"Strange Bedfellows" 
Season Seven, Episode 19
Written by Ronald D Moore
Directed by Rene Auberjonois
Music by Jay Chattaway
Main Cast:
Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko
Rene Auberjonois as Odo
Nicole deBoer as Lt Ezri Dax
Michael Dorn as Lt Cmdr Worf
Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
Colm Meaney as Chief Miles O'Brien
Armin Shimerman as Quark
Alexander Siddig as Dr Julian Bashir
Nana Visitor as Colonel Kira Nerys

Guest Stars:
Jeffrey Combs as Weyoun
Penny Johnson as Kasidy Yates
Marc Alaimo as Dukat/Anjohl
Casey Biggs as Damar
J.G. Hertzler as Martok
James Otis as Solbor
Salome Jens as Female Changeling
Louise Fletcher as Kai Winn  


Ezri and Worf, prisoners of the Breen, are witness to the birth of an unholy alliance between the mysterious Breen and the Dominion. The treaty between both empires will clearly be a devastating blow for the Federation, turning the tide of the war against them. Damar is not only unhappy that Weyoun kept him in the dark over the alliance, but is outraged at the terms of the treaty -- particularly the clause that states Cardassia will make "territorial concessions" for the Breen. Weyoun throws this back in his face by telling him that Cardassia belongs to the Founders for them to do with as they so wish.

Back on DS9, Kai Winn and Dukat (still posing as Anjohl Tennan) celebrate their destined roles as saviours of Bajor. Winn later has another vision, only to discover that it is not the Prophets that are speaking with her, but the Pagh Wraiths. Winn is horrified, clearly distraught that she has been touched by "the evil ones". She immediately consults the Orb of Prophecy, appealing to the Prophets for help and guidance. But there is nothing -- the Prophets are silent. Dukat takes this opportunity to reveal that he has been sent by the "true Gods of Bajor" -- the Pagh Wraiths. He urges Winn to embrace the Wraiths, but Winn is shocked and furious, ordering him to leave immediately.

On Cardassia, Worf and Ezri learn that they are to be executed for war crimes. When provoked by Weyoun, Worf suddenly grabs the Vorta and breaks his neck, instantly killing him. Damar's reaction is a surprise to everyone -- he looks down at the body and starts laughing. Later, Damar makes the acquaintance of Weyoun's replacement clone, casually suggesting that if he wants more information from the prisoners "perhaps you should go talk to Worf again". The smile is wiped from his face when he realises that the Breen are being allowed classified access to all systems -- which clearly compromises Cardassian security. In their cell, Worf and Ezri stage an escape, only to be caught. With their executions scheduled for the next day, they finally get the chance to sort out their true feelings for each other. Worf acknowledges that he doesn't love Ezri as he did Jadzia, perhaps looking to her as a replacement for her love. They admit that they both made a mistake but pledge to remain friends -- "and more".

Winn bares her soul to the Prophets in a last, desperate attempt to gain their redemption. It is to no avail. She speaks with Kira, admitting that she has strayed from the path and is willing to do anything to win back the Prophets' love. Kira tells her that "even the worst of us can be redeemed", assuring her that when she steps down as Kai, everything will work out. But Winn cannot accept the need to step down as Kai. "Bajor needs me," she states emphatically. Back on Cardassia, just as Worf and Ezri are about the be carted away for execution, Damar shoots the Jem'Hadar guards and sets them free. He provides them an escape route for getting off Cardassia. The only thing he asks in return is that they deliver a message to the Federation; that "they have an ally on Cardassia".

Winn invites Anjohl to her quarters. She explains that although she has spent an entire lifetime devoted to the Prophets, they have never spoken to her, rejecting her at every turn and now abandoning her altogether. She cannot see why she should have to step down from power for Gods that give her nothing in return. Winn claims that she is ready to walk the path of the Pagh Wraiths and, alongside Anjohl, she will overcome all who stand in her way.

You know, something struck me while I wrote the synopsis for this episode. The plot and characterisation are so deeply intertwined that it's virtually impossible to distinguish where one ends and the other begins. That's good, in case you're wondering, very good -- a sure indication of exceptionally well-crafted storytelling. As an albeit amateur writer myself, I can appreciate just how difficult it actually is to strike the right balance between the two. It's all-too easy to let your characters become little more than devices to advance a plot or, on the other hand, to overemphasise the characterisation and so lose the momentum of propelling the plot.

At its best, the Final Chapter episodes do a masterful job integrating both elements to the extent that they are impossible to differentiate -- and Strange Bedfellows is a prime example. Although it doesn't quite have the impact of Til Death Do Us Part, it deftly juggles characterisation and plot development, turning wheels within wheels and barely wasting a line along the way. Admittedly, it's not an hour without one or two problems, but for the most part Strange Bedfellows is another excellent link in the chain that comprises DS9's ten-hour finale.

In my last review, I singled out a major theme of this arc: characters coming to crossroads. Pivotal crossroads, at that -- crossroads which will have repercussions, which will shape destinies and which will have a significant impact on the overall balance of power. Last week Sisko made his choice, opting for the woman he loves over adherence to the will of the Prophets. This week, it's decision time for Damar and Winn respectively, although even Worf and Ezri have some choices to make (you'll notice I muttered the last bit under my breath! Not quite in the same league, I'll grant you). What came before now was build-up; this is the point of no return.

Let's start off with her Eminence, Kai Winn. Strange Bedfellows is arguably at its most compelling when examining Winn's painful and turbulent steps toward setting her destiny in stone. Last week, she was completely oblivious to Dukat's true motives and, of course, his identity. His supremely deceitful seduction of the Kai -- both spiritually and physically -- was the stuff of nightmares. He was pushing all the right buttons, massaging her ego and telling her exactly what she wanted to hear. And she fell for it; hook, line and sinker. The only question was, how long could he keep her fooled? Clearly it was only a matter of time before she would begin to see through his facade, enabling the truth to come out. I just hadn't expected it to happen quite so soon.

Another surprise was the actual way in which Winn learns the truth. I'd assumed that either Dukat would tip his hand, giving himself away or that Winn would grow suspicious of his guise and begin to put two and two together -- or, indeed, that someone would recognise Dukat and blow his cover. Not to worry, leave it to the Wraiths! Having calculated every single step of Dukat's master-plan thus far, the Pagh Wraiths decide to reveal themselves to Winn in a vision. "Feel our love," they purr, taking the guise of Sisko: "Feel the love of the Pagh Wraiths". He unclasps his outstretched hand and offers her a red earring; the insignia of the Pagh Wraith cult.

Understandably Winn is utterly horrified -- after all, imagine how a devoted Christian would feel if they had a brush with Satan. Words wouldn't begin to describe the horror of such an event. Winn's anguish is keenly felt and she wastes no time in consulting the Orb of Prophecy to seek the guidance of the Prophets. But the Orb is still -- the Prophets are silent. As Winn grows ever more frantic, Dukat decides it's time to reveal that he has been sent by the "true Gods of Bajor"; the Pagh Wraiths.

If Marc Alaimo stole the show last week, this week it's Louise Fletcher's turn to shine. In a remarkable performance, Fletcher reminds us exactly why she has an Oscar sitting on her mantelpiece, displaying a vast spectrum of emotion and feeling. Winn goes through the full gamut of emotion, from shock and horror, to fear and anger. Ron Moore's masterful script is one which dares to probe depths most other television shows would refuse to touch with a barge pole. Between that, and Fletcher's superb feat of acting, the result is a powerful character study of the Kai we love to hate. Winn has been anything but virtuous over the past seven years -- she's opposed Bajor's entry into the Federation, orchestrated a political-oriented assassination, conspired with extremists to overthrow the government, torn Vedek Bareil's political career to shreds and later played a part in his death. She's been a bad girl!

Yet, it's hard to feel anything other than sympathy as we watch her cry her eyes out, begging the Prophets for forgiveness. In one of the most powerful, poignant scenes of the entire series, she kneels in repentance, desperately seeking forgiveness -- or even just acknowledgement. "Am I so offensive to your eyes that I don't exist to you now?" she sobs. "There must be something I can do to prove to you I'm still worthy of your love." It's very much like watching a frightened, lonely little girl pleading for her parents to love her. But despite her heart-wrenching pleas, the Prophets remain silent.

It's in her darkest hour that Winn turns to the last person you'd expect her to go to for advice -- Kira. The two have had some memorable scenes throughout DS9's run, and though this is their last, it's one of the best. Winn bares her soul to her one-time adversary, admitting that she has strayed from the path of the Prophets and claims she will do anything to gain their forgiveness. Kira, understandably surprised, is nevertheless commendably supportive and sympathetic. "Even the worst of us can be redeemed," she tells her, echoing a theme that has a great bearing throughout the Final Chapter. Kira, of course, knows that power has been the great corrupting force in Winn's life and assures her that everything will be fine once she steps down as Kai. Ping!! Did you hear that? Something just snapped inside Winn. "Step down?! But why would I do that? Bajor needs me!"

And so we get down to the nitty gritty of things -- she may claim to love the Prophets, but what she really loves is power and she has absolutely NO intention of relinquishing it. Clearly, her "love" of the Prophets was conditional on what she could get in return for it. Ever since her first appearance, back in the first season's In the Hands of the Prophets, I've suspected as much. "You use the Prophets as your own personal consortium of power," Sisko said back then. Turns out he was dead-on in his assessment.

So it's no great surprise that if it comes to a choice between the Prophets and power, Winn would choose the latter time and time again. The Pagh Wraiths have absolute power to offer -- embrace them and she shall be supreme saviour of the Bajor. It's an offer Winn can't refuse. In the episode's coda, she admits to Anjohl (and probably equally to herself) that she has never really felt a connection to the Prophets. "They've never spoken to me, never offered me guidance, never trusted me with the fruits of their wisdom. And now, I'm expected to step down as Kai in order to be blessed by them?" It ain't gonna happen, is it? "I will no longer serve Gods who give me nothing in return. I'm ready to walk the path the Pagh Wraiths have laid out for be."

Be afraid. Be very afraid!

Unfortunately, in trying to convey this sense of danger, Moore goes slightly overboard, which ill-befits an otherwise beautifully understated, introspective character piece. I'm referring, of course, to Winn's final pledge that "those who dare to [oppose us] -- the Federation and its Vedek puppets, the false Gods and their precious Emissary -- they'll all be swept aside like dead leaves before an angry wind!" Dum dum DUM!!! As far as I'm concerned, DS9's villains are always at their most effective when understated -- this is particularly true for Dukat and equally so for Winn. Less really is more and usually far more menacing than overblown "cartoony" dialogue. (There was another example of its in the teaser where the Founder announces that the Federation "will be erased from the face of the galaxy". Cue evil cackle and a pang of lightning in the background).

Incidentally, I'm aware that a number of people felt Winn's conversion happened too quickly. I'm very much sitting on the fence on that one. I can see their point -- within the space of forty-five minutes, Bajor's spiritual leader took a hundred and eighty degree turn from devoted follower of the Prophets to devoted follower of the Prophets' sworn enemies, the Pagh Wraiths. Given that we see nothing of Winn and Dukat between When it Rains... and the finale, that time could have been used to develop this storyline at a slower pace. However, I'm aware that doing so could well have culled the impact and risked the whole thing becoming too laboured and drawn-out. In spite of the over-the-top closing speech, I feel that -- for the most part -- it works remarkably well. Yes, it is a little hurried, but we get to see each step of Winn's descent and, thanks to some largely excellent writing and Fletcher's powerful performance, it makes for riveting, thought-provoking drama.

Let's move on to this week's instalment of "The Worf and Ezri Show". It's no secret that I've found this particular thread to be the weakest aspect of the past three episodes. Whilst it was only inevitable that, sooner or later, Worf and Ezri would be forced to deal with their complicated relationship, it's been handled quite poorly, by my reckoning. Let's see, we've had "bicker, bicker, bicker", a night of illicit passion, "bicker, bicker, bicker", the revelation that Ezri actually loves Bashir and, of course, "bicker, bicker, bicker". Aside from disappointing work on the writing front, Michael Dorn and Nicole de Boer have been seemingly unable to muster the all-important chemistry that the whole thing has been so reliant on. Add to that the fact it has dragged on far too long, becoming quite tedious and bogging down other far more interesting plots. Alas, the time has come to resolve things and it's not a moment too soon for my liking.

Quite against expectations, I actually enjoyed the Worf/Ezri double-act this week! Of course, things again start off with a good ol' "bicker, bicker, bicker", but Moore clearly has the right idea: if characters are going to bicker like children, you can at least give them good lines! The best Rene Echevarria could muster in Penumbra was -- "you're crazy!"; "that's because you're enough to drive anyone crazy". This week we have some great quips, a selection of which just begs to be included:

The Worf/Ezri scenes definitely had greater entertainment value than any prior to now. Once we get through the obligatory "bicker, bicker, bicker", however, the pair finally confront their true feelings for each other. I guess the fact they were scheduled for execution helped matters along. :-) They both admit that what happened on Goralis was a mistake. Ezri was confusing her feelings with those of Jadzia's and Worf was doing pretty much the same, looking to Ezri to fill the void that Jadzia had left in his life. I'm way ahead of them, having already worked this out two episodes ago. Still, by acknowledging that they made a mistake and pledging to remain friends, both display a maturity that was severely lacking up until now. So although I wasn't exactly overjoyed by the Worf/Ezri storyline as a whole, Strange Bedfellows provides a satisfying resolution which helps compensate for any qualms I may have had.

Anyway, now that Ezri and Worf have been handed over by the Breen to the Dominion, we have a bridge to our third plot, which details Damar's continuing dissatisfaction with life under Dominion rule.

The friction between the Dominion and the Cardassians has been no great surprise -- indeed, it's been a long time coming. Almost from the moment Cardassia joined the Dominion there has been evidence of conflicting interests between the two. For two years we've seen time and time again cracks starting to form as Cardassia's deal with the devil has turned increasingly sour. As leader of the Cardassian Union, Damar has turned a blind eye to it, refusing to acknowledge the black clouds looming overhead and nearly drinking himself into oblivion. Last week, Dukat urged his former protege to take control of his life, telling him that "Cardassia needs a leader". Perhaps this was his wake-up call, along with the fact he can't even look himself in the mirror any more without feeling disgust at what he's become.

The final straw is the Dominion's new alliance with the Breen. Evidently the Breen are the Dominion's token to victory and both Weyoun and the Founder are doing some serious sucking up while the Cardassians have become little more than an inconvenience to them. Not only is Damar reeling that he was kept in the dark about the alliance, but he is furious that the terms of the treaty involve "territorial concessions" the Cardassians are to make to the Breen. Weyoun assures him that it will only involve handing over a few "minor planets". "There are no minor planets in the Cardassian Union," is Damar's livid response. But Weyoun gets the last word -- as far as he's concerned, all Cardassian territory belongs to the Dominion to do with as it pleases. Surrounded by a roomful of Jem'Hadar, how does one argue with that?

But enough is enough. Damar comes to the realisation that the Federation is not Cardassia's enemy: the Dominion is. The Cardassian people are little more than an expendable resource to the Dominion and he's not going to stand for it any longer. "Cardassia needs a leader," Dukat had said. Well, it's about to get one! Following years of subjection by Weyoun, Damar's first real act as leader of Cardassia is to free Worf and Ezri, who are due to be executed. They are understandably surprised and sceptical -- and who can blame them? They are free on the condition that they deliver a message to the Federation: "Tell them they have an ally on Cardassia."

I don't actually have a lot to say on this one (which would make a change, wouldn't it!). It was largely set-up, detailing Damar's gradual wake-up call and his eventual decision that he can't sit idly by as Cardassia is run into the ground by the Dominion. This decision, of course, will have immense repercussions for the entire Alpha Quadrant, as will be explored in succeeding episodes. So stay tuned for more on that one -- the real meat is yet to come.

None of the material had quite the impact of Dukat's pep talk last week, or the unforgettably haunting image of Damar unable to look himself in the mirror. But there's still a lot to enjoy, thanks in no small part to the ever-excellent Jeffrey Combs, who continues to shine as the sleazy little worm that is Weyoun. Stealing just about every scene he's in, Combs is simply sublime as the mealy-mouthed Vorta, who exemplifies what I said above about DS9's villains being at their best when understated. Weyoun is very much an understated kind of a guy, but behind his amicable facade is a nasty piece of work indeed. A perfect example of this is a line that was cut from the final edit: "Commander Worf...I hope you'll accept my deepest sympathies regarding the approaching demise of the Klingon Empire". It's a shame that got cut -- it's classic Weyoun. However, there's still a lot for Weyoun fans to enjoy, least of all the scene where he's killed!!

One of the episode's best scenes is Weyoun and Damar's interrogation of Worf and Ezri. As they play out that ol' good cop/bad cop routine, a snide comment by Weyoun prompts Worf to suddenly grab him by the throat and break his neck! As Damar looks down at the body, he laughs. Yes, he laughs! And despite the violent, bleak nature of what has just happened, caught off-guard by his reaction, I started to laugh as well. It's an extremely off-beat but highly effective moment -- both shocking and funny at the same time. If there is ever a compilation of DS9's greatest moments, this is a definite contender. Equally funny was Damar's amused reaction to the arrival of Weyoun's next clone. When asked if the prisoners have co-operated, Damar responds by telling him no, suggesting with a laugh that "perhaps you should talk to Worf again!" :-) I used to enjoy the Weyoun/Dukat interaction, but I don't think it was ever as fun as this! Great stuff.

But, alas, this review wouldn't be complete without a few words on the Breen. So here goes...

Let it be known: I hate the Breen! There could be any number of reasons for this. For a start, those ridiculous helmets make them look like rejects from Star Wars. But doubly as hokey is the fact that instead of speaking, they emit unintelligible screeching noises which everyone understands perfectly -- except, of course, for the audience! Why am I reminded of Star Wars again? As well as being quite annoying, it's a sure-fire way to ensure that the Breen are completely devoid of character or personality. They're not characters, they're little more than plot devices. Annoying ones, at that. Not to mention dumb, which by extension makes the show look dumb. Oh, and their ships are ugly, as well.

I feel so much better now I've got that off my chest. Moving on...what have I left out? Directing, directing -- I'd nearly forgotten to mention the directing. Although not as good as last week's effort, Rene Auberjonois still did a reasonable job behind the camera. Some scenes were particularly well shot -- Ezri and Worf hanging upside down, Winn's vision and her subsequent pleading to the Prophets particularly stand to mind. One or two fell a little flat, such as the mirror scene in Damar's quarters -- a pale imitation of a much better scene from the previous episode. I similarly found the struggle between Winn and Dukat following his bombshell announcement a little unconvincing. The camera just sort of hangs there making it look somewhat...stylised, for lack of a better word. I also felt that, overall, the pacing was a little uneven. Whereas just about every frame of Til Death Do Us Part achieved a striking sense of tension and unrest, Strange Bedfellows tends to meander a bit in places, lacking the atmosphere and fatalistic tone of its predecessor.

Now onto a few miscellaneous comments:

And that, I think, just about covers it. Strange Bedfellows is another thoroughly enjoyable episode that covers an admirable amount of territory within the space of forty-five minutes. It's not admittedly without one or two faults and it may lack the nail-biting blanket of tension that coated the previous and succeeding episodes but, nevertheless, it's strengths vastly outweigh its failings. All things considered, another smashing episode -- engaging, provocative and above all, immensely entertaining.

Rating: 8.5

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