Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Deep Space Nine, Season 6: Sacrifice of Angels

Deep Space Nine, Season 6http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.html
"Sacrifice of Angels"
Airdate: November 3, 1997
129 of 173 produced
129 of 173 aired

Introduction

The Defiant rushes towards the station and the wormhole, while Kira and crew work to protect the minefield that protects the Aplha Quadrant from the invading Domion horde...

Aww yeah, I'm glad I put this tape in...




Writing

Matthew: So this story arc has had a lot of balls in the air. We have criticized or praised them in past episodes, and this is the one that wraps them up. These story threads are: Odo and the Founder; Dukat and Ziyal; Kira and the resistance on DS9; Sisko and the Federation fleet; Weyoun and the Dominion command structure. Some of these threads see better development and resolution than others. I'll start with what I think is the best - Weyoun and Dukat sparring over control of the war effort. In these scenes, we get to enjoy Dukat's posturing and Weyoun's wily, wry observations. Things reach their climax here, when Weyoun basically warns Dukat against his hubris, and then has his warnings realized in spectacular fashion. Any scene with Weyoun was basically gangbusters. On the other Dukat thread, I enjoyed his breakdown immensely, and found his various monologues to be enlightening of the character and entertaining. But I was a bit baffled by Damar killing Ziyal. Although I quite agree with the thought that she was not going to see much development, I just don't grok Damar's logic. Is he insubordinate, insane, or does he think this is truly best? He knows how much Dukat loves his daughter - how could he see this as working in Dukat's interests, then?

Kevin: I forget where i first heard it, but someone suggested that Dukat should have killed Ziyal. He could have had the same "Noooo!" breakdown, but it would have been more in keeping with his character. That said, and particularly because his failure was actually out of nowhere (more on that later), I really bought his breakdown both plotwise and actingwise. The scenes with Dukat and Weyoun continue to be the best. And I'll say, it's not just the acting. There's a lot of support for the two positions and outlooks in the story, and together they serve to both give the Dominion menace, but an obvious flaw to exploit. I will say that three seasons into them as The Big Bad, and six episodes into the war arc, I feel comfortable saying that as a villain, the Dominion succeeds, and it's largely because of both the large scale and small scale dialogue coming from these two.

Matthew: The Kira story is pretty good. I enjoyed her scenes of scheming, and definitely liked Quark's machinations in securing her release. That said, the scenes with Leeta and Rom were generally bogged down by their presence, and Quark's rescue strategy strains credulity quite a bit. I liked that they failed to save the minefield, since that was a pretty weak story element, anyway. Most of all I like that they were put in jail, finally. It strained my credulity beyond the breaking point that any of them were free, especially after Rom was caught in an act of sabotage. They scheme in a bar in full view and earshot of Cardassians, Vorta, and Jem'Hadar, they carry out operations that imply clear knowledge of the station... it was just too much. I would much rather have had a story of them being on the run, hiding on the station, something more tense and action oriented.

Kevin: I enjoyed watching it, too. In none of the scenes did we get Shouty Kira, and everything felt taut, not overdone. There was a great ambiguity with her scene with Odo after he rescues her that I just loved.

Matthew: The Odo story, which had the chance to be the big linchpin of this story arc, ended on a really anticlimactic note. Prior episodes did not do enough to explore either his identification with the Founder and his removal from humanoid concerns, or his eventual return to care. The event precipitating his return, the Founder's threatened execution of Kira, made no sense. This woman has melded with Odo, read and shared his innermost feelings. How could she possibly think this is a good move? She should have known instantly that he would do exactly what he did, turn coat and try to foil their plans. And so it all just ends of being dramatically inert. Kira hated Odo, now she doesn't. Odo had abandoned his friends, now he didn't.

Kevin: I said this in the podcast, but it would have been fun if she had lied and said that she was already dead. Then the question would be if will he go if he thinks there really is nothing here for him, and will he find out in time. I will say that I like that they laid the groundwork in previous episodes that the Female Changeling rates Odo's return over winning the war, since that's exactly what she chose her. I think it helps the Founders overall since it makes their priorities so fundamentally different as to make them a more interesting adversary.

Matthew: Finally, the Deus Ex Machina of the Prophets disappearing the Dominion fleet really blunts the drama. We've spent in excess of six episodes predicating all the drama on the looming threat, the minefield to pen them in, all the maneuvering and space battling to prevent their incursion. Now, after an interminably boring (as per usual) Prophet scene, poof, they're gone. And no, "He will not find rest there" isn't enough of a dramatic price to justify it, despite whatever interesting parallels to Exodus there might be. If Sisko is going to pay a heavy price for divine intervention, show it to us now, don't just drop a vague hint.  They could have closed the wormhole, which would set up an interesting change for Sisko - going from hero of Bajor to reviled for shutting off their gods. OR they could have killed him. Sent him back in time. Turned him into a Cardassian. Something! This episode is called "Sacrifice of Angels." I want to see somebody sacrifice something, consarn it!

Kevin: I agree that if the alleged cost had been paid immediately, I would have had an easier time buying it. As it stands, it really feels like a let down. An acceptable solution would have also been reclaiming the station but not stopping the Dominion, or really anything that felt like it had a sense of consequence. The joy of the opener of this season was the sense they wouldn't just get the station back, and this definitely detracts from that.

Acting

Matthew: Yet again, Alaimo and Combs steal the show. This is not a bad thing. I'm never going to complain that they overshadow the main cast. They should be the main cast (come to think of it, a partition of the station a la Berlin post WWII would have been sooooooo cool). Anyway, Alaimo switched gears from hubris to breakdown expertly. Combs puts so many unctuous layers on a line reading it's a delight to watch. Their scene together is easily the highlight of the show.

Kevin: If they ever get around to doing a new production of I, Claudius, or any of the Henry or Richard plays for American television, I hope they call these two guys. More than most, their machinations give the politics of DS9 some real life, and that can't be easy in a science fiction setting and under ten pounds of make-up.

Matthew: Salome Jens was pretty good, and Rene Auberjonois was yet again saddled with a character development that didn't have the lines to support it. The same goes for Nana Visitor - I believe her when Kirs doesn't quite trust Odo. I just wish I could see more. Speaking of supporting cast, Casey Biggs is yet again very good as Damar. However I felt about Damar's killing Ziyal, I bought that he bought it.

Kevin: Ever since his first very small role in Return to Grace, Damar has really acted like he wasn't a small character and it really pays off here. There are several scenes that just drip with history, and the sense that he admires Dukat but has a more honest assessment of him that Dukat has of himself and that's a relationship that is just going to be interesting to watch.

Matthew: I think Aron Eisenberg was the best among the Starfleet side of the story. Which goes to show how relatively weak that side of the tale was. Bashir shouldn't have been on the bridge at all, the poetry was lame, and Dax/Worf does nothing for me.


Kevin: In a war story, the most human character usually is the most interesting, so yeah, I agree that Eisenberg really delivers on the balance of resolve to get the job done, but a very understandable apprehension about doing it.

Production Values

Matthew:
Well, there sure were a lot of ships, weren't there? The technical prowess on display was quite impressive, and the choreography of the battle was excellent, with a lot of disernable motion towards a goal, some nifty swooping "camera" moves, and so on. It makes me wish this CGI had been available in service of a better story, like "Yesterday's Enterprise" or "BoBW." I do, however, think that hey went overboard in terms of the closeness of the ships to each other. I don't know how they could even maneuver flying in such tight proximity, let alone fire weapons and hit anyone but friendlies.

Kevin: I agree that the ships are packed too tightly, but I want to point out that even with that, there was still a sense of cinematography and construction to the battle that a certain modern director could really take a lesson from. The oblique angle of the Klingons' arrival was also great, and a great use of the back light of the local star.

Matthew: The wormhole stuff didn't do it for me. In the same way that making the Dominion fleet disappear is dramatically inert, they way they did it on screen was visually inert. The prophet scenes themselves, despite being boring, actually looked pretty decent. They had better lighting and use of close-ups than some prior instances.

Conclusion 

Matthew: This would be a 4 if not for the Deus Ex Machina. There is enough fun and action and development here to justify an above average rating. But man, that ending really lets me down. It's nearly on a level with "it was all a dream" (not quite, of course, because at lest the war continues in much better episodes to follow). So this is a bemusing 3 for me.


Kevin: I agree with the 3 for a total of 6. The Deus Ex Machina really dings this a point for this episode. Still, while we aren't giving a separate score for the arc, I would say that if we were, the episode would get 4s from us, and I get that seems odd given only one episode reached an 8 on our scale, "A Time to Stand," but collectively, these episodes are definitely more than sum of their parts. The scale and scope and ambition is there in buckets and Dukat and Weyoun alone had me tuning in every week with bated breath. I may never pick a single of these episodes to rewatch, but there are many a rainy Saturday afternoon that I could spend watching all these episodes, and that counts for something.

Podcast



5 comments:

  1. I do not consider it a Deus Ex Machina because the Prophets have been a part of the series since the first episode and their protection of Bajor is part of their otherwise inscrutable goals.

    And having the godlike aliens of Bajor destroy the army of the false gods of the Dominion makes a bit of sense thematically.

    But, yes there could have been more cost.

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    1. I agree with the "gods vs. gods" idea, and I think it would have made more sense thematically... if we had ever been shown people in the Alpha Quadrant, let alone Bajor, worshiping the Dominion or the Founders as false gods. But we weren't.

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    2. What protection of Bajor? They werent doing much protecting of Bajor for half a century of Cardassian occupation and genocide. So are we to believe that the only reason they step in now is because their egos as gods are bruised?

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  2. The idea that the Prophets snap a finger and save Sisko and the Federation really irks me. It borders at the use of magic in a Trek show and that is just a no no. Not to mention that their interference to such a scale strikes me as odd. For decades the Prophets watched Bajorans be slaughtered and worked to death by Cardassians and they didnt interfere, but Sisko asks it, and they get rid of - how big was that Jem'hadar fleet? So Deus Ex Machina for sure. Or maybe just pure magic. I dont know which is worse.

    Then again, they do tell Sisko that there is a price to be paid for them having done what they did and he does pay the price later.

    But why? Why would some obscure aliens inhabiting a wormhole in a tiny fraction of the galaxy, if not universe, care about such things? Why would they say if they interfered, it would have to be made up somehow later on to balance it out? Balance what out? What is that "it"? The magical, divine universe that has a plan for all of us in its magical, mysterious ways? Where changing history is a transgression that cannot be allowed? What is that "meant to be" aspect that is always shoved down our throats via the prime directive and then the temporal prime directive in pretty all Trek shows, including ENT?

    I know i am digressing now, but what would be wrong with changing the timeline?

    Saying it cannot and should not be changed implies that there is some kind of a plan, an invisible hand at play that is making things happen for a reason; that there is such thing as fate and pre-determination. That certain things are "meant to be" a certain way and that strikes me as a deeply unenlightened standpoint to hold. We see that all throughout the Trek universe. Temporal Prime directive. You cant change the timeline. But why not? Who said it had to be that way?

    As pertaining to this story: why cant the wormhole aliens not help out Sisko without there being a price he has to pay at some point for their help? Who is gonna care if he is helped? The powers that be? But who are they? What thing is thrown off balance now that they interfered? Who says that the Jem'hadar were MEANT to be defeat the Federation. I know these kinds of philosophical discussions probably go beyond what the Trek writers and creators probably ever thought of when writing these scripts, but it is a worthwhile discussion to be hand no less. For years watching Trek I have taken the Prime Directive and Temporal Prime Directive and not changing timelines for granted and never asked myself why. Once you do start asking yourself why, it all falls apart...

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    1. The Prophets don't perceive of time the way we do. So until they met Sisko the idea of interfering may not have occurred to them in the way you are talking.

      And aliens so powerful they are basically magic has been a part of the series from Kirk and Spock times, like the godlike aliens that had them fight Ghengis Khan with the help of Abraham Lincoln.

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