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


Hubba Hubba

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deep Space Nine: s07 e14- Chimera


Love-making, Changeling style

We’re now into the back half of the last season and, knowing about the long end-game, I’m growing impatient of these last few, more-or-less self-contained episodes prior to the beginning of the end. Which is a shame because ‘Chimera’ turned out to be a very strong episode throughout, as well as being a fundamental set-up for one of the very few things I (unfortunately) know about the end. This is why I try to be spoiler-free.

The objective of this episode was to undermine Odo’s commitment to his existence as Odo, Constable of DS9, senior staff and lover of Colonel Kira Nerys. This is done by the simple ploy of introducing another unaligned Changeling, in the form of Laas (played by J.G. Hertzler under a variation of his full name, as Garman Hertzler).

Laas is one of the Hundred, like Odo sent into the Alpha Quadrant as an infant to live among humanoids (or monoforms, as he prefers to call them), to return to the Great Link bringing back information. Like Odo, he has grown up isolated, having met no other Changelings: Odo tells him for the first time about the Great Link, the Founders, the whole set-up. The pair Link.

But Laas has been conscious as a shapeshifter for about two hundred years to Odo’s thirty. His abilities and attitudes have evolved considerably further, and he sees Odo as going to follow the exact same path, and he tries to save the Constable the other one hundred and seventy years of it. For Laas has developed a powerful dislike of humanoids, whose limitation of only ever adopting one form has led them to hate metamorphs.

Laas is insulting to Odo’s friends, wants Odo to join him in searching for others of the Hundred, to create a new Link and live as Changelings are meant to live, expressing every facet of their abilities instead of the single form Odo wears.

The ‘problem’, if you like to call it that, is that every word of what Laas says is true and irrefutable. Even the directly insulting ones towards human beings, from an environmentalist stance, are practically impossible to argue with. From the Link, Laas identifies that Odo only stays because of Kira. The problem, on a personal level, is that Kira, knowing the pair have linked, identifies that herself.

So the episode sets itself up for a conclusion by having Laas shift into a low-lying fog on the Promenade, two Klingon hotheads attack aggressively and Laas kill one in self-defence. The Klingons, in the form of an off-screen Martok, who can’t come to the visiscreen just yet because he’s playing Laas, step madly out of character by demanding extradition and deploying legal technicalities (a shameful lapse in the plotting) but Laas is allowed to escape and follow his quest, not by Odo but by Kira.

It’s a demonstration of love, albeit one with a cliched aspect: the lover loves so much that she will enable the loved one to leave if what they leave for outweighs the importance of that love. Nana Visitor plays this all in the face, and very effectively too. And she’s rewarded in a lyrical ending as Odo balances within himself the conflicting desires to find his own and really be a Changeling, and his love for Kira, and comes to the unenforced decision that that is more important to him. And in order to come closer to the effect of the Link that she can never enter, turns himself into the Aurora Borealis and surrounds her, a moment of great beauty.

But on every objective level, what Laas has said breaks the bond between Odo and the Solids. Only an irrational decision, brought on by emotion, acts to restrain his following the inevitable, and what will be becomes the only possible outcome. Very powerful stuff indeed.

Two more thoughts: at the height of the extradition crisis, Quark, of all people, comes to Odo to give him a very effective speech defining the genetic predisposition of humanoid lifeforms to trust only that which is like them. It could read like a defence of racism, although it’s not presented as a justification but rather as an evolutionary given, as impossible to fight as is the Changeling nature to try all forms. It’s cold, its practical, and it gains from coming from Quark (little though I want to acknowledge that), both in the Ferenghi’s status as unsentimental, and in it being Odo’s longest-lasting enemy who attempts to let him down easy.

And there’s a whacking great plothole in the midst of things when Kira, gaving switched off the containment field to let Laas out of his holding cell, and given him specific instructions on how to get off-station without being detected, tells Sisko that he turned into some kind of plasma form that forced its way out, without so much as the slightest suggestion of her tongue being in her cheek, and Sisko doesn’t call up the surveillance tapes to prove her a liar, because there are none, in a cell block, and yeah, right, sure.

Just because an episode is a great success doesn’t mean we can shut our eyes to blatant plot-fudges like this.

Deep Space Nine: s07 e13 – Field of Fire


Let him have it!

Whilst we’re waiting for the long end-game to kick in, these last few one-off stories feel a bit lacking in purpose, save to keep the game ticking over. ‘Field of Fire’ was a relatively simple story, isolated from pretty much everything else around it except for one aspect that was intended to keep us in the Dominion War and not leave the story freewheeling by itself.

There were three big elements to the story. One was that it was a Twentieth Century Locked-Room Murder Mystery transplanted. A second was that it was the third successive Ezri-centric episode. And thirdly, it was a bottle episode. Let’s take these things in reverse order.

For those who have not come across this term in earlier Deep Space Nine reviews, a bottle episode (short for ‘ship-in-a-bottle’) is a low-budget episode, designed to make use primarily of pre-existing sets and few if any, guest stars. They allow a greater proportion of the season budget to go to more effects and/or guest intensive episodes. ‘Field of Fire’ took place entirely on DS9 and required two guests only, one of whom was disposed of in the open.

Whilst a murder mystery might be thought of as Odo territory (as was originally the intention), that’s been done before and another lead was proposed. Ezri Dax, Counsellor, is the ideal candidate: she’s completely unexpected, and untried, as an investigator, yet analysing the mind that would turn into a serial killer is entirely within her wheelhouse.

That it comes directly after two other episodes giving us prime exposure to our sweet, slightly scatterbrained new girl, and adding rings to a character that has the potential to get a bit irritating on too much exposure, was down to the speed with with the episode was composed, and the restricted amount of space left in the face of the looming end game.

But it’s still a bit imbalanced, and smacked a bit of rushing to get the new girl uploaded, and has the unfortunate effect of suggesting the writers have gotten a bit jaded on providing personal stories for the old stagers.

And so to our mystery. This is basically the MacGuffin (some of you may think that I overuse that term, but I would argue that DS9 overuses that ploy). The newly-arrived Lt. Ilario celebrates his commendation for outstanding service on the Defiant until he has to be escorted to his quarters by Ezri, who then has to rebuff a micro-pass (he calls her beautiful, prompting a deliberate misquoting of Churchill). In the morning, he’s found dead, shot a close range, but without powder burns, by that most obsolete of weapons, a bullet.

This mystery leads to some endearingly clunky self-exposition among the cast about what actually happens when you use bullets, authoritatively explained by Odo thanks to his love of Twentieth Century Crime Fiction, Raymond Chandler, Mike Hammer (a sloppy line that jerked me momentarily out of the future since it couples author and character: Raymond Chandler/Mickey Spillane, Philip Marlowe/Mike Hammer, yes, but don’t mix ’em).

The killer has to be a Starfleet Officer, since no-one else could have gotten hold of that kind of weapon (logic blur alert), but the locked room puzzle is explained away disappointingly by resorting to futurist technology: the rile has a micro-transporter attached, allowing the bullets to be ‘beamed aboard’, so to speak.

But that’s not the point. Three victims with no connections adds up to a serial killer, making this a whydunnit rather than a whodunnit. Sweet, naive Ezri, feeling responsible as the last person to see Ilario alive, has to think herself into the mind of the killer if she is to solve the case. And to do so, she has to summon up Joral Dax, the forgotten host, the suppressed host, the host who was himself a murderer.

That’s the real point of this episode. Joral wants out. He wants to relive the thrill of murder, the power it held. He wants to take his real part in the collective memory of the symbiont Dax. Most of all, he wants to makeover young, inexperienced, impressionable Ezri into the mirror image of himself.

Ezri resists right from the start, but in the classic manner has to submit to Joral’s direction to understand, psych-profile and identify the killer by deducing his ‘rationale’. The choice of a Vulcan as the villain – responding to emotional trauma, reacting with emotion – was intended to shock veteran Trek fans: a Vulcan? It was also our token nod to the Dominion War. Lt. Chu’lak was one of only six survivors of a ship destroyed in battle on which he’d served ten years: if a Vulcan ca crack, things must really be bad.

The denouement involves a long-distance shoot-out: Chu’lak misses by inches, Ezri wounds. Joral urges her to finish him off, but Ezri wins the trial of strength and outs her weapon up, as indeed we always knew she would do. It would have made for a far more shocking, and psychologically more interesting story if she’d plugged the bastard between the eyes but come on, final series, big end-game looming large, the Star Trek franchise? That was never going to happen.

But Ezri would have been a killer character to do that to. Maybe season 8, on Earth-2?

So, a self-contained chapter, to bring us exactly halfway through the last season, a character piece never to be followed up on, again: good enough in itself but nothing we haven’t seen many times before, here and elsewhere. Maybe we need to back off Ezri just a little bit next week?

Deep Space Nine: s07 e12 – The Emperor’s New Cloak


Ezri Tigan. more! more!

Even though my initial reaction to this episode was the usual, “not another bloody Ferengi episode”, I decided I’d try to be as objective (read: fair) as possible about it. Then it turned out to be another Mirror universe story which was one too many trips to the well for me on top: the Mirror Universe is a neat idea but when it’s only being exploited to allow the actors to play against character and for no deeper reason, it’s a shallow concept.

Throw in my new bete noire, Vic Fontaine (albeit for one brief scene and in which he gets killed, not that that lifted my spirits too much), and the recipe was for a wasted forty-five minutes, the only benefit of which being that, with the end sequence getting ever nearer, this would have to be the last of them, yay!

But I’m going to be as fair as I can be, as there were a couple of things of interest to keep me going.

By now, the only cast/recurring characters left who haven’t been through the looking glass are new girl Ezri, and Brunt, FCA. Both were a simple opposite, Ezri a leather clad, spike-haired mercenary (rrrrrrrr!!!) and Brunt a genial nice guy. Brunt got killed off but Ezri bestrode the episode in a manner that had my shallow side gladly singing. Nicole deBoer apparently had a whale of a time and wanted to play this Ezri every week.

On the other hand, my usual appreciation of Nana Visitor in her shiny skintight costume as Intendant Kira was lacking, I think because I was enjoying Ezri so much. Or perhaps that was another case of too many trips to the same well. With one notable exception, when Intendant Kira kissed Ezri Tigan, there was nothing new to bring to the party, and the Intendent felt almost like a parody of herself.

The heavily implied lesbian subtext between this pair (reinforced in the close by a brief appearance from Chase Masterson, cleavage well to the for, spiriting Ezri off into half the audience’s fantasies) was a surprise, but immediately felt completely natural for the Intendent. Nana Visitor didn’t agree and disliked the idea.

The MacGuffin was Grand Negus Zek, seeking to open up new financial frontiers for the Ferengi and being held hostage by Regent Worf in return for a cloaking device, to be stolen by Quark and Rom. This was duly delivered but Rom, whilst installing it in the Regent’s ship, sabotages the whole kit’n’kaboodle so that as soon as it’s used it drains all power from the ship, forcing the Regent to surrender to the Rebels under Smiley O’Brien, implying a tying off of that story.

One quickly irritating aspect of the episode was Rom’s constant attempts to work out some kind of logic and rules behind the Alternate Universe being Alternate. That was apparently intentional, a sort of half-nod, half-raspberry to the fans who wanted the Mirror Universe to make Science Fictional sense as opposed to the big joke it was only ever meant to be.

But it was over and done. No more trips to either of those wells, even if the Intendent was allowed to get away to camp another day. I guess no-one had the heart to shoot her down.

Depending on whether the end sequence has nine or ten episodes (I have seen both quoted), that means there can only be four or five left that tell individual stories unrelated to the all-out Dominion War. I’m expecting at least one more Vic Fontaine because I’m ultimately a pessimist, but at least there’s no more Quark-centrics. I have outlasted them. Thank Heaven for small mercies.

Deep Space Nine: s07 e11 – Prodigal Daughter


Mother

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deep Space Nine: s07 e10 – It’s Only A Paper Moon


This is the 24th Century?

Yet again I’m going to cut across the grain and diss a very highly-respected DS9 episode that the rest of the world worships, and for no better reason than that I cannot stand Vic Fontaine.

Also, I find it demeaning to Nicole de Boer that, having been introduced as a new character, and as a Counsellor, not only is her role usurped by a hologram but she’s depicted as so incompetent at her job that a hologram of a 1962 lounge singer is not just better than her but vastly better.

And whilst this may just be twenty more years of watching television drama, I found the beats of Nog’s story of trauma and rehabilitation predictable.

So, no, I didn’t enjoy this, and when the DVD glitched with another of Vic’s songs unable to be sung, I did not feel any sense of loss whatsoever. In all of Deep Space Nine, that’s two minutes and twenty-six seconds (including the credits) I still won’t have seen.

As a concept, the episode – which mutated almost out of existence a ‘bottle’ episode idea arrived at several seasons before – was intelligent and important. Two episodes ago, Nog lost a leg in battle. This is the future: such things can be replaced perfectly. Physically, he is as good as new. Mentally, it’s different. Nog has PTS and the episode is about his recovery, which is first achieved by hiding himself away from real-life inside Vic Fontaine’s holosuite programme, and then by forcing him to be open about his fear of a real world that has reared up and bitten him and about which he is now very much ‘once bitten, twice shy’.

Everybody but me, it seems, agrees that this worked, and worked brilliantly.

Kudos to the show, in its last season, and not far off halfway through it, for setting aside an episode to be a two-hander between two recurring characters, with minimal involvement from the cast: Ezri had the largest role here, much good it did her.

But my aversion to the milieu of Vic Fontaine and its/his elevation to near godhead status in this distant future series – he’s even got self-will as a hologram – made it impossible to take seriously as intended. My loss, no doubt.

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: s07 e08 – The Siege of AR-558


At War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Warrior

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deep Space Nine: s07 e06 – Treachery, Faith and the Great River


Someone’s not looking well

After being alert and receptive to the past few episodes, I was once again in a slump today, and couldn’t really get into what was a fairly crucial episode that marks a staging post on the road to the end.

This was a fairly deeply-divided A/B story, with Odo and Weyoun up front in a serious tale and O’Brien and Nog providing back-up on the comic side of the story. Basically, the latter was a repeat of those ‘chain-of-transactions’ stories we’ve seen Nog in before, usually with Jake. Sisko sets the Chief an impossible deadline to acquire a piece of equipment to do repairs, it’s impossible to get through normal channels, so Nog goes all Ferengi on it, bartering here, there and everywhere, until the Chief is convinced it’ll all end in disaster (for him) only for everything to work out at the last minute.

Fun but essentially predictable and lacking in the kind of detail that would demand we admire its ingenuity.

The A story is set up by Odo being drawn to meet a very reliable Cardassian informant who may not have been executed after all. In fact, he has and it is a decoy to enable Weyoun to meet Odo: Weyoun wishes to defect.

That comes as a surprise, and Odo is rightly suspicious, but this is a genuine attempt by Weyoun, except that he’s not the Weyoun we’ve gotten used to. That was Weyoun-5, disintegrated in a suspicious transporter accident a couple of months ago, in respect of which the finger of suspicion is being pointed at Gul Demar, who’s still quaffing k’narr like water (hint, hint).

Odo’s dealing with Weyoun-6, the new clone, only this one thinks the Dominion is dropping one serious bollock in going to War with the Federation. Not only is he defecting with strategic knowledge that could ensure Federation victory, but he also brings the news – confirmed in a brief, shrivel-faced appearance by the Female Changeling – that the Founders are ill, that in fact they are denying.

Weyoun-6 wants Odo to effectively take over and reform the Dominion.

Unfortunately, for everyone except Jeffrey Combs, who’s having fun doubling up, Weyoun-7 has also been activated and this one’s in the true loyalist mould, enough so that he’s prepared to send Jem’Hadar ships to attack and destroy Odo’s runabout, even if that means destroying Odo – a God, remember? – with it.

It’s all very low down and dirty and has to be kept secret, especially from the Female Changeling and the Jem’Hadar, and the only way out is for Weyoun-6 to sacrifice himself by voluntary termination, releasing Odo to go free.

So now the end game starts moving. I know a few more things that are yet to come, the tracks of which are implanted here, and these will become increasingly apparent over the final twenty episode. This was an episode which deserved a better response, but as I say, I’m flat today and unable to give it.