Thursday, July 21, 2011

Classics: DS9 6:2 - Rocks and Shoals

Overall Rating: 9.8

There are five uber-features in the DS9 canon: Duet (driven by brilliant dialogue), The Visitor (motivated by concentrated pathos and love), The Siege of AR-558 (we'll get to this in about 30 weeks, and at that point, you'll hear all about the incredibly rich presentation and direction), In the Pale Moonlight (whose feature status was cemented by an incredibly brave plot concept)...and this piece. Each was uniquely brilliant, and this was a masterpiece built in silence and cinematography.

Plot Synopsis:

See how our heroes continue to grapple with seemingly futile circumstances at Memory Alpha.

The Skinny:

SABR Matt:

Michael Vejar hasn't had his name called much on this blog because we are a meta blog...we dedicate ourselves primarily to the messages conveyed in each episode we review and the skill with which those messages are conveyed. We will occasionally point out a directorial or cinematic choice that we found impressive, but we are not film critics and I don't think we have anything more than an instinctive eye for that sort of thing. But even the untrained eyes can figure out the brilliance of this episode. Vejar's choices made the bold script of Ron Moore work perfectly. In the long moments of silence (or near-silence) that fill the episode, we get the perfect color and tenor.

In Kira's two simple "heading to work" scenes, for example, the attention to detail is remarkable. She does exactly the same thing in both scenes...the first seems routine...the second does not. The way those two scenes are shot allows the acting to carry the viewer (a lot of close ups and tight pan shots from Kira's perspective) to the goal. Kira's world is tiny, restricted, focused...and there is a dreadful vibe even before Yassim's suicide. In contrast, Sisko's world is HUGE. The planet is filmed with gigantic sweeping panoramas, the fights take place over great distances (with the exception of the big reveal that Keevan is a selfish bastard after his surgery...a more intimate moment that needed a darker, tighter filming). Kira's problem is that her constriction (her loss of freedom) is making her feel caged. Sisko's problem is that the weight of the galaxy is on his shoulders...and those problems seem too large for him to handle. Neither of our heroes is in a good's up to the readers here to decide which is worse...but Vejar captured that feel beautifully.

My co-author will comment more on the station plot, but I want to focus my attention Sisko and his crew for a moment. There are several things I like about this. First there's DS9's mastery of gallows humor - a consistent strength for these writers, especially Moore - which is on display. "Oh no! I tore my pants!!" cracks me up every time. Second, we have the juxtaposition of the (once again) honorable Jem'hadar (it's not their fault they were bred to be our ultimate enemy...their honor code is remarkable despite their savage genetic nature) with the...erm...less than honorable Vorta. Keevan isn't an outlier; Weyoun will demonstrate the same capacity for self-preservation, manipulation and deviousness - traits of which the Ferengi would be jealous. But in this plot, it feels particularly loathsome to watch and Avery Brooks nails it with his reaction to Keevan's final line. And finally, there is Sisko's attempts to salvage a solution fit for Starfleet...something that feels a bit more moral than what Keevan proposes, and his decisiveness in taking command of the situation. He is correct that it's his call and not a debate...he's correct to try to turn the Jem'hadar against their Vorta, he's correct to offer them their lives, and he's correct, albeit grimly, to gun them down when left with no other choice (though my girlfriend did raise a valid question: why not STUN the Jem'hadar just to say eff you to their Vorta?).

Stephanie S:

It is said that if you try to put a frog in hot water, it will jump right back out again -- but if that same frog is gradually brought to a boil, it will sit there and die because it doesn't perceive what's happening until it's too late. In a similar fashion, people are more likely to accept the rule of a despot if his regime is built incrementally. Hitler didn't unveil his entire plan for the Third Reich in one fell swoop. He rolled it out in stages in the hopes that he could lull the allied powers into a false sense of security -- and for a while, it worked.

So what does this have to do with the current episode? Well, Weyoun - and his Dominion masters - operates according to the same folk wisdom that animated Hitler. As I noted last week, he blocks Dukat not because he's actually concerned for the Bajoran people and their rights, but because he believes a subtle encroachment will give the Dominion a diplomatic advantage. And once again, this Nazi strategy proves to be dangerously effective. Indeed, as we see this week, even an old rebel like Kira can be fooled by it.

But not for long, because this episode's purpose, in part, is to violently yank Kira out of the pot before she is boiled -- and as SABR Matt has already noted, Moore and Vejar accomplish this with stunning direction and a remarkable economy of expression. The "going-to-work" sequences? They are things of pure beauty -- perhaps the finest embodiment of "show, don't tell" that I have ever watched. And Yassim's suicide? Minimalist, yet absolutely devastating.

So now Kira has decided to start a second resistance, which is wholly appropriate given her personality, her history, and her recent frustrations. And actually, I have to wonder if Sisko planned it this way. After all, he's known Kira for years now. Surely he was aware that his first officer would not rest easy so long as the Dominion - and Dukat - had control of DS9. Maybe - just maybe - his advocating for Bajoran neutrality was less a message to stay out of the fighting and more a message to fight quietly. Such tactical maneuvering seems in keeping with Sisko's character, anyway.

Writing: 10.0 / 10.0

Although a lot of the work in this episode was accomplished in silence and in filming, the script itself was bold in oh so many very un-Trek-like ways that set this episode apart. Kira's role, in particular, was remarkably well-crafted, as was the villain (Keevan, not Remata'klan). CHaracterization wins the day here, no doubt.

Acting: 10.0 / 9.5

Nana Visitor should get an Emmy for this episode. If the Academy weren't a gaggle of elitist snobs, she would have at least been nominated. Because HOLY CRAP did she put in a massively impressive performance. Avery Brooks, Andrew Robinson, Christopher Shea (Keevan)...pretty much everyone in the Sisko plot...was equally up to the task of matching this brilliant script with brilliant acting.

Message: 9.5 / 10.0

Evil must be opposed. The way in which Vedek Yassim chooses to convey her objection to the Dominion was completely shocking the first time I saw shocking that I actually gasped and was silent for several moments with my mouth wide open. That kind of jarring realization was necessary to force Kira to examine her actions, but the message is very simple. Evil must be opposed. It is easy to convince ourselves that we are not opposing evil because the wiser course is to wait for a better chance to do so...but as soon as we begin thinking like that, we've already lost. One wonders if second season Picard would have the moral fortitude to fit in this DS9 canon universe and to oppose evil at great risk.

Stephanie S. Adds: The respect afforded to the Jem'Hadar here also feels very right to me. The warriors on either side of a battle can be and often are honorable, even if they hold to a belief system that is fundamentally disastrous.


O'BRIEN: Nog, did you re-route the damned gyrodyne?
NOG: I'm trying, but the damned thruster array won't take the input.
O'BRIEN: Try the lateral impulse thrusters and watch your mouth. (LOL)

REMATA'KLAN: What about the First and the Second?
LIMARA'SON: I vaporised their bodies myself, and redistributed their equipment to the rest of the men. You are now the First.
REMATA'KLAN: No. I questioned the Vorta's orders. He will not forget that. As long as he lives, I will remain Third.
LIMARA'SON: You were right to question him. If he had not ordered us into the nebula two days ago we would not have crashed.
REMATA'KLAN: It was not my place. Remember, Obedience Brings Victory.
LIMARA'SON: And Victory is Life.
REMATA'KLAN: Until we re-establish communications, we will hold this world for the Dominion.
LIMARA'SON: And if we cannot re-establish communications?
REMATA'KLAN: Then we will hold this world for the Dominion until we die. (ooo...kaaay!)

O'BRIEN: Oh, no.
SISKO: What?
O'BRIEN: I don't believe it!
SISKO: What?
O'BRIEN: I tore my pants.
SISKO: You tore your pants?
(Hysteria sets in. - for the audience too!)
O'BRIEN: Yeah, I tore my pants. I guess, I guess I'm really in trouble now, huh?(ROTFL!)

KEEVAN: Third Remata'Klan, can you vouch for the loyalty of your men?
REMATA'KLAN: We pledge our loyalty to the Founders from now until death.
KEEVAN: Then receive this reward from the Founders. May it keep you strong.
(He hands over one vial.)
LIMARA'SON: Only one?
REMATA'KLAN: Keep your place.
KEEVAN: This case of White must last until we're rescued. At least ten days, possibly more. I will ration the supply. Don't worry. I am the Vorta. I will take care of you all. (we see that there is clearly not enough white to last that long)

GARAK: Lucky for you, it ripped on the seam.
O'BRIEN: Can you fix it?
GARAK: Unlucky for you, my sewing kit went down with the ship.
NEELEY: (Crewwoman) Maybe someone could go get it? The ship's only about five hundred metres below the surface by now.
O'BRIEN: How long can you hold your breath, Cadet?
SISKO: Madam, your pants are ready. Your boots and vest will take a little longer. While you wait, I might suggest that you browse through the hotel's gift shop.
DAX: No, thank you. But I would like to lodge a complaint. This bed is as hard as a rock.
SISKO: I will make a note of that. What's the prognosis?
BASHIR: Guarded, but good. The bleeding's stopped and I've repaired all the internal injuries. The damage to the symbiont is a little harder to diagnose. Given enough rest, I think they'll both make a full recovery.
DAX: In other words, I'm going to be staring at this cave ceiling for the rest of my stay.
SISKO: Lucky for you they have twenty four hour room service. (LOL!)
(Laughter hurts.)
SISKO: I will get you out of here, old man. I promise.
DAX: I'm going to hold you to that one, Benjamin.

GARAK: What are you doing?
NOG: Following orders. The Captain told us to scan the area for fresh water and vegetation
GARAK: You know precisely what I mean. You're deliberately staying behind me and I want to know why. Does this have anything to do with that unfortunate business between you and me last year?
NOG: You tied me up and threatened to kill me.
GARAK: There were extenuating circumstances.
NOG: It happened. So you can either stay in front of me or walk beside me, but I won't turn my back on you again.
GARAK: Cadet, there may be hope for you yet. (LOL!!)

KEEVAN: I only have one further question for you. Is there a doctor in your unit?
NOG: Garak!
KEEVAN: Don't be too hard on him, young man. He just saved your life. Take them to a secure area. Third, I have a mission for you. I want you to find the Starfleet unit. But do not engage them. Locate them, assess their strength, and then report back to me.
REMATA'KLAN: I understand.
KEEVAN: No, you don't. But that's all right. It's not important that you understand, only that you carry out my instructions precisely.
REMATA'KLAN: Obedience Brings Victory.
KEEVAN: Yes. Yes, it does. Go.

JAKE: I understand that a decision's been made to send four thousand Dominion facilitators down to Bajor. Would you care to elaborate?
KIRA: It's only four hundred and how did you hear about that? The official announcement isn't scheduled until tomorrow.
JAKE: I hear things. So could you elaborate? My readers want to know what's going on.
ODO: You don't have any readers. Weyoun is still blocking the transmission of your stories.
JAKE: For now. But what if he changes his mind? Don't you want to explain what's going on here to the outside world?
KIRA: Ever since the war started, Bajor's been completely cut off from all outside trade. We've had nowhere to turn for things like spare parts or medical supplies. Nowhere, except the Dominion. So a group of Facilitators is going to Bajor for a few months to provide some technical assistance.
JAKE: How do you respond to critics like Vedek Yassim who say that by welcoming a group of Vorta to Bajor you're taking the first step toward Dominion occupation?
ODO: I have been assured that the Facilitators will be unarmed and unaccompanied by any Jem'Hadar soldiers.
JAKE: Odo, do you have any concerns that by joining the Ruling Council here on the station, you're validating the occupation?
ODO: The Dominion doesn't need my validation. They're here and they're not leaving. Not without a fight, at least.
KIRA: Are you finished?
JAKE: Almost, almost. Will either of you be attending the demonstration tomorrow?
KIRA: The what?
JAKE: Vedek Yassim has organised a demonstration on the Promenade tomorrow afternoon to protest the Dominion occupation of the station.
ODO: That's all the excuse Dukat will need to order a new security crackdown.
KIRA: I'll talk to Yassim.
JAKE: So, you're going to abolish the right to protest here on the station? Hey, I'm not trying to accuse you personally of anything. I'm just asking questions.
KIRA: I think this interview is over.
ODO: I couldn't agree more.

KEEVAN: Why were my orders disobeyed?
REMATA'KLAN: Lack of White produces anxiety among us. One man could not restrain himself when he saw the enemy.
KEEVAN: Which man?
REMATA'KLAN: I have dealt with the matter.
KEEVAN: I asked for his name.
REMATA'KLAN: He is my responsibility.
KEEVAN: His name!
REMATA'KLAN: I may not be First, but I am the unit leader. You can discipline me, but only I discipline the men. That is the order of things.
KEEVAN: Very well. I'll leave him to you.
REMATA'KLAN: Dismissed.

YASSIM: (older woman) The Dominion is evil, and the Prophets tell us that evil must be opposed.
KIRA: You'll get no argument from me there, Vedek. But protests and demonstrations aren't going to change anything. They're just going to cause trouble for everyone.
YASSIM: Then what would you have us do to oppose the Dominion?
KIRA: I don't think there's anything you or the other Vedeks can do right now.
YASSIM: I see. Then as a Bajoran liaison officer, what will you be doing to fight the Dominion?
KIRA: Fighting isn't an option. This is different than the Cardassian occupation.
YASSIM: Is it? The Cardassians are in control of this station. Bajoran freedoms are being curtailed one by one. And soon the first wave of alien troops will be landing on our world.
KIRA: We're talking about unarmed Vorta facilitators. They come in, they do their job, and they're gone.
YASSIM: Can't you see what is happening to you? You're becoming an apologist for them, a defender of evil. What will it take to make you act, Kira? To stop accepting them and start fighting back?
KIRA: Vedek, you just don't understand.
YASSIM: You are right. I don't. Maybe tomorrow we will both understand.

SISKO: I see. Well then, I want to talk to someone who can negotiate. I want to speak with your First.
REMATA'KLAN: There is no First.
SISKO: I take it there's no Second either.
REMATA'KLAN: I command the unit.
SISKO: Under the Vorta. It must be hard for a soldier to take orders from a Vorta.
REMATA'KLAN: The Vorta command the Jem'Hadar. That is the order of things.
SISKO: Obedience Brings Victory. I was on a mission with the Jem'Hadar once. Before the war, of course. They were good. Tough, professional. It was an honour to serve with them. But their Vorta, he was something different. Manipulative, treacherous, trusted by neither side. In the end, he was killed by the Jem'Hadar First. Surprised?
REMATA'KLAN: Such things have been known to happen. But they are rare and only occur in units that have lost discipline.
SISKO: Oh, you mean like a unit marooned on the shores of a deserted planet?
REMATA'KLAN: The Vorta has instructed me to give you his assurance that neither you nor your Doctor will be harmed and you'll both be free to leave at the end of your meeting. What is your response?
SISKO: The word of a Vorta carries very little weight with me. Can I have your assurance that we'll be free to go, Remata'Klan?
REMATA'KLAN: I have been ordered to let you go free after your meeting. You can be assured that I will obey that order.
SISKO: Very well. We'll make the trade in one hour.

KIRA: I don't think there's going to be any story here for you today, Jake.
JAKE: You sure? I got a message from Vedek Yassim saying the protest was starting at exactly fourteen hundred.
KIRA: Well, it certainly doesn't look like it.
MAN [OC]: What's she doing?
(Yassim is standing on the upper level, on the wrong side of the rail, a rope around her neck tied to the railing.)
YASSIM: Evil must be opposed.
(And she steps into the air.)

SISKO: Why are you telling us this?
KEEVAN: I'm ordering the Jem'Hadar to attack your base camp in the morning. But I will provide you with their precise plan of attack. You should be able to kill them all.
BASHIR: They're your own men.
SISKO: You still haven't answered my question. Why are you doing this?
KEEVAN: That's a communications system. It needs repair, but I'm willing to bet that you've brought one of those famed Starfleet engineers who can turn rocks into replicators. He should have a lot more success at repairing it than a Jem'Hadar suffering from withdrawal. Once you've take care of the Jem'Hadar, I'll give you the comm. system and surrender to you as a prisoner of war.
BASHIR: And you spend the war resting comfortably as a Starfleet POW while your men lie rotting on this planet.
KEEVAN: I see we understand each other. I'm going to order the Jem'Hadar to attack your position tomorrow regardless of whether you agree to my terms or not. So you can either kill them or they'll kill you. Either way, they're coming.

GORDON: So we just shoot them down?
NEELEY: They wouldn't hesitate if the situation was reversed.
NOG: But we're not the Jem'Hadar. It is our duty to --
SISKO: This isn't a vote. The decision's mine. And Mister Garak is right. We are at war. Given the choice between us or them, there is no choice. Let's move out.
DAX: I'd say good luck, but I don't think you're going to need it.
SISKO: Say it anyway, old man. I'm still hoping there's another way out of this.
DAX: In that case, good luck, Benjamin.

ODO: Damar has been trying to contact you for the past five hours.
KIRA: I keep going over it and over it in my mind, and I can't believe that I stood down there ready to use force to stop a protest against the Dominion. Me. When I was in the Resistance I despised people like me. I'm a collaborator, Odo.
ODO: That's not true. You're doing exactly what Captain Sisko wanted you and the rest of Bajor to do. Remain neutral and stay out of the fighting.
KIRA: We used to have a saying in the Resistance. If you're not fighting them, you're helping them. Half the Alpha Quadrant is out there right now, fighting for my freedom, but not me. What am I doing? Eating a full meal every day, sleeping in a soft bed, I even write reports for the murderers who run this station.
ODO: This are difficult times for everyone. Do you think it's easy for me to sit down with Dukat and Weyoun every day while they plot the destruction of the Federation?
KIRA: Odo, I'm not pointing a finger at you. I'm the one who told you to get more involved in the first place. No, this is about me. This is about being able get up in the morning and look in the mirror every morning and not feel nauseated by what I see. Yassim was right. I have to do something. I have to start to fight back.
ODO: That would be a mistake. Active resistance will trigger a crackdown.
KIRA: Odo, I don't want to end up fighting you, too, but if I have to, I will.
ODO: All right. But let's find a more discreet place to plan the new resistance.

SISKO: Keevan's betrayed you! He gave us your entire plan of attack last night.
REMATA'KLAN: It was obvious that approaching your position from this canyon was a deliberate tactical error on his part.
SISKO: You knew?
REMATA'KLAN: I suspected. Despite what Keevan may think, the Jem'Hadar are often one step ahead of the Vorta.
SISKO: You can still stay one step ahead. Surrender.
REMATA'KLAN: I have my orders.
SISKO: Keevan doesn't deserve the unwavering loyalty you're giving him.
REMATA'KLAN: He does not have to earn my loyalty, Captain. He has had it from the moment I was conceived. I am a Jem'Hadar. He is a Vorta. It is the order of things.
SISKO: Do you really want to give up your life for the order of things?
REMATA'KLAN: It is not my life to give up, Captain. And it never was.

KEEVAN: You know, Captain, if I'd had just two more vials of White you never would have had a chance.
SISKO: Chief, get this -- (He stops as disgust overtakes him for a moment.) Take him back to base camp and then get to work on that comm. system.
O'BRIEN: Aye, sir.
SISKO: Lieutenant Neeley.
SISKO: Form a burial detail.
NEELEY: Aye, sir.

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