Wednesday, 14 June 2017 06:41

The Future Will Be Carpeted: An Analysis of ‘Deep Space Nine (S7E21)’

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“When It Rains…"
7.21 (aired May 5, 1999)

“Remember your place, Dukat.”
“I thought my place was in your bed.”
    -- Winn and Dukat

When selecting episode quotes, I look for the lines or short exchanges that best exemplify the hour. Unfortunately, for this chapter of the end, that exchange might provoke vomiting and will definitely make you shudder. The sad part is, nothing sums up what’s happening here better than the gross sexual banter between DS9’s two most persistent villains, and two characters you never wanted to picture having sex, much less with each other. This episode is about removing characters from where they thought they belonged and placing them in new situations with the sting of uncomfortable familiarity.

After the brutal loss at the end of last episode, the good guys are reeling. There is a single ray of hope, which O’Brien relays to the command staff (Admiral Ross, Captain Sisko, General Martok, and Senator Cretak’s replacement, Sub-Commander Velal). Of the entire fleet, a single Klingon Bird of Prey was unaffected, owing to some idiosyncratic adjustments to its warp core. Martok immediately orders the fleet at large to make the same adjustment, thus rendering Klingon vessels immune to the Breen weapon. Unfortunately for Starfleet and the Romulans, this adjustment only works on the Klingons. Martok pledges to hold the line, keeping the Dominion off-balance with small hit-and-run attacks until the Federation and Romulan Empire can figure out a fix.

In recognition for his daring leadership, Chancellor Gowron is visiting DS9 to induct Martok into the Order of Kahless, which I think is something like the Congressional Medal of Honor, or Hero of the Soviet Union. When something is named after a god-emperor-Viking Jesus of your people, it has to be great. Yep, everything’s coming up Martok, so according to the rules of drama, the rug is about to be pulled out from under him. As a side note, it’s once again a testament to DS9’s writing and acting that we would be this invested in the career of a reoccurring character.

Gowron, established from his time on TNG, is a political animal. While I’m not nearly as familiar with TNG as I am with DS9, it should be noted that Ron Moore, who more or less created the modern Klingons as we know, was at this point Behr’s Number One in the writers' room. Thus, fans can content themselves with the idea that any changes to Gowron’s character are at least partly due to his creator. The point here is that Gowron is growing jealous of Martok’s status in the Empire. Martok is the great hero, the wounded veteran leading attack after attack against the Dominion while Gowron sits at home in the Council Chamber. For a race of warriors, it doesn’t look good.

Gowron’s solution is to honor Martok, then move him aside to take control of the war effort. The problem is, he’s not the tactician our favorite one-eyed Klingon is. While Martok has a workable plan to hold the line that both Starfleet and the frickin’ Romulans signed off on, Gowron wants to get some quick glory with all-out assaults deep into Dominion space. There’s a good chance that this would chew up the Klingon fleet relatively quickly, leaving the Alpha Quadrant helpless. Worf and Martok are instantly knocked back. The irony is that both men are used to being outcasts, but both have been forgiven. Martok has reclaimed his glory, while Gowron brushes aside his beef with Worf now that the latter is in the House of Martok. While being pushed aside should be familiar, these two Klingons are finding themselves far more uncomfortable than they should be.

Damar is also having trouble with battle plans. Damar is a soldier, not a resistance fighter, and these two things are very different. Sisko comes up with a brilliantly audacious plan: He’ll send Kira to instruct the Cardassian resistance on how to kick an occupying force out. I can’t tell if this is Sisko’s genius or just his keen appreciation of irony. While Kira shows some resistance (No pun intended) to the idea, she agrees, and it’s only due to her journey that she’s able to do so. From “Duet,” when she accepted the idea of a good Cardassian, to the Ghemor arc, where she embraced a Cardassian as a surrogate father (even burying him next to her biological father on Bajor), she has been approaching the time she could do what would have been unthinkable in her resistance days. Sisko is no fool, though; he sends in Odo and Garak to watch her back. As a side note, I don’t think there is a more terrifying team than the three of them. Sisko was sitting on his own Section 31 the whole time.

Kira, however, can’t wear her Bajoran Militia uniform. The Cardassians, we’re reminded, are a proud people (This is said about once per episode any time there’s a Cardassian around.), and a uniformed Bajoran issuing orders is too great an insult. So, Kira gets a Starfleet commission as a Commander, and goes in wearing command red. Kira once hated the Federation, and she never would have worn one of their uniforms. Again, this is after seven years of working with Starfleet, and finding officers among them she could love and respect. She literally worships a Starfleet officer as her god, she’s an honorary member of the O’Brien clan, and she was one of Jadzia Dax’s closest friends. This Kira, though awkward in the uniform, sees it far differently than the Kira we met in the pilot.

She’s back to her old life, though in a new uniform and with new allies and enemies. She’s comfortable with the tactics, and though Damar despises her, he’s smart enough to listen when she tells him something. The relationship here, unfortunately, is a bit glossed over. Damar murdered Ziyal, and no one loved Ziyal more than Kira and Garak. While part of me wishes Garak would have snapped his neck for it, I think Garak the patriot overrides Garak the terrifying murderer. Damar is good for Cardassia, so Garak will allow him to live. The other Cardassians are nowhere near as accommodating, doing their best to provoke Kira into violence. She doesn’t take the bait, though first season Kira would have, killing as many as she could with relish.

Odo is in far worse shape. He has the same disease that afflicts the Founders, and he’s hiding it from everyone. Bashir discovers this in the course of some routine research. In hopes of finding a cure, Bashir attempts to gain Odo’s records from Starfleet Medical, and first gets the runaround, and then gets faked transcripts. He determines that Odo was infected during his trip to Earth, when Starfleet Medical first generated the records Bashir is trying to get. This gives the disease a bizarre lifecycle. Odo got it in season three during the “Homefront” and “Paradise Lost” arc, gave it to the Founders when they turned him into a solid at the end of season four which had the side effect of curing him, then got it back when he Linked with the Female Changeling in the beginning of season six. Thus, while he technically got it first, it’s not as far along as it is in all the other Changelings. Everyone still with me?

Bashir figures out that this has to be the work of Section 31, and thus he finds his two great passions colliding: medicine and spycraft. As flawed a man as Bashir is, he has always displayed the boundless compassion one would expect of a Starfleet doctor. He wanted to cure the Jem’Hadar of their ketracel-white addiction, and he wants to prevent the genocide of the Founders. He’s convinced Section 31 has a cure. Getting it, though, is another thing entirely.

I’ve avoided it as long as I can, and now I’m faced with the task of explaining the episode’s quote. Dukat, upset at being locked out of the research into freeing the Pah-wraiths from the Fire Caves, decides to peek at the Book of the Kosst Amojan. It’s never a good idea to look at forbidden texts, and Dukat discovers this when the Pah-wraiths blind him. Winn takes the opportunity to throw him out onto the street to learn some humility. Good luck with that, Kai.

This thread was created because the writers realized they’d moved Dukat and Winn’s plot too far too early, and needed to put both characters in a holding pattern, allowing the audience to know where they were without having to check in on them. It’s a good idea, since scenes of people reading books tend to be pretty boring. And personally, this is the one aspect of the finale I’m not crazy about. It strays a little close to Buffy the Vampire Slayer territory, and while there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that, books of magic and demons are an awkward fit into DS9.

In the gray areas DS9 has always treaded in, the Pah-wraiths are too overtly evil. Their goals are similarly dry. There are mentions of a genocide on Bajor, but the Dominion is attempting a conquest that will kill far more, it’s difficult to see how Dukat’s plot retains its stakes. That says a lot about the threat the writers have managed to create in the Dominion. The timeless race demons barely register.

Fortunately for me, putting Dukat and Winn aside allows the show to get to my favorite part: the Dominion War.


Next up: The end, part 6.


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