ST:DS9 in 2020 : Season 5 (Part 3)

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Quarantine! What a good time to stay home and work on your backlog of TV series and films! So let’s complete that dive into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine season 5 (1996-1997), after Part 1 and Part 2.

 


5×19: Ties of Blood and Water: “Be my daughter one last time, Nerys”

A Kira episode that acts as a sequel to 3×05: Second Skin, where Kira had been modified to look like a Cardassian, and where she had spent time with that Cardassian’s father, Ghemor. With the O’Briens‘ baby also being an unconventional child of Kira’s, they all form an unconventional family, brought together by exterior forces but appreciating each other very much. Ghemor is dying and in Cardassian tradition comes to reveal the Cardassian inner politics secrets to the only family he has, Kira. Dukat is afraid he will reveal too much and he appears on DS9 with his slimy Vorta and menacing Jem’Hadar consort to extract him, a show of force from Dukat who will not be criticized for his decision to bring the Dominion in the internal politics of Cardassia; for the moment Dukat seems to be in charge and the Dominion is just there to help. Sisko’s complete disregard for Dukat was quite funny to see. The Vorta, Weyoun, was played by the same actor as the one in 4×23: To the Death: fans of genetic engineering, the Vorta are clones. Dukat and Kira confront each other, once these two could have been a power for good, now Dukat has clearly taken a side with the Dominion and Kira cannot stand him.

This is interspersed with flashbacks of when Kira was in the resistance and her real father was wounded and died with Kira absent from his bedside (with a flash appearance by Kira’s old comrade Furel!). Kira being present for Ghemor is a way to compensate for that. These moments are poisoned by Dukat who puts doubt in Kira’s mind about Ghemor’s actions in the past and what violence he did against Bajorans. This structure reminded me of the format of episodes that was Lost’s bread and butter, using flashbacks to inform the present, and I expected the stories to be even more inter-linked. We ultimately don’t learn whether Ghemor’s real daughter was in the hands of Dukat after all (probably not).

This episode touches on heavy and emotional issues, and has some very good acting by Nina Visitor, with a long continuous take on her face towards the end that is a showcase of her talent. However, the directing (by Avery Brooks) is a bit unimaginative and alternates good scenes like the one I just mentioned and other scenes which fall flat. The whole thing is interesting but it could have been better.

 

5×20: Ferengi Love Songs: “What’s the Nagus doing in my closet?!”

Another Ferengi episode so soon after the last one? (5×18: Business as Usual, barely two episodes ago!) Quark discovers that his mother moogie Ishka is in love again…with none other than the Grand Nagus Zek himself! Zek hides in Quark’s closet like a secret love, and his bodyguard Maihar’du is there even then! The Nagus and Ishka are extremely, absurdly, strikingly, disgustingly in love, and they don’t hide it. As the scandal of Zek being with a fee-male who makes profit is about to shake the foundations of Ferengi society, the usual nemesis of Quark, Brunt, tries to scheme in order to distance them and become Nagus in the process (and also appears in Quark’s closet!). But the truth is, Zek is a bit…old and not exactly bright anymore, and once more the great financial brain behind the scenes proves to be moogie Ishka! Everything ends with Ishka making a feminist statement and still together with Zek. A frankly funny episode in how completely absurd it is. I quite liked it although it’s not the strongest of comedic episodes. There’s even a “wink-wink nudge-nudge” moment towards fans of Star Trek, with Quark playing with his toy figures and discussing the value of his unopened boxes of old figures — collectors can really spend fortunes on Trek goodies, quite incredible for the non-initiated!

Meanwhile! More Ferengi love stories, with the Rom/Leeta couple on the verge of separation because Leeta wants to wear some clothing in their marriage. Good, dumb fun.

 

5×21: Soldiers of the Empire: “We battle forever, battling on through the Eternal fight”

An excellent Klingon episode! In TNG there was the episode 2×08: A Matter of Honor, where Riker joined/did an unpaid internship on a Klingon ship and we got a true insider’s view of Klingon life. It’s a similar concept here, with Worf and Dax joining Martok‘s ship and gathering intelligence against the Dominion. Here we get to spend much more time with the crew of the ship, with several officers and random Klingons becoming full individuals and complete characters instead of background redshirts. There’s the bored alcoholic with violent tendencies, the cynical depressed, the philosophizer about who the best warrior race is… There is a strong sense of an 18th century ship at open sea, with boredom brewing a mutiny. The morale is at an all-time low because there have been no skirmishes with the Jem’Hadar and the Klingon feel like cowards and with no honor, with a captain, Martok, who might be too reluctant to engage them because of his traumatic experience of being imprisoned (see In Purgatory’s Shadow). Yes the Klingon are violent and have different morals, but they too are social and psychologically sensible beings. By the episode’s end, Worf has rekindled the Klingon warrior in Martok: he challenges him and they fight, and although it’s not clearly stated in the episode I believe Worf allows Martok to win because Worf would rather have Martok be respected by his crew than replace him as captain. As they prepare to rescue some Klingons from the hands of the Jem’Hadar, the crew finds a new purpose and grows closer together — the scene where they all sing a Kligon war anthem and the camera travels from face to face was epic! Martok even invites Worf into his House: indeed, Worf was the only remaining member of the House of Mogh, and he accepts his new kinship “with honor”. A truly memorable episode written by the usual Klingon writer, Ronald D. Moore!

Alumni-spotting:
One of the Klingons was Rick Worthy, who played one of the humanoid Cylons in R.D.Moore’s Battlestar Galactica, Number 4/Simon!

 

5×22: Children of Time: “They existed. As long as we remember them, they always will.”

Ah, finally, a science fiction story in Star Trek! Incredible, no? I am only half-kidding — I appreciate DS9‘s world-building but sometimes DS9 tries so much to be the anti-TNG that it forgets that it’s a science fiction show. Appropriately enough for DS9 though, this episode uses a science fiction story to actually tell a character story, and it’s one of the best episodes of this season.

The Defiant is caught in some atmospheric interference and becomes trapped on a planet — where the crew discover their own descendants! It follows that the Defiant will travel 200 years in the past, crash and build this colony, inevitably. The crew have to reconcile with the idea that they will spend the rest of their lives alone on this planet, that they will have to let go of their loved ones elsewhere, and will be the founders of a colony that two centuries later is 8000 people strong. Miles is particularly repulsed by the idea he will forsake Keiko and their children to make a life for him with an unknown mechanic! Worf has a mythical status among his followers, the Sons of Mogh, who include non-Klingons! Dax carries the memory of it all, of course, and has remorse that it’s all due to her mistake (him, actually, given the new host). Future Dax and present Dax hatch a plan that could see the Defiant escape from the planet and not crash, but that would mean that for this colony the past 200 years would not happen and that these 8000 lives would just vanish — not exactly an act of murder but an act of annihilation nevertheless. A moral quandary, in most classic Trek tradition; efficient as always and quite different to most of DS9.

On top of it all is the story of Kira and Odo. Future Odo knows that Kira will be one of the first to die in the crash, and Odo has lived the past 300 years heartbroken and full of remorse that he loved Kira and never managed to tell her. With Kira’s arrival he takes his chance and reveals his centuries-long love — in a quite beautiful countryside setting, some exceptional outside location shooting in this episode. It’s essentially Kira’s certain death versus making 8000 existences disappear! Kira chooses self-sacrifice and the Defiant takes off for its fateful journey to the past — but a computer glitch results in them escaping the loop and leaving the planet, the past 200 years erased. I initially thought that Future Dax wanted to correct his/her own mistake, but actually it was “Future” Odo’s way of giving Present Odo a real chance at a life with Kira. A second chance which cost no less than 8000 lives — quite a dark stain on Odo’s résumé but this didn’t surprise me as out of character for Odo, he does have a dark streak. But as the episode ends with awkwardness installing itself between Kira and Odo, we realize that it was not “our” Odo that did this either, we cannot blame this Odo for what happened.

This was a particularly effective episode, rich with detail with the various descendants. When the story explored the Kira/Odo relationship it kept being dramatic and tragic and much more well-written than previous attempts at discussing this (3×14: Heart of Stone).

And by the way, Kira and Shakaar have now borken up — Shakaar is the latest in the list of Kira’s relationships that didn’t really go much of anywhere and didn’t seem planned well enough by the writers…

 

5×23: Blaze of Glory: “There is something attractive about a lost cause”

I did not expect another episode on Eddington in the same season (see 5×13: For the Uniform), the series seemed to be setting him up like some recurring nemesis of sorts to Sisko. The fact that not only is he back but it’s also his last episode shows that the narration and world-building of DS9 has kicked into a higher gear and big changes are now happening as a matter of course. Not only that but big events have occurred essentially off screen: Dukat has made good on his promise (5×15: By Inferno’s Light) to take back Cardassian territory from the Maquis and with the help from his new Dominion allies he has essentially eradicated the Maquis!

Sisko takes Eddington out of prison to use him in order to prevent a desperate Maquis attack on Cardassia, which could escalate into a Dominion-Federation war. On the defiant, Eddington plays hard to convince but he turns around, deftly destroying the Jem’Hadar ships in pursuit. Eddington and Sisko verbally joust about the worthiness of the Federation and the Maquis and whose actions has the worse consequences and whether real vegetables grown in a Maquis farm taste better than Federation-replicated vegetables — all memorable scenes. It all proves to be a ploy for Eddington to get freed from prison and go free his fellow Maquis, including his wife Rebecca. This is a twist that occurs quite late, and barely a couple of scenes later Eddington sacrifices himself in order for the Maquis to be evacuated, which is what I find to be the weaker part of the episode. Yes, he dies in a “blaze of glory” for what he believed in, but it all happens too fast and the rest of the episode made me expect a different outcome.

And so Eddington is gone. I do think he had the potential to be an interesting character going forward, even with — or even more so! — with the Maquis exterminated. His character changed significantly from episode to episode, stretching believability — from faithful Starfleet officer in the beginning to cool rebel wearing leather — but he got some great dialogue and was well portrayed by Kenneth Marshall. Apart from the world-building with the Maquis, Eddington as a character served as a mirror to Sisko; not as a dark reflection to Sisko’s would-be light, but revealing that both he and Sisko have dark sides that they can reveal when the situation calls for them. This important character trait sets Sisko quite apart from somebody like Picard, and DS9 from earlier Star Trek in general: Sisko shares with Picard a strong moral obligation to the Federation ideals, but for Sisko the end can justify the means.

Meanwhile! Nog has trouble getting the respect his (short!) stature as Starfleet Cadet deserves, constantly being ignored by the Klingons. It’s only when he finds the courage to stand up to Martok that Martok really notices him and starts to take him into account. A nice, non-soap-operatic slice of life on the station, using DS9‘s expansive cast of secondary characters!

 

5×24: Empok Nor: “Welcome to Empok Nor!”

O’Brien and a company of redshirts travel to Empok Nor, an abandoned Cardassian station like Terok Nor/DS9, to salvage parts for DS9. They discover that it’s not as abandoned as it seems: ever the masters of booby traps (see 3×07: Civil Defense!), the Cardassians have left behind two soldiers that are awakened from stasis and that will do anything to destroy any invaders. This is a very explicitly horror episode that owes a lot to Alien: the station is boarded with space suits (a very rare sight in Star Trek, paradoxically!), the photography is very dark and there are many shorts following characters in dark corridors or air ducts; search parties split in order to be “more efficient” and, well, die; there are stasis pods and killers lurking around; and of course all the redshirts die, apart from our Ripleys: O’Brien and his side-kick Nog.

There is also a story of a Cardassian drug that makes the soldiers highly xenophobic and compelled to kill any non-Cardassian. Garak is also infected: he gets a first taste of blood by killing Cardassians but then he starts turning against his friends. I had trouble imagining the soft-spoken Garak as a killing machine and this part didn’t entirely work for me; and of course because of the influence of the drug Garak gets away with it and we can hit that reset button. An entertaining little episode.

 

5×25: In the Cards: “There’s nothing wrong with our philosophy. We work to better ourselves and the rest of Humanity.” “What does that mean exactly?” “It means…it means we don’t need money!” “Well, if you don’t need money, then you certainly don’t need mine.”

Jake wants to please his father and he finds a real collectible card on baseball from 1950s Earth, only that in order to obtain it he has to get it from its current owner, an eccentric scientist who is investigating regeneration and immortality (by…providing entertainment to his cells!…). Jake and Nog go from crew member to crew member to obtain a weird shopping list of materials that the scientist wants, and Nog uses his Ferengi negotiation skills to give each one something else they want in exchange — a cascade of favours and another opportunity for Jake/Nog to debate the merits of “money” in the Federation, i.e. for the writers (Ron Moore) to point the finger at how tricky it is to conceive a Star Trek utopia without money.

All of this happens while in the background a Dominion delegation is aboard the station — heightening the fears that war is imminent. Kai Winn is offered to hand Bajor to the Dominion and she hesitates: within the Dominion there is peace after all, whereas straight up refusing the offer would mean that Bajor would be the first planet invaded when the war breaks out. The Emissary‘s reply? Stall. Stay neutral as long as possible. This is what the prophecies about Bajor not joining the Federation were about in 5×10: Rapture!

The two stories eventually overlap, with Weyoun of the Dominion suspecting Jake and Nog of being spies but it’s all a big misunderstanding… Everybody gets what they want, even Weyoun gets a liking to the scientist’s research, and Jake gives the card to his father. Jake and Nog have been a force of good in these chaotic times!

I really liked this episode — but then I usually like everything with Nog and Jake! It manages to mix both fun and seriousness really well. Actually it mixes a fun self-contained and character-driven story with the seriousness of the important long-running storyline of the Federation-Dominion war brewing in the background. This ideal mix is exactly the kind of storytelling DS9 aspires to do, a format that was later adopted by series like Stargate SG-1. Also, it was directed by Michael “Worf” Dorn — almost the entire cast has been getting their chance to direct this season!

Alumni-spotting:
Among other roles, Brian Markinson, the crazy scientist here, was the guy who could see that his telemarketing job was turning everyone into zombies in the Folie à Deux episode of The X-Files!

 

5×26: Call to Arms: “I officially welcome you to Deep Space 9.” “You mean Terok Nor, don’t you?”

So this is where the season — no, the series! — has been leading up to. War between the Federation and the Dominion breaks out. The tension was building up steadily throughout the second half of this season, with the threat of war being mentioned here and there, a good example of subtle world-building. Even so, I didn’t expect things to go so quickly: in a single episode, we go from meetings that keep diplomatic appearances to a fierce battle over DS9 to Starfleet evacuating DS9 and DS9 being completely invaded!

There’s a lot of astro-political developments happening all at once and sometimes barely on-screen, similar to other occurrences in DS9, it’s somewhat an overdose! Word is that the Romulans too have signed a non-aggression pact with the Dominon, leaving the Federation and the Klingons quite isolated. Sisko pushes for Bajor to sign that pact as well, not because he is selling out Bajor but because that will allow Bajor not to be invaded, further confirming the prophecies in 5×10: Rapture. O’Brien and Rom install a huge minefield to destroy the Dominion fleet as it would exit the wormhole into the Alpha Quadrant, which precipitates the attack with the forces of the Dominion already in place, together with the Cardassians (with Dukat and Weyoun wearing fancy red-light visors over one eye, it looks cyborg-y!).

As our group of characters enter this war, there are small moments as well. Marriages and marriage promises are made: Sisko officiates Leeta and Rom‘s marriage, and they immediately separate, with Leeta headed to Bajor; and Jadzia accepts Worf‘s proposal to get married, as soon as the war is over. Sisko’s farewell to the crew of DS9 as the station is evacuated is heartfelt, especially since he now fully takes on the role of Emissary compared to earlier years. Jake is so happy to have a writing job as a reporter that he stays behind in the station, making Ben very angry.

It’s a change of guard. Dukat and Weyoun board the station and it’s as if Starfleet was never there: Kira and Odo and Quark, who were there during the Cardassian occupation too, are there to “welcome” them… The last shot of the Defiant joining a massive joint Starfleet-Klingon fleet on its way to retake DS9 is one of Star Trek‘s all-time biggest cliffhangers! I can’t wait for next season now.

It does feel like one chapter in the history of the series ends and another begins, but with implications much deeper for the structure of the show compared to, say, TNG‘s remarkable but nearly self-contained The Best of Both Worlds that bridged seasons 3 and 4. It is one of the best episodes written by Ira Stephen Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe, the duo that has been running DS9 since season 3. Oddly enough, and unfortunately, this was Wolfe’s last episode, partly burnt out from working so intensely on a 26 episodes/season series for so long!


DS9 season 5 felt a lot like season 4 — more interesting as a whole than the first two or three seasons, with a rich and evolving world that gets developed in big “event” episodes (the mid-season two-parter most of all), and with mostly self-contained episodes that vary greatly in interest. The Eddington episodes (For the Uniform; Blaze of Glory) were a very interesting and I’d say controversial testing of the Federation’s values, in continuation with past episodes like The Maquis (s2) or Homefront (s4); these are essentially the Sisko episodes — incidentally, the Captain is much less of a lead character of its series compared to, say, Picard in TNG, Sisko does not particularly stand out, which has both positive and negative effects. Certainly for a Star Trek series DS9 has remarkably little science fiction, its SF aspects are mostly in the setting itself, the station and the alien races and their politics, to the extent that a SF-driven story feels like an outlier (Children of Time). There were several “experimental” episodes this season, always a sign of a series that is now mature and tries to find new ways to keep being exciting; these were passable (Empok Nor), interesting (Rapture; The Darkness and the Light) or even great (Trials and Tribble-ations). There were also several episodes that just tried purposefully to do unexpected stuff with the characters which for me fell quite flat (the whole Kira pregnancy ending in The Begotten; Doctor Bashir, I Presume). And then some excellent Jake episodes (Nor the Battle to the Strong; In the Cards). In this season in particular I felt a very strong presence of soft romance and “things happening on the station” that felt more filler than thematically true compared to the past (Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places; A Simple Investigation; many B-stories), so for me this is the most soap opera season so far.

Despite a first half of the season that was a bit all over the place, this was DS9‘s most well-constructed and thought out season so far. I’m thinking in particular of the prophecies in 5×10: Rapture that inform 5×15: By Inferno’s Light and 5×26: Call to Arms, and the palpable sense of tension that culminates in the beginning of the war and that cliffhanger.

And since I always go there, what about the comparison to Babylon 5? In broad terms, the two series seem to follow this similar but time-shifted pattern:

  • introduction to the world: DS9 s1-2 (introduction of the Jem’Hadar); B5 s1
  • ramping up the tension with the big bad: DS9 s3-4-5 (a long stretch, together with what the producers have described as a whole season that was an aside: s4 and the war with the Klingons); B5 s2
  • the war itself: DS9 s6-7 (?); B5 s3-4
  • the aftermath: DS9?; B5 s5

Let’s see how this develops…

 


7 risposte a "ST:DS9 in 2020 : Season 5 (Part 3)"

  1. So many great episodes!!!

    And I know you’re not too much into horror, but Weyoun is played by Reanimator himself, legendary Jeffrey Combs (who also plays an annoyong Ferengi sometimes, but I see that you continue to appreciate those episodes, I’m astonished)!

    I think that DS9 did Klingon stuff even better than TNG (we see the Empire at war!), and I simply love Cardassian politics, evem more when the Dominion enters the game!

    By the way, I agree with you on the quality of the series really taking off after season 3, although I love all seasons and I’m particularly nostalgic of the first one that I saw when I was a teen… Brace yourself for the last two seasons, it’s a rough ride!!! :–D

    And I see that you didn’t enjoy Empok Nor too much… For some reason, this is one of the episodes I remember most fondly, I find Garak to be possibly the best character in the series and this is a nice little additio to his story arc.

    "Mi piace"

  2. Jeffrey Combs and Andrew Robinson are really terrific, it’s great that they kept them as recurring characters. Sometimes in DS9 the guest cast is better than the core cast!

    I must say, 26 episodes are a lot. It dilutes the good and the overall impression is so-so, it could have been better with less.

    Piace a 1 persona

    1. Consider that the creators of the show would probably agree with you: they continuously fought against the network people who didn’t like those complicated political plots going on across several episodes… Yet, they managed to do something amazing for the time (in my opinion)! :–)

      Maybe I’m wrong, but couldn’t we say the same about The X-Files? The mythology episodes are “interrupted” by the stand-alone ones which in some cases were not up the the standards of the first ones! As far as I recall, this was particularly evident towards the end when Scully knew of the (one of the many, I should say) conspiracy, she knew a date, and yet she went around with Doggett investigating trivial stuff…

      By the way, I’ll find out soon whether my memory serves me well, we are that close to start watching The X-Files from beginning to end! I want to believe!

      Piace a 1 persona

  3. Yes and no 🙂 The thing with DS9 is that I like the complex inter-connected political episodes much more than the self-contained ones. In TNG they had very little inter-connected episodes but the self-contained ones were excellent (OK I didn’t watch everything!). With The X-Files I liked both very much!…

    But, DS9 and TXF both evolved their interconnected storyline slowly, in the beginning there was no big plan it was just self-contained. In DS9 the network seemed to be reluctant to have more interconnected, the writers pushed for it. In TXF the interconnected became like blockbusters that drew more audience to the point where they based the movie on it; so the networked liked it, until the story became too complex and they started losing audience (s6 and beyond).

    "Mi piace"

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