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


What you leave behind is loss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s over.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deep Space Nine: s06 e24 – Time’s Orphan


Molly’s a big girl now

After the unadulterated filth that was last week’s episode, practically anything would have been an improvement, but what Deep Space Nine gave us was a deeply personal, entirely human story, made possible only by this being a science fiction series, with an ending that shamelessly cheated its way into blatant sentimentality of a kind that usually destroys something like this but which, on this occasion, was whole-heartedly welcome.

This is an O’Brien story, and for the first time this season (and the penultimate time in the show), Keiko is back, with the children. It’s finally safe enough to bring them home, and to celebrate they’re all going on a picnic. All fun and games, and relaxed enjoyment. Until Molly falls through a time portal and is lost.

Yes, the ultimate parents’ nightmare. But only in a show like this can this horrible incident be turned back on itself. Molly’s gone back in time, maybe three hundred years, back to before Bajor first began colonising Golana. With O’Brien working furiously, a team including Jardzia, Bashir and Kira manage to re-energise the portal, project a transporter beam through it, lock onto Molly’s DNA and retrieve her.

Except that she’s ten years older, and feral.

Michelle Krusiec guests as the older Molly, and is quite simply brilliant. Her air of barely suppressed fear, her desocialisation, her inability to accept confinement are all balanced with her slow-growing recognition of her parents, the moments of tentative connection with her childish self. There’s one moment, when she’s still suspicious, still fearful of danger, but moving towards acceptance, when Keiko brings out her silver-backed hairbrush and brushes her hair: the fascinated Molly approaches slowly, touches the hairbrush, and squats down beside Keiko, using her mother’s hand to draw the brush through her own hair, all done without words, that brought tears to my eyes.

But a space station is the wrong place to assist a wild child whose overwhelming experience, memories and sense of inner security is bound up in being on an entirely natural planetary surface. Frustrated and scared, Molly lashes out and injures someone who presses charges. She’s to be taken to a specialist facility – another confined area – away from DS9 and her parents.

And O’Brien rebels. At first, he’s going to do it alone, to shield Keiko but she, quite properly, is having none of it. So they break Molly out of the infirmary, steal a runabout and take her back to Galona, to put her back through the Portal to where she will be safe, and in her own world, even at the cost of never seeing her again.

At least, that’s the plan. Security catches them but Odo, after expressing his disappointment in the Chief – he’d always thought that O’Brien was the best bet to pull something like this off – he sends them on their way.

Back to Golana, to send older Molly back to the timepoint she was removed from. Never to see her again. In reality, cold and black-hearted that it is, that would be the long and the short of it. But this is fiction, where there is a greater leeway to order things as they should be, not as they would be, no matter how sentimental that becomes.

A bit of ex post facto gobbledegook to ‘rationalise’ it, but really it’s down to the purely human desire to please, just this once, let it all work out. Instead of sending Big Molly back to her extraction point, the portal slips back to its original setting and delivers her to Little Molly’s entry point. And Big Molly sends her younger self back into the portal, to re-emerge in her proper time, at her proper age, to be re-united with Miles and Keiko.

And, because the logic of time-travel is immutable, Big Molly erases herself from existence, or rather reaches the furthest end of her divergent and entirely personal time-loop. And although all of this ending is, as the Chief put it in a surprising expletive that, first time round, got muted in the UK, “Bollocks!” (took me by surprise that did, rather like the time some smartarse writer slipped the word ‘wanker’ into a 1975 Justice League of America issue), anyone who’s ever been any kind of parent will be too awash with endorphins to care about how cheap it is.

This was intended to be a single story episode, and a bottle one at that, but it ran out at nine minutes short, so what was a very pertinent B-story was created. By now, it was known that Terry Farrell was leaving at the end of the season, that her ending was planned, and that her relationship with Worf would be severed forever. By having her and, primarily, Worf, babysit Yoshi O’Brien, we were given not just one last close-up on their relationship but, in Worf’s striving to be a worthy father, a poignant glimpse of a future that, in so short a space of time to come, would be denied forever.

Dear me, I seem to have something in the corner of my eye… Doubtless, I will be ok for next week.

Deep Space Nine: s05 e12: The Begotten


Three ‘generations’

In the immediate wake of Twin Peaks‘s conclusion, and especially my Bingewatch, I was concerned about what effect this might have upon watching ‘conventional’ television programmes. It recalled something I’d long forgotten, from the late Eighties, when for a time I drifted away from my usual love of mainstream superhero comics.

That was the time of my post-Watchmen trauma. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal series had so re-wired my expectations that, literally for years, I found the mainstream comic book series thin, and unengaging. What I did own of that era – Flash, Justice League International – was almost exclusively collected as back-issues of things that hadn’t come anywhere near satisfying me when I’d first tried them, and only started to affect me when, the best part of half a decade later, I’d moved on far enough that simple enjoyment could once again interest me.

So it’s fortunate that this was a strong, if somewhat obvious in some of its beats, episode of DS9, though I had my fears in the essentially comic open, what with Odo’s bad back and hypochondria and Quark trying to sell Odo something he rejects on principle (yes, ‘The Ascent’, a few episodes back, taught the Constable nothing). Until Quark’s find tuned out to be not a sick Changeling but instead a baby Changeling.

(Actually, it was both, which was the point of things in broader terms, but we’ll get to that.)

The whole episode was about babies, since the B story was about Major Kira finally going into labour with the O’Brien baby. Though I hadn’t noticed it, since I don’t take breaks between seasons, this was five months after this story was first seeded to accommodate Nana Visitor’s pregnancy, exactly corresponding with Bajoran pregnancy. This story was mainly played for laughs, with Chief O’Brien clearly uncomfortable with traditional Bajoran labour rituals, and something of a rivalry going on between him and Kira’s boyfriend, First Minister Shakaar. I was on the Chief’s side since the whole thing was clearly a bad case of threatened masculinity on Shakaar’s side, but of course the Chief got dumped on.

This was very much the junior branch, since the main story was about Odo, about Odo the parent. Remember that, at the end of season 4, Odo was changed into a humanoid, a solid. Though it’s been referred to, here and there, in passing, mainly to remind the audience that it happened, this move has been an almost complete bust. Nothing’s been done with it, it’s made no change to Odo’s grumpy character, nobody seems to have had any idea what to do with Odo the Solid. Thisepisode becomes the vehicle for the inevitable changing back of things.

First though, Odo becomes consumed by his amorphous blob of a charge. He’s going to teach the Little Changeling how to be a Changeling, and he’s going to do it without Dr Mora and especially without Doctor Mora’s invasive procedures. Inevitably, Mora turns up, offering help that is rudely rejected, that, when Odo’s methods seem to be getting nowhere and Starfleet is turning the screw about getting what can be got from the Little Changeling, have to be used.

All this is the foreground for the clashes between Odo and Mora about their relationship. At one point, I was struck by the generational aspect. The notion of Odo as father was openly put forward, and, with great cleverness, the parallel to Mora as father to Odo, and thus grandfather to the Little Changeling, was left entirely for the audience to make.

When not fending off Odo’s resentment, Mora was slowly able to make Odo see how alike their respective situations are. He openly admits that Odo’s patient and comforting methods have made the Little Changeling more receptive when he finally starts to change shape, and he is able to show Odo that the latter’s feelings towards his charge are no different for Mora’s to his ‘son’, a recognition Odo’s hatred has denied him.

It’s a moving experience, though not to Quark’s liking. A happy Odo is, to him, a thing against nature, and has him quoting Yeats. But this is the peak from which drama demands a fall: the Little Changeling is sick, indeed dying. Kira’s baby is coming into the world, Odo’s is leaving it, but it’s final act is to merge with the Constable, and restore his Changeling structure.

Very well, a reset it is. No-one but the Special Effects Budget ever expected it to be any different, but it’s as Odo says, it’s a pity it had to come this way.

So we come to a poignant ending. Odo sees Mora off, finally accepting the ties between them, and that these are ties of love. And Kira sees Shakaar off, back to Bajor, but despite having believed all along that she never wanted babies, the Major has found herself tied to her ‘own’ child, and deeply regretting that she cannot simply hold him. This latter was at Nana Visitor’s suggestion: as written, Kira was only too glad to get rid of ‘her’ child, but after having had a baby of her own, the actress knew far more of the complex emotions ingrained in motherhood.

Ironically, both farewells were final ones. Neither Duncan Regher nor James Sloyan would return to their roles. And for Rosalind Chao there was very little left: the dramatic impracticality of a woman with two children, one a baby, and the cost implications of having to work round two child actors, effectively ended her ongoing involvement. According to Memory Alpha (which I consult after watching each episode), Keiko O’Brien will be seen in only two further episodes, one of these fleetingly.

And since we’re mentioning such things, this was the first episode in which Terry Farrell does not appear, not even for a throwaway line.

Deep Space Nine: s05 e05 – The Assignment


The Birthday Party from Hell

I was dubious about the open to this episode, which was entirely trivial and personal for most of its length. Rom’s doing good work on Maintenance as part of the night shift but Quark is still determined to talk him down and out, Bashir has managed to kill Keiko’s precious plants by over-watering them whilst she’s on Bajor, doing a biological study in the Fire Caves. But Keiko don’t care, they’re only plants after all (warning signal). Because Keiko isn’t really Keiko. I mean, she is, physically, in every atom, but she’s been possessed, by a Pah (Pagh?)-Wraith, that can kill her in an instant. Unless, of course, Chief O’Brien follows her every instruction…

From those unprepossessing beginnings there followed quite a decent episode, as O’Brien reluctantly follows a course of quite comprehensive small-scale sabotage, with no idea what the purpose is, and no time to try to fight back. Every idea he has to try to overcome Wraith-Keiko takes too long to prevent her killing Keiko in retaliation (or threatening Molly), and Wraith-Keiko seems to have a supernatural ability to sense when O’Brien is about to crack and spill the beans.

Though it’s nice to see this attributed to Keiko’s consuming knowledge of her husband and how he’ll react.

The open also featured Rom, remember, and thankfully this is not the set-up for a B story. A technician’s illness sees the Ferengi temporarily upgraded to the swing-shift, which in turns allows Rom’s quite impressive mechanical skills, not to mention his speed, to O’Brien’s attention.

I’m afraid the Chief doesn’t exactly treat Rom well. First, he cons him into assisting the sabotage, under the guise of it being a secret assignment, then, when the work is spotted, he dobs Rom in to Odo, relying on the little Ferengi’s decency and loyalty to keep him silent.

And so it turns out to be Rom who provides the key to what is going on, which O’Brien has failed to see: their work is turning DS9 into a massive chroniton emitter, to be used against the Wormhole where it will kill all the Prophets: the Pah-Wraiths are False Prophets, driven from the Celestial Temple, and thirsty for revenge.

Which turns out to be all O’Brien needs to get a handle on things. He takes charge of things,steals a run about to fly Wraith-Keiko out towards the Wormhole but, just as the Wraith is about to celebrate success, directs the chroniton at her, killing the Wraith and freeing Keiko.

As for Rom, much offscreen explanations later, he gets his reward: permanent promotion to the day-shift. Quark is thrilled…

Ultimately, this was a simple and straightforward story. It served to introduce the Pah-Wraiths, who would become more prominent in future seasons. It was also quite a noticable ‘bottle’ story, its scenes confined to the station itself, or the familiar control room of a runabout, its guest stars being popular recurring characters. This was clearly to permit additional budget resources to be poured into the episode that would appear next (though it had actually been filmed before ‘The Assignment’ but scheduled after in light of the extensive post-production work required.

But beyond mentioning the well-ordered nice touches along the way, or the standard of acting from the two main guest stars (Rosalind Chao in particular was given the opportunity to shine),there’s not a lot to say about this week’s episode other than: well done.

Deep Space Nine: s05 e03 – Looking for par’Mach in all the wrong places


Grilka

For once, I’m not entirely sure what I want to say about a DS9 episode, let alone how I want to say it.

‘Looking for par’Mach in all the wrong places’ (apparently the longest title for a DS9 episode and the second longest for any Star Trek series) was a purely character-driven episode. It was directed by Andrew J. (Garak) Robinson, though he doesn’t appear in the episode, it was, at the suggestion of Michael Dorn, based on the famous French play, Cyrano de Bergerac, and it initiates the relationship of Worf and Dax as a couple.

It also heavily features Quark and, surprisingly, is actually bearable.

This episode also has a B story which, in standard DS9 fashion, is introduced first in the open, with Doctor Bashir eavesdropping on a seeming row between the O’Briens, which turns out to be a row between the Chief and the Major, their live-in guest whilst Kira is carrying Miles’ baby.

This switches to our A-story, with Dax and Worf present to see a tall, bold, long-striding Klingon woman arrive on the station. Worf falls for her instantly, like the proverbial ton of bricks, though his romantic ideals are shattered when he follows her to Quark’s, and sees her enthusiastically embrace the proprietor. For this is Grilka, and Mary Kay Adams for a second and final time, and she is Quark’s ex-wife, as anyone who recalls ‘The house of Quark’, exactly two seasons ago, will remember (I didn’t).

So, Worf is smitten, and Dax displays considerable equanimity in listening to his moon-struck babblings about how glorious Grilka is. Worf even makes a start on traditional Klingon wooing, only to be told, not unkindly, by her aged Counsellor, Tumek, that as a dishonoured traitor to the Empire, it’s no chance whatsoever, and as a Klingon brought up by humans, Worf wouldn’t know how to woo a Klingon woman anyway.

This is like a red rag to a bull, and this is where the Cyrano bit comes in, because when Quark asks for help in wooing the statuesque Grilka, Worf takes over as his mentor, wooing by remote control, and getting a hell of a long way with it.

Unfortunately, the remote control bit has to become a little more direct. Quark’s filthy and demeaning attentions prove to be too much for Grilka’s bodyguard, Thopok, who demands satisfaction, with bat’leths.

Dax quickly cooks up a device that enable Worf to see through Quarks eyes and control his movements and effectively fight his duel for him without even being in the same holo-suite. Apparently, everybody seems to be incredibly fussed about the way nobody explains just how this little transmitter/receiver device work, and the decision not to explain because that would just bog the story down in unnecessary detail, and I don’t get why all the fuss: this is the twenty-fourth century, I don’t need an explanation for how a scientifically advanced device works and yer dern tooting it would have killed the momentum in its tracks.

Anyway, lots a by-play later, the Quark-puppet wins his duel, spares Thopok’s life and has Grilka jump his bones with true Klingon aggression. Worf, who has proved his point without anyone but Dax knowing, who has won his woman only for her to go off shagging Quark, gets an undeniable touch of the melancholies, from which a by-now frustrated Dax, tired of trying to make him see there’s a randy Trill under his nose, starts a bat’leth fight which draws both into a pyre of lust that ends wiith them shagging (tastefully offscreen, of course).

Both couples wind up in the Infirmary with cuts, bruises, dinged ribs, strains (I will reject all advances from Klingon women if this is what it leads to), causing Bashir to mentally wince so much, he probably pulls a mental hamstring himself.

For all this is an overtly sexual storyline, its ironic that the only female flesh we get to see is in the B story. No, not Rosalind Chao, though it was noticable to the unreconstructed among us just how clingy was that top she was wearing at the start, but Nana Visitor, clad in but a light, and short purple slip, having a massage from Chief O’Brien that started at her pregnancy-swollen ankles and got a long way up her unclad thighs.

If the A-story was about a love triangle, the same went for the B-story, as Miles and Nerys found themselves developing an unexpected – and unwanted – attraction for each other based on their close proximity, that was clearly capable of going beyond the purely sexual.

Everybody seemed to see there was something at least potentially going on except, naturally, Keiko. This was an interesting story, and an interesting twist on human relationships, with Miles and Nerys trying to distance themselves from each other to avoid nearing the point of lost control, whilst not letting the oblivious Keiko see that there was anything to back away from.

Matters came to a head when Kira abruptly decided to take several days leave in solitude on Bajor, only for a horrified Keiko to insist the Chief go with her, to look after her. The problem was, this was a gorgeous place in the most romantic of settings…

The drawback with this story was that its treatment was too light, and it was concluded without an ending. Miles and Nerys recognise that they daren’t go off together, and that there is too much of a potential affair that neither wants. So Kira shoots off for some no-doubt pregnant nookie with Shakaar, and O’Brien heads home to (unseen) lie to Keiko about some miscommunication meaning she’d jetted off without him, which wasn’t going to work for a second, or change any of the genuine fears that prompted Keiko to send her husband off with his baby-mother, or actually resolve anything, and I bet we don’t hear of this storyline again.

Basically, this was a lightweight script, with some comic elements that worked mildly successfully, a deliberate contrast that would perhaps have worked better if it were not thrown in so early in the season, when there was so little to contrast it to. But Quark, despite having a major role, was perfectly bearable, because he was playing against his usual, money-grubbing Ferengi self.

At least we’ve now hurdled into the Worf/Dax relationship.

Deep Space Nine: s04 e25 – Body Parts


This is not what this episode is about

As you know by now, there’s this thing between me and Quark-episodes. I just don’t respond to them, so it doesn’t really matter how good or otherwise they are, I do not have enough interest to grade them.

According to the programme itself, ”Body Parts’ shows how deep and complex a character Quark is, and examines him as to his moral principles and self-examination. According to me, Quark is about as deep as a dried-up puddle, the worst kind of comic relief character, i.e., he isn’t remotely funny, and the story was a complete miss.

For form’s sale, I’ll outline it. Quark is diagnosed as having a rare and fatal Ferenghi disease. In order to raise money to pay off his debts, he sells his vacuum-dessicated body for 500 bars of latinum, a secret purchase by his archenemy,  Brunt, FCA. But by the time Brunt arrives to claim his merchandise, Quark has found out he was misdiagnosed and isn’t dying after all. Brunt, who despises Quark for his un-Ferenghi ways, insists on his goods. Quark hires Garak to kill him (a ‘plot-twist’ that’s left dangling by the crappy and seriously twee ending) but decides he wants to live. So he breaks the contract, causing himself to undergo complete confiscation of assets, not only for himself but his entire family but, in an ending that ignores every implication of the plot in favour of tugging at your heart-strings in the hope that whilst sobbing into whatever strong drink you’re consuming just to get through this heap of tat your brain will be on vacation, all Quark’s ‘friends’ drop by to restock the entire bar with stuff they just happen to need to story somewhere convenient, leaving the Ferenghi businessman speechless at generosity of a kind that, as a determined Ferenghi businessman, he spits on with disgust.

I’m not even going to pick this apart. It’s a crappy idea centred on a crappy characters and written so as to avoid any of the logic of the situation it sets up. It diskards it.

There is a perfunctory B story, forced upon the series by events, namely Nana Visitor’s rapidly advancing pregnancy. Ms Visitor was now at the point where either Kira had to become pregnant or she wouldn’t be filmed below the neck. Fortuitously, Keiko O’Brien was pregnant, so ingeniously the pair and Bashir are off on a brief Gamma Quadrant mission, during which there’s an explosion that injures Keiko, enough so that to save the baby, the Doctor has to transplant him from Keiko’s womb to Kira’s.

From where, Bajoran pregnancies only lasting five months, it can’t be re-transplanted.

It’s a clever device to incorporate Ms Visitor’s real-life enceinment, though given that this is the penultimate episode of season 4, I was unsure as to its necessity. I assume the pregnancy would overlap the start of season 5, in which case it makes more sense. It’s also an intriguing situation, one pregnant (heh heh) with human possibilities, as Keiko suffers from losing her baby to another woman, but the notion deserved more space than that allotted to it as padding in an otherwise turgid affair.

Next week, another season finale. It has to be better than this snorer.

Deep Space Nine: s04 e19 – Hard Time


Though there was a point, about halfway through this week’s episode, when it felt as if things were moving a little too slowly, this was once again an excellent episode. My regular commentator, Astrozac, has referred in the past to DS9‘s tendency to dump on Chief O’Brien, and this was a prime example, but to a good and serious purpose.

The open showed us a ragged, wild-haired, bearded man, patiently drawing a geometric pattern in the too-smooth sand of an artificial floor. It quickly became clear he was a prisoner, especially when some kind of ray swept the floor clean, and from the way the camera was careful not to let us see his face, it was obvious he was one of the cast. But not until he was released by his captors, the Agrathians, do we learn that this is Miles, and that he has been in prison for twenty years.

In a clever twist, we learn that the Chief has been in prison for twenty years in the space of a few hours: the Agritheans build their prisons in the mind, not on Dartmoor. O’Brien may have been unconscious for a few hours, charged and convicted of espionage just for asking a few innocent questions, but in his own mind he has been in solitary confinement for twenty years, with all the effects of a ‘real’ sentence.

That’s what Major Kira, who has been sent to collect him, can’t get. She can’t equate her few hours to O’Brien’s twenty years and can only emphasise that it wasn’t ‘real’. Even when O’Brien is in subdued raptures at the sight of DS9 after all this time – some spectacular shots of the station from different angles – she doesn’t get it.

Doctor Bashir does, and so does Keiko. Both know that for O’Brien it has been twenty years, and since the implanted memories can’t be uprooted without a total memory wipe (coincidentally, a subject being faced in current episodes of iZombie), O’Brien needs the same kind of care, adjustment and counselling as any ex-inmate.

But he’s resisting. He’s fine, he just wants to be left alone, to go back to work, this counselling is a waste of time, he wants to forget, not remember. Some part of this is O’Brien being O’Brien, solid, no-nonsense, hard-headed. He’s the only member of the cast with whom this response would be immediately plausible. However, we know that it’s more than that. The form of the story demands it, and we have already been privy, through the first of a series of flashbacks, that although the Chief claims to have been in solitary confinement, he was, from the first, confined with a cell-late, Ee’char (played by guest Craig Wasson with a kind of gentle acceptance of his plight).

The nature of this kind of story is that there is something the prisoner is concealing, something that fills them with a great guilt, that they have to keep hidden, and the key to their eventual recovery is exposure of this secret, without which they can’t begin to heal. To that extent, you might say that the episode followed a fairly predictable line. The Chief can’t settle. He won’t go to counselling. He’s uneasy, prone to flaring up at no real provocation.  Unsurprisingly, since we know from the first that it has something to do with Ee’char, he’s having hallucinations of his fellow prisoner popping up all over DS9.

I say this is a standard construction, and as a one-off play it might very well fail for predictability. But this is part of a long-running series, and we are invested in these characters. O’Brien’s growing rage and frustration is but the superficiality: Colm Meaney conveys the underlying shame that powers the rage, shame and fear.

The crisis comes in an easily predictable fashion too. O’Brien is suspended from his post, ordered on Medical Leave, blows up in rage at the ever-patient Julian (an equally excellent performance by Alexander Siddig, radiating understanding, patience and determination to see his friend through), and hits rock bottom when he blows up at Molly, and threatens to hit her, though this last bit was fudged a little, since O’Brien only raises his hands when he talks about it after, not in the scene itself.

After venting his rage in a slightly cheap display of violence against a perfectly undeserving cargo bay, O’Brien amps a phaser up to max and sticks it under his chin, which is where Julian finds him, as does the illusionary Ee’char. Only now does it come out: a fortnight before the end of his ‘sentence’, starving after not being fed for over a week, O’Brien discovers that Ee’char has been hoarding food he’s concealed from his celly. The last vestige of civilisation, the evolved human who has left rage and hatred behind, is stripped from him: O’Brien kills Ee’char for the food, before realising that there was food for two.

And O’Brien is conscious that, in that moment, it wouldn’t have mattered who stood between him and the food. It might have been Julian Bashir, and Miles O’Brien would have killed him. He is in his own eyes unclean, a dangerous primitive: He killed his friend and his crime demands punishment.

In accordance with the dictates of the form, once the secret is spoken, its power is diminished. Bashir is able to persuade O’Brien that he isn’t defined by one moment, extorted under extreme and grievous pressure, forced at the very end of twenty years, and O’Brien’s relief, and the knowledge that he hasn’t forfeited anyone’s respect, and most especially his family’s love, is the basis for healing,  which can now begin.

Needless to say, whilst watching this episode, I wasn’t rating it at all by reference to this formula. It dragged a little in the middle, with the rest of the cast filing in and out, one by one, to earn their salary with micro-scenes that were almost amusing in their brevity, but the performances by the central quartet (Meaney, Siddig, Wasson, and the ever-delightful Rosalind Chao) kept me involved beyond the analytical, and it turned out to be another fascinating episode, in a series that is weekly living up to the high standards those more familiar with Deep Space Nine keep promising me.

Deep Space Nine: s04 e17 – Accession


Gimme that old-time religion…

Another strong episode though, given that it dealt with religious themes, one that gave me considerable pause for thought. And a B story that was, in its own way, a bit disturbing and which could have done with a bit more room in which to breathe.

It’s that which starts the open, suggesting a domestic, character-driven week to follow. The Chief and Julian return from overstaying in another of their regular holosuite sessions (Spitfire pilots in the Battle of Britain) with little time to clear up the Chief’s quarters before Keiko returns from her year’s expedition. Miles is looking forward to his family’s return, but is taken aback when Molly tells him that Keiko is pregnant. He doesn’t seem especially pleased.

Oh-ho! thinks I, she’s been gone a year, she’s got pregnant on a one-night visit to DS9, has she? I bet she has, I bet she has! But that’s not the route the B story took. At first, O’Brien tells Julian that he was looking forward to some serious me-time with Keiko, romantic stuff, dating, now Molly’s a little older, but no sooner is that raised than it’s dropped completely, and the story turned along the lines that O’Brien has had so much fun roistering around with Julian – stopping off for a beer in Quark’s, darts, the holosuites – that he doesn’t really want to give that up.

It’s a sad story and it remained unresolved, except to the extent that Keiko, who has results to analyse and reports to write and can’t be doing with having her husband under her feet all the time, manipulates both Miles and Julian into meeting up for the good of the other.

I found that incredibly cynical. The only solution is lying? Manipulation? Sneakiness? Or maybe a married couple, who love and understand each other, could have sat down, talked, been a bit honest and achieved the same result without games being played? It might not have made for such ‘good’ television in the eyes of those who make it, but it would have made for better television for me.

Still, that’s the B story, and the A story is what brings us here. From Keiko’s return in the open, we switch to Sisko and Kira dealing with reports, interrupted by Sisko fulfilling one of the obligations created by his status as the Emissary, to bless a Bajoran wedding. Uneasy lies the head that wears the entirely dubious intensely religious status of a religion that’s not yours, eh? But a light-ship of nearly 300 years vintage drifts out of the wormhole, bearing a Bajoran, Akorem Laan, a poet who went missing 200 years ago.

Akorem has spent all that time in the Celestial Temple, though to him it has been merely days. He has been healed of life-threatening injuries, and sent back. He has fulfilled the prophecies. He is the Emissary.

At first, Sisko is delighted to step down. He never wanted the role, never felt comfortable with it, found his status intrusive. Stepping down to only have to worry about the Klingons, the Dominion and the Maquis feels like a vacation. At this moment, I’m not sure whether Sisko has been aware of the extent of the power he’s wielded, or rather not wielded as Emissary. It’s possible he hasn’t, because as a Starfleet Officer he’s entirely too rational a creature for religion. If that’s so, he’s about to learn otherwise.

Because Akorem is a Bajoran of two hundred years ago, long before the Cardassian Occupation destroyed the d’jarra, the heavily-mandated caste system, family-based, that herded Bajorans into limited ‘natural’ roles. Major Kira comes from the caste that does art. And Akorem the Emissary is certain that the message of the Prophets is that restoring the d’jarras will restore Bajor to its former peace and prosperity.

The prospect worries Kira, but she believes. Despite the sickening evidence of seeing herself being deferred to because she is of a higher caste, despite her evident lack of any artistic skill, she starts looking for a replacement First Officer to take over her duties. This leads to a touching moment when Sisko tells her that she may find someone to take her place, but she can never be replaced.

Sisko is seriously worried. Caste-based systems are rightly banned by the Federation, though Akorem isn’t too bothered: he has the offstage backing of Kai Wynn to reinstate the d’jarras whether it means being refused membership or not. Ironically, that’s not good for Sisko’s career: Starfleet have never approved of him being the Emissary but his relinquishment of the status has more or less directly meant his mission to aid Bajor into the Federation is a failure. He ain’t smelling of roses just now.

Oddly enough, I was debating cultural imperialism here only two weeks back, taking a negative view of Sisko’s interference with the Klingon ritual of Mauk-t’Ovar, and Sisko’s attitude to Akorem’s promulgation can be seen in the exact same light. But there’s a difference between a cultural imperative imposed between individuals in a living culture both accept, and the resurrection of a planetary wide system that not everyone embraces, and that those who do accept by imposition. Akorem talks of legal sanctions forcing the Bajorans into these castes, and his chief disciple, Vedek Porta, considers it only right that a member of an ‘unclean’ caste should be killed for not knowing his place.

That’s the basic problem with castes: they’re non-negotiable, inescapable, restrictive of people’s individuality and their ability to develop, and there are always those at the bottom end who have to take all the shit because that’s what they’re there for.

Sisko cannot intervene or force Bajor to reject the Emissary’s pronouncements, much as he or we might wish it, but he can reclaim the role of Emissary. And the only way to do so is for he and Akorem to enter the Wormhole and seek the Prophets.

It’s a weird, disturbing experience. The ‘Prophets’ take familiar forms. They refuse to give answers, and leave the disorienting impression that this is because Sisko and Akorem wouldn’t understand: they are linear, they live in time, the Prophets outside of it. The Prophets are ‘of Bajor’, as is ‘the Sisko’. The only clear outcome is that the Sisko is the Emissary, and Akorem is a messenger to him from the Prophets to encourage him to understand that, and that he has a role to play.

Thus dismissed, Akorem wishes for death, but Sisko intervenes. Akorem is sent back to his proper time, without memory, to conclude his life as he should. Sisko returns to being the Emissary, this time with a greater acceptance of his position, which I assume will be reflected in later stories. For the first time, he’s committed. And he’s aware of the tremendous power he wields, though I suspect he will in future consciously not wield it.

I have my problems with religion, having taken nearly sixty years to become an atheist, and I have reservations about this story on the grounds that I don’t accept the Bajoran religion, despite acknowledging its influence. The Prophets -its Gods – are aliens of a different order to us, which makes them not-Gods, notwithstanding their power.

But this was an excellent story (the B story aside). Richard Libertini was good as Akorem, though the producers wanted David Warner for the role (and he wanted to do it but was persuaded out of it by his wife because he was on vacation) and he would have been brilliant. Camille Saviola makes her final appearance as Kai Opaka, or rather her seeming. And Rosalind Chao is always an adornment.

Deep Space Nine: s03 e10 – Fascination


The Red Dress
The Red Dress

After last week’s dramatic and dynamic episode, this week we got a silly, inconsequential story that probably needed to be anchored to concrete pilings to keep from being wafted away by the breezes. Though it overused the silly brush a bit too much, the whole thing was generally good fun to watch, without ever pretending to a dramatic element.

It was all there in in the open, which was a round robin slice of life giving no clues as to the direction of the eventual story and relying upon a sting ending when Ambassador Lwaxana Troi (Majel Barratt, gleefully chewing the scenery as ever) arrived on the station.

It’s the day of the Bajoran Festival of Gratitude on DS9, Major Kira presiding. Jake’s miserable because his dabo-girl girlfriend, Marta, has gone off to college 300 light years away. Kira is eagerly awaiting the arrival of Vedek Bariel, who she plans to spend every minute she’s not presiding by shagging him into a husk. Chief O’Brien has similar plans for the two day break that Keiko is back from her botanical project on Bajor (his unexpended energy is being displaced into so many racketball games that Doctor Bashir’s arm is practically falling off, and you can keep that lewd thought in your head, please). Odo is starting to get all wistful over the Major. Oh yes, love – or certainly lust – is in the air. Enter Mrs Troi.

The Ambassador is here to see Odo, ostensibly to help him through the discovery that his people are the Dominion, but in reality because she has feelings for him. Unfortunately, she also has Xanthi fever, a disease that affects mature Betazoids and causes them to project their emotions onto others, overriding their true feelings.

Thus, every time Mrs Troi winces at a headache pain, the nearest person to her gets a brief jabbing pain above the eye and immediately sets off in hot pursuit of the nearest love object.

So the 16 year old Jake decides that the problem with Marta was that she was too young and gets the hots for Kira Nerys (this need not have had anything to do with Xanthi fever, especially as Nana Visitor spent most of the episode out of uniform), Bariel starts panting after Jardzia Dax (who gets to deck him with a single punch), whilst the Trill (with leopard spots going all the way down to her neckline) starts making google-eyes at a clearly embarrassed Sisko.

As for Nerys and Julian, played by a future married pair of actors, they get a mutual dose and get to snog and grope each other something rotten. No tongues, though.

Even Quark gets in on the act, flapping his ears at Keiko O’Brien, who was wearing the red dress Miles wanted her to wear and demonstrating clearly why he wanted her to wear it, though that only serves to give the game away.

Yes, the O’Briens were an interesting component of this episode. As I said, they were reunited after two months apart, for only two days before another four months separation and the reunion did not start at all as the eager Chief wanted to. Keiko was tired, and also troubled about how to break it to her hubby that the dig might be extended by another two to three months. Miles, thrown off balance by the way Keiko was nothing like as pleased to see him as he was her, didn’t know how to handle this and pretty much flew off the handle.

I could sympathize with him: I went through something similar pretty much thirty years ago, and the bafflement and heartbreak weren’t hard to empathize with. With all the lust sloshing round, the prospect of the episode’s one genuine couple going down the tubes was a necessary corrective. Eventually, O’Brien resolved it the only way you can resolve it, by putting the other one first and trusting in their love. Which is why Keiko wore the red dress, leading many of us to regret that she doesn’t do that more often.

Like I said, inconsequential. The episode is said to be based very loosely on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I can see the point of contact once it’s pointed out to me, but it’s a far looser fit than anything Happy Mondays ever sang about. Typically, it ended on a serious note that managed to be poignant. Mrs Troi’s projected amours were directed at Odo, who was unable and, giving his hidden feelings for Kira, unwilling to respond. Majel Barratt dialled it down beautifully in recognising that her feelings were not reciprocated, like those of Odo, and admitted that she would wait and hope for second best. She surprised him with a kiss, which Odo received awkwardly, but afterwards found surprisingly tender, one more moment that resonated with me.

Reset and resume next week.

Deep Space Nine: s03 e03 – The House of Quark


It’s going to be one of *those* kind of marriages

Aye. Well. Mm.

I can’t say I didn’t expect an immediate return to an essentially trivial story – it was about Quark, he’s not there for the serious stuff – though there were elements about this episode that demonstrated that Deep Space Nine wasn’t going to immediately run away from what it had started over the last three episodes.

What was good was that the effect of the Dominion threat carried over in continuity. Quark’s bar is virtually empty due to the lack of people coming to the station whilst it’s under threat, and Keiko O’Brien has shut the station school down because the only pupils she has left are Jake and Nog.

That latter is the subplot, which I personally found more interesting, and certainly more serious than Quark’s shenanigans at the front of the house.

Let me explain, as briefly as I can. The last customer left in the bar is a drunken, penniless Klingon named Kovak, who pulls a knife on Quark, but who is too drunk to stand and falls on his own knife, killing himself. Quark, seeing notoriety as a way of attracting morbid – but money-spending – customers, claims to have killed Koval in self-defence, in personal combat. Kovak, it transpires, was Head of a Klingon House.

Shortly after, Quark is ambushed by D’Gor, Kovak’s brother. He quickly scares the truth out of Quark but insists he maintain the lie since it is important that Kovak should have died an honourable death. Quark’s next visitor is Grilka, Kovak’s widow. She also learns the truth, but she knocks him out and kidnaps him back to Kronos, where the first thing she does once Quark is revived is to marry him.

This move is to try to preserve the House’s existence. Kovak left no male heir and, under Klingon custom, the House is to be dissolved. Were there ‘unusual circumstances’, a special dispensation might be obtained from the Council to allow Grilka to lead the House, but an honourable death in personal combat.

Should the House be dissolved, its lands, properties etc. shall go to Kovak’s brother, D’Gor, who has been a sworn enemy for many years and is the House’s principal creditor, Kovak having been a wastrel. By marrying Kovak’s killer, Grilka can save the House, even if it has to be led by a short, cowardly, stinking Ferenghi. It becomes the House of Quark.

D’Gor then throws a spanner into the wors by producing the only witness to the truth of Kovak’s death, Quark’s brother, Rom.

Our comic relief Ferenghi does have some talents however, especially when it comes to money, and it doesn’t take long to establish that D’Gor has been waging a most UnKlingon-like economic war of the House of Kovak, essentially defrauding it into its current parlous state. Unfortunately, he can’t get the Council to see this and the accusation enables D’Gor to challenge Quark to personal combat.

Needless to say, Quark wishes to have it away upon his toes in dead of night, and Grilka contemptuously washes her hands of him. Nevertheless, he turns up on time, complete with ba’tleth. It’s Quark’s story, he’s going to be the hero of it, what do you expect? But what he does is to throw his weapon away and offer himself defencelessly to D’Rog. It won’t be a duel, but an execution, a ridiculously one-sided personal combat rendered completely without honour by Quark taking the gamble of stripping it down to what it truly is. It’s not D’Gor but the Council that he’s out to con, and when D’Gor takes the bait and raises his ba’tleth, the Council rises in disgust at it, and he is ostracised.

Chancellor Gowron recognises the ‘unusual circumstances’ and gives the House to Grilka, who promptly thanks Quark by giving him his requested divorce – and a serious snog as soon as he’s no longer her husband, a sight I shall be spending much of the next week trying to scrub from my mind. Actually, she did kiss him as the conclusion to the wedding ceremony, but she did spit rather disgustedly after doing to, which made it a lot more acceptable.

In and of itself, the story was an interesting one, especially for its revelation of Klingon  social customs and mores, and Quark’s method of overcoming D’Gor was both ingenious and entirely logical, but – and this is my problem, not yours – come on, I mean, it’s Quark.

I don’t dislike Quark, but I do find him excessive. He’s a comic relief character who, at any given time, exists at a forty-five degree angle to everything about him. Because Armin Shimerman is in the cast, Quark is continually wedged into stories that have nothing to do with him, and to which he cannot contribute anything except a derailment of the plot. That means that putting him at the centre of a story that’s meant to be in any way serious gives the story a mountain to climb to gain any credibility. Quark is a silly and trivial character who makes everything around him silly and trivial by association.

Much more important to me was the subplot. Keiko had closed the school down due to  circumstances beyond her control, which left her with nothing to do and feeling that intently. She was putting a very brace face on it, but Miles O’Brien knew, and it hurt him deeply that the woman he loved was unhappy.

Everyone sympathised and there were some good and decent lines that I took to heart, the more so for their being kept very simple, but I was unhappy with the solution,which was to send Keiko back to her profession/vocation as a botanist, on a Bajoran expedition that would be away for six months. So that’s the last we’ll see of Rosalind Chao this season.

It seemed like a counter-intuitive approach to resolving an issue that had the potential to undermine an otherwise very happy marriage – and the Chief is the only member of the cast who is married, or who is in a relationship at all (I am not counting Major Kira’s occasional shags with Vedek Bariel unless and until we learn that last season’s escapade hasn’t hindered their sexual relationship). Instead of a solution, it seemed more like a cheap way of writing out a character they had no real idea how to serve.

Still, considering the episode as a whole, it was well-constructed and performed, and Mary Kay Adams gave it plenty of wellie as Grilka, but it was the evidence that the incipient Dominion War was going to have an ongoing effect that I most welcomed. May this continue.