Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Whole Damn Thing: STAR TREK: DS9 #29

OK, here we go again! Once again it's time to stop by the side of the road and admire the grandeur of the entirety of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, as we might contemplate the majesty of the Grand Canyon, or even the world's largest ball of twine. This week we've got oodles, nay bundles of interesting stuff to consider, as we have a controversial Sisko bit and perhaps the most major status quo shift in the entire series . . .well, I was gonna say "To this point," but really, the two-parter that anchors the happy middle of this quartet is really major. The rest we'll fill in as we go.

Needless to say, there will be spoilers. Sorry guys--there's just no way to talk about the plot without it becoming "the thing that happened that one time"--DS9 is a plot heavy show, and that's just how it is. God knows, if I review Babylon 5 ever, that show's even more plot-heavy--I might as well just type out the damn scripts.


"The secret life of Michael Eddington."

In case you missed it last year, recurring cast member Michael Eddington (or that dude from Krull, if you like your obscure references) defected to the Maquis in last year's "For The Cause." He's been on the loose since then, tear-assing his way through the Demilitarised Zone and hurting Cardassians. In all that time, even though we haven't heard about any of this, Sisko's been hunting him, because if "The Maquis" taught us anything, if you personally betray The Sisko, he will hunt your ass down to the ends of the . . .well, seeing as how we're not on Earth, not the ends of the Earth, but the end of something else.

This episode concerns itself with how Eddington uses Sisko's obsession to get the drop on him a couple times. In the first, he points a gun at him, takes him through a Maquis colony, tries to explain their position, asks Sisko to leave them alone, as their quarrel isn't with them, it's with the Cardassians.

Well, Sisko says no. And then Eddington locates a trojan on the Defiant and wipes out their entire computer system. This leads to something the makers of the show really wanted to do--have the Defiant controlled a lot like a submarine--but it doesn't really functionally handicap the story all that much and seems like a transparent gimmick.

. . .as does the holo-communicator, which is rolled out with great ballyhoo and I think it ends up being used twice. It's a fix to a problem that I never really found apparent--To them, viewscreen conversations are storytelling death (Kinda--witness Star Trek: The Slow Motion Picture, wherein 95% of that movie is middle-aged dentists staring at TV screens) so instead we have this: Person stands in the middle of a ridiculous litter box and has a face to face conversation. It looks really, really stupid.

Anyways, those blemishes aside, the episode is about Sisko's obsession. Eddington compares him to Inpector Javert from Les Miserables, and cautions that his obsession will blind him to the cost of pursuing it--hell, in the course of the episode, the Defiant is crippled and another ship is critcally damaged trying to chase him down.

But this episode is not about Sisko's obsession making him screw up, no way. This episode is about how he uses Eddington's perception of his obsession to win. Allow me to explain--is Sisko is Javert, the baddie, that makes Eddington the hero of the story, Valjean, by default. Sisko's able to use to this knowledge to maneuver Eddington into forcing him to give up.

He does this by doing something which, for people who don't like DS9 is one of the things they point to as proof that it's "Not Star Trek" (whatever that can be said to mean) as the Maquis is poisoning the atmosphere of Cardassian colonies in the Zone, Sisko starts poisoning Maquis colonies in retaliation. Eddington tries to call his bluff, saying that there's no way Sisko would do that . . .and Sisko fucking well does it, and threatens to do it again.

Okay, even I will admit that using biological warfare to catch one dude is a little much (and this is coming from Mr. "No kill like overkill" here), and some of that is mitigated in the wrap-up (the displaced peoples decide to swap colonies essentially, which is pretty benign considering we're talking biological fucking warfare here) and Eddington does give himself up. However, even I will admit there's a bit of "holy shit, did he really do that?"

This isn't a bad episode, really. It's got a rep all out of proportion with what the episode actually contains, but it's a good episode that turns on an interesting bit of psychology and shows us there's quite a bit of grist in the Sisko/Eddington conflict for the storytelling mills. We'll have one more of these before the season's done, and and it's not bad either.


"At the first sign of betrayal, I will kill him. But, I promise to return the body intact."
"I assume that's a joke."
"We will see."

And here we go. The station gets an oddly coded message from the Gamma Quadrant on an old Cardassian frequency. Garak decodes it, and says it's just some old planetary survey report, but makes preparations to leave at once, because it's actually a message from his mentor Enabran Tain, specifically, some coordinates and the word "Alive." You may remember that Tain led the Romulan/Cardassian fleet to a teeth-bleeding curb-stomping by the Dominion.

This is the least of Garak's problems, as Dukat shows up and tries to beat the shit out of him for making goo-goo eyes at Ziyal, something which I frankly have no problem with--that whole thing is seriously icky and even moreso considering how half-hearted they pursued it.

Anyways, Garak and Worf are sent to the Gamma Quadrant to see what they can find. Garak uses the time to complain that Earl Grey tea sucks and mess with Worf's head. This amusing bit of banter is cut short when, while hiding in a nebula, they discover a Dominion fleet. A fucking huge one, actually, and they're heading through the wormhole.

Shit just got real. Gark and Worf are kidnapped and taken to Stalag Asteroid 13, wherein they meet up with Martok (the real one, this time--the Martok from "Way of the Warrior" and the beginning of this season was a Changeling) Tain and . . .Doctor Bashir, wearing the older uniform. But then, we've seen Bashir on the station, haven't we?

Which means . . .bad things.

In any event, with a fleet coming, there's only one thing to do--collapse the entrance to the wormhole, a notion Kira balks at, but Sisko says they have no option--between everything that's happened, a protracted battle afterwards is out of the question. Given that 1) we have two more seasons to go in this show and 2) they're explaining all this in front of a Changeling sabtoeur . . .well, how do you think this is gonna go?

Back at Stalag 13, there's a bunch of character stuff going on as Bashir compares notes with the new arrivals. Oh, and Tain dies, and let's go ahead and get this out of the way, because we're going to use this as an example of Garak making chicken salad out of a frankly chicken shit plot point.

Tain, you see, is Garak's father, in a story beat you could probably see from orbit. I hate this plot point, but the scene with Tain and Garak actually manages to make this work well--With his last few breaths Tain relates a story of when Garak demonstrated his perseverance and his father's pride in his son, and Garak resolves to escape.

And now, it's cliffhanger time. The Dominion are on the way, destroying listening posts along the way. The station tries to seal the wormhole, but it backfires--the opening is now greatly reinforced and a horde of Dominion ships have come.

Oh. Shit.


"You and I on the same side. It never seemed quite . . .right, did it?"

The Dominion fleet pauses as DS9 mobilises and prepares to fight, working in concert with Dukat and his Bird of Prey. But as the fleet turns and heads for Cardassia, Dukat flies off to engage the fleet . . .only not.

Because the fleet is here at Dukat's invitation. He's been dealing with them secretly for the past few months and now Cardassia has joined the Dominion as a full partner.

Oh my, so much to unpack there. In Season 4 and up to now we've seen the Cardassians on the run. With the collapse of the Central Command, the continuing Maquis raids, and the Klingon attacks, the Cardassians had become a pretty feeble power. We saw in "Return to Grace" that they had become so cowed, in fact, they were unwilling to fight when presented with a tactical advantage.

This paralleled Dukat' fall from glory in "Indiscretion" and "Return to Grace." Humiliated and drummed out of the higher echelons of power, Dukat had been humbled, but was determined to regain what he had lost. We thought some of that had been regained when he decided to go all space pirate, but no, now he has everything. Now Dukat is Cardassia and . . .well, he has everything he's wanted for awhile and is going to go about the business of settling scores. The Dominon will kick the the crap out of the Klingons. The Dominion will eradicate the Maquis. And the Dominion will probably be wanting their space station back, so . . .

. . .while all that's going on, back in Stalag 13, Garak is trying to rewire the transmitter Tain used to send the message while his claustrophobia goes into overdrive to contact their runabout, which the Dominion have stupidly left in orbit, Worf is helping in his usual way--by punching lots of things, and Martok is there providing moral support. We actually get a badass Worf moment when he refuses to stay down in the face of the Jem'Hadar commander wrecking his shit in a display of toughness not seen since the classic Magnum TA/Tully Blanchard "I Quit" match at Starrcade. The Jem'Hadar commander finally gives up, because he can't defeat Worf--he can only kill him. For all I give Worf shit, I must say--that's pretty damn hardcore.

Oh, and back on the station, the Bashir Changeling has wired up a bomb to blow up the Bajoran sun, wiping out the station, Bajor, and the Klingons and Romulans, who've decided to join back up with the good guys as the Dominion is ready to pounce. This is all a big dodge however, as the "fleet" is just an illusion necessary to keep everyone off-balance until the Bashir-Changeling can blow up the sun.

You can guess how that goes.

Well, the immediate crises all get tied up in a bow, but this really shakes things up--with the Dominion in Cardassia, relentlessly building up their military, war is even more inevitable than before. In fact, now it's just a matter of time.

I said this two-parter was a major shift, and I meant it. It really shakes things up and defines where we're going forward. As you see, there's a hell of a lot going on, most of it very interesting--Cardassia and Dukat getting back to being bad guys (Dukat will do another heel turn next season to much lesser effect) and some stuff I absolutely hate (Garak and Ziyal and Tain being Garak's father) but mostly it's all to the good.

Mind you, to get the full effect it virtually demands that you've seen every single episode up until now, but . . .well, if you've come this far, I reckon you're already in that club.


"If this works you'll be able to irritate people you've never even met"

Half this episode is absolutely great. The other half of it makes me want to punch someone in the neck. I will try to favour the part I like over the bit I don't.

I really like this episode as it manages to retcon in something for Bashir that explains everything about the character with such ease that it almost seems like the plan all along. It's also got a real emotional core that, while sad, is very honest, very of the moment, and flies in the face of all the usual Star Trek nonsense about how humanity has evolved into just plain better folks.

Doctor Zimmerman, he who created Voyager's Doctor has come up with the next step in medical holograms--a surrogate doctor able to work for longer periods of time than the original, who was only meant to be an emergency supplement (which only lasts, it seems, seven years and a run in syndication afterwards) and Bashir has been elected to be the face of the newer, friendlier, hologram.

This means Zimmerman has to interview his friends and family. Bashir says "OK, yeah, my friends," but not his family. They're not close, and haven't been for some time. This being what it is, Zimmerman immediately invites his family to DS9. That was, once again, something you could see coming from orbit, however, to the episode's credit, they don't do the usual "family shows up, does wacky things and embarrasses the child," thing.

If anything, just the opposite--Bashir and his parents can't be in the same room for five seconds without an argument breaking out and Bashir leaving looking hurt. What's more, they're showing some strain, because there's a shared secret they're trying very hard to kept under wraps.

That secret is this: When Bashir was a child, he had a mild learning disability. His parents took him and has his DNA re sequenced, and the Bashir we know was born. Better, stronger, faster, smarter, but forever marked by the belief that he wasn't good enough as he was.

Hell of a trip to lay on a kid, huh?

This is actually a pretty major thing, and not just because in Star Trek Land it's against the law to do weird things to your DNA (unless the transporter or holodecks fuck up) because you might end up with Ricardo Montalban's frankly amazing pecs. No, this has some resonance to most parent's determination to make sure their kids do well and what that sort of pressure exerts on the kid. How many times do you hear about lining up good schools while the kid's in diapers, or putting them on some drug to calm them down or make them not sad, or . . .anything? And what's more, when you look at it from the somewhat more black and white of a child, it's like the ultimate version of what every kid fears their parents will say--"You're such a disappointment."

So naturally, on an episode with such a heavy plot must be leavened by a comedy B-plot, right? And as this is the season of Operation: Get Rom Over, that means Rom has to finally confess his feelings to Leeta and her frighteningly rocksteady breasts (seriously, I don't want to sound pervy, but they either had one hell of a costume design on DS9 or Chase Masterson's bust is . . .well, unbustable) She's also being courted by Doctor Zimmerman, and that's all the effort I feel like putting into this, as it's stupid, stereotypical, and a little misogynist, really. Plus . . .and I don't mean to sound like I'm overreacting but, uh, I really fucking hate Rom and I will have some more fuel for that fire as we go along.

And that's it for this week. Join us next week (and yes, I'll try to have some other content during the week) as Odo gets lucky and then not in the quasi-noir "A Simple Investigation"; Quark goes to work for Victor Maitland in "Business as Usual"; We have two surprise returns and more about Cardassia, the newest Dominion member in "Ties of Blood and Water"; and DS9 punches my joy and love of life in the face with "Ferengi Love Songs." Join us next week for callbacks, Ferengi Komedy, and . . .pleasure?


C. Elam said...

From what I gather via a (tame) image search, Chase Masterson is just that...gifted.

Enjoyable write-up as always. I barely watched DS9 back in the day, but you consistently entertain in reviewing it.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

It's a credit to the writers that even though "Star Trek" exemplifies the Planet of Hats trope, and the Cardassians' Hat was being treacherous, the reveal in "By Inferno's Light" still comes as a surprise - especially given the She-Founder's earlier comments to Garak about the fate of his people. It's truly a defining moment in the franchise. :)

Kazekage said...

Yeah, I frankly hate to deal with that sort of thing in a public forum, but really, it's been presented to me so many times and there's no character beyond the twin peaks that I just felt like it needed to be said.

I just hope I didn't come off as sexist or anything.

Thanks man. I'm glad you're liking these. :)

Kazekage said...

Well, given the Cardassians early development as the Space Nazis, I suppose the notion of a Weimar-like interregnum was inevitable.

You could, of course, point to Yet Another DS9/B5 similarity in the Dominion/Cardassia alliance, as in B5 the Centauri would ally themselves with a more powerful race, and it forever marked them.

I've always liked Big Momma's little spiel in "Broken Link" because for all that DS9 will drop the ball from time to time here as we move into endgame, this bit they got right. Hell, I would honestly say that DS9 defined the Cardassians even more completely than the Bajorans.

B Phat said...

"...witness Star Trek: The Slow Motion Picture, wherein 95% of that movie is middle-aged dentists staring at TV screens"
Still, I'll always love that movie for being as weird and dumb as it is.

Kazekage said...

I will always love that movie for the hilarious "slow-motion" scene, which seems to move much faster than the rest of the movie, weirdly enough.

"phooooootooooonn . . . torpeeeedoooos . . .arrrrrmed."