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[DS9] Jammer's Review: "The Dogs of War"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for DS9 s The Dogs of War. If you haven t seen the show yet, beware. Nutshell: Uneven, but it does well
    Message 1 of 1 , May 31 10:13 PM
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for DS9's "The Dogs of
      War." If you haven't seen the show yet, beware.


      Nutshell: Uneven, but it does well for setting us up for the grand finish
      while bringing closure to Quark's character arc.

      Plot description: With the Cardassian resistance movement crushed, Kira,
      Damar, and Garak find themselves trapped behind enemy lines. Meanwhile,
      Grand Nagus Zek announces his retirement and plans to name Quark his
      successor.

      -----
      Star Trek: Deep Space Nine -- "The Dogs of War"

      Airdate: 5/24/1999
      Teleplay by Ronald D. Moore & Rene Echevarria
      Story by Peter Allan Fields
      Directed by Avery Brooks

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

      "Interesting, isn't it? The Federation claims to abhor Section 31's
      tactics, but when they need the dirtywork done, they look the other way.
      It's a tidy little arrangement, wouldn't you say?" -- Odo to Sisko
      -----

      There's a moment in "The Dogs of War" when Quark has had enough. He has
      watched as Ferengi society around him has become, in his view, a travesty.
      And he realizes he hasn't been immune from the changes over the years; he
      sees that he has gone "soft." He launches into a histrionic tirade that
      continues to build in amusement as Quark's disgust is unleashed. Then he
      yells: "The line has to be drawn here! This far, and no further!"

      I couldn't stop laughing.

      It perhaps helps to know that the line was lifted almost directly from the
      speech Picard made in "First Contact," and that "First Contact" co-writer
      Ron Moore probably had it in mind when he co-wrote "Dogs of War." It's
      refreshing to see an inside joke taken to such a blatantly over-the-top,
      self-referential, take-us-none-seriously extreme. But despite the fact the
      jokes aren't meant to be taken seriously, there's something about the
      character undercurrent that can be. Quark's story--undoubtedly DS9's last
      visit to Ferengi society--is without a doubt comedy, but behind it is a
      bizarre ring of truth.

      I've never been a big fan of Ferengi episodes. More often than not, I
      haven't enjoyed them. ("The Emperor's New Cloak," "Profit and Lace,"
      "Ferengi Love Songs," "Prophet Motive," the list goes on.) The biggest
      problem is that Ferengi shows simply aren't funny, and they prove too
      obvious and overplayed. Some of the common Ferengi episode problems find
      their way into this episode. But the difference here is that we see now
      where Ferengi society has gone, and where Quark is standing when the music
      stops.

      Quark's tale revolves around Zek's announcement of retirement and the fact
      Zek intends to name Quark the next Nagus. Quark is of course overjoyed. He
      looks forward to a new life of unending wealth, avarice, and indulgence.
      His mischievous planning begins. About this time, Brunt shows up. I must
      admit I laughed when Brunt instantly recited Rule of Acquisition number
      whatever: "It's never too early to suck up to the boss." Subsequently,
      Quark comes to realize how out of touch he has become with Ferengi society
      the past couple years. The entire social structure has changed under Zek
      and Ishka's new initiatives, and now we have a Ferenginar replete with
      social services, taxes ("Did you say the T-word?"), and regulated trade.
      None of this is remotely groundbreaking drama, but I was surprised at how
      unannoying it was compared to the average Ferengi episode. Perhaps the
      jokes were a little lower-key than most Ferengi shows--and I'm sure the
      limited screen time for Zek and Ishka helped matters as well. This
      storyline was actually relatively pleasant.

      What makes this hold up is the character undercurrent. Even though
      developments in Ferengi culture in the past have been so badly handled that
      they cross into offensiveness ("Profit in Lace" especially), I think I
      finally see a payoff here to all the changes made, never mind their
      previous implausibility. That payoff is simple: Ferengi society has changed
      ... and Quark hasn't.

      The full extent of the changes are what causes Quark to go on his tirade,
      and it's in Quark's comic fury where the storyline works best. It's almost
      as if the writers have finally figured out a usable joke for the
      Ferengi--the fact that the joke is really all on Quark. What he upholds as
      "what made Ferengi society great" has been erased and replaced with a new
      era of budding socialism. True, it's hopelessly oversimplified and unlikely
      any of this would happen within a two-year period, but that's not the
      point. What we have is Quark, a product of his time unwilling to go boldly
      into the future with the rest of Ferenginar. And, dammit, his bar will be
      the last standing representation of what made Ferenginar great--a society
      that is now being turned into a travesty.

      Is this a great joke? Maybe not (and it probably doesn't make up for years
      of bad Ferengi shows), but it is a good joke that sends the Ferengi out
      with some dignity. As closure for Quark, it seems very appropriate. He's
      always been the type who sticks by his guns, and if it means being the last
      Ferengi to hold onto a dying system he believes in, so be it. Armin
      Shimerman pulls off this role with great adeptness, walking the line
      separating comedy and genuine dramatic urgency in a way that proves both
      amusing and sincere.

      Of course, the joke upon the joke is that the whole notion of Quark
      becoming Nagus was a misunderstanding; it's *Rom* who Zek planned to make
      Nagus--which seems somewhat fitting under the notion that "a new Ferenginar
      needs a new type of Nagus." And besides, Mom always liked Rom best. (Well,
      maybe not overall, but in certain ways.)

      There's plenty more to talk about in "Dogs of War," so I'll move on. The
      other pieces are in tune with the "Final Chapter" structure, paving the
      last mile heading to next week's series finale. The Kira/Damar/Garak plot
      takes a turn for the worse as the three narrowly escape capture when their
      ship is destroyed and a resistance force on Cardassia is betrayed and
      eliminated. With nowhere to turn, the three seek refuge in the cellar of
      Mila (Julianna McCarthy), Enabran Tain's confidant from years ago, and
      Garak's only remaining trustable contact on Cardassia. Subsequently, Weyoun
      delivers news over planet-wide viewscreens that all the resistance cells
      have been eliminated by Dominion forces, and Kira & Co. suddenly realize
      they may be spending the rest of the war in Mila's basement.

      I enjoyed the Orwellian atmosphere in these scenes of a totalitarian state
      spreading the wonderful news ("This is a great day for the Dominion,"
      Weyoun says with an impassioned sincerity) to the citizens of Cardassia. I
      also enjoyed the notion that rumors persist Damar is alive, even though
      Weyoun has assured the population he was killed when his ship was destroyed.

      The ongoing Cardassia/Bajor parallels are proving incredibly interesting.
      Sisko once told Li Nalas, "Bajor doesn't need a hero; it needs a symbol."
      And now Cardassia needs just that from Damar, such that with the organized
      resistance destroyed, perhaps the civilian population will revolt. A key
      act of sabotage might help provide a spark; when Kira & Co. blow up a
      Jem'Hadar facility, Damar attempts to feed the legend by making a speech to
      the Cardassian people in the streets. Though the sequence itself was a tiny
      bit stilted (there's got to be a list somewhere of all the film characters
      who have shouted "Freedom!"), the idea is powerful. The Cardassia storyline
      is easily among the best things about these final episodes.

      Another issue involves Odo learning Section 31 infected him with the
      disease. Odo is *not* happy. And when he calls Sisko on the Federation's
      willingness to look the other way, we see a difficult situation emerging
      that is bound to play into the finale. Starfleet now has the cure, but they
      aren't offering it up to the Founders. And they'd probably be foolish to do
      so. But the convenience of the situation certainly *is* interesting, and
      Odo unhappily points it out. Now what? Odo and this cure will obviously be
      a factor in the final equation, but how? Will Odo keep his word of not
      taking matters into his own hands? (I'm glad to see the issue hasn't been
      dismissed following "Extreme Measures," which failed to raise the important
      questions.)

      Sisko also has some good moments, like his introduction to his new
      starship, the USS Sao Paulo, a Defiant-class ship that, naturally,
      Starfleet allows him to rename Defiant. While the addition of a new Defiant
      might seem to lessen the impact of the previous Defiant's death, the
      evident awe of Sisko settling into his new ship (including the nice, simple
      line, "Hello, ship") really makes the scene work.

      Of a more foreboding nature for Sisko is the announcement that Kasidy is
      pregnant, and her understandable worry about the Prophets' warning. The
      pregnancy wasn't planned (which itself has me wondering about ominous
      prophecies), but Ben and Kasidy are both very excited about it, which makes
      me fear for the happiness and well-being of both of them. Does tragedy
      await? With the large-scale attack against the Dominion being planned by
      the end of the episode, anything is possible. Tune in next week, as they say.

      Given all that's right with this episode, I almost hate to mention what's
      wrong. The biggest problem with "Dogs of War" is the sometimes-awkward,
      uneven structure. It's a bit jarring to move back and forth between the
      Ferengi comedy scenes and the starkly darker themes on Cardassia. And while
      it would've been wrong to forego closure for Quark, it's still pretty hard
      to look at the Ferengi story as a necessary part of this arc. Although it
      was successful, it pales in comparison to the other rich material we've
      seen the past two months, and when there are two stories as there are here,
      with such different priorities and tones, they tend to get in each other's
      way. I hope I'm not overstating the case. "Dogs of War" is good work--but
      it's disparate in its thought process, perhaps by definition, considering
      its various subplots.

      Which reminds me (I nearly forgot, there's so much going on), we also get
      some resolution to the ongoing Bashir/Ezri soap operatics. While the mutual
      pursuit game was amiably portrayed here, it's simply not that
      interesting--unless you are one who has been anxiously awaiting the pairing
      of Dax and Bashir for the sake of itself. Unlike with Worf/Ezri earlier in
      the arc, Bashir/Ezri doesn't have dialog that offers anything new about the
      characters. It is what it is and nothing more. (At least we'll no longer
      have to wait around for this payoff.)

      But never mind. We've got two hours of this series left, and this episode
      works as primer on some fronts and closure on others. It's a winner--even
      as a Ferengi show.

      --
      Next week: All good things must come to an end.

      -----
      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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