Saturday, February 11, 2012

Perfection Continues "By Inferno's Light"

The Good: Everything. Nice acting, Pace, Tone, Character development
The Bad: None
The Basics: When Cardassia joins the Dominion, the Klingon Empire retreats, though Worf stands his ground against the Jem'Hadar in “By Inferno’s Light.”

One of the beauties of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is that its serialized nature makes for some wonderful episodes and great arcs that a committed fan will enjoy following. The problem with reading reviews of episodes this late in the game is that when fundamental things change, it ruins the experience of seeing it for the first time. "By Inferno's Light" is one of those episodes where a lot changes.

When last we saw the crew of DS9, Worf and Garak were in the Gamma Quadrant with Dr. Bashir, a Changeling Bashir was committing espionage on the station and the wormhole had opened to reveal hundreds of Jem'Hadar ships. "By Inferno's Light" begins immediately after "In Purgatory's Shadow," (reviewed here!) with the Jem'Hadar veering away from the station, with Gul Dukat's Bird of Prey and the astonishing news that Cardassia has joined the Dominion. The ramifications are felt almost immediately in the Gamma Quadrant where all of the Cardassians, save Garak, are released from the internment camp, much to their surprise. And while the Alpha Quadrant feels the effects of the sudden change in the balance of power, Worf enters into a series of lethal combats against the Jem'Hadar in the internment camp.

What makes this episode so good is that it continues Star Trek Deep Space Nine's focus on character. While Worf engages in a series of very bloody, nerve-racking battles, his spirit as a Klingon (and a character) is revealed to the audience. We see his stubborn pride in each battle and in the aftermath of each conflict. And as he is physically beaten down, Garak gets more and more psychologically damaged as he attempts to modify Tain's transmitter in the wall of the camp. Here we learn that Garak is claustrophobic and it poses quite the problem given their environment.

But the character development is not limited to the internment camp. In the Alpha Quadrant, Dukat and Sisko reveal their natures and growth equally forcefully. Dukat relates his sense of desperation over the Klingon War to Sisko and his need to see his people endure and thrive. Sisko, being on the receiving end of Dukat's threats, responds with a great deal of coldness that borders on a rage of his own.

"By Inferno's Light" is where we are yet again reminded of the quality of the actors on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. From Melanie Smith's longing as Ziyal to Nana Visitor's gaping disappointment as Kira, everyone in this episode gives it their best. J.G. Hertzler uses the opportunity to reinvent Martok as a noble, but seriously wounded Klingon and Michael Dorn gives the most physically expressive performance we have seen thus far as Worf.

The real kudos must go to Alexander Siddig. Here Siddig pulls double duty as the captive Bashir and the Bashir Founder and he does an excellent job playing the roles as quite different. Siddig reminds us that it's possible to use facial expressions and tone of voice to redefine individuals, even when they otherwise look identical. His performance as the Bashir Founder in the last moments of that entity's life is emotive and distinctive.

"By Inferno's Light" is essential to any fan of the Star Trek universe, though it will be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys good science fiction and political intrigue stories. It is, however, almost incomprehensible without the episode which preceded it, though they are an excellent value. Between the elements of action and the wonderful acting and character work, this is a great hour of television.

Part of the essential Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for the fundamental shift in the powers in the Alpha Quadrant.

[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 be sure to visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

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