WARNING: This post, containing heavy spoiler information for DS9's "Battle Lines", is protected by an automatic defense system.
Well, *that* was very nice. Good to see DS9 back on form.
"Battle Lines" is easily the best show we've had since "Dax", and possibly since well before that. It worked on nearly every level.
I'll start with the thing that worked least: the pacing. Even it was quite nice overall; the only thing that I felt slowed the show down was a few of the Dax/O'Brien bits on the runabout during the search. Their main problem was that they broke some of the tension -- even as serious as they were and as serious as we saw the situation was, having O'Brien and Dax trade technobabble in the runabout was jarringly set apart from Sisko et al. being trapped in a true hell-on-earth.
This isn't to say that those scenes were worthless. Some weren't -- for instance, O'Brien's babble about the "differential magnetomer" was priceless, and also very much in keeping with the presentation of O'Brien as an impulse thinker. (Remember, he had the same stream-of-consciousness reaction in "Captive Pursuit" when talking to Quark.) On the whole, though, the runabout sequences could have been excised without much being lost.
The meat of the story, however, all took place on the moon, and was all wonderful. When I referred to the preview for "Battle Lines" last week, I said the moon was the Gorge of Eternal Peril. I was wrong. What it was was the Norse Valhalla -- but as a curse, not a reward. (For those not familiar with it, Valhalla was where Norse warriors went upon death if they were worthy enough fighters. There, they feasted and celebrated every day, then went out and hacked each other to bits every night fighting glorious battles. The next morning, it all began again.)
The idea really does strike me as a horrible punishment, and it's easy to see how the Ennis and the Nol-Ennis could become so obsessive and single-minded after a few decades of it. The key points here wasn't the two factions themselves, but the regulars' reactions to it.
Sisko's reaction was the least pronounced, perhaps because he felt the need to hold the others together. Given his own violently raging interior, however, it would be interesting to see a bit more of how he felt being there. He certainly took to the one battle he was in well enough. (Also, his reaction to Bashir's amused mention of a jailbreak seemed perfectly in character to me, and perfectly in line with the idea that he was trying to hold himself together so he could keep everyone else in line. When things are that tense, the last thing you want is for some joker to remind you of a sore point.)
Bashir finally got some good reactions for Fadil to work with. The idealistic doctor was in for the shock of his life when he met the Ennis, and was both written and played to near-perfection. There was the usual cheerful patter to keep himself sane, such as his "jailbreak" point with Sisko and the "Nice work, Julian" after fixing the computer -- but it was really more of a front this time than usual. Even Bashir seemed to realize the seriousness of the situation and to tone himself down. And that final look of disgust when he realizes how the Ennis would pervert even death given the chance drove the point home even further. Bashir got some much-needed time and material here; let's see more of it.
That leaves Kira (and Kai Opaka, but she was primarily there for Kira; and besides, I'll cover her shortly :-) ), who also was the beneficiary of some nice material. (Given that Hilary Bader's only Trek credit before this was
the aptly-named "The Loss", I have to marvel at the better work here.) While some of Nana Visitor's performance in *showing* those reactions could have been a little bit better, we got to see a vulnerable, confused side of Kira that we haven't seen at all since "Past Prologue", and barely saw even then.
Mike Shappe said in an early article he wrote on DS9 that Kira was "a character in need of an epiphany like the one Sisko had in the pilot", or words to that effect. I agree, and I think this was it. Kira's inner strength (not the fire, but the stability) was based on a delusion that she'd become a "grownup", and seeing herself reflected in the Ennis shattered that. The reaction, to be truthful, reminded me of nothing so much as Scrooge's reaction to the visions shown by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, but that could perhaps be because I've seen Stewart's "A Christmas Carol" show five times. :-)
Then there's Opaka. I don't know why, exactly, but I really found myself liking her a lot. So does everyone else, clearly -- Sisko and Kira were almost *competing* for her attentions on the runabout. She's like Guinan in
some ways -- her calm acceptance of nearly everything, for one. While her main purpose was to bring out Kira's healing, she was interesting in her own right, and I'll miss seeing her in future episodes.
I do have to wonder, though, where all this is going to lead. Opaka's loss is probably not going to be taken lightly by Bajor, and the combination of this plus the revelation about the orbs in "Emissary" may lead to a major spiritual crisis there. I'll be intrigued to see where it goes.
Some particular moments that are worth watching for:
-- Kira's look of joy at taking Opaka aboard. She's downright *giggly*, at least by Bajoran standards.
-- Opaka's actions from her arrival to the crash. She wasn't quite truthful when she said she knew she wouldn't be returning once she came through the wormhole, I'd say; she knew from the moment she came on DS9 that she wasn't going to come back. Her calm anticipation of her own death is among the more striking elements of the episode.
-- Kira's reaction to Opaka's death. Although her initial wail over the body is way overdone (do Nana Visitor and Marina Sirtis have the same acting coach?), the funeral rite for Opaka done through tears is very wrenching.
-- Opaka's return from the dead: spectral to the core.
-- Kira's ranting about lack of proper attention to the war. The lines themselves aren't important -- what *is* is to note that Opaka stops her with a few words when Sisko couldn't do it with an iron fist. One wonders how
easy to get along with Kira will be now.
-- The entire Kira/Opaka scene. "Just what *impression* do you think I have?"
-- The second battle, especially Bashir's save. He finally gets to be a hero for real, and while I can't put my finger on why, the hurried "I'm sorry, Commander, but I've discovered we can't afford to die here -- not even once" probably ranks as one of the best act-closing lines I've seen on DS9 so far.
-- As I'd previously mentioned, Bashir's reaction when Shel-La wants to use the offered reprogramming as a final weapon is beautiful.
-- The final shot closed on *Opaka*. Closing on something other than a regular character or the station is odd enough, but combining it with a rare fadeout to closing credits is even more different. I happen to like it.
That should about cover it. This review seems a bit short, but I've talked myself out with writing about "The Chase" this week. "Battle Lines" was quite good, and I hope the rest of the season does as well.
So, the numbers:
Plot: 9. A bit too much technobabble in the runabout bits, but all in all a simple and well-done story.
Plot Handling: 9. Again, the runabout bits were slow; the rest were good.
Characterization/Acting: 9.5. Kira's first wail is the only thing 'tween this and a 10.
TOTAL: 9.5, rounding up. Nice job -- keep it up.
And yes, the .sig is a rerun from "Chain of Command, Part II". It's so apropos that I couldn't resist.
Geez, give a guy a first name and a family and he thinks he's God or something...:-)
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"Do you know that in this century you can go into a shop and purchase a revolver or any firearm, it's perfectly legal, these people encourage--"
"STOP IT!" [slap]
"It's catching, isn't it? Violence."
--David Warner and Malcolm McDowell, "Time After Time"