Thursday, February 9, 2012

Greatness In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Is Illustrated "In Purgatory's Shadow"

The Good: Wonderful character work, Great acting, Impressive effects and plot twists!
The Bad: None, save that it is only 43 minutes!
The Basics: When a Dominion invasion becomes imminent, the Deep Space Nine crew faces enemies within and without.

By now, some of my regular readers have to be wondering why I even bother with VHS reviews when most everything is on DVD these days. The truth is, the DVD is a superior medium that month by month gets bigger and bigger. My answer is twofold: 1. The Star Trek team has put the DVDs out in season sets and that precludes the possibility of speaking about each episode with the depth and attention that each deserves and 2. Every now and then there comes something that one should watch in any medium they can. "In Purgatory's Shadow" is worth watching, even on VHS!

The Deep Space Nine story has been getting darker in recent stories. Sisko has turned vengeful to find a traitor, Odo is restored to Changeling at the cost of another of his species, and Major Kira has been tormented by a homicidal Cardassian. But here we learn that another member of the crew has had it worse for longer and it is one of the least likely candidates.

When a signal is intercepted from the Gamma Quadrant, the crew of Deep Space Nine immediately recognizes it as Cardassian, though none can determine the message's content. They ask the help of Garak, the Cardassian tailor on the station and he denies the message is anything of import, but then attempts to steal a runabout. Under duress, Garak reveals that the message is from Enabren Tain, who was thought to have perished in the climax of "The Die Is Cast" (reviewed here!) near the end of the third season.

Garak and Worf journey to Gamma Quadrant where they are promptly captured by the Jem'Hadar. As Deep Space Nine prepares for an invasion, they face the grim conclusion that Worf and Garak may be lost and they attempt to collapse the wormhole. Garak and Worf find themselves at a Dominion Internment Camp on a distant asteroid where Garak finds Tain, Worf finds the real General Martok and a familiar face is revealed as a prisoner . . . Dr. Bashir.

First off, the appearance of Bashir on the asteroid is one of the coolest twists the show ever produced. Because he is wearing the old style uniform, it must be concluded that Bashir has been missing since before the episode "Rapture" (reviewed here!). Almost immediately after the revelation of Bashir's presence, the episode plays with the idea of the Bashir Founder on the station and it does it with class.

It is also refreshing to see Tain and Martok again. Tain was one of the most intriguing characters and here in his final outing, he maintains a high level of decorum and class, keeping the old spymaster mysterious and powerful, even as he nears death. Martok has lost an eye to the Jem'Hadar, but he still seems powerful and very Klingon, which makes it quite realistic that he and Worf would bond as much and as instantly as they do.

"In Purgatory's Shadow" is a setup episode, but it does not feel entirely like one. It delivers with the quality of an excellent middle chapter and it has that weight to it, as if the writers new that they were redefining the momentum of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Once again, the full tableau of characters is utilized. Garak and Gul Dukat clash over the relationship between Garak and Ziyal, which is quite realistic considering Dukat's possessive streak. But the cleverness of the episode is enhanced by the allusions to other episodes. The viewer is almost entirely lost if they have not seen the amazing "Improbable Cause" and "The Die Is Cast" as well as "Return to Grace." But the episode is enhanced by such things as the allusion to Lenara Khan of "Rejoined."

As with all of Star Trek Deep Space Nine's best episodes, much of the piece hinges on the acting. Marc Alaimo gives a great performance as Dukat playing effortlessly off Melanie Smith's Ziyal and Nana Visitor's Kira. Avery Brooks plays Sisko as ultimately decisive and in charge which is reaching the full potential of the character as the steady viewer has been waiting for. And Paul Dooley and J.G. Hertzler give memorable guest shots as Tain and Martok.

But two actors give it better than all the others and they deserve quite a bit of credit. The first is Alexander Siddig. The moment Bashir is revealed in the Internment Camp, Siddig is given the task of reinforcing the idea that the Bashir back on DS9 is an impostor. Siddig succeeds at this with wonderful manipulation of facial expressions and body language, as well as great vocal modulation that subtly sets the two apart.

The brunt of the episode falls to Andrew Robinson to make sensible and believable and he delivers completely. As always, Robinson keeps Garak intriguing by pushing the envelope on his control of his eyes' expressions and body language. He always manages to keep a tone of intrigue in his voice and as a result, he easily convinces the viewer to continue watching.

"In Purgatory's Shadow" solidifies the idea that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is an adult show and serialized, playing off knowledge that viewers would not have unless they have watched previous episodes. It might be hard to be accessible to those who are not fans, as a result. But, now that the first couple of season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are out on DVD, what excuse is there for not getting into it from the beginning and becoming a fan? 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 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 Star Trek reviews, please visit my index page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2008, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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