Deep Space Nine: s07 e24 – The Dogs of War


Why couldn’t they have swapped costumes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deep Space Nine: s07 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: s06 e18 – Inquisition


Section 31

Hmmm, interesting.

This was an episode that displayed a considerable control of its tempo and tone, starting off by creating a bit of a sinking feeling that it was all going to be a bit too comic, and morphing into something considerably more serious and with deep-lying implications that caused a deal of controversy among Star Trek fans. Only on Deep Space Nine, only on Deep Space Nine.

The storyline is misleadingly simple. Bashir’s off to a Medical Conference on Casperia Prime, a lush, beautiful world, and being a bit smug about it, first to Odo, then to Miles O’Brien, who’s dislocated his shoulder again, kayaking in the holosuite.

But the next morning, his trip is cancelled, as the entire Senior Staff is confined to quarters during an examination into a security breach by Internal Affairs, acting by Director Sloan (William Sadler in a role originally intended for Martin Sheen). It’s not long before questioning concentrates on the Doctor, who is accused of being a spy for the Dominion. The theory is that, during his incarceration by the Dominion, whilst he was replaced on DS9 by a Changeling, Bashir was broken and turned into a spy who is concealing his own treachery even from himself by engrammatic dissociation – the creation of mental blocks compartmentalising the mind.

Bashir refuses to believe that and, initially, so does Sisko. But it’s a cunning detail, one impossible to disprove since it revolves around the idea that the accused is lying even to himself.

Sisko’s refusal to let Sloan do exactly what he wants to break Bashir leads to the Director’s decision to remove the Doctor to a maximum security cell. But this is disrupted by the unexpected teleportation of Bashir. Onto a Cardassian ship, to met Weyoun, who greets Bashir sympathetically. The story teeters on the edge of what would have been a truly tremendous and extremely dark revelation, that Sloan was right: Bashir has been aiding the Dominin, on ‘moral’ and ‘humanitarian’ grounds.

But that’s a twist too far. What Bashir takes from this supposed confirmation of his guilt is that Weyoun and Sloan are acting together to frame him, that Sloan is the traitor. And he’s not far off the mark: there’s a violent twist as the Defiant catches up with and attacks the Cardassian ship (too fast, how did they track it?). It’s got the full Senior Staff on board and they’re hostile, convinced Bashir is a traitor. Miles O’Brien throws him off. With his dislocated shoulder. The one he got playing stringball…

And the illusion dissolves into a holodeck, with Sloan and two assistants all dressed in unadorned black uniforms. Sloan is much more chatty now, convinced Bashir is innocent. He has been tested and has passed: he did set off for the Medical Conference after all, but was kidnapped en route, and it has all been a charade designed to test him to destruction.

Bashir is less than relieved at his exoneration however. He’s concerned about Sloan and his organisation. They’re not Internal Affairs, Sloan confirms, they’re Section 31, a secret, autonomous unit established at the birth of the Federation. They are the worm in the apple, the canker in the bud, the dirty jobs merchants. Beneath the surface of the utopia that is the Federation, they do what is necessary to ensure that the Federation remains a utopia. They are Judge, Jury, and Executioner.

Bashir is outraged. Section 31 offends every principle on which the Federation is built. And he is even more outraged that, given his high level of intelligence, his loyalty to the Federation, his genetic modifications, Sloan wants him to join Section 31. He refuses in disgust.

Once back on DS9, however, discussing his experience with Odo, Kira and Sisko, who reports that there is no Director Sloan in Starfleet, and that the Federation refuse to either confirm or deny the existence of Section 31, it is agreed that the dirty tricks section will try to recruit Bashir again. This time, the Captain orders, he will accept…

The idea of Section 31 was controversial among fans because it most directly breached Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the Federation as a perfect set-up, as humanity having resolved all its issues and living happily ever after. Deep Space Nine had deliberately, but quietly, set itself to explore the darker side of that vision, the uncomfortable reality that perfect societies don’t stay perfect of themselves, but require a helping hand, beneath what’s on view, to ensure it’s that way.

It’s a broad streak of grey through the black and white, it’s the embodiment of the Greater Good argument. Being Deep Space Nine, we’re offered nothing but equivocation, in equal parts because this is not a black and white question, that it is not a simple question, and that this is a long-running prime-time drama series. But I am reminded of the late Ursula Le Guin’s classic short story, “The Ones who walk away from Omelas”, which I recommend you read.

We live in a dark Universe. It’s always good that our fiction reflects that darkness.

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…

Deep Space Nine: s06 e09 – Statistical Probabilities


The Enhanceds

I was all set to dislike this episode, a combination of feeling under par from a cold that’s come back after I thought I’d finally shifted it, and another of those occasional bouts of burn-out I get (I am never going to tackle a project of this length again). And for the first few minutes, one of the guest stars was well on the road to being even more irritating that Quark at his Quarkiest.

But the episode turned itself around, and turned me around, and I ended up enjoying it, even though I felt it bottled its message in order to give itself an ending that wasn’t totally depressing.

Basically, this episode feeds off last season’s revelation of Doctor Bashir’s genetically enhanced nature. A quartet of enhanced humans, who cannot pass for normal as he did, and who live in an Institution, are brought to DS9 for therapy with Julian. They’re portrayed as weirdos: Jack (Tim Ransom) is hostile, nervously aggressive, superior but paranoid, Lauren (Hilary Shepherd Turner) is a smouldering sexpot whose always lying down, showing off her long legs in bright red tights, Patrick (Michael Keenan), in his fifties, is a big baby, and Sarina (Faith C. Salie), who never speaks, is practically catatonic.

We’re talking wilful eccentricity here, with Lauren as the slinky cliche and Jack, jumping up and down, talking incessantly, biting his nails, going ‘mm, mm, mm’ ALL THE TIME as the blazing irritant.

But when they watch the broadcast from Cardassia, of Gul Demar’s challenge to the Federation to enter into peace talk, the instant insight the three vocal ones have into his demeanour, unraveling the entire story of his killing of Ziyal down to the relationships of all the parties without an atom of knowledge, impresses Bashir, who wants to see ‘his’ people better integrated and become useful.

The enhanced become a think-tank, analysing the peace talks, uncovering the Dominion’s longer-term plans, becoming incredibly useful and, since they’re actually using their intelligence on something that demands complex thought, growing happier, calmer and less flamboyant. For a given value of flamboyant, that is.

Unfortunately, as they build their analysis further forward, the group comes to the unwelcome conclusion that the Federation cannot win the Dominion War under any circumstances. There will be defeat, on the backs of 900 Billions deaths on both sides, five generations of Dominion occupancy and then, spreading from Earth, a resistance that will unite the entire Alpha Quadrant in a New and greater Foundation, defeating the Dominion and bringing peace for 10,000 years.

Funnily enough,no-one outside the enhanceds, which now incorporates Bashir, is inclined to surrender and let history take its inevitable but incredibly long-distance course. Our good Doctor gets incredibly depressed over the non-enhanceds inability to accept inevitability. But when Jack comes up with a plan to hand the Federation ship movements and strategies over to the Dominion, in the form of Demar and Weyoun, accelerating the defeat and reducing the casualties to a mere 2 Billion (hey, it’s an 898 Billion improvement!), he refuses to let them commit treason.

So Jack belts him in the jaw and knocks him out.

Then comes the bit we have to have but which cuts across the entire point of the story so far. Bashir awakens to find himself tied to a chair with only the fair but silent Sarina for company. Playing on the fact that he can see she worships and adores the volatile Jack, and that if they go down for treason she’ll never see him again, he gets her to untie him (apparently, Sarina would have spoken as she did this but the scene got cut for tine) and the plot is foiled.

The enhanceds are sent back to the institution, but everybody’s all friends before they leave, even the furious Jack.

But the cop out is this, and it’s taken from Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy (which I read a good forty years ago), which has been the inspiration throughout, and it’s that this kind of future analysis can only predict large scale movements, and it cannot account for the random actions of a single individual. Sarina is the case in point: Jack’s plan to give the information to the Dominion failed because he didn’t/couldn’t predict her actions. Ergo…

I mean, we weren’t going to get out of here without something like that, and the solution is really only a restatement of the old ‘For the want of a nail…’ parable. But after going to such lengths to portray the future as resolved beyond measure, the lone man theory doesn’t really stack up against it. What we’re saying here is that the inevitable interaction of social and political movements can be derailed irretrievably by one person. Well, sure, if you believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted entirely alone…

But it doesn’t wash with me today. So, though I ended up enjoying this episode more than I expected (and found Faith Salie far more attractive than Hilary Shepherd Turner, but then I’ve always been awkward like that), the ending didn’t convince me. No doubt it’s foreshadowing the end of season 7, but I will get there in my own sweet time, providing I don’t burn out, or get this blasted cold too many times before then…

Deep Space Nine: s06 e04 – Behind the Lines


Traitor

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 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 e25: In the Cards


Any time these two are the stars…

So here we are, on the eve of War. Everyone’s tense, grim and gloomy. People and shops are leaving DS9 for healthier climates. Captain Sisko’s dinner party for the senior staff (except Jardzia Dax, missing for a second week) has fallen flatter than a flat thing that has been flattened by being run over by a steamroller. And Kai Winn is dropping in for a meeting tomorrow morning.

When the Kai arrives, it is with troubling news. She is here to meet with a representative of the Dominion, the egregious Weyoun. The meeting is at the Dominion’s request: they wish to conclude a non-aggression pact. Sisko is concerned, as is the Kai. For the first time, they are completely in accord, they are prepared to work together towards the common goal of Bajor’s preservation.

Portentous stuff. And guess what? That’s the  B story. And it’s deliberately so.

The A story is basically a joke, and I mean that in every sense of the word. Sisko, like everybody else, is down, and Jake wants to cheer him up. The ideal opportunity arises: an auction that includes a framed 1951 Willie Mays rookie baseball card (that even I know is a bit legendary). Jake wants to win it for his Dad, make him happy so, with Nog in reluctant tow, the pair set about trying to ge it. Much havoc and hilarity ensues.

At least, that’s the theory. The inversion of the usual Serious A/lightweight B formula was deliberate, and arose in part from the plan to do a ‘bottle’ episode, cheap’n’cheerful, as a contrast to the major events to come in the season finale next week. And generally it was well-received, though to be honest it bored me, and I felt it to be too contrived.

Some of this is, and I have called myself out on this many times, that I CANNOT watch Deep Space Nine without thinking of the way that TV serial fiction is conducted in the Twenty-First Century. I can’t see it in its own terms, precisely because Deep Space Nine, especially at this time, with the Dominion War brooding, was so perfect for the current day treatment.Some of this is that I started this rewatch because I’d seen some of the series back in the day, and loved it, but never saw beginning or end, and this is the last but one of those episodes from then, and next week’s is the last one I remember, and I don’t find this A story funny or even plausible. It disappoints me by being given prominence over the prelude to War, over the revelation of other facets to Kai Winn, over Sisko’s last advice to try to keep the situation fluid, avoid choices where every choice is fateful and tainted. Instead, we have to watch an obsessive quest for a baseball card that gets inflated into an all-round feel-good story that we’re supposed to accept as A Jolly Good Thing All Round (except for Leeta).

So, basically, Jake and Nog get massively outbid for the lot by the mysterious and paranoid Dr Giger who, it turns out, is working on a cure for mortality that is deliberately ridiculous, who’ll trade the card in return for several McGuffins in the form of unusual materials, for which our young pair have to barter with half the station staff, except that he’s commandeered the quarters below Weyoun and the Jem’Hadar, who suspect assassination and kidnap everybody, including Jake and Nog, only refuses to believe their ‘innocent-victims-of-implausible-circumstance’ story, so Jake spins a yarn about Spacefleet Intelligence and Time Travel, which convinces Weyoun their first story was true, so everybody’s happy, Sisko gets his card, the staff all cheer up thanks to what J & N have done for them, and Weyoun is interested in Giger’s stupid machine.

The B story is left without an ending. But it’s the season finale next week, and we all know what’s coming then, don’t we?

I understand the reasoning, I respect the intention, and if the A story hadn’t been so intentionally stupid, I might have enjoyed the result. But once again i have to go against the grain and say that this was not, in my book, a good episode.