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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Strange Bedfellows (Review)

Three seems to be the magic number when it comes to long-form plotting in Berman era Star Trek.

Star Trek: The Next Generation arguably pulled off a three-consecutive-episodes arc with The Best of Both Worlds, Part I, The Best of Both Worlds, Part II and Family. Even the continuity-adverse Star Trek: Voyager managed something similar with Scorpion, Part I, Scorpion, Part II and The Gift. Star Trek: Enterprise tried a number of three-episode arcs in its final season, even if only The Forge, Awakening and Kir’Shara really worked; Borderland was a preamble to Cold Station 12 and The Augments, while The Aenar was a postscript to Babel One and United.

Super villain team-up.

Three episodes seems to work quite well for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The series’ second season premiere was the franchise’s first bona fides three-parter, The Homecoming, The Circle and The Siege. Even when it came to longer arcs, three consecutive episodes seemed be the limit; after Call to Arms, A Time to Stand and Rocks and Shoals, the arc opening the sixth season stumbled with Sons and Daughters before regaining its footing for Behind the Lines, Favour the Bold and Sacrifice of Angels.

As an aside, it also took three episodes for the alliance between the Dominion and Cardassia to properly integrate into the show’s mythology after the events of In Purgatory’s Shadow and By Inferno’s Light; the fifth season took a pause with Doctor Bashir, I Presume, A Simple Investigation and Business as Usual before beginning to unpack the consequences of that statusquo-shattering twist in Ties of Blood and Water.

Hang loose.

There are any number of reasons why three works so well. Maybe three episodes allow for that classic three-act structure, the iconic storytelling template. Perhaps the production team on Deep Space Nine tended to work in chunks of three scripts at a time, with two or three subsequent scripts in development by the time that any given script was finished; if this was the case, it would mean that the production team was ready to start fresh with the fourth script. Whatever the reason, it is a familiar pattern.

Although “the Final Chapter” is nominally a ten-episode arc, counting What You Leave Behind as two distinct episodes, the plot beats tend to flow in discernible three-episode chunks. Ezri’s mission to rescue Worf plays out over Penumbra, ‘Til Death Do Us Part and Strange Bedfellows. Gul Rusot is introduced in The Changing Face of Evil, is built up in When It Rains…, and meets his end in Tacking Into the Wind. Bashir discovers that Odo is sick in When It Rains…, figures out Section 31 is responsible in Tacking Into the Wind, and recovers the cure in Extreme Measures.

The window of opportunity is closing.

The opening salvo of this ten-episode arc was clearly intended as a three-part story. The original titles of the episodes were Penumbra, Umbra and Eclipse, suggesting an encroaching darkness that would cast a long shadow by the end of the third episode. Coincidentally or not, that would mark the end of the first third of the larger story arc. It suggests a very formal and careful structure, suggesting a three-act structure within the first act of a three-act structure. On paper, it is a very bold and ambitious piece of structuring from the Deep Space Nine writers.

However, the production struggle to maintain that structure. These ten episodes stumble when it comes to pacing and plotting. The weakest threads in this final run are those that feel either rushed or over-extended, which struggle to hit the right beats. Strange Bedfellows is an episode that struggles because it feels like its storythreads have either been stretched or compressed, the important events either pulled back into ‘Til Death to Us Part or pushed forward into The Changing Face of Evil. The result is an episode that feels stranded between bigger story beats.

No time for reflection.

It is worth pausing to acknowledge the sheer ambition of this ten episode run. After all, a single story unfolding over ten episodes feels very much like the modern conception of “prestige” television, the kind of storytelling favoured by networks like HBO or AMC or Netflix. Regardless of the particulars of the execution, or the structural rhythms within this block of episodes, the format of this final run of episodes has more in common with a season of Westworld or Game of Thrones than The Next Generation or Voyager.

Of course, the production on Westworld and Game of Thrones tends to run a bit smoother, for a number of reasons. Most obviously, the production teams are used to working in this particular format, rather than improvising as they go. All the scripts are typically written before filming on the first episode begins. More than that, modern prestige television is largely free of the obligations of nineties broadcast television. Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy famously had the liberty of halting production on the first season of Westworld while figuring out their long-term plans.

And Thot’s the introductions over with.

In contrast, Deep Space Nine existed in the context of nineties television production. There was no real framework for storytelling like this on a mainstream syndicated drama in the nineties. Despite the work of other genre shows like Buffy: The Vampire Slayer or Babylon 5, prime-time serialisation was still considered a relic of the soap operas of the eighties like Dynasty or Dallas. Of course, serialisation would make a return as a hallmark of prestige television, but the revolution was only beginning; The Sopranos wrapped its first season in the same week that Penumbra aired.

In some ways, Deep Space Nine was effectively writing a season of prestige television after writing two-thirds of a season of network television. These ten interconnected stories were produced on a syndicated television schedule. The production team did not have a hiatus in which they might properly plot out the arc. They were coming off of work on sixteen individual episodes, some of which (like Treachery, Faith and the Great River and Chimera) set up the final arc, and some of which (Take Me Out to the Holosuite, Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang) were largely standalone.

What’s cooking?

More than that, there was no real break in production to get any of this right, no real opportunity to take stock of how the first episode might impact the eighth, or how the third might shape the finale. Deep Space Nine was still a television series produced on a weekly schedule, which meant that the priority was getting script pages to the actors and ensuring that there was enough material to keep the production moving from one day into the next. Despite the narrative ambitions of these ten episodes, the process was still the churn of nineties television production.

The result was that these ten episodes of Deep Space Nine are neither fish nor fowl, existing in a hazy no man’s land between the production realities of twentieth century broadcast television and the lofty ambitions of twenty-first century prestige television. In many ways, the later seasons of Deep Space Nine feel like a precursory to the looming televisual revolution, even beyond the direct connection to Battlestar Galactica. This is even reflected in the way that the writers and producers talk about Deep Space Nine, Behr describing it as a novel for televison in The Fifty-Year Mission.

Executive decision.

Other aspects of this sprawling ten-episode arc prefigure the era of prestige television, particularly the structural demand of trying to tell a single story over ten episodes rather than ten distinct stories across an entire season. Most obviously, the boundaries of individual episodes become a bit fuzzy. Transparent writer Jill Soloway has talked about how production teams can shift entire scenes from one episode to another in a serialised narrative:

So we’re asking these questions of the DGA and the Writer’s Guild in terms of how to name and brand and pay people for their work on particular episodes when the truth is, we really do want to see it as a five-hour movie. And it is too much for me to do by myself? So I do need other directors. But we do want the freedom to move scenes from episode to episode to episode. And we do want the freedom to move writing from episode to episode to episode, because as it starts to come in and as you start to look at it as a five-hour movie just like you would in a two-hour movie, move a scene from the first 30 minutes to maybe 50 minutes in. In a streaming series, you would now be in a different episode.

In the context of a serialised narrative, what does authorship actually look like? If individual scenes and beats are moved from one episode to another, is it even fair to credit a given episode to a single writer (or team of writers) and director?

“Go ahead! Join the Pah-Wraiths! Blow through nine episodes worth of plotting in five episodes!”

To be fair, writing credits on television were always somewhat elastic by nature of the writers’ room. Writing for television always involved a lot of collaboration and rewriting, with ideas often generated by a showrunner or by the room before being assigned to an individual writer (or team of writers) for a draft before coming back to the room. Many episodes of television are the work of uncredited authors, with the credited writer often heavily involved in a process that could have involved the entire writing staff.

There are any number of examples from within the Star Trek franchise. Michael Piller and Melinda Snodgrass heavily rewrote René Echevarria’s draft of The Offspring, while allowing him to keep the credit on the finished episode. Michael Taylor’s scripts for Deep Space Nine were subject to a similar process; René Echevarria work uncredited on The Visitor and Ronald D. Moore did something similar on In the Pale Moonlight. However, serialisation only deepens the issue of authorship, as scenes and characters and concepts are bounced between individual scripts.

The war at home.

Although certain aspects of the series might evoke prestige television, Deep Space Nine was still a product of the nineties television eco-system. The series was still being written on a week-to-week basis. There were still logistical and scheduling concerns. As Ronald D. Moore explains in The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, there wasn’t time to block out the entire arc in minute detail ahead of time:

“We knew where all the characters were going to end up,” explains Ron Moore. “We had talked specifics: Odo goes to the Great Link; Sisko goes over to the Prophets; Kira gets the station; O’Brien goes home. We had gone through them all. We knew that we had to wrap up the war. The war was going to end, and all these people were going to meet their fates. We had stroked out some very general stuff about the arc. ‘This should happen. We’d like it to be a classic three-act structure. The episodes should be in this order.’ But the discussions just kept getting more complicated. We’d sit in the room and try to keep it all straight as one big piece, and it got very difficult. At some point, Ira just said, ‘Look, we’re just going to start. Let’s start breaking the first one and keep it going.'”

The writing staff were still assigned particular scripts in the rotation, and were still working through a standard production cycle. While Echevarria was tidying up his work on Penumbra, Thompson and Weddle were scripting ‘Til Death Do Us Part and Moore was outlining Strange Bedfellows. Indeed, the final draft of The Changing Face of Evil was only submitted one day before Strange Bedfellows finished production.

Title drop!

At the same time, there remains a sense of authorship through these ten episodes. The voices of individual writers tend to bleed through into their scripts, and the assignments seem to have been allocated based on the strengths and interests of individual writers on the staff. Most obviously, Ronald D. Moore was tasked with writing what would be the series’ last Klingon script, Tacking Into the Wind; Moore had been the go-to Klingon writer since Sins of the Father. Weddle and Thompson were handling the Section 31 script, Extreme Measures, having introduced the organisation in Inquisition.

More to the point, individual interests and quirks tend to bleed into individual episodes. Dukat is at his most petty in his behaviour towards Sobor in The Changing Face of Evil, reflecting Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler’s approach to the character. Tacking Into the Wind and The Dogs of War are the episodes most engaging with the morality and pragmatism of political violence, reflecting Ronald D. Moore’s fascinations. In fact, The Dogs of War even features a nice gag from Moore riffing on one of his most memorable contributions to the script of Star Trek: First Contact.

Breaking and exitting.

Indeed, Strange Bedfellows was also somewhat handicapped by a personal crisis in the life of writer Ronald D. Moore, as the production team explains in The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion:

“I was in the middle of the rewrite for Strange Bedfellows when my wife called and said she was leaving for the hospital and to meet her there,” Moore notes. “I told the guys, ‘I gotta go,’ and I was out for the next week. But you know, the team was such that everybody was working in concert. They kept it going and never missed a beat. That’s how tight the staff was at that point.”

Which isn’t to say that his absence didn’t create a little stress around the writing offices. “Hans [Beimler] and I were working on the following show, The Changing Face of Evil,” recalls Behr. “Then all of a sudden Ron wasn’t around, we had to do some of those scenes, and René had to do some rewrites. It got very hectic.”

All of this serves to illustrate that Deep Space Nine was still very much anchored in the mechanisms of nineties television production, even as some of the storytelling seemed to prefigure the so-called “Golden Age of television.”

Winn condition.

To bring it back to that precarious balance, at various points during these final ten episodes of Deep Space Nine, the writers would move plot beats from one episode to another. The process was not quite as clear-cut as that described by Jill Soloway, if only because these ten episodes were all being written as part of a weekly production schedule. It was not that literal scenes were copied and pasted across from one episode to another after the scripts were finished, or that footage was moved around to fit the overarching narrative after production had finished. It was more that story beats were reallocated.

The original plan for the three episodes opening the final arc was that they would focus on the marriage of Sisko and Yates, following something close to a three-act structure; Sisko would propose to Yates in Penumbra, would break off the engagement in the episode that became ‘Til Death Do Us Part, and finally relent and reschedule the wedding in the episode that became Strange Bedfellows. Tellingly, the two major plots running in parallel through these three episodes (Ezri and Worf; Winn and Dukat) follow a similar rhythm.

The Wraith of Pah.

However, David Weddle and Bradley Thompson hit upon an issue while writing ‘Til Death Do Us Part. As Thompson explained in The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, the episode needed a climax:

Suddenly it’s ‘Oh sorry, Ron. You can’t get them married because that’s going to happen in the second hour now.’ And Ron is going, ‘Aarrggh! Then what’s going to happen in my show?’

Indeed, the decision to move the wedding back from the third episode to the second episode most likely resulted in the change to the trilogy’s naming convention.

“So… breather episode?”
“Breather episode.”

Strange Bedfellows is somewhat malformed by this creative decision, leading to a number of sequences that feel redundant or over-extended. Most obviously, Strange Bedfellows features an extended aborted escape attempt with Ezri and Worf, a sequence which breaks up the more introspective and intimate nature of their conversations in the prison cell awaiting execution. The plot beats focusing on Sisko and Yates also feel somewhat redundant, with Martok’s “war at home” hitting the same beats that the show will explore in the scenes between the two in The Changing Face of Evil.

Without any major story beat to call its own, Strange Bedfellows feel like it is stuck in a holding pattern. The alliance between the Breen and the Dominion is revealed at the end of ‘Til Death Do Us Part, but doesn’t really impact the Federation until The Changing Face of Evil. While Damar makes the first moves towards starting a rebellion by freeing Ezri and Worf at the end of Strange Bedfellows, he doesn’t make any sizable steps towards organising his resistance until The Changing Face of Evil. The episode feels disoriented and uncentred.

A stunningly terrible escape attempt.

However, as much as Strange Bedfellows suggests the dangers of this on-the-fly approach to writing a massive ten-episode wrap-up arc, it also showcases some of the advantages of structuring the story in such manner. In particular, Strange Bedfellows demonstrates the strength of assigning particular scripts to particular writers on the staff, and allowing them a certain amount of freedom in how they choose to tell the story.

Strange Bedfellows is not a bad episode, because it is the work of two very good writers; Ronald D. Moore was responsible for a lot of the episode, with René Echevarria stepping into the breach when Moore had to leave for the birth of his son. In some ways, the obvious point of comparison is between Strange Bedfellows and Extreme Measures, both episodes in the arc that were ultimately radically different than originally envisaged. Strange Bedfellows is a much stronger episode, because Moore and Echevarria are much stronger writers than Weddle and Thompson.

One Kai mistake in his plan.

Although Strange Bedfellows is largely stuck in a holding pattern from a plotting perspective, this allows the episode the time and space to indulge in smaller character-driven moments that might otherwise get lost in the shuffle. For example, although it comes perilously close to embracing the gender politics of a fifties sitcom, there is something strangely adorable in hearing Martok talk about the loss of his childhood pet to his wife Sirella. “A filthy, mangy beast, but in his bony breast beat the heart of a warrior,” Martok boasts.

In fact, this is one of the appeals of having a story unfold over ten episodes. Deep Space Nine was always more character-driven than The Next Generation or Voyager, providing a stronger sense of who these characters are and how they relate to one another. Although there are certainly points in the sprawling arc where the writers threaten to run out of plot, there is always room for small character-driven touches.

Snap decision.

The ten-episode arc is structured in such a way that almost every character gets to play a major role in an important plot thread. Sisko gets married in ‘Til Death Do Us Part. Ezri gets to rescue Worf in Penumbra and confront her relationship to Jadzia in ‘Til Death Do Us Part and Strange Bedfellows. Kira gets to become a terrorist again in When It Rains…, with Damar and Garak. Worf gets to change the course of the Klingon Empire in Tacking Into the Wind. Odo gets to end the war in What You Leave Behind.

In fact, the final arc is so dedicated to giving every major character a major plot beat that it even seems to slow down as it reaches the end of the season. Extreme Measures largely puts the arc on pause for one last story about the friendship between Bashir and O’Brien, without any major subplots. Although The Dogs of War does a lot of tidying up before the big finale, it devotes its primary plot thread to the recurring Ferengi characters. These final ten episodes pay a lot of attention to these characters, and deservedly so.

“And with the Breen by our side, NOTHING CAN STOP US…!”

However, the additional space afforded in these ten episodes allows the writers to ensure that these characters also get smaller moments in the midst of larger arcs. Quark doesn’t get much to do in the episodes leading up to The Dogs of War, but he gets a number of nice scenes, whether pouring out a drink for Ezri in absentia in Strange Bedfellows or bringing coffee to Bashir and O’Brien as some small (and secret) contribution to the search for a cure to Odo’s disease in When It Rains… Kira gets to quietly disapprove of Sisko’s wedding in ‘Til Death Do Us Part, a nice small character beat.

Even the decision to delay the proper formation of Damar’s rebellion to the end of The Changing Face of Evil allows for some nice character moments; Jeffrey Combs and Casey Biggs play well off one another and there’s a lot to be said for allowing them to interact across the first four episodes of the arc. Their last scene together in The Changing Face of Evil is particularly impressive, once Damar has committed to his rebellion and while Weyoun is completely oblivious to what his colleague is planning.

Drinking it all in.

In a scene that plays well to both characters, Damar fails to hid his renewed sense of purpose from Weyoun, who perceptively notices his colleague’s change in mood while completely misreading the situation. “You’ve regained your confidence,” Weyoun reflects. “You thought you’d backed the wrong side. You thought the Dominion was going to lose this war and drag Cardassia down with it.” Weyoun is such a Dominion toady that he cannot even imagine Damar growing a spine, and assumes that Damar’s patriotism flows in the way that he wants it to. It is a significant miscalculation.

(Indeed, these small interactions underscore Deep Space Nine‘s fascination with the overlap between the personal and the political, repeatedly suggesting a universe in which game-changing political decisions are frequently made based on personal factors. Damar’s attack on Rondac III at the end of The Changing Face of Evil is obviously a turning point in the larger scheme of the Dominion War, but it is also a very pointed barb at Weyoun. “Our cloning facility on Rondac Three have been destroyed. I could be the last Weyoun. That’s why he picked that target.”)

Weyoun outta line.

There are almost too many of these moments to count across the arc. One of the more surprising aspects of What You Leave Behind is how relaxed the pacing seems, even with everything unfolding over the course of the episode; Damar shamelessly and playfully flirting with Mila in the cellar, Quark and Vic anxiously playing cards as the battle rages, Kira and Damar cracking up at the thought that the entire resistance movement might fall apart because they cannot open a door. These are small moments, but they are the moments that make these characters feel alive.

Strange Bedfellows is packed with these little moments. While the idea of marital conflict between Sisko and Yates is both clichéd and over-extended, it still provides a sense of a shared life between these two characters; it helps to underscore the existence of a family unit that will be torn apart at the end of What You Leave Behind. Similarly, while the ten-episode arc struggles with the question of what to do with Winn and Dukat, there is something strangely appealing about the idea of the pair lying in bed together eating slices of fruit.

(Ez)ri: Last Night.

In particular, Strange Bedfellows does a nice job of wrapping up the thread involving Worf and Ezri that ran through the previous two episodes, a very satisfying resolution to a dangling plot thread. In particular, both Ezri and Worf feel like real people, characters with understandable perspectives. That is no mean feat given that Ezri is a woman with eight previous lifetimes of experience and Worf is a Klingon. Nevertheless, their complicated interpersonal dynamic feels earned, and true to who these characters are.

Strange Bedfellows manages to hit that sweet spot of characterisation for Worf, reminding the audience that Worf comes from a very different place than any of the other series leads without making him seem like a danger to himself and others. Deep Space Nine has occasionally struggled to maintain that delicate balance, occasionally tipping over the line when Worf became an attempted murderer in The Sword of Kahless and a terrorist in Let He Who Is Without Sin…, both incidents which should have probably in jail time.

In Weyoun’s neck of the woods.

Worf is undeniably a jackass. Both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine have been very consistent in this approach to his character, a trait that was very firmly established in The Enemy when he opted to let a Romulan patient die rather than donating blood. Worf comes from a different value system than the rest of the cast, and it is always interesting to see that reflected. In particular, Worf’s attitudes towards love and sex are fascinating, because they are so much more conservative than any other regular cast member.

In Strange Bedfellows, Worf is at his most jerkish. He repeatedly tries to slut shame Dax. This is a character choice that is both very much in fitting with Worf’s established outlook and also a potentially risky for a series that has occasionally struggled with gender politics. After all, consider the male gaze lesbian action of The Emperor’s New Cloak, the painful transphobic farce of Profit and Lace, or that time when Worf became a terrorist because Jadzia hung out with Curzon’s ex-girlfriend in Let He Who Is Without Sin…

Trill killer.

Of course, Worf’s attitude is very uncomfortable. It is an attitude that very consciously evokes rape culture, the idea that women are inherently sexual temptresses and that men are powerless to resist their charms. These are the attitudes the lead to victim-blaming in cases of rape, arguments that victims are in some way to blame for their sexual assault. In allowing Worf to make these arguments, Strange Bedfellows is on some very thin ice. It could very easily go horribly wrong.

In fact, it is especially uncomfortable when juxtaposed against the whole “war at home” subplot involving Sisko and Yates, which portrays romantic relationships as passive-aggressive warzones. Sisko asks Yates to take part in a Bajoran ceremony in Strange Bedfellows, Yates burns Sisko’s peppers in The Changing Face of Evil. It is just cute enough that it never feels abrasive, but it does feel like a very outdated conception of marriage as a battleground rather than a partnership. Coupled with Worf’s behaviour to Ezri, Strange Bedfellows might easily seem regressive.

“The Best is Yates to Come…”

Luckily, Strange Bedfellows is smart enough to allow Ezri to turn Worf’s insults on their head, revealing them as an expression of his fragile ego. “Am I supposed to be embarrassed because Jadzia had a few lovers before you?” Ezri demands. Worf scoffs.  “A few?” he mockingly responds. Ezri refuses to back down. “You’re right,” she taunts. “It was more than a few. It was dozens. Hundreds. In fact, I don’t think there was anyone aboard DS9 who wasn’t her lover!” De Boer’s emphasis on the archaic (and very Worf) word “lover” is an especially nice touch.

Indeed, Worf indulges in what amounts to petulant whining, insisting that he was seduced by Ezri’s feminine wiles. “Your motives for rescuing me were not honourable,” he chastises her, trying to blame his own indiscretion on her. Again, Ezri refuses to indulge his tantrum. “Do you really think that I would disobey orders and risk my life so I could seduce you?” she counters. “I hate to burst your bubble, Worf, but it wasn’t that good.” That might just be the single best discussion of sex in the entire Berman era.

“I can act just as hard as Avery Brooks, thank you very much!”

It works because both Ezri and Worf are perfectly in character for this discussion. Ezri is smart and capable, with an understanding of Worf’s psychology that demonstrates she knows exactly how to get under his skin without letting his faze her. Worf is presented as very socially conservative individual, characterisation that is entirely consistent. In ‘Til Death Do Us Part, Worf suggests that he and Ezri have mated for life, evoking his argument with K’Ehleyr all the way back in The Emissary.

Worf has always been something of an awkward fit with the progressive and open-minded aesthetic of the larger Star Trek franchise, as demonstrated by stories like Birthright, Part II and Sons of Mogh. Worf in many represents a challenge to the franchise’s utopian world view, the question of just how far tolerance for other cultures extends in the case of views and values that make people uncomfortable. It is the paradox of tolerance, and The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine explore it very well.

“Look, Worf, you’ve already survived one Star Trek series finale, so if you had any advice, I’d love to hear it…”

(This adds a level of irony to the mutual disdain that exists between Worf and Quark. While Quark and Odo have a grudging respect, Deep Space Nine has repeatedly suggested that Quark and Worf cannot stand one another. Even in Strange Bedfellows, with Worf missing and presumed dead, Quark acknowledges as much. “I never thought I’d hear myself saying this, but I wish the Defiant had found that lumbering Klingon oaf,” he admits, worried about Ezri. However, both Quark and Worf provide a challenge to Federation values, both presenting unpalatable views.)

This is not to suggest that Deep Space Nine is unsympathetic to Worf. For all that the character is abrasive and confrontational, for all that his views are retrograde and intolerant, Deep Space Nine affords Worf just the right amount of dignity and consideration. Ezri is entirely correct to call him out for slut shaming her, but the episode affords Worf some measure of respect. “I realise Jadzia saw physical love very differently than I do,” he admits at one point. “To her it could mean many things, but to me it is a deeply spiritual act.” That is almost sweet.

“Tough room.”

In fact, Ronald D. Moore’s contributions to these ten final episodes even hint at Worf’s (slowly) growing self-awareness. “I dishonoured myself,” he admits to Ezri in Strange Bedfellows. “I know how often I use that word. Maybe too often.” In Tacking Into the Wind, Ezri is flattered to hear Martok and Worf consider her a member of the House of Martok. She describes it as “sweet.” Worf balks. “Not a very Klingon word, is it?” she asks. “It’s very… honourable.” Worf groans a little bit at her attempted recovery, “Better, albeit a little obvious.”

Although the production team struggle a little bit with properly structuring and pacing this massive ten-episode arc, there is a lot to be said for the room that this leaves, the space devoted to character development, the attention paid to small and revealing exchanges. The final arc of Deep Space Nine suggests that the epic sweep of history often comes down to the choices of individual actors in key moments. It is a credit to Deep Space Nine that these characters feel so tangible and so developed.

“Don’t worry, Miles. I’m sure our character-driven episode will be just as good.”

Even if Strange Bedfellows feels awkwardly positioned between ‘Til Death Do Us Part and The Changing Face of Evil, its big moment pulled back into the previous episode while devoting a lot of energy to setting up plot beats that will begin to properly pay off in the following installment, none of this feels wasted. With only a handful of episodes remaining, almost every minute of screen time counts. Even with very little actually happening, very little of Strange Bedfellows feels wasted.

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6 Responses

  1. “Overconfidence. The hallmark of the Weyouns. Maybe the Founders should eliminate that from your genetic recipe next time. They’ll just make another copy of him, you know. You should’ve killed me. There’s only one Damar.”

    Is it wrong of me that I find Damar’s reaction to Worf killing Weyoun Seven to be quite funny? Of course, a few scenes later, when Weyoun Eight makes his entrance, and Damar greets him with a hearty “Well hello!” followed by his suggestion “Maybe you should talk to Worf again,” nearly had me experiencing fits of laughter.

    Sometimes I have a strange sense of humor.

    • It is handily one of the funniest moments of DS9 (gallows humour, I guess). The suddenness of Worf twisting Weyoun’s neck is part of what makes it delightful (Worf is noticeably quiet as Weyoun draws in to threaten Ezri) but Damar’s hearty laughter and contempt for Weyoun’s corpse (“Pick that up.”) sells the scene. Damar’s mockery of Worf (“I’m sure you will.”) is likewise wonderful.

      • It’s just a great collection of well-written and well-defined characters thrown together and making a scene out of the resulting interactions. Does it need to be there? Probably not. Is it a definite highlight of the episode? Undoubtedly. It’s difficult to imagine putting four primary/secondary characters together in a room in another Star Trek series and ending up with something as worthwhile and fun.

    • All of Weyoun’s deaths are memorable in their way. His final death tops them all, though. Although the Cardassians are seduced by Weyoun’s missionism, and invite the Dominion onto their planet, they never really become Dominion subjects. Damar blowing up the clone factory is a symbol of that.

      I also love that Weyoun arranges for his own demise by stalling the reconstruction of the clone facility. IIRC the conversation went like this:

      Founder: If our clone facility was operational, I would eliminate this Weyoun immediately.

      Weyoun: O__O

      • There’s also the really great follow-up of the Founder ending the conversation with, “Oh, by the way, keep me up to date on the status of that cloning facility.”

    • There’s also something kinda sad in it. Damar is really heaped upon in these episodes, and there’s a sense that he’s almost disappointed that Worf didn’t consider him important enough to kill. Worf was standing there with a cloned Vorta who can be resurrected at the drop of the hat, and the one of a kind leader of the Cardassian Union, and who does Worf choose to kill? I suspect that does little to help Damar’s already falling self-esteem.

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