Thank god! I've been dying to record my "commentary track" for this episode but I didn't want to be the first to talk!
Despite the year-long buildup, it still felt a little sudden and pat for how the Ascendant Arc ended.
I kinda get what you mean. It's a fairly straightforward story plot-wise - the plan after all does work - but at the same time this plot has been bubbling under since the end of season 8 (Rising Son
) so I'm not sure how much longer it could really have been dragged out. So yes, the conflict is over. But I think the more important part is the effect is has on the characters.
But otherwise, I think it was handled exceptionally well. This really felt like a season finale and and I can't wait to see how everything will be set up for the next season.
I don't currently have any plans to write "season 11", and I'm actively trying to stop my brain from coming up with ideas for it. I feel like I should concentrate on something I can actually get paid for next! But I've included a few of the thoughts I already have below.
Kira's decision (and I'm glad it was hers, rather than forced on her) was completely in character and felt completely inevitable given the events of the last few episodes.
That's one of the things I definitely had to build up to because of what was retro-established in the Typhon Pact
books. It seemed like an outrageous departure for the Kira character in the light of a three year jump, but tying all the threads together you can see how it does make sense.
As someone else commented on one of the earlier stories, you can see how Kira is becoming less and less satisfied with life as a Starfleet captain. Her "Bajoran-ness" still is and always will be a greater influence on her than Starfleet, and the storylines of this season showed her coming into conflict with them over and over again. Starfleet's refusal to get involved in the Ascendant situation makes sense from their point of view, but Kira's upset over that makes sense from her point of view (especially since it kind of parallels the original Bajor-Cardassia-Federation situation from the original Occupation).
And on top of that, to find out not only that the Prophets always intended for the one of their own "child races" to die in this way, and that she herself was the instrument of that, given what Bajor itself went through, and then Cardassia... well, you can see how it would shake her to the core. So she needs to go and find answers and figure out how it all makes sense. How would she do that? She would turn to her gods.
I must admit on being surprised about Vaughn being sucked into the wormhole. It was a wonderful arc showing him forgiving and coming to terms with Ben Sisko. Just surprising since I was ready for the finale to show Captain Vaughn take over the station. But there are good things in being surprised.
Vaughn taking Sisko's place seems like a last-minute twist, but if you look back, I actually set it up very subtly a couple of times in earlier episodes.
This one is really really subtle, but... in episode 5, "Deep Down," Bashir's first dream includes an image of Sisko glowing white and disappearing. That represents his going to the Prophets. In episode 12, "Heresy," Kira's dream/vision includes the exact same image applied to Vaughn - he glows white and disappears. That means he's going to the Prophets as well.
It all goes back to Warpath
, and Kira's big vision of Ancient Bajor there. During the battle with the Ascendants there, there's a moment where Kira falls, and Vaughn steps into the Ascendants' path to protect her while Sisko helps her up. That inspired both the moment in "Heresy" where Kira's runabout is destroyed and she drifts in space, after which Vaughn uses the Defiant
to block the Ascendants while Sisko resuces her in the Rio Grande
, and this episode, where Vaughn chooses to sacrifice himself to save both Kira and Sisko.
There's also this underlying sense we've had that Vaughn has been kind of a back-up Emissary. Ever since Avatar
some readers have noted that Sisko and Vaughn's character backstories were very similar, even if their actual personalities weren't. They both lost their spouses to the Borg, both had to raise their child alone, both drifted aimless and unsatisfied for a while, both came to Bajor and encountered an Orb, both found a new lease on life there. That sense has been bubbling under for a while, and culminated in The Soul Key
, where it seemed for a while that Vaughn was going to take over MU-Sisko's role as MU-Emissary. That wasn't to be because of the Iliana twist, but that still left Vaughn's kinda-sorta-Emissary-ness unresolved. Here it is resolved at last - it was the Emissary's job to sacrifice themselves and go back to the wormhole for the plan to stop the Ascendants to work. And Vaughn took Sisko's place in the plan, thus satisfying his pseudo-Emissary position.
And saving Sisko and Kira isn't his only motivation. His doubts over what he was forced to do in the Section 31 storyline led him to realise he was just as guilty as Sisko, and maybe that he deserved to be punished for that. That led him to the Orb of Souls, where his vision told him he was literally the last Vaughn left in creation. He himself had made sure of that by killing MU-Vaughn.
So who better to sacrifice themselves than him? Better this increasingly old and obsolete man than the comparatively young and vibrant Sisko, who has a wife and child. So he repeats the action that started the whole feud between them in the first place - punching Sisko - thereby symbolically bringing it full circle and taking his place in the plan. I'm sure Vaughn would much rather go out in a blaze of glory like this than continue to deteriorate until he's useless (made retroactively ironic by what happens to him in Typhon Pact
And finally...finally..Dax is leaving, and so is Tarses. I like his character, but after last episode he was thrust into an uncomfortable place and it totally made sense to advance his career that he would transfer.
You're right that Dax has been kind of hanging around, at a loose end the whole season. That's a function of the fact that we know she does transfer, she's told us she's going to transfer, but we know she doesn't end up on the Aventine
for about another year, so what does she do in the meantime? And she knows it - after the Luna
went south, she's been kind of twiddling her thumbs, trying to figure out what to do next.
And again, there was more to her motivations than I was able to get into in the space I had. There's the fact that she doesn't really have a place on DS9 anymore, yes. But there's also the complicated relationship with Bashir that's kind of driving her away. They argued when she left for the Luna
. She comes back, and they argue again, because it's just at the time when Bashir has to be deliberately contrary and driving her away because of the Section 31 mission. Then he leaves. Then she gets caught up as a victim in his mission - that she only learned about after the fact - and put in mortal danger, only saved at the last minute. Intellectually she knows it's not his fault, but it can't help but add even more complications to their already strained relationship. So it's best to just cut the cord and make a fresh start.
Taking Tarses with her solves the problem of having two senior CMOs that was created by Bashir's Section 31 mission, and it allows Dax and Tarses to bond a bit, explaining why she would request him to transfer as CMO when she took over command of the Aventine
. I had hoped to give them a bit more time together in "I Will Survive" as they deal with the Odan-Gard problem together, but alas I didn't have space for that, so this will have to do.
There are so many other things that I had wanted to include in this season finale that I just didn't have time for. A ton of material that I would definitely include were I writing this as a novel with no tight space constraints.
* I had much more for the Even Odds
to do. My plan had been for the Even Odds
to stick around after the battle - either because Kira needed to use the Wa to talk to Iliana, or because Glessin had specifically requested to stay so that he could watch the Ascendants die - and that would result in the ship being too close when the Wormhole did its thing, resulting in the Wa reacting in spectacular fashion, severely crippling the ship and killing the Wa once and for all (so that there would be no Ascendant technology left to cause any trouble). I had planned this without knowing in advance that Plagues of Night
established some kind of big disaster for the Even Odds
- it was pure coincidence. Now that I do know, it makes me wish I'd been able to keep that aspect in all the more.
* Likewise to do with the Even Odds, I wanted to spend more time explaining Pif's decision to stay behind. Now he has a family, the dangerous lifestyle of the fortune hunter is too much for him - he's been injured and attacked and scared over and over this season. So he decides to leave the ship and set up home on DS9, at least for the time being. It would lead to great material with Quark, since he's creeped out by furry things. And I so imagine one of the puppies becoming absolutely fascinated with Quark and following him everywhere he goes, much to Quark's dismay.
* I had more for Yevir as well. After the Yevir-Opaka-Solis scene in part 1, they all kind of drop off the radar and are never seen again. I wanted to come back to Yevir right at the end, where Kira goes to the monastery. He would be there to greet her, and would specifically humble himself before her, since she is clearly so important to the Prophets that they would choose her for this important role. Ironic of course given that he threw her out of the church to start with, and now he's wanting to learn from her and be her student. Also it would be an uncomfortable meeting because of Kira's own trouble handling what she just did, and she doesn't like Yevir to start with.
* I realised as I was writing that I had no big role for Taran'atar to play in the events. He's there at Kira's side as her First... but that's kind of it. I would have liked something that finally brought his understanding of his own freedom and individuality to a conclusion, after what happened to him with L'Haan. But I haven't managed to figure out exactly what that role would have been, given everything else that was going on. Glorious death fighting the Ascendants? Seems a bit obvious. I welcome ideas.
Once again, good job. I'll be interested to see what happens when Vaughn inevetiably returns and (I would assume) commands the station for a short time. That can cause some friction.
As I said, I don't have any current plans to write Season 11. But if I were, I would think...
* The opening arc would be about getting Vaughn back. I wrote this knowing full well that he's still around in Typhon Pact
, so something would have to be done to rescue him. I don't know what that would be. Note that I specifically brought up the way in which Sisko was rescued last time - his link with Jake - and then specifically removed that possibility by having Vaughn alone in Engineering. Also that I had him make Prynn promise not to try to rescue him, for her own sake and for everyone's. Obviously she would disobey that, but what would be the plan exactly? No idea.
* As you say, on his eventual return he would take back over as Commander of the station, which would cause friction with Ro now that she's finally comfortable enough to handle command. He would realise he's standing in her way and decide to move on.
* Dax, Shar and Taran'atar are now completely off the table. Who would be the new senior staff? I nominate Bowers as first officer of the Defiant
(it's about time he got a promotion, and going from XO of the tiny Defiant
to XO of the massive Aventine
would still be a further promotion), Cenn as first officer of the station (thus replicating the situation as it was back in Season 1 - a Starfleet commander with a Bajoran Militia Liaison who she doesn't especially like as XO - just with the genders reversed), Bashir and Nog stay where they are obviously (until Nog transfers to the Challenger
), maybe promote T'rb to Sciences (the science position has never been prominent anyway). That leaves Security, and there I'm not sure. Maybe Etana could transfer back over from medical, again replicating season 1 by having a Bajoran Militia officer in security. I understand it's a brand new character in Plagues
? And as for the "alien perspective" character, well now we've got both Pif and Raiq to serve that purpose.
* And the season-ending arc would be the Rebecca-kidnapped-by-an-Ohalavaru story, which would also include removing Solis as Kai since he's not in that position in Typhon Pact
. Maybe he resigns in shame that one of his followers could do such a thing.
Did I mention I think too much?