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Star Trek Deep Space Nine: A Time to Stand

Dukat: You feel I've betrayed you.
Kira: Not just me, everyone. Even your own people.
Dukat: Cardassia was on the edge of an abyss, Major. The war with the Klingons left us into a third-rate power. My people had lost their way. I've made them strong again.
Kira: At what price? You sold Cardassia to the Dominion.

The first episode in season six of Deep Space Nine, one of the best seasons of all of Star Trek. The war that was simmering for much of season five is now in full boil, and the station is “occupied” by the Dominion and the Cardassians, the Dominion’s Alpha Quadrant allies.

In the last episode of the previous season, significant changes transpired. The Dominion kept sending Jem’Hadar ships through the wormhole, all of which headed to Cardassia. In order to prevent more soldiers from pouring through, the Federation (using the genius of the Ferengi engineer, Rom) mined the wormhole with self-replicating, cloaked mines. This infuriated the Dominion. Captain Sisko, in his position as the Emissary of the Prophets, advised the Bajoran government to strike a pact with the Dominion, so they would not become the war’s first casualty – and then the Federation left the Deep Space Nine station.

This means the great saga – and it is a great saga – is now following two sets of characters. The first set includes those in the “hot” war, the Federation and their allies the Klingons. Regulars include Captain Sisko, Dax, Bashir, O’Brien and Worf, while the recurring players include Garak, Nog and Martok. They are suffering enormous losses.

Although those in Star Fleet are losing their lives more often than those on the station, the station is where you feel the most tension. The Bajorans, which have signed a non-aggression pact with the Dominion, don’t trust the Cardassians, and no one should trust the Dominion. The regulars on the station include Major Kira, who is now the liaison between Bajor and the Dominion. Odo is protected by the fact that he is a changeling. Jake Sisko also decided to stay behind to do some war reporting, all the while hoping his status as the son of the Emissary will keep him from getting killed. Quark is still running his bar, serving more yamok sauce. The recurring characters include Rom, but also the representatives of the Dominion – Dukat, Damar, and Weyoun. This cast is especially rich, full of alliances but also replete with insidious danger.

Sometime a relationship ends up having a huge impact. The relationship between Kira and Odo – now genuine friends; Kira can only relax with Odo – will matter hugely. In addition the friendship between Jake and Nog, which mostly began because they were two bored adolescent males who just wanted to have fun, ends up being one of the relationships on which the series turns. Jake is with Quark and Rom on the station while Nog is with Captain Sisko, which is not what either father would have wanted (the younger generation accepts the switch more easily). The friendship between the Ferengi and the humans will matter as well.

Jake is allowed to live and even to move around the station, but his reports on the war are not getting out. In a way this is a relief; it would be too precocious if Jake had too much success. I very much enjoyed the dialogue between Jake and Weyoun (no one should take the freedom of the press for granted).

Quark is a businessman, and is usually concerned with profit. He operated his bar under the Cardassians before and he can operate under them again. Like so many, who don’t want to fight. Quark can get along with the Cardassians, because they are ready to drink and to gamble and to pay for the holosuites. The Jem’Hadar are another matter; they don’t respond to Quark’s attempts to engage; they just take up space and ominously sit around. Quark, too, misses the Federation so much that he brings Kira a free drink.

Life outside the station is less tense when they are away from battle, even though everyone is exhausted and down and wondering if they can win the war. Jadzia and Worf are now engaged, and there’s a moment of joy as they reunite and go off to make fierce love off screen. However, the show ratchets up the danger outside the station by giving our Star Fleet team an important mission behind the lines. They get to use the Jem’Hadar ship that Sisko recovered in a previous episode. After training, they venture into Cardassian space to destroy ketracel white storage facility. They succeed, but at a cost that leads us to the excitement of the next episode.

Title musings. “A Time to Stand” is the title of the episode. This mostly refers to the fact that, in war and other conflicts, you must take a stand. In this episode, many of our characters feel as if they have been pushed back and beaten down; the act of standing up, the first step in preparing to fight, is not easy. This also, after the hiatus of the summer months, tells us where the story stands. It's a good title.

Bits and pieces

The show opens, not with Captain Sisko reporting from Deep Space Nine, but Dukat reporting from Terok Nor. It is a wonderful, creepy touch, showing the great emphasis of the difference from one season to the next as we go from the familiar “Captain’s log” to the Cardassian “permanent documentation file.”

I always wonder about the fires showing on the various ships in trouble after the battle. Given the vacuum of space, how can they burn for more than an instant?

Elim Garak has changed a bit from prior episodes. In earlier episodes he seemed rather cowardly, just out for himself. He seems braver now, and concerned, not just for himself, but for Cardassia and the Alpha quadrant.

It is a lovely gesture when Kira and Odo join hands while at Quark’s, cementing their alliance.

I have always wondered why Jake did not take a position as a waiter at Quark’s. It would have allowed him to overhear much more information. It would also have been in keeping with traditions of his family as his grandfather owns a restaurant in New Orleans.

Terry Ferrell, who plays Jadzia Dax, is now married to Adam Nimoy, the son of Leonard Nimoy.

Quotes

O'Brien: I guess they got tired of looking at our backs. Three months of bloody slaughter and what have we got to show for it? Not a damn thing. Engage, retreat, engage, retreat. Just once I would've liked to have gotten a look at their backs.

Bashir: If I'm a Vulcan, then how do you explain my boyish smile?
Garak: Not so boyish anymore, Doctor.
Acknowledgment that Alexander Siddig's looks have matured.

Quark: I'm not just concerned with profit, Major. Look around. Do you see any ghetto fences dividing the Promenade? Or exhausted Bajoran slave laborers sprawled on the ground after a grueling day in the Ore Processing Center? Do you hear the cries of starving children? I don't. Now don't get me wrong, I miss the Federation too. All I'm saying is, things could be a lot worse.

Dax: Benjamin, you haven't spoken to him for months. And Jake is his grandson.
Sisko: How do I explain that I evacuated every Federation citizen off Deep Space Nine except his grandson?

Jake: What about freedom of the press?
Weyoun: Please tell me you're not that naive.

Kira: Forget about Dukat. Go to Weyoun. He'll listen to you. As far as he's concerned, you're a god, and that gives you power. But what good is power if you're not willing to use it?

Garak: Forgive my ignorance, but if we don't have warp drive, how long is it going to take us to reach the closest Federation starbase?
Sisko: A long time, Mister Garak.
Garak: How long?
Bashir: Seventeen years, two months, and three days. Give or take an hour.

Overall Rating

“A Time to Stand” is a great episode of Star Trek, opening a great season and a fabulous six-part story. This is why, when people ask, I tell them Star Trek Deep Space Nine is my favorite show. I think it holds up well after more than two decades; indeed, these days it seems even more relevant. Four out of four self-replicating, cloaked mines.

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

1 comment:

Gary said...

I agree, the Occupation Arc/Dominion War represents DS9's finest achievement. My only regret is that nit only lasts 6 episodes -- the story possibilities were so rich I could easily see it as lasting twice as long. Oh, well as the say8ing goes, always leave 'em wanting more ...