WARNING: This post contains heavy amounts of spoiler information for "The Siege", DS9's latest episode and the conclusion to a three-part story. Those not wishing to have the experience spoiled for them had better get off now.
In brief: Well, not bad--but hardly the equal of the first two. Somewhat disappointing.
While "The Siege" isn't bad by itself--it certainly has some wonderful dialogue and crackles along better than much of DS9's first season did--when put in the context of "The Homecoming" and "The Circle", both of which were absolutely fantastic, it falls flat. Very flat.
Interestingly, however, some of the problems it had are the exact opposite of the usual problems that plague TNG cliffhanger conclusions. TNG wrap-ups tend to suffer by wrapping everything up too neatly--no changes are ever significant and are easily reverted back to normal.
With "The Siege", on the other hand, the problem was almost 180 degrees around from that. I came away from it feeling as though nothing was resolved at all. While in some ways that's not as bad as everything being too pat, it is incredibly unsatisfying on many levels. While some things are better left open for now, there were certain elements that did need to be resolved and that in my opinion were not. That's a problem.
Some open threads are not a problem, however, and one of them is the Kira/Bareil issue. While some elements of Kira's vision in "The Circle" have now played themselves out (the voices, Dax dressed as a Vedek, Winn crying "blasphemy" to Kira, etc.), what appeared to be the most shocking part of the vision to Kira, symbolic hints of a romance with Bareil, are still just that: hints and promises. That, I think, is just fine. Since, hopefully, we'll be seeing a lot of Bajor this season, we'll probably see a fair amount of Bareil as well, in which case there is ample time for that relationship to grow. I have no complaints on that score.
I also have no particular complaints about the issue of the next Kai remaining open. While "The Circle" did a wonderful job of showing how temporal and spiritual corruption can combine, that doesn't require solving both crises at once. I expect that we'll see the election of the next Kai (Bareil, one can but hope) sometime in the next half-season, and would be a bit annoyed if it went any longer than that, but at the present time, I think the religious schisms are still more than appropriate.
That, however, leaves the more immediate issue of the threat to the station and the threat to Bajor of the Circle itself. That is the one thing that I think should have been resolved--and while the attempt was made, it was far from convincing to me.
Basically, my problem boils down to this: the best elements of this arc's first two parts, and of DS9 in general, have been directly related to Bajoran internal strife, be it political or religious in nature. "The Homecoming" and "The Circle" certainly dealt with it a great deal, but "In the Hands of the Prophets" wasn't short on it, either, and "Duet" had the companion issue, Bajoran/Cardassian hostility, as its main theme. Given all of that, I hoped and expected that "The Siege" would probably have a large focus on Bajor itself.
Instead, what I got was a show where the vast majority of the screen time was focused on the station: its evacuation, preparations for the siege, and the battles themselves. The total amount of time spent on Bajor was probably less than a tenth of the show--and most of that was Kira and Dax fighting their enemies, not real issues being covered. I'm sure this show was very satisfying to those for whom the show DS9 and the station DS9 are one and the same--but for me, they're not, and so the whole focus of the show fell flat.
As a result of this shift of focus, I found myself very impatiently twiddling my thumbs through many of the scenes in "The Circle" while waiting for what I considered the "real" story to pick up the pace. The Odo/Quark scenes, the "Quark tries to sell seats on the runabouts" subplot, the Jake/Nog farewell, the Quark/Rom scene... all were executed well enough, surely, but I didn't find them even a tenth as compelling as the least of the scenes in "The Homecoming" or "The Circle". They simply weren't relevant to what I wanted to see.
Neither, unfortunately, were all the scenes filled with Kira/Dax banter--but those scenes crackled with so much energy that I'll forgive them for it. :-) These two, characters and actresses alike, definitely make a good team, and I'm all in favor of teaming them up whenever possible. In addition, it was nice to see Dax being used for something useful for a change. I have a few small concerns about what we saw, namely that it's again a past Dax that has usefulness and not Jadzia (this host, it seems, is never useful), for one; but overall, things like the exchange on "pulakus" and all the let's-keep-this-[silly]-crate-in-the-sky scenes were, at the very least, engaging to watch.
Unfortunately, "engaging to watch", while a positive trait, is rather removed from being the sort of compelling epic that the first two parts of the story were creating. Part of that problem, I think, is that we ceased to have any sort of truly chilling enemy. Jaro, as depicted in "The Circle", is one of the most effective enemies DS9 has had as a show to date--and here, what did we get? Two scenes with him at all--one of which was a pale echo of the Jaro/Winn scene in "The Circle", and one of which was his alleged defeat. For that matter, those are also the only two times we saw Winn, who's also proved an effective villain, particularly in tandem with Jaro. These enemies weren't just behind the scenes in "The Siege"--they barely seemed to exist, and that was a problem.
In exchange, we had as villains General Krim (who converted towards the end, of course) and Colonel Day, the fanatic. While Stephen Macht did as decent a job with Krim here as he did last week, it isn't even close to the sort of chilling performance we were getting from Frank Langella and shouldn't be used in the place of one. As for Colonel Day, I unfortunately have to say "the less said, the better." I didn't find him particularly convincing or surprising in any way, and the bit where he's deceiving Krim bordered on the incoherent in spots, I thought. I wasn't impressed with him at all, particularly with using him as an assassin to remove Li from the picture.
Speaking of Li, his indecision, reluctance to play the role he needs to, and eventual death to get off the hook all worked reasonably well, and all fit in very nicely with the way we saw his character in "The Homecoming"--but they didn't fit the man who claimed at the end of "The Siege" that "We've got to do something. I'VE got to do something." Had more of his doubt been played up there, I think this trilogy would work very well as, essentially, "Li's Saga", which is no doubt how some of this will eventually end up in Bajoran legend. As it is, it will work most of the time, but there's still some head-scratching.
That's it for the broad strokes. I have some comments about one scene in particular, though, before I get to some short takes--namely, the very scene in which the Circle allegedly breaks, when Kira reveals the Cardassian involvement.
Maybe it's me, but I didn't get nearly the feeling of "now it's all over, and the coup won't work" that we were obviously supposed to get from it, given Sisko's later lines. In particular, when Winn jumped in and announced her intention to examine the evidence, my senses were screaming not to let her anywhere near them--she's probably the person you least want to have direct control over it, barring Jaro himself. Also, given that Jaro really didn't have any knowledge of the Cardassian involvement, I think a scene where he realizes just how badly he's been duped would have been very much in order. I have the feeling that a lot was left on the cutting room floor here, and unfortunately what's left doesn't seem to work very well.
Also, perhaps we were meant to interpret Winn's examination as a sign that "if even someone this fanatical is now questioning, Jaro really has lost," but for me it just felt out of character for Winn to get involved so personally. What I think would have been better would have been if one of the generals in the room, perhaps one who'd been instrumental in overthrowing the Cardassian occupation, had become incensed and announced an intention to examine the evidence for himself. Then, we could see Winn start subtly, then overtly, taking his side as the scene went on. That seems more Winn's style than the blustering we saw. Just a thought.
So, some shorter takes:
-- We finally have the name of the runabout replacing the Yangtze[e] Kian[g]: the Orinoco. Nice name; very nice name.
-- Superfluous as it was, the whole "combat rations" sequence had just the right tone of gallows-humor absurdity to really get me enjoying it. A definite plus.
-- Another plus for the Keiko/Miles sequence in the evacuation. It was some of Rosalind Chao's best work as Keiko in a while, and also proved, much to my relief, that Molly the Miracle Growth Baby is not, in fact, a teenager yet. :-)
-- As long as I'm on pluses, a BIG one for Li swaying the people at the airlock. It was one of the most effective sequences of the show.
Overall, I'd have to put "The Siege" smack in with most of TNG's cliffhanger resolutions: not bad in and of itself, but coming up short when compared to its buildup. BOBW2 suffered from it a bit, and most of the other cliffhangers have had far more serious problems (from "Redemption II" to "Descent, Part II"). "The Siege" had some difficulties, but not enough to keep it from being a good show by itself.
I do have to wonder, though, where this leaves the situation. I said back when I reviewed "The Homecoming" that major changes were not only suggested by this plot, but required, since "the status quo leads to ruin." Well, not much has changed. The coup's been broken (allegedly) and Jaro may be discredited, but factional fighting is probably still a problem, and now Li Nalas is dead. All should not be well on Bajor now...
So, to sum up:
Plot: Very mixed. It focused on the wrong things, in my
opinion, and one crucial moment (the breaking of the Circle) wasn't
plausible. The rest of it hangs together just fine.
Plot Handling: Some good flair, and it managed to keep me
interested, but I think it was aiming at the wrong subject.
Characterization: Major annoyances at essentially ignoring Winn
and Jaro, but the regulars were fine, particularly Kira and Dax.
OVERALL: Call it a 7. Nice by itself, but not close to its predecessors.
Dax is swiped. I've heard of a feeling of inner emptiness, but this is ridiculous. :-)
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.) BITNET: tlynch@citjulie
"The guys flying those ships--used to be the guys flying THESE ships."