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I recently plowed through all seven seasons of DS9, the Star Trek franchise's most interesting failure (some would argue, though personally I love it most where it undermines the distinctively liberal gestalt of ST), and where Ron Moore cut his dark, realistic milsf teeth. Mostly I loved it, and found myself constantly thinking of Babylon 5, all the little Stargates, and BSG (of course). B5 (and SG1, if I'm honest) handle the god problem well: the First Ones/Vorlons and the tricksy Ancients, bless 'em, are mostly shown to be *people* (albeit vastly more "evolved" than the humanoid races they manipulate and lord-it-over), whose characters are flawed, whose motives seem questionable (or at least opaque enough to trigger distrust), whose powers are potentially explainable (had one world enough and time), whose population does not march in ideological lock-step (i.e. conflicts internal to their society bleed into humanoid affairs). (And it makes me wonder yet a-fucking-gain why RDM and the rest of the writers on BSG resorted to the supernatural when they sooooo easily could have followed the same trajectory.)

The Prophets mostly fit this non-supernatural pattern, and their bizarrely deep involvement in the life of The Sisko (they bloody well arranged for his birth! JEEZY KREEZY, is all I can say) ends up moving the viewer beyond strict allegory to a ponderation on the deeply human desire to see our parents love us embedded in all these not-quite-supernatural goings-on. Many people say DS9 bungled the wrapping up of the Sisko/Prophets plot-line, but I love how they managed to show the love lavished on Sisko by his, uh, parents: why do these wormhole aliens care so goddamned much about Ben Sisko? It's kind of lovely, and leads one to consider the other parent-child narrative that features so largely in DS9: that between Ben and his son Jake. I've never seen better or more lovely storytelling about parenting: how consistently encouraging and mutual and unconditional their relationship is. From a great entry on "The Visitor" on the DS9 wiki:

Ira Steven Behr particularly liked the way this episode deals with love, a love that spans a lifetime, because it is not a romantic love, but a filial love, which is not something that is seen as much as romance; "A love stronger than death. Usually that's romantic love, but for this show, this series, we chose the love between a father and son. And it worked like gangbusters. Everyone could relate to it."

If you think about this and then look at the allegory of The Sisko, that love of the wormhole aliens for Sisko becomes more legible: if we want gods, we want them as parents like Ben, who appear in our lives when they can and always want us to have a wonderful life, encourage us to have a wonderful life. *happy sigh*

The remainder of the Prophets-Plots are kind of silly: the Paghwraiths etc. YAWN, though it was kind of fun to see Kai Winn get laid by Gul Dukat. I turn from them to look at Bajor itself, and its politics.

The last year (and especially the past few months, with the birth of OWS and the often-contentious arguments I've been getting into with liberals) had made the Bajoran/Cardassian allegory very interesting to turn in the light of political imagination. Palestine, Ireland, Algeria, and then on to Egypt, Libya, poor poor Syria. And finally to us.

To recap: the Cardassians occupied and brutalized Bajor for over 50 years, and the Bajorans won their freedom through a relentless and bloody terrorist campaign and with a little help at the end from the Federation. The Bajorans spend most of the series recovering from the Occupation and rebuilding their economy, their culture, their very population, such that when, in seasons six and seven, the Cardassians make a very bad bargain with the Dominion and end up occupied themselves, the tactics of Bajoran terrorism are offered to the Cardassians with a grace and wisdom I don't think I've ever seen represented on TV. This is thanks mostly to Nana Visitor, NANA GODDAMN VISITOR.

The entirety of that plotline is worth the price of the first six seasons: how deftly it lays out the fungibility of political power and what it feels like to see someone finally *get* it, to see your enemy (your abuser) really grok, and to be able to move beyond wallowing in vindication.

I did some screencaps! Observe them!

Have to get this one out of the way: Cardassia always looks like Paris! I swear! The beautiful skyline and clouds full of sky. (If I may.)

Paris, Cardassia

These are all from "Tacking into the Wind" and "The Dogs of War," the two crucial eps for the Dominion Occupation of Cardassia plotline. In "Tacking into the Wind," the Cardassian resistance leader Damar discovers that his family has been pretty much slain by the Dominion, in retaliation for his rebellion. Kira's standing nearby when this news comes in, promptly points out Damar's hypocrisy, and just as promptly regrets it ("I can't believe I said it out loud, I am such an asshole I am").

Damar, devastated and outraged: "What kind of state tolerates the murder of innocent women and children? What kind of people give those orders?"

Kira, who can't help herself: "Yeah, Damar--what kind of people give those orders?"


The whole exchange (and Garak's commentary thereafter) is just anvil-y enough to be satisfying for a long-time viewer (INVOLUNTARY FIST PUMP), but (again I will shout) NANA VISITOR gives it enough ornament to pull the viewer past the overt message to wonder at her compassion. When I first started this rewatch, I forgot how shouty and self-righteous Major Kira was at the beginning. As the series unfolded, the character ramified more and more, and this is so delightfully borne out in Visitor's development as an actor. How the camera loves Colonel Kira in these two episodes.

Here's a great interaction between the asshole hardliner Gul Rusot (also in "Tacking"), who's resisting Kira's direction as to EVERYTHING and whom Garak recommends Kira kill before he kills her à cause de his complete and inflexible contempt for Bajor. He belligerates all over her, she fights back: "I must have hit a nerve!" "Yeah, this nerve." Youch!


I love the subtlety of her facial expressions in the scene in "The Dogs of War" where she witnesses the birth of a popular resistance (they blow up a Dominion emplacement and Damar rallies the surrounding Cardassian population with calls for FREEEEDOM [again with the anvil, DS9! Just put it down already]). That's the one thing they did right in that scene: put Kira shrouded and in the shadows, an observer whose stake in the proceedings is complicated, to say the least.

I've lightened this one, to get a clearer picture of those facial expressions, but really, the original darkness of the footage as these few seconds pass just works. Totally powerful and understated, and totally crucial.

Some of the love I have for Kara Thrace really belongs to Kira Nerys: where Starbuck putting her picture back up on the wall of the dead attempted, narrative-wise, to represent a kind of Aufhebung, Kira in this scene, well, golly-gosh, Kira just owns it. And I think this has exactly to do with BSG's god problem: in DS9, the woman warrior is fully shown in her historical moment, with a nuanced understanding of culpability, suffering and its passage, and the just-plain-bigger picture. BSG bungled the whole pigeon/angel fucked up and bullshit explanation for what Kara was and what she meant (POOF. SRSLY?), and it's precisely because GOD is pulling the strings. I do think BSG could have pulled it out of the fire — resequenced, as it were, the whole simplistic Mormon eschatology of eternal progression/permanent state of emergency thing built into the DNA of the original series. But they didn't, to my well-known and eternal regret.

And thus Kira's journey is so much more moving, because it is so much more deeply embroiled in non-supernatural circumstances, in the things terrible and the things lovely that people do to each other, the weight their nightmares leave on a sleeper, the grace that comes like firelight. Did the gods even fuck with Kira's life? I don't think so, maybe an orb experience or two. She's their faithful servant, who just lives her life as conscientiously as possible, with little overt manipulation by those gods (which is why I like Kira's story a little bit better than Sisko's). [It's a portrayal of faith for which I find myself without scorn.]

To bring this back to contemporary politics, I think Kira's narrative (and the whole Bajoran resistance in all its complexities, the Maquis, etc.) is remarkable because it could, before 9/11, express the tactics of the resistance as justified, and effective. Watching it again as the FBI and Homeland Security infiltrate OWS, as militarized police forces all over the world perpetrate class war crimes on students and stinky hippies alike (the murders in the middle east, my god, the murders), well, in the light of all that, DS9 once again can express those tactics as justified and effective (I'm thinking more of the decentralized structure and the canny choice of targets and information than the actual blowing up of things, just to be clear, HS AGENT WHO'S READING MY FRIGGING LIVEJOURNAL - I AM NOT ADVOCATING THE USE OF EXPLOSIVES, DUDES!). DS9 can tell us, thanks to the Arab Spring and OWS, that class war really is war. [Or maybe I'm just torquing this to suit my own ideological predilections. *shrugs*]

The jolt I get from Kira's (and Bajor and Cardassia's) plot has relevance to our moment, precisely because the question of race (the bane of Trek, weird foreheads and blue skin and freaking lobes) is really evaporated, as the viewer comes to see domination is domination is domination. The Egyptians are perhaps Kira shrouded in the shadows, seeing citizens of the power that dominated them begin to realize their own domination, and helping them. Pizzas from Tahrir delivered to the Wisconsin State Capitol Building. I still love that, how charming and generous and whimsical it was. What the Egyptians did, this beautiful spring, what OWS are doing all over the country, I think you can see it in Kira's face.


So. If you're of a mind to spend the time, these two episodes are Officially Worth It!

Date: 2011-11-27 04:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, I think by far it's the best of the series, and the acting and the writing (not the plotting) is on average better than Babylon 5, which is generally pretty clunky. It probably helped that I only saw the last 3 seasons and skipped the eps that didn't bear on the space opera/war plot. A shame it has to fall apart completely in the last few episodes with the RDM God-move. But that's what happens when you don't plan things out ahead of time as JMS did, and you have vaguely spiritual leanings like RDM.

Don't forget Odo as well and his relationship to the Changeling Hive-Geist, which is one of the better portrayals of that situation that's neither Singularity-Panglossian nor Borg-Evil. Really sucks to be part of a HiveSittlichkeit sometimes!

"In the Pale Moonlight" was my favorite ep, which probably won't come as a surprise. Less for the plot mechanics itself than just the sheer shock of seeing official main character Captain Good Guy act like that, which is very rare indeed. (I guess Magnum PI did it first, eh?) The stuff with biological warfare and torture is surprisingly brutal as well, but of course our heroes have no part in that.

I love Kira too, way more than Starbuck. And it probably also won't surprise you that my mother expressed her utter disgust for her and Nana Visitor, calling her annoying and shrill. No, I did not point out that as with Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton, Kira was yet another woman she hated who somewhat resembled her. That would have been a bad idea.

Date: 2011-11-27 08:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yah, when the Founders first showed up, I thought WUH WOAH COLD WAR NARRATIVE ALERT. Lady-founder hammered the contempt for solids bit a little too hard for my tastes, and to have crafted them as brutal genetic engineers! Whatevs. It didn't turn out as badly as it could have (truth and reconciliation hearings in the Great Link fuck the what!), though Odo in a tux was a bit much (and I'm probably one of seven fans who didn't find the Vic Fontaine thread entirely worthless dreck).

I still think the BSG deux-ex-rube-goldberg-machina ending was much worse, and much more disappointing than DS9's, insofar as the Prophets and their powers didn't shape the entirety of the universe and its history. Just over in that corner, on the edges of both alpha and gamma quadrants, meddling in a few lives here and there. Interesting that (at least in the canon) the Cardassians didn't have gods (I can't remember one mention in the entire DS9 series of any kind of Cardassian religion). I love that the Klingons killed theirs. :P

"In the Pale Moonlight" was a great ep! They broke a lot of ground with Ben Sisko.

What did you think of the Kira/Odo romance?


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