Friday, November 11, 2011

The Whole Damn Thing--STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE #44

Wake up kids, we've got the dreamer's disease, edge of fourteen, we got you down on your knees, so polite you're busy still saying please. "Oh, wait, it's not Saturday already is it," I hear you saying? That's when I'd been coming by here for your weekly recaps of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" Nope, it's not, but owing to extraordinary circumstances involving what we will euphemistically term "real life," I will be covering the final arc of DS9 in a weekend. As this is ten hours of programming done at what could probably be referred to as "lickety split," this will be . . .an interesting experiment in my endurance and patience vs that last stretch before the finish.

But I think it kinds works out, given what we're dealing with here. Because for the last stretch DS9 became a straight serial, telling one vast interconnected story that was supposed to tie up all the loose ends (supposed to--as you'll see, they succeed at some and fail and others) and bring all the character plus as many of the recurring characters as possible and do what they could draw a line under everything save the endgame of the war with the Dominion and Sisko's final destiny.

How'd they do? Let's find out now.

"That doesn't concern you."
"No, of course it doesn't"

Our story begins with Sisko telling Kassidy that he's purchased a few acres of bottom land on Bajor and he's planning to finally make good on the thing he said back in "Favor the Bold" last season about building a house on Bajor. There's a bit of ruminating about how things have changed for him and how he really didn't want to be there at first and now he can't think of living anywhere else, and while I can appreciate what the scene is trying to do, it feels every so slightly like Jadzia's sudden onset baby-craziness at the end of last season which so blatantly and obviously painted a bull's-eye on her. Not that I am implying anything about anything here.

Sisko decides to pop the question to Kassidy and she accepts, which sets plot 1 in motion . . .

Meanwhile, Worf has gotten himself lost behind enemy lines in an escape pod, and rather than send the Defiant, they decide to send Ezri along, who despite avoiding Worf ever since "Afterimage" now has a sudden craving to be The Other Dax and go rescue him. And what, pray tell, does she take into the war zone? That cool as gun she had that shot through walls last week? Hell no, she goes in a runabout, because we have to give Ezri something to do, even if it's stupid.

Plot 3 rolls in with Damar drinking himself stupid because being the Dominion's bitch is really wearing him out. Weyoun treats him only slightly better than a lackey and makes no secret about how Damar is cut out of all the big decisions. It's pissing him off, but he doesn't he feel he can really do anything about it. It isn't helped by the grim reality that the war has killed so many Cardassians that no one family on their homeworld hasn't lost someone to the war.

Not that the Dominion is having a great time either. Big Momma's looking quite desiccated as the changeling disease is doing its work. Weyoun tells her their research has reached an impasse, and in one of those wonderful scenes where you get a picture of exactly who you're dealing with, Big Momma tells Weyoun to have the scientist team killed, and have their clones reactivated, because it will provide "a fresh perspective."

Ezri somehow manages to rescue Worf because it's best that the two characters with the least two do get sent off for awhile. Worf expresses his gratitude by being an utter dickmonster to her, not helping when the Jem'Hadar force down the runabout, arguing some more, and then, in a scene that appalled me from the first time I saw the episode and continues to appall me even more now, they have sex, because even in 1999 that "kiss a woman hard until she likes it" was considered "passionate" and not "attempted rape" or shit like that. You can try to wave it off as "oh they're aliens," but there aren't any aliens writing this, are there?

Thankfully, the Breen (yes, the aliens we've seen exactly three times!) show up and tase them, which I can't say as I blame them for. More on them next episode.

Damar is awakened and meets with Dukat, who mercifully is a bit less ker-AZY than we've seen him in some time. Dukat is obviously concerned about his former second in command's dissipation, and their scenes together are really great, and Marc Alaimo plays Dukat with an amazing amount of subtley (I have not been able to say that . . .for a long time) and it plays off amazingly in the next episode. For now, Dukat asks Damar a favour--namely, he wants a good plastic surgeon to make him into a Bajoran. We'll find out more why later on.

Meanwhile, news about Sisko and Kassidy's wedding has gone out and it threatens to become the Bajoran equivalent of the wedding of the century. Or would be, except the Prophets show up (in the form of his robot-voiced mom) and tell him he can't do it because he has a Great Trial coming up (over-egging the pudding a little there, I would say) and if he does get married, he will know nothing but sorrow, and when you consider the last time Sisko waved off their advice his friend got killed . . .well, he's obviously concerned.

"Those days might be gone, but the man I served with isn't. He's still in there--reach in and grab hold of him, Damar. Cardassia needs a leader."

Kai Ratched drops by to tell Sisko that she's invited herself to perform his wedding ceremony, because that's just how she rolls. Sisko tells her all about the Prophets warning him off marriage, but all Ratched takes away is being all pissed off that the Prophets never talk to her, despite that she's Space Pope and all that.

Except! No sooner does she get out of Sisko's office than she has a fucking vision. On the surface, it looks miiiiighty Prophet-like, and gives her exactly the kind of message someone with her level of overweening narcisissim would want to get--only she can bring about the Restoration, and the Sisko has faltered and only she can prevent forest fires. For more details, she's told a guide will be along shortly and he will have "the wisdom of the land."

Meanwhile, Weyoun is playing his favourite game--Shit On Damar, by telling him to get his drunk ass cleaned up, they're going on a road trip. Weyoun spares a few words for Dukat, telling him his whole "dress up like a Bajoran for Casual Friday" is some bullshit and generally just makes Damar reach for another bottle, right in front of a mirror. Unable to look at himself, he turns away and takes a swig.

This leads to Dukat and Damar's goodbye, where Dukat kicks his former adjutant in the ass, tells him to put the fucking bottle down and be the leader Cardassia needs. Damar tries to push it back on Dukat, but now that he's got ker-AZY religion, Dukat isn't interested in that kind of power. He has a different (and incredibly silly) destiny. When what happens with Damar happens, please keep in mind that History's Greatest Villain made it possible, and lament the fact that it would mean a bit more had they not yanked all Dukat's shading last season.

So Sisko decides to call off the wedding, which pisses Kassidy off, until he decides "screw it, they already killed my best friend and Kassidy's only a guest star anyways" and they get married anyways. To the show's credit, Kira is absolutely morose at this, as he's very obviously going against the will of the Prophets and can't really find it in her heart to be festive about it.

Meanwhile, in some excruciatingly padded scenes, Worf and Ezri do the following: Talk, end up arguing, then the Breen come in, tase one or both of them, and drag them off. Then they cut to something else and then the same scene happens again, near-exactly.

Again, to their credit, they at least bring up the whole thing about reassociation that was supposed to be a big taboo in Trill society, but Ezri waves it off by saying that Worf's probably broken a few rules in his time as well which means . . .well, something, I'm sure. I tend to read it as the Trills not giving a shit about what Ezri does or doesn't do, just like everyone else.

This ultimately sours as Ezri keeps psychobabbling about her weird dreams and how she keeps fixating on Bashir, who she seems to have a thing for, though we really only got the merest hint of that before. But whatever. Worf handles this in his usual way, by ramping up his dickmonsterdom to 1.75 Shoggoths. Then the Breen come in and taze them.

Meanwhile, Dukat, masquerading as a Bajoran farmer named Anjohl, meets with Kai Ratched and ingratiates his way into an audience, then into her confidence, and then into her bed, and this may actually be the most messed-up part of the episode because, essentially, Space Hitler is banging the Space Pope. I don't really like to think about it.

Meanwhile, the nine dozen Worf and Ezri scenes finally reach some kind of point when they're beamed away to a Jem'Hadar where Weyoun and Damar are waiting. You see, the Breen are joining the Dominion, which again, would be news except this is only the fourth or so time they've been seen, and the building up of the Breen is going to be rather grating, as is the "Look! The Breen are on our side! Holy shit, right? DUN DUN DUNNNNNN!" ending . . .

"You know, Worf, I'm getting a little tired of your little Klingon aphorisms."

Big Momma shows up to meet with the Breen and welcome them to the exciting world of Amway--er, I mean, the Dominion. Ezri and Worf are sentenced to death, because those fucking arguing scenes last episode were just that irritating they easily rise to the level of a capital offense.

Damar, meanwhile, is a bit pissed off that the treaty with the Breen hands over quite a few Cardassian planets to the Breen, and Weyoun just tells him to sign the thing without worrying about the fine print. When the war's over, they'll have plenty of choice in terms of getting new planets to compensate him for this, but Damar sees it for what it is--Cardassia being thrown under the bus. Again.

This reaches a point which is very nearly Worf's Finest Hour--Damar tries to strongarm Ezri and Worf into cooperating with the Dominion and thus commuting their death sentence down to life imprisonment. When Weyoun teases Ezri that it would be too bad if she gets killed before she can tell Bashir how she feels about him, Worf up and snaps Weyoun's neck. That is, and I say this as someone who finds Worf generally annoying, pretty fucking hardcore.

To Damar this is the funniest thing in the world, and frankly, I can't say as I blame him.

Meanwhile, Space Pope and Space Hitler are enjoying -shudder- post-coital bliss when she has another vision and this time, she twigs that it's not the Prophets that are calling her--it's the Pah-Wraihs. She naturally freaks out about this, tries to consult with the Prophets, who won't speak to her--again (she claims it's because the Pah-Wraiths got to her first) and loses her shit even more when Dukat tells her he's a servant of the Pah-Wriaths as well. When she throws him out, he tells her to keep on graveling to gods who give her nothing in return.

So Ratched turns to Kira, who is very happy that she wants to change and is willing to do whatever it takes to change . . .except for exactly the one thing Kira suggests: give up her power as Kai. Well, there's no way in hell that's happening, obviously. It's actually a really good scene between her and Kira, actually, with Kira genuinely trying to get through to her and being incredibly disappointed when she walks back from the edge.

Meanwhile, Ezri and Worf bicker some more, and Ezri gets off a few good zingers at him. This finally leads . . .somewhere good, believe it or not, as both of them give a little and decide there's no way in hell they actually love each other and maybe the way to be is just very close friends. This is actually a wonderful scene, and it's done with subtlety and real thought and it makes you wonder if they could have got here eventually, then why in the hell did they have to do that really regrettable shit with Worf kissing her until she liked it, because. . .man, no.

Anyways, just when they're about to be executed, Worf and Ezri are saved by . . .Damar. He gives them a way out and tells them to tell the Federation they have an ally on Cardassia. This pays off a bit more in the next episode, and I have to say, Damar's slow groping way toward becoming a hero is one of the most successful things about this arc to me, and we're very close to when that launches into high gear.

But before we do that, we have to have another regrettable closer like we did at the end of the last episode, wherein Kai Ratched pledges herself to the Pah-Wriaths and makes one of the most face-palmingly ridiculous "I am evil now" speeches I have ever heard in my life. Anywas, she's all ready to do whatever evil shit they require, and as we'll find out in the next episode . . .the Pah-Wraiths want her . . .to use her library card . . .

"I believe he was quite fond of that ship."

OK, shit starts getting real right now. The Breen launch an assault on Earth which scares the shit out of everyone. Dukat and Winn hole up on Bajor and get the Text of the Kosst-Amojan (the bible of the Pah-Wraiths. Obviously when it comes to eeevil literature, Bajor is like Miskatonic University and shit) and are all ready to start unleashing some eeeevil on everyone, only oh wait--the pages are blank, so they get more books and try to work out how to make the words appear.

Meanwhile, Damar is plotting with his new aide Gul Rusot (who is played by the same dude who played Neroon on the other show, and is kind of his polar opposite. Nice touch that) and gathering together the first inklings of a resistance movement. Rusot doesn't think much of their chances, but Damar is convinced that people who are fighting for their homes and the sovereignty will ultimately triumph over people even the mightiest force.

I rather like that this story thread doesn't make the parallels too plain here (because yes, the Cardassians have essentially become the Bajorans) and is willing to let things play out in such a way as that they give the viewer credit that they've been paying attention. This will pay off a bit later on, for now, just know Damar has his shit together finally. So much so that Weyoun tries to give him shit about it and he brushes it off, mainly because Weyoun mistakes it as Damar finally getting his confidence in his Dominion masters back.

"You know me so well," Damar says, capping off a fucking awesome scene.

So, hey, you know how Dukat's arrogance usually proves his undoing? Yeah, it happens here too. Dukat slaps around Kai Ratched's assistant, who then has a sample of his DNA re-sequenced and discovers he's the father of--oh wait, sorry. Maury was on in the background--and tells Ratched that she's been fucking Space Hitler.

Ratched freaks out again, and it's kinda bad this time that she has a knife in her hand. Doubly so, when the monk who thought he was doing you a solid finds out you're in league with evil gods and is about to expose you. Fortunately, she stabs him with a knife and then throws some blood on the pages of the book and FOOF! now there's words on it.

Kinda sad that all that could have been averted by putting a sticker on the front of the book: "To see words, please shank acolyte and exsanguinate him on the pages."

In any event, it's just a damn bad day all around anyways, because, emboldened by the Breen (we we're still getting the hard sell on) the Dominion re-takes the Chin'Toka system, which the Federation took over at the end of the last season and force the good guys back out.

And this is a costly battle, what's more, because the Breen have a magic zap gun that paralyses the Defiant and then -sniff-- destroys it. It's a shame they missed the chance to have Sisko glaring out at the Defiant being blown up as he did in "Emissary," but that may have been gilding the lily.

In any event. with things looking this bad for our heroes, they'd need something major to turn it around. And wonder of wonders, Damar makes his move with the following epic speech, quted here in full:

"...And so two years ago, our government signed a treaty with the Dominion. In it the Dominion promised to extend Cardassia's influence throughout the Alpha Quadrant. In exchange, we pledged ourselves to join the war against the Federation and its allies. Cardassians have never been afraid of war, a fact we've proven time and again over these past two years. Seven million of our brave soldiers have given their lives to fulfill our part of the agreement, and what has the Dominion done in return? Nothing. We've gained no new territories. In fact, our influence throughout the quadrant has diminished. And to make matters worse we are no longer masters in our own home. Travel anywhere on Cardassia and what do you find? Jem'Hadar, Vorta, and now Breen. Instead of the invaders we have become the invaded. Our 'allies' have conquered us without firing a single shot. Well, no longer. This morning detachments of the Cardassian First, Third and Ninth Orders attacked the Dominion outpost on Rondac III. This assault marks the first step towards the liberation of our homeland, from the true oppressors of the Alpha Quadrant. I call upon Cardassians everywhere: Resist. Resist today. Resist tomorrow. Resist till the last Dominion soldier has been driven from our soil!"

Damar's opening salvo destroyed the Vorta cloning facilities, as an extra little FU to Weyoun, who now may be the last clone. Big Momma is deeply enraged and orders Damar found at once. There's a wonderful scene after Weyoun order the Breen to find him when he nervously looks over his shoulder at the Cardassians working behind him . . .

I did tell you shit gets real, didn't I? This is the best episode of the arc so far, really, as it features plenty of major turns and not so much annoying drivel to drag it down. We get several plot motions going forward and the stakes have been raised, and unlike when Jadzia died, the loss of the Defiant really feels like a loss and not just a stunt (of course there are problems later, but taken as a standalone for now, it works) and Damar has made his move. The next four (really, the next two) episodes do better in terms of elevating the game and balancing Damar's being a good guy with what he's done in the past.

We'll cross that bridge tomorrow, as things get worse for everyone, in "When It Rains . . ."; Worf's Finest Hour happens in "Tacking Into The Wind"; Bashir and O'Brien have their . . .well it's intended to be their finest hour in "Extreme Measures"; and we stop everything for the critically important wrap-up of the Ferengi plotlines in "The Dogs of War" (sarcasm added) Join us tomorrow for rites of succession, Ferengi Komedy, and pleasure!

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