Friday, February 17, 2012

As The Dominion Menaces An Old Cardassian, Kira Reminisces In “Ties Of Blood And Water”

The Good: Excellent character work, Fine acting, Interesting plot
The Bad: Tone is oppressive, Somewhat repetitive, Lack of detail
The Basics: When Kira's Cardassian "father" returns to the station to die, all sorts of troubles ensue, including a visit from Dukat!

In a lot of ways, Nana Visitor, who played Major Kira on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, got the raw end of a lot of deals. She is the first First Officer in a Star Trek series to not be considered a star (i.e. "Starring . ..," instead Visitor is relegated to the end of the opening credits, unlike Nimoy and Frakes in preceding Treks), for example. Visitor, however, does most of the emotional work on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and along with costar Colm Meany often bears the brunt of the most psychologically hard-hitting performances. "Ties Of Blood And Water" is an example of how good Visitor can act.

Tekeny Ghemor, the Cardassian dissident from the third season episode "Second Skin" (reviewed here!) returns to Deep Space Nine to visit Major Kira with the announcement that he is dying. With Kira as his closest family, the dissident wants to ensure that the secrets he has about the new Cardassian/Dominion government do not die with him and he enlists Kira to aid him in recording his vast library of political secrets. Learning Ghemor is dying, Dukat arrives at the station to try to return him to Cardassia before too much damage is done. And Dukat comes with a strange companion, one who was last seen being killed . . .

“Ties Of Blood And Water“ manages to be a failure based on how well it succeeds. That is, the process of Ghemor dying is stifling, depressing and therefore difficult to watch. The writers and director of this episode so realistically capture the death experience that the episode becomes oppressive and off-putting. Ghemor's death and the conflict it raises is troublesome, but very real feeling.

By keeping the tone of the process of Ghemor dying so real, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine dared to do what few television shows ever did, which was to capture in all its difficulty, the degradation of a life. While the episode clouds the dying with secrets from Ghemor's past that relate to Kira, it still does a fine job of presenting a realistic view of death.

The only other drawback of the episode is that it builds so much of the tension and importance of the episode around the state secrets Ghemor is privy to. It is the reason for Dukat's visit to the station, it is the reason his confessions to Kira are supposedly so important. Yet, we never hear a full secret, nor do they ever come up at any other point in the series. It seems such a waste to build up the importance of Ghemor and his relationship with Kira only to never specifically utilize the secrets that seem to be of some magnitude to the crew.

Outside that, the episode is wonderful. Kira's retrospective is a harsh look into a character who often seems invincible. In "Ties Of Blood And Water," we see her at the darkest moments of her life both in the present and in the flashbacks to her own father's death. The contrasts between the two deaths and the character conflicts of the moments are telling of the Kira character and it is fascinating to watch how she develops as a result.

While Marc Alaimo gives a wonderful performance and the cool and devious Dukat, many of his scenes are stolen by the reappearance of Jeffery Combs as Weyoun. Weyoun's appearance is a surprise for regular viewers of the series, but it is adequately explained and will make even more sense in the seventh season of the show. Combs is brilliant as the flamboyantly dangerous Weyoun.

In the end, though, the episode belongs to Laurence Pressman and Nana Visitor. Pressman does an amazing job at portraying the stubborn, yet failing, Ghemor. He lends dignity and a great range of body language to the role that make his work unbelievably convincing. Visitor, for her part, emotes using her voice and eyes exceptionally well in this piece, making very realistic transitions between kindness, frustration, anger and grief. Her performance makes this episode one worth coming back to repeatedly and well worth the price of the video.

"Ties Of Blood And Water" may be difficult to watch for its death aspect, but it is an excellent hour of television that is immediately accessible to anyone who likes a good story of intrigue, a good family drama, or a good science fiction story. Part of the essential Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for the return of Weyoun and they tying up of a loose end.

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

For other works featuring Thomas Kopache, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
No Country For Old Men
The West Wing
Star Trek: Generations
“The Next Phase”
“The Parliament Of Dreams”


For other Star Trek reviews, please be sure to visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2012, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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