This was an oddly simple and plain story, and yet it was still a satisfying episode.
After speculating the other week about a reversion to the old A-B story formula, that was exactly what we got, even down to the B story being comic and inadequate. It looked to have been inserted because the A story couldn’t be stretched out that long without being paper-thin, and its to the writer’s credit that he managed to work in enough reference to the A story to reinforce the overall event.
The A story is a Worf/Jardzia two-hander. Two months into their marriage, Worf’s being accommodating of Jardzia’s foibles in a most unKlingon fashion, even when the two are sent on a secret mission to pick up an urgent message from a Cardassian spy supplying Spacefleet Intelligence. Lassara is close too being exposed and wants out, so Worf and Jardzia have to go get him from a jungle rendezvous involving 20km of jungle-trekking.
They’re working together well, efficient and professional, but also light-hearted and jokey, until they’re surprised by three Jem’Hadar. They kill the Jem’Hadar but Jardzia is seriously wounded by a disruptor blast and grows steadily weaker, the further they penetrate, until she can go no further, and indeed desperately needs surgery.
Worf goes on alone, aware of his duty, his career. Until he has a change of heart, turns back, puts rescuing Jardzia above his mission. Lassara is killed, and the tons of vital information he carried dies with him. Worf explains that he could not leave his wife. Sisko condemns his as a captain: the two will never be paired on mission again, and Worf will never be offered command. But as a man, he confirms he would not have left Jennifer either.
The B story started with Jardzia sitting in with the Ferengi playing tonga. Quark’s on a 206 winning game streak. Worf is confident Jardzia will end this, enough to bet bloodwine against whiskey with O’Brien on it. When Quark makes it 207, the Chief develops an obsession with ending Quark’s streak, but he’s rubbish at tonga. So he gets Dr Bashir to play the game for him,and the genetically enhanced Bashir’s doing well, until Quark distracts him by talking about Jardzia’s marriage to Worf, and how nobody expects it to last, and both he and Bashir let her slip through their hands, she being so special…
Whether he means it or it’s flim-flam doesn’t matter: that’s 208.
What else is there to say? The episode was plotted very plainly, and the message, about the power of love, was so simple and unnuanced as to be all but banal. Yet I enjoyed it, without ever feeling particularly moved. A most odd episode.
Well, I guess I must be suffering some sort of burn out on Deep Space Nine because I just couldn’t get into this episode at all, and it’s one of those episodes that’s not just a fan-favourite but a favourite of so many members of the team that made it, including many of the actors themselves. Clearly, it’s me, then.
‘Far Beyond the Stars’ is another of those get-the-cast-out-of-character episodes, as Sisko undergoes a practically episode-long hallucination in which he’s a staff writer on a 1953 SF magazine, facing racial prejudice. It involves every member of the cast and a bunch of recurring characters out of costume and, in several cases, out of make-up.
Basically,the peg is that Sisko is approaching burn out. The Dominion War is still ticking over in the background, with wins and losses, but the latest loss – the Cortez and it’s 400 strong crew, especially its Captain, Quentin Swofford, an old friend of Sisko – has him talking of stepping down.
Immediately he suggests that, he starts seeing people in 1953 clothes walking around where they aren’t. Bashir diagnoses strange synaptic potentials akin to those in the season 5 episode, ‘Rapture’ when he was having visions sent by the Prophets (not so much a hint as a crowbar to the back of the neck) and, presto changeo, he’s in 1953 New York where he’s Benny Russell, employed by Incredible Tales magazine.
Everyone’s there, so it’s spot-the-unmake-upped- actor time (I didn’t get Aron Eisenberg, Jeffrey Combs or J. G. Hertzler and I was incredibly slow about Rene Auberjonois and Michael Dorn) whilst the story hammers on its theme of racial prejudice. The hammering is relentless, but then again so was the racism. I don’t doubt there’s a social faction that would kick-off against snowflakes and SJWs, but just because the present day isn’t as relentlessly open and universal as the world depicted here doesn’t mean it no longer needs saying.
To be honest, I found the unrelieved nature of the depiction to be dramatically unbalanced: over and over and over again. In another context, where you could focus on this story without having Deep Space Nine looking over your shoulder constantly, it would have worked far better. Instead, it was never possible to escape the awareness that this set-up was doubly unreal, a fiction within a fiction.
Anyway, Benny Russell is inspired by a drawing of a space station very much like DS9 to write a powerful, engrossing story. About DS9, and it’s captain, Benjamin Sisko. Everybody loves and admires it, but it won’t get published. Because the Captain is a negro.
To jump briskly forward, after a tour of Benny’s world and constant reminders of the restrictions inherent on black people (Marc Alaimo and Jeffrey Combs as two violently prejudiced cops,who beat the living shit out of Benny at one point), he gets his editor to accept the story (and possibly the six sequels he’s already written), in return for his altering it slightly, to make the whole thing a dream. Whatever gets it into print. But the owner orders the whole print run pulped, the magazine’s going to skip a month and Benny’s fired. We all know why.
Throughout the hallucination, Sisko Senior keeps popping up as a Minister, preaching about the way ahead and insisting Sisko keep on his path, that he writes the words. He keeps mentioning the prophets (there’s that crowbar again). Benny has become fixated on his Captain Sisko, his DS9, this future he’s imagined. This latest setback unhinges him.He cracks up, onscreen, as if this block on publication of the story is an attempt to stop this entire future, the world of DS9, in which black and white and every other shade are equals, from ever happening.
Sad to say, I found it unconvincing, even when supported by Sisko’s musings in the close, which attempts to tip the show into metafiction, by wondering if Deep Space Nine is actually nothing more than the fiction it is, created by Benny Russell?
It’s Jorge Luis Borges’ paradox writ large: who is dreaming who? Is Sisko dreaming Benny, or vice versa? For me, it completely flops. Firstly, because when Benny goes into his meltdown, talking about ‘creating’ DS9, in the sense of a Creator creating Reality, he’s doing so as a character we know to be at a lower level of existence, the centre of a story-within-a-story. The same goes for Sisko’s musings: in an isolated story, you can play this angle for all it’s worth, and leave the reader genuinely uncertain, but after 136 previous episodes of Deep Space Nine, you’re pushing credibility to suggest that might be a fiction. A Tommy Westphall ending doesn’t work unless it is the end.
When Sisko recovers from the hallucination, his synaptic potentials have cleared up, even without a take-two-of-these-and-see-me-in-the-morning (crowbar time…) and he’s decided to soldier on. Phew, I was worried there…
The whole thing was a vision from the Prophets, to show Sisko that some fights have to be fought even in the face of frustration, defeat and loss. But really the episode was about the cast dressing down and playing outside their characters, with the framing story a loose-fitting McGuffin. That the story chosen was an important issue is impressive, but paradoxically it was weakened by being played in the context of Deep Space Nine, where it could have n serious impact by virtue of our knowledge that by the end it would all be reset, nothing gained, nothing lost, all that anger, frustration and heartache meaningless.
Not just that but the idea is that Morn, you know, the silent, big-mouthed background character, the one who’s always in the bar drinking, who’s supposed to be a non-stop talker when he’s not on camera, that Morn has been killed and made Quark his heir. And he owns 1,000 bricks of gold-pressed latinum, which brings four people out of thin air, all telling wild stories about Morn’s unrevealed past, all after the latinum for themselves. Whilst Quark schemes to keep it for himself.
What we have here is the elevation of an in-joke into the basis for an episode and even if it weren’t hung on Quark, it would have to be a lot more substantial – and not feature Morn walking in at the end, still alive – to be worth doing, and this isn’t.
It’s archaic, it’s out of place in the midst of the Dominion Wars, it’s silly and it reveals its awkwardness at the end where there’s a dialogue between Quark and Morn explaining the plot in which Quark has to supply both halves of the dialogue because Morn never speaks on camera.
And it’s bloody Quark for the second time in three weeks.
Guest stars include the slimy Gregory Itzin who I will forever associate with the slimy President Charles Logan in 24 and Bridget Ann White, a former gymnast who I will forever associate with the bare midriff, long legs and long red hair of her character Larell. I will try to disassociate that memory from the memory of this episode so I can enjoy it.
This is a fan-favourite episode. Ultimately, I suppose you will have to accept I am not a fan.
Only it’s not just Quark, it’s Rom and Nog, and Moogie, and ex-Liquidator Brunt, and two semi-new ones in Leck and Gaila, with one previous appearance behind them each. In short, it’s Ferengi after Ferengi after Ferengi, as far as the eye can see, and you know what that means to me. I do try to approach each new episode with an open mind, but this one has been shut so long, the hinges have rusted in place.
Basically, the Dominion capture Moogie and Grand Nagus Zek wants Quark to get her back. It was going to be Zek himself but Wallace Shawn wasn’t available. In compensation for that, we do have Iggy Pop playing the part of the Vorta Yelgrun, and stealing the show with his crooked grin and the unavoidable aura of dementia underlining the character’s physical stillness. He was brilliant, the test of it was crap.
It’s difficult to watch a ‘comedy’ episode when you don’t find the characters funny at all. Basically, Quark assembles a team of Ferengi to rescue Moogie. They’re useless at the rough stuff, so instead Quark negotiates a prisoner-trade for the Vorta Keevan (see s06 e02), to take place on Empok Nor, the lop-sided DS9 look-alike station (the name of which is curiously never mentioned in the episode).
They do a deal over the handover, which is jeopardised when Rom accidentally reveals that Quark is cheating everybody else, claiming Zek’s reward to be twenty bars of latinum when it’s really fifty. In the resulting uproar, Gaila tries to shoot Quark but kills Keevan. However, Nog manages to Frankenstein him long enough for the trade to take place, the two Jem’Hadar guards to be killed and Yelgrun taken prisoner.
And for Quark and Rom to feel good about themselves, since it is now obligatory for any episode in which Quark appears in any degree of substance for him to behave in a more un-Ferengi-like manner, to show he has depths. I won’t comment further.
No, sorry to anyone who loved this, or loves Quark, for me it was just a waste of bloody time, amplified by such things as padding out the exposition by having Quark and Rom crawling along ducts, or engaging in endless running down corridors on Empok Nor, presumably to keep the episode from running short. This was the worst episode since the last Quark-centric one and it’ll be the worst episode until the next Quark-centric one, and can I go now, please?
Despite my ongoing attempts to avoid spoilers (for a show twenty years old), I knew this was coming, that after a six-part sequence, the Production crew at Deep Space Nine had decided to schedule the wedding of Worf and Jardzia as a deliberately upbeat, and lightweight, counterpart to the seriousness thus far. And in terms of filling intention, this was a good 80% successful.
I don’t really have much complaint about this episode. It started in buoyant mood, everybody still on the high of returning to the station after a week of settling in, smiles all round and the only worm in the apple being that the Station Chief of Security and its First Officer are avoiding each other like bessy mates who’ve fallen out.
As rightly they should. I know the show is going to forgive Odo, sooner rather than later, for his defection and, though it goes completely against her character to do so, so will Kira. It was good to have this tension acknowledged, and even better that it was done without going into any depth about it.
It was less good that the pair ended up talking it out, offscreen, in a very relaxed, private, heart-to-heart context, without our hearing a single word said and I hereby give notice that if, next week, it turns out they’re back to normal, I’m going to scream very loudly whilst jumping up and down on it with hobnailed boots.
But enough of that sideshow. The wedding is progressing. It’s going to be very traditional Klingon, so much so that Kira is asking whether any of it reflects Jardzia. Worf has it planned for after the War, on the Klingon homeworld, but here’s son Alexander, about to be transferred to a distant ship so Jardzia suggests holding it this week, in Quarks, so that Alexander may not merely be there but be the equivalent of Worf’s best man.
This is where things get ever so slightly awkward. We can’t just have the pair get married and everyone have a good time. So the show rummages in the Cliche Drawer to start throwing up things that will lead to the wedding being called off first.
On the one hand, we have Worf and Martok inviting Sisko, O’Brien, Bashir and Alexander to his Kal’Hyah, or four day bachelor party. Everyone imagines feasting, drinking, bacchanalia, but instead it means fasting, endurance, great heat: nice, if predictable, reversal but the joke is one-note and goes on a bit too long.
Meanwhile, outside, Jardzia is undergoing her own torture, by having the rule run over her by Sirella (guest star Shannon Cochran), wife of Martok, mistress of the House of Martok and ultimate arbiter over whether the wedding will be allowed, and Jardzia permitted to join the House of Martok. Given that Sirella doesn’t believe the House should be weakened by admitting aliens (and she doesn’t much like Worf either), the outcome is pretty obvious.
Sirella is super-toughh on Jardzia, Jardzia rebellious and it all comes to a head when Sirella turns up in the middle of Jardzia’s pretty raucous party (complete with Hawaiian fire-dancer). Sirella is not best pleased at the less-than-Klingon behaviour she’s seeing (even the writer reckons that, but for Sirella turning up, the party would have come to the traditional end of Jardzia shagging the fire-dancer). She demands Jarzia attend the next ritual, Jardzia refuses, a quarrel develops (he said, euphemistically: Sirella draws a knife, Jardzia smashes her one in the face – literally, though by accident, on one take) and that’s it, the wedding is off.
Unless Jardzia grovels to Sirella, that is, which, in her hungover state, and in her sober pride after, she’s not prepared to do. Since she refuses to bend to Klingon tradition like this, Worf sadly concludes that the wedding is a mistake. But Martok talks Worf back into it, and Sisko practically orders Jardzia back into it (she’s not Curzon any longer and has to let go of his pride), and offscreen, so that none of the hard writing has to be done convincing us, Sirella melts. The wedding is back on.
And amazingly fit does Terry Farrell look in her red leather wedding dress with its diamond cut out between her, ahem, breasts. The pair are joined and everyone is happy, especially Milesand Julian, who have every intention of making the symbolic attack-with-clubs on the happy pair a bit less symbolic than usual after that Kal’Hyah…
Nevertheless, the episode was a bright spot, and it worked mostly: I enjoyed watching it at least. But once again, I was disappointed to see the hard spots in writing swept offstage, impossible enmities resolved as if by magic. And I now understand that that does go for Kira and Odo.
That is a massive, colossal fuck-up. No-one: actors, producers, writer, fans, no-one is happy with it. It came about due to time constraints, the bane of a prime time series, to the late decision not to pursue a logical course with Odo that would have isolated him and destabilised him, but it is still shit, it is still a massively damaging, credibility undermining turn. You just cannot abdicate moments like this and hope to be taken seriously: what is the point of anything in Deep Space Nine, knowing that it can and will be undone by the wave of a magic wand and a conversation offscreen, and everything’s kissed better?
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.
Whether it be me or Deep Space Nine, things were back on track this week, and I personally felt this to be the best episode so far of season 6.
As has bee the pattern thus far, it’s divided between the war and the station, but for a change of pace, it was the latter that formed the A story, and quite rightly so. The nature of the B story changed substantially in the writing, with several deep and complex ideas being rejected because they would have made this strand too complex to exist as the B story.
Whilst I agree with this approach, it did have the unfortunate effect of neutering that side of the episode, pushing the actual story so far out of sight, literally, as to be unimportant.
Basically, Admiral Ross orders Sisko and the Defiant on a mission to destroy a well-protected Sensor array that’s plotting the movement of all Federation ships and handing the Dominion a massive technological advantage. Then Ross promotes Sisko to become his Adjutant, putting direct command of the mission and the ship in the hands of Dax. The mission is a spectacular success, entirely offscreen: what we see is Sisko’s concerns at his crew going into danger without him.
I’m informed that Dax’s success in command is going to lead to changes in her character, but Sisko’s elevation to a position of increased authority and responsibility, and his introduction to that aspect of command that involves sending men to war whilst you remain in a position of physical safety is going to be a hard one to row back upon when the War is over: especially in so increasingly military an organisation as Starfleet.
But let’s pass on that. It’s not intended to go too deep, though it might have made a strong episode in itself if the show had been willing to go deeper into the Dominion War than they’re doing. Of far greater importance is the A story, showing the Resistance in action on DS9/Terak Nor.
I’ve got to be honest and say that this story was introduced with some astonishingly clunky writing in the open. Kira and Rom have stolen and strategically passed on Dumar’s ‘iPad’ containing his secret plan to poison the last ration of ketracel White and kill the Jem’Hadar, if the blockade of the Wormholeisn’t relieved before supplies run out. The Jem’Hadar don’t like it. A bar brawl breaks out in Quark’s, with much damage to property and person, and glee for Kira and Rom. The odea’s good, but what kills it is that we see all the action from a silent distance with Kira talking us through everything, as a virtual voiceover. It’s horribly amateurish, it’s wooden, it’s an unattractive Tell imposed on a reduced to insignificant Show.
All the more creditable that the strand should go on to develop so strong a story. The plan was very effective in the eyes of Kira, Rom and Jake, who form three-quarters of the now-established Resistance Committee, but not Odo, the fourth. Odo thought it a bad idea, for disrupting the order on the station, and had walked out without staying to learn that Kira had persuaded everyone otherwise. It makes things uncomfortable for the pair – and Odo remains passionately in love with Kira – with the Major not questioning Odo’s loyalty but coming very close to where she will start to be concerned.
This theme unfortunately gets developed much more after the arrival on the station of the Female Changeling to see Odo. She’s been trapped in the Alpha Quadrant and desires the company of a fellow shapeshifter, or so she says. She persuades Odo into entering the Link with her.
This terrifies Kira as much as it angers her. She extracts a promise from Odo not to Link again until after the war is over. He is a crucial part of the Resistance and discipline is necessary, discipline and a subsuming of personal interest to the primary task.
Dumar, Dukat’s number two, is on the lookout for favour. He’s promoted to Gul, he’s come up with a plan to clear the mines off, he’s drinking way too much at Quark’s. This latter leads him to spill the beans to Quark, who’s beginning to realise that there are more things to life that mere profits and he’d really rather like to have the Federation back, please. So Quark passes this on to the Resistance, om works out how it can be done and how that can be protected, a plan is devised whereby Odo will disable security at a specified time to enable Rom’s act of sabotage…
And Odo, desperate for more understanding of himself and the Changelings, goes into Link with the Female at exactly the wrong moment. The sabotage fails, Rom is arrested, the War is now almost certainly lost. Kira loses her rag with Odo, but the horrifying thing is that Odo hasn’t merely been derelict in his duty, he has become completely indifferent. Only the Link matters. Not even Kira.
It’s a chilling development. Odo has defected. There’s no other way of describing it. He’s done the unforgivable. It’s going to be one hell of a journey back to the side of the goodies, and in the eyes of at least one member of the audience, it’s a case of You Can’t Get There From Here.
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.
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.
Oh boy, another Quark-episode. That’s two in three weeks. My cup runneth over.
This is going to be short because I plain did not enjoy this week’s episode, in which even the B story – once again a momentary sideshow – was a Ferengi story, about Rom and Leeta. I cannot summon the remotest interest in Quark, the Ferengi way of life, nor the fact that Deep Space Nine‘s most uncomic relief is gradually being softened by being given elements of a conscience.
To summarise: the bar is shut down because of an infestation of voles. Quark is depressed, even more so after Rom and Leeta announce that they’re going to get married. Rom suggests he go visit their mother. When he does, Quark discovers Moogie is having an affair with Grand Negus Zek, which has to be kept secret. However, it’s known to Quark’s old enemy, Brunt, FCA, who bribes him to poison the relationship in exchange for getting back his Business Licence. Quark does so, though why anyone believes him is always a mystery because he’s the most unconvincing liar of all time, since Shimerman puts him into a most artificial and blatant change of voice and demeanour. Sigh.
So Moogie is heartbroken but Quark’s restored. Zek summons him to become his First Clerk, whereupon Quark immediately learns that the Grand Negus’s memory is going (had Altzheimers been named in 1996?). Between them the economy drops 199 points in a day, which was all part of Brunt’s plan: he wants Zek ousted as Grand Negus and to take over himself. Quark, having developed something of a conscience through too much exposure to Hu-mons, helps Zek fight everyone off (totally offscreen and thus totally a cop-out) before revealing that all his helpful suggestions came from Moogie. She’s reinstated, Brunt threatens that he’ll watch Quark, that story’s over after what felt like several hours.
Rom and Leeta? The wedding’s off after Rom, disturbed by gossip about him not being a traditional Ferengi male, tries to get Leeta to sign awaiver of all claims on his profits and she refuses. The two are miserable until Rom gives all his profits away to charity, whereupon they snog on the promenade and I would be envious of Max Grodenchik if he weren’t wearing so much Ferengi make-up that he probably couldn’t feel a thing.
Next week’s episode will be considerably better and more entertaining. By definition.