WARNING: This post contains large amounts of spoilers for DS9's "Blood Oath". Those opposed to spoilers may have to swear eternal vengeance if they read this article early, so be warned.
Ahhh. Much better. Not perfect, but a very nice way to spend an hour.
I suspect the nostalgia factor may end up skewing opinions a trifle higher than "Blood Oath" really deserves, but nostalgia or not, the show was entertaining and gripping, which is, after all, its primary mission.
Those clamoring for a spinoff series devoted entirely to Klingons had better get ready for this, because it's as close as we're ever likely to get. While Dax's position was far from incidental, the show was arguably about Kang, Koloth and Kor, not her. This was a "Klingon view of the universe" show, and at least some aspects of it really need to be considered on that basis.
While that aspect of it worked fine, I thought the casting choice for the show (i.e. the nostalgic, "hey, it'd be neat to get all three of the main original Klingons!" idea) was forced. In the Trek universe, the only common thread we've ever really known about these people is that they all had events occur where they strongly opposed the Federation, and Kirk & company in particular. For "Blood Oath" to basically say "we just want to use three old Klingons, but these three could be fun" without a real, strong reason to get those three characters in particular together feels more like a marketing ploy than a creative one, and that's not so pleasant.
However, taking the casting as a given, it's then imperative to make sure all three of the Klingons are believable: both as themselves, and as the same characters we saw a century ago in Trek time.
Kang definitely fit the bill. I'll admit that my memories of the TOS-era Kang are well beyond sketchy (I doubt I've seen that particular episode in at least five years), but both the writing and acting seemed very consistent
with what little I remember. And as for being convincing as a Klingon ... no question in my mind. Ansara, despite his semi-betrayal, was probably the most intensely noble of the three guest Klingons, and had an intensity that came right through the screen to push me against the wall. Very, very impressive.
Koloth (William Campbell) may have been the weak link. On the one hand, it may make sense for him to be the least convincing Klingon of the three, as I always felt he was the least convincing, most dandyish of the three TOS Klingons anyway -- so he might get major "in character" points there. On the other hand, he was at times really not very convincing as a Klingon; he seemed almost too precise, too meticulous. He was fairly good in the strategy-planning meetings, and more or less fine in the bat'leth practice when Dax convinces him she's worth bringing along, but even so I was extremely conscious of the fact that I was watching an actor there -- a feeling I did not have with either of the other two (or with Dax, for that matter).
Kor, on the other hand, was probably my favorite. Yes, he was somewhat different in many ways from the Kor we saw a century ago, but he's also the only one that acknowledged any sort of change from what he was. Kor struck me as the one of the three with the least regard for traditions and the least regard for ethics; he didn't care much for the forms of the oath or the exact issues involved, he just wanted vengeance and was happy to take it in whatever form presented itself. (That also might explain why, at the close, there was neither a death-chant for Kang and Koloth nor the actual eating of the albino's heart; the only Klingon left was Kor, and he wasn't particularly interested with their mission accomplished.) The lack of regard for ethics certainly sums up the original Kor to a T, and the rest is something I could see coming with age. Kor worked beautifully.
Besides, I've been a John Colicos fan for a very long time (since his "Battlestar Galactica" days if not longer), and this gave him the opportunity to have a good deal of fun. The direction he got must have amounted to "open mouth, insert scenery, chew vigorously", since that's certainly what he did on several occasions. :-)
Enough of the guest stars, then; what about Dax? Well, this was definitely "a good day to act" for Terry Farrell; she made Dax about as believable as I've ever seen her. While Kang was right, that the Klingon phrases didn't quite fit in Jadzia Dax's mouth, I got the strong, strong impression that they fit in her mind, and that Dax was very frustrated that Jadzia didn't sound as convincing as she should. That's a very tough image to project, and I thought Farrell did an expert job. Kudos to her, and to Peter Allan Fields for continuing to give the character something interesting to do, something which, though improving, remains depressingly rare.
While Dax's scenes with the Klingons were supposed to be much of the meat of the show, I actually thought the most powerful moment she had was in her conversation with Kira early on. The "how many Cardassians did you kill?" question Kira was asked last year by "Gul Darheel" came home to roost here, to fairly devastating effect; that, combined with the interplay between Kira and Dax, really delivered a blow, I thought. (Dax's "who, me" when asked if she was thinking about killing someone was just perfect -- the sort of "who, me" that can only be interpreted as "I must talk about this with somebody...") [As a side point, the lighting during that Kira/Dax scene really stood out as very powerful as well.]
The story itself was just involved enough to get us interested in the guest stars, but not so involved that it distracted from watching them, which was after all the point of this show in the first place. It worked, though, for many reasons. One very important one was that the albino was not particularly stupid: as soon as he found out weapons weren't working, he realized very fast what must be happening. He didn't lose through stupidity, he lost because everything happened a little too fast for him to compensate. That suggests good tactics on the part of Dax and company, not idiocy to make the plot work. Sound writing there.
Other than that, the story was fairly basic: Dax finds out about the Klingons' presence (done extremely nicely, I might add), Dax fights to become part of the team, then the vengeance mission itself. Straightforward stuff,
but it's all in the execution -- and this execution was magnificent.
One aspect that concerns me, however, turns on the Dax/Sisko scene and the final scene where Dax comes back under everyone's watchful eye. While I applaud both scenes as expertly done, I'm concerned that, like the Odo/Kira confrontation at the close of "Necessary Evil", any ramifications of these actions will vanish into the ether. Dax has now participated in an action that Starfleet strongly condemns (at least, they did back when Worf killed Duras three years ago); she needs some serious talking to now. Sisko needs to talk to her both as Starfleet and as old friend, and Kira needs to talk to her as one that's been there. We'd better see more of this. If not, the show loses its power.
That about covers it. "Blood Oath" isn't perfect, as I said, but it's very strong -- in fact, the strongest thing DS9 has done since "Whispers", I'd argue. Nice way to take us into a few weeks of reruns.
So, a few short points:
-- One slight annoyance: everyone keeps getting referred to as a "Klingon d'Har master" or something sounding like it. What the hell IS a Klingon d'Har master?
-- Odo and Quark worked beautifully, as usual. "But he'll kill you." "No, he said he'll kill you." Grin.
-- Based on the "eighty-one years ago" reference, that suggests that Dax met Kang somewhere between ST5 and ST6. That seems to mostly make sense...
-- Where did the albino get the bat'leth he was using for the final fight with Kang? He couldn't have gotten it from either of the wounded Klingons; he'd have killed them with it in the bargain. I can't imagine he just keeps
-- For cast-watchers, an interesting thing to spot. Christopher Collins, who played the albino's assistant, has shown up before several times (usually on TNG, both as a Klingon and a Pakled) -- but more importantly, he's shown up in that makeup before, as one of Quark's nefarious associates back in "[[[The Passenger]]". If that's meant to be the same character, that implies the albino has at least some slight contact with information about the station. Interesting thought...
That's about it, then. If you're a Klingon fan, you'll enjoy this. If you're a TOS nostalgia fan, you'll enjoy this. You'll probably enjoy this even if neither applies. So, to sum up:
Plot: Not particularly involved, but more than adequate for a piece this character-driven. The involvement of those three particular Klingons is a little much, though.
Plot Handling: Marvelous. Taut as a bowstring.
Characterization: Probably the best use of Dax ever, and everybody else wasn't half bad either.
OVERALL: Call it a 9.5. Very nice piece of work.
NEXT WEEK: As I said, reruns -- starting with "Melora".
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"Kang thinks too much; Koloth doesn't feel enough."