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 e19 – Strange Bedfellows


Oh yeuch

An apt title for this latest episode since there were a few pairings that could be described that way, ranging from the macro to the micro. ‘Strange Bedfellows’ was still a part of the long build-up, moving chess pieces around the board, setting forces in motion to play off later, so individually this could not be said to be an especially satisfying 45 minutes: this part of the long endgame is frustrating because I can’t just bingewatch the final run and see it all.

But let’s look at the copious number of pairings, shall we? The first such is the new Dominion/Breen Alliance. The Breen are coming aboard, subject to signing a treaty, the terms of which involve secret Cardassian concessions to the new allies, secret as in Gul Damar, over his considerable and entirely rational objections, is not to be told. And Weyoun 7 is being even more high-handed with Damar, treating him with open disdain, treating Cardassia as utterly worthless. It has no independence, it is of the Dominion, it belongs to the Founders. This is said in front of the Breen leader, who doesn’t seem to register that itrefers to his people as well.

No matter. Ezri and Worf are still prisoners, now on a Jem’Hadar ship heading to Cardassia. Though Worf is still as stiff-necked as only a Klingon can be, going on about his honour every three minutes and seventeen seconds, he and Ezri do manage to get their heads straight, about their unwise shag and, more importantly, the whole Dax thing. Ezri even confesses that she didn’t actually know about being in love with Julian (who, back at DS9, is himself beginning to realise he’s in love with Ezri: this really is very weak and artificial).

That settled, they prepare themselves to be executed, Damar having notified them in advance that they would be tried as war criminals, convicted and executed. But, in a not wholly unforeseeable development, Damar kills the Jem’Hadar guards, provides a spaceship full of security codes and tells the escaping pair that the Federation has a friend on Cardassia. Just goes to show, if you whip a dog long enough…

Weyoun certainly has, in the vulgar parlance, dropped a bollock on this. The lad is prone to do so, and there’s an amusingly brilliant demonstration of this when he taunts the prisoners in their cell over Ezri admitting under torture to loving Julian. Unfortunately, Weyoun is stood next to Worf when he says this, and the big Klingon grabs him by the head, twists it and breaks his neck. Weyoun 8 is, of course, just as big a dickhead.

Back on DS9, we have two more sets of bedfellows, both literal. On the one hand we have Mr and Mrs Captain Benjamin Sisko. In a development that I personally found not merely disappointing but offensive, we have Martok giving Klingon marital advice to the Emissary, about marriage being a long war, a fight over everything. That may be so in a warrior race like the Klingons. but to see Sisko immediately starting to plot to defeat Kasidy over her refusal to conduct a religious ritual she doesn’t believe in was deeply depressing, and not a little misogynist.

But the creepiest set of bedfellows this week were Gul Dukat and Kai Wynn, and I do mean bedfellows, a sight that was enough to turn your stomach. That the surgically altered Dukat was here to seduce the Kai from her loyalty to the Prophets, in favour of a quick conversion to the Pah-Wraiths should be paralleled by the physical side of things was no doubt artistically sound, but it was still queasy to see.

But to give the Kai credit, the moment she realised that it was the Pah-Wraiths sending her visions, she fought back instantly, telling Dukat to get thee behind me, pledging herself to the Prophets, seeking their guidance, resisting all the way. She even sought Kira’s counsel, genuinely humble and open. But all this repentance broke upon the rock of Kira’s advice that Wynn must abdicate the Kaiship.

And so the other big bad goes bad for good, telling Dukat that the Prophets she has worshipped and served all her life have never – never – spoken to her. So now she’s gone over to the other side, the last set of bedfellows, the Kai and the Pah-Wraiths.

To be continued.

Wynn’s defection was dramatically inevitable, the culmination of her path of arrogance and power, but given the strength of her initial rejection of the Pah-Wraiths, which is genuine and vehement, I surely can’t be alone in thinking that it would have made a much more fascinating story for her to have maintained that stance, and to have devoted her strengths to the fight against them and the Dominion? Or was that a pipe-dream? Yeah, a pipe-dream.

As an aside, I’ve written this blog on the third anniversary, give or take the odd day or two, of my first blog in this series. There are now only six episodes left.

Deep Space Nine: s07 e18 – Till Death Us Do Part


Yeuch. I mean, just, yeuch

As I’m no longer doing any post-episode research until the series is over, I’m keeping myself clear of any confirmation of what I suspect the title of this episode means. It could merely be a reference to the marriage of Benjamin Lafayette Sisko and Kasidy Danielle Yeats celebrated herein, or it could be a lightly veiled hint as to the short-term future of the marriage, given that it takes place in direct defiance of the Prophet’s warnings (repeated at the very instant Sisko slips the ring on Kasidy’s finger).

Nevertheless, Sisko has flown in the face of a previously 100% reliable source of handy hints and tips about the future and his destiny, which has left Colonel Kira looking stony-faced in disapproval, and we will have to wait and see if this implies anything for Kasidy (spoiler: not in that sense).

To be honest, I found this episode faintly disappointing, and in one place more than faintly creepy. The wedding was the only part of the episode that was in any way an advancement, for at this early stage of the long endgame, the board is still being set up and the pieces shuffled.

Take Ezri and Worf, who spend most of their time all episode locked up in the Breen brig, give or take the odd electrocution and interrogation. On the one hand, we have Worf assuming he’s got his Dax back for many more years of happy wedded Klingon bliss, but on the other we have Ezri professing her love for Julian Bashir whilst in post-torture mode, a development that affronts Worf and puzzles her.

And at the end we discover that they are being held as gifts, from the Breen to the Dominion, to celebrate the new Alliance against the Federation that’s going to tip the balance of the War.

The other realm in which the endgame is advanced lies with the Bajoran Dukat. The slimy git has himself introduced to none other than Kai Wynn, the other big baddy, with the two forming the inevitable alliance. She’s on DS9 to take over organising the Emissary’s wedding with her customary whole-hearted honesty, and getting her first ever vision of the Prophets (I’m willing to bet it’s actually the Pah-Wraiths).

The Kai’s self-importance is fed by the suggestion that she will be responsible for the Restoration of Bajor, guided by a man of the land. Enter a ‘farmer’ with all sorts of experiences that ever so neatly dovetail with the Kai’s expectations. And the creepy bit is when they kissed, which I so did not want to see. Here’s hoping there’s no more of that.

The clock ticks on and down. Things are still taking shape. Another week nearer.

Deep Space Nine: s05 e10: Rapture


New uniforms – dull!

“Rapture” is a pivotal episode in several senses, from the relatively trivial matter of the change in uniforms to the foreshadowing of matters that will before too long dominate the remainder of the entire series, and to the resetting, at least for a while, of a major supporting character. There were times during this episode where I genuinely could not foresee where it might go but, given the status of the story as an episode in an ongoing series, there were certain outcomes that were next to inevitable.

Matters pertaining to Bajoran religion, and Captain Sisko’s status as the Emissary of the Prophet, usually went down about as well as a brick pigeon, but “Rapture” proved to be unusually popular, to the surprise of the production team. This episode is loosely defined as part 3 of the ‘Emissary Trilogy’, and it’s the one where the Captain comes fully to accept his role, and that being the Emissary is not necessarily in alignment with his Starfleet duty.

Three things come together to create the situation. In ascending order of importance: Kasidy Yates’ six month prison sentence for aiding the Maquis comes to an end (fittingly about six months after s04 e22, “For the Cause” aired), the Federation accepts Bajor’s application for admittance and Cardassia releases an ancient Bajoran piece of art, depicting the lost ‘holy city’ of B’Hala.

This last intrigues Sisko, who is fascinated by a partially seen pillar decorated by strange symbols. He’s already showing signs of incipient obsession, trying to reconstruct the symbols on the hidden sides, when a holosuite accident nearly fries his brain. Instead, it gives him the power of visions: as a result of odd synaptic potentials, as Bashir diagnoses it, as a result of the Prophets according to Major Kira and Kai Winn.

It’s an interesting neurological and storytelling opposition, reminiscent of Peter Carter’s ‘visions’ of his trial in Heaven in A Matter of Life and Death where the audience is given the choice of whether these visions are true and revelatory of a life beyond our own or are the result of a brain injury.

Sisko’s obsession with finding B’Hala interferes with the other two factors. Welcoming Kasidy back is subordinated to his hunt for, and location of the lost city, playing his part in the Signing Ceremony is deeply subordinated to his need to explore his visions and what they ultimately mean. In each succeeding scene, he grows more and more psychicly perceptive.

Unfortunately, he grows more and more weak as the visions rip into his brain. Bashir insists on brain surgery. Admiral Whatley, here for the Signing, demands it. But Sisko refuses to let go of his visions, considering these to be far more important than his life. The show dances with not quite confirming this, but the situation makes no sense unless we accept that not only does the Captain see sacrificing himself to his visions as more important than his relationship with Kasidy Yates but, far more important, being there for his already-motherless son.

In the end, it is Jake, as next-of-kin, who authorises the surgery which, of course, robs Sisko of his visions. Jake acts out of selfishness, but who wouldn’t? But narrativium demanded some such ending, pulling Sisko back from the brink of one final, glorious, future-shattering and undoubtedly explicit revelation, but saving his life.

Not before Sisko’s last revelation, and his status as the Emissary ensures the entirely-foreseeable outcome that the Bajor’s put off acceptance of the Federation application. A vision of locusts, hovering over Bajor before heading towards Cardassia. A deliberately vague foreshadowing of major developments to come, cleverly set out. It is too soon. Bajor must stand alone or it will be destroyed.

Sisko has undercut the very purpose of his role as Senior Federation Officer on Deep Space Nine, as given to him by Picard in the Pilot. By all rights, he should be cashiered, removed from his command, transferred to the space equivalent of the boondocks. But, well, he is the Emissary, don’tcha know, not to mention the guy whose name comes first on the credits every week, plus he assures the Admiral that Bajor will eventually join the Federation, as both the Emissary and as a Starfleet Captain, so that’s fine, tune in next week.

What the episode also does, in invaluable fashion, is to throw a few different shades into the character of Kai Winn. Previously, she’s been a one-note baddie, a double-died villainess, whose subtlety of approach doesn’t disguise that she’s basically a power-mad dictatress. She’s still not down with Bajor joining the Federation: five years of independence is far too little for Bajor’s culture and rekigion to assert itself after fifty years of Cardassian rule, and she’s right about that, which all too rarely is acknowledged.

But Sisko’s discovery of B’hala throws all out off. Winn is shaken. Her self-centred rejection of Sisko as Emissary is swept away. Her beliefs demand it of her and she’s sincere enough in her faith to not only accept what is personally discomforting, but also to openly admit it. Kira, surprised but admiring, applauds her courage, and gets her head handed to herself when Winn challenges the Resistance’s self-sustaining belief that only they were courageous in the face of Cardassia: the priests had to be equally courageous, and without a means of fighting back, outside maintaining their faith. It’s a more than pertinent corrective.

Of course I’m going to have to bring up the uniforms, aren’t I? The new design, introduced in the Star Trek: First Contact film (one of only two Star Trek films I went to see in the cinema, at the request of a former friend), was always intended to be introduced in DS9 but was held back until now, the first episode after the official launch of the film.

I’ve got to say I don’t like them, and my first thought at their bulkier design, with a fleece-like top covering a colour-coded undershirt that de-emphasises the traditional branch colours, made me think that the Federation was undergoing an Austerity phase, with the central heating turned down by 30% to economise. They’re heavier, and they make everybody look as if they’re dressed the same, de-individualising each Starfleet role. Too late to complain now.

Incidentally, the series doesn’t reference First Contact, which co-starred Michael Dorn as Worf, because the film brought in DS9‘s ‘Defiant’ only to trash it.

Overall, a superior episode, with more to come.

Deep Space Nine: s03 e24 – Shakaar


Bajorans three
Bajorans three

After last week’s shenanigans, it was good to get back to a serious story, and one that looked to have a bit of meat on it, as it should, given that the end of season 3 is now very close. Also, it starred everybody’s favourite red-haired Major, always a plus point in this sector of the galaxy.

There was an understory as well, just to give other members of the cast some screen-time, about Chief O’Brien being ‘in the zone’ on the dartboard, but since it was entirely perfunctory, it needed no more mention than that, save that it was a particularly obvious contrivance to get everybody else into the episode when they had no place in the overstory. Twenty-odd years later, everybody, the programme especially, would be entirely comfortable with going solo, which would have made for a stronger experience overall.

Not that I initially, and for some time, was convinced of that. This was a purely personal response, based on the story originally coming over as a retread of that bloody awful season 1 episode, ‘Progress’, the one with Brian Keith hamming it up all over the shop.

The open, at least, was excellent. Though it’s three months on, Kira is still mourning the death of Bariel, praying before the rather more ornate Bajoran version of a candle, when Sisko interrupts to advise her that the First Minister has died. A new First Minister, in anticipation of elections, has already been appointed: it is Kai Winn.

Kira is horrified, as is Odo but, apparently no-one else. There was an ironically contemporary twist to things, given the very recent Electoral College confirmation of another gross election mistake, but it very much looked like the Kai would be adding temporal power to her spiritual domain. The story would be about undoing that prospect as a consequence of Winn’s own fanatical, and potentially fascistic, ambitions.

Kira is back at her devotions when she’s interrupted again, this time by the Kai herself, asking her to undertake a personal mission. Louise Fletcher is, as always, the perfectly cloying, creeping figure, steadfastly denying her own personal gain but never quite approaching conviction, secure in knowing that her power insulates her from having to really justify herself.

The set-up is that one of Bajor’s previously most agriculturally productive provinces, soil-poisoned by the retreating Cardassians, needs specially developed reclamators urgently. With these, the forthcoming planting season could be transformed, food for export be granted, Bajor commercially uplifted and its application to join the Federation advanced by years.

The fly in the appointment is that those reclamators have been ‘stolen’ by another, less significant province, and a selfish, arrogant leader who is holding Bajor back by refusing to give them up. The Kai wants the Major to go in and persuade these miserable bastards to give ’em back. She’s perfect for the mission because its her home province, and the leader is Shakaar, her former leader in the Resistance.

Shades of bloody Brian Keith methinks, especially when Kira beams down into a typically Bajoran farming community, and finds that the soil is dry, barren, arid. I mean, we knew Kai Winn’s tale of stolen equipment wouldn’t stand up even if you stapled it to a wall, but thankfully Shakaar was no old, stubborn and stupid old fart but rather an intelligent, thoughtful and clever man, kudos to Duncan Regehr in the role.

The real truth is that Shakaar’s community, who are farming to feed their people rather than exporting for profit, have legitimately received their reclamators only two months previously, after a three year wait, and been promised their use for a year. It is the Kai who is intending to ‘steal’ them.

There’s a genuine sense of camaraderie here, as others from the Resistance are also farming, and Kira’s old sympathies are easily invoked. But she’s learned from past mistakes, at least initially, and mindful of her duties, and the genuine value of the Kai’s project, sets up a face-to-face meeting between Shakaar and the Kai. Until, that is, the Kai sends the militia to arrest Shakaar.

After that, it’s back to old habits, as Shakaar gathers his old buddies and heads for the hills, Kira among them. The Kai is outraged, not least because Shakaar’s rebellion against her Prophet-inspired vision is gaining an awful lot of public sympathy. And Sisko isn’t disapproving this time: he takes great,polite pleasure in informing the Kai that Federation regulations forbid him from acceding to her request that he get his security in there and blast the bastards to buggery.

He even gets to tell Winn that her immediate threat to withdraw Bajor’s application to join the Federation is the little kid threatening to take his ball home that it is, although the actual word he uses in ‘overreaction’.

Meanwhile, the erstwhile Resistance is running round the hills like the old days, giving the Militia the gleeful slip just like the old days, although old habits are gaining ground: more than a few want to stop running and start fighting back. An ambush is laid, but both Kira and Shakaar find out that it is one thing to kill Cardassians and another to fire on Bajorans, especially Bajorans like the Militia leader, Colonel Lenaris (a carefully measured performance by a young-ish John Doman), who are themselves ex-Resistance.

This time a parley works. Lenaris, despite his record and his duty, is no more willing to kill former Bajoran Resistance folk than Shakaar. Rather than capture Shakaar’s band, they return to their farms, with the reclamators, and Lenaris conducts Shakaar and Kira to the office of the suddenly temporary First Minister. With the backing of the Army, Shakaar will stand for Election as First Minister, and he will win. Especially because, if the Kai doesn’t withdraw, the details of this episode will be made public. A lovely mix of democracy and blackmail.

As you know, I don’t read ahead unless I can’t help it, so I don’t know the longer-term implications of this move and what part Shakaar may have to play in future seasons. But he’s clearly that most dangerous of leaders, a clear-headed, thoughtful, rational, intelligent and principled man (thank heaven we don’t have any of them in real life, eh?) so I’m assuming he’ll be back.

And given that, once Kira returned to DS9, without a word of reproach, her first act was to blow out Bariel’s flame, I’m definitely expecting him to be back…

Deep Space Nine: s03 e13 – ‘Life Support’


As it must...
As it must…

One day, I’d like to unreservedly praise an episode of DS9, without caveat or disappointment. That could have been today, because two-thirds of this latest episode was good, very good indeed: strong of purpose, important of theme and wonderfully acted.

Unfortunately, the producers and writers of this episode chose to include an unrelated B-story, to spin out the time, to counteract the atmosphere created by the A-story. A change of pace and style can often be very effective, but I question the mindset of anyone who thought that these stories belonged within a million miles of each other.

Let’s dispense with the shitty and unworthy comic relief B-story. Jake Sisko is approached by a young, attractive (and short) girl named Leanna, who basically asks him out of a date. It clashes with a domjock game with Nog, who happily gives that up, assuming Jake has organised a double-date. Leanne brings a friend but the whole thing is an utter disaster because Nog acts like a Ferenghi towards women. The pair fall out, but by getting Odo to throw them into the same cell on a specious charge, Jake gets to repair their friendship. It’s as trivial as it is unfunny. Forget it.

Of a much greater order is the main story. A Bajoran ship is damaged by an accident and brings casualties to DS9. It is carrying Kai Wynn and Vedek Bariel to secret peace negotiations with Cardassia. These are primarily of Bariel’s doing: he has devoted the last five months towards setting up an accord. Unfortunately, he has sustained the worst injuries, crippled by radiation. So much so that he dies.

It’s a tremendous loss to both Major Kira and the the Kai. Nerys has lost her love and her lover. Kai Wynn has lost the hope of peace, for the benefit of all Bajor, and her own place in history.

And then it happens. Doctor Bashir is about to perform an autopsy on Bariel when electrical activity is seen in the brain. Using an experimental combination of drugs and electrostimulation (for once explained with clarity and plausibility, without gubbins), Bashir brings Bariel back to life. It is amazing.

It is not the end of the story though. Bariel’s body has been badly damaged and a side-effect of the treatment that has restored him is to constrict the blood-flow through his body. He is still dying, and Bashir wants to put him into stasis so that there may be a chance that his condition can be treated.

But the Kai desperately wants  Bariel for his advice during the Peace Talks. He is, literally, irreplaceable, the one man who knows everything. Bashir is angry, accusing her of coldness, of being prepared to sacrifice Bariel in order to preserve her place in history.It’s all very plausible, though Louise Fletcher played Wynn utterly straight, to the extent that I thought throughout that she was sacrificing Bariel not for herself, but for Bajor.

The thing was, Bariel wanted to do this. He had placed the Peace Talks above himself, thinking only of the role the Prophets had called upon him to play. Against his wishes, Bashir strove to keep Bariel alive for long enough.

It was difficult. An experimental drug helped Bariel focus, but it began to attack his internal organs. These were replaced by artificial devices, but the radiation effects reached Bariel’s brain. He demanded Bashir replace the damaged part with a positronic mesh, which kept him going but at the expense of almost all human feeling.

In the end, the Talks worked and an Accord was signed. Everybody, but Bashir, celebrated. And then it came: the rest of Bariel’s brain was affected. The Kai, who of course no longer needed him, accepted the inevitable. Kira, losing her man, raged against it, pleaded with Bashir to fit another positronic mesh. This he would not do. Bariel’s body might live, but he would no longer be Bariel.

So it came to an end. Kira spent the final few hours with her love, saying the things that had never been said, the things that there would have been time for in another world, simple, almost banal, but the words that come to a heart in times like this, when words can no longer matter even if they could have been heard.

Once again, Philip Anglim and Louise Fletcher were superb in their guest roles. It was a moving and serious story, one that deserved to be watched in isolation without the stupid, ill-chosen B-story to keep taking you away from what really mattered.

Maybe next time.