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120. Live, Pagh, Love (Kai Winn deep dive, part 1)

It’s just a shame that the position of Kai doesn’t come with a Harbour Bridge hat

Put on your best Opera House hat and join Anika and Liz as we dive into the first of a three-episode deep dive into Kai Winn Adami. This week, we’re looking at her rise to power — covering the episodes “In The Hands Of The Prophets”, “The Circle”, “The Siege” and “The Collaborator.” And along the way, we discuss…

  • If you only watch the Winn episodes, and maybe even only the Winn scenes, DS9 is a really amazing show about two women fighting about religion and politics
  • “In The Hands Of The Prophets” – just because Winn is wrong doesn’t mean the Federation is right
  • Winn asks questions the writers should have thought about themselves: why is a human the Emissary? Why should Bajor join the Federation? (Why is this botanist with no teaching qualifications running a school?)
  • Winn is the target for so much misogyny, and it says a lot about how fandom perceived and still perceives women in power.
  • Minister Jaro and Shaxs: the only sexy Bajoran men in the entire history of the planet (also we do not agree on how to pronounce Frank Langella’s surname, but Anika’s version is probably right)
  • Contrary to popular belief, Winn has integrity: she hates the Cardassians even more than she loves power, and is loathe to collaborate with anyone — even the Federation
  • Unfortunately we have become Winn/Jaro shippers
  • “The Collaborator”: Kira becomes the Vimes to Winn’s Vetinari
  • Winn as a maternal figure for Kira, which is GREAT except when you think about what happened to Kira’s actual mother and then what happens to Winn…

It’s the episode where we realise we don’t NOT ship Sisko/Winn…

Transcript

Anika: Welcome to Antimatter Pod, a Star Trek podcast where we discuss fashion, feminism, subtext and subspace, hosted by Anika and Liz.

We’re back from a break to discuss the woman, the legend, the problematic fave, Kai Winn Adami. And we have so much to say about how she has never done anything wrong, ever, in her entire life are going to take three episodes to cover her rise, her reign as Kai, and her ultimate fate.

Liz: Thank you, my child.

First, can I say that I’ve really missed talking to you on a regular basis, and I’m really glad we are recording again. How was your break?

Anika: Me too. My break was amazing. I went into space on a Galactic Starcruiser, and that was living a dream.

Liz: It sounded amazing.

Anika: Strongly recommend.

Liz: My flatmate has this theory that the 2024 official Star Trek con will be held in the south. And I think it’s gonna be held on the east coast. And then we were both like, “Oh, Florida!”

So if that’s the case, we are going to do Mission Orlando. We assume. Mission Miami, maybe? And Disney World. So, stay tuned.

Anika: Mission Miami is the terrible idea. Don’t even put that out into the ether.

Liz: I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

Anika: No one wants that.

Liz: I don’t know any other cities in Florida.

Anika: I think Atlanta is the southern city that I would expect. More than Florida. But I would also 100% wear a Starfleet uniform to Disney World.

Liz: Look, they can’t stop you. Right? You’re not supposed to cosplay Disney characters, but they never said anything…

Anika: Yeah, you can’t cosplay a Disney character. They don’t own … I dressed as Fleur Delacour to go to Epcot one year.

Liz: There are still a few franchises they don’t own yet.

Anika: That’s right.

Liz: I caught COVID on my break. I don’t recommend it. It was bad. If my voice gives out, that’s just like a fun, lingering symptom. Though my voice used to give out before I had COVID, so maybe that’s just a thing I do.

But it gave me a lot of time to watch Deep Space Nine. And I really have to say that if you watch only the episodes with Winn, and often only the scenes with Winn, it is a really amazing series where it’s nothing but two women arguing about religion and politics. And occasionally some men turn up.

Anika: Which is not sadly true to the whole experience.

Liz: No, it’s very different from the main series, but I think it’s better.

And I really have to say, one, I have always enjoyed Kai Winn, but now I completely love her. I cannot argue in seriousness that she has never done anything wrong, ever, in her entire life, because she very much has. But I think, as we go through this trio of episodes – Antimatter Pod episodes, not Deep Space Nine episodes – we can see how much she makes sense as a character. Right up until she doesn’t. But we’ll talk about the end later.

And I think I like Kira best when she’s arguing with Kai Winn.

Anika: Yeah. That’s what I’m most excited to talk about, the relationship between Kira and Winn that develops. It starts in these first episodes. But I’m super excited for part two when we get to those episodes.

Because Kira has this very complicated relationship with the religion and the religious leaders of Bajor and it’s one of those things that I am surprised got into the show. It almost feels like it’s better because they didn’t work on it, but as you say, when you’re watching just those episodes and just that progression, then there’s something really amazing there.

Liz: Right. It’s like with B’Elanna in Voyager, she would have had a much less compelling arc if they had thought about it for more than five minutes.

In The Hands of The Prophets, Vedek Winn’s introduction, the season one finale of DS9, is such a great episode. I remember watching it as a kid, as a teenager and thinking, ‘this is very boring. Oh, the religious person is a bigot. What a surprise.’

But the mystery, even though I know how the mystery unfolds, I love seeing them work at it. I love Vedek Winn’s interactions with everyone.

I really spent a lot of time wanting to shout at Sisko, because, I’m sorry, ‘every philosophy is welcome on this station’ is how you get a Nazi station. But it was the nineties, we didn’t have to think in those terms back then.

I think what I love best about In The Hands Of The Prophets is that Winn is wrong, but that doesn’t mean the Federation is right.

Anika: Yeah. There’s a lot of questions that come up, and there’s a lot of … it’s not as simplistic as it seems.

This is another thing where I don’t – I am obviously not a writer on Deep Space Nine, and I don’t know, I wasn’t in the room. I don’t know what they were thinking, or what they were doing, or what they were trying, but it really feels like they had a lot of big concepts that they were working around with. And they didn’t really dig down into what they were actually doing. And that is messy, but also very interesting.

Liz: One thing that struck me through all of Winn’s appearances is that she turns up and asks questions that maybe the writers should have thought about themselves. Questions like, why is this human, who has never known the oppression of the Occupation, the Emissary of the Prophets? What does Bajor get out joining the Federation, and why is it happening so soon when they’ve only been an independent world again for a couple of years?

I really wish that they had dug into these questions. I wish we had seen what Bajor would gain and what the Federation would gain, aside from manifesting its destiny in yet another system.

Anika: Yeah, it’s really strange, the push, they should definitely join the Federation. It doesn’t seem necessary. It doesn’t seem to align with the doctrine as expressed in the other shows, that we go and explore, and we meet new people, and we offer them, you know, do you wanna, do you wanna join us? Or, do you wanna trade? Or, you know, what are, what do you wanna do with us?

It just seems like they’re on Bajor and for whatever, I guess it’s strategic reasons, but they have this need for Bajor to come into the Federation fold that doesn’t seem actually necessary from the point of view of Bajor, or from the really the point of view of the Bajorans that are involved.

Like, Kira, people didn’t like her in the beginning she was against the Federation. So it’s weird that there’s this push from the Starfleet side. And I just wonder if they were creating that conflict to create a conflict and drama in their series, or if they actually had something to say about it.

Liz: I think if they had something to say about it, they would’ve said it. I can infer why the Federation wants Bajor to join as an ally against the Cardassians, their very recent enemies, as a foothold in a region where they don’t have much power, as a means of making it easier to rebuild Bajor without that pesky prime directive getting in the way, which I think is probably the official reason. But it doesn’t really seem all that necessary for Bajor because we can see the Federation is already helping them.

I agree with Winn. I think Bajor needs more than five years to stand on its own outside of the Federation. I think after a 50 year totalitarian occupation, they need more like 150 years to rebuild their society.

And one of the recurring things we see in Winn’s episodes is that Bajorans are deeply scarred by the occupation. And particularly for Winn’s generation, they really struggle with how to hold power and how to use it responsibly. And so, while she does terrible things, that’s why I empathize with her, because this is a woman who has had very few role models.

Anika: Right. This is my Seska argument – if your entire society is based on one thing, and that’s what you’re raised for, and that’s what all your mentors say, and that’s the only thing that you’ve ever experienced, how are you supposed to know that it’s wrong?

Liz: Right. And if you’ve spent 50 years of your life, which – Louise Fletcher was about 60 when she first appeared in DS9, so let’s assume she was 10 when the Cardassians invaded. So she has grown up under that occupation. She joined a religious order at a time when the Cardassians were repressing all but the most Cardassian-friendly vestiges of their religion. She encourages her order to work with the resistance and do more to save Bajorans, and she ends up spending five years in a labor camp.

With all of that, no wonder she is ultra-conservative, not just in a purely theological way, but as a fuck you to the Cardassians who don’t want her religion to exist. And no wonder she is deeply wary of the Federation.

And so, on the one hand, engineering a religious dispute to lure her rival onto the station so she can have him assassinated … look. Who among us hasn’t? But I will allow that it is not great behavior.

But I really do think she has a point in that, here’s this school run by a human with no educational qualifications, teaching mostly Bajoran children. And teaching them culturally inappropriate science.

And the problem is that it’s Winn as this … I don’t wanna say strawman, she’s much more complicated than that, but it’s like, it really was the writers going, “Hey, there’s this conflict about creationism happening in the US, let’s make a story about that.”

And we don’t hear from the less extreme orders of the Bajoran religion who are like, “Oh yeah, we’ve got this vedek who’s a scientist, like, we have these qualified teachers on Bajor. One of them is going to come out and join Keiko to help her teach.” Because Keiko has no qualifications. She’s a botanist. And Bajor does have scientists. They’ve had space travel for 5,000 years!

Anika: In Florida, there’s a teaching shortage because they’re making it really terrible to be a teacher in Florida. And so they’re, like, putting in National Guard members as teachers.

Liz: Was there a botanist shortage?

Anika: So it actually made me kind of uncomfortable, watching this episode in in the head space I am right now, in terms of education.

I work in education. I care deeply about education for children, and public education. And it is not working for anyone. There is no one, no child I know … You know, ‘no child left behind’ is actually ‘all children left behind’. Because the current system, and COVID just exposed this, but it was already broken. And then COVID was just like, “Hey, now we can’t pretend it’s not broken anymore.” And yet they are continuing to try.

So watching this episode that was about, you know, the ultra-religious side saying, “You have to teach it this way,” and then the scientists saying, “Well, I believe in science, and so I have to teach it this way.” And I was really kind of angry at both sides.

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: I didn’t appreciate Keiko and Sisko teaming up to say, “You’re just wrong. It doesn’t matter that your religion says this, the reality is this.” When science, the point of science and especially the point of the wormhole and the Prophets and the entire storyline that goes throughout from Emissary to What We Leave Behind. the point of it is that they don’t know.

Liz: Right!

Anika: And they have to keep trying to figure it out over and over and over again.

And that’s what science is about. Science is about asking questions, exploring answers, and then starting over and asking questions again. And so this idea that it’s so definitely a wormhole, and it definitely has nothing to do with any religious overtones is really … I prefer Thor, where they’re like, science and religion are the same, based on your point of view.

I really didn’t like that Sisko and Keiko were using science as a bat to like knock down Winn and just ignore her point of view entirely. And I say that as someone who obviously wants the religious right to get out of public education in all ways.

It’s not like I agree with, with, ‘the religion has to take precedent’. Like, that’s definitely wrong, but I also think that it’s wrong to ignore anything they say, and instead of coming up with some way that both are valid.

Liz: Right, right. Sisko and Keiko are proceeding on the assumption that science is culturally neutral, and it’s simply not.

And that’s why I think the real solution was to get a Bajoran teacher who is both a scientist and a vedek in to work with Keiko. I think that would’ve been a much more nuanced and thoughtful approach.

Because as it is, the Federation is like, “Hey we’re dealing with a society that has successfully used terrorism to repel an occupation which threatened to destroy their culture and religion. So we’re just not going to take that culture and religion into account going forward. that won’t go wrong. That will be fine.”

Anika: And it’s not like the Federation isn’t built on Vulcan religion.

Liz: Right.

Anika: Like, I don’t understand how this particular religion is just no.

Liz: I appreciate that the Federation has this weird blind spot, but I wish that the writers did not have that blind spot.

But it’s also very much The Federation As America, which is a particularly terrible problem with Deep Space Nine.

Because it’s like … okay, imagine that there’s a country called the United States of America. And imagine that for reasons, which we don’t really need to go into too deeply, they invade another imaginary country called Iraq. And the official reason is that they’re going to save the Iraqi people from their totalitarian dictatorship, and they’re going to bring them civilization and democracy.

But then, because this imaginary United States of America doesn’t really make the effort to understand Iraqi culture and recent history, they end up completely alienating the Iraqis and being driven out.

That is kind of what almost happens with Bajor, and I cannot pretend it’s not the Federation’s fault.

Anika: Yes. My note here is that it’s not a problem of the Federation being wrong, it’s a problem that the writers think the Federation is right.

Liz: Yes, yes!

Anika: And that’s the problem. The problem is that the episode is fully on the side of Sisko and Keiko, and that is illustrated by the fact that Kai Winn is an assassin and a terrorist.

Liz: Yes.

Anika: So therefore she’s definitely wrong. And it sets her up for the whole rest of the series, that she can never come back from that. She’s just always going to be an assassin and a terrorist.

Liz: Right. It’s not enough that she disagrees with Sisko and is an antagonist to him. It’s that she is unforgivably evil. And I love that about her! It’s great! I forgive her. The Prophets forgive her, probably. But it’s just that problem of, there is no way to disagree with the Federation without being completely irredeemably evil. And I do think that Deep Space Nine gets better about that, but…

Anika: And I would say I would say that Kira is a voice of reason in her scenes in this episode, in that there are, I think, two scenes where they say directly to Kira, you know, “How can you possibly agree with this crazy lady?”

And she’s like, “Well, that’s my religion too.” I mean, she almost does do the Thor route of, you know, ‘how do you know that your science and my religion aren’t the same?’

I appreciate that they at least gave that nuance to that character. And I think that it helps that they did actually intentionally write Kira as a certain type of character.

Liz: Absolutely. And Kira herself is, we learn, quite religiously conservative, enough that she does believe and does agree with Winn right up until the whole assassination thing. Which, look, Kira has definitely assassinated people, but not for this reason. And I love that that is the foundation of Kira and Winn’s relationship, that Kira did once agree with and believe in her.

Anika: Yes.

Liz: I just wanna flag your note here, ‘science is a religion to a lot of science fiction writers and fans’. I think that’s very wise. I think that’s very insightful. And I think that’s why we don’t see this criticism of In The Hands Of The Prophets so often.

And I think that’s part of why fandom hates Kai Winn, or Vedek Winn, so very much. Because she is religious. And even if she were only moderately religious, even if she were Bareil, she’s a woman and she’s religious, and that is bad.

Anika: Right.

Liz: And there is so much misogyny in fandom’s approach to Kai Winn, which is why I suggested this [cat meows] oh, hi Sushi – which is why I suggested this episode in the first place. And now it’s ballooned out to three, and I have no regrets.

Anika: She’s a very complicated character. She’s a well written and played character, in that we almost get too much of her. But it doesn’t quite go over the edge of too much. And they allow her to have that edge.

Liz: Yes.

Anika: And to not be like – our second episode on Kai Winn, I think, is going to be where I’m gonna have the most to say. But I love an ambitious woman.

You know, Cersei Lannister is one of my favorite characters. And she’s terrible! There are very few redeeming things to say about Cersei Lannister, but she knows who she is, and she knows what she wants, and she is willing to do whatever she has to get there. And that is admirable, you know, if it were in a man, she’d be an antihero.

Liz: I’m pretty sure Cersei herself makes that observation in one of the books.

The thing about Winn’s ambition is that she is nakedly ambitious and she is openly political. And then we’re introduced to Vedek Bareil, who is a humble gardener. He didn’t want to ascend to power. He doesn’t like politics, but he’s just terribly good at it.

So it’s this thing of people who are openly political and openly ambitious are untrustworthy, and also men are so much more acceptable as…

Anika: And Bareil is so boring.

Liz: Oh, I know.

Anika: He is a dishrag. Nothing there is interesting about Bareil other than … Like, it’s just, it’s so exhausting to watch episodes with him, because I just get tired as soon as he starts talking. He doesn’t have a point of view.

[Liz makes snoring noises]

Anika: Yeah. He’s just a gardener who’s good at speeches and he’s pretty enough but also non-threatening, like, he’s not attractive enough to be a threat. He’s just, you know…

Liz: I think I called him a stale piece of raisin toast served with margarine. Just unsatisfying on every level.

Anika: And the fact that he almost gets to be the highest – and that he doesn’t because he –I just, I just can’t, I just can’t with him. And the thing is that people don’t act – like, no one likes Bareil, as I can tell.

Liz: No. He has no fans.

Anika: No one. Yeah, no, he has no fans and yet everyone still thinks it would be better if he was Kai.

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: Is someone who does literally nothing actually better?

Because, okay, so not to get political and to, you know, date this particular episode, but President Biden gave a speech last night, and really for the past … I’m gonna say two weeks, he’s taken a turn and he’s decided that he’s actually gonna fight back and do something about–

Liz: It’s very exciting!

Anika: –the forces that are trying to destroy the country. Which is shocking. We’ve been asking for for the Democrats to do literally anything in response to the horrors that the Republicans have been doing for basically my entire life.

And he’s being called Dark Brandon, like, affectionately, like, you know, our side is calling him a straight up villain and doing memes with lightning in his eyes and stuff. And it’s hilarious to me that we’re, like, “Finally we have a villain in charge!”

And so, from my perspective, Winn is better just by the fact that she’s capable of doing anything and having a point of view.

Liz: Right.

Anika: Maybe she’s wrong, but at least she is convicted and committed to her cause, and she has one and she can articulate it. Whereas Bareil, he would’ve just joined the Federation and given up.

Liz: Mm.

I kind of wish that I could go back in time, and this is going to be a very on-brand statement for me, but I wish I could cast Jason Isaacs as Bareil. Because I think, even in the early nineties, he was capable of giving that blandly written character an edge and a subtext, and even a tiny bit of sex appeal. Although, frankly, 1993 Jason Isaacs was only a little bit sexy.

But okay. Let’s move on to The Circle and The Siege, where we have more Bareil…

Anika: I mean, Jaro, at least…

Liz: Oh my God!

Anika: I had forgotten that Franklin Langella was in Deep Space Nine. Apparently he’s uncredited, so I feel better about the fact that I wasn’t supposed to remember that he was in Deep Space Nine. But you know, he’s one of those, That Guy actors, he plays a certain type of, character.

Liz: A sexy type of character!

Anika: And so I knew what to expect from him. Yeah, exactly. He has the subtext just because of who he is, and the history I have with the actor.

Liz: Yes. I think he was embroiled in some controversy last year because he said something really stupid about intimacy coordinators–

Anika: Yeah. I would not be surprised if he was a terrible person.

Liz: Oh no, no, Frank Langella being a total dick is completely separate from Frank Langella being incredibly attractive and playing the only sexy male Bajoran in the entire series.

Anika: Mm-hmm

Liz: In the, no, I don’t wanna say in the entire franchise, because I do think Shaxs on Lower Decks could get it, but in general.

And so we have Minister Jaro as sort of the anti-Bareil, cuz he has a point of view and he’s doing things and he’s collaborating with the Cardassians, but…

Anika: I mean, he’s the worst. But when he’s on screen, I don’t fall asleep,

Liz: Right.

Anika: So it all works out for me.

Liz: And then we learn in the second episode of the opening three parter that he’s having an affair with Winn. And I wanna say congratulations to Winn for having a lover before Kira. Not that it’s a race, but she is 60, so well done her.

And their relationship is so fun to watch, because they clearly know each other well, have known each other for a very long time, but she uses his given name and he doesn’t use hers. And he is coming to her for her basically political endorsement. It’s so fascinating and I love it. They have amazing chemistry. I have a whole headcanon about their relationship.

And the second she learns that he’s collaborating with the Cardassians, she drops him, because she hates the Cardassians as much as she loves power. And that’s a lot.

Anika: Which, you know, points for her. Like, if we have a balance, then we get to put in some on that side, on the good side, because that’s the difference. It’s one thing to be ambitious for yourself and do whatever it takes, even if you have to like lie down with dogs.

And she is like, she will not cross that line. She, like you said, lived her entire life basically under their thumb and watching them take power over and over and over again from her people. It’s like, you know, that would make Jaro one of the Jews who works for the concentration camp people. She is [like], “I’m not gonna cross that line, even if it would save me or, or even if it would put me into what I actually want, even if it’d make me queen of the universe, I am not gonna – I have my lines.”

It outs her as someone who, maybe she’s not on our side and maybe we don’t agree with her agenda, but she has her own – she has her own code of honor.

Liz: She has integrity.

Anika: Even if she’s not honorable, she has her own code of honor.

Liz: That is such a great distinction. People say Winn doesn’t really believe in anything, all she wants is power for herself. And this demonstrates that’s not true. She is completely sincere in wanting the best for Bajor. Her idea of what’s best for Bajor is not necessarily good, and it is too closely linked with her own personal power, as we see after she becomes Kai, but she does have this very hard line and she does have this bright line of integrity that I think she doesn’t get enough credit for.

In my headcanon, she and Jaro have known each other for a long time. He was not a collaborator during the occupation and they met in a labor camp. You know, his betrayal is a betrayal of her – because you see the look on Louise Fletcher’s face. She is trying to cover it up, but she is devastated when she realizes that what Kira’s saying must be true.

Anika: Yeah, I think you’re right. I think that they do have this history and they were – they both had that line. And then when it became harder for him to have power without collaborating, he took the easy route. And she’s unwilling. That’s what I think it is. It’s that he was absolutely against it when the Cardassians were in power, he wouldn’t work with them. But once the Cardassians were no longer in power, but they were giving him the offer of like, “If you really want power, we know how to do that. And we’re gonna get you there.”

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: Then he allowed that to happen.

Liz: I also think he believed that he could use the Cardassians for what he wanted, and maybe that would’ve been right. but that’s, that’s a moral line to cross.

Anika: I mean, I don’t wanna like go into too much of who Minister Jaro is, he’s kinda random, but, you know, the impression that I got was that he wanted to get one over on the Cardassians, he was willing to play their game with them in order to do it. That’s interesting. That’s an interesting option.

Liz: And the thing is Jaro and Winn are both Bajoran supremacists, but Winn doesn’t want to collaborate with anyone. Not the Federation, not the Cardassians. If Bajor was capable of standing completely alone, that’s what she would push for.

And it’s interesting that it takes many seasons before she even comes around to Sisko as the Emissary, which is an arc I love for her. But spoilers for episode two.

Anika: That’s what I’m saying! Gonna be great, everybody.

Liz: The only other thing I have to say about that season two three parter is that Winn’s first scene, she pretends to not know who Kira is when, like, three weeks earlier, Kira was accusing her of attempted murder. And I stan a queen.

Anika: Yeah. Their relationship is the best part of the whole thing.

Liz: So let’s talk about The Collaborator.

Anika: It’s really good.

Liz: This the season two episode in which Vedek Bareil and Vedek Winn fight it out for the role of Kai. And unfortunately we have to see Bareil naked.

Anika: It was funny because, you know, on Twitter I was complaining about how Bareil so boring and I can’t stand him. And someone tweeted in response that his main appoint, like his main … what’s the word, the main thing that he gives fandom? It’s like a word for that.

But whatever, the main thing he gives to Deep Space Nine is being shirtless and attractive every once in a while. And I responded that I would prefer Adam Driver

Liz: I think we’ve already decided to photoshop Adam driver in as Odo, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be shirtless. Is Odo even wearing clothes? And we’ll just slip in Jason Isaacs as Bareil and then we’re good.

Also, why don’t they just let Sisko take his shirt off? Because Avery Brooks is a very good looking man.

Anika: Avery Brooks is a very good looking man.

Liz: And almost always fully dressed.

Anika: I would absolutely approve. And his voice! Sisko only really had one big scene in this episode, but wow, was I there for the whole thing.

Liz: I think we overlook Sisko as both a great character and a very attractive character. And I think, you know, black men are both oversexualized and under sexualized. And I would like to walk a middle line where I deeply love that he is a kind gentle family man, and also he can get it. He’s an intellectual and a scientist and a tactician and very handsome.

Anika: And in that one scene with Kai Winn. It’s Kai Winn, and Sisko basically dancing around each other, trying not to give an inch to the other side, where Sisko wants. Bajor to join the Federation. And so he is hoping for Bareil because he’s pretty sure since he’s friendly with and Kira and, you know, he has an in through Kira. He’s pretty sure that that’s gonna go his way.

And Winn wants Sisko to like her, and approve of her, because then people, you know, people see him as this big religious figure as a leader. You know, she wants his endorsement, basically. She’s trying to get his endorsement, and they are the edge of flirty. And it’s, it’s so disturbing, and also amazing and perfect.

I love the energy in that scene because it’s very different from the way that she manipulates Kira. She’s definitely manipulating Sisko the way that she would manipulate Jaro, and the way that she eventually manipulates, or tries to manipulate, Dukat.

Like, she’s definitely pulling out the, “I might be a nun, but also I’m a woman and I’m willing to throw that, you know, into this particular interaction.” And Sisko is like, “Ew,” like, “I’m scared. Is what I think is happening actually happening?” He looks really disturbed. It’s perfection.

Liz: Look, I’m not saying it’s okay for her to sexually harass the Emissary in his workplace, but I also think Sisko maybe missed out on a really amazing time.

And I love the complexity of that interaction, where she only reluctantly half believes he’s the Emissary, yet she so desperately needs him to like her, because what if he really is the Emissary? It’s so complicated.

And the other thing people say about her is that her faith in the Prophets is shallow or not real. And I think that’s completely untrue. I think she manipulates religion, and she manipulates prophecy and the idea of the Prophets, but she also believes in them desperately and really struggles with the fact that they have chosen Sisko as their Emissary. Does that mean her idea of them is completely wrong? And does that mean she has to reconsider her whole worldview? No, no, the Prophets must be wrong. But they can’t be wrong. Shit.

This is a problem that takes her five seasons to resolve. And I love that. I think that’s so interesting. I think she is such a rich and layered character.

Anika: It’s interesting because in this episode, we see Bareil’s visions, like, a lot. We lot of Bareil’s visions, and they are screwed up and weird and disturbing.

Although I do have to shout out Kai Winn’s amazing bedroom hair. Because in the really disturbing vision where, for reasons unknown, Bareil, sees Winn as his romantic interest, and they kiss and it’s all bad, but she has amazing hair. Amazing hair.

And she looks pretty. Kai Winn is not … She’s striking. She’s absolutely striking, but she is not pretty. And in that moment, she is soft and pretty and feminine. And it’s just like, what is going on?

Liz: That’s the thing. Watching through this, I realized she is so often sexual in a way that 60, 61 year old characters don’t get to be even now, least of all in the nineties.

And fandom perceives it as disgusting and a joke and horrible, but actually it’s framed in a really attractive and beautiful way. You know, she has this long blonde hair that we see when she’s in bed, she has this lovely smile. She’s a really beautiful woman and it’s not the show that’s asking us to perceive her as horrible.

Her personality leaves a little to be desired, but it’s … I think it’s because she’s ambitious and political and a villain that she’s allowed to be sexualized this much.

Anika: It’s very interesting because what I was saying, that we see Bareil’s visions throughout. We don’t see anyone else’s in this particular episode, it’s all his point of view.

I mean, the idea is that he is struggling with his knowledge and his burden and all of the things that he is worrying about [that] may or may not come out, and how he can protect the people that he cares about. And if that is more important than protecting Bajor. Which I feel like it isn’t, but you do you, Bareil.

There are all these angsty visions, right? There are super angsty visions about his relationship with Kira, and it gets mixed up in his rivalry with Winn. And there’s all this weird stuff going on. And we don’t know what the Prophets are showing her during this whole experience.

It’s interesting to look at those visions and it’s like, are these religious visions, or is this just his subconscious? I have a lot of questions about what’s going on, because they’re filmed and presented in the same way that all the Prophet visions are with that, like, weird overlay of the blurry, you know, and the soft lighting, and everything’s a little bit off.

And it’s presented in the same way, but they are very sexual. They are very, uh, specific to his personal conflicts, and are not telling him something about life or philosophy.

But the Prophets also do use other, you know, they use the people that you know, and the care about to tell you messages. So I’m sitting there going, what is going on with the Prophets? What am I supposed to be getting out of this Prophet…

Liz: I really like that ambiguity though, because it’s sort of how real religious experiences feel. And I understand that people who have had them often wonder, you know, there is introspection about whether that was your subconscious or a genuine message from God.

And it’s interesting to me that we have a society where people do speak directly to the Prophets and people do receive visions, and doesn’t it make sense that your dreams and your subconscious present in the same way?

Some Federation scientist out there is doing a paper on the impact of the Prophets on Bajoran subconscious manifestations.

Anika: So should I talk about Winn and Kira.

Liz: Please!

Anika: So they have this amazing scene. They’ve danced around each other up until this point. They definitely already have a very antagonistic relationship, mostly because, like you said, Kira was on Winn’s side until she was outed as a villain, someone who was working against the Bajorans, or the Bajorans that Kira is aligned with.

Liz: Yes.

Anika: Because Kira is very loyal. Kira is the type of person who … what’s the Pride and Prejudice quote, like, ‘as soon as you’ve lost my favor, you’ve lost it forever’? That’s Kira.

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: Kira is Mr Darcy, you heard it here first.

So they have this scene, which is basically Kira saying, “You can’t do these things that you’re trying to do, Winn. You’re gonna lose, and you should stop. You should just accept it and move on, because you don’t have anything.”

And Winn sort of like says, “Well, I have this information that may or may not be true. And I’m going to entrust it with you, because you don’t trust me. And so that means you’re the perfect person to go investigate for me.”

Which is, you know, Kira becomes her pawn in that moment. And Kira doesn’t even know that she’s become her pawn in that moment. Because Kira, as well as being very loyal and very forthright, she also trusts the law and, or, you know, her version of the law, her honor and her [sense of] what is good and right in her world. And she’s had to do that since she was a child.

Liz: Kira is like Worf, in that she wants Bajor to be as good as she is. Andone of the things she struggles with after the occupation that after the Cardassians leave, they no longer have a common enemy, suddenly they’re fighting amongst themselves. And Kira fears a Bajoran civil war almost more than anything else. Whereas Winn is really reckless in terms of risking civil war. First in, In The Hands Of The Prophets, which I think would’ve been the outcome if she had killed Bareil. And later on as Kai and First Minister.

But I think this is another case where both Kira and Winn want what’s best for Bajor and disagree on what that is.

Anika: And that’s what’s so interesting, is that Winn is right, that Kira is the right person for this, that she will get the actual truth and she will bring it out, regardless of what it is, even if it hurts the people that she cares about, and her own personal point of view and what she actually wants.

But what’s amazing about this scene – that’s all interesting. That’s all great. But what’s amazing about this scene is, you know, Winn calls everyone ‘my child’, but there is a very – like, she is fully playing the part of, ‘I am the religious mentor and you are my little acolyte and I’m bringing you into my fold and I am giving you this task to prove yourself. And then you’ll be a good person and a, you know, a member of my family.’

Liz: Mmm.

Anika: And really pushing this, ‘I am the mother, I’m like Mother Superior, and you are my daughter who is a rebel and is doing the wrong things, and is going against the code. But I’m gonna give you this opportunity to prove yourself, and then you’ll be on my side, and everything will be great.’

And the same way that she was flirting with Sisko, she’s playing on this idea that – she somehow subconsciously realizes that Kira really, really wants a mother figure. Kira desperately wants a maternal mentor. Like, it’s great to have friends. It’s great to have mentors. But what she wants is what she didn’t have, which is a mother.

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: It’s something that’s missing in Kira’s life. And Winn is fully inserting herself into that. And it just twists everything up in Kira. Intellectually, she’s sitting here going, ‘I hate this woman, and I disagree with her on everything, and I don’t trust her and she’s wrong,’ but her emotions, her emotional state and her subconscious is saying, ‘Yes, this is what I want. I want you to praise me. You know, I that feeling, I want to be called my child and for it to actually mean something.’

Liz: Yes. And that makes Winn’s fate ultimately more tragic, because, like Kira’s biological mother, she is raped by Dukat, who eventually kills her.

Spoilers, but our final episode, about Winn’s fall, is going to be mostly shouting. Cuz that’s fucked up.

Anika: Because it’s bad.

Liz: Right.

Anika: But I love their relationship. Because it continues. And that’s why I’m super excited for episode two, because that’s when we really get to see Kira realizing what Winn is doing, and realizing that she doesn’t hate it. You know, 90% of the time, she’s against Winn, but that 10% is like, ‘Oh no, she has a point, I kind of agree with her. And I kind want to be, you know, within her confidence.’

Liz: Mm.

Anika: And she hates it. It’s really great for Kira. And it says a lot about Winn.

Liz: And I think Winn is more interesting as Kira’s dark side than the Intendant. Because Winn and Kira are very similar, and they’re both very black and white in their thinking. They both love Bajor and hate Cardassians. And they both want Bajor to stand on its own, whether that’s as an independent planet or as a member of the Federation in good standing, eventually.

And Kira, obviously her life and her path took a very different course to Winn, but she sees the similarities and I think they worry her.

Anika: Right. Yeah. I mean, to throw Game of Thrones in – I don’t know why – I guess House of the Dragon is why Game of Thrones is on my mind. In the later seasons, both Arya and Sansa are sort of like, “I kind of agree with Cersei sometimes, and I really don’t like that about myself, but also, she’s right about this particular thing. And that’s how I have to be in order to, you know, get to my goal.”

And I think that Kira has that same realization. It’s like, “I really don’t like Winn Adami, and I really don’t want to agree with her, ever, but also she’s right about the way that we are being treated in this particular situation, and I can’t ignore that. She’s right about the way we have to act in order to get out of it.” I really love that kind of juxtaposition of, ‘I know you’re a villain, and I know that I don’t want to be like you, but in order to get what I want, I have to be a little like you. and what does that say about me?’

Liz: And the irony of the title of The Collaborator, obviously it’s about the question, is Vedek Bareil a collaborator? And the twist is actually it was Kai Opaka. So maybe her protege, Vedek Bareil, was not a good candidate for Kai all along? Like, maybe the right vedek won?

But it’s an episode about Kira collaborating with Winn to uncover the truth. And I guess Kira doesn’t feel great about that, but actually they’re a really good team.

They remind me a lot of Vimes and Vetinari in the Discworld series, in the Watch line of it, where Vetinari is very political, and has 85 motivations, and some of them are probably shady, and Vimes is this forthright, obnoxious, lower class man who will go forward and uncover the truth, no matter how politically inconvenient it is. I love that vibe and I love seeing it with two women.

Anika: I really like your comment that maybe Winn should have won because she’s more actually more like Kai Opaka. That’s kinda great. I love – I didn’t look it at that way, but I mean, the whole reveal, like, again, it was sort of like, oh Bareil, you were almost interesting.

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: But then it wasn’t true. And it was actually about saving Kai Opaka’s reputation. And would Kai Opaka actually want that? Like, would she want her rival to get into power to save her secret? Absolutely not! Kai Opaka would be super angry about this whole situation.

Liz: And I just say, she is alive and effectively immortal on that planet in the Gamma quadrant. They could pop by and ask. Like, I assume she’s getting the news from Bajor and going, “What, Winn is Kai? What the fuck?”

Anika: This idea, that a woman would make the decision to allow her son to die for the greater good, and then not want anyone to know about it. It’s like, no, that’s not how it goes.

Liz: That’s the thing, the greater good in this case, from Kai Opaka’s point of view, would’ve been Bareil winning the election. So yeah, she would sacrifice her son. She would sacrifice her own reputation. And that’s really interesting. That makes me wish we’d seen more of Kai Opaka, frankly. But yeah, obviously Winn is the more interesting Kai from a storytelling point of view.

Anika: Hmm. Yeah. I saw something online where the writer’s room were discussing, you know, “Okay. So Bareil’s gonna be Kai.” And they were like, “Well, it would be more interesting if Winn was Kai? But we wouldn’t do that.” And they’re like, well, why wouldn’t we do that? You know, “It gives us the conflict. It gives us the drama on a silver platter. Why would we choose Mr Boring over here?”

And it was interesting because the person who was talking about this quote from the showrunners was upset. They, they were like, “No, that was terrible. We don’t want Kai Winn to be in charge. We didn’t want her to win, she just ruined everything.” From a storytelling point of view, it’s like, yeah, that’s, that was her point.

Liz: Yeah. Since I’ve been a bit critical of the DS9 writers in this episode, and also always, I will say that is one of the best decisions they have ever made in the entire run of the series. That and killing Bareil in Life Support, which was also a last minute choice.

Anika: He realized how boring he was and how no one cared–

Liz: I don’t think–

Anika: I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. Especially as I am on record is saying that Kira/Bareil is better than Kira/Odo. And so I feel really terrible for how much I dislike Bareil, but it’s like, at least he isn’t Odo!

Liz: No. Yeah.

Anika: She said, “I love him, Odo,” and Odo got like, sad, and I was like, no!

Liz: Stop! But also she’s, like, really horrified at the idea that he might be a collaborator. And meanwhile, Odo, the collaborator, is sitting right next to her.

DS9 just did so badly by all of its women. By Kira, by Dax, by Dax again, by Kai Winn. I guess everyone but Leeta just had a really terrible arc in the end.

Anika: Mm-hmm

Liz: Anyway.

Anika: Painful. It’s just painful. So, yeah. So I’m sorry that I hate Bareil and that I hate Kira/Odo even more. I’m sorry, all of the fans that I’m annoying. Again. You do you.

Kira and Dax, Kira and Jadzia Dax, had more chemistry talking about the lotion in The Circle than any man that Kira ever looked at.

Liz: Yeah, my problem is that if I were to ship Kira with a man, and she does seem to be extremely enthusiastically heterosexual for some reason, the only man I can see her with is the version of prime Lorca who exists in my head.

Anika: Also, this has nothing to do with Winn, but I have to say that the fact that In The Hands Of The Prophets starts with Keiko and Miles being incompatible as couple. I just really – I’m distressed.

Liz: I wanna say that it feels really, really dated for Keiko to be giving Miles a hard time for having a work wife. But I have been reading r/BestofRedditorUpdates and apparently it is extremely wrong for a married person to have a friend of the opposite sex, and that can only lead to cheating. So maybe it’s not that dated, but either way it’s stupid.

Anika: I was watching, and I was sort of like, Keiko didn’t even really care. Miles had this idea that Keiko was angry at him for feelings that he was having, because he knew that he was having them. She was like, “Whatever.”

The whole thing was bad. And then the fact that [Neela] was the assassin and that – I mean, that episode, the final scenes of the episode are filmed so strangely. I’m like what, what show have we started, have we landed into here? Because this is absurd on every level. And yeah, I, guess it was the season finale and they wanted to make it dramatic?

Liz: I guess? It’s a great episode. I love it, but it is a particularly bad episode for Keiko. Just not a great look on any level.

Also, Miles, I know, I just said that you’re allowed to have a work wife, but don’t flirt so much with your work wife.

Anika: Well, that’s what I’m saying. He felt guilty because he was in fact guilty. Keiko didn’t care. And yet, fandom hates Keiko for things like this. It’s just weird to me. And so I just had to put it out there that Keiko deserves better. She should have left Miles, you know, basically then, realized that she’s worth more than can what she’s given. So yeah.

Do you wanna say anything more about – final thoughts on Winn’s first, you know, her first appearances?

Liz: Just that it’s wild to me that making her Kai was a last minute decision. Because she embodies the role so well that I kept forgetting to call her Vedek Winn instead of Kai Winn in this episode, when she’s–

Anika: When I was tweeting, it was like, I can’t call her Kai Winn because that’s not who she yet.

Liz: Thank you for listening to Antimatter Pod. You can find our show notes at antimatterpod.com, including links to our social media, credits for our theme music, and transcripts of our episodes, though unfortunately we are getting increasingly further behind because the software got worse and worse and worse. [Maybe I need to complain about the software on air more often?]

You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram, all at Antimatter Pod. And write to us at mail@antimatterpod.com.

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And join us in two weeks, when we’ll be discussing Winn’s reign as Kai and, briefly, First Minister.

Anika: All hail the Queen.

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