Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Penumbra   Rewatch 
November 28, 2016 6:33 AM - Season 7, Episode 17 - Subscribe

(Series Finale - Part 1 of 9) Sisko puts a ring on it, Worf gets a chance to practice his singing, Dax takes a trip down Memory Lane, the Founder gives Weyoun a piece of her mind, a familiar face gets a different look, a new player enters the game, and Kasidy Yates' future mother-in-law has some bad news. It's the beginning of the end.

Memory Alpha would rather be back on the station with Captain Boday:

- In the [Deep Space Nine] Companion, each of the staff writers gives their thoughts on the process of creating ten interconnected hours of television:

--René Echevarria: "It was frightening. And I've got to say there were moments in which I was afraid we weren't going to pull it off. Moments when I thought that we'd backed ourselves into a corner. It wasn't until we had broken the last episode that I finally said, 'You know what? I think we did it.'"

--David Weddle: "It was definitely hard, but it was 'good' hard. It was 'exciting' hard. We had a lot of balls to juggle. A lot of stories to keep going. You really got a sense of how big the story was becoming. That was fun, but we had so many balls in the air, and so many questions about how we could service each story and each episode."

--Bradley Thompson: "We had graphs and charts. We knew what we wanted to do, and we had a kind of wish list of what we were going to try. As for how we were going to get there – we had no clue."

--Ronald D. Moore: "We knew where all the characters were going to end up...We had gone through them all. We knew that we had to wrap up the War. The War was going to end, and all these people were going to meet their fates. We had stroked out some very general stuff about the arc. 'This should happen. We'd like it to be a classic three-act structure. The episodes should be in this order.' But the discussions kept getting more complicated. We'd sit in the room and try to keep it all straight as one big piece, and it got very difficult."

--Ira Steven Behr: "The basic overall structure was there, but the details had to be filled in on the run. It was a journey into the unknown. We took a lot of risks. We ran the risks of taking missteps and falling on our faces. And the only thing we had that would convince people that we were doing the right thing was the quality of the episodes. We had to keep everyone interested in order to keep doing what we wanted to do. That was our one fallback position. People might have hated the fact that it was serialized. They might have hated the direction that the show was going in, but they had to admit that the episodes were pretty good."

- It was decided very early in the formulation of The Final Chapter that the first episode was going to focus on Ezri and Worf. This served a two-fold purpose for the writers. As Ira Behr explains, "We really wanted Ezri to wind up with Bashir, but we couldn't just jump into having her involved with him, because we'd have to go back and deal with the Worf stuff. She had to get old business out of the way before she could go on to new business." The other reason for beginning with the Ezri/Worf story was to give the audience a perspective on the new turn of events in the Dominion War. As René Echevarria explains, "This was our way of putting them behind enemy lines. They would be the ones who bring us to the plot about the Breen, who we'd decided would jack up the war stakes when the Dominion loses the Romulans as an ally. It was a very roundabout way of getting to a larger geopolitical point."

"Personally I don't know what Jadzia ever saw in the man."
"Well, his brains."

- O'Brien and Bashir, talking about Captain Boday and alluding to his transparent skull

"Does Weyoun know you're here?"
"Ah, I see he still has you under his thumb."
"My concern is for you. The last time you saw him you made certain promises, promises you weren't able to keep."
"I may have failed to re-open the wormhole, but I assure you, I have no regrets. You see, I've come to know the love of the Pah-wraiths."
"You almost sound as if you believe it."
"I do."

- Damar and Dukat

"You are the Sisko. You are part of me."
"If that's true, if you really do care about me, if you consider me your son, then let me have this!"
"It is not for you to have. There are many tasks still ahead of you. Accept your fate. Your greatest trial is about to begin. Don't be afraid. All will be as it should be."
"Mother..."
"Stay on the path, Benjamin."

- Sarah Sisko speaks to her son Benjamin in a vision
posted by Halloween Jack (12 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
In the DS9 Companion the writers talk about episode titles in this final arc. This episode, "Penumbra", was to be followed by an episode called "Umbra" and then a show called "Eclipse"; they were doing this whole eclipse metaphor thing where events keep getting darker. They scrapped it because nobody could keep the stories within the episodes straight because the titles were so nondescript.

Not to jump ahead to Voyager, but that's something that I always felt was one of their weak points: episode titles. DS9 had titles like "Wrongs Darker Than Death Or Night" and "In The Pale Moonlight". You remember those. TNG had "Who Watches The Watchers" and "The Best of Both Worlds". Memorable. TOS had "The City On The Edge Of Forever". Evocative. Then you get to Voyager which had simple one-word titles like "Investigations", "Maneuvers", "Initiations", "Projections", and "Transitions". What the hell are those shows about? Do you remember? I don't. Not to say that the other Treks didn't have single word titles too sometimes (DS9 had "Rejoined" and, of course, "Emissary"), but the whole Penumbra/Umbra/Eclipse thing just goes to show on, on Trek, memorable episode titles are your friends.

By the way, just how generic were those Voyager titles I listed? I made one of them up and you didn't even notice.
posted by Servo5678 at 6:10 AM on November 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


I remember the visceral, spine-quivering shudder from when I first saw Anjohl and realized what he portended. On rewatch, the whole Anjohl-Adami thing doesn't maintain quite the impact that it first had, but it remains great fun. The actors are clearly into it.

By the way, just how generic were those Voyager titles I listed? I made one of them up and you didn't even notice.

XD
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 6:17 AM on November 29, 2016


Well, I made it through to the finale over the holiday, but now the 9 parts are all jumbled together in my head.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:04 AM on November 29, 2016


I remember when this show was new it seemed like DS9 had very few fans who weren't me and my girlfriend, and when people mentioned the serialized element it was usually in a negative context. I think the two words I heard most often to describe the show were "dark" and "interminable." Funny how things have come around. Now it's not rare for people to say it was the best of the Treks! This last arc has probably done a lot to secure the show's legacy. They really stuck the landing. (Well, other than the weird absence of Jadzia from the finale montage!)

Gul Dukat with a human (well, Bajoran) face was such a freakout. Marc Alaimo was BORN to wear the Cardassian makeup, he looks even scarier without it.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:53 PM on November 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


This last arc has probably done a lot to secure the show's legacy. They really stuck the landing.

I think the opposite to this, mostly. I find the whole final sequence so deflating and underwhelming for a variety of reasons (and actually awful for another few reasons) that it makes me think of the show less fondly than I probably should.
posted by dng at 2:58 PM on November 29, 2016


dng, can you expand on that a bit?
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:30 PM on November 29, 2016


Sure (although this might well be more appropriate for the final episode thread as it's full of spoilers).

I'm not really a fan of the whole of the last series (I don't think it really ever gets over the death of Jadzia Dax, and reading recently about her departure I'm not sure it deserves to, either).

Firstly, I think it feels underwhelming structurally (although reading recently that they were working on just a few episodes ahead of it airing probably explains why). Large parts of the early episodes of this seem to just be convoluted ways of moving the characters around (especially so in the case of Worf and Ezri Dax in this episode), then it seems to bunch a huge amount of stuff up into a couple of episodes, and then the final battle for Cardassia seems to come and go without anything really surprising or interesting happening (partly due to the curse of on-screen spaceship battles - the more ships involved in a battle, the less interesting they always seem to be). Then the last half of the finale just feels a bit limp to me.

It also gets so caught up in concentrating on the war that it forgets largely about Bajor (especially in regards to them joining the Federation, which never ends up happening even though that was Sisko's overall mission). And ultimately it doesn't even feel like the war is over anyway (I don't see any reason why the Dominion would start behaving now, especially considering what the Federation already did to the Founders).

Secondly, I think it has several of the character's acting in ways that don't feel right to me, sometimes in major ways (Kai Wynne suddenly changing to the dark side, say, in a way that I felt undermined her character quite drastically), sometimes in minor ways (there's a bit with Garak shouting and roaring patriotically while firing his gun that just feels wrong on a number of levels, as does the Ezri and Bashir ending).

Also (and this might actually be part of the structural problems bit, thinking about it) a number of interesting minor characters get sidelined, or just aren't in it at all - Keiko I think has about two lines in the whole final series; Jake just gets ignored as well, like he always does (I think Jake's great, and find it a bit... upsetting? just how little they had him do in the later years of the series); and I can't remember Rom doing anything at all (except for becoming Nagus, I suppose) - and I've always felt the minor characters are what helps give Deep Space 9 it's excellent sense of depth (and warmth, despite the overall dark tones of the show).

There's also a couple of things I think are just terrible on a number of levels, not least the final montage, as Ursula Hitler mentioned above (which I think would have worked really well if it was just scenes of Sisko and Jake) but also pretty much the entire final Dukat/Kai Wynne/Pah Wraiths storyline, which I just think is fundamentally crap in almost every way.

Especially Dukat, who was one of the most interesting antagonists in science fiction television, and is finally reduced to laughing and shouting maniacally while hurling fireballs at people (also, the ultimate fate of the Master in Doctor Who, at least until she was resurrected as a woman). And also especially that the ultimate purpose of creating The Sisko was so that he could fall into a volcano.

That's not to say they're aren't some really good bits as well (it is Deep Space Nine, after all). Especially almost every bit centred round Kira, and of course any bit where Weyoun is on screen. But I think the only two really great bits of the final arc, which stand up to the very best moments of the whole show, are Garak's final furious conversation with Bashir, and the closing image of Jake forlorn at the station window watching the wormhole.

And that's the most I've ever written about Star Trek.
posted by dng at 5:23 PM on November 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


Actually, it almost certainly isn't (see the Star Trek Voyager section three-quarters of the way down this page for example).
posted by dng at 5:28 PM on November 29, 2016


Anyway, in conclusion, I really like Deep Space Nine, but think overall that the final arc would really have benefitted from the sort of environment current tv shows like Fargo or whatever are made in, where the whole thing is written and plotted out well in advance, instead of having to write one episode while you're filming the previous episode and also outlining the next one.

And possibly by moving the Cardassian war to the middle third of the series, and then having enough space to end with a feature length Sisko/Bajor/Prophets episode to neatly bookend the whole show, in the way The Next Generation did with Q and Encounter at Farpoint and All Good Things.
posted by dng at 5:43 PM on November 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


(I don't think it really ever gets over the death of Jadzia Dax, and reading recently about her departure I'm not sure it deserves to, either).

Wait, why didn't the show "deserve" to get over losing Dax? Apparently nobody on the creative end of things even knew what was going down behind the scenes between Berman and Terry Farrell, and Ira Behr was really upset years later when he found out. Certainly the creative folks on DS9 were not happy about losing her as Dax, heading into the final season.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 12:55 AM on November 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


I see the merit to a lot of your points, dng, but I'm of the opposite position on this one:

I don't see any reason why the Dominion would start behaving now, especially considering what the Federation already did to the Founders

Yes, the Female Changeling's decision to surrender DID happen abruptly—but that's the Link. Considering how quickly she had "turned" Odo in "Behind the Lines," I feel like this was exactly the right way to end the war.

Anyway, in conclusion, I really like Deep Space Nine, but think overall that the final arc would really have benefitted from the sort of environment current tv shows like Fargo or whatever are made in, where the whole thing is written and plotted out well in advance, instead of having to write one episode while you're filming the previous episode and also outlining the next one.

This is certainly likely. Among other things, it probably would have prevented what IMO is the biggest misstep of the 9-episode-finale, "Extreme Measures."

But even if that had been the process, I bet the Fire Caves finale would've remained. I have a hard time imagining a significantly different climax to the Sisko-Dukat conflict and the whole Emissary storyline. The writers doubtlessly felt that, to maintain some semblance of connection to Bajor, the climactic confrontation had to take place there. They'd gone to the wormhole well too often, so they wouldn't have had the wraiths somehow take it over and get driven out by Sisko or whatever. Maybe people would have liked it better (I include myself here) if, say, the wraiths dwelt in the heart of a sun, and Sisko and Dukat were on starships in a sort of TWoKish standoff, and then there's a supernova that somehow wraps it all up. Maybe then the D&D trappings of the Fire Caves stuff could have been replaced with more Trek-ish trappings.

And also especially that the ultimate purpose of creating The Sisko was so that he could fall into a volcano.

Yyyyeah, honestly, I try not to think too deeply about the logic of the Prophets' endgame :/

Man, we are really getting ahead of ourselves here! But that's OK, it's not like we'll run out of things to discuss in the last post.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:30 AM on November 30, 2016


While I'd quibble with some of your list, dng; I don't think that Winn's "suddenly changing to the dark side" was at all sudden; she was a power-hungry villain all the way back in her very first appearance at the end of the first season. As creepygirl noted in the post for "In the Hands of the Prophets", "She's complicit in the murder of a Federation officer and is the mastermind in the attempted murder of one of her religious/political rivals. And she's never held accountable for it." And in "The Reckoning", she basically calls off Judgment Day because she may not be a big deal afterwards. I think that her faith in the Prophets was sincere, but it just wasn't quite as strong as her faith in herself, and ultimately she went with the side that was hiring.

I do agree that the final arc could have been done better; even if the overall structure of the season was retained, they could have done more of the work with setting up the characters and situations beforehand. On the other hand, I think that there are some things that happened on the show that were the result of serendipity and changes in the way that the showrunners viewed the characters and events that wouldn't have necessarily been there on day one. That's true even with shows with advance planning and finite lengths; for example, Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad wasn't supposed to live past the first season, but Aaron Paul did so much with the role that they kept him on for the entire length, and the show was much better for it. Likewise, even though I like Terry Farrell a lot, having Dax move to a new host was a great idea, although on the rewatch I don't think that it was developed nearly as well as it could or should have been. Something something land of contrasts.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:57 AM on November 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


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