"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.
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.