Mark Watches ‘Deep Space Nine’: S07E17 – Penumbra

In the seventeenth episode of the seventh season of Deep Space Nine, EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING AT ONCE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of consent. 

Y’all, Deep Space Nine hit me with a cliffhanger and no “To Be Continued…” closing line because they don’t care about my feelings. THE END OF THIS SHOW IS GOING TO DESTROY ME, ISN’T IT.

The Opposition

All right, splitting this up because it’s the only way I can talk about the three interwoven plot lines, NONE OF WHICH ARE RESOLVED. I’m understanding now why this episode is titled “Penumbra”: this is a glimpse of the darker shadow that’s coming, the total eclipse of tragedy and conflict that is to come of all these converging storylines. Earlier this season, we discovered that the Founders were plagued with some sort of mysterious illness that was certain to kill them off. Here, we learn that the Vorta have not developed a vaccine, and the Changelings are worse off than they were before. But it’s just one complication amid many others. Damar resents the political arrangement that came of the Dominion alliance and feels powerless; the Federation is repeatedly subverting plans in the war; and then Dukat shows up and possibly ruins everything.

I’m wondering, then, if these complications will lead to the downfall of the Dominion or perhaps play a part in it. We’ve got a lot of time before the series finale for these things to be fixed or for them to get worse. What if the Founders can’t cure their sickness? What if Damar turns against Weyoun or the Founders? AND WHAT THE HELL IS DUKAT UP TO? Why the fuck does he want to pass himself off as a Bajoran? I DON’T TRUST HIM, HE TERRIFIES ME. His belief in the path-wraiths comes off as so all-consuming that I worry about what he’s going to do with said beliefs. HELP.


The ongoing awkward collision between Worf and Ezri is certainly full of tropes, particularly the common one of stranding two people who have an unresolved issue together and forcing them to talk about their problems. I tend to like this trope more than dislike it, and it’s used here with a humorous flair, at least before Ezri and Worf start to truly fling insults at one another. AND OH LORD, DOES THIS EVER GET BRUTAL, Y’ALL. However, this really was a huge unresolved plot, one that the show kind of skirted over when Ezri arrived. Granted, I wasn’t all that concerned with Deep Space Nine addressing it. The sense I got from the first half of this season was that the show wanted to move on from the Ezri/Worf conflict as soon as possible so that Ezri could be established as a character independent of Worf.

That does make me wonder where this is headed, especially since Ezri’s opposed one of the big taboos of Trill culture: re-igniting a romance with the partner of a past host. Obviously, there are a ton of things that need to be dealt with now. Is Ezri’s attraction to Worf separate from Jadzia’s? What of Worf? Did he initiate this because he missed Jadzia or because he liked Ezri? I imagine the truth is somewhere between these two realities. These are complicated characters dealing with a fairly unique situation. And what’s up with the Breen??? That reveal confused me. Why would they be on that planet, and why did they kidnap Ezri and Worf?


Honestly, I feel like “complication” is the theme of “Penumbra,” since this episode adds layers and layers of problems to the story and challenges me as a viewer. I imagine it’s not surprising that I have issues with the way consent is addressed here, especially since we get a scene early on that skirts over the gross implications of the Prophets’ usage of Sarah to get what they want. Like, that moment where all Kassidy can say is that it’s a good thing is just WEIRD. Why? Why have her say that it’s amazing that they violated the consent of Sarah and then disposed of her as soon as she had Benjamin? NO, IT’S NOT AMAZING, IT’S REALLY FUCKING CREEPY.

On top of that, it pretty much contradicts where the show eventually goes. After proposing to Kassidy (YES, GREAT, LOVELY, I’M A MESS), Sisko is warned by the Prophets that he can’t have a wife. His “destiny” is that he must walk this path – whatever that path is – alone. Even further? One of the Prophets – in the guise of his mother!!! – tells Sisko that his life will be full of misery and unhappiness if he doesn’t do as he is told.

EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS IS FUCKED UP AND TERRIBLE. I think we’re supposed to react that way in that final scene, which makes the scene where Kassidy speaks glowingly about the Prophets using Sarah come off as flippant or crass. I don’t think that’s the writers’ intent, either. Instead, I’m more inclined to believe that this is just further sloppiness when it comes to consent. When it comes to Sisko, the writers get how awful it is that his life is being chosen for him. As for Sarah, it comes off as a shocking plot twist instead of a grand tragedy. Why aren’t they afforded the same sympathy? (I mean… pretty sure I know why.)

I’m very worried about the future of Sisko and Kassidy. I want them together SO BADLY, and I feel concerned about the idea that Sisko isn’t allowed happiness unless he does what he’s told. That’s really, really gross, isn’t it? But I don’t know if this is an issue of determinism or if the Prophets are threatening him. Can Sisko fulfill his destiny and be happy, or is that impossible?

The video for “Penumbra” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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