“A Time to Stand”/”Rocks and Shoals”/”Sons and Daughters”

Deep Space Nine, eh? I’ve heard of that one.

“A Time to Stand”/”Rocks and Shoals”

I admire the fact that Deep Space Nine never ends seasons on cliffhangers. Instead, it tends to effect status quo changes in its season finales, then starts clean a few months later with an extended story to fire things up. So it goes here: “A Time to Stand” and “Rocks and Shoals” comprise a two-parter that pushes the narrative ahead a few months after “Call to Arms.” The midpoint of this two-parter — which ends on the DS9 command crew plummeting to an uncharted planet in a damaged, stolen ship — isn’t nearly as compelling a cliffhanger as the fact that, oh crap, the Dominion took DS9.

Things are not looking good here for the Federation. The Dominion forces in the Alpha Quadrant are shredding the combined Starfleet and Klingon defenders, and about the only thing the good guys have going for them is the fact that no one has been able to clear up the minefield preventing Dominion reinforcements from arriving from the Gamma Quadrant.

This episode (well, episodes) sure makes for an interesting follow-up to “Equinox,” an episode in which the squeaky-clean ethics of the Voyager crew stood in marked contrast to their fellow stranded explorers. Within the first 30 minutes of DS9 season six, Starfleet has decided to press the advantage afforded by the minefield by destroying the Dominion’s single (?) Alpha Quadrant storage facility for Ketracel White, the drug to which the Dominion’s Jem’Hadar troops are genetically addicted. Someone mentions this will be certain death for all the Jem’Hadar in the Alpha Quadrant, an observation met with a resounding shrug by pretty much everyone. So that’s genocide, then, I guess.

It gets a little more complicated once the DS9 crew — who infiltrated Dominion space in a stolen Jem’Hadar fighter to nuke the storage facility — crash-land on a planet hidden in a nebula, followed by a Dominion fighter that also crashes. The Jem’Hadar’s Vorta commander, gravely wounded, attempts to arrange an exchange with Sisko that will save his life at the expense of sacrificing all the soldiers under his command. This comes as little surprise: Before meeting with the Vorta, Sisko tells the ranking Jam’Hadar that he finds the Vorta inherently untrustworthy, though he’s happy to accept any promise the Jem’Hadar soldiers make. Sisko may be OK with committing mass murder against the Jem’Hadar, but at the same time he clearly respects them.

Sisko implicitly agrees to the Vorta’s plan, though he clearly feels uneasy about allowing the man to sell out his entire regiment. So, when the Jem’Hadar advance on the Starfleet crew’s position as part of their boss’ plan to leave them vulnerable to the defenders’ counterattack, Sisko attempts to parlay with them, informing them of their commander’s betrayal.

And here we get to the heart of the Jem’Hadar conundrum: They don’t care. There’s no reasoning with them. The squad commander worked out the Vorta’s betrayal on his own, yet he still willingly led his men into certain death. Because that’s what Jem’Hadar do: They obey. So, with some regret, Sisko gives the order to gun down the Jem’Hadar as they approach the Starfleet encampment, losing one man to the Dominion’s seven or eight. When the smoke clears, the Vorta commander emerges, happy to be taken prisoner in exchange for handing over a communications array (across the corpses of his loyal, expendable warriors) for O’Brien to repair and get them all off the planet. It’s an unhappy outcomes, but it certainly makes the Federation’s lack of ambivalence over the prospect of damning uncountable thousands of Jem’Hadar to death a lot easier to understand, at least.

“Sons and Daughters”

Wow, the writer’s room was feeling cocky. They took on the grimmest, most daunting task in all of Star Trek: To make Worf’s son not-terrible. I’m not sure this episode quite pulled it off, but at least Alexander wasn’t hanging out with Lwaxana Troi in the mud baths again.

The B-plot was a lot more interesting here than Alexander’s story, since it builds on the last two episodes’ efforts to paint a picture of what’s been happening back on the Dominion-occupied DS9. Kira and Odo have been struggling with the morality of remaining on the station and facilitating the Dominion’s push into the Alpha Quadrant (per Sisko’s instructions). Jake Sisko continues to lurk around as a  reporter, though his transmissions have been consistently blocked from beaming back home by the station’s bosses.

And, most importantly, Gul Dukat is clearly scheming to gain an upper hand in his arrangement with the Dominion. Dukat, charged with clearing the minefield from the mouth of the wormhole, hasn’t succeeded yet — which, given his friction and resentment at being made second-banana to Weyoun, seems more likely to be a Penelope gambit than an actual result of his inability to sort things out. At the same time, Dukat makes amends with his estranged daughter Ziyal, summoning her back to the station — and it quickly becomes clear that his actions are motivated not out of parental love but rather to give him an emotional lever against Kira, who loves his daughter at least as much as he does.

While I can’t really get terribly invested in Alexander, whose decision to become a Klingon warrior after a lifetime of not making an ounce of effort to become a warrior. But the silent war between Kira and Dukat with Ziyal as the battlefield… I feel like things are going to go very poorly, probably for Ziyal, and I’m dreading whatever will eventually go down there. She’s a good kid who deserves better than whatever machinations her father has decided to implicate her into.