Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: “Sons And Daughters”/“Behind The Lines”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: “Sons And Daughters”/“Behind The Lines”

"Sons And Daughters” (season 6, episode 3; originally aired 10/13/1997)
In which Alexander returns, and it’s not so bad...

(Available on Netflix and Amazon.) 

The last time we saw Worf’s son Alexander, he was—um… Hold on a sec, (Consults the Internet.) It’s the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Firstborn,” which had an Alexander from the future travel to the present in order to force his younger self into following the path of the warrior, because in the future, Worf would be murdered, and Alexander would blame himself. Really? And I reviewed it, even. I guess I sort of remember it. What a silly plot. But then, it’s not like the writers of TNG ever really got a handle on the character, or even that there was much of a character to get a handle on. Giving ensemble members children is a risky scenario at best, given that parenting is a restrictive lifestyle; you can’t have someone throwing themselves into adventure when they have a mouth to feed back home. But it’s possible to manage it, and one of DS9’s best relationships is the father and son bond between Sisko and Jake. Worf and Alexander were never that lucky. After TNG ended, it seemed safe to assume that Alexander was gone for good, shuffled off to grow up with his grandparents. There didn’t seem to be any pressing need to bring him back, not even when Worf returned. Yes, in terms of “realism,” Worf was pretty fucking horrible for basically ditching his kid and never looking back, but isn’t that what we all secretly wanted anyway? Isn’t it better to downplay, and eventually write-off, a plotline that isn’t working, rather than try and keep it going for continuity’s sake?

Generally, I’d say yes, but “Sons And Daughters” does a reasonable, if imperfect, job of showing how someone like Alexander can still be a valuable presence, even if he’s not particularly interesting in his own right. While on a fictional, meta level, the character’s disappearance was a relief; I’m sure there were a few fans who noted his absence and were disappointed by it, but he was never that vital on TNG, and seeming to leave him behind completely on DS9 didn’t leave that many questions unanswered. (As some of you noted, Worf said he has “no family” after his brother gets a new life in “Sons Of Mogh,” which, if intentional and not just a writerly lapse, is awful cold, even for Worf.) But on a story level, where we pretend these are all real people—which is totally cool—that is some fucked up shit, right? After an awkward year or two together aboard the Enterprise, Worf sends his son off to leave with his adoptive parents, and then never mentions the kid again. In theory, he could’ve been talking with Alexander regularly, even making trips home, without us knowing about it, but that’s not the impression you get from “Sons And Daughters,” and that doesn’t reflect well on Worf at all.

That’s something the episode does its best to deal with, and while it’s probably impossible to make a unintentional multi-year absence into a strength, writers Bradley Thompson and David Weddle do their best. The crux of the hour’s main plot is that since we last saw him, Alexander and his father have grown even further apart, and he’s decided, out of self-loathing and a deeply buried need to prove himself worthy and earn Worf’s respect, to enlist in the Klingon army. He shows up on Martok’s ship one day as one of the replacements sent to fill in for the general’s fallen crew-members, and wastes very little time in proving to everyone that he’s not very good at his job. That’s the most surprisingly aspect of the episode: despite his determination to prove his father wrong, Alexander keeps making mistakes, and not just the obvious ones. The other crewmembers pick on him (in fine Klingon tradition), and when he gets into a fight with the most obvious bully, only Worf’s last minute intervention stops him from getting some knife wounds. (Martok later assures Worf the wounds wouldn’t’ve been fatal, but still.) Even worse, Alexander is a failure on the job, failing to wipe a simulation program out of the system and throwing the entire ship into an unnecessary red alert.

He’s a joke, really, which goes over with Worf about as well as you’d expect. Marc Worden’s performance is sullen, awkward, and more than a little stiff, which is a good fit for the character; you get a clear sense of his resentment and self-loathing, as well as his undeniable connection to Worf. (Both men seem like they’d be no damn fun at parties.) It’s fascinating to watch just how utterly unsuited he is to the role he’s chosen, and between this episode and the his final appearance on TNG, the franchise seems at once trying to establish how inept Alexander is as a traditional Klingon, while still forcing him to take up that mantle. The arc of his plot in “Sons And Daughters” is, in a general way, a positive one. He’s a putz, and he shames himself repeatedly, but Worf finally remembers his duty as a father; and we all know how much Worf loves duty. The episode ends with Alexander being brought into Martok’s family, and Worf’s promise that he’ll give Alexander the instruction he needs to become a true warrior.

This is presented as a happy conclusion, and in many ways, it is. The two have found a way to repair the bonds between them, and hopefully, with Worf’s help, Alexander won’t be locking himself into anymore vents. Yet the assumption than any Klingon can be a good-to-great warrior, and that being a warrior is the only value a Klingon should aspire to, is disappointingly simplistic, especially for a show that thrives on outcasts. Yes, there’s that whole plot from TNG about Worf getting murdered and Alexander needing to be a warrior to stop it, but that’s one of those crazy, final season style twists that’s best left forgotten. One of the few ways Alexander was legitimately interesting was his rejection of many of the values Worf held dear. This came partly from his mother (and Worf’s brusque summary of their relationship to Martok is pretty harsh), and partly from his time on the Enterprise, and it also forced Worf into yet another painful crisis; with all his conviction and beliefs about the Klingon ideal, the child he’d tried to raise was choosing a different path. Here, whatever personality Alexander might once have had is gone, subsumed in paternal resentment, and when that resentment is gone, there’s nothing much left. It’s good to see him happy at the end, because the ending does feel earned (Worf’s warm response after Alexander locks himself behind an emergency door is the most I’ve liked Worf in ages), but it comes at the sacrifice of character. Not a well-drawn character, or a particularly likable one, but still.

Events back on the station are more unambiguously satisfying, even if they do require enduring more of Dukat’s deeply creepy sexual advances on Kira. The Gul brings his daughter, Ziyal, back to the station, and Kira’s happy to see her—until Ziyal invites Kira over to dinner with her and her father. The crux of the subplot is that Ziyal wants everyone along, and that includes forcing Dukat (who’s into it) and Kira (who isn’t) to spend time together. It’s a fine, noble motivation put to an ignoble cause. Because she’s young, and because she loves her father, Ziyal doesn’t understand both the nature of Dukats disturbing attachment the major, and Kira’s fundamental distrust and contempt for Dukat. To her, because she cares for them both, they should both care for each other. (And given that Ziyal’s mother was Bajoran, she might not even be that bothered at the idea of a Dukat/Kira pairing oh it is just gross even to type that.) But regardless of the nobility of her intentions, she’s in the wrong, and it takes Kira, who clearly cares a great deal about Ziyal, to finally draw the line.

Once again, the writers are exploring the potential seductiveness of evil. As with the first two episodes of the season, which had Kira struggling to raise an objection to an invasion cloaked by courtesy, she’s once again put in a position where she has to make noise, where she has to be the “rude” one to protect herself and her sanity. Dukat is, like most great villains, a complicated creature. There’s no question that his love of his daughter is sincere; the fact that he and Kira share this fondness makes it that much harder for her to be openly defiant. Evil that is openly combative, that carries a gun (or a phaser) and tries to push its needs on you with brute force, inspires a simple response: fight or flight. But smiles and warm chuckles and pleasantries put you in a position of doubt. It’s a position many women have been in before, I think—go along with it, and make things easier for everyone. Don’t be the one who ruins it all. Don’t shout, don’t curse, don’t make a scene. Don’t struggle. Just accept that he knows what’s best, and everything will be fine.

It’s horrifying, and it’s impressive that the franchise, which has often had difficulties accurately representing such dynamics in the past, handles this one with such direct honesty. Dukat sends Kira a dress, which is an intimate gift, as well as an attempt to exert a level control over her body, and she realizes she’s gone as far as she’s willing to go. Ziyal confronts her in a hallway, and Kira is open about the situation; and when Ziyal begs Kira not to ask her to choose between Dukat and the major, Kira says, “I’m not. He’s your father.” While it’s sad that this will most likely hinder, or even end, their friendship, it’s the only response she could’ve given. Trying to convince Ziyal that Dukat was a monster, or trying to justify her decision based on their past, would’ve done no good, and it also would’ve put her back in the position of having to defend her right to define her feelings. Sometimes nuance is important. And sometimes, it’s just a way to let someone else tell you what they want to hear.

Stray observations:

  • The episode starts with Worf and Dax making out, and it looks like Michael Dorn is trying to devour Terry Farrell’s soul.
  • “I tell you, Worf, war is much more fun when you’re winning!” -General Martok
  • When Kira rejects the dress Dukat sends her, Dukat regifts it to his daughter. That is some uncomfortable subtext right there. (In that Dukat seems to view the women in his life as possessions, regardless of the specific nature of their relationship.)

“Behind The Lines” (season 6, episode 4; originally aired 10/20/1997)
In which Odo crosses one...

(Available on Netflix and Amazon.)

Why does Odo stay on Deep Space Nine? I suppose the question is moot for the moment; with the wormhole mined, there’s no place left for him to go. But assume the mines aren’t there. They weren’t there for most of last season, and they won’t be there again soon, I’m guessing. What keeps him from rejoining his people in the Great Link? He loves Kira. That’s not a bad place to start; he loves Kira, and even if she doesn’t return his feelings, that doesn’t change how much she, and their friendship, means to them. But it would have to be more than that, wouldn’t it? This isn’t just not wanting to move back home to stay close to someone you care about. This is literally rejecting his biological nature. This is refusing to be what his DNA demands. Love is a remarkable, powerful emotion, and unrequited love can drive people to acts of great sacrifice (or selfishness), but there’s something fundamental going on here that that means more than just romance. Odo isn’t simply in love with Kira; he’s in love with the idea of an Odo who is in love with Kira, with the idea of an Odo who works as a sheriff and detective and keeps the peace. That is a role that makes sense. It’s a role where he knows where he stops and everything else begins, and it’s taken him years to establish. But it’s a lonely place to be.

“Behind The Lines” starts out like it’s going to be about one thing, but shifts focus as it goes, building to one of the more unsettling conclusions in the show’s run so far. The cold open shows Kira and Rom (Rom!) teaming up to start a bar right between the Cardassians and the Jem’Hadar at Quark’s; we then jump to Sisko learning about a sensor array in the Argolis Cluster that the Dominion is using to track the movements of Federation ships. If I’d had to guess at this point, I would’ve said the main plot would be Sisko aboard the Defiant, on a mission to blow up the array, while Kira and the others continue to foment dissent back on the station. Both of these stories had potential. Instead, Sisko gets promoted out of field duty, and the Female Changeling arrives on Deep Space Nine. Goodbye predictions.

Still, Sisko’s storyline remains straightforward, albeit in a different direction than I’d assumed. There isn’t a huge amount of dramatic weight to it. First we see Sisko performing a ritual with the rest of his crew involving empty power cells and shouting—it’s very cool and fundamentally dorky at the same time, and seems perfectly in keeping with the naval atmosphere. The main reason we see it, though, is so Sisko’s arc can conclude with Dax leading the same ritual now that Sisko’s off the ship. She and the crew went on the mission to destroy the array; it was dangerous work, but they accomplished their task and came back alive. And Sisko spent the whole time back in a room, reading reports and staring out a window at the stars. He’s so good at his job that he’s no longer doing it; now he gets the less immediately life-threatening but far more important job of making decisions and helping to guide the course of the war. Time moves on. Whenever you think you belong somewhere, it won’t last.

Odo’s is more complicated, in part because it’s not just his story; he and Kira share the focus, and they have very different views on unfolding events. To Kira, the Female Changeling is not to be trusted. She’s used Odo in the past, and betrayed him (even if that betrayal was in the service of upholding Changeling law), and the only reason she could have to return to DS9 is to manipulate Odo in the middle of a war. This is an understandable position. The resistance movement on the station is newly formed, with only a handful of members; Jake talks his way in, and Quark breaks down and joins halfway through the hour, but that’s still only five people against, well, a lot more than five. This is not a good time to succumb to distraction, especially considering the position Odo has on the station. He’s a member of the ruling council and a security chief, and he’s now spending time with one of the enemy’s high command.

Odo’s motivations are more complex. He’s committed to Kira, but at the same time, he’s as lonely as ever, and there’s a subtle need for approval that drives him to reconnect with the Female Changeling. He’s brusque initially, and reminds her of what happened the last time he joined the Great Link, but she shrugs it off, and it’s not soon after that he invites her to his apartment. When Kira reacts with shock—and when she’s even more horrified to learn that Odo linked with the other Changeling—he doesn’t really understand what’s bothering her. And then, despite promising that he wouldn’t link again, he does, and misses an appointment; and by missing that appointment, he allows Rom to get caught by the Cardassians, and arrested on charges of sabotage. Oh, and since Rom’s mission was to shut down the deflector array and stop Damar’s plan to take out the minefield, well, the good guys look pretty well screwed.

What’s fascinating about Odo’s decision to link is that there’s very little obvious motivation for it. He doesn’t see Kira making out with some guy (which wouldn’t make his actions justifiable, but would at least give us a clear sense of what’s going through his mind), and the Female Changeling doesn’t deliver a big speech or put much pressure on him to break his promise. She just laughs and says that Kira is a solid, and doesn’t understand what the link is, and how important it is. So, no dramatic transition, really. But in retrospect, it’s not hard to imagine Odo’s position. Because he’s been lonely and rigid for a very long time; he was a solid, and the loss of one’s fundamental biological self would throw a wrench into anybody’s priorities. Home is a powerful, primal need, and to belong somewhere is a desire not easy to resist, even if giving in means hurting people you care about.

There’s something else, too, something that might just be my imagination. After Rom is arrested, Kira rushes into Odo’s apartment and confronts him. And he’s… fine. He’s not worried or upset or guilty, not even when she finds out he broke his promise and linked with the Female Changeling again. Nothing seems to affect him. Initially, Kira’s insistence that Odo refuse the link seemed a little odd; not jealous, exactly (there may be a little of that in there, the same way anyone would be jealous of losing a close friend to another relationship, but Kira’s a decent person; she wouldn’t let jealousy get in the way of someone’s happiness), but overly paranoid. After all, Odo had assured her that the link wouldn’t reveal the secret of the resistance. But maybe Kira had a point. The link seems glorious and amazing and calming and wonderful, but it also works as a kind of drug. It placates. And while the Female Changeling acts as though she and Odo are equals, she’s the one with more experience in the process; she’s the one guiding it. You push past all that take of communion and one-ness and peace and tranquility, the Founders start to sound less like an enlightened race, and more like a cult. And cults don’t let anyone go.

Stray observations:

  • Quark’s drunken speech about how he wants the Federation back is great. It’s also surprisingly earned; even with all his root beer cynicism, and even with all the Federation’s blandness, it’s still better than a station full of grim jerks.
  • Good to have Rom back. Man, he gets arrested a lot.
  • “It has nothing to do with me.” -Odo.

Next week: We’ll “Favor The Bold” and get heavy with a “Sacrifice Of Angels.” 

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