Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Ties of Blood and Water”

“Ties of Blood and Water”
Written by Edmund Newton & Robbin L. Slocum and Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by Avery Brooks
Season 5, Episode 19
Production episode 40510-517
Original air date: April 14, 1997
Stardate: 50712.5

Station log: Kira, Worf, and Dax welcome Tekeny Ghemor back to the station. With the Dominion having absorbed Cardassia, and with Ghemor’s history with the dissident movement that overthrew Central Command, he’s the best choice to lead the opposition to the new Dominion government. Unfortunately, Ghemor can’t do it because he’s terminally ill. He’s accepted that he’ll never see his daughter again (Kira says Bajoran Security is still looking for Iliana, but they haven’t found her yet), and he can’t lead a Cardassian government in exile. Bashir confirms the diagnosis, and has some treatments that might help, though nothing that will cure him.

Dukat contacts Sisko, demanding that Ghemor be returned to them. Since the Federation doesn’t recognize the current Cardassian government, and there are no extradition treaties between Cardassia and either the Federation or Bajor, Sisko smiles and says that Dukat shouldn’t get his hopes up before hanging up on him.

Kira brings Ghemor—her surrogate father figure—to meet Kirayoshi—Kira’s sorta-kinda-surrogate son. He also reveals that Kira’s life is kind of public knowledge, which rather surprises her.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Ties of Blood and Water

Ghemor also wants to indulge in a Cardassian ritual where a dying person reveals secrets to a family member. Kira’s the only family he has at this point and he wants to talk to her. Kira goes to Sisko, who says this is a great opportunity, and Kira admits that it is, but she doesn’t want the responsibility.

Ghemor is deteriorating. He’s in the 24th-century equivalent of hospice care, on a biobed that will administer painkillers if things get too bad. Ghemor starts telling Kira about Dukat’s enemies, and a lot more beyond that. He apparently knows every politician on Cardassia.

As Kira sits with Ghemor, she flashes back to her father dying when she was in the resistance (thus giving us the chance to see Nana Visitor in the world’s most unconvincing wig). He was badly hurt by the Cardassians, and he begs her not to leave him alone in his pain.

Dukat arrives in a Jem’Hadar battleship, armed and ready, asking for Sisko’s decision regarding Ghemor. He beams aboard the station with the Vorta Weyoun. To Sisko’s surprise, Ghemor has been cleared of all charges by the Dominion. Dukat only wants to bring him home so he can have a proper Cardassian funeral.

Ghemor himself is less than interested, even after Dukat offers to tell Ghemor where Iliana is. He won’t deal with the Dominion under any circumstances.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Ties of Blood and Water

Over the next few days, Kira listens to Ghemor and doesn’t get a lot of sleep. Dukat then comes to Kira with Ghemor’s official military record, which includes being at the Kissia Monastery when it was destroyed. Kira becomes snippy with Ghemor, furious that he kept his past from her. Ghemor admits to everything, and that the Cardassians were monsters, but Kira doesn’t want to hear it.

After Weyoun wins at dabo, to Dukat’s annoyance, Sisko offers to share a drink with Dukat and Weyoun. The bottle of kanar he offers to share turns out to have been delivered to Ghemor, laced with poison—which explains why Dukat won’t drink it.

Odo asks why Kira is being so pissy now. It’s not like Ghemor’s military record was a secret. Kira doesn’t have a good answer, but she does have another flashback: when Furel announces that they found who shot her father, she leaves Taban’s bedside to take revenge against the Cardassians who shot him rather than fulfill her promise to stay by his side.

In the present, Bashir informs Kira that Ghemor won’t live out the hour and he wants to see her—but she doesn’t want to see him. Bashir says that no matter what he did in the past, he shouldn’t die alone.

That prompts one last flashback: Kira got back from the raid only to find that her father died while she was gone, calling her name. She orders up another raiding party and digs a grave for Taban near a tree.

Kira finally decides to sit with Ghemor until he dies. After Ghemor dies, she tells Bashir about his final minutes, and admits that she should’ve been there for Taban’s death, but she couldn’t stand to see the strong man she’d admired deteriorating like that.

Dukat and Weyoun petition Sisko for Ghemor’s body for burial on Cardassia, where Dukat will reveal to the people of Cardassia that he had a last-minute change of heart on his death bed, embracing Cardassia’s new position as part of the Dominion with his dying breath.

Sisko, however, says that Ghemor’s funeral arrangements have already been taken care of. On Bajor, Kira buries him next to her own father.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Ties of Blood and Water

Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira—who is finally back in her regular uniform, instead of the maternal one she’s been wearing since the end of “The Begotten”—also wears the bracelet that Ghemor gave her at the end of “Second Skin” for the first time. We also learn the fate of her father.

The slug in your belly: Dax fills Worf in on the events of “Second Skin,” which handily does so for the viewers as well.

There is no honor in being pummeled: Worf is shocked to see Kira all friendly with a Cardassian—even giving him a hug!—and Dax points out that he should’ve known her five years earlier. She wouldn’t have believed that she could love anybody.

Preservation of matter and energy is for wimps: Odo reminds Kira that Ghemor’s military service is a matter of public record, and she could have found out the information Dukat provided any time she wanted to.

Rules of Acquisition: Quark sees that Kira looks like crap, and when she says “whatever” to his offer of a drink, he surprisingly goes the compassionate route and brings her a warm milk that will help her sleep.

For Cardassia! Dukat has retained the title of “gul” rather than something higher-ranking, like “legate.” Dukat also insists that Cardassia retains autonomy, belied by Weyoun following him all over the station and the fact that Ghemor is cleared by Dominion jurisprudence, not Cardassian (which never clears anyone).

Victory is life: The Vorta are cloned and, like the Jem’Hadar, are genetically engineered. Among other things, they are immune to most poisons, which Weyoun says is a handy thing for a diplomat.

Keep your ears open: “Still calling yourself ‘gul’? I’m surprised you haven’t promoted yourself back to legate by now.”

“I prefer the title ‘gul.’ So much more hands-on than ‘legate.’ And less pretentious than the other alternatives: ‘president,’ ‘emperor,’ ‘first minister’—‘emissary’.”

“How about ‘Dominion puppet’?”

Sisko and Dukat taking the piss out of each other.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Ties of Blood and Water

Welcome aboard: Both Lawrence Pressman and Jeffrey Combs make return appearances as Ghemor and Weyoun, respectively, the latter establishing his second recurring role of the series (in addition to Brunt). William Lucking also returns as Furel in the flashbacks, while Marc Alaimo returns as Dukat in the present.

Finally, Thomas Kopache plays his fifth of seven Trek roles as Taban. He previously appeared on TNG (“The Next Phase” and “Emergence”) and Voyager (“The Thaw”), as well as in Star Trek Generations. He’ll appear again as Taban in “Wrongs Darker than Death or Night,” and also show up twice in two different roles on Enterprise (in “Broken Bow” and “Harbinger”).

Trivial matters: This episode establishes that the Vorta are cloned, which was mostly done so they could have Jeffrey Combs recur as Weyoun despite being disintegrated at the end of “To the Death.” (It also retroactively makes Omet’iklan’s disintegration of Weyoun somewhat less impressive. Less an act of defiance and more an act of “the hell with it, they’ll make another one.”)

This episode also establishes what was implied in “By Inferno’s Light,” that Dukat is now the Cardassian governor of Dominion-occupied Cardassia (though Dukat himself doesn’t quite see it that way).

The novel Fearful Symmetry by Olivia Woods establishes that Dukat does, in fact, know Iliana Ghemor’s location, though given how he treats her in that novel’s flashbacks, it’s unlikely he was sincere in his offer to reveal that location to her father.

We see the background of how the Dominion solidified power in Cardassia between “By Inferno’s Light” and this episode in Una McCormack’s novel The Never-Ending Sacrifice.

Walk with the Prophets: “I like games.” On the one hand, this hits pretty much every deathbed story beat pretty predictably. There aren’t any real surprises here, and the episode doesn’t really have a climax as such. Kira remembers not being there for her father’s death, she goes to sit with Ghemor, who then dies off-camera, and then Kira bares her soul to Bashir.

And that’s the main symptom of why the episode still works: Nana Visitor knocks it out of the park. The scene at the end where she confesses everything to Bashir in much the same way Ghemor confessed to her over the previous week is beautifully done, mostly as a one-take closeup. This is a beautifully directed episode by Avery Brooks, as we get some excellent use of closeups, and of shot composition, particularly in how it arranges people in twos: Dukat and Weyoun, the latter hovering around the former, making his presence known but also making it clear that he’s above it all; Kira and Ghemor in various poses of relative comfort that become less and less so for both of them as the episode wears on, until Kira all but collapses on Ghemor’s chest at the end; Kira and her father, the former hovering over the latter but also like a coiled spring, wanting to leap away at any moment, finally taking it when Furel offers a possibility for violence.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Ties of Blood and Water

And again we come back to the shades of gray that make the show so wonderful. As I’ve said before, nobody involved in the Cardassian occupation of Bajor was clean—not Kira, whose only possible response to her father’s death is not to grieve but to go out and commit even more violence, and not Ghemor, who participated in the burning of a monastery as a young officer on Bajor. Certainly Dukat isn’t clean, and he’s so eager to shut Ghemor up and get him home that he risks a very obvious kanar poisoning just so his secrets from those days won’t be revealed and jeopardize his position.

This is the first look at the Weyoun/Cardassian-in-charge dynamic that we’ll see a lot of for the rest of the series, first with Weyoun and Dukat and later with Weyoun and Damar, and what’s particularly fascinating about the former here is that there’s such an obvious difference between their two approaches to all of this. Dukat has everything invested in this—he wants to restore Cardassia to its former glory, going so far as to keep the title he had during Cardassia’s glory days, and insisting on Cardassia’s autonomy even as a Jem’Hadar stands behind him on his shiny new battleship and Weyoun’s there to keep an eye on him. For his part, Weyoun seems to just be enjoying himself, but also doesn’t seem to give all that much of a damn. The intrigue and plotting is an intellectual curiosity at best, but doesn’t really have a helluva lot to do with anything important. Being cloned isn’t the only reason why Weyoun is always left standing…

 

Warp factor rating: 6


Keith R.A. DeCandido will be the guest speaker at the July meeting of the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society this coming Friday at the 9pm at the International House at 3710 Chestnut Street in the City of Brotherly Love. Keith will have books for sale (including The Klingon Art of War), and there will be an informal dinner at a local eatery afterward that all are welcome to join. Keith also has a new Kickstarter going for a new story in the Dragon Precinct universe; details here.

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