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Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Once More Unto the Breach

'The only real question is whether you believe in the legend of Davy Crockett or not. If you do, then there should be no doubt in your mind that he died a hero's death. If you do not believe in the legend, then he was just a man, and it does not matter how he died.'

By nature I love brevity: A fitting and rousing send-off to a great legacy character, as well as an interesting, if a tad underbaked, musing on the nature of heroism, legend, and legacy.

I think it's really important to any discussion of this episode to mention that it was the one of the final appearances of John Colicos on screen before his death a few years later. It's also important to note that this was the last Klingon-centered episode longtime Klingon expert Ronald D. Moore penned before the Klingon bit in DS9's 10-part grand finale. In a lot of ways, this is a send-off to Colicos, to his longtime character Kor, and to Klingons on DS9.

Seen through this lens, it's wonderfully satisfying. Colicos' performance is weighty and complex, and he plays brilliantly off of Michael Dorn's Worf, J.G. Hertzler's Martok, and longtime TV guest Neil Vipond's Darok. We all know the dynamics of a Klingon ship at this point, and this one is no exception; the youthful crew is enamored with Kor when he's nothing but a legend to them, and once they see that he's a flawed old man, their cheers turn to jeers.

It's here that Moore's script has a little to say about fading with age and the folly of youth to judge that. It's more an undercurrent than anything else, but it goes a long way to watch Colicos' face as he realizes there is no way he can fully reinhabit the great man he was a long time ago. The brevity of Moore's discussion of age gives way to his true theme, his Davy Crockett-inspired musings about the legacy of a legend.

If I may use an example from across the space pond, it's a good deal like the often-maligned portrayal of the aging Luke Skywalker in Rian Johnson's controversial Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Johnson cast Luke as both legend and flawed man and tried to argue that, while the reality of Luke's human failings made him a far cry from the legend he was known as, that legend had a lot of power and a lot of truth to it, and it could still make a difference at a critical time.

Moore's depiction of Kor reads almost the same exact way. While Kor is a forgetful, at times spiteful and proud man, he also bears a legendary legacy. And although his worsening shortcomings may prevent him from being a reliable rank-and-file warrior, his legendary status makes him the perfect person to engage the enemy in an impossible situation and live up to his name when it counts. We're denied the chance to see Kor in his recaptured glory, taking on the Jem'Hadar with grit and courage, for the exact reason Worf lays out at the start of the episode. If we believe in the legend, we know that's who he was in the end, as in his entire life. If we don't, it doesn't really matter anyway. But legends have great power if you believe in them, and from the rousing battle song the warriors take up at the close of the episode, it's clear that Kor's legend will live on in the halls of the warriors forever.

There's a charming little B-story too, about Quark mistakenly believing that Ezri wants to get back with Worf. An uncharitable read of it would write it off as fluffy drama, but I think it reveals something about Quark's character that deserves to be pointed out again. It's a slim connection, but I think it's no accident; Quark leaps into social and relational danger for someone he loves just as Kor leaps into battle and certain death for his brothers and sisters in arms. It could easily come across as self-serving, but there's an element of Quark's intervention here that proves he can be courageous when the chips fall if someone he really cares about is on the line. He proved this earlier in the season when he joined Worf, O'Brien, and Bashir on their mad quest to get Jadzia into Sto'Vo'Kor, and he proves it here. Ezri's reaction is telling; she recognizes the risk Quark just took for her sake, and she appreciates it.

Strange New Worlds:

The first target of Martok's planned raid, and the only one they managed to hit, was the Cardassian starbase on Trelka V. There's no other information given about the planet, and it doesn't appear anywhere else in the franchise.

New Life and New Civilizations:

It's sort of hard to learn anything new about the Klingons at this point. There is a sense of bloodline-based classism that's emphasized here, though, that's not a big part of a lot of other Klingon stories.

Pensees:

-I don't remember Sisko appearing in this episode at any point. Even Jake was there, but his dad wasn't.

-Martok's gripe against Kor reminds me of a plotline in the recent box office hit Top Gun: Maverick.

-O'Brien and Bashir continue their newfound obsession with the Alamo holoprogram, a running storyline throughout this final season.

-Armin Shimerman, who plays Quark, believed this episode was the start of his character's arc for the whole season, revolving around his relationship with Ezri.

-In the documentary What We Left Behind from a few years back, both Michael Dorn (Worf) and J.G. Hertzler (Martok) cited this as one of their favorite episodes of the whole show.

Quotes:

Ezri: "That wasn't bad. You'd make a pretty good counselor, wanna trade jobs?"
Kira: "Oh yeah. People would love bringing their problems to me. You dreamt about what? You're crazy. Get out of my office. Next patient!"

Kor: "Savor the fruit of life, my young friends. It has a sweet taste when it is fresh from the vine. But don’t live too long. The taste turns bitter after a time."

Ezri: "What you just did was one of the kindest, dearest, and for you, the most embarrassing things I've ever heard."

A great episode, and one of my personal favorites. 6 out of 6 Dahar masters.
--
CoramDeo is really more than a little concerned.

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