Deep Space Nine: s07 e25/26 – What You Leave Behind


What you leave behind is loss

So. For the cast, the crew, the writers, the directors, the producers and the original audience, it took seven years to get here. For me, watching weekly, it took three and a little bit. And it all ended with a moment of personal poignance as the final shot was of a boy who became a man staring into space, having lost his father.

I’ve known from before I began watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that the series ended with Benjamin Sisko’s death, and that was how it was. I know that in reality he’s been translated into becoming one of the Prophets, that it is hinted that there is more for him to do and that, in the post-series novels Sisko does return, but Deep Space Nine always was the darkest, more realistic of the franchise, and to me Sisko is dead: he is gone beyond anywhere that his old friends, his comrades, his newly-pregnant wife or, most personally affecting for me, his son can ever see, hear, talk to or touch again. The end is finality.

And this is all about endings, endings and changes. The Dominion War ends, as it always must, in victory for the Alpha Quadrant. There’s the big attack, the great fleet, including the new Defiant, in which the military tide is turned when the Cardassian fleet rebels against the Dominion and switches sides in mid-battle. This comes about when Damar’s rebellion begins to become seriously disruptive: the Female Changeling demands reprisals against the whole population, which Weyoun 8 carries out, causing a great revulsion and reversion.

And Damar’s rebellion is nearly derailed when he, Kira and Garak are caught, and housekeeper Mila killed. They are to be summarily executed, but the Cardassians accompanying the Jem’Hadar soldiers revolt and kill the captors.

All is put into a raid on Dominion Headquarters. The compound is impenetrable, until a door is opened to eject and execute Legate Broca on the Female Changeling’s orders: this gives the raiders access, but for Damar the charge is fatal: in lead the raid to free his people, he becomes the first to be killed. Only three survivors reach the control room, Kira, Ekoor and Garak, who executes Weyoun with great relish: the last Weyoun, the second to be killed.

But though the War is won, it is not yet over. The Female Changeling is dying, and aware of the irony of dying as a solid, but she still fears a Federation invasion of the Gamma Quadrant and an attempt to wipe out her people, and so victory will be bought with such a cost of men and ships that the Alliance will not have the strength to fight again.

It is here that Odo intervenes. By linking with the Female Changeling, he is able to both pass on the cure to her, over Garak’s deep and wholly justified reservations, but also persuade her to share his trust of the Federation. Restored to health, she orders a stand down, signs the official surrender and submits herself to trial for war crimes.

It’s over.

And with the end of the War comes the changes that separate friends, allies and lovers. A phase is over, and with it the ties that bind are loosened and people once again discover that they have individual futures and not merely the collective one to which fate and destiny have bound them for so long.

Chief Miles O’Brien will no longer be dumped on as he has been so relentlessly. He and his family, a final appearance from Keiko, Molly and Kyrioshi, are to return to Earth, where he will become a Professor of Engineering at Starfleet Academy. It means the breaking of his great friendship with Doctor Julian Bashir, to the regret of both. But Julian and Lieutenant Ezri Dax have become lovers as well as being in love. Their’s is a future to be explored together: Julian will never return to the Alamo without Miles, but he has created a new, and identical scenario for he and Ezri at Thermopylae, as the beleagured Spartans.

Lieutenant Commander Worf also leaves Deep Space Nine, to become the Federation Ambassador to the Klingon Empire, under Chancellor Martok: a new age is dawning, an age that will see a restoration of honour.

Odo and Colonel Kira Nerys are to be separated, permanently. Though I never agreed with the making of this pair into lovers, though I never accepted how Kira forgave him his betrayal of Bajor, this too was full of emotion I couldn’t ignore. Odo must go to his people. He must bring them the cure, he must enter the Great Link, this time to stay, to convince the Founders that they have nothing to fear now from the solids. Kira will deliver him, and stay until the last moment, before returning alone, where she will become the new commander of Deep Space Nine.

Quark remains Quark. He’s the only one who understands Odo enough to intercept the Changeling’s attempt to depart without goodbyes, and is immensely satisfied when Odo walks off without conceding a goodbye. Things will not change all that much for the Ferenghi: Colonel Kira will remain his implacable opponent.

Which leaves the Sisko, the Emissary. As the Dominion War crashes to its conclusion, there is a second front, a secret front, taking slow steps to undo everything. Gul Dukat’s sight has been restored and he returns to the Kai’s palace. She has completed deciphering the Khosst Amojen (having exiled myself from Memory Alpha during The Final Chapter, to avoid spoilers, I’ve had to guess at spellings, incorrectly) and is now ready to release the Pah-Wraiths from the Fire-Caves. She needs his assistance.

What she needs Dukat for takes a long time to materialise, as the aspect of the story is dragged out until after the War has been won and well into the Peace. Dukat is the sacrifice, to honour the Pah-Wraiths, poisoned by wine and dying. But not for long.

On Deep Space Nine, Captain Benjamin Sisko heeds the call no-one else can hear, and leaves the party in Vic’s (as a finale to which, the abhorrent hologram lounge singer Vic Fontaine serenades a crew together for the last time with ‘The Way You Look Tonight’: it isn’t a patch on the Peter Skellern version but it’s heartfelt, and appropriate, and moving, and reconciles me to him). The Sisko knows what he must do, and he leaves his wife and unborn child to do it, not knowing the full extent of his destiny.

He arrives at the Fire-Caves seconds after the resurrection of Gul Dukat, restored to his Cardassian appearance. It is he, not Kai Winn Adami, who is to be the Pah-Wrauth’s Emissary, he who wields powers not granted to the Prophet’s Emissary, as it ever was: Evil vests power in its servants but Good’s servants triumph because of themselves.

Dukat glories in himself, in the destruction that is to follow, the burning of Bajor, of the Celestial Temple, of the entire Alpha Quadrant, but most of all he glories in his personal victory over Sisko, the private war they’ve conducted since the Emissary first arrived to take command of Dukat’s surrendered fiefdom, Terak Nor/Deep Space Nine. It is his weakness and his undoing. At the last, Winn redeems herself, screaming to Sisko that it is the book. She tries to hurl it into the flames, but Dukat draws it to him and burns Winn to death. In doing so, in relishing it so, he takes his attention from the helpless Sisko. Free to move, knowing that the book must burn, Sisko charges Dukat, hurling both of them, and the book, into the flames. Sisko locks a door to which there will never again be a key. The payment is his life.

And so it ended, with departures and sunderings. As well as those I’ve mentioned already, Garak goes home, his exile over, returning to Cardassia, although he has lost the Cardassia he longed to return to. His friendship with Bashir is over, despite the promises. Ensign Nog becomes Lieutenant Nog: like Kira, Bashir, Ezri and Quark, he remains, on course for the glorious Starfleet career he has grown into.

And Jake Sisko remains, looking into space where the Wormhole at last opens again. Looking where he believes that something exists that equates to his father. But not in my eyes. Sometimes, in war, people have to sacrifice. To know that, and to honour that, is not to forget the effect on those that love you, and have a long lifetime ahead without you. What you leave behind is loss.

And I leave behind Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I shalln’t be returning.

Deep Space Nine: s07 e21 – When It Rains…


Nope, still don’t like the hairdo

I don’t know about anyone else but I found this episode very disappointing, and slow.

It’s seemingly structured around the Cardassian Rebellion being led by Gul Demar, and its need for sound tactical advice in guerilla warfare if it is to have any impact. The in-house expert on  that is Colonel Kira, who has been really underused in this final series. Kira, naturally, doesn’t want to do it but accepts her duty, and adds Odo and Garak to her team, so, not really provocative on every level at all. As part of the amelioration of their hosts’ feelings, she gets into a Starfleet uniform and Odo changes his kit to how he used to look when DS9 was Terak Nor. Not that it makes much difference: Demar is pragmatic enough to accept aid from someone he no longer has the luxury of hating, though his best mate, Resad, is far less flexible (can you spell troublemaker?)

But though this was the seeming base for the episode, it was ultimately one of many strands, each of which were seen in development without any sense of progression. All questions and no answers, pieces being moved around the board with no sense of satisfaction. It struck me early on just how slow things were moving in just getting Kira’s team off the station, but this was to be the characteristic of the entire episode.

This broke down into four distinct strands, Kira’s Mob included. Odo leaves behind a blob of himself so that Dashir can study its morphogenetic matrix and try to adapt it to the growing of artificial organs etc., but instead the good Doctor discovers that Odo has the morphogenetic plague that’s affecting the Founders. With the encouragement of Chief O’Brien, he fights his way through bureaucracy to try to get a handle on finding a cure, only to discover that instead of Odo being infected when he linked with the Female Changeling a year ago, he was actually infected three years ago, during the Starfleet medical Julian was seeking, and which has been faked when he received it. The explanation is clear: Section 31. Odo has been infected to lead to genocide. So if Section 31 has the plague, it must also have the cure. Bashir and O’Brien dedicate themselves to secretly extracting it.

Meanwhile, on Bajor (this was very much of a meanwhile… episode), the villains fall out. Kai Wynn won’t let Dukat shag her any more now she knows he’s Dukat. It’s slow going with the evil book, the Costa Moja, and when Dukat decides to speed up the process by reading it himself, he’s Pah-Wraithed into blindness, giving Wynn the excuse she wants to rather smugly have him booted out onto the streets: a blind beggar should be able to earn enough for food. Maybe even shelter. When thieves fall out, honest men may prosper, as they say.

And meanwhile, on DS9, Chancellor Gowron arrives to bestow upon General Martok the highest Order the Klingon Empire can give, then deprive him of his command and take over personally. You don’t need a degree in reading body language to tell that Martok and Worf do not think this is A Very Good Thing, though the former accepts his diminishedrole ith proper honour andloyalty to the Empire, and indeed it doesn’t look that way. Gowron’s idea is not to act defensively, hold the border, maintain the line against an enemy who outnumbers you twenty to one, but rather to barrel in, all guns blazing, give the bastards a good kicking, and claim all the honour for the Klingons. Alone.

Throw in a microstrand where Julian asks Ezri why she’s been avoiding him lately, then cuts off her explanation because his genetically enhanced intelligence jumps to the wrong conclusion about her shagging Worf and that’s it.

And the problem is, it’s all middles. It’s all set-up. On one level you might call it sophisticated story-telling, mirroring the processes of real life, the flow and complexity of war, where not everything gets wrapped up in a neat little 45 minute bundle, but come on, this is Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, not something that had this approach built in from the start, and after 170 episodes, you can’t change horses in midstream like that, and you can’t do it effectively with writers who are trained to 45 minute solutions, not without the gears clunking.

It made the episode feel like a thirty mile stretch of a hundred mile journey. You’ve moved onwards, but you’ve got nowhere. I hope there’s more solid ground in the next one.

Deep Space Nine: s07 e20 – The Changing Face of Evil


The destruction…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deep Space Nine: s07 e19 – Strange Bedfellows


Oh yeuch

An apt title for this latest episode since there were a few pairings that could be described that way, ranging from the macro to the micro. ‘Strange Bedfellows’ was still a part of the long build-up, moving chess pieces around the board, setting forces in motion to play off later, so individually this could not be said to be an especially satisfying 45 minutes: this part of the long endgame is frustrating because I can’t just bingewatch the final run and see it all.

But let’s look at the copious number of pairings, shall we? The first such is the new Dominion/Breen Alliance. The Breen are coming aboard, subject to signing a treaty, the terms of which involve secret Cardassian concessions to the new allies, secret as in Gul Damar, over his considerable and entirely rational objections, is not to be told. And Weyoun 7 is being even more high-handed with Damar, treating him with open disdain, treating Cardassia as utterly worthless. It has no independence, it is of the Dominion, it belongs to the Founders. This is said in front of the Breen leader, who doesn’t seem to register that itrefers to his people as well.

No matter. Ezri and Worf are still prisoners, now on a Jem’Hadar ship heading to Cardassia. Though Worf is still as stiff-necked as only a Klingon can be, going on about his honour every three minutes and seventeen seconds, he and Ezri do manage to get their heads straight, about their unwise shag and, more importantly, the whole Dax thing. Ezri even confesses that she didn’t actually know about being in love with Julian (who, back at DS9, is himself beginning to realise he’s in love with Ezri: this really is very weak and artificial).

That settled, they prepare themselves to be executed, Damar having notified them in advance that they would be tried as war criminals, convicted and executed. But, in a not wholly unforeseeable development, Damar kills the Jem’Hadar guards, provides a spaceship full of security codes and tells the escaping pair that the Federation has a friend on Cardassia. Just goes to show, if you whip a dog long enough…

Weyoun certainly has, in the vulgar parlance, dropped a bollock on this. The lad is prone to do so, and there’s an amusingly brilliant demonstration of this when he taunts the prisoners in their cell over Ezri admitting under torture to loving Julian. Unfortunately, Weyoun is stood next to Worf when he says this, and the big Klingon grabs him by the head, twists it and breaks his neck. Weyoun 8 is, of course, just as big a dickhead.

Back on DS9, we have two more sets of bedfellows, both literal. On the one hand we have Mr and Mrs Captain Benjamin Sisko. In a development that I personally found not merely disappointing but offensive, we have Martok giving Klingon marital advice to the Emissary, about marriage being a long war, a fight over everything. That may be so in a warrior race like the Klingons. but to see Sisko immediately starting to plot to defeat Kasidy over her refusal to conduct a religious ritual she doesn’t believe in was deeply depressing, and not a little misogynist.

But the creepiest set of bedfellows this week were Gul Dukat and Kai Wynn, and I do mean bedfellows, a sight that was enough to turn your stomach. That the surgically altered Dukat was here to seduce the Kai from her loyalty to the Prophets, in favour of a quick conversion to the Pah-Wraiths should be paralleled by the physical side of things was no doubt artistically sound, but it was still queasy to see.

But to give the Kai credit, the moment she realised that it was the Pah-Wraiths sending her visions, she fought back instantly, telling Dukat to get thee behind me, pledging herself to the Prophets, seeking their guidance, resisting all the way. She even sought Kira’s counsel, genuinely humble and open. But all this repentance broke upon the rock of Kira’s advice that Wynn must abdicate the Kaiship.

And so the other big bad goes bad for good, telling Dukat that the Prophets she has worshipped and served all her life have never – never – spoken to her. So now she’s gone over to the other side, the last set of bedfellows, the Kai and the Pah-Wraiths.

To be continued.

Wynn’s defection was dramatically inevitable, the culmination of her path of arrogance and power, but given the strength of her initial rejection of the Pah-Wraiths, which is genuine and vehement, I surely can’t be alone in thinking that it would have made a much more fascinating story for her to have maintained that stance, and to have devoted her strengths to the fight against them and the Dominion? Or was that a pipe-dream? Yeah, a pipe-dream.

As an aside, I’ve written this blog on the third anniversary, give or take the odd day or two, of my first blog in this series. There are now only six episodes left.

Deep Space Nine: s07 e18 – Till Death Us Do Part


Yeuch. I mean, just, yeuch

As I’m no longer doing any post-episode research until the series is over, I’m keeping myself clear of any confirmation of what I suspect the title of this episode means. It could merely be a reference to the marriage of Benjamin Lafayette Sisko and Kasidy Danielle Yeats celebrated herein, or it could be a lightly veiled hint as to the short-term future of the marriage, given that it takes place in direct defiance of the Prophet’s warnings (repeated at the very instant Sisko slips the ring on Kasidy’s finger).

Nevertheless, Sisko has flown in the face of a previously 100% reliable source of handy hints and tips about the future and his destiny, which has left Colonel Kira looking stony-faced in disapproval, and we will have to wait and see if this implies anything for Kasidy (spoiler: not in that sense).

To be honest, I found this episode faintly disappointing, and in one place more than faintly creepy. The wedding was the only part of the episode that was in any way an advancement, for at this early stage of the long endgame, the board is still being set up and the pieces shuffled.

Take Ezri and Worf, who spend most of their time all episode locked up in the Breen brig, give or take the odd electrocution and interrogation. On the one hand, we have Worf assuming he’s got his Dax back for many more years of happy wedded Klingon bliss, but on the other we have Ezri professing her love for Julian Bashir whilst in post-torture mode, a development that affronts Worf and puzzles her.

And at the end we discover that they are being held as gifts, from the Breen to the Dominion, to celebrate the new Alliance against the Federation that’s going to tip the balance of the War.

The other realm in which the endgame is advanced lies with the Bajoran Dukat. The slimy git has himself introduced to none other than Kai Wynn, the other big baddy, with the two forming the inevitable alliance. She’s on DS9 to take over organising the Emissary’s wedding with her customary whole-hearted honesty, and getting her first ever vision of the Prophets (I’m willing to bet it’s actually the Pah-Wraiths).

The Kai’s self-importance is fed by the suggestion that she will be responsible for the Restoration of Bajor, guided by a man of the land. Enter a ‘farmer’ with all sorts of experiences that ever so neatly dovetail with the Kai’s expectations. And the creepy bit is when they kissed, which I so did not want to see. Here’s hoping there’s no more of that.

The clock ticks on and down. Things are still taking shape. Another week nearer.

Deep Space Nine: s07 e17 – Penumbra


You shall not…

In a week or so’s time it will be exactly three years since I decided to watch Star Trek: Deep Space Nine from beginning to end, blogging every episode. It’s taken me three years of what one may, by permitted exaggeration, call set-up to arrive at what I’ve been calling the endgame, but which the team that produced DS9 called The Final Chapter. We begin a serial, designed to wrap up all the accumulated loose ends.

So ‘Penumbra’ is made up in large part of trails being laid, that will lead to the ultimate fates for our characters, not all of them the star cast. The greater concentration of the Federation side is upon Captain Benjamin Sisko, part-Prophet, and Emissary, proposing marriage to Kasidy Yates, and upon Lt. Ezri Dax, obeying impulses coming in large part from her predecessor, Jardzia Dax, disobeying orders and leaving her post to go in search of Lt. Commander Worf, missing believed dead after the destruction of the Klingon vessel Kogara.

But not only the Federation. On Cardassia Prime, Gul Demar, whose drinking is starting earlier and earlier, is growing increasingly uncomfortable under the thumb of the grinning Weyoun, who has completely negated Demar’s position of authority. Both hold secrets: Weyoun is in service to the Female Changeling, who is becoming increasingly in thrall to the morphogentic disease threatening the Great Link, for which the antidote is proving exceedingly elusive. And Demar is keeping secret that he is shielding the increasingly baffling Dukat who has used a plastic surgeon of Demar’s recommendation to transform him into a Bajoran, for purposes as yet unrevealed…

Post-episode, I’ve long been consulting the episode resumes and analyses on Memory Alpha, but after ‘Penumbra’ I’m going to have to avoid that until the end. I’ve already learned several salient points about The Final Chapter that make a mockery of my determination to avoid spoilers, and which I’m going to have to ignore.

So for now I’m going to confine myself to what actually happens in the two strands I’ve already picked out.

The whole season so far, Worf and Ezri have been avoiding each other scrupulously. Worf goes missing, the ‘Defiant’ has to call off the search prematurely due to Jem’Hadar activity but Ezri, filled with Jardzia’s emotions and impulses after a visitto Worf’s empty quarters, takes off in a runabout to continue the search alone, with Sisko’s ex post facto tacit consent.

And of course one inexperienced Lieutenant works out what everyone else ha missed and finds her way to Worf’s escape pod and saves him. It’s a dip into the combined areas of the Cliche Drawer and lazy writing, basically demanding the audience accept that only Ezri, based solely on a more personal commitment, spots the incredibly simple clue that no-one else does.

So Ezri finds Worf and the pair set off back, in a very awkward atmosphere, with Jardzia lying between them. Only they’re shot down by Jem’Hadar and are forced to teleport down to a Goralis system planet, stranded without coms to signal for rescue. The pair promptly get on each others nerves something chronic, which leads to what bickering between male and female always leads to: having sex. I really must start to argue with women more often if that’s the outcome.

Lying in the jungle in post-coital bliss, our odd couple are surprised, stunned and taken prisoner by the Breen, for purposes as yet unknown.

As far Sisko, the intended quiet wedding, friends and family only, Admiral Ross officiating, immediately looks complicated, because it’s not Captain Ben Sisko who’s marrying, it’s the Emissary, and the whole of Bajor is expecting to be invited. But that’s the minor problem. The major one is that the Prophets, in the form of Sisko’s ‘mother’ Sarah, send him a vision. The Sisko’s path is for the Sisko only: she cannot walk it with him. He cannot marry.

Sisko’s response, after seven years of growing so attached to Bajor that he has bought and plans to build a home on the planet, an attachment nourished and nurtured by his role as Emissary, is almost petulant: he demands to control his own destiny, wants to be left alone, practically stamps his little foot about wanting to marry Kasidy. The emotion’s understandable but its expression is, we know, fruitless. I know where Sisko’s journey takes him, I know more than I wish about what comes and what he leaves behind him. His outburst is expected, but the form of it makes Sisko look childish: I wanna. And in the face of that open, whose simple explication of Sisko’s wishes as to his future was so soaked in irony that even someone completely ignorant of what is to follow would know instinctively that this was Never To Be, the close of his defiance of what is preordained was up against a scepticism it could never defeat.

But this is where we now stand. All things move towards a fixed point, at which all destinies will be decided. These flaws excepted, this episode set things in motion with due seriousness and without sag. There will be no diversions left.

Deep Space Nine: s07 e09 – Covenant


Does he look any more mad to you?

I usually like Kira-centric episodes, in large part for the entirely shallow reason that I like looking at Nana Visitor. Unfortunately, the unfortunate hair-style she has adopted for the Seventh Season has changed Ms Vistor’s appearance rather more than the traditionally Runyonesque somewhat, and it’s not so much fun.

Neither was this episode, much of the point of which went over my somewhat unfocussed head. After an intense sermon about forgiving one’s enemies, delivered by her old and much-respected teacher, Vedek Fala, Kira is then kidnapped by Fala and beamed to Empok Nor, to be delivered into the hands of the one unforgivable enemy, Gul Dukat.

But Dukat is a changed Cardassian (or is he?) Touched by the hand of the Pah-Wraith that occupied him in the last episode of season 6, Fukat has gotten that old-time religion. He believes that the Pah-Wraiths are the true Gods of Bajor, not the Prophets, and has assembled around himself a cult of fifty Bajorans, which includes Fala, and who belieeeeeeeve.

Unfortunately, they also believe in Dukat, and when Kira gets a gun and the drop on the Big Bad, they positively queue up to shield him with their own bodies.

Which is doubly unfortunate because, even though Dukat has genuinely become a believer, he’s still Dukat. Benyan and Mika are about to have the cult’s first baby, Dukat having kindly agreed to permit them to set aside the Vow of Abstinence, for reasons that become obvious when the baby proves to be half-Cardassian. It’s a Miracle! shouts the hastily inspired Gul, a sign from the Pah-Wraiths.

Then he tries too drop Mika out of an airlock before she tells anyone else (she escapes explosive decompression and the instant expulsion of all the air by clinging on to the carpet – not one of DS9‘s most sparkling plot points – and despite several minutes of oxygen depravation, will make a complete recovery. Well, ain’t that just soooo Pollyanna?)

Dukat’s next bright idea is for the entire cult to go meet the Pah-Wraiths by slopping down Obsidian Order suicide pills. He’s meant to be part of this pact, which had me recalling the Reverend Jim Jones and the Jamestown Massacre but which was actually inspired by the considerably more contemporary 1997 heaven’s Gate cult mass-suicide. But Dukat, however much he is a believer, is still Dukat, and his pill’s a Parma Violet or something equally innocuous. Kira jumps on him from a balcony, upsets the pill-cart and throws Dukat into a rage as his cultists transform from worshipful and adoring mugs to a howling mob in an instant, demonstrating yet again that the key characteristic of a fanatic is fanaticism and that the actual ‘belief’ is irrelevant.

The whole episode was built around restoring Dukat to his role as Deep Space Nine Big Bad Number One. Repainting him as a true believer is supposed to make him even more dangerous, and it’s apparently foregrounding for the ten episode concluding arc, coming up on this blog in less than two months now. Myself, I was not convinced, by the episode in general, and especially not by Kira’s closing statement that Dukat was now more dangerous. When these things have to be spelled out to the audience in such a paint-by-numbers fashion, it’s a sign that the writers haven’t got their point over half well enough.

As for Colonel Kira and Nana Visitor, and leaving aside shallow concerns, it was not a good episode for either. I’m afraid Dukat brings out the worst in Kira, worst for the audience that is. She goes all one-note, shrill and almost hysterical, losing the point in the determined, monomaniacal insistence on painting Dukat far blacker than the Rolling Stones could ever have imagined, and the fact of it being true has nothing to do with how tedious it quickly becomes.

The fact that we have, now, seven episodes ahead that, by definition, have nothing to do with the endgame sequence, doesn’t thrill me. Rightly or wrongly, it gives the impression that these are unimportant, that they’re just filler until we get to the real story, the grand finale, the completion of the seven-year design. A drag, just waiting for the real stuff. I’m almost tempted to skip them…

But, of course, I won’t. This time next week for the next episode, ok?

 

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 e13 – Far Beyond The Stars


Who’s Who?

Well, I guess I must be suffering some sort of burn out on Deep Space Nine because I just couldn’t get into this episode at all, and it’s one of those episodes that’s not just a fan-favourite but a favourite of so many members of the team that made it, including many of the actors themselves. Clearly, it’s me, then.

‘Far Beyond the Stars’ is another of those get-the-cast-out-of-character episodes, as Sisko undergoes a practically episode-long hallucination in which he’s a staff writer on a 1953 SF magazine, facing racial prejudice. It involves every member of the cast and a bunch of recurring characters out of costume and, in several cases, out of make-up.

Basically,the peg is that Sisko is approaching burn out. The Dominion War is still ticking over in the background, with wins and losses, but the latest loss – the Cortez and it’s 400 strong crew, especially its Captain, Quentin Swofford, an old friend of Sisko – has him talking of stepping down.

Immediately he suggests that, he starts seeing people in 1953 clothes walking around where they aren’t. Bashir diagnoses strange synaptic potentials akin to those in the season 5 episode, ‘Rapture’ when he was having visions sent by the Prophets (not so much a hint as a crowbar to the back of the neck) and, presto changeo, he’s in 1953 New York where he’s Benny Russell, employed by Incredible Tales magazine.

Everyone’s there, so it’s spot-the-unmake-upped- actor time (I didn’t get Aron Eisenberg, Jeffrey Combs or J. G. Hertzler and I was incredibly slow about Rene Auberjonois and Michael Dorn) whilst the story hammers on its theme of racial prejudice. The hammering is relentless, but then again so was the racism. I don’t doubt there’s a social faction that would kick-off against snowflakes and SJWs, but just because the present day isn’t as relentlessly open and universal as the world depicted here doesn’t mean it no longer needs saying.

To be honest, I found the unrelieved nature of the depiction to be dramatically unbalanced: over and over and over again. In another context, where you could focus on this story without having Deep Space Nine looking over your shoulder constantly, it would have worked far better. Instead, it was never possible to escape the awareness that this set-up was doubly unreal, a fiction within a fiction.

Anyway, Benny Russell is inspired by a drawing of a space station very much like DS9 to write a powerful, engrossing story. About DS9, and it’s captain, Benjamin Sisko. Everybody loves and admires it, but it won’t get published. Because the Captain is a negro.

To jump briskly forward, after a tour of Benny’s world and constant reminders of the restrictions inherent on black people (Marc Alaimo and Jeffrey Combs as two violently prejudiced cops,who beat the living shit out of Benny at one point), he gets his editor to accept the story (and possibly the six sequels he’s already written), in return for his altering it slightly, to make the whole thing a dream. Whatever gets it into print. But the owner orders the whole print run pulped, the magazine’s going to skip a month and Benny’s fired. We all know why.

Throughout the hallucination, Sisko Senior keeps popping up as a Minister, preaching about the way ahead and insisting Sisko keep on his path, that he writes the words. He keeps mentioning the prophets (there’s that crowbar again). Benny has become fixated on his Captain Sisko, his DS9, this future he’s imagined. This latest setback unhinges him.He cracks up, onscreen, as if this block on publication of the story is an attempt to stop this entire future, the world of DS9, in which black and white and every other shade are equals, from ever happening.

Sad to say, I found it unconvincing, even when supported by Sisko’s musings in the close, which attempts to tip the show into metafiction, by wondering if Deep Space Nine is actually nothing more than the fiction it is, created by Benny Russell?

It’s Jorge Luis Borges’ paradox writ large: who is dreaming who? Is Sisko dreaming Benny, or vice versa? For me, it completely flops. Firstly, because when Benny goes into his meltdown, talking about ‘creating’ DS9, in the sense of a Creator creating Reality, he’s doing so as a character we know to be at a lower level of existence, the centre of a story-within-a-story. The same goes for Sisko’s musings: in an isolated story, you can play this angle for all it’s worth, and leave the reader genuinely uncertain, but after 136 previous episodes of Deep Space Nine, you’re pushing credibility to suggest that might be a fiction. A Tommy Westphall ending doesn’t work unless it is the end.

When Sisko recovers from the hallucination, his synaptic potentials have cleared up, even without a take-two-of-these-and-see-me-in-the-morning (crowbar time…) and he’s decided to soldier on. Phew, I was worried there…

The whole thing was a vision from the Prophets, to show Sisko that some fights have to be fought even in the face of frustration, defeat and loss. But really the episode was about the cast dressing down and playing outside their characters, with the framing story a loose-fitting McGuffin. That the story chosen was an important issue is impressive, but paradoxically it was weakened by being played in the context of Deep Space Nine, where it could have n serious impact by virtue of our knowledge that by the end it would all be reset, nothing gained, nothing lost, all that anger, frustration and heartache meaningless.

Or is it all just me?

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 them  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…