Deep Space Nine: s06 e26 – Tears of the Prophets


Farewell

This is one of the points I’ve known about all along, going back almost twenty years. It’s been a long long time coming, in both senses, and when it came, despite the opinions of many, I found it disappointing, if still emotional. Terry Farrell’s last episode, Jardzia Dax’s death, a death foretold yet in its arrival perfunctory and meaningless, a side-issue in an episode that wanted to engineer a reversal for Captain Sisko.

In terms of guests stars, this was one of the fullest episodes of them all, with practically every recurring character popping up somewhere or other, including Vic bloody Fontaine in the most seriously ill-thought out idea of the whole script, wasting time crooning to Bashir and Quark, who’d chosen to have themselves serenaded as ‘The Losers’ (oh, you bet) after Jardzia announces that she and Worf are going to try for a baby.

As if that wasn’t a glutinously cheesy bit of melodrama in itself.

It had been known for no little time that Farrell wasn’t renewing her contract, having burnt out on the long days of filming. What wasn’t known then was the disgusting sexual harrassment the actress had been experiencing from day 1 from co-Showrunner Rick Berman, who’d pretty much put a stop of Farrell’s willingness to stay on as a recurring, not cast member. No, it was pretty much decided that Jatdzia had to be written out by dying, and originally it was supposed to be heroically, of course.

But with all that time to think it out and get it right, there was a colossal failure of imagination as Jardzia just gets ambushed by Gul Dukat, who’s possessed by a Pah-Wraith, and blasted with no-one there to even be horrified by the assault on her. Except the audience, of course.

For the season finale, the show wanted to kick Sisko in the teeth. The set-up was that the Federation had finally agreed to his urging to switch to an Offensive War, striking at the Cardassians in a weak system, under-defended. Gul Damar is having it seeded by automated defence platforms, so there, but the nutcase Dukat turns up out of nowhere with a plan to open up the Wormhole to enable Dominion reinforcements to flood in again.

The Prophets warn Sisko not to leave Bajor but Admiral Ross makes him choose between the Federation and being an Emissary, which is all stuff and nonsense anyway. Sisko leads the assault, leaving DS9 under Jardzia’s command and vulnerable to the possessed Dukat beaming aboard into the Bajoran temple (how? Just like that, into the Federation’s most important centre?).

Jardzia goes down, the nearest Orb gets carbonated, the Wormhole vanishes, Sisko falls ill on the Defiant‘s bridge, the attack succeeds, the Dax symbiont is saved, Worf mourns, Sisko mourns then he buggers off to Earth on indefinite Leave of Absence (Supreme Tactical Commander of the Federation and he can just nip off on holiday like that?). And, to make it all seem so serious, he takes his baseball.

No, this one fell flat on its face in so many respects. It failed to provide even a half decent send-off for Farrell, it spilled dross over everything else, it was completely unconvincing, and if I’m in a minority again, sobeit. After six seasons, they should know how to do better than this.

Six months from now, give or take the odd double-episode, I’m going to be coming to the end of this long run of Deep Space Nine Tuesdays. I’d like to hope the show finale is better than this was. For once, I’d accept a spoiler warning that it is.

Deep Space Nine: s06 e25 – The Sound of her Voice


Foreshadowing

The penultimate episode of season 6 worked out in the end as not working for me. It was an A/B story episode, with the B story centred upon Quark, which was enough to mar any hope the episode had of impressing me. You’re all aware by now of my antipathy towards Ferenghi, but that twenty-one carat disaster of a story two episodes back has finished things: this was too soon and too Quark. I couldn’t care about it, I could barely keep my eyes on the screen when it was on.

Unfortunately, a lot of that seeped back into the A story, to the extent that I’m not sure how much of my ultimately cold response to it is the poisoning by the B story, and how much was down to that element’s failure in its own terms.

Half the station staff – Sisko, Worf, Bashir and O’Brien, plus Kasidy Yates – have completed a mission escort a freight convoy when the Defiant picks up a distress call from Captain Lisa Cusack, a Federation officer stranded on a hostile planet after a crash that destroyed her ship and all her crew. The Defiant sets off on a rescue mission that will take them six days to arrive. Unfortunately, Captain Cusack is on a planet with a high CO2 atmosphere and it will be touch and go whether they can arrive before she dies.

This late in the season, it seems an odd, irrelevant concept for an episode, but Captain Cusack turns out to be just a McGuffin. She’s a voice on a radio (guest star Debra Wilson was a voice actor and chosen on that basis), in need of someone to talk to whilst she waits. Sisko, Bashir and O’Brien take it in turns to engage her in conversation, which rapidly reveals that Captain Cusack is a device to get various cast members to talk about what’s bothering them, what effect the Dominion War is having on them.

It was all a bit too mechanical, too blatant for me to actually feel that much involvement in the cast’s issues, especially as most of them seemed to have been invented for the episode, without grounding over previous weeks that would make them look an organic development.

And ultimately the Defiant arrived in the nick of time only to find that Captain Cusack had been dead for three years and the radio conversations had been bouncing forward and backwards in time in a very convenient manner that sounded completely artificial and a cheap ending, even though the concept of conversations across time was the initial concept that grew into this script.

As for the B story, it starts when Quark realises that Odo can be distracted from his duties by his love for Kira so he edges the Constable towards an Anniversary date to celebrate their first month. This enables him to set up a profitable smuggling deal, free from interference. Jake Sisko breaks character to go along with observing every detail of the deal on condition he doesn’t tell anyone else anything. The scam is set to take place Saturday evening but Odo plans to celebrate Sunday evening instead. Odo despairs of yet another, this time ruinous failure and after all he did for Odo in finally pushing him into Kira’s arms. Odo overhears this and abruptly switches his date back to Saturday night. Quark celebrates beating Odo at last but Odo’s only done it because he did owe Quark one, but only one. There. I’m sure that to the right fan, that was delightful but I’ve had it way past here with Quark and that’s not going to change.

I’m afraid I found the finale a bit too mechanical as well. The Defiant crew hold an Irish Wake for Captain Cusack, speaking about how she has changed them. Jardzia Dax is present with Worf. O’Brien talks of staying close with friends “because someday we’re going to wake up and we’re going to find that someone is missing from this circle.” And the camera pans to Dax.

It’s not exactly subtle and it’s far from impressive. Had this episode been half a dozen weeks ago, that would have worked far better, as a reminder that this is a War and sometimes even important people get killed in wars, but it’s like putting up a neon sign here.

So, one that might have been much better, but in the end wasn’t. And, next week…

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:s06 e20 – His Way


Changeling in a Tuxedo – wasn’t that a Morrissey song?

My parents loved Frank Sinatra and Nat ‘King’ Cole. I grew up, as a little boy, on sounds like these, on the BBC’s Light Programme. It was a little terraced house, with the radio on and the music was inescapable unless I went and hid in my bedroom, or was playing outside. They hated pop music, so both there, and at the semi-detached we later moved into, I heard virtually nothing of the music of the Sixties whilst it was rolling out. Pretty much all my love for that music is retrospective.

As a result, I am virtually completely inoculated against music of that ilk. It belongs to my parents. It isn’t, and can’t be, anything of mine. It’s ineradicably severed from the music that influences me. And it has always seemed that the only music you ever hear on American TV programmes is this relic of a past now long since gone: light, snappy, a bit jazzy, light. Lacking in energy, passion and raw enthusiasm. As if the audience can’t take anything later in style than maybe 1961-62: the Rat Pack era. Frank and Dean. And Vic. Vic Fontaine, that is.

Which is why an episode of Deep Space Nine built upon that music, that style, that retrograde ethos, showcasing the kind of songs that take me back to Brigham Street and playing with plastic soldiers on the floor, with drying clothes hung on the folding maiden in front of the fire, was never going to fly with me. Four hundred years in the future and we are still aping Frank and Dean.

My great criticism of The Original Series is that I find it impossible to believe in a galaxy run according to the mores of mid-Fifties midwest America. It’s ironic to see it’s darkest and deepest sequel sinking into the music of that time.

Basically, guest star James Darren (guest? It was practically his show) plays Vic Fontaine, nightclub/lounge singer and self-aware hologram in Bashir’s latest programme. Vic sings and tells cheesy jokes but he’s also a master of love. Odo, still mooning over Kira, who’s off to Bajor to see ex-boyfriends, Shakaar, asks Vic for advice.

Put like that, you can see what a bad idea it is. Played out over 45 minutes, Odo is every bit as inept and awkward as you’d expect him to be. I was a bit surprised though, not to get any frissons of recognition from my own ineptitude and awkwardness, though it was probably the unreality of the situation that kept me from feeling too much of myself in things.

Vic teaches Odo to unwind, relax, cool it, have fun, not that Odo changes too much. He introduces him to torch singer Lola Christoff (Nana Visitor in a red sheath dress, breathily singing ‘Fever’), and having a definite thing for Our Changeling Friend, but Odo can’t take that step because though she looks like Nerys, she doesn’t act like her.

So the ever-resourceful Vic (he manages to get his hologram self everywhere) gets Kira to come for dinner in the holosuite, cons Odo into thinking this is a perfect hologram duplicate, and serves them up the perfect cliche Fifties dinner, dance and shag date.

Of course we only get the first two, because when Odo realises that this is the Kira, the real Kira, everything blows up in a perfect storm of embarrassment. Leading to the cliche ending: Odo avoids Kira, Kira decides to settle it by asking him to dinner, a real dinner, they start shouting at each other, on the Promenade, over the sequence of events: dinner, dancing, kissing, why bother with the preliminaries, lets have the massive passionate snog right here, in public, with the crowd practically holding up scorecards: 9.1, 9.6, 9.3…

Both Nana Visitor and Rene Auberjonois thought this development wrong for their characters, and so do I, but the season 7 finale was already in mind, including Odo’s resolution, if not quite yet its title, and there had to be something to lose. The story had been played out since season 2, and the showrunners wanted it to progress towards that end (the rationale is somewhat male-centric: give the guy a girl so he’s got something precious to sacrifice, but what about her?) even if the actors felt it wrong.

For once, I seem to be in with the majority, who didn’t like the episode, though they’re not as alienated by the music as I am. The showrunners still defend it, but this was one for them and not the audience. Mam and Dad would have liked it, though.

Deep Space Nine: s06 e17 – Wrongs Darker than Death or Night


Bajoran comfort women

Though this is a highly-respected episode, once again I’m more ambivalent than many in my response to it. ‘Wrongs Darker than Death or Night’, a title taken from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem Prometheus Bound is a Kira Nerys solo vehicle revisiting her past during the Bajoran Occupation, refining her ‘relationship’ with Gul Dukat, but from a completely different angle, albeit one whose beats were a little too predictable, even down to the angle on which the greatest moral ambiguity turned.

In an initially comic open in which Worf and Dax provided the set-up, we learn that today is what would have been Nerys’s mother’s 60th birthday, to be celebrated with Bajoran lilacs. Nerys lost her mother aged three, and her only memories are those her father gave her, of a strong and brave woman.

So we’re not in the least surprised when Nerys is woken in the night by a mystery transmission from Dukat, undermining said memories by claiming Kira Meru (Leslie Hope) was his lover and left her husband for him.

Nor are we surprised that, despite Nerys’ steadfast rejection of this as a blatant lie, she’s still undermined by this claim, so much so that she uses the Orb of Time to go back in time to see the truth.

Immediately she finds her starving family, including her three-year old self, and effectively meets her beautiful-if-strained looking mother for the first time. Just in time for Meru, Nerys and a dozen other unaccountably still beautiful, shapely, sexy Bajoran women to be seized as ‘comfort women’ for Cardassian officers on, guess where, Terak Nor, aka Deep Space Nine.

So that explains it. But the episode was set on a greater moral ambiguity than that. Yes, Gul Dukat has his eyes on Meru, impresses her by having her facial scar dissolved, cuts her out from the ‘herd’ with a much-used ploy. And seduces her even further by offering her both limitless food and the promise that her husband and children will be taken care of, in their own comfort. The fact still remains, and it’s not belaboured, that Meru has no option but to allow herself to be taken to bed by Dukat.

Nerys, whose moral absolutes have been formed by a long career with the resistance, as well as the example of a mother turn away by the Cardassians, finds it impossible to forgive Meru. She is a Collaborator, and in one sense worse than the occupiers themselves. What is worse though is that Meru is enjoying herself. She has plenty of food and pretty clothes, the things she dreamed of as a child. Sure, she openly and bitterly acknowledges the irony of how she’s come by them, and how horrible it makes her feel, and she is doing all this – betraying her husband, abandoning her children, fucking a Cardassian – because this will aid her family. But she’s also enjoying the luxury, and Nerys cannot forgive her for that. As far as Nerys is concerned, even the tiniest fraction of enjoyment is ultimate: like in America in pre-Civil War times,where a one hundredth part of black blood in someone’s heritage made them black, not white.

So Nerys joins the Resistance, exploits her mother’s liking and affinity for her to gain access to Dukat’s quarters and plants a bomb that will kill not just Dukat but Meru. But after setting its irreversible ‘fuse’, Nerys sees Meru watching a transmission from her father, Taban. Everything Dukat has promised is true. They have gone home, are well looked-after, the children are healthy and happy, all because of the sacrifice Meru is making. And Meru’s response is sobbing.

Nerys’s certainty breaks. She warns Meru, gets her out. Less explicably, she also warns Dukat, who is further in and who could easily have been left to die (a choice we have to attribute to the Will of the Prophets and the principle of not drastically buggering about with the Past). Everyone survives and Nerys bounces back to the present.

The close is interesting, thanks to Nana Visitor’s insistence on a re-write of a scene that originally had her openly forgiving her mother. Ms Visitor was insistent that Nerys would not be so unequivocal, and of course she was right. The episode doesn’t judge, and Sisko explicitly says that no-one can judge Meru’s decision but Meru herself. Nerys still wants to condemn Collaborators. In a way, it’s a cop-out ending that all she does is acknowledge that it’s not as simple as she always thought it was, but the morality is truly ambiguous, and ultimately there is no right or wrong answer, only the choices we ourselves would make if we were to find ourselves in such extreme circumstances, which we hope we never will.

It ties into the greater good question: can harm to the few be justified by relief for the many? Meru ensures safety and security for her family. What would you or I do? When I was married, I would have sacrificed myself in a heartbeat for them, without a shred of doubt as to whether I was doing ‘the right thing’ or not. ‘The right thing’ was their sanctity.

Having thought it over, I’m more impressed by the episode now than in actually watching it, when I was too aware of the mechanics of its construction and the predictability of its component elements. But, as I’ve often had to remind myself, if not recently, this was a prime-time entertainment drama of twenty years ago, with the inherent restrictions on time, budget and leaving things how you found them for next week that the form required.

And I’ve just now realised that, only three years after this guest appearance, Leslie Hope played Teri Bauer in season 1 of 24! She looks a lot hotter here…

Deep Space Nine: s06 e14 – One Little Ship


Tiny spaceship time

We’re already into the back half of season 6 and, whilst there were a few things about this episode that aren’t going to escape critical comment, I enjoyed this rather more than I’ve done for some weeks. ‘One Little Ship’ was something of a comedic episode, helpfully signalled to the audience in the open by having Major Kira burst into hysterical laughter over the premise, but the humour was more in the playing by Colm Meaney, Alexander Siddig and Terry Farrell, as the three who shrunk, because the story was otherwise completely serious.

There was a certain amount of disguised playing to the open as well. Everybody’s off on the ‘Defiant’ doing a scientific mission as a break from the ongoing War that’s ongoing exceedingly slowly and mostly everywhere else except near Deep Space Nine. Point of criticism #1: I’m very disappointed in DS9‘s failure of nerve over the War, which they’ve started but don’t really have any commitment in pursuing, taking every opportunity they can to run away from it into a one-off story. ‘One Little Ship’ set up shop to appear to be doing that again. But it didn’t.

And there was a point when I thought that, for the first time in quite some time, we were going to have the old A-story/B-story set-up, with Dax, O’Brien and Bashir having one adventure in the Accretion Anomaly that was going to shrink them to about half a centimetre in height, and Sisko, Kira, Worf and Nog having another when the ‘Defiant’ was attacked and captured by Jem’Hadar. I was proven wrong on both points.

What happened was that, because it exited the anomaly on a different course from its entry (the anomaly being the MacGuffin, the scientific gobbledegook required to create the situation), the runabout Rubicon was stuck at 4cm long. So the tiny ship had to fly into the ‘Defiant’ and use all manner of sneakiness to zip here and there, lending a next-to-invisible hand to the Sisko-led response to the invasion.

In this, the shrunken warriors were aided by an intriguing new plot development that was never mentioned again, because nobody bothered to follow up on it. After the Jem’Hadar fleet was destroyed in the Wormhole, the Founders decided not t try to bring in any more Jem’Hadar but instead breed a new Jem’Hadar race on the spot (shades of the Mekon’s ‘New Treens’ in my favourite Dan Dare story, ‘All Treens Must Die!’).

These ‘Alpha’s are specially bred, genetically redesigned to thrive on war in the Alpha Quadrant, which has created a friction between the new, upstarts Alphas and the long-established but now overshadowed Gammas. The First is an Alpha, the Second a Gamma, and a well-respected Elder who was himself First until just two days ago. The Second has a great deal of experience, the First has practically none, and not only does he ignore the Second’s advice, he openly resents it and is even more determined to go his own way, with the arrogance of (assumed) natural superiority.

Needless to say, the Second is right at every turn, though his reward is a death that overcomes him before he is able to complete the Jem’Hadar mantra, ‘Obedience is Victory: Victory is Life’.

Point of Criticism #2: everyone agrees this Jem’Hadar division should have been taken further, but it never was. That relegation to a one-off weakens what was, ultimately, a fundamental plot-point, makes it look as if it’s a gimmick that was invented as a ‘Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free’ card, and you know how often I’ve complained of cheap, shoddy writing in the last thirty months. That it was intended as a permanent development redeems it a little, but it should still have been woven into the overall storyline.

Then again, in way way could this have been used that wasn’t basically a repetition of this episode? The answer is, I Don’t Know, but I’m sure a bank of screenwriters could have come up with something.

‘One Little Ship’ was filmed before last week’s ‘Far Beyond the Stars’ but airedafter because of the increased post-production time, adding the shrunken ‘Rubicon’ in Special Effects, which brought the episode an Emmy nomination. It may not have been of great significance overall, but I personally had a better time than I’ve had for many Deep Space Nine Tuesdays.

Deep Space Nine: s06 e11 – Waltz


Who will love Aladdin Sane?

By and large, I’ve been pretty successful at avoiding spoilers, considering I’m watching a series from twenty years ago. I should distinguish that as being specific spoilers, however: there is one about Odo I’d really rather not know given its circumstances, but that’s not bad after nearly two and a half years of doing this.

However, it is much harder to avoid more generalised spoilers, especially when it comes too my post-watch research: Memory Alpha is invaluable to me in one sense, but when it considers how a specific episode relates to a character in the round of their overall arc, it can give away more than I’d like to know.

I’ve long since been aware of the controversy among DS9 fans over the degeneration of Gul Dukat’s character over the last two seasons. Dukat is, I am led to believe, reduced to a one-dimensional, mad, wholly evil character, with none of the multi-level facets he’s displayed thus far, to the benefit of the series as a whole. This is where it starts.

I’ll return to that aspect in due course. The episode is structured as a two-hander, much the most effective approach, with minimal use of other characters. Dukat, officially recovered from his post-Ziyal’s death breakdown, is being transported to a Federation prison to await trial as a war criminal: Sisko is there to give evidence. Dukat is already visibly disturbed at being considered in such a light, though he minimises this.

Then the starship is attacked and destroyed. Sisko is injured, with a broken left arm and plasma burns down all that side of his body. He wakes to find that he and Dukat are marooned on an inhospitable planet, their shuttle damaged, a distress beacon going (these last two points are lies on Dukat’s part). They are stranded until someone arrives to rescue them, when they will once again be hero and prisoner (villain). Which is which will depend on who gets there first.

But that’s not the point. The point is to isolate Sisko and Dukat, Emissary and Adversary, and let them unravel. Or rather, let Dukat unravel, for Sisko is only weakened by physical issues and Dukat is mentally unstable. He hallucinates, holds conversations with Weyoun, Dumar, even Major Kira. Dukat fully intends to kill Sisko, but not until Sisko admits that he respects Dukat.

Plainly and simply, Dukat is going mad, or actually is mad. The hallucinations, the gradually increasing degree of mania in his talk, amplified by the gradually increasing submissiveness of his imaginary debaters, feeding his monstrous ego, and his overriding delusion that he is and always has been The Good Guy, are overt manifestations, but the most powerful sign that Dukat’s grasp on reality is no longer of this earth is that he seriously believes that he will get Sisko to admit that he secretly does respect Dukat.

Which Sisko will never do, not in a million years.

Beaten, battered, bruised, a visibly weakening Sisko finally stops temporising in the knowledge that he’s going to be killed soon and directly confronts Dukat. The Gul believes himself to be innocent, to have been the victim of misunderstandings all along, the Bajorans were responsible for everything he had to do whilst Prefect under the Occupation. If onlythey’d accepted he was their friend, was trying to assist them. That Cardassians were their superiors and the Bajorans an inferior race, fit only for subjection. Dukat was the Good Guy.

It’s a testament to Marc Alaimo’s abilities as Dukat that he can sell this so powerfully and convincingly. It’s self-deluding twaddle, and it’s in a sense overly-simplistic. The episode is gearing itself towards its pay-off, in Sisko declaring Dukat simply and purely evil, in a child-like sense. Alaimo’s intensity and range enables us to believe this.

In a way, Sisko’s actions do lead to what follows for the remainder of DS9. It’s that familiar old tactic of getting the mad villain onto a roll and feeding him until he blurts out the truth, which is that Dukat basically hates all Bajorans and wishes he had killed themĀ  all. This is the moment when Dukat steps over the line that brooks no retreat. It’s consciously done: after all, Gul Dukat is supposed to be the Villain, the Big Bad, Deep Space Nine‘s Public Enemy No. 1, and here were fans loving the character, even to the extent of defending his crimes.

So this is a reset, a firm exercise in button-pushing, in pushing the character into a position from where he becomes indefensible, strait-jacketed into what the Plot demands he be. Dukat’s been lying. The distress beacon isn’t working. The shuttle isn’t damaged. Now he’s faced the truth within himself,that he’s been avoiding acknowledging all this time, Dukat has embraced his true nature fully. Now, once and for always, he is Bajor’s enemy, and will destroy them all (when the villain’s motivation reduces to a Chris Claremont X-Men schtick, you know there’s something wrong).

But when Dukat escapes, he sends a signal to the rescue ship that enables them to rescue Sisko. After all, there’s no point in winning if your beaten enemy isn’t there to show off to. Even Sisko now admits it’s personal.

To go back to the overall character arc, I will wait to see how things develop. On the one hand, I can see the dramatic necessity of this move, but on the other I can easily understand the lack of subtlety involved in reducing a character to a single characteristic. Psychologically, it is plausible: a person who has been denying an essential facet of their character will frequently absorb it to the point of obsession once they are forced to confront it. It’s still a cliched move, especially in how it’s brought out. And it is far better to have a multi-faceted villain, one whose actions may not be unrelievedly evil, and whose degree of villainy can be debated. On the other hand, when the fans start justifying the villain as Supreme Dictator of a Subjugated Planet, then it is time to do a bit of drastic course correction.

We’ll see. As for the rest of the cast, they have minimal roles to play in a rescue give artificial time-limits in order to crank up a degree of melodrama, but that’s artificial bullshit and is so underplayed it can be ignored.

None of this would work at all without Marc Alaimo ‘being’ Gul Dukat to the fullest extent, and all praise to him. For all this episode’s pre-fabricated aspects, he made it work, made it tense and gripping, and made this the best episode to date since the return to Deep Space Nine. I just wish I didn’t know when he and Sisko have their next, and final meeting…