Deep Space Nine: s07 e25/26 – What You Leave Behind


What you leave behind is loss

So. For the cast, the crew, the writers, the directors, the producers and the original audience, it took seven years to get here. For me, watching weekly, it took three and a little bit. And it all ended with a moment of personal poignance as the final shot was of a boy who became a man staring into space, having lost his father.

I’ve known from before I began watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that the series ended with Benjamin Sisko’s death, and that was how it was. I know that in reality he’s been translated into becoming one of the Prophets, that it is hinted that there is more for him to do and that, in the post-series novels Sisko does return, but Deep Space Nine always was the darkest, more realistic of the franchise, and to me Sisko is dead: he is gone beyond anywhere that his old friends, his comrades, his newly-pregnant wife or, most personally affecting for me, his son can ever see, hear, talk to or touch again. The end is finality.

And this is all about endings, endings and changes. The Dominion War ends, as it always must, in victory for the Alpha Quadrant. There’s the big attack, the great fleet, including the new Defiant, in which the military tide is turned when the Cardassian fleet rebels against the Dominion and switches sides in mid-battle. This comes about when Damar’s rebellion begins to become seriously disruptive: the Female Changeling demands reprisals against the whole population, which Weyoun 8 carries out, causing a great revulsion and reversion.

And Damar’s rebellion is nearly derailed when he, Kira and Garak are caught, and housekeeper Mila killed. They are to be summarily executed, but the Cardassians accompanying the Jem’Hadar soldiers revolt and kill the captors.

All is put into a raid on Dominion Headquarters. The compound is impenetrable, until a door is opened to eject and execute Legate Broca on the Female Changeling’s orders: this gives the raiders access, but for Damar the charge is fatal: in lead the raid to free his people, he becomes the first to be killed. Only three survivors reach the control room, Kira, Ekoor and Garak, who executes Weyoun with great relish: the last Weyoun, the second to be killed.

But though the War is won, it is not yet over. The Female Changeling is dying, and aware of the irony of dying as a solid, but she still fears a Federation invasion of the Gamma Quadrant and an attempt to wipe out her people, and so victory will be bought with such a cost of men and ships that the Alliance will not have the strength to fight again.

It is here that Odo intervenes. By linking with the Female Changeling, he is able to both pass on the cure to her, over Garak’s deep and wholly justified reservations, but also persuade her to share his trust of the Federation. Restored to health, she orders a stand down, signs the official surrender and submits herself to trial for war crimes.

It’s over.

And with the end of the War comes the changes that separate friends, allies and lovers. A phase is over, and with it the ties that bind are loosened and people once again discover that they have individual futures and not merely the collective one to which fate and destiny have bound them for so long.

Chief Miles O’Brien will no longer be dumped on as he has been so relentlessly. He and his family, a final appearance from Keiko, Molly and Kyrioshi, are to return to Earth, where he will become a Professor of Engineering at Starfleet Academy. It means the breaking of his great friendship with Doctor Julian Bashir, to the regret of both. But Julian and Lieutenant Ezri Dax have become lovers as well as being in love. Their’s is a future to be explored together: Julian will never return to the Alamo without Miles, but he has created a new, and identical scenario for he and Ezri at Thermopylae, as the beleagured Spartans.

Lieutenant Commander Worf also leaves Deep Space Nine, to become the Federation Ambassador to the Klingon Empire, under Chancellor Martok: a new age is dawning, an age that will see a restoration of honour.

Odo and Colonel Kira Nerys are to be separated, permanently. Though I never agreed with the making of this pair into lovers, though I never accepted how Kira forgave him his betrayal of Bajor, this too was full of emotion I couldn’t ignore. Odo must go to his people. He must bring them the cure, he must enter the Great Link, this time to stay, to convince the Founders that they have nothing to fear now from the solids. Kira will deliver him, and stay until the last moment, before returning alone, where she will become the new commander of Deep Space Nine.

Quark remains Quark. He’s the only one who understands Odo enough to intercept the Changeling’s attempt to depart without goodbyes, and is immensely satisfied when Odo walks off without conceding a goodbye. Things will not change all that much for the Ferenghi: Colonel Kira will remain his implacable opponent.

Which leaves the Sisko, the Emissary. As the Dominion War crashes to its conclusion, there is a second front, a secret front, taking slow steps to undo everything. Gul Dukat’s sight has been restored and he returns to the Kai’s palace. She has completed deciphering the Khosst Amojen (having exiled myself from Memory Alpha during The Final Chapter, to avoid spoilers, I’ve had to guess at spellings, incorrectly) and is now ready to release the Pah-Wraiths from the Fire-Caves. She needs his assistance.

What she needs Dukat for takes a long time to materialise, as the aspect of the story is dragged out until after the War has been won and well into the Peace. Dukat is the sacrifice, to honour the Pah-Wraiths, poisoned by wine and dying. But not for long.

On Deep Space Nine, Captain Benjamin Sisko heeds the call no-one else can hear, and leaves the party in Vic’s (as a finale to which, the abhorrent hologram lounge singer Vic Fontaine serenades a crew together for the last time with ‘The Way You Look Tonight’: it isn’t a patch on the Peter Skellern version but it’s heartfelt, and appropriate, and moving, and reconciles me to him). The Sisko knows what he must do, and he leaves his wife and unborn child to do it, not knowing the full extent of his destiny.

He arrives at the Fire-Caves seconds after the resurrection of Gul Dukat, restored to his Cardassian appearance. It is he, not Kai Winn Adami, who is to be the Pah-Wrauth’s Emissary, he who wields powers not granted to the Prophet’s Emissary, as it ever was: Evil vests power in its servants but Good’s servants triumph because of themselves.

Dukat glories in himself, in the destruction that is to follow, the burning of Bajor, of the Celestial Temple, of the entire Alpha Quadrant, but most of all he glories in his personal victory over Sisko, the private war they’ve conducted since the Emissary first arrived to take command of Dukat’s surrendered fiefdom, Terak Nor/Deep Space Nine. It is his weakness and his undoing. At the last, Winn redeems herself, screaming to Sisko that it is the book. She tries to hurl it into the flames, but Dukat draws it to him and burns Winn to death. In doing so, in relishing it so, he takes his attention from the helpless Sisko. Free to move, knowing that the book must burn, Sisko charges Dukat, hurling both of them, and the book, into the flames. Sisko locks a door to which there will never again be a key. The payment is his life.

And so it ended, with departures and sunderings. As well as those I’ve mentioned already, Garak goes home, his exile over, returning to Cardassia, although he has lost the Cardassia he longed to return to. His friendship with Bashir is over, despite the promises. Ensign Nog becomes Lieutenant Nog: like Kira, Bashir, Ezri and Quark, he remains, on course for the glorious Starfleet career he has grown into.

And Jake Sisko remains, looking into space where the Wormhole at last opens again. Looking where he believes that something exists that equates to his father. But not in my eyes. Sometimes, in war, people have to sacrifice. To know that, and to honour that, is not to forget the effect on those that love you, and have a long lifetime ahead without you. What you leave behind is loss.

And I leave behind Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I shalln’t be returning.

Deep Space Nine: s07 e24 – The Dogs of War


Why couldn’t they have swapped costumes?

After the tight focus of last week, the penultimate episode of Deep Space Nine was instead a ragbag of set-up across multiple plot strands, involving practically every single recurring character you could name, but not Cirroc Lofton. Only Kai Wynn and Gul Dukat failed to show their faces.

This meant a strong Ferenghi presence, and I’m hoping that the substantial amount of time dedicated to wrapping up their story will mean only a token participation in the series finale, a week from now. It was down to the usual standards. Leeta and a barely clad dabo girl demand a reduction in how much of their tips they have to give to Quark, and he’s thinking abut it when Grand Negus Zek comes on the blower to announce, through appalling static, that he’s going to retire and is appointing Quark as his successor.

Immediately, Brunt turns up to fawn all over the new Negus, and to tell him of the massive changes Zek, under Ishka’s influence, has been pushing through to turn Ferenganar from the unrestricted pursuit of capitalism. Ferenganar’s been so humonised, Quark’s disgusted enough to turn down the post, except that he’s got it all wrong: Zek’s appointing Rom instead. Quark however intends to run his bar in the old fashion unrepentantly.

There, wasn’t that worthless watching? Except for what’s probably a final appearance from Chase Masterson.

What was nearly as awful was the clowning around between Julian Bashir and Ezri Dax, one minute solemnly assuring themselves that it’s better to retain their friendship than lose it over trying to pursue a silly romantic fantasy, the next snogging each other’s faces off in a turbolift. This strand kept Worf and O’Brien in it for a couple of cameos as a Greek Chorus, looking on.

Odo is fully recovered and Bashir drops a brick in telling him how Section 31 infected him. There is a piece of what I take to be foreshadowing, as Odo reacts in disgust to the Federation’s decision not to give the cure to the Dominion in the middle of all-out War against an enemy bent on ruthless conquest (sorry, Odo, you’re being bloody naive). Given that I was not able to escape learning in advance about Odo’s final part in this series, I take it that this is a major factor in his decision.

By far and away the most important strands related directly to the War. Demar’s rebellion is betrayed and destroyed, it’s only survivors being the Big Three of Demar, Kira and Garak. They go underground on Cardassia Prime, in a cellar, to avoid capture and execution whilst Weyoun announces Demar’s death. But the populace don’t believe it, and our trio play on this to turn Demar into Legend, to raise the people.

And a new, pliant Legate takes Service under the Dominion, for whom the Female Changeling is dictating retrenchment: fall back upon a shortened, stronger defensive line, based upon the Cardassian Empire, rebuild, emerge stronger.  The Federation, being naturally timid, will settle for containment.

But Sisko argues otherwise. He has a new Defiant class ship that he’s authorised to rename Defiant, and he foresees what the Dominion expect, and urges attack: break through the Dominion lines before they can settle. Cry Havoc! and let slip the Dogs of War.

Ad a final coda, in which a hostage to fortune, and to the Prophets’ warning: Kasidy Yates Sisko is pregnant. The Emissary is going to have a baby…

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…

Deep Space Nine: s07 e03 – Afterimage


Note the obvious symbolism

After the last couple of weeks, with their irritating predictability (not to mention my own, stress-related issues), it was nice to settle back with a much better, and more enjoyable, character-led episode, with the full-scale introduction of Ezri Dax to DS9.

Until last week, I’d never seen anything of Ezri, or Nicole de Boer. I’d heard of her, of course, and most of what little I’d heard wasn’t complimentary. She was described as a weak character, unimpressive, dull. More recently, I’ve also heard that Ezri – who is here as a Counsellor – has a lot of her supposed role usurped by the constant reappearances of Vic Fontaine in exactly that role, which doesn’t need any of my antipathy to Mr Fontaine to call that completely stupid.

So my pre-impressions were all negative and it’s therefore a pleasure to admit that I liked both this episode and the character, not to mention that, like Jake Sisko, I find her cute. de Boer is fresh-faced and perky in appearance, looking significantly younger than the rest of the cast, and she brings that into her performance. Despite having eight lifetimes behind her, as Sisko keeps reminding her, Ezri is still a kid, and that means nervousness – especially at being in a place and among people she knows so well without having met them, and feeling burdened by their expectations of ‘her’ – and eagerness.

The episode was designed to play around Ezri, present her up front as what she is, to be swallowed in one gulp. As this was the last season, time was at a premium and a gradual introduction would have wasted the character. So we see everyone react: Sisko’s almost casual assumption that nothing has changed, Quark’s mercenary belief that this is his second chance, Bashir’s reflexive flirting. And Worf’s pain.

This is the most complex relationship of all, and it’s because Ezri knows him so well that she’s insistent on returning to the USS Destiny: she won’t inflict on him the pain of a reminder of Jardzia.

This is well-handled. Worf initially is offensive, refusing to acknowledge her. Then he attacks Bashir and Quark, warning them to stay away from Ezri. Finally, O’Brien reminds him to think how Jardzia would have wanted him to treat Ezri, which leads to an awkward quasi-acceptance.

There is a sort-of-B story, about Garak suffering from increasingly debilitating claustrophobia-induced panic attacks, but this is integrated into the main story, because Sisko asks Ezri to counsel him. An early breakdown doesn’t, however, get to the root of things and merely results in a tirade from Garak, tearing the novice Ezri down. Now, instead of leaving DS9, she’s going to leave Starfleet, completely abdicate the responsibility of being host to the Dax symbiont.

A predictable beat – the episode is not without its predictability – but when Ezri manages, more by luck than good judgement but still, to get at the real root of Garak’s issue (that in aiding the Federation he is being a traitor to Cardassia, causing untold deaths), it validates her self-consfidence. She retracts her resignation, agrees to stay on DS9, gets promoted to Lieutenant, and even gets a stiff smile from Worf. Job done.

I like Ezri Dax. Now to see what role she can play in the march to the finale.

Deep Space Nine: s06 e19 – In the Pale Moonlight


Unholy Alliance

For once, I’m on the side of the big battalions. Star Trek fans regard this as one of the best ever episodes, not just of Deep Space Nine but of the entire franchise, and I’m inclined to go along with them.

I knew beforehand that this was the episode in which Captain Sisko tricked the Romulan Empire into coming into the War against the Dominion, and thus tipping the balance in favour of the good guys. I hadn’t anticipated how clever the episode would prove to be, and how skillfully it would assemble its component parts to keep the audience on its toes.

The episode was structured around a confessional personal log entry by Sisko, who was clearly worked up and in the mood for berating himself. It was interspersed with the bulk of the storytelling, here presented as flashbacks. The overall impression was given, early on, that the Romulans had joined the war, but that Sisko was personally disgusted at the means which brought that about. Very intelligently, the episode was by no means so prescriptive.

It began small, with the weekly casualty lists, posted by Sisko in the wardroom. Everybody crowds round, anxious not to hear that friends, colleagues, shipmates have been killed or wounded, and invariably the news is grim. This, bitter conversations about the Romulans ‘allowing’ Dominion incursions into their territory to attack Federation ships and the dramatic fall of Betazed (Deanna Troi’s homeworld) spurs Sisko into dramatic action. He inducts Garak to bring the Romulans into the War.

The first attempt is to secure evidence from Cardassia for the invasion of the Romulan Empire. When every single one of Garak’s contacts on Cardassia are killed within twenty-four hours of being contact, our favourite tailor suggests they manufacture such evidence. There is a prominent Romulan senator, Vreenak, who can be persuaded to secretly visit DS9 en route to a Diplomatic Conference with the Cardassians, where he can be presented with expertly forged evidence.

Here begins a long sequence as, step by step, one by one, every moral principle by which Sisko – and by extension the entirety of Spacefleet – is laid to one side as the Captain pursues the goal. It’s completely Macchiavellian, even down to bribing Quark at one point. A forged Cardassian optolythic data rod is made: Weyoun and Gul Demar bicker quite convincingly and Sisko, despite his mounting doubts passes this on to the supercilious Vreenak.

Then came the twist I wasn’t expecting: Vreenak identifies the rod as a fake. It’s all blown up in Sisko’s face, especially as the Senator intends to expose and denounce everyone for this.

The next casualty list’s relatively light, but Worf brings additional news, a Romulan ship destroyed by an explosion, no survivors. It was carrying a senior Senator…

Sisko comes to the same conclusion I did, only he takes about two seconds longer, then he’s off in a raging fury to his tailor’s. Garak is unashamed and unapologetic. Yes, he suspected the rod would be exposed as a fake, and yes, he planned this all along. A senior Senator killed returning from a meeting with the Cardassians, traces of Cardassian manufacture in the remnants of the bomb, a data rod evidencing treachery, whose imperfections are no doubt the effects of the bomb…

Oh, it’s a dirty deed indeed, but it may have saved the Alpha Quadrant, and the millions of millions within it, now and forever, and for what? A dead criminal, a dead Senator… and the self-respect of a Starfleet Captain. The ends justify the means, or do they?

Balancing the scales, the price being paid is hard to dispute, but then I have the luxury of debating this as fiction. Sisko has to treat it as fact. If he had known in advance what it would entail…? But the last twist is that he would have done it all over again. And the fact of war is that he would have had to do it anyway. And Sisko can live with it. The more he says it, the more he believes it, or does he? As soon as he is done, he orders the computer to erase the entire log.

So. This is a story that touches upon morality, and how far we may sink to do the ‘wrong’ thing in pursuit of a greater aim. Morality is supposed to be absolute, especially in the Star Trek Universe: Kirk and Picard would have brushed the very idea away, like space dog-turds off the soles of their shoes. But Sisko’s in a war, and the only way to avoid having to take decisions like this, where the lives of millions hang on the purity of your convictions, is to not be in a war to begin with.

Like the best of such things, morality is not directed. We are not signposted to any idea. Instead, we test ourselves against the choices made, in the comfort of our choice having no weight whatsoever. I’d like to see an aftermath to this, in Sisko. It’s sufficiently large that, for once, we may do so.

Deep Space Nine: s06 e05/6 – Favors the Bold/Sacrifice of Angels


Battle

So the six-part (seven, if you count the final episode of season 5) Dominion War arc concluded with a two-parter of its own, and with the expected victory for the Federation in the re-taking of Deep Space Nine. This was originally intended to take a single episode, but the sheer profusion of events requiring to be covered forced its expansion, and the sheer volume of guest stars to accommodate.

Both parts were excellent, but I’m not sure if the first part, ‘Favors the Bold’, wasn’t the better of the two. Though the double-episode structure meant that it was all build-up and no resolution, after the relatively innocuous open (the Defiant acting as a decoy to attract Jem’Hadar ships to be destroyed by it and the Rotaran), the episode started on the edge, and remained on the edge throughout.

The Federation are losing the War, and morale is falling at the constantly defensive stance. The Federation needs to go on the attack and Sisko has drawn up a plan: the retaking of DS9, and regaining control of the Wormhole.

Meanwhile, on DS9, Rom is still in the cells. He’s been declared a terrorist against the Dominion and there is only one sentence: execution. Kira can’t get Weyoun to change his mind, Ziya can’t get her father, Gul Dukat, to change his mind either. Leeta and Quark are trying to encourage Rom: Quark promises he will get him out, and that’s before Leeta agrees to run the dabo wheel for two years for free.

But Rom is adamant that he is unimportant. He should not be rescued. The anti-graviton beam must be sabotaged before it can neutralise the minefield on the Wormhole. Billions of lives depend on the War. Quark must take over from him. Though Quark refuses, it’s only because he’s afraid. He’s not being Quark, not being Ferengi, he’s taking everything seriously and it’s strange but I like him better here than I ever have before.

Meanwhile, Odo has been closeted with the Female Changeling for three days, not that he’s been aware of time. They’ve been communing, both via the Great Link – which is slowly beginning to addict Odo – and the way solids do (wipes mind of image thus produced). In every way except actively, he’s gone over to the other side. Kira can’t even get in to see him.

Next, Demar, still knocking back the booze like it’s going out of fashion, lets on to Quark that the mines will be swept within the week, Quark gets this out to Sisko via Morn, and the Federation attack has to go ahead without delay: without half the planned fleets, and without the Klingons. Oh, and with Ensign Nog, who gets a promotion from Cadet!

I hadn’t immediately realised this was going to be a two-parter, though as we got into the last five minutes or so, this became obvious. The Fleet is on its way. Sisko’s back in the Captain’s chair on the Defiant. O’Brien and Bashir are trading lines from The Charge of the Light Brigade, much to Nog’s consternation, and the Dominion fleet comes up ahead: 1254 ships, outnumbering the Federation more than two to one. Let battle commence.

The title of the second episode filled me with foreboding from the outset, a foreboding that was realised, though strictly speaking it related to a different kind of sacrifice.

With the Fleet now engaged in battle, the Cardassian/Dominion War counsel, Dukat, Demar, Weyoun and the Female Changeling, takes the entirely sensible decision to arrest the Resistance: Kira, Jake and Leeta are hauled in for questioning, but once Dukat has achieved the victory he’s so delightedly anticipating, everyone’s going to be for the chop.

Sisko’s battle plan is to concentrate fire on the Cardassian ships, hoping to provoke them into the kid of direct response that will break the formation, leaving a hole the Defiant et al can punch through. Dukat recognises this and orders the necessary ships to break, intending to create a trap: Bashir recognises the tactic. But it’s all they’ve got, they’ve got to go for it.

With the aid of a timely arrival of a Klingon fleet under Martok and Worf, the Defiant breaks through, alone, and barrels towards DS9. But the time until when the mines will be eradicated is getting tight. Quark and Zyal break the Resistance out of the cells. Odo puts the agonising appeal of the Link aside to ensure Kira is not killed. She and Rom feverishly work at dsabling the station’s weapons array and succeed. There’s only a second in it. But it’s not the cliche second that saves the day. It’s a second late. The mines are cleared, a Dominion fleet of 2800 ships starts through the Wormhole and Sisko, knowing it’s suicide for everyone but having no other alternatives, takes the Defiant into the Wormhole to face them. Alone.

And here is the ending that, for many people, was a letdown, and in a way it was, because all deus ex machina endings are, by definition, a cheat upon drama, but this ending was integral to the entire Deep Space Nine arc. Because Sisko is the Emissary. And the Emissary was taken to the place of the Prophets, against his will, and there told that he is not allowed to die, not allowed to end the game. He rants and raves, demands to be returned, challenges the Prophets that, if they are Gods, they owe a duty to their children. We’re a long way from the Emissary’s complete scepticism and discomfort at his role.

And the Prophets return him, and they use their powers to sweep away, without trace, the entire Dominion Fleet. Deus ex machina, and with real deus’s who exist within the overarching storyline. You can see why people thought it weak, thought it a cheat. Is it a cheat to build just the very thing into your five-years-long-so-far story? I don’t have an answer to that. But I didn’t feel cheated on an emotional level.

But there will be a price for intervention. Sisko, who has declared his intention of building a home on Bajor, will not know peace. And before then, there will be another sacrifice.

When the Defiant emerges from the Wormhole alone there is a general consternation on DS9 and an immediate decision to head for the lifeboats, Female Changelings first. Dukat can’t believe it. They’d won. They’d won. How could this have happened?

It’s everybody out, but Dukat won’t leave without Ziyal. He’s already half-crazed, which is worsened when she refuses to leave with him. Here is her home. she is not a true Cardassian. Though she loved him, she has acted against him, freeing Kira and the rest. And Demar, who has heard all this, draws his gun and cuts her down. Dukat goes over the edge.

So Sisko and co return to DS9, to a hero’s welcome. Everyone’s there to meet them, except Kira, who’s in the infirmary with Ziya. When he hears this, Garak heads straight there. Kira informs him that Ziya loved him. Garak’s response is deeply sad: he says that he knew, but he could never understand why. Now, he never will.

Dukat is still in DS9, collapsed into madness. He is sobbing his forgiveness of Ziya, of others. He returns Sisko’s baseball, tells him he forgives him too. It is a sober moment in the middle of victory.

To be honest, I am already wondering about what happens next. I know the subject of the next episode, but it is what the series does from episode eight onwards that concerns me. The Dominion have not been defeated. They have not given up their war or their plan. The Wormhole is still there: are the Prophets going to wipe out every Dominion ship that tries to go through it?

I really hope we don’t go back to the kind of individual stories that have dominated earlier series. Things have changed irreversibly and that would be a total letdown.

However, it’s a case of waiting for future episodes to come round on schedule. I will wait and see.

Deep Space Nine: s06 e01 – ‘A Time to Stand’


A look of disgust

At the end of season 5, my researches turned up some interesting details about the crosssover to season 6, when the Dominion War would start to play out in earnest.  Firstly, there was the show’s resistance to having cliffhanger endings to seasons, born of their desire to have a free hand at the start of next season to take whatever direction they thought best suited, as opposed to being tied down to respond to a specific set-up.

And the second was a particular example of that, being the closing shot of season 5. The Defiant, retreating from Terek Nor, as it has once again become, joins a Federation/Klingon fleet and swings round to lead it. This little present from the Special Effects team was not what was wanted: it implies an immediate retaliatory attack, which was not what had been intended and thus further dictated how season 6 was going to have to play out.

So here we are. Technically, ‘A Time to Stand’ is the first part of a multi-episode story, originally intended to cover four episodes but eventually running out at six. I normally treat two-parters and even three-parters as a single story for this blog’s  purposes, but I’m not going to watch and write about six in one go. In any event, the impression I have, on which I stand to be corrected, is that this is not a cohesive single story, but rather the onset of a serialised format, at least temporarily.

This change caused no little consternation on Deep Space Nine about whether or not this was a step too far, even though serialisation was always implicit in a format built around a stationary setting. I shall have to pay careful attention to this extended storyline as it unfolds, and even more to what follows it.

Three months have passed and the Federation is losing the Dominion War, even without the availability of reinforcements via the still-mined Wormhole. Tensions are rising between Dukat and Weyoun over who, exactly is in charge. The gang’s still split up: Kira, Odo, Quark and Jake, the latter of whom’s press reports are being suppressed due to anti-Dominion bias, are still on the station, Worf with General Martok and an increasingly exhausted Sisko, Dax, O’Brien and Bashir on the Defiant, supplemented by Garak and Nog.

Worf turns up briefly, to argue with Jardzia about their forthcoming wedding ceremony and take her off for a shag, but the rest of the episode beats back and forth between the two main groups. Quark’s in profit, and rather more reconciled to the occupation, in part because it’s considerably more humane than under the Cardassians, although that won’t last if Dukat gets the upper hand on Weyoun. Kira and Odo are working in concert. Dukat makes plain his ongoing interest in her lilywhite body, and she her ongoing preference to make it with leprous swine in preference (not that she uses such words…)

At Kira’s prompting, Odo exploits his god-like status with Weyoun to get his Bajoran security team reinstated and re-armed, at the cost of agreeing to join the station ruling Council alongside the Vorta and the Cardassian. It’s a move that worries Kira, making it feel like a defeat.

Meanwhile, Sisko and crew are ordered to Starbase 375 where Admiral Ross (a first appearance by new recurring guest Barry Jenner) relieves him of command of the Defiant. Fear not: Sisko and Co are heading deep into Cardassian/Dominion territory, in the refurbished Jem’Hadar ship captured in season 5, to destroy the asteroid where all the supplies of Ketracell White are kept, crippling the Jem’Hadar threat.

And the mission is a success, but not without a cost: the asteroid suspects something, refuses to lower its security shield. The ship escapes at the last second, thanks to precise in-his-head calculations from Doctor Bashir, whose revealed  status as a genetically-enhanced being is being played up all of a sudden. But it is badly damaged. It’s Warp Drive is fried. And under normal power, the journey back to a Federation base is going to take seventeen years, two months and three days (give or take an hour: thank you, Julian).

All of this is very Voyager, albeit over a projected timescale less than a quarter of the length of the franchise’s other extant series, but as we already know, this arc covers six episodes not seven seasons, so the wait will not be indefinite.

Judged in isolation, this is very much a set-up episode, with only the relatively minor resolution of the accomplished mission to point to, and even the implications of that will have weeks to play out. So let’s not judge it yet: there are still five parts to go. The last year starts here.

Deep Space Nine: s05 e26 – Call to Arms


Don’t make yourself too comfortable…

This is the point that’s taken me over two years to reach, the outermost point of those evenings twenty years ago, of sprawling in front of the BBC2 showings of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The end of season 5, the start of the Dominion War. By the time DS9 came back, I had a house full of people, and coming in, throwing off my jacket and tie and sprawling on the couch was no longer an viable option.

I started watching DS9 from the beginning to fill in the beginning and end of a middle that, falsely, I remembered as stretching maybe as much as three seasons. When I finally caught up with my recollections, it turned out to be not even one full season. But the end of season 5 concludes that phase of the rewatch. Ahead of me lies terra incognita, just as much as if things had never gone the way they did and I had remained free to watch TV whenever I felt like it.

‘Call to Arms’ might have begun with the comic note of Rom and Leeta trying to agree a wedding dress for a ceremony in which, under Ferengi culture, she should have been naked (insert your own shallow comment here), but swiftly modulated to the tension that underlies the approach of war. The Dominion are bringing in warfleets every week, via the Wormhole, en route to Cardassia, regular as clockwork. Sisko has to take a decision: do nothing, and allow an irresistible fleet to be assembled, capable of ultimate victory when it chooses to act, or halt the incoming reinforcements, and preciptate war now.

The only choice, if victory is to be possible, is the latter: Sisko orders  the entrance to the Wormhole to be mined.

Weyoun appears, to protest, to suggest a deal by which the mines are removed and the Dominion limits itself to civilian ships, medical and economic assistance for the poor, stricken Cardassian Empire. Sisko will consult the Federation, which isn’t sending its own reinforcements, for reasons we won’t learn until the end (a Federation/Klingon attack that destroys the Dominion shipyards in Cardassian territory). No-one believes anything for a moment.

War is coming. Everyone’s preparing for it. Keiko O’Brien and the children have been evacuated back to Earth, Jake Sisko won’t go because a reporter’s duty is to be where the action is. The Romulan Empire has signed a non-aggression pact with the Dominion, Sisko advises Bajor to do the same, over Major Kira’s protests: five years ago, he was assigned to DS9 to protect Bajor after it gained its independence and that duty still remains, so he will use his position as Emissary to take them out of the firing line.

All Bajorans evacuate. Rom and Leeta get Sisko to marry them, before she is ordered to go: Rom has a duty to stay as a Starfleet member, and a duty to protect his brother, who seems for once to appreciate this. Gul Dukat’s half-Bajoran daughter, Tora Ziyal parts reluctantly from Garak. Quark starts smuggling in yamok sauce. Odo and Kira are still acting awkwardly around each other until Odo officially tells her that he’s locking away his feelings for the duration (some of these scenes are more effective emotionally than others: you can actually hear the writing staff’s cheers of relief underlying this one).

Seeding the wormhole with self-replicating mines (Rom’s suggestion) takes time, and the Defiant   will be a sitting duck until it has finished. And it is not finished when the War steps across the line between coming and arriving. A Dominion/Cardassian fleet under Gul Dukat comes to attack DS9. General Martok’s Klingon Warbird protects the Defiant. The station defends itself steadfastly, destroying 50 ships. But once the seeding is done, it is time to take the inevitable decision. Deep Space Nine is lost: the Federation will evacuate.

Not permanently. Sisko, his staff and Garak depart to join a major fleet approaching DS9. McArthur-like, he promises he will return. Quark’s bar stays open. Rom rejoins him as Assistant Manager and (self-proclaimed?) Federation spy. Jake remains as a journalist, trusting in his ‘status’ as the emissary’s son to protect him.

Major Kira, Odo and Quark officially greet Dukat’s return to Terak Nor. The Major has already initiated a Sisko-developed programme that thoroughly wipes the control room computers of any ability to function.

But although it’s not the final shot, that being the cliched one of Sisko looking defiant, the episode and the series ends with a very effective moment. Gul Dukat commandeers the station commander’s office: his again, after five long years of waiting for revenge. It has been stripped of everything, but one item, Sisko’s baseball. Dukat recognises it as a message. Sisko is coming back.

We move onwards, I move onwards towards the only real step into the future since I began this series back in October 2015. Everything until now has been backing and filling, getting up to speed with the background to that brief period of which I was already aware. Forward I go.

Next week being Christmas week, I haven’t decided yet whether or not to take a week’s break. It is a perfect point to do so, but on the other hand, habit is habit. If you don’t get a DS9 post off me next Tuesday, that’ll be why, and we’ll pick things up again in the New Year.

Deep Space Nine s05 e24: Empok Nor


Station in distress

Though I don’t remember anything at all of these few episodes I originally watched almost twenty years ago, this episode epitomises why I was so enthusiastic about Deep Space Nine when I had been basically ambivalent about what came before it. It’s an excellent drama, taut, tense, character-driven, and containing that indefinable sense of danger, as it at any moment it’s going to take a step that it can’t go back from. And though it’s ending does, as usual, reassert the status quo, it’s done in a manner that satisfies, and which arises directly from the nature of the protagonists.

In that respect, the episode was subliminally aided by its immediate predecessor, in which recurring character Michael Eddington was killed off, informing us that other recurring characters might not be entirely sacrosanct.

‘Empok Nor’ was essentially a Chief O’Brien solo, especially as no other member of the cast appeared outside the open or the close. Part of DS9 is breaking down and can neither be repaired nor replaced except by salvaging the equivalent equipment from its abandoned sister station, Empok Nor. O’Brien leads a team of two engineers, two security officers and Nog, fast becoming a very useful cadet. However, as Cardassian practice is to booby-trap abandoned stations, O’Brien also takes Garak, as a specialist booby-trap defuser.

There’s an interesting bit of foreshadowing needle on the way. Garak keeps prodding O’Brien over his war record, the hero of Settlik III, despite the ample evidence that O’Brien takes no pride in what he did, that he regards it as an act of war, necessary but not to be celebrated, and that it is part of his past: he is an Engineer, not a soldier. Garak at this point is just trying to get under O’Brien’s skin, and O’Brien is not letting him, truly.

Things change once the party arrives at Empok Nor. Garak defuses the booby-traps, allowing everyone to get on with the salvage, but there’s an unexpected line of defence: two fanatical Cardassian soldiers, released from stasis. They detach and blow up the runabout, leaving the Federation party stranded, and begin stalking them.

What’s worse is that they are under the influence of a psychotropic drug enhancing their xenophobia. Before we learn this, we see Garak accidentally put his hand on some seemingly innocuous blue slime that appears too merely be evidence of Empok Nor’s decaying state (the station, a duplicate of DS9, or Terek Nor as it was, hangs symbolically at an angle in space).

The Cardassian soldiers kill two of the crew. Garak goes off to hunt them, killing each in turn. He’s getting increasingly into it, in fact he’s contaminated by the drug, as is evidenced when he kills the last remaining security officer himself. And it takes all his restraint to keep himself from killing Nog, who he needs to lure O’Brien into a trap.

Because that’s what Garak wants. An opponent he regards as worthy of him, an opponent he wants to see as as much a killer as himself, and to break O’Brien down to his level. In order to protect the last remaining crew member under his charge, O’Brien has to enter into personal combat with Garak, combat he’s going to lose.

But, and I’m not criticizing the episode for this because it was the only possible and character-faithful outcome, O’Brien beats Garak by being what he is: an Engineer. An impromptu trap, an impromptu bomb. It was the perfect response to the set-up, and the perfect ending to an episode that, rather than be an old-style ‘Let’s all dump on Miles’, instead showed the Chief in all his settled qualities.

Garak survives, the drug neutralised, a couple of ribs broken, severely chastened. O’Brien will testify, at the autopsy, that Garak was not in control of himself. The final line, delivered with a lack of emotional energy that was ideally suited to the downbeat close, had Garak musing that had he been any closer to the explosion, it would have killed him, and O’Brien’s almost shy rejoinder that that was actually the intention.

A sober note on which to close another very strong episode. Only two more left in a very good series, and them I’m back in unknown territory again.  Seasons 6 and 7 are already ready, locked and loaded. Another year of this…

Deep Space Nine: s05 e14/15: In Purgatory’s Shadow/By Inferno’s Light


Band of Brothers

Though we’re well into the block of DS9 episodes I have previously seen, I have to confess I have no recollection of this unexpected mid-season two-parter. Indeed, as this extended story is such a massive game-changer, moving the Dominion War out of its Phoney War stage and into a formal shooting match, there were times when I wondered if my memories were even more scanty, and that this was going to lead to the (temporary) abandonment of the station now, and not at season end.

But on this I was wrong, and happily wrong. It is, nonetheless, a foreshadowing of the inevitable to come, as betrayal follows betrayal, and the entire basis of the series shifts inexorably. To think that this all begins with a typically trivial open to the first part, as Odo reluctantly abandons his bed and reinstals all his shape-shifting gear in his quarters, under some one-sided joshing about romance from the Major, until Kira is summoned to the bridge over a mystery transmission from the Gamma quadrant.

It’s in a highly secret Cardassian code known only to two people, Garak and his mentor/unacknowledged father, Enabran Tain, and it’s a cry for help. Garak persuades Sisko to allow him a runabout, and the unlikely command of Worf (there’s an odd couple for you) to investigate for potential survivors of the disastrous Gamma Quadrant battle. All it leads to is overwhelming Jem’hadar odds and an asteroid internment camp with a motley group of prisoners.

These include Tain, near death from his heart, Klingon General Martok, a Romulan female, a robotic Breen. Oh yes, and Doctor Bashir.

This didn’t come as the surprise it ought to as my regular consultation of Memory Alpha had already revealed that our Bashir had been replaced by a Changeling four weeks ago, and the one we’ve seen over the last couple of episodes had been the wrong one, which was a shame. Meanwhile, the Changeling Bashir is still unsuspected on DS9, where things have suddenly gone tits-up.

Federation listening posts inside the Gamma Quadrant are going out one by one. A Jem’hadar fleet is on the move towards the Wormhole. Sisko puts the station on battle alert and a Federation fleet is on its way. The danger is so great, Sisko decides to take the ultimate fallback option: seal the Wormhole, even if Worf and Garak are trapped on the other side.

But someone sabotages the super-scientific rays that will do that. instead, the Wormhole is widened and stabilised so that it can now never be closed. And a Dominion fleet emerges, ready to overwhelm D9. End of part 1.

But they don’t attack. Instead, they move off towards Cardassian space, with Gul Dukat following. And here’s where the bomb drops. Cardassia has a new leader. He’s been negotiating with the Dominion for months. Cardassia has joined the Dominion. It will become strong again, great again. It will wipe out the Klingons. It will take back what it used to have. Bajor is not mentioned in this. But the new Cardassia leader, Dukat, promises Sisko that he is coming for Deep Space Nine.

So we switch backwards and forwards between the two halves of this story. On the internment camp asteroid, Worf distracts by winning gladiatorial fight after fight, his honour refusing to allow himself to yield. Garak fights another fight, against his claustrophobia, in a tiny, dark space, changing relays by hannd to contact the runabout and transport out.

At DS9, forces build. Chancellor Gowron brings a wounded Klingon fleet to the fight, and reactivates the Accords he previously broke. A Romulan fleet comes to stand by the Federation and the Klingons. A Dominion/Cardassian fleet approaches. Everyone is ready for the mother of all battles, but no-one can find the enemy. And Changeling-Bashir has stolen a runabout and is heading for Bajor’s sun with a bomb that, if detonated within the sun, will send it supernova, wiping out the entire system, DS9 and three spacefleets.

At this critical moment, a priority one message comes from the Gamma Quadrant from Bashir. Sisko, already aware that there’s a Changeling on board DS9, after Changeling-Bashir has, cunningly and mis-directingly, proposed this, immediately susses things out and sends the Defiant, under Kira and Dax, to destroy the runabout. Which, after risking going to warp inside a solar system, they succeed in doing. The day is saved.

The only immediate effect is the installation of a permanent Klingon military force on the station, under the command of General Martok, as recommended by Worf. Everyone’s back, everyone’s back to normal. But it’s a new normal, are set normal, that will now prevail until the end of Deep Space Nine. I very much look forward to it.

I’ve left out a lot of what happens. The mark of a well-written story is that the over-arching story accommodates several smaller, more personal tales, both absorbing and showcasing hese within its major structure, in perfect balance. Worf’s fights. Garak’s need for Tan’s acceptance and his subsequent confrontation with his fears. Zia’s choice between her father and Garak, between two sides at war. All these things are handled with nuance and conviction. If you want to call these a B story, you’d be wrong, because they are integrated within the A story, so that all this pair of episodes is an A story, and indeed an A+ story, but they are worthy of the A story: nothing falls short here.

So the ground rules change. And I look forward to next week’s episode most fervently.