|Kira and Odo, relying on each other to |
survive the Occupation of "Terok Nor."
It's been two months since the Dominion War finally erupted, and the fight is going badly. The Seventh fleet has been all but wiped out, with only 14 ships surviving out of 112. Federation forces are in near constant retreat. As Gul Dukat smugly observes: "It is a good time for Cardassia - and the Dominion."
Deep Space 9 again carries its Cardassian name, "Terok Nor," and is again under Dukat's command. But with Weyoun and the Dominion overseeing him, this Occupation is much different than the Cardassian Occupation of old. As Quark observes, there are no slaves collapsing in exhaustion, no fences dividing the Promenade, no children starving in the corridors. The Dominion seems determined to prove they will keep their promises to Bajor, so that other Alpha Quadrant governments that signed non-aggression treaties will consider themselves to be safe as well and continue to stay out of the fight.
At Starbase 375, Sisko and his command crew are given a new assignment: To destroy the Dominion's storage depot of ketracel white, the drug they use to control and sustain the Jem'Hadar. With a location deep inside Cardassian/Dominion space, the Defiant will not be well-suited to the mission. Instead, Sisko will be given another ship - the Jem'Hadar vessel he recovered last year, fully functional and ready to infiltrate Dominion space!
Capt. Sisko: Has to be pushed by Dax to call his father from the Starbase, not knowing how to tell him that he left Jake in enemy territory. When he does finally talk to him, he promises that he will bring Jake back - but acknowledges that actually doing so might take a while. When Admiral Ross (Barry Jenner) reveals Sisko's mission and shows him the Jem'Hadar ship, Sisko seems eager to get some use out of the ship he fought so hard to recover.
Kira: Looks worn and distraught throughout the episode, doubtless reliving in her mind the last time the station was known as "Terok Nor" and was ruled by Gul Dukat. She advocates hard for the Bajoran security force, and the reactions of Weyoun and Dukat show some of the tension between them. She wisely does not trust Weyoun, but acknowledges that he has kept his word to Bajor (at least, so far) and has curbed Dukat's potential bad behavior toward the Bajoran population. She is glad of Odo's presence, finding her moments with him the only ones in which she can relax at all.
Dr. Bashir: "Ever since it's become public knowledge that you're genetically engineered, you've used every opportunity to show off!" Bashir feels that he has no reason anymore to hide his abilities, and seems very pleased (if a bit smug) about doing complex calculations in seconds. It's good that he has that freedom, because he otherwise looks completely beaten down by the situation. The Defiant's sickbay has been overstuffed with wounded, to the point that he is snappish with Garak when his Cardassian friend gripes about having to wait to be treated. Garak does seem mildly resentful about Bashir's abilities, making a noticeable number of waspish comments about them, but Bashir is still very happy to welcome his untrustworthy friend when he joins them for the mission.
Gul Dukat: Has just enough self-awareness to acknowledge to Kira that yes, he did sell his own people to the Dominion. But he insists that, while a high price, it was necessary - That Cardassia had been left so weakened by the war with the Klingons that it was becoming a "third rate power." He has himself almost fooled into thinking that he's truly in charge again. He amuses himself playing with the baseball Sisko left him as a message, and even feels bold enough to resume his long-dormant pursuit of Kira. But he bristles every time Weyoun reminds him who the real power is, and I doubt it will be very long before Kira (or Odo; or both) begin to exploit that rift.
Weyoun: For his own part, he regards Dukat with increasingly thinly-veiled disdain. He is invested in proving that the Dominion can be a friend to Bajor, and he wants to see the station return to something approximating normal. When Kira raises the question of a Bajoran security force, Weyoun obviously wants to grant the request, and is annoyed when Dukat makes that impossible. He is genuine in revering the Founders as gods, and is concerned that Odo think well of him. When Odo finally comes to him to directly ask for a Bajoran security force, Weyoun wins in three big ways: He wins Odo's acknowledgement; he is able to grant the Bajoran request that he had wanted to grant in the first place; and in return for an action he had already wished to take, he is able to push Odo into joining the station's ruling body.
Call to Arms changed the show's status quo in a massive way, splitting up the characters and giving the Dominion and Gul Dukat control of the station. That's a seismic shift, and the bulk of A Time to Stand is focused on getting the viewer adjusted to this very different situation.
The difference is shoved into our faces right after the teaser. We come back from the credits to that Trek standby, the captain's log. Only now it is the "permanent documentation file," narrated to us by Dukat. The episode then takes quite a bit of time to show where Dukat, Kira, Weyoun, Odo, and Quark all fit in this new structure: Kira representing Bajor, Weyoun "advising" Dukat but clearly the one truly in control, Odo mainly trying to avoid Weyoun, and Quark just relieved that the Dominion is allowing business as usual.
There is the sense that pieces are being carefully planted for future use. This is particularly true of the scene with Jake, who has been left free and unharmed as he goes about trying to report on the Dominion Occupation. For which Weyoun chides him: "This is not an occupation. This is a Cardassian station, Jake, and I'm sure you're aware that there are no Dominion troops on Bajor. And why should there be? We have a treaty with them. They're our friends." Weyoun goes on to tell Jake that he has made sure that none of Jake's reports have left the station, and that he won't allow them through until they are "biased against the Dominion." He dangles hope of allowing Jake's writing through, if only the young man can keep an open mind.
The quick standalone plot, with teh assault on ketracil white, doesn't even start until well past the halfway mark, and I doubt even a full 15 minutes is devoted to it. But that doesn't mean the assault comes across as an afterthought. It's made very clear at the start that the Federation is losing this war, and that this strike may represent a chance to turn the tables by starving the Jem'Hadar of their needed drug. That makes it a priority to succeed at any cost... Even when that means Sisko has to open fire on a Federation ship. The attack isn't even really an assault - It's a subterfuge, involving beaming down a bomb and then getting away before it goes off. Not the kind of thing we're used to seeing from our heroes; more the sort of thing Garak used to do for a living.
It all ends with every character facing a new dilemma to carry them (and us) into the next installment. Even as the episode has worked to establish the new status quo, it has also shifted it just enough that we can see things moving forward. Leaving me looking very forward to seeing what happens next...
Overall Rating: 8/10.
Previous Episode: Call to Arms
Next Episode: Rocks and Shoals
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