Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's 10-part Finale - Season 7
Penumbra / 'Til Death Do Us Part(Star Trek - Deep Space Nine episode production codes 567 & 568 - series finale, parts 1 & 2 of 10)
Part 1 written by René Echevarria
Part 2 written by story editors David Weddle & Bradley Thompson
Deep Space Nine's 10-part finale presents a multitude of separate story arcs, each starting almost randomly in any given episode they choose to and continuing through to any other. For the purposes of focusing in on Sisko's dealing with the latest prophecy from the wormhole prophet aliens, it is chiefly the first two episodes of the ten that we need to look at, before moving on to the final two-episode conclusion.
In hindsight, it really is a silly contrivance by the writers to have another prophecy here at all, trying to add some drama and tension to a development that normally shouldn't really produce anything but harmony. What we end up with in this thread is very similar to the situation in the Next Generation's 5th season episode "A Matter of Time", where information from the future suddenly introduces a lot of doubt and second guessing into a present-time event that could have done without it. The Next Generation crew eventually rose above all that by learning to examine the character of the messenger with an appropriately critical eye. It is sadly more common on Star Trek to regard visitors from the future with an almost religious reverence that shouldn't be questioned too deeply, and with today's messenger being the Prophets, that concept is made about as literal as it could be.
Our critical eye, with hindsight from the end of the 10-episode arc, would also point out that there isn't much validity or logic to the Prophets' warning either. Exactly how does marrying Kassidy produce nothing but sorrow? All they can really do is predict that Sisko and Kassidy will be parted at the end of the show.... regardless of whether or not they get married. Any study of people believing they are near the end of their lives reveals that very few regret the things they've done, but most regret the things they never found the time and courage to do. Sisko and Kassidy shouldn't let getting married become one of the things they both regret never doing. Even if it's only going to last for about three or four hundred stardates, surely there is less sorrow for having enjoyed marriage for that short time than not doing it all.
I would also point out that the events that separate the two at the end feel quite subject to random variation, and aren't logically inevitable at all. More writers' contrivance. But perhaps that discussion is best saved for the two-hour finale itself.
The second episode begins Kai Winn's participation in this massive concluding story, and gives her a classic introductory scene, before branching out into very new and interesting territory for her. In fact, if it's this easy for Winn to mistake a vision from the Pagh Wraiths for one from the Prophets, and similar seemed to happen to Sisko in the season opener, perhaps all the more reason for Sisko to question the information from his own visions in this one.
One thing I found most strange was Winn's candour in advertising to all and sundry that the Prophets had never spoken to her. In most Earthly religions, the heads of any order supposedly have an exclusive line of communication with God, and gain their power by making their subjects believe they need to go through them to have any connection with God. Personally, I don't subscribe to that kind of set-up, but it seems to me that Winn is practically declaring herself unfit for the job of Kai by making such a fact so widely known.
To be fair, Kai Winn receives here what is probably the deepest character exploration she has ever had on the show, an element that reaches its zenith in the third of the ten episodes of this arc. Sadly, as was the case with Dukat in "Waltz", she isn't very interesting afterwards, and will only have one or two standout moments later despite the large quantity of screen time she gets.
Dukat's best moment in the entire ten-part story occurs at the beginning of episode two, as we see him being the chief mentor inspiring his old Cardassian buddy Damar to rise to something greater. Even here, there is something richer and nobler still within Dukat, and this remains the way I prefer to remember him. For the most part, the remainder of the Dukat/Winn scenes during this ten-part story quickly became one of its dullest elements, receiving far more screen time than it deserved, and confusing the hell out of me on first broadcast when I tuned back in after a two-year absence and saw little more than episodes 4, 7, and 8 before the big double-length conclusion.
The Ezri/Worf interlude also took things too far for my tastes, although it at least had several good scenes within it and ultimately dredged up some information that led to better things later on.
Personally, the episode I enjoyed most within this
8-part build-up to the finale
was the one centered on Dr. Bashir, who is my favourite
regular DS9 character, and who I feel probably made the
biggest contribution to the successful resolution of the series'
largest A-plots. He also manages to do it in line with good philosophical
principles.... in other words, rising above the strict
black and white interpretations running rampant on the show
at this time and fuelling most of the drama.
The finale's strongest dramatic thread is actually simply a long series of goodbye's amongst the main cast, including all the time taken to highlight where they all were during the last seven years contrasted with where they will be going forward. This is by far the most moving part of the finale's drama, and the part that actually gets the main characters heavily involved. This is what really makes the final story work so well.
Sadly, as much as I like to promote involvement in the face of considerations like the Prime Directive and time travel, the world of the Prophets has continued to become decidedly more enemy-centered ever since the Pagh Wraiths were introduced in early season five, with season seven now displaying little else from them, and Sisko's pursuit of his role with the Prophets has led him to lower philosophical ideals instead of higher ones. It's a very one-dimensional, enemy-centered final act that Behr and Beimler give Sisko to perform at the end of this series, and doesn't make a lot of sense practically, physically, or meta-physically. I have to seriously take issue with Behr's concept of "turning Sisko into a god", which he talks about in his DVD interviews. Exactly what does "a god" mean to him that he thinks any man could be eligible to become one? What are his criteria? The over-abused resource-stressed concept of sacrifice, leading to a mystical, non-corporeal after-life with riddles for communication? I don't quite think there's a way to make this work, or more importantly a reason for it to be a worthy goal in the first place.
Which brings us to Sisko's fulfillment of prophecy. Most time travel stories get into trouble because of the way that future outcomes are already known, and the characters somehow wind up with the conviction that they can't actually aim for the most ideal outcome possible, or that one thing must be sacrificed to preserve another good thing. Third density thinking for sure.
The concept of the Prophets not understanding linear time seems to be contradicted by season seven, when they think they know exactly what will happen to Ben Sisko, and leave him little room to make better choices.
And when you finally see what they're talking about in the two-part finale to the entire show, it really doesn't make any sense that the ludicrous events that play out were at all inevitable, or likely, or even remotely logical. There's a lot of writers' contrivance at work there, not to mention a very simplistic, dualistic good vs. evil mentality that grates against the rich tapestry that DS9 otherwise enjoyed elsewhere.
Still, some good bits may require one to look closer in order to appreciate them. In her half-hidden DVD extra interview, actress Louise Fletcher seems convinced that her character of Kai Winn "sheds a lifetime of hypocrisy", indicating that she never really believed in the Prophets. But look carefully at when the character says that. She's in the middle of an extended bluff to gain Dukat's confidence, just prior to poisoning him. How much truth is there in all the varying things she says, versus how much is made up for his benefit? There are still shades of grey and richer dynamics going on with Winn even to the last, and is her final act not to help the Emissary against the Pagh Wraiths? Once more, as an unpredictable third party, Winn keeps an otherwise one-dimensional scene interesting.
Rick Berman and Ira Behr both admit they wish they could have had more episodes to tie up a few more loose ends from the series. The one that is missing most for me is the status of Bajor's admittance into the Federation. Is it all a done deal but for the paperwork and ceremony, now that the big war is over, or is there still cause for deliberation? It seems there would have been sufficient time in the finale for a few words on the subject, particularly as Captain Picard defined THIS as Sisko's primary mission in the pilot episode, but it seems the writers' interests had moved on in the meantime. We really haven't learned anything new in the last two-and-a-half years on this subject, since season five's excellent episode "Rapture". Personally, I think the Federation should admit Bajor, and let Kira keep her Starfleet uniform permanently. However, should the Prophets apply, they should be denied until they can resolve their explosive differences with the Pagh Wraiths (arguably two factions of the same race) and until they demonstrate some higher philosophical and social ideals.
Sisko and Ross get into a no-win scenario when they needlessly promise to drink bloodwine with Martok. Of course they can't actually go through with it for very good reasons.... but at the same time, how can they pour such an expensive vintage onto the street without seriously insulting Martok, and by extension the entire Klingon Empire? That can't be good for interstellar relations. Time to ask Martok to respect an Earthly mourning ritual instead, or something.
Perhaps some of Behr's indulgences made the final two-part show less than it otherwise would have been, and things that they could easily get away with in earlier stand-alone episodes feel a bit too out of place in the finale - a prime example is that Vic Fontaine's song probably should not have been full-length while the rest of the cast have nothing to do but smile, particularly since the finale already indulges in other music-only montages at other points that work much better.
Background music on DS9 gets noticeably more emotional and exciting nearer the end of the run, and Dennis McCarthy seems to do his best Star Trek work ever during the actual double-length finale. Bravo! The final scenes are very powerfully scored, and the music here is worth listening to all on its own many times over. Excellent!
When all is said and done, I do enjoy this show, and its finale, which easily had a more engaging event to show us than the Next Generation had managed during its finale. Deep Space Nine goes out on a high, after a very cathartic finish that leaves its audience with much to think about in the aftermath. Hats off to a fine piece of art!
These Deep Space Nine Season Seven finale episodes are available on DVD.
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Article written by Martin Izsak. Comments on this article are welcome. You may contact the author from this page: