Apocalypse Rising (DS9 S5E1)

Apocaypse Rising certainly does what it sets out to do. It kicks off the fifth season with a tense, action-packed story following up on the cliffhanger from Broken Link, and it effectively ends the war with the Klingons that has been raging since the season four premiere. It does these things quite well, too – I enjoyed this story a great deal, and was fully taken in by the twist.
 
No, any problems I have with this episode stem from my own expectations. The revelation last season that Gowron, chancellor of the Klingon High Council, is a Changeling (and that therefore the Dominion has been driving the Klingon-Cardassian-Federation conflict) was a massive upheaval, and I thought we would spend at least much of the fifth season dealing with it. Deep Space Nine has done serialization so well by this point that I expected this to be merely one chapter in a longer arc about the Dominion master plan, expertly tying in the Klingon conflict with the larger narrative.
 
And while Apocalypse Rising certainly does that, it does it in a done-in-one mission, the way The Next Generation might have resolved one of their season-ending cliffhangers. To be clear, this isn’t a bad choice – in fact, it’s the unexpected one, given how long-form DS9’s storytelling has been. But there’s enough dramatic potential in this story to get at least two episodes, if not more, out of it, and I can’t help feeling like this one rushes through it in an attempt to turn the focus off of the Klingons and back to the Dominion threat.
 
What’s here, as I said, is awesome. After Odo, still dealing with his new solid form, tells Sisko that the Founders have replaced Gowron, Starfleet decides to send our good captain on a mission to prove it. Sisko, Odo and O’Brien undergo surgery to look like Klingons, while Worf dons a wig and joins them as they travel to the Klingon homeworld. The mission is to pretend to be honored guests at an Order of the Bat’leth award ceremony in order to use four spherical devices to create a field that will expose any Changelings within it. (This is cool tech and I hope we see it again, though the fact that four people are needed to operate it seems like a liability.)
 
I fully enjoyed watching Sisko, Odo and O’Brien as Klingons, and would have loved a whole episode of them learning how to pass as warriors. Worf tries his best, but only Sisko really picks up on how to act with sufficient physical violence. I also love that the show remembers that Dukat is out there flying around in a stolen Klingon ship, and that they can use that ship to enter the Klingon Empire undetected. (The bit where Dukat discovers Kira is pregnant and she tells him the baby is O’Brien’s is priceless.)
 
For the most part, infiltrating the Klingon Order of the Bat’leth ceremony seems pretty simple: our disguised crew members just join a party in progress. As Worf explains, the drunken debauchery is as much an endurance test as a celebration, and the goal is to drink as much bloodwine as possible, stay up all night and still look Gowron in the eye when he arrives in the morning to honor the new members of the Order. Our crew has taken anti-intoxicant medication, so they can drink all the bloodwine they can stand.
 
Things start to get tense when Martok, the Klingon general we met in The Way of the Warrior, arrives, and Gowron follows shortly behind. Before our crew can activate their spheres, Martok recognizes Sisko and O’Brien, and the jig is up. I liked this twist, and I really liked the one that follows: it is Martok, not Gowron, who has been replaced by a shapeshifter, and Odo figures this out by observing how each one behaves. Gowron remains honorable, steeped in Klingon tradition, while Martok (or the Changeling who looks like him) is more crass and violent for violence’s sake. It’s a nice reminder of Odo’s deductive abilities, which he will have to rely on more now that he’s human.
 
The Changeling being Martok actually makes a huge amount of sense. It was Martok who led the first attacks against Cardassians in The Way of the Warrior, and who was pushing hardest for war. He clearly had Gowron’s ear, but not his full faith, as Gowron stood down at the end of that story in defiance of Martok’s wishes. As Sisko said in that story, the Dominion wants to sow seeds of distust and suspicion, to put humans against Klingons against Cardassians to make it easier for them to invade. Replacing Martok put them much closer to that goal, and if not for Gowron’s more reasonable (and, frankly, honorable) reactions, both in that story and this one, the war would have been a lot bloodier.
 
With this tale, the Klingon war ends, and the Klingons go back to being allies in the fight against the Dominion. Sure, there are still some negotiations to be worked out, but that’s the gist. This is a bit of a milestone: the first major plotline to wrap up on Deep Space Nine. Maybe that’s why it seems so quick to me. This season premiere is a decks-clearing exercise, but it’s a strong one, and as I’ve said before in this space, if my biggest problem with a story is that I want more of it, that’s pretty damn good.
 
Random stuff:
 
The title of this one might have also contributed to my sense that it would be the first part of a longer story. I’m not sure what apocalypse is on the rise, but perhaps that will become clearer in subsequent episodes.
 
Apparently Colm Meaney hated the Klingon makeup so much that he begged the production team never to make him wear prosthetics again. The fact that Meaney, Avery Brooks and Rene Auberjonois had to undergo the same makeup routine he’d been dealing with for years delighted Michael Dorn as well.
 
I love the part where Kira blames Bashir for her pregnancy, given that Nana Visitor was pregnant in real life and Alexander Siddig was the father. That’s meta on a really fun level.
 
Robert O’Reilly’s eyes! Just that. Just Robert O’Reilly’s eyes. Man.
 
This episode was nominated for Emmy awards for outstanding cinematography and makeup. Well deserved.
 
Tomorrow, The Ship. Way to go vague with the titles, guys. Onward!
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Broken Link (DS9 S4E25)

Broken Link is a surprisingly low-key finale for this fourth season. It feels less like an arrival point and more like a signpost pointing to the more intense chapters of this drama that lie ahead. It’s full of import, and it does bring to a head several simmering plot points (especially in its final seconds), but I’m sort of surprised that this is not the penultimate episode of the season. We’re just at the edge of what promises to be some truly interesting material, and Broken Link moves the pieces into place.
 
I certainly don’t want to suggest that this story isn’t very good on its own. Broken Link finally follows up on last season’s finale, The Adversary, in which Odo became the first Changeling to ever kill one of his own kind. His people, the Founders of the Dominion, have been deliberating about how to respond to Odo’s act of violence, and from their perspective it’s even worse that he killed a fellow Changeling to defend his Starfleet colleagues. To the Founders this means that Odo has sided with the solids against his own people.
 
Their revenge begins with a virus – the Founders infect Odo with a destabilizing agent that causes him to lose control of his solid form. (It’s not entirely clear how or when they did this. It’s possible the virus has lain dormant since The Search, the third season premiere, which is the last time Odo joined the Great Link. But it’s also possible this was part of Weyoun’s mission in To the Death, and we didn’t see it.) Odo experiences a series of spasms that leave him, well, runny. His face and body look melted, like wax sliding down the side of a candle, and as the story progresses Odo struggles to maintain even this form.
 
And once Bashir is out of ideas about how to stabilize him, Odo points out the obvious: the only people who can help him are his own. So Odo joins Sisko, Dax, O’Brien, Worf and, at his own insistence, Garak on the Defiant as it heads through the wormhole to find the new home world of the Founders. Garak has his own mission – to discover what became of the Cardassian soldiers who fought the Dominion in The Die is Cast. Surely, he believes, some of them must have survivied.
 
The Defiant isn’t in the Gamma quadrant for long before the Dominion spots them. Our friend the female Changeling transports aboard and, in her usual calm and calculated manner, tells Odo what’s what. She links with him and stabilizes him, but tells him that the effect is temporary, and only joining with the Great Link will help him permanently. But the other Founders aren’t so sure they want to accept Odo back, given his crime. So he is to come to the Founders’ home world and be judged.
 
I have to pause here to say just how good Rene Auberjonois is in this episode. For most of the run time his face is covered in even more makeup than usual, and what could have been kind of goofy – the runny-wax look isn’t perfect – works wonders thanks to Auberjonois’ commitment. There’s a scene early on when Odo has to make his way from sickbay to the Defiant through the crowded promenade, and he can barely walk. Auberjonois gives his all to that scene, and it’s remarkably sad and triumphant. He does similarly strong work throughout, especially once the Founders’ judgment is rendered.
 
Because what they decide to do is make him human. Odo is spat out by the Great Link with a heartbeat and lungs and a blood type, as fully mortal as any of us. As a final insult, the Founders leave his face in that not-quite-there plastic approximation that Odo wears because he can’t get human features exactly right. He’s a human with a Changeling’s face, and he’s forever cut off from the Great Link. For Odo, who has always felt alone, to give him that connection with his own people and then take it away forever is torture of the worst kind.
 
Broken Link tells this story slowly and deliberately, giving it room and pace to breathe. There is an ill-advised bit in which Garak, having been told that all the Cardassians who attacked the Dominion are dead (and that the Founders plan to wipe out the rest of them soon enough), tries to take control of the Defiant’s weapons systems and eradicate the Founders once and for all. In a story that is so well measured, this moment of mania feels out of place, and it’s all but forgotten by the end. It is Worf who stops him, observing for the first time what we’ve known for seasons now: “You fight well, for a tailor.”
 
But this story has one more twist, one more sting in its tale, and it’s a big one. In the background of the episode, we’ve seen hints that the Klingon Empire is ratcheting up its aggression against the Federation, and in the final moments, we find out why. Odo’s experience in the Link has given him flashes of insight into the Founders’ plan, and he realizes with horror that Gowron, leader of the Klingon Empire, is a Changeling. And that’s where we leave it until season five.
 
Broken Link is very good, especially when the camera is on Rene Auberjonois. And it does end with a pretty powerful cliffhanger. Still, I’m surprised that this slow-burning story was chosen for the final slot of what has been a pretty amazing fourth season. From The Way of the Warrior to The Visitor to Indiscretion to Return to Grace to Hard Time to The Quickening, this season has produced some of my favorite DS9 episodes. While I like Broken Link a lot, it feels like an oddly muted climax, one that sets up the next season nicely but doesn’t distinguish itself. Still, it does set up the next season nicely, and I’m very excited to continue.
 
Random stuff:
 
Odo here becomes the third character to be ostracized from his own people in this season, beginning with Worf in The Way of the Warrior and Quark in Body Parts. I expect we’re building a “your real family is the one you choose” theme here, but we will see.
 
Salome Jens returns as the female Changeling here, and she’s great. With each one of these complex performances she puts in she proves that she’s perfect for this part.
 
We’ve reached the end of the fourth season, but we’ve also hit a much more significant milestone: this is the halfway point of televised Trek, at least through Enterprise. I’ve watched exactly 14 seasons of Trek and I have exactly 14 seasons to go before I finish the “classic” era. (I’m pretty sure I will keep watching and writing after Enterprise, but it’s good to have goals along the way.) At the rate I’m going, I will wrap up those 14 seasons sometime in late 2021. I hope I get there!
 
Tomorrow we begin the fifth season with the ominously titled Apocalypse Rising. Onward!

Body Parts (DS9 S4E24)

Ah, here is the end-of-season filler. Body Parts throws two stories at us, one of them interesting and full of rich dramatic potential and the other a pointless bit of Ferengi comic relief with a touching ending that doesn’t quite feel earned. Both of these stories serve as turning points for some of our main characters, but the episode as a whole feels so slight that it barely happens.
 
The interesting story first, and it involves Kira and the O’Briens. On the way back from the Gamma quadrant, a runabout carrying Kira, Keiko and Doctor Bashir is damaged in an asteroid field. Keiko suffers fairly severe injuries that threaten her unborn child, so Bashir, in a moment of quick thinking, transplants that child from Keiko to Kira. And now Kira must carry Baby O’Brien to term, while dealing with an entirely new level of relationship with Miles and Keiko.
 
I mentioned yesterday that I was looking forward to seeing the no-doubt inventive ways the Trek team would use to hide Nana Visitor’s real-life pregnancy. I didn’t expect a solution this impressive. As workarounds go, this one is amazing, and could only happen on a show like Star Trek. This is a perfect story: it will last as long as Visitor’s actual pregnancy does, and it provides so much possible drama as Aunt Nerys figures out her role with the O’Briens. I kind of love it.
 
We don’t get into a lot of that here, but we do set it up for future episodes to deal with. By the end of Body Parts, Kira and the O’Briens are on the same page about the baby and Kira moves in with the O’Brien family, planning to stay until she gives birth. Kira seems to be dealing with this new circumstance really well, and the O’Briens are grateful to her. I have no idea if these emotions change over the course of this story, but I’d bet money that they will.
 
I know that’s supposed to be the subplot, and the episode spends only a small fraction of its time on it, but it’s the only one of these stories I like. The rest of the episode – the main part of the episode, if we’re being honest – is another tussle between Quark and Brunt, Jeffrey Combs’ oily Ferengi Commerce Authority official, and it felt so tedious and unimportant that I found myself checking email while it was playing. I’ve certainly come to care about the Ferengi (Rom and Nog especially), but not enough to enjoy this runaround as much as the Trek team wanted me to.
 
The setup is sort of Marx Brothers: Quark receives a medical diagnosis that convinces him he will be dead in six days, so he decides to sell his remains as a way of generating profit in death, if not in life. Brunt decides to buy those remains for 500 bars of latinum, and when Quark discovers that he has been misdiagnosed and will be fine, Brunt comes to collect anyway. So the question at the heart of all this is whether Quark will break a contract, thereby forfeiting all of his assets (including the bar), or whether he will find a clever way around it.
 
Quark certainly seems to experience a cleverness deficiency here, as the only thing he can think of is to hire Garak to kill him so he can fulfill the contract. There’s a relatively funny bit where Garak shows Quark the ways he could off him, and Quark rejects each one. There’s a much less funny bit where Quark thinks he’s been killed, and he wakes up in the Divine Treasury where Max Grodenchik pulls double duty as the original Nagus, Gint. I like that the script acknowledges that it’s Grodenchik: “You look like my brother Rom.” But this whole vision isn’t as amusing as the show thinks it is.
 
The question this story wants to pose is whether Quark has “gone Starfleet,” as Brunt says. Quark does end up breaking the contract and losing everything, which Brunt takes as confirmation that he was right. And the final scene, in which Sisko and the rest of the crew donate furniture, booze and glasses to Quark so he can keep his bar running, symbolizes him being fully embraced by his new identity aboard Deep Space Nine. I get it, I just don’t quite buy it – Quark is a pain and a petty criminal, and this whole “we love the little scamp anyway” line of thinking, especially on this show, has never sat well with me.
 
Body Parts ends with Quark, Kira, Miles and Keiko in brand new territory, and I hope the ramifications are explored in future episodes. I think I like this one for what it promises, rather than for what it actually is. I don’t want to watch it again, but I’m looking forward to seeing its ripple effects.
 
Random stuff:
 
There’s something about the fourth seasons of Trek shows and pregnancies. TNG dealt with Gates McFadden’s pregnancy during its fourth season, DS9 worked its magic on Visitor’s in this epsode, and Voyager will work around Roxann Dawson’s in its fourth season.
 
I don’t love the character of Brunt, but I love what Jeffrey Combs does with him, and how much fun he has playing him. I also enjoyed contrasting this role with Combs’ other, Weyoun, whom we met two episodes prior. You’d never know it was the same actor.
 
This is the first episode to credit Garak’s portrayer as Andrew J. Robinson. He’ll be listed as such for the rest of the series.
 
Two Rules of Acquisition are mentioned: number 17 (“A contract is a contract is a contract, but only between Ferengi”) and number 239 (“Never be afraid to mislabel a product”).
 
Tomorrow, we end the fourth season with Broken Link. Onward!

The Quickening (DS9 S4E23)

I didn’t expect much from The Quickening, even as its story was unfolding. It seemed like another case of end-of-season filler, and like a story that would have worked better on TNG. Man, was I wrong. By the end, this episode is an unflinching examination of the limits of Starfleet science and the arrogance of Julian Bashir, and it serves as yet another interrogation of the Trek formula and Roddenberry’s utopian vision of the future.
 
A lot of that is down to Alexander Siddig, who has been capable and likeable as Bashir since the pilot, but who turns in what I would consider his very best work here. There are moments in this episode where Bashir confronts the worst parts of himself, seething with self-hatred, and Siddig gets deep down into those moments, making us truly understand what this situation has done to him. It’s a superb performance, and I think everyone else, from the guest cast to director Rene Auberjonois, stepped up to match it.
 
This is a story about failure, about Bashir being unable to save people he thought he could. It’s also a story about the horrors of living under the Dominion, setting the stage and adding justification for the coming war. It takes place on a planet in the Gamma quadrant, one that is living through the aftermath of a Jem’Hadar attack. When Bashir, Dax and Kira respond to a distress call, they find the planet in ruins, its people sick and crying out for help.
 
As punishment for defying the Dominion, the Jem’Hadar introduced a sickness called the blight to this world. Every child born here comes into the world with lesions on its face and body, and at some random point in the future – days, weeks, years, decades – those lesions will turn red, meaning death is imminent. The people of this world call the red lesions the quickening.
 
As if that were not bleak enough, we’re not on this world long before we meet Trevean, the closest thing to a doctor these people have. Except he does not make them well, because he cannot. Those who experience the quickening and want a faster end visit Trevean, who poisons them to spare them the pain of slowly decaying from the inside out. Bashir, naturally, cannot stand the idea that the only respite these people have is death, so he decides to stay for a week and find a cure.
 
I’m gonna repeat that, because it is so Julian Bashir: he decides to stay for a week and find a cure. It’s initially unfathomable to him that he will not break down this virus and eliminate it inside of seven days. It is exactly this arrogance that the show wishes to inerrrogate, while still remaining firmly on Bashir’s side as he works to save people. His main inspiration is a pregnant woman named Ekoria, who wants to live another two months to see her baby born. Julian doesn’t say so – his catch phrase here is “with any luck” – but he clearly believes he can do this for her.
 
And he gives the villagers hope. They’re slow to come around, since they’ve lived under the blight all their lives, but Bashir ends up convicing them all that he can save them. Those with the quickening cancel their death appointments with Trevean and submit to Bashir’s tests. After a few days, he’s isolated the virus and has what he believes is a possible cure. All the while he develops a genuine friendship with Ekoria, which only deepens his resolve to save her.
 
From here, you could probably map the story had this been an original series or TNG episode. But Deep Space Nine is a different animal, and once Bashir begins administering his cure, everything goes to hell. The mutation of the virus seems to speed up, pushed along by the very instruments Bashir is using to read his patients’ vital signs. With agonizing screams, every one of his patients cries out for death, and that’s when Trevean arrives and answers their prayers. As Bashir watches, helpless, Trevean eases the pain the good doctor has caused, the only way he knows how.
 
And my lord, that whole scene is devastating. Siddig conveys on his face exactly what it must have been like for Bashir to confront the full scale of his failure. And later, as he confides in Dax, the self-loathing comes out, the knowledge that it was his own arrogance that paved the way for all those deaths. And, as Dax points out, even his self-admonishment is rooted in egotism:
 
BASHIR: These people believed in me and look where it got them. Trevean was right. There is no cure. The Dominion made sure of that. But I was so arrogant I thought I could find one in a week.
DAX: Maybe it was arrogant to think that. But it’s even more arrogant to think there isn’t a cure just because you couldn’t find it.
 
The twist of the knife comes when he sees Ekoria again, and she’s quickened. She won’t live to see her baby born. I love that Bashir has to come face to face with the false hope he gave people, and the limits of his abilities. But I also love that he refuses to give up and decides to stay on this planet a while longer, helping Ekoria through her quickening. Ekoria wants to live, and Bashir wants to help her live, and that’s enough. He keeps at it.
 
And what he ends up discovering is not a cure, but a vaccine. Ekoria lives to see her baby born, and it is the first child born on this world without the blight since the Jem’Hadar attack. She dies quickly after that, and Bashir knows that what he has developed won’t save the lives of the mothers. But it will give the babies a fighting chance, and in time, right this civililization. I love that Bashir could have crumbled, but didn’t, and that his solution, in the end, isn’t perfect. But it’s enough.
 
The Quickening really got me. I think it’s one of the finest done-in-one stories Deep Space Nine has given us. Any glimmer of hope in it is earned tenfold, and with a powerful central performance by Alexander Siddig, this one is immensely moving. It further separates this show from its predecessors. Neither of the previous shows would dare to give the crew a problem they could not solve, nor would they examine the hubris that leads officers like Bashir to think they can solve anything. Even on paper, this one is fascinating, but as a piece of television, it’s magnificent.
 
Random stuff:
 
You may notice that Nana Visitor spends a lot of time sitting down in this episode, her lower body blocked from camera view. That’s because she and Alexander Siddig were together by this point, and Visitor was pregnant with their child. This is the first episode where her baby bump started to show, so the Trek team deployed that age-old method of hiding pregnancies behind consoles and furniture and things. It’ll be fun to see how well they do in the coming months.
 
Ekoria was played by Ellen Wheeler, and she was excellent. Every emotional moment she and Siddig shared felt natural and real. I recognized Wheeler because, believe it or not, I watched All My Children as a youngster, with my mom. She played Cindy Parker Chandler on that show during the years I would have watched. It’s literally the only thing in her CV that I have seen, so that must be how I know her face. Strange what the mind retains.
 
Trevean was played by Michael Sarrazin, a Canadian actor with a five-decade career. His first notable role was in the Jane Fonda film They Shoot Horses, Don’t They, in which he also played a man who helped a character die. Sarrazin himself died in 2011 at age 70.
 
Tomorrow, Body Parts. Onward!

To the Death (DS9 S4E22)

To the Death offers us a chance for more insight into the Jem’Hadar, the chemical-dependent soldiers of the Dominion, by forcing our crew to interact with them in the cramped confines of the Defiant. I’m not certain we get closer to understanding the Jem’Hadar by the end – what we learn is that they are ruthless, brutal and unafraid of death, information we already had – but it’s an enjoyable trip getting there.
 
The setup is interesting, though it takes some time to unfold. Deep Space Nine is attacked by a Jem’Hadar raiding party – they teleport in, steal some equipment, kill a bunch of Starfleet officers and blow up one of the upper pylons before teleporting back out, all in the space of a couple minutes. Sisko, Dax, Odo and O’Brien take the Defiant through the wormhole in pursuit, but instead of the ship that attacked the station, they find a damaged Jem’Hadar warship about to go critical and explode.
 
The only choice is to use the transporter to save the seven occupants of the craft, which turn out to be six Jem’Hadar and a Vorta called Weyoun. We learn that Weyoun and his troops were also pursuing the Jem’Hadar that attacked DS9, as they are renegades working against the Dominion. What’s more, these renegades have found a gateway left behind by the Iconians, the long-dead race we learned about in TNG’s Contagion, and if they get it working, they will be able to take over the Dominion and threaten the Alpha quadrant even more than the Founders do now.
 
So it’s up to Sisko and his team to join forces with Weyoun and his Jem’Hadar to stop these renegades. Weyoun is a particularly slippery character, played with oily charm by Jeffrey Combs, and he seems untrustworthy, but everyone takes his word and off they go. Truth be told, the quest here is just the framework, and it doesn’t matter very much, as evidenced by the fact that the entire wrap-up is jammed into the last five minutes. (Bonus points for mentioning the Iconians and their interdimensional gates again, though.)
 
What To the Death is interested in here is the contrast between our crew and the Jem’Hadar. Most of that contrast can be summed up thusly: the Jem’Hadar are brutal. They live short, violent lives. We learn here that it’s rare for a Jem’Hadar to reach 15 years old, and that they are ready to fight after only three days out of the birthing chamber. There are no Jem’Hadar women, and the Jem’Hadar men don’t sleep or eat – the White, the chemical with which the Vorta control them, is the only thing they ingest. They are bred to be single-minded enforcers held on a leash, and while they’re sympathetic in one sense, they’re frightening in another.
 
The ways the Trek team chooses to explore the Jem’Hadar’s brutality are fairly standard, alas. The leader of this band, Omet’iklan, threatens to kill Sisko within minutes of being aboard his ship, and in the aftermath of a confrontation between the Jem’Hadar and our crew in the mess hall, Omet’iklan kills one of his subordinates to make a point and inspire fear. He also expresses disappointment when Sisko merely confines Worf to quarters for his part in the fight. (“Kill him and be done with it,” he urges.)
 
None of this is particularly new, and only reinforces what we’ve come to know about the Jem’Hadar. And unfortunately, that’s all this episode has to offer. There are certainly some good scenes here – I like the fakeout training exercise, in which we truly think the plot has started for a few seconds, and I quite like the scene between O’Brien and Dax in which they discuss the recordings they each make before a dangerous mission, to be delivered to their loved ones in case they don’t make it.
 
All of this kind of feels like marking time, though, which is why it’s so strange that the raid on the renegade Jem’Hadar happens so quickly. As I understand it, the original cut of the episode contained another 30 seconds or so of fighting, which was excised for being too violent. Even so, the climax of this story arrives too quickly, and the battle seems too easy for all the buildup. The Jem’Hadar also kill Weyoun, which is a shame. (I know he somehow comes back in later episodes.)
 
The final few minutes don’t have a lot to offer, alas, which leaves the insights, such as they are, into the Jem’Hadar as the point of this story. The whole thing ends up a little underwhelming, especially after such a masterpiece last time out. To the Death isn’t bad, and Combs is fun to watch – I like his interactions with Odo, in which he tells him again that his people want him back – but it doesn’t offer any revelations, nor any real reason to remember it.
 
Random stuff:
 
Weyoun is the second alien to be played by Jeffrey Combs, after the officious Ferengi Commerce Authority agent Brunt. The performances are so completely different it’s astounding.
 
Omet’iklan is played with gusto by Clarence Williams III, perhaps best known as Linc Hayes in The Mod Squad. Williams’ career spans six decades, and he’s still acting at age 80. One of the other Jem’Hadar, Toman’torax, is played by Brian Thompson, who is instantly recognizable to me thanks to his multiple roles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In Star Trek he has played a Klingon and a member of the Gamma quadrant race that Quark strikes up a deal with in Rules of Acquisition.
 
Tomorrow, The Quickening. Onward!

For the Cause (DS9 S4E21)

Was I actually worried that Deep Space Nine would not rebound quickly? For the Cause is simply amazing, a triumph of long-term plotting that finds unexpected and fascinating stories for two background characters and serves up a well-considered critique of Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision in the bargain. When I think about what the Trek team could have done with both of these characters, none of the options make me quite as happy as what they ended up doing.
 
The two characters in question are Kasidy Yates, Sisko’s relatively long-term love interest, and Lieutenant Commander Michael Eddington, who has been hanging out in the background since the season three premiere. I get the feeling the Trek team has had both of these storylines in their back pocket for some time, waiting to spring them on us, and it was an absolute master stroke to put them both in the same episode. I expected the Yates plot, which I think I was supposed to, but Eddington’s was a total surprise. And I love it when shows like this can surprise me.
 
I have appreciated the slow pace of Sisko’s relationship with Yates, as our good captain has allowed himself to feel for someone who isn’t his dear departed Jennifer. So it hits him like a lead weight when Odo and Eddington inform him that they suspect Yates of smuggling items to the Maquis. (You remember the Maquis, the cell of resistance fighters that formed when the Federation signed a treaty with the Cardassians, deeding over whole planets that once were free.)
 
Avery Brooks has been turning in some strong work this season, but I’m not sure he’s been better than he is here, snapping at his crew and determined to find the truth, no matter how much it hurts him. The scene in which he gently interrogates Yates and she lies to him is perfectly measured, and it’s more painful for Sisko and for us that we see how much Jake likes and enjoys Yates. This is a family, and it’s about to be torn apart, and Sisko is the only one in the scene who knows it.
 
Odo and Eddington confirm their suspicions, tailing Yates as she diverts from her approved flight path and rendezvous in the Badlands with a Maquis ship. She’s delivering food and medical supplies, which makes all of this morally more complicated. The Maquis, as we have seen, are not wrong, but their methods are inexcusable. Still, everyone deserves food and medical supplies. We never really get into Yates’ motivations for her actions, but I imagine they are humanitarian ones. She’s a good person doing what the Federation considers a bad thing.
 
With Yates scheduled to make another cargo run, Odo and Eddington propose tailing her again and, if she meets with another Maquis ship, arresting everyone involved. Sisko grudgingly agrees, but cannot help himself from asking Yates to come away with him that evening, to not make her delivery to the Tholians. (Hey, the Tholians!) This is another perfectly measured scene, in which we’re not sure if Yates knows that Sisko suspects anything. I think Sisko would have done it, too – would have taken her by the hand and gone to Risa, knowing he would face a court martial on his return.
 
But that isn’t how things play out. Here’s where I have to start mentioning Eddington, because he bows out of the mission to apprehend Yates for a very Eddington reason: he doesn’t want the responsibility of possibly having to kill Yates. I completely believed him here. After all, what do we really know about Michael Eddington? He was sent to Deep Space Nine to bolster security there in the face of the Dominion threat. His dedication to duty has been his primary attribute: when ordered to sabotage the Defiant’s cloaking device in The Die is Cast, he did so without jeopardizing the rest of the crew, admitted his deed and continued serving the crew. We also know from The Adversary that Eddington puts faith in rank and title, and once wanted to be a starship captain, but now considers that goal unlikely.
 
I love that all of these carefully planted seeds come to flower here in a magnificent way. There’s even a bit in this episode in which Eddington claims to be indifferent toward the Maquis, and only interested in following orders, which tracks with everything we know about him. But Eddington, it turns out, has defected to the Maquis, and has been manipulating this entire scenario. He knew that when he bowed out of the mission, Sisko would take charge of it, and he wanted the captain out of the way. The real prize was on DS9: a shipment of industrial replicators bound for Cardassia Prime. And Eddington steals it without breaking a sweat.
 
When Sisko figures this out, he leaves Yates behind and races back to DS9. But he’s only in time to receive a call from Eddington, who admits his theft and asks Sisko to leave the Maquis alone. And here the Trek team gives Eddington a powerful monologue about his own motivations, one that serves as a scathing indictment of the Federation. You never would have seen a speech like this while Gene Roddenberry still had something to say about it, and I love that DS9 is examining and critiquing Roddenberry’s vision through a real-world lens. He asks why the Federation is obsessed with the Maquis, and reasons that it’s because they left.
 
EDDINGTON: That’s the one thing you can’t accept. Nobody leaves paradise. Everyone should want to be in the Federation. Hell, you even want the Cardassians to join. You’re only sending them replicators because one day they can take their rightful place on the Federation Council. You know, in some ways you’re worse than the Borg. At least they tell you about their plans for assimilation. You’re more insidious. You assimilate people and they don’t even know it.
 
That one stings. It’s been the central premise of Star Trek from the beginning that the Federation is like that shining city on a hill, and that civilizations line up to join. There’s even a long process – we’ve been watching Bajor navigate their application to the Federation for four seasons now. To turn that around, to view it through the lens of those who feel shaken by forces beyond their control, who see the Federation as just another big bureaucracy come to swallow them whole, is powerful. And to compare them to the Borg? It’s just a jaw-dropping moment in this show’s ongoing interrogation of its own premise.
 
Eddington gets away, but Yates doesn’t. She lets her crew go and returns to DS9 on her own, hoping to salvage what’s left of her relationship with Sisko. The final scene is a tough one, Sisko admitting he still loves her and doesn’t want to throw their life together away, and yet giving the order to have her arrested. Brooks has rarely been better – I feel every moment of this exchange, and how much it hurts him.
 
Deep Space Nine has rarely been better, too. The DS9 team has done a lot of work over four years to differentiate itself from its predecessors, and For the Cause does so in a more complete way than they’ve managed before. No previous Trek show would have taken these characters in this direction, nor would they have given voice to such criticisms of Trek’s central ideals. I know both Eddington and Yates will be back, and before this episode, I would not have cared much. Now I am beyond jazzed to see what this team comes up with for both of them, and to see how the writers continue to poke and prod at the foundations of the franchise.
 
Random stuff:
 
As if this were not enough, there’s a whole other plotline here concerning Garak forming a friendship with Dukat’s daughter Ziyal. She approaches him, as the only other Cardassian on the station, and while he is initially wary (and draws the ire of Kira for even entertaining the idea), he does eventually take Ziyal up on her offer of a visit to a holosuite. I’m not yet sure what’s happening here – I have a feeling Ziyal is only pursuing this to annoy her father, who we’ve seen hates Garak – but I’m interested to find out more.
 
Ziyal is played here by Tracy Middendorf, in her only appearance in the role. I guess Cyia Batten was unavailable, so the Trek team pressed ahead anyway with a different actor. It doesn’t work the way it should, despite the Cardassian/Bajoran makeup Middendorf is wearing. Recasting recurring roles like this is an artifact of this era of television, back before the idea that people might one day own and rewatch an entire series. Making things more complicated, when Ziyal returns she’ll be played by yet another new actor.
 
Evidently the decision to have Eddington join the Maquis was inspired by internet rumors that he was a Changeling infiltrator. Once they heard about this speculation, the Trek team decided that they would never make Eddington a Changeling, and devised something more surprising for him.
 
Tomorrow, To the Death. Onward!

The Muse (DS9 S4E20)

Well. It’s been a long time since we had an out-and-out stinker, a trash fire that should never have seen the light of day. I guess we were overdue. The Muse is awful, and it’s not even the kind of awful that inspires paragraphs of fiery invective lambasting it. From the concept to the execution, there’s almost nothing here that works, and the result isn’t even so-bad-it’s-good funny. It’s just a chore to watch.
 
I’ve made my feelings on Lwaxana Troi known in the past, so I won’t dredge them up here. Suffice it to say that she has rarely moved beyond caricature, and while I have appreciated the few real moments they have given her (and given Majel Barrett to play), every time I see that I’m about to watch a Lwaxana episode I die a little inside. So you can imagine that I was not sad to learn that The Muse is her final appearance in Star Trek, and she goes out as she started: larger than life.
 
The Lwaxana plot is intended as the B-story here, but it’s easier to talk about (and contains the only moment of the episode I like), so we’ll start with it. This episode is the culmination of the Lwaxana-Odo plot that began in The Forsaken, when the always-on-the-prowl Betazoid took a shine to our favorite shape-shifting constable. There have been some sweet and tender moments between the two of them, and Rene Auberjonois clearly enjoyed playing the awkward object of Lwaxana’s affection. But as a reason to keep bringing Lwaxana back, it was thin.
 
In The Muse, Lwaxana shows up pregnant and on the run from her new husband. Evidently between stories she married a Tavnian, and Tavnians believe in a strict separation of the sexes. Boys are raised by men, girls are raised by women, and since Lwaxana knows she is having a boy, she also knows her husband will take the child away from her as soon as he’s born. Which she had to know was a risk, but whatever. She comes to Odo for help, and the two of them discover that the only way to keep Lwaxana’s husband from exercising his claim to their child is for the two of them – Lwaxana and Odo – to marry each other, thereby annulling Lwaxana’s current marriage.
 
That’s a lot of hoops to jump through, but they lead to the only moment in The Muse truly worth watching. It turns out that the current husband must consent to the new marriage, and the only way for that to happen is for Odo to publicly prove his love for Lwaxana. So he does. Auberjonois gets a monologue here that is so emotionally true it nearly knocked me over, and he delivers it beautifully. All by itself this scene almost justifies this entire arc. Here, see for yourself:
 
ODO: Before I met her, my world was a much smaller place. I kept to myself. I didn’t need anyone else and I took pride in that. The truth is, I was ashamed of what I was, afraid that if people saw how truly different I was they would recoil from me. Lwaxana saw how different I was and she didn’t recoil. She wanted to see more. For the first time in my life, someone wanted me as I was. And that changed me forever. The day I met her, is the day I stopped being alone.
 
I frankly love this scene, whether or not the saga leading up to it earns it. Of course, Lwaxana’s husband has no choice but to assent in the face of this, and he does. But the plot really isn’t the point. It’s the illumination of the ways Lwaxana has changed Odo, has made him a better person. I wish Odo had also changed Lwaxana, or that this relationship had some lasting impact on her character as well, especially here in her last appearance. What we get at the end is a scene in which she accepts Odo’s friendship and stops pursuing him romantically, which I guess counts as growth.
 
You might be asking what any of this has to do with a muse, and you’d be right. The episode’s main story is so wretched that I can barely type it out. Basically, Jake meets an alien woman who inspires writers and artists, and then feeds off their creative mojo? Or something? There are a lot of scenes of this woman holding the back of Jake’s head while he furiously scribbles with pen and paper, and of her eating some strange sparkly stuff that flows out of his skull, so… half muse half vampire? Maybe? Who knows?
 
What I do know is that every second we spend on this story feels like an eternity. It starts off as an older-woman fantasy, Jake meeting the oddly reptilian Onaya while working on one of his stories and Onaya inviting him to her quarters to, er, exercise his talent. She encourages him to write longhand, the old-fashioned way, and before long he is in the throes of inspiration, crafting his novel as Onaya spouts ridiculous monologues: “Keep going, Jake. The moment I saw you I knew you were worthy of what I could give you.” “This is your chance to create something that will live on, long after you’re gone.”
 
This whole thing plays out the way the original series would have handled it. Onaya evidently has been the inspiration for hundreds of writers and poets, and has sucked them all dry, leaving them to die. The metaphorical subtext is obvious and ugly, and as she devolves into a cackling villain and then (of course) turns into a ball of energy and departs the ship, you can watch the whole notion of Star Trek progressing from its less enlightened origins crumbling away.
 
Yes, Jake has been writing Anselm, his novel as depicted in The Visitor, and that’s a nice touch. But the rest of this story is a disaster, a sharp careen off a cliff at a hundred miles an hour. Cirroc Lofton has never impressed me as an actor – he’s fine, for what the show asks him to do – but even he deserved so much better than this. And I feel bad for poor Meg Foster, who had to try to bring this character and story to life, presumably without laughing between takes. Aside from Odo’s one moment of heartbreaking sincerity, The Muse is terrible. It’s the first terrible episode in a long, long time, and I sincerely hope DS9 recovers from it quickly. It’s a stain on an otherwise superb season in an otherwise suberb series.
 
Random stuff:
 
As I mentioned, this is Majel Barrett’s last on-screen appearance in Star Trek. She would continue to provide the voice of Starfleet’s computers in every subsequent series (and even the first Kelvin timeline movie) before her death in 2008. Aside from Gene, I’m not sure anyone left a more substantial footprint on Star Trek across its entire history. I may not like the character she played in TNG and DS9, but I have nothing but respect for her place in this saga.
 
Another original series throwback, Michael Ansara, played Jeral, Lwaxana’s husband. He’s Trek-famous for his role as Klingon Commander Kang, who died in Blood Oath, and though he’s hard to recognize out of his Klingon makeup, his distinctive speech pattern gives him away.
 
Tomorrow, For the Cause. Onward!

Shattered Mirror (DS9 S4E19)

Shattered Mirror is the third Deep Space Nine story set in the mirror universe introduced in the original series. As with any recurring gimmick – think Q’s multiple appearances in TNG – there has to come a point where the need for more stories in this setting should be questioned. Has the whole idea of the mirror universe, which was never intended to live beyond that one 1967 episode, run its course? Or are there reasons to keep revisiting it?
 
I think Shattered Mirror was a story worth telling, but just barely. Each return to the mirror universe needs to come at it from a fresh angle, and after this one, we may be out of those. Crossover reintroduced the idea of a parallel universe where the Klingons, Cardassians and Bajorans have teamed up to enslave the humans, and gave us sinister counterparts of several of our main characters. Through the Looking Glass found Sisko impersonating his own doppelganger to infiltrate the alliance and help the rebels, and it brought our Sisko in contact with the mirror universe’s Jennifer, alive and well on the other side of the divide.
 
That storyline sets up this one. In Shattered Mirror, Jennifer decides to visit our universe and take Jake back with her, as a ploy to get Sisko to help the rebels once again. The actual plot is workmanlike: the rebels have taken Terok Nor (Deep Space Nine’s original name) from the alliance, but don’t expect to hold it without additional armaments. While in our universe, Miles’ double Smiley O’Brien stole the plans for the Defiant, and the rebels have built their own version. But it doesn’t work like it should, and they need Sisko’s expertise to get it ready for the alliance attack.
 
The focus of this story, thankfully, is on the relationship between Sisko, his son, and the woman who looks just like his wife, and this is the material that makes the episode worthwhile. I enjoyed Jake’s role here – he misses his mother, and knows that his father is lonely, and he can’t help himself from imagining the three of them as a family. The idea has appeal for not-Jennifer too, since her universe does not have a Jake. Cirroc Lofton is very good here, and Avery Brooks gives one of his subtlest performances.
 
And if any Trek show would be bold enough to change its own status quo and bring not-Jennifer into Sisko’s life on a permanent basis, it’s this one. There’s a lot of dramatic potential there, especially in the differences between Jennifer and her double. But alas, the show does not go this route, choosing instead to definitively close down this narrative thread by killing the mirror universe Jennifer. Jake has, in effect, lost his mother twice, and while the impact would have been greater had we spent more time with him and not-Jennifer, it’s certainly sad here.
 
There are a few other reasons to do another mirror universe story. First and foremost, this episode gives us the mirror universe version of Worf, commanding a Klingon vessel with Garak in chains at his feet. Mirror Worf is fun, especially when bantering with Garak, and I’m glad we got to meet him. We also get one of the most extensive space battles in DS9 yet, as the Defiant takes on Klingon warships to defend Terok Nor.
 
I will admit, though, that seeing Nana Visitor vamp it up as alt-Kira has lost its thrill – this episode ramps up the dark sexiness of the character nearly to parody levels – and seeing Nog join his father and uncle in the mirror universe Ferengi body count drew only a shrug. The biggest problem with the mirror universe is that we know it doesn’t matter much – we’ll only revisit it every once in a while, and the stories set there won’t much impact the ones set in our reality. Even Jennifer’s story here is only worth what it means to Jake and his father, back in the real world.
 
I don’t know if this should be the last mirror universe episode. I do know that it isn’t the last – we’ll have two more in DS9 and several in Discovery. Has the idea outlived its usefulness? It might be too early to tell. Shattered Mirror justifies its own existence, but the seams are certainly showing at this point. Hopefully the next time this idea is resurrected, it will have as strong a hook as this episode does, and will give me reasons to care. Simply looking in on these characters once a year isn’t quite enough for me anymore.
 
Random stuff:
 
I did like the bit where not-Dax slaps Sisko for his treatment of her last time he visited their universe. It serves him right.
 
This is Felicia M. Bell’s last appearance as Jennifer Sisko. I’m not sure when the producers cast her for the flashbacks in the pilot episode that they knew they would bring her back as often as they did, and Bell was sometimes not up to the narrative weight of her character. But I think she did well here.
 
An example of Kira’s over-the-top dialogue here, which Visitor certainly sells:
 
KIRA: Tell me something. Are you as bored as I am?
(The guard does not reply.)
KIRA: I’ll take that as a yes. You know, I bet if we put our heads together, we could create a little excitement for ourselves.
GUARD: You sentenced my wife to death.
KIRA: Isn’t that a coincidence? I was hoping you weren’t married.
 
Tomorrow, The Muse. Onward!

Hard Time (DS9 S4E18)

By and large, Deep Space Nine is darker than any other Star Trek series. You expect this show to boldly go where no Trek has gone before, in terms of complex situations with more difficult overtones. Even taking that as a given, though, Hard Time is dark. It’s a clever examination of post-traumatic stress disorder that puts Miles O’Brien through the wringer, and while its final minutes offer some hope, its big twist is one of the bleakest and most jaw-dropping in Trek history.
 
Right off the bat we know this one is something different. We join in medias res, and get filled in on the setup as we go. While visiting the planet Argratha, O’Brien evidently asked a few too many questions about secret technology. The Argrathi tried him for espionage, convicted him and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. However, the Argrathi have a unique way of carrying out that sentence: they have developed technology that can make the brain think it has served all 20 years in a matter of minutes.
 
This is simply horrifying, and the show doesn’t shy away from depcting how awful it is. O’Brien truly believes he spent 20 years in an Argrathi prison – his brain lived each day of his sentence, one by one, and he remembers every minute of the experience. And yet he hasn’t aged, and for the people he knows and loves, no time has passed. This is sort of like the dark mirror image of The Inner Light, only this time the memories are not pleasant ones. He is as scarred mentally and emotionally as if he physically served those two decades in a cell.
 
To its credit, Hard Time doesn’t spin out some science fiction plotline from here about the crew of DS9 desperately searching for a way to restore O’Brien’s mind. No, it becomes a slow and painful story about O’Brien trying to fit back into his life while working through the memories of things that never happened. We see him slowly unravel, and we live through some of his prison sentence in flashback. We watch O’Brien try to avoid thinking about or dealing with his trauma, and of course that doesn’t work. He becomes violent and starts arguments with Bashir and Quark, and stops seeing his mandated counselor. And finally, Sisko relieves him of duty, which sets him off even more.
 
Colm Meaney is wonderful throughout all this. I understand he considered this one quite the acting challenge, but he handles it with his usual grace. I felt O’Brien’s anguish, his struggle to place the timeline of his life in order, to reconcile things he could not have experienced with his brain’s insistence that he did experience them. I’m not sure I have ever seen Meaney give a better performance – the shock and horror on his face after he yells at Molly is so real. This feels like genuine PTSD, like the writers studied up on what it looks like and how it affects not only the person suffering from it, but those around that person.
 
There is a mystery here, and for a while you think it might be a less affecting mystery than it turns out to be. When asked about his time in prison, O’Brien says he spent those 20 years alone, but in flashbacks we see that he’s lying: he does have a cellmate named Ee’Char, and the two men get to know one another. In the present, O’Brien starts seeing Ee’Char around corners and in mirrors, and we start to wonder if this character exists outside of the false memories planted in O’Brien’s head.
 
It turns out that the visions O’Brien sees of Ee’Char are just manifestations of his trauma. And it is not until the end that we get the full reveal of that trauma: O’Brien remembers killing Ee’Char in a fight over food. The scene itself (and we do get to see it) is incredibly dark, O’Brien only realizing after he has killed his cellmate that Ee’Char was saving food for both of them, not stockpiling it for himself. O’Brien calling Ee’Char’s name, trying to wake him, is horrific. The whole scene is horrific, as is O’Brien’s attempted suicide when he remembers it. It’s masterfully done, and truly painful. Even if it never really happened, O’Brien believes it did. His guilt and agony are real.
 
In the end, there is no miracle cure. O’Brien simply has to learn to live with the memories implanted in him. They will always be a part of him, just like real trauma. I truly loved the downplayed emotions of the final scene, as O’Brien starts down his road to healing with a hug from his daughter. Hard Time makes no attempt to lighten this situation – it’s awful, and it will continue to be awful for a long time. This is a remarkably brave story, told remarkably well. I’ll be thinking about it for a long while.
 
Random stuff:
 
Here’s something interesting, given the similarities between this and The Inner Light: Margot Rose is in both. She played Picard’s wife in The Inner Light, and here she plays Rinn, one of the Argrathi who administer O’Brien’s sentence.
 
Tomorrow, Shattered Mirror. Onward!

Rules of Engagement (DS9 S4E17)

Rules of Engagement is another courtroom drama, and another attempt to capture the magic of The Measure of a Man, from TNG’s second season. This one is about Worf, and it could easily have aired during any of TNG’s later seasons without too many changes. The Trek team clearly intended this one to be another examination of the inner battle between Worf’s Klingon nature and his duty to Starfleet, a theme that has been observed from just about every angle at this point. If not for a clever narrative device and a strong guest performance from Ron Canada, this one would have been a snoozer.
 
As per usual for these types of episodes, this one takes place almost entirely in a drab Starfleet courtroom. The plot concerns an extradition hearing, with the Klingons looking to try Worf for ordering the Defiant to destroy a civilian Klingon vessel in the heat of battle. What is interesting here is that the facts are not in question, at least not initially. Worf did order the Defiant to open fire on a decloaking ship in the middle of a battle with the Klingons, and that ship turned out to be a civilian vessel with 441 people aboard. Ch’Pok, the Klingon prosecutor, accepts these facts from the off, and does not charge Worf with deliberately massacring his fellow Klingons.
 
No, what Ch’Pok seems to be after is a clear line between Worf’s inborn Klingon bloodlust and his commitment to his responsibility at the helm of a Starfleet ship. If he can prove that Worf acted out of instinct, out of the Klingon joy of combat, then the crime becomes one that only Klingons can prosecute him for. I do like that angle, and it should have made for a more entertaining hour of television. This one, though, largely consists of Worf’s colleagues talking about him, the way Data’s colleagues talked about him in Measure of a Man. Each time, Ch’Pok muddies the line between Worf the Klingon and Worf the Starfleet officer – he gets Quark to say that Worf had hoped for a fight going into this mission, for instance, and gets Dax to confirm that Worf prepped for this mission by indulging in a bloody battle from Klingon history in one of the holosuites.
 
There is one interesting twist in the way this story is presented. During the flashbacks narrated as testimony, the characters talk directly into the camera, breaking the fourth wall. It’s a neat trick, and it’s arresting each time it happens. (My favorite moment involved Quark not quite remembering which woman Bashir was chatting up at his bar.) But it doesn’t happen often enough to truly impact the story, and after a while the device just goes away. In the end I’m left with the impression that the technique was used just to spice up what the Trek team knew was a fairly dull courtroom episode.
 
I’m also not sold on the ending. Ch’Pok, of course, does that cross-examination thing where he goads and insults Worf to the point where Worf reacts violently, thereby proving the prosecutor’s point. This was sadly predictable from the start, and the way it is depicted, Ch’Pok would have been in contempt long before Worf threw his first punch. But with Worf letting his blood boil and attacking an unarmed man, the case seems to be open and shut. Which is why another twist was needed, and this one doesn’t sit well with me.
 
It turns out that the Klingons faked the massacre, sending an empty vessel into the battle and then pretending that 441 people were aboard. They stupidly used the names of Klingons that had died in a previous accident in the official records, too, which made the deception easy to spot. The goal here was to discredit the only Klingon officer in Starfleet, throwing the current political situation between the Empire and the Federation into further chaos. But this requires a dishonorable action, it seems to me. Is this how low the Klingon Empire has sunk? To use the names of those who died in a weasely lie? I hope not. This seems like an action the Klingons of old would have called out as going against the Klingon way.
 
Regardless, I truly enjoyed watching Ron Canada embody Ch’Pok – he gives a fully invested performance, even in the most cliched moments of this story. And I adored the final scene, in which Sisko, after spending the whole episode defending Worf, gives him the dressing-down that his impulsive actions deserved. For Sisko and Worf, this is a story about the pressures of command, and about the importance of keeping your head about you even in the heat of the moment. Worf failed to do this, and Sisko rightly reprimands him for it. It’s sort of the mirror image of the terrific final scene from The Measure of a Man, and it works as well as its predecessor.
 
But that kind of illustrates my problem with Rules of Engagement: it’s been done before. There’s nothing about this story that could not have been done with Worf on TNG, and in fact the theme of Worf struggling with his Klingon instincts while serving in Starfleet was thoroughly covered on his previous show. The result here is something that feels like filler, and like the showrunners wanting Worf-centric episodes but not quite sure how to take the character new places quite yet. In the midst of an otherwise successful and imaginative season, this one stands out for how commonplace and lax it is. Worf deserves better, and I have faith that this show can deliver for him.
 
Random stuff:
 
Ron Canada is a very recognizable actor, even under Klingon makeup. He started his career as a newscaster, but moved into acting in the late ‘70s. He’s been in dozens of flims and television shows, and we last saw him in Star Trek as Martin Benbeck in TNG’s The Masterpiece Society.
 
I know Trek has never liked punny titles, but this one really should have been called Rules of Enragement.
 
Tomorrow, Hard Time. Onward!