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Friday, 18 August 2017

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 2-03: The Siege

Episode:23|Writer:Michael Piller|Air Date:10-Oct-1993

This week on Sci-Fi Adventures, I'm back to Deep Space Nine, watching second season episode The Siege, which is something entirely different to seventh season episode The Siege of AR-558 and should definitely not be mixed up with third season episode The Search... even though that's what I accidentally ended up writing on my notes.

The Siege is the dramatic conclusion to the 'The' trilogy, following on from The Homecoming and The Circle (I suppose you could also call it 'The Circle trilogy' if you want to be a soulless minion of orthodoxy). I can't see any strange Babylon 5/Deep Space Nine coincidences to mention here, but slightly space-stationy Stargate spin-off Stargate: Atlantis also starts its second season with an epic three-parter that's resolved with an episode called The Siege, so that seems like something worth mentioning.

The episode's by writer/producer Michael Piller and director Winrich Kolbe, the folks who kicked off Next Gen's first good season with the episode Evolution and would later work on Voyager's pilot Caretaker, so they've brought out the big guns on this one. Doesn't mean that it's going to be good, they've made a lot of crap between the two of them too, but I'm hopeful.

Okay, I'll be recapping the episode and writing my commentary under fuzzy DVD screencaps, so there'll be massive SPOILERS. In fact I'll probably end up spoiling things from other Star Trek stories too, but only ones that came before it. Anything released after 10th October 1993 is safe.



Last time on Deep Space Nine...
  • A Bajoran nationalist extremist group called The Circle sprayed graffiti on the station, branded Quark's forehead, got Kira fired, kidnapped her and overthrew the Bajoran government.
  • Quark discovered where they were holding Kira, giving Sisko a chance to shoot some folks in a cave to rescue her.
  • Odo discovered that the Circle's weapons were coming from the Cardassians, giving the crew a way to kill support for the group and end their coup.
  • But the station's communications with Bajor were jammed and the Starfleet crew were ordered by their boss to evacuate the station forever.
  • Also Bajoran resistance legend Li Nalas is hanging around.
And now, the conclusion.

The episode starts two hours later, with Sisko surrounded by Starfleet officers in Ops, talking about how they've all made Bajoran friends during the past year and grown to care about them. He mentions that one of them's engaged to a man from Bajor, and another... has a daughter who worked on a science project with a Bajoran girl. Those are seriously the best and only examples he can come up to illustrate the tight bond that's formed between them.

Maybe he's finding it hard to concentrate when every time he turns his head he finds an even stranger hairstyle in his eyeline.

We've got impressive examples of Starfleet space hair from all three departments this scene. Poor Dax is looking jealous back there.

They've got five hours before the Bajoran assault ships arrive to kick them out, but Sisko tells them that he's decided to stay... just to make sure that the evacuation is conducted properly. He gives everyone else a chance to leave, but they all decide to stay with him because this is Star Trek and that always happens. It's a bit inconvenient though as now he'll have to tell three of them to go because they'll need pilots for the evacuation runabouts (no escape pods on DS9).

So the crew will be trying to delay the takeover long enough for them to reveal that the Cardassians are supporting the Circle's coup. I'm not sure why they need the station for this, but I guess this gives everyone in the cast something to do.


ACT ONE


So hundreds of civilians start rushing to the three tiny runabouts for a ride off the station, while Quark schemes to make a fortune selling seats.

Over in the promenade Nog finally makes his first appearance this season to say his final goodbye to a pissed off Jake, who's sick of having to leave his home and friends behind every time his dad gets a new assignment, or his ship explodes, or there's a coup. They're on different runabouts going to different destinations so they likely won't see each other again (Nog was lucky and got the Rio Grande, while Jake's stuck in the Ganges).

Nog can't remember how to say 'coup d'├ętat' here, so Jake corrects him and tells him that it's a French phrase, which is weird because they use a universal translator. Wouldn't Nog have heard and been trying to remember the equivalent phrase in his native Ferengi? Is this one of those times that the translator throws its hands up and gives in, like whenever a Klingon calls someone an asshole?

Meanwhile O'Brien's having an argument with his wife, which is a huge shock. She's a bit annoyed by the fact that he's abandoning his family to stop "the bloody Cardies" from getting the wormhole. Personally I think she's also a little aggravated that if he succeeds they'll have to come back and she'll have to be a teacher again.

And that was Keiko's only scene this episode; like Nog she turned up just to leave. It's her first appearance this season as well.

Subspace channels to Bajor are still jammed so the crew can't just tell the authorities about the Cardassian plot, and taking a runabout full of civilians to visit the Chamber of Ministers is probably a bad idea because of all the people trying to shoot them down. I guess moving the station back and beaming down would also be a dumb idea, though it sure would confuse those assault vessels coming to take over.

Fortunately Li Nalas has an idea! There's some Bajor fighters hidden on Lunar V, so they could take an evacuation runabout on a detour to beam down and get one. They don't mention this, but I think that's the moon they made uninhabitable back in Progress... oops. I'm sure the air's still breathable enough for them to make a quick visit though. Though if they can't get the fighter off the ground there'll be no runabouts coming to rescue them.

Kira knows how to fly a Bajoran raider and Dax's second host Tobin has given her the skills to get it working, so they'll be ones going. I think this might be the first time we've heard of Tobin, who apparently lived way back during the Star Trek: Enterprise era. Seems like his engineering knowledge might be a little out of date, but then a Bajoran-built fighter's going to be pretty ancient itself.

Then just when it seems like the crew may not be entirely screwed, they learn that Quark's gone and caused a panic as there's more people at an airlock expecting seats than the runabout can hold.

Holy shit Sisko just grabbed Quark by the throat! That’s not very Starfleet!

Quark's used to Sisko taking issue with the way he does business, but I don't think he saw this coming. Hundreds of non-Bajorans are going to be stuck here when the assault ships come if he can't sort this out, perhaps even his son, or Keiko and Molly, so it's no surprise that his evolved sensibilities are slipping a bit. Though the scene plays out like this is no big deal and soon Quark's joking around as he says goodbye to his frenemy Odo.

I think it's a shame they didn't go a little darker with it really, maybe have someone talk Sisko into putting him down. Quark could've been a little rattled by it at least.

So Sisko rushes down to the airlock to sort the situation out, but he's so off his game right now that he just becomes another voice yelling into the corridor. It's interesting that the writers are letting their hero lose his cool and struggle so much. It helps sell how bad the situation is when even the unflappable Starfleet commander is freaking out a bit.

Fortunately Li Nalas comes to the rescue again with a surprise speech to the Bajorans in the crowd about how the runabouts are for their guests who need to leave. The rest of them can and should stay to sort out their own problems (or at least hide out of the way while Sisko's crew fixes them). The guy hasn't had much of a character arc lately, but it's cool to see him take the initiative and deliver a speech without anyone pestering him first.

And thanks to him Morn and Jake get to escape on the Ganges with Keiko! But hang on, if the runabouts are full, then doesn't that mean that the Starfleet officers Sisko convinced to stay couldn't have left even if they wanted to? I mean sure they could've pushed the non-Bajoran civilians out into the hallway and left them to fend for themselves, but that's not very Starfleet.

Well okay Quark does get left outside in the hallway to fend for himself, but that's only because his brother gave his seat to a dabo girl.

Man it must have been awkward for him to drag that box of latinum all the around the station with those beams across the floor. I love how blatantly inconsiderate Cardassian architecture is, even though it's not quite up to the 'retractable bridges over bottomless chasms' level of Star Wars' Imperial architecture.


ACT TWO


Oh damn, that's a nice shot.

Back in season one they couldn’t always get one ship to stay lined up with the docking port, but here they’ve got three ships coming in during a moving camera shot. I'm sure they only used the one ship model here and I doubt it's to scale with the station, so they had film it three times with three different camera moves each calculated to put it in the right place relative to DS9. Plus the station is illuminated by the engine glow from the transport on the left, while the ship itself goes into shadow. You could set up a scene like this using CGI with no trouble, but pulling it off with models took some real skill.

The pilot on the other hand is a complete idiot who nearly clipped a pylon on the way to... wherever the hell they're going. The station's circular, so they had to deliberately duck under a row of perfectly fine docking ports to pull off that move.

This scene has a very Search for Spock feel to it, as the Bajorans assault team walks through the suspiciously empty hallways of the station wondering what's going on. One of them mentions that Minister Jaro predicted that Starfleet would pack up and leave, so I guess Kira didn't crack under torture and let slip that there's no way Sisko's just going to walk away from this. But General Krim from the last episode points out that the Bajoran officers are missing as well, and that's weird.

That's an interesting angle they've chosen here. It gives a good view of the upgraded promenade set, and a rare glimpse at the underside of the walkways. I didn't quite realise the entire ceiling was covered in lights like that.

Hey now we're up in the ceiling looking straight down at the promenade, for probably the only time ever. But hang on, the entire ceiling is covered in lights, we just saw it, so where did this grating come from?

Anyway, while the crew spies on their new guests from the vents, Kira and Dax go looking around Lunar V for a spaceship they can borrow.

Oh crap, they've accidentally found themselves in an episode of classic Doctor Who!

I love Dax's reaction to seeing the scuttering six-legged space spider, mostly because it's so... normal. At this point in the series it's nice to get any hint that Dax actually has a personality. Also we learn here that she's got a good reason to be jumpy as joined Trills are allergic to insect bites. It's a rare case of a sci-fi parasite making someone more vulnerable instead of giving them super-healing.

We get a bit of insight into Kira's past too as she talks about how she used to live in caves like this and eat creatures like that. Except worse.

Plus she used to fly spaceships like this... except worse. Because everything in Kira's life in the occupation was worse, and she's well motivated to get this fighter started so that the Cardassians don't move in again. Dax is also eager to get it started so that she doesn't have to live here with the insects, eating Bajoran spider dog.

Back on the space station, General Krim and his sub-optimal subordinate Colonel... uh... Smug have made their way to Ops. Colonel Smug wants to phone up Minister Jaro right away to tell them how they've taken full control of the station, but Krim would rather hold off a moment until they're sure that they really have. Internal security has been sabotaged, which hints that there's someone on board that doesn't want to be found. Probably Kira, Li Nalas and the shapeshifter.

Hey it's the main villains making an appearance! Vedek Winn and Minister Jaro.

Jaro talks about how he's planning to give Li Nalas anything he wants to ensure his support, because shooting him is just going turn him into a martyr. Though he won't make him Kai, because that job's going to Winn. Then they just stare off into the distance for a while as sinister strings play.


ACT THREE


Back on Bajor's fifth moon, Dax and Kira are getting frustrated, sarcastic and sardonic like a pair of Han Solos stuck in a tiny Millennium Falcon two sizes too small for them. Or maybe Dax is a Chewbacca. Either way this kind of comedy is a much better fit for Terry Farrell's skills as an actress than having her sit in Ops working as a space traffic controller and reciting technobabble with subdued concern.

Also it turns out that flying a space fighter requires pressing a lot of buttons on that tiny little panel Kira's got in front of her. They really should've given the actress more controls to play with; it looks like she's steering it with her phone.

Oh damn, Sisko's left his baseball! You don't need a universal translator to know that means "Don't get comfortable."

General Krim and Colonel Smug have invited themselves into Sisko's office for another round of 'Everything Krim says is right, everything the Colonel says is wrong'. But just then the lights go out, so the Colonel decides he's sending out search parties whatever Krim thinks. They don't have a great working relationship these two.

Meanwhile the crew (and Quark) have split into groups and are hiding out in the maintenance tunnels, suffering through lunch. O'Brien could've replicated any food they wanted but he choose to get them combat rations, partially because they give you all the nutrients your body needs for three days, but mostly because he misses eating them during that Cardassian War that only he and his old buddies seem to have fought in. Sisko's so bitterly disappointed in his meal that he radios all units with his invisible combadge to inform them whose fault this is (I'm sure the badge is just hidden under the jacket he's wearing).

I just noticed that Bashir's got a phaser tucked backwards into his boot! That seems like a good way to accidentally blast his own head off next time he stops to pull them up. Though one thing I haven't noticed is Bajoran crew members. Aside from Li Nalas I haven't seen a single one.

Just then Odo radios in to let them know that a Bajoran patrol just walked right past him and are heading near Bashir's position. They didn't see him because he was a wall.

I love the way this shot looks, with the blue lighting on his face; it looks absolutely convincing to me. Plus I suppose this scene answers the question I had about whether he can see when he doesn't have eyes.

Sisko decides to send Bashir to lead his team to ambush them at one of the cargo bays, even though he's... well, Bashir. His main character trait is that he's clueless and naive, and I think he's been shot and knocked out more times than anyone else so far. Plus he's a doctor, not a special forces veteran.

Wow he actually pulled it off with style, good for him. Also I didn't realise the cargo bay set was so tall.

So that's five invaders taken prisoner so far and an indeterminate number left to go. Though his team will have to climb back out of those boxes they were hiding in before they'll be able to lead them off somewhere.

Back at the raider, Kira and Dax have managed to fly the thing over to Bajor, which is an impressive feat considering that they haven't been able to get the sensors working. Kira's flying "by the seat of her pants" right now, which is apparently a phrase the universal translator does understand. "New playing field" is another one it gets, as Kira brings the fighter into the atmosphere to even the odds against a pair of patrol ships coming to intercept them.

Trouble is that they don't have sensors, so they can't tell what's shooting at them or where they're coming from! Dax has to pull out a tricorder and scan for them in the end, which is amazing.... though it would've been better if she'd had to throw a spacesuit on and lean out of a window with it.

They really should be wearing spacesuits right now anyway, even if it's just to give them something to breathe if/when that crappy old engine breaks down and fills the cockpit with toxic smoke. But then I suppose that would impede the banter.


ACT FOUR


Over on DS9, O'Brien' and Li Nalas are doing a thing in the security office when they get spotted by by a search party and pinned down by phaser fire. So Sisko's team comes over and drops a smoke grenade to give them cover! There's some advanced technology we'll likely never see in Star Trek again.

You'd think that the Bajorans might have rules about shooting at their own temples, but if they do no one told the guy blasting away at the doorway back there. One nice touch I only noticed when I started taking screencaps is that whenever the invading Bajorans take a shot at something there's a shower of sparks, but when the DS9 crew fires they don't even leave a mark. I thought it was a mistake at first, but then I realised it's because they'd have their weapons set to stun!

Then they follow up the smoke grenade with the old 'Odo turns into a tripwire' trick! This isn't the most exciting action scene I've ever seen (it doesn't help that I have no idea what the crew are even trying to achieve here) but it does have its moments.

Then Kira and Dax get into an actual dogfight!

It's a short scene, especially after I've edited out a minute (talking doesn't come off so well in a silent clip), but it's suspiciously well done for early 90s television. Next Gen never had effects this good. I don't think Voyager even had effects this good. Slightly space-stationy Stargate spin-off Stargate: Atlantis probably did, but that started in 2004.

It helps that they took the time to paint shadows on the trees and get a lighting rig set up that moves around the cockpit set. There's even reflections on the window overlaid onto the visual effects. It's a shame we don't get many exterior shots and the actor's jolts are often out of sync with the action, but it's still a great sequence.

Anyway they take a hit and the engine's set on fire, filling the cockpit with toxic smoke, so they make a crash landing.

Back on the space station, the Bajorans continued to hunt down the crew despite the threat of tripwires and Colonel Smug soon finds them having a secret meeting in a holosuite... in full uniform instead of their civilian suits with the invisible combadges.

Then three of them disappear along with the rest of the holograms and Smug discovers that the door's been locked behind him. Oops.

Sisko gets on the loudspeakers and tells them that the Cardassians have been supplying the weapons for the Circle's coup through the Kressari. The Colonel's not buying it though, declaring it to be a "Federation lie!" Man, how the hell did that line make it past the first draft?

Colonel Smug gets beamed back to Ops to relay this revelation to Krim, and we finally learn that his name is... Colonel Day.

But Day totally neglects to mention anything about the Kressari, telling Krim that he was released because he promised Sisko amnesty, so that doesn't help. Plus the Bajorans have got the station's security net back online now so they can scan for the crew's combadges. They don't actually find any, but that still tells them where they are, as the only areas on the station shielded from scanners are the conduits.


ACT FIVE


The good news is that Kira and Dax survived the crash! The bad news is that Kira's wounded and the Bajorans are searching around the crash site for them.

This scene almost feels like a replay of the end of Move Along Home, except now it's Dax disobeying orders to save an injured Kira instead of the other way around. Hopefully they don't both fall off a cliff this time because of it.

They heroically flop a few feet forward before having to stop and hide from a patrol. And then Kira passes out. And back on DS9 the Bajorans have started flooding the conduits with anesthizine gas, so everything has really gone to shit.

Fortunately it was Vedek Bareil's men who were looking for them! And now Dax is dressed up as a vedek just like in Kira's Orb vision last episode! (Except this time she's hidden her Trill markings and has got a Bajoran nose.)

The cosplay's necessary because members of religious orders are the only ones who can travel safely through the streets right now, and Bareil will be escorting them to the Chamber of Ministers himself. Shame that we never actually get to see these streets though, as they don't have a Bajoran city backlot to film on.

Oh right Quark's still here isn't he? Bashir's telling him to leave the case behind but he can't because it's filled with all his personal mementos and his family album!


BASHIR
It's filled with gold-pressed latinum and you know it.


QUARK
Who told you!


BASHIR
Your mother did. The day you were born.

Damn, Bashir with the surprise racism! They're in a hurry though as his team needs to surrender to distract the soldiers to let Sisko's team sneak into his office, so he uses his stern voice to light a fire under Quark's ass, then goes to meet with the other 19 people in his team that are all gathered off-camera somewhere. Quark's not about to leave behind every penny he has though, so he gets back to dragging his case through the conduits.

Then we get a proper look at the Chamber of Ministers without an Orb vision filter over it, and it looks a lot like the war room from part two. It's a nice redress though.

Vedek Winn's there along with Jaro and she's not impressed to see Kira dressed up in a robe. In fact 'blasphemy' is the word she uses, just like in the Orb vision last episode!

Kira finally gets to present the evidence and Jaro immediately tries to discredit her, but Winn jumps to her side, figuratively stabbing her partner in the back the moment she sees which way the wind's blowing. Or maybe she's genuinely pissed off that he was (inadvertently) buying weapons from the Cardassians, it's hard to tell with her.

The scene ends with the ministers in the chamber all talking loudly around them, just like in the vision. Kira finally knows what they're saying now and it's not good news for Jaro. So that was resolved quickly; no last minute swerves.

The Bajorans on the station manage to capture Bashir's group without trouble, but Colonel Day returns to Ops to find the Krim's kind of pissed off with him. He was ambushed by Sisko and Li Nalas in his office, so now he knows that Day withheld critical information about the Cardassian involvement in the coup. Plus they've got word that the Chamber of Ministers is examining the proof Kira brought them and it looks like the Circle's over.

Krim's going to hand the station back to Sisko and head down to Bajor where he expects to lose his job over this. So that's a bit sad, as he was the good commander. It should be Day who has to resign, on account of him being a dick.

Oh. Well I guess Day just threw his career away as well. Attempting to assassinate a Starfleet commander is pretty high up on the list of things a Bajoran officer doesn't want to get caught doing. Accidentally murdering Bajor's most beloved resistance leader is way way up at the top.

So I guess that ends the Li Nalas arc then. He finally came to accept his fame and decided to live for his people... and then ended up dying for Sisko. At least Bashir doesn't ruin the moment by saying "He's dead Ben."

So the status quo is restored, everyone comes back to the station, O'Brien runs off to see Keiko off-screen and Sisko hugs his son. Yay!

They decide to remember Li Nalas as a legendary hero rather than who he was... a reluctant legend who was also bit of a hero. It reminds me of when they protected the reputation of General Tandro in Dax... except that guy was an asshole who betrayed his own people. Fuck that guy! Li Nalas on the other hand was just a ordinary bloke with a good heart who probably deserved more of a story arc.


CONCLUSION

Man that episode just flew by, probably because it's all action adventure rather than a thoughtful study of its characters and themes. The crew made a plan, swapped a few funny lines while executing the plan and then won without any massive twists at the end. They just handed the evidence to the ministers and the day was saved! Everything's back to normal, even though the causes and attitudes that led to the coup in the first place haven't changed at all.

Though one thing has changed: the evidence they found demonstrates that the Cardassians would make a move to take the wormhole and perhaps Bajor if the Federation ever left. People like Kira have always assumed this was the case, that's why she moved the station over to it in Emissary: because it was run by Starfleet and they could protect their claim. But now the Bajorans understand how much they're depending on their alien allies and they're not so eager to kick them out of the star system.

Plus it helps that Colonel Smug killed Li Nalas at the end. It seemed that all the man was good for was sneering and being wrong, but by shooting a legendary resistance hero he just became part of the legend... as the villain. That should end the Circle's credibility for good. It's a shame that Li Nalas himself didn't have more to do in the story though. His story arc basically went from 'I feel like a fraud and want to run away' to 'I feel like a fraud but I'll do what I can' to 'hey I'm being useful' and then ended with 'I got shot dead so now I'm off the hook!'

I'm still not entirely sure why the Starfleet crew had to hold the station though. As far as I can tell the only purpose it serves is to give Li Nalas a chance to meet with General Krim personally and give him the full story of what's going on. Well, I suppose it also serves the purpose of letting the characters run around in the dark being sneaky and heroic against superior numbers, and I'm not going to complain about that. Even Bashir got to be cool and competent, which is big change for him. Meanwhile Dax was showing signs of having a personality... it's all very strange, but I'm eager to see where it goes.

The episode was able to have fun like this because it's built on the foundations established by the last two episodes, and it's great to see DS9 embrace serialisation like this. They even pulled a Babylon 5 and included visions of future events! Granted most of the events happened in this episode, so maybe the writer's plans aren't so long term at this point, but I'm sure Bareil's hoping that the romance between him and Kira will eventually comes true as well. It's just a shame that they burned through the story all so fast, as on Babylon 5 this Circle plot would've been seeded across half the season or more. Instead it goes from 'hey what's this graffiti about' to the Circle being kicked out of power in what feels like three days.

But I don't want to sound negative about it because this was pretty good TV. I hesitate to call any episode where Sisko hasn't a beard 'proper DS9' but is the closest they've come so far. Plus it's easily the best and only three-parter in Star Trek up to this point!

ODO'S MORPHS OF THE WEEK:

A wall and a tripwire.



COMING SOON
Deep Space Nine will return with Invasive Procedures eventually. But next on Sci-Fi Adventures I'm watching slightly space-stationy Stargate spin-off Stargate: Atlantis's pilot episode Rising!

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2 comments:

  1. Well, there is a reason why Bashir would be super-competent one minute and a klutz the next, but it hasn't been revealed yet, and so we probably shouldn't mention it, and anyway I don't know if it was part of his background from the beginning or was a later retcon. Probably the latter.

    The way that gif of Li Nalas' death loops, it makes it look like he's killed and then Sisko walks off, rolling his eyes. It took me a moment to realise that it was looping and Sisko isn't just a massive bastard.

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    1. Ironically it's Sisko's disinterest in Li Nalas' fate that makes the other guy whip out a phaser and shoot him, causing the event in the first place. It's a stable GIF loop.

      Also the trouble with Bashir's klutziness is that he was at his most inept when trying to save Dax from being kidnapped last season.

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