Overall Rating: 9.0
This episode rises to the edge of feature status on character-related grounds more than on the strength of the action.
Memory Alpha has the full description of this quasi-cliff-hanger.
Don't let my teaser comment fool you. The action sequences in this episode are well done and entertaining...but generally, we don't make episodes into features here just because the battles are cool. :) Actually, I like the use of orbital weapons platforms - that's a very Cardassian way to hold territories that you can't defend with manpower...and it's such an obvious idea that it's kind of stunning that we never see it used in Trek episodes. Why isn't Earth surrounded by 50,000 gun batteries? How did the Dominion so easily overrun Betazed? I will say, however, that making all of the weapons platforms dependent on a remote power source that can be easily destroyed with some "fake warp signatures" is rather dumb...I would think we'd have power generation technology capable of firing missiles until the missiles are gone. I mean, whole holo-matrices that continue AIs for a life time can fit on Captain Picard's desk. And I don't think you coudl fit 10,000 plasma torpedoes into an object approximately the size of a runabout. But the idea was nonetheless cool...so...rule of cool applies.
But I digress...the thing that makes this episode stand out for me is that it finally brings Sisko's split-personality to a conflict. Star Fleet Captain vs. spiritual icon - this time...it's PERSONAL (heh). Sisko gets a vision telling him that leaving would be bad (m'kay) and not explaining it. So naturally, when Star Fleet brass steps on his boot until he has to make a decision, he chooses the mission he knows, rather than the one where the orders read: "stay on the station and do nothing until something bad happens." But, what I like about this is that the writers make it clear that the decision is not an easy one for him to make and that he is really aware of his connection with the Prophets now. The "I feel a disturbance in the Force" moment on the Defiant was a tad much, but the idea is solid (and bold).
I also enjoyed many of the smaller moments throughout this episode regarding the supporting characters. Kira and Odo's first fight was cute (much better use of their relationship than we see in "His Way")...and they really hit a home run in dealing with Dax's death (first by reminding us how important she is to several among the crew, then by showing how heavy is the burden on the crew after her passing). And may I say...Michael Down NAILED it when he gave his death howl...never has that Klingon ritual seemed so real and so powerful.
I think it would have been cooler if the Pah Wraith had chosen someone unwillingly (like Damar, for example)...I believe Dukat should have died in Waltz and every use of his character from here on out seems unnecessary. Plus, an unwilling victim of the Pah Wraiths makes their whole presence in the story more interesting (and scary - see "The Assignment"). But even with the strained appearance of Dukat, we do get to see Damar and Weyoun bantering about religion in a way that is genuinely funny and the plot will, in coming episodes, argue convincingly that faith is a crucial part of happiness (and success in battle, I might add)...so I still overall enjoy this plot point.
All in all...this is a solid episode with many qualities that allow it to stand the test of time.
All around solid and engaging script. The action is well written, the characters are put to good uses, and the dialogue is snappy and memorable in places.
I am giving the acting some minor deductions for Sisko's farewell speech to Dax's coffin seeming a little forced in places and for some strange feeling moments between Ben and Jake (especially when Jake blackmails his father into letting him experience the invasion of the Chin'toka system first hand...that whole scene was weird).
The writers' respect for faith and the role it plays in many aspects of our lives...from Kira and Dax visiting the Bajoran shrine to pray for a healthy baby to Sisko making a tough choice and coming to regret choosing against his better judgment to Dukat's certainty that the Prophets have been a key factor in Sisko's strength as a leader...it all seems to scream "self-belief isn't enough...believing in something greater than the self is the key to lasting happiness."