Saturday, March 18, 2017

Deep Space Nine 6x11 "Waltz"

rating: ****

the story: Sisko and Dukat struggle to survive each other when they are marooned.

what it's all about: It sounds so simple, when you describe the episode like that, like so many other episodes from throughout the franchise, but it's so, so much more than that, too.  Simply put, it's one of the most crucial episodes of the series.

When the epic-length arc ended earlier in the season, Dukat's decent into madness began when he saw his daughter gunned down ("Sacrifice of Angels").  Actually, that arc may be said to have gained all its significance from that moment, because it was the definitive turning point for Dukat.  Previously he had attempted to rehabilitate his image as the Cardassian who represented the oppressive Occupation of Bajor, who had somehow success in that regard, to a point, and actually lost everything, until he turned to the Dominion to help him regain it.  That much might almost have been forgivable, too, but then he lost his daughter, went mad, and then became Emissary of the Pah-wraiths, Sisko's (Emissary of the Prophets) opposite number.  The end wasn't yet in sight, but seeing Dukat embrace his fate is the whole point of "Waltz."

Which is to say, "Waltz" is the point where Dukat becomes the unquestionable archvillain of the series.

To do so, he has to be placed opposite Sisko right from the start.  In a lot of ways, the episode also repositions Sisko, whose previous archfoe for a Starfleet turncoat named Michael Eddington.  Few fans remember Eddington, but everyone knows Dukat, and not just because he was always most prominent.  Until "Waltz," no one had gotten under Sisko's skin quite like Eddington ("For the Uniform").  But there were a lot of mitigating circumstances in that affair.  There's nothing to mistake about this one.

What works so well about "Waltz" is that it's a psychological battle.  It's what happens when a series that was so often about trying to soften problems, find shades of gray, instead and finally took a stand somewhere.  The Dominion War itself can be considered a metaphor about the dance between Sisko and Dukat (hence the reason why they both end in the series finale, "What You Leave Behind," with Dukat's defeat actually rounding out the last hour).  Clearly something snapped inside Dukat's head.  He stopped questioning his impulses and instead embraced them, you could say.  "Waltz" is claustrophobic, mirroring Sisko's experience as he's hobbled by the crash that strands him with Dukat, and leaves him at his mercy.  Theoretically, they're on the same team throughout the episode, both looking for a means of rescue.  But Dukat spends all that time consulting ghosts, while Sisko struggles to decide if he really is as crazy as he appears.

This is Khan all over again, the Borg, the big reveal of the big, big bad, and it's not only a necessary development, but a thrilling one to witness, one of Star Trek's finest hours.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Witness the birth of an icon.
  • series - A culmination point and the start of the final countdown.
  • character - Sisko and Dukat at the verge of destiny, before either of them realize it.
  • essential - The definition of can't-miss.
notable guest-stars:
Marc Alaimo (Dukat)
Casey Biggs (Damar)
Jeffrey Combs (Weyoun)

4 comments:

  1. Sounds like it's basically an origin story, and who doesn't love those?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dukat's a stern chap and not exactly the sort you have round for cookies and milk. From legate to gul, Kirk and Dukat would have laughed over that if they ever met.

    ReplyDelete

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