"What You Leave Behind" 

Season Seven, Episodes 25/26
Written by Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler
Directed by Allan Kroeker
Music by Dennis McCarthy
Main Cast:
Avery Brooks as Captain 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:
Marc Alaimo as Gul Dukat                     Rosalind Chao as Keiko O'Brien
Louise Fletcher as Kai Winn                  James Darren as Vic Fontaine
Casey Biggs as Damar                           Deborah Lacey as Sarah Prophet
Andrew J Robinson as Garak                Julianna McCarthy as Mila
Jeffrey Combs as Weyoun                     Hana Hatae as Molly O'Brien
Salome Jens as Female Changeling       Mel Johnson, Jr as Legate Broca
Aron Eisenberg as Nog                         Greg Ellis as Ekoor
J.G. Hertzler as Chancellor Martok         Cyndi Pass as Ginger
Barry Jenner as Admiral Ross               Kevin Scott Allen as Jem'Hadar
Penny Johnson as Kasidy Yates           Christopher Halsted as Jem'Hadar First


On the eve of battle, the crew of DS9 bid their loved ones farewell as they prepare to depart on a deadly mission that, one way or another, will determine the outcome of the war. Ezri and Bashir, having finally found love, make a pact to come home alive. O'Brien makes a pledge to his family -- apparently he has been offered a position at Starfleet Academy as a Professor of Engineering and he intends to take it as soon as the war is over, meaning the O'Briens will be moving back to Earth. Sisko, meanwhile, does his best to assure his pregnant wife, Kasidy, that he will return safely home. The crew board the Defiant and depart from DS9, joining a massive fleet of Federation, Klingon and Romulan ships -- their destination Cardassia.

On Cardassia Prime, Weyoun informs the Founder that the Federation's invasion fleet has departed DS9 and will reach Cardassian space by the following evening. They are joined by Legate Broca, who informs them that rebel leader Damar is still very much alive and is reportedly in the capital. Meanwhile, Damar, Kira and Garak are still hiding out in Mila's basement where they are orchestrating to sabotage the Dominion's power generators and communications systems, thereby cutting off the Dominion fleet from all ground support. On Bajor, Kai Winn is joined by the surgically-altered Dukat, who has regained his sight and thus been forgiven by the Pah-wraiths  for his arrogance. Winn, however, is less quick to forgive Dukat's crimes but admits that she will need his help in releasing the Pah-wraiths from the Fire Caves.

Damar's plan to sabotage all Dominion installations on Cardassia is a success and the Dominion is completely cut off from their fleet. Broca informs the Founder that Cardassian civillians are responsible for the sabotage. The Founder is furious and declares that the Cardassian citizens must be severely punished for their act of betrayal. The Dominion gain back-up power and Weyoun delivers an address to the Cardassian people, informing them that as pay-back for their actions, the Dominion has completely obliterated Lakarian city, killing two million men, women and children. Weyoun warns that for act additional act of sabotage another Cardassian city will be destroyed. Incensed by this act of genocide, Kira, Damar and Garak make plans to attack the Central Command.

The Dominion have located Damar, however and Jem'Hadar and Cardassian soldiers storm the house, killing Mila and apprehending Damar, Kira and Garak. The soldiers inform Weyoun of their catch and the Founder orders their immediate execution. The Cardassian soldiers, however, turn on the Jem'Hadar just as the prisoners are about to be killed. Seeking revenge for the destruction of Lakarian city, they pledge their lives to Damar.

Meanwhile, the massive Federation fleet engages the Dominion in fierce battle. The onslaught is devastating and just as it appears the Federation's lines are crumbling, the Cardassian ships switch sides and start opening fire on the Jem'Hadar and Breen warships. At the Central Command on Cardassia communications have been restored and the Founder is horrified when she learns that the Cardassians have betrayed them. Reeling with fury, she orders the Dominion fleet to withdraw and pull back to Cardassia Prime. As for the Cardassians, she orders -- starting with Broca -- the extermination of the entire population.

Thanks to the aid of their new Cardassian allies, the Federation fleet has succeeded in pushing the Dominion back to Cardassia Prime. But the battle is not over and Sisko and Martok convince Admiral Ross that they must press on to Cardassia and defeat the Dominion rather than let them fortify their troops in preparation for another offensive. Although the cost is bound to be extreme, the fleet heads on to Cardassia to finally put a decisive end to the war.

On Bajor, meanwhile, Winn and Dukat make their way to the Fire Caves. Upon arriving at their destination, Winn uses the book of the Kosst Amojan to call forth the Pah-wraiths and she pours a ceremonial chalice of wine, offering it first to Dukat. Dukat drinks the wine, but within seconds he is writhing on the ground in agony -- the wine was poisoned. Winn explains that the Pah-wraiths demand a sacrifice. Who is more worthy of the Pah-wraiths than Dukat? Dukat slumps over, dead and Winn offers the sacrifice to the Pah-wraiths.

Meanwhile, Kira, Damar and co. have reached Dominion headquaters only to discover that their explosives will barely dent the neutronium walls. They have no way of getting inside until, that is, the Jem'Hadar guards escort Broca out of the building for execution. They charge at the guards and gain entry into the building, but in the crossfire Damar is killed. Kira orders the Cardassians to press on -- Damar's death will not be in vain. In the control room, Weyoun admits to the Founder that there is only a handful of guards in the building, the rest having been sent to impliment her orders to eradicate the Cardassian population. Kira and Garak make it to the control room and hold Weyoun and the Founder at gun point. "Tell me, where is my old friend Damar?" asks Weyoun. "He's dead. He died trying to free Cardassia," Garak replies. "What's left of it," sneers the smug Vorta. Garak's response is quick and deadly -- he kills Weyoun. Kira demands that thhe Founder call her troops to stand down: the war is over. The Founder retorts that she has no intention of doing anything of the sort. Her troops will continue to fight to the last man. The Federation may well win the war, but they will have incurred such devastating losses "that your victory will taste as bitter as defeat".

Kira makes contact with the Defiant and Sisko allows Odo to beam down to try and reason with the Founder. Upon beaming down, Odo tries to convince the Founder to surrender, but she will have none of it. Surrender will be taken as a sign of weakness on her part -- "an invitation to the solids to cross into the Gamma Quadrant and destroy the Great Link". Odo assures her that the Federation would never do anything of the sort -- nor would it allow the Klingons or Romulans to do so. But the Founder doesn't share his trust in the solids. Odo offers to link with her, believing that he can cure her disease. Sure enough, linking with Odo completely heals the changeling, who proceeds to order her troops to stand down. Odo informs Kira that as they linked he persuaded the Founder to turn herself over to stand trial for her crimes. But in exchange, Odo must return home to cure his people in the Great Link.

Martok fulfils his pledge to share a bottle of blood wine in the halls of Cardassia's Central Command with Sisko and Ross. But the devastation and carnage at their feet is too sickening to all but Martok, who cites this as an example of "poetic justice". Bashir tries to console Garak, who has finally ended his exile and returned home -- only to have his home lying in smoulddering rubble, with some eight hundred million of his people dead. Bashir reassures him that the Cardassian people are strong and will survive. Garak doesn't seem quite so sure. He bids farewell to Bashir, thanking for his friendship and saying that he will miss their lunches together. As for if they'll ever see each other again, Garak is cagey -- "I'd like to think so, but one can never say. We live in uncertain times."

The Defiant returns to DS9, where the Founder signs a peace treaty, ending the war between the Dominion and the Federation. She is then arrested and taken away to stand trial. A time later, Sisko, Martok and Ross offer Worf a promotion, as the Federation Ambassador to the Klingon Empire. Worf accepts, much to Martok's delight at having an Ambassador to go targ-hunting with. Meanwhile, another departure is imminent -- namely Odo's. He does not plan on retturning once curing his people. Despite his feelings for Kira, he realises that his people need him and if they are ever to trust and live peacefully with solids they must learn what he has learned from living among them. Kira sadly accepts his decision but asks that she be the one to take him home to his people.

The crew gather in Vic's to celebrate the end of the war and to bid farewell to Odo, Worf and O'Brien, who is leaving to take up his post at Starfleet Academy. As O'Brien mulls over possible places to live on Earth (Worf is emphatic about Minsk), Sisko proposes a toast -- "To the finest crew any Captain ever had. This may be the last time we're all together, but no matter what the future holds, no matter how far we travel, a part of us -- a very important part -- will always remain here, on Deep Space Nine."

On Bajor, in the Fire Caves, Winn has successfully called forth the Kosst Amojan, but things do not go according to plan. The Pah-wraith knocks her to the ground with a bolt of energy and enters Dukat's corpse, bringing him back to life and transforming his appearance back to its original Cardassian state. As Sisko dances with Kasidy in Vic's, he receives a flash of insight -- finally realising what he must do for the Prophets. He slips off and leaves in a runabout for Bajor. When he arrives in the Fire Caves, he is confronted by what appears to be a hybrid of Dukat and the Kosst Amojan. The Dukat/Pah-wraith taunts Sisko and, with a wave of his hand, forces Sisko to his knees, ordering him to beg before him. Sisko declares that the Pah-wraiths will never conquer anything -- not the Celestial Temple, not Bajor and certainly not the Alpha Quadrant.

But, incapacitated by Dukat, Sisko is in no position to put up a fight -- so in a last-minute turnabout, Winn tries to throw the book of the Kosst Amojan down into the flaming cavern. Dukat stops her and retrieves the book, dispatching a swirling flame of energy that vapourises her. Taking advantage of the momentary distraction, Sisko hurls himself at Dukat and they both fall into the blazing inferno of the Fire Caves....

In a flash of light, Sisko finds himself in the Celestial Temple of the Prophets. He is met by Sarah, who informs him that he has completed his task. By destroying the book, he sealed a door that can never be re-opened, returning the Pah-wraiths to their prison in the Fire Caves -- and Dukat along with them. Sarah tells Sisko that he must rest, which he intends to do once he returns to DS9. "That won't be necessary," she informs him. "You're with us now." And Sisko is hit by the realisation that he won't be returning home....

On DS9, the crew have found Sisko's runabout in orbit of Bajor, but there is no sign of him in the Fire Caves, or anywhere else on Bajor for that matter. The search continues, but Kasidy fears the worst. Kasidy finds herself inside the Celestial Temple, where she meets Sisko and is relieved that he is alright. She wants them to go home, but Sisko explains that he can't -- not now. "Oh God," Kasidy sobs. "This is it, isn't it? The sorrow that the Prophets warned us about."

Sisko finds it difficult to explain: "It's not linear .... my life, my destiny. The Prophets saved me, Kasidy. I'm their Emissary and they still have a great deal for me to do. But first, there is much to learn -- things only the Prophets can teach me."

"When will you be back?" asks Kasidy.

"It's hard to say. Maybe a year. Maybe yesterday...."

Kasidy promises that she will be waiting for him. And with that she finds herself back aboard DS9, where she tells Jake that she has just spoken to his father.

Parting is such sweet sorrow, and as various members of the DS9 crew depart, they reminisce over times gone by. As Worf leaves to take up his role as Federation Ambassador to Qo'onos, Ezri waves goodbye from a distance, while O'Brien and Bashir share a silent but tender farewell as O'Brien departs for Earth. Odo decides to slip away quietly, not being very good at goodbyes but Quark catches up with he and Kira as they are about to board their runabout. Quark tries to coax a parting word from his changeling adversary, but Odo claims to have nothing to say to him. "Don't take it hard, Quark," Kira whispers to Quark as Odo boards the runabout. "Hard? What are you talking about? That man loves me! Didn't you see? It was written all over his back."

Kira and Odo arrive at Odo's homeworld in the Gamma Quadrant. The Great Link is in a bad state -- the changelings are dying. Odo asks Kira to tell everyone on the station that he will miss them, including Quark. Odo morphs himself into a tuxedo -- after all, Kira had always said he looked good in a tux. "This is how I want you to remember me," he tells her. "I'll never forget you." They kiss and exchange a tender, emotional goodbye. Odo steps into the Great Link and gradually dissolves into the ocean, which begins to change back to its original colour as Odo cures his people of their disease.

Despite the recent upheavals and departures, life continues aboard DS9, with Kira now in command of the station. She congratulates Nog on his promotion to lieutenant and affectionately picks up the baseball left behind by Sisko. As Bashir and Ezri make a date in the holosuites, Kira pays Quark a visit and confronts him over conducting illegal betting pools on who is going to be the next Kai. Kira warns him that if he doesn't call off all bets, he will find himself in a holding cell. Quark cheerfully notes that, in spite of all the change of recent events, "there more things change, the more they remain the same."

On leaving Quark's, Kira looks up onto the second level of the Promenade and sees Jake, standing alone and gazing out the window toward the wormhole -- to where his father is. She steps up and joins him, gently putting her hand on his shoulder, reassuring him that she understands and shares his sense of loss. As they gaze outward into space, we slowly pull back until gradually DS9 itself becomes lost amid the glory of the sparkling heavens......

All Good Things
Must Come to an End
"Let's finish what we started."
-- Captain Benjamin Sisko

Good Lordy, I don't rightly know where to begin! And this is just a review of the episode, I can only imagine how the writers must have felt when they sat down to a blank canvas. I know I wouldn't have wanted to have been in their shoes -- after all, where does one begin when it comes to resolving seven years of multi-tiered storytelling? In orchestrating DS9's Final Chapter, the writers set about using the last ten episodes to tie up various threads and expand on others, setting various events into motion, culminating in What You Leave Behind, the show's two-hour finale. Even with the ten-hour build-up, the writers had a heck of a lot to accomplish in this final hour and a half --  such as providing an end to the war, revealing Cardassia's final fate, getting back to Winn and Dukat's Satanic shenaigans, resolving the fates of some twenty-odd characters, at the same time providing a definitive end to the series. That's a tall order by anyone's standards. So how did they do?

I think the majority of the show's fans have done a pretty good job highlighting the areas in which they fell short. Whether you find the finished product sublimely satisfying or woefully disappointing depends a lot upon one's expectations and focus; such as whether you watch the show as primarily a Sisko fan,a Dukat fan, a Kira/Odo fan or even a space battle fan. Part of what makes DS9 fandom so fascinating are the various and diverse branches of devotees, each of whom watches the show for a different reason and each of whom has different likes, dislikes, expectations and desires. It's almost as though these different "camps" watch the show through their own particular lenses depending on their area of interest and that's part of what makes the sharing of thoughts so interesting. Speaking personally, I consider myself a "general" fan and largely neutral in terms of character preferences and expectations. I generally endeavour to take as panoramic a view of the series as possible, which I hope has enabled me to write reasonably balanced and objective reviews.

So what does What You Leave Behind look like from a panoramic perspective? On the whole, very impressive, I have to say. OK, so it does fall short in one or two areas and there are one or two things I'd like to have seen that were swept under the rug -- that we'll go into that later. In final judgement, however, one has to keep things in perspective; no, this wasn't everything it could have been. But given the sheer vastness, magnitude and epic scope of the DS9 tapestry, I think that was only inevitable. With a finite amount of time and numerous logistical and budgetary considerations to contend with, I very much doubt anyone could have come up with something that would please every single viewer a hundred percent. So, no, What You Leave Behind is not everything it could have been -- but clearly holding it to such an impossibly high ideal is both unrealistic and naive. The bottom line, however, is that it's everything it needed to be -- and probably a good bit more.

For everything that What You Leave Behind does wrong, it does ten times the amount right. It's a fitting and ultimately satisfying capper to the series that took Star Trek to the next level in terms of its storytelling and characterisation; in terms of pretty much everything, in fact. Like the very best DS9, it's a dazzling and intoxicating concoction of nail-biting drama on both an intimate and a grand scale, seamlessly laced with well-realised and meaningful characterisation. But let's not get ahead of ourselves: it ain't over 'til the fat lady sings (in this case Kasidy. OK, so she's pregnant, not fat, but she'll do!).

War and Peace
"What do you say we end this war?"
-- Captain Benjamin Sisko

The episode starts off on a quiet note, giving us pleasant little snapshots of the DS9 crew and their families as they prepare to leave for battle. It's ironic that although DS9 is considered the darkest and bleakest of the Trek progeny -- which, on one hand it is -- it's also the warmest and most humman of the lot. Jean-Luc Picard could deliver diatribes about the virtues and strengths of humanity and the human spirit until he's blue in the face, for in my opinion, DS9 has done far more to demonstrate the human spirit than its colder, more impersonal and sterile predecessors. DS9's characters aren't simply squeaky-clean, cookie-cutter heroes; they're real people, with families and lives, virtues and flaws, fears and dreams. Don't get me wrong, I'm not decrying the other Star Trek shows by any means, I'm simply pointing out that what's far more effective than telling us about the wonders of the human spirit is actually showing us, and to do that one must also explore the flaws and failings if one is to recognise it's strengths and virtues. But that, I guess, is the subject of a completely different review.

Getting back to the topic at hand, the episode opens to the sight of Bashir and Ezri in bed (and -- gasp! -- they're not wearing any clothes! That's surely a first for Trek!). It's the morning after the night before and the two lovebirds are delighted to have finally found love. Personally, I'm left a little cold by this latest coupling and I don't think Bashir has quite the chemistry with Ezri that he had with Jadzia, but it's still a rather nice book-end to the series to have Bashir finally find love with Dax. Meanwhile, Keiko and the O'Brien kids make a welcome cameo as we learn that O'Brien has accepted a job offer on Earth (but first he has to divorce Julian!), while on the Sisko front, Kasidy is suffering the joys of impending motherhood. Nice stuff, not earth-shattering, but nice -- and a comforting assurance that, despite the mammoth amount of plot and storylines to be wrapped up, DS9 has not and will not let its characters get lost in the shuffle. Indeed, as is reflective of the series as a whole, it's the characters that are the driving force behind this episode and the key to its success.

One thing I will say is that it takes the episode a little while to gather pace and momentum. As the Defiant heads off into battle, there's not really enough tension or the sense that "all hell is about to break loose". On one hand, we're being told that this will be the battle to end all battles and that the crew could very well lose their lives, but somehow the build-up lacks that ominous, fatalistic sense of urgency and danger. Thinking back to Sacrifice of Angels, that episode oozed palpable tension from practically its first frame. What probably didn't help was that the man co-ordinating the entire fleet was Admiral Ross -- and alas, Barry Jenner seems quite incapable of varying his singular facial expression and tone of voice if his life depended upon it. Hell's bells, the puppets in Farscape have a far greater acting range than ol' Bill Ross! Maybe all he needs is a good puppeteer?

Fortunately, things notch up to top gear when the Federation fleet engages the full might of the Dominion and its Breen allies. The efforts of the special effects team are up to their usual high standard and succeed in bringing the clash of the fleets to spectacularly vivid life. As for the rather blatant recycling of SFX footage from previous episodes? A big "boo-hiss" to the Paramount budgetary department for being such a bunch of penny-pinching Ferengi pe'tak! It's DS9's last episode, for crying out loud. In spite of this, the results are still decidedly awesome: the combination of Dennis McCarthy's rousing score, clever editing and the breath-takingly gorgeous visuals pack quite a powerful punch.

The Fight for Cardassia
"Cardassia is dead…"
-- The Founder, "Broken Link"

The real drama, however, takes place not on the battlefield, but on Cardassia. This was probably no great surprise. Throughout the past half dozen episodes, Damar's startling transformation from drunken Dominion puppet to heroic saviour of his people has made for riveting viewing and the story of Cardassia's rebellion has been one of the major strengths of DS9's Final Chapter. In this hugely ambitious feat of storytelling, we've seen the gradual uprising of Damar's crusade against the Dominion in a bid to free his homeland. Despite the seemingly hopeless cause of defeating the Dominion, who are clearly now the centre of power on the planet, news of Damar's rebellion has spread across Cardassia like wild-fire and captured the hearts and souls of the Cardassian people. A revolution has been born. Their objective: drive out the invaders that have conquered their homeland and subjugated their people.

Wait a minute! Stand back a moment and take a look...Cardassia has become Bajor! What the Dominion has done to Cardassia is little different to what Cardassia did to Bajor. And now Cardassia is in exactly the same position that Bajor was back at the beginning of the series. I don't know who deserves credit for coming up with with, but as I said in an earlier review, it's simply a stroke of genius! Genius is the only word for it. It's a sublime irony; a twisted and bitter but nonetheless deeply appropriate irony. Talk about karma. And yet, for all the Cardassians are clearly responsible for heinous crimes -- and not just against Bajor, as Garak points out -- we actually care about them. Given that the Cardassians started off as the Nazis of the Alpha Quadrant, that's no small feat. It's no doubt a testament to the writers and actors responsible for creating what is, in my opinion, one of Trek's altogether most fascinating and three-dimensional races.

I agree with those fans that it is unfortunate and unfair that Bajor was completely side-lined, not just in this finale but ever since the second season. However, I also must admit that the Cardassians were a lot more compelling to watch than the Bajorans, who -- with certain exceptions, of course, such as Kira and Winn -- often came across as somewhat bland. That's me being absolutely frank, although I might add that the Bajoran-focused episodes from the first couple of seasons often made for great viewing, some of them still ranking among DS9's finest. Getting back to the point at hand, although it was unfortunate that Bajor has so long been neglected and ignored, in its place we have this surrogate Cardassian arc, which directly and acutely parallels Bajor's fight for liberation.

These two elements are sublimely and intrinsically linked by Kira's involvement in Damar's rebellion. Another stroke of genius! Kira has spent the better part of her life fighting the Cardassians. And yet, here she is now, fighting alongside her one-time nemesis, sharing with them the same skills she used to fight them only a few years earlier. Doesn't this show how far Kira has come in these seven years? She's come such a long, long way from the scarred and aggressive loose cannon that she was at the beginning of the series. Although this character growth wasn't always as organic or consistent as it should have been (I'm thinking the fourth season's ill-advised "re-styling" here), it's nevertheless been a triumph. This is simply the perfect way for Kira to end the series and also in a way it gives us a glimpse at how Bajor has recovered, healed and grown since the horrors of the Occupation. Surely Cardassia will do likewise?

Without a doubt the most shocking and wrenching part of this episode is watching the bleak consequences of Cardassia's actions unfold. Back in the fourth season finale, Broken Link, you may remember the Founder making the following chilling statement to Garak:

It turns out those words were prophetic. However, what happened next seemed to mitigate the above statement -- Cardassia joined the Dominion! But, as we all know, whereas Cardassia joined the Dominion with dreams of power and conquest, the very opposite ended up happening and the Cardassians became little more than Dominion puppets. Hence Damar's crusade to free him people and rid his homeland of the Dominion. The Dominion, however, have no intention of simply hopping back across to the Gamma Quadrant now they've outstayed their welcome. With the stakes building ever higher, the Dominion repays the dissidents by completely obliterating an entire city, killing two thousand people.

This, however, only fuels the fire. Incensed by this act of genocide, Damar, Kira and Garak make plans to attack the Dominion headquarters once and for all. Before they can do that, they are apprehended and Mila is killed (body count #1). Just as it looks like all is lost, the Jem'Hadar soldiers are almost literally back-stabbed by their Cardassian counterparts, who pledge themselves to join Damar. Clearly, the Dominion's act of destroying Lakarian City had the reverse affect intended -- instead of terrifying the Cardassian people into submission, it ignited a burning desire for revenge and retaliation. (On a nit-picking note, given that the Cardassians were openly rebelling, was it wise of the Dominion to still include Cardassian personnel alongside Jem'Hadar soldiers?) This turnaround also extends to the battle-field where the Cardassian ships begin to open fire on their Dominion "allies", thus joining forces with the Federation. This completely alters the balance of power, and the Dominion fleet retreats to Cardassia Prime.

When the Founder hears of this betrayal she is not a happy camper. In one of the most spine-chilling moments of the entire series, she orders the extermination of the entire Cardassian population. What makes this all the more powerful and disturbing, is the fact that this is an unsettling case of art imitating life (or perhaps life imitating art?). This episode aired in 1999 at the same time as the Balkans war over Miloscevic's attempted ethnic cleansing in Kossovo. Perhaps these disturbing parallels were an even closer match to the situation in East Timor, which occurred at roughly the same time. In many respects, with reference to Cardassia's fate, this is one of the darkest and bleakest episodes of Star Trek ever made -- the real-life parallels add a whole other dimension. I'm not going to join the dots for you, for the parallels are obvious; it may have been unintentional and quite unforeseen but it's definite food for thought.

With the Dominion levelling the Cardassian cities building by building, Kira, Damar and Garak make their move to infiltrate Dominion headquarters. Initially, their efforts meet with a brick wall -- or rather a neutronium wall, which reenders their explosives useless. There's a rather odd and offbeat moment as the situation elicits a wave of hilarity, with Kira, Garak and co. just about rolling on the ground in hysterics. There's not much I can say about this other than...okaaaay. I can see what the writers were attempting to do (I think) but it falls about as flat an anorexic pancake. Still, it's only a brief interlude, a calm before the storm. The Jem'Hadar exit the building to execute Legate Broca (given that he was carted off for execution about ten minutes prior, they certainly took their time about it. One also wonders that with everything else going on, they didn't simply vapourise him on the spot? Ah, well those Jem'Hadar are not exactly renowned for their brains). The rebels take this opportunity to "storm the castle", but in the crossfire, Damar is killed (Body count #2).

Just about every DS9 character that has been sent off to meet their maker has suffered a very quick, sudden and violent demise -- such as Jadzia, Eddington a fear years back and several of the Weyouns. (One exception was Bareil whose death was interminably slow and drawn-out) In most cases, it's simply been a case of "here today, gone tomorrow, get over it!" So we probably shouldn't be too surprised that Damar's death felt somewhat arbitrary and hurried -- just look at Jadzia, who was one of the show's main characters. Sure, he died a heroic death alright but given the tremendous tale of redemption and rehabilitation the character has been given these past dozen episodes -- and, indeed, his integral part in the Final Chapter's cogwheels -- I do feel he deserved a little more recognition for what he did. Ultimately, it wasn't Damar that saved Cardassia directly, but his efforts certainly led to the events that sealed the Dominion's defeat. This isn't a major problem for me, as I never had much of an emotional connection to the character (for all the great work done on the character, I never felt Casey Biggs had quite the charm or passion necessary to truly bring the character fully to life) but it should be noted nonetheless. It would have been nice to have seen Damar survive and become the leader of Cardassia -- or rather what was left of Cardassia. The twisted irony would have been that although he'd saved his people, he was also indirectly responsible for their near-destruction in the first place.

I can't complain, however, for instead the writers decided to focus on Garak, a character that has been grossly underused (and often somewhat mis-used) these past few years. Aside from last season's In the Pale Moonlight, this is the best material the character has been given in years. Alas, there is no happy ending in sight for Garak. As he tells Kira: "During all my years of exile, I imagined what it would be like to come home...maybe even to live in this house again with Mila. But now she's dead and this house is about to be reduced to a pile of rubble...my Cardassia is dead." Whilst Garak does get a moment of sweet revenge, by killing Weyoun (Body count #3), it does little to bring back the eight hundred million Cardassians that have been killed (Body count # 800, 000, 000!!!). One of the high points of the episode is a very poignant, provocative and altogether superbly-executed scene between Bashir and Garak following the Founder's surrender. Whilst on one hand, it's painful to see Garak dished out such an awful fate, on artistic and creative terms, it makes for utterly superb drama. There's not a lot I can say other than that. No review would be complete without an extract of dialogue from this scene:

And with that, Garak leaves, as enigmatically as when he first appeared seven years ago. What happens to Garak and, moreover to Cardassia is left up to our imaginations -- which, in a way, seems only right and appropriate. (I believe Andrew Robinson picks up the story in a post-finale novel, which I've yet to read). In many ways, as I said before, Cardassia is now in much the same position as Bajor was at the start of the series. I think we can assume that the Federation, although having suffered its own losses, would offer substantial aid and assistance to Cardassia. In fact, I do believe there's a good premise for another spin-off series: a Federation crew take command of an abandoned station in orbit of Cardassia; their mission to help Cardassia rebuild following the Dominion Occupation and to pave the way for their entry into the Federation. A bit derivative perhaps, but I liiiiike it!!

Odo's Choice
"Will Odo be coming with us?"
"No...but he will. It's only a matter of time..."
-- Weyoun and the Founder, "Sacrifice of Angels"

If there's one overriding current in this episode it's this: if you're a villain you'd better watch out! It's probably only right and good that the bad guys get their comeuppance, after all, What You Leave Behind is an episode rife with karmic consquences, both on an individual and a collective level. Cardassia had to face the consequences of years of conquest and brutality, Winn was killed as a result of her own treachery and megalomania, Dukat was sent to Hell for past and present crimes, in spite of his redemption Damar evidently had yet to atone for murdering Ziyal and collaborating with the Dominion and Weyoun paid the price for his devastatingly blind devotion to the Founder and the Dominion. (Pity we didn't get to see any of those Gawd-awful Breen suffering the long, slow and painful deaths they deserved!) The only one that got off practically scot-free was the Founder, who was undoubtedly the worst of the lot of them! Throughout the episode, as the situation gets more and more desparate, the Founder's actions becomes more and more horrific. Hell, she orders the extermination of an entire race! By comparison this makes Dukat look like a pouting two year-old throwing a tantrum! And yet, not only does she escape death, but she's also cured of her disease! Looking at it from the broader perspective, however, given that her disease was manufactured by Section 31 to intentionally destroy her entire race, there has to be some atonement on the part of the Federation. And, besides, without the Founder's order for her troops to surrender, the Federation may well have been practically decimated itself.

It's actually Odo who makes the necessary atonement for Section 31's crimes and he does so by curing the Founder in exchange for a cease-fire -- even if it is at a price. While this may have struck some as a bit of a cop-out, I think it works remarkably well because it fits in so well with established DS9 lore. It's like a missing puzzle piece being slotted into place. I recall back in the season six episode Favor the Bold, the Founder telling Weyoun that Odo meant more to her than the entire Alpha Quadrant. Knowing that Odo will return to the Gamma Quadrant to cure her people in the Great Link, the Founder agrees to stand down and pay the price for her crimes. (While I doubt anyone would want to spend the rest of their life locked up, I'd say that in the comfort of a Federation cell, she's gotten off pretty lightly. Mind you, given the apparent life-span of changelings, she could be incarcerated for a pretty long time) The only real problem with this was probably the dramatisation -- having the two changelings link for a couple of seconds could have come across as a little nebulous. Mind you, that's always been a risk when relying on "goo" special effects to deliver a major plot piece.

Still, it all makes perfect sense and it no doubt helps that it has been set-up well in advance. Arguably Odo's fate has been inevitable for the past few years -- I doubt it came as a suprise to many that the Constable was destined to return to his place of origin. In doing so, Odo actually became the inadvertant hero of DS9! It wasn't Sisko or Kira or Admiral Ross that saved the Alpha Quadrant -- it was Odo! But it came at a price. In return for the Founder's surrender, Odo made a pledge to return to the Gamma Quadrant to rejoin the Great Link and cure his people. This, of course, necessitates leaving Kira and provides a large degree of the episode's emotional charge.

All through his life, Odo had yearned to discover the truth of his origins, to find and rejoin his people, whoever or wherever they might be. In the third season's The Search, his wish came true -- he found his people. However, upon leearning their true identity as the Founders of the Dominion, responsible for the tyranny and decimation of countless worlds, Odo decided he had no place among them. "I've spent my entire life in the pursuit of justice. But justice means nothing to you," he sadly conceded. And so Odo picked up the mantle of DS9's tragic hero. He had wanted to return to his people all his life but when he had the opportunity to fulfil this, his own sense of morality and ethics prevented him. As also did, it was later revealed, his love for Kira. This was back when Kira was totally unaware of Odo's unrequited love. If Odo found it difficult to let go of Kira even back when his love was unreciprocated and caused him more pain and heartache than anything else, imagine how difficult it must be to break this bond now, with he and Kira in a deep and commited relationship?

Throughout DS9's run, both Rene Auberjonois and Nana Visitor were adamant that Odo and Kira's relationship should never develop into a romantic one. The reason for their hesitance is clear as we've seen it happen on countless other TV shows: once a character's long-standing unrequited love or unresolved sexual tension is finally consummated it just becomes another relationship, losing whatever dramatic or character-wise angle that made it interesting in the first place. The BBC have just started showing reruns of Lois and Clark (or The New Adventures of Superman as it's called in the UK). There's a primer! The moment Lois and Clark got married the show got cancelled! Another example that sticks to mind is the current series of Frasier, which seems to have lost a lot of its sparkle now that Niles and Daphne are finally in a relationship. Don't get me wrong, I was delighted to see them find love after all these years -- but their relationship simply isn't very interesting now they are regular love-birds. Another example was the interminable Ross and Rachel relationship in Friends -- interesting, funny and poignant while unrequited, boring and tedious when finally resolved.

So when Odo and Kira finally consummated their relationship in the latter half of the sixth season I, among many other people, had my doubts. For a while, in fact, those doubts looked to be well-founded, with both characters at times behaving like gooey, lovesick dorks. Odo, in particular, seemed to lose a lot of the edge that had previously made him such a compelling character. Then along came Chimera, the hands-down finest love story I've ever seen told -- not only on Star Trek -- hell, forget Star Trek, but on television period. This was a real love story about a true and unconditional love that transcended personality and personal motives as well as pronounced racial differences. This superlative episode gave us a moving and heart-felt look at the strength and depth of their love and, in retrospect, in many ways served as an excellent primer for the finale. Indeed, the events of Chimera add a whole other dimension of emotional intensity to this finale. In Chimera, Kira made the sacrifice of letting Odo go...and here, Odo has to leave Kira in order to save not just the Federation but also his own people. Needless to say, this is real emotional dynamite!

From my discussions with various fans on the net, I'm aware that many of the Kira and Odo fans in the audience were furious that the golden couple were denied a happy ending. But looking at it from a broader perspective, would they have rather Odo and Kira ended the series as did Bashir and Ezri -- ie, in a way that was uninteresting and unfulfilling in terms of character? All the great relationships in fiction have ended in tears -- that's what makes drama. That's why Bashir and Ezri are hardly in the league of Romeo and Juliet. Instead of pain and angst and sacrifice, they're left planning their next date in the holosuite. A happy ending, yes. A dramatically-satisfying -- or even vaguely interesting -- ending, certainly not. The bittersweeet and emotionally-charged resolution to Odo and Kira's relationship provides What You Leave Behind with a good deal of its emotional resonance and adds greatly to the wonderfully rich feeling of "myth in the making" that pervades much of this finale. Odo's sacrifice of leaving the woman he loves, his soul mate in order to end a brutal war and save the fate of his entire race is a twist worthy of the best of Greek mythology! Absolutely, truly sublime.

The only minor gripe I have (and it is minor) again lies in the dramatisation. Wouldn't it have made more sense to have underlined that fact that the Founder only agreed to stand down if Odo rejoined the Great Link. As it stands, it looks like Odo is making the choice of his own volition -- which is all good and well, but it doesn't quite explain why he has to stay in the Link. His reasoning that he has to teach the Changelings how to trust the solids makes sense -- but if he only took all of ten seconds to turn the Founder around, there's no reason he couldn't return home after spending a few weeks or even months in the Link. It may have been more effective had it been stipulated that the Founder's terms for surrendering were that Odo return home and stay with his people. No matter, it still works. And despite Odo's sadness at having to leave Kira, it's also probably worth remembering that now he's back home with his people, he's returned to "paradise", something he's yearned for all his life. It came at a price, certainly, but in some ways it's actually quite a happy ending for Odo! I think the word that best describes it is "bittersweet", a word that equally applies to the finale as a whole. As for Odo and Kira's tear-jerking farewell, more on that later.

Ol' Red Eyes is Back
"You're pathetic!"
-- Sisko to Dukat

Now from one of the episode's most resounding triumphs we move to what is undoubtedly its biggest disappointment. I don't think I need spell it out for you -- you know what I'm talking about! Oh yes, it's time to discuss the climax -- or should we say anti-climax -- to the Dukat/Winn storyline that's beeen brewing the past dozen episodes. Ironically, this was actually one of the strongest aspects of the first handful of Final Chapter episodes -- Dukat's transformation from Cardassian war criminal to Bajoran country bumpkin and his slimey, slithering seduction of Winn -- both spiritually and physically -- made for darkly compelling viewing. It helped that both Marc Alaimo and Louise Fletcher instantly ignited a perverse chemistry between their characters that further enhanced an already absorbing storyline. Fans who enjoyed the Dukat/Weyoun interaction can eat their heart out -- this was treble the fun! The various twists and turns and the sublime ironies were worthy of Shakespeare --well, maybe not quite, but it was still pretty darn good!

Unfortunately, the resolution in What You Leave Behind is hardly worthy of such great build-up. So what went wrong? For a start, it almost feels like this sub-plot were hastily tacked onto the episode at the last moment. Perhaps the writers had just finished writing the script when someone sheepishly reminded them that they'd forgotten all about the Dukat/Winn storyline that they'd set in motion a few episodes previously. Hey, stranger things have happened! Whilst Alaimo and Fletcher still give it their best, the character interaction somehow lacks that sparkle that shone through such episodes as Til Death Do Us Part and The Changing Face of Evil. In fact, it's almost a little lacklustre, as though the writers couldn't really be bothered with it this time.

Also supporting my feeling that the storyline was somewhat rushed and ill-considered was the fact that the chronology and pacing both seem decidedly "off". For instance, by the look of it, Dukat and Winn appear to spend days wandering through the caves and still more days even after they've found it. On the other hand, it apparently took Sisko not five minutes to travel from the station to the Fire Caves! I was under the impression that it took at least three hours to make the journey from DS9 to Bajor? Further inconsistency comes when Winn begins chanting to the Kosst Amojan...while in meantime, the Federation closes in on Cardassia, Odo manages to persuade the Founder to back down, the Federation fleet returns to DS9 (it takes at least a day to make the trip to and from Cardassia we're told at the beginning of the episode) where a peace treaty is signed ending the war between the Federation and the Dominion...when we cut back to Winn on Bajor, she's still chanting after all that! No wonder she seems out of breath, huh?! :-{ Does time move more slowly on Bajor or something? I suppose it's possible, but let's not get into physics, nor make excuse for what is simply sloppy writing -- or sloppy editing. It wouldn't have ttaken much editing at all to tighten the pace and iron out any chronological inconsistencies. It's not a major problem, nor entirely unworkable, but it is mildly annoying. Particularly considering a mere tweeking in the editing process could have straightened it out.

There are admittedly, some entertaining moments along the way -- none moreso than Winn murdering Dukat!! Holy smokes, I bet no one saw that one coming! Incidentally, a scene cut from the final aired version saw Dukat reeling in agony after being stung by a "cave wasp". Unsurprisingly Winn is not entirely sympathetic. This excised scene was quite reminiscent of the infamous cave scene from season four's Indiscretion. Interesting that the writers would include a scene that paints Dukat as a big baby in light of the climax, where he's supposed to be Satan incarnate. Speaking of the climax...

So much potential, such great build-up...all for THIS? Oh, theoretically it's reasonably sound -- after all, a final confrontation between Sisko and Dukat has been brewing for years, as has the final showdown between the Prophets and Pah-wraiths. And, let's face it, Dukat's comeuppance has been long overdue. Unfortunately, the writers decided to pull a Waltz on us! Cast your mind back to the sixth season episode where Dukat and Sisko were marooned together in a very Misery-esque scenario with Dukat getting loopier by the minute. Just prior to writing this I went back to my prized video collection and rewatched the episode to refresh my memory. The verdict? Well, the first four acts are utterly superb -- marvellously written, well-observed, compelling and beautifully-acted. It makes for a suitably dark and murky character study of the man we all love to hate, as he desperately tries to gain Sisko's approval and forgiveness for his crimes. Had it not been for the last act, I'd have given it full marks. Unfortunately, the writers went overboard by portraying Dukat as nothing more than a raving madman who suddenly, out of the blue, becomes hell-bent on destroying both Bajor and its Emissary. Alas, the three-dimensional, morally ambiguous Dukat, the man of a thousand contradictions, he who justified the most horrendous of actions by "having good intentions" was replaced by a hissing, cackling cartoon villain with glowing red eyes! Gee, which one did you find more interesting?

Fortunately, Dukat's seventh season appearances did manage to restore some measure of the character's ambiguity and depth; although Covenant was undeniably flawed, it at least let us see that Dukat does believe in the Pah-wraiths and had convinced himself that he was "doing the best thing" by following them. As stated earlier, his role in the Final Chapter, as the surgically-altered "Anjohl" has made for captivating, deliciously entertaining viewing. Unfortunately, "ol' Red Eyes is back!"

Yup, the climatic confrontation between Sisko and his nemesis sees a return to fore for the "pantomime villain" Dukat. Having been resurrected by the Pah-wraiths and transformed back into his original Cardassian state, Dukat is evidently some sort of Pah-wraith hybrid -- it's still very much Dukat thinking aand speaking, but he has been endowed with the telekinetic powers of the Pah-wraiths (as well as, yes, the glowing red eyes). For a start, this smacks of the writers wanting to have their cake and eat it. They wanted the confrontation to be between Sisko and Dukat as opposed to Sisko and a Pah-wraith inhabiting Dukat's body. That in itself I can accept, but the confrontation itself is poorly written and seems quite derivitive of the Kirk/Gary Mitchell confrontation in the Original Series episode Where No Man has Gone Before. I don't know whether those parallels were intentional or not, but I do know that the Kirk/Mitchell conflict worked a lot better dramatically -- even considering the somewhat hammy nature of TOS's fight scenes.

The problem with this is, like the climax to Waltz, it descends into melodrama and paints the characters far too broadly for my tastes. I can accept the archetypal battle of good versus evil, in fact it fits in with a lot of the mythic context of the episode. But reducing Dukat to being nothing more than the evil, cackling villain stereotype is a grave disservice to the character. I can understand why Dukat fans were screaming for blood when the finale aired. In this one scene all the complexities, contradictions and subtle nuances that made the character one of Trek's best villains are shattered and in final analyis Dukat is nothing more than Ming the Merciless. Oh, don't get me wrong -- he undoubtedly was a deeply twisted and perhaps even evil individual! But the character always was most effective when dealt with in an ambiguous, suitably "grey" light, leaving us viewers to draw our own conclusions. Portraying him as the pure embodiment of Satan was not only extremely disappointing given the character's potential, but also quite ineffective in terms of the long-brewing confrontation between he and Sisko. It didn't help that the confrontation itself was quite poorly executed -- at least in, say Xena and Buffy, the comic book histrionics are written tongue firmly in cheek and are imbued with witty one-liners. Here, however, the dialogue is so lame it makes Sisko and Dukat look like two schoolboys having a brawl in the playground ("You're pathetic!" "Then why are you the one on your knees?"). Puh-lease!

However, despite being disappointing and ineffective, the histrionics were at least mercifully short and did, ironically, give way to what surely must constitute a classic moment of DS9 -- specifically, Sisko plunging himself and Dukat into the fiery pits of hell, sacrificing his own life to save Bajor and the Alpha Quadrant. First of all, let's not forget Winn, who makes a last-minute change-of-heart (again!) and tries to stop Dukat herself. This at least brought some ambiguity to an otherwise black-and-white scene and we're left to decide for ourselves what exactly prompted Winn's final betrayal and redemption. Was it because she'd realised what a horrendously foolish mistake she'd made? Or was it simply to save her own skin? Either way, I kind of liked her eleventh-hour turnaround -- it was her that nearly brought about the destruction of Bajor in the first place, yet it was her that also helped save Bajor. Just another touch of the irony that's sprinkled throughout this finale. Anyway, that's Dukat gone to hell and Winn may or may not be alongside him, depending on whether her last-minute turnaround was enough to "save her soul", so to speak. As for Sisko?

It's Not Linear
"A penance must be exacted..."
"...The Sisko is of Bajor but he will find no rest there..."
"...Your pah will follow a different path."
-- The Prophets, "Sacrifice of Angels"

And so, the series ends the only way it possibly could have -- with Sisko having fulfilled his destiny as Emissary and returned "home", to his place of distant origin to exist with (and as) the Prophets. Though not exactly unexpected, this is nevertheless a brave and bold way to end the series -- the lead character sacrificing his life only to be resurrected as a God! Benjamin Sisko has come a long way since DS9's pilot seven years previously and the ongoing arc of Sisko as Emissary has exemplified that beautifully. "Ironic," mused Kai Opaka upon first meeting Sisko in Emissary. "He who does not wish to be among us is to be the Emissary." When Sisko first arrived on DS9 he didn't much want the post, much less his bestowed mantle as Emissary to the Prophets, a title which instantly transformed him into a "religious icon" among the Bajoran people. As the years passed, and the writers became more and more interested in developing this most fascinating storyline, we've seen Sisko gradually accept his place in Bajoran society and eventually even embrace it. It's a testament to some masterful writing that Sisko's gradual embracing of his role and his belief in the Prophets as something more than just "wormhole aliens" has been as effective and compelling as it has.

Earlier in the season, in Shadows and Symbols the writers took things a step further and we actually learned the truth behind his connection to the Prophets -- specifically that it had been pre-ordained since before he was born; that the Prophets arranged his birth. He was born because of them and therefore his fate was inextricably linked to them. Personally, I find the whole arc endlessly intriguing and deeply compelling. It's a veritable minefield rife with potential and possibilities; as it is the series only really scratched the surface. But that was often true with a lot of DS9 -- there was so much going on on so many levels that it would have been impossible to have fully capitalised on all of it to its fullest potential.

Anyway, getting back to the matter at hand, not long after watching this episode I had something of an insight regarding Sisko's final fate and the reasoning behind his ultimate "trial" as Emissary. If you cast your mind back to Sacrifice of Angels, you'll recall that Sisko convinced the Prophets to intervene and prevent the Dominion reinforcements from coming through the wormhole and thus conquering the Alpha Quadrant. However, this came at a price, for they exacted a "penance". In other words, Sisko had to accept the consequences of this act. Make no mistake, this was an absolutely pivotal moment in DS9's narrative, moreso than anyone could have guessed at the time. Let's look at it in a slightly more abstract manner -- by intervening and stopping the Dominion's advance, the Prophets changed the time-line and altered history. Who knows what would have happened had the Dominion reinforcement successfully made it to the Alpha Quadrant? Had this happened I think it's safe to assume that the remainder of DS9's run would have been radically different and, most likely, far more grim. (Hmmm...there's a lot of superb storytelling potential in this idea, don't you think? How about a series of novels based on this "alternative time-line" -- or perhaps even a TV movie or two? From my mouth to God's hear!!) Let's call this alternate time-line, "time-line A" -- after all, it's how things would have originally played out had it not been for divine intervention. The altered time-line, as seen in DS9's final two seasons, could be considered "time-line B". Anyway, as a result of this alteration, Sisko's destiny was similarly changed. With me so far?

It's strongly hinted that Sisko's original fate was to settle peacefully on Bajor. This was evidenced by his plans to build a home on Bajor as was hinted as far back as Favor the Bold, if I recall. I don't quite know how this would have fitted in with time-line "A" -- but who knows what would have happened had the Dominion fleet arrived through the wormhole? What we do know is that, as time-line "B" played out, Sisko was to be denied this "happy ending" and instead had to make the ultimate sacrifice to stop Dukat from unleashing the Pah-wraiths upon Bajor and the Alpha Quadrant. Initially, I wondered why it was Sisko's responsibility to be the one to stop Dukat. Then it dawned on me! Sisko's penance was that he had to take responsibility for the changes that occurred as a result of altering the time-line -- and one of those changes specifically related to Dukat!

As a result of his defeat and the death of his daughter Ziyal (which would in all likelihood not have occurred had time-line A played out as it was headed), Dukat lapsed into a breakdown and even following his "temporary instability", as he put it, he became a very changed individual indeed. This is where the character seagued off into the controversial new direction as depicted in Waltz, Tears of the Prophets, Covenant and the Final Chapter. Who knows what fate had in store for Dukat in time-line A? But in time-line B, the broken, mentally unstable Dukat found his way to the Pah-wraiths, and he dedicated himself to unleashing the full might of the Pah-wraiths on the unsuspecting Alpha Quadrant, enlisting the help of Winn to do so. So, you see, by persuading the Prophets to change history, Sisko was inadvertantly responsible for all that happened as a result. His penance was that he had to face the consequences of this and, in doing so, prevent Dukat from destroying Bajor.

It all makes sense, doesn't it? I'm not quite sure the writers actually had this in mind when planning out the final couple of seasons -- but it's there, nonetheless. All you have to do is join the dots! That's one of the things I liked about DS9, it didn't always feel the need to spell everything out for its audience. Although this is all still in the realms of theory and interpretation, I personally like it a great deal. Whilst I share the feelings of those who feel that Dukat's metamorphosis from Waltz onward was a disservice to the character, when looked at from this perspective it all ties neatly together and served an important purpose. It's because of this that I can overlook the poor handling and dramatisation of the final confrontation between Dukat and Sisko. As I think I mentioned, I didn't like it at all! But it could well be that this storyline was more than just the sum of its parts. I'd be very interested to hear what people think about this.

In his review of DS9's final season, Tim Lynch said that DS9 was "only the sum of its parts". Whilst I have nothing but respect and esteem for Mr Lynch and his work, I must disagree with that particular statement. From the parallels between Cardassia's situation and real-life events in Kossovo and East Timor, to the above theory regarding Sisko and the Prophets' involvement in altering the time-lining and creating a monster out of Dukat (an even bigger one, that is), in my opinion it's clear that there's more to this series than merely mindless fantasy. It's one of the very few TV shows that engaged me not just in terms of drama, nor just emotionally and mentally but, at its best, also philosophically, psychologically and spiritually. These are very intimate and personal levels of oneself and, in the course of writing these reviews, I've found myself doing some true and genuine soul-searching as I really confront some of the "big issues" of life. DS9 was the catalyst for that. It's all in the interpretation, of course, and what I see in an episode many other people may draw a blank and indeed vice versa. But that does not make my feelings invalid or irrelevent. So, to me, DS9 was definitely more than the sum of its part and I hope that in some small way I've been able to share that with you in these reviews.

Such Sweet Sorrow
"I'll never forget you."
-- Kira to Odo

It's very interesting to contrast the ending of TNG to the ending of DS9 -- whereas All Good Things... ended up cementing the relationships and "togetherness" of its characters, What You Leave Behind painfully tears its characters apart. But it had to happen -- this is DS9, after all, and the only way for DS9 to stay true to itself was to give us an honest ending, an ending indicative of real life. People come, people go, people live, people die, circumstances change -- indeed, change is perhaps the only constant in life. Which is why it now looks rather odd seeing all the TNG characters still together after all this time. After all, Riker was being offered his own command as far back as TNG's first season, yet fourteen years later he's still in the same old position as Picard's First Officer! In staying true to its own style and philosphy, DS9 therefore had to give us an ending that we could all buy -- an ending that would be reflective of the series at large. And that they most certainly did. Had the show merely ended with the characters having a group hug and jaunting off into the sunset I, for one, would have felt severly short-changed. I wouldn't have bought it -- it wouldn't have been DS9. The ending they gave us, however, is little short of perfect. It's filled with life and death, happiness and sorrow, love and grief, laughter and tears -- in short, it's sublimely bittersweet, such is life itself.

With the Dominion war resolved more or less within the episode's first hour, the remainder of the episode is devoted to the characters and their fates. The last time we see all the characters together is, of course, in Vic's lounge, as they celebrate the end of the war and bid farewell to Odo, Worf and O'Brien. It's a quietly touching and poignant scene, with Sisko proposing a toast "to the finest crew any Captain ever had" and Vic serenading them with a rather lovely rendition of "The Way You Look Tonight". Whether or not the scene was a little overboard in terms of manipulating the audience is open for debate, but the fact that this was the last scene of the series that was filmed, with all the writers, producers and guest stars playing extras in the background undeniably makes it something special indeed. In other words, I've no doubt the pathos was genuine and there's something very poignant about watching all these people who have worked with each other for seven years come together for the last time.

Also tugging at the heart-strings were the flashback montages which, although running the risk of being rather cheesy, worked quite nicely and hit their intended mark. The actual choice of clips was a little odd in one or two instances (such as Worf in Our Man Bashir and Jake in The Visitor, one bing a holosuite program, the other an alternate reality, neither of which would be remembered by the individual) and the absence of Jadzia in Worf's flashbacks stuck out like a sore thumb (I wonder what the real story was behind that? Why would Terry Farrell refuse to let them use a clip of Jadzia? And doesn't Paramount own the material anyway??) Nevertheless, the fond memories definitely struck a chord -- particularly those of Odo/Kira and Jake/Sisko. A lump in the throat guaranteed. Must commend Dennis McCarthy who does a lovely job reprising the tune of "The Way You Look Tonight" and combining it with the DS9 theme. Very nice.

As for the characters and their parting of ways? Let's take a look individually at the fates that befell the various characters we've all known and loved for seven years. We'll start off with the semi-regular characters then move to the main cast.
Dukat: Gone to hell!! He started off using the Pah-wraiths for his own ends. As fate had it, he ended up being used by the Pah-wraiths for their own ends, eventually being destroyed as a result. According to the Sarah Prophet, Dukat is now with the Pah-wraiths, "where he belongs".

Winn: The power-crazed Kai betrayed Bajor and the Prophets in favour of Dukat and the Pah-wraiths, who claimed to offer her power-supreme. When this turned out not to be the case, Winn made a last-minute turnabout and tried to stop them. Although unsuccessful -- and roasted alive as a result -- her distraction enabled Sisko to save the day. Whether Winn acted out of remorse for her actions or because she was simply trying to save her own bacon is unclear. Given what we know of Winn I'd probably bet on the latter.

Damar: The unsung hero of the Final Chapter! His transformation from pathetic, drunken shell of a man to valiant liberator of his people made for captivating viewing. Whilst Cardassia was eventually liberated from the Dominion it came at a horrific price -- with some eight hundred million Cardassians dead. Damar was killed whilst attempting to re-take the Central Command, but surely his legacy -- one of courage and hope -- will live on as Cardassia strives to rebuild following its devastation.

Garak: The man who's spent years of his life yearning to end his exile and return home finally got his wish, only to return home to complete and utter devastation. What will become of Garak is anyone's guess -- the man we leave is almost suicidal, but my feelings are that Garak will go on to become one of the leading lights in the rebuilding of his home, a man who helps bring about the dawn of a new era on Cardassia. He's well aware of his people's flaws and past crimes, so he will make sure that they learn from their mistakes that history will never repeat itself again. All conjecture, of course, that's just my personal opinion!

Weyoun: The last in a long line of Weyouns was shot by Garak. As with Damar's death it's sudden and unexpected, but in this case not undeserved. Jeffrey Combs felt his character's death was too abrupt and arbitrary and he has a point. The Weyouns are now extinct! But can this really be Weyoun's last clone? I'm willing to bet the Dominion still has his genetic "recipe" on file somewhere! The state of the Dominion following its defeat, however, is unclear. Which is why this begs a follow-up movie, TV or otherwise! Listen to me Powers That Be, I know what I'm talking about! ;-)

Female Changeling: In jail -- for a very, very long time I'll bet! However, at some point I can see her being released to return the Great Link, which may well be a very different Great Link following Odo's direction and tutelage. Potential for an interesting homecoming.

Martok: Now Chancellor of the Klingon Empire and I'd hazard a guess that he'll be a pretty darn good one. As I said in my review of Tacking into the Wind: "Martok is a man of honour and integrity, not to mention a natural-born leader. In short, he was the perfect choice for the job and I've no doubt he will bring about the dawn of a new era for his people...We can be rest assured that the Empire is in good hands."

Admiral Ross: Like, who cares?!

Nog: Now promoted to lieutenant, which was one of Sisko's last official acts. After all he's been through (The Siege of AR-558 and It's Only a Paper Moon) the little guy deserves it and is now well on his way to becoming the Captain that we saw in the future time-line of The Visitor.

Rom: No sight of Rom in this episode, but his fate was resolved in The Dogs of War with his appointment was the new Grand Nagus. An odd, unlikely choice for Nagus indeed, but as with Martok, the perfect man for the job. Quoting myself once again, I wholeheartedly agree with myself that: "Rom may be a hopeless businessman, but he has a heart of gold and one can be assured that, in Rom's hands, Ferenginar will continue it's metamorphosis into something far greater." At the very least he'll always have Leeta, the galaxy's greatest bimbo at his side! Who could ask for more?

Quark: Moving onto the regular cast, Quark ends the series in the very same place he began the series. Whilst it's always disappointed Armin Shimerman that Quark never had any specific arc, it's easy to overlook Quark as the very heart of the station -- think about it, the heart and soul of the station was never Ops or the wardroom, it was Quark's bar! Quark was in place on DS9 long before anyone else -- long before it was DS9 for that matter! It seems only good and right that he remains there, where he belongs. It also affords him the show's final line, which seems highly appropriate: "It's like I was saying, the more things change, the more they remain the same." I never used to grasp that paradox; I think I'm beginning to now.

O'Brien and family: The clan O'Brien are headed off to Earth, "back to paradise" as Bashir put it. It's something they should have done long ago -- not because I wanted to see the back of them or anything, but because it only made sense for O'Brien to want them to be somewhere safe in the midst of war-time. DS9 was virtually on the front-lines, for crying out loud! I can quite easily picture O'Brien as a Professor of Engineering -- although how long would it be before he got bored and felt the need to take on something challenging like fixing up a run-down space station? It's kind of nice thinking of him spending time with his family. At the end of the day, what is work when you're missing your kids grow up? His departure, however, made for a painful parting between he and Bashir, the station's surrogate lovers. Whilst the Bashir/O'Brien friendship has been more than a little over-done of late (see Extreme Measures where important plot time was squandered by inane "male bonding"), their bond was nevertheless a palpable one and their sadness at losing their friendship was nicely conveyed, thankfully without going into over-kill. Their silent hug farewell was surprisingly moving and spoke louder than ten pages of dialogue from Extreme Measures.

Bashir and Ezri: Yup, I'm lumping these two together because there's nothing much I can say for them individually. A slight tendency for DS9 was for characters to lose all sense of individuality and independence when romantically involved with another character. It's almost as though the characters "fuse" together and become a double-act, rarely being affording the opportunity to interact with other characters. We saw it with Jadzia and Worf, Bashir and O'Brien (although obviously they weren't romantically involved....or were they? ;-)) and now Ezri and Bashir. Whilst it's nice to see Bashir finally get together with Dax (his flirtation with Jadzia went all the way back to the first episode), I'm still a little underwhelmed that this is all the resolution the characters get. I spoke about this in my review of The Dogs of War, so I won't go into it again, but I can't help feeling that both Bashir and Ezri were rather short-changed by this. Sure, they've found love, that's great -- but is that it? Still, at least it provides something of a balance to the finale -- with people being torn apart and separated it's nice to have that counter-balanced by having others find love and living happily ever after.

Worf: Although I've never been especially enamoured by Worf's rather aimless sojourn aboard DS9, I did at least like where he ends up after it. Making him the Federation Ambassador to the Klingon homeworld is absolutely perfect! He's spent his whole life alienated from his own people, much like Odo and he's yearned to rekindle that connection with his heritage. Ironically, while his position as a Starfleet officer for so many years served to further his alienation, it's now the very means by which he will get to forge a closer bond with his people! I love it. Things have come full circle and now Worf can be with his people and with his adoptive brother, Martok. Perfect! Worf's initial reaction to suggestion of promotion is a killer: "I am not a diplomat!" That, at least, solicited an audible chuckle. Never a truer word...Notice that Ezri's farewell wave to Worf from the second level of the Promenade was very reminiscent of the final scene in Rejoined when Lenara is leaving the station.

Odo and Kira: As if the rest wasn't enough the get the waterworks flowing, this was the killer for me. First of all, we have a simply delightful little scene when Odo and Kira are preparing to leave the station and Quark catches up with them to share a final word with his long-time nemesis. What can I say; loved every second of it! Upon arriving at the Great Link, Odo and Kira share a tender, emotional farewell that won't leave a dry eye in the house. Kudos to Nana Visitor and Rene Auberjonois who are absolutely superb -- the emotion is genuine, the affect guut-wrenching. It's a testament to some strong writing and marvellous acting that this relationship has such amazingly deep resonance. Words alone are insufficient to do it justice -- it's moving and heart-felt beyond worrds. The final sight of Odo, rejoining the Great Link, his arm still outstreched to Kira is a haunting image, providing an emotionally-charged and sublimely mythic, fairy-tale-like ending. What can I say? It's one of the most moving moments of the entire series.

Sisko, Kasidy and Jake: As noted above, Sisko sacrifices his life to stop Dukat and the Pah-wraiths, rejoining Prophets in the Celestial Temple. As many will know, the ending was slightly altered at the request of Avery Brooks, who felt that Sisko's death and/or leaving his family played to a racist stereotype. Whilst I can respect where Brooks is coming from, my own feeling is that by allowing yourself to be influenced by such issues, you yourself are giving life to that stereotype. But this is not the time or the place to discuss such matters. I felt the doctoring of the script was slightly detrimental in terms of ambiguity -- is Sisko dead or isn't he? My feeling is that he is, and despite his pledge to the contrary, I can't see him returning home. After all, how would one make the adjustment from being with an existing as a God to simply picking up your daily life again? In life people change and grow and evolve and there's no turning back -- and even if there were, would we want to? It's clear from Brooks' performance that, between the time Sisko arrived in the Celestial Temple and the time he speaks to Kasidy, Sisko has already been affected by his new existence -- his manner and demeanour is serene and calm, maybe even a little detached, almost Prophet-like. Nice touch -- after all, given that the Prophets exist outside of linear time, Sisko may already have spent an eternity with the Prophets.

Sisko's farewell to Kasidy is emotionally-charged and beautifully-executed. It doesn't have nearly the emotional pull or punch of Odo and Kira's tearful parting, but it works very well nevertheless, with both Brooks and Penny Johnson on fine form, giving their best. Allan Kroeker's choice of directing style is quite novel and effective, while Dennis McCarthy reprises his theme music from The Visitor, which adds to the emotion tenfold by bringing to mind Trek's finest and most moving episode. The only problem is this: how could Sisko forget about his only son?!

Poor old Jake! These past two seasons he's been gradually forgotten about by the writers -- he's barely had a handful of lines to last the entire seventh season. As undeniably touching and poignant as the Sisko/Kasidy farewell is, I can't help but feel Jake was grievously short-changed and by extension, so too were we, the audience. The Sisko/Jake father/son relationship was one of DS9's best-developed and most compelling character dynamics. Hell, The Visitor which as far as I'm concerned is hands-down the best episode of Star Trek ever made, was centred around their relationship. With the parallels and allusions to The Visitor in the episode's closing minutes, it seems wrong that we didn't see Sisko saying goodbye to his son. I guess it's reasonable to suppose that Sisko would actually speak to Jake after Kasidy, that this occurred off-screen, but for the sake of completion I feel we needed to see it on-screen. Presumably the major reason Sisko and Kasidy's relationship was beefed up amid these last ten episodes was to give Sisko something of a look-in, because otherwise his involvement in the Final Chapter arc would have been very peripheral at best. Which is fine; it's just unfortunate Jake had to suffer short shrift as a result.

However, the episode's outstanding closing shot goes a long way toward compensating for this. Despite all that's happened, life goes on aboard the station and, having reprimanded Quark for conducting illegal betting pools (Quarks will be Quarks, after all), Kira sees Jake standing alone on the top of the Promenade. He's gazing out into space, a distant look in his eyes as he watches the comings and goings of the wormhole -- knowing that out there, somewhere, is his father. Kira joins him and puts her arm around him in a silent gesture of comfort and reassurance -- she knows how he feels and what he's going through, for she shares his pain and his loss. And as they both gaze out into the stars, the camera gently pulls back until gradually DS9 itself is lost amid the twinkling stars. It's a beautiful, moving finale; inspired and marvellously executed. The effect it has is surprisingly pronounced and bittersweet, with DS9 and all its characters, it's entire mythos and universe gradually fading away into the distance. Speaking as someone who truly loved the series, it's very much like losing a friend. And I still miss it greatly.

And that more or less covers it. And given the extraordinary length of this review, I should think so too! I've more or less endeavoured to analyse this episode for what it was rather than what it wasn't. However, this review wouldn't be complete if I didn't throw in some of the things I wish the finale had done, and we'll start with Bajor. When the series started, Sisko's primary mission was to prepare Bajor for entry into the Federation. However, somewhere along the line Bajor got curtailed, hostility and later war erupted with the Dominion and Sisko's mission objectives were forever altered. Whilst some fans (myself included) mourned the loss of the sophisticated and textured Bajor-focussed stories and themes, the introduction of the Dominion opened the canvas of the series to a far greater extent and DS9, as a series, truly came into its own. That said, I still wish the writers had made more of an attempt to integrate Bajor into the mix (although this is not, admittedly, entirely their faults, as they were acting under orders).

At the very least we needed a glimpse at the state of affairs on Bajor now that the series is closing. How far has Bajor come in seven years? Will Bajor be admitted into the Federation? Presumably, I'd guess it would, but to offer closure and a sense of fulfilment in this regard, we really needed confirmation of this. Just a couple of words from Kira would have done. It seems rather sloppy and remiss to completely drop what was, for at least two years, a vital component of the series. It's also a pity we didn't learn more about the Prophets and their relationship to Bajor. How are they connected to the Bajorans? Were they once Bajoran themselves, now existing at a higher stage of evolutionary development? Why did they choose Sisko, a human, as their Emissary and not a Bajoran? These answers are left to our imagination. I was also left wanting to know more about the state of affairs following the end of the war. What will happen to the Dominion? Will Odo persuade the Founders to disband the Dominion? How will the Jem'Hadar and all the Dominion forces in the Gamma Quadrant react to this? So many questions, so much potential for future storytelling -- potential, alas that will most likelyy go wasted.

Still, I'm not going to end this review on a sour note because, as I said before, for everything this finale does wrong (or at least not as well as expectations might have warranted) it does ten times the amount right! That's a pretty healthy ratio and that's why this review has generally been so positive. What You Leave Behind pretty much has it all -- the fates of entire civilisations hanging precariously in the balance, gripping interstellar action, people making choices that for better or worse will seal their fate, long-brewing consequences both good and bad, painful partings, laughter and tears, life and death. It's a shame that this episode will be largely remembered by fans for what it wasn't rather than what it was, for What You Leave Behind is one of the grandest, most ambitious and most emotionally electrifying episodes of Star Trek ever made. It builds to an emotional powerhouse of an ending, one that's appropriately bittersweet and true to the series and one that'll have you smiling one moment and in tears the next. In many respects it's as close to perfect an ending to the series as I could possibly have hoped.

Rating: 10

Well, that's a wrap, folks! This is my final DS9 review (for the moment, anyway -- never say never) as I shan't be writing a season overview/retrospective this time. I think you'll agree that my seventh season reviews have been pretty in-depth and thorough and I don't think there's anything much left for me to say. Except, that is, to thank all of you for taking the time out to read my reviews, for all your feedback, support and encouragement, which has done wonders for keeping me motivated! I hope you've enjoyed reading these reviews as much as I've enjoyed writing them. Before I end up doing a Gwynyth Paltrow here, I'll just extend my heart-felt thanks to all the many people who worked on DS9 -- writers, creators, cast, producers, even the guy who mopped the studio floors! Thank you for making a show I truly cared about and had such marvellous fun watching and writing about. My kudos also to Tim Lynch, Jamahl Epsicokhan and all the other Trek critics whose work I have greatly enjoyed reading and have been inspired by. I'm sure this ain't the last you'll see of me -- I do have one or two things planned, time and circumstances permitting. Until then, however, I'll let Captain Benjamin Sisko have the last word:

"No matter what the future holds, no matter how far we travel, a part of us --
a very important part -- will always remain here, on Deep Space Nine."

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