Nutshell: Some interesting revelations, though the execution is a little stiff.
Someone wrote me an e-mail saying these "Final Chapter" episodes seem to be coming off as 90 percent setup and only about 10 percent riveting stories. I find that's an interesting take on the matter—and although I personally think it's a somewhat harsh assessment (setup itself can be riveting), I certainly can see the argument.
"When it Rains..." seems to be a good example of this mindset. This episode offers more plot into the mix, but the feel of the episode is somewhat off-kilter. It's probably the most frustrating yet of the "Final Chapter" episodes, because it moves along for an hour and then suddenly halts in its tracks, with virtually no resolution. If you were like me and weren't watching the clock, you might've been blindsided by the suddenness of the "executive producers" credit appearing.
Issues of multi-part structure aside, "When it Rains..." has a somewhat excessive title. The title seems to imply we're going to be plunged into the Abyss of Despair, perhaps for the last time before the series heads into final wrap-up. I don't think that was the case nor the intention. What is the case, rather, is that we have more setup of plot and character directions, with some interesting new revelations—as the elements continue to pile up.
The theme for this week is "the enemy within." No transporter mishaps or evil doubles, mind you, but rather an indication of various powers beginning to face some internal troubles.
- In the Klingon Empire: Gowron comes to the station to bestow a great honor upon General Martok. Immediately after giving Martok this honor, Gowron announces he's taking military command of the Klingon fleets personally, sending Martok in as simply a soldier with no real authority. Giving Martok a chance to fight the simple soldier's fight is supposed to be an honor, but the hidden intentions are clear: Gowron wants his fleets run under a different strategy, one that quickly begins to look like a series of foolish suicide missions that undermine the big picture.
- In the Dominion: We have a large uprising of Cardassian resistance soldiers who are trying to sabotage a force that has conquered them without firing a single shot.
- Within that Cardassian resistance: We have an internal inability for the Cardassians to choose a strategy for resisting the Dominion. Damar asks Starfleet for help. Starfleet sends Kira, an expert on efficient terrorist-style resistance. Friction ensues, with Damar's right hand, Rosot (John Vickery), looking very much like the most likely candidate to undermine the operation with his inflexible attitudes.
- In Starfleet: We have Bashir and O'Brien, who learn Odo has contracted the disease that has infected the Founders. In the course of Bashir's new search for a cure, he draws the suspicion and ire of subjects within Starfleet, some probably answering to Section 31.
- On Bajor: Dukat continues to seek power for himself until the Paghwraiths take an action of their own, and Winn subsequently gives Dukat a lesson in humility.
In short, there's a lot going on here. The episode doesn't always make perfect sense of everything going on (I suspect that's what the next installment is for), but I liked the implications of most of the revelations, and I found the ironies emerging from many of the situations to be interesting.
The most obvious and interesting is the irony of them all: The Cardassians have become the Bajorans. They're fighting a battle against a more powerful group that occupies their soil. And to fight this battle they need help from Starfleet, who sends the person most suited to helping in this situation: Kira. No, Kira isn't happy. No, the Cardassians aren't happy. Yes, this is a partnership destined for conflict. Sisko seems to think giving Kira a Starfleet commission will make the situation slightly less volatile. (Kira finally gets to don a Starfleet uniform. Neat.) Garak and Odo are also sent on the mission as DS9's other resident experts on the Occupation. The mission objective is to prepare Damar and his followers for internal guerrilla warfare.
As is the case with a lot of this episode, I'm impressed more by the ideas behind this story element than the actual presentation. Once Kira meets Damar and his troops, the story execution turns surprisingly routine, with a general cinematic attitude of "show something happening, and quickly move on." Of course there's friction between Kira's group and the other Cardassians—particularly Rosot, who doesn't want to resort to the tactics Kira is proposing, like attacking Dominion targets run by other Cardassians. Kira informs him that they don't have a choice. Damar reluctantly agrees. Rosot isn't convinced, and can't look at the larger picture with Kira's detached pragmatism. And the fact that he absolutely hates Kira doesn't help matters, either.
This is all reasonable, but it's missing the extra punch it needs to be powerful. I wouldn't be surprised to see that punch delivered in the next episode, because "When it Rains..." only sets up the pieces for what's obviously to follow. But for now, "When it Rains..." is interesting but not riveting. It's, let's say, 70 percent setup and only 30 percent riveting story. (This week's formula says I should award one star for every 10 percent of riveting story that I can claim to quantify. Okay, yes, that's a bunch of nonsense. My scale, my rules.)
There are also the other subplots. The biggest twist of the week is the announcement that Odo has the disease, which has the emotional consequences one would probably expect under the circumstances: Kira is worried but presses on with the job she has. Odo is worried but refuses to yield to medical sensibilities—there's a job to do. Bashir takes up an obsessive search to find a cure to a disease currently considered incurable, much like the obsession he took up in fourth season's "The Quickening."
Bashir's quest, however, is only the tip of the iceberg. When he attempts to retrieve Odo's old records (something valuable for his research) from Starfleet Medical, he's greeted with a series of roadblocks. Ultimately, he uncovers what appears to be a conspiracy to keep him from working on a cure. Starfleet's resistance seems reasonable, even understandable, under the circumstances of this war (at this point, the death of the Founders is hardly considered a bad thing)—but it runs deeper, and after further investigation, Bashir concludes Odo was infected with the disease three years earlier and was intended as a carrier to infect the rest of the Link—a plan that apparently worked. The probable engineers of the virus: Section 31.
From a dramatic point of view, this storyline is probably the highlight of the episode. Bashir's search through the madness is executed with skill, and I found Bashir's frustration in getting the Starfleet bureaucratic runaround to be particularly effective. Also plausible, but chilling, are the implications of Section 31 manufacturing a virus for genocide. I hope the morality of this issue is tackled at some point, but for now the idea alone is one that's decidedly anti-Starfleet to the core, "best interests" be damned. As such, I'm intrigued.
Less effective is the Klingon plotline. As much chess-playing as the "Final Chapter" episodes have featured, none of it has really felt like blatant chess-piece manipulation—until now. We haven't seen Gowron since season five, and now all of a sudden he shows up here, using what would appear to any rational person as downright bone-headed military tactics. I know, Klingon culture is very tradition- and honor-based, but I'd expect even Klingons warriors would be skeptical of the strategic practicality of such blatantly suicidal missions. And what is Gowron's motive for doing this—other than, of course, to be at odds with Worf in the next episode's inevitable showdown? Of all the plot developments, this one is clearly the most forced.
Elsewhere in the sea of plot, the Dukat/Winn tidbits provide setup to a storyline going somewhere, but who-knows-where. There's not much here in terms of groundbreaking advancement, but there are some interesting characterizations. When Dukat attempts to read the Kosst Amojan without Winn's permission, a Paghwraith energy beam (or something) flies into his eyes and leaves him blind—temporarily, methinks, as a lesson. Winn then has Dukat put out on the streets of the city as a blind beggar, hoping the experience will serve as a "lesson in humility." This doesn't seem all that important in story terms, but I like what it has to say: Winn is using Dukat as much as he's using her, and she gives him a loud-and-clear indication of that. And, heck, it was just so much fun to see Dukat desperately begging "Adami!" not to throw him out into public. Winn even smiles with a quiet satisfaction.
There's not much else to say. I think that covers the major stuff, and it's tough to evaluate half-finished story themes. "When it Rains..." is a flawed but overall entertaining DS9 setup show. But don't expect any real payoffs in any aspect of the story. You won't be finding it. Yet.
Next week: Chapter six. Worf must go against the Klingon Empire in order to save it. Again.