WARNING: Spoilers for DS9's "Call to Arms" are preparing for a final assault. Make whatever preparations you deem necessary. In brief: A few disappointments, but mostly quite good.
Brief summary: Sisko's attempt to end Dominion convoys into the Alpha Quadrant has fateful results.
I've got to learn to avoid TV listings for season finales.
Just about all the major "events" of the show -- Rom and Leeta getting married, Sisko losing the station, Kira and Odo putting their "issues" on hold, even Jake staying behind -- were things that I knew in advance thanks to my own carelessness. I'll try to allow for that in the review, but it's entirely possible that my judgment will be colored by that -- in fairness, you should know.
That said ... whew. There are a few moments that I questioned (and one that had me exceptionally ticked off), but all in all, "Call to Arms" brought about gigantic changes in the status quo, and in a way that felt fairly natural throughout.
As with some of the best "galaxy-spanning event" shows Trek has done (both in TNG and in DS9), there was a real sense of inexorability to the coming conflict -- a feel that the characters were caught up in events that encompassed far more than just them, and that any changes they could accomplish would be minimal at best. The news (initially transmitted via rumor) that the Romulans had signed a nonaggression pact with the Dominion helped convey that feeling; so did Sisko's conversation with Weyoun, especially the fact that neither one of them really bought into a word of what the other was saying once the lines had been drawn. I've used this analogy before (but not lately), but it all evoked the same kind of feeling you get in Norse mythology just before Ragnarok comes; everyone seems to be a puppet, even the gods. Regardless of the analogy, however, the entire show did an excellent job of showing people caught up in extraordinary times.
That is ... almost the entire show did. The exception, as usual, was Rom and Leeta. Even they were much less of an exception than usual; the "bickering over the wedding dress", though annoying, was blessedly brief, and the Rom/Quark scene when Rom says that he belongs by Quark's side was actually surprisingly well done. The scene that had my jaw dropping, however, was the wedding scene.
The wedding itself was fine -- as with the choice of dress, it was blessedly brief. Even Rom deciding that Leeta had to get out of harm's way immediately made a lot of sense, both in general and from Rom's point of view. However, I take strong issue with his speech, "The problems of two newlyweds don't amount to much," etc. etc.
In case there are a few people out there who didn't recognize the speech, it was basically lifted straight from "Casablanca", with a few words changed to make it more 24th-century-esque. This isn't designing a scene with a vicious pun in mind, like last week's "lions and Geigers and bears" riff; this is using essentially the same material with the intent of evoking exactly the same reaction. I don't know about you, but when I was in school I was taught that cribbing from another source and changing a few words does not make it your own work. Basically, I don't care for entire speeches that require footnotes to acknowledge their source. I care even less when said footnotes are absent -- the closest the show comes to an acknowledgment is when Nog says "nice speech", and Rom responds "I thought so." And we're supposed to take this as ... what, exactly?
Enough on that; suffice it to say that my belief that Rom and Leeta are a monstrous blight on DS9 remains firm, and that the scene soured me on a piece of what was otherwise a quite good show.
Getting back to characters I do enjoy seeing ... Jake's new job as "war correspondent" would have felt a little forced had we not seen foreshadowing of it early this season in "Nor the Battle to the Strong". We know Jake's already been emotionally "bloodied" by war, and that he can handle himself in a crisis -- so why not? Plus, if this keeps up, there's also a lot of potential for both drama and humor in Jake's job, given that his father is one of the most public figures in the quadrant right now. Works for me, quite well -- and, of course, Jake's reaction to getting the padd for dinner ("can I get some sauce with that?") was priceless.
Most of the other "relationship-related" work on the show also came off just fine. I'm not sure the Kira/Odo scene was necessary (under the heading of "so, you're going to have this scene to show that you're not making a scene?"), but it did seem a sensible reaction to the situation. Similarly, Dax's realization that she did want to marry Worf is the sort of thing that's reasonable to happen when the situation's that grim, so I've no real concerns there.
That leaves the more global concerns, namely Bajor and the station. Where Bajor's concerned ... wow. The scene where Sisko tells Kira that he wants Bajor to sign the nonaggression pact with the Dominion may not quite have been the equal of Sisko's scene with Kai Winn last week -- but it was quite effective. As Sisko said, the only way to guarantee Bajor's safety right now is to keep it out of the fighting, and the only way to do that is to have it sign the pact. Once this is all over, Sisko may find himself in serious hot water with Starfleet -- after all, if they didn't like him urging Bajor to delay Federation membership, I can only imagine their reaction to him effectively telling Bajor to side with the enemy -- but for now, it was realistically the only way he could keep his word as Emissary.
As for the Defiant's mission to mine the wormhole entrance and the subsequent battle for the station, I have a plausibility question or two. The idea of self-replicating mines is a good one, but I get the impression it wasn't thought out well. There are a number of issues there (for one, hoping you don't get one that's buggy and replicates itself without limit), but primarily it means that the Defiant should not have been under time pressure to get them deployed. Can't deploy the ones you currently have? Fine; order the already-deployed mines to replicate themselves. No muss, no fuss. That took away from the crisis mentality on board the Defiant a bit, at least for me.
The battle, on the other hand, came off nicely. It felt slower-paced than some similar battles I've seen (thinking of B5's "Severed Dreams" in particular), but in many ways made up for that by letting us look into the heads and plans of *both* sides rather than just one. I had some problems with the fact that DS9's shields held up so well against the Dominion, given Weyoun's very truthful statement that Federation technology's really been no match for Dominion technology before, but the emotional tenor of the battle, that this is really a holding action more than anything else, came through sharply.
And I did particularly like seeing the situation on board the Dominion/Cardassian flagship, seeing how Dukat and Weyoun felt about the battle. It makes sense that Dukat would be far more confident in his victory than Weyoun would -- for one, it's mostly not his ships that are being destroyed, and for another he's the one who's reclaiming what he's lost. As such, a bit of smugness is appropriate. (His willingness to move onwards to Bajor did not impress me, though; after all the depth and ambivalence we've seen him express in relation to Bajor over the years, to have him suddenly switch right back to his original ideas feels like regression.) Regardless, seeing situations both in Ops and on board Dukat's flagship helped make it seem like a truly two-sided battle.
And the last act? Well, I'd have felt better about it had I not been spoiled in advance, but I was very impressed. Sisko's closing speech to the station, along with his vow to "stand with you again -- here, in the place where I belong" was downright moving, and Kira's defiant (pardon the pun) implementation of Sisko's final computer sabotage was great to watch. ("Dukat wanted the station back -- he can HAVE it." Yes, indeed; enjoy the rubble, my good Gul.) I could care less about Rom as a spy, but Quark's determination to survive and prosper regardless of his changed circumstances also worked; one gets the feeling that he may regret the changed circumstances, but that he'll never let anyone know it.
The final situation as given is about as complex as a season-ending situation has ever been for Trek: Kira, Odo, Quark, Rom, Jake and Dukat are all on the station, with Rom as a spy, Jake as a reporter, and Odo as chief of security and resident Founder on board; Sisko, Dax, Bashir, Nog and O'Brien (not to mention Garak) are on board the Defiant heading for a rendezvous with a truly gigantic fleet, and Worf is headed for the same fleet with General Martok. I don't know what's to come, but come September I'll be most interested in finding out. (I just hope it's not resolved in a single show. I can't imagine it will be, with changes this extensive, but given past events I'm a little wary.)
Some shorter takes:
-- Besides Jake's war correspondent position, there were several throwbacks to "Nor the Battle to the Strong", including Jake's distribution of medical supplies. I also appreciated Bashir's quiet "Remember: Bashir is spelt with an 'I'."
-- Kira's "official" protest of Sisko's actions was marvelous.
-- The shot of the minefield cloaking gradually was very impressive; that's a lot of mines...
-- "So for now, all we need to concern ourselves with is deploying the minefield, maintaining station security and preparing for a possible invasion." "I don't know about you, but I feel more comfortable already." Cute.
-- And the season of "waste extraction" references couldn't be complete without one gratuitous mention of it from Rom. Sheesh.
All in all, then ... I liked "Call to Arms". A few problems here and there kept annoying me, but when it was good, it had me very intrigued and wondering what's to come. And when it comes right down to it, isn't that the point?
Writing: I disliked the "Casablanca" swipe, and a couple of plot developments struck me as false, but generally solid. Directing: Slightly slow pacing on the battle, I thought, but nothing of real concern. Acting: Melanie Smith was a bit dull as Ziyal; the rest were good. (Even Jeffrey Combs, whom I don't normally care for as Weyoun, did a standout job.)
OVERALL: 8.5. Solid, but not record-setting.
NEXT WEEK: Reruns, reruns, reruns, as far as the eye can see. Catch you in the fall. [There will, of course, be a season-ending wrapup at some point; my guess is late July.]
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.) firstname.lastname@example.org <*> "You'd shoot a man in the back?" "Well, it's the safest way, isn't it?" -- Odo and Garak Copyright 1997, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask... This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the author*. Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.