|Kira and her Cardassian "father," |
Legate Ghemor (Lawrence Pressman)
Tekeny Ghemor (Lawrence Pressman), the Cardassian legate who became the leader of the Cardassian dissident movement after Kira was kidnapped and surgically altered to resemble his daughter, visits the station. Kira is excited: not only is Ghemor the Cardassian best suited to lead a political opposition to the Dominion occupation, he is also someone Kira grew close to, close enough to see as a father figure.
Ghemor is terminally ill, however, and declining rapidly. He asks Kira to "be (his) daughter one last time," to perform the Shri-tal, a Cardassian tradition in which a dying man will tell closely-guarded secrets to his family. With his daughter still missing, almost certainly dead, Kira is the closest thing he has to family. For the Federation, it's a remarkable opportunity: A chance to gather an unprecedented amount of intelligence on the Cardassian government. For Kira, it's an ordeal she may not be ready to face.
She braves it as head-on as possible, conducting a series of exhausting interviews discussing various Cardassian Guls, including potentially corruptible political enemies of Gul Dukat. But Dukat is aware of Ghemor's presence on Deep Space 9. He attempts to intimidate Sisko into extraditing the dying man. When Sisko refuses, he makes a dramatic entrance in a Jem'Hadar warship - with weapons locked directly on the station!
Capt. Sisko: Deals well with Dukat's attempts at intimidation. He doesn't react with fear, nor does he lose his temper. He is firm but steady in rejecting attempts to make him surrender Ghemor. He does not block Dukat from seeing the dying Cardassian - but he does keep a watchful eye, and when Dukat makes an attempt on the old man's life, he responds forcefully.
Major Kira: The episode opens with Kira happy and excited as Ghemor arrives on the station. She reacts to him very much as if he was her father, spilling over with delight at seeing him and enthusiasm at plans that would involve him. When she learns he is dying, and that he wants her to act as his daughter and stay with him as he dies, she flashes back to memories of her actual father (Thomas Kopache)'s death. Her guilt at fleeing his deathbed fuels her rage at Ghemor when she learns of his acts during the Occupation - acts that would fall far short of "war criminal" status, as Odo points out, but which do give her an excuse to flee another father's deathbed. It's a tribute to just how sharp Kira's anger can be and just how much Deep Space 9 has kicked against the usual Star Trek "safeness" that, for just moment, I had doubts as to whether Kira would come back to him.
Weyoun: Why let a little thing like death stop you from bringing back a good guest character? Weyoun (Jeffrey Combs), the ill-fated yet delightfully slimy Vorta seen in To the Death, returns via the magic of cloning. Combs remains wonderful in the role, his flippant manner offsetting Dukat's more immediately imposing presence to entertaining effect. Particularly enjoyable is Weyoun's delight when Sisko confronts him over the attempted assassination of Ghemor. As someone who delights in games of all kinds, the Vorta enjoys the moves and countermoves between Sisko and Dukat - and he loves rendering all of it irrelevant with a dramatic gesture of his own.
Gul Dukat: Has retained the title "Gul," despite claiming rulership of Cardassia, because that title sounds "more hands-on." He takes a moment to savor a little dig at Sisko, observing that his own title is less pretentious than such alternatives as "Emissary." He insists that he is no Dominion puppet, and he is enjoying his newfound power - but he can't be unaware that Weyoun is perpetually attached to his shoulder. His only significant interaction with any DS9 regulars that doesn't include the Vorta is his scene with Kira, in which he knows exactly which buttons to push to spark the major's fiery temper.
Ties of Blood and Water is a direct sequel to Season Three's Second Skin. It reunites Kira with Legate Ghemor, and plays on the surrogate father/daughter dynamic of that episode to good effect. Better still, it does so while furthering the narrative arc of the season and while giving Kira yet another excellent character episode.
The Occupation and the things Kira saw, did, and saw done represent the most definitive aspect of her character, and the one most explored by the series. Which doesn't mean that the dramatic well has run dry. After all, the reason the Occupation so defines her is that it was a horrific experience to endure, and every time the show revisits it, we see yet another way in which it left its mark on her.
The flashbacks to the death of Kira's father initially come across as intrusive. They don't remain that way, however. Writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe and director Avery Brooks, both of whom have been consistently reliable behind the camera, let the flashbacks build in such a way that by the midpoint of the episode, we see the past story reverberating against the present. It results in something of a dual climax, with the tag scene nicely tying the two strands together.
The strong emotional scenes between Kira and Ghemor are the heart of the episode, but this is a character episode that also manages to build the background narrative. We get our first strong glimpse of the new Cardassian government. Despite Dukat's protestations, it is clear that he is exactly what Sisko accuses him of being: A Dominion puppet. Weyoun's interactions with Dukat strongly show this. The Vorta is quite open in telling Dukat in front of others that he will need to rehabilitate his image, or interrupting a confrontation between Dukat and Sisko to observe that using something fictitious as propaganda is merely "a small problem." I look forward to seeing more of the Weyoun/Dukat interactions; Dukat may be drunk on power for now, but I have to believe there will come a point when the Vorta will begin to seriously annoy him.
Most interesting is that the Dominion seem just about ready to move from Cold War to hot one. They may still playing at diplomacy for now. But their willingness to show up with weapons locked, all but daring Sisko to fire the first shot of the inevitable conflict, shows that the fragile peace may be about to shatter...
Overall Rating: 8/10.
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