WARNING: DS9's "Ties of Blood and Water" is spoiled below. (It also occurs to me that ties of blood and water would make a horrible Father's Day gift.)
In brief: Surprisingly unaffecting; not bad, but nothing to go out of your way for.
Brief summary: Kira finds herself remembering her father's death when her Cardassian "father" comes aboard DS9 terminally ill.
This has been a very odd two weeks.
First, we get a Quark-centered "Business As Usual", which I expect to be a bad Ferengi comedy show and which turns out to be surprisingly powerful. Now, this week, we get "Ties of Blood and Water", something Kira-centered with echoes from Bajoran/Cardassian issues -- things I usually speak out in favor of -- and I came away underwhelmed. There must be something in the water this month.
Admittedly, some of that's because "Ties of Blood and Water" wasn't at all the show I was expecting. For whatever reason, I expected the show to be focusing at least partially on the secrets Ghemor was actually going to tell about Dukat and Cardassia, and thus was all geared up for some interesting revelations. The show was instead about Kira learning how to face death, and also a "Kira learns how to forgive a Cardassian" in places. My expectations should not be the show's problem, but they undoubtedly ended up coloring my judgment.
What I do consider a problem with the show, however, is that there wasn't enough to the Kira/Ghemor relationship to make its rifts and mends particularly engrossing. We as the audience have seen Ghemor precisely once, in "Second Skin" two years ago -- and sure, Ghemor was a nice enough guy then and a sympathetic character, but I'm not really sure that's enough.
What we don't know anything about is the relationship between the two of them between "Second Skin" and now. Kira's reactions in the teaser suggest that they've seen each other from time to time -- long enough for the two of them to be fast friends. At the same time, though, later conversations strongly imply that they haven't seen each other, and even that they haven't talked much to each other -- certainly, if both of them had to "keep an ear to the ground" to find out news of the other, there's not much communication going on. Without that communication, Kira's friendship felt forced -- and if it's forced, that brings a lot of the show down with it. (Ghemor's line about Kira's plan being a good one, but with the wrong person at the head may be applicable; the show was a good idea, but Ghemor might have been the wrong person to have in the role.)
I also think that if Kira were becoming friends with a Cardassian, she'd have looked up his war record at some point -- perhaps even while she was in Ghemor's house two years ago if she had access there. As such, Dukat's information should not have come as a surprise. Given those two things, then, I didn't get pulled in enough to particularly care whether Kira forgave Ghemor or not.
(It's interesting to compare this with Furel, Kira's friend in the resistance. We'd also only seen Furel and Lupaza once before they were killed off, but we got enough of a sense of history there that we did care about their deaths -- or at least, I did.)
Apart from that basic problem, the show was structured pretty well. The flashbacks to Kira's father's death were realistic (even if it was obvious pretty early on that Kira was going to miss her father's actual passing and feel guilty about it), and some of the montages we got of Kira caring for Ghemor were nicely assembled as well. Basically, I can appreciate a fair amount of the show intellectually -- but there was no emotional wallop, and for a show dealing with issues like this, there should have been.
I also think that Kira's big speech to Bashir at the end may not have been wise. Since we'd already seen the flashbacks to what she was discussing, having her recount them over again felt like overkill to me. "Show, don't tell" is the usual mantra, but "for the Prophets' sake, don't show then tell the same moment" seems applicable here. (The new information, about her not wanting to see the source of her strength slip away, was useful -- it was just buried deep enough down that it took a while to get there.)
Additionally, the added appearance of Weyoun didn't help matters one bit. Even given the sense of having Dukat accompanied by a "Dominion advisor", I see no reason to make it Weyoun. Hell, the Dominion already has the Jem'Hadar, who are cartoon adversaries in a lot of ways -- having a chuckling Weyoun show up and note in passing that he's a clone and also immune to most poisons just felt incredibly stupid. Having someone casually note that they're immune to a deadly poison works in a tongue-in-cheek romp like "The Princess Bride" (where it worked beautifully, in fact), but here it was too threatening to be funny, but too incongruously funny to be particularly threatening. Ehh.
Dukat, on the other hand, was his usual treat when not hampered by Weyoun's presence. His one-on-one confrontation with Kira where he notes his "perverse pleasure" with some of the games he gets to play was certainly well done, and I imagine a lot of people will see Kira tossing her cup at Dukat and missing by inches as one of the strongest images of the show. Me -- I tend to remember words and dialogue, not visuals, and the best image I got of Dukat this time was in his very first scene, when he cuts so nicely at Sisko. When he mentions that his title of Gul is "... less pretentious than the other alternatives -- President, Emperor, First Minister ... Emissary," I nearly choked on what I was drinking. Dukat has a way of making even his bluntest moves seem subtly done; I enjoy that tremendously. I wish I could say I'd enjoyed the rest of the show that much.
That's really about it, though; I've surprisingly little to say here. As a "Kira learns to forgive a Cardassian" show ... we've seen far better in "Duet", and as a "Kira faces death" show, we didn't know enough about her situation with Ghemor to give that the strength it needed. What we got was certainly watchable enough, but I was expecting and hoping for far more.
So, a few shorter takes:
-- Given that Ghemor had been on the station once, right at the end of "Second Skin", I was a little surprised by the implication he hadn't met Dax. (Worf, of course, wasn't aboard yet.) It's entirely possible that he hadn't, of course, but it started me wondering a little. (I liked the Worf/Dax exchange about Kira's friendships, too.)
-- There was a good sense of past and of future plans in "Ties of Blood and Water", to be sure. The point that there's still no sign of Ghemor's daughter was well taken, as were Kira's plans for a propaganda counteroffensive against the Dominion/Cardassia alliance.
-- Furel had two arms in the flashback to Kira's father's death. Guess he lost the one arm sometime later on in the struggle.
-- Thomas Kopache (Kira's father) always seems to wind up dying; the last time we saw him on Trek was in Voyager's "The Thaw", and he was killed then, too. Poor guy. :-)
That about covers it. Wrapping up...
Writing: Definitely a good idea on paper, but some weird choices of characters (Ghemor) and of moments (Weyoun).
Directing: A few too many very-close-ups for my taste, but generally solid. The montage was particularly nice.
Acting: I didn't care for Lawrence Pressman (Ghemor) as much as I did previously, but everything was certainly workable.
TOTAL: 6, I think; watchable, but not all that powerful. Ah, well.
Quark's mother returns, with the love of a Nagus in hand.
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"I prefer the title Gul; so much more hands-on than Legate, mm? And
less pretentious than the other alternatives: President, Emperor,
First Minister ... Emissary."
"How about 'Dominion puppet'?"