Rocks and Shoals (*****)
If A Time to Stand
was a statement of intent to bring DS9 to a darker place, Rocks and Shoals
is the proof that they're not messing around. Betrayal, suicide, and a dozen pointless deaths on a lifeless rock. But perhaps even darker is the realisation that Kira has sleepwalked her way into becoming a collaborator. She's the last person you would expect that would happen to, but in her attempts to keep Bajor out of the fighting she has been working with the Cardassians, defending the arrival of Dominion officials on Bajor, and even attempted to prevent a peaceful protest. What's great about this storyline is that you understand why she's doing what she has been doing, and you're almost on her side as she argues with Jake and Vedek Yassim and makes them look naive. But it takes the shock of Yassim's dramatic suicide to jolt Kira awake again, to make her realise that she has become the sort of person she used to detest. This is great material, a hugely important moment for Kira's character, and one of the best stories crafted for a character that has already had a lot of great stories in the past. Kira is a character that just keeps on giving, Berman and Piller had a good day when they came up with her.
Meanwhile, Sisko and co coincidentally crash-land on a planet within only a few kilometers of a Dominion ship that crashed a few days earlier. I know that all of you are aware of just how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big space is, and how unlikely is is for this to happen, but it leads to a great story so I can't be bothered to give a damn. Part of what's so great about this episode is that it humanises the Jem'Hadar in a way that past episodes focusing on them failed to do. It did so not by having the Jem'Hadar rebel, as in Hippocratic Oath
or To the Death
, but by having them strictly adhere to the order of things. They die not because they dared to believe in freedom, but because they dared not to. They rejected the choice to have a choice, and consequently marched stoically toward their own suicide. Just like the Kira story, there's some really meaty material here to chew over, and this is probably the best Jem'Hadar episode of the entire series.
The stories are great, but that's not all, this episode works on all levels. The writing is great, there's some really good dialogue here and a lot of memorable lines. The cinematography is great, there's a lot of fantastic shots and some great editing, this is one of the best-looking Trek episodes ever produced. The musical score is also great, there's a slow brood to it that perfectly matches both stories. David Bell was the composer for this episode, and I know that he goes on to score Sacrifice of Angels
and In the Pale Moonlight
, so his musical style best represents the Dominion war for me.
O'BRIEN: There are rules, Garak, even in a war!
GARAK: Correction. Humans have rules in war. Rules that make victory a little harder to achieve, in my opinion.
That line takes on a new meaning when rewatching the show.