Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Whole Damn Thing: STAR TREK: DS9 #19

Like Mega Man's fight for everlasting peace, it's time once again for another lap around the track in our continuing goal to recap every single episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and we will strike, seek and never yield in that attempt.

This week, we reach another milestone--we've moved on to Season 4 of this show, a season which sees a further evolution of the show's status quo in addition to some changes forced on the show from above. How will our favourite show juggle these two things? Let's find out!


"You'd be surprised the things you learn when you're making alterations."

Are there any more unsettling words for a long-term TV watcher than "Shake up the series?" It's never a good sign. That way typically lies stuff like Cousin Oliver, Cybertits, or God help us all, Poochie. It generally feels and all to often is little more than a stunt to hotshot a higher rating and works to the detriment of the series as it was.

I bring this up, because at the beginning of DS9's fourth season, and edict came down from the parent company to do just that. This did lead to some shuffling of plans--the episodes that would ultimately become "Homefront" and "Paradise Lost" later this season were moved from their place at the beginning of this season for . . .well, the Kilngons becoming the Bad Guys again.

Er, sorta. More on that in a sec. Oh yes, and Worf joins the regular cast and they don't really do much with him with any consistency for awhile.

All things being equal, it kind of worked and it kind of didn't. It worked a lot more organically than other shakeups tend to go--we knew from last season, the Dominion was working covertly to stir up internecine trouble and stage wars between powers to weaken them for the day when the Dominion finally decided to roll in, so the fight between the Federation and the Kilngons has a reasonable in-show reason for this change to happen.

The problem is, the actual Federation/Klingon conflict is a bit hedged--there are some fights, lots of tension, and occasionally we get a sense that things are rather desperate, but it never escalates into the open warfare you would expect and as such it feels . . .well, like a sideshow to the larger Dominion threat, which it is and probably would have been no matter what they did--we've spent two seasons building up the Dominion as Bad Motherfuckers, and the Klingons having a shit-fit just pales by comparison.

Anyways, there's a lot to cover here--On the station, Our Heroes are running drills to ferret out Odo, playing the role of Changeling Saboteur (I should note, as a mild spoiler, when there is a Changeling on the station, he pretty much has the run of the place) and they totally lose. However, there's larger problems here--the Kilngons have shown up in force, ready to help their Federation allies fight against the Dominion.

Thing is--the Dominion's been pretty quiet lately. Also, the Kilngons seem tense and on-edge, constantly challenging people, stopping ships and searching them, and beating the shit out of Garak.

That they picked Garak seems to be linked to whey they're here--the Cardassian government has collapsed (remember the dissident movement from "Profit and Loss" and "Second Skin?") and with the Obsidian Order all but annihilated by the Dominion, a new government is in place and they've sealed their borders. The Klingons think they've been infiltrated by Changelings and intend to storm the Cardassian empire and take it by force in the name of security.

They haven't, but that's not the point, really. So to sort it out, Sisko asks for Worf, who was free since the Enterprise was destroyed in Generations. Worf has been getting his head together because really, that was a fucking shitty movie, and he's not really feeling the whole Starfleet thing right now (For all my concerns about this new direction, I do rather like how Worf is in Sisko's role from "Emissary"--it's a nice callback to the beginning) and while he's willing to help Sisko, he doesn't have much hope about going forward.

With Worf having ferreted out the information, things heat up, and heat up fast. The Defiant rolls out to rescue the new Cardassian leadership and is forced to fire on the Klingons, and the Klingons abrogate their treaty with the Federation and attack the station.

Now, when this happened in "Emissary," the station pretty well got spanked. When it happens this time, Sisko (now fully in "A Man Called Hawk" mode, which means he is now Shift-Y against Stupid Klingon Bullshit) orders that the station's defences be rolled out.

And the station is bristling with fucking guns, and manages to hold off the Klingons for awhile . . .and when the Klingons breach the station, they kick ass bare-handed. Again, whatever concerns I have about the direction of the show, holy shit this is action-packed.

In fact, for a troubling episode, there are a hell of a lot of good bits from the regular cast--Garak and Quark comparing root beer to the Federation, Lyta Alexander's on the Defiant for some reason, Sisko using Garak to covertly warn the Cardassians, Dukat and Garak fighting side by side, Worf kicking ass with his new weapon, Kira getting stabbed and still managing to beat ass, and Sisko kicking the crap out of Klingons bare-handed because he's just that fucking rude.

Oh, and there's a new intro, did I forget to mention that? I know some people prefer the original, but I kinda like the driving and more martial beat and it's cool to see the Defiant in the intro because it means that it's here to stay.

So . . .yeah, this isn't a bad episode by any means--it feels fairly epic, is crammed full of action, and while the long term ramifications don't really play out satisfactorily and Worf wanders around the station like a big ol' grumpy-puss, I can't hold it against the episode. It's too much fun and as shakeups go, about as painless as it gets.


"For you, and for the boy I was."

Man, this is one heavy episode. We begin in the future, with a woman visiting an elderly Jake Sisko. Superficially, Jake's done all right--he's a renowned writer, who mysteriously quit at the height of his popularity.

So old Jake tells his story to her--when he was younger, his father disappeared into subspace because of technobabble-related reasons, and this act causes him to obsessively search for a way to make it right, to the detriment of living his own life. When he finally makes a real effort to move on, his father reappears and then his obsession returns even stronger than before.

During the few times that Sisko reappears to him, and is horrified by what his obsession's wrought in his life. In the name of getting his father back, Jake has abandoned his writing, his wife, the chance of a family, all on the slim hope he could Make Things Right.

I don't want to go into too much detail here, because I don't want to spoil things, and also because anything I say wouldn't adequately explain the emotional gut-punch this episode has. It sticks in the mind even more when you've seen the whole run of the series, as there are little echoes of it ("The Visitor" leitmotif pops up in the series finale, but the context of why it shows up will have to wait until then) all the way through, which you wouldn't expect for a done-in-one character study.

"The Visitor" isn't really connected to the larger tapestry of DS9 (and yet it sorta is) and while it's not beholden to the larger points of the shows over-plot, it does more in sixty minutes to sell the bond between Sisko and his son than the past three seasons taken together have done. It's just an amazing episode with some real emotional content and manages to do in a technobabbly way without the technobabble making the plot convolutions incomprehensible. It's one DS9's all-time best episodes.


"The Founders are like gods to the Jem'Hadar. But our gods never talk to us, and they don't wait for us after death. They only want us to fight for them... and to die for them."

It's our first O'Brien/Bashir team-up of the season, and well . . .it's much less funny, because our wacky duo have crash-landed on a planet full of Jem'Hadar--too many for them to fight off. What's more, the Jem'Hadar in question are dangerously to close to severe withdrawal from "the White," the drug that the Founders use to ensure their loyalty. When it's gone, the Jem'Hadar will go berserk, killing everyone they can get their hands on until they finally die themselves.

While all that's standard operating procedure, the circumstances by which O'Brien and Bashir are kept alive isn't. Goran'Agar, the head of the Jem'Hadar unit, has freed himself of his addiction to the drug, with no ill effects, and wants Bashir to replicate the process for his men.

What makes this episode work is that it's not a Bashir and O'Brien vs. the Jem'Hadar episode as much as it is Bashir vs. O'Brien episode, wherein Bashir's Federation optimism that "we can free the Jem'Hadar of their addiction and allow them to grow as people" vs. O'Brien's more rational "They're incredibly dangerous, and while the fact that they're essentially slaves to the Founders is bad, but letting them off the chain has a greater chance of making them more dangerous than they are already."

The better thing is that the episode refuses to stack the deck one way or another, and the episode is much better for it. What's more that "answers to problems aren't always so clear and this show is not really going to tell you one way or another" carries through into it's B-Plot, in which Worf learns that as a security officer on the station (as opposed to the Enterprise) things are one hell of a lot more complicated than he's used to.

As with the A-plot, it's actually surprisingly strong--typically one suffers at the expense of the other, but this episode manages to juggle both adequately. I should also mention here that it's good to see the Dominion again so soon, because this reassures us that they're still an ongoing threat and haven't been shoved aside for the Klingons.

It also gives Worf something to do rather than wander around the station like a big ol' grumpy-ass, and while he'll go back to doing that very thing immediately after, but well, you take your victories where you can.

So, in conclusion, ladies and jellyspoons, this is a good damn episode, really. Three for three this week. Can't remember when we had a run that strong.

And that's all for this week! Join us next week when Dukat and Kira hunt for a new recurring cast member in "Indiscretion"; The last Dax episode where they really try to do anything of meaning with her character happens with "Rejoined"; The Defiant comes down with a bad case of gas in "Starship Down"; and we get one of those rarest of birds--an actually funny Ferengi episode in "Little Green Men." It'll be fun, as these things should always be.

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