Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Whole Damn Thing: STAR TREK: DS9 #28

Man, weeks just blow by here with unrelenting force, because it feels like I just did last week's. Anyways, I'm Kazekage and this is my comprehensive review of every episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This week, we dive in again with another quartet of Season 5 episodes. We're coming close to a major shift in the show's status quo, that's . . .next week, I think. This week, everyone gets the First Contact uniforms, for those of you who care about such things or are trying to place this in some time frame.


"Don't you get it? I'm not trying to save you. I'm taking you along as emergency rations. If you die, I'm gonna eat you."

From the very instant Odo and Quark's enmity was introduced, the natural move has been to pair the two of them together in dire straits. This is a typical storytelling device--pair two characters who hate each other off with them and hopefully good character beats will ensue, typically those of the "we're not so different/grudging respect" variety) We've seen this a couple times, though the only one that's springing to mind for me right now is "Civil Defense" where they were trapped in Odo's office while the station was busy blowing itself up.

Here, things are more literalized. Carrying Quark to a grand jury inquest, their runabout crashes on an inhospitable planet known as "California," (which, from all accounts is pretty intolerable), all their emergency supplies are fucked up and they have to Work Together Or Die. Why yes, you have seen this plot many many times before, and it pretty much ends the same way every time--the principals bicker amongst themselves, argue to the point of splitting up but eventually one or both come through and their saved because if their names are in the main credits, they ain't dying.

But wait--there's more. In the B-plot, Nog has returned from Starfleet Academy and an attempt to room with Jake goes predictably awry as Nog has gotten super tight-ass in a kind of Junior ROTC way and Jake plays the roll of his slack-ass bong-hitting roommate who just wants to eat Cheetos and watch Dragon Ball Z all day. Predictably, they bicker a lot.

And therein lies the problem with this episode--it's two plots full of characters bickering with no let-up and after awhile it just . . .gets . . .too . . .damn . . .shrill. Typically your B-plot is supposed to complement or contrast your A-plot not dial up the volume to 90, and rip the knob off. I'm sure there were good reasons why they wanted to do this--to show Odo's frailty, to advance Nog's character development, and, apparently to pay homage to Waiting for Godot, but holy shit, this episode is god damned excruciating. It's not "Let He Who Is Without Sin" level bad (that comes later) but it's really not a good idea at all and just drags on so painfully.

Thankfully, the next episode is really a lot better than this, so let's talk about it right now!


I was in a Cardassian prison camp for five years, and I can remember each and every beating I suffered. And while you had your weapons to protect you, all I had was my faith... and my courage. Walk with the Prophets child... I know I will"

I'm sure I've done this joke before, but it was last year, so it's probably time again. It's new to someone, I bet.

Sisko gets electrocuted while researching a fabled lost Bajoran city, gets electrocuted and goes native. This happens just as Bajor is about to be folded into the Federation, which is just about the last time that this particular plot point--which, let's remember, was the whole reason for them being here.--is considered in any meaningful way.

This episode, is, in a sense, a continuation off last season's "Accession," where we saw Sisko make some peace with being the Emissary. This episode has him completely embracing the concept, willing to risk his life to make sense of the visions put in his head (one of which involves "The coming war with the Dominion." Hmmm . . .) and--and here we spoil--scrap Bajor's entry into the Federation with an ill-timed freakout involving locusts.

It's a great episode, in one sense, because it ties in a lot of things--Kassidy Yates returns from prison after last season, Kai Ratched returns and gets a more nuanced characterisation than her usual pious, evil, self (the quote for this episode is taken from her remark to Kira) Jake's obsessive need for his father to be in his life (from "The Visitor") along with the other stuff we've talked about earlier in the review. Thematically, it pulls in a lot, and about 98% I like.

But dammit, I think the ending sticks the landing quite a bit, as the lever that takes Sisko's visions away (Jake's desire to save his life) and Sisko's forgiveness isn't really adequately played through and we're left with Kassidy really hamfistedly saying "Yes, you lost so much but look at all you have, George Bailey" and . . .man, it really does hurt the episode.

What else hurts this episode is, sadly, the stuff that comes after. From here on in, the Prophets, like the Pah-Wraiths last week, are going to take a more active role in the series and unfortunately, the more that we see them, the less sense they make, and the more sense of wonder is lost from them. From here on in "The will of the Prophets" might as well be the new "a wizard did it." And won't we have enough of those soon . . .

But for now, let's focus on the 98% of this episode that actually works and not pillory it for the crimes of its subsequent episodes (no, we'll save that for next season) It's a great story that really ties in a lot of plot elements and does so in a way that feels consistent with the show and points the way forward for the remainder of the run.

For good and for worse. Oh damn--I said I wasn't going to do that.


"For fifty years you raped our planet, and you killed our people. You lived on our land and you took the food out of our mouths, and I don't care whether you held a phaser in your hand or you ironed shirts for a living. You were all guilty and you were all legitimate targets!"

Is it a new thing, the whole "pregnant yet badass" cliche, or has it always been and I just haven't remembered it being so prevalent until recently? I say this because this episode is basically Kira being a ready to pop badass--Amy Pond, take note. It also has quite an amazing moral, but we'll get to that when we get to it.

Someone's killing off Kira's old associates in the Shakaar resistance cell, and they're being damn cagey about it--using remotes to selectively pick them off. Worse yet, they're using Kira's voice to taunt her with every kill and lord knows, if there's anything stupider than fucking with the Sisko, it's fucking with the Sisko's right hand woman, who frankly wakes up ever morning wishing someone would step to her so she can beat some ass, pregnant or not.

This gives us a chance to meet Furel and Lupaza again, that adorable bickering couple who nevertheless love each other that we saw a bit of in "Shakaar." Unfortunately, this is the last time we'll see them, as they die in another bombing. Kira takes up their mission--they'd arrived on the station to protect her and find the person killing the Shakaar members (keeping it in the family, as it were) and with no one left (except Shakaar, obviously, which . . .well, I'll save that for next episode) she starts looking for answers.

She finds them at the home of one Silaran Prin, a Cardassian who looks like he just stepped out of a hot grease safety video. Prin was the dogsbody of a Cardassian Gul during the Occupation--he folded shirts for the guy. Then he was caught in a bombing committed by the Shakaar. Considering himself an innocent unjustly punished, he decided to kill off the guilty, the Shakaar. He explains this to Kira as though it's the simplest thing in the world to grasp.

And Kira tells him the Cardassians didn't belong there. They invaded Bajor, plundered it, committed unbelievable atrocities, and kept their boot on Bajor's neck for 60 years. In Kira's mind, the very act of them being where they weren't supposed to justifies them blowing up Cardassians.

Yes, years before Battlestar Galactica debated the morality of terrorism and everyone patted that show on the back for being so "edgy," one of the main characters on a show justified blowing the hell up out of people. . . to one of the people she'd blown the hell up. There are, at present, no metric ranges that give us a proper way to describe just how big a set of balls that takes, but I just write reviews for these things, I don't makes em.

This is a pretty good episode, and like "Rapture," it foregrounds something we really hadn't considered in a lot of detail--that for all we sympathise with them, the Bajorans were terrorists, and not at all above doing anything that needed to be done to force the Cardassians to leave their world. But we don't think of them as terrorists, because "terrorism" is such a loaded word. This episode kinda throws it back at us and makes us consider it.

It also leaves us with a bit of a sticky wicket in terms of Kira's character. It's hard to reconcile the Kira who declares to Prin that every Cardassian was guilty and what she did was justified in light of how she dealt with Marritza in "Duet" and Ghemor in "Second Skin." It doesn't derail the episode (lord knows, history is replete with people who like a person, but can't stand people in any and all ways) but it does bring up the very binary and absolute way she sees the Cardassians, a fact which will be played to great effect in "Ties of Blood and Water" later on this season, but here, well . . .it's nothing that ruins the episode, but . . .it really makes you think.


"If you're happy, there's something very wrong in the world. The center cannot hold."

The last time we saw Odo's "father," Dr. Mora, was in the frankly awful "The Alternate," an episode that tried to do a lot, but did terrifyingly little of it well. It pleases (and relieves) me to say that this episode--his final appearance on the show--is a much stronger episode.

Well, half of it, anyways. The good news first--Odo finds a sick baby Changeling and nurses it back to health. Dr. Mora is called in to help him, but at first they're so busy fighting old battles and using competing methodologies (Odo wants to nurture and encourage the Changeling to reach its potential, Mora wants to use electric shocks to force it to change form) that all they can do is bicker at first.

Ultimately, they bond over the Changeling--when it changes form, Mora speaks about his glee at seeing Odo transform for the first time . . .and his regret that Odo would come to hate him for the methods he used. Odo comes to understand that he is not and never has been Mora's science experiment, he is, for all intents and purposes, his son, and thanks to this baby Changeling, they find common ground and build some bridges.

And then (spoilers ahead) the baby Changeling dies. I will say this for the episode--it manages what I considered to be utterly impossible--to move you so much over what is actually a petri dish full of Murphy's Oil Soap. Part of this owes to the conviction the principals bring to it--Odo and Mora's arguments really feel like how bickering between children and their parents go, with both sides saying things they immediately regret just for the cheap thrill of hurting the person you say them to, to their shared joy at the "child" they're guiding, to their shared sense of loss when the Changeling dies.

Lest you think this episode is a complete downer, however, I should point out the baby Changeling has one more gift left for Odo--he merges with him and Odo is suddenly able to shapeshift again. Yes, the permanent irrevocable judgment of the Great Link is undone by Odo's goo baby, after half a season was spent not doing too much with Odo as a solid (I think he actually gets more feature episodes now that he can shapeshift again than he did when he was a solid) While this is a bit of a missed opportunity, like comic book death, the notion that Odo would be a solid forever probably wasn't credible (and they HAD telegraphed a bit in "Things Past" that Odo's solid state wasn't as fixed as it seemed so it's not totally out of left field) and, well, with the Dominion about to make their move here as the season ticks down, Odo might as well be at full force for it, right?

Okay, so that's the episo--oh, wait. The B-plot. Sigh.

Kira finally has Cheif O'Brien's baby after several false alarms and an alpha struggle between O'Brien and Shakaar (who is also making his last appearance) This is one of those times I wish they'd thought a bit more about the idea of connecting the two stories (yes they work thematically, but there's no conviction behind Kira's bit until the very end, when they share a cup of sadness about their lost "children") because this is yet another plot that does no one any favours, as both "dads" act like utter shitheads until Kira sets them straight, and yes, it is just as sitcom-y as it sounds.

I think this probably finished off Shakaar as a love interest for Kira, as he comes off as so much less of worthy one here (shame, too--as he was very strong in "Shakaar" and "Crossfire.") being very petulant and whiny and . . .yeah, it's no wonder they break up off-screen. Also: Bajoran birth rites are astoundingly asinine. Really, this plot mars what is otherwise a very effective episode and you're better off taking a bathroom break or running to the kitchen instead of watching this.

Again, but for a weak b-plot, this would be an essential episode, and it's such a shame it hurts the episode so much.

That's it for this week. Join us next week when Eddington returns and we have our first Controversial Sisko Moment in "For The Uniform"; Something major happens in "In Purgatory's Shadow"; Part 2 of something major happening continues in "By Inferno's Light"; and we have a (sorta) crossover with Voyager and get some major revelations about Bashir in "Doctor Bashir, I Presume." Join us next time for major series-status-quo-shaking stuff, spoilers, and pleasurrre.

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