Sunday, December 4, 2016

7-20. The Changing Face of Evil.

Kai Winn studies a forbidden text. 
This won't end well.















THE PLOT

Worf and Ezri have returned to Deep Space 9, but nothing is back to normal. The Breen have launched a surprise attack on Earth. Most of the attack force was destroyed - but not before doing severe damage and inflicting enormous casualties. General Martok, even as he admires the boldness of the attack, reassures Sisko that "every species has its weakness - They're no exception." But as Sisko notes, they had better uncover that weakness soon.

As Weyoun exults in this success, Damar moves forward with his plans to rebel against Dominion rule. He plants a seed of doubt in the mind of Gor, the Breen general, observing that all the praise the Dominion now showers on the Breen had been directed at Cardassia just a year earlier. He meets with Cardassian military allies to plot, and waits for the right moment to strike. Meanwhile, the Breen and the Dominion prepare their own strike - to retake the Chin'toka system from the Federation - a battle in which Sisko and the Federation forces very quickly find themselves outmatched.

Back on Bajor, Dukat and Winn begin studying the Book of the Kosst Amojan, the forbidden text that holds the secrets to releasing the Pah-wraiths from their ancient captivity, plotting to literally unleash hell on Bajor!


CHARACTERS

Capt. Sisko: Learns the hard way that he should not interfere in his wife's career, not even "for her own good." When he tries to keep Kasidy on the station until the current crisis has passed, she reacts as if betrayed. Doubtless, in addition to his normal protective nature, he is also thinking of the Prophets' warning. To his credit, he quickly apologizes and turns his focus to the battle with the Breen - though his calm leadership is not enough to avert disaster.

Bashir/O'Brien: Basically pull comic relief duty, lightening up this otherwise dark entry. They have become obsessed with their holosuite program about the Alamo, with O'Brien creating a scale model, complete with figures for all the people, to try to figure out a way to win an unwinnable fight. The parallel with the Dominion War is obvious, but doesn't get in the way of some choice humor - particularly when O'Brien becomes upset at Bashir losing the Col. Travis figure. Worf watches their interactions with bemusement, noting to Ezri that they "play with toys" (though that doesn't stop him from showing active interest in the tactics of the Alamo).

Damar/Weyoun: Damar's choice of the previous episode has led to a new confidence. He's stopped drinking, and is planning and preparing with a decisiveness we've rarely seen before. Weyoun misreads this vigor as a response to the alliance with the Breen - As ever, he simply cannot understand that his Alpha Quadrant allies do not, and never will, view the Founders in the religious terms that he does. Weyoun has been given all the clues to Damar's turn - But his inability to grasp that his worldview isn't the only one leads him to miss what is in front of his face.

Dukat/Winn: The previous two episodes saw Dukat firmly driving this relationship, manipulating Winn with effortless glee. This episode temporarily shifts that balance. When the book appears to contain nothing but blank pages, he is nonplussed, immediately certain that this is the wrong book.  Winn knows better, and with absolute confidence insists, "The words are here. They're just hidden, that's all. It's up to us to find them." She dismisses Dukat, telling him basically to get out of her way and let her focus on the kind of studies that are her area of expertise and not his. Fittingly, Winn is the one who finds the answer - Though not remotely in the way she expected...


THOUGHTS

He who opens this book should first be armed with a chainsaw hand...

(Sorry, a recent re-watch of the Evil Dead trilogy left me unable to resist...)

Putting Winn in control of the Dukat/Winn strand is a great choice, one that creates a different dynamic than the previous two episodes and allows Louise Fletcher to show her considerable screen presence. Winn stops agonizing and starts focusing, making her Dukat's equal (for the moment at least)... And the way in which those hidden words are finally revealed has a cataclysmic quality that perfectly complements the events of the episode's other major threads.

I complained in my review of 'Til Death Do Us Part that we were told how formidable the Breen without truly seeing it - Indeed, their most significant previous appearance had a large group of Breen defeated fairly easily by Dukat and Kira, which seemed to limit them as a threat. Well, this episode's climax finally shows them as a threat, rather than simply insisting that they are one.

The climactic battle is a stunning set piece, not because of its scale and complexity, but because it's over so quickly. The point of this scene is to make the audience feel the "Oh crap" the introduction of the Breen so utterly failed to deliver, by making the formidable Defiant and the Federation fleet all but helpless. We see several Breen ships destroyed in the initial moments of the battle, underlining that they are not invincible... But before the fight is even truly underway, the Breen are disabling their enemies with a weapon unlike anything they've previously seen.

The episode ends with every status quo upended. Damar is leading an open revolt against the Dominion on Cardassia; Winn and Dukat are about to unleash the Pah- wraiths on Bajor, with no one even aware of their plans and so no real hope of stopping them; and the Federation is on the brink of losing the war if they can't find a countermeasure for the Breen weapon.

All of which make this the most momentous episode since Sacrifice of Angels. Indispensible viewing.


Overall Rating: 10/10.


Previous Episode: Strange Bedfellows
Next Episode: When It Rains...


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