Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Tacking into the Wind"

****

Air date: 5/10/1999
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Mike Vejar

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"He was my friend. But his Cardassia is dead, and it won't be coming back." — Damar

Nutshell: Not only a great release of tension, but also an exceptionally probing hour that examines internal conflicts.

I'm noticing a trend here. First we get put on standby with episodes that carefully stack the pieces while providing interesting events but also intensely bottled frustration, and then we're permitted an explosive release of tension that leaves us reeling.

"Tacking into the Wind," which might've also been aptly named "For the Homeland," tells the suspenseful and particularly well-realized multi-tiered story of people facing conflict in their own organizations. How they deal with these conflicts could determine the fate of everything they stand for. It also reveals where they've come from and where they're likely headed.

"Tacking" is the best type of action show—one with a strong character undercurrent and ideological core such that we genuinely care about what happens on the screen. We've got the action elements here—dangerous missions and physical fights—but they exist as part of a greater purpose. They're a means to several ends. Those ends prove quite satisfying.

Basically, we have three plotlines here that are put into acceleration mode. We've got the Kira plot as she copes with Rosot; we've got the Worf plot as he copes with Gowron; and we've got Bashir and O'Brien attempting to figure out the Section 31 mystery. The three storylines are assembled with great skill and urgency.

But, more than that, Ron Moore has created a story here that challenges ideologies and asks some really tough questions. Even as the action unfolds at breakneck speed, there's time for scenes of dialog that say a great many things. The plot alone is interesting, but the plot combined with the various characters' sets of opinions and insights makes "Tacking into the Wind" a riveting episode of DS9.

The situation here, as with many situations on this series for the past two years, is one of desperation. The odds seem to be against everybody, and if something goes wrong, the cause may be lost. Watching so many characters with their backs up against the wall, so many attitudes that seem to say, "We have to do this, or else," I found myself caught up in the plotting more than I had thought possible at the outset. That's the benefit of long-term storytelling on a series, and it's nice to see how much DS9 benefits from it.

The strongest storyline is Kira's. I loved all the old wounds it opened. (Some of those were opened last week in "When it Rains...," but this week makes it pay off.) The problem here is one of authority being undermined by personal feelings. Damar, not surprisingly, has coped with the situation through his ability to see the bigger picture, but Rosot is a problem—a fast-growing problem.

Rosot obviously despises working with a Bajoran and goes out of his way to provoke Kira. The problems of yesterday become the problems of today. As the game is played out, it becomes clear Rosot is intended to represent the "old school" Cardassian soldier, one who—at least in attitude—still seems to be living in the days of an old empire that occupied Bajor rather than depending on one of its nationals for survival.

Eventually, Kira must put her foot down, giving Rosot a good beating when he crosses the line. (Watching Kira beat up Rosot is probably as much fun on the visceral level as watching her beat up Damar last year in "Favor the Bold.") Keeping with the "emotional release" angle of the hour, the suddenness of Kira's teeth emerging is like an exhilarating blur; she can certainly turn mean when the situation warrants. After the fight, Garak informs Kira she will have to deal with Rosot again, and we don't doubt him for a moment.

And as if Rosot weren't already enough of a distraction for Kira, there's Odo's situation. It turns out his constant shapeshifting for the recent missions has accelerated the disease's effects on him. He's in very bad shape, but he tries his best to hide his true condition from Kira because he doesn't want to be pitied. What Odo isn't aware of is that Kira knows he's hiding it—and in one scene where Garak "reveals" to Kira that Odo's illness might be a problem for an upcoming mission, Kira explains that she's very aware of what's going on. It's a matter of the facades simply being necessary under the circumstances. (Nana Visitor again shows her astounding ability to reveal her character's vulnerability and emotions without for one second sacrificing her strength.)

But the real standout in this storyline is in how the old wounds of Cardassia and Bajor play a powerful role between Kira and Damar. In a key scene, news arrives that the Dominion have located and killed Damar's hidden wife and son.

Damar: "What kind of state tolerates the murder of innocent women and children? What kind of people give those orders?"

Kira: "Yeah, Damar—what kind of people give those orders?"

Kira doesn't pull the punch, and her statement couldn't be more pointed. And what's amazing is that this tragic news, coupled with Kira's brutally honest statement, might be exactly the dose of sobering reality that Damar needs. Garak explains to Kira precisely what the scene has us thinking: If Damar truly is the leader of a new Cardassia, this tragedy could be a challenge to any of those old, obsolete Cardassian attitudes that he might still be holding under the surface.

In fact, this seems clear even before the end of the episode. There's a dangerous mission to retrieve a Breen weapon from a Jem'Hadar ship—a mission that might be the Federation's key to surviving the Breen. I won't go into the technical details of the mission. It comes across with a suspense greater than I had expected, simply because the underlying material is so strong (and Mike Vejar's direction certainly doesn't hurt). Suffice it to say Rosot chooses this moment to pick a fight with Kira and her methods, and suddenly Rosot has pulled a phaser on Kira, Garak has pulled a phaser on Rosot, and Damar walks into the middle of the situation with his own phaser and must make a decision. Rosot refuses to surrender. He hates this Bajoran woman and wants her dead. We don't need her, he says. He trusts Damar to do what's "right" for Cardassia.

Dramatically, there's only one possible way for this to play out: Damar must shoot Rosot, a fellow soldier and friend that in the past he had trusted with his life. And that's exactly what happens. After killing Rosot, Damar then says what he knows is true: "[Rosot's] Cardassia is dead, and it won't be coming back."

The path the writers have charted for Damar has been absolutely brilliant. It's nice to be able to admire and sympathize with this guy—and without seeing what he truly stands for altered or detoothed. He's still a patriot, but his methods and his idea of Cardassia have changed. The message is clear: Those like Damar with the ability to change are the ones who will survive, while those like Rosot are destined to die along with their defeated world. (It's material like this that makes me wish the producers had ended the war earlier in the season so we could deal more with the post-war issues that will have arisen.)

There are other subplots here. Although they aren't as striking as the Kira/Damar story, they still demand respect. The Klingon plotline offers its share of build-up and payoff. Thanks to thought put into it, it's also much more involving than I had expected, considering this is about the millionth time Worf has had to stand against the Klingon Empire in order to save it.

Gowron is a big problem, putting his political agenda ahead of the war effort, and thus losing his ships with wrong-headed surprise tactics that border on suicide. Martok and Worf have both objected. Gowron has ignored them. Sisko tells Gowron that his actions are ill-conceived. Gowron brushes him aside too.

Finally, with the entire war effort on the line, Sisko's patience with Gowron runs out. He calls Worf in for a rather interesting conversation. The discussion is a quiet, ominous one that basically comes down to Sisko saying, "Gowron has to stop. Whatever it takes." Worf simply replies, "Understood." Sisko asks no further questions. Worf leaves.

Not since "In the Pale Moonlight" have I seen this Sisko emerge, who needs something done and intends to see it through, no matter the cost. If it came down to knowing in advance Worf would have to kill Gowron in a traditional Klingon challenge, I doubt Sisko would bat an eye. That's pretty scary. This is not the Starfleet we used to know. Eight years back when Worf killed Duras in TNG's "Reunion," Picard was extremely displeased. Now we have Sisko all but ordering Worf to do "whatever it takes." My, how times have changed.

That's not to say the first thing Worf does is challenge Gowron to a duel, because he doesn't. He tries some other avenues, albeit without success. Martok is of little help because he feels standing against Gowron would be improper. And Gowron refuses to hear reason from either Worf or Martok. When it ultimately does come down to the traditional challenge, the fight is an exceptionally engaging showdown, simply because the story has sold us so well on the stakes of the outcome. I doubt it comes as a big surprise that Worf is victorious and Gowron must die, but the way these pieces fall into place is simply the way it has to be—particularly given the history of run-ins Worf has had with Gowron and other officials in the empire.

I'll admit Gowron's latest actions in "Tacking" and "Rains" were a bit sudden and forced, but given a key discussion in this installment, I'm willing to look past them.

That key discussion provides the true substance of the subplot, and comes in an unexpected Worf/Ezri scene, where the entire political ideology of the Klingon Empire comes into question. Ezri calls Gowron's latest maneuver a "symptom of a larger problem"—that the empire is dying because of its ongoing willingness to tolerate a corrupt government with shady leaders—perhaps, if we might draw a parallel, a symptom of a problem similar to that of the Cardassians, who have suddenly found themselves obsolete. (And who better to challenge the Klingon political ideology than Ron Moore, who penned a lot of it through his TNG days?) Ezri's honesty pays off and gives Worf a lot to think about—even though he doesn't like the implications. It's great stuff.

Moving on, that leaves us with Bashir's search for a cure to the disease killing Odo. Science is not finding the answer, so O'Brien comes up with the idea of pretending to have found a cure, hoping to lure someone from Section 31 to the station to stop them. Once that operative arrives, they hope to capture him/her in an attempt to learn the secret of the cure. (My thought on this plan is, "That's almost dumb enough to work.") Unlike the other plots, this is setup more than payoff, but I'm fascinated by the possibility of Section 31 playing into the endgame, so we'll wait until next week's installment to say more on the matter.

Other goings-on:

  • The Female Founder's lack of patience is somewhat interesting. She belittles and chews out Weyoun harshly in front of the Breen and constantly threatens him with death (if only the cloning facilities were working). The look on Weyoun's face almost makes me wonder if he'll be the next defector. His incentive to work for her (other than genetically programmed devotion) is seeming increasingly less these days.
  • The Winn/Dukat storyline has gone into temporary hiatus, with no scenes this week. That's probably a good thing, since cramming all the subplots into one episode would probably be to the detriment of everything.

On the whole, "Tacking into the Wind" is excellent work. It's edge-of-seat entertainment that has a real mind working behind it, replete with complex characters, thoughtful dialog, and a true perceptiveness of its fictional set of histories and futures. The stakes in the game are impressively high, but the way the game is played is still more impressive. "Tacking" shows how the struggle to defeat the enemy is demanding a great deal of other political tensions be reconciled in the process.

Next week: Chapter seven. As Odo lies dying, Bashir and O'Brien go head to head with Section 31.

Previous episode: When it Rains...
Next episode: Extreme Measures

Season Index

22 comments on this review

Jeremy Short - Fri, Sep 5, 2008 - 8:21am (USA Central)
One thing that shows how far The Federation has changed in the war is a comparison between TNG's "Reunion" and "Tacking into the Wind". When Worf killed Duras in a traditional Klingon manner, Picard was pissed. As pissed as we've ever seen Picard. When Worf kills Gowron, The Chancellor of The High Council, Sisko doesn't bat an eye.
EP - Thu, Mar 12, 2009 - 3:51pm (USA Central)
On a story level, I don't see how a leader as seemingly stupid as Gowron has managed to avoid assassination and retain power, particularly in a climate like the Klingon Empire.

But then I look around the *real* world and see plenty of dumba**es in office today, so I just tell myself that it's art imitating life :-).
Aldo Johnson - Sun, Dec 13, 2009 - 8:17am (USA Central)
Yeah, when Ezra was saying those lines, I thought, "Hey, I thought they can't see into the future." :-)
Ken Egervari - Sat, Jan 9, 2010 - 1:46pm (USA Central)
All I can say is WOW. This is easily one of my favourite DS9 episodes. Watching an episode like this tells all of us just why DS9 is so amazing. I mean, no other series can do this for Star Trek. None. Just brilliant.
Destructor - Wed, Jan 13, 2010 - 6:19pm (USA Central)
It's odd, I could have sworn that it was Jammer who made the observation that this episode is the conclusion of a mighty story arc that was initiated in TNG's 'Sins of the Father'- an arc that crossed ten years and two series' and one that linked directly to how Worf saw himself. Because he was not raised in the Klingon Empire, Worf always saw an idealized version of their culture- he was always aspiring to that ideal, to be the honourable warrior, not realizing that, in reality, the Klingon Empire was highly dishonourable. This is the reconciliation of that viewpoint, and I found Ezri's speech about the Empire very powerful and correct- something that hasn't been said enough, in my opinion. This episode is the 'Unforgiven' of the Empire- the thing that justifies everything that came before it.
Xionous - Sun, May 2, 2010 - 5:45pm (USA Central)
Fantastic episode, this final arc has been brilliant so far. One tiny complaint, surely they could have found a better stunt double for Gowron in the fight, I ended up thinking another klingon had joined in until the close-up.
Marco P. - Sun, Aug 29, 2010 - 7:23am (USA Central)
Great episode in its majority, and as far as the big picture is concerned. I agree with Jammer in that the moment we learn of the deaths of Damar's family, there is a poignant moment between Damar & Kira tying to old wounds of the Bajor occupation.

I do have some small issues with this episode though.

Firstly, regarding Damar's family: ahem... capture & *blackmail*? Way more effective than merely killing them. The Dominion could have forced Damar to choose between giving up the resistance movement or seeing his family die. It would have been a smarter, more logical way for Ronald D. Moore to approach this situation. Instead we are served with a morale on the brutality of war, killing innocents etc. etc., immediately followed by a parallel on the occupation of Bajor (which saw the Cardassians at inverted roles). Good stuff (especially the morale part), but somewheat cliché.

Secondly, the Worf vs. Gowron battle was necessary and à-propos for plot development, but not only was it lackluster but it also climaxed with the same old routine. That is: hero down, bad guy about to strike the final blow, hero making one final thrust from a position of disadvantage and dramatically winning the fight. I wasn't asking for Jackie Chan-type kung fu fighting, but I've definitely seen better Bat'leth engagements.

That said, Ezri's analysis on centuries of Klingon Empire political philosophy rang so true, it was the highlight of the episode for me:
Ezri: "I think that the situation with Gowron is a symptom of a bigger problem. The Klingon Empire is dying, and I think it deserves to die. (...) Don't get me wrong, I am very touched you still consider me a member of the house of Martok, but I tend to look at the empire with a little bit more skepticism than Curzon or Jadzia did. I see a society that is in big denial about itself. We're talking about a warrior culture that prides itself on maintaining centuries-old traditions of honor and integrity, but in reality it's willing to accept corruption at the highest level.
Worf: "You are overstating your case."
Ezri: "Am I? Who is the last leader of the High Council that you respected? Has there even been one? And how many times have you had to cover up the crimes of Klingon leaders because you were told that it was for the good of the Empire? I know this sounds harsh, but the truth is you have been willing to accept a government that you know is corrupt. Gowron is just the latest example. Worf, you are the most honorable and decent man that I have ever met, and if you are willing to tolerate men like Gowron then what hope is there for the Empire?"
Eric Dugdale - Thu, Nov 11, 2010 - 4:49pm (USA Central)
I can think of a reason why the Dominion might not have bothered holding Damar's family hostage: Damar knows how the Dominion operates, and realizes that they'll likely be killed along with him no matter what happens, that the promise of keepin them alive was an empty one. And the Dominion knows that Damar knows this.

It doesn't explain why they'd put so much emphasis on finding them in the first place, though. Kind of counter-productive.
Nic - Tue, Apr 12, 2011 - 11:01am (USA Central)
Great episode, great closure. What a payoff! In the span of 45 minutes we get to see not only the series come full circle with Kira & the Cardassian rebellion, but also the entire franchise, with the Klingon honor/corruption thread. Not to mention Damar becoming my favorite Cardassian character of all time. His growth is exactly what I love so much about Star Trek - the multi-faceted villain who redeems himself and becomes a hero.
Jay - Sat, Sep 17, 2011 - 9:56pm (USA Central)
I kind of agree with Marco in the way Worf killed Gowron. He should have gotten to strike a triumphant blow in the heat of combat, not stab him from a prone position. As presented it felt little more Klingonlike than if he'd stabbed him in the back.
Captain Tripps - Tue, Oct 11, 2011 - 10:24am (USA Central)
I imagine their intent was more to warn other Cardassians not to support Damar, by showing all the consequences of rebellion. Damar knows the Dominion, so a hostage situation would have been pointless, but finding and murdering his family will give anyone else second (third, fourth, eleventh) thoughts. It's an old tactic, actually, clearly one the Cardassians used against Bajor as well.
Nebula Nox - Sat, Apr 7, 2012 - 9:00am (USA Central)
Love this episode, except for OBrien and Bashir's decision to lure in Section 31. Section 31 would not send in someone to destroy Bashir's work - they would kill Bashir.
Krog - Sun, May 6, 2012 - 1:40am (USA Central)
In a comment on a previous episode I'd mentioned my disappointment that DS9 didn't develop more supporting Starfleet officers (Nog being the only exception). I did not realize, however, the amazing depth of non-Starfleet secondary characters. Damar, Weyoun, Martok, Ducat, and Garak are all memorable characters who figure prominently in the story arcs. It would have been nice to have more Starfleet characters so that Kira and Bashir weren't always on the bridge of the Defiant (where they did not belong), but the quality of the other supporting characters is amazing.
TMB - Tue, Aug 14, 2012 - 6:13pm (USA Central)
With regards to Damar's family, the Dominion is great at manipulation, but we've also seen how cold and callous they can be. At this point in the war, they're in "slaughter everybody" mode. They have such low regard for the Cardassians that rather than play the politics involved with fighting an insurgency they believe they can keep killing them until the insurgency stops. Contemporary counterinsurgent strategies involve making friends out of the affected population. The Dominion is completely autocratic and believes you're either loyal subjugated servants or you're roadkill. Picture more like Rome/Spartacus than Britain/India.
Sloan's Wad - Sun, Oct 7, 2012 - 1:40pm (USA Central)
@Nebula Nox
I disagree. If Bashir sent a message to Starfleet Medical, claiming to have a cure to Odo's disease, killing him would not only be obvious, but it would serve absolutely no purpose.

It's not like he wouldn't have records of his findings, official reports, and even word-of-mouth evidence of his cure.

Killing Bashir would raise too many questions, and you have to keep in mind that Section 31 doesn't want anyone to know that they created the disease and infected a non-founder well before the war even began.
DavidK - Fri, Feb 15, 2013 - 4:20am (USA Central)
Something about that speech Ezri has about the Klingon Empire is very memorable. I've seen it mentioned on quite a few Trek boards before, it really sticks out (and single-handedly saves Ezri as a character for me, I already liked her to a degree but that was a set of observations I couldn't see any other character making). I think it's the brutal honesty, and the fact she's calling into question an Empire than Trek fans took for granted as the way things are.

Anyway, I love this episode at least for that scene, but there many nice facets to it.
RStretton - Mon, Jul 22, 2013 - 4:33am (USA Central)
I just rewatched this episode and it is the high point of the show in many ways as the remaining episodes are a bit downhill from here especially some of the resolutions meted out for characters.

I would only say that everything has seemed soo ruched over the last few episodes which does make it all seem rather forced especially when there was so much tripe earlier in the season.

I also think this episode is helped by the lack of winn/Dukat whose story has become a pantomime of nonsense by this stage not comparing well at all with the rest of the plotlines which is especially sad as Dukat used to be soo good.
Kotas - Sun, Nov 10, 2013 - 4:13pm (USA Central)

A great episode with a lot of important story developments. The absence of Kai Winn made it that much better.

8/10
Ric - Mon, Feb 24, 2014 - 11:49pm (USA Central)
Ahhh, Star Trek is back! Scifi premise, political dilema, character development, Klingon honor battles.

A great episode, that develops the main story quite a bit. Putting aside the fact that it lays within the atrocious arc about Starfleet allowing Section 31 to develop a genocide, this was one of the best in this vry weak season.
Toraya - Mon, Mar 31, 2014 - 8:58pm (USA Central)
A great episode - loved Ezri's lines, loved kick-ass Kira. But I was disappointed in Damar's about-face. Just like that, the scales fall from his eyes, he jettisons a lifetime of beliefs, and kills his friend for saying "Let's rebuild our empire"? Yes, certainly it was all very tidy and dramatic, but way too rushed -- and the spped with which Damar dispatched his loyal comrade was really morally questionable. (It's actually not okay to murder your friend and colleague because he holds different political beliefs from you. You might instead try ordering him to put down his weapon.)
Trekker - Sun, Apr 6, 2014 - 3:35pm (USA Central)
We can all agree this was a a good episode, if not great episode, but I would take it one step further. This is the pinnacle of Star Trek's mythos and deserves its own kind of mythic rating.

4 stars out of 4 or 10/10 is not enough for an episode that has taken 10 years to build into a powerful sequence of shots.

Of course there were weaknesses, no writer or actor is perfect, but Worf/Gowron and Damar/Kira moments that have beeen built up makes this worthwhile.

The Bajoran and Cardassian full circle has begun and Damar is realizing how wrong Cardassia was for what it did to Bajor during the occupation. A new Cardassian mindset will come out of this war that may bring about a cultural and social reforms. Who knows, maybe they will stop copying Orwell :P

I agree with Ezri; the Klingons from the TOS-DS9 have been a culture of warriors with honor and pride. However, TNG "Sins of the Father" introduce us to their political dishonesty that places insult against any type of warrior honor possible. They accept corruption and the destruction of honorable actions for decades, despite what they know is not true.

Worf's fight against the corruption of Klingon honor was predestined by the writers, because he represent all the values that Klingons aim for, while Gowron from TNG to DS9 has represented the bloated politically destructive Empire that Klingon culture had become.

The fight could have been done much better and I would have preferred if Star Trek gave Worf what he deserves...the title of "Chancellor". Seriously, he deserves the leadership:

1. Killing Duras in honorable combat
2. Thwarting Romulan takeover of the Empire
3. Finding and placing Kahless on the throne of Emperor
4. Finding the sword of Kahless and being the only one alive to know where it is in space (Dax aside)
.....

I can keep naming Worf's accomplishments, but he really should have taken the leadership.

-----------------------

Anyway, infinite stars to this episode.!
eastwest101 - Tue, Jul 8, 2014 - 5:04pm (USA Central)
First time watching this episode and agree with many of the other comments, one of the few true 5 stars out of 5 episodes, it all came together here.

Its amazing how well it all works without the handicap of the lumpen, ham fisted and totally boring Winn/Dukat subplot. Imagine how good this final series arc would have been without that.

Nice scene with Ezri and all the non-starfleet cast are excellent and have great material to work with.

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