Thursday, September 4, 2014

Deep Space Nine, Season 5: By Inferno's Light

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Deep Space Nine, Season 5
"By Inferno's Light"
Airdate: February 17, 1997
111 of 173 produced
111 of 173 aired

Introduction

The Dominion fleet is charging through the wormhole. Worf, Garak, and Bashir are still being held by the Dominion. That's all the intro we have time for. That's how intense things are.

Tune in next week! Same Dukat time, same Dukat channel!






Writing

Kevin: It may be partly due that the same writers wrote these episodes at the same time and not separated by a summer break, but this is definitely one of the highest rates of return on the first part of a two-parter I've seen in some time. The tone is consistent and all the plot threads get delivered on and then some. There, again, is a lot going on, but I kind of enjoy the frenetic pace. It underscores, rather than obscures, the stakes. Also, I remember having my mind genuinely blown by the twist at the start of the episode. I may have literally been slack-jawed. What's great about the twist of the Cardassian's joining the Dominion is that while unexpected, it's not ridiculous. The Cardassians are on the brink of collapse and it makes sense that they might make a deal with the devil. The parting conversation between Kira and Dukat was great, too.

Matthew: Dukat's betrayal is a great moment for the character, and his speech upon taking power is his best moment so far in the series. The way Dukat had been softened in recent seasons had defanged the character somewhat, and this returns him to the glorious baddie we really all want him to be. I am very much in agreement on the good story logic of Dukat, an exile, selling out his people to become the dictator of a "rump state." The fact that the speech was actually well-written was icing on the cake. I personally would have liked this story thread to be expanded, at the expense of the anticlimactic "battle" and "star killer" story lines. Why not show us Dukat's family?

Kevin: The prison story is also good. I will agree that the escape plan is a little cute, but they have to get out somehow, and I am not overly bothered by questions about how the technology to do all this was behind a wall, unknown to the Jem'Hadar. It had a neat "Great Escape" feel. What saves the prison plot from merely being an escape story is the focus on Worf. The sense that this was just fighting and hurting without an end or even a benefit gave it a grim quality that made the prison half of the episode feel really taut. The Jem'Hadar version of honor at the end felt of a piece with the stuff we've got in Hippocratic Oath or To the Death, so while convenient, it didn't feel out of nowhere.

Matthew: Some things in this thread I loved, some I didn't. Prison stories generally are enjoyable, in that the turn the screws on the protagonists. Putting Bashir and Garak in a tough spot like this is a welcome idea. That said, don't Jem'hadar know how to count? Or have cameras? Or sensors? There is a grand total of one Cardassian left in the prison. Do none of them notice his absence? Don't these people know to destroy getaway craft in orbit? Less stupid but still in the annoying column was Garak's sudden fear of enclosed spaces. So at the end of the day, this story thread was a bit of a whiff for me. The Worf thread on the other hand was gold. Seeing him be able to cut loose, to really go "full Klingon" without all of the silly pageantry of a full Klingon episode was great.

Kevin: The thwarted plot to destroy the Federation/Klingon/Romulan fleet was great, and a neat inversion of our problem with the last episode. Now we have the fleet here, and it turns out to be a liability. What I appreciate most about this episode is that in refocusing on the Dominion story, it does so by tying up the threads the show has been weaving for about the last two years. The Cardassian and Klingon stories are not simply dropped, they became the catalyst for advancing the Dominion plot. If the Klingons hadn't invaded, Cardassia would not have been crippled and Dukat would not have been put in a position to lead a Dominion fleet to reclaim his position. It's just great political writing by Wolfe and Behr, and the final product is pretty compelling.

Matthew: I found the "climax" to be anticlimactic, personally. Is it clever to have the Dominion foment this sort of plot? Sure. Is it dramatically interesting? Not really. What really bothered me was the completely unnecessary add-on of the "star killer" storyline. Introduced and dispensed with in the space of 5 minutes, this was really something suited to a full episode. That it is never mentioned again adds insult to the injury.

Acting

Kevin: I don't actually have  a lot to say on the main cast. The first episode had more emotional moments, so the action focus narrowed what the actors had to do. Michael Dorn has the most to do, and he really delivered. He had to portray a lot with not much dialogue and he really nailed the swirling combination of his battle lust and growing injury and fatigue.

Matthew: What did it for me with Dorn was the combat. This may well be the first time that hand to hand combat in Trek has looked anywhere close to real. The only line reading I didn't like was "I'll be waiting!" Anyway, the physicality he brought to it totally sold me on the character's journey.

Kevin: The guest cast was good, but I will single out James Horan as Ikat'ika and Ray Buktenica as Deyos. Deyos in particular really nailed "officious jackass warden" and I just really wanted to punch him the whole time he was on screen. So, well done.

Matthew: Horan's delivery of "I cannot beat him" was excellent. Truly excellent. It was a shame that he was shot afterward. I would have liked to see this Jem'Hadar return.

Production Values

Kevin: All the praise for last week's sets and effects stands, and I don't have a lot to add, but that's not a criticism. I know we talk a lot in the podcast about the "cut and paste" feel to the fleet effects, but I appreciate that they at least did it. Even a less than perfect version was better than having it only merely described.

Matthew: There was just an "off" look to the 3-dimensional movement of the fleets, as if there were several 2-d planes of ships moving around with no common perspective point. It's one of those things that few would be able to put their finger on, except for "just looking wrong."

Conclusion

Kevin: For the energy and focus and the narrative work it achieves for the season and the series as a whole, I am happy to give this a 5 again. I always love watching this and still feel that sense of intensity and momentum. When they are freed of the attempt to tell TNG stories in a painfully non-TNG setting, this show sings.

Matthew: I think the invasion "climax" is anything but, the star killer storyline was superfluous, and the prison break strained my credulity. But the Worf story was excellent and the Dukat story was thrilling. So in the balance I give it a 4 for a total of 9.

Podcast


1 comment:

  1. I agree about your thoughts on this episode. I especially liked the fight between Ikat'ika and Worf. I also agree that Ikat'ika yielding is one of my favorite lines as well. But I also agree that the runabout just sitting there in space always seems stupid.

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