Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Deep Space Nine 6x4 "Behind the Lines"

rating: ***

the story: The new resistance movement gathers steam aboard the station, until Odo is reunited with the Female Founder...

what it's all about: This is the essential turning point of the six-episode Dominion War opening arc.  "Behind the Lines" redeems the somewhat patchy material that precedes it and begins the truly serialized storytelling that was to become Deep Space Nine's calling card, the ten episode block that ended the series, inspired larger arcs in the later Enterprise, and proved to be a harbinger of TV programming as it would become known and most popular in the new millennium. 

The notable guest-stars have notably begun piling up; the famously rich recurring cast members have begun to assert themselves.  Damar, who at one time seemed a fairly trivial presence, becomes infinitely more important when he finds himself at the crossroads of the war, suddenly more important than his boss Dukat, accidentally so in this particular episode, but soon by design, until he becomes one of the most poignant characters of the series.

But the good stuff lies with Odo.  Since "The Search" at the start of the third season revealed his people to be the Founders, the folks who run the Dominion, he'd been in constant conflict with himself.  A relationship with Kira continually proved to be a nonstarter, since Odo couldn't help but wonder about his place among the Founders, whether the home he'd always known really was better than the one home that would always accept him (except that awkward period in which his shape-shifting ability was stripped from him, essentially making Odo a temporary exile).  "Lines" is finally the episode where he has a chance to consider the appeal of his people, against the best interests of his friends.

It's ironic, because so much of the early material in the series was about the evils of collaboration, Bajorans who betrayed their own people for not standing up to the Cardassians during the Occupation.  Odo risks, in this episode, becoming the ultimate collaborator.  He finds the prospect of his people too alluring to even think of it in those terms, at least as he considers it initially. 

This in turn puts in stark terms the worth of the Dominion War arc, as an elaboration on everything the series had always been about.  The prior three episodes vacillated on this, trying to justify the arc narratively rather than integrating it, and I wonder how much it really worked, because to this day Deep Space Nine remains a cult-within-a-cult.  This is arguably the essential episode, within the context of the series itself, to understand what the war was all about.  Those who were never big fans probably wouldn't get why "Lines" is so important, without someone explaining it to them.  So that's what I'm here for...

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - This may be the perfect selling point of the whole war arc to skeptical viewers, but I wonder if it seems too impenetrable.
  • series - Still, it's the episode that justifies the whole war.
  • character - Odo faces his biggest test.
  • essential - So yes, it's kind of required viewing.
notable guest-stars:
Salome Jens (Female Founder)
Casey Biggs (Damar)
Max Grodenchik (Rom)
Marc Alaimo (Dukat)
Jeffrey Combs (Weyoun)
Barry Jenner (Admiral Ross)
Aron Eisenberg (Nog)

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