Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Rocks and Shoals”

“Rocks and Shoals”
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Michael Vejar
Season 6, Episode 2
Production number 40510-527
Original air date: October 6, 1997
Stardate: unknown

Station log. Sisko and the gang on their commandeered Dominion ship are fired upon by two Dominion ships that have actual Jem’Hadar on them. O’Brien still hasn’t been able to restore main power, but now they have to escape their pursuit. Sisko finds a dark matter nebula nearby, and they head toward it—but then the helm console explodes, injuring Dax. They plunge into the nebula, crashing onto a planet. The Jem’Hadar break off as soon as they enter the nebula, probably realizing that they were going to crash.

However, they’re not the only ones on that world. Another Jem’Hadar regiment crashed on the planet as well. Their Vorta, Keevan, is very badly hurt, their communications equipment is fried, and the First and Second are dead, leaving Third Remata’klan in charge of the Jem’Hadar—though Keevan refuses to promote him to First, as he questioned the Vorta’s orders to enter the nebula in the first place. Fourth Limara’son thinks Remata’klan was right to question Keevan, as it was entering this nebula that led to their crash, but Remata’klan says that the Vorta was correct to upbraid him. Only through obedience will one achieve victory, and victory is life. Cha cha cha.

The Starfleet crew crashed in an ocean. As the ship sinks underwater, the surviving crew—Sisko, the very badly injured Dax, Bashir, O’Brien, Nog, Garak, Neeley, and Gordon—manage to swim to shore with as many supplies as they can salvage. O’Brien realizes that he tore his pants, and he bitches about it before realizing how absurd he sounds, thus providing him, Sisko, and Neeley with a desperately needed bit of cathartic laughter. (“I guess I’m really in trouble now, huh?”) They set up base camp in a cavern, heating a big rock with a phaser and drying their clothes on it.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Rocks and Shoals

Dax, at least, is in decent shape, as Bashir has been able to repair the damage. She needs rest, but they can keep her lying on a rock in the cavern. They just need to be rescued…

Elsewhere, in another cavern, Remata’klan reports to Keevan that it will be ten days before they can even test the communications systems following repair. Since it will be at least ten days before they’re rescued, and likely longer, he has to ration the ketracel-white. Keevan also reassures them that he is the Vorta—he will take care of them all. (Yeah, right!)

Nog and Garak go off to look for fresh water and edible vegetation—Nog making sure to stay either beside or behind Garak, as after what happened on Empok Nor, Nog won’t turn his back on the tailor. Garak smiles and says there’s hope for the cadet yet.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Rocks and Shoals

And then several Jem’Hadar unshroud and take them prisoner, bringing them to Keevan. While Nog is only willing to give name, rank, and serial number, Garak tries to pass himself off as a loyal Cardassian citizen of the Dominion, which doesn’t quite work thanks to the Starfleet combadge he’d been wearing when captured. Keevan then asks if their unit has a doctor, and when Garak answers in the affirmative, it prompts two responses: anger from Nog at his giving anything away to the enemy and affirmation from Keevan that that answer just saved their lives, as the Vorta rather desperately needs a physician. Keevan has the prisoners secured, then orders Remata’klan to find the Starfleet unit, but not to engage them, just locate them.

On Terok Nor, Kira gets up at 0500, smiles at herself in the mirror, gets on a turbolift full of Cardassians and Jem’Hadar, and reports to Ops to start her shift. A Cardassian even brings her coffee. Later, Jake interviews Odo and Kira for a news story that some day may be published, maybe. He asks about facilitators that are being sent to Bajor to help out, as they’ve been cut off from trade. Jake asks how they respond to Vedek Yassim’s criticisms that it’s the first step to Dominion occupation. Odo’s response is that he’s been assured that the facilitators will be unarmed and unaccompanied by Jem’Hadar, but he sounds defensive when he says it. Jake asks about Yassim’s scheduled protest, which Kira and Odo didn’t know about. Kira says she’ll talk to Yassim, and Jake asks if that means they’re suppressing the right to protest on the station. Kira and Odo shut the interview down, thus avoiding dealing with the fact that Jake is absolutely right.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Rocks and Shoals

Back on the planet, Gordon reports that Garak and Nog haven’t reported in. Sisko, Neeley, Gordon, and O’Brien start to search, and Neeley picks up the Jem’Hadar’s life signs. Though the Jem’Hadar have been ordered not to engage, Limara’son cries that he can’t take it and opens fire. Remata’klan orders a ceasefire and retreat, but they can no longer shroud because of the lack of white (which is also why Limara’son had a nutty and fired). Keevan wants to discipline the offending Jem’Hadar, but Remata’klan says that he disciplines the men as unit commander (which he did by reducing the Jem’Hadar to Sixth). Keevan is impressed with Remata’klan’s balls.

On the station, Yassim insists that the Dominion is evil and evil must be opposed. Kira tells her that a protest would only make things worse. Yassim asks what they can do to oppose the Dominion, and Kira says there’s nothing the vedek assembly can do—so Yassim asks what Kira will be doing to fight the Dominion, and she says that she can’t. Yassim accuses her of being an apologist for the Dominion, and Kira says that Yassim just doesn’t understand (which is a handy way of avoiding answering the accusation). Yassim says that indeed she doesn’t, and leaves, promising that tomorrow, they’ll both understand.

The next day, at the time the protest was supposed to be, Yassim, with a noose around her neck, jumps off the Promenade railing. Her last words before she jumps are, “Evil must be opposed!” Kira is shocked.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Rocks and Shoals

Remata’klan approaches Neeley and asks to talk to Sisko alone. The Third says that they’ll trade Nog and Garak for Sisko and Bashir—they need a doctor for Keevan and the Vorta wishes to speak to Sisko. Sisko views that as an unfair trade—two lower-ranking prisoners for more valuable ones—but Remata’klan insists that they’ll be free to go after Keevan meets with Sisko and is treated by Bashir. Sisko tells Remata’klan about what happened in “To the Death,” and the latter is appalled to learn that Ometi’klan killed Weyoun when the mission ended. But Sisko is unwilling to accept a Vorta’s word that they’ll leave unharmed, but he does accept Remata’klan’s word.

The exchange will happen in one hour. Sisko and Dax are concerned, since the Jem’Hadar outnumber them two to one. They need information, so Nog and Garak are freed and Bashir and Sisko brought to Keevan. Whatever Keevan wants to say to Sisko has to wait, however, as Bashir needs to perform immediate surgery—under the watchful eyes of several Jem’Hadar. But no pressure…

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Rocks and Shoals

However, the surgery is a success, and Bashir has saved the Vorta—for now, at least. Keevan then wants to talk to Sisko and Bashir alone without the Jem’Hadar, who all leave. Keevan reveals that there is only one vial of ketracel-white left, and there are ten Jem’Hadar on the planet, who will go binky bonkers insane very soon.

Keevan makes an offer. He is going to order the Jem’Hadar to attack the Starfleet base camp—but he will give Sisko the battle plan so they’ll win and kill all the Jem’Hadar before they go binky bonkers. After that, he’ll surrender and hand over the communication system, which Keevan figures will be in better hands with “one of those famous Starfleet engineers who can turn rocks into replicators” than a Jem’Hadar suffering withdrawal, and they can all escape.

Well, all except for Remata’klan and his men. A real sweetheart, is Keevan.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Rocks and Shoals

Sisko shares the battle plan. Nog, O’Brien, and Gordon are all disgusted with the Jem’Hadar in essence being led to slaughter, but Garak and Neeley are a bit more sanguine, as there is a war on. Sisko says it doesn’t matter, the decision’s been made, though he does confide to Dax that he’s hoping he can find another way.

Kira gets up at 0500, revolted by the sight she sees in the mirror. She gets on a turbolift where she’s surrounded by Cardassians and Jem’Hadar, and reports to Ops to start her shift. After a Cardassian brings her coffee, she is horrified and has to leave Ops. She goes to the spot where Yassim jumped, and Odo finds her there. She realizes that she’s a collaborator, the very type of person she despised when she was in the resistance. She has to fight back, and Odo agrees to help her. They’ve formed the new Bajoran resistance.

Remata’klan leads his troops across an open plain in broad daylight, where they are pretty much the textbook definition of “sitting ducks.” Sisko calls out to Remata’klan, saying he wants to talk. The Third agrees, ordering his men to hold position and not fire unless fired upon.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Rocks and Shoals

Sisko reveals that Keevan betrayed them, but Remata’klan already knew that. Sisko offers to let him surrender—they can put the Jem’Hadar in stasis until a new supply of white can be found—but Remata’klan was not given the option to surrender. His following the Vorta’s instructions is the order of things. Sisko asks if he is willing to give up his life for the order of things, and Remata’klan replies that it’s not his life to give—and it never was.

Sure enough, Remata’klan continues the attack, the Starfleet contingent blows them all away—though Gordon is also killed—and then Keevan comes wandering happily out carrying the comm system. Because he apparently hasn’t been nearly skeevy enough, Keevan doubles down and tells Sisko that if he had just a few more vials of white, the Starfleet crew would all be very dead. Angrily, Sisko orders O’Brien to take the comm system and orders Neeley to form a burial detail.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The Jem’Hadar ship lost main power at the end of “A Time to Stand.” They’re stuck at impulse. It’s been less than three days since then, so it’s unlikely that they’ve even left the solar system. Yet there’s a dark-matter nebula (whatever that is—dark matter was the hip new thing in the late 1990s) that’s somehow, I guess, in the solar system with them? SCIENCE!

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Rocks and Shoals

The Sisko is of Bajor. Sisko tries to turn Remata’klan against Keevan, but as Sisko himself says, he can’t undo all those years of Dominion conditioning in a single conversation, and in the end, he’s unable to turn Remata’klan, who dies for a Vorta who, as Sisko says, doesn’t deserve the loyalty he’s giving him.

Don’t ask my opinion next time. Kira starts out the episode being someone really unpleasant: she shakes her head and tuts-tuts those crazy vedeks and their silly protests, and how could they possibly consider actively rebelling against an occupying force? That’s just crazy talk. Then Yassim kills herself and she remembers, y’know, who she is.

The slug in your belly. Terry Farrell’s extreme sensitivity to direct sunlight led to the script calling for Dax to be injured so she could stay in the cave where it was dark rather than be out in the oppressive sunlight of Soledad Canyon.

There is no honor in being pummeled. The script called for a final scene with the Rotarran rescuing the crew and Worf beaming down to take them back (and also burying Gordon), but they ran out of time at the location, and director Michael Vejar decided that ending the episode on the closeup of Sisko with Keevan surrendering himself was the much stronger close in any case. So Worf doesn’t actually appear in the episode.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Rocks and Shoals

Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps. Odo actually cautions Kira against active resistance, keeping his role as collaborator to the bitter end, right up until Kira urges him not to put her in a position where she’s fighting him, too. Realizing that she’s the one person in the universe who can probably kick his ass, he relents and joins her in forming a new resistance.

Rules of Acquisition. O’Brien spends the teaser modifying everything with “damn” (the damn gyrodyne, the damn thruster array). When Nog gets into the act, referring to the damn thruster array, O’Brien tells him to watch his mouth.

For Cardassia! The Cardassian Intelligence Bureau has apparently replaced the Obsidian Order after the latter was wiped out in “The Die is Cast.”

Plain, simple. Garak’s story to Keevan is that he’s named Kamar and was captured by the Centaur, which is a good cover, as that ship entered Dominion space recently (in “A Time to Stand”).

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Rocks and Shoals

Victory is life. Remata’klan says that they’ll hold the world for the Dominion until communications are restored. When Limara’son asks what will happen if communications aren’t restored, Remata’klan’s response is, “Then we will hold this world for the Dominion until we die.” Because that’s what they do.

Keep your ears open. “Lucky for you, it ripped on the seam.”

“So you can fix it.”

“Unlucky for you, my sewing kit went down with the ship.”

“Maybe someone could go get it—the ship’s only about five hundred meters below the surface by now.”

“Now there’s an idea. Cadet, how long can you hold your breath?”

Garak, O’Brien, and Neeley, trying to figure out how to fix O’Brien’s pants.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Rocks and Shoals

Welcome aboard. Christopher Shea makes the first of two appearances as Keevan (he’ll be back in “The Magnificent Ferengi”), and he manages the impressive task of being more despicable than Jeffrey Combs’s Weyoun (who doesn’t appear in the episode).

Sarah MacDonnell and Joseph Fuqua play Neeley and Gordon, while Paul S. Eckstein plays Limara’son and Lilyan Chauvin plays Yassim. Plus we have the usual recurring suspects of Aron Eisenberg as Nog and Andrew J. Robinson as Garak.

But the standout guest is Phil Morris putting in a superlative turn as Remata’klan. Morris had already appeared on the original series (“Miri” as one of the kids), in the movies (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock as a cadet), and previously on DS9 (“Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places” as a Klingon), and will appear on Voyager (“One Small Step” as a human astronaut).

Trivial matters. Like “The Homecoming,” “Indiscretion,” and “The Ship,” this episode had extensive location shooting in Soledad Canyon. In fact, this episode was actually filmed third (with “Sons and Daughters” filmed second) to accommodate the location shooting. This also caused some logistical difficulties in the writing as there were changes to the station plot in “Sons and Daughters” that had ripple effects on this episode. In addition, it was oppressively hot in the canyon during the three days of shooting, with temperatures getting as high as 128 degrees Farenheit (53 Celsius).

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Rocks and Shoals

The episode’s storyline was inspired by the film None But the Brave, a 1965 Frank Sinatra movie involving American and Japanese soldiers trapped on an island during World War II.

Nog’s mistrust of Garak is borne out of the events of “Empok Nor,” while Sisko tells Remata’klan about the events of “To the Death” in the hopes of getting him to turn on Keevan.

While this is Neeley’s only onscreen appearance, she apparently remained assigned to the station beyond the end of the war, as she’s in the post-finale novels Warpath by David Mack and Fearful Symmetry by Olivia Woods. Those novels include a Jem’Hadar assigned to the station named Taran’atar, and many of the images seen on covers of Taran’atar use Remata’klan as reference due in part to editor Marco Palmieri’s fondness for the character.

Walk with the Prophets. “Our death is glory to the Founders.” Even though I rated it lower than “A Time to Stand,” I honestly think this is the best of the six-part war arc. The previous episode was higher due to an impressive lack of flaws, but this one I subtract a bit because the whole “dark matter nebula” thing is just silly, and Neeley and Gordon just appear out of nowhere, while no mention is made of the woman who walks onto the bridge of the Jem’Hadar ship in the teaser, who isn’t Neeley. Who is she? Did she die in the crash? Who else was on board? There was no indication in “A Time to Stand” that there was anyone other than the regulars on the Jem’Hadar ship, and no indication what happened to that woman on the bridge.

Anyhow, those are niggling points that are enough for me to ding the rating a bit, but this episode is still, in my opinion, stronger, because it shoots higher, and also gives us one of the series’ best creations in Remata’klan, one of the great tragic heroes of Star Trek. Phil Morris plays him magnificently, a warrior with a code of conduct that has been bred into him, but which he embraces because it gives his life meaning. He is a soldier, and more than any other Jem’Hadar in the unit, he believes in what he’s doing. Limara’son can disobey orders and question the Vorta, but Remata’klan knows his duty and he follows it.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Rocks and Shoals

“It’s not my life to give—and it never was” is one of my favorite moments in an episode filled with great ones, because that is the great tragedy of the Jem’Hadar. They are not permitted to think for themselves, and even someone as smart and savvy and dedicated and honorable as Remata’klan is subsumed and ultimately killed because of the Dominion’s conditioning. In the other plotline, Yassim blithely refers to the Dominion as evil, and we see it in what Remata’klan has been reduced to, wasting a truly impressive person by sticking him under the thumb of a scumbucket. We also see it in the scumbucket in question, Keevan, who manages the impressive feat of being the most despicable Vorta we’ve seen—and the competition is pretty dang fierce on that one.

Sensibly, the episode, which deals with some amazingly heavy themes, doesn’t lay it on too thick, giving us some of the best conversational humor of the series. Sure, it’s as much a coping mechanism as anything, but it humanizes the characters nicely and reminds us of the difference between the Federation folk and the Dominion folks—since there’s no such banter among the oh-so-serious Jem’Hadar or their slimy Vorta. Whether it’s O’Brien’s torn pants, Bashir’s lovely response to Keevan saying he’s alive (“No self-diagnoses, please, I’m the doctor here!”), or Sisko and Dax’s hotel repartee, it leavens the heaviness of the episode.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Rocks and Shoals

Which is especially useful given how heavy the station plot is. It’s impressive that the show manages to turn Kira into an utterly despicable character, and we don’t even realize it. Michael Vejar and Nana Visitor deserve particular credit for the mirrored scenes of Kira getting up and going to work. The first sequence has a very quotidian quality, just a woman getting up and going to work like she does every day. It seems harmless and ordinary and there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong.

And of course, that’s the point, the one that Yassim tries to explain verbally, but only can get through to Kira via her own suicide. The second scene is blocked exactly the same way, but Kira’s facial expressions and body language are very minimally different, just enough to make the turbolift go from crowded to oppressive, the tableau in Ops to go from an ordinary working day to a total nightmare.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Rocks and Shoals

Jake is used superbly here, because we’re conditioned to see Kira and Odo as two of our heroes and Jake as the commander’s slightly goofy son who gets the lighthearted B-plots about going on dates and stuff. But Jake’s abilities as a reporter are improving, as he’s spent the last few months cultivating sources. His questions come across as mean-spirited and challenging, and Kira and Odo’s self-righteous anger is of a type we’ve seen from them so many times before that it’s easy to take their side and not Jake’s. After all, Kira and Odo sound so reasonable and sensible when they say that public demonstrations and active resistance will just make things worse.

But as the episode goes on, it becomes clear that Kira has become the thing that she despises. She spells it out to Odo on the Promenade railing where a vedek had to take her own life to remind Kira of what she is. And you go back and watch the scene with Jake again and the first scene with Yassim, and you realize that Kira has become Kubus Oak. The member of the Cardassian-appointed Bajoran government, who tried to come home in “The Collaborator,” was met with opprobrium and disgust by Kira and every other Bajoran, but now Kira is doing exactly what Kubus did. Oh, no, the Cardassians are here to just help us; the Dominion are just sending facilitators, and they’re unarmed! Just some harmless Vorta. (And then we cut to the other plot where we have Keevan to remind us just what the Vorta are.)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Rocks and Shoals

To Kira’s credit, she realizes it; to her lack of credit, it takes a suicide for her to figure it out. Yassim is willing to die to keep Bajor from falling under the Dominion’s thumb. Kira used to be willing to do that, too, and if she’s going to come back from this personal abyss, she has to be willing to do it again.

All the characters have to make hard choices, and they all suck, and it’s beautifully done. One of the show’s best, even with that dark-matter foolishness…

Warp factor rating: 9

Keith R.A. DeCandido knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.


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