Thursday, September 24, 2015

Deep Space Nine, Season 6: Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.htmlDeep Space Nine, Season 6
"Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night"
Airdate: March 28, 1998
139 of 173 produced
139 of 173 aired

Introduction

Kira consults the Orb of Time to determine whether or not her mother was a collaborator, and whether she had an affair with Gul Dukat.

It's a good thing I still find you the most attractive. Otherwise, that chick over there would go all Marty McFly on us.






Writing

Kevin: So there's a problem to get out of the way right up front, and the its name rhymes with Schmorb of Schmime. Once, in "Trials and Tribble-ations," it was cute enough, since the whole episode was such an exercise anyway the very forced nature of the setup could be forgiven. Doing it again starts to strain credulity. I suppose they could have had her consult one of the other orbs, like Wisdom or Shocking Plot Twists or whathaveyou, but then there would be no stakes, I suppose. They do at least discuss the problems constantly consulting the Orb of Time present and try to paper over it by suggesting the Prophets have some direct hand in its operation, but I am still annoyed. I did like that toward the end of the conversation, she called Sisko "Emissary." That was a nice touch.

Matthew: Yeah, the setup was pretty bland, kind of out of the out-of-nowhere-retcon hall of fame. Dukat somehow contacts Kira out of the blue, and suddenly has had a relationship with Kira's mom. It smacks a bit too much of the "everybody is related to everybody else" sort of problem. Honetly, not every character story needs to tie in neatly with every other. Are we supposed to believe a blowhard like Dukat has never let slip even an inkling of this before now? Why would he keep it a secret? Respect? Care? This is never developed. And yes, the Orb of Time is a lazy cheat in the highest degree. But at least it goes quickly, and we don't need a prophet scene to explain it.

Kevin: The other potential problem, I think they actually manage to duck pretty cleanly: why does this episode exist? Does this reveal really add to the universe? I think it does if only because it becomes a kind of odd companion to "Duet" and "Collaborator." In the first, she learned to let go of the hatred of Cardassians, in the second her veneration of the Kai combined with the deeply personal nature of her loss for the greater good kind of takes Opaka out of the realm of mere collaborator. Here, we get to deal with a much more gray set of choices and consequences. Is Meru just making the best of a bad situation? At some point does it cross a line? Kira doesn't answer these questions outright, and I think that's good, too. This is a complicated question, and we've explored it well with other figures in the Occupation. Kira would readily admit she is not proud of all her own actions during the Occupation, but would qualify them in the context of the choice she needed to make to survive. Is it such a jump to extend the same dispensation to her mother? Or does the fact that her compromises are wrapped in a prettier package diminish it? It's a fun idea, and I think it manages to expand the character of Kira enough to make the episode worth the time.

Matthew: I simply did not buy Kira's decision to murder her own mother. Of course, she went back on it within 3 minutes of screen time, so whatever. As you say, she has already come to terms in past stories with the nature of collaboration, her prejudicial feelings towards Cardassians, and the like. This felt like a step backward. I mean, I can see that it being her mother would maybe put her off her game emotionally, but going from "off your game" to "murder closest relative" is a pretty big jump, and I don't think the story did enough work to justify it. It even seems like she doesn't learn enough by the end - the Prophets apparently deemed her request worthy, presumably so she could learn something - but did she? She says she ended up not killing Meru not because she understood her position, but because she was her mother.

Kevin: The new look at the Occupation was entertaining enough, if not exactly illuminating. We know from Tora Naprem that Dukat kept Bajoran mistresses, adding the layer of forced prostitution is certainly credible, but it wasn't like we needed any additional evidence that the Occupation was bad. We've covered this part of history before, but it certainly had more life than say, "Things Past," so I can't be too mad, I suppose. I always assumed that the attempt Kira ultimately saves Dukat from is the one he referenced in "Waltz," so it felt like an actual rather than a retconned story. It does put an extra-creepy retroactive spin on Dukat's seeming obsession with Kira's opinion of him. I would have liked the episode more if we learned something dramatic about Dukat as well.

Matthew: I think this episode tried to say something really interesting about comfort women, which is an interesting topical reference that raises consciousness about war crimes. But I don't really think this episode succeeded. For one thing, compensating the comfort women blunts the horror of it. For another, they punked out on actually making Kira go through with it. But most of all, by making Meru's decision so obviously right (she has little choice, Kira gains five pounds, Dukat treats her superbly), a lot of drama is left off the page.

Kevin: This is something that's been nagging me since I first saw it in one of the DVD extras and discussing goes in this section. Apparently, earlier ideas had Nerys and Dukat having some kind of relationship and Visitor basically put her foot down, so this story idea was the compromise. So, I must reasonably ask, WHAT HELL WRITING STAFF, REALLY? WHOSE IDEA WAS THAT? SERIOUSLY. It costs me a little respect for them that it got to the "actress putting her foot down" stage.

Acting

Kevin: I think Visitor does a good job with the range of emotions and the internal struggle to first dismiss Dukat's claims then deal with their reality. She did a really good job of anchoring the story. Much like "Duet," I think there's a reliability to the idea that finding out a loved one has a darker past than you knew, and it shows in the performance. There was a real softness to her watching the Kira family when she first encounters them that played very nicely, too. And like "Ties of Blood and Water," her last scene really makes the whole episode for me.

Matthew: Yeah, Visitor was good, and I bought every emotional development until her decision to murder her mother. It just wasn't on the page, so she couldn't convince me on the stage. I think what I really enjoyed was her look of barely being restrained during her "comfort woman" scenes. I wish those scenes had given her more to bite into.

Kevin: Leslie Hope was good as Kira Meru. I bought her internal conflict. It helps that she and Nana Visitor either as a result of styling, make-up, or genetics really looked related. They had a good rapport, much like Tony Todd and Avery Brooks did in "The Visitor" where another pair of close-in-age actors had to credibly play parent and child. I also liked that they brought back Thomas Kopache as Kira Taban. That was a nice touch.

Matthew: Totally agreed on Hope. I will say, they didn't make up or cast he actors to truly appear malnourished, so I missed a bit of that. But she sold her character's angle.

Kevin: It's fun to see Dukat in his prime. He really nailed the self-congratulatory slime of it all, didn't he? There's a layer to his performance that makes you believe that Dukat believes his own PR and it makes it skin-crawling in a good way to watch. The Bajoran collaborator was good for me, too. It would be too rosy to paint every collaborator as Opaka, or even Kubus Oak who tried to defend his actions as ultimately harm reduction, it's credible to see one guy just enthusiastically in it for himself.

Matthew: Alaimo really has no problem with anything, does he? It's a subtle thing to ask an actor to play himself 20 years prior, have it be different, but still completely recognizable. He did his typically excellent job of seeming sincere even while we completely distrust him. I kind of loved David Bowe as the pimp. What a great casting choice - you hated him before he even spoke a full line, but he was completely believable and real.

Production Values

Kevin: We here at Treknobabble are firmly on record as preferring long-haired Kira, and this episode is certainly one more piece of evidence in its favor. I liked a lot of the Bajoran clothing this time. None of it read to too-consciously granola, and the evening wear was appropriately tacky but not so much that it was distracting. Beyond that, it was largely a bottle show. I did like the little touch of the LCARS panels behind Dukat, since he is still in the stolen shuttle from the Honshu. Little stuff like that tickles me.

Matthew:  One production note that really stuck out for me was the way they made Dukat look younger. There were subtle differences in the makeup, and a stark difference in the slick hair, that really sold it. I thought otherwise that things were pretty much in keeping with other "time travel to Terok Nor" episodes in the past. The lighting in the comfort party scene was nice, indicating a strong sunlight source, since the station is in planetary orbit.

Conclusion

Kevin: On the strength of the acting and the atmosphere I am this close to a four, but the set up and lack of learning more than we do, I think this still has to be a three. It may be my personal fondness for the Kira character talking, but I always enjoy watching this episode.

Matthew: I flirted with a 4, too, but the overall "did this story need to exist" question is never satisfyingly answered. It all smacked of retconning, and an inelegant one at that. But then, they didn't even mine the comfort women situation for all the drama it could have possessed. It was rather toothless. Nonetheless, some excellent acting and nice small details keep this a watchable 3, for a total of 6.

4 comments:

  1. I actually liked this episode a lot. It was kind of a flashback type of thing covering the occupation. And that is what the orbs seemed to serve. The writers wanted to go into the past, show what happened and used the orbs as the mechanism. See that's the great thing about religion: you can make shit up as you go and since logical explanation is never expected, it really doesnt matter if it makes sense. When you believe in prophets and gods, prayer, holy emissaries and magic basically ,I dont expect much else. So I didnt let the orb crap and Bajoran religion nonsense bother me too much. I take those as a given.

    I loved the flash back and that Kira's past was explored and that we got a real glimpse of the occupation and its horrors. This episode added to Kira's character and story so in that sense I guess it had to be told.

    I didnt think compensating comfort women blunted the horrors of it. If anything, it was very en par with the way the Cardassians have been handling this occupation - do horrible things but then try to soften the blow by also doing something nice. It the MO of Dukat since day one actually. His horrible acts always seem to be ameliorated by some of the not-so-horrible things he did. Like he had a bunch of people executed on the promenade for allegedly trying to assassinate him but also advocated for more food rations for the Bajorans.

    Compensating the women actually shows the horror of the occupation and how systematic it was. Yeah sure they could have just killed their families and forced them to fuck them but the Cardassians were not Nazis. They werent as blunt and crass. Their goal was not extermination of Bajorans, it was submission and control and basically being able to treat them as slaves. The goal was the creation of an apartheid regime whereby an entire race is subjugated to serve their masters. I am sure if annihilation was their goal, they didnt need 50 years.

    Remember the speech he gave to Weyoun about how the true test of winning a war is not killing the other side but to show them they were wrong to oppose you at all? Compensating these women was true to that policy if you so will.

    Anyway, I really loved the scenes between Kira and her mother, like when she caresses her face and touches her scar. And the disgusted look on her face when she realizes her mother may actually enjoy sleeping with Dukat.

    I also loved that the dilemma those women faced was explored. It is easy to judge Meru, but what would others have done if their children were starving? Their husbands worked to death? This is an amazing and powerful episode actually. In many ays. Even its title is beautiful and poetic. A 6 is selling way short.

    That said I did not buy that Dukat had an affair with Kira's mother and hid it all this time. It doesnt make sense, especially since he would have mentioned it. This was obviously a decision the writers made just now and not something they had planned when they started out. The other thing I find hard to believe is that Meru actually enjoyed being with him.

    But what really gives me the chills is that Meru still is said to have died in the refugee camp years later, which tells me that when Dukat was done with her, he just disposed off her and she ended up as refuse in some refugee camp and died, probably of starvation or some disease the Cardassians refused to treat. That is the truly chilling and horrifying part of all of this. I am surprised no one, neither Sisko nor Kira, wondered about it. Maybe the writers forgot about it. Whatever it was, it truly displayed the level of evil of not only Dukat but that of the entire occupation of Bajor by Cardassia.

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