Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Whole Damn Thing: STAR TREK: DS9 #22

If it's Saturday, I guess it's time for another one of these. Here's another roadside pit stop on our whistle-stop tour of the entirety of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This week . . .hm, I wonder if this week is the halfway mark yet or not? Oh well, we'll take that up in the other entry. Or not.

I'm sick as the proverbial dog as I type this, so let's get down to it.


"I'm just trying to keep to the essentials, Major."

So, hey, let's tie up a few loose ends from last season. Shakaar is the new-minted first minister of Bajor, and Odo's still hung up on Kira. So let's stick them in a plot that allows for Odo to stand idly by while Kira and Shakaar get closer while Shakaar is on the station to talk with Federation representatives about the possibility of moving up the timetable for Bajor's admittance into the Federation (I think there's maybe two or three more mentions of this left in the series, which should tell you how attended to this thread from the pilot is) There's a risk of Shakaar being targeted for assassinations, and hence, Odo is Kevin Costner in . . .The Bodyguard.

It's not a bad episode, really. For one thing, we're following up on the Odo/Kira thing, and we haven't really seen Odo dominated by any emotions other than "annoyance" and "Do what I say" (may not be an emotion) except for when Garak tortured him in "The Die Is Cast" and here we get to see emotion get in the way to such an extent that he really, really screws up.

That we've never seen this, or never knew he was capable of it makes it all the more striking, as does the fact that when he's later enraged he trashes his room and Quark is the only one who can talk him down. I don't think you could really do this on any show where we hadn't been building these characters up for so long (some more completely than others--sorry, Dax) and have it have any punch to it.

Not to say it doesn't have its flaws--Odo being hung up on Kira works more when you don't put them together, and ultimately Shakaar is, I think, one more episode from appearing ever again, not a great fit for Kira (they don't really have a lot of chemistry) but generally this show manages to be more than the sum of it's parts.


"What Cardassians? Don't you see, Major? They're paralyzed. They're beaten and defeated. I am the only Cardassian left, and if no one will stand against the Klingons, I will."

So, not too long ago we had "Indiscretion," our first of two Kira/Dukat team-ups which introduced the rather problematic character of Ziyal. This episode is the second part of that, and shows us the consequences involved with Dukat bringing his illegitimate half-Bajoran daughter back to Cardassia--namely, he lost everything and has been busted down to beingg a freighter captain, charged with shuttling Kira to a conference with Cardassians to decide how best to deal with the Klingons (remember them?) who are still beating the crap out of Cardassia.

Unfortunately, by the time they get there, the Klingons have killed everyone at the conference (first really warlike thing they've done in while, really) So Kira and Dukat team up to make the bastards pay for what they've done, and with a little help from Kira's terrorist days (after all, a freighter going up against a Klingon warship is the very definition of an asymmetric conflict) they actually manage to cripple the ship and steal the Klingon ship. What's more, in the ship's records are details of Klingon operations that would allow the Cardassians to go on the offensive.

But they're not willing to. Dukat's given his title and his position back, but now that he's seen who's giving it to him--the people he served--he deems it worthless and decides to go traipsing off in the Klingon ship and play space pirate.

This is a tricky episode for a number of reasons, a lot of them depending on how you feel about Dukat. If you believe some of his anguish and humiliation is actually genuine, then there's a certain tragedy here. If you see him as the kind of guy who goes with whatever allows him to keep his delusions of being a good man despite the notable handicap of being Space Hitler, this is something of a blind alley (don't worry, it gets fixed soon enough) Dukat doesn't really do much in this new status quo before the next change happens, but it's an intriguing choice to go in this direction, even if it sets up some character questions that never really get a satisfactory answer.

I should mention two things before we move on to the next episode--Ziyal moves to the station, which ultimately leads to her being paired up (or the attempt is made) with Garak, which right up there with icky pairings for me. There's something about putting a character as thinly drawn as Ziyal against such a nuanced character like Garak that really shows up and does either character no favours, so I'm kinda dreading this when we get to it.

We're also introduced to Dukat's second in command, Damar. Damar doesn't have much to do here, or in his second appearance, but he will grow in importance soon enough.


"I have no family."

Here's a Worf episode that works out, folks. His brother Kurn, occasionally seen on Next Generation, comes to the stations. He's been punished for Worf siding against the Klingons back in "Way of the Warrior" and asks Worf, the only person who can do anything about it, to restore his honor.

Since this is Klingons we're talking about, it naturally involves Worf stabbing Kurn in the chest. This leads everyone to freak the holy fuck out and try to find a different solution to the problem.

In the b-plot, Our Heroes learn that the Klingons are leaving cloaked mines everywhere (but not doing a good job of keeping track of them, because they find out after a Klingon ship gets blown up by one of its own mines) This naturally being untenable (yeah, wait a year for this to come up again) they have to figure out a way to stop it.

Kurn is not happy about the not being dead thing, but in light of not being able to be killed by Worf, he's Worf's responsibility--whatever he tells him to do, he'll do. So Worf gets him a job with the Bajoran security forces under Odo. Things go well, at first, until Kurn deliberately takes a shot he could easily have missed. This is the end of his career with Odo: people with a death wish make terrible cops, whatever Lethal Weapon might have told you.

So Worf and Kurn are enlisted to infiltrate a Klingon ship, find information about the mines, and use it to expose the Klingon's plans. Everything goes OK, until they don't, and Kurn is forced to kill a Klingon doing his duty, and he declares his dishonor complete and is on the point of killing himself.

Fortunately, there's a solution, and that solution is Bullshit Science--Bashir alters Kurn's DNA signature and muddles his memories to such a degree that Kurn is "dead," but he will have a new life with no memory of Worf, and Worf will have severed his last meaningful connection with his people.

This is a great episode, especially as it avoids being a polemic for or against assisted suicide. Because it centers more on Kurn, and his despair at what his life has turned into, and Worf's culpability and responsibility in Kurn's situation. The revolution of it would piss me off if it weren't more perfect--Worf's line about having no family quoted above is wonderful in its understated pain. It also gives Worf something to do other than stand in the corner and be a big grumpy asshole, which sorta fits his character (he's isolated from many things--the humans he works with, his people, the rest of the crew) but this is one of the few times we actually see why he is the way he is. Give me five more episodes like this, and I wouldn't complain about him being shoehorned in.


"I tried to protect you, save you from yourself."
"How? By telling me I was an idiot my whole life?"

So after romantic pain borne of love, a treatise on the values of thinking like a terrorist, and the notion of how best to kill your brother when he asks for it, DS9 gives us . . .a vaguely comedic Ferengi episode about labour organising.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this one, because, well, Ferengi episode. I give them all credit for trying to do something interesting--we have strikes, we have the formation of a union among Quark's staff, we have Brunt show up again with a few strike-breakers in tow and . . .it's all very well and good, I guess.

In the B-plot, Worf moves in to quarters on the Defiant because sometimes the show-runners seem determined for me to not like him.

There's a couple things going on here that have some long-term significance--Quark gets on the wrong side of the Ferengi Commerce Authority (which will pay off to a larger degree a little later) and Rom goes to work as an engineer, because the notion of an idiot engineer was incredibly mirthful to the people who wrote this show and less so to me, who has to watch it.

The problem is, there is no gray area here to be had. The deck is stacked in favour of the union from the beginning and everyone who's against the union is transparently evil, and whatever you feel about labour relations, really that kind of binary storytelling really belongs on like, Captain Planet or something. We're supposed to look past that, I imagine, to the notion that this is actually more "Rom vs. Quark, played out in a larger conflict," but that didn't work out with the episode with Quark's mom last season and it doesn't work here because it's awfully hard to do a nuanced story about family ties . . .in between all the mugging and alleged comedy.

And that's that for this week. Join us next week when Fletch's boss travels through time to teach him a lesson about being the Emissary in "Accession"; Worf gets embroiled in a Klingon legal drama in "Rules of Engagement"; O'Brien is tormented by Ray Traylor, his big stick, and ball and chain too [no one is going to get that reference] in "Hard Time"; and we return to the Mirror Universe and the diminishing returns kick in big time in "Shattered Mirror." Join us then!

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