Monday, March 6, 2017

Deep Space Nine, Season 7: Strange Bedfellows
Deep Space Nine, Season 7
"Strange Bedfellows"
Airdate: April 21, 1999
167 of 173 produced
167 of 173 aired


Damar is pushed to his breaking point by the manipulations of Weyoun. Kai Winn discovers just how far her lust for power will push her to go. Also, some stuff happens to Worf, Dax, Sisko, and Kasidy.

Mirror, mirror on the wall... who's the most reminiscent of congressional Republicans circa 2017 of them all?


Kevin: This episode probably has the most difficult job of the arc thus far. All the threads of the story have been securely established and the stakes laid out in the previous two episodes. We'll get to the next episode in due course, but that one definitely will feel like the climactic end of an Act I of this end of the series drama, so this episode is left in a bit of a bind, trying to analyze it on its own. Pieces have to be moved around and the story primed for the climax that is coming, but nothing new is really introduced, and nothing is really resolved. That's not a criticism per se, it's just a fact. The best an episode at this place in the line up can do it turn up the temperature on the various plots, and I think it does that. I'll start with the best of the threads in this episode, Damar's nascent rebellion. They did a good job of making the grind of Dominion dismissal feel realistic, to the point you almost sympathize with the guy. The not only uneven, but unknown terms of the Breen Alliance, the vague double-speak assurance of "dealing with" the Septimus situation, and the restructuring of the pecking order to put Thot Gor over him just felt like the perfect knife twist. It works so well because we see Weyoun act like he is winning, but we know that picking at his pride is the exact way to get Damar to react. It all works so well because it makes every one in this story a credible person. Their character strengths and weakness all fit together and make the story complex and interesting.

Matthew: I found the Kai Winn/Dukat story to be the best part of this episode, but the Damar part wasn't far behind. His unvarnished "I will not!" followed by Weyoun's brusque putdowns and manipulation really worked, and in just the way you say, to make his rebellion make sense. It's not an entirely rational decision. Damar doesn't come to it because he thinks the Dominion will lose. He comes to it because he can't stand to be demeaned and humiliated any more - which makes total sense for a society steeped in such fascistic machismo. You could imagine Mussolini betraying Hitler for similar reasons. I do find the cloning thing to be a bit odd, with many unresolved questions. It allows for a funny death scene without nixing one of the series' great characters, but I just want to know more. How much does the new one know? Do they download memories or something, a la "The Schizoid Man?" To me, this is a big potential sci-fi nugget that gets wasted.

Kevin: The Winn/Dukat story continues to be just a lovely exercise in creeping out and fascinating the audience. This one works because rather than just focus on Dukat manipulating Winn, we get some interesting insight into Winn's character. Her interpretation of her actions and beliefs may be painfully self-serving, but they aren't completely irrational. She's always been ambitious, but you probably don't get to be the head of a planetary confederation of factionalized religious beliefs without really wanting it. Kira's advice is both accurate and straightforward. If she thinks her ambition has led her astray then she has to abandon it, but she can't. Again, like Damar, the writing (and moreso the acting) make you come closer than you'd think to if not sympathizing with her, at least gaining an understanding. What I really like about this story is it confirms Winn is on board. There were two fulcrums in this story. What will she do when she finds out it's the Pah Wraiths she's working for and what will she do when she finds out it's Dukat? Now we have an answer to the first. She'll go willingly. The delicious absurdity of watching Dukat manipulate Winn goes to the next level when is now at least a partially willing puppet. In a way, her arc is an interesting counterpoint to Damar's. Both are confronted with their least flattering character traits on a path they did not intend to walk, and their stories turn on what they decide to do about that.

Matthew: Perhaps even more now than then (though writers must surely have been getting a whiff of it), the question of what or whom you will sell your soul to in the interest of gaining power is a potent one. We learn about Winn what we have always known - that she is not a true believer. Now, this is an odd position to be sure, because these are literal gods who have unambiguously acted to alter Bajoran history, but whatever. What have they done for Kai Winn lately? Posing as a pious person bought her a certain modicum of power, but she has had to share it with an unbelieving alien for too long. In some ways, her story parallels Damar's story - and she makes the opposite choice. He decides he won't get fucked by the enemy any more for a promised share of power, she decides she will.

Kevin: All I'll say in favor of the Worf/Ezri stuff is they clearly concluded it, thank God. I also like that they both acknowledge sleeping together was a mistake and that Worf does not feel for Ezri what he felt for Jadzia. All of that is interesting, and had they gotten here without making Worf a dick, it would be a way better story.

Matthew: Yeeeaaahh. They ended it. They acknowledged it was a mistake. So that's something. I wish they could have gone a bit further into Ezri's motivations, perhaps the fact that she doesn't feel entirely in control of her own faculties with the influence of the symbiont overpowering her. Or something. Speaking of inconsequential aspects of this plot, the Sisko/Kasidy stuff was minor and mostly pointless.


Kevin: Combs and Biggs deliver some of their best work in the series. Combs makes thinly veiled threats with the skill of a master, and watching Damar throw the drink in the mirror in disgust felt genuine and affecting, rather than hammy, which it easily could have been.  Also, Damar laughing about Worf killing Weyoun just delights me.

Matthew: The way Combs talks Damar back from his more provocative statements - in a way that both defuses a potential conflict but also affirms his superiority, is masterful. And Biggs nails simmering rage. So yeah, they make these scenes absolutely crackle with energy and viewer interest, which is about the best thing you can say of actors, isn't it?

Kevin: Fletcher and Alaimo keep knocking it out of the park. Almost every one of Fletcher's lines would have sounded ridiculous in the hands of a less skilled villain. With her they are enjoyably, deliciously ridiculous. I also enjoyed Martok's soliloquy on the combative nature of relationships. I kind of want to see him and Sirella do a Hepburn/Tracy remake...

Matthew: I notice you neglect to mention Dorn and deBoer. Which is pretty fair. They added almost nothing here. Their tension is unconvincing. It's interesting how bland the main cast has become in comparison to the four characters featured in this final arc. I think Alaimo does lay it on a bit thick, but Louise Fletcher really gives us a window into her character's soul - and though it is subtle, it isn't pretty.

Production Values

Kevin: There wasn't a lot here that was new or effects heavy, but we get a nice diversity of sets. Our complaints about the smallness of Cardassian HQ may, at this point, be taken as read.

Matthew: Yep, nothing new is really done here. I find the Breen rather uninteresting and generic. Their ship is OK to look at. Most of the sets were pretty lackluster. The Kai is confined to DS9, which is getting pretty old for me by now. I was never annoyed by a bottle show on TNG, but DS9 just bores me as a location. Next episode, Winn and Dukat will get a much more interesting set to inhabit.


Kevin: I'm stuck between a 3 and a 4. For an episode that largely moves the final pieces into place for a more explosive story next week, there's a lot here to like, and the two main arcs for the villains both do really good work that is well grounded in their established character traits. The weakest link was again Worf and Ezri, but at least it was brief and Worf wasn't a jerk. I think this makes it over the line into the 4.

I think the acting by the big four definitely pushes this to a 4. The plot is interesting and has momentum. Worf/Dax gets resolved, and doesn't take too much time away from the actually interesting stuff. Both of the good plots are developed nicely. That makes our total an 8.

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