Well, Kira may have sat out the previous episode, one where her expertise as a resistance fighter may have come in handy, but when it comes to Bajoran religion, really, that’s a Kira episode, so having her mostly sit the previous episode out makes a bit more sense now.
Besides, it may be time to catch up on Gul Dukat.
Here’s the set-up: Kira greets her old Vedek instructor Fala. Fala gets her to handle a transpoder that beams her over to Empok Nor where the Cult of the Pah-Wraith has set up shop under a new leader: Dukat. Dukat seems to be a true believer, someone speaking for the Pah-Wraiths and really emphasizing their ways, something that includes such fun things like total celibacy without strict permission from the Pah-Wraiths or Dukat or whatever. That leads to a bit of obvious confusion when a young pregnant Bajoran, someone who got that rare permission to procreate with her husband, ends up giving birth to a half-Cardassian baby.
That’s the mid-episode plot twist. Dukat had brought Kira there due to his affection for Kira’s mother, but Kira isn’t a believer in the Pah-Wraiths like, oh, everyone else there including Fala. The big question for me is Dukat. Does he believe in this whole Pah-Wraith thing?
The problem is it’s really hard to tell. There was a case, years ago, when I wondered about a politician in a high office if it was worse if he did believe everything he said or he didn’t. And that was someone in office over a decade ago. It’s a question I have long since returned to when it comes to people in authority. Is it worse when they speak what sounds to me like nonsense and they believe it or they don’t?
The problem as I see it is that it doesn’t much matter. Even if authority figures, whether in the real world or fictional ones like Dukat, believe whatever it is that they say, the important part is their followers, however numerous that they may be, believe it. This episode doesn’t even completely settle whether or not Dukat is a true believer in his own gospel. There’s plenty of evidence that he isn’t. His story on how the half-Cardassian baby is a miracle to hide how he broke his people’s own sexual taboos and then even tried to kill the new young mother by flushing her out of an airlock–fortunately Kira was nearby looking for the woman anyway–to say nothing of how Dukat has long felt he deserved Bajoran affection for very Dukat-ish reasons, could suggest that Dukat is still the same old Dukat. Even the plan at the end of avoiding the mass suicide he’s trying to encourage everyone else to follow through on that collapses when everyone realizes he was going to pop a placebo while everyone else died leads to a revolt, with Dukat beaming away to freedom and Fala alone taking the drug in the name of faith. Though whether that’s because he still believed or he was that shaken by Dukat’s deception, no one knows.
Contrast KIra’s dealings with Dukat and the general uncertainty over whether or not he does believe in the Pah-Wraith cult with Odo. Odo is basically an atheist, but he wishes he had some faith just so he could join Kira at her weekly prayer meetings. He’s not interested in another religion even as other members of the crew suggest the Klingon’s because it’s more about spending time with Kira than it is praying.
And that also leads to a fairly logical reason why some Bajorans might embrace the Pah-Wraiths. For all that the Bajorans worship and adore the Prophets, it wasn’t like the Prophets intervened during the Occupation. The Pah-Wraiths claim they would have, and they do seem a bit more hands-on than the Prophets. So, having a Cardassian authority figure show up, one who had contact with the Pah-Wraiths, and that can point out the inconsistencies of the Prophets, well…sure, it makes sense. It’s only when Dukat hesitates to kill himself, something that may have been his idea, that the whole thing falls apart.
I think the point is, this episode did a good job of getting me to think about power and religion. The next one looks like it might do something similar by getting me to think about PTSD.