Monday, December 26, 2016

Deep Space Nine 4x5 "Indiscretion"

rating: *

the story: Dukat joins Kira on an unlikely rescue mission while Kasidy decides to take a job that will leave her a permanent resident of the station.

what it's all about: It never really occurred to me how radical a change the fourth season was for the season until I started writing in-depth about it.  This is the second episode, after "Hippocratic Oath," that proves how much someone wanted to change Deep Space Nine to correct perceived shortcomings and make it more approachable to fans.  But the result was a kind of neutering, in some respects, which is no big surprise, because by the time the Dominion War kicked off in the sixth season, the pendulum swung radically in the other direction, letting the series enjoy what made it special in a sometimes smothering fashion.

Case in point?  The one-two-three punch of "Duet," "Necessary Evil," and "Second Skin" from the firsts three seasons find their fourth season answer in "Indiscretion," which on paper seems like the perfect way to finally ground that tradition in the emerging continuity-heavy nature of the series.  And yet as a standalone experience, divorced from what later came of it (and several actresses portraying Dukat's heretofore hidden Cardassian/Bajoran daughter Tora Ziyal later), it seems like a wimpy start to the arc that changed the character's arc forever.  And no one really seems to have known just how big the consequences of this episode would be.  Surprisingly, this won't be the only time the producers get something like this wrong.

Long story short: Dukat's daughter alienates him from the Cardassian establishment, and his scrambling to redeem himself leads the Cardassians into the arms of the Dominion, and thus the Dominion War...and then Dukat officially becoming Sisko's opposite number, the emissary of the Pah-wraiths (their introduction is equally bloodless in "The Assignment" next season and exactly what I was alluding to earlier).

...But the biggest problem with Dukat's characterization this episode is that it ignores all the character work accomplished last season, and leaves Kira in a predicament that plays poorly against every other such example of her trying to make peace with the complicated past between Bajorans and Cardassians.  It's a Dukat story, basically, that really wants to be a Kira story, too, but can't figure out how, and doesn't really try.  So it's just setup, with little indication of how severe any of this will affect the duration of the series.  It's the opposite, too, of how well Dukat featured into last season's "Defiant," which for all intents and purposes is much the same story.

Anyway, if that weren't bad enough, Sisko and Kasidy's relationship hits a predictable hiccup when she decides that taking up permanent residence isn't such a bad thing, but he does.  In fact, all of this uncharacteristic behavior merely for the sake up trumped up drama just had me downgrade the episode to one star, when I'd originally pegged it for three and decided to settle for two given my dawning reservations...

The good news is that this early season shakiness settles down very soon.  The producers obviously had a rough time adjusting to new expectations, but they did figure it out.  Hey, there are always rough episodes, right?  At least with these last two, it's easy to see why they happened.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - This is a Deep Space Nine story.
  • series - It's just kind of fails at being one.
  • character - Still, some relevant groundwork is done for Dukat.
  • essential - But in the grand scheme you don't have to watch it to understand what comes later.
notable guest-stars:
Marc Alaimo (Dukat)
Penny Johnson (Kasidy)

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