Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Deep Space Nine, Season 6: Rocks and Shoals Space Nine, Season 6
"Rocks and Shoals"
Airdate: October 6, 1997
125 of 173 produced
124 of 173 aired


When Sisko and his crew crash land on a deserted planet, they find themselves up against a frazzled group of Jem'Hadar and their wily Vorta commander.

The spies who came in from the quarry


Matthew:  I have really mixed feelings about this one. I can recognize, on the one hand, its bevy of well-done elements. But there are some things which really nag me. First and foremost is how reminiscent this episode is of "The Ship." Part of this is exacerbated by its having been filmed in the same location, but the basic elements of the story are the same, too. An untrustworthy Vorta, a standoff between Federation and Jem'Hadar, an injured crew member  (the utterly arbitrary and inorganic injury to Dax). Granted, the point is different, and probably better (lack of trust vs. blind obedience). But then, the episode also gives itself an internal problem it its setup - several instances exist of the Jem'Hadar questioning or outright disobeying orders (questioning the landing, protesting the white distribution, firing on the Starfleet troops against orders), but then rests its final point on the blind obedience the Jem'Hadar demonstrate for someone they know is selling them out. A second more minor concern is the vagueness of the mechanism by which these crews are stranded together. I get that our heroes' ship was damaged - but what of the other Jem'Hadar ship? Was this one of the pursuers, or some third ship that just happened to be there? Their inability to communicate was pretty arbitrary, too.

Kevin: I have more unalloyed good feelings about this one. I like pretty much everything about it. The comparison to "The Ship" highlights what I like in this one so much. Rather than some rather forced attempts to make the crew snap at each other, we instead see them grapple with their ethics, one of Trek's favorite pasttimes. I get the too cute set up. How did two ships crash on the same planet, let alone in walking distance of said planet, but I kind of don't care. Everyone acts rationally and in character, so I have no complaints, and really liked watching them discuss and deal with things. I also liked having Garak there to throw some cold water on their hand wringing. As for Dax, I am less annoyed since it was a concession to Terry Farrell's skin condition that prevents her from being able to be in direct sunlight for any length of time.

Matthew: I do like quite a bit how Machiavellian Keevan is about the situation. His final line is quite nice, and I like his argument overall to Sisko about why the Jem'Hadar need to be put down (another line that belies their supposed obedience). I will say, though, that his motivations are somewhat murky. Why does he need to survive so badly? Does he know he can be cloned? Does he value his own life over the Founders' intentions, whatever these are? Anyway, it's always interesting to see the personalities of non-human races put into such stark contrast with what we're used to.

Kevin: Collectively, even though it's not handled perfectly, I enjoy a lot of the exploration we get around both Vorta and Jem'Hadar obedience and self-determination. There's a tension between mindless and therefore unresponsive automatons and being so aware they question their servitude, the Dominion equivalent of the Asmiov's rules of robotics, if you will. We've said several times when they pull the alternate timeline/clone/etc card that the other copy should have as much desire to live and not simply step aside for the other (See Voyager's Deadlock), so I don't mind Keevan having enduring desire to live. I think the Jem'Hadar walk the line well, storywise. They may lapse in their discipline because of their withdrawal, but that falls short of a premeditated choice to disobey orders. I think that cleaves the baby pretty neatly, actually.

Matthew: The station B plot is pretty good. Yes, it has absolutely nothing to do with the A plot. Yes, this bothers me. But the basic irony is a compelling one - for perfectly good reasons that any viewer would tend to agree with, Kira has become exactly what she hates, a collaborator. The suicide was a bit ham-handed. Could no one with even a passing interest in it have prevented the setup process for a noose being tied and hung on the promenade? Could Odo not have simply held her up with a bendy arm stretch? Could the medical facilities on the station not simply have cured the broken neck? Nonetheless, I enjoyed the Vedek sticking it to Kira on her apparent lack of principle, and think it's a really nice moment for the character.

Kevin: I love this plot to pieces. I agree the Vedek's suicide was a bit fast and neat as a plot device, but everything just sang, otherwise. I like that both Kira's acquiescence to and then resistance to the Dominion are pitched so gracefully, something I think both from a real-world writer's perspective and an in-world character perspective, they could not have done in earlier seasons. No matter what you told first season Kira is at stake, she would be unable to not just start blowing shit up. Here, even once she realizes that she must do something, that it has been done more artfully that the Bajoran resistance of the past. Even a line like clearly not blaming Odo for whatever role he is taking in the administration is nicely pitched, and a sign of real growth. This is really some great story telling. It heightens the stakes of the story by telling a good character story.


Matthew: Brooks keeps the ham in check until his penultimate line reading. I liked most of his negotiation with the Jem'Hadar. I wasn't terribly sold on the "camaraderie" scenes with stage laughter and such. I think Aron Eisenberg and Andrew Robinson had some nice bits together, and would like seeing them together more in the future.

Kevin: That scene of Garak and Nog was just gangbusters. It's a nice piece of continuity for the fan and a nice piece of growth for the character. More than any other, Nog still has the patina of "Yay, Starfleet is awesome! Woohoo!" on him, and watching him reconcile that with the reality of the war is going to pay real dividends for the character.

Matthew: On the Jem'Hadar side of the equation, both of the principal actors did a whale of a job. Christopher Shea was an excellent swishy, self-absorbed Vorta, and Phil Morris was excellent as Remata'Klan (I am getting really tired of names with apostrophes in them, by the way).

Kevin: I loved Keevan. Combs must really be teaching a class at the Learning Annex on how to be menacing and effete at the same time. There's about a half dozen medieval period dramas that they could all be in and I would eat it up with a spoon.

Matthew: I think Nana Visitor was quite good. Her world-weariness was really nicely played. I Will say this though - whatever they're doing to her hair, in concert with her uniform, her narrow shoulders, and some extreme close-ups, makes her head look like it's the size of a Risian beach ball.

Kevin: I agree on the acting job on this one. She's really soft landed a lot of what could have easily been shouted. I particularly liked her line reading with Jake about the Vorta facilitators. It had hints of it sounding like she had repeated it to herself several times, and it landed with just the right amount of credulity and incredulity. I also want to give a shout out to Lilyan Chauvin as Yasim, she just had gravity to spare.

Production Values

Matthew: The visual effects side of things was really good. The shots of the damaged Jem'Hadar ship were superb, and they looked great both from orbit and when they crashed. There was a nice shot of the burning ship sinking, and several green-screened vistas that were well realized.

Kevin: The shot of the ship entering the atmosphere was great, and I liked the sinking ship long shot. The distance helped obscure any detail problems.

Matthew: This is a fabulous location, and it was really well utilized. That said, choosing it for the location of this episode heightened the similarity to "The Ship," which also used this quarry location. Speaking of quarries - did this obviously look like a quarry? Yes. Did I care? No.

Kevin: I think my favorite shot was the wide shot of the prisoner exchange. Even in big sets, you don't get that kind of distance and vantage, so in addition to just being a gorgeous and interesting set, the director deserves credit for using it to the fullest.


Matthew: I can't shake the feeling I've seen this episode before. "The Ship" was substantially similar, but so were several Jem'Hadar stories in which their adherence to duty is emphasized. As such, I feel like a lot of what we have here, though quite well done, falls into the sort of "asked and answered" category. I feel solidly entertained, but not dazzled. So it's a 3 for me.

Kevin: I get "The Ship" comparison, but think it really improves on it. Coupled with a really taut B plot and some stunning technical work, I have no problem giving this a 4, for a total of 7.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with Kevin's analysis on this episode. I, too, love everything about it - the A and B story alike. Honesty, I dont let stuff like how the two ships crash on the same planet and in walking distance of one another, bother me, nor do I, in fact, care. This episode is, as Kevin put, about the exploration we get around both Vorta and Jem'Hadar obedience and self-determination. In the B plot it is about what the breaking point for Kira is to finally get out of her collaborator mode.

    I thought the scenes showing her go through her routine - wake up with the alarm at 5 am, get ready, get into the turbo-lift populated with Jem'Hadar - resembling a full elevator of suits being shuffled to their offices - getting her raktajino from her Cardassian assistant - and the repetition thereof after the Vedek commits suicide, very powerful and effective. I like the "inner life" that is explored, the struggle and the breaking point of what finally makes her realize that she needs to do something about it. That she cant live with herself like this.

    Yeah sure she could have gotten up one day deciding those Deominion sons of bitches are going down, but it wouldnt have been as believable and as effective as actually exploring what got her to finally see that she needed to do something here, play her part in saving the Alpha Quadrant.

    As to the A plot: I note ego and self love in the Vorta - especially in this one here Keevan - that I do not notice in the Jem'Hadar. They really cast the actor who plays him very well. You note right away that he is somewhat of a deviant. That away from the watchful eyes of the damn shapeshifters, he is the master of his little kingdom of subservient and obedient Jem'Hadar who he is more than willing to sacrifice if it means saving his own skin. There is a rather untypical-for-Vorta irreverence about him, which I like.

    I mean he knows that he will have to commit suicide if captured (as we find out later in The Magnificent Ferengi where he is not too happy with the prisoner exchange, knowing fully well what awaits him once he goes back) but he doesnt do it. He doesnt off himself, Instead he banks on becoming a POW and spending the rest of his life in a cushy Federation prison. He doesnt wanna die for the cause, he doesnt believe in the "order of things" - especially if it is to his detriment,

    The question of why he needs to survive so badly is exactly the point then, isnt it? Because from what we know about the Vorta, he should want to just die for the glorious Founders blah blah blah, not be captured but commit suicide. Yet, here is one Vorta who doesnt want to be that and that is what makes it interesting.

    Contrast that with the Jem'Hadar who know exactly what fate awaits them and they still go out, willingly and enthusiastically, to be killed, because that is "the order of things." They dont have an ego, no sense of self preservation. We already know that. They are nothing but automatons, mindless killing machines, bred to serve the Founders and then discarded. They have no other value to anyone and thus not even to themselves.

    The self deprecation of the Jem'Hadar stands in stark contrast to Keevan's desire to make it and live and it is interesting because of these are supposed to be the absolute and most loyal subjects and minions of the Founders.