Deep Space Nine: s06 e04 – Behind the Lines


Whether it be me or Deep Space Nine, things were back on track this week, and I personally felt this to be the best episode so far of season 6.

As has bee the pattern thus far, it’s divided between the war and the station, but for a change of pace, it was the latter that formed the A story, and quite rightly so. The nature of the B story changed substantially in the writing, with several deep and complex ideas being rejected because they would have made this strand too complex to exist as the B story.

Whilst I agree with this approach, it did have the unfortunate effect of neutering that side of the episode, pushing the actual story so far out of sight, literally, as to be unimportant.

Basically, Admiral Ross orders Sisko and the Defiant on a mission to destroy a well-protected Sensor array that’s plotting the movement of all Federation ships and handing the Dominion a massive technological advantage. Then Ross promotes Sisko to become his Adjutant, putting direct command of the mission and the ship in the hands of Dax. The mission is a spectacular success, entirely offscreen: what we see is Sisko’s concerns at his crew going into danger without him.

I’m informed that Dax’s success in command is going to lead to changes in her character, but Sisko’s elevation to a position of increased authority and responsibility, and his introduction to that aspect of command that involves sending men to war whilst you remain in a position of physical safety is going to be a hard one to row back upon when the War is over: especially in so increasingly military an organisation as Starfleet.

But let’s pass on that. It’s not intended to go too deep, though it might have made a strong episode in itself if the show had been willing to go deeper into the Dominion War than they’re doing. Of far greater importance is the A story, showing the Resistance in action on DS9/Terak Nor.

I’ve got to be honest and say that this story was introduced with some astonishingly clunky writing in the open. Kira and Rom have stolen and strategically passed on Dumar’s ‘iPad’ containing his secret plan to poison the last ration of ketracel White and kill the Jem’Hadar, if the blockade of the Wormholeisn’t relieved before supplies run out. The Jem’Hadar don’t like it. A bar brawl breaks out in Quark’s, with much damage to property and person, and glee for Kira and Rom. The odea’s good, but what kills it is that we see all the action from a silent distance with Kira talking us through everything, as a virtual voiceover. It’s horribly amateurish, it’s wooden, it’s an unattractive Tell imposed on a reduced to insignificant Show.

All the more creditable that the strand should go on to develop so strong a story. The plan was very effective in the eyes of Kira, Rom and Jake, who form three-quarters of the now-established Resistance Committee, but not Odo, the fourth. Odo thought it a bad idea, for disrupting the order on the station, and had walked out without staying to learn that Kira had persuaded everyone otherwise. It makes things uncomfortable for the pair – and Odo remains passionately in love with Kira – with the Major not questioning Odo’s loyalty but coming very close to where she will start to be concerned.

This theme unfortunately gets developed much more after the arrival on the station of the Female Changeling to see Odo. She’s been trapped in the Alpha Quadrant and desires the company of a fellow shapeshifter, or so she says. She persuades Odo into entering the Link with her.

This terrifies Kira as much as it angers her. She extracts a promise from Odo not to Link again until after the war is over. He is a crucial part of the Resistance and discipline is necessary, discipline and a subsuming of personal interest to the primary task.

Dumar, Dukat’s number two, is on the lookout for favour. He’s promoted to Gul, he’s come up with a plan to clear the mines off, he’s drinking way too much at Quark’s. This latter leads him to spill the beans to Quark, who’s beginning to realise that there are more things to life that mere profits and he’d really rather like to have the Federation back, please. So Quark passes this on to the Resistance, om works out how it can be done and how that can be protected, a plan is devised whereby Odo will disable security at a specified time to enable Rom’s act of sabotage…

And Odo, desperate for more understanding of himself and the Changelings, goes into Link with the Female at exactly the wrong moment. The sabotage fails, Rom is arrested, the War is now almost certainly lost. Kira loses her rag with Odo, but the horrifying thing is that Odo hasn’t merely been derelict in his duty, he has become completely indifferent. Only the Link matters. Not even Kira.

It’s a chilling development. Odo has defected. There’s no other way of describing it. He’s done the unforgivable. It’s going to be one hell of a journey back to the side of the goodies, and in the eyes of at least one member of the audience, it’s a case of You Can’t Get There From Here.

Deep Space Nine: s06 e03 – Sons and Daughters

A change of clothing

I don’t quite know why but this latest episode completely misfired on me and I couldn’t get into it on any level save the shallowest one of Nana Visitor looking her most seriously attractive. Some of it is perhaps a change of conditions under which I finally got to see the episode: from here until the end I will be watching DVDs and being region 2, there was a slight cut near the end of which I was not aware in advance but which I managed to sense.

Though this is part three of the six-part arc, it was filmed before last week’s ‘Rocks and Shoals’ to enable the latter to time its location filming. This made it suffer from the unfilmed scene of Sisko and Co’s rescue by General Martok and Worf, which appears in the open as a fait accompli, and an awkward one at that. And it confused the hell out of the sequence of events station-side, with the main purpose of that part of the story being to show Major Kira rejecting her softening towards Gul Dukat when she’s already rejected being a collaborator last week.

I’ll stick with that side of the story to begin with. Kira and Odo’s Resistance is already sufficiently public knowledge for Jake to want to join and Quark to warn him off it. But Dukat has managed to persuade his daughter, Ziyal, to return from Bajor, much to Kira’s joint delight and dismay.

Ziyal is displaying great artistic potential, to the joint pride of her father and her best friend. It didn’t work out on Bajor: no matter how polite everyone was, Ziyal was still Dukat’s daughter, and DS9 is still her only real home.

Using Ziyal as bait, Dukat starts drawing Kira nearer, but once again she steadies herself, refutes him entirely and, with a clear-eyed logic, throws off Ziyal too. This story also served the purpose of building up Ziyal as a holy innocent of sorts, in order to dramatise her forthcoming death.

The other side of the story took place on General Martok’s ship, on a mission escorting a convoy, with five new recruits on board, one of them Alexander Rozhenko, refusing to acknowledge himself as Worf’s son.

Perhaps because I have no recollections of Alexander from those parts of TNG I did watch, perhaps because I don’t have any kind of emotional investment in anything but DS9, I couldn’t get into this story of father and son resentments. It ought to be up my emotional alley, as a son who lost his father at eighteen, but I have no resentments towards my father; he did not abandon me as Worf did Alexander, but died of cancer: not even on the deepest subconscious level do I ‘blame’ him.

So none of this story took hold. It did not feel attached to this arc, except in the most tenuous fashion. It did not ‘work’.

As for that cut scene, Alexander ends the episode by entering the House of Martok. His sigil is bathed in blood, cut and dripped from Martok’s palm. In the original, Worf and Alexander do likewise but this was edited out so as not to encourage the mingling of blood among a teenage audience, in the era of HIV. It isn’t there, but you can tell something’s not there. It was the last thing this episode needed.

Deep Space Nine: s06 e02 – Rocks and Shoals

This episode, part 2 of the six-episode ‘Dominion War’ arc though apparently filmed after part 3 due to location availability, achieved the feat of being dark and bitter without cynicism, indeed of being such within a story that lauded honour.

We are but moments on from the end of ‘A Time to Stand’: the captured Jem’hadar ship that Sisko and Co. are using needs three days of repair but doesn’t get three minutes. Two Jem’Hadar ships are in pursuit and fire, damaging the ship beyond repair, and damaging Jardzia Dax so much that, despite the majority of the episode taking place on a sunny planet, she’s laid up in a cave (a necessary twist, given that Terry Farrell had a skin condition effectively making her allergic to direct sunlight).

To escape, the ship plunges headlong into an uncharted dark nebula, crashing into a digitally-created sea, forcing the crew to have to swim ashore. Unfortunately for them, only two days earlier, a completely different Jem’Hadar ship has crash-landed on the same planet, just a few caves over.

The set-up is a bit too coincidental, though we mustn’t forget that we are still deep in Dominion-controlled space. What follows though only grew in strength, and that odd nobility that seems inextricably intertwined with war, thanks in no small part to the performance of guest star Phil Morris in the role of the Jem’Hadar commander, Third Remata’Klan. Morris chose to play his part as a very steady, close to emotionless, very serious role, lending gravitas to a figure that is supposed to be a drug-dependent, near-deranged, purpose-bred killer, who was to be central to the story.

The story itself was relatively simple. The Jem’Hadar are under the command of the Vorta Keevan (Christopher Shea), who has been wounded in the crash. After Garak and Nog are captured, Remata’Klan is sent with terms: that they will be released unharmed, in exchange for Sisko and Bashir meeting with Keevan. The Vorta’s purpose is two-fold, Bashir to save his life, Sisko for a deal. There is only one vial of White left, between ten soldiers. Once it is gone, they will lose all control and slaughter everyone. In return for his safety, as a Prisoner of War, Keevan will direct the Jem’Hadar into a trap where the Starfleet crew can massacre them. They then get the Jem’Hadar comms unit, which O’Brien can fix and send a rescue message.

Despite his moral reservations about slaughtering the Jem’Hadar, which several of his crew (not Garak, of course) share, Sisko goes ahead. But before ambushing the Jem’Hadar, Sisko offers terms to Remata’Klan. If the Jem’Hadar will surrender, their lives can be spared. Bashir will sedate them and, after rescue, they will be put in stasis until they can cured or returned. They have been betrayed by Keevan, he does not deserve their loyalty.

Here was where the episode hinged on Morris. Remata’Klan refuses. He has known all along that he and his men are being set-up: the plan of attack is tactically stupid. But he is loyal to the Vorta and he has his orders. It’s not that Keevan has to earn loyalty, it is that Remata’Klan was born loyal. It is the way he is. it is the Order of Things.

What depends on Morris, what has been built by his steadfastness, his entrenched solidity throughout, is that we not see this as stupid, as naive or unblinking loyalty, the subservience of cattle. Remata’Klan is more than that. He is an intelligent, thinking being. He knows that what is being done to him and the men for whom he is responsible is wrong, he knows that he faces an enemy far more worthy, who will bend over backwards to assist their own enemies. But he knows who he is, and he has long ago accepted that, and he must act in accordance with the dictates of his being. It is not that he cannot make a different choice, but rather that he will not, and it depends on Phil Morris showing us that and having us believe it or the whole episode is lost.

And without a single histrionic, indeed because there are no histrionics, he knocks it out of the park. There is bitterness, that someone of such high intelligence and purpose has to be killed and even more so in the smug face of Keevan looking down on his dead men as if they are no more than animals, a moment from Shea that was equally crucial to the episode, but as I said above, there was no cynicism, save in Keevan and that moment.

Originally, the script called for a closing scene in which Worf beams down from General Martok’s ship to rescue the stranded crew. Because of the excessive, unanticipated heat on the three-day location shoot, time ran out before this scene could be shot, leaving the episode to focus, much more effectively, on Sisko’s close-up, grappling with his rage at the part he’d had to play in this brutal slaying, wanting to execute the smug, grinning Keevan with his own hands, but having to accept the part his duties, and the condition of war forces upon him.

Of course, this was not all. The parallel DS9/Terak Nor story centred upon Major Kira: the routine of her role as Bajoran Liaison Officer, working on the Bridge with Cardassians and Jem’Hadar alike, the ease with which she slips into the role of trying to prevent Vedek Yassim from organising a protest on the Promenade, her discomfort at Jake Sisko’s entirely reasonable questions.

Then came the shock: the Vedek’s protest turned out to be something very small and very personal, derived no doubt from those Monks who, in order to protest the  regime in Vietnam, would set themselves alight in public and burn to death. Vedek Yassim jumps from the upper deck of the Promenade with a noose around her neck.

The sight shocks Kira into realising just how gradually, how easily, she has slipped into becoming a collaborator. Even though her role is in line with Sisjo’s orders, in her own eyes she has become what she despised in the days of the Cardassian Occupation. She must become an active, not a passive, resistor.

That’s to come, some of it, I suspect, next week as the writers juggled with episodes being written out of order and how later episodes affected earlier ones written afterwards. We’ll see how that pans out.

Deep Space Nine: s06 e01 – ‘A Time to Stand’

A look of disgust

At the end of season 5, my researches turned up some interesting details about the crosssover to season 6, when the Dominion War would start to play out in earnest.  Firstly, there was the show’s resistance to having cliffhanger endings to seasons, born of their desire to have a free hand at the start of next season to take whatever direction they thought best suited, as opposed to being tied down to respond to a specific set-up.

And the second was a particular example of that, being the closing shot of season 5. The Defiant, retreating from Terek Nor, as it has once again become, joins a Federation/Klingon fleet and swings round to lead it. This little present from the Special Effects team was not what was wanted: it implies an immediate retaliatory attack, which was not what had been intended and thus further dictated how season 6 was going to have to play out.

So here we are. Technically, ‘A Time to Stand’ is the first part of a multi-episode story, originally intended to cover four episodes but eventually running out at six. I normally treat two-parters and even three-parters as a single story for this blog’s  purposes, but I’m not going to watch and write about six in one go. In any event, the impression I have, on which I stand to be corrected, is that this is not a cohesive single story, but rather the onset of a serialised format, at least temporarily.

This change caused no little consternation on Deep Space Nine about whether or not this was a step too far, even though serialisation was always implicit in a format built around a stationary setting. I shall have to pay careful attention to this extended storyline as it unfolds, and even more to what follows it.

Three months have passed and the Federation is losing the Dominion War, even without the availability of reinforcements via the still-mined Wormhole. Tensions are rising between Dukat and Weyoun over who, exactly is in charge. The gang’s still split up: Kira, Odo, Quark and Jake, the latter of whom’s press reports are being suppressed due to anti-Dominion bias, are still on the station, Worf with General Martok and an increasingly exhausted Sisko, Dax, O’Brien and Bashir on the Defiant, supplemented by Garak and Nog.

Worf turns up briefly, to argue with Jardzia about their forthcoming wedding ceremony and take her off for a shag, but the rest of the episode beats back and forth between the two main groups. Quark’s in profit, and rather more reconciled to the occupation, in part because it’s considerably more humane than under the Cardassians, although that won’t last if Dukat gets the upper hand on Weyoun. Kira and Odo are working in concert. Dukat makes plain his ongoing interest in her lilywhite body, and she her ongoing preference to make it with leprous swine in preference (not that she uses such words…)

At Kira’s prompting, Odo exploits his god-like status with Weyoun to get his Bajoran security team reinstated and re-armed, at the cost of agreeing to join the station ruling Council alongside the Vorta and the Cardassian. It’s a move that worries Kira, making it feel like a defeat.

Meanwhile, Sisko and crew are ordered to Starbase 375 where Admiral Ross (a first appearance by new recurring guest Barry Jenner) relieves him of command of the Defiant. Fear not: Sisko and Co are heading deep into Cardassian/Dominion territory, in the refurbished Jem’Hadar ship captured in season 5, to destroy the asteroid where all the supplies of Ketracell White are kept, crippling the Jem’Hadar threat.

And the mission is a success, but not without a cost: the asteroid suspects something, refuses to lower its security shield. The ship escapes at the last second, thanks to precise in-his-head calculations from Doctor Bashir, whose revealed  status as a genetically-enhanced being is being played up all of a sudden. But it is badly damaged. It’s Warp Drive is fried. And under normal power, the journey back to a Federation base is going to take seventeen years, two months and three days (give or take an hour: thank you, Julian).

All of this is very Voyager, albeit over a projected timescale less than a quarter of the length of the franchise’s other extant series, but as we already know, this arc covers six episodes not seven seasons, so the wait will not be indefinite.

Judged in isolation, this is very much a set-up episode, with only the relatively minor resolution of the accomplished mission to point to, and even the implications of that will have weeks to play out. So let’s not judge it yet: there are still five parts to go. The last year starts here.

Deep Space Nine: s05 e26 – Call to Arms

Don’t make yourself too comfortable…

This is the point that’s taken me over two years to reach, the outermost point of those evenings twenty years ago, of sprawling in front of the BBC2 showings of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The end of season 5, the start of the Dominion War. By the time DS9 came back, I had a house full of people, and coming in, throwing off my jacket and tie and sprawling on the couch was no longer an viable option.

I started watching DS9 from the beginning to fill in the beginning and end of a middle that, falsely, I remembered as stretching maybe as much as three seasons. When I finally caught up with my recollections, it turned out to be not even one full season. But the end of season 5 concludes that phase of the rewatch. Ahead of me lies terra incognita, just as much as if things had never gone the way they did and I had remained free to watch TV whenever I felt like it.

‘Call to Arms’ might have begun with the comic note of Rom and Leeta trying to agree a wedding dress for a ceremony in which, under Ferengi culture, she should have been naked (insert your own shallow comment here), but swiftly modulated to the tension that underlies the approach of war. The Dominion are bringing in warfleets every week, via the Wormhole, en route to Cardassia, regular as clockwork. Sisko has to take a decision: do nothing, and allow an irresistible fleet to be assembled, capable of ultimate victory when it chooses to act, or halt the incoming reinforcements, and preciptate war now.

The only choice, if victory is to be possible, is the latter: Sisko orders  the entrance to the Wormhole to be mined.

Weyoun appears, to protest, to suggest a deal by which the mines are removed and the Dominion limits itself to civilian ships, medical and economic assistance for the poor, stricken Cardassian Empire. Sisko will consult the Federation, which isn’t sending its own reinforcements, for reasons we won’t learn until the end (a Federation/Klingon attack that destroys the Dominion shipyards in Cardassian territory). No-one believes anything for a moment.

War is coming. Everyone’s preparing for it. Keiko O’Brien and the children have been evacuated back to Earth, Jake Sisko won’t go because a reporter’s duty is to be where the action is. The Romulan Empire has signed a non-aggression pact with the Dominion, Sisko advises Bajor to do the same, over Major Kira’s protests: five years ago, he was assigned to DS9 to protect Bajor after it gained its independence and that duty still remains, so he will use his position as Emissary to take them out of the firing line.

All Bajorans evacuate. Rom and Leeta get Sisko to marry them, before she is ordered to go: Rom has a duty to stay as a Starfleet member, and a duty to protect his brother, who seems for once to appreciate this. Gul Dukat’s half-Bajoran daughter, Tora Ziyal parts reluctantly from Garak. Quark starts smuggling in yamok sauce. Odo and Kira are still acting awkwardly around each other until Odo officially tells her that he’s locking away his feelings for the duration (some of these scenes are more effective emotionally than others: you can actually hear the writing staff’s cheers of relief underlying this one).

Seeding the wormhole with self-replicating mines (Rom’s suggestion) takes time, and the Defiant   will be a sitting duck until it has finished. And it is not finished when the War steps across the line between coming and arriving. A Dominion/Cardassian fleet under Gul Dukat comes to attack DS9. General Martok’s Klingon Warbird protects the Defiant. The station defends itself steadfastly, destroying 50 ships. But once the seeding is done, it is time to take the inevitable decision. Deep Space Nine is lost: the Federation will evacuate.

Not permanently. Sisko, his staff and Garak depart to join a major fleet approaching DS9. McArthur-like, he promises he will return. Quark’s bar stays open. Rom rejoins him as Assistant Manager and (self-proclaimed?) Federation spy. Jake remains as a journalist, trusting in his ‘status’ as the emissary’s son to protect him.

Major Kira, Odo and Quark officially greet Dukat’s return to Terak Nor. The Major has already initiated a Sisko-developed programme that thoroughly wipes the control room computers of any ability to function.

But although it’s not the final shot, that being the cliched one of Sisko looking defiant, the episode and the series ends with a very effective moment. Gul Dukat commandeers the station commander’s office: his again, after five long years of waiting for revenge. It has been stripped of everything, but one item, Sisko’s baseball. Dukat recognises it as a message. Sisko is coming back.

We move onwards, I move onwards towards the only real step into the future since I began this series back in October 2015. Everything until now has been backing and filling, getting up to speed with the background to that brief period of which I was already aware. Forward I go.

Next week being Christmas week, I haven’t decided yet whether or not to take a week’s break. It is a perfect point to do so, but on the other hand, habit is habit. If you don’t get a DS9 post off me next Tuesday, that’ll be why, and we’ll pick things up again in the New Year.

Deep Space Nine s05 e22: Children of Time

A valley, in Time

Except for one minor flaw, at the end, created by TV’s insistence on spelling everything out, this was one of the best DS9 episodes I have seen, a bubble-story taking place in a bubble-environment, presenting a simple, yet beautifully complex moral question.

Returning from the Gamma Quadrant (I understand, for the last time until the ultimate finale), the Defiant, carrying all the senior staff, is eager to get home but is distracted into a detour by Jardzia Dax’s insatiable curiosity about a nearby planet screened by quantum fields. Sisko agrees a look, but on the way through the barrier, half the ship’s functions are knocked out and Kira takes an electrical discharge through the chest.

But this is nothing compared to the ship being hailed, immediately, by representatives of the 8,000 strong community below, representatives who know the Defiant‘s crew only too well. Their names are Yedrin Dax and Miranda O’Brien. They, like everyone else on this planet, are the descendents of the crew of the Defiant which, less than two days from now, will be thrown back in time 200 years, and be marooned on this planet.

It’s a simple, beautiful set-up, with a deadly edge. For once, it is a purely science fiction idea, of the kind rarely seen in DS9 which, for all its sophistication, is still basically space-opera.  And it carries with it a terrible choice. We know the Defiant will leave, that everyone will survive, as surely as we know that there are still four more episodes this season.

But in this fractal time-line, this isolated bubble in the Universe, it crashes back to the planet and the crew must make a life, using only the relatively limited technology that survives with them. And the electrical discharge that hit Kira kills her within weeks, for lack of the sophisticated infirmary on DS9.

In the two hundred years that have passed, the unwilling colonists have built an idyllic world, in beautiful country, and make no mistake, the valley in which this is set in beautiful and I immediately wanted to go there and go walking there. They have become a community, at one with each other. All the senior staff have extended families of descendents. Worf and Dax got married. There are Klingons here, not all of them biologically so, but all honouring Worf, Son of Mogh. There are Siskos and Bashirs, and even O’Briens, though the Chief, with a wife and children he longs to get back to, holds himself the furthest off these heirs, just as his original iteration did.

Even Yedrin Dax is the Dax symbiont, merged with another Trill: he is still Sisko’s friend and mentor, still the Old Man.

And it has Odo. The same Odo, now better able to control his shapeshifting so that he looks a lot more like Rene Auberjonois than he normally does. An Odo who has waited two hundred years to see Kira Nerys again, and to tell her, after all this time, that he loves her. Which disturbs her greatly. Even more so than the knowledge that she can visit her own grave and pray over it.

It’s an idyll. But it’s an idyll dependent upon a tragedy, the crash of the Defiant, the tearing away of these people from the lives they knew, the responsibilities they faced, the people they loved, like Jake Sisko. And it depends on Kira Nerys dying.

But Yedrin has a plan, a cunning plan, to get all around this. If carefully plotted, the Defiant‘s passage of the Barrier can create a Quantum duplicate, in effect two Defiants, one to stay and one to go home. It’s a beautiful construction that satisfies two impossible alternates. And we know it can’t work for where would there be a story, where would there be a shadow? And it can’t work: Dax figures it out, confronts Dax, who admits he’s only trying to ensure history repeats itself, out of overwhelming guilt at being responsible for the whole thing in the first place. Yedrin is trying to ensure that all his people, his community, his life, will still come into existence, instead of winking out forever, a closed loop, if the Defiant gets away.

Everyone is affected. The episode, without bogging anything down, makes time to show everypne’s reactions to this enclosed community, to get to know and understand these people, to see themselves in them, to really understand that these are our children and our children’s children. And to absorb that escape, returning to their own lives, means killing them. All of them.

In the end, even O’Brien comes over, once he’s unbent himself to plant with another Molly O’Brien. They will do it. They will let themselves crash. They will ensure that history is repeated exactly. Even though it can’t be, since this time the crew go into this with their eyes open and in full knowledge, that originally they didn’t possess, ensuring that their actions cannot replicate what once occurred, but that’s a subtlety too far for a TV show.

Except that, at the last moment, the decision is taken away from them. The auto-pilot, so precisely calculated, veers past the anomaly and through the barrier unscathed. Do Not pass Go, Do Not pass into the past, Do Not detect 8,000 life-forms on the planet below.

How? The course has been tampered with, history has been altered, irreversibly, but by who? The obvious candidate in Yedrin Dax, a last-minute change of heart, and the makers admit that in an older version of Star Trek that would have been the solution. But you and I who have been watching this episode with our eyes and ears and, most importantly, our hearts open, know where to look, and it is here and not the fact that, temporally speaking, the whole idea couldn’t work due to latterday foreknowledge, where the story’s one true flaw comes. We have to be told. It has to be made explicit. It has to be thrust in your face, where it cannot but have consequences that we will never experience because it will never be alluded to again.

Because it was Odo, of course. The older Odo, the more open Odo, the Odo that can tell a Kira who has literally stepped out of his memories that he loves her, and who is prepared to sacrifice himself and 7,999 other lives for hers when she has taken a decision in accordance with her religious beliefs that her death to facilitate their lives is her Path.

What consequences this has, if consequences there be, which I suspect there will not, for Kira and Odo in the present will have to be seen. Given how everyone has reacted, prepared to sacrifice themselves in their natural instinct to protect their young, the only human response would be indescribable guilt.  And given that Odo has been able to spill the beans because Odo linked with him, I would be expecting character swings as the two hundred years of now non-existent experience remains accessible to him. Which we’re not going to see, though I now have some nascent ideas for my own fiction arising out of this.

But if I were giving out ratings to these episodes, I would be awarding ‘Children of Time’ something like A-very-slightly-minus, or 9++ out of 10, because it was so very good, in a way that is only possible with a longstanding series in which we are sure of the characters already but which cannot be fully realised if they are to be the characters of which we are sure next week.

Which has a hard act to follow.

Deep Space Nine: s05 e19: Ties of Blood and Water

A ‘family’

In another week, I might very well have enjoyed this episode much more, or at least have been more impressed by it. Instead, being tired and headachey, I couldn’t really respond to what, when seen through the looking glass, was an obvious attempt to manipulate its audience through a sequence of predictable scenes. So I apologise in advance for the negative tone of what is to follow, which is at least as much me as it is the story.

The episode focuses on Major Kira, which usually cheers me up, and furthermore, for the first time since she first took on the O’Brien’s foetus, Nana Visitor is back in that old form-hugging uniform, and rocking that crocheted undertunic as well.

She’s come up with a plan to undermine the Dominion domination of Cardassia by using the popular political figure of Tekeny Ghemor (LawrencePressman) to lead a counter-revolution, for which purpose he’s on his way to DS9. Ghemor was a leading light in the Cardassian Dissident Movement that led to the lifting of the Occupation on Bajor, which puts him, in Kira’s eyes, firmly in the position of a Good Cardassian, but more importantly, he is the her pseudo-father from the third season episode in which the Obsidian Order transformed the Major into a Cardassian, supposedly Ghemor’s long-lost daughter. Kira loves Ghemor as if a father.

He’s perfect for her plan except for one thing (reaches for the Cliche Drawer): he’s dying.

Basically, the episode is about Kira’s reaction to losing a ‘parent’ again. In the absence of the still-missing Iliana, Kira is the closest Ghemor has to a daughter, or, it seems, to any family. He asks her to share with him the Cardassian ritual of Shri-tal, where a dying person shares all their secrets with their family so that these may be used against their enemies.

Kira is initially reluctant, which the episode will explain by means of flashbacks that I found obvious and banal in my present frame of mind. She persuades herself to do it out of a combination of love for the old man and the strategic value of this information. Ghemor is in pain, and it takes a long, halting time, primarily because the information is a McGuffin, required only to bring Kira to this point.

And we flashback to the Resistance days, in the caves, Furel (William Lucking) in charge, Kira with unflattering, long, straggly hair, and her father brought in, gut-shot, in pain, obviously dying but mainly enraged because the Cardassians had burned down his garden. The clunk I heard at that moment was the rest of the episode falling into place.

Because I knew instantly what it eventually took three flashbacks to establish, that Kira had run out on her father. That he was dying and wanted her with him, but she ran out on him to join a raid on the Cardassian troops responsible, that he died, calling for her, whilst she was gone, and all she did was to a) plan another raid and b) dig his grave in solitude, without fanfare or service.

Gul Dukat’s on board the station by now, insisting on taking Ghemor home to die at ease on Cardassia, and enjoy a lavish state funeral. He’s got Weyoun with him, which seems odd because Weyoun’s dead, killed by his own Jem’Hadar troops, but in order to bring Jeffrey Combs back, the Weyouns have been turned into clones: this is Weyoun 5.

And Dukat offers to reunite Ghemor with Iliana: the Gul knows her whereabouts. Ghemor is not so stupid as to trust him, however, so Dukat goes to the opposite extreme and poisons Kira against him: Ghemor took part in the Liessa Monastery massacre. Angered that he never confessed this to her, Kira breaks off all ties. That Ghemor was a 19 year old soldier under orders is not allowed to influence her, since she’s reverting to her hate-all-Cardassians mode, except that you and I know that a) she’s recalling her father’s death alone because she couldn’t face up to it and b) she’ll go to Ghemor just before the end.

Which she does. Nana Visitor then gets to deliver a monologue of self-realisation, which also comes from the Cliche Drawer, and which only exists for the hard-of-thinking in the audience who haven’t worked any of this out from the copious clues that have been battering them about the temples for the past twenty minutes. I know, I know, prime-time network television in the Nineties, never trust your audience to spot something for themselves, always spell it out in brightly coloured letters on baby blocks.

That’s why this was the wrong week for me to watch this episode. I should have had last week’s Quark-centric atrocity to blog, or next week’s Quark-centric atrocity instead. Something that deserved a good kicking, instead of an earnest, worthy character exploration episode with my favourite cast member (for all the shallow reasons).

One final point, and one skillfully underdrawn, to the point where I didn’t twig it myself but had to read it: to quote Robert Hewitt Wolfe on the scene where the Major shows off Kiriyoshi O’Brien to Ghemor: The father that is not her father. The baby that is not her baby. That’s Kira’s family.

Deep Space Nine: s05 e14/15: In Purgatory’s Shadow/By Inferno’s Light

Band of Brothers

Though we’re well into the block of DS9 episodes I have previously seen, I have to confess I have no recollection of this unexpected mid-season two-parter. Indeed, as this extended story is such a massive game-changer, moving the Dominion War out of its Phoney War stage and into a formal shooting match, there were times when I wondered if my memories were even more scanty, and that this was going to lead to the (temporary) abandonment of the station now, and not at season end.

But on this I was wrong, and happily wrong. It is, nonetheless, a foreshadowing of the inevitable to come, as betrayal follows betrayal, and the entire basis of the series shifts inexorably. To think that this all begins with a typically trivial open to the first part, as Odo reluctantly abandons his bed and reinstals all his shape-shifting gear in his quarters, under some one-sided joshing about romance from the Major, until Kira is summoned to the bridge over a mystery transmission from the Gamma quadrant.

It’s in a highly secret Cardassian code known only to two people, Garak and his mentor/unacknowledged father, Enabran Tain, and it’s a cry for help. Garak persuades Sisko to allow him a runabout, and the unlikely command of Worf (there’s an odd couple for you) to investigate for potential survivors of the disastrous Gamma Quadrant battle. All it leads to is overwhelming Jem’hadar odds and an asteroid internment camp with a motley group of prisoners.

These include Tain, near death from his heart, Klingon General Martok, a Romulan female, a robotic Breen. Oh yes, and Doctor Bashir.

This didn’t come as the surprise it ought to as my regular consultation of Memory Alpha had already revealed that our Bashir had been replaced by a Changeling four weeks ago, and the one we’ve seen over the last couple of episodes had been the wrong one, which was a shame. Meanwhile, the Changeling Bashir is still unsuspected on DS9, where things have suddenly gone tits-up.

Federation listening posts inside the Gamma Quadrant are going out one by one. A Jem’hadar fleet is on the move towards the Wormhole. Sisko puts the station on battle alert and a Federation fleet is on its way. The danger is so great, Sisko decides to take the ultimate fallback option: seal the Wormhole, even if Worf and Garak are trapped on the other side.

But someone sabotages the super-scientific rays that will do that. instead, the Wormhole is widened and stabilised so that it can now never be closed. And a Dominion fleet emerges, ready to overwhelm D9. End of part 1.

But they don’t attack. Instead, they move off towards Cardassian space, with Gul Dukat following. And here’s where the bomb drops. Cardassia has a new leader. He’s been negotiating with the Dominion for months. Cardassia has joined the Dominion. It will become strong again, great again. It will wipe out the Klingons. It will take back what it used to have. Bajor is not mentioned in this. But the new Cardassia leader, Dukat, promises Sisko that he is coming for Deep Space Nine.

So we switch backwards and forwards between the two halves of this story. On the internment camp asteroid, Worf distracts by winning gladiatorial fight after fight, his honour refusing to allow himself to yield. Garak fights another fight, against his claustrophobia, in a tiny, dark space, changing relays by hannd to contact the runabout and transport out.

At DS9, forces build. Chancellor Gowron brings a wounded Klingon fleet to the fight, and reactivates the Accords he previously broke. A Romulan fleet comes to stand by the Federation and the Klingons. A Dominion/Cardassian fleet approaches. Everyone is ready for the mother of all battles, but no-one can find the enemy. And Changeling-Bashir has stolen a runabout and is heading for Bajor’s sun with a bomb that, if detonated within the sun, will send it supernova, wiping out the entire system, DS9 and three spacefleets.

At this critical moment, a priority one message comes from the Gamma Quadrant from Bashir. Sisko, already aware that there’s a Changeling on board DS9, after Changeling-Bashir has, cunningly and mis-directingly, proposed this, immediately susses things out and sends the Defiant, under Kira and Dax, to destroy the runabout. Which, after risking going to warp inside a solar system, they succeed in doing. The day is saved.

The only immediate effect is the installation of a permanent Klingon military force on the station, under the command of General Martok, as recommended by Worf. Everyone’s back, everyone’s back to normal. But it’s a new normal, are set normal, that will now prevail until the end of Deep Space Nine. I very much look forward to it.

I’ve left out a lot of what happens. The mark of a well-written story is that the over-arching story accommodates several smaller, more personal tales, both absorbing and showcasing hese within its major structure, in perfect balance. Worf’s fights. Garak’s need for Tan’s acceptance and his subsequent confrontation with his fears. Zia’s choice between her father and Garak, between two sides at war. All these things are handled with nuance and conviction. If you want to call these a B story, you’d be wrong, because they are integrated within the A story, so that all this pair of episodes is an A story, and indeed an A+ story, but they are worthy of the A story: nothing falls short here.

So the ground rules change. And I look forward to next week’s episode most fervently.

Deep Space Nine: s05 e12: The Begotten

Three ‘generations’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deep Space Nine: s05 e11: The Darkness and the Light

Old friends

Though this is apparently a highly regarded episode among those responsible for Deep Space Nine, for its dark, and in some ways ambiguous tone, once again I found myself less impressed than others, for the very reasons that the show is supposed to be so successful.

For most of its length, ‘The Darkness and the Light’ was an impressively taut one-off episode, a simple, almost simplistic thriller elevated by an excellent and intense performance at the heart of it by Nana Visitor, who hasn’t really been at the heart of things for a long time, thanks to her and Major Kira’s pregnancy.

Someone is killing the former members of Kira’s Resistance Group. Each killing is technologically advanced and surgical: only the intended victims are killed, no ‘collateral damage’. Each is accompanied by a short message in electronically distorted tones saying “that’s one”, “that’s two” etc., which Nog’s sensitive lobes identify as being recordings of Kira herself.

The Major is two to three weeks from giving birth (she gives both figures during the episode, though the longer one is to her captor so may be an exaggeration to try to buy time rather than an inconsistency), and not sleeping well, especially as the Bajoran herbs she’s taking to aid with the pregnancy are counteracting the sedatives. The loss of her friends is driving her into a frenzy as he can’t do anything about it.She even tries to get her old buddies Furel and Lupaza (the former played by William Lucking, who I’ve not long since encountered in Tales of the Gold Monkey) to leave it to the authorities rather than go off and kill the bastard, although they are promptly killed (offstage).

This last killing is the final straw. In the infirmary, laid low by grief, Kira removes her ear-jewellery, cradles it in her hands as she talks of her first mission for the Resistance, aged 13, and how Lupaza made her jewellery for her from metal from the skimmer she’d blasted. It’s a scene of peculiar intensity that lifted the otherwise straightforward plot to a higher level, amplified by how the steely determined Major than uses personal emergency codes to teleport into Odo’s office, steal and erase his list of suspects, and head off in a runabout all the more effective.

Unfortunately, and for me in particular, the episode collapses in on itself from that moment. Kira perfunctorily dismisses the first three names on the list and finds number four, Silaran Prin, to be the killer, ‘first time out’. It chops the legs out from under the credibility of the story on procedural grounds, especially as the Major is promptly stunned and restrained.

Prin’s the killer alright, and his dialogue about what he’s doing and why is supposed to be both poetic and loopy, but unfortunately only gets as far as loopy. It’s a confused and confusing series of contradictions on the theme of the opposition between darkness and light, meant to carry within it a degree of profundity but instead achieving meaninglessness. It’s wildly out of place with the utterly professional majority of the story, trying to wrap up an act of simple revenge in a philosophical construction.

Prin, you see, was badly disfigured in a Resistance raid led by Kira. But he was a non-combatant, a servant: he ironed shirts. And she, unheeding of consequences, was callously injured as ‘collateral damage’. Contrast this with his noble procedure of ensuring only the ‘guilty’ are killed. She is the darness, he is the light.

The episode reasserts itself for one golden moment as Kira eschews the cliche of admitting she done wrong, it was awful, I’m so sorry but we had to be extreme, in favour of a flat out accusation of Prin as an invader, an occupier, a despoiler of her planet no matter what he did, and good on you, Nerys, and bugger moral ambiguity.

But then it collapsed back on its quasi-poesy, with more darkness versus light as Prin prepares to distinguish between the two states by giving Kira an impromptu laser caesarian to spare ‘her’ baby. It’s all getting a little frantic here, as the cavalry isn’t even breasting the horizon but, as my once friend Linda told me, many years ago, escape is better than rescue. Kira fakes Prin out by asking for a sedative, pretending it’s worked, then kicking him in the Cardassian nuts and burning a hole in his chest with a phaser.

Which she then proceeds too spoil, when the cavalry teleports in, by going all poetic herself and musing that you can’t have darkness without light (Tritism 101) and how innocence is just an excuse for the guilty which, with the greatest of all possible respect, is simply bullshit and meaningless.

An ending that reeked of over-inflated ambition incapable of coherence that spoiled an otherwise well-formed and well-performed thriller. That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.