Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Outbreak Of The Dominion War Is “A Call To Arms!”

The Good: Great use of characters, Engaging plot, Decent acting, Pacing
The Bad: Obvious cliffhanger
The Basics: When Sisko decides to stop the Dominion from sending more supplies into Cardassian space, war becomes inevitable. And then it breaks out.

In the fifth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the essential plot thread was that the Dominion had resurfaced with a vengeance. If season three could have been titled "Dominion Menacing," season five would have been called "The Escalation of the Dominion Threat." The season climaxes with the loss of peace in the Alpha Quadrant in an episode entitled "A Call To Arms." While many believe that the Star Trek franchise could not do a better season finale than "The Best of Both Worlds, Part I" (reviewed here!), real fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine will argue that "A Call To Arms" gives it a strong run for its money, if not succeeding it.

While Rom and Leeta plan for their wedding, Sisko decides that the Dominion ships that keep arriving in the Alpha Quadrant to reinforce Cardassia must be stopped. Rom and O'Brien come up with a solution; mining the mouth of the wormhole with cloaked, self-replicating mines. Their deployment immediately gets the attention of the Dominion, which sends Weyoun to pressure Sisko into stopping. Seeing that Weyoun is ready to back up his threats, Sisko uses his influence with the Bajorans to get Bajor to sign the non-aggression pact proposed by the Dominion to keep them out of the impending combat. The Dominion launches an assault on Deep Space Nine, forcing Sisko to abandon his post and flee with his Federation crew for his life.

"A Call To Arms" has one minor flaw and that is that it is ambitious. There is a LOT going on in this episode. It is reviving the idea that Garak and Ziyal have become close friends, Rom and Leeta finally marry and the whole Dominion War story arc begins. It's an episode that has a lot to it, so as a result, it requires the full attention of the viewer. On the plus side, there is so much to enjoy about this episode that it becomes very easy to remain engaged, despite the number of threads that need to be paid attention to.

The storylines here are pretty incredible and the main plot is only enhanced by the phenomenal special effects. For those who enjoyed the intense space battle from "The Way Of The Warrior," they will be blown away and thrilled by the siege of Deep Space Nine in "A Call to Arms." The Dominion fleet is relentless in its attack and the weaponry of Deep Space Nine makes quite the lightshow in its retaliation.

But Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has always been more about character than special effects tricks and "A Call To Arms" is no exception. Garak and Ziyal share moments of genuine affection in this episode and it is refreshing to see Garak actually open up to another character on the show. Similarly, the wedding of Rom and Leeta is fun; after five seasons of growth, Rom reaches a real high point here and this is undoubtedly the high-water mark of Leeta's character. The tension between Odo and Kira - now that she knows of Odo's love for her - is established and becomes a seed for the next season.

All of the actors are working at the top of their game here to create an episode that is quite fast paced. Rene Auberjonois does an excellent job at playing Odo as awkward and Nana Visitor completely opens up Kira's sense of discomfort. Max Grodenchik and Chase Masterson make Rom and Leeta's improbable love seem common, which is no small feat. And the chemistry between Andrew Robinson (Garak) and Melanie Smith (Ziyal) comes across as quite organic, which is no small accomplishment for Robinson considering Smith is a recast Ziyal. That the two work so hard to make their character's chemistry seem effortless (and succeed) is a testament to their professionalism.

Much of the episode comes down to the acting talents of Avery Brooks and Jeffery Combs. While Marc Alaimo does his usual great job playing Dukat, most of the villainy in "A Call To Arms" is personified by Weyoun, who is played by Combs. Combs manages to be both menacing and strangely diplomatic, a creepy combination to be sure. That Combs makes Weyoun seem believable behind such drastic changes of mood is an illustration of his quality.

It is Avery Brooks who humanizes the climactic events of this episode, though. Brooks plays Sisko as a man resolved to action and who is calmly plotting the best possible course for the survival of his people. The success of Brooks is that he underplays Sisko, never making him seem larger than life. As a result, Sisko comes across as a better character and more cunning tactician because Brooks plays him more like a common man than a military genius. Brooks' judgment on how to keep Sisko more connected to the audience works far beyond the sometimes pretentious lines about war that come out of his mouth.

In the end, "A Call To Arms" is an intense episode that is accessible to anyone who enjoys a good war story or political thriller. This is the onset of a war and if "A Call to Arms" is any indication, it's going to be an intense one! Fortunately, it was more than just the stylings of a season finale trying to go out with a bang. 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 the Star Trek Review Index Page for an organized list of every episode, boxed set and Star Trek movie review I have written!

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