Sunday, August 10, 2014

6-6. Sacrifice of Angels.

Sisko engages in a desperate battle!

"Cannon to the right of them,
Cannon to the left of them,
Cannon in front of them,
Volley'd an thunder'd."

"Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the Jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred."

-O'Brien and Bashir, reciting the last poem you want to hear when charging into battle.


Sisko's fleet, already short its full strength because of the need to rush the attack on Deep Space 9, has come face to face with a Dominion blockade that outnumbers them two-to-one. Sisko attempts to create a hole by sending fighters against the Cardassian forces, in hopes that they will become angry and chase their attackers. It's a strategy that plays right into Gul Dukat's hands. He sees his adversary's plan and obliges by creating the hole, with the intent to close it hard. Sisko recognizes Dukat's strategy in turn - but the clock is ticking, and this may be the only opportunity that presents itself, so he takes the bait anyway - Willfully sending his entire attack force into a trap that may well destroy them all!

On the station, Dukat and Weyoun begin planning for the sustained occupation that will follow their all-but-assured victory. Dukat orders the arrest all those he suspects of conspiring to sabotage his plans: Kira, Jake, and Leeta. But no one spares a thought for Quark, who seizes the opportunity for some surprisingly strong action of his own.

All of which may be for naught, as Sisko's forces are crushed, the Defiant only barely clearing the blockade. Rom and Kira race to stop the efforts to bring down the minefield, as the Defiant races to Deep Space 9. But as that ruthless clock keeps ticking, Sisko turns for help in an unanticipated direction...


Capt. Sisko: The episode opens with him commanding a fleet, but only the Defiant is able to make it through the blockade. The episode opens with the Dominion still blocked by the minefield surrounding the wormhole - but that minefield is being steadily disabled. Left with nothing but one ship, Sisko makes his most desperate plea of all, one whose cost will be very steep - particularly seen in light of Sisko's words about Bajor in the last episode.

Odo: Odo finally gets back off the fence, thanks to Kira. Not because of anything she does here - but when the female changeling announces that Kira will be executed, just to cut off her influence with Odo, it completes what started at the end of Favor the Bold. Odo now recognizes that however much he may hunger for the Great Link, he cannot support his people's actions. He does not want to subjugate the Solids, and he will not allow Kira's death. He gathers together his security force - the Bajoran officers he convinced Weyoun to restore to him in A Time to Stand - and uses them to make sure Kira and Rom are able to break through the Jem'Hadar guarding the area of the station they hope to sabotage. When Kira asks why, he answers both for his original betrayal and for his coming to her rescue now: "The Link was Paradise. But it appears I'm not ready for Paradise."

Quark: With Kira and the others arrested, he is the only one left on the station who can take action. He enlists Ziyal's aid and stages a commando raid on the cells. Quark bursts in, a gun in either hand, looking like he just stepped out of a summer action movie - only in a script that recognizes the ridiculousness of the cliche. Some mild comedy follows, as Quark tells the Jem'Hadar guards to freeze, then unlock the cells, and then has to tell one of them to un-freeze so that the second order can actually be followed. Eventually, they charge - and Quark looks ready to have a heart attack after he pulls both triggers, and actually hits both targets!

Damar: In Seasons Four and Five, I largely dismissed Damar as a minor extension of Dukat. Starting with Call to Arms, and building in earnest since Behind the Lines, he has emerged as a strong character in his own right. He is loyal to Dukat, but more rigid than his mentor. He sees the world in black-and-white. Dukat gives a command, it must be obeyed - Hence, his attempt to forcibly drag Ziyal to him.  In the face of an obstacle, he falls back on force as a first resort... But he's not a dumb thug, or else he would not have figured out how to deactivate Rom's minefield to start with. When it's clear the Federation is about to retake the station and Dukat calls once again for his daughter, he instantly recognizes the truth: That Ziyal will not choose to leave. But his black-and-white view and propensity for violence leads to a shocking action, one that makes sure that Damar is not a character I will ever dismiss again.

Weyoun: Throughout this season, he's been presented as the person keeping Dukat in check. In A Time to Stand, Kira and Odo acknowledged his importance in restraining the Cardassians from mistreating Bajor or its people. He has been the voice of reason and diplomacy. But it's tactical rather than benevolent; when tactics call for ruthlessness, it's no surprise to see him advocating it. When talk shifts from winning the war to holding the territory, he eyes a star map with a clinical eye and calmly insists that Earth's population must be eradicated to break their enemies' will and spirit. This reverses what has been the standard relationship of the two men, with Dukat now trying to curb Weyoun's ruthlessness rather than the other way around.

Gul Dukat: "A true victory is to make your enemy see they were wrong to oppose you in the first place. To force them to acknowledge your greatness." So Dukat intones to Weyoun, giving both the Vorta and us a direct look into the way his mind works. In Dukat's mind, he is a hero - More than that, a savior. But it's not enough simply to win - Everyone else must see him as he so desperately wants to see himself, or else the victory is meaningless. In his mind's eye, he sees it all: The Alpha Quadrant at his feet as he enjoys the adulation of not only Cardassia, but of Bajor and Earth as well, all with his adoring daughter at his side. In the span of about ten minutes, he goes from touching with his fingertips the edges of that dream, to watching it be irrevocably destroyed before his eyes. What is left is broken, leaving Sisko no real sense of victory when he reclaims his prized baseball - Merely a sort of disgusted pity at this shell of a man, beaten less by his enemies than by the crushing weight of his own ego.


Sacrifice of Angels does not finish the Dominion War arc. Starfleet is still in a hard situation, particularly with the heavy losses suffered in this episode at the hands of the Dominion blockade. The Dominion still hold Cardassia, and they still have enormous resources at their disposal. Starfleet has finally won a battle, and a big one - but the war is far from over.

This episode does finish the Occupation of Deep Space 9, however, and does so in spectacular fashion. The battle scenes are large-scale and chaotic. As Sisko throws his fleet at the blockade, exploding ships punctuate every frame - most of those ships, Starfleet's. I love the way the episode treats the strategies of Sisko and Dukat in this battle. Neither man outthinks the other. Dukat recognizes Sisko's strategy, and orders his men to take the bait in order to set a trap. Sisko recognizes Dukat's trap, but orders the fleet to take the bait because it may be their only opporunity. Since Dukat is not diminished, being shown as Sisko's equal in strategic terms, Sisko's ultimate victory feels much more deserved.

Marc Alaimo's performance as Dukat has been a consistent series highlight, ever since the character evolved from "recurring villain" to 3-dimensional character back in early Season Two. This episode lets him run the gamut, from absolute arrogance to absolute ruin. Alaimo is stunning throughout, and in a very real sense it is Dukat who holds this episode together. It's a testament to Alaimo's performance, every bit the equal of the richly complex character Dukat has become, that I find at least as much tragedy as satisfaction in the moment at which Dukat's relinquishes of Sisko's baseball to him, officially handing him back the station.

The entire episode is stunning. I'm sure some have taken issue with the way in which Sisko regains the station. But I found that to work as well, a way of tying what has largely been background mythology for the series into the foreground arc. And we are told that Sisko's victory will come at a price - Something I look forward to seeing delivered on.

Overall Rating: 10/10.

Previous Episode: Favor the Bold
Next Episode: You Are Cordially Invited

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