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 e21 – When It Rains…


Nope, still don’t like the hairdo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deep Space Nine: s07 e07 – One More unto The Breach


A Warrior

A simple episode, and a highly predictable one, played only on notes that we have heard before and in the same combination, but not, for all that, a bad episode. But then I am, and always have been, a sucker for sacrifice, moved intensely by those who give up their lives to save others.

‘Once More unto The Breach’ brought back John Colicos as the Dahar master, Kor, a role he had first played 31 years earlier in the Original Series, and which he had re-created for DS9 in seasons 2 and 4. It was the actor’s last performance, and he was reliable to the end.

This was also an episode that centred upon Worf who has had little presence since Jardzia’s death. Kor approaches him, willing to beg, for a role in the War: he has lost all his influence, he is the last of his House, there seems to be no way for him to die as he wishes, as a Warrior. Straightway, we know what will follow: that Worf will bring him in to the raid proposed by General Martok, even as a lowly Third Officer, that Kor will be shamed by his age and frailty, and that at the last he will redeem himself, taking the place of Worf on a suicide mission that confounds the enemy and secures the escape of his battlemates, and a death that will take him to Sto-Vo-Kor.

If it’s predictable, then it was well performed, especially by J.G.Hertzler, nursing a thirty year grudge against Kor for blackballing him out of the Klingon military on class grounds. He is barely able to tolerate the old Klingon, even before his crew look at the hero with awe, and when Kor, in battle reveals his mental frailty and begins re-fighting an old action against the Federation, Martok is merciless in his scorn, but answered by Kor’s pained, yet quiet dignity, against which Martok cannot take the pleasure he has longed for in decades.

Though the scene where Kor, pretending to congratulate Worf on a glorious death to come, knocks him out with a hypnospray is just another example of old wine in a new bottle, it is carried out in a touching manner. Kor promises his unconscious friend that the first thing he will do upon arriving at Sto-Vo-Kor will be to seek out Jardzia and remind her that her husband is a noble warrior… and that he still loves no-one but her. His last words before he teleports to his stolen command are ‘Long Live The Empire’.

And then he’s gone. How he does it is unknown, passed into legend, like that of Davey Crockett, debated by Miles and Julian in the open, as a foreshadowing of this moment. Bloodwine is drunk by all, in toast to the Warrior, and the ritual song sung, save by Martok, who cannot let go of his anger so easily.

Back at the station, there’s a hint of a B story that really doesn’t deserve that name, when Quark overhears Ezri talking about Kor and wanting to spend another day with him, and thinking she means Worf. I’ve seen a spoiler that I’d really rather have not, not because I didn’t want the surprise blown, but because I really do not want to sit through three-quarters of a season of Quark mooning over Ezri, even if I’m reassured he doesn’t get off with her (whilst hinting that pretty near everybody else does, which bodes not well).

At least it leads to a decent opportunity for Nicole de Boer to cement her growing confidence by confirming she’s not interested in Worf (nor Quark, phew) and that she recognises just how generous a speech the Ferengi has just made, not to mention how embarrassing for him.

Like I said, though the story was older than Kor himself, its subject is one that has to be handled pretty badly for me not to feel it, so this week got a pass from me. And a fond smile.

Deep Space Nine: s06 e07 – You Are Cordially Invited…


Oh come on, what else did you think I’d select?

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?

I’m not going to forget this.

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 e03 – Sons and Daughters


A change of clothing

I don’t quite know why but this latest episode completely misfired on me and I couldn’t get into it on any level save the shallowest one of Nana Visitor looking her most seriously attractive. Some of it is perhaps a change of conditions under which I finally got to see the episode: from here until the end I will be watching DVDs and being region 2, there was a slight cut near the end of which I was not aware in advance but which I managed to sense.

Though this is part three of the six-part arc, it was filmed before last week’s ‘Rocks and Shoals’ to enable the latter to time its location filming. This made it suffer from the unfilmed scene of Sisko and Co’s rescue by General Martok and Worf, which appears in the open as a fait accompli, and an awkward one at that. And it confused the hell out of the sequence of events station-side, with the main purpose of that part of the story being to show Major Kira rejecting her softening towards Gul Dukat when she’s already rejected being a collaborator last week.

I’ll stick with that side of the story to begin with. Kira and Odo’s Resistance is already sufficiently public knowledge for Jake to want to join and Quark to warn him off it. But Dukat has managed to persuade his daughter, Ziyal, to return from Bajor, much to Kira’s joint delight and dismay.

Ziyal is displaying great artistic potential, to the joint pride of her father and her best friend. It didn’t work out on Bajor: no matter how polite everyone was, Ziyal was still Dukat’s daughter, and DS9 is still her only real home.

Using Ziyal as bait, Dukat starts drawing Kira nearer, but once again she steadies herself, refutes him entirely and, with a clear-eyed logic, throws off Ziyal too. This story also served the purpose of building up Ziyal as a holy innocent of sorts, in order to dramatise her forthcoming death.

The other side of the story took place on General Martok’s ship, on a mission escorting a convoy, with five new recruits on board, one of them Alexander Rozhenko, refusing to acknowledge himself as Worf’s son.

Perhaps because I have no recollections of Alexander from those parts of TNG I did watch, perhaps because I don’t have any kind of emotional investment in anything but DS9, I couldn’t get into this story of father and son resentments. It ought to be up my emotional alley, as a son who lost his father at eighteen, but I have no resentments towards my father; he did not abandon me as Worf did Alexander, but died of cancer: not even on the deepest subconscious level do I ‘blame’ him.

So none of this story took hold. It did not feel attached to this arc, except in the most tenuous fashion. It did not ‘work’.

As for that cut scene, Alexander ends the episode by entering the House of Martok. His sigil is bathed in blood, cut and dripped from Martok’s palm. In the original, Worf and Alexander do likewise but this was edited out so as not to encourage the mingling of blood among a teenage audience, in the era of HIV. It isn’t there, but you can tell something’s not there. It was the last thing this episode needed.

Deep Space Nine: s05 e21: Soldiers of the Empire


Star Trek: Klingon

Now isn’t that sooooo much better?

We came back to a serious reality this week with a Klingon-based episode in which General Martok is appointed to lead a rescue mission in search of a missing Klingon vessel on the Cardassian border, in which he takes Worf as his First Officer.

The episode cleverly plants a seed of doubt in the open, with Martok undergoing treatment from an openly disapproving Bashir for a potentially life-ending wound sustained in a holosuite battle programme with the safety protocols switched off. Actually, it wasn’t the holosuite, but rather combat with Worf: Martok was prisoner of the Jem’Hadar for two years, lost an eye, and needs to recover his edge.

All of this is laying the ground for what follows: Martok’s ship, the Rotarran, is a ship dogged by defeat, with a crew demoralised and bitter. In short, a powder keg. What’s needed is strong command, a properly Klingon thirst for victory and honour, in short the urge to give somebody a bloody good kicking. A Captain preoccupied by thoughts of his own experiences at the hands of the Jem’Hadar, and unwilling to take risks, is the worst possible choice.

In the end, with outright mutiny all but triggered, Worf has to challenge Martok under the Klingon code for command of the ship. This means a duel, to the death.

Yet the programme bottles out, as we always knew it would. I had no wish to see either Worf or General Martok die, but in an episode whose purpose was to take us on boarda Klingon ship, see Klingon warriors in action, live with them and see how they think and behave, to present a ritual battle that is insisted on being to the death, and let both participants live without any attempt to provide a justifiable, in context explanation why, for the first time ever, to-the-death is ok with to-the-first-wound, undermines the whole thing and draws the viewer out of the scene and into the contrivances of a long-running prime-time TV drama series.

Basically, what happens is that Worf’s challenge gets Martok’s dander up good and proper, so Worf allows himself to be beaten. Martok then allies the bloodthirsty crew into a battle against the Jem’Hadar which they win, and they all lived happily ever after.

I haven’t, thus far, mentioned that on this mission, Worf is accompanied by Jardzia Dax, who unexpectedly signs up (using her leave) as Science Officer on the Rotarran. Why? Well, we’re left to figure that out for ourselves, though it’s a good job she’s there. As First Officer, Worf’s duty is both to support the Captain and to stand for the crew, and his personal loyalty to Martok prevents him from properly fulfilling that latter duty. It’s Dax who takes on the informal responsibility of warning Worf just how close everything is to utter bloody disaster.

I’m in two minds about Dax’s presence. She doesn’t play any direct part in the story, and her unheralded inclusion comes right on the heels of a quasi-comic scene in Quark’s bar (without Quark, thankfully) that is directly inconsistent with her shooting off alongside her par’Mach’kai. Worf’s detachment from Starfleet duty means that the rest of the senior staff have to take over parts of his duty as well as their own. Bashir, Dax and O’Brien sit around and moan about this imposition, as devised by Kira.

Then, immediately after this little scene, showing the reality of DS9 being short-staffed with Worf gone, Dax buggers off alongside him. No, that little juxtaposition of scenes did not work one little bit.

Honesty compels me to admit that the underlying idea behind this episode is the same as the underlying idea between last week’s dross: to see one of the series’ alien cultures operating, up close and personal. But the Klingon ethos I found immeasurably more interesting (and entertaining) than Ferengi. Like its lesser equivalent, it is, at heart, one aspect of the human character elevated into a society, but it is one that I found more interesting to see, and to study.

And more relevant to the Federation/Dominion clash, currently undergoing its 1939-40 ‘Phoney War’ stage, otherwise¬† known a barely getting mentioned. I’m waiting for that to change, as it inevitably must. I suspect I’m going to have to wait until the only other episode I can remember from watching this twenty years ago: the season end.

That’s only five weeks away, right before Xmas…

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.