Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Curtain Parts And It's . . . The Dominion: "The Jem'Hadar!"

The Good: Pacing, Realism, Characters
The Bad: Nature of the episode
The Basics: A solid episode that finally brings the hidden villains of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine out of the shadows and into the greater darkness.

I tend to think of the seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as having titles, like section titles in a big book. Season 1 is "Bajor Rebuilding." Season 2 I would entitle "Dominion Rising." Throughout the season there has been a thread of the Gamma Quadrant alliance known as The Dominion. Until this point, the Dominion has remained largely unseen. They've destroyed planets ("Sanctuary," "Shadowplay"), they've been recognized as a powerful economic force ("Rules Of Acquisition") and we've seen their relics ("The Alternate").

"The Jem'Hadar" changes all of that.

"The Jem'Hadar" brings the Dominion to us.

Sisko, Jake, Nog and Quark take a vacation/science project to the Gamma Quadrant. There they find a planet and begin a planetary survey. Quark spends his time complaining and Sisko spends much of his time annoyed at Quark and reminiscing with Jake about Jake's deceased mother. When the conflict between Sisko and Quark reaches its peak, Nog storms off in frustration. Jake follows him. When Jake leaves, Quark and Sisko are captured by a hostile life form. They are imprisoned with a woman named Eris, who tells them about the hostile. They are the Jem'Hadar and they are the soldiers of the Dominion. They are feared by all and their capture is a death sentence. Not ones to give up, Sisko and Quark become determined to escape. In Eris, they see their opportunity.

While Sisko is imprisoned, the Jem'Hadar visit Deep Space Nine. A single soldier beams to Ops and provides Kira with a list of starships and colonies that the Dominion has destroyed in the Gamma Quadrant. His demand is simple: the Federation will stop using the wormhole and stay in the Alpha Quadrant. Ships violating Dominion space will be destroyed. What follows is a rescue attempt and a climactic battle and the notion that the Dominion is here and real and it's a potent threat.

What works is the pace. The plot progresses with a very real pace that inspires real tension. The characters move the plot and they move the story in a sensible direction. For example, even when in a dire situation, Quark continues to hound Sisko about the Commander's supposed human superiority. Jake, managing to return to the orbiting Runabout, is lost when it comes to steering the vehicle. Sisko is both cold and intrigued by the villainous Jem'Hadar.

What fails is that the episode feels like the end of a season. It feels like it's a climactic event and that all of our patience is finally being rewarded. The resolution of the battle is shocking only to those who know Star Trek The Next Generation and the power of a StarFleet vessel.

This is almost a minor point in contrast to the character development. Quark asks some intriguing questions about Sisko and the nature of the Federation, forcing the viewer to acknowledge some of its prejudices in the way it deals with other races. It's an aspect of Quark that has not been explored and it's a welcome intelligence to his character. Add to that, the way he presents the arguments is just plain funny.

Armin Shimerman steals the scenes he's in as Quark. Quark is used a lot for comic relief and in "The Jem'Hadar," it is Shimerman's sense of comic timing that makes his character believable. Even more than that, it's Shimerman's ability to shift from humorous to serious that sells the performance. That he can emote through his prosthetics is amazing!

But the episode works because it is a foundation, it is something real built on the innuendoes played for almost an entire year. And the foundation is ready to be built upon. The episode answers questions by showing us the Dominion and adds questions like who the leaders of the Dominion are. They are hinted at and the question of "Who are the Founders?" and "How much of a threat is the Dominion to Deep Space Nine?" are good questions, that are more than enough to want to come back to next season. Part of the essential Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Second Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the sophomore season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek reviews, organized in order of best to worst, please be sure to visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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