Episode 4.4: Hippocratic Oath

•June 24, 2017 • Leave a Comment

All meaningful relationships get tested at some point, and Bashir and O’Brien’s relationship is put under the strongest strain seen in the series. This episode has many similarities to Armageddon Game (Ep. 2.13). In that episode, the friendship has a positive watershed moment; here the two can hardly look at each other at the end. But the similarities are striking. In both, Bashir and O’Brien are isolated and cut off from the rest of the crew. They are in a combat situation, and though O’Brien is technically the junior crewmember, he attempts to take command. O’Brien sharply ignores the contribution Julian could have to the situation. Two key differences though. First, Julian attempts (and fails) to assert command over Miles by pulling rank. Miles had a choice; he chose to not trust Julian’s judgement in a combat situation and disobey orders. In combat, Miles feels completely superior to his friend. By doing so, he condemned the Jem’Hadar death. His defense is that he acted to save him and Julian. Second, by the end of the episode, neither has come to appreciate the contribution or viewpoint of the other. Near the end, O’Brien takes a command tone with Bashir, which Bashir promptly ignores. Only by physical violence, destruction of Bashir’s work, is the impasse broken. Ironically, at the end, it is Goran’Agar who connects with both O’Brien and Bashir, where the two cannot connect with each other. Goran’Agar turns to O’Brien to explain the duty of a commander, while Goran’Agar is able to trust Bashir and convince him of the sincerity of the Jem’Hadar need.

The debate between O’Brien and Bashir sparks a strong discussion on how to view an enemy. O’Brien sees only killers; his experience on the battlefield gives him authority in recognizing that. In his words, the Jem’Hadar act in their own self interest; why didn’t they ask for help instead of demand it? To Miles, the situation is simple. Julian sees a much more complex situation. This is their chance to start a revolution in the Jem’Hadar! Julian’s idealism is strong and (to me) appealing. Where Miles sees killers, Julian sees slaves to White. Julian is hopeful that when freed, these slaves would follow the same path as Goran’Agar. It was Goran’Agar’s compassion to his injured soldier that turns Julian’s toward the humanitarian nature of their plight. Miles’s best contribution is how neither him nor Julian know how the other Jem’Hadar would react off the White. He fears not all of them would react like Goran’Agar, by becoming civilized and honorable. What if they become unchained marauders instead of an honorable species?

It’s a very strong trait in humans to be suspicious of an enemy. It takes tremendous fortitude to see an enemy as something other than a faceless entity. The DS9 producers were very clever to give the Jem’Hadar actual faces; this allows them to take on human characteristics and leads to much more complex storylines, such as this one. I feel like O’Brien reacts how most of us would react to an enemy. Hit them where it hurts the most and look out for ourselves. Julian takes the more compassionate, though more dangerous, path. He has sympathy for his enemy. Perhaps they are not villains; rather they might be slaves to their villainous master. He posits that it is the White that keeps the Jem’Hadar acting as they do and under the will of the Founders. O’Brien’s path is safer, but has no room for change (the Jem’Hadar will always be the enemy) nor room for compassion for an enemy. Bashir’s path is filled with hope for a better future, yet is naïve and would have deadly consequences for being wrong. I love the ambiguity that is left at the end of the episode. Would they have become honorable? It isn’t clear cut, as even Goran’Agar retained his adoration for the Founders. The White is how the Vorta control them, not the Founders.

Despite the battered friendship, Bashir takes the first step toward reconciliation, by already implying to O’Brien that he wants to continue to see him for darts. It was Bashir who initiated the friendship, and it is Bashir who fights to keep it alive. Good friendships are strengthened by these strained times, by persevering through and seeking reconciliation. Bashir doesn’t seek to assign blame; he can remain friends with someone whom he disagrees. This is another hallmark of a strong friendship.

Worf’s subplot seems fairly orthogonal to the main storyline. Differences between TNG and DS9 are explicitly woven in. Worf struggles with the fact that security on a station is a much more fluid and ambiguous affair compared to a starship. In fact, Worf’s rigid sense of right and wrong forced Odo to settle for the little fish in the smuggling ring. Quark’s shade of grey is how his actions aren’t that bad, and by using him, Odo is able to address bigger, more systematic criminal enterprises. Quark’s presence also has larger positive effects; Quark remaining on the station in Emissary (Ep. 1.1) is a cornerstone for restarting commerce and life on the Promenade. Worf is learning that the rules don’t define what is right and wrong on DS9. In fact, his approach seems so amateurish compared to Odo that Quark mocks Worf in the opening scene. That would have more sting though had Worf not so easily barged in on Quark to arrest him. Worf also blunders through the command structure on DS9. He goes over Odo’s head to Sisko and bungles a sting; Odo rightfully is livid at Worf’s interference.

Random Thoughts: 1) I don’t think it’s the right use of the literary term, but I would say this episode and Armageddon Game (Ep. 2.13) are foils of each other. Bashir’s growth in confidence over the last two seasons is clear through his actions in this episode. 2) The actor who plays Goran’Agar has a smattering of TV guest appearances, including several on Star Trek. In DS9, he also played Tosk from Captive Pursuit (Ep. 1.6). 3) I like the scientific components here as well. Goran’Agar speaks of his withdraw from the White so simply, and Bashir’s research mind sees many more possibilities. 4) I think that O’Brien lives because of Bashir’s compassion. Goran’Agar would not have saved them at the runabout had he not formed a bond with Bashir. 5) The Jem’Hadar very quickly size up the two and the runabout. Both Bashir and O’Brien are evaluated both as targets and as assets. We also get insight into how Dominion society is structured. The Jem’Hadar revere the Founders as gods, though they are controlled through the Vorta; these are two chains the Founders have to control the Jem’Hadar. 6) I love how Worf’s dialogue is written sometimes: “I remain vigilant.” 7) Bashir and O’Brien have a robust friendship at the start. Bashir is platonically mocking O’Brien (“You wish Kieko were a man?”). 8) This is the first direct mention of the White and its purpose (i.e. control). 9) The Jem’Hadar child from The Abandoned (3.6) is referenced. 10) Sisko is seen working on the clock from Dramatis Personae (Ep. 1.18).

Episode 4.3: The Visitor

•June 16, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The sci-fi and fantasy genres utilize a storytelling method that is more rare in other genres of TV. This episode leaves open the question of whether the entire story, the experience of the older Jake, ever happened at all. This method is beneficial because it allows the setting of a show to go to an unpleasant ending, but not disrupt the broader series narrative. This episode portrays quite a tragic experience for Jake, but this gets reset in the last 2 minutes of the episode. All of the future what we saw, except for the snippets that Sisko was present for, are lost to the collective knowledge of the characters. DS9 engages this method a couple other times; Far Beyond the Stars (Ep. 6.13) is another where the viewer is unsure whether it happens in the canonical DS9 world or is standalone.

This episode is a tragedy. I initially thought that Jake losing his father was the impetus for him missing out on his life. But that’s not really the case. It is when Sisko reappears in Jake’s mid-life, at age 37, that Jake is shattered. All the mourning he did was completely undone. Jake’s thrown back to a moment when he’s most vulnerable and most terrified for his father. He switches to doing anything he can to save him, even if it means giving up on his family and his talents. More than that, Jake ends up missing life. That’s the central thematic element of this story: Missing life due to singular focus is tragic. It makes me ponder how my life has been shaped by the events of my past. It’s actually a beautiful thing that our species is capable of; we can speculate on what could have happened. Our minds are able to literally conceive of what doesn’t exist. It can get us into trouble, which is a main message in this episode, but I believe it’s a core element to what makes us uniquely human.

There is the implication that Jake and Sisko’s souls are interconnected in a way that transcends the physical. At the moment of Jake’s death, Sisko is snapped back to the moment of the accident. The death of Jake is an infinitesimal change in the physical makeup of Jake. It is only when the spark of life within Jake has fully gone out that Sisko returns to normal space in his normal time. Our connections to the people around us, particularly influential people like our parents, goes beyond physical interactions. It’s more than gravity and electromagnetism. Even at 18, Jake needs his father still. He carried that throughout the rest of his life, like an anchor; the sci-fi premise of Jake pulling Sisko through time is symbolic of this. I find this elegant, and a lovely reminder that we are connected to those who are closest to us, not by some physical techno-babble, but by the spiritual bonds we form.

Random Thoughts: 1) While I see enjoyable, interesting themes here, this wasn’t one of my favorite episodes. I can’t really put my finger on why. However, I have to note that this is an extremely popular episode, often ranking in the Top 5 episodes on various lists and polls. 2) The episode begins as “a dark and stormy night.” The episode is structured to resemble a novel. 3) Jake is 18 here at the start of Season 4. That makes him 15 at the start of the series and probably 22 at the end of the series. 4) Tony Todd is another of the great guest actors DS9 was able to acquire. He already had Star Trek credits though. He was Kurn in TNG, a role which he will reprise in DS9. He’s had other notable repeat appearances in sci-fi. 5) Melanie is played by Rachel Robinson, Andrew Robinson’s daughter (Garak). She also auditioned for the role of Ezri, but obviously wasn’t selected. 6) The future uniforms and combadges are the same as those in TNG All Good Things… (Ep. 7.25/26). 7) There are some light themes here regarding Jake’s boyhood-to-manhood journey. We need our fathers, or a father figure, to complete that journey. Men learn from those who came before; we all stand on the shoulders of giants. 8) Jake’s work with O’Brien allowed him to help Sisko in a crucial moment: finding the right tool. 9) Quark’s compassion comes through a bit, when he allows Nog time to be with Jake. 10) The name of the book, Anslem, is the book that Jake writes in The Muse (Ep. 4.21). 11) Without Sisko, the Dominion War never happens. This could be a convenience, but it more likely that Sisko’s leadership forces the Dominion’s moves. 12) When Jake gives Melanie his notes, that is his legacy as a writer. She will incorporate his style into her own works. 13) Upon death, Jake grabs the baseball, as both a comfort for what he is about to do and as a way to more deeply connect to his father. Several times throughout the series, the baseball is symbolic of Sisko. 14) I think it is strongly implied that Bashir and Dax are married. I’ve yet to remember where, but I know Ezri says sometime that if it wasn’t for Worf, Jadzia would have chosen Julian. By abandoning DS9, Jadzia and Worf never got a chance. 15) It’s also ironic and tragic that in this timeline, Jadzia is very much alive into old age. 16) Kira dons a new uniform, one that she’ll keep for the rest of the series. I like this change. The old one was rough and brutish, I think. This one is more stylish and freer. 17) This episode was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Makeup.

Episode 4.1: Way of the Warrior

•June 8, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I’ve seen Way of the Warrior listed in the top episodes of DS9 many times, and I think it rightfully earns that place. Other than Emissary (Ep. 1.1) and What You Leave Behind (Ep. 7.26), this is the only episode to be originally aired in a single two-hour block. The Dominion’s threat plays a major role in how this episode proceeds, but it is only a shadow of the Dominion that is present. There is only one Changeling amongst all the characters in this episode (Martok). Diplomatic situations are often balanced very finely. All the Changeling needs to do is give a slight push in the right direction at the right time, and the fragile peace falls apart. It will be a full season before Martok’s true identity is revealed, and the activities of this episode appear completely to be the natural consequence of the fear of the Dominion threat, the culture of the Klingons, and the vulnerability of the Cardassians. Yet it is Martok who pushes in the right places to cause the Khitomer Accords to crumble. His influence is subtle, magnificent, and it’s great storytelling.

The station itself again takes on a personal tone, as if it was a character. The military upgrades to the station are reflective of the changed nature and purpose of the station in galactic politics. This isn’t an outpost dealing with local problems. War is looming. The station must be able to weather the coming storm, as much as her crew must be prepared. The actions in the opening scene are the crew learning the station in a whole new light. They must know her intimately and better than any Changeling. She is both a home to the crew and an ally in the fight. The upgrades to the station are an homage to the deception Sisko played on the Cardassians in Emissary (Ep. 1.1), and that original deception is mirrored in Martok’s words. This time, it’s no trick. The incredible irony and poetry is that these upgrades were made to fight the Dominion, yet they’ll be used because of the Dominion’s influence.

I’m sure the reason Worf was brought over was to attempt to recapture some of the TNG viewing audience, and for characters to crossover, I think he was the best of the TNG crew to do so. He’s always been an outsider, which was quite appropriate on a station where different galactic cultures were clashing. Worf himself didn’t assimilate well into station life, which fit his character. His switch to command is crucial to his fitting into DS9 after TNG. It shows that his character has notably progressed and that he will be different than he was in TNG. He also enabled a huge number of storylines surrounding honor, the Klingon ethical code, and Klingon spirituality. The show dynamic wasn’t thrown into upheaval, however. Worf is forced to face the consequences of his choices, and his interactions with non-crewmembers are recurrent. His relationship with the real Martok is immensely satisfying. Finally, his presence isn’t overwhelming. He catalyzes many storylines and plays an integral role in many others, but the writers don’t allow him to become the focus too often. In this episode, Worf refuses to back away from the consequences of his actions, and he stands firmly with his honor.

A element that is added to DS9 is the presence of the Klingons. The title of this episode, Way of the Warrior, is clearly a nod to the role the Klingons will play in the rest of the series. “Way of the Warrior” is reminiscent of the Japanese code of honor, Bushido. Culturally, the Klingons are a mix of Japanese, Viking, and Native American cultures. They are proud, war-like, principled, and honorable people. They live by a code, which enables fantastic storylines. In this episode, and throughout the rest of Season 4, this code portrays the Klingons straddling the line between outright enemies and dangerous friends. The crew is forced to, with one hand, fence with the Dominion to keep them at bay, while with the other hand attempt to convince the Klingons of a common enemy. I’m convinced that the breaking of the Khitomer Accords was because the Klingons were outraged the Federation would stand by doing nothing while they were giving their lives in battle against the Dominion threat. Why ally with cowards? While the main narrative they are involved in is the war with the Dominion, that culture, primarily through Worf, also allows DS9 to engage themes and stories around honor, death, and justified aggression. The Klingon characters become some very real characters as well. In particular, the real Martok struggles deeply with his own competency, leadership ability, and how he could thrive in the face of adversity. Once the Federation and the Klingons have a common enemy, that relationship thrives beautifully, both on the individual-level between characters and broadly between cultures.

Martok is totally a changeling at this point. First of all, his character is not the same as the Martok in later seasons. This Martok is deceptive; he tells Sisko he’ll speak to Gowron, but instead orders an attack on Cardassia. He’s also insulting to others and attacking innocents. Succinctly, this Martok is without honor. Once we meet the real Martok in Purgatory’s Shadow (Ep. 5.14), we meet a Klingon who deeply respects the honor of himself and others, even if they are not Klingons. Secondly, upon meeting him, the real Martok claims he was in the camp for 2 years, which was before this time. An important consequence of this is that the Changelings already know how to defeat the blood test. Changeling Martok initiates it with Sisko and Kira.

As much as I love the philosophical elements of DS9, the action that is interwoven is an equal pillar to why I think this series is so fantastic; it’s also the primary reason why I love Way of the Warrior. There are multiple scenes involving action in this episode. There are a couple space battles and some firefights shown directly onscreen. DS9 made a significant shift in this episode toward showing the action and the consequences (to be fair, the change was started during The Die is Cast, Ep. 3.21, but that was just a teaser). This was an intentional move by the producers, which accomplished a couple things that I see. It spiced up the show, to be honest. I certainly loved the stories up to this point, but the action elements that become standard round out the show more fully, in my opinion. As I said in one of my opening blogs, I see DS9 as doing TV extremely well, and that pursuit requires multiple pillars: good storytelling, action, excellent characters, clever dialogue, humor, and thoughtful themes. The introduction of action also enabled a different kind of storytelling to occur. Stories with action are more frantic, more dire, and have visceral kinds of consequences. The Siege of AR-558 (Ep. 7.8) comes to mind. In that episode, as here in Way of the Warrior, the action enhances the emotional elements of the episodes.

The Cardassians fundamentally change. With the destruction of the Obsidian Order, the military rule of Cardassia simply cannot stand. Civilian rule, gained through the dissident movement, is established. The Cardassians, both the ones like Dukat who wish to preserve the old order and ones like Garak who desire a new Cardassia, begin to lose their identity. The authoritarian feel of Cardassian society crumbles during the war with the Klingons. It resurges with the Dominion’s occupation, but instead of the oppressors, they are the oppressed. But those changes are to come.

Finally, there are a ton of title sequence changes. Certainly Worf is credited, which was a bit of a giveaway when first watching it. Sisko is now billed as a Captain. Dax also got a promotion. The intro song changed tempo, has a stronger beat, and has more melodic nuance to it. There is more activity around the station itself, with extra-vehicular repair drones around the hull and more ships about. The Defiant is present, and instead of a runabout going through the wormhole at the end, it is the Defiant doing that. Finally, Siddig El Fadil changes his stage name to Alexander Siddig. He did this because he found Siddig El Fadil was difficult for others to use. Apparently, Alexander was chosen from a hat. His full name is much longer (see Wikipedia).

Random Thoughts: 1) J. G. Hertzler, the actor who plays Martok, is mostly known for this role. But he’s another fantastic actor who plays a supporting role. Incidentally, since DS9, he’s been elected to the town council of Ulysses, NY and was arrested with another Star Trek alum, James Cromwell. They were arrested for disorderly conduct while protesting environmental issues. 2) On the box set, this episode has a production code of 718, which is completely out of order from surrounding episodes (which are in the 470s). Randomly, Emissary (Ep. 1.1) has a code of 721. I’ve no idea why this is. It might be related to the fact they were both originally aired in a single two-hour block. 3) This episode was dedicated to the memory of two production crewmembers, Duffy Long and Ronald W. Smith. 4) Sisko remains bald through the rest of the series. A change that Avery Brooks loved and I think makes Sisko seem much more at ease. 5) Both Kasidy and Sisko are very well dressed during their date; their relationship is quite serious. 6) It is 8 weeks to cross the Federation at maximum warp. 7) The Khitomer Accords that are mentioned (and broken) here are from the 6th TOS movie, The Undiscovered Country. 8) The shedding of blood to prove one isn’t a Changeling already has become ritualized. 9) Along with action, DS9 got a little more adult with Dax and Kira in bathing suits. Very little, given our current Game of Thrones precedent. 9) Odo and Garak are having the breakfast they spoke of in The Die is Cast (Ep. 3.21). 10) I love the line, “I’m not sure Constable Odo has a mother.” 11) There is a model of the International Space Station in Sisko’s office. A similar tradition to TNG having models of Enterprise clipper ships in Picard’s office. 12) The Klingons have a shoot first and find evidence later attitude. 13) Dax goes to fight Worf, not to beat him, but to simply show she is worthy to give him advice. 14) I greatly enjoyed the scene between Worf and Odo. Two good actors whose characters have a kinship and are struggling with an unpleasant reality. 15) Using Garak as a conduit to Dukat and the Cardassians brings Garak was excellent, and given they did it without directly telling him, the crew gained more respect from Garak. His loyalty to them increased (though it never outstrips his loyalty to Cardassia). 16) Kira is given direct command of DS9; her standing is also increased this season. Overall, the crew isn’t green anymore. Even Bashir takes on several leadership roles. 17) Dax and Sisko’s bet about Dukat’s thankfulness was hilarious! 18) The scene between Quark and Garak about their helplessness and their dependence on the Federation is striking. They both despise yet need their hope in the Federation. Alien takes on, and challenges to, the Roddenberry philosophy of paradise. Drink enough of it, and you’ll begin to like it. 19) While I mentioned many funny lines in this episode, the best is this. Quark: “I’ll kill him!” Odo: “With what?” 20) Garak is protecting the council because he wants to protect the change they represent. Dukat is there because he’s an opportunist. 21) During the hand-to-hand combat, Worf is a leaf on the wind. Without the same ending as Wash. 22) Excellent line: “I don’t think so. My shields are holding, your boarding parties are contained, and my reinforcements are closer than yours.” 23) Gowron shows some wisdom, with prompting from Worf, to not fight a two-front war. Martok wants to keep going. Who’s the Changeling again? 24) Quark reopening the bar, and Morn being the first to enter, is a symbol of life returning to normal on the station. That symbolic act is used a lot.  25) I ended up with about 5 pages of notes on this episode, with so many things I could talk about. Scarily, this is my pared back blog post.

Season 3 Summary

•May 30, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I used to think that Season 2 lagged a step behind Season 3.  After watching them with the critical eye of this blog project, I find that these two seasons are on par with each other.  However, the prime difference between the seasons, and what stuck out to me when I was younger, is that Season 3 truly introduces the viewer to the grand narrative of DS9.  I call this season the inactive period of the cold war with the Dominion.  In this season, the Dominion becomes an active player in the Alpha Quadrant, but their focus is on intelligence and powers other than the Federation.  Entire operations are spent just to gather intelligence (The Search, Eps. 3.1/3.2, and Heart of Stone, Ep. 3.14).  While it isn’t shown, the Dominion also spent time positioning Changelings in high places.  Given the claim by the Changeling in The Adversary (Ep. 3.26), I surmise that the four Changelings on Earth are positioned, as well as Martok’s replacement.  The crew are observing as well; they see how resourceful and how powerful Dominion agents can be.  Presumably, a single Changeling was able to destabilize both the Romulans and the Cardassians (The Die is Cast, Ep. 3.21); another was a hair’s breath from plunging the Federation into war (The Adversary, Ep. 3.26).  The crew also gained intelligence on the physiology of the Jem’Hadar (The Abandoned, 3.6).

The central narrative also has now solidly shifted away from the Old West tone and toward a political tone.  The Dominion maneuvers certainly are clear, but even the stories surrounding Bajor’s sovereignty take on these elements.  Kai Winn’s and Shakaar’s actions in Shakaar (Ep. 3.24) are of differing political motivations; the former sought personal power and galactic influence while the latter desired dignity and isolation for Bajor.  The Kai also has a galactic agenda in Life Support (Ep. 3.13).  The Old West tone does persist in some episodes.  The Maquis remain a band of outlaws fighting outside the main authority of the Federation.  The crew deals with the theft of the Defiant (Defiant, Ep. 3.9) on their own and with a mix of diplomacy and conflict.  Civil Defense (Ep. 3.7) leaves the crew at the mercy of mining technology, and the Cardassians offer help faster than the Federation.  But regardless, the episodes become more political, result in broader consequences, and survival isn’t against the frontier, but against an aggressor.

There are some great episodes here, but in my opinion, the pillars of this season are the two two-parters.  Past Tense (Ep. 3.11/3.12) is quintessential Star Trek storytelling.  It melds some a classic sci-fi element, time travel, with a modern social issue, poverty, in a way that challenges the viewer.  What I love about this episode too is that it has a distinctive DS9 tone; the episode ends with two heroes dead and the hope for change a long way off.  Improbable Cause/The Die is Cast (Ep. 3.20/3.21) are quintessential Deep Space Nine storytelling.  The deceptions within these episodes are brilliant, from Garak’s lies about blowing up his own shop to the quadrant-disrupting deception about the trap at the Founder’s homeworld.  The scene of Garak torturing Odo was fantastically done, and it portrays those more dark themes that DS9 is known for.  The kind of inner turmoil and moral compromise that Garak endures are the heart of what makes this series great.  As a single episode, Second Skin, was extremely fun to write about.  I really gained an appreciation for the kind of deceptions that Cardassians weave and how the Cardassians are artistic reflections of some in our modern day.  It is both humbling and terrifying seeing the reality that this art reflects.

Random Thoughts:  1) Favorite episode of the season: Past Tense (3.11/3.12).  Honorable mention: Improbable Cause/The Die is Cast (3.20/3.21). 2) The equality I see between Seasons 2 and 3 are entirely from my higher view of Season 2 and not from any lowering of Season 3 after watching this time.  3) The episode Explorers (Ep. 3.22) is modelled after a voyage across the Pacific Ocean called the Kon-Tiki Expedition.  This was meant to show that the islands of the South Pacific could have become inhabited by a voyage from South America using an ancient craft.  Humans truly are amazing creatures with a deep abiding desire to explore.  Star Trek captures this beautifully.  I learned this after I wrote on that episode, and this is too neat to not include somewhere.

Episode 3.26: The Adversary

•May 26, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Sisko’s promotion to captain is symbolic of the escalation of the cold war between the Dominion and the Federation.  Earlier in the season in Improbable Cause/The Die is Cast (Eps. 3.20/3.21), the Dominion spent its energies neutralizing two of the easier opponents of the Alpha Quadrant.  The fact that the Federation is next for major intervention by the Dominion indicates to me that the Dominion thought the Federation a lesser threat than the Klingons.  As far as is revealed, only a single Changeling was involved in this plot.  Thematically, this episode is more representative of the upcoming season than the current season.  The Federation is wholly unprepared to handle the Dominion; they on their heels against the Dominion multiple times throughout the 4th season.  This finale has a similar tone where the crew is constantly behind and struggling against the Changeling.  Only a last-minute fix by O’Brien and Odo’s commitment to the crew saves the Defiant.  There’s also a very strong scent of distrust amongst the crew; this becomes an internal battle the crew must fight as they externally fight the Dominion.  Whether it’s amongst themselves or trying to find common ground with allies like the Klingons, the Dominion very adeptly uses deception to erode cohesion amongst the crew and the broader Alpha Quadrant, and this erosion leads to fractures in their united defense.  The final line, “You’re too late.  We’re everywhere.”, is ominous and quite true.  The Founders have infiltrated into every major power in the Alpha Quadrant to the highest levels.

The crew devises two advances against the Dominion in this episode.  First, they start using the wide field phaser shot to force a Changeling back into a liquid state.  This becomes a staple defensive tactic.  Secondly, and more importantly to the grander Dominion narrative, this episode introduces the blood test.  If a Changeling has part of itself removed, that part reverts to a liquid state; this is easily seen and the Changeling is identified.  This becomes quite symbolic of the lengths someone must go to prove their identity and of how costly the fight against the Dominion becomes.  Especially once the Klingons get involved, this becomes as a blood offering to show one’s commitment to fighting the Dominion and their dedication to their fellows, all of whom must provide a blood offering.  However, as clever as this is, in the very next scene, the Changeling has devised a way around it by simply being the one who administers the test.  That way, he controlled who is accused.

Odo may have been the first to harm another Changeling, but he wasn’t the first to be attacked.  The other Changeling attacks Odo directly through a link.  While this doesn’t harm Odo, it is an attack on Odo’s person to disable him and to force Odo’s consciousness to decentralize and merge with the other Changeling.  This is a direct attack on Odo’s self.  Most of us would see Odo’s actions as justified self defense; to the Founders, this is the most egregious of crimes.  What’s ironic and tragic is that Odo has never killed anyone in his line of duty (or fired a weapon); on the occasion that this history is broken, it is one of his own people that he kills.  The consequences of his actions here resurface in the Season 4 finale, Broken Link (Ep. 4.26), where Odo’s shapeshifting ability is taken from him.  This act clearly declares to the Founders that Odo is fighting with his friends in the Alpha Quadrant.  Up to this point, I think they expected Odo to stand aside whenever possible.  As yet, Odo is simply reacting to the Founders.  It’ll be some time before Odo takes a turn to actively try to change his people’s ways.

Random Thoughts:  1) A second Changeling on the Defiant isn’t needed for the Founders to know that Odo killed one of their own kind.  Reports of this event within Starfleet would find their way into Founder hands.  2) Odo claims to not know his people very well, but it was his observation that dripping blood could identify a Changeling.  But given the Changeling so quickly found a way around this, maybe Odo doesn’t know much at all.  3) This won’t be the last time Bashir is targeted for replacement by the Founders.  In Season 5, he is replaced again, and for a much longer period of time.  Perhaps it’s because he’s well positioned to be informed at DS9 or maybe he’s an easy mark.  I highly doubt the writers intentionally foreshadowed that coming event, but it’s possible.  4) Sisko’s promotion finally puts him on par with the other leads in Star Trek series.  I liked how he was only a commander for three seasons.  It’s symbolic of how the show’s tone continues to becomes more serious, how the importance of DS9 itself grows, and how Bajor strengthens after the Occupation.  5) More sets on the Defiant are shown for the first time, such as Engineering and the mess hall.  6) “Julian’s” stiffness is clear when talking to O’Brien in the conduit.  He overly obviously states some backstory to add credibility (like the engineering extension courses).  7) Eddington mentions that the gold uniform can’t get into the captain’s chair.  This is a nod to Worf, who will be switching from Security to Command in Way of the Warrior (Ep. 4.1).  8) The Defiant is typically crewed by 46 people, it seems (here 47 are mentioned as being on board, with one “ambassador” present).  9) Kira’s eagerness to be tested is very indicative of her personality.  10) Eddington is a true ally when it comes to fighting the Dominion (as opposed to the fight against the Maquis).  11) Founders are good enough Changelings to appear human on scans.  12) During this cold war period with the Dominion, they constantly try to use the tactic portrayed here.  They attempt to get the Alpha Quadrant to fight itself.  13) The Defiant’s self-destruct requires both the captain and first officer to arm it and to disarm it.  14) Loved “Choose the Changeling” line.

Episode 3.25: Facets

•May 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

This episode is quintessential for the journey of Dax portrayed in DS9.  Dax’s stories usually revolve around some sort of inner discovery or judgement of her inner qualities.  Here, Dax faces the memories of her previous hosts in the Trill rite of zhian’tara, and these encounters let her engage directly different parts of her persona.  The ending was a bit odd for me.  Dax is used by the writers to often push norms or social mores, such as an elderly man falling for a younger woman, but this revelation for Curzon washing out Jadzia was completely unexpected and felt forced.  This really makes Curzon look childish.  He refuses to go deep with Jadzia, he selfishly thinks of his own existence outside of Dax, and he reacted to loving her by rejecting her from one of her life dreams.  All perfectly believable behaviors in a person, but certainly childish and immature.  It also really blunts the symbolism of Jadzia facing her own issues of self-respect.  It pulls the viewer out of the literary element and into a more trivial conflict, in my opinion.

Jadzia’s zhian’tara is a experience in inner reflection.  Jadzia faces a myriad of selves within her, and she finds selves that have brought her inner strength (such as Lela in her courage or Tobin in his intelligence), selves that are neutral parts of her past (Audrid who is wholly unlike Jadzia), and selves she fears (Joran who finds Jadzia unworthy or Curzon who seems to lack respect for her).  Jadzia, as the active host, has to integrate these selves into her one, whole self.  Because of she faced her fears and learned from her strengths, Jadzia comes out the far side of her zhian’tara a better person for it.  I see great value in these kinds of reflective exercises in our lives.  We do have dissonant components of our personality, and we must either blend them into our whole person or they end up churning and bubbling beneath the surface our whole life.  Or we might fail to empower our strengths for even greater good.  I find myself too easily distracted by life (smartphones, discourteous driving, children…), and this kind of reflection is exceedingly difficult.  But it is worth my time to engage in.

Lela claims that a person is nothing more than the sum of their memories.  The activities portrayed in this episode, I think, clearly show that we are far more than simply memories.  We are thinking, feeling, choosing individuals.  Jadzia isn’t simply 7 prior hosts + a current host.  Her zhian’tara is a journey that is an act to harmonize her memories.  As each set of memories is drawn from her, Jadzia retains her core personality; she isn’t obliterated because memories are extracted.  Her choices and feelings throughout the experience are Jadzia; perhaps more so than any set of memories she retains of the zhian’tara after it is complete.  Her memories help shape who she has become at any given moment, but those memories are not the sum total of her person.  She is full of the capacity for agency, creativity, and emotion, as well as her memories.

Nog’s subplot has a similar theme, where his inner character is tested.  The passion Nog has for joining Starfleet is unparalleled.  In this episode, we start to see how qualified Nog is for Starfleet.  He’s tested for his stress reactions, his deductive reasoning, and spatial orientation; all of these he passes (once he’s given a fair test on all of them).  This episode is where Quark finally backs off completely on the topic of Nog joining Starfleet.  Rom is passive toward his brother in everything in his life, except when it comes to Nog.  Rom’s an entirely different and far more confident person toward Quark when Nog is involved.

Random Thoughts:  1) Verad from Invasive Procedures (Ep. 2.4) isn’t a host that is part of the zhian’tara because he wasn’t in possession long enough for his memories to imprint upon the symbiont.  2) Nice, realistic touch on Nog falling over by ending the holosuite program sitting down.  3) I appreciate Quark’s bluntness with Jadzia on having his body taken over by a memory of a dead person.  I think most of us would react in that way.  4) This is a nice opportunity for the actors to try out new roles, even if it’s only for a scene for most of them.  5) Kudos to Armin Shimerman for being able to switch from the Quark character to an extremely motherly figure in the same scene.  6) This is the last episode with Commander Sisko.  He’s promoted in the next episode.  7) Root beer becomes a humorous symbol of humanity in the rest of the series.

Interlude: The Tensions of Kira Nerys

•May 20, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Kira Nerys struggles with tensions that make her very real and relatable to me.  What I find fantastic about how she’s written and acted is that she constantly exists in tension between opposing ideologies, and she has the capacity to let both coexist within her.  In Seasons 1 and 2, she struggles with being both a violent resistance fighter and being a peaceful advocate.  She never ultimately lays down her resistance fighter past because strength of that sort is needed in other parts of her life.  She learned a strength and perseverance in the Resistance that benefits her.  In another tension, she is secular in her work and with friends, yet moves and acts with a deep sense of spiritual guidance.  She doesn’t draw a line between the two worlds.  She relies on the wisdom from her spiritual practice to guide her to act for the benefit of her friends and crew.  She is also both Bajoran and Starfleet, particularly near the end of the series.  She has to navigate the requirements of Starfleet (particularly when interacting with Sisko) while ensuring her world heals from the atrocities done to it.  She learns diplomacy and has a vision for the greater good of society, a far cry from the fiery woman in Season 1.

Tribalism can be immensely destructive to our societies.  Our culture currently demands people choose a single position amongst two dichotomous, opposing positions.  Red vs Blue State.  Amnesty or a great, great wall.  Atheist vs Theist.  Saved or not saved.  Climate change or no climate change.  Very few of us are versed in the tradition of holding opposing ideologies within us simultaneously and trying to chart a path honoring the truths of both.  We are fooled into this absurd notion that every dichotomy has right side and a wrong side.  There is a beautiful humility in realizing that one’s enemy is a sister in the same struggle.  It isn’t long after this that one realizes the struggle isn’t with our flesh and blood brothers, but with bigger forces that cause unhappiness and pain in our lives.

These tensions Kira holds make her a complex and intriguing character to me.  She isn’t confident in who she is, and she shows her uncertainty to the audience.  She fearlessly engages her past and present, always processing and changing who she is.  She is both guided by her spiritual practice and chooses her path to the best of her ability.  She blends humility and confidence into her life.  I have come to really respect these tensions during this blogging project, and I didn’t really appreciate these nuances of her character before.