Between a Rock and a Hard Place
"Rocks and Shoals" Plot Summary:
The damaged Jem'Hadar ship carrying Sisko and crew crashes onto a desolate planet and falls into the sea. The crew escapes, but when Nog and Garak are taken prisoner, they quickly learn that a Jem'Hadar contingent are holding the planet for the Dominion. The Vorta leader, wounded and frightened by his depleted supply of Ketracel-White, wants to make a deal with the Starfleet crew; if Sisko's crew will get him off the planet alive, the Vorta will deliver the drug-deprived Jem'Hadar into their waiting hands.
Sisko can't stand the Vorta, and tries to make a deal with the Jem'Hadar leader, telling him stories of other Jem'Hadar he knew before the war. The leader realizes that the Vorta plans to deliver his men into the hands of the enemy, but refuses to let Sisko talk him into rebelling. The Jem'Hadar are willing to die: their lives were never their own to protect. Sisko has no choice but to order his crew to fire on the attacking contingent, and all the Jem'Hadar are killed.
Meanwhile, on the station, Kira makes excuses for deals between Bajor and the Dominion and tries to stop a Vedek from leading a protest on the Promenade. When the Vedek tells Kira that she's a collaborator, then commits ritual suicide as a statement against the oppression, Kira finds that she can't even look at herself in the mirror. She tells Odo that when she was in the Resistance, she despised people like herself, and vows to start fighting. In his new role as Weyoun's co-councillor, Odo tries to talk her out of violence, but ultimately seems to understand her need to fight.
I thought this was the best Deep Space Nine episode literally in years - maybe even since "The Circle," also the second part of a season-opening trilogy. Interestingly, almost nothing happened in the episode. Both Sisko and Kira feel trapped, far away from the center of the conflict, left to struggle with personal demons. Ironically, they seem more unified as a command team now even though they're thousands of light years from one another than they often did running the station together.
For Sisko, the question of how to be a commander yet follow democratic principles has always weighed heavily. The contrast between him snapping, "This isn't a vote!" to his own crew and suggesting that the Jem'Hadar overthrow their Vorta makes for powerful tension in the character. Ditto the contrast between him laughing uproariously with his crew at O'Brien, who's depressed that his pants got ripped in the crash which destroyed their ship, and the fury he holds for the traitorous Vorta commander at the end.
Sisko is most effective arguing with the doomed Jem'Hadar leader, alternately confronting him and trying to sympathize with the alien's position. I didn't completely understand this particular Jem'Hadar soldier; we learned at the start of the episode that he's Third in hierarchy (though the First and Second are dead) because he challenged the Vorta about the wisdom of the decision which led them to crash. Yet when his life and those of his men are at stake, Third refuses to disobey or even question an order from his superior. He's noble in loyalty, but not terribly consistent with some of the more aggressive Jem'Hadar we've seen in the past (especially drug-deprived Jem'Hadar, who in this episode open fire without thinking). Passive Third scares me more than the rebellious Jem'Hadar from past episodes who refused their Vorta's orders. His attitude makes me hate the Dominion in a way I never have, which makes the war all the more compelling.
I've been extremely pleased with Kira this season. Last week I was impressed at her restraint negotiating with Weyoun and Dukat, and this week I was impressed that she decided she just can't do it anymore. The stakes are so high, and her position is so pivotal, that her own needs and comfort have to be secondary to those of thousands of other Bajorans, and she knows it. She is the beacon of hope for many of her people.
I wasn't overly fond of the camera work on Sisko and crew, especially not the slow-motion of the battle, but it was terrific on the station. Kira appeared quite literally as the only bright spot on Terok Nor, her red hair and uniform standing out in glorious contrast to the grays of the Cardassians and Jem'Hadar. The visual metaphor of her not being able to look in the mirror in the morning was quite effective.
Again, I can't wait to see what's going to happen next. Deep Space Nine is really on a roll. In the D.C. area where I watch, Babylon Five and DS9 have been shown back-to-back for more than a year; this is the first week in all that time when I felt like both shows were equally superb.
Deep Space Nine Reviews