“There are rules, Garak, even in a war!”
“Correction. Humans have rules in war. Rules that make victory a little harder to achieve, in my opinion.”
-- O’Brien and Garak
The idea that there are rules during war is pretty ridiculous, if you get right down to it, especially once war graduated into the relatively modern ideal of industrialized slaughter ushered in by the American Civil War. The thing is, we kind of need rules, or every war would instantly turn into competing attempts at genocide. If there’s one thing most people can agree on in principle, it’s that genocides should be avoided as much as possible.
“Permanent documentation file, Dukat, S.G. Each day brings reports of new victories. The war continues to go well. The enemy is retreating on all fronts. It’s only a matter of time before the Federation collapses and Earth becomes another conquered planet under Dominion rule. All in all, it’s a good time for Cardassia... and the Dominion.”
If you go back to my earliest entries in this series, you’re going to see a lot of handwringing. A lot of me apologizing for a series that is, to put it as charitably as possible, is trying to find its voice. Whenever I recommend the show to people, I always tell them to skip vast swaths of the first season and significant chunks of the second in order to get to the good stuff. After all, as I say many times, it takes a lot of time for DS9 to become the show that it is remembered as being: dark, serialized, and driven by the kind of action that until that time had been confined to the movies. Well, with this episode, the sixth season opener, “A Time to Stand,” DS9 is finally that show.
“When I first took command of this post, all I wanted was to be somewhere else. Anywhere but here. But now, five years later, this has become my home, and you have become my family. And leaving this station, leaving you, is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do...I promise, I will not rest until I stand with you again, here. In this place where I belong.”
-- Captain Benjamin Sisko
The cliffhanger is one of the great tricks of writing. Essentially, you set something up, preferably an unsolvable situation, and that propels the audience to seek out the next installment. They have to in order to know how it comes out. Most long-form art, whether it’s comics, novels, or serialized television, like to finish out issues, chapters, or episodes with some kind of twist or revelation that functions in much the same way. It’s not always the best tactic from the perspective of the writers, though.
“Even in the darkest moments, you can always find something that’ll make you smile.”
-- Captain Benjamin Sisko
By this point in the series, the writing was on the wall. The Federation and the Dominion were going to go to war. The writers even spent some time beforehand clearing the slate for the blow up. Sure, they still had about 52 hours to fill, and some of that would be weird one-offs (that feel even stranger in the midst of the Dominion War storyline), but it was time to get the main plot going. Because seasons are best finished out on a cliffhanger, the logical time to kick off the war would be to close out the stellar season five.
“Lately, I’ve noticed that everyone seems to trust me. It’s quite unnerving. I’m still getting used to it. Next thing I know, people are going to be inviting me to their homes for dinner.”
“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I promise I will never have you over.”
“I appreciate that, Chief.”
-- Garak and O’Brien
Let’s pretend you’re being forced to fight a member of the DS9 crew. Not sure why this is happening, it just is. In the usual Star Trek scenario, it would be Q forcing some kind of gladiatorial match to prove something about human nature, but he’s been scared of Sisko ever since the Emissary knocked him on his omnipotent ass. So, it’s one of those thought experiments. The point is, who are you going to pick?
“If you can’t have victory, sometimes, you just have to settle for revenge.”
-- Michael Eddington
In the old days, it was an unspoken rule that television series lasted seven years. Oh sure, there were outliers. Gunsmoke lasted from the invention of the television until the eventual heat death of the universe. But for the most part, there were two milestones. The first was 100 episodes, which was the syndication barrier, ensuring that any show that made it would continue to be a cash cow long after its cancellation. The second was that seventh season, when a beloved institution would take its graceful bow and exit the stage.
“Tomorrow, we will see the sun rise again. But no one here will see it set.”
I do my best not to be overly political in these reviews. It’s tough, because these days nearly anything you say can be interpreted in a political light. Liking the trailer of a movie, for example. Or, if you’re LGBT, existing. Star Trek, from its earliest inception, has told political stories through the lens of science fiction. Incidentally, this is a large part of what science fiction is for. So, avoiding politics in an in-depth review of Star Trek is not only impossible, it’s inimical to the purpose of the show. It’s like trying to review an episode of Cake Boss without mentioning cakes or bosses. Is that what that show’s about? I’ve never seen it.
“Today would be a bad day to die, Son of Mogh.”
Whenever Paramount starts making noise about a new Star Trek series, I have a specific idea in mind. It’s not something I’m ever going to see, and I know this, but that doesn’t stop the nerdy kid in me from getting his chubby, little hopes up. The show I want, more than anything, is Star Trek: Klingon. Imagine your standard Star Trek show, something close to TOS or TNG, except set on a Klingon Bird of Prey (hands down the coolest ship design the franchise ever produced). Imagine a crew of Klingons dealing with reversing tachyon fields, temporal anomalies, first contact, and obnoxious Romulan diplomats. Maybe there’s one Federation liaison on the ship to give the audience a PoV character, but everybody else? Klingons. There’s no word for how amazing that would be.
“Females and finances don’t mix.”
-- Rule of Acquisition #94
What is the purpose of the Ferengi? When you’re creating a work of fiction, entire alien races become tools of the types of stories you’re trying to tell. Aliens will take on monolithic forms of some aspect of human culture the writer wants to talk about, whether to critique, lampoon, or throw a little light on it. In early development, aliens tend to have a single, defining trait, known in writers’ circles as their hat (mostly because we as writers are unfamiliar with what hats do). So, Klingons wear the warrior hat, Vulcans wear the emotionless logical hat, Romulans wear the sneaky treacherous hat, and so on. Like I said, writers really don’t get headgear.
“Patience is for the young.”
-- Tekeny Ghemor
In fiction, “family” has an awfully elastic definition. Tons of shows and movies are about groups of misfits banding together and calling themselves family. This never quite sat well with me. After all, “friend” is a far better compliment than “brother” ever will be. You choose friends. You’re stuck with brothers.