Shadows and Symbols


"Shadows and Symbols" is the second episode of the seventh season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the 152nd overall, premiering the week of October 5, 1998. The episode's premiere received Nielsen ratings of 4.2 points corresponding to over 4.1 million viewers.[1] This episode was written by Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler, and directed by Allan Kroeker.[2]

"Shadows and Symbols"
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode
Episode no.Season 7
Episode 2
Directed byAllan Kroeker
Written byIra Steven Behr
Hans Beimler
Featured musicDennis McCarthy
Production code552
Original air dateOctober 5, 1998 (1998-10-05)
Guest appearances
Episode chronology
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"Image in the Sand"
Next →
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (season 7)
List of episodes

Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the crew of the Starfleet-managed Bajoran space station Deep Space Nine. The station is adjacent to a wormhole leading to the distant Gamma Quadrant; the wormhole is home to powerful alien beings worshiped by the Bajorans as the "Prophets", who have made station commander Benjamin Sisko their "Emissary". The later seasons of the series follow a war between the United Federation of Planets and the Dominion, an expansionist empire from the Gamma Quadrant. This episode resolves Sisko's crisis of faith in the wake of the events of the sixth season finale, "Tears of the Prophets", and establishes the status quo for the remainder of the seventh season.


In "Tears of the Prophets", the Prophets came under attack by their ancient enemies, the Pah-wraiths, sealing the wormhole and incidentally killing Sisko's friend Jadzia Dax, who was a symbiotic relationship between the sluglike creature Dax and the humanoid Jadzia. The loss of the wormhole, combined with Jadzia's death, caused Sisko to experience a crisis of faith, leading him to take a leave of absence from Deep Space Nine and visit his father Joseph in New Orleans. While visiting his father in the following episode, "Image in the Sand", Sisko experienced visions convincing him that he must seek the mysterious "Orb of the Emissary" on the planet Tyree. Meanwhile, Colonel Kira Nerys, left in command on Deep Space Nine, came into conflict with the Romulans, powerful but untrustworthy allies of the United Federation of Planets, as they attempted to install weapons on the Bajoran moon of Derna; Jadzia's husband Worf planned a dangerous mission in order to secure a place for Jadzia in the Klingon afterlife, Sto-Vo-Kor; and the surviving Dax symbiont was transplanted into a new humanoid host, Ezri Dax, who arrived in New Orleans to visit Sisko.

The episode also returns to the scenario of the earlier episode "Far Beyond the Stars", in which Sisko imagined himself as Benny Russell, a science fiction writer in the 1950s.[2]


The Siskos are surprised by the young woman introducing herself as Ezri Dax, explaining she was the only unjoined Trill aboard the starship transporting the injured Dax symbiote back to Trill when it needed to be implanted immediately to survive. Benjamin Sisko invites Ezri to join him, his father Joseph, and his son Jake as they travel to Tyree to seek the Orb of the Emissary. Back at Deep Space Nine, Kira prepares a blockade to stop the Romulans from arming the weapons they have placed on Derna. Worf is joined by Jadzia's friends Miles O'Brien, Julian Bashir, and Quark on a mission led by the Klingon General Martok to destroy a Dominion shipyard in Jadzia's name.

The Siskos and Ezri arrive on Tyree. Guided by his visions, they begin a long trek across the desert. Eventually, Benjamin stops and digs on a seeming whim, while his father, son, and Ezri can only watch. He eventually unearths the Orb ark, but hesitates from opening it; he experiences visions of Benny Russell confined in a psychiatric hospital, as a doctor tries to persuade him to end the story of Benjamin Sisko. Sisko begins to bury the Orb, but Ezri convinces him to open it. When he does, an energy vortex is unleashed which re-opens the wormhole and expels the Pah-wraiths from it. Sisko experiences a vision in which one of the Prophets explains that she merged with Sisko's mother years ago to ensure Sisko's birth and the fulfillment of his destiny.

Against the advice of the Federation's Admiral Ross, Kira blockades Derna with old Bajoran ships, vastly outmatched by the firepower of the Romulans. Neither Kira nor the Romulans appear willing to back down, and seeing the wormhole reopen strengthens Kira's resolve. When he sees that Kira will not surrender, Ross persuades the Romulans to retreat.

On the Klingon ship, Worf is annoyed by the presence of O'Brien, Bashir, and Quark; eventually Martok reminds him to be grateful that Jadzia had such loyal friends, and he apologizes to them. When they reach the Dominion shipyard, they execute a plan to fly dangerously close to the sun and trigger a plasma ejection that will destroy the shipyard and illuminate the gates of Sto-vo-kor for Jadzia. The plan seems to fail when they are unable to trigger the plasma ejection, but they succeed on their second try and demolish the shipyard.

When Sisko returns to Deep Space Nine, the Bajoran people praise him for reopening the wormhole. His crew welcome him back, and are perplexed at the arrival of Ezri Dax.


Outdoor scenes in the desert landscape were filmed at sand dunes in Palmdale, California in the United States.[3]

Guest stars include:[2]

Avery Brooks, in addition to Sisko, portrays Benny Russell, a 20th-century writer of whose life Sisko has visions. The writing in Benny's cell in Sisko's vision consists of summaries of the first six seasons of Deep Space Nine.[2]


In 2015, recommended this episode as "essential watching" for their abbreviated Star Trek: Deep Space Nine binge-watching guide.[4]

Keith R.A. DeCandido, reviewing the episode in 2014 for, gave it a rating of 6 out 10. He felt the episode was a strong followup to "Image in the Sand". He felt the Kira and Worf plots were straightforward, and was happy to see the return of Benny Russell, but felt the Prophets story was silly. However, he did feel it was a good introduction to Ezri Dax.[2] Zack Handlen, reviewing the episode in the same year for The A.V. Club, also gave it a mixed review; he appreciated the relationship between the episode's three main plot lines and said the characters' victories felt earned, but found the introduction of Ezri Dax awkward and disliked the focus on the Prophets and Pah-wraiths.[5]

In 2020, Den of Geek listed the three-episode sequence from "Tears of the Prophets" to "Shadows and Symbols" as one of the best stories of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.[6]


  1. ^ "WebTrek - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine * SEASON 7 NIELSEN RATINGS".
  2. ^ a b c d e DeCandido, Keith R. A. (2014-11-25). "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: "Shadows and Symbols"". Retrieved 2021-05-31.
  3. ^ Erdmann, Terry J.; Block, Paula M. (2000). Deep Space Nine Companion. p. 601. ISBN 9780671501068. Retrieved 2019-10-01.
  4. ^ Ryan Whitwam (2015-01-19). "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine condensed: How to watch the most story-driven Trek". Archived from the original on 2016-11-20.
  5. ^ Zack Handlen (2014). "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: "Shadows And Symbols"/"Afterimage"". The A.V. Club.
  6. ^ "The Best Star Trek Deep Space Nine Stories". Den of Geek. 2020-01-03. Retrieved 2021-02-24.

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