WARNING: This article contains heavy spoiler information for DS9's season finale, "The Jem'Hadar". If spoilers offend you, don't go any further.
A nice show, and a nice looming thought to end the season with ... but Nog needs a swift removal from the show. Now.
"The Jem'Hadar" suffered from a somewhat slow start and a focus on a character who's so far gone as to merit summary introductions to an airlock, but once it got moving, it was virtually unstoppable.
However, the focus on Jake and Nog (Nog in particular) did its best to break every single bit of momentum the rest of the show was building up. I'm tempted to blame the actor here, since most of Nog's actions and reactions strike me as ones somewhat in character, but I simply cannot abide watching Nog on screen. Nog seems to me to be a character with no redeeming features whatsoever: he hasn't had any insights to lend to the show or to himself for a long time, he is not good comic relief despite all attempts, and the Ferengi squeals that are annoying from anyone are like nails on a chalkboard in his case. Nog needs to be gone, and the sooner the better.
That aside, I liked most of the rest of "The Jem'Hadar" a lot. I thought the majority of the Sisko/Quark sequences on values could have been chopped out without much of a loss (though Quark's final rant to Sisko about it is quite good), perhaps being replaced by a little more with Captain Keogh, whom I liked quite a bit -- but Sisko and Jake were the usual strong pairing, and Quark, unlike Nog, did have a strong role to play by the time the story had come to its conclusion.
Then, of course, once the first two acts were gone, the show really got started, with the arrival of Eris and the Jem'Hadar. Virtually every minute after that (with the exception of Jake and Nog on the runabout, which was a
waste) had me absolutely riveted.
The Dominion has been built up for a while as a Big, Bad Enemy, and I've said on more than one occasion that I'm not sure the show needs one beyond the Cardassians. (Certainly, the whole mess with the Maquis seems a plentiful supply of problems without adding in an anti-Federation in the bargain.) However, it's something that could probably go either way -- and as enemies go, the Dominion seem a prime catch.
It's tough to tell exactly what the Dominion are, or exactly what they want. ("Whatever they can get" is too easy an answer, so don't try it. :-) ) Certainly, any group that's going to send in something like the Jem'Hadar
(which I strongly suspect are essentially a mercenary arm and not a strongly loyal one) to do the Dominion's dirty work is not one I'd want to be too close to, but I want to know a lot more about their history, particularly
"The Founders". Going out on a limb, the Dominion might well have been formed out of a major sense of "manifest destiny", convinced that they are only fulfilling the role they're supposed to anyway -- and for all we know, the alternatives in the Gamma Quadrant are a lot worse. However, we don't know much yet, any more than Sisko and company do. I'll wait to see how it plays out, but as a first glimpse this did a good job of whetting my appetite.
The use of Eris as a spy was well done (though not surprising for several reasons, which I'll go into later), but the image that got to me more, and I suspect will make a bigger impression on most people, was the Dominion ship making a suicide run on the USS Odyssey. Ouch. Sisko said that it was showing how far the Dominion was willing to go to keep the Feds out of the game. As far as I'm concerned, they may consider the point well and truly made. Ouch.
(It's also worrying for another reason: those were not particularly large Dominion ships; bigger than runabouts, but not by that much. If this sort of thing is what the little ships can do, imagine what starship-sized vessels
are capable of...)
The Dominion's in danger of being put in an untenable position so far as our expectations are concerned, though. So far, we've seen that they're willing to run very elaborate games to lure victims in, we've seen that they have incredible firepower and the will to use it, that we can't really hurt them very much, that they apparently can transport over very long ranges (at least, I'm assuming Eris beamed back through the wormhole, which is a frightening thought), and that they can physically walk right through containment fields. There is a real danger of the Dominion becoming a supervillain, which may undercut their watchability. I hope not, and it's
certainly possible that we've seen their limits; but what we've seen so far suggests that the Federation is in a lot of trouble. We'll have to see.
More than their actual actions, I liked a lot of the reactions to the Dominion that we saw, particularly Keogh's reaction to the DS9 regulars wanting to take part in the battle (a very sensible reaction on his part, I might add), and especially Kira's reaction to the implied destruction of New Bajor. She clearly had a lot of feeling invested in that colony, and for good reason -- and to hear from some apparently invincible being standing in front of you that "they fought well, for a spiritual people" while he hands you a datapadd he took from the ruins has got to hurt. Kira was almost in shock for the rest of that scene, and with good reason. I like it.
Then, there's Eris, who was probably my favorite guest character on the show. Molly Hagan did a marvelous job of making Eris somewhat off-kilter, both in her look and in her mannerisms, and despite my hunch from the start that she was a plant, I warmed to her quite a bit as the show went on anyway. However, given the sense it would make for the Dominion to run a decoy like this, and given the mythological origins of Eris's name (Eris was the goddess of discord, who threw the apple causing the Trojan War; literary foreshadowing if I ever heard it), I was pretty sure from the start that she was Not A Trustworthy Sort.
That covers the major points. "The Jem'Hadar" was sort of a mix of two things: a human/Ferengi show, which mostly didn't work, and the introduction of the Dominion, which worked in spades.
Onwards to some shorter points, then:
-- Quark's idea about using the monitors to sell "collectibles" such as IDIC pins had me absolutely rolling. Has Armin done any QVC Trek shows yet? If not, he may have trouble keeping a straight face now...
-- Sisko and Jake's scene at the outset was good, but I thought Sisko came down a little hard on Jake's initial science project. I realize he was just trying to get Jake's enthusiasm up for the Gamma Quadrant, but "that's IT?" is not the way to get your kid's interest level up, believe me.
-- It's a pity we didn't get to see more of Captain Keogh. I liked him, and Dax's words with and about him were a highlight.
-- It's also a pity that the Jake/Nog scenes had as many problems as they did. Most of Jake's ideas were very reasonable ones, and Cirroc Lofton is doing his usual good job -- but Nog just isn't holding up the air above him,
let alone his end of the scene. Please, no more.
That would seem to do it ... and thus ends a season. Not with a whimper or a bang, but with a bit of both. :-) With this likely to cause major problems next year, and the Maquis situation likely to be a running problem for at least the next half-season (until "Voyager" starts), the station has a lot on its plate for next season. I intend to be there.
So, summing up:
Plot: Two for the price of one; unfortunately, only the one with long-term ideas held up.
Plot Handling: A slow start, but nice work after that if you can overlook Nog.
Characterization: Strong guests, good work with Sisko and the other regulars, iffy Quark and horrible Nog. Remove that one.
OVERALL: Call it an 8. Not a bad way to end a season, but not their best,
NEXT WEEK: A rerun, of course. See you in three months.
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"Lieutenant, have you ever thought about serving on a starship?"
"I'm happy where I am."
-- Keogh and Dax