Monday, April 16, 2012

Recovering From Losses, "Image In The Sand" Finds The Crew Of Deep Space Nine Spread Thin.

The Good: Decent character work, Fine acting
The Bad: Somewhat mediocre plot.
The Basics: With the Dominion manipulating the Romulans and Bajorans, Worf mourns his loss while Sisko works off-station to find himself in “Image In The Sand.”

Entering the final season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the crew of Deep Space Nine was essentially in tatters. It is virtually impossible to discuss the opening episodes without revealing the death that occurred in “Tears Of The Prophets” (reviewed here!). That’s all the “spoiler alert” for the episode “Image In The Sand” you get! The seventh season opened with a more subtle premiere that refocused the show on the characters once again. “Image In The Sand” is the episode and it picks up months after the prior season left off.

It is worth noting that “Image In The Sand” is almost entirely inaccessible to those who are not already fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The show is ponderous and delves into the emotional turmoil of two of the main characters (Sisko and Worf) while Colonel Kira (yup, she got a promotion!) tries to hold the station and the alliance together. The result is a pretty slow building episode that is very much a transition piece. That is not to say it is bad, but it is heavily reliant upon both where the show has been and where it is going, making it a thornier standalone episode.

Following the collapse of the wormhole and the murder of Jadzia Dax, Worf is moody and taking it out on the Defiant’s crew and Kira is running Deep Space Nine. She and Odo are alarmed by public demonstrations by the Cult of the Pah-wraiths on the Promenade, but they make no move to stop the fringe worshippers. On Earth, Sisko receives a vision from the Prophets where he is on the planet Tyree, digging. In the sand, he sees a face and Captain Sisko and Jake are astonished when Benjamin reconstructs the face on a PADD and Jake recognizes it. Sisko’s father reveals a previously untold family truth in explaining who Sarah, the woman in the picture, was and when Sisko seems to have a path again, he is stabbed by a member of the Cult of the Pah-wraiths.

Meanwhile, back on Deep Space Nine, Kira helps the new Romulan attaché set up an office. But when the Romulan request to set up a hospital on the Bajoran moon Derna reveals that the Romulans might be stockpiling weapons there to stay entrenched, she decides it is time to act. And O’Brien and Bashir learn what is troubling Worf; the Klingon wants to make sure that Jadzia gets into the Klingon afterdeath (Sto-Vo-Kor) and that means he must win a battle in her honor.

“Image In The Sand” does a decent job of employing the full cast of characters. Virtually all of the characters have something to do in the episode and that makes this ensemble piece feel like the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine universe is truly a broad, complicated place. The brief appearance by Weyoun and Damar is memorable and helps to promote the tension between the two of them that has been brewing since Damar abruptly became the Cardassian Head Of State in the prior season. Even Vic Fontaine’s appearance is more than just filler.

Part of what makes “Image In The Sand” a worthwhile transition piece is that it truly feels like it is part of a continuum. Events in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine do not occur in a vacuum and “Image In The Sand” is a great example of that. From a wonderful conversation between Worf and O’Brien wherein they reference the Enterprise and the ever-failing holodeck to the nature of Sarah, there is a feeling that the characters are being guided by the full breadth of their experience before this episode. It works. It might not stand up well on its own, but it works for those invested in the characters because we see the growth. Even the potentially contrived nature of Sarah does not feel false with the way it is revealed, making it more of a payoff for loyal viewers than an awkward, late-addition plot device.

The character growth that arguably rewards viewers most is the new Kira. Kira Nerys is presented in “Image In The Sand” as both calm and commanding. Her violent past seems mostly behind her and she exhibits actual leadership traits in this episode that make it seem like the three missing months between episodes actually had a weight to them. She and Odo also seem much more comfortable in their relationship, which is a nice bit of personal growth for both as well.

As for Worf, he is appropriately moody and his gruffness makes for a decent excuse for Martok to keep returning. Worf is a character who has lost so much in the course of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and it is refreshing to see the show dwell on him in mourning for a while. With the death of K’Ehleyr, the loss of his brother and even the loss of the Enterprise so quickly swept aside for Worf, it is actually growth for the character and the show to illustrate him reacting poorly to something. The natural quality of his mourning is realistic and affords Michael Dorn the opportunity to stretch his acting wings in a direction he has not, traditionally, been allowed to before this episode.

Ultimately, much of the episode hinges on Sisko and Avery Brooks does his best to make the Captain appear lost and without direction in a way that is different from how he was at the beginning of the series. He does, but Captain Sisko only becomes empathetic late in the episode, whereas Worf’s mourning seems much more natural. Brooks does a good job with what he is given and he plays determined exceptionally well.

Better in conjunction with the episodes that precede and follow it, “Image In The Sand” is a part of the essential Star Trek: Deep Space Nine because of how it moves the characters and plot of the series along.

[Knowing that the season is a much better investment, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Seventh Season on DVD, which provides the full story for the conclusion to the series. Read my review of the final season by clicking here!


See how this episode stacks up against the other episodes and movies in the Star Trek franchise by visiting the Index Page where the reviews are organized from best-rated to worst!

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