Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"'Til Death Do Us Part"

***

Air date: 4/12/1999
Written by David Weddle & Bradley Thompson
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"What happened to that brave officer I served with—the one who stood at my side while we fought the entire Klingon Empire with a single ship?"
"Those were simpler times."

— Dukat and Damar

Nutshell: The setup continues, and so does the suspense.

"'Til Death Do Us Part" is a pretty scary title when you stop to consider what it implies, weighing in the story's central warning of unknown but approaching danger.

The key word, I think, in these early "Final Chapter" episodes is "suspense"—a suspense whose momentum builds slowly and steadily, like an accelerating freight train. The payoff is being deferred, but we sense that payoff is most definitely arriving in the near future. "'Til Death Do Us Part" is a lot like its predecessor, "Penumbra," in that it establishes the groundwork for a lot of what's yet to come. It leaves us dangling on the edge, thirsting for more.

On that level, for that purpose, this episode is effective. But, again, it's somewhat difficult to analyze a story that's based almost completely on setup—especially considering there's at least four plot lines running concurrently through the episode.

I'll say this: We're definitely getting somewhere. Or everywhere. I'd probably also say "'Til Death" had me more wrapped up in the overall story than "Penumbra" did—now that I know what to expect in terms of plotting structure. They both have their shining moments as well as weaknesses, but overall I got a sense that "'Til Death" was a little more cohesive.

Sisko's plan to marry Kasidy was thrown a curve at the end of last week's installment, and here he's faced with two at-odds options not unlike his dilemma in "Tears of the Prophets" last season: follow his existence as a human being, or follow the will of the Prophets. Either choice will undoubtedly have painful consequences.

At first, Sisko chooses to obey the Prophets, and tells Kasidy he has to back out of the marriage. This has a reasonable, natural reaction on Kasidy's part. Yes, she's angry and heartbroken, but the episode doesn't resort to histrionics and instead plays it down as solemn and sullen. Much of the rest of this storyline is about Sisko agonizing over his decision, leading up to the inevitable moment where he changes his mind.

What's best about this arc playing out over a course of so many episodes is that it gives the writers enough time to tell the story properly. Yes, we're moving through plot pretty quickly these days ("'Til Death" can hardly be called slow-moving), but we're still investing time in character reactions and decisions. Sisko explains his problem to Jake and Kira in scenes that make sense. (What's interesting is that he doesn't reveal his personal problem to Kai Winn, but simply explains to her the "trial" he's to face as Emissary. I guess Sisko's view is that his personal affairs are none of Winn's business, and I certainly don't blame him.)

Kira's reaction proves especially true to character through its simplicity. Sisko hopes for a sympathetic ear that will help him change his mind, but in Kira he doesn't find it; he gets a sympathetic ear that tells him that listening to the Prophets is the right thing to do. Subsequently, when Sisko changes his mind and decides he can't obey the Prophets' warning this time, we see that Kira is worried that Sisko is making a mistake.

Overall the Sisko/Kasidy storyline works for the same reason it worked in "Penumbra"—it deals with emotions and reactions plausibly and benefits from good performances. There's no excess here, just what is necessary to make the story work as a mini-payoff that also serves as a setup for the presumed tragedy around the corner. The fast and fairly fanfare-free marriage ceremony is quiet and pleasant, an approach that sort of offsets the big, jovial moments in "You Are Cordially Invited" last season.

And the Prophets have spoken again: Sisko is in for rough times. The Sarah-prophet even interrupts his ceremony to try to persuade him to stop. What's most interesting is the maternal worry that the Sarah-prophet holds for Sisko. There's genuine concern here, and her simple, heartfelt "Be careful, my son" ends up having quite an impact. (David Bell's endlessly brooding and foreboding score also helps set the stage, particularly at this moment; many scenes through the episode are scored to feel like a prelude to disaster.)

Needless to say, the suspense angle is particularly urgent in the Sisko/Kasidy storyline. Ben has disregarded the Prophets' warning, and there's without a doubt going to be hell to pay, in one way or another. How exactly this will play out is a big part of the fascination. We've got a dozen other things going on here, and they're all likely to play into it.

One of those mysterious elements is Dukat, who is now floating around the station as a Bajoran under the assumed name Anjohl. This is the episode's most opaque storyline; Dukat has probably come to the station in part to wreak some sort of vengeance on Sisko and the Bajorans, but it obviously runs much deeper than that, into his devotion to the Paghwraiths. He seems to be seeking self-discovery as much as anything else. The first thing he does once aboard the station is seek out Kai Winn, and Dukat's cover story turns out to be exactly what the Kai foresaw in a vision from the Prophets. (Can we even be sure? Was Winn perhaps contacted by the Paghwraiths alleging to be the Prophets?)

Winn's role in the game is also going to be interesting, because she's becoming a pawn in Dukat's plan (or perhaps they're both pawns in a struggle of higher powers). After her initial vision from the Prophets, she believes she has found a guide in Anjohl, whose appearance and personal circumstances seems to be exactly what the Prophets had foreseen.

Of course, I must wonder how it is Anjohl is not recognized by Winn as Dukat. The disguise is good, but it's not that good, and Dukat's voice is unmistakable. (I suppose even in the 24th century we will not escape the Shakespearean all-convincing masquerade contrivance.) Maybe Winn is simply too distracted to notice Anjohl is Dukat; I would hope Kira's or Sisko's reaction upon seeing him would be much different, as they have been in much closer contact with Dukat in the past.

I'm also wondering about the nature of Dukat's manipulation of Winn. There are simply too many coincidences and fortunate twists of fate for Dukat simply to be lucking out and catching Winn's ear, saying exactly what she needs to hear when she needs to hear it. I'm guessing the Paghwraiths somehow have told him what he would need to do to become Winn's guide. But the story doesn't make it clear, and there are moments here that are difficult to truly decipher. I expect these questions will be answered, but for now they're still only tantalizing questions.

On the war front, events too are building. Early in the episode, I was particularly interested in the powerfully conveyed analysis of Damar. Here's a man whose role in this war is nearly becoming pitiable. He's the leader of a severely hurting world that's taking great losses for the Dominion. He's supposedly calling the shots for his people, but he's a pawn in the game, always answering to Weyoun and the Female Founder. Really, all of Cardassia is a pawn in the game at this point.

Damar has fallen into a hopeless routine that's pathetic. He wakes up hung over morning after morning. These days he can't even look at himself in the mirror. In one of the episode's highlights, Dukat tells Damar to turn inward and find the man who he once was. And Damar seems to be listening.

What's interesting is the dual loyalty here. Damar is loyal to his former mentor, but Dukat has also forgiven Damar for everything that has happened in the past. What remains are two men who have faced difficult chapters in their lives and must now overcome them. If Damar wakes up and acts in time, he might be able to bring Cardassia back from the brink of complete submission to the Dominion.

In fact, that might be something we're seeing the beginnings of, because the Dominion, I'm guessing, doesn't care much about its Cardassian ally. The Big Bombshell unleashed on us by the end of "'Til Death" is that the Breen are forming an alliance with the Dominion. And I doubt Damar is going to take well to that news.

About the Breen: The writers have these players joining the game a little late here—and the Breen never come off as much more than cartoon figures in the machinations of a plot bigger and smarter than them—but this has possibilities considering Cardassia's probable uselessness in such an alliance. We could be set for some serious collisions here, and if that's the case I'll be pretty impressed, even if the Breen do turn out to be nothing more than the boring and faceless (albeit nasty) "bad guys" that they currently are.

For now, the Breen plot is more of an avenue for the continuing saga of Worf/Ezri. What most hurts the Worf/Ezri storyline, and probably the whole episode, is the annoyance involving the prefab pattern that each Worf/Ezri scene seems to follow: We have a somewhat interesting character realization, followed by Worf/Ezri dialog that often crescendos into an argument courtesy of Worf's short fuse and quick retorts, at which point Breen come storming in to interrupt the dialog/argument and grab Our Heroes and haul them away. This pattern is repeated so many times that in the end it almost feels like a joke. Given their desperate circumstances, I wish there would be more understanding and support between Worf and Ezri, and less boiling-over impatience and bickering. This aspect of the story could've benefited by taking a tip from the more understated Sisko/Kasidy scenes.

Even so, I liked some of what we learned here, even if this romance game is being set up with a suspense angle as much as every other element in the episode (i.e., "Who will Ezri end up with—Worf or Bashir?"). I'm glad that "Penumbra" wasn't the last word in the beginning of a Worf/Ezri relationship. It's all still ambiguous at best, and as a result maybe we'll be able to get more out of the characterizations. At least, I hope so, because so far the results have been mixed.

For now, I'm going with a high three-star rating for "'Til Death." This is rich stuff. There's a lot of story. If things keep building like they have been these past two weeks, the whole production is likely to explode. To say my interest is piqued would be an understatement. But I expect the best is still yet to come, because, despite all the ambition, this still isn't quite it.

Next week: Chapter three. Dukat and Winn, and the Dominion and the Breen, make for strange bedfellows.

Previous episode: Penumbra
Next episode: Strange Bedfellows

Season Index

26 comments on this review

Connor Steven - Mon, Jul 7, 2008 - 2:22pm (USA Central)
I would like to add that the sound guys got it spot on with regards to the Breen voices, the right mix of alien and robotic rather than southern californian ;)
Bligo - Sat, Jun 20, 2009 - 9:51pm (USA Central)
Prophets to Sisko ; sacrifice your son
Sisko ; ok nothing makes me more happy then showing my faith.

Prophets to Sisko ; sacrifice some vows and two rings.

Sisko ; no way!!

Such a complex man that Sisko,the one minute he is willing to sacrifice his own son only to become selfish and ignorant to the prophets the next minute.

The breen getting into play is pure genius on the other hand,Cardasia internal struggles will grow without a doubt,after all they hate breen and that feeling is mutual.
Aldo Johnson - Sat, Dec 12, 2009 - 3:44am (USA Central)
When Winn and Anjohl was about to kiss, I was going "eww... eww... no, really?... eww"
Marco P. - Sat, Aug 28, 2010 - 10:43am (USA Central)
Agreed on the "suspense" part. I most definitely like long series of episodes that follow one another (like this last stretch of DS9), because it allows to do story & character development which would otherwise not be possible over a mere 45 minutes. I know that is usually not very Trek-like, but it makes for much more compelling television (for those who have the patience to wait at least).

One note: I think it's obvious at this point in the storyline that the "Prophets" who contacted Kai Winn were in fact Paghwraiths. The Kira-"Prophet" in the last episode says "She will *serve* us well" (the real Prophets never mentioned servitude before, "serving" has evil connotations in this case), and the background colour of the vision setting isn't light-blue (like during most Prophet visions by Sisko) but light red.

What more do we need to convince ourselves Winn is being manipulated, both by the Paghwraiths and by Dukat (doing the former's bidding)?
Cloudane - Sat, Dec 18, 2010 - 2:08pm (USA Central)
If I were to pick holes in a superb episode, yes it does grate a bit that nobody recognises Dukat. I guess we're supposed to suspend disbelief, and view it that somehow in 'their' world he looks and sounds very different but as far as the show itself goes it's the same actor. So it's obvious to us but not to them.

It reminds me a little of when I watched Pokemon for a bit. Team Rocket put on glasses or something and nobody recognises them even though it's blatantly obvious who they are. Thankfully it's not quite that bad!
Nic - Sun, Jan 30, 2011 - 6:14pm (USA Central)
This was definitely an improvement over the previous episode and a great way to raise tension. I hadn't thought about why no one would recognize Dukat, what strikes me is how good his surgeon was. She would have had to remove the bones on his forehead, cheeks, ears and neck, all of which I'm sure have a fuction in Cardassian anatomy which Dukat is now deprived of. Also, Worf says that "no one who has seen what a Breen looked like has survived" or something to that effect. That is not true: in "Indiscretion" both Kira and Dukat knocked out two Breens and put on their uniforms, which obviously implies they saw what was inside. But no matter. I nitpick because I like to :)
Cloudane - Mon, Jan 31, 2011 - 9:16am (USA Central)
Without giving anything away, the question of recognition is thankfully addressed in a later episode :)
Neil - Fri, Feb 4, 2011 - 7:25am (USA Central)
Sisko behaves so childishly in this episode it's difficult to believe; but it's not necessarily out of character.

The very previous time he ignored a prophet warning, Jadzia was killed, the wormhole was locked shut, and he had to go to earth for 3 months until he discovered the Emissary's Orb and reopened the wormhole.

Does that mean nothing to him just because he thinks he loves Casidy? This is the woman who was treacherous enough to smuggle supplies to the Maquis back when Sisko hated them to the point of obsession. She served 6 months in jail for that, and now this idiot wants to marry her.

Wouldn't starfleet have something to say about him marrying a convicted criminal and supplier to the Maquis, and in fant she's marrying the guy who arrested her? I would have expected that he would have to resign his commission before being allowed to do that.

But ignoring the prophet's warning is much worse. It's actually impossible to believe that the guy who blamed himself for Jadzia's death, because he ignored a Prophet warning before, would be so feeble-minded as to gleefully do the same thing again. If it were me, I would assume that the Prophet meant that Kasidy would die somehow, that's what leads to his perpetual sorrow.

Bah, it's just complete bullshit.

Worf is really pissing me off, too, with his petty jealousy and paranoia about Dax loving someone else. I am pretty sure a honour-obsessed Klingon would just kill her if he really thought she was getting it on with Bashir. But he seems to have reconciled her existence and now seems to have decided to continue his relationship with Jadzia by hooking up with Ezri, in the process dishonouring Jadzia and the supposed effort he went to to get her into sto-vo-kor, while also dishonouring Ezri by completely ignoring her individuality as a person, and just using her to get at what's left of Jadzia.

Worf is not only jealous like a child, but also a real jerk with the way he's using Ezri now. I think he actually thinks he has officially resumed right where he left off with Jadzia, and poor Ezri doesn't have any idea that he's decided this.

I do like how this episode reveals what a true bitch Kai Wynn is; she gets to talk with the prophets once (and I'm sure they are paghwraiths) and she has completely forgotten about the emissary and instead will do whatever Dukat tells her to... especially if it undermines Sisko along the way.

You would need the IQ of a spoon to not notice that it's Gul Dukat with a fake nose. His voice is identical.
Ron Mouse - Sat, Mar 12, 2011 - 9:30pm (USA Central)
Something I absolutely adore in this episodw is that its Dukats peptalk to Damar which sets him on the path to the Cardassian resistance with Dukats two biggest enemies(aside of Sisko of course), Garak and Kira. Its so intricately woven and delicious.
Elliott - Fri, Oct 7, 2011 - 1:59am (USA Central)
The Emissary plot is wearing very, very thin at this point. Let's just think about this for 2 seconds.

The prophets (and presumably the Paghwraiths, who were at one time prophets themselves) are unbound by linear time. This should mean something rather profound, but the series only bothers to say it means they know the future. This implies that the future is already formed--now, if that's the case, things will happen as they will happen regardless of anyone's (including Sisko's) choices.

Let us also remember, Sisko's ultimate task, the thing for which he was conceived and guided, is to reseal the Paghwraiths in the FireCaves. That's it. The Prophets move in mysterious ways? Please... could they not simply have told him what this task was? How would that knowledge have impeded his mission?

Kira's constant "that's not how it works" line is the flimsiest of apologetics' contrivances. How can the fact that this philosophical canyon is never adressed in this show not alter your opinion that the show is somehow smarter and more grown-up that the other series?

Bleah--2 stars at most.
Ron Mouse - Fri, Oct 7, 2011 - 12:39pm (USA Central)
@Elliott - Sisko's final task isn't the only task he has, he also has to assist in the rebuild of Bajor and a big part of that task is actually finding the celestial temple. Its quite simple, and totally missing the point, to consider Sisko's "ultimate task" as the only reason he has for being.
As for the Prophets being able to see the future, well, the best I can do is tell you to rewatch The Reckoning. There are clearly events which have an effect on the Pah-wraith/Prophets that can't be seen in advance, and the outcome is not assured.
Captain Tripps - Tue, Oct 11, 2011 - 9:09am (USA Central)
I would imagine they see many different futures based on the various decisions people make in the present. Also there's a difference between telling someone what they're supposed to do, and allowing them to find the path on their own. Easier to be convinced by experience and circumstances, than by a mandate.
Jay - Sat, Nov 26, 2011 - 1:00pm (USA Central)
Yeah, the notion that Winn doesn't recognize Dukat strains credulity, but that two people can move into an adjacent room, or even just another part of a room, and have an exchange of dialogue, even raise their voices, in a discussion about someone else in the vicinity, and neither that person nor anyone around them seems to hear a bit of it, is a TV staple.
Elliott - Tue, Dec 20, 2011 - 5:53pm (USA Central)
@Ron Mouse :

"The Reckoning" was the actual moment in the series when the Prophets lost all potential to be anything other than cartoonish Sensei for Sisko. What I'm saying is the Prophets' propensity to be "mysterious" or "unclear" is a symptom only of plot convenience. One need look no further than "Sacrifice of Angels" to see the prophets are perfectly capable of being as efficient, self-motivated, egotistical, inabstruse and pragmatic as any other species when they wish to be.

@Captain Tripps :
Sisko was committed to protecting Bajor before he became "of Bajor." As a Starfleet officer, he needed only be told what was necessary in terms of his sacrifice for him to accept it and act on it. And what happens in the finale? The prophets tell him to go to the fire caves to stop Winn and Dukat (and apparently back in time as well). Does anything come from that encounter besides him stopping them and receiving his godhead? No. As I said, the wormhole aliens, ostensibly the most complex and mysterious sci-fi element on the series and one which presupposes itself a marker of a more mature philosophy, are comic-book style ancients and interact with the world on those terms; Sisko is a comic book hero, the paghwraiths are comic book villains.
Trekker - Wed, Apr 25, 2012 - 7:47pm (USA Central)
I hate every scene that includes Ezri, the writers should never introduce her, she's awful character who adds nothing to the series
Jim - Sun, May 27, 2012 - 7:51pm (USA Central)
Ezri is ruining the final season for me, she's such an unworthy character.
Daniel - Thu, Jul 5, 2012 - 4:12pm (USA Central)
Ezri puts me off with her childish whiny attitude and her girlish voice! I fast-forward all her scenes and I can't enjoy the last arc. Who's brilliant idea was it to bring her to the show? She belongs to a teen show not a space station.
Sintek - Wed, May 29, 2013 - 2:23am (USA Central)
I guess I know how you guys feel, but I had to suffer 6 seasons of Terry Farrel. She can't act and the "just one of the guys" thing was gag-inducingly awful. At least Ezri is Ezri; Jadzia was 90% Curzon and the rest a female Wesley Crusher.
Michael - Tue, Aug 20, 2013 - 9:31am (USA Central)
@ Neil

Agreed. It's spectacularly dumb, given everything that has happened up until now, for Sisko to ignore a direct warning from the Prophets. I guess it just comes down to the writers being very invested in creating a particular conflict / situation. I get what they're aiming for, but it really doesn't make sense for Sisko to do this. He should be worried about what the warning will mean for Cassidy. If he really loves her, it would make more sense for him to let her go in order to protect her. Would have been more poignant too. Bah. It's pretty dumb.
Kotas - Sat, Nov 9, 2013 - 7:59pm (USA Central)

Another mediocre story episode. I'm not loving the direction they have taken Dukat. The dominion storyline is good, the Bajoran thread is not.

5/10
Corey - Sat, Feb 15, 2014 - 6:11pm (USA Central)
"I'm not loving the direction they have taken Dukat."

They totally destroyed Dukat. You can almost see DS9 trying to be Return of the Jedi, with force battles, gun battles, Odo's "dark side" choice and giant fleets, but it just all comes across as being trite and contrived.

The Breen and their superweapons (and helmets) are particularly cringe-worthy.

People criticise S7 for all the Ezri episodes, but its S7's standalone episodes (Ezri or otherwise) that have aged better than the Dominion arc.
Ric - Sun, Feb 23, 2014 - 11:56pm (USA Central)
Yap, they have destroyed Dukat's character. Not in this episode only. Actually, much more before. Dukat has to be one of most impressive cases of great characters totally screwed up in the whole fiction TV show history.

I second Corey's comparison with Star Wars. I myself have proposed the same a lot of times here, especially when Dukat got these Sith superpowers in the end of S6. Horrible. DS9 was a great show, but with such bad decisions that at some point it made me thanks that I will be seeing its last episode.

Take for instance the once again crazy magictechnobabble. Propehts here, propehts there, and no more Trek is necessary to explain anything (besides the response I always get: the Prophets are aliens!). Bla bla bla. Sisko wants to merry. Mrs Prophet-Mamma (Sisko, I am your mother!) say no. Sisko gives up and buys a bike to ride. Oh god. That's why I am actually currently happy that DS9 was discontinued. I never felt it with TOS or TNG, on the contrary I was really sad to come close to their last episodes.

But although I loved most of first 4 or 5 seasons of DS9, can anyone imagine where they would have brought Star Trek to had they keep going for more 3 or 4 seasons?
Toraya - Mon, Mar 31, 2014 - 4:01pm (USA Central)
I love Dukat's scene with Damar, but the resurgent warmth between them has me wondering at what point Dukat forgave Damar for murdering his daughter. I am forced to assume that this is fallout from "Waltz" - that Dukat really has decided that Bajor and Bajorans are despicable and that his love for Ziyal - which was once so moving - was in retrospect a mere weakness. This is an ugly and shallow turn for a once-great character. (And i agree that the pahwraith vs prophet plotline is comic-book dumb.)

The Damar/Weyoun conflict is the highlight of the past two episodes.
Klovis Mann - Mon, Apr 28, 2014 - 3:05pm (USA Central)
.....I suppose I should wait until the series ends to comment but here goes all the same.......ENOUGH with the Ezri plots.....who cares!!.....Dax was never a compelling character (except in the looks dept.).....bringing "her" back was ill considered....her screen time would have been better spent on characters we've become invested in over six seasons......the dead ought to have been left in peace....

......overall, I think it was a mistake to introduce Worf to DS9......an awful lot (if not all) of the Worf character development TNG worked so long to establish was pretty carelessly swept away for the sake of a ratings boost in the 4th season....the Klingon story arcs in TNG were some of that series episodes.....(Alexander Eps excepted) I've never felt Worf's presence on DS9 added anything significant and Kira and Odo's characters were stunted in the process.....

.....there have been some very good stand alone episodes this season and last but the war has become as tiresome as all the Bajoran religious mumbo jumbo....Sisko as emissary is another less than compelling story arc.....Kai Winn + a Dukat no one recognizes?.....please......and where's Quark?.....lately his brief appearances are among the best written and acted bits of business.....his speech to Ezri on the inevitability of Worf's return was well done.....

.....my overall impression is DS9 is prime Trek....However, at this point the series feels a bit "lost in space".......

......
Qless - Fri, Jun 20, 2014 - 3:43am (USA Central)
Sisko is the only Star Trek captain who would be dumb enough to follow the wormhole aliens. Picard wouldnt risk his sons life to let the aliens battle on the station. He wouldn't not marry a woman because the aliens told him not to. These aliens are in some other dimension. Non linear or whatever. Picard has met many aliens that can do powerful things. Look at q for instance. I just don't get how Sisko doesn't see these aliens are using him. Even if one took control of his mom many years ago it doesn't mean he has to be fooled to be used by them his whole life.

I can't help but laugh watching dukat act like the humble farmer. It's hilarious. To Winn he seems like a simple farmer but when you know it's dukat he comes off as so condescending. He takes the bajorans for fools sitting there saying his friends wouldn't believe it if he told them he was eating with the Kai. Lol
Yanks - Mon, Aug 25, 2014 - 11:34am (USA Central)
Sisko wants to marry, but Sara says no. Why? Who the frak knows.

Dukat is now a Bajoran and is snuggling up with Winn. Will he "convert her" to believing in the Paghwraiths? ... Anyone want to lay odds? ...Eeeeee gads... saw this one coming a mile away, Winn has always been selfish and the prophets aren't "serving her".

I'm not really happy with the way this is going.

It's logical for the Breen to enter on the Dominion side. Too bad we never actually see a Breen face.

Only 2.5 stars...

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