Deep Space Nine: s05 e19: Ties of Blood and Water

A ‘family’

In another week, I might very well have enjoyed this episode much more, or at least have been more impressed by it. Instead, being tired and headachey, I couldn’t really respond to what, when seen through the looking glass, was an obvious attempt to manipulate its audience through a sequence of predictable scenes. So I apologise in advance for the negative tone of what is to follow, which is at least as much me as it is the story.

The episode focuses on Major Kira, which usually cheers me up, and furthermore, for the first time since she first took on the O’Brien’s foetus, Nana Visitor is back in that old form-hugging uniform, and rocking that crocheted undertunic as well.

She’s come up with a plan to undermine the Dominion domination of Cardassia by using the popular political figure of Tekeny Ghemor (LawrencePressman) to lead a counter-revolution, for which purpose he’s on his way to DS9. Ghemor was a leading light in the Cardassian Dissident Movement that led to the lifting of the Occupation on Bajor, which puts him, in Kira’s eyes, firmly in the position of a Good Cardassian, but more importantly, he is the her pseudo-father from the third season episode in which the Obsidian Order transformed the Major into a Cardassian, supposedly Ghemor’s long-lost daughter. Kira loves Ghemor as if a father.

He’s perfect for her plan except for one thing (reaches for the Cliche Drawer): he’s dying.

Basically, the episode is about Kira’s reaction to losing a ‘parent’ again. In the absence of the still-missing Iliana, Kira is the closest Ghemor has to a daughter, or, it seems, to any family. He asks her to share with him the Cardassian ritual of Shri-tal, where a dying person shares all their secrets with their family so that these may be used against their enemies.

Kira is initially reluctant, which the episode will explain by means of flashbacks that I found obvious and banal in my present frame of mind. She persuades herself to do it out of a combination of love for the old man and the strategic value of this information. Ghemor is in pain, and it takes a long, halting time, primarily because the information is a McGuffin, required only to bring Kira to this point.

And we flashback to the Resistance days, in the caves, Furel (William Lucking) in charge, Kira with unflattering, long, straggly hair, and her father brought in, gut-shot, in pain, obviously dying but mainly enraged because the Cardassians had burned down his garden. The clunk I heard at that moment was the rest of the episode falling into place.

Because I knew instantly what it eventually took three flashbacks to establish, that Kira had run out on her father. That he was dying and wanted her with him, but she ran out on him to join a raid on the Cardassian troops responsible, that he died, calling for her, whilst she was gone, and all she did was to a) plan another raid and b) dig his grave in solitude, without fanfare or service.

Gul Dukat’s on board the station by now, insisting on taking Ghemor home to die at ease on Cardassia, and enjoy a lavish state funeral. He’s got Weyoun with him, which seems odd because Weyoun’s dead, killed by his own Jem’Hadar troops, but in order to bring Jeffrey Combs back, the Weyouns have been turned into clones: this is Weyoun 5.

And Dukat offers to reunite Ghemor with Iliana: the Gul knows her whereabouts. Ghemor is not so stupid as to trust him, however, so Dukat goes to the opposite extreme and poisons Kira against him: Ghemor took part in the Liessa Monastery massacre. Angered that he never confessed this to her, Kira breaks off all ties. That Ghemor was a 19 year old soldier under orders is not allowed to influence her, since she’s reverting to her hate-all-Cardassians mode, except that you and I know that a) she’s recalling her father’s death alone because she couldn’t face up to it and b) she’ll go to Ghemor just before the end.

Which she does. Nana Visitor then gets to deliver a monologue of self-realisation, which also comes from the Cliche Drawer, and which only exists for the hard-of-thinking in the audience who haven’t worked any of this out from the copious clues that have been battering them about the temples for the past twenty minutes. I know, I know, prime-time network television in the Nineties, never trust your audience to spot something for themselves, always spell it out in brightly coloured letters on baby blocks.

That’s why this was the wrong week for me to watch this episode. I should have had last week’s Quark-centric atrocity to blog, or next week’s Quark-centric atrocity instead. Something that deserved a good kicking, instead of an earnest, worthy character exploration episode with my favourite cast member (for all the shallow reasons).

One final point, and one skillfully underdrawn, to the point where I didn’t twig it myself but had to read it: to quote Robert Hewitt Wolfe on the scene where the Major shows off Kiriyoshi O’Brien to Ghemor: The father that is not her father. The baby that is not her baby. That’s Kira’s family.

3 thoughts on “Deep Space Nine: s05 e19: Ties of Blood and Water

  1. This one runs together with The Darkness and the Light for me. Kira centric episodes that were both skipped over in my syndication run in late 2001, that I didn’t see until a couple of years later.
    At first I thought this was the last episode of DS9 that I’d never seen, but the more reading over it was Ties of Blood and Water that was final one I needed to see to have watched every episode.
    While both episodes suffered by me from that dreaded watched out of sequence, this one I wanna say was drier, but a little better.

    ADD: After looking at Jammers page jogged me, the Dukat and Kira exchange about his keeping the title of “Gul,” was gold. And as another of your commenters spoiled to you a way back, about the writers reverting Dukat to one dimensional cartoony super villainy, this was about his last great moment. Or last that didn’t undermine his character evolution through early season five. This at least had the trace of the swarmy smug Dukat, who was portrayed so great, you enjoyed it,…

  2. As I said, this episode was watched under conditions of extreme shittiness and I lacked the energy with which to appreciate it. When you feel like that, you can always pick holes in what you’re seeing. Another week and I’d have probably glowed a lot more at this one.

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