Following a 60 year occupation, the Cardassian Empire has withdrawn from Bajor, leaving behind a planet stripped of many of its natural resources and a population scarred by decades of subjugation and mistreatment. The Federation has agreed to help the planet rebuild, and to this end, it will be sharing command of the abandonded Cardassian space station Terok Nor (now renamed Deep Space Nine) with the Bajorans. Commander Benjamin Sisko will be in charge, but he still has issues from the loss of his wife at the Battle Of Wolf 359, and to make matters worse, he also has to deal with his Bajoran first officer, who is deeply mistrustful of Starfleet and even her own government and the damage done to the station as the Cardassians left.
Taking a short trip around the Bajoran system in a Runabout, Sisko and his old friend and science officer Dax discover a stable wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant, but on the return journey, Sisko is captured by the aliens who live inside the Wormhole, who dump Dax back on DS9. While Sisko tries to explain the nature of linear time and corporeal existence to the Sufficiently Advanced Aliens
, the crew on the station must race to move it to protect the wormhole from the Cardassians, who are on their way back with a renewed interest in Bajor...
- Abandon Ship: Sisko, Jake, and crew at Wolf 359.
- Ascended Extra: Miles O'Brien ascends to the main cast of this show.
- Blown Across the Room: Happens to several civilians when the Cardassians attack the station.
- The Cameo: Captain Picard.
- Chekhov's Gun: A very long-range one. O'Brien uses Techno Babble to fake the station having 5000 photon torpedoes to bluff the Cardassians. Four seasons later, the Klingons attack and it turns out the station really does have 5000 torpedoes now, and the Klingons initially suggest that it's a fake using the same Techno Babble O'Brien uses in this episode.
- Contemplate Our Navels: The whole long sequence where Sisko explains the circumstances of existing in linear time to the Prophets boils down to this.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Wolf 359, as the viewer of TNG already knows. All the Federation ships' phaser fire doesn't even scratch the Borg cube.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: In a couple of scenes, Sisko smiles and laughs in a big way that looks odd to a viewer familiar with his cooler portrayal in later episodes.
- Bashir stammers awkwardly when inviting Jadzia to dinner. Later he's portrayed as much smoother with women, busily dating many of the single women on the station (though mostly offscreen). According to Alexander Siddig, this was a deliberate attempt at Character Development on his part because he knew the series would likely last several years, so he had time to set up a Character Arc.
- Kira has long hair.
- Establishing Character Moment: Sisko essentially blackmailing Quark into staying on the station really sets him up as the most pragmatic of all the Star Trek captains.
- Sisko's initial hatred of Picard over his role in Wolf 359 (though Picard couldn't control his actions) and their later reconciliation was meant to establish that Sisko would be a very different kind of captain and this would be a very different show.
- Fan of the Past: Sisko, due to his love of baseball, which had previously been established in TNG to have died out of the mainstream by the 24th century.
- First Episode Spoiler: Averted - The station is in orbit around Bajor at the beginning; its move to the wormhole entrance is reflected in the opening credits of every episode except this one.
- Humanity on Trial: Not just humanity, but all corporeal beings. Sisko makes the case, and is thus deemed the Emissary.
- Irony: Sisko has to explain the concept of linear existence to the Prophets, but when they understand it, they point out that he is not linear, because he is still living in the moment of his wife's death and has been unable to move on.
- Kneel Before Frodo: A variation; when O'Brien leaves the Enterprise (where he had served as transporter chief for many years in TNG), Captain Picard operates the transporter himself to beam him over to the station.
- Manly Tears / Tears of Remorse: Sisko over his wife's death.
- Mind Screw: The Prophets sequence looks like one... until you understand the argument and why it is presented as a conversation superimposed on events of Sisko's life; it's how the Prophets are able to communicate with and relate to this alien human.
- Patrick Stewart Speech: The baseball scene with the Prophets.
- Put on a Space Station: Chief O'Brien and family (at least from the Enterprise Crew's point of view).
- Retcon: A minor example; the USS Melbourne (the ship Riker was meant to command) was a Nebula-class ship in "The Best of Both Worlds" but changed to an Excelsior-class one in this episode, as the model was more detailed for the closeup where the Borg destroy it. The ship was never definitively identified as any particular wreck in the original episode, so it's not a major issue.
- Spinoff Send Off: The episode starts with The Enterprise-D docked with the eponymous station. Captain Picard appears and the new Commander Sisko promptly tells him how much he hates him. Sisko has some epiphanies, makes peace with Picard, and Picard gives him his blessing. It literally happens to TNG semi-regular Chief O'Brien, when he's sent to DS9 by Picard himself, who wishes him well on his new assignment.
- What Could Have Been:
- Orbs were meant to be shaped like a literal tear, hence their name Tears of the Prophets. (One production staff member reportedly kept pointing out how bizarre it was that something called an orb was meant to be tear-shaped or, as it turned out, hourglass-shaped...)
- There was a pirate character and contact of Quark with a base in Bajor's asteroid belt who informed the Cardassians about the wormhole, but this was cut.
- Morn was actually supposed to be 'telling the funniest joke in the universe' in the background when Quark's bar was introduced, and it was only by accident that he ended up being The Voiceless.
- The character of Kira was created because Michelle Forbes (Ro Laren from TNG) didn't want to commit to a series.
- White Void Room: With an closeup on Sisko's head... then his face... then his eyes... then just one eye.
- Visual Effects of Awesome: The episode opens with a flashback to the Battle of Wolf 359 from Star Trek: The Next Generation, which was an Offscreen Moment of Awesome at the time and the Enterprise just seeing the aftermath. This episode gives it the moment in deserves.