Friday, 15 August 2014

Battle Lines written by Hilary J. Bader, Richard Danus & Evan Carlos Somers and directed by Paul Lynch

What’s it about: Taking the Kai for her first trip through the wormhole turns out to be her last…

Single Father: Sisko’s eyes light up at the news that the Kai has arrived. He might find the role of the Emissary uncomfortable at this stage but he clearly already has great respect for the Kai. It would not last long. When telling Kira off doesn’t have any effect Sisko turns his attention to Bashir and tells him he doesn't need the Prime Directive shoved under his nose when dealing with such an inflammatory situation. He’s so much more real than Picard, he can think outside the box. This is the sort of thinking that would lead to In the Pale Moonlight. He's pretty handy in a fight too, ready to protect himself and his crew when their lives are in danger. 

Tasty Terrorist: Another important step in Kira’s road to redemption and forgiving herself for her previous lifestyle, Battle Lines features some seminal Kira moments. It all starts quite light-heartedly with Kira suggesting she is a big girl and can take anything that the Cardassians thought of her as a terrorist (‘a minor operative whose activities were limited to running errands for the terrorist leaders’) but failing miserably when the axe falls. It's great to see Kira on such good behaviour around the Kai – I love how the episode shows how religious icons can be treated as more than people. Kira almost feels too humble to share moments with somebody this important. Her breakdown over the Kai’s corpse with Nana Visitor letting loose screams and tears and praying with such an intensity is passionate characterisation that is rare in the Star Trek universe and I found it astonishingly raw and beautiful. The thirst for action still burns in Kira and when the Nol-Ennis first attack she looks almost gleeful as she picks up and gun and starts shooting.The fiery tension between Sisko and Kira returns when she tries to advise on the best forms of defence and warfare. He really snaps at her but she is strong enough to bite back and it takes the involvement of the Kai to make her stop and realise what she is doing. The sequence where the Kai asks Kira if she recognises herself in these people is a vital one to understand Kira’s character. If you missed this episode then you missed out on a chance to truly get under the skin of the ex-terrorist and find out what war wounds she is carrying. Her old life was brutal and ugly but she did it to stay alive and fight for independence but crucially she thinks she has left it all behind by working on DS9. The Kai makes her realise that the violence still exists inside her and it is vital that she forgives herself for her past misdeeds if she is to move on with her life. Nana Visitor’s performance in this scene is devastating. I don’t understand how anybody can not approve of this character after it has been laid this bare. Kira is afraid the prophets wont forgive her but they are just waiting for her to forgive herself. She was brought to this planet to begin her healing process. 

GE Doctor: At first I wasn’t sure if I bought Bashir’s involvement in this episode was simply because ‘it’s a bit slow’ in the Infirmary but the more I thought about it he is exactly the sort to want to go off and have adventures with the most revered religious icon on Bajor. Think how many Bajoran girls he could impress with that story? Bashir’s scenes with Kira are his best to date and reveal a much more sensitive, less conceited side to his personality. I’m really glad that the episode spared a moment to show Bashir conflicted between his oath as a Doctor and his wish to end of the suffering of these people and euthanise them. His more than a walking erection after all. 

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Please Commander, I don’t get out often.’
‘When you cease to fear death the rules of war change.’
‘Don’t deny the violent inside yourself Kira. Only when you accept it can you move beyond it.’
‘I’ve discovered that we can’t afford to die here…not even once!’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘But your pagh and mine will cross again…’ – they really should have followed this up.

The Good: Everything about the shuttle crash is spectacular from the views out of the runabout window of the planet approaching to the camera sliding up from behind the rock to expose the crashed ship and the cut to the exploding door. It’s a carefully executed version of a scene that we will see over and again in Voyager. There’s a great shot from Dax’s POV as the turbolift descends of Odo at his wits end over lack of news of the Kai. This episode is really nasty in places with a close up on the Kai’s dead face (she literally died terrified), Kira’s brutal injuries and the scars and bloody injuries caused by the fighting on this world. Not to mention the brutal fight scenes featuring decapitation, people being sliced across the face by rusty blades and swords thrusting through peoples stomachs. I wouldn’t want every episode to be as graphic as this but it does up the tension greatly and once again DS9 pushes the boundaries about as far as they dare to go for episodic television (see Past Tense Part II, Way of the Warrior, The Siege of AR-558 also). The idea of trapping two warring factions on a god awful moon with no way of escape and letting them fight with no chance of dying is an unforgivingly pitiless punishment. 

The Bad: Whilst it is clearly foreshadowing the Kai’s departure, her giving O’Brien the earring for Molly is an odd moment that is never touched on again. What precisely does it mean? It would have been very awesome had they worked that earring into the final ten part epic at the end of the series somehow. Unfortunately the Kai being dragged from the runabout looks a bit like a podgy rag doll. I love the idea of O’Brien making up technobabble as he goes along but in reality the majority of that scene went straight over my head. Oddly for DS9 the decision to leave the Kai behind is never followed up on. The first we hear of consequences is the three part opener to season two. 

Moment to Watch Out For: The Kai appearing in the firelight like a ghostly spectre is a fantastic surprise and suddenly drives home the brutality of the situation on this planet. 

Orchestra: There is a sweeping, epic splash of music as the Kai gets to experience the wonder of going through the wormhole.

Result: The death of a semi-regular character, graphic fight scenes, an impossible situation and the redemption of a violent terrorist, Battle Lines is a very strong episode that picks up many of the season's threads and does some impossibly cruel things with them. It’s the first of three extraordinary Kira episodes that see her character take an incredible journey through the first season (this, Progress and Duet) and Nana Visitor once again proves why she is such an incredible asset to this show. Once again the episode has the atmosphere to bolster the drama and this is by far one of the most impressive studio planetary surfaces. DS9 has delivered three knockouts in a row but this is still a Star Trek series - surely this cannot continue. The closing shot of the Kai listening to the sounds of battle getting closer is a wonderfully ambiguous note to leave her character on: 9/10


Ed Azad said...

I remember this being my least-favorite episode of the season, easily. You make such an ecstatic case for it, though (sweeping wormhole music and all), that I gave it a rewatch.

...Eeeyyugh. Some promising ideas, but somehow it doesn't quite work. Kira's epiphany comes out of nowhere, her mindless death drive comes from nowhere (and is misplaced besides), Visitor overacts, and the Kai's costume looks silly. (Petty? Why yes!) This is another instance of a TNG plot that works better with TNG actors, which is why "Storyteller" succeeded with O'Brien at the helm. You can't fit 3-dimensional actors into a 2-dimensional story and expect it to progress them somehow.

The only positive I can think of is Avery yelling at people. And the actor paying Opaka has an amusing "dead" expression.

Sam Palmer said...

Since you have pointed out plot-holes that are significant in-universe yet inconsequential to storytelling in the past (such as the Doctor's back-up module), Allow me to point out that in TNG, on occasion, the Phasers referred to as "not damaging enough" in this episode were used to vaporize people with a single shot at high levels. I'm afraid I don't remember the names of the specific episodes. I mean I don't really care but I thought you might.