Time for more DS9! Starting with Profit and Loss, where we get to meet Quark’s old main squeeze, who happens to be Cardassian. She also happens to be a political radical, shepherding two other politcal reformers on the run from the Cardassian government.
There’s a lot of good character work for Quark, expanding him out past his usual character trait of “greedy.” After scheming and plotting to find ways to make his former lover stay with him, he finally does the noble thing and lets her go. I think this episode also has really great development for the Cardassians as a whole, because it takes them from being monolithic space assholes; it gives their politics a dimension and shows not all of them believe the same things.
But the real start? Our Totally Heterosexual Friend, Elim Garak. This is such a good episode from him… because we find out he’s been exiled, and that he really is serious about his love for Cardassia… and just how much he wants to go home. To the point that he basically allows himself to get played by some Gul you can also tell he hates. Because he wants to believe he can go home. And the conversation he has with Quark that is definitely about fashion is A+… though it’s a shame that Quark ruins it at the end by saying what he actually means.
A+ episode. The only thing I didn’t like is that they gave the two female Cardassians like super femme-y lips, which isn’t a problem of itself, but the makeup just looked really weird and out of place.
Then we get to Blood Oath (alternate title: Grumpy Old Klingons), which has Dax expanding on her connection with Klingons. And it’s got some great trans parable moments in it.
Kor: Curzon, my old friend!
Jadzia: It’s Jadzia now.
Kor: Jadzia, my old friend.
The Klingon s don’t expect Jadzia to keep the oath to go murder the albino guy who killed their kids. (The villification of the albino is not great.) Where it gets interesting is that Jadzia wants to keep the oath, and she feels obligated. Though she obviously has conflicting feelings at the thought of revenge killing… to the point that she asks Kira flat out how many people she’s killed. (Jadzia, you can’t just do that!) Kira talking about how killing takes a part of you, too, it a good moment for her. This episode is mostly concerned with the dichotomy of the Trill… it’s supposed to be a new life, because you can’t keep paying your old debts, but that doesn’t mean the old lives are easily forgotten. And the parallels between Jadzia choosing to remember Curzon and then also choosing to remind the Klingons of their pasts is lovely, drawing them all into their shared history.
Kang: thank you for saving the death blow for me. You have honored me one last time.
The conclusion is very Klingon, with a high body count. Two of Jadzia’s old friends dead, while the third sings their death song for them. You can’t have a Klingon episode without “It is a good day to die.” Jadzia’s note is very much her own: “It’s never a good day to lose a friend.”
Look, I really love the Klingons, for all their problematic underpinnings. Every time I get to see their culture expanded on a bit and not made a joke, like Kor’s singing, it makes my heart happy.
Also, I really love that this looked like a pretty low-budget episode. All the mooks (didn’t bother Jadzia to mow them down…) are human and it looks like they just rented someone’s house for the day.
The Maquis part I and IIare something I vaguely remember… in that the Maquis were way too politicky for me when I was a kid and this was where DS9 really started losing me. I could certainly do with less of Quark hitting on the Vulcan lady. But the highlight of these episodes for me is Sisko having to deal with Biggest Piece of Shit Ever, Gul Dukat. Sisko loathes Dukat, Dukat is horrible and smug, and they snipe at each other. And then Sisko actually has to rescue Dukat… even as Central Command hangs Dukat out to dry, which is extra hilarious.
Also, there is a lovely moment where Odo is complaining that he wants the power to do more searches and set a curfew, because the Federation have too many rules on him and that’s why he can’t keep the station safe.
Kira: And the station will be just the way it was during the occupation.
Odo: Say what you like. It was safer then.
Kira: Unless you happen to be a Bajoran.
Odo: *awkward pause*
Methinks Odo is sure running the station with an authoritarian iron fist would be great as long as he’s the one in charge.
What makes these episodes interesting is that they introduce a group of humans (and Vulcans, and presumably other normally-Federation aliens) that are definitely not aligned with the Federation–and control enough territory to actually be a political force. There have obviously been anti-Federation societies before, but they’re normally just a colony on a single planet. So adding in another player gives the universe more dimension, just like adding the political dissidents to Cardassia in Profit and Loss. And their political argument is compelling enough that it makes a Federation officer defect to their side.
Not a lot of deep character work in these two, in my opinion, but it’s such a great expansion to worldbuilding.
On the other hand, The Wire is nothing but deep character work.
I love the starting bit of Garak as the literature nerd, talking about the repetitive epic (of which The Never-Ending Sacrifice is the pinnacle achievement) as foundational to Cardassian art… and how different cultures value different things–service to the state instead of individuality. It’s a wonderful little world building detail. Made more wonderful because since this is Garak, there is no way to tell if he’s earnestly giving Julian literature he thinks is great and important, or if he’s doing the equivalent of me handing someone Ethan Frome and claiming it’s a very important classic. The sidebar ends with Something Is Wrong With Garak, to start the whole episode in motion.
Because you bet your ass it’s a Garak episode. And Garak is so intensely Garak in this. So wonderfully terrible and tricky and adamant about the importance of lies. In a way it feels like a riff on Duet, because it’s another story about a Cardassian maybe being someone else, and then again maybe not, but it’s a question of whose soul atrocity lives within. Except this one isn’t a case of closure through punishment and who gets punished, but a question of who Garak is, and what the truth means, and the lies people construct around themselves and what they’ll do to survive all kinds of chronic pain and wrenching cognitive dissonance. (What does Garak actually value as opposed to what he claims to value? What is internal to him as a person and what is imposed on him by his culture? Who did he really betray?) Garak keeps telling different versions of the truth, separating himself into two people, having them play different roles, and each time the story has a different purpose that he’s trying to work on Bashir and himself. And just holy shit, watching Andrew Robinson play so many different versions of his character in so many different emotions is stunning.
Garak: They’re all true.
Bashir: Even the lies.
Garak: Especially the lies.
Garak is still a bad man, and I still adore him.
Last up is Crossover, which starts with Julian annoying the bajeesus out of Kira by being extremely Julian while they’re on a mission in a runabout. Random Star Trek space stuff happens and… MIRROR UNIVERSE TIME!
This one’s fun because it’s not just about humans with sinister facial hair. Instead we get an alliance between the Klingons, Bajorans, and Cardassians that have enslaved the humans in the area. And it’s all Kirk’s fault–by convincing evil Spock to be a less evil reformer, and thus open the Terran Empire up to the alliance. It is just a trip to see Garak dressed like a regular Cardassian and Nana Visitor playing special edition Bondage Kira. I imagine these episodes were just a ton of fun to film because everyone gets to play a complete twist on their character.