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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Sons and Daughters (Review)

If A Time to Stand and Rocks and Shoals demonstrate the raw potential and ambition of the sixth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, then Sons and Daughters demonstrate its shortcomings.

The fourth and fifth seasons of Deep Space Nine rank among the very best seasons of Star Trek every produced. These two seasons demonstrated a striking level of consistency. There were undoubtedly terrible episodes, like Shattered Mirror and The Muse in the fourth season or The Assignment and Let He Who Is Without Sin… However, these episodes tended to be quite concentrated. Even other episodes that didn’t quite work, like The Sword of Kahless, Sons of Mogh, A Simple Investigation or Ferengi Love Songs, were more bland than outright bad.

Let me be your father figure...

Let me be your father figure…

The sixth and seventh seasons of Deep Space Nine lack that consistency. They are even more ambitious than the two seasons directly prior, pushing harder in bolder new directions and resulting in brilliant television like Waltz, Far Beyond the Stars, In the Pale Moonlight, Treachery, Faith, and the Great River, The Siege of AR-558, It’s Only a Paper Moon, Chimera, Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges and Tacking Into the Wind. The sixth and seventh seasons of Deep Space Nine were breathtaking and highly enjoyable on their own terms.

In fact, there is a very credible argument for ranking the sixth and seventh seasons of Deep Space Nine among the best seasons of the franchise. They represent the last great narrative leap forward until the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise. These two seasons are driven by a desire to take risks and try new things, to make ambitious gambles knowing that they might not pay off. These are certainly virtues to be encouraged, even without that laundry list of spectacular television.

The lost art of parenting.

The lost art of parenting.

However, with that level of ambition, the sixth and seventh seasons were also much more variable in terms of quality. They contained a lot more misfires than the previous two seasons. This is not just the obvious high-profile failures like Profit and Lace or The Emperor’s New Cloak, but also a lot more episodes that disappoint without hitting quite that level of awfulness; One Little Ship, The Reckoning, Time’s Orphan, Prodigal Daughter, Field of Fire, Extreme Measures. There is a sense that the number of bad episodes increases noticeably.

Sons and Daughters is perhaps the first example of this trend. It is an episode that is not soul-destroying terrible, but it simply does not work in the way that it is intended to work. Sons and Daughters is not only the weakest episode of the six-episode opening arc, it is also the first episode to be written by David Weddle and Bradley Thompson as members of the series’ writing staff. The two facts might not be unrelated.

All (Mar)tok tok tok.

All (Mar)tok tok tok.

David Weddle and Bradley Thompson had been associated with Deep Space Nine since the middle of the fourth season. They were the writers who originally pitched the story that would develop into Rules of Engagement, although the teleplay for that episode was eventually written by Ronald D. Moore. In the fifth season, they were allowed to script their own episodes. They produced the body-snatching science-fiction thriller The Assignment in the first half of the season and the gun-running morality play Business as Usual in the home stretch.

The departure of writer and producer Robert Hewitt Wolfe at the end of the fifth season created a vacancy on the Deep Space Nine writing staff. Although the writing staff on Deep Space Nine was a well-oiled machine at this point, the demands of a twenty-six-episode season meant that Ira Steven Behr had to recruit new talent to bulk up the team. Having written for the show before, and demonstrating that they understood the aesthetic of the series, David Weddle and Bradley Thompson were reasonable choices.

Tough pitch.

Tough pitch.

To be fair, they were not the only choice. Bryan Fuller had also pitched a number of successful stories to the Deep Space Nine writing staff, with The Darkness and the Light landing in the first half of the fifth season and Empok Nor landing in the second half. In The Fifty Year Mission, Fuller acknowledges that he applied for a staff position on Deep Space Nine, but did not get the job:

I sold two stories to DS9 and then got to participate in the writers room on breaking those stories, which was a huge deal. There were actually two positions when they were hiring. There was a position on both shows available. Because I had sold my first two stories to DS9 and I had actually been in the writers room, I was desperate to get the DS9 job. But I didn’t and I did get the Voyager job, which I was thrilled about. Both shows represented different kinds of learning experiences.

There was a higher degree of camaraderie and brotherhood on DS9, whereas Voyager was a slightly different dynamic – though no less educational.

To be fair, Fuller was an as-yet-unproven writer with only two story credits (and no teleplays) to his name at this point in his career. In fact, Fuller would spend a year learning the ropes on the fourth season of Star Trek: Voyager. He would contribute ideas to The Gift, and write teleplays for The RavenMortal Coil, Retrospect, and Living Witness, before formally joining the staff during the fifth season.

Smart Alex.

Smart Alex.

Still, it is somewhat frustrating that Deep Space Nine had the option to hire Bryan Fuller, only to choose David Weddle and Bradley Thompson. The writing staff on Deep Space Nine was incredibly strong, but Weddle and Thompson came to represent something of a weak link in that otherwise strong chain. To be fair to Weddle and Thompson, they were first-time television writers still honing their trade. The duo would go on to work on shows as influential as Battlestar Galactica and Game of Thrones.

Still, the pair had a somewhat disheartening hit-miss ratio across their four years contributing to Deep Space Nine. They were responsible for truly great and memorable episodes like Inquisition and Treachery, Faith, and the Great River. At the same time, they own the lion’s share of the weakest episodes from those seasons; they were also responsible for episodes like The AssignmentSons and DaughtersOne Little Ship, The Reckoning, Time’s Orphan, Prodigal Daughter and Extreme Measures. That is hardly an inspiring track record.

Commanding respect.

Commanding respect.

To be fair, Weddle openly acknowledges this difficulty when comparing their time working on Deep Space Nine to their later work with Ronald D. Moore on Battlestar Galactica:

Deep Space Nine was a struggle for us. We were new to TV and had much to learn and our temperaments did not easily mesh with Star Trek. But with this show we are sailing — having the best creative experience of our lives. It’s exhilarating and we are eternally grateful to Ron Moore for giving us the change to work on it.

Indeed, although stronger than the work of Weddle and Thompson on Deep Space Nine, there is little about Fuller’s contributions to Voyager to suggest his later creative triumphs on shows like Hannibal.

Hey kids! It's Gabrielle Union!

Hey kids! It’s Gabrielle Union!

Sons and Daughters is not an embarrassing misfire on the scale of Let He Who Is Without Sin… or Profit and Lace, but it is still a damp squib coming off a spectacular run of episodes. More than that, it is an episode that demonstrates a lot of potential, and which hits upon a number of ideas that would make for compelling viewing if executed in a stronger manner. The biggest problem with Sons and Daughters is how dull and lifeless it feels, how stale and tired. All of the energy that drove Call to Arms, A Time to Stand and Rocks and Shoals just evaporates.

This is true on multiple levels, from the nuts-and-bolts construction of the script to the way that it integrates with the larger arc. The dialogue in Sons and Daughters is painfully banal and expositional, particularly when contrasted to the character-building work done on A Time to Stand or Rocks and Shoals. Look at how effortlessly Rocks and Shoals fleshed out Remata’klan and Keevan into intriguing one-shot secondary characters, while Sons and Daughters struggles to find a voice for recurring players like Alexander or Ziyal.

Whether to Nerys or far...

Whether to Nerys or far…

This is most notable in the storyline set on the station, if only because the guest cast is much stronger. Watching Nana Visitor and Melanie Smith try to wade through the script underscores how awkwardly Sons and Daughters misses the voices of its characters. Discussing Dukat’s abandonment of his daughter in By Inferno’s Light, Kira protests, “The last time you defied him, he left you here to die.” Ziyal states, matter-of-factly, “We talked about that. He admits he overreacted, but family loyalty is important to my father and he felt I betrayed him.”

The dialogue on Star Trek has always been stylised, owing to the uniqueness of its setting and the constraints imposed upon its production. It seems churlish to talk about the characters on Star Trek sounding like “real people”, because they are often playing characters who are not even human and who exist in a hypothetical future. However, the best Star Trek dialogue is rooted in an emotional reality that transcends the setting. Very few people on Earth talk like Remata’klan in Rocks and Shoals, but his dialogue feels true to his character.

Martok and Worf do not always see eye to eye.

Martok and Worf do not always see eye to eye.

The dialogue in Sons and Daughters does not feel true to these characters. It feels like dialogue that is not fit for purpose; Ziyal responds to Kira’s emotive condemnation of Dukat with a blunt statement of exposition that outlines a supporting character’s decision-making as simple cause-and-effect. There is nothing in there conveys how Ziyal feels about it and why she has reconciled herself to it. Melanie Smith tries her hardest with the lines to suggest some internal conflict, but there is only so much a performer can do.

Indeed, Smith does legitimately good work in Sons and Daughters. Particularly effective is her introductory scene, which might be the only time in her run on the show that Ziyal actually seems like Dukat’s daughter. Asked why she came back to the station, she responds, “Why don’t you and I have dinner tonight, and I’ll tell you all about it.” Kira reluctantly agrees. Dukat cuts in, “Splendid! We’ll dine in my quarters at twenty two hundred hours.” Kira protests, “Wait a minute, I didn’t–“ Ziyal cuts across, “I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed you.”

"Major, that's just not true. There's a bond between us."

“Major, that’s just not true. There’s a bond between us.”

The dialogue is fairly generic, but Smith makes sure to play the scene to compliment Marc Alaimo. The way that she moves into Kira’s personal space, interrupting before Kira can properly object and maintaining a very forced positive attitude, recalls Alaimo’s performance tics. Ziyal’s lack of awareness of (or sensitivity towards) Kira’s obvious discomfort suggests that sort of narcissistic self-obsessed presumption that defines Dukat as a character. Ziyal is happy to see Kira, and so she assumes that she would have no objections to dinner, oblivious to the obvious conflict.

While the subplot focusing on Ziyal suffers primarily from this clumsy exposition-driven dialogue, that problem is compounded on the subplot that unfolds on the Rotarran. Serving as Martok’s second-in-command, Worf finds himself face-to-face with his son Alexander for the first time since Firstborn four seasons earlier. This is obviously a very emotive subplot, with Worf and Alexander forced to reconcile with one another as the entire Alpha Quadrant burns around them. There is some excellent dramatic material there.

"Dad said he wants you to be my new stepmom."

“Dad said he wants you to be my new stepmom.”

Inevitably, Worf and Alexander spar. Worf defeats his son. “You must be pleased,” Alexander sulks. “Now you can tell me what a failure I am as a Klingon.” Worf objects, but he presses the point. “Or are you just going to send me away again?” Worf responds, “We are not playing in holosuites now. This is war. The Jem’Hadar will cut you to pieces.” Alexander is having none of it. He pouts, “Then I will be dead and you will be happy. Now leave me alone!” And then he storms out of the room.

This is terrible dialogue, by any measure. It feels like a very clumsy first draft that somehow made its way on to set. However, the problem is exponentially increased by some truly horrendous casting. Alexander has been recast as Marc Worden; thanks to the wonders of ambiguous Klingon ageing, the eight-year-old Klingon is played by a twenty-one-year-old actor. Sons and Daughters seems to suggest that the character’s mental age falls somewhere on the spectrum between those extremes; perhaps between sixteen and eighteen.

Kids grow up and change actors so fast.

Kids grow up and change actors so fast.

As The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion notes, there were pragmatic and storytelling reasons for this shift:

“The role demanded a lot of time on the set,” says Co-supervising Producer Steve Orster. “And the amount of time you have with a minor is very restrictive. Add to that the fact that Klingon actors need to go through three hours of makeup in the morning, and suddenly you have very little time with your actor. So his age was important. Also, we kept in mind the fact that if the actor was too young, Worf would seem too harsh. He’d come off like an abusive father, rather than a father who wants the best for his son.”

This all makes sense, and recasting Alexander was not a bad choice of itself. Recasting Alexander as Marc Worden was a terrible choice.

Father of the year.

Father of the year.

Worden provides one of the weakest guest performances in the history of Deep Space Nine, playing Alexander as the sitcom version of a mopey teenager. Sons and Daughters obviously tries to suggest that Alexander is more human than Klingon, by virtue of his upbringing, but Alexander is also presented a stock teenager who escaped from a soap opera. He rants and raves about how much he hates his father while desperately trying to be cool and refusing any attempt of more even-handed adults to deal with him.

Alexander is a teenager as written by a room of middle-aged writers and portrayed by a twenty-something performer. There is something decidedly tone-deaf about the character, from his stroppy dialogue through to the repeated emphasis on his comical incompetence. Alexander is an embarrassment to Worf, with little interest in exploring just what Worf must look like Alexander beyond stock pouting. After all, Worf did legitimately abandon his son and showed no interest in his development, but Sons and Daughters lets Worf off the hook entirely.

"That's not a d'k tahg. THIS is a d'k tahg."

“That’s not a d’k tahg. THIS is a d’k tahg.”

There is the feeling of bad soap opera to all of this. It is emphasised by the decision to age Alexander so rapidly, which reflects the trend to do something similar to soap opera character with little explanation or justification beyond production realities and storytelling convenience:

Baby drama – switched-at-birth stories, “Who’s the Daddy?” plots – is a soap staple, but what happens when those little ankle biters become pre-teens, too young for the sex and scandal stories that are daytime’s bread-and-butter?

Problem solved: enter SORAS (Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome), in which a 5-year-old schoolboy shipped off to boarding school returns eight months later as a 6’1″ 19-year-old with a Bally’s membership.

One of the more egregious examples of the phenomenon: on Days of our Lives, baby “Elvis” (don’t ask) was born in 1997, disappeared shortly thereafter, re-emerging nine years later as E.J. DiMera, a twentysomething villain with a posh British accent.

To be fair, Alexander’s Klingon biology makes some sense of the storytelling choice, and the dialogue does reference it. “You have grown,” Worf states. “So I’ve been told,” Alexander responds. Still, it is a choice that only draws attention to the episode’s other bad soap opera choices.

"You think you're a bad father? I haven't seen my son since The Way of the Warrior, and I was a changeling in that episode!"

“You think you’re a bad father? I haven’t seen my son since The Way of the Warrior, and I was a changeling in that episode!”

Of course, soap opera storytelling is not inherently bad. In fact, many of Deep Space Nine‘s best character-driven stories are rooted in stock soap clichés. Doctor Bashir, I Presume hinges upon a dark secret buried in the Bashir family history. Behind the Lines features Odo engaging in an affair with the Female Changeling that might just bring about the end of the Federation. Deep Space Nine‘s focus upon character-driven plots is frequently derided as a very “soap opera” touch, but the truth is that it generally works very well.

The big issue with Sons and Daughters is that these plotting elements feel like bad soap opera plotting. The problem with Sons and Daughters has nothing to do with the basic decision to build a story around the strained relationship between Worf and Alexander. Indeed, there is a fascinating story to be told about the two characters. After all, Deep Space Nine is a show very interested in family dynamics, as demonstrated by the focus on Benjamin and Jake Sisko or Quark’s extended family or even the O’Brien clan.

Deferring to Damar.

Deferring to Damar.

Indeed, it could be argued that Sons and Daughters falters for contrasting the wrong dynamics. The title obviously alludes to the contrast between Dukat’s relationship to Ziyal and Worf’s relationship to Alexander. Both are single parents reacquainting themselves with long absent children. However, Dukat has consistently been paired and contrasted with Sisko, and the relationship between Dukat and Ziyal more effectively mirrors the relationship that exists between Jake and Ben.

After all, Dukat seems to honestly care about being a part of Ziyal’s life, which is more than can be said of Worf’s attitude to Alexander. Worf is a character who accepted the shaming of his family name in Sins of the Father and Sons of Mogh with little regard for how it affected other members of his family, because it aligned with his own sense of honour and duty to the Klingon Empire. In contrast, Worf never seemed particularly comfortable as a parent. It is understandable, but his indifference to Alexander was always unflattering.

Happy families.

Happy families.

Dukat undoubtedly has a strained relationship with his daughter. He planned to murder her in Indiscretion and was willing to let her die in By Inferno’s Light. In fact, even when he accepted his public shaming on her behalf before Return to Grace, there was a small sense that one of Dukat’s primary motivating factors in taking Ziyal home was Kira’s opinion of him. Indeed, Sons and Daughters plays with that idea, with Dukat introducing Ziyal as a gift to impress Kira. “This is a happy occasion,” Dukat warns Damar. “Let’s not spoil it.” He tells Kira, “I have a surprise for you.”

Still, Dukat was at the very least willing to endure some discomfort for his child. More than that, it is the death of Ziyal that pushed his already precarious mental state over the edge in Sacrifice of Angels, even if Dukat primarily treats his daughter as an extension of himself. Worf has barely mentioned Alexander in two seasons. Worf is quite frankly a terrible contrast to Dukat when it comes to matter of fatherhood, because Worf makes Dukat seem like a good father. It does not help matters that Deep Space Nine has never really touched on Dukat as a mirror to Worf.

"Sorry, Worf. You will never be as good a father as Gul Dukat. You need to set yourself a more realistic target. Like the alien species from Child's Play."

“Sorry, Worf. You will never be as good a father as Gul Dukat. You need to set yourself a more realistic target. Like the alien species from Child’s Play.”

The more obvious point of comparison for Dukat and Ziyal is the relationship between Benjamin and Jake Sisko. After all, so much of Dukat’s arc is anchored in his desperate attempts to one-up Sisko. When he complains to Weyoun in Sacrifice of Angels about the short shrift that he gets from the Bajorans, he points specifically to Sisko, “Take Captain Sisko, an otherwise intelligent, perceptive man. Even he refuses to grant me the respect I deserve.” Weyoun has Dukat perfectly pegged in A Time to Stand, when he points to Dukat’s perspective as “interesting, yet somewhat petty.”

The juxtaposition between Jake and Ziyal makes a great deal of sense, to the point that Sons and Daughters reveals that Ziyal plans to be an artist rather than following her father into the service. More than that, the contrast of Dukat as a physically present (yet emotionally absent) father would make an effective counterpoint to the gulf of space that exists between Jake and Ziyal. It is quite disappointing that Jake and Ziyal spend relatively little time with one another over their shared tenure on the station, specifically at this juncture.

"You take that back! My gold swimming pants are NOT embarrassing on the family vacation!"

“You take that back! My gold swimming pants are NOT embarrassing on the family vacation!”

Even allowing for the poor contrast that Sons and Daughters makes between Worf and Dukat, the subplot focusing on Alexander poses a number of challenges. Most obviously, there are a lot of legacy issues to untangle. The relationship between Worf and Alexander has long been deeply troubled. When Star Trek: The Next Generation introduced Worf’s son in Reunion, it was immediately clear that the production team had no idea what they were doing. The writers fumbled with the dynamic, Alexander disappearing for long stretches at a time, and Worf remained largely unchanged.

There are very obvious practical reasons for this. The Next Generation was still largely episodic at the point when it introduced Alexander. The series was designed to air easily in syndication, with a minimum of continuity between stories, so that the show would remain accessible if broadcast (and watched) out of order. Worf could not grow into a father to Alexander, because that would involve a fundamental change to his character and would require an arc that would play out across multiple episodes (and even seasons) that had to broadcast (and watched) in the right sequence.

Is this a d'k tahg I see before me?

Is this a d’k tahg I see before me?

However, this caused a number of character and storytelling issues. Worf’s inability to grow into a proper father figure to Alexander, with the boy only appearing when convenient and frequently ignored for entire extended runs of episodes, made their dynamic appear dysfunctional and broken. Worf behaved a character on an early nineties television show, but that is not how most audience members approached him. Worf was acting like a terrible father. It wasn’t that Worf was trying and failing to understand the young boy who had been thrust into his life, it was that Worf wasn’t even trying to connect with the son he had just discovered.

Sons and Daughters emphasises this fact. Alexander’s accusations might be heavy-handed, but they are certainly understandable. More than that, even Martok points out that Worf has never behaved like a proper father. “We have shed blood together, escaped from a Jem’Hadar prison together,” Martok observes. “You have pledged yourself and your life to my House. Yet in all this time, you have never once mentioned that you had a son.” All of this is true. Of course, part of it is rooted in the simple constraints of episodic television and the law of conservation of detail, but it does paint a pretty damning picture of Worf as a father.

"By the way, there is something we should probably talk about before we get married..."

“By the way, there is something we should probably talk about before we get married…”

So, there is definitely a story to be told here. In fact, there is something very clever in using the third episode of this serialised arc to address a character beat that is rooted in the franchise’s long-standing episodic constraints; finally, with Deep Space Nine willing to construct elaborate long-form character and story arcs, Worf can actually be a decent father to Alexander. Bringing Alexander back is a nice way to acknowledge the limitations of the rigidly episodic style away from which Deep Space Nine has made a conscious effort to move. There is a potential for a truly great story in this reunion.

However, this is also a plot that needs to be handled delicately. One of the more interesting aspects of Worf’s characterisation on Deep Space Nine is a willingness on the part of the writing staff to explore the more uncomfortable aspects of his world view. The writers on Deep Space Nine are willing to follow Worf’s train of thought and his behaviour to its logical conclusion, even if that conclusion is hard to reconcile with the utopian ideals of the franchise. Worf is a character from a foreign culture, and Deep Space Nine is willing to explore the implications of that idea.

Quark is all ears.

Quark is all ears.

There were undoubtedly elements of this during the character’s time on The Next Generation, in his refusal to donate blood in The Enemy or his murder of Duras in Reunion or his disruptive behaviour in Birthright, Part II. However, Deep Space Nine is more willing to bring that side of Worf to the fore, as demonstrated by his willingness to kill Kor in The Sword of Kahless, or to murder his brother in Sons of Mogh, or to indulge his thirst for battle in Rules of Engagement. Even more than Quark, and maybe slightly less than Odo, Worf is a character who is entirely capable of acting life a self-righteous jerk when he feels that the moment calls for it.

This presents a challenge for the writing staff, because it involves a precarious balance. After all, Let He Who Is Without Sin… is an episode that fails for many reasons, but one of those reasons is the insistence on having Worf behave like a jerk while avoiding any long-term consequences for that behaviour. At a certain point, Worf’s contrarian and stubborn streak goes beyond intriguing and towards insufferable. Sons and Daughters is an entire episode built around the idea that Worf is a spectacularly terrible father, and so it immediately runs the risk of crossing that invisible line.

"Gagh! Don't sneak up on a guy like that."

“Gagh! Don’t sneak up on a guy like that.”

Sons and Daughters is simply not good enough to make this plot work. After all, the reconciliation between Worf and Alexander never feels earned. Worf never apologises for sending his son away. While it is a clever touch that Alexander never has a big “hero” moment in which he becomes a stereotypical Klingon hero, it does mean that his redemption effectively happens off-screen; Alexander leaves the bridge to risk his life to save the ship, and then reappears a few scenes later coming out from behind a big heavy door. It never feels like Worf and Alexander have a proper conversation. It never feels like they connect. It never feels like they develop.

Sons and Daughters also struggles a little bit with its place in the larger arc. The sixth and seventh seasons of Deep Space Nine find the production team experimenting with serialisation, which involves learning a whole new set of skills. For this opening six-episode arc, the writers are not just breaking plot beats across individual episodes, they are structuring these beats across several stories. That presents a unique challenge, especially given that Deep Space Nine‘s longest single story to this point was the three-episode second season premiere from The Homecoming through The Circle to The Siege.

"This isn't Voyager. Just because it doesn't happen in this episode, don't think that I won't actually hold you to that bet."

“This isn’t Voyager. Just because it doesn’t happen in this episode, don’t think that I won’t actually hold you to that bet.”

Of course, this arc is not really a six-parter. The events of Sons and Daughters are relatively self-contained, as were the events of Rocks and Shoals. The primary plots of these episodes function on their own terms, even if they rely upon the status quo for context. The stand-off between Sisko and the Jem’Hadar in Rocks and Shoals could easily have been rewritten to unfold at some point later in the season, while Worf’s attempts to reconnect with Alexander could easily have been shifted to any other mission on the Rotarran. Still, the six episodes need to tie together in a very clear manner.

To be fair, there are a lot of clever callbacks and references. The destruction of the ketracel white facility at the climax of A Time to Stand is used as a springboard to fuel dissent between the Cardassians and the Jem’Hadar in the teaser to Behind the Lines. When Sisko and Martok idly make a bet about who will be the first to set foot on Deep Space Nine in the teaser to Sons and Daughters, that dialogue gets a reference during the final act of Sacrifice of Angels. There is definitely a tight sense of continuity between the episodes.

A stab in the dark.

A stab in the dark.

Writer Ronald D. Moore acknowledged that this was a big issue in mapping out the arc, given that the writing staff had never before attempted to build a story on this scale:

That was difficult only because we hadn’t done it before. None of us had done serial form, and none of us had really worked that way, so it was just a learning curve. We weren’t used to, “I’m working on show five, and if I make a change, we have to go and regroup, because the change I made affects shows three & four and six & seven.” There was a lot of rewriting on the fly because of something someone else had done. That took awhile to get familiar with, and understand ways of doing it before you did it too late in the process.

Despite its relatively self-contained nature, there are very clear elements of this in the station-bound plot of Sons and Daughters, with Weddle and Thompson effectively tripping over ground Moore had covered in Rocks and Shoals.

Klingon Combat 101: The Pointy End Goes in the Other Guy.

Klingon Combat 101: The Pointy End Goes in the Other Guy.

Of course, the Kira-centric subplot in Rocks and Shoals was hastily re-written when the production team began work on Sons and Daughters, realising that it was not possible to incorporate all the story beats where they had originally been planned. Looking at the episodes, it seems likely that the plan had originally been for Kira to found her “new resistance” in Sons and Daughters before taking action in Behind the Lines, but it became difficult to capture that moment of epiphany while still telling a story that focused on Tora Ziyal’s return to the station.

As a result, Kira’s awakening was shunted back to Rocks and Shoals, which entered production between Sons and Daughters and Behind the Lines, but aired between A Time to Stand and Sons and Daughters. Still, the process of integration was not quite smooth. Kira’s scenes in Sons and Daughters had been written before her scenes in Rocks and Shoals, and Nana Visitor was being asked to play what was a fairly significant character arc out of order. Of course, this is the reality of television production, but it still posed a challenge.

Commanding affection.

Commanding affection.

Indeed, the disconnect between Rocks and Shoals and Sons and Daughters causes a fairly significant character issue. Kira wrestled with questions of complicity and responsibility in Rocks and Shoals, realising that anything short of active resistance to Dominion rule amounted to collaboration. She was forced to confront this fact through the public suicide of Vedek Yassim. However, Sons and Daughters essentially has Kira go through the exact same character beats, only specific to her relationship to Gul Dukat.

In Rocks and Shoals, Kira finds herself repeatedly forced to compromise; she argues in favour of the “facilitators” that are being sent to Bajor, she tries to shut down peaceful protest on the station to avoid conflict. It is only when Kira realises how committed Yassim is to her beliefs that Kira accepts that she can no longer be a passive observer living in relative comfort. “What am I doing?” she asks Odo. “Eating a full meal every day, sleeping in a soft bed, I even write reports for the murderers who run this station.” It is a powerful arc, beautifully written and performed.

"No, Ziyal, I am not calling him Daddy Dukat."

“No, Ziyal, I am not calling him Daddy Dukat.”

However, Sons and Daughters has Kira effectively undergo the exact same character arc, albeit in more personal terms. Kira finds herself spending more time with Dukat and Ziyal, becoming drawn into their domestic life and maybe even beginning to think that life is not so bad. She even jokes with Dukat about his status as an “interstellar despot.” However, when Dukat delivers a little black dress to her quarters, Kira finds herself horrified by how readily she has accepted life on the occupied station. “What the hell am I doing?” she asks herself.

This prompts Kira to have a big dramatic argument with Dukat in which she bluntly states that she does not like him. “I don’t like you,” Kira literally states. “You’re an opportunistic, power hungry dictator and I want nothing more to do with you.” The dialogue is horribly clumsy and on the nose, contrasting with the understated elegance of Kira’s awakening in Rocks and Shoals. It also feels somewhat redundant, given both that awakening and the fact that Kira has always been conscious of how monstrous Dukat is. It seems ridiculous to suggest she could be taken in by him.

A-dressing the issue.

A-dressing the issue.

There is some suggestion that the station-based plot in Sons and Daughters was heavily trimmed. According to Ronald D. Moore, significant trims were made to the scene in which Dukat and Kira joke about his status as an “interstellar despot”, cut from the broadcast episode for time:

This scene was shot and it was cut for time.  You may argue that we should’ve cut more from the Worf/Alexander story, but if you look at the show objectively you’ll see that there’s not a lot of extra material in that story to chop.  (Yes, we did need the final blood-letting scene, because the show couldn’t have ended with the scene of Worf and Alexander in the Corridor — the scene wasn’t shot that way and it wouldn’t have worked. Trust me.)  On the other hand, the Dukat/Kira tale would work just fine without the rest of the Dukat/Kira scene that was excised.

Interestingly enough, the final blood-letting scene was itself subject to cuts from the British Board of Film Classification. Still, the problems with the station-based plot in Sons and Daughters are more fundamental than a few trimmed shots. The issue is that Kira is largely repeating an arc that she already explored more thoroughly.

Time for reflection.

Time for reflection.

Sons and Daughters is a mess of an episode, one that halts a lot of the momentum from A Time to Stand and Rocks and Shoals. The sixth season opened with two of the strongest episodes ever produced. It is somewhat disheartening that it all grinds to a stop so quickly. Of course, Behind the Lines works hard to recapture that lost sense of purpose going into Favour the Bold and Sacrifice of Angels, but Sons and Daughters still feels like a clumsy misfire. In some ways, it signals the risk that comes with the heightened ambition of the sixth and seventh seasons.

You might be interested in our reviews of the sixth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:

12 Responses

  1. I just don’t understand why the writers felt that of all of the interesting TNG one off characters, Shelby comes to mind, they felt they had to bring back Alexander. He was a nothing character in TNG, and he is even more of a nothing character here, as they completely overplay his futility at being a warrior. I mean Alexander can’t even swing a Bat’leth around himself without dropping it. At that point you just feel miserable for Worf, he has a brother who has no memory of him and a son who is a twit. That can’t be easy.

    As you mention a lot of the dialogue in this episode is pretty bad, but some of the worst comes from Martok. Usually, Martok is a pretty great character, but here he is written to say obvious things as if they were some wise insight. Lines like “My friend, this is not good. When a father and son do not speak, it means there is trouble between them.” come to mind. These corny lines make a lot of the episode is unintentionally comedic.

    • “When a father and son do not speak, it means there’s trouble between them. Or one has his mouth full. Or they’re both sleeping. Think about what I’ve said, Worf.” – Sfdebris

    • Yep. Bringing back Alexander is a risky idea by default. Alexander never really worked as a character, and it’s not the best idea to remind the audience that Worf has effectively neglected his son for the past couple of years. And then, give that script to the two least experienced writers on staff? It’s a miracle that this is not even worse.

  2. So uh…..bendis avengers?

  3. Also comparing the Kira awakenings, just on a practical level.

    In Rocks and Shoals, it’s a private moment, so she’s free to plot in secret. In Sons and Daughters she outright calls out Dukat, ok he has an interest in her, but you don’t think her every step would be monitored from that point on?

    It makes the villains look stupider for letting her get away with anything.

    • It’s justified in that she’s dealing with Dukat. Over the remaining 3 episodes Damar repeatedly tries to crack down on Kira and – until Sacrifice of Angels – Dukat constantly restrains him. Dukat has a lot his ego tied up in Kira and his desire for her to acknowledge his greatness and superiority, so I accept his blind spot where she’s concerned. If, even after the occupation ended, he still held out hope for swaying Kira’s opinion, why would he stop believing now, no matter what she says?

      • That’s a fair point. But I still think the scene does cross a basic stupidity threshold. It’d be one thing for Kira to show up not wearing the dress, or even skip the dinner entirely. After all, she is dripping with disdain for Damar and passive-aggressive to Weyoun. Dukat has been shrugging off her repulsion at his presence for years. But making such a big deal of it seems a bit… absurd, even from a dramatic standpoint.

    • Yep. She might as well have declared at the end of returning the dress, “… this makes me so mad that I’m going to start a terrorist cell to prove you wrong!” and then storm out.

      (Although Dukat re-gifting the dress to Ziyal is a delightfully creepy little touch.)

  4. Worf’s relationship with his son was always one of TNG’s most problematic character arcs that resulted in some truly terrible episodes. What annoyed me about it was the relationship between Worf and Alexander never seemed to grow or develop into something worth watching – just a lot of shouting between them. The writers never seemed comfortable with Worf as a father which is probably why Alexander disappeared as often as he did, and Sons and Daughters proves they haven’t gotten any better at it.

    Although the arc from A Time to Stand to The Sacrifice of Angels is one of the boldest most audacious experiments Trek has ever undertook, Sons and Daughters is the weak link in that impressive chain of events. A running theme of S5 was a child making peace with an estranged parent and in this S6 episode it’s Worf and Dukat’s turn as each makes peace with Alexander and Ziyal.

    Dukat forgiving Ziyal is not dealt with very substantially – in fact, it all happens off-screen and while their relationship hits the rocks again in Favour the Bold, the subplot of Sons and Daughters is just retreading the one of Rocks and Shoals. We even get a similar scene of Kira looking at herself in the mirror (modelling the dress Dukat gave her) and not liking what she sees.

    But the main plot isn’t much better, and it’s all rendered moot anyway as Alexander would once again disappear from the series (this time for good) after You Are Cordially Invited… The script is a paint by numbers reconciliation between a distant father and his wayward son, right up to Alexander risking his life and coming through in the end, earning a new respect in the eyes of his father and of his peers.

    After Soldiers of the Empire, I had hoped that would not be the only episode set aboard the Rotarran, because I really took to the crew. But where are they all? None of the new characters hold a candle to the wonderfully sarky Leskitt or the surly Ortakin. It’s only Martok that acquits himself with customary dignity, who quite rightly points out that Worf and Alexander are more alike than either of them would ever admit.

    Sons and Daughters is not a disaster on the order of a Profit and Lace or Let He Who Is Without Sin… but it is a disappointment when held up against such an impressive run of episodes, particularly at this time in DS9’s history. And also because it leaves unanswered the big question that hangs over the entire episode – why has Alexander finally decided to become a warrior?

    • Yeah, it’s strange that a series so engaged with continuity, and which built three episodes around life on a Klingon ship under Martok and Worf, couldn’t do more to build up a recurring crew for that ship. I mean, look at the series’ recurring Ferengi cast. More than that, the crew established in Soldiers of the Empire were quite fit for purpose.

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