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 e24 – The Dogs of War


Why couldn’t they have swapped costumes?

After the tight focus of last week, the penultimate episode of Deep Space Nine was instead a ragbag of set-up across multiple plot strands, involving practically every single recurring character you could name, but not Cirroc Lofton. Only Kai Wynn and Gul Dukat failed to show their faces.

This meant a strong Ferenghi presence, and I’m hoping that the substantial amount of time dedicated to wrapping up their story will mean only a token participation in the series finale, a week from now. It was down to the usual standards. Leeta and a barely clad dabo girl demand a reduction in how much of their tips they have to give to Quark, and he’s thinking abut it when Grand Negus Zek comes on the blower to announce, through appalling static, that he’s going to retire and is appointing Quark as his successor.

Immediately, Brunt turns up to fawn all over the new Negus, and to tell him of the massive changes Zek, under Ishka’s influence, has been pushing through to turn Ferenganar from the unrestricted pursuit of capitalism. Ferenganar’s been so humonised, Quark’s disgusted enough to turn down the post, except that he’s got it all wrong: Zek’s appointing Rom instead. Quark however intends to run his bar in the old fashion unrepentantly.

There, wasn’t that worthless watching? Except for what’s probably a final appearance from Chase Masterson.

What was nearly as awful was the clowning around between Julian Bashir and Ezri Dax, one minute solemnly assuring themselves that it’s better to retain their friendship than lose it over trying to pursue a silly romantic fantasy, the next snogging each other’s faces off in a turbolift. This strand kept Worf and O’Brien in it for a couple of cameos as a Greek Chorus, looking on.

Odo is fully recovered and Bashir drops a brick in telling him how Section 31 infected him. There is a piece of what I take to be foreshadowing, as Odo reacts in disgust to the Federation’s decision not to give the cure to the Dominion in the middle of all-out War against an enemy bent on ruthless conquest (sorry, Odo, you’re being bloody naive). Given that I was not able to escape learning in advance about Odo’s final part in this series, I take it that this is a major factor in his decision.

By far and away the most important strands related directly to the War. Demar’s rebellion is betrayed and destroyed, it’s only survivors being the Big Three of Demar, Kira and Garak. They go underground on Cardassia Prime, in a cellar, to avoid capture and execution whilst Weyoun announces Demar’s death. But the populace don’t believe it, and our trio play on this to turn Demar into Legend, to raise the people.

And a new, pliant Legate takes Service under the Dominion, for whom the Female Changeling is dictating retrenchment: fall back upon a shortened, stronger defensive line, based upon the Cardassian Empire, rebuild, emerge stronger.  The Federation, being naturally timid, will settle for containment.

But Sisko argues otherwise. He has a new Defiant class ship that he’s authorised to rename Defiant, and he foresees what the Dominion expect, and urges attack: break through the Dominion lines before they can settle. Cry Havoc! and let slip the Dogs of War.

Ad a final coda, in which a hostage to fortune, and to the Prophets’ warning: Kasidy Yates Sisko is pregnant. The Emissary is going to have a baby…

Deep Space Nine: s07 e22 – Tacking into the Wind


Not really, no

Until it’s end, I was all set too regard this episode as a continuation of last week’s, all middles and no progressions, and once more dissatisfying, but we’re so close to the end that the writers had to start producing a rabbit or two from the hat if the whole thing is going to work out.

So in two of the three strands that followed on from last week (there was nothing of Kai Wynn or the blinded Gul Dukat this time round) we were given turning points, serious turning points, resolving certain situations that threatened to derail the ongoing story: we moved decisively forward.

To take the one in-process strand first, this was Bashir and O’Brien’s personal quest to find a cure for Odo. Julian’s getting nowhere, and he’s getting snappy with it, sounding off at his best friend who’s trying to suggest getting to Section 31 through more orthodox channels. The Doctor rejects this, pointing out the cold logic of how Section 31 operates, that they would simply hit DS9 and destroy Julian’s work to date. Which leads the not-normally-this-devious Chief to suggest luring a Section 31-ite by a fake message that they have found a cure, and capturing him in order to get the info they want.

This one sounds a bit too simplistic so I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out: given Section 31’s past appearances, there’s a massive risk of the outcome failing the credibility test.

Of the two other strands, the simpler of them related to Gowron’s aggressive and stupid strategies, wasting men and ships – the only ships that can withstand the Breen energy-draining weapon – in what Worf regards as a selfish plan to discredit General Martok and prevent him from becoming a rival for the position of Chancellor.

Worf’s counter to this is to persuade Martok to challenge Gowron for the Chancellorship, a thing the Good Soldier, loyal to the Empire, will not do, and especially not in the middle of War. With Martok cutting off even discussion of this, Worf discusses his frustration with Ezri, who’s surprised to learn that she is a member of the House of Martok. Ezri’s loath to express her opinion since it’s not exactly flattering, but when pressed, she tells Worf that the Klingon Empire is dying, clinging to centuries old notions of honour and duty yet tolerating a succession of leaders who are corrupt and unworthy.

It’s a crucial intervention. Gowron lays out another suicidal mission for Martok, who, despite arguing against it, obeys his Chancellor. But not Worf: he insults Gowron as petty and without honour. It is a Challenge, and a brief but intense duel with Bat’leths ends with Worf, thrown, disarmed and semi-stunned, about to be executed, but striking upwards with a shard to Bat’leth, with which he kills Gowron.

For a moment there, at Martok’s acclaim, Worf is Chancellor, but that giddy development is not to be. Worf rejects the honour, and instead places the robe around Martok’s shoulders. The Empire has a new Chancellor: well, well, well. Suddenly, things in one quarter change, and hope arises.

Elsewhere, Kira is whipping the Cardassian rebellion into an effective terrorist force, enough that it’s seriously pissing off the Female Changeling, who’s rattled enough she tells Weyoun9 to his face that if only the cloning facilities still existed, she’d have him killed and replaced by Weyoun10, which doesn’t got down well with the hyper-loyal Vorta – do I detect?…

But Kira’s still objectionable to the sight of Resad, whose distrust of her is insurmountable. He’s resistant to her instructions because they come from her, is convinced her primary intention is to just go around killing Cardassians and basically threatens to kill her. Garak warns Kira that Resad won’t wait until after the War, that she’ll have to kill him first.

In order to help the Federation develop a defence against the Breen weapon, Kira leads a raid to capture such a device. The team is unjustifiably top heavy, consisting of her, Garak, Odo, Resad and Demar: fail and the entire top echelon is wiped out. And Odo is becoming the weak link: too much shapeshifting has accelerated the spread of the morphogenetic disease. He’s keeping up appearances before Kira, who knows anyway and connives at the ‘deception’ because she knows how important his dignity is to the Changeling she loves.

The team infiltrates a Jem’Hadar ship having the Breen weapon installed by having Kira pose as their prisoner (with Odo as her handcuffs). Odo impersonates the Female Changeling to get hold of an upgraded plasma weapon that Garak uses to kill the bridge crew. Unfortunately, the installation isn’t complete. Resad wants to cut and run, but Kira demands patience and nerve. It’s tense as all get out, and ultimately Resad breaks. He has the plasma rifle on Kira, Garak a pistol on him and Demar a pistol on both. It’s a stand-off which turns on Demar, whose character arc has been a carefully plotted inversion of Dukat.

This is Gul Demar, who counts Resad as a friend, who gives him his support. This is Demat, whose wife and children have been found in hiding by the Dominion, and killed. This is Demar who fulminated against a regime that can kill innocent women and children, and who is reminded by Kira of the Cardassian Occupancy of Bajor…

And this is Demar who fires his pistol, and shoots down Resad. This close to the end there is no other course for the story to follow if we are to finish in only three more episodes, even if one is a double. But it is the reason that is significant. Demar executes Resad because he is too tied to the Cardassian Empire of the past, an Empire that cannot, and will not return. A turning point. Another rise towards hope.

But at what cost, as Odo begins to flake out far worse than anything we’ve seen from the Female Changeling. Is this all coming too late for him? For this, we need to wait until next week…

Deep Space Nine: s07 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: s07 e15 – Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang


Hubba Hubba

It’s something of an achievement, I suppose. It took seasons and years to make me loathe Quark to the point where I automatically shudder at the mere thought of an episode about him. Vic Fontaine didn’t even require a full season.

There’s only one more standalone after this, thankfully, and I could have done without this. It’s a stupid story, no matter how highly rated it is. A ‘jack-in-the-box’ provision in Vic’s program triggers the arrival of mobster Frankie Eyes to throw Vic out and turn his Lounge into a sleazy cabaret of long-legged dancers and long-legged waitresses serving up martinis: Vic’s out.

Naturally, O’Brien and Bashir won’t stand for this. They can’t reset the program without wiping out Vic’s memories of encounters to date, which is our MacGuffin for everyone (including Sisko but excluding our far too sensible Worf) to dress up 1962 Vegas style for an Ocean’s Eleven-style caper, in which the casino will be robbed, Frankie’s boss won’t get his cut and Frankie gets buried in the desert.

Sisko’s belated appearance in Vic’s world gets a controversial scene in which the Captain explains that he hates the thought of the ahistorical lie behind the program. Blacks in Vegas in 1962 were not welcomed as equals, very far from it, and Sisko resents a set-up that denies that reality by pretending everything was well. Kasidy Yates counters this by pointing out that they are equal now, completely so, and that Sisko’s historical perspective is a way of perpetuating those restrictions, in his head.

That this was raised at all was controversial, though in the context of the show it felt like an out-of-place attempt to staple some inconsistent seriousness onto a determinedly unserious premise, and I disagreed with Kasidy’s blythe and bland notion that the evils of the past should be plastered over with modern sensibilities. And the whole point of bringing it up is obliterated when Sisko promptly changes gear and joins the caper crew with great gusto.

I did get some amusement out of the way they firstly ran through the complex, clockwork plan until it worked perfectly, and then Dortmundered the whole thing when it was done for real. I refer of course to the much-missed Donald E Westlake’s ‘Dortmunder Gang’ series of crime fiction in which the titular John Dortmunder creates brilliant criminal plots of the kind that ruthlessly succeed in crime fiction, only to have then screw up over the simple fact of human beings acting like human beings.

That and the sight of Nicole de Boer in waitress outfit, fishnet tights up to her cute little bum, were my only sources of pleasure in an episode that could have been written to order to leave me cold. Badda-bing, badda-bang, badda-bugger off.

Deep Space Nine: s07 e11 – Prodigal Daughter


Mother

It’s finally become obvious to even me that I know nothing about Deep Space Nine. I have been out of step so many times, disliking, being bored by or simply not appreciating episodes that are held in high regard, and here I am again, only this time I’m appreciating, even enjoying an episode that nobody involved with making it felt was worth it, and which is regarded as the official weakest of season 7 (with all those effing Vic Fontaine episodes and another bloody Ferenghi story next week? I should coco).

Apparently, this was down to the many changes of plot, theme and even central character to arrive at the basic story, by which point the script had to be hammered out without any time for revision or reconsideration.

Personally, I found it interesting, and assumed it was an episode intended to illuminate Ezri Dax and her background, since it involved her going home to her family, and especially her overbearing mother, who runs a successful mining business to which she devotes all of her energy and focus. Ezri hasn’t been home in three years, nor spoken to her mother in six months.

The peg for this, the MacGuffin, was set up in the open, most of which I was unable to see thanks to the same scratch on the DVD that carried away the ending of last week’s episode. After a comic start about the different kinds of gagh, Bashir discloses that he’s worried about O’Brien, off-station ostensibly visiting his father but in reality checking up on Marika Bilby, the widow of Liam Bilby from ‘Honor Among Thieves’ in season 6. O’Brien is overdue. Given that he’s on the planet where the Tigan family is based, a furious Sisko orders Ezri to get her mother to use her connections to help.

Part of the reason I was able to take this episode so seriously was that I recognised it. Yanas Tigan, a bright, energetic and completely convincing guest appearance by Leigh Taylor-Young, was a mother who has stifled her children, directing their every course and still finding whatever they did to be inadequate. Boy, do I know how that feels! Whilst older brother Janel manages the mine, younger brother Norvo, the most clearly gifted, artistic, imaginative and creative of the three, has been broken by Yanas’ relentless criticism of everything, Ezri included.

O’Brien is quickly produced, having been saved by the New Sydney Police from an Orion Syndicate beating as he investigates Marika Bilby’s murder. The Police insist she wasn’t killed by the Syndicate as they notably take care of their widows etc. The Tigan company is being pressed by the Syndicate to do business with them and whilst Yanas is adamant that they never will, it turns out that Janel has already used them once, to save the company, in return for which he was ‘asked’ to carry an ’employee’ who would be paid for not working, obviously, Marika Bilby.

Yanas is horrified, the more so because she cannot see past Janel as the murderer. Norvo insists Janel is innocent, which gives Ezri the moment of unwanted insight that rounds things off: yes, it was not Janel but Norvo: Norvo, the ‘weak’ one, the ineffectual, the one who was never strong enough to take the tough decisions. Well, he’d made a tough decision now.

All that remained was the family fall-out. Norvo got thirty years. Ezri advised Janel to get out, go anywhere, do something different. Yanas confronted the possibility she may have been wrong, and asked Ezri if any of this was her fault? Ezri, who did not answer that question, nevertheless feels that what was happened was her fault, despite accepting O’Brien’s plain statement that Norvo got what was deserved, or better. But she knew Norvo when he was younger, saw his brilliance, his potential, before…

The writers and producers saw the episode as purposeless soap opera, cranked out to fill a slot because the slot had to be filled, and indeed apologised to Nicole de Boer afterwards. The fact that the story structure meant that nothing could be shown of O’Brien’s travails was also regarded as weak and robbing these of any meaning, which is true in its way, but beside the point on which this episode stood for me, which was Yanas. I’ve been there, and I know what it’s like, and it wasn’t weak to me.

Deep Space Nine: s07 e08 – The Siege of AR-558


At War

It didn’t augur well. The open kicked off with Rom in the holosuite lounge, auditioning for Vic Fontaine by badly singing ‘The Lady is a Tramp’. Grisly. Vic has very rapidly become second only to Quark for me as a character I cannot stand. It’s like a throwback to the Original Series’ rigid insistence upon mid-Fifties middle-America mores as being the Twenty-Fourth Century’s guiding principles. This fetishisation of that same decade’s lounge music, in the late Nineties, is inexplicable and completely improbable conservatism. Every moment Vic is there jerks us out of the future into the past.

But it’s an isolated moment, an attempt at lightness in an episode in which there will be no lightness whatsoever, only grime, blood, horror and death. I can see the intent, but I regard the execution as stupid and completely ineffectual.

Because ‘The Siege of AR-558′ was about war as it really is: not the fantasy of spaceships zooming unscientifically in space, SF phasers a-glowing and spectacular but impersonal explosions, but what it’s like on the ground, face-to-face, hand-to-hand, where the prospect and the fear of death are immediate and exponentially more scary.

After a brief reminder that the War brings in casualty lists, lists that Sisko, immured in the regularity of loss, no longer reads name by name, he leads a team via the Defiant to brings supplies to AR-558, a remote planer bearing a captured Dominion communications array, captured by the Federation five months ago. A unit of 150 men and women have held it unrelieved for five months, way beyond the regulation that no-one should be in combat for more than 90 days. There are now only 43 of them, and they’re in a bad way.

The ones we meet are Lt. Larkin (Annette Helde), now the officer in command, Engineer Kellin (Bill Mumy, once Will Robinson of The Original; Series’ contemporary, Lost in Space), Vargas (Raymond Cruz), who is closest to cracking and Reese (Patrick Kilpatrick), the hard-as-nails veteran who collects tetracell white capsules as souvenirs of the Jem’Hadar he’s killed personally.

Into this beams an Away Team led by Sisko and comprising only those cast members with the least combat experience (a contrivance from the writers that was,, in the circumstances, allowable), being Bashir, Ezri Dax, Nog and Quark. This latter was a massively artificial contrivance that stretched things more than somewhat.

Though the supplies are welcome, the visitors are not, really. They’re only visitors, they get to beam out. There’s an entirely natural undercurrent of resentment from the permanent defenders, or at least from the two combat guests, Vargas and Reese: Larkin is a determined and loyal officer, Kellin too much the naturally nice guy, who impresses himself upon Ezri without even trying.

But when the Defiant is attacked by two Jem’Hadar ships, Sisko refuses transportation and escape, ordering Worf to take evasive action, and committing his Away Team to the Siege.

It’s not a popular decision with Quark, who doesn’t want to be within a Solar System of there in the first place and, running a close second, doesn’t want his nephew within a Solar System of being there either. It’s embarrassing to Nog, who is still the complete Starfleet Ensign: loyal, brave, committed and still taken up with the romance of the role.

I should have seen it coming but I didn’t. With the tricorders blocked by jamming, Sisko sends out Nog, with Larkin and Reese, to use the Ferenghi ears to track down the whereabouts of the latest Jem’Hadar attack. They are fired on. Larkin is killed. Nog loses a leg.

Quark is especially bitter about this, as if Sisko has deliberately caused this, simply because Nog is not human. Although Quark is not as utterly annoying as he usually is, because he’s playing a totally serious role, I still found him unrealistic even at this point. It’s cultural: the Ferenghi are self-conditioned to deal, to bargain, to seek accommodations, not War, and it’s natural for Quark to see the Dominion War as completely avoidable, but once we’re at this point, with the attack imminent, it carries with it a large dose of burying ones head in the sand. watching it, I found this irritating. Thinking about it, it’s less unrealistic because Quark is taking refuge in familiar attitudes, deliberately avoiding recognition of the true situation, as an attempt at escape. Score me minus one for a misapprehension due to prejudice.

So the battle comes. At first it’s phaser fire. Then it’s hand-to-hand. Vargas dies, knifed in the back, nice guy Kellin dies, defending Ezri. Sisko goes down, loses consciousness, about to be shot at close range with a disruptor. Hard man Reese shakes him awake, and alive.

The siege has withstood the attack, though the command has been decimated. Ezri has helped Kellin crack the communications array. Relief troops arrive. The survivors are relieved, among which few only Reese appears to be unhurt, another example of the indiscriminancy of war, in which the biggest bastards survive, probably because they’re the biggest bastards. Even though he leaves behind the knife that he’s used to kill so many Jem’Hadar, you’re left wondering just how they’re going to switch him off when he gets back to ‘civilisation’.

This was an incredibly powerful episode, its use of Vic Fontaine notwithstanding. It’s basic set-up was patterned after the Battle of Guadalcanal, in the Second World War, and despite taking place in some of the most unnaturally stagey ‘caves’ the show has ever designed as a set, it took its reality from people’s experience of the Vietnam War, and in a way that managed not to insult either. There was yet another War reference in the arrival of the relief troops, all young and new, in pristine uniforms, harking at the relief of First World War trench veterans.

For me, this was head and shoulders the best episode of season 7 so far, precisely because it cut across the SF milieu of the show, in favour of a relentless, indeed for some people unnerving reality. Would that there be more like this in the eighteen episodes that are all that is left of this long, long run.

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


A Warrior

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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