Monday, October 6, 2014

Deep Space Nine, Season 5: Ties of Blood and Water

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.html
Deep Space Nine, Season 5
"Ties of Blood and Water"
Airdate: April 14, 1997
115 of 173 produced
115 of 173 aired

Introduction

Kira's ersatz Cardassian father has returned to the station, Kira hopes to help spearhead the resistance to Dukat's new Cardassian government, but he has shocking news: he's dying.

Behind every great man is a sissy Vorta.



Writing

Kevin: This episode is a personal favorite of mine, and I think there is a lot going for it. We get an interesting character exploration, and while not a lot happens over the course of the episode in terms of the larger plot, I like that its used to explore the larger plot in some fun ways. I'll start on the character work first. I think the episode overall is a nice piece of growth for Kira. They make the point pretty directly via the use of the flashbacks, but overall, I certainly think it's pretty good. Can you really see first season Kira being able to put aside her reflexive hatred of Cardassians to even for this relationship, let alone let it survive Dukat's intentionally inflammatory revelation? I like that the episode handles the moral ambiguity of his role in the Occupation with the light hand it did. It neither made him secretly a monster or secretly the Cardassin Oskar Schindler. My only real complaint is that I think the episode lays it on a little thick that Kira sees Ghemor as a surrogate father. I can see friends, obviously given his previous appearance, but I think it was a tad of the "telling me not showing me" school of plot development. Like how exactly does he remind her of her father. We see so little of both of them, it's a little hard to invest in the comparison. It's not a big problem, but I noticed it.

Matthew: The first 20 minutes or so of this show were a little bit on the... less than scintillating side for me. I don't want to say boring, but it didn't really grab me. A lot of the emotional connection kind of depends on your having watched the previous episode with the characters, and it's been so long since that episode, with so little mention of it in the intervening time, that I just kind of don't care. So I agree with your criticism of the relationship's portrayal.

Kevin: I think the highlight of the episode for me is that final scene in the Infirmary. It's as much acting choices as anything, but there was something really lovely and sad for me in the quiet moment that was given sufficient space to breathe. Speaking of growth, I think it's as much the writers as the characters who displayed some growth here. There's no shouting, just a emotionally vulnerable and honest moment. Ron Moore has also talked about his favorite scene being Kira with Ghemor and Kirayoshi, the father that's not her father and the baby that's not her baby, as an interesting comment on how Kira made the family around her that she lost. I'm warmed to hear that the writers put such thought into the internal emotional arcs of their characters.

Matthew:  Totally agreed on that scene. It's a bold writing move to leave so much to a soliloquy. The flashback structure was a bit ponderous, for me. I'm just not terribly accustomed to it with the pace and structure of this show - flashbacks usually either get entire episodes, or have a framing structure, as opposed to "character randomly stares off into space, screen dissolves." And, as mentioned, the connection between father figures is a bit tenuous. But the emotional climax delivers on both a writing and acting level, so it becomes possible to kind of just forgive the sins of the show's plodding first half.

Kevin: Like I said above, not a lot actually happens in terms of plot development. It's definitely a character piece. Still, using the story of Ghemor to tell us new things about the new Cardassan government was a master stroke. In the handful of scenes we know exactly where Dukat ranks as the head of the Dominion's newest client state, and exactly how he feels about that. The politics scenes with Sisko are great in and of themselves, if nothing else as some light comic relief, but also keep the episode from feeling like a diversion from the momentum built up earlier in the season. This may be a small and intensely personal piece of the overall mosaic, but Dukat and Weyoun's presence remind us about the big picture.

Matthew: The Dukat/Weyoun stuff is what gradually increased my interest in the story as the episode proceeded. The comic relief was excellent (not too much, great chance for Combs to do funny), and the political machinations were even better. Seeing Dukat bristle at being called a puppet  dictator was great, but seeing his wily plan to bring Ghemor back with full honors was even better. It gave Kira's decision to bury him on Bajor much more emotional weight (indeed, more weight than was established on her end of the story).

Acting

Kevin: This is easily Visitor's best work. There's layers under her outrage and she really telegraphed the "I'm angry but not at what I say I'm angry at," vibe, and like I said, that last speech in the Infirmary is positively gutting. Everything had that quiet numbness that tragedy takes when it first strikes, and all of the small choices Visitor made really made it sing.

Matthew: Yep. No doubt about it, this is Visitor's finest work. Gone are the too obvious emotional appeals (which may be writing as much as acting) and instead we have terrific nuance. I loved her confrontation with Dukat. Her sneer was just delicious, and then when the tables were turned on her she didn't go full shouty, she kept the rage simmering.

Kevin: It's a testament to both Alaimo and Combs that even as guest characters, they don't act like they think they are guest characters, but not in a way that distracts from the A story. The banter was spot on, and it's good they figured out what simmering loathing these two actors can throw at each other. The poison kanar scene alone should have been in someone's Emmy reel.

Matthew: This is the show that began Jeffrey Combs' ascent into fan favorite status, if you ask me. He's been good prior to this, but he is GREAT here. Alaimo on the other hand has maintained a consistent level of excellence throughout. As I say above, their performances were what kept me going with this story until the emotional climax.

Kevin: I feel a little bad for Pressman, as he didn't get a whole hell of a lot to do. Playing sick and dying tends to either be nothing to do or overdone. He certainly did his job well, I just would have enjoyed a little more sparring with Dukat, etc. I will say, there was something pitiful in his attempt to explain himself to Kira that felt very authentic.

Production Values

Kevin: The costume and make-up work was pretty good. I liked the futuristic IV set up and all that. Beyond that, caves and clearing on Bajor were good. I liked that they got Furell to do the cameo as it was a nice touch. The caves seemed suitably expansive as a set, and that was nice. And, of course, as always, long-haired Kira always forces us to ask why they didn't just give her long hair all the time.

Matthew: Hmm, at this point, I think long-hair Kira really clashes with her more aged face (having babies can do that to a person), and is something they should try to avoid. I agree on the hospital equipment. In many ways, it's some of the most elaborate medical prop work they've done on this show. It seems like TNG was much more developed in that way. I wonder some times if they production designers felt a bit hamstrung by the Cardassian aesthetic.

Kevin: I liked the staging of the two scenes of the Bajoran headstones. The tone of color and light along with the barren field against the later verdant one were nice, subtle, and best of all unremarked upon notes showing how Bajor, and one particular Bajoran, have changed.

Matthew: I did like the overall shape of the set, but I felt it looked pretty obviously like a soundstage (similar to "Skin of Evil.")

Conclusion

Kevin: This is a 4 for me. The character work is thorough and interesting. The way they incorporated it into the larger DS9 political landscape was a genius touch. The result is an episode that is by turns intriguing and heartbreaking.

Matthew: I was going to go with a 3, but then we got a hum-dinger of a Kira scene. That combined with the excellence of Combs and Alaimo has me thinking 4, too, for a total of 8. The story is a 3 in my book, and the production design was adequate. But the acting was truly top-notch

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