Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Sons and Daughters"

**1/2

Air date: 10/13/1997
Written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Directed by Jesus Salvador Trevino

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Why are you on my ship?"
"To serve the Empire, General."
"That is a slogan, not an answer."

— Martok and Alexander

Nutshell: Definitely not of the same caliber of the season's first two outings. Not bad, but not particularly compelling, especially under the circumstances.

Unlike "A Time to Stand" and "Rocks and Shoals," this week's outing holds very few impacting surprises or astounding moments of insight concerning the status of the Alpha Quadrant. It's a smaller character show that doesn't get as wound up in the bigger, more spectacular things happening in the DS9 universe.

As a smaller show, "Sons and Daughters" is reasonable and pretty nicely conveyed. But, like many shows that center around Klingon milieu (including last season's "Soldiers of the Empire"), there just isn't much of a sense that removes it from the "been there, done that" category. The topic is a well traveled road, and there just isn't a whole lot that leads this particular installment off the standard path.

Considering the types of stories that I would expect to come out of "A Time to Stand" and "Rocks and Shoals," much of "Sons and Daughters" is not what I had expected, or, really, had hoped to see. But for what we got, "Sons and Daughters" is decent—albeit not wonderfully realized.

The episode sports the return of Worf's son Alexander Rozhenko (now played by Marc Worden), bringing up some issues concerning Worf's parenting that had never really been put to rest back in the TNG days. Now a teenager, Alexander has decided to enlist in the Empire's war effort against the Dominion, and he has been assigned to Martok's ship, the Rotarran.

Obviously, this opens some old wounds for Worf. Some may recall how Worf and Alexander were never really on the same page when it came to their respective outlooks on life. But then again, one probably wouldn't expect that Alexander would have needed to chose his life's path at that point (a subject that made some of Worf's intents concerning his son in those days all the more difficult). Now that Alexander has aged several years, it makes sense that he would begin to question his role in the universe. For that reason, I've long thought that we would need to see Alexander again (with Worf having emigrated from TNG to DS9 and all). If nothing else, "Sons and Daughters" brings Alexander back as an issue that will certainly be present in subsequent episodes.

Suddenly having Alexander back in Worf's life is something that definitely screams "further character building" for Worf. The episode successfully conveys the sense that Worf was at least partially at fault for not having been present when his son needed him; rather, he claimed his life as a warrior versus Alexander's as a non-warrior as a basis for deciding their lives would simply be incompatible. Alexander's repressed anger toward his father for constantly "sending him away" when he was younger certainly has a strong basis for its existence.

At the same time, the story also realizes that Alexander's young age still gives Worf time to be the father for Alexander now that he wasn't in years past. The story's payoff is the best part of the episode. When the time comes that Worf and Alexander come to a reconciliation—Worf as a father who will teach his son the warrior's path, and Alexander as a son who has finally opened himself to the possibilities of his father's way of life—it's quite moving, and indicative of yet another recurring character for the series—a character who could himself turn out to be quite interesting in addition to the potential he could supply Worf.

Unfortunately, the events leading up to the payoff are not on the level of what they should be, especially considering we haven't seen Alexander for so long. The script by Thompson and Weddle does a good job of using Worf and Martok as characters whom we know so well at this point; I've grown particularly fond of J.G. Hertzler as Martok, who has created a very respectable and likable personality with a commanding presence that is simultaneously three-dimensional and true to Klingon attitudes. But what Thompson and Weddle do not do successfully is get to the crux of Alexander's character, which is the episode's biggest problem.

In broad terms, the writers do not give us any motivation for Alexander's about-face from wanting nothing to do with Worf's Klingon values to suddenly wanting to become a warrior. A few heartfelt lines of dialog probably could've made all the difference, but the absence of such dialog really hurts the situation's believability. For this to really work, we need to know why Alexander feels the way he does, and why he is suddenly compelled to prove himself to his father. The fact that Alexander has matured partially explains it, but in and by itself it is not the whole story. As a result of the lack of rationale, Alexander comes off as only half-developed, which is not good.

The other big problem leading up to the payoff is the overstated nature of the events the story uses to get there. When Alexander comes to the ship, he's a misfit—a completely inept warrior who hasn't a clue how to survive. The notion is okay, but I think I would've gotten the message without being beat over the head with it. Scenes like the one where Alexander, practicing with a bat'leth, drops the sword not once but twice in ten seconds are all too lacking in subtlety. His tactical error on the bridge—mistaking a combat simulation as a Jem'Hadar attack—is also a bit of a reach. It makes one wonder just how Alexander was permitted to enlist in the first place. Certainly the war isn't going so badly that the Klingons would enlist any able body willing to fight, skill or no skill. (Or maybe they would, but that strikes me as a rather silly policy.)

Meanwhile, the show supplies the usual Klingon cliches, including the Fight in the Mess Hall [TM]—a forced and obvious scene with predictable results in which Ch'Targh (Sam Zeller) mocks Alexander's human upbringing. Ch'Targh, alas, is about as paper-thin as Klingon characters come.

A good Klingon episode needs to transcend the cliches and routine dialog with solid storytelling. "Sons and Daughters" only marginally accomplishes such a task. The Worf/Alexander story works reasonably with its various layers, but doesn't quite come into the sharpest focus. A crucial turning point where Alexander locks himself inside a room filling with toxic gases—apparently intentionally—seems to want to explain in one broad stroke the reasons why Worf and Alexander finally come to their point of reconciliation … but the story doesn't convey its intentions well enough, leaving the meaning of the scene a bit too implicit and vague to be satisfying. While I liked the net result of bringing Alexander to the series and giving him and Worf the understanding they've needed for years, I think the transition could've been handled much better.

So what about the "daughters" part of "Sons and Daughters," namely, the renewed relationship between Dukat and his daughter Ziyal? Well, the ideas contained herein are certainly relevant (if a little lightweight), and some of the character interplay proves interesting. Ziyal's difficulty in finding direction in life makes sense given her difficult past. And the fact that she's lost without purpose on Bajor is reasonable, especially considering her "father is leading a war against the Emissary of the Prophets." So Dukat talks to her and they come to a reconciliation of their own. Dukat convinces her to come back to the station.

The details of Ziyal's discovery (her pursuit of art) are not particularly riveting (and Melanie Smith's overacting doesn't help matters), but what Ziyal's presence does accomplish effectively is to reemphasize some of "the other side" of Dukat. I still think Dukat is about as multifaceted as they come, and here his intentions are completely sincere, reopening feelings for his daughter which I had thought forever died in "By Inferno's Light."

Yet the funny thing about Dukat is the way he always seems to have a hidden agenda buried somewhere under the surface—even when that surface is truly sincere. In this case, he uses Ziyal's presence to try to induce a bond between him and Kira—an endeavor which itself comes across as surprisingly sincere. Naturally, Kira wants nothing to do with Dukat or what he stands for. But what's important here is the way Dukat is so charismatic, charming, and patient; he's completely convinced that he can make something out of nothing, and he tries very hard. Instances of his attempted kindness are so vivid that there are moments when it seems to us—and probably even to Kira—that it's impossible he is the same man who sold out his world and is now leading a war against the Federation. (I never thought I'd see Dukat, Kira, and Ziyal all sitting on a couch together, smiling.)

And the gift Dukat sends Kira merely serves to emphasize how complex and clever a man he his, balancing sincerity and hidden motives. When Kira refuses to accept the gift, what does Dukat do? He presents it to Ziyal as if it were always meant for her. A sneaky, but strangely nice gesture.

This B-plot is probably ultimately stronger than the A-plot is, but it might've been even better if Ziyal weren't such a hollow character. She's torn here and there by the other characters, but she still isn't much of a person so much as she is a convenient device for analyzing Dukat and Kira.

In the end, "Sons and Daughters" is a respectable character show that contains just a few too many rough edges to be successful.

Next week: The Founders are back, and they still want their rogue Changeling Odo.

Previous episode: Rocks and Shoals
Next episode: Behind the Lines

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23 comments on this review

Anthony2816 - Tue, Mar 2, 2010 - 3:38pm (USA Central)
I love DS9, but there's no way Alexander would have survived the point having varying survived on Martok's ship
.
gion - Thu, Mar 18, 2010 - 11:18pm (USA Central)
It's scary and even sort of sad that Dukat can be such a likeable person. It's very hard to say no to a man who's obviously making a great effort to get you to like him and Kira perfectly conveys that feeling.

The combat sequence seemed a little silly. A single bird of prey can take out 3 Jem'Hadar ships? That's making a mockery of the Dominion's supposed technological superiority, unless they're really that terrible in combat tactics.
Nic - Mon, May 31, 2010 - 8:23am (USA Central)
It's a strange coincidence that both the "son" and the "daughter" were recast at least twice, which I cite as one of the reasons this episode doesn't work (the other being the writing). Not for a second did I believe that Marc Warden was Alexander, and it's not because of how he looks physically but simply because his demeanor is so different - come on, guys, it's only been three and a half years since we last saw him in "Firstborn". Melanie Smith isn't as bad, but she's no Cyia Batten.
Nick M - Wed, Jan 5, 2011 - 8:55am (USA Central)
The scene where Martok confronts Alexander is powerful, and it is because of the awesomeness that is J.G. Hertzler. Martok may be one of the most well-rounded "secondary" characters on any show, and his scenes in this episode were enough for me to recommend it.
Jay - Sat, Feb 5, 2011 - 8:37pm (USA Central)
Among non-regulars, Hertzler's Martok is second only to Robinson's Garak in greatness.
Josh - Mon, Apr 11, 2011 - 6:07am (USA Central)
With the Dominion, it's not the fact that they are so skilled, besides the hand to hand of the Jem'Hadar. They have overwhelming numbers and can rebuild fast. They have replaceable ships and soldiers. So, when the BOP took out the 3 warships it's not too unbelievable.

I agree with Jammer on this. Good Ep, but it's nothing special!
Paul York - Mon, May 28, 2012 - 1:50pm (USA Central)
Alexander is a kind of tragic character, as shown here. He believes himself a failure and by Klingon standards he is. He is certainly caught between two worlds, even more than Worf, who at least can fight with other Klingons successfully. Whatever becomes of him? In later episodes Worf describes himself as a failure as a father. That's rather sad as well.
Paul York - Mon, May 28, 2012 - 1:54pm (USA Central)
In terms of Dukat, it was good to see his "humanity" (so to speak) in this episode, and disappointing that in Waltz he turn to evil. That dismissed his much more interesting moral ambiguity, and how he thinks of himself as a good man while being regarded by others as evil. I would have liked to see him explore his good side more in the end, rather than become a cardboard cutout of evil (literally and figuratively demonized).
John - Fri, Sep 21, 2012 - 11:03am (USA Central)
To follow up on gion's comments;

Given that Martok is a General it would have made sense to give him something more than a bop. A vortcha class cruiser or something.
Angel - Wed, Nov 7, 2012 - 2:06pm (USA Central)
Perhaps its personal choice. BoP's are far more maneuverable and better trouble makers than Vor'cha cruisers. Plus they look far cooler =P
Jack - Sat, Feb 2, 2013 - 7:58pm (USA Central)
If Alex "forgot to erase" the battle drill, that suggests it was already run...didn't anyone recognize the "attack" seems familiar?
Michael - Thu, Aug 15, 2013 - 11:28pm (USA Central)
Looking back, I realize that one of the things I really liked about this arc was that Worf was barely present and Kira was back to her old self. I liked Worf fine in TNG, but I'm just so bored of the character and his general humorlessness, the honor and duty cliches, his unfathomable relationship with Dax, etc. If it wasn't for Martok, the Klingon episodes would be a total waste for me. I find every other character more interesting and more appealing, and it annoys me when they get sidelined just so we can see Worf do the same thing again. As much as I love DS9, I wish they hadn't been forced to take him onboard. He brings nothing to the show, and whatever he does do is something that someone else more interesting could have been doing.
Kotas - Sun, Oct 27, 2013 - 11:07am (USA Central)

Not a strong episode. Alexander is not a likable character. Hated him on TNG, still annoying.

4/10
eastwest101 - Tue, Feb 4, 2014 - 4:12pm (USA Central)
A dissapointment after the first strong two eps in Season 6. Agree that J.G. Hertzler's Martok steals every single scene he is in on this episode.

The whole episode feels a bit underwritten and weak leaving a lot of the characters with nowhere to go. I am not sure if its the writing or the actors but other peoples comments about the Worf/Dax relationship being unfathaomable (or badly written), the Worf and Alexander scenes also don't work, I agree the scene between Alex and Martok did work, the Klingon stuff is all a bit pedestrian, repetative and seen it done better before, but I did like the mess hall fight!
Vylora - Mon, Mar 3, 2014 - 1:14am (USA Central)
Well it was bound to happen that Worf's son was going to pop up sooner or later. On one hand I'd like to say this was bad timing on the writers part in the current scheme of things. On the other hand I'd like to say it kind've makes sense in the scheme of things...especially the fact that Alexander did join a sort of Klingon auxiliary force. I agree this was a bit on the sudden side but it didn't cripple the episode. The scenes between Alexander and Martok were inspired.

The continuing events on the station are well-played out as Ziyal returns from Bajor and is cause for further deftly-written characterizations among Kira/Dukat. Some smaller moments including Odo/Kira/Jake on the promenade, among others, add nice touches to the overall tapestry. A scene with Quark offering Jake a job as a waiter was almost off-hand in nature yet it stuck with me for some reason. In a good way.

At this point of the arc, I would think one would hope for something a little more substantial. But what is here isn't necessarily bad. In fact it's quite good in some parts.

I like this one a little bit more than Jammer. Better than average episode that disappoints a bit only within the context of its role in the current arc.

3 stars.
Lionheart - Wed, Mar 5, 2014 - 2:33pm (USA Central)
I thought this episode was unconvincing. First you have Alexander suddenly wanting to jump into the fray, which goes against his character completely. Then you've got Worf deciding to teach him how to be a warrior, even though he still apparently doesn't know why Alexander joined or if it's even something he wants. He always encouraged him to find his own path, but now he doesn't even care.

Adding to the feeling of this episode being completely out of place is how Alexander was cast. This person does not sound anything like Alexander, nor does he act like him. I understand he may have changed dramatically in the time he spent with Worf's parents, but this seemed too much.

And then there's Ziyal, who I would expect to be less naïve and not to give in to having a relationship with Dukat just because 'he's her father'. He left her to die, then became all insane and creepy toward Kira, *clearly* accepting that he would not have a relationship with her anymore, and now they think about having dinner? This show is getting weirder with each episode.

Paul - Wed, Mar 5, 2014 - 3:04pm (USA Central)
@Lionheart: Ziyal's characterization was weird, I think, because they had three different actors playing her. The last one (whose name I don't remember) played her as very innocent, especially for someone who grew up in a Breen labor camp.
Andy's Friend - Wed, Mar 5, 2014 - 4:03pm (USA Central)
@Lionheart: "This show is getting weirder with each episode." :D :D :D !!! Great line.
Yanks - Fri, Aug 15, 2014 - 1:51pm (USA Central)
Martok makes this episode. His words and delivery continue to be outstanding every time he gets some screen time.

I wanted to join this crew after this:

"MARTOK: I am General Martok. Welcome to the Rotarran. May you prove worthy of this ship and bring honour to her name. This is a glorious moment in the history of the Empire, a chapter that will be written with your blood. Fight well, and our people will sing your praises for a thousand years. Fail, and there will be no more songs, no more honour, no more Empire. Who among you hears the cry of the warrior calling you to glory?"

:-)

I agree with Jammer, Alexander's ineptness didn't need to be shoved down our throats to get the point across.

I'm still not sure why he would enlist when he knows his "Klingon skills" are just not there and as Martok revealed here:

"MARTOK: I have no need to. I look in their faces and I know why they are here. They are Klingon warriors. They have answered the call of Kahless.
ALEXANDER: Well, so have I.
MARTOK: Lie to yourself if you must, but not to me. You do not hear the warriors' call. I ask again, why are you here?"

But, I do like how the Klingon crew came to accept him and welcome him into the crew.

I don't think Work made a mistake so for him to concede to this is not good.

Dukat is still alive? God I just want to throat punch him!!!!! Will someone just pick up a damn phasor and shoot him?

2.5 stars for me.
Nonya - Tue, Aug 19, 2014 - 11:56pm (USA Central)
....So...does anybody else have a little piece of them that kinda wishes Dukat and Kira would have gotten together?

No? Just me then?
Yanks - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 6:37am (USA Central)
Yes, just you :-)
Robert - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 9:05am (USA Central)
@Nonya - For like a minute. From the moment he sat on the spine to the moment he told Kira his plan to kill Ziyal (which all happened in a single scene). The episode so nicely helped you let your guard down with Dukat and make the two of them feel cute together and then slammed you in the face with the fact that he's a killer and what he's capable of.

It partially redeems him of course that he didn't kill Ziyal (especially if you take the position that he told Kira because he wanted to be stopped) but it was such a contrast between the two of them laughing together and him talking about murdering his daughter that the brief thought was fleeting. But I'll admit I had it.
Phillip - Tue, Sep 2, 2014 - 4:18am (USA Central)
@Nonya I wanted Kira and Dukat to both shoot and vaporize eachother at the same time like the Breen and Jem Hadar did in By Infernos Light.

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