Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Whole Damn Thing--STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE #32

Just my luck that even with an end-of-season post like this I'm running late. Alls I can say is blame that old devil "real life" for getting in the way (and being on course to do so for the foreseeable future) and really cutting into my blog time. I have considered stepping up the production of these posts so I can get through the last 2 seasons very quickly. We'll have to see.

Never mind the preamble, here's the Sex Pistols: This is yet another installment of my never-ending battle to recap every single episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This week is one of those wonderful weeks, not just because it's half the usual episodes, but because the episodes are a matched pair featuring serious stories balanced with comedic stories. One succeeds amazingly well. The other really suffers for having to carry two incompatible stories. Which one is which? Let's find out!


"The entire future of the galaxy may depend on us tracking down Willie Mays... and stopping him."

In the name of cheering up his father, who, with the growing threat of the Dominion reaching the boil, is pretty down in the dumps (really, all of Our Heroes are pretty much in Shitsville about it) Jake decides to buy him a Willie Mays baseball card at auction.

Unfortunately, he misses his chance. Ordinarily that would be the end of things, but the owner of the card, Dr. Giger, offers to trade for a few services--you see, he's working on a science project to make himself immortal in the most idiotic way possible (seriously, it must be seen to be believed) and in the process of securing it, they manage to do good deeds for everyone, and piss off Kai Ratched, but that happens anyways.

This will astound you, but, for a comedic DS9 plot line . . .this, this works. It's genuinely funny, never overstays its welcome, and it's kind of sweet, all told, as in the process of doing all these good deeds, Jake and his buddy Nog end up creating some great business with the main cast (Bashir's story of his favourite teddy bear being stolen by his ex-girlfriend is a real favourite of mine) and manages to cross over the other plot a few times and makes the episode feel rather more unified than these stratified A and B plot episodes sometimes do.

And what is the other plot? Well . . .Kai Ratched is on the station to meet with Weyoun, to discuss the idea of Bajor signing non-aggression pact with the Dominion. Sisko is about as happy about this as you might imagine, which is not at all.

But he doesn't have much of a leg to stand on, sadly--when he flipped his shit and kept Bajor out of the Federation back in "Rapture," he pretty much isolated Bajor from the Federation and Sisko can't guarantee that the Federation would sacrifice an actual member world for Bajor's defence.

Yeah, they snuck THIS little tidbit into the comedy story. I do rather like the audacity of that, you know--here we are in the midst of the happy comedy story and you're all like "man, this seems like something they shouldn't be wasting time on this kind of frivolity" and BAM here's a major plot development that will pay off in the season finale (or, if you're watching it via DVD, the very next episode) and you never even expected it.

It's not even tone whiplash, as the whole plot with Jake is touched off BY the pressure the Dominion is exerting, so it's all . . .well, pretty unified, really.

I like this episode a lot. It's a palate cleanser for the end of the fifth season, it's a comedy episode that is actually funny, and doesn't involve a bunch of characters acting like imbeciles, and doesn't make me want to kill myself, and there's also some plot movement in the tall grass. This is DS9 at its best . . .everything's neatly balanced.


"As someone once said, these are the times that try men's souls."

The good news: This episode feels so perfectly in line with the main themes of DS9 that you could draw a straight fucking line from "Emissary" to this and it just . . .works. Everything from the man Sisko was when he came aboard the station to Dukat saying he missed the office he used to have on the station, to Kira having to submit to a power she doesn't particularly like . . .oh, so much to like here. This has the thematic weight and gravitas that a series finale should have, and we still have two seasons to go.

The bad news: Unfortunately, a quarter of the episode is spent on the culmination of the Rom/Leeta/Leeta's cleavage courtship, which ends in a wedding and a bullshit rip from the movie Casablanca, which makes me want to punch someone really really hard whenever I hear it, so I always try to fast-forward past these bits. If you care about Rom and Leeta and Leeta's breasts, then this will feel like the culmination of a long-hoped-for plot point. Oh yeah, and get the hell off my blog. This is all the time I'm spending on it--I'm gonna focus on what the episode does right, and Rom is only tangentially involved in that.

Now, here's some plot: ever since Cardassia joined the Dominion, there have been regular convoys of ships from the Dominion to Cardassia--enough that Sisko's decided they have to stop, and orders the entrance to the wormhole mined with cloak self-replicating mines to keep the Dominion on their side. This pisses off the Dominion to the extent they send Weyoun over to threaten Sisko (because, well, mining a trade route is a kind of warlike act, let's be fair) and while he seems to back down, the fuse is lit--given they know Sisko's plan, they're planning to attack before he can seal off the wormhole.

This would be an ideal time for the Federation, the Klingons, and the Romulans to ride to the rescue and make a stand at DS9, but . . .well, the Romulans have signed a nonaggression pact with the Dominion, the Klingons can only spare Martok, apparently, and the Federation will be busy elsewhere. It's up to Sisko to hold the station long enough to activate the minefield before the Dominion comes.

And holy shit are they coming in force--an armada, led by Dukat (naturally) are on the way to take the station back. There isn't much time, and Sisko has to move fast, and fast he does. He gets Bajor to sign the nonaggression pact with the Dominion (in the name of keeping them out of the fighting as much as possible) evacuates the station, and rolls out their badass defence grid (making its last appearance, sadly) in the name of holding out.

Oh yeah, and he has time to make a rather important speech--not just for the little tidbit there at the end that explains why the Federation never came to bail them out, but also one that really shows you exactly what kind of change five years at this station has made in him. This is not the man who didn't want to be here five years ago, this not a man who couldn't have given a shit about Bajor, and who didn't really have a dog in the fight one way or another. His speech is worth quoting in full, and we're going to do so . . .now:

"When I first took command of this post, all I wanted was to be somewhere else. Anywhere but here. But now, five years later, this station has become my home. And you've become my family. Leaving this place, leaving you, is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. But this war isn't over. I want you to know that, while we were keeping the Dominion occupied, a Starfleet/Klingon task force crossed the border into Cardassia and destroyed the Dominion shipyards on Torros III. Your sacrifices, our sacrifices, made that possible. But no victory can make this moment any easier for me and I promise, I will not rest until I stand with you again. Here. In this place. Where I belong."

As time ticks down on the episode, shit gets real, real fast: The minefield is activated and Our Heroes escape in the Defiant. Kira stays behind to activate one extra surprise--Sisko left a program in the station to completely wreck the station, making damn sure Dukat wasn't gonna take down the minefield easily.

So--again, tying into what I said before about tying five years all together--the former commander/oppressor of Bajor returns to a station that's been stripped and sabotaged of everything of value and returns like a conquering hero (seriously, watch Dukat's face when he comes on board the station. You'd think he just capped Bin Laden or something) The resistance fighter who would happily have cut his fucking throat has to defer to him. The man who just wanted to be a good cop is revered as a god now by the new conquerors of the station. And the man the Bajorans made their Emissary has been driven far, far, away.

And open warfare with the Dominion has begun. No turning back now--for the characters, for the plot, for the series itself. We are in completely new territory now, certainly for Star Trek, which tried so hard to downplay its military connotations (and generally stuck to cold wars or the occasional skirmish for its baddies--this will be two years of continuing warfare) for the most part.

Stating next week, we begin Season Six, perhaps the season with the most legendary DS9 episodes, We begin this season with another something that Star Trek doesn't usually do--the first six episodes form a very tight continuing arc as we deal with the fallout from this episode. Will the Dominion pull down the minefield? Will Kira choke a bitch? Will the Federation take the station? Who will live, die, and never be the same again? No snarky comments about the next 4 episodes this time, y'all, just join me back here next time for "A Time To Stand"; "Rocks and Shoals"; "Sons and Daughters"; and "Behind the Lines." Take care . . .spike your hair. Woo woo woo--you know it.

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