10

DS9 revolves around a unique trade route between the Alpha and Gamma quadrants. The route was an artificial wormhole built and controlled by the Prophets. At the wormhole's accidental discovery Sisko was inside making some negotiations while the Cardassians were also vying for control. It seems that the Prophets have no needs, they don't even experience the passage of time. What did we give them in exchange for free access?

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    Understanding of time – J Doe Sep 26 at 0:35
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    Was it ever said that the Federation gave them anything? Ships traveling through the wormhole don't seem to particularly bother them, and as we see in season 6, they have their own means of dealing with intruders they don't like. – Cadence Sep 26 at 0:36
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    At multiple points they indicate that they are "of Bajor," although the exact meaning of that phrase is up for debate. Regardless, it seems they have benign if not benevolent intentions towards the Bajorans at least. I don't think there's canon evidence that they "charged" the Bajorans or Federation anything for passage. – Kevin Sep 26 at 0:41
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    There's never any mention of any "trade" with the prophets. Given the revelations that come out later in the series, I suspect they allowed access because Sisko asked them to. – geewhiz Sep 26 at 1:33
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    There is also the unresolved plot hole that it is stated in Emissary that ships going through the wormhole somehow injure or inflict pain on the prophets, yet they decide to allow free passage to all ships anyway. – Darren Sep 26 at 8:59
18

They gave them Sisko, their chosen Emissary. From the episode Accession (emphasis mine)

KIRA: The Sisko taught us that for you, what was, can never be again.
AKOREM: If the D'jarras belong in the past, why did you send me into the future?
ODO: For the Sisko.
SISKO: For me?
AKOREM: You're saying that he's your Emissary?
BASHIR: He is the Sisko.
(snip)
AKOREM: Then I've been wrong about everything.
OPAKA: Why? Why do you stay here?
SISKO: Because I still have questions.
OPAKA: We are of Bajor.
SISKO: What does that mean?
OPAKA: You are of Bajor.

The Prophets want Sisko there for Bajor. As long as he is there, they are content to allow use of the wormhole. They prevent Sisko from resigning (Far Beyond the Stars) and keep Sisko from killing himself to stop the Dominion invasion (Sacrifice of Angels)

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    It's certainly true that Sisko is important to them, but is there any evidence here that it's related to permitting the passage of ships as of the close of the pilot? – Lightness Races with Monica Sep 26 at 10:48
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit The question doesn't limit itself to the pilot, but it would be a mistake to do so. Sisko as the Emissary was a recurring plot throughout DS9, but they didn't really resolve it in the pilot (in fact, that part just sorta ends). Either way, the Prophets didn't like people in their wormhole before Sisko's visit, and didn't seem to mind afterward – Machavity Sep 26 at 12:27
  • What I meant was, the agreement is made at the end of the pilot. I was asking whether this event, at the end of the pilot, is expanded upon by the Prophets' continued interest in Sisko. Your answer seems to hinge on it but doesn't say how – Lightness Races with Monica Sep 26 at 12:30
  • @Machavity - There was the stand-off between Kira and the Cardassians about who would control the access. I don't believe the Prophets unequivocally let everyone through, Sisko made some negotiations and the Cardassians basically backed off on order of the ship they towed back. As I assumed there was some transaction between the "Emissary" and the Prophets - that the Cardassians couldn't do. trying to pin that down – Vogon Poet Sep 26 at 21:08
6

There is never any indication that the Federation gave anything at all "in exchange for" passage.

The pilot suggested that the passage of ships was somehow harmful to the Prophets, but by the end of the episode we are told:

Station log, Commander Benjamin Sisko, stardate 46393.1. The lifeforms who created the wormhole have agreed to allow safe passage for all ships traveling to the Gamma Quadrant.

This agreement is never mentioned again nor discussed in more detail.

So, something may have been given back to the Prophets in exchange. But, if it was, we have never heard anything about it.


Personally I interpret the phrasing of Sisko's log entry to suggest that nothing of value was given in exchange, that the Prophets simply decided to allow ships to pass through having "got to know" Sisko a little during the course of the pilot.

Perhaps the "harmful" nature of passage through the temple had been theretofore imagined: a general concern about the unknown ramifications of unchecked infiltration by these aggressive, adversarial time-aware alien beings!

And besides, as others have noted, it was ultimately in the Prophets' best interests to do this, so perhaps that drove their actions in the pilot in some way.

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    "harmful" nature of passage - I could be miss-remembering things but I thought there was some episode where the DS9 they required any ship passing through have certain upgrades applied that would negate/minimize the problem, and ships had to be inspected or something? Or maybe of the novels? – Zoredache Sep 26 at 18:46
  • @Zoredache: Nope, I remember ships requiring a specific engine modification/configuration as well. I've been trying to find the episode. – Ellesedil Sep 26 at 19:00
  • I recall nothing of the kind from the show. – Lightness Races with Monica Sep 27 at 0:01
5

The Prophets didn't receive anything in trade from the Federation or any other organization in exchange for use of the wormhole. They seemed to allow free passage to anyone who wished to use it. Though there was one notable exception.

You could make the argument that allowing the Federation to use the wormhole gave them frequent access to their Emissary, but that's not the same as trade.

Also, the wormhole is naturally occurring, not artificial.

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    I don't think it is ever definitively decided whether the wormhole is a construct of the Prophets, thus artificial, or a natural phenomena that they simply live in. – Xantec Sep 26 at 2:05
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    It is definitely "artificially stable" and I think the clear implication is that they did construct it. Source; I just finished re-watching season 1. – Darren Sep 26 at 8:58
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    On-screen graphics from the show read: "This wormhole was constructed by an alien intelligence. Most wormholes are either naturally occurring or the result of dangerous warp drive malfunctions. Such wormholes tend to oscillate wildly across time and space, thus making them useless for normal interstellar commerce." (ref) It's artificial, not naturally occurring. – Lightness Races with Monica Sep 26 at 10:50
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    Dax states it's artificial: DAX: It is no ordinary wormhole. My analysis suggests that it isn't even a natural phenomenon. BASHIR: Not natural? You mean it was constructed? DAX: It's very possible whoever made the Orbs also created this wormhole. – Ellesedil Sep 26 at 18:37

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