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: 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 e20 – The Changing Face of Evil


The destruction…

In some ways, we’re still in the transitionary phase of the Endgame, process and progress but no conclusions. Ezri and Worf return to DS9 to hearty greetings from Doctor Bashir and the Chief, who otherwise spend most of the rest of the episode arguing over the Battle of the Alamo, for which Miles has built an impressive model, to scale. This gives Worf the building blocks for his campaign to keep Ezri from Julian.

Of course sh, having effectively deserted her post at the beginning of this sequence, is in for a bollocking from Sisko, which she clearly anticipates. This we don’t get to see, if it ever happened, because Sisko is more concerned for information, on the mysterious Breen, and upon why the hell Damar rescued the pair?

But we start learning that the Breen are certainly effective, militarily, as they attack Starfleet HQ on Earth, and start winning back the Kontaran system, the Federation’s only foothold in Dominion territory. Which leads to massive shock number 1.

Other things are going on. In a minor key, Sisko, very condescendingly, gets Kasidy taken off the active list for freight runs, just in case the Breen pop up out of nowhere. It’s all in a good cause but Kasidy resents the living hell out of it and quite rightly. Sisko is being very twenty-first century Republican about it, running the little lady’s life for her, bless her pretty little head. He does back down, but accompanies it with flowers and a necklace, no doubt found by rummaging in the Cliche Drawer.

In a major key, Kai Winn is nudged by Dukat towards consulting the forbidden book about the Pah-Wraiths, the Costa Mogen. Louise Fletcher shows the Kai’s fears as she’s gradually nudged further and further into blasphemy, withDukat behind her every step of the way, nudging and prodding.

The Kai’s servant, Sobor, is disapproving, though that only rankles the Kai into imperiousness, to the point where Sobor takes matters into his own hands. He denounces ‘Anjol’ the farmer as an imposter: the real Anjol died in a Labour Camp. Winn is shocked and horrified. Even more so when Sobor reveals that he has secured a DNA sample which has been tested.  Not only does it confirm that ‘Anjol’ is not Bajoran, rather Cardassian, but that he is actually Gul Dukat.

The Kai’s horror increases, fuelled by the fact that he has put his X into her Y. She revolts disgustedly, plans to burn the Costa Mogen, which is a book of blank pages, it’s words hidden by some key that’s yet to be unlocked. Winn has a knifethat she’s prepared to stick into Dukat, who’s gone for the approach that it doesn’t matter who he is or how much he’s lied and cheated, he’s doing it for the Pah-Wraiths, and for her power. Somehow or other, the knife the Kai’s grabbed for use on Dukat ends up in Sobor’s back: a Rubicon. And the blood dripping from the knife is the key to the Costa Mogen. The door to Power is open.

But I’ve created a dramatic pause of sufficient length and it’s time to go back to major shock number 1. The Defiant joins the fleet to retake the Kontaran system. It is hit by some energy-draining weapon, left powerless, and is battered. To my surprise, Sisko orders Abandon Ship. The Defiant is destroyed, a step I never expected, and one that, if I had thought they would do this, I would have assumed would be done in the finale, not so long before the end.

There was one other thread I haven’t mentioned, building up through the episode and culminating in not quite so major a shock number 2, reserved for the close. A Quadrant wide broadcast from Gul Demar, or rebellion against Cardassia’s Dominion overlords and an attack on their facilities. In particular, their cloning plant, which Weyoun9 (?) interprets as personal: he could be the last Weyoun…

So: the avalanche begins to move. enough pebbles have been displaced.  Something is coming down the mountain, and the Dominion is in its path. Five more episodes…

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: s06 e21 – The Reckoning


Gunfight at the OK Promenade

Researching last week’s episode and the brief pre-synopsis of ‘The Reckoning’ has brought home to me that we are now approaching Deep Space Nine‘s endgame, and that its writers and producers are fully aware of this and are now starting to lay markers for the ultimate conclusion. Thus this episode, directly relating to Sisko’s role as the Emissary, to one of the Prophecies, and foreshadowing the role Kai Winn will be playing.

It’s a simple enough story. An ancient tablet is found on Bajor, covered in old, difficult to translate, inscriptions, one of which refers to the Emissary. When Sisko touches it, he has a Prophet-vision, telling him that The Reckoning is at hand, and that it will be the end, or the beginning. He’s thrown across the cave.

Sisko has gone from being the complete sceptic over his Emissaryship to a true believer, whereas nobody else, except Kira, can take it seriously. Jake is concerned at what this is doing to his Dad, a subtle reversal of roles that prefigures what is to follow.

The Captain has had the tablet brought to DS9, where it is rapidly followed by Kai Winn (Louise Fletcher once again at her best), demanding its return. Sisko wants to study it until he understands both it and what he is supposed to do. Dax’s translations are pretty much all doom, gloom and despair. But when Starfleet order Sisko to hand it back, his frustrations and confusions mount into a Prophet-sent rage in which he smashes the stone, releasing two shades of energy wisps, one red, one blue, that vanish into the station.

Winn’s underlying resentment of Sisko, after much time spent developing a more conciliatory relationship with the Emissary, is analysed by Kira as being ultimately her resentment that, after believing all her life, after rising to become spiritual leader of Bajor, she is nevertheless out-ranked, and by a non-Bajoran. So much is true, but it ignores an underlying factor, which Fletcher brings out in her studied, quiet, seemingly undemonstrative way: that there is a crack in her faith, because the Emissary exists.

This will play out overtly in the endgame. Much of the middle of the episode is static in terms of the plot, is about reactions and opinions, which makes the ending all the more dramatic, when a Prophet possesses Kira.

It’s very effective: Nana Visitor stands more erect, her face is lit by a pale light, her voice is made more mechanical in tone and, most disconcerting of all, she is given pale blue eyes. The Reckoning is here, the Sisko has completed his task. Winn recognises the Fifth Prophecy: good will confront evil, the Prophet will confront the Pah Wraith Kosst Amojan: if successful, this will usher in a Golden Age for Bajor, 1,000 years of peace and plenty.

But the battle will probably destroy DS9.

Sisko orders a general evacuation. He is determined that The Reckoning shall go ahead, and he will stay to see it through. Especially after Kosst Amojan possesses Jake.

It’s a battle of special effects, as the combatants stand and glare at each other (apparently it took ages to shoot because Naba Visitor and Cirroc Lofton kept collapsing in giggles). The battle is going to the Prophet but the energy build-up means the station could blow up at any second. Dax has proposed a solution, flooding the Promenade with Chroniton particles to force both possessors to leave, and strangling The Reckoning at birth. Sisko has refused this all along – but in the confusion of the final evacuation, Kai Winn slips into Ops and sets the Chroniton working.

Prophet and Pah Wraith flee in agony. Kira and Jake survive (the latter bringing the circle around again from Jake visiting his dad in the infirmary to Ben visiting his son). Bajor is safe again. Kai Winn is preening herself. But Kira confronts her over her decision, understanding completely that it was born of ambition, not of faith. The Prophecy has not been fulfilled, and even the Prophets may not know now what the future holds.

Seeds are implanted. It’s a non-ending, on one level a cop-out, but perhaps a necessary one – if a thousand years of peace were to be secured, who needs another 31 episodes of Deep Space Nine. But it’s an episode that deals with major concerns, and it’s brilliantly acted.

Of course, the luvvy-duvvy cosying up between Kira and Odo was totally out of place – I had not realised just how wrong that would look – and Colm Meaney got the week off, but let us not nitpick. From hereon in, everything we see is on the road to the End. Everything is a signpost. Look for what direction it points.

Deep Space Nine s05 e25: In the Cards


Any time these two are the stars…

So here we are, on the eve of War. Everyone’s tense, grim and gloomy. People and shops are leaving DS9 for healthier climates. Captain Sisko’s dinner party for the senior staff (except Jardzia Dax, missing for a second week) has fallen flatter than a flat thing that has been flattened by being run over by a steamroller. And Kai Winn is dropping in for a meeting tomorrow morning.

When the Kai arrives, it is with troubling news. She is here to meet with a representative of the Dominion, the egregious Weyoun. The meeting is at the Dominion’s request: they wish to conclude a non-aggression pact. Sisko is concerned, as is the Kai. For the first time, they are completely in accord, they are prepared to work together towards the common goal of Bajor’s preservation.

Portentous stuff. And guess what? That’s the  B story. And it’s deliberately so.

The A story is basically a joke, and I mean that in every sense of the word. Sisko, like everybody else, is down, and Jake wants to cheer him up. The ideal opportunity arises: an auction that includes a framed 1951 Willie Mays rookie baseball card (that even I know is a bit legendary). Jake wants to win it for his Dad, make him happy so, with Nog in reluctant tow, the pair set about trying to ge it. Much havoc and hilarity ensues.

At least, that’s the theory. The inversion of the usual Serious A/lightweight B formula was deliberate, and arose in part from the plan to do a ‘bottle’ episode, cheap’n’cheerful, as a contrast to the major events to come in the season finale next week. And generally it was well-received, though to be honest it bored me, and I felt it to be too contrived.

Some of this is, and I have called myself out on this many times, that I CANNOT watch Deep Space Nine without thinking of the way that TV serial fiction is conducted in the Twenty-First Century. I can’t see it in its own terms, precisely because Deep Space Nine, especially at this time, with the Dominion War brooding, was so perfect for the current day treatment.Some of this is that I started this rewatch because I’d seen some of the series back in the day, and loved it, but never saw beginning or end, and this is the last but one of those episodes from then, and next week’s is the last one I remember, and I don’t find this A story funny or even plausible. It disappoints me by being given prominence over the prelude to War, over the revelation of other facets to Kai Winn, over Sisko’s last advice to try to keep the situation fluid, avoid choices where every choice is fateful and tainted. Instead, we have to watch an obsessive quest for a baseball card that gets inflated into an all-round feel-good story that we’re supposed to accept as A Jolly Good Thing All Round (except for Leeta).

So, basically, Jake and Nog get massively outbid for the lot by the mysterious and paranoid Dr Giger who, it turns out, is working on a cure for mortality that is deliberately ridiculous, who’ll trade the card in return for several McGuffins in the form of unusual materials, for which our young pair have to barter with half the station staff, except that he’s commandeered the quarters below Weyoun and the Jem’Hadar, who suspect assassination and kidnap everybody, including Jake and Nog, only refuses to believe their ‘innocent-victims-of-implausible-circumstance’ story, so Jake spins a yarn about Spacefleet Intelligence and Time Travel, which convinces Weyoun their first story was true, so everybody’s happy, Sisko gets his card, the staff all cheer up thanks to what J & N have done for them, and Weyoun is interested in Giger’s stupid machine.

The B story is left without an ending. But it’s the season finale next week, and we all know what’s coming then, don’t we?

I understand the reasoning, I respect the intention, and if the A story hadn’t been so intentionally stupid, I might have enjoyed the result. But once again i have to go against the grain and say that this was not, in my book, a good episode.

 

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.