Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sisko's Visions Of The Future Cause A "Rapture"

The Good: Interesting character development, Nice acting, Basics of the plot
The Bad: Most of the rest of the series is revealed
The Basics: When Sisko discovers a lost city on Bajor, all of existence is opened up to him for him to understand, if only he can survive the visions!

Near the end of the fourth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Captain Benjamin Sisko accepted his dual role of religious icon and StarFleet captain. Since then, the subject has been avoided. Until "Rapture," which is still in the first half of the fifth season. It's refreshing to see that the first place this duality is tested is in a fairly major way. "Rapture" has the biggest consequences of the series to date.

Captain Sisko's mission appears to be a complete success when the Federation announces that Bajor is ready for admission into the Federation. Sisko, for his part, finds himself obsessed with a painting that has the only evidence of a mythical Bajoran city. Sisko uses the artwork to find the real Ba'hala and the Bajorans and Federation are each impressed. But as Ba'hala is unearthed and Kassidy Yates - the Captain's estranged love interest - returns, Sisko begins to suffer from more and more visions like the one that allowed him to find the mythical city. The visions come with a price and Sisko's brain is put in serious jeopardy. Bashir reveals that he can help, but his aid comes with a price: Sisko will never be able to receive another vision from the Prophets.

In Sisko's maddened state that comes from lack of sleep and more visions of the future, this consequence is unbearable. Sisko wants nothing more than to understand how all of time fits together as he tries to process the imagery from the Prophets. And unfortunately, some of the imagery is not terribly difficult to understand for fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. For example, Sisko sees a swarm of locusts over Bajor, but he understands that it is headed for Cardassia. This is a pretty significant revelation about where the series is going if one only considers what type of ship looks like a locust. And very simply, "Rapture" does reveal major plot points for the rest of the season, if not the rest of the series.

If anyone was to give away this much of the rest of the series, I suppose it's good it comes in the codified terms of the series itself. Unlike the internet where rumors surface constantly, "Rapture" gives the viewer prime dirt on upcoming arcs of the series without the potential for being wrong. And it's a clever idea. When Sisko finds the lost city, the madness overtakes him and it is compelling to watch.

Sisko's character arc is significant beyond anything else in "Rapture." As Sisko becomes more and more ill, he is forced to deal with the various aspects of his life. First, he turns away from StarFleet and his duty as his mission on Bajor nears completion. Sisko is in danger of becoming obsolete as the reasons for his assignment to Bajor come to an end. Second, his sudden embrace of Kai Winn pushes him away from Kassidy, who feels unsure of their relationship to begin with. Sisko seems to have overcome his feelings of betrayal over her aiding the Maquis in a way that he has not forgiven the other defector. Finally, Sisko turns away from his own son by putting the visions ahead of his own health. Jake faces the possibility of losing his father while Sisko is utterly indifferent to the probability. One of the best moments of the episode is the somewhat whimsical dialog between Kira and the vision-trapped Sisko when Kira, quite worried about his catatonic state, wakes Sisko and he loses the meaning of everything.

This is an episode that could have suffered greatly had it not been so very focused on the characters. Instead, "Rapture" is pulled off as a tight hour that has a compelling series of conflicts. We believe inherantly in Sisko and his desire to understand the entire realm of history is believable. After all, given the chance to see everything that will ever happen and attempt to draw meaning from it, who wouldn't want to take the opportunity?

Much of "Rapture" is dependent on the acting of Avery Brooks. Brooks plays Sisko with a glassy eyed reverence and cluelessness that he has never done and that keeps the episode visually interesting for the viewer. His confusion as things take over Sisko's perspectives is realistic and well-played. This is the first and only episode Brooks plays Sisko with a complete sense of abandon and it's an acting challenge that Brooks rises to meet right away.

The episode is filled out by decent guest acting in other quarters as well. Penny Johnson is great as Kassidy, making her uncertain in a different way. She keeps Kassidy's body language withdrawn, which is realistic considering how her character betrayed Sisko and how naturally mistrustful he must be of her now. Similarly, Cirroc Lofton plays Jakes Sisko quite well as a son who faces losing another parent and being powerless to stop that from happenning. The guest cast is rounded out by Louise Fletcher who does an amazing job portraying Kai Winn as cold and indifferent. Here, Fletcher has the chance to open up some when Sisko turns to her for aid. Her warmth and desperate joy over being accepted by Sisko is greatly conceived by the acting of Fletcher.

In the end, "Rapture" is a fine episode for anyone who enjoys a tense medical drama or anyone who wants a decent debate on the nature of religious enlightenment. It is often too insular in the series, but at this point in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the series is focusing more on telling a quality story than actually trying to get new viewers. And when one considers the locusts swarming Cardassia . . . well, those of us who are into it, we're hooked. Part of the essential Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for the return of Kassidy, the Bajor aspects and the choice Jake is forced to make.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Fifth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the perfect season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek reviews, please be sure to visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2012, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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