Monday, December 5, 2016

Deep Space Nine, Season 7: Once More Unto the Breach Space Nine, Season 7
Airdate: November 11, 1998
155 of 173 produced
155 of 173 aired


Worf is approached by a living legend, Kor, in search of a final glorious command with the Klingons. But Kor's advanced age ends up proving a liability in battle.

Cry havoc! And let slip the... something something...


Kevin: There's a tendency in shows that know the end is coming to do a lot of follow up stories. It happened in TNG and now it's happening here. The risk is that the story will not have its own life, but will be dictated to by the needs of tying everything up. I think this episode manages to avoid that pitfall pretty cleaning. One key contributing is the acting, but in terms of stories, this episode does a lot well in its own right. It brings back a fun character, and it ties his needs in the episode to his first appearance in "Blood Oath" really well. There, like here, he is gearing up for One Last Battle. In Blood Oath, he was clearly enjoying himself, where here, he starts to seem resigned. It's a nice arc and it gives us a look at Kor's interior life, and Klingon society in general.

Matthew: As an episode that focuses almost solely on an alien race, this was definitely more interesting than most. Aging is a fun theme, as is social stratification. And the character has been used several times in two series, to good effect. So I was reasonably invested the whole time. I didn't really understand the climactic battle scene in which Kor loses his marbles. Why did it take Worf clocking him and telling the crew to retreat for them to actually retreat? Martok, the SUPREME COMMANDER of Klingon forces, could audibly be heard yelling the same, several times over. I also thought not showing Kor dying at all, even briefly, was a bit lame. Not even on sensors? An Okudagram?

Kevin: We also get an interesting look at Martok's life. Back in "Way of the Warrior," Worf mentions the House of Martok as being an honored one, which seems to make his new peasant background a touch of a retcon, but I don't mind too much the idea that even in such a lineage obsessed society, there isn't some room for advancement on merit. It also gives Kor a great line dismissing the Federation's democratic ideals. It was nice to be reminded that the writers remembered they built a very different society than the Federation and it should play out differently. Martok's lingering resentment gives him both a basis we can latch on to for not wanting Kor around, and it gives his grudging respect to him more depth as well. Part of what makes the episode work, especially around a bunch of Klingons, is that there aren't a lot in the way of BIG character moments, just a lot of little but more successful ones. The scene in the mess hall mocking Kor and the scene on the bridge honoring him really do a great job of investing me in what both Kor and Martok are feeling.

Matthew: Yep, this is a retcon. The House of Martok was so noble and honored that Worf joined it, and Martok married one of the doyennes of Klingon high society. But as retcons go, it's an enjoyable one. This Martok is far more interesting than the original one, and it gives the actor something to sink his teeth into. And, at the end of the day, it's not wholly incompatible with the previous story - maybe his valor was enough to help him rise in society. Kor's line about the democratic rabble was easily the line of the show, because it draws meaningful contrasts between cultures, and shows how far Work has gone in assimilating the values of his adopted culture over his birth culture. But yeah, the scene in which the crew members make fun of Kor for aging was both tough to watch and really illuminating of the culture. I liked Kor's parting line to them, too, about the fruits of life turning bitter with age.

Kevin: Lastly, I think the nuts and bolts of the episode work as a story. It's a nice, tightly defined package. By design, it's just a small part of a broader strategy, but by design, we won't get too much of that. There's also the blessed lack of a B-plot. Everything gets the room it needs to breathe. Secondary character work also helped fill out the hour. Darok is my favorite and who I would be if I were a Klingon, the needs of my ego not withstanding. "If they succeed, you can drink to their courage. If they can still drink to their courage," was just a great line. The loop in of the Alamo story was better than I thought it would be. It helps that they had introduced the Alamo program before, so it wasn't ham-fisted. I'm not sure how much I agree with Worf's summation on the death of legends, but it certainly didn't distract from the story, and I always appreciate a solid attempt at thematic organization.

Matthew: I don't understand why Quark still has a thing for Dax. Like, Ezri is hot in her own way. I get that. And Jadzia was certainly a statuesque woman. But why would the feelings carry over so strongly? Quark doesn't strike me as someone who could pop a space-boner over someone's inner character.


Kevin: Overall, the writing did a good job of sketching out the character work without overwhelming the story, so it's up to the actors to give it some life, and they come through in spades. Colicos does a great job again of pitching the performance we first saw back in TOS for the TNG/DS9 universe. I bought his battle lust, his disorientation, his shame, and then his resolve and I was invested the whole time. Hertzler, likewise, did a bang up job with Martok's arc as well. Not for the first time, and partly because of the episode's title, I am reminded how Shakespearean the Klingons can be, and if nothing else, this was really good Shakespeare.

Matthew: I think Hertzler's was the performance that sold the episode for me. I could have just been bored by an extended non-human tale. But retcon or not, he acted the heck out of it, and I completely believed his long-simmering jealousy and animosity. It didn't cheapen his character in the slightest, either. John Colicos was excellent, as you say. He really was able to convey someone who was still a force to be reckoned with, but only in flashes.

Kevin: The other Klingon actors did a good job of acting through the make-up. Everyone seemed really invested. Neil Vipond does a great job as Darok. I like that he's starstruck by Kor but after his fall, he can still see past the legend to help the man. Also, I just love good sarcastic banter, and he and Hertzler have it down to a science.

Matthew: I would say Dorn did what he needed to as Worf. In part the script didn't give him anything terrific, and in part I get he feeling he was letting the other actors shine a bit. It was a workmanlike performance.

Production Values

Kevin: I would say this continues to be on the high end of 90s CGI work. We know it's CGI but it's not distracting or super-dated as it might be. The attack run on Trelka V was well staged and the camera angles were really cool. The explosion work was good as well. I understand for story reasons why we don't see the final battle with Kor, but I still kind of wanted to see it. Overall, the effects were good in a way they needed to be, and underscored the battles that gave the story some stakes, but did not distract from the story at hand.

Matthew: The base attack was terrific. It was the best use of BoP ships in the franchise, because they really seemed fast and maneuverable, truly dangerous. The base looked mainly just OK, but the angles and choreography were really what sold it. By the way, if you want to lose a few minutes truly nerding out, check out this piece debating the true size of the BoP ship.

Kevin: I liked the Bird of Prey set. It's dark without going nuts, and the claustrophobic sense was really there. Especially in the crowded mess room scenes, you just get this crushing sense of too many bodies in too small a space.

Matthew: I think the makeup deserves a shout-out. They made each Klingon look individual, and the clothing on the principal characters was rich and interesting.


Kevin: I am going with a 4, almost on the strength of acting alone. It's just a well plotted and well placed story watching two men in very different positions at the sunsets of their careers deal with each other. There are no overwrought realizations or even a face-to-face thaw, just a very interesting hour spent watching them navigate their own feelings and prejudices. It's probably one of my favorite stories that attempts to do a focused character piece during the war effort.

Matthew: I agree on the 4. This was an average hour of television story-wise, and it didn't do much to advance the overall DS9 story, but J.G. Hertzler and John Colicos really nailed their characters' histories and tension. The end result deepens the characterization of the Klingons. That makes our total an 8.

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