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Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Sons and Daughters

'I am not here to call you father. I am here to serve the Empire.'

By nature I love brevity: Both the A-story and the B-story are interesting and have their merits. But despite the surface 'fathers' connection, the two stories never feel like they belong in the same episode.

As is pretty obvious by this point in the series, one of DS9's core strengths is its ability to bring in recurring characters and work them into whatever story is at hand. It makes the Star Trek universe feel more cohesive, and TNG characters like Alexander really sell that Worf, in this case, is a person whose history and past affects his present.

I admit to not being much of a TNG person, and I think I've only seen the series all the way through once, so I'm not thoroughly familiar with the ins and outs of Alexander's arc. Luckily, through excellent concise writing and some helpful narrative shorthand, this episode brings us up to speed. Apparently, Alexander decided to leave Worf's parents' home on Earth and join the Klingon Defense Force. He claims not to care about his father's opinion of him or his approval, but it's clear that's the whole reason he has taken this step. He might even have requested the transfer to the Rotarran for that purpose; it seems like a massive coincidence otherwise.

We've seen enough episodes set on a Klingon ship to know about how this plays out. The crew bully the new kid in a scene set in the mess hall. It inevitably leads to a fight, which ends with tensions still rising among the crew. There's a battle, and someone will have to prove their honor in an act of bravery. It's all very standard Klingon fare, but what makes it interesting is the relationship between Worf and his son.

Marc Worden lends Alexander a youthful petulance, but also communicates enough grit that we can buy this kid might have made it through Klingon basic training. JG Hertzler has perfected Martok by now, and the character's intervention in the Alexander situation is interesting. I wish it had been addressed more, because I'm not certain Worf would just accept Martok's assistance in this matter. Mostly, this storyline feels underbaked, as though the writer was distracted by the other story in the episode and wasn't particularly invested in this one. This continues to make sense if you look at the care taken in the ostensible B-story.

For me, Gul Dukat has always been DS9's most interesting problem. What makes him so interesting to me is the emotional vulnerability that so clearly defines him. Where people like Garak or Kai Winn claim not to care about the people around them, Dukat quite blatantly does. He manipulates people to serve his own needs, but it's obvious that despite that fact, he still wants them to love him. Deep down, Dukat's most intrinsic desire is to be loved, not just by his family and his close friends. In fact, he's often seen shutting those people down and disappointing them, like his son in 'Defiant' or Damar pretty much any time they're on screen together. Dukat wants perhaps most of all to be loved by the people he most hates, the people who have the least reason to love him. He wants to be loved by the Bajoran people, whom he oppressed for so long, and he has projected all of that onto Kira specifically. So as Dukat manipulates people and makes them hate him, he is both giving into his nature and denying himself exactly what he most wants.

So it's into this mire of self-loathing and desire for love that poor Tora Ziyal walks. Ziyal's generous nature makes her perfectly willing to offer love to even someone as despicable as Dukat, because he's her father. She's so innocent in this regard that it's hard to judge her for it, even as we want to shake her and tell her not to let Dukat get close. Because ultimately, we know that getting close to Dukat is the worst thing for a person's relationship with him.

It's also easy to judge Kira's decision here. It can be seen as abandoning Ziyal to Dukat's clutches. But as much as she may be naïve, Ziyal is an adult capable of making her own decisions, and she is aware of who Dukat is to some extent. Kira knows full well that there's no way Ziyal could choose her over Dukat. But it would be torture to make her try. It is a difficult question, and Kira's struggle with it is one of the highlights of the episode. Do you tolerate or even encourage Dukat for Ziyal's sake? Or do you cut off Dukat's treacherous advances at the knees, and risk losing Ziyal entirely to him? It's not easy, and I wonder if she really made the right call.

This is all far more compelling to me than the Klingon half, partly because it just interests me more conceptually, and partly because the Klingon half feels almost copied and pasted from other, better episodes. And the two stories really have nothing in common other than the thread of dealing with fathers. That's in name only, really; there's nothing thematically in either of them that complements the other. It seems like a thin excuse to connect two stories they wanted to tell, so they could be used in the same episode.

Strange New Worlds:

The whole episode was spent aboard ships or stations this time around. The Rotarran was escorting a convoy to Donatu V, which was the site of a battle between the Federation and the Klingons in the early days of their relationship with each other, according to 'The Trouble with Tribbles'.

New Life and New Civilizations:

No new species here, nor do we learn anything of note about existing species.

Pensees:

-Jake wants in on Kira and Odo's resistance, which they deny is a thing. Actually, Jake being on the station apart from his father could have been an interesting counterpoint to the episode's other stories. But it would take more screentime away from one or both of them, and I'm not sure either would benefit from that.

-Ziyal's desire for her father's love - and Kira's - mirrors Dukat. She even sought it out from Garak in 'For the Cause'. But where Dukat looks for love in destructive ways, Ziyal's efforts are more pure and kind.

-Casey Biggs is great here. I think he's really starting to find Damar as a character, and his lines here are hilarious.

-We began the episode with a scene where Dax joked about not wanting to join the House of Martok, and ended it with a scene where Alexander does join the House of Martok.

Quotes:

Worf: 'I can see our lives together will not be easy.'
Dax: 'True. But they'll be fun.'

Sisko: 'Are you a betting man, General?'
Martok: 'One of my many pleasures.'
Sisko: 'Then a barrel of bloodwine says I set foot on Deep Space Nine before you do.'

Martok: 'War is much more fun when you're winning.'

Dukat: 'You don't like the dress?'
Kira: 'The dress is fine. I don't like you.'

Martok: 'Tell me, Alexander Rozhenko, why are you on my ship?'
Alexander: 'To serve the Empire.'
Martok: 'That is a slogan, not an answer.'

3.5 out of 6 industrial replicators.

CoramDeo has is the cat.

1 comment:

Victoria Grossack said...

You know, Kira and Ziyal are not really the same size; I have to wonder if the dress meant for Kira would fit Ziyal.

Poor ZiyaL!