Even though my initial reaction to this episode was the usual, “not another bloody Ferengi episode”, I decided I’d try to be as objective (read: fair) as possible about it. Then it turned out to be another Mirror universe story which was one too many trips to the well for me on top: the Mirror Universe is a neat idea but when it’s only being exploited to allow the actors to play against character and for no deeper reason, it’s a shallow concept.
Throw in my new bete noire, Vic Fontaine (albeit for one brief scene and in which he gets killed, not that that lifted my spirits too much), and the recipe was for a wasted forty-five minutes, the only benefit of which being that, with the end sequence getting ever nearer, this would have to be the last of them, yay!
But I’m going to be as fair as I can be, as there were a couple of things of interest to keep me going.
By now, the only cast/recurring characters left who haven’t been through the looking glass are new girl Ezri, and Brunt, FCA. Both were a simple opposite, Ezri a leather clad, spike-haired mercenary (rrrrrrrr!!!) and Brunt a genial nice guy. Brunt got killed off but Ezri bestrode the episode in a manner that had my shallow side gladly singing. Nicole deBoer apparently had a whale of a time and wanted to play this Ezri every week.
On the other hand, my usual appreciation of Nana Visitor in her shiny skintight costume as Intendant Kira was lacking, I think because I was enjoying Ezri so much. Or perhaps that was another case of too many trips to the same well. With one notable exception, when Intendant Kira kissed Ezri Tigan, there was nothing new to bring to the party, and the Intendent felt almost like a parody of herself.
The heavily implied lesbian subtext between this pair (reinforced in the close by a brief appearance from Chase Masterson, cleavage well to the for, spiriting Ezri off into half the audience’s fantasies) was a surprise, but immediately felt completely natural for the Intendent. Nana Visitor didn’t agree and disliked the idea.
The MacGuffin was Grand Negus Zek, seeking to open up new financial frontiers for the Ferengi and being held hostage by Regent Worf in return for a cloaking device, to be stolen by Quark and Rom. This was duly delivered but Rom, whilst installing it in the Regent’s ship, sabotages the whole kit’n’kaboodle so that as soon as it’s used it drains all power from the ship, forcing the Regent to surrender to the Rebels under Smiley O’Brien, implying a tying off of that story.
One quickly irritating aspect of the episode was Rom’s constant attempts to work out some kind of logic and rules behind the Alternate Universe being Alternate. That was apparently intentional, a sort of half-nod, half-raspberry to the fans who wanted the Mirror Universe to make Science Fictional sense as opposed to the big joke it was only ever meant to be.
But it was over and done. No more trips to either of those wells, even if the Intendent was allowed to get away to camp another day. I guess no-one had the heart to shoot her down.
Depending on whether the end sequence has nine or ten episodes (I have seen both quoted), that means there can only be four or five left that tell individual stories unrelated to the all-out Dominion War. I’m expecting at least one more Vic Fontaine because I’m ultimately a pessimist, but at least there’s no more Quark-centrics. I have outlasted them. Thank Heaven for small mercies.
After the heavily intense episodes of the past few weeks, it was obvious that we’d get a lightweight story for a change of pace. There’s usually one quite early in every season of DS9. And ‘Take me out to the Holosuite’, which was all about having a game of baseball, was as lightweight as they come, despite the attempt to back it up with a psychological angle. In fact, it was so lightweight, you practically had to tie an iron onto it to keep it from floating away. I was prepared to be rather bored, but in fact I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The set-up is that the Vulcan-manned Federation ship T’Kundra has docked at DS9 for two weeks of overhaul and upgrade. It’s commanded by Captain Solok who is a hate figure for Benjamin Sisko, and indeed he’s a right snotty superior pain-in-the-arse from the get-go, niggling all the time about not so much Vulcaan superiority as human inadequacy.
Solok’s done this since the pair were cadets and a drunk Sisko challenged him to a wrestling match and got whupped. For a supposedly emotionless Vulcan, Solok is a seriously vindictive shit, endlessly rubbing it in on Sisko, and now he’s brought a baseball holosuite game to challenge the Captain at his own personal sport. Sisko immediately orders the senior staff – which now appears to include Nog (?!) – to form a team and win.
That’s basically it, really. The team is swelled out by Rom, Leeta, Quark and Kasidy Yates. Rom is completely inept, which is a laugh because Max Grodenchik was a semi-professional baseball player and had to play left-handed to look authentically crap. Sisko throws him off the team, which causes the others to threaten a strike unless he’s reinstated. But there’s one of those little scenes that remind us, fourteen carat klutz that he may be, Rom is a truly good bloke: he only wants to be in the team on merit and he recognises he clearly hasn’t got any, so he won’t accept a false position.
Now, you’re all expecting that, on the day, the ‘Niners’ will pull off a victory all the more stunning for being so completely unexpected, and so did I. But this episode is more subtle than that. Basically, the DS9 team get thoroughly and deservedly whupped, 10-1, and Sisko gets thrown out for touching the umpire (Odo). But the episode shapes itself around that one, consolation run, which comes about through Sisko chucking Rom in as a pinch-hitter, his accidentally ‘hitting’ the perfect bunt and Nog stealing home, producing an ecstatic response from his team that carries over into Quark’s.
Solok doesn’t get it. He blames human emotionality (Ezri pipes up with ‘Did I forget to wear my spots today? He doesn’t even know what humans look like!’), suspects an artificial attempt to turn abject defeat into moral victory, but has to exit as everyone taunts him over his emotional investment in getting one over Sisko, but really they’re just celebrating having had fun, lots of fun, and that’s what makes this episode delightful, the copious amount of fun everyone’s clearly and genuinely having.
It still doesn’t turn me into a baseball enthusiast, cricket will always be a far more subtle, complex and involving game for me (and you couldn’t fake that onscreen as easily as DS9 does), but this was fun with its boots off, and I loved it.
This was a Ferengi story, and you know how I feel about Ferengi stories. In this one, Grand Negus Zek and Ishka, aka Moogie, turn up at DS9 because Zek has been deposed for pushing to allow Ferengi females to wear clothes and make profit. The new, Acting Grand Negus, to be confirmed in three days time, is Brunt. Zek plans to fight back. This involves producing Ishka to a leading and influential FCA member to show that letting females become human beings will be profitable. Unfortunately, Quark causes Ishka to have a heart attack, so another financially brilliant female has to be found at short notice. Since there isn’t one available, Quark undergoes a sex-change operation and drags up.
If you thought this was bad up to that point, and it was, from that moment on it was a hideous embarrassment, offensive and cliched at every point, all the way into the ridiculous close. From abut halfway through, I just wanted to switch this episode off and not have to see the rest of it. I wish I had. The absolute nadir. Everyone involved in it should have been put against a wall and shot.
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.
This is the point that’s taken me over two years to reach, the outermost point of those evenings twenty years ago, of sprawling in front of the BBC2 showings of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The end of season 5, the start of the Dominion War. By the time DS9 came back, I had a house full of people, and coming in, throwing off my jacket and tie and sprawling on the couch was no longer an viable option.
I started watching DS9 from the beginning to fill in the beginning and end of a middle that, falsely, I remembered as stretching maybe as much as three seasons. When I finally caught up with my recollections, it turned out to be not even one full season. But the end of season 5 concludes that phase of the rewatch. Ahead of me lies terra incognita, just as much as if things had never gone the way they did and I had remained free to watch TV whenever I felt like it.
‘Call to Arms’ might have begun with the comic note of Rom and Leeta trying to agree a wedding dress for a ceremony in which, under Ferengi culture, she should have been naked (insert your own shallow comment here), but swiftly modulated to the tension that underlies the approach of war. The Dominion are bringing in warfleets every week, via the Wormhole, en route to Cardassia, regular as clockwork. Sisko has to take a decision: do nothing, and allow an irresistible fleet to be assembled, capable of ultimate victory when it chooses to act, or halt the incoming reinforcements, and preciptate war now.
The only choice, if victory is to be possible, is the latter: Sisko orders the entrance to the Wormhole to be mined.
Weyoun appears, to protest, to suggest a deal by which the mines are removed and the Dominion limits itself to civilian ships, medical and economic assistance for the poor, stricken Cardassian Empire. Sisko will consult the Federation, which isn’t sending its own reinforcements, for reasons we won’t learn until the end (a Federation/Klingon attack that destroys the Dominion shipyards in Cardassian territory). No-one believes anything for a moment.
War is coming. Everyone’s preparing for it. Keiko O’Brien and the children have been evacuated back to Earth, Jake Sisko won’t go because a reporter’s duty is to be where the action is. The Romulan Empire has signed a non-aggression pact with the Dominion, Sisko advises Bajor to do the same, over Major Kira’s protests: five years ago, he was assigned to DS9 to protect Bajor after it gained its independence and that duty still remains, so he will use his position as Emissary to take them out of the firing line.
All Bajorans evacuate. Rom and Leeta get Sisko to marry them, before she is ordered to go: Rom has a duty to stay as a Starfleet member, and a duty to protect his brother, who seems for once to appreciate this. Gul Dukat’s half-Bajoran daughter, Tora Ziyal parts reluctantly from Garak. Quark starts smuggling in yamok sauce. Odo and Kira are still acting awkwardly around each other until Odo officially tells her that he’s locking away his feelings for the duration (some of these scenes are more effective emotionally than others: you can actually hear the writing staff’s cheers of relief underlying this one).
Seeding the wormhole with self-replicating mines (Rom’s suggestion) takes time, and the Defiant will be a sitting duck until it has finished. And it is not finished when the War steps across the line between coming and arriving. A Dominion/Cardassian fleet under Gul Dukat comes to attack DS9. General Martok’s Klingon Warbird protects the Defiant. The station defends itself steadfastly, destroying 50 ships. But once the seeding is done, it is time to take the inevitable decision. Deep Space Nine is lost: the Federation will evacuate.
Not permanently. Sisko, his staff and Garak depart to join a major fleet approaching DS9. McArthur-like, he promises he will return. Quark’s bar stays open. Rom rejoins him as Assistant Manager and (self-proclaimed?) Federation spy. Jake remains as a journalist, trusting in his ‘status’ as the emissary’s son to protect him.
Major Kira, Odo and Quark officially greet Dukat’s return to Terak Nor. The Major has already initiated a Sisko-developed programme that thoroughly wipes the control room computers of any ability to function.
But although it’s not the final shot, that being the cliched one of Sisko looking defiant, the episode and the series ends with a very effective moment. Gul Dukat commandeers the station commander’s office: his again, after five long years of waiting for revenge. It has been stripped of everything, but one item, Sisko’s baseball. Dukat recognises it as a message. Sisko is coming back.
We move onwards, I move onwards towards the only real step into the future since I began this series back in October 2015. Everything until now has been backing and filling, getting up to speed with the background to that brief period of which I was already aware. Forward I go.
Next week being Christmas week, I haven’t decided yet whether or not to take a week’s break. It is a perfect point to do so, but on the other hand, habit is habit. If you don’t get a DS9 post off me next Tuesday, that’ll be why, and we’ll pick things up again in the New Year.
Oh boy, another Quark-episode. That’s two in three weeks. My cup runneth over.
This is going to be short because I plain did not enjoy this week’s episode, in which even the B story – once again a momentary sideshow – was a Ferengi story, about Rom and Leeta. I cannot summon the remotest interest in Quark, the Ferengi way of life, nor the fact that Deep Space Nine‘s most uncomic relief is gradually being softened by being given elements of a conscience.
To summarise: the bar is shut down because of an infestation of voles. Quark is depressed, even more so after Rom and Leeta announce that they’re going to get married. Rom suggests he go visit their mother. When he does, Quark discovers Moogie is having an affair with Grand Negus Zek, which has to be kept secret. However, it’s known to Quark’s old enemy, Brunt, FCA, who bribes him to poison the relationship in exchange for getting back his Business Licence. Quark does so, though why anyone believes him is always a mystery because he’s the most unconvincing liar of all time, since Shimerman puts him into a most artificial and blatant change of voice and demeanour. Sigh.
So Moogie is heartbroken but Quark’s restored. Zek summons him to become his First Clerk, whereupon Quark immediately learns that the Grand Negus’s memory is going (had Altzheimers been named in 1996?). Between them the economy drops 199 points in a day, which was all part of Brunt’s plan: he wants Zek ousted as Grand Negus and to take over himself. Quark, having developed something of a conscience through too much exposure to Hu-mons, helps Zek fight everyone off (totally offscreen and thus totally a cop-out) before revealing that all his helpful suggestions came from Moogie. She’s reinstated, Brunt threatens that he’ll watch Quark, that story’s over after what felt like several hours.
Rom and Leeta? The wedding’s off after Rom, disturbed by gossip about him not being a traditional Ferengi male, tries to get Leeta to sign awaiver of all claims on his profits and she refuses. The two are miserable until Rom gives all his profits away to charity, whereupon they snog on the promenade and I would be envious of Max Grodenchik if he weren’t wearing so much Ferengi make-up that he probably couldn’t feel a thing.
Next week’s episode will be considerably better and more entertaining. By definition.
When the opening shot of an episode features Chase Masterson’s cleavage framed exactly in the centre of the screen, it immediately gives the episode an uplift. Of course, being in the first part of the open, it also isn’t going to be the A-story. What it is is an amusing, occasionally embarrassing tale of the Love That Dare Not Speak It’s Name, only it’s got nothing to do with Homosexuality in Nineteenth Century London and everything to do with Rom being so bleeding afraid to tell Leeta he loves her, even in the face of her… heartfelt desire for him to do so, that he’s prepared to let her leave DS9 forever rather than risk his fate to a mere 99.9% probability that she’s interested in him. I knew exactly how he felt.
But that was a B story, amusing as it was and pleasing as it always is to see Ms Masterson showing off her… talents (actually, to be serious, she does bring a genuine sweetness and a perfectly judged strand of self-mockery to a role that is practically the definition of one-note and which, in the hands of a less talented performer, could be an utter disaster), and it struck the improbable note of a happy conclusion as Rom finally finds his voice at the last second, though speaking as the unprepossessing dumb-cluck, I can’t quite get over the notion of someone who looks like her falling from someone who looks like me… sorry, him: somebody’s been at the Magic Wish-Fulfillment Juice with a vengeance.
But, as the story title indicates, that’s not the A-story. Nor, originally, was the A-story seen as anything better than a B-story, itself a comic episode. Special Guest Robert Picardo, already firmly fixed in Star Trek lore as the Hologram Doctor in Voyager, turns up in the person of his human avatar, Engineer Dr Lewis Zimmerman. The Emergency Medical Hologram programme which he’s invented is being upgraded to a Long-term Medical Hologram, and our Julian has been chosen as its template.
As a B-story, it would have been the comedic underbelly to a meatier A-story. The producers weren’t interested in the original A-story, but loved the B-story. It wouldn’t go down as a comedic episode so something more dramatic had to be brought in. In retrospect, the fact that Bashir’s background had never previously been featured, and that a host of small asides down the years fell into place as if there had all along been some secret in his past facilitated quite an explosive revelation.
Quite simply, Dr Julian Bashir is the product of childhood genetic enhancement which, in the Star Trek universe, is illegal. If discovered, he will be cashiered from Starfleet and his medical licence withdrawn. Everything he is, does and has accomplished, everything he could do, will be destroyed.
That it may now be exposed is due to the fact that Zimmerman, whilst he’s not trying to get into Leet’a Bajoran knickers, has to build a comprehensive psychological profile of the good Doctor for the LMH, which means interviewing everyone who does or ever has known him. Which includes his parents, who still call him by his birth-name, Jules.
Now, it’s believable that Bashir has been avoiding his parents out of shame over his blowhard father, Richard (played by Brian George, nowadays better known as Raj Koothrapalli’s father on The Big Bang Theory). But the shame goes deeper than that: Jules was, it appears, backwards, as it would once have been called, both physically and mentally, it would appear. So his father took him off-planet to be operated on, creating the brilliant and talented Julian we have always known.
Now that it’s likely to come out – originally the story would have confined the secret to Bashir and O’Brien, secured by a double-blackmail over secrets Zimmerman wanted kept, but Alexander Siddig insisted on things being brought out into the open and thestory is better for it – the secret comes out when the Bashir’s promise complete secrecy, except that it’s to the LMH Julian. And suddenly, the bitterness pours out.
It’s a deep, corrosive bitterness that seems to be couched in shame of his parents, but it goes much too far for that. Alexander Siddig, who only found out about his character’s secret the day before filming started, is on brilliant form. Bashir is angry, angry about everything, seeing the changes wrought on him by a loser father anxious to make some kind of mark on the world, as arising from Richard’s shame at having a son who appeared to be a failure like him. His change of name to Julian was to divorce his past from his present.
But he’s too handy with words like freak, and unnatural for that to come solely from outside. Siddig shows us that Julian is ashamed of himself, of his difference from others, that he has inflated the deliberate creation of his abilities into a full-scale separation from humanity.
He’s too consumed by his own self-hatred to see anything in what his father has done but hatred of the little boy nature produced. Inevitably, given the nature of Deep Space Nine, this mental state is cured by two things: a simple declaration from his mother, as to the fear they felt, the despair at being responsible for what Jules was born as, and that what was done was simply out of love, for their son, and his father sacrificing himself to two years imprisonment as the quid pro quo for Julian’s career, licence and commission being saved.
Siddig was right: it would have been impossible to play Bashir as a man containing a secret whose revelation would have such drastic effects in a weekly series that would basically ignore this development from week to week. So a string story came together basically by accident and its own internal logic impressing itself by fits and starts. Art is crazily wonderful, sometimes.
Incidentally, until we get to the end of the last episode of the season, this set-up is the last memory I have of DS9 in the Nineties. So it’s back to almost-fresh programming for the next nine weeks.