Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Whole Damn Thing--STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE #45

4 a.m., we ran the miracle mile. We're flat broke, but hey we do it in style, and we do it two more times as DS9 Weekend 2011 continues as we get one step closer to the grand finale of our now not-so-never-ending coverage of every single damn episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This week, we finish up the regular episodes and reach the penultimate point in our saga . . .

The problem is we kinda do that 2 episodes before the final episode, which means we waste two more hours mostly dickering around in ill-considered and ultimately unimportant ways. However, we have one supremely awesome episode to carry us through, perhaps the last perfect episode of DS9 from start to finish.

Let's roll onwards!

"You need a lesson in humility. And I'm going to make sure you get it."

OK, so yesterday we left off with things in a really bad way. The Dominion had kicked the Federation out of the Chin'Toka system, depriving them of their only foothold thanks to the Breen's energy draining ray they used to destroy the Defiant. Dukat and Winn's satan-worshiping bullshit now has a body count and the only good thing that happened was Damar finally rose to his moment and instigated a rebellion against the Dominion.

We open with a little good news--apparently Klingon ships aren't as vulnerable to The Breen weapon, which seems like it would be good news and I suppose it is in the sense that not everyone will be taking the week off from the whole war thing, but bad in a sense that maybe the unstable government full of suicidal warrior yahoos may not necessarily be the best foot to put forward.

But all is not lost, as Our Heroes decide to help out Damar and his resistance movement. This leads to Odo, Garak and Kira going to train Damar at being better terrorists, and even Sisko recognises the irony at work here. In the name of not undermining Damar's authority, Kira gets a Starfleet commission (though I'm not sure Colonel=Commander, but whatever) which is a nice subtle touch--Sisko started out as a Commander, after all, Kira had nothing but contempt for Starfleet and for her to be willing to wear the uniform certain indicates some changes have occurred lo these many years.

But it's easier said than done. When they get there, Rusot is determined to goad Kira into a fight at every opportunity and while Damar is quite willing to consider her new tactics (up to and including attacking their own people) he's not willing to rein Rusot and his toadies in when they try to stir shit up, which means the resistance movement is as much a danger to itself as to the Dominion.

Oh, and that virus that's killing the Changelings? Yeah, Odo has it too. When Bashir tries to get information to possibly cure him, he begins to suspect very strongly that Section 31 is behind the virus (or at the very least the cover-up) which is bad news . . .I know this because I've seen that episode and it's bloody dreadful.

Meanwhile, Kai Ratched and Dukat are playing tug of war with the book, as Dukat hangs around being all nosy and shit until he finally sneaks a peek at the book and the book fucking blinds him. When Ratched tells him it's punishment for his arrogance--because he didn't want to help her, he wanted to see if he could do it without her. In a great scene near the end of the episode, she tells him he's going to be taught a lesson, and throws him out in the street to live as a blind beggar. The levels of vindictive bitchery she reaches in this episode are quite amazing to behold.

And because things weren't tense enough . . .Gowron shows up to the station to honor Martok. Welll . . .that's a bit misleading. He actually plans to kick Martok upstairs and take over the war planning himself. This ultimately leads to Martok being sent on what are tantamount so suicide missions that he's almost certain to fail at in an effort to humiliate him in the eyes of the Klingons.

This episode is less a functioning entity on its own as much as it is the bridge between the last episode and the next which has so much pay off it feels like two hours crammed into one. Things get worse and the odds get stacked higher and higher against them and even things that should be good news (Hey, Damar's on our side! Hey, they Klingons can still fight!) prove to be thornier issues and aren't quite the rally you would expect them to be. Fortunately these payoffs come in the very next episode . . .

"They weren't a part of this rebellion. The Dominion knew that. The Founder knew that. Weyoun knew that. To kill her and my son... the casual brutality of it... the waste of life. What kind of state tolerates the murder of innocent women and children? What kind of people give those orders?"
"Yeah, Damar, what kind of people give those orders?"

If this episode has a theme, it's probably the one reflected in the quote above--what sort of duty to you have to yourself and to your government and whether that whole thing about "being the change you want to see in the world" is a real thing people can do (especially in societies that are as much a slave to duty as the Cardassians and the Klingons) and what kind of people come out the other end.

I should point out also that contained in this episode are Ezri and Worf's Finest Hour., and given how hard I've been on them the entire run of this series, this is saying something. We'll take that bit here in a second, but first . . .

I'm kind of questioning O'Brien's logic that if Section 31 developed the Changeling Virus, that automatically follows that they have a cure, but it's the wheels of the arc turning, and it's amazing that these small scenes inserted between the two major plots have more energy and emotional content than the next episode, which is devoted entirely to the last ride of O'Brien and Bashir. Bashir is the obsessive, monomaniacal guy we saw back in "The Quickening" who can't accept failure on a personal level, and gets so pissy he yells at O'Brien. O'Brien, to his credit, never gives up on Bashir and ultimately comes up with the angle that will draw Section 31 to them.

Meanwhile, Damar and company have decided the best way to help the Federation turn back the Dominion is to steal one of the Breen weapons (which are now being fitted onto all of the Dominion ships) Rusot gets all bitchy about this, because the intent should be to liberate Cardassia, not do any favours for the Federation and co. Damar points out that by helping Starfleet they help themselves, but Rusot is determined to be an asshole about it, which gets him beat up by Kira (who has now thrashed three Cardassians barehanded--one per season) and they're both pretty certain that one will kill the other.

Odo, meanwhile, isn't doing too well either--the virus is accelerating the more he changes shape, but he's determined to stay strong for Kira, partly because he loves her and that's what you do in in that situation, but also because he doesn't want her to pity him. Kira already knows how bad he is, and if him putting on a brave front for her makes this easier on him, she will pretend she doesn't know. I swear, the further they get away from Vic Fontaine, the more credible they are as a couple.

Meanwhile, Big Momma is determined to break the back of the Cardassian revolt, She orders that Cardassian civilians be posted in all facilities from here on in. If Damar blows them up, he'll be killing his own people, and a few hundred civilians as collateral damage ought to turn the people against him. This kind of monomania and overreaction will ultimately come back to bite the Dominion in the ass, but uh. . .we'll have to wait for that.

Oh, she also order's Damar's wife and son murdered. Damar is gutted, and wonders what kind of people can so casually murder people like that and Kira hits him right between the eyes, because she's been just as stunned at how people can do that. Damar's furious and very hurt and Kira immediately realises it was a stupid thing to say . . .

. . .but Garak catches her. Damar always hoped that with the Dominion gone, Cardassia could get back to its usual dickheaded ways as a suffocating totalitarian state and not have to fret over the kind of collective guilt Kira just nailed him with. Hell, at the beginning of the arc, he all but begged Dukat to become Cardassia's leader again, and Dukat told him it had to be him. Cardassia has to change, and for that to be a reality, Damar has to change also.

Naturally, these people being who they are, it all comes to a head when their scheme to steal a Breen weapon nearly collapses just about the time Odo does. Rusot freaks the fuck out and pulls a gun on Kira, which leads to Garak pulling a gun on Rusot and Damar pulling a gun and telling everyone to put their fucking guns down already.

Rusot tempts Damar with the notion of taking the weapon and fighting on themselves, as he and Dukat had during the Klingon attack. Again, the temptations of the past when there wasn't all this confusion, when Damar knew his place and things weren't going to change. He's got it all in his hands, and whether they go forward to a new Cardassia or fall apart chasing nostalgia is his choice . . .

. . .so he shoots Rusot, declaring: "He was my friend. But his Cardassia is dead. And it won't be coming back."

It's a nicely done scene which flares up into near-unbearable tension, then underplays the Big Decision by very quietly conveying the weight of what's happened. How amazing is it that this guy who was just Dukat's second in the fourth season has grown into this character who has his own affecting dramatic arc, huh?

Speaking of characters who grow into something amazing, let's check back in with the Klingons. Gowron is doing everything he can to break Martok's will, and Worf is doing everything to get Martok to challenge him for the leadership, and Martok is all like "Klingon, you crazy." For one thing, Martok doesn't play that way--he is a straight-ahead soldier and right or wrong, you don't try to shank the commander in chief. For another (and this calls back to "Once More Unto The Breach") he can't imagine anyone wanting to follow some common guy.

But something has to be done. Sisko all but orders Worf to take whatever measures necessary, but Worf is stuck. He can see Martok's point, but he knows this is wrong, and knows that so much is riding on this. So he asks Ezri, and this is Ezri's Finest Hour, right here.

Because Ezri doesn't have the romanticism that Curson and Jadzia did about the Klingons. She sees it as an empire that's dying, and what's more, deserves to die, because it's a society obsessed with honour, but perfectly willing to tolerate extreme corruption at its highest level. When Worf balks, Ezri drops some continuity on him and reminds him of all the compromises he's been party to and all the cover ups he knows about and asks him who was the last leader of the Empire he respected.

And there's not one.

There's no hope, Ezri hammers home, because if Worf--the most honourable person she knows (erm, that's probably gilding the lily a bit) will tolerate the status quo, what hope is there.

And this, then, is Worf's Finest Hour. Because what he does is something only he can do, because he's always been the outsider. Only this time, that is the key to his salvation and the salvation of his people.

Because Worf challenges Gowron and fucking ices him. Immediately, Martok is willing to declare Worf the new leader of the Empire and even gives him the badass coat and everything.

But Worf isn't the man for the job, and he knows it--Martok is, and Martok becomes the new head of the Empire. Holy shit is this scene awesome, y'all. In fact, the whole episode is awesome. Go watch it right now. It's like, "Duet"-level perfect.

Sadly, the final two regular episodes? Not so strong.

"What good do you think will come of this?"

Oh dear, I do not like this episode. Probably anything was going to be a comedown after the episode previous but this? ooh.

Some of the reason for this owes to behind the scenes stuff--they'd run out of money that wasn't allocated to the finale (which would still be loaded with stock footage) and do this had to be the "bottle show." Which uh, would have been better . . .well, I can't think of how this would have been better. It is one of many things that hurt this show, really, that so much of it is Bashir and O'Brien chasing Sloan through a bunch of very familiar corridor sets as they go through an "Inception" kind of plot on the cheap (about 10 years before "Inception" was a thing) But if that had been the only problem with this episode, I would have learned to live with it.

It's not though. For one thing, for an organisation that was able to suck Bashir into a hopelessly convoluted plot in "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges" earlier in the season, Sloan is a fucking moron in this story, possessing none of the subtlety or shading that he had in his previous two appearances , and . . .not really doing anything, really.

Except they finally get the cure and cure Odo. That happened.

Oh, and the spine of this show, with people going into people's minds and not being sure they wake back up, you could fucking follow in your sleep--it is that wrote.

But what, I hear your say about the Bashir/O'Brien bonding moment? Uhm, if it's your thing, great. I don't really care. The relationship was great window dressing, but I never thought it was strong enough to hold its own episode without some sufficiently interesting outside pressure as in "Hippocratic Oath."

This is just . . .completely insubstantial. That said, in one line break I will be wishing I had this marshmallow fluff to complain about because . . .

"You never told me you had a secret mountain hideaway."
"I was going to surprise you."

. . .ohhhh SHIT y'all it is SO goddamned important in this arc that we get some closure on the Ferengi stuff, isn't it? ISN'T IT? And this episode will tempt me with several good scenes and interesting sub plots which are somehow not the main plot because at the end of everything, by golly let's jam one more Komedy Kavalcade with the Space Jews down my fucking throat, why don't you?

Deep breath. Focus on the positives first. You're almost done.

OK, so Our Heroes get a new Defiant-class ship, and I have to say, as silly as this damn scene is and how it undercuts the loss of the original Defiant a few episode back . . .I kinda like this scene, because it reminds me of the movie Beerfest, wherein they had the heretofore unknown twin brother of a character who just died--who acted exactly like the dead character--come in and insist that they act like he was his dead brother for all intents and purposes.

I love the absolutely bare-faced audacity of that. You pretty much can't get away with underlining how silly that cliche is except in the broadest of comedies.

I think that's what leads me to giggle at this scene, as the USS Sao Paolo, which is exactly like the Defiant except for the carpeting and Admiral Ross gives them special dispensation to call it the Defiant, which once again shafts Brazil (c'mon guys--was Xuxa really that bad?) and handily means they don't have to change any of the stock footage substantially now. All I can say is "wow."

Meanwhile, Damar's resistance movement gets wiped out by the Dominion, and, as so many people have done in our own country, he moves into the basement of Garak's . . .well, we're strongly led to beleive it's his mom Mila (who you may remember from "Improbable Cause," back in season 3) with Kira and Garak, convinced that as the last 3 survivors os the rebellion, they're pretty much fucked.

Only Damar's rebellion has become something else--it's now a popular movement, and his example is so strong that even when the Dominion smugly announce the rebellion's destruction, they don't beleive them, and in this, there's a way forward--Damar can take his case to the streets, and the Cardassian people will be his army.

Now, in the plot I nor any other right-thinking people should care anything about, Quark gets a garbled call from the Nagus, who he thinks has named him his successor. Wackiness abounds, but it's actually Rom who's the new Nagus.

There. I saved you 45 minutes.

There's a lot of chin wagging about how Rom will change the face of Ferengi society and drag it away from the unchecked capitalism of the good old days and Quark's not having that shit and uh, yeah, I have totally seen all of this before with various Ferengi characters in these roles (sometimes Quark is progressive, other times he's not) and this is the penultimate episode and I am just fucking empty.

If you care, Bashir and Ezri get together this episode. I would be more invested in this if their courtship hadn't made Ezri bickering with, then screwing, then bickering some more with Worf. But well, that's 11th hour ticking off plot checkboxes for you.

Speaking of that, let's deal with the final bits of set-up. The Dominion fall back to Cardassia, planning to fortify themselves for awhile and come back out ready to grind the Federation and co. to dust. But The Federation has decided to take the fight to the Dominion in one sustained final assault, and this one is for all the marbles.

After that weighty meeting, Sisko goes back to his quarters, wherein Kassidy drops the bombshell that she's pregnant. Oh-oh, remember how that worked out for Jadzia . . .

. . . but we're going to leave it there one more time. Join us tomorrow for . . .well, the end.

10 months, 2 weeks and 3 days come down to one extra-length two-hour episode and one last go-round. Join us one last time for "What You Leave Behind." See you then!

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