Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Ties of Blood and Water"


Air date: 4/14/1997
Teleplay by Robert Hewwit Wolfe
Story by Edmund Newton & Robbin L. Slocum
Directed by Avery Brooks

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Still calling yourself Gul? I'm surprised you haven't promoted yourself back to Legate by now."
"I prefer the title 'Gul'; so much more hands-on than Legate. And less pretentious than the other alternatives: President, Emperor, First Minister … Emissary."
"How about Dominion puppet?"

— Sisko and Dukat

Nutshell: A nicely realized dose of sentiment with a tale of regret and an effective approach. Quite strong.

"Ties of Blood and Water" is another very good example of why DS9 has worked so well this season. We've got plenty of new plot lines and character situations, but nothing is left forgotten. Old wounds from the resistance days are still very remembered, and again they display their impact on a certain Bajoran major.

The story brings Tekeny Ghemor (Lawrence Pressman) back to the station as a follow-up of sorts to third season's impressive "Second Skin." In that episode, Kira and Ghemor were victims in an Obsidian Order plot to expose Ghemor as the leader of the dissident movement on Cardassia. The Obsidians surgically altered Kira to look like Ghemor's long-lost daughter. Their plot failed, and after the ordeal Kira and Ghemor recognized the common bond between them. Ghemor had forever lost his daughter, but he saw a memory—and thus a friend—in Kira.

Two-and-a-half years and several sweeping political changes later, Ghemor has left Cardassia. He has no intentions of living under the Dominion rule that Dukat pushed Cardassia into. He's also dying of a terminal illness. He intends to live out his days on DS9 in Kira's company, and he has a request: He wants to reveal his knowledge and secrets to Kira according to a Cardassian tradition. By agreeing to take on the responsibility, Kira would be giving Ghemor the only family support he has left. And it would also be a major intelligence opportunity for the Federation. Ghemor holds the secrets to Dukat's biggest weaknesses and the holes in his new alliance with the Dominion, which could prove very helpful to the Federation understanding the nature of Cardassian internal affairs.

"Ties of Blood and Water" primarily examines the nature of the relationship between Kira and Ghemor, but one notable peripheral aspect is how much this small character installment has to do with the "big picture." It's intriguing and completely believable to note that Dukat's alliance with the Dominion is not something that everyone on Cardassia supports. The implications of this are interesting, especially given the fact that the information Ghemor can supply to the Federation could be the genesis for future political intrigue.

The fact that Dukat contacts Sisko personally also proves to be a telling sign. Dukat wants Ghemor back; it's obvious Dukat fears what Ghemor has to say could undermine his new position. ("We want him back. He has a lot to answer for," Dukat merely explains.) In an effective scene that shows Sisko and Dukat back to their always-interesting verbal face-offs, Sisko denies Dukat what he wants, calling Dukat a "Dominion puppet" and flat-out telling him that the Federation no longer recognizes the Cardassian government.

That brings Dukat to the station personally, along with Vorta liaison Weyoun (Jeffrey Combs, reprising the role of the character killed in last season's "To the Death," resurrected here as a clone). Dukat changes his tune, asking Ghemor if he will come back to Cardassia willingly. Ghemor, naturally, is not receptive; nor is Kira. Plan C: Dukat sends a bottle of Cardassian ale to Ghemor's quarters, which security intercepts and discovers is poisoned. In a scene of wonderful dramatic tension that plays a number of notes perfectly, Sisko brings the poisoned ale back to Dukat and asks him to drink up. The resulting dialog creates a very entertaining scene featuring interestingly low-key performances where Avery Brooks and Marc Alaimo utilize facial expressions to speak tons more than what's said aloud. Weyoun, meanwhile, provides some wonderfully biting comic relief by mocking the entire situation. The moment when he knowingly drinks the poison (which he's immune to) is wonderfully handled in both shock value and the reactions of Sisko and Dukat. I'm not sure why I liked this scene so much, but it really worked. I think it was the nature of the three distinct personalities and how they punctuate the elements of the overall political intrigue. Or maybe it worked simply because it was so nicely acted.

But enough already. Turning back to what this episode is really about—that is the relationship between Kira and Ghemor and the implications ultimately revealed behind it—"Ties of Blood and Water" was pretty poignant in its meaning and its conveyance. About the only notable complaint I have involving this personal bond is how it came so far out of the blue. We've neither seen nor heard anything about Ghemor since "Second Skin," and it seems the same is true for both Kira and Ghemor concerning one other. Sure, they kept tabs on one another based on intelligence reports, but they haven't spoken in over two years. The last time we saw them together they seemed to be friends, but they didn't seem nearly as close as they do now.

Initially, the Kira/Ghemor scenes feel a tad too earnest, but as the episode progresses things begin to make sense—a lot of sense, really. The fact is, just as Ghemor saw Kira as his daughter in "Second Skin," here Kira begins to see her father in him. The fact Ghemor is dying in front of her really begins to hammer home long-surviving regrets that Kira has regarding her real father's death from years ago in the resistance. The episode's true beauty is how it goes about demonstrating the parallel between Kira's feelings for her father and her feelings for Ghemor.

Dialog scenes between Kira and Ghemor work fine in their own right; both Nana Visitor and Lawrence Pressman turn in sincere performances as Ghemor's condition slowly but steadily worsens. But the scripters' creation of a series of flashback scenes are what really makes the episode work on multiple levels rather than becoming the single-planed melodrama it could've been. Take, for example, the scene where Kira begins the first recording of Ghemor's secrets. Ghemor begins talking, but we can see Kira is troubled as the scene cuts to a flashback setting on Bajor where her father has been injured in a Cardassian attack. The episode doesn't reveal the entire tale of the past at once, but it does make the parallel clear. As a result, we can foreshadow where the episode is going, which makes the payoff at the end more rewarding.

As stand-alone scenes, the flashbacks are enlightening. I've long wanted to see something from Kira's actual resistance days on Bajor manifested on the screen, and here I get my wish. For consistency's and credibility's sakes, the flashbacks also feature the familiar Furel (William Lucking, whose character was killed off in "The Darkness and the Light")—who, at this point in time, had both arms.

The point of crisis in the story comes at the hands of Dukat's covert villainy. He supplies Kira with Ghemor's military records, leading Kira to force herself to poke into Ghemor's past—something she had never done before. She's infuriated to learn Ghemor served on Bajor during the Occupation—and that he was even involved in a massacre on a Bajoran monastery. However inconsequential his part in the deaths may have been (and the story suggests that it may very well have been extremely inconsequential), Kira finds the walls of anger before her again. She's angry at Ghemor for not telling her the truth. And she's even more angry at Dukat for his deliberate meddling is her affairs. I completely believed Kira's promise, and was equally disgusted by Dukat's smugness:

Kira: "I promise you, Dukat—I will make you pay for all of this one day."
Dukat: "Maybe ... but not today."

Bashir tries to talk Kira into forgiving Ghemor, but she resists Bashir's requests and contemplates leaving Ghemor abandoned in his final deathbed hours. The most fascinating aspect of the show is how it's not Kira's anger and hatred from the past that guides her decision and makes her incapable of facing Ghemor. It's what happened with her father all those years ago. After her father was mortally injured, Kira and her allies went charging after the Cardassian attackers for revenge. By the time she returned, her father was dead. Since then, she has carried the heavy burden of missing her father's final hour, and more—missing it intentionally because she simply couldn't deal with it.

The question is whether history will repeat itself. Naturally, it won't. That's the point. Kira's eleventh hour decision to sit with the dying Ghemor allows her to undo a mistake she made long ago. It's the proverbial second chance that not many people get, and she makes the best of it.

The way the teleplay highlights her decision by utilizing the flashbacks is what makes this such a nicely realized drama. My only hesitation is that some of the dialog in the coda between Kira and Bashir—while nicely acted—is not really completely necessary. The episode did such a good job of demonstrating its point dramatically that it probably didn't need to spend so much time explaining it verbally. But, then again, maybe dark regrets do indeed need to be borne out with the words of sorrow.

Previous episode: Business as Usual
Next episode: Ferengi Love Songs

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25 comments on this review

Ospero - Sat, Nov 3, 2007 - 10:16pm (USA Central)
Ah, yes...a truly good episode with some rather moving scenes. But I will always remember this one for the gold standard of comic relief scenes ("that was quite toxic, wasn't it?" indeed...gotta love that Weyoun).
R.D. - Thu, Jun 26, 2008 - 3:02pm (USA Central)
When I first watched this episode as a teenager, I found it "slow" and didn't quite get it. When I saw it again on DVD almost ten years later it completely blew me away. Nana Visitor was outstanding. I especially liked her in the flashback sequences, such as when she calmly explained to her father that "I'm going to make them pay."

While I agree with Jammer that her final speech seemed forced and unnecessary, I think she rescued it with the passion of her acting. Her facial expressions while delivering the lines about Ghemor taking his last breaths were heartbreaking to watch.

Oh God, the poisoned drink scene! It was brilliant and so hilarious. I was still laughing minutes after it.
Nerys Ghemor - Mon, Jul 27, 2009 - 2:53pm (USA Central)
Although you might not agree...I found that last scene very powerful, with Kira's narration. The emotional wringer this episode puts you through...the joy at seeing them reunited (and I wonder if there was a bit more contact than what was hinted at, personally), the shock of realizing that Ghemor was going to die, Kira's dedication...at first...

And then the way she snapped and lashed out at him--at that point, I wanted to physically SMACK her because what she did to him was so completely disgusting and wrong.

But the end, when she came around...I think that narration scene was necessary because we needed to see just how much she had let herself *feel*, while still allowing Ghemor the dignity to pass without us (the viewers) gawking. Kira had to redeem herself, as well as relate what happened; otherwise, I would not have accepted it.

In the end, it was incredibly poignant, powerful, and one of my favorite DS9 episodes, hands down.
Nic - Tue, Mar 30, 2010 - 9:16pm (USA Central)
There is one thing that bothers me about this episode is how sloppy Dukat and Weyoun are. Why bother to fly over in a Jem'Hadar BATTLE CRUISER and never even threaten to attack the station? They may not have known how much Ghemor was able to reveal to the Federation, but if I had been Dukat I'd have made sure he died within an hour of arriving at the station. I understand that the action would have distracted from the "important" stuff with Kira & Ghemor, but it makes absoloutely no sense (I'll call it the 'Soft-Headed Aliens of the Week' - a flipside to Voyager's Forced Conflict Aliens of the Week)
Eric Dugdale - Wed, Nov 17, 2010 - 4:01pm (USA Central)
Nic, Dukat *did* threaten to attack the station. He just didn't put his threat into words. The ship he came in, big and dangerous with weapons armed, was all the threat he needed to give.

(As an aside, though it would have distracted entirely from the episode, I'd have found it very amusing to watch Dukat actually attempt to attack DS9 with one lone battlecruiser)
RT - Wed, Dec 22, 2010 - 7:26pm (USA Central)
I'm not sure looking back at it whether I knew this episode was great and the details slipped from my mind, or if the appreciation of its finer points required more maturity than I had when I first saw it. Either way, I would unblinking give it the full four stars, even with Kira's forced closing soliloquy. The subtle interplay between Kira and Sisko, Kira and Dukat, even Kira and Bashir, draw wonderfully and build on a dramatic groundwork laid over years of solid writing and acting.

I don't even know where to start with Jeffrey Combs in this one... if Nana Visitor hadn't brought her A game, he would have stolen the show.
Jay - Sat, Dec 25, 2010 - 11:42pm (USA Central)
The stars don;t match...the season page has 3 stars but the episode page has 3.5...
Elliott - Tue, Dec 28, 2010 - 9:57pm (USA Central)
One would think Kira's relationship with Ghemor (not to mention Ziyal) would have held her tongue in all those remarks about how Cardassians are all alike in their treachery...

I was also a little disturbed by Kira's smile after Ghemor's rejecting of Dukat's offer--he had just gone through a bit of an emotional crisis wherein he was given promise about Ilyana, but it seems like all she cares about is that he refused. It's not a comment about her character but it is another example of the strange acting/directing choices in this show--it's not the first time someone laughed or smiled at an inappropriate moment. I'm not quite sure what to make of it...

What I don't like about Dukat, despite his deliciousness as a villan, is that it seems like all the character work over the years was a charade--he's been this opportunist all along, but the show went out of its way to make him sympathetic. Was it all for the "big reveal" that he'd allied Cardassia with the Dominion? That seems like a big waste (of course that's nothing compared to the depths to which they will plunge him ludicrously by the next season...soul catchers, I mean Pa' Wraiths...someone call Tom Cruise).
Jammer - Tue, Jan 4, 2011 - 6:02pm (USA Central)
Jay: That's my error. The rating on this is 3 stars. Looks like I put the wrong rating on this page, and the right one on the season page. I'll get that fixed.
jon - Fri, Feb 4, 2011 - 12:28pm (USA Central)
I think it was Robert Hewitt Wolfe who said he always was evil and out for number one. Look at his resistance campaign what's the real motivation there i wonder Caradassia or an oppurtunity to restore his career. Everything he's done has been for himself

This episode has a great moment when Weyoun drinks the poison Combs just sells that scene so well
Justin - Tue, Apr 3, 2012 - 10:54am (USA Central)
That scene where Dukat visits Kira in her quarters was SO good. Kira played it perfectly in getting Dukat to admit that he gets "perverse pleasure" out of tearing down the one Cardassian she has any respect for, let alone affection. Even going so far as to freely call the attack on the Monastery a "massacre." It's clear he's come to terms with his villainy.

I don't know why, but I loved it when she chucked that teacup at him before delivering her threat. Nana Visitor was outstanding in that scene.
matt - Sun, Jun 24, 2012 - 12:22am (USA Central)
It always takes me out of an episode when the the Federation extends too much courtesy to an enemy... and that was my problem with this episode. The Dominion has, in the recent past, forcefully abducted a Starfleet officer (Bashir) and replaced him with an infiltrator, and the Federation does not recognize Dukat as the legitimate leader of Cardassia. Why would Sisko even entertain their request, let alone allow them onto the station?
Moegreen - Tue, Oct 2, 2012 - 9:38am (USA Central)
Anyone else think that the recurring character of Kira's real father is incredibly annoying? He comes across as dizzy and weak in every episode that he features in (well at least the two that I recall, this and 'Wrongs Darker than..').
Treknut - Sun, Mar 24, 2013 - 8:29pm (USA Central)
@ matt....you may never read this since your comment is a year old...but to answer your question (1) Sisko is stalling for time, he has no idea how long Ghemor has to tell his secrets so every last second counts from an intelligence standpoint, and (2) he knows what a preening sesquipedalian egotist Dukat is and that Duckat would never pass up the chance to gloat in person even when taking the time to gloat is not in his best interest.
Elnis - Fri, Aug 23, 2013 - 9:58am (USA Central)
Great acting all around in this epsiode! It's funny how really good acting can mean the difference between merely being a spectator and being "sucked" into the story like you were actually there.

Even Brooks pulled off a quite good performance here! (yes, I'm one of those people who think Brooks' acting is, in general, an embarassement to the show)

Combs as the curious, intrigued and light-hearted Weyoun is simply wonderful! What a great charisma that man has on screen!

And Visitor as Kira ... wow, that lady can act circles around most other good actors! The scene where she gets right up in Dukat's face, threatening him in a barely restrained tone of voice - she gets that seething fury across so well that I was half expecting her to rip out Dukat's throat!

And, of course, both Alaimo as Dukat and Pressman as Ghemor also deliver stellar performances.

I'm watching the show for the first time (all seven seasons of it) on DVD. This show has so many wonderful actors, in leading as well as supporting roles - with great characters for them to play! And the production is of a really high standard.

I'm completely hooked!
ZurielSeven - Sun, Aug 25, 2013 - 7:00pm (USA Central)
In the first flashback, you will notice a Bajoran standing in the background... wielding a kar'takin (Jem'hadar bladed weapon)... Does this ruin continuity?!? What are your thoughts?
Kotas - Sat, Oct 26, 2013 - 10:16am (USA Central)

A decent epsisode, but a bit slow for my tastes.

eastwest101 - Sat, Dec 21, 2013 - 10:09pm (USA Central)
A good to middling episode, I was kept entertained enough to the end but the sentiment was laid on a bit thick and the audience was beaten around the head with the earnest-ness of it all.

Good script and acting from the support actors though and goes to show that when Avery Brooks dials it down he can be convincing, good use of all the guest stars actually. 2.5 Stars from me.
Vylora - Fri, Feb 28, 2014 - 1:43am (USA Central)
A beautiful, poignant sequel to "Second Skin". I've always adored this episode and is still one of my all-time favorites of DS9 to this day.

4 stars.
Yanks - Thu, Aug 14, 2014 - 11:57am (USA Central)
Elnis, I won't make a long summary because yours does it so nicely. My thoughts exactly.

Sooooooooo glad Weyoun because a reocurring character, "that was quite toxic, wasn't it?" was classic and telling of the character moving forward.

Again, Kira just seems so damn 'real' to me in episodes like this.

Great episode, 3.5 for me.
DLPB - Mon, Aug 25, 2014 - 7:59pm (USA Central)
So let's get this straight... Hitler visits Churchill during WW2 and we just let that happen (and he is stupid enough to do that).

$G - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 8:18am (USA Central)
I quite like this one. I was surprised to see its relatively negative reception over at the AV Club (which did a quality retrospective of the series that's nearly on par with this site).

There are minor flaws in this episode, such as having one line too many about Kira being all Ghemor has left. We get it. And, maybe not a fault of the episode, but I really feel its earnestness would have benefited from a middle chapter somewhere between "Second Skin" and now. "Ties" suggests Kira and Ghemor probably have had contact, but something more than that would have been welcome.

That said, it's a really solid episode with good character work for both Kira and Dukat. The Ghemor plot dovetails nicely into the show's current events, showing how rich and thoughtfully plotted DS9 is on the whole. Dukat's attempts to silence/convince Ghemor to return were satisfyingly treacherous (especially pulling out the daughter bait, at which Ghemor doesn't bite). The scene in Kira's quarters was so well done, played very viscerally by Visitor and Alaimo. It's obvious Kira hates Dukat, but there's something about the scene that just festers (it's the teacup she throws) that gives it the added kick.

Some last touches I really enjoyed:

-Weyoun having too much fun. He's just with Dukat because it's his job. He's probably seen the man's posturing in a hundred other would-be dictators the Dominion have puppeted over the years.

-The Cardassian propaganda machine. Dukat mentioning Ghemor's "conversion" is such a foul PR spin that it's to be expected at this point. Ghemor won't be buried on Cardassian soil, but his name will still sadly be used in the way he hoped to fight against.

Honestly, this one is an easy three but gets an extra half star for dangling and treating so many plot and character threads at once - so, 3 1/2 stars! A hidden gem in the pantheon of great DS9 hours.
Robrow - Tue, May 5, 2015 - 11:38pm (USA Central)
A very powerful episode. Kira, as in Duet, emerged as a three dimensional character - her violent rejection of Ghemor masking deep guilt was very well done. And Dukat again showed just why he is one of the great villains (up there with Dick Dastardly!). The vanity that, every so often, threatens the success of his schemes has been there from the start. Completely in character. And if Kira had snogged him after throwing the teacup, you know he'd have gleefully responded.
Nathan B. - Sun, Jul 19, 2015 - 9:08pm (USA Central)
I just finished "Ties of Blood and Water" and was moved not only to tears, but to sobs. This is at least an instant tie with TNG's "Half a Life" as my all-time favourite Trek episode. What a heart-breaking, and yet heart-warming episode! And the comic timing and delivery from the Weyoun actor was an exceptionally superb counterpoint. All in all, a superb exploration of politics, grief, and love.
NCC-1701-Z - Mon, Jul 20, 2015 - 5:42pm (USA Central)
The moment when Weyoun chugged the poisoned wine = one of the funniest moments in all of DS9. (Elevated further by Dukat's deadpan "Are you insane?")

Consider what would have happened if that had been one of the poisons Vorta weren't immune to, though...

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