit of all.
This episode is of interest to me not only for the dramatic development it brings to the series, but also because it shows a principle of life that every believer in God must realize and come to terms with: the entirety of our being and actions are in the service of God’s will. Many times we as believers try to keep our secular life to one side and our religious life to the other, but to believe in God, to walk in His ways, to be like Jesus, we must be complete beings, merging the earthly and the divine. We must strive to act at all times as God would have us act, knowing full well that we may fail because we’re human, but nevertheless, by His grace, continuing to strive for that goal. It’s one of the most powerful ways in which we can bring glory to God’s name.
The episode is interesting as well because it shows a sci-fi application of the idea that I’m working to build a game from, and I’ll explore that in a separate post.