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[DS9] Jammer's Review: "Tacking into the Wind"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains extreme spoilers for DS9 s Tacking into the Wind. If you haven t seen the show yet, beware. Nutshell: Not only a great release
    Message 1 of 1 , May 20, 1999
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      Warning: This review contains extreme spoilers for DS9's "Tacking into the
      Wind." If you haven't seen the show yet, beware.


      Nutshell: Not only a great release of tension, but also an exceptionally
      probing hour that examines internal conflicts.

      Plot description: As tensions mount within Kira and Damar's resistance
      cell, Worf realizes he must take action to prevent Gowron from making a key
      strategic mistake.

      -----
      Star Trek: Deep Space Nine -- "Tacking into the Wind"

      Airdate: 5/10/1999 (USA)
      Written by Ronald D. Moore
      Directed by Mike Vejar

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: ****

      "He was my friend. But his Cardassia is dead, and it won't be coming back."
      -- Damar
      -----

      I'm noticing a trend here. First we get put on standby with episodes that
      carefully stack the pieces while providing interesting events but also
      intensely bottled frustration, and then we're permitted an explosive
      release of tension that leaves us reeling.

      "Tacking into the Wind," which might've also been aptly named "For the
      Homeland," tells the suspenseful and particularly well-realized
      multi-tiered story of people facing conflict in their own organizations.
      How they deal with these conflicts could determine the fate of everything
      they stand for. It also reveals where they've come from and where they're
      likely headed.

      "Tacking" is the best type of action show--one with a strong character
      undercurrent and ideological core such that we genuinely care about what
      happens on the screen. We've got the action elements here--dangerous
      missions and physical fights--but they exist as part of a greater purpose.
      They're a means to several ends. Those ends proves quite satisfying.

      Basically, we have three plotlines here that are put into acceleration
      mode. We've got the Kira plot as she copes with Rosot; we've got the Worf
      plot as he copes with Gowron; and we've got Bashir and O'Brien attempting
      to figure out the Section 31 mystery. The three storylines are assembled
      with great skill and urgency.

      But, more than that, Ron Moore has created a story here that challenges
      ideologies and asks some really tough questions. Even as the action unfolds
      at breakneck speed, there's time for scenes of dialog that say a great many
      things. The plot alone is interesting, but the plot combined with the
      various characters' sets of opinions and insights makes "Tacking into the
      Wind" a riveting episode of DS9.

      The situation here, as with many situations on this series for the past two
      years, is one of desperation. The odds seem to be against everybody, and if
      something goes wrong, the cause may be lost. Watching so many characters
      with their backs up against the wall, so many attitudes that seem to say,
      "We *have* to do this, *or else*," I found myself caught up in the plotting
      more than I had thought possible at the outset. That's the benefit of
      long-term storytelling on a series, and it's nice to see how much DS9
      benefits from it.

      The strongest storyline is Kira's. I loved all the old wounds it opened.
      (Some of those were opened last week in "When it Rains...," but this week
      makes it pay off.) The problem here is one of authority being undermined by
      personal feelings. Damar, not surprisingly, has coped with the situation
      through his ability to see the bigger picture, but Rosot is a problem--a
      fast-growing problem.

      Rosot obviously despises working with a Bajoran and goes out of his way to
      provoke Kira. The problems of yesterday become the problems of today. As
      the game is played out, it becomes clear Rosot is intended to represent the
      "old school" Cardassian soldier, one who--at least in attitude--still seems
      to be living in the days of an old empire that occupied Bajor rather than
      depending on one of its nationals for survival.

      Eventually, Kira must put her foot down, giving Rosot a good beating when
      he crosses the line. (Watching Kira beat up Rosot is probably as much fun
      on the visceral level as watching her beat up Damar last year in "Favor the
      Bold.") Keeping with the "emotional release" angle of the hour, the
      suddenness of Kira's teeth emerging is like an exhilarating blur; she can
      certainly turn mean when the situation warrants. After the fight, Garak
      informs Kira she will have to deal with Rosot again, and we don't doubt him
      for a moment.

      And as if Rosot weren't already enough of a distraction for Kira, there's
      Odo's situation. It turns out his constant shapeshifting for the recent
      missions has accelerated the disease's effects on him. He's in very bad
      shape, but he tries his best to hide his true condition from Kira because
      he doesn't want to be pitied. What Odo isn't aware of is that Kira *knows*
      he's hiding it--and in one scene where Garak "reveals" to Kira that Odo's
      illness might be a problem for an upcoming mission, Kira explains that
      she's very aware of what's going on. It's a matter of the facades simply
      being necessary under the circumstances. (Nana Visitor again shows her
      astounding ability to reveal her character's vulnerability and emotions
      without for one second sacrificing her strength.)

      But the real standout in this storyline is in how the old wounds of
      Cardassia and Bajor play a powerful role between Kira and Damar. In a key
      scene, news arrives that the Dominion have located and killed Damar's
      hidden wife and son.

      Damar: "What kind of state tolerates the murder of innocent women and
      children? What kind of people give those orders?"

      Kira: "Yeah, Damar, what kind of people?"

      Kira doesn't pull the punch, and her statement couldn't be more pointed.
      And what's amazing is that this tragic news, coupled with Kira's brutally
      honest statement, might be exactly the dose of sobering reality that Damar
      needs. Garak explains to Kira precisely what the scene has us thinking: If
      Damar truly is the leader of a new Cardassia, this tragedy could be a
      challenge to any of those old, obsolete Cardassian attitudes that he might
      still be holding under the surface.

      In fact, this seems clear even before the end of the episode. There's a
      dangerous mission to retrieve a Breen weapon from a Jem'Hadar ship--a
      mission that might be the Federation's key to surviving the Breen. I won't
      go into the technical details of the mission. It comes across with a
      suspense greater than I had expected, simply because the underlying
      material is so strong (and Mike Vejar's direction certainly doesn't hurt).
      Suffice it to say Rosot chooses this moment to pick a fight with Kira and
      her methods, and suddenly Rosot has pulled a phaser on Kira, Garak has
      pulled a phaser on Rosot, and Damar walks into the middle of the situation
      with his own phaser and must make a decision. Rosot refuses to surrender.
      He hates this Bajoran woman and wants her dead. We don't *need* her, he
      says. He trusts Damar to do what's "right" for Cardassia.

      Dramatically, there's only one possible way for this to play out: Damar
      must shoot Rosot, a fellow soldier and friend that in the past he had
      trusted with his life. And that's exactly what happens. After killing
      Rosot, Damar then says what he knows is true: "[Rosot's] Cardassia is dead,
      and it won't be coming back."

      The path the writers have charted for Damar has been absolutely brilliant.
      It's nice to be able to admire and sympathize with this guy--and without
      seeing what he truly stands for altered or detoothed. He's still a patriot,
      but his methods and his idea of Cardassia has changed. The message is
      clear: Those like Damar with the ability to change are the ones who will
      survive, while those like Rosot are destined to die along with their
      defeated world. (It's material like this that makes me wish the producers
      had ended the war earlier in the season so we could deal more with the
      post-war issues that will have arisen.)

      There are other subplots here. Although they aren't as striking as the
      Kira/Damar story, they still demand respect. The Klingon plotline offers
      its share of build-up and payoff. Thanks to thought put into it, it's also
      much more involving than I had expected, considering this is about the
      millionth time Worf has had to stand against the Klingon Empire in order to
      save it.

      Gowron is a big problem, putting his political agenda ahead of the war
      effort, and thus losing his ships with wrong-headed surprise tactics that
      border on suicide. Martok and Worf have both objected. Gowron has ignored
      them. Sisko tells Gowron that his actions are ill-conceived. Gowron brushes
      him aside too.

      Finally, with the entire war effort on the line, Sisko's patience with
      Gowron runs out. He calls Worf in for a rather interesting conversation.
      The discussion is a quiet, ominous one that basically comes down to Sisko
      saying, "Gowron has to *stop*. Whatever it takes." Worf simply replies,
      "Understood." Sisko asks no further questions. Worf leaves.

      Not since "In the Pale Moonlight" have I seen this Sisko emerge, who needs
      something done and intends to see it through, no matter the cost. If it
      came down to knowing in advance Worf would have to kill Gowron in a
      traditional Klingon challenge, I doubt Sisko would bat an eye. That's
      pretty scary. This is not the Starfleet we used to know. Eight years back
      when Worf killed Duras in TNG's "Reunion," Picard was extremely displeased.
      Now we have Sisko all but ordering Worf to do "whatever it takes." My, how
      times have changed.

      That's not to say the first thing Worf does is challenge Gowron to a duel,
      because he doesn't. He tries some other avenues, albeit without success.
      Martok is of little help because he feels standing against Gowron would be
      improper. And Gowron refuses to hear reason from either Worf or Martok.
      When it ultimately does come down to the traditional challenge, the fight
      is an exceptionally engaging showdown, simply because the story has sold us
      so well on the stakes of the outcome. I doubt it comes as a big surprise
      that Worf is victorious and Gowron must die, but the way these pieces fall
      into place is simply the way it has to be--particularly given the history
      of run-ins Worf has had with Gowron and other officials in the empire.

      I'll admit Gowron's latest actions in "Tacking" and "Rains" were a bit
      sudden and forced, but given a key discussion in this installment, I'm
      willing to look past them.

      That key discussion provides the true substance of the subplot, and comes
      in an unexpected Worf/Ezri scene, where the entire political ideology of
      the Klingon Empire comes into question. Ezri calls Gowron's latest maneuver
      a "symptom of a larger problem"--that the empire is dying because of its
      ongoing willingness to tolerate a corrupt government with shady
      leaders--perhaps, if we might draw a parallel, a symptom of a problem
      similar to that of the Cardassians, who have suddenly found themselves
      obsolete. (And who better to challenge the Klingon political ideology than
      Ron Moore, who penned a lot of it through his TNG days?) Ezri's honesty
      pays off and gives Worf a lot to think about--even though he doesn't like
      the implications. It's great stuff.

      Moving on, that leaves us with Bashir's search for a cure to the disease
      killing Odo. Science is not finding the answer, so O'Brien comes up with
      the idea of pretending to have found a cure, hoping to lure someone from
      Section 31 to the station to stop them. Once that operative arrives, they
      hope to capture him/her in an attempt to learn the secret of the cure. (My
      thought on this plan is, "That's almost dumb enough to work.") Unlike the
      other plots, this is setup more than payoff, but I'm fascinated by the
      possibility of Section 31 playing into the endgame, so we'll wait until
      next week's installment to say more on the matter.

      Other goings-on:

      -- The Female Founder's lack of patience is somewhat interesting. She
      belittles and chews out Weyoun harshly in front of the Breen and constantly
      threatens him with death (if only the cloning facilities were working). The
      look on Weyoun's face almost makes me wonder if he'll be the next defector.
      His incentive to work for her (other than genetically programmed devotion)
      is seeming increasingly less these days.

      -- The Winn/Dukat storyline has gone into temporary hiatus, with no scenes
      this week. That's probably a good thing, since cramming all the subplots
      into one episode would probably be to the detriment of everything.

      On the whole, "Tacking into the Wind" is excellent work. It's edge-of-seat
      entertainment that has a real mind working behind it, replete with complex
      characters, thoughtful dialog, and a true perceptiveness of its fictional
      set of histories and futures. The stakes in the game are impressively high,
      but the way the game is played is still more impressive. "Tacking" shows
      how the struggle to defeat the enemy is demanding a great deal of other
      political tensions be reconciled in the process.

      --
      Next week: Chapter seven. As Odo lies dying, Bashir and O'Brien go head to
      head with Section 31.

      -----
      Copyright (c) 1999 by Jamahl Epsicokhan, all rights reserved. Unauthorized
      reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

      Star Trek: Hypertext - http://st-hypertext.trekseek.com/
      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...
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