I'm not going to give any examples here because I believe an answer is going to cite many examples to illustrate the point.

Kai Winn Adami is a particularly insidious character, shown many times to take evil actions and justify them as "the will of the Prophets" and skilfully suggesting that people's actions and motivations are due to their own lack of piety or moral shortcomings. All the while she clearly appears to be corrupt and motivated by her own political ambitions.

Is Kai Winn delusional or merely duplicitous?

Does she realize her own evil and ambitions? Does she really believe the Prophets are guiding her? Or is she blind to her motivations?

  • 2
    FYI Drinking the Kool-Aid Oct 19, 2015 at 18:00
  • 3
    By late season 7, she is fully aware she is working for the Pah-wraiths. Her initial reaction is rather shocked and upset, so I would say she really does believe she is doing the right thing up until that point. Perhaps she feels she needs to become Kai in order to accomplish as much good as possible.
    – Kevin
    Oct 19, 2015 at 18:23
  • @Kevin: I don't think that's conclusive of anything. An ambitious pope who doesn't believe would still be shocked to find out he was really working for Satan. Oct 19, 2015 at 18:30
  • 1
    There is a difference between shocked and bent over crying for several minutes. Winn did the latter.
    – Kevin
    Oct 19, 2015 at 18:31
  • @Kevin: They are evil spirits. I don't see how you can call any reaction to be overblown, and therefore not evidence of anything either way. Oct 19, 2015 at 18:33

1 Answer 1


Why not both?

Winn is consciously designed as an enigmatic character, so it's difficult to get a read on exactly what she's really thinking. Watching the show, my impression was that she genuinely believed that she was acting in Bajor's best interests, and was willing to twist any evidence to prove that the Prophets were supporting her; of course, that's probably exactly what she wanted everyone to think.

The most illuminating look into her head is in a late episiode of DS9, where she has a long conversation with Kira about her actions as Kai. Although this is a very late conversation, after Winn has come to some important realizations about herself, much of it still applies. Highlights include:

  • She accepts that she's made some questionable decisions in the name of advancing her own goals, but does believe that she's Bajor's best option

    Winn: I have often sensed that you don't approve of how I conducted myself as Kai, that you believe I put my own political interests ahead of the spiritual well being of our people. I wish I could disagree with that assessment. I have strayed from the path the Prophets laid down for me.


    Winn: Oh yes, I have given in to the temptations of power.


    Winn: But Bajor needs me.

    Deep Space Nine Season 7 Episode 19: "Strange Bedfellows"

  • She's fully willing to twist any evidence (or absence of evidence) into the approval of the Prophets

    Winn: I've resolved to change. Don't you see? Once I have regained the Prophets' trust, I'll be better able to serve them if I remain Kai. If the Prophets wanted me to step down, surely they would have told me so.

    Deep Space Nine Season 7 Episode 19: "Strange Bedfellows"

At the very end of the series, she seems to declare that she never believed in the Prophets, or at least that she has never been a particularly consistent devotee:

Winn: I rid myself of the Prophets and shed a lifetime of hypocrisy.

Deep Space Nine Season 7 Episode 25: "What You Leave Behind"

Of course she goes on to attempt to destroy the Pah-Wraiths, so make of that declaration what you will. An earlier conversation with Anjohl Tennan (a disguised Gul Dukat), seems to indicate that she tried to serve the prophets, but felt no great devotion to them:

Winn: I remember the first time I saw the Gate of the Celestial Temple. I was on the Promenade. When it burst into view, this whirlpool of colour and light, the people around me were in awe. They said they could feel the love of the Prophets washing over them. Do you know what I felt, Anjohl? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. But I smiled and pretended I did because it was expected of me. I've never admitted that to anyone.

Dukat: I can understand why.

Winn: They've never spoken to me. Never offered me guidance. Never trusted me with the fruits of their wisdom. And now, I'm supposed to step down as Kai in order to be blessed by them? No. I have worked too hard, waited too long to give it all up now.

Dukat: You shouldn't have to. Merciful gods don't ask their children to make such sacrifices.

Winn: The Prophets have turned their backs on me. After all I've done for them, all the pain I've endured for them.

Dukat: They are not worthy of you, Adami.

Winn: I'm a patient woman. But I have run out of patience. I will no longer serve gods who give me nothing in return. I'm ready to walk the path the Pah wraiths have laid out for me.

Deep Space Nine Season 7 Episode 19: "Strange Bedfellows"

From the actress' mouth

For whatever canonicity you attribute to actor interviews, Louise Fletcher is frequently asked for her interpretation on the Kai, and her consistent response is that Winn has been faking it the whole time; in one interview, she says:

"I thought she was trying to believe," says Fletcher. "She made that speech about how she pretended to believe because that was what was expected of her, and when people said they heard the Prophets' voices, she just smiled and pretended she did too. She would say different things depending on who she was talking to. Except when the Emissary started to hear them, she was so jealous! She was contemptuous that he would have been chosen."

And in a Season 7 DVD extra, she says:

Fletcher: I think Kai Winn just basically has a resentment for anyone else who has power. She wants to be the be-all end-all of power, and the fact that the Prophets, that she became interested in the Prophets and her basic belief structure, which we find out toward the end has all been hypocrisy anyway, she never really believed, it was all just lip-service and appearance. But what she was basically interested in was just having that power for herself.

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