Favor the Bold

From: tlynch@alumnae.caltech.edu (Timothy W. Lynch)
WARNING: There's an old saying: Fortune favors the bold. There's another old saying: DS9 spoilers ahead for "Favor the Bold". In brief: Good in many spots, but a feeling of moving chess pieces around more than anything else.
Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by: Winrich Kolbe

Brief summary: Sisko organizes a campaign to retake the station, as Dukat and Weyoun begin their attempts to reopen the wormhole.

This is the second show of DS9's arc this season that has left me somewhat cold, though not so much as "Sons and Daughters" did two weeks ago. My immediate reaction after "Sons and Daughters" was "why did we have most of a show devoted to something like this?" My reaction to "Favor the Bold" wasn't that negative, but it was mostly "is that it?" The show wasn't bad, but it suffered from the need to set everything up for the big finish next week, giving off an impression of "let's get from point A to point B"--in some cases without even much regard to logic.

Among other things, Sisko's plan to retake the station felt more like "okay, time to wrap up the arc" than it did a response to events. Now, admittedly, it's quite true that the Federation needs a big victory right now to build morale, and /DS9/ is a very legitimate and very tempting target--but given that it's "the most valuable piece of property in the Alpha Quadrant" at the moment, you'd think Sisko or the admirals he proposed his plan to might have had other options in mind. Now, later on, once the warning about the minefield came out, the need for retaking the station was evident--but it seemed a little convenient that Sisko just happened to be working on a plan at the same time. Had we known that he'd been working on one in the back of his mind for weeks, or had it been formulated as a quick response to Dukat and Weyoun's minefield plan, that would be fine--as it stood, it felt forced. Other scenes, such as Worf and Martok leaving to convince Gowron to join the fight, felt like we were having flags waved at us saying "wait for the last-minute save in the big battle!" (I don't know for certain if one is coming, as I've been trying to avoid spoilers, but it certainly seemed like an obvious setup from where I was sitting.)

On the other hand, most of the scene-setting on /DS9/ regarding the minefield felt more natural, perhaps because it had actually been set up in advance. Since we already knew about Damar's ideas from "Behind the Lines <528.html>", the news that his tests had been successful didn't seem to come out of the blue, and it made their redoubled efforts to get a message off-station quite plausible. (Having Jake's link to Morn be their saving grace was an interesting choice; I still wish they were doing a lot more with Jake as a reporter, but the fact that his reportorial skills helped him does help somewhat.) Dukat was his usual treat, and Weyoun's quirks have been handled far better this season than they were last, to the point where his remark about aesthetics and the "weak eyes; good ears" bit actually felt unforced to me.

Rom's fate was a more mixed bag. On the plus side was the fact that he's scheduled to be executed--I don't expect him to actually be killed off, but I would have been screaming bloody murder had the Dominion slated any penalty except death. I still think the fact that he's still alive strains credibility a little, given that the Cardassian/Dominion forces know he had a hand in creating the minefield, but an impending execution is enough to seem reasonable. On the minus side, there are two things. First, Rom urging Quark to take down the graviton beam was noble, but incredibly stupid--we already know from past episodes that *holding cells are bugged*, and so should both Rom and Quark. Second... well, it meant we had to hear Leeta whimper, which used up my quota of self-indulgent mewling for the rest of the year.

Other plotlines which currently seem more tangential (though I suspect that may change) were the Dukat/Ziyal/Damar/Kira interplay and the continuing story of Odo. The Ziyal-centered story worked out better than I'd imagined it would have; Ziyal's still being used as a pawn, but it felt like this time it was with her knowledge. More to the point, Melanie Smith finally seems to be putting a little fire into Ziyal; the character's still somewhat na´ve, but the scene where she confronts Dukat about his reputation was the best scene Smith's ever had in the role, I think. Her wide-eyed reaction when Kira finally got to haul off and thrash Damar was also amusing, though given her childhood in a prison camp I'd assume she was more surprised at Kira's ability than at the actual violence being done.

On the other side, there's Odo, and it's the Odo-centered portion of the show that left me feeling most cheated. When we last saw Odo in "Behind the Lines", he seemed very much past things like guilt, a time-sense, or anything too emotional--it was that very emotionlessness that made the final scene of "Behind the Lines" so creepy. Now, it seems he's showing his female counterpart the mating rituals of the solids, feeling sorry for the solids and for all he's done, and showing an awful lot more concern about his comrades' than he did scant days earlier. The Odo story took about half a step back from where it just was, and that rankles; if the powers that be weren't planning to keep Odo as changed as he was, they shouldn't have changed him that much last week to start with. (There are still ways to make a lot of this work, but it'll take some deft footwork on the writers' part, and most especially a willingness to have Kira stick to her guns for a while. "Way past sorry" should be just the tip of the iceberg for the kind of hell Odo should catch from her for quite some time.)

On the other hand, this show made it a bit easier to feel sorry for Odo. Last week, he was almost terrifying; this week, his link with the Founder felt more like an addict getting his fix than anything else, and it's that sort of psychological dependence that made his willingness to link so plausible in the first place. One way or the other, Odo had better be in for some interesting times ahead. (I still can't quite decide whether he's going to be instrumental in winning the war or not; I'm right on the fence.)

That leaves a lot of side moments, which are always helpful in making or breaking an episode. Most of them helped, this time around. A sampling, both positive and negative:

-- Garak's paranoia about having things implanted in his brain. I can understand the gallows humor, but I'd think that Bashir might show a little more sensitivity in this particular case, given that Garak *has* had things implanted in his brain before now.

-- I liked the fact that the big brass Sisko pled his case to had some fears about leaving Earth defenseless. Sisko's response was almost certainly right--after all, Earth isn't the key--but it was good to see people worried about it.

-- The mention being made that Gowron now sees Worf as an enemy. I don't know if I quite agree with that; as I remember, they parted reasonably well in "By Inferno's Light".

-- The continued reference to Ziyal's artwork, particularly Dukat's pride in it. Definitely a good thing.

-- Kira finally getting to knock Damar halfway into next week. I know I've already mentioned it earlier, but it was so long overdue and so much fun that I can't help mentioning it again. :-) -- Ziyal's request that Dukat free Rom. The scene as a whole was excellent, but I found particularly telling Dukat's early reaction, namely suspicion that Ziyal was involved in the sabotage efforts. So much for faith in one's family.

-- I very, *very* much liked Sisko searching the Bajoran prophecies for "guidance, insights, loopholes" before heading into battle, and his entire speech to Admiral Ross about building a home on Bajor was extremely interesting. Sisko's really gone native, as we saw back in "Rapture" last season--and it appears that the Prophets spoke truly when they said to Sisko, "You are of Bajor." Intriguing stuff there.

-- Damar's speculation that Quark was poisoning him, and the way Quark handled it, almost made me wonder if Quark *had* poisoned it. Evidently not, but it'd be an interesting idea.

-- Weyoun's immediate assessment that the Founder was "neutralizing" Odo was interesting; it's certainly a very Weyounish way to think, and I'm not at all sure he was wrong. It was nice to see him upbraided for it, though.

That about covers it. "Favor the Bold" was a good show in many ways--it certainly has me anticipating next week's battle royale--but in many ways, it felt more like a series of halting steps (some forward, some back) than a bold stride. Here's hoping that "A Sacrifice of Angels" comes off a bit better, and that the repercussions of these six episodes last a lot longer than the war.

So, wrapping up:

Writing: A big minus sign for Odo and for the convenient timing of Sisko's plan, but some praise for Ziyal and for much of the non-Odo goings-on on board the station. Directing: I particularly liked the quick move to a Bajoran leaving the bar while Quark and Damar were talking. Acting: Melanie Smith was much better than usual, and most of the guests were their usual strong selves.

OVERALL: 7, I think; good, but not remotely what it could have been.

NEXT WEEK: Hands up, anyone who *isn't* going through the wormhole...

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
tlynch@alumni.caltech.edu        <*>
"The Emissary looks for guidance on the eve of battle."
"Guidance, insights, loopholes... I'll take anything I can get."
                -- Admiral Ross and Sisko
Copyright 1997, Timothy W. Lynch.  All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...
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Hans-Wolfgang Loidl <hwloidl.glasgow.ac.uk>
Last modified: Wed Oct 30 11:19:28 2002 Stardate: [-30]9302.15