Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Penumbra”

“Penumbra”
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by Steve Posey
Season 7, Episode 17
Production episode 40510-567
Original air date: April 7, 1999
Stardate: 52576.2

Station log: Sisko has purchased land in the Kendra Valley on Bajor and he intends to build a house on it as soon as the war is over. Yates likes the idea very much, and Sisko thinks that he was meant to come here. Yates points out that the circumstances of his birth—that his conception was manipulated by the Prophets—makes “destiny” more than a concept.

Dax, Bashir, and O’Brien’s conversation in the replimat is interrupted by Kira, who reports that the Rotarran and the Koraga were ambushed near the Badlands. Worf was in command of the Koraga, and it was destroyed, and of the six lifepods the Rotarran recovered, Worf wasn’t in any of them. The Defiant is aiding in the search, but three days of looking turn up nothing, and a Dominion patrol forces them to cut the search short.

Back on Cardassia, Damar has to explain to Weyoun why the Defiant spent so long searching: the Federation doesn’t consider its soldiers to be expendable, which leads to him snarking off Weyoun about the number of Cardassian casualties suffered in the war. Weyoun then orders Damar to set up a secure independent comlink in the female changeling’s quarters, for reasons Damar is not at liberty to know.

Dax goes to Worf’s quarters—which he shared with Jadzia—and is flooded with memories of Jadzia and Worf’s time together. Then she steals the Runabout Gander and heads for the Badlands. Sisko decides to let her go, since she’d never forgive him if he dragged her back to DS9. She notices that the Rotarran only recovered escape pods from the Koraga’s starboard side. Assuming a port-side pod was ejected, the Gander computer projects a course to the Badlands. Dax duplicates that course, and then cuts the engine so that the runabout will be buffeted about the same way the pod would have been.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Penumbra

Worried about Dax and Worf, Sisko can’t sleep, so he works on a scale model of the house he wants to build. And then he proposes to Yates because he wants the house to be theirs, not his.

After getting even queasier than usual bouncing around the Badlands, Dax finds Worf’s pod and beams him aboard. It’s incredibly awkward on the runabout as she tends to his wounds. They try to have a conversation which starts out pleasant—Dax gets him to admit that he sang Klingon opera while alone in the pod—but gets nasty because Worf is uncomfortable with any conversation that connects to Jadzia. They’re interrupted by two Jem’Hadar ships which destroy the runabout, though they’re able to transport down to a planet before it explodes. But now they’re stranded…

Weyoun reports to the female changeling that the latest attempt to cure the disease that is affecting the Great Link has failed. She orders the Vorta doctors working on the problem to be killed and their clones activated, hoping a fresh(ish) perspective might help. She also provides another sample by taking a flaky bit off her face, which turns green rather than the usual amber in the sample case.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Penumbra

Sisko gets Jake’s blessing for the wedding—which of course he gives, since he set the two of them up in the first place—and Jake agrees to be his best man. Yates and Sisko’s plans for a nice small wedding are complicated by the realization that the entirety of Bajor is excited about the Emissary getting married.

Dukat comes to visit Damar, asking for his help. He needs to be surgically altered to look Bajoran, and Damar provides a surgeon to perform the procedure.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Penumbra

Worf and Dax has been stranded for six days. Sick of field rations, Worf has gone hunting, to Dax’s annoyance. They continue to bicker and argue—and then they kiss and have sex. Because of course they do. And then, during their post-coital snuggle, they’re captured by the Breen. They wake up in a Breen holding cell, which is confusing to them as a) the Breen aren’t at war with the Federation and b) they’re a long way from Breen territory.

Sisko gets a vision from the Prophets, telling him that Yates can’t walk the same path as Sisko, cannot share his destiny. If he marries her, the Prophets explain, he will know nothing but sorrow. Which puts a damper on the whole wedding thing.

The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko has a busy episode: he buys land, plans a house, successfully proposes to Yates, plans the wedding, forgets that he’s the Emissary and so must have a huge-ass wedding, gets his son to be best man, and is told by the wormhole aliens that if he marries the woman he just proposed to, he’ll be miserable.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Penumbra

The slug in your belly: Dax remembers dialogue from “Time’s Orphan,” “You Are Cordially Invited,” “Change of Heart,” and “Call to Arms” when she’s wandering through Worf’s quarters. In the end, she decides to fulfill Jadzia’s marriage vow.

There is no honor in being pummeled: Worf occupies himself by singing Klingon opera in the escape pod and then kills a local predator for dinner, to Dax’s disgust. He considers it a point of pride that he didn’t use a phaser, but an improvised spear.

Rules of Acquisition: Quark tries to cheer Dax up by saying that Worf had to have survived because he hadn’t yet paid Quark for the three barrels of bloodwine he bought for the Koraga crew before they went out to battle. There’s no way Worf would go to Sto-Vo-Kor owing Quark money, it’d ruin the afterlife for him, knowing Quark had something over on him.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Dax and Worf spend six days arguing over a lot of nonsense, including Worf’s inexplicable jealousy over Jadzia’s relationship with Captain Boday. And then they have sex. Because that’s totally how that works.

For Cardassia! For the second time, Damar reminds Weyoun about how many Cardassian lives have been lost in the war, and unlike the Jem’Hadar, they can’t just breed replacements in a factory.

Victory is life: The Founders have confided in the Vorta as to the disease they’re suffering, but not the Cardassians, as the female changeling doesn’t trust them.

Keep your ears open: “Personally, I don’t know what Jadzia ever saw in the man.”

“Well—his brains.”

Bashir and O’Brien on Captain Boday, whose head is transparent.

Welcome aboard: Recurring regulars Marc Alaimo (Dukat), Casey Biggs (Damar), Jeffrey Combs (Weyoun), Salome Jens (the female changeling), Penny Johnson (Yates), and Deborah Lacey (the image of Sarah) return, as does Michelle Horn as Saghi (last seen in “Tears of the Prophets”).

In addition, we get the voices of Terry Farrell and Shannon Cochran when Dax waxes nostalgic in Worf’s quarters.

Trivial matters: This episode commences the final storyline of the series, as the remainder of the season and the series is one big-ass nine-part story to tie it all up.

Weyoun makes reference to a Son’a ketracel-white facility. It was established in the movie Insurrection that the Son’a were working with the Dominion.

Sisko first mentioned the notion of building a house on Bajor to Ross in “Favor the Bold.”

Sisko still has the picture of young Joseph and Sarah that Jake found in “Image in the Sand,” and Worf still keeps his wedding photo with Jadzia from “You Are Cordially Invited” next to his bed.

Jake set Sisko and Yates up in “Explorers” and “Family Business.”

Damar comments that the female changeling looked ill the last time he saw her, which was in “Treachery, Faith, and the Great River,” which is when it was revealed that the Founders were suffering a disease. It’s telling that the female changeling—who didn’t realize the disease was physically obvious until the legate pointed it out—has avoided Damar since.

Damar and Dukat make reference to the events of “Tears of the Prophets,” with Damar concerned that Dukat did not fulfill his promise to Weyoun in that episode, while Dukat professes his belief in the Pah-wraiths to still be strong, even after what happened in “Covenant.”

Boday was previously referred to “The Maquis, Part I,” “Let He Who is Without Sin…,” and “Resurrection.” He remains tragically unseen.

Worf refers to the Trill provision against joined hosts getting involved with people with whom previous hosts were intimate, as revealed in “Rejoined.”

Dax reminds Worf that he encouraged her to stay on the station in “Afterimage.”

Walk with the Prophets: “Stay on the path, Benjamin.” And so begins the climax of DS9 as a series, with an ongoing storyline over this and the following eight episodes.

Several balls are tossed in the air to be juggled, adding on to the ones we’ve already got. We pick up on the peculiarity of Sisko’s parentage, as revealed in “Image in the Sand” and “Shadows and Symbols,” including a really bizarre conversation where Yates assures Sisko that she’s totally okay with the Prophets kidnapping a woman against her will and forcing her into a relationship and pregnancy. (Seriously, did it occur to no one that Sisko’s birth as described made him the product of a rape?) Then the Prophets themselves, instead of communicating the way they always have, instead appear only as Sarah, with her referring to him as her son and calling him “Benjamin,” thus continuing latter-era DS9’s boring-ification (I just made that word up) of the wormhole aliens. Screwing with his marriage plans is probably the latest attempt at a penance for Sisko strong-arming them into wiping out the Jem’Hadar fleet in “Sacrifice of Angels,” since their attempt to get him to sacrifice his son’s life failed in “The Reckoning.” But still, this whole plot is just a disaster, oversimplifying a complex alien species to create artificial drama.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Penumbra

The Dominion triad of the female changeling, Weyoun, and Damar continues to sparkle, and it’s obviously approaching a breaking point, as Damar’s drinking increases at the same rate as Cardassian casualties. Unlike Dukat, Damar doesn’t have any particular reason to want the Dominion around, and he’s more and more coming to realize that it was a deal with the devil. To add insult to injury, the female changeling views the Cardassians as allies of convenience at best, certainly not to be trusted. It’s not a tenable alliance, and we get the beginnings of its fraying at the seams.

That leaves us with the focus of the episode, Dax and Worf. The tension between the two of them from “Afterimage” has been largely avoided, except for one scene each in “Once More Unto the Breach” and “Field of Fire,” and it finally explodes here. Worf is at his most dickish here, and it’s impossible to feel any sympathy for him—though the poor bastard did spend several days alone in an escape pod. Dax’s actions in feeling the obligations of a previous host were at least totally in character, as we’ve seen this before, first in “Blood Oath” where she insisted on living up to Curzon’s promise to Kang, Kor, and Koloth, even though Kira and Kang both reminded her that she didn’t have to, and then in “Rejoined” where she was pushing Kahn to pick up where they left off under previous hosts.

And then there’s the big question: why did the Breen take Worf and Dax prisoner?

Ultimately, this episode feels like exactly what it is: setting up the final arc. The problem with this particular epic story is that it’s still also made up of nine episodes, and this one fails to actually be an entirely successful episode of a TV show independent of the arc. (Other parts will do better in this regard.)

 

Warp factor rating: 6


Keith R.A. DeCandido reminds everyone that several of his works are eligible to be nominated for the Hugo and/or the Nebula Awards, so if you’re a recent or upcoming World Science Fiction Convention member and/or a member of the Science-fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, please consider nominating one of Keith’s works. A full list can be seen here, and Keith will supply copies to eligible nominators.

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