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 clichés, including the Fight in the Mess Hall™—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 clichés 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.