Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Ties of Blood and Water

Ghemor: Be my daughter one last time, Nerys. Hear what I know and use it as you see fit.

This episode retreads some of the ground Major Kira has covered before, as she moves from the angry resistance fighter to a humanoid who cares about a dying Cardassian.

To understand this episode, you need to have watched “Second Skin,” the 5th episode of season three. In that episode Kira was captured, given the appearance of a Cardassian, and put into the household of an important Cardassian – Ghemor, who it turns out, is a dissident, opposing much of the current Cardassian regime. Although Ghemor and Kira had some difficult exchanges – he kept insisting she was his long-lost daughter and she kept maintaining she wasn’t – in the end, he helped her.

Ghemor is coming to the station, and Kira has great plans for him, hoping to use him as the voice of the Cardassian opposition. However, when he arrives, it turns out that is impossible, because he is dying of a disease that even Bashir cannot cure. Instead Ghemor will do for her and the Federation alliance what he can, by telling her all his secrets. Apparently this is an important Cardassian deathbed ritual, and certainly Ghemor has valuable information.

I think the episode stretched things a bit for Kira to be acting as if Ghemor was her father and for Ghemor to be acting as if she is his daughter. Given the difficulty of exchanging information they couldn’t exactly be in touch ever since the previous episode. Yet during their time together they determined they were on the same side, so it isn’t so surprising that they would be following each other's movements. So, despite my doubts, I was willing to accept this.

Being beside Ghemor’s deathbed naturally reminds Kira of the death of her own father, but those scenes were even less emotionally relevant. We don’t know Kira’s real father, and we won’t really see him until “Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night,” the 17th episode of season six. We all have fathers, and most of us would be upset when they died, so perhaps we’re just supposed to transfer our own feelings to Kira's father’s death (which she missed by an hour). But it didn’t work for me, even when Kira tells us that her father was her strength (we were told, not shown). Instead, all we were shown was dying, whiny man.

The Cardassians, aware of how much Ghemor knows, appear at DS9 in an attempt to get him back. This leads to some of the best scenes of the episode, with Dukat and Weyoun-5 and some poisoned kanar. Dukat, unable to get the poisoned bottle to Ghemor, instead tries to poison Kira’s relationship with Ghemor, telling her something bad that Ghemor did to the Bajorans during the occupation.

Again, this is where I had problems with the story. Kira, when she learns of the incident in Ghemor’s past, is angry and refuses to sit beside him anymore. Yet how can this incident be a surprise? Ghemor is Cardassian, and it is hard to rebel when you are young and powerless and not yet cognizant of your world’s crimes (something Odo points out).

Fortunately, Kira does get over it – real personal growth – and goes to sit by his deathbed. The last shot is a beautiful one of his grave, surrounded by flowers, on Bajor. I’ve read that Ghemor is now buried beside Kira’s real father, and although I could not tell for sure when reviewing the end of the episode, as I don't read Bajoran, Ghemor was buried between two Bajorans. Possibly these Bajorans were Kira's parents.

Title musings: This episode’s title, “Ties of Blood and Water,” is based on the phrase, “Blood and Water.” It has been around for a long time. The oldest version I know about is from the Gospel of John in the New Testament, where, when Jesus is crucified, the soldiers stick a spear in his side to make sure he’s dead – and “blood and water” pour out. This has been debated a lot, and assuming it’s true, may have some physiological basis. At any rate, “blood and water” is tied to crucifixion and pain. Blood and water are also tied to life; we cannot survive without either. Water, too, is the main ingredient of tears.

Obviously, there are ties of blood between Kira and her father, but no ties of blood between her and the Cardassian Ghemor. Therefore, the tie between her and Ghemor must be water – does that refer to the agony of the crucifixion? Ghemor’s last breaths may be seen that way; most crucifixion victims die of suffocation. Or does it refer to pain or simply to life? Anyway, I think the title is an interesting choice; if anyone has a better interpretation, please put it in the comments!

Bits and pieces

Caring for the sick, especially the dying, is a tough chore, both emotionally and physically. It was good to see an episode acknowledge this. I especially appreciated how Dr. Julian Bashir was used during it.

At some point during the series we heard that Kira had two brothers; I wonder whatever happened to them. If my memory serves, they are not mentioned except as part of her childhood during the series, but I don’t think we ever learned about their deaths, either. Perhaps the writers saved them in reserve in case a Kira brother was needed for some plotting.

This is the episode in which they brought back Weyoun (his predecessor died in season four, episode 22, “To the Death”) by making the Vorta cloned creatures. Not only did this turn out to be a great plot point going forward, this allowed DS9 to make even more use of the talented Jeffrey Combs.

Quark shows that he does care about his customers when he gets Kira a warm milk. Quark, despite being greedy, is truly attentive to other humanoids.

This episode was directed by Avery Brooks, who in my opinion did a fine job with the material, but the story had certain structural flaws.

Quotes

Ghemor: Nerys, I know more about the Cardassian government than anyone alive. Names, alliances, plots. Things that could do a lot of good in the right hands. There's a Cardassian tradition, shri-tal. The dying give their secrets to their family to use against their enemies. But I have no one left to carry my secrets. No one but you.

Quark: You look terrible. Not that I mind. I like my women a little rumpled.
Kira: Quark, just get me my drink.
Quark: I know just the thing. Warm Enyak's milk. It'll help you sleep.

Weyoun: Oh, my. That is quite toxic, isn't it?
Dukat: Are you insane?
Weyoun: Vorta are immune to most forms of poison. Comes in handy when you're a diplomat.

Kira: He lied to me. I thought he was different, but he's just like the rest of them.
Odo: Is he? Really. I've seen his file, too, Major. He was nineteen when Kiessa was destroyed. He'd been in the military for less than a year and was only one of four hundred soldiers at the monastery. There's no way of knowing if he even fired a shot.
Kira: He shouldn't have been there at all.
Odo: This isn't about Ghemor's war record. If it really mattered, you wouldn't have waited for Dukat to hand it to you. You would have looked it up yourself.
Kira: What are you trying to say? That I should go back down there?
Odo: Ah. No, I wasn't saying that at all. Are you?

Dukat: Oh Captain, such cynicism does not suit you. All of Cardassia will mourn the passing of Tekeny Ghemor. He was a great man.
Siskp: I'm surprised to hear you say that.
Dukat: Not at all. It takes a great man to admit he's wrong, and that's what Ghemor did. I'm speaking of his last minute change of heart. His deathbed decision to embrace the new Dominion government.
Sisko: That's very moving, except for one small problem. It never happened.
Weyoun: As you said, it's a small problem.

Overall Rating

Although this episode had some really good bits, it suffered from trying to make us care about two relationships that we didn’t really care about much: Kira and her father, and Kira and Ghemor. It did a better job with the latter but the problems with the story weakened the episode's impact - also, we have watched Kira's recovery from her resistance days before. Two and a half out of four bottles of voraxna-poisoned kanar.

Victoria Grossack loves math, Greek mythology, Jane Austen and great storytelling in many forms.

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