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Retro Review: Sons and Daughters

Posted by Michelle - 14/03/14 at 05:03 pm


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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Season: 06 Episode: 03 (s06e03)

Original US airdate: 10/16/1997

While Alexander struggles to become a Klingon warrior on General Martok’s ship, Ziyal returns to the station to make peace between Dukat and Kira.

Plot Summary: Though Sisko and his crew are relieved to have been rescued from Cardassian space on the Rotarran, Dax and Worf are still having trouble working out the details of their wedding, which Worf wants to be fully Klingon though Dax is resisting having to join the House of Martok. No sooner does she depart with Sisko than Worf’s son Alexander arrives as a new Klingon recruit, eager to pledge his life to Martok yet expressing open resentment over Worf’s long neglect of him. Because he is small and untrained, the other Klingons challenge him. Worf tries to teach him to fight like a warrior, but the two only quarrel further. Meanwhile, on the station, Dukat summons Kira to greet Ziyal, who has left school on Bajor because the students resent having Dukat’s half-Cardassian daughter among them. She has been garnering praise as an artist from Bajorans and Cardassians alike. When the Cardassian Institute of Art wants to exhibit some of Ziyal’s drawings, Dukat throws a party in her honor, but after he tries to woo Kira by sending her a fancy dress for the occasion, Kira decides not to attend. Kira tells Ziyal that the girl’s place is with her father, but her own place is resisting Dominion efforts to swallow up Bajor, which she and Odo have been working to combat. When Alexander learns that Worf intends to have him transferred to a cargo ship, he decides that he would rather die than be exiled again and volunteers for a dangerous rescue during a battle with the Jem’Hadar. Though Alexander continues to make errors, the other Klingons accept him, and Worf promises that he will teach Alexander to be a Klingon warrior if Alexander will teach Worf to be a father. To facilitate this, General Martok formally adopts Alexander into the House of Martok.

Analysis: “Sons and Daughters” demonstrates that the Deep Space Nine writers don’t intend to neglect long series (indeed, long franchise) arcs just because they’ve launched a specific extended storyline about the Dominion War. Most of the regulars appear only for a few minutes, while the bulk of the episode is made up of two family dramas that have been unfolding for many years, though the children in each case have been magically aged to appear much older than makes sense chronologically. It seems as if Worf and everyone else had forgotten about Alexander, so the only plausible storyline for him is to have him arrive fuming that his father never visits nor even talks to him about huge events like dissolving the House of Mogh and joining the House of Martok. Ziyal, on the other hand, is never far from Dukat’s mind, though it’s hard to tell at this point how much he’s attached to her because she’s the daughter of a beloved mistress and how much he’s using her because Kira’s affection for her gives Dukat a way to try to create a sense of family with Kira – something Kira realizes that she can’t allow to happen any more than Worf can afford to show weakness where his son is concerned. These are stories that really can’t have happy endings and remain believable. So while I really appreciate Ziyal’s brief, unhappy appearance, I can’t help rolling my eyes at Alexander’s storyline, which is predictable in the extreme – not only the estrangement from Worf but the way every single Klingon reacts to him, from Martok’s imbecilic utterance, “When a father and son do not speak, it means there’s trouble between them,” to the Klingon goading that nearly leads to someone getting stabbed and killed. When Martok complains that he isn’t getting enough replacement warriors, I can’t help wondering whether that’s because half of the candidates have been killed in stupid brawls defending their honor against petty insults.

Worf is wounded at the beginning when Dax interrupts an intimate moment to insist that she doesn’t want to be involved in any more blood feuds, yet as out of character as that seems for the woman who once was Curzon and brings it up all the time, it makes me want to cheer. What are supposed to be proud battles to defend the dignity of one’s entire family end up looking like after-school brawls. “You fight like a Ferengi!” is hard to take seriously as a terrible insult – Ferengi can be pretty conniving and dangerous when they want to – and quarrels over who can eat the most spicy sauce or drink the most blood wine are best left to spoiled brats, not warriors about to face the Dominion. Can you imagine Starfleet functioning if every challenge led to a fight with knives, sometimes to the death? There would need to be five times as many doctors and no one would get around to exploring strange new worlds. This isn’t about honor, it’s about macho posturing, and even if it were about honor, the characters throw around the word as if it can replace “drama” and “plot.” Worf and Martok might be able to use humor to deflect the tantrums, but Worf refuses to be a merry man even when it might save lives, while Martok seems to forget that not long ago he was the one having trouble finding his courage and makes the usual pompous speeches we get from Klingon leaders about family and loyalty. Poor skinny Alexander doesn’t have a chance, though it would be more interesting if he’d grown up to be as physically imposing as Worf and still clueless with a bat’leth. I wouldn’t blame him for taking a swing at his absentee dad, but more to the point, why isn’t Martok ripping Worf a new one for abandoning an adolescent without even trying to instill Klingon values in him? I’d think Martok would consider an honorable death in battle at a young age to be vastly preferable to being a Klingon among humans.

Poor Ziyal has always existed largely as a catalyst for other characters – she brings out Dukat’s paternal side, Kira’s ability to see past Cardassian features, and Garak’s…well, I would say his heterosexuality, except he’s not on the station and Ziyal doesn’t seem to miss him, despite her misery at being separated from him when she left for Bajor. Their ages, respective states of maturity, backgrounds, social situations, and interests make them a terrible pairing even if we assume Garak wouldn’t rather spend time with Bashir and Ziyal doesn’t have a daddy complex. I can forgive her for forgiving Dukat for all the things he’s done to her – abandoning her, trying to kill her, cutting her off for being illegitimate, dismissing her for having conflicted loyalties due to her dual racial heritage – but it’s ridiculous that she would trust him, and the fact that she wants Kira not merely to tolerate Dukat but to befriend him is really hard to take. She never even asked that of Garak. I’m not sure what to make of Kira’s connection to her, whether it’s pity or the maternal side she seems to have pushed away now that she’s no longer pregnant with the O’Briens’ baby, and I would forgive her, too, if she were looking for ways to use Ziyal against Dukat, yet despite Kira’s own declared lack of artistic ability (“I was the worst finger painter at the four year old level”), she seems genuinely appreciative of Ziyal’s artistic talent and glad that the girl has found a path completely outside politics. But then, I don’t recognize the Kira who wanted to throw up while looking in the mirror at herself after a Vedek’s suicide when her first reaction is to be happy that Dukat sent her a pretty dress for Ziyal’s party. Even if pretty dresses were high on Kira’s priority list, she must know that this one was selected for Dukat’s pleasure, not her own. And pretty dresses have never been on her list at all. How can she encourage Ziyal to be herself when Kira no longer seems to know how to be true to her own self?

It’s a shame that Alexander and Ziyal will never meet, because there is a romance for the ages, or could have been. In this episode we see all the things they have in common, children of warrior cultures whose skills lie outside combat, born out of wedlock to parents who put a high value on traditional families, rejected then reclaimed by famous fathers, raised in large part by foster parents, of mixed racial heritage, feeling as if they don’t belong on the worlds of either of their parents. How fantastic would it have been to hear the compare their backgrounds and watch them find their way together?

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  • Ward3

    This is the only weak episode of the story arc to start Season 6. I don’t know what they did with OUR Major Kira, but she seems to have gone missing for a week. I can’t believe Kira would be swayed in any way by a dress. A Dress? Given to her by her biggest adversary? Her enemy? While I recognise that Dukat has become a lot more sympathetic and nuanced over the last couple of seasons of the show, there is no way that he has moved totally beyond the manipulative and sleazy tactics that he has used in the past. He is still trying to justify his horrible mistreatment of others, and wants to be loved, praised and forgiven. Just because he loves his daughter, there is still no way that Kira would fall for the Cardassian Dress Trick. I know that Kira loves Ziyal, but if she would not drop her own feelings and ethics in any other situation, why would she do it now?

    The Worf/Alexander story is quite formulaic, and brings no new insight into Worf, Alexander, Martok or the Klingon culture. Nothing new to see here, move along. The only thing that I guess we learn is that Klingons physically mature very quickly, since the last time we saw Alexander, he was about 5? years old, now suddenly is in late adolescence? Amazing growth!

    I watch this arc from time to time, but usually skip this one episode.

  • Enterprise1981

    While I could already say this ep was the weak link in Dominion occupation arc, Michelle articulates even better with regard to the Klingons resembling street gangs. How can an empire fight a war if they pick fights over the slightest insults to their family’s honor? Even though Dax was joking about not wanting to be involved in every little blood feud, maybe there was some truth to it. Too bad Worf can’t be everywhere to break up all the Gowron vs. random challenger fights.

  • Theragen Derivative

    I could never figure out how the Klingons — at least, the TNG/DS9 version of them — ever accomplished much of anything. There was always way too much tribal D&D-level nonsense going on with them (one reviewer back then memorably referred to everything involving them as the “Klingon Klaptrap”) and everyone, everyone in that society was a warrior. We never saw Klingon scientists, engineers, physicists, builders, designers, etc., and indeed their culture seemed to discourage the individual from being anything but a warrior (recall Worf’s reaction back in TNG when Alexander announced he didn’t want to be one). Who built their ships? Their weapons? Their cities? Their technology? Somebody had to buck the peer pressure to just run off into the hills and sing songs about blood wine….

    And even to that extent, they were stupid warriors who took all that crap about today being a good day to die way too seriously and never seemed to hew to their own professed code. When Ezri later told Worf that he was the only “real” Klingon, or something to that effect, I shouted “YES! EXACTLY!”

    The Klingons became a cartoonish, two-dimensional culture and that’s unfortunate. The original TOS conception of them suggested a people more cunning, strategic and ruthless. But for my money, the Cardassians were the far more developed and interesting society in DS9. The Klingons were just tiresome.

  • TD

    TNG swapped the characteristics of the klingons and romulans as they were protrayed in TOS so now klingons talked of honor and romulans plotted behind the scenes.

  • Ward3

    I really learned to enjoy (though not exactly love) the Cardassians. They come off as a far richer culture with far more dimensions than the Klingons do in the DS9 era of the shows. At least the Cardassians had scientists, inquisitors at the university, spies, soldiers, a civilian council, dissidents, doctors, surgeons, small business people, all of whom seemed to be pretty competent.