Mark Watches ‘Deep Space Nine’: S07E02 – Shadows and Symbols

In the second episode of the seventh season of Deep Space Nine, everything happens all the time. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Trigger Warning: For talk of consent and sexual assault/rape.

Jesus, what a dense episode. I’m largely a fan of it, but I’ve got a few issues with some of the choices made here. Let’s discuss!

Kira

I WASN’T READY. AT ALL. This plot honestly felt like the culmination of years of storytelling, and just in terms of what the writers pulled off, it’s probably the best plot here. One of the brilliant aspects of it is just how unpredictable it felt. After years of committing to the premise of the stories they’ve written, the writers crafted a stand-off that felt so goddamn real. I honestly did not know the outcome of it, and even worse? All the outcomes I saw in this story felt believable, too. It would not be out of the realm of possibility for the writers to tear apart the Romulan alliance. The Dominion War is still raging, and it would have provided the writers with a fascinating new direction. What if the Federation and its allies couldn’t get along? How would the Dominion take advantage of this? And while a victory for Kira seemed like the more obvious solution, I couldn’t see how events would turn in her favor. She was at an extreme disadvantage here in every sense, and the Romulans… well, they’re known for getting exactly what they want, aren’t they? Admiral Ross was left with few options, if he had any, so he spent most of this hoping that Kira wouldn’t enforce the blockade.

And yet, she does, right up until she wins. (And with Odo by her side!!! VERY CUTE.) There was a moment where I thought that Sisko’s actions were giving Kira her solution just through circumstance, but in the end, the re-opening of the wormhole is just a coincidence. No, Kira’s actions inspired Ross to stand up to Senator Cretak, which avoids diluting her story. It’s a fantastic move, one that shows us just how much she’s grown as a leader and a military strategist. In the end, she stands up for Bajor, to protect her people and their rights, and SHE FUCKING WINS. Oh my god, I’m so proud of her.

Sto-Vo-Kor

I still feel very weird about this show not fully addressing the fact that Julian and Quark pining after the very dead Jadzia is wildly, massively inappropriate. Julian is more or less over it by this episode, but Quark is REALLY, REALLY AWFUL here, despite that he does show some growth by coming on this mission. It’s kind of minuscule in the grand scheme of things, but volunteering to go on this mission was not something I expected from him. I got the sense that the show was trying to show a different side of Quark and Worf, but it comes across as a clumsy attempt at vulnerability. Part of that is due to the fact that Quark’s vulnerability is portrayed so harshly, which is “rewarded” with an apology from Worf, despite that I don’t really think he needed to offer one! Like, there is an interesting story here: Worf had not been prepared to share Jadzia with her friends, and yet, that’s who she was. Social. Affectionate. Caring. And just because she had affection for other people doesn’t mean she loved Worf any less! That also doesn’t mean that Worf shouldn’t feel weird about Quark openly claiming that he was deeply in love with Worf’s wife. Y’all, this is not Love Actually, and that behavior is actually super fucking gross.

I hope this episode is the conclusion of this plot. It was great seeing Worf become even more complicated than he was before, and Michael Dorn is fantastic here. Plus: HOW GREAT IS THAT SCENE WHERE THEY WIPE OUT THE MONAC SHIPYARDS? It’s super great.

The Orb of the Emissary

Oh, I was so on board, y’all. Deep Space Nine‘s invocation of religion and spirituality through Sisko has been pretty much been flawless over the course of the previous six seasons, and the finale truly upped the stakes in Sisko’s story. Throughout “Shadows and Symbols,” I was transfixed with his journey. Part of that was due to the arrival of Ezri Dax, whose presence made this feel even more intense than it would have otherwise. I was just SO IMPRESSED with Nicole DeBoer in this episode, since she’s got the impossible task of introducing a new Dax to us. And what a time to get involved in Benjamin’s life again! The writers do a phenomenal job of using this to create even more confusion than Ezri would have normally have to deal with. Becoming a host to a symbiont with a fifteen-minute lecture is bad enough; but to contend with all the memories and feelings of EIGHT past lives on top of Sisko’s spiritual breakdown is A LOT to ask of anyone. Ezri rises to the occasion, though, and she does so while contending with the most chaotic moment of her entire life. It’s through this that the show most directly makes the case that this is Dax, that she understands Benjamin Sisko because she’s his best friend.

I imagine that future episodes will deal with her presence in everyone’s life again, so I’d like to focus on Benjamin here at the end. I still believe that Avery Brooks is the best actor cast in the Star Trek universe, and his haunting performance in “Shadows and Symbols” is yet another example of that. Brooks broods and stomps through this episode, portraying Sisko as a man obsessed. And for a good reason! After months of numb nothingness, this is the first sign that he’s gotten that he’s back on track to fulfill his destiny. I know it’s odd to think about “destiny” within the context of Star Trek; there are virtually no “chosen one” narratives within this fictional universe. And yet, up until the end of this episode, I was fully onboard with this one. The Prophets have been such a fascinating narrative force within Deep Space Nine, and their continued use in these past couple seasons have created a charactered in the Star Trek world that is wholly unique. Sisko is a religious figure who reluctantly came to accept his role, then fully embraced it, only to find it in direct contradiction to his duty as a Starfleet officer. I loved that conflict, and I loved the way Brooks played it.

I still do, but I am so horrified by the reveal at the end of this episode. I don’t quite know what the show is going to do with this, nor am I certain what they want us to feel about the reveal of Sarah Sisko’s purpose. Point blank: that woman was raped, and I cannot believe the show would do something so horrible to anyone, let alone one of the few black women cast in Star Trek. Sisko seemed momentarily disgusted by what the Prophet told him, but… yeah, I’m gonna need a lot more. One of the Prophets possessed Sarah, all so that she could give birth to Benjamin. As soon as that was accomplished, the wormhole alien left Sarah’s body, explaining her sudden and abrupt departure from Joseph’s life. How could she stick around, knowing what had been done to her body? I don’t think Benjamin is going to tell his father what happened because of how heartbreaking that would be. Like, that man was sexually assaulted, too! He didn’t consent to sex with a wormhole alien at all, nor did he want Sarah to be forced to fall in love with him.

My god. It’s so, so gross, and I desperately need the show to actually address how fucked up it is.

The video for “Shadows and Symbols” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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