ST:DS9 in 2020 : Season 7 (Part 4)

We left Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s Final Chapter in its final season 7 (1998-1999) in the middle of plenty of developments! This is the most modern DS9 has ever been, like short-season series from today. Here is the continuation:

7×21: When It Rains…: “Well, gentlemen, it seems as if the Klingon fleet is the only thing that stands between us and the Dominion.” “What have we come to?”

In the Cardassian underground, Kira is giving advice to Cardassians on how to become good resistance fighters: this is very ironic, poetic justice even! But it feels very right for Kira’s character: she has to overcome her own reluctance to help her previous enemies and recognize the legitimacy of this rebellion. Still, the Cardassians tease her and Odo senselessly, and Kira is mad, mad, mad at being forced into this role. Only Damar sees beyond this short term situation and keeps his cool, and actually wants his people to learn what they can from Kira in order to strike against the Dominion.

On Bajor, Dukat becomes blinded by trying to read the Pah’wraith book. Winn dumps him in the street to prove his worth. Just one episode before they were absolute allies and lovers!… It’s as if Winn is and is not fully convinced of what she is doing, unmaking the previous episodes’ character development. Odd.

On the Station, Gowron takes over Martok in the command of Klingon Fleet. Martok is frustrated, especially since Gowron is a complete waste in terms of strategy: he wants an all out war head-on with the Dominion, for the Glory of the Empire! As if there were not enough problems already!

Ezri nearly tells of her love to Julian! — but Julian is more intrigued with his medical findings. Odo is infected with the Founders virus, and Julian investigates into Starfleet Medical’s archives to compare data, but this data is mysteriously kept confidential. It turns out Section 31 infected Odo, and used him as a carrier to infect all of the Great Link! Julian and Miles directly assume its Section 31. Why should it be the evil Section 31 all the time I wonder, it could very easily have been Starfleet Intelligence — but DS9 doesn’t want to turn the Federation into a culprit of genocide. In times of war, laws don’t count, but that is only true for the fringes of utopia: the Federation is like the innocent US citizen who is content with its military doing all these atrocities in foreign lands in order to guarantee its safety, or the Western European who sits on wealth accumulated from centuries of colonialism. Blessed are the unawares.

So Odo was infected when he visited Earth in 4×11: Homefront. But why is he less sick than the others, if he infected them later? Did Section 31 half cure him and re infected him because now they want to get rid of him?

7×22: Tacking into the Wind: “The Klingon Empire is dying, and I think it deserves to die.”

In this episode, while the Dominion War is raging, we envision what the world could look like after the war for two of the most militaristic Empires, the Klingons and the Cardassians!

First, the Klingons. Gowron‘s reckless attacks to the heart of the Dominion just for the sake of glory result in many deaths and get Martok seriously injured. Someone has to stand up to him, but Klingons are not supposed to ignore their leader’s orders. Interestingly, it is a speech from an outsider, Ezri, to Worf that will change things, in a superbly written scene. Ezri doesn’t mince her words: the Klingon Empire is dying because of outdated violent values and tolerance for corruption, if Klingons are to survive in the future they will have to change the wave they behave. Worf knows this and he has proven it in the past, even back in episodes that resulted in making Gowron the Chancellor (all the way back in TNG 4×07: Reunion), but he is reluctant to become the one that ushers the change. He tries to convince Martok to stand up to Gowron, but fails. Ultimately, by default almost, Worf stands up to him, throws away his Federation comm badge in a badass moment, and challenges him: it’s a Klingon battle to the death, as predicted by 5×01: Apocalypse Rising! Worf is victorious (Hail Worf!) but passes the mantle to the leader of his House, Martok (Hail Martok!), who was reluctant and not part of the Klingon aristocracy. Interesting that a saying of Kahless is that it is those who do not want power that are the ones that are more fit to exercise power, a very taoistic or aristotelian thing to say. So the Klingon Empire will be different.

Second, the Cardassians. The “how to become a terrorist” training that Kira gives to the Cardassians is not very well received when she says they will have to kill Cardassian collaborators as well: they do not realize that they are facing the same decisions that the Bajoran resistance fighters were making under Cardassian occupation. Damar‘s aide Rusot even directly threatens Kira, who is more than able to physically defend herself (Nana Visitor is excellent in these episodes!). Damar seems to barely hold things together.

Then Damar gets the tragic news that his whole family has been executed by the Dominion — Kira makes it known to him that such dirty tactics were the same the Cardassians were using on the Bajorans. Indeed, the ever-present and subtle Garak believes that such tough experiences will be important on Damar’s character if he is to be the future leader of the reborn Cardassia.

Kira gets a jolt of old memories of her fighter life with a mission they embark on, to steal a Jem’Hadar ship in order to reverse engineer a protection against a new Breen technology. A very tense situation. Ultimately, things end up in a big Mexican standoff, Rusot pointing his gun on Kira, Garak on Rusot, and Damar split between the two. I don’t know if it was necessary here for Damar to actually kill Rusot, perhaps the situation could have been defused in a different manner, but the episode has been preparing us that some Cardassians will not accept to have anything to do with the lowly Bajorans, and what better way to symbolise the break with the Cardassian colonialist past than a pure execution from Cardassia’s future leader. “The old Cardassia is dead“.

Also, in this episode we have Odo‘s sickness progressing extremely quickly — and Odo proudly hiding it from Kira. I wonder why this happens so quickly for Odo. His hopes now lie on Bashir, who spends endless nights trying to find a cure. Bashir and O’Brien decide to confront Section 31 directly.

A really, really excellent episode from Ron Moore (again!) that ushers huge changes for the whole Quadrant! The two Klingon/Cardassian storylines mirror each other closely.

Two very interesting discussions here on what comes next. Worf: “A new day must dawn for our people.” Damar: “His Cardassia is dead and won’t be coming back.DS9 might have shown us the inner workings of polities very different from the Federation but it has hardly presented much thought as to how these might change over time. As the series is ending, key players are thinking of “the day after” — here, as with many points in these last episodes, I am reminded of Babylon 5 and how it spent a whole season on such things! Interestingly also, in Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges, thinking about the geopolitics after the War is something that Bashir accuses Section 31 of doing as if it were something bad — here this change is presented in a positive light. It seems to me that the Federation needs to weed out rogue elements of Section 31 but still keep a “balanced” Intelligence branch!

7×23: Extreme Measures: “I spent so much time, erasing my movements, covering my tracks, that now as I look back on my life, I find nothing.”

This is the most self-contained episode out of all these in the Final Chapter! There is only one storyline throughout, with a clear mission to get from point A to point B in the story: to get a cure for Odo from Section 31.

Bashir‘s plan to lure a member of Section 31 on DS9 by pretending he has find a cure works out: Sloan again appears out of nowhere! Like a true CIA or KGB operative, he activates a suicide mechanism, and Bashir has to devise a way to keep him his brain barely alive and hack into his mind to extract the information. This is DS9 meeting The Matrix and Paprika and Inception! (The Matrix by the way was released in March 1999, just a couple of months before this episode aired, but to be fair there were other examples out there already with William Gibson’s Neuromancer or Johnny Mnemonic or Ghost in the Shell). And in order to do that, Bashir uses the kind of tools that the Federation would straight out condemn: Romulan brain scanners like the ones from 7×16: Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges, ie tools of torture. O’Brien joins Bashir and they jack in.

Now, this was a big idea and it was the opportunity to do something very weird and imaginative, like the afterlife of What Dreams May Come — unfortunately the budget is such that Sloan’s mind looks like…the corridors of DS9, because he “didn’t want to make them uncomfortable“. The directing is very conventional as well, not particularly “dreamy”.

We spend some time with a softer side of Sloan, meeting his friends and wife. The episode seems to be moving in a direction of presenting us more of Sloan’s character, perhaps so that we can sympathise more with his life’s choices and him joining Section 31, but actually for the rest of the episode nothing comes out of this.

Soft Sloan is replaced by hard operative Sloan in this compartmentalised brain of his. He even manipulates Bashir and O’Brien into believing that they have exited his mind and failed, like in TNG 6×21: Frame of Mind, but they realise he trick. (Thanks to the opening line of a print book repeating itself — Julian is reading A Tale of Two Cities!) Finally, they reach Sloan’s inner sanctum: a room with all the Section 31 secrets. There are no physical Section 31 offices, the secret group only exists in its members mind. It could still be that Section 31 is a product of just Sloan’s mind and there’s nothing here that theoretically could invalidate that. Still, here, inside Sloan’s mind is the only way to find out who it’s members are, and Bashir frantically searches — however this is a trap, to capture Bashir and kill him as Sloan’s brain dies. It is only thanks to the presence of the more level-headed O’Brien that Bashir leaves “just” with what they came for, the cure to the disease.

This is the last Bashir / O’Brien adventure, and they do share a scene where they think both will die essentially confessing their love to each other. O’Brien insists on his love for Keiko, as he should, and Bashir is quick to say he’s crazy about Ezri, (perhaps all this was added in order to dissipate any doubts that this is homosexual love, otherwise 1990s censors would have a heart attack, but all of these are not mutually exclusive!). At the end, they toast to their deep friendship, one of the most endearing in the whole Star Trek franchise!

And so Odo, who was really in a pitiful state, all wrinkled and looking like a mount of dry tree leaves, gets his vaccine and quickly recovers! Although we got no answer as to why Odo suddenly became so sick and at a later stage compared to the other Changelings.

This was another great episode, but it could have been something more regarding Sloan’s character and discussions on the morality of Section 31. We don’t really learn anything new about Section 31, and out of the three related episodes with it (6×18: Inquisition, 7×16: Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges) this is by far the weakest of the three.

7×24: The Dogs of War: “Our fight for freedom continues! But it will take place here in the streets!”

While the previous concentrated on a single storyline, in this one there’s so much going on that it’s as if they try to cram as much as possible before the big finale! In so many cases in the past I felt the episodes could be a bit tighter; but here when DS9 wants to do an episode full of developments and with no “fat” that could be edited out, it can do it! This one has not aged at all, some 21 years after it aired.

We open with the fallout from the previous episode: Odo is cured, the Federation now “officially” is in possession of a cure that could save all of the Changelings, but Sisko denies Odo’s request to help his people. This is a war and anything that helps is welcome. Finally, Odo spells out to Sisko my exact thoughts on Section 31: “The Federation claims to abhor Section 31’s tactics, but when they need their dirty work done they look the other way. It’s a tidy little arrangement, wouldn’t you say?” The Federation is so pretentious with this! Again, a case of Trek having its cake and eating it too, not guilty for genocide but kind of guilty as well? I have to wonder whether all Starfleet Admirals are actually Section 31 members and nobody really states the obvious. If that happened, DS9 would really have pushed Trek over into the grim-dark territory explored by later series in the 2000s, from Battlestar Galactica to Breaking Bad, so it’s perhaps better that DS9 maintained Trek’s difference in this way.

The “main” story is on the Ferengi and Grand Nagus Zek passing his sceptre / ugly face baton to his successor. It is a reversal of the storylines on the future of the Klingons and Cardassians from two episodes ago, where the new leaders promise to push towards more open and progressive cultures: here, the potential leader, Quark (!), is abhorred by the progressive reforms of the current leader and delivers an impassioned speech using similar words and tone as Martok or Damar, but his purpose is to revert back to how things were before. Make Ferenginar Great Again!

This reactionary turn of events is very fitting with the Ferengi, who were and continue to be caricatures and comic relief characters. Yet the reforms that Zek has passed are very concrete progressive politics with a real-world equivalent: women’s rights, progressive taxation, environmental protection, unemployment benefits, support to the poor, retirement funds, Ferenginar has gone full social democratic!… Quark is raving mad against all this corruption of what a Ferengi “free” economy should be, praising “greed” like Gordon Gecko in Wall Street. It’s especially funny since I know that Armin Shimmerman is an active member of the Screen Actors Guild!

Ultimately, it turns out there was a misunderstanding: Zek’s choice to succeed him was not Quark but Rom! An odd choice if there was one, completely preposterous! Rom is certainly more kind-hearted than Quark, but totally inept at economic affairs! But he is Moogie‘s favourite. Even senile Zek wonders at some point, “did we choose the right brother?“. Rom and Leeta are elated. Well, DS9 is quite the breeding ground for the next generation of leaders all across the Quadrant, which is completely unlikely but that’s the point of view of the series!

Meanwhile! On Cardassia, Damar‘s rebellion is completely, completely crushed by the Dominion, only Damar, Garak and Kira survive, in the cellar of Mila, i.e. in the house of Garak‘s actual deceased father Enabran Tain. It’s all depressing and for Kira absolutely terrifying: she is all alone, the only Bajoran surrounded by her old and new enemies, far away from her sick lover… However, they understand that the wider civilian population secretly supports a rebellion against the Dominion occupation, all they wait for is a spark. They risk it all: they come out in the open, bomb a facility and kill the Jem’Hadar, and Damar delivers a powerful rousing speech to all the Cardassian bystanders. Damar truly embraces the historic role that destiny has handed him. It’s touching to see Cardassians shouting “Freedom!” – unless you are Kira, for whom all of this is a bit scary. Imagine being a Jew in Germany after World War 2 and seeing a Nazi rebellion against the Allied occupation of the country! Great, complex stuff.

Throughout the episode — and actually over the past four or so — Julian and Ezri buzz around each other like two lovebirds too timid to progress their love. It’s goofy and ridiculous and they acknowledge that, they try to continue to be friends, until The Kiss! The Kiss! finally comes! I wouldn’t have thought that this is where things would go with Ezri when she was introduced in the beginning of the season, I thought it would have been saner to distance herself from all the previous lovers and contenders of Jadzia. But here it does feel as if it’s Ezri’s choice, not a residual want from Jadzia. And, as Worf comments, they are a good fit: an overgrown child and a young woman who lacks self confidence. It makes sense, but it is cringey!

To summarize: with all these shifts in power around the galaxy, fascism and capitalism are defeated, the Federation’s socialist utopia us instated, and DS9‘s mission is complete!

And also, as we prepare for the final big battle, Sisko gets a new toy: a new Defiant! “Hello, ship!” Everything is the same (except the carpet!), to the point that this diminishes the tragedy of the loss of the Defiant a few episodes ago… At least it would have been better if they hadn’t actually renamed the new ship Defiant as well!

We close the episode with the reveal that Kasidy is pregnant — the good old “I’m pregnant” plot twist! Just when you were wondering what could go bad after the Prophets warning so many episodes ago, it looks like the tragedy will be one of the three — Ben, Kasidy, the baby — will end up dying, I guess. I don’t know how I feel about this development, I’ll wait to see where it goes.

Special mention to Jeffrey Combs who, finally, gets to play his two characters, Weyoun and Brunt, in the same episode!

Excellent! All the pieces are set for the big finale, essentially parts 9 and 10 of this Final Chapter! Can’t wait to jump to it in the next and final part!


5 risposte a "ST:DS9 in 2020 : Season 7 (Part 4)"

  1. Nice parallel between the innocent Federation and the US citizen vs the evil Section 31 and the military… I guess that only from outside the US the situation is crystal clear, while for a US production like this one it’s inevitable to be mainstream and believe in the innocence of one’s own good institutions.
    And Odo’s line from The Dogs of War is perfect: “The Federation claims to abhor Section 31’s tactics, but when they need their dirty work done they look the other way. It’s a tidy little arrangement, wouldn’t you say?”
    And… Gowron’s death! That was impressive! I was stunned when I saw it for the first time. Worf is amazing, and Martok is another of those characters who started from zero and quickly became great, unexpectedly so (credit to the wonderful J.G. Hertzler and to his powerful voice).

    Extreme Measures: I agree that it’s a bit weak in some of its parts, but it still manages to be memorable. It’s one of the episodes I remember the most, so there’s something unique about it, although flawed.

    By the way, you made me laugh a lot with Make Ferenginar Great Again! X–D
    And I smiled at this: To summarize: with all these shifts in power around the galaxy, fascism and capitalism are defeated, the Federation’s socialist utopia us instated, and DS9‘s mission is complete!

    And yeah, it was lame to have the Defiant back so quickly…

    (Jeffrey Combs is nothing short of amazing)

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    1. All good comments!

      “it’s inevitable to be mainstream and believe in the innocence of one’s own good institutions”
      That’s as much because it’s a mainstream US production as it is because it’s Star Trek, and they were trying to show a utopian world where things really had changed for the better and dark ops were considered evil. Maybe naive even? The writers were trying to go there though, see BSG.

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