Deep Space Nine: s07 e23 – Extreme Measures


Almost the perfect con…

I admit to a cynical expectation about Deep Space Nine after all but a tiny few of seven seasons. Though I’ve enjoyed a majority of the episodes I’ve seen, far too many of these have been spoiled for me by poor writing, sloppy writing, writing that has skimped on logic or dodged self-constructed corners with the equivalent of a ‘Hey! Look! A Squirrel!’ that distracts the audience’s attention (they think).

Last week, Julian Bashir and Miles O’Brien declared a private war on Section 31, determined to get out of it the cure for the morphogenetic disease that’s slowly killing the Founders but rapidly killing Odo: in an extended and emotional open, Bashir diagnoses our horribly flaky friend as having a week left, maybe two. Typically, crusty Odo sends Kira back to Demar and co, so he can die alone without her having to watch.

That Julian’s plan – to lure someone from Section 31 to DS9 by pretending to have the cure, have them come to destroy it and extract the real one from them – would work was scarcely in doubt. It was how it would work and, given the nature of Section 31 and the massive imbalance of forces, whether it would be remotely credible that worried me.  And my doubts were gloriously refuted.

‘Extreme Measures’ was practically a two-hander, three if you count William Sadler, making a final guest appearance as Luther Sloan. This enabled tight, focussed writing that, because only minimal use of the rest of the cast was allowed (no Quark for two weeks running!), left room for a beautifully constructed twist that I confess I didn’t see coming at all, but which was perfectly logical.

Bashir’s bluff, which he and O’Brien have to reveal to Sisko in the open, works, and of course it’s Sloan himself to rises to the bait, appearing out of nowhere in the chair in the Doctor’s quarters in the night, just like last time. That is what Bashir’s counted upon, and he has a containment field ready. He also has Romulan Mind-Probes ready, despite their being highly illegal in the Federation: Sloan has underestimated just how much of an underhand sneaky bastard the genetically enhanced Julian is prepared to be, and we should all be thankful that all he’s motivated by in the life of a friend.

But Sloan is going to be a tough nut to crack: rather than allow the cure to be extracted, from where it might fall into Dominion hands, Sloan activates the futuristic equivalent of a cyanide tooth, a neuropole thingummy that crashes his brain and will cause his death within an hour. Which leaves Bashir only one option, a complex and dodgy on many levels neural link that will allow him to enter the dying mind of Sloan. Not just the Doctor but also the Chief: O’Brien will not let him go alone, and it is O’Brien alone who will circumnavigate the last and most brilliantly conceived trap.

Inside Sloan’s head it’s DS9. Sloan appears to the hunters almost immediately, willing, indeed eager to hand over the cure but incapable of doing so until they join him in the wardroom and hear his speech in apology to his family and friends for ruining their and his lives by his secrecy and self-erasure, a life he deeply regrets and for which he is shamed by the beliefs of Bashir.

On the one hand, this Damascene conversion is a thrilling refutation of secrecy and manipulation, a self-condemnation for the pain and deceit, but it was laid on a bit with a trowel, and I rapidly decided I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Not from Sloan. In physical terms, the plot wasn’t having any of it: Sloan’s about to hand over the PADD his ‘wife’s been keeping for him when he’s shot and killed by… Sloan. Two warring impulses in the same mind, we’re meant to think, but one of us wondered if this whole thing hadn’t been a diversion, a delaying tactic using up as many as possible of the precious minutes between now and Sloan’s brain-death.

In pursuit of the ‘real’ Sloan, our intrepid pair get themselves shot by a Section 31 operative, witness the light at the end of the tunnel, the one that leads beyond, and soldier on, until, that is, they’re pulled out by a medical team summoned by Sisko after Ezri finds the trio laid out in Science Lab 4. Despite Bashir’s best efforts, Sloan dies.

It’s an unexpectedly final barrier that had me wondering where they could now take this story, with Odo condemned to death. But here was the twist, and it was as beautifully played as the one in ‘The Chimes of Big Ben’ in The Prisoner, the infinitessimal detail that Sloan’s overlooked that makes Julian realise they’ve been conned; they’re still in Sloan’s mind and they have been all along! So small a thing: Julian’s been reading ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, an antiquarian copy borrowed from Ezri (whom he admits, though only to Miles, that he loves passionately). It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, the famous opening line, repeated on page 194… because Julian hadn’t finished reading the book and Sloan, who had never read it, couldn’t pull the rest of the story out of the Doctor#’s head to construct this trap.

So at last we come to Sloan’s lair, the heart of section 31, and a storehouse of everything necessary to destroy it utterly. Sloan knows that and Bashir knows that, and O’Brien knows that it’s the final and most elegant trap: without O’Brien to maintain focus, Bashir will grab everything he can to take back, and will die in Sloan’s mind when time wasted runs out without ever collecting enough to satisfy him.

And thanks to Miles, they’re out for real, and Sloan is dead, a sacrifice in pursuit of what, to him, was an ideal in itself, however much an anathema it might have been to the rest of the good Federation believers. In its own terms, its a noble death, but in Slaon’s it’s a wasted death. Bashir has the cure, and after a big build up about how painful this is going to be, it takes about two seconds to work, an instant transformation that undercuts the seriousness of this episode, but doesn’t mar it, thankfully.

Indeed, but for that and the shoehorning in of the unconvincing Ezri/Julian romance, this was a near perfect episode. Only two more to try to keep that high standard.

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Treme: s04 e02 – This City


The nearness of you

That’s the second time in as many weeks that the closing credits in Treme have taken me by surprise by arriving long before I expected to see them. There’s an oddness to this half-sized season, in that, without seemingly having altered its laconic pace, it’s moving far faster than we are used to. There were two instances this week of issues being raised and resolved in the same episode, and that’s not what we’re used to.

Much of this week’s episode was taken up with two stories being allowed room to breathe, whilst others fitted around them. The first of these was Albert Lambreaux who, in the open, was given the news by his Doctor that his chemo has failed, and that his cancer has spread to his liver.  Albert is under a sentence, and we see its effect on those around him, his daughter Davina, angry and hurt that he won’t fight for every day more he can possibly claw back, his son Delmond accepting Albert’s decision that those days be about quality than quantity, and his lover, LaDonna, simply enjoying his relaxed presence.

And relaxed Albert is, even mellow, and full of nostalgia. Now he knows, the uncertainty is lifted, and he can get on with his life, and concentrate only upon what matters, including his grandson-to-be.

The other long strand centred upon Antoine. Music lesson is held up as the kids gather and talk, but this is about a boy who has lost his life: Cherise’s brother, Durond, shot in the street, with her as a witness. Later, we find he was mistaken identity, his killers had a beef with his elder brother. The nearness of violence, in this city, to one of his favoured pupils, disturbs Antoine. He offers help, warns Cherise to take care for she is at risk, but before long Terry Colson is called out to a murder, a fourteen year old girl, shot dead in the street coming home after walking her kid brother to school.

That the killers are known, that they will at least be arrested, is no consolation to Antoine, who’s lost a young girl he had high regard for, a girl with musical strength. The episode ends with a vigil at the school, the band with their instruments, calling on Mr Baptiste to play. But Antoine, who has already heard ‘noises’ from his daughter’s bedroom and feared, cannot do so, not tonight.

It’s a shitty day for Terry, coming across a murder like that, but it’s a worse one for Toni. She’s following up the death of the asthmatic in the holding cell last week, uncovering a massive increase in Jail deaths, but what’s the point, what’s the point of anything? Officer Wilson’s walking around free and arrogant, the FBI are doing nothing and nothing and nothing, and Terry gets in the way of a rant that’s fuelled by anger, frustration, despair and, thanks to Wilson’s reappearance, fear. He moves out, back to his trailer for the night.

But thanks to the lack of time, that’s not spun out, and it’s all the more effective for it, as Toni ‘ambushes’ him at his car in the morning, smiles through the fear of having blown things, and the two hug back on track.

Who else? Janine hits a snag, a serious snag, as her ex-partner Tim Feeney comes back at her with a lawsuit: he owns her name (she should have read that contract, always read the fucking contract, what do you think us – once upon a time – lawyers are about?) and she can’t use it on her new restaurant, and he’s suing her over the interview in which she slagged off the official Desautels.

For a moment there, it looked like Janine was going to compound her problem by jumping into bed with Davis again (it’s coming over as she would but he’s avoiding going there). He’s more interested in using her restaurant to meet up with his new buddy, Nelson Hidalgo, and Nelson’s money-man backer, whose name I’ve finally got for the first time! He’s C.P. McGrory, a banker! Davis has been boycotting McGrory’s bank for ten years, which means Davis is highly unlikely to be the Civilian Liaison to the National Jazz Centre, though as Davis learns that the job drags down 30,000 big ones each year, that stunned look on his face may actually signal a betrayal of his principles.

And from Davis we get to Annie, and the overwhelming question of her choice between success and loyalty. She’s still undecided, but her manager Marvin has made it plain. She’s only got one choice, and it isn’t loyalty to her band.

There’s no place for Sofia or Sonny this week, and I know L.P. Everett will be back because his face is all over the DVD menu screen. But time is tight, people. What stories will resolve, and which will hang? We will know entirely too soon.

 

Deep Space Nine: s07 e22 – Tacking into the Wind


Not really, no

Until it’s end, I was all set too regard this episode as a continuation of last week’s, all middles and no progressions, and once more dissatisfying, but we’re so close to the end that the writers had to start producing a rabbit or two from the hat if the whole thing is going to work out.

So in two of the three strands that followed on from last week (there was nothing of Kai Wynn or the blinded Gul Dukat this time round) we were given turning points, serious turning points, resolving certain situations that threatened to derail the ongoing story: we moved decisively forward.

To take the one in-process strand first, this was Bashir and O’Brien’s personal quest to find a cure for Odo. Julian’s getting nowhere, and he’s getting snappy with it, sounding off at his best friend who’s trying to suggest getting to Section 31 through more orthodox channels. The Doctor rejects this, pointing out the cold logic of how Section 31 operates, that they would simply hit DS9 and destroy Julian’s work to date. Which leads the not-normally-this-devious Chief to suggest luring a Section 31-ite by a fake message that they have found a cure, and capturing him in order to get the info they want.

This one sounds a bit too simplistic so I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out: given Section 31’s past appearances, there’s a massive risk of the outcome failing the credibility test.

Of the two other strands, the simpler of them related to Gowron’s aggressive and stupid strategies, wasting men and ships – the only ships that can withstand the Breen energy-draining weapon – in what Worf regards as a selfish plan to discredit General Martok and prevent him from becoming a rival for the position of Chancellor.

Worf’s counter to this is to persuade Martok to challenge Gowron for the Chancellorship, a thing the Good Soldier, loyal to the Empire, will not do, and especially not in the middle of War. With Martok cutting off even discussion of this, Worf discusses his frustration with Ezri, who’s surprised to learn that she is a member of the House of Martok. Ezri’s loath to express her opinion since it’s not exactly flattering, but when pressed, she tells Worf that the Klingon Empire is dying, clinging to centuries old notions of honour and duty yet tolerating a succession of leaders who are corrupt and unworthy.

It’s a crucial intervention. Gowron lays out another suicidal mission for Martok, who, despite arguing against it, obeys his Chancellor. But not Worf: he insults Gowron as petty and without honour. It is a Challenge, and a brief but intense duel with Bat’leths ends with Worf, thrown, disarmed and semi-stunned, about to be executed, but striking upwards with a shard to Bat’leth, with which he kills Gowron.

For a moment there, at Martok’s acclaim, Worf is Chancellor, but that giddy development is not to be. Worf rejects the honour, and instead places the robe around Martok’s shoulders. The Empire has a new Chancellor: well, well, well. Suddenly, things in one quarter change, and hope arises.

Elsewhere, Kira is whipping the Cardassian rebellion into an effective terrorist force, enough that it’s seriously pissing off the Female Changeling, who’s rattled enough she tells Weyoun9 to his face that if only the cloning facilities still existed, she’d have him killed and replaced by Weyoun10, which doesn’t got down well with the hyper-loyal Vorta – do I detect?…

But Kira’s still objectionable to the sight of Resad, whose distrust of her is insurmountable. He’s resistant to her instructions because they come from her, is convinced her primary intention is to just go around killing Cardassians and basically threatens to kill her. Garak warns Kira that Resad won’t wait until after the War, that she’ll have to kill him first.

In order to help the Federation develop a defence against the Breen weapon, Kira leads a raid to capture such a device. The team is unjustifiably top heavy, consisting of her, Garak, Odo, Resad and Demar: fail and the entire top echelon is wiped out. And Odo is becoming the weak link: too much shapeshifting has accelerated the spread of the morphogenetic disease. He’s keeping up appearances before Kira, who knows anyway and connives at the ‘deception’ because she knows how important his dignity is to the Changeling she loves.

The team infiltrates a Jem’Hadar ship having the Breen weapon installed by having Kira pose as their prisoner (with Odo as her handcuffs). Odo impersonates the Female Changeling to get hold of an upgraded plasma weapon that Garak uses to kill the bridge crew. Unfortunately, the installation isn’t complete. Resad wants to cut and run, but Kira demands patience and nerve. It’s tense as all get out, and ultimately Resad breaks. He has the plasma rifle on Kira, Garak a pistol on him and Demar a pistol on both. It’s a stand-off which turns on Demar, whose character arc has been a carefully plotted inversion of Dukat.

This is Gul Demar, who counts Resad as a friend, who gives him his support. This is Demat, whose wife and children have been found in hiding by the Dominion, and killed. This is Demar who fulminated against a regime that can kill innocent women and children, and who is reminded by Kira of the Cardassian Occupancy of Bajor…

And this is Demar who fires his pistol, and shoots down Resad. This close to the end there is no other course for the story to follow if we are to finish in only three more episodes, even if one is a double. But it is the reason that is significant. Demar executes Resad because he is too tied to the Cardassian Empire of the past, an Empire that cannot, and will not return. A turning point. Another rise towards hope.

But at what cost, as Odo begins to flake out far worse than anything we’ve seen from the Female Changeling. Is this all coming too late for him? For this, we need to wait until next week…

Treme: s04 e01 – Yes We Can Can


Home stretch. I feel sad about the final season of Treme, barely begun and already almost done. Five episodes is a long way not enough for a series of this density, barely enough to stir the gumbo, to begin those lines and threads, let alone provide an ending for this community I’ve been following for the past half year. And disregard my recognition that this is not a series that does ending I’m going to want some finality when I say farewell. In four weeks time.

For all that, the opening episode also seemed incredibly short, its final scene, its spine-tingling closing music coming far sooner than I expected, before I was ready. A new set of realities to spread out before us, but is there enough time? That’s all of it: is there going to be enough time?

It’s now thirty-eight months later, and it’s Election Day 2008. That’s a day I’m never going to forget, whatever it’s outcome in practice: beyond all expectation, I lived long enough to see America elect a black President. I saw it. And we went from the hope and the promise when it was still hope and promise, to one of the most awesome songs of the Twentieth Century, Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come’, which sniffed the wind at the moment it began to blow, that evoked the future that was to come, that is still, we fervently hope, travelling towards us. It’s been a lot time coming, but I know.

So: Davis hasn’t really quit, but then no-one expected the self-centred little tw*t to do so. He’s enthused by the newest musical sound, which might hopefully keep him from his own. He can supply good wine to Jeanette Desautel, opening yet another restaurant, this time for herself, and turn down a promised booty call, he can listen but not advise Annie T, who’s approaching a musical cusp: feeling good where she is, more than happy with her band, but with her manager challenging her over whether she only wants to be a niche, a regional act.

Terry’s more or less moved in with Toni, and Sofia, now at College in Connecticut (that would be Yale, right?) is content with that. He’s still getting fucked over by the NOPD, whilst she’s found a new cause, courtesy of the contented Sonny, pulled in for public urination and witness to a guy in the tank dying from an asthma attack because the Police won’t give him his inhaler.

And LaDonna’s moved out on Larry and her kids and, to no particular surprise, is getting it on with Albert Lambreaux (lucky, lucky Clarke Peters). His cancer’s in remission, and Delmond’s in demand to go back to New York, but Delmond’s being a bit superstitious over telling his Poppa that he’s going to be a Grandpoppa.

And Antoine’s now running the bandclass, and showing one 14 year old how to get free treatment for the clap, and getting involved with the new music, at which he’s introduced to the unusual coupling of Davis McAlary and Nelson Hidalgo. Nelson’s starting to lose money, he’s angling to get back to Texas, where there’s disasters in Galveston to work on, but he’s listening to Davis educate him in street culture, and he looks like he’s listening.

No, five episodes is still five too few. Let this not be too hasty, let us go into that good night with our opinions of our friends intact, let them have room to be who they are as we visit with them this one last time.

Deep Space Nine: s07 e21 – When It Rains…


Nope, still don’t like the hairdo

I don’t know about anyone else but I found this episode very disappointing, and slow.

It’s seemingly structured around the Cardassian Rebellion being led by Gul Demar, and its need for sound tactical advice in guerilla warfare if it is to have any impact. The in-house expert on  that is Colonel Kira, who has been really underused in this final series. Kira, naturally, doesn’t want to do it but accepts her duty, and adds Odo and Garak to her team, so, not really provocative on every level at all. As part of the amelioration of their hosts’ feelings, she gets into a Starfleet uniform and Odo changes his kit to how he used to look when DS9 was Terak Nor. Not that it makes much difference: Demar is pragmatic enough to accept aid from someone he no longer has the luxury of hating, though his best mate, Resad, is far less flexible (can you spell troublemaker?)

But though this was the seeming base for the episode, it was ultimately one of many strands, each of which were seen in development without any sense of progression. All questions and no answers, pieces being moved around the board with no sense of satisfaction. It struck me early on just how slow things were moving in just getting Kira’s team off the station, but this was to be the characteristic of the entire episode.

This broke down into four distinct strands, Kira’s Mob included. Odo leaves behind a blob of himself so that Dashir can study its morphogenetic matrix and try to adapt it to the growing of artificial organs etc., but instead the good Doctor discovers that Odo has the morphogenetic plague that’s affecting the Founders. With the encouragement of Chief O’Brien, he fights his way through bureaucracy to try to get a handle on finding a cure, only to discover that instead of Odo being infected when he linked with the Female Changeling a year ago, he was actually infected three years ago, during the Starfleet medical Julian was seeking, and which has been faked when he received it. The explanation is clear: Section 31. Odo has been infected to lead to genocide. So if Section 31 has the plague, it must also have the cure. Bashir and O’Brien dedicate themselves to secretly extracting it.

Meanwhile, on Bajor (this was very much of a meanwhile… episode), the villains fall out. Kai Wynn won’t let Dukat shag her any more now she knows he’s Dukat. It’s slow going with the evil book, the Costa Moja, and when Dukat decides to speed up the process by reading it himself, he’s Pah-Wraithed into blindness, giving Wynn the excuse she wants to rather smugly have him booted out onto the streets: a blind beggar should be able to earn enough for food. Maybe even shelter. When thieves fall out, honest men may prosper, as they say.

And meanwhile, on DS9, Chancellor Gowron arrives to bestow upon General Martok the highest Order the Klingon Empire can give, then deprive him of his command and take over personally. You don’t need a degree in reading body language to tell that Martok and Worf do not think this is A Very Good Thing, though the former accepts his diminishedrole ith proper honour andloyalty to the Empire, and indeed it doesn’t look that way. Gowron’s idea is not to act defensively, hold the border, maintain the line against an enemy who outnumbers you twenty to one, but rather to barrel in, all guns blazing, give the bastards a good kicking, and claim all the honour for the Klingons. Alone.

Throw in a microstrand where Julian asks Ezri why she’s been avoiding him lately, then cuts off her explanation because his genetically enhanced intelligence jumps to the wrong conclusion about her shagging Worf and that’s it.

And the problem is, it’s all middles. It’s all set-up. On one level you might call it sophisticated story-telling, mirroring the processes of real life, the flow and complexity of war, where not everything gets wrapped up in a neat little 45 minute bundle, but come on, this is Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, not something that had this approach built in from the start, and after 170 episodes, you can’t change horses in midstream like that, and you can’t do it effectively with writers who are trained to 45 minute solutions, not without the gears clunking.

It made the episode feel like a thirty mile stretch of a hundred mile journey. You’ve moved onwards, but you’ve got nowhere. I hope there’s more solid ground in the next one.

Treme: s03 e10 – Tipitana


A happy ending

It ends but it don’t end.

There was an elegiac feeling to some parts of the third season finale, with some of the stories coming to an end, or as much of an end as life and David Simon’s determination to be truly reflective of it may allow. Some stories end, and some stories pause, and even those that end are merely pauses.

I don’t know enough about Treme‘s history to know, and whilst I can look it up, my objective in these blogs is to be as close as I can to the experience of watching the series on television would have been. So I rely only on what has come before, and not what I know of what comes after. For instance, I know that the Fourth and final season consists of only five episodes, written and produced after being given a limited budget: make what you can out of that.

So I infer from that that there was a good chance, and a known chance, that season 3 was going to be the last, that this might have been our last acquaintance with Antoine, LaDonna, Annie, Albert, Janette etc. Hence the elegiac tone, and hence the extended sequence of the gig to raise money to rebuild Gigi’s, in which more of the cast than ever before were gathered in the same space and interacting.

Where to begin? Why not begin with Davis: the episode does. I hated the character from season 1 episode 1, though I became used to him and as his disgustingly immature and self-centred behaviour was ameliorated by his relationship with Annie. Now they’ve split up, made official in the closing scenes as she, her musical star rising, moves her things out, he’s back to his worst, recording a secret track to go on the R’n’B sampler, ‘I Quit’. It’s a piece of whiny, self-entitled, expletive heavy (c)rapping on everybody who’s shat upon him, without a moment’s reflection on how his attitude practically demands that you shit on him as a moral duty (I don’t like him, you can tell, can’t you?). Ironically enough, it’s a massive hit, goes viral on YouTube and leaves the pissy little hypocrite wondering how to get back into music after such a definitive resignation.

Stories that end. Everett’s story of the Henry Glover death appears in The Nation and he hands out copies to everyone. Terry Colson gets hauled over the coals by his Captain of Homicide because he must have spilled secrets to Everett, but this is one whereTerry’s innocent, not that he is believed.  Everett’s off, jail deaths in Buffalo, New York. No disrespect to Chris Coy, but his character has never really worked for me, because he has such little character, other than the affectation for Metal music, which costs him the chance to get off with the bird in the airport queue in front of him. I hope he doesn’t return.

And Sonny’s story of redemption through hard work and good love rises to its peak. He and Linh and MrTran attend the Gigi’s benefit gig, but otherwise he remains as detached from the overall storyline as ever, and his strand wraps in joyous celebration, silent but for the music, as the pair marry.

But these are just pauses, these people have lives still to lead. Are Sonnyand Linh back for season 4? i won’t look to see.

Other stories reach only breathing spaces, spaces where choices still have to be made about how to go on. Terry Colson knows where he stands. Hewon’t be allowed to rest in the Police, his only choices are stick or  twist, where twist is resign. He’s completely alone and they’re going to play dirty. A car is forced upon him. Suspicious, he ransacks it, finds the consignment of drugs planted in the wheel-well.

But that old friendship with Toni has returned, and it’s gone where we thought it might go in season 2, all the way. Sofia returns from Florida for a break, catches Terry in his shorts, says nothing but, once in her room, grins widely and approvingly. We have a pair coming together even as one flies finally apart, but the Police are still watching, openly, and Toni’s moving on the Arbrea case, pressing action on the FBI that’s clearly going to run on.

There’s Antoine, growing in his enthusiasm to help move forward those of the school marching band who have the talent and the drive. There’s Delmond and Albert – whose hair has now dropped out due to the chemo and who now sports a natty fedora – coming to the only inevitable realisation about the National Jazz Centre, that the money’s going to de rich white folks an de pore black folks don’t cut it, and resigning.

And Janette, finding that her restaurant is not her restaurant and that not even her name is her own, that Desautel’s will be Desuatel’s whether she’s there or not. She hasn’t come to a decision yet, but we know which way it will swing.

And LaDonna. It’s finally the trial, and after thirty-six hours, the jury are irretrievably deadlocked. The Judge has to declare a mistrial. And LaDonna’s left to reflect that they burned her down for nothing. She isn’t going to go through that again. She has a bar to rebuild.

It ends but it don’t end. Next week I begin the Fourth and last season. Just five more weeks with these people, and no real endings to come. Five weeks from now, their futures will be in my head.

Deep Space Nine: s07 e20 – The Changing Face of Evil


The destruction…

In some ways, we’re still in the transitionary phase of the Endgame, process and progress but no conclusions. Ezri and Worf return to DS9 to hearty greetings from Doctor Bashir and the Chief, who otherwise spend most of the rest of the episode arguing over the Battle of the Alamo, for which Miles has built an impressive model, to scale. This gives Worf the building blocks for his campaign to keep Ezri from Julian.

Of course sh, having effectively deserted her post at the beginning of this sequence, is in for a bollocking from Sisko, which she clearly anticipates. This we don’t get to see, if it ever happened, because Sisko is more concerned for information, on the mysterious Breen, and upon why the hell Damar rescued the pair?

But we start learning that the Breen are certainly effective, militarily, as they attack Starfleet HQ on Earth, and start winning back the Kontaran system, the Federation’s only foothold in Dominion territory. Which leads to massive shock number 1.

Other things are going on. In a minor key, Sisko, very condescendingly, gets Kasidy taken off the active list for freight runs, just in case the Breen pop up out of nowhere. It’s all in a good cause but Kasidy resents the living hell out of it and quite rightly. Sisko is being very twenty-first century Republican about it, running the little lady’s life for her, bless her pretty little head. He does back down, but accompanies it with flowers and a necklace, no doubt found by rummaging in the Cliche Drawer.

In a major key, Kai Winn is nudged by Dukat towards consulting the forbidden book about the Pah-Wraiths, the Costa Mogen. Louise Fletcher shows the Kai’s fears as she’s gradually nudged further and further into blasphemy, withDukat behind her every step of the way, nudging and prodding.

The Kai’s servant, Sobor, is disapproving, though that only rankles the Kai into imperiousness, to the point where Sobor takes matters into his own hands. He denounces ‘Anjol’ the farmer as an imposter: the real Anjol died in a Labour Camp. Winn is shocked and horrified. Even more so when Sobor reveals that he has secured a DNA sample which has been tested.  Not only does it confirm that ‘Anjol’ is not Bajoran, rather Cardassian, but that he is actually Gul Dukat.

The Kai’s horror increases, fuelled by the fact that he has put his X into her Y. She revolts disgustedly, plans to burn the Costa Mogen, which is a book of blank pages, it’s words hidden by some key that’s yet to be unlocked. Winn has a knifethat she’s prepared to stick into Dukat, who’s gone for the approach that it doesn’t matter who he is or how much he’s lied and cheated, he’s doing it for the Pah-Wraiths, and for her power. Somehow or other, the knife the Kai’s grabbed for use on Dukat ends up in Sobor’s back: a Rubicon. And the blood dripping from the knife is the key to the Costa Mogen. The door to Power is open.

But I’ve created a dramatic pause of sufficient length and it’s time to go back to major shock number 1. The Defiant joins the fleet to retake the Kontaran system. It is hit by some energy-draining weapon, left powerless, and is battered. To my surprise, Sisko orders Abandon Ship. The Defiant is destroyed, a step I never expected, and one that, if I had thought they would do this, I would have assumed would be done in the finale, not so long before the end.

There was one other thread I haven’t mentioned, building up through the episode and culminating in not quite so major a shock number 2, reserved for the close. A Quadrant wide broadcast from Gul Demar, or rebellion against Cardassia’s Dominion overlords and an attack on their facilities. In particular, their cloning plant, which Weyoun9 (?) interprets as personal: he could be the last Weyoun…

So: the avalanche begins to move. enough pebbles have been displaced.  Something is coming down the mountain, and the Dominion is in its path. Five more episodes…