Thursday, May 24, 2012

“The Dogs Of War” Sets Up The Final Episode Of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Exceptionally Well!

The Good: Decent character development, Good acting, Wonderful humor, Good mood
The Bad: Set-up for reuse of special effects, Punchline nature of much of the episode
The Basics: Setting up the last episode, “The Dogs Of War” pays tribute to the Ferengi subplot while putting the Cardassian Resistance in its most dire situation yet.

In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, there were several subplots, outside the main plot of the show that dealt with both Bajor and the Dominion. One of the best-developed b-plots of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was the Ferengi subplot. In Ferengi episodes, Quark, Rom, Nog, and the recurring Ishka, Brunt and/or the Grand Nagus, usually had an adventure which fleshed out the Ferengi culture and made the somewhat generic Capitalist villains of Star Trek: The Next Generation into an actual, viable culture for the Star Trek franchise. There were a few times when the Ferengi plot intersected with the main plot, most notably “Rules Of Acquisition” (reviewed here!) in the second season where the Dominion is first teased! “The Dogs Of War,” the penultimate episode of the series, illustrates the importance of the Ferengi subplot by including it in the final arc of the series.

Actually, in “The Dogs Of War,” there is a lot going on. Instead of a traditional a-plot, b-plot story, “The Dogs Of War” actually has three plotlines progressing concurrently. But the fact that the Ferengi plotline is included at all is pretty cool and it does make “The Dogs Of War” feel like a more fleshed out and complicated episode than it actually is.

The new Defiant-class U.S.S. Sao Paulo arrives at the station to replace the U.S.S. Defiant and Sisko and his crew are thrilled to be able to rename the ship Defiant. As Sisko settles aboard to test its systems, Damar, Kira and Garak arrive at Cardassia Prime. Unfortunately, the contacts Damar has there who were supposed to add to the ranks of the Resistance are slaughtered as the Cardassian Resistance is betrayed! Unable to stop the carnage, the trio retreats to Mila’s home, Garak’s childhood house. There, they are demoralized to learn that Damar has been declared dead and that the Resistance cells have been wiped out.

As Odo moralizes about the Federation’s role in genocide against the Founders, Quark learns that the Grand Nagus is headed to Deep Space Nine to name his successor. With the Nagus planning to retire, Quark – and the newly-arrived Brunt – believes that Quark will be named Grand Nagus. As Brunt kisses up to Quark to curry favor with the new leader, Quark learns of the “disturbing” social reforms on Ferenginar. As Damar and his team take their resistance to the streets, the Dominion retreats to a defensive posture, Quark confronts the Grand Nagus and the allied forces prepare to make a decisive end to the Dominion War!

“The Dogs Of War” is half a dark story of war and resistance and half a long set-up for a particularly lame punchline. Fortunately, the two divergent moods are kept at quite a distance from one another. The Ferengi plotline is the source of humor in “The Dogs Of War” and some of it truly works. When Quark reacts to Brunt’s information on the state of Ferengi society, the riff on Picard’s seminal scene from Star Trek: First Contact (reviewed here!) is absolutely hilarious. Even the build-up to it is surprisingly well-executed with Quark and Brunt having an uncommon banter between themselves.

But, the Ferengi subplot in “The Dogs Of War” (and, thus, for the series) culminates is a pretty lame punchline as the new Grand Nagus is named. After all the build-up, it is hardly a surprise. But, basically the joke hinges on the fact that the original transmission Quark receives is very garbled. It’s a long set-up for a pretty mundane pay-off.

Arguably the more significant portion of “The Dogs Of War” are the other two plotlines, both of which lead directly into the series finale, “What You Leave Behind.” Unfortunately, even within “The Dogs Of War,” the arrival of the new Defiant is somewhat suspicious. It’s not that it’s not cool that Sisko gets another Defiant-class vessel, but the fact that the crew is instantly allowed to rename the U.S.S. Sao Paulo “Defiant” should raise the hackles on the necks of fans everywhere. And the attentive ones are appropriately irked; the ship is not renumbered NX-74205-A or NCC-74205 or NCC-74205-A. Instead, the introduction of the new Defiant serves the purpose of bringing the series finale in on-budget by allowing the special effects to be reused from prior episodes, much the way “The Changing Face Of Evil” reused footage from “Tears Of The Prophets” earlier in the final arc. The producers aren’t fooling anyone with the introduction of the new Defiant, but by the end of the episode, most viewers who were engaged enough to feel disappointment about this will be disappointed simply by the punchline in the Ferengi plot and excited about the impending end of the Dominion War.

And “The Dogs Of War” feels, appropriately, like it is rushing toward the end of the main plot of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. With the Cardassian Resistance crushed, but Damar and his team laying waste to a Jem’Hadar barracks, there is some hope for Cardassia. Moreover, the determination of the allies at the climax to “The Dogs Of War” is admirable.

In addition to providing some closure for the character of Quark, “The Dogs Of War” represents pretty much the culmination of Colonel Kira’s character. In “The Dogs Of War,” she rallies the distraught Damar and uncharacteristically defeated Garak. In a real leadership role, Kira guides the Cardassian Resistance and Nana Visitor completes the transition for the character beautifully.

The Cardassian part of the arc hinges on Damar and the performance by Casey Biggs at least as much as it hinges on Visitor. Biggs brings Damar to the forefront and when the Cardassians are cheering for Damar, we have the feeling that the character has come an exceptionally long way from the disgruntled officer serving aboard Dukat’s ship, as he originally was introduced. Biggs has the gravitas to play the part of a leader who is done with the process of becoming. In “The Dogs Of War,” Damar has arrived and he stands ready to save Cardassia. The power of Damar’s character and Biggs’ performance is that the viewer wants to see Cardassia saved. The Cardassians are originally characterized as an interstellar analogy to the Nazis and that the series has come to a point where the viewer would be rooting for the survival of Cardassians is something that is initially enough to make one squirm. But, “The Dogs Of War” pulls that sentiment off and as the Cardassians rise in the streets, the viewer cannot help but feel empathy.

“The Dogs Of War” sets up a few other final-episode threads, notably Odo’s feelings on the Federation allowing Section 31’s plan to go unchecked, the abrupt establishment of the Bashir/Dax relationship and the plan to invade Cardassian space. On the performance front, it is worth noting that Jeffrey Combs performs twice as much in “The Dogs Of War.” As both Brunt and Weyoun, Combs plays in both main plots and he is characteristically wonderful in both roles.

Ultimately, “The Dogs Of War” is a decent set-up episode and, despite the somewhat lame way it executes the Ferengi plot, it prepares the viewer well for the tone, plot and character arcs for the final episode of the series.

[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!


For other Star Trek reviews, be sure to visit my Star Trek Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the episodes, movies and DVD sets from this franchise that I have reviewed!

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