"Rocks and Shoals"

Season Six, Episode 2
Written by Ronald D Moore
Directed by Michael Vejar
Music by David Bell
Main Cast:
Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko
Rene Auberjonois as Odo
Michael Dorn as Lt Cmdr Worf
Terry Farrell as Lt Cmdr Jadzia Dax
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 Major Kira Nerys

Guest Stars:
Phil Morris as Remat'Iklan
Christopher Shea as Keevan
Andrew Robinson as Garak
Aron Eisenberg as Nog.

"Are you really willing to give up your life for "the order of things"?"
"It's not my life to give up, Captain. And it never was."
-- Sisko and Remat'Iklan

Sisko and crew are stranded in Dominion territory, being hotly pursued by a squadron of Jem'Hadar warships. Without weapons, warp drive and the ship falling apart at the seams, Dax is badly injured and Sisko is forced to take the ship into an unstable dark matter nebula to escape the Jem'Hadar. But the ship is pulled into the gravity of a planet and crash lands on the surface. The crew escapes the burning wreckage with only the most minimal of supplies. They set up camp in a cave where Bashir nurses the injured Dax but there is a problem -- Nog and Garak, who were sent to scout the area, have not returned. They have been captured by a squad of Jem'Hadar troops who have also been stranded on the planet. Their Vorta, Keevan, is seriously injured and sends his Jem'Hadar First Remat'Iklan to bargain with Sisko. Keevan will let go Garak and Nog in exchange for Sisko and Doctor Bashir. Sisko agrees to make the exchange and Bashir treats the wounded Vorta.

Meanwhile, on DS9, Kira has to appease the angry Bajorans, resentful at the Dominion Occupation. When Vedek Yassim hangs herself on the Promenade to protest the Occupation Kira realises that she has become the very thing she hated most -- a collaborator. She and Odo form the new Resistance.

Back on the planet, the recovering Keevan explains to Sisko that his supply of Ketracel-white is fast running out and the Jem'Hadar are starting to suffer the effects of withdrawal. When the supply runs out, the Jem'Hadar will be senseless, violent  animals who will kill anything within reach before eventually turning on themselves. Keevan explains that in the morning he is going to order the Jem'Hadar to attack their base camp, but he is willing to give Sisko their precise plan of attack and give himself up as a prisoner of war. He has a broken communications system which O'Brien should be able to fix. Basically Keevan is willing to betray his own men so he can spend the rest of the war comfortably as a Starfleet POV. After Sisko and Bashir return to camp, the crew weigh up the options -- it's hardly ethical to abet the despicable Vorta but as Sisko notes "when it comes to a choice between them and us there is no choice".

The next day, they lie in wait at the top of a canyon for the Jem'Hadar attack. But before they open fire, Sisko tries to bargain with Remat'Iklan, telling him that Keevan has betrayed him and offers to help them. But Remat'Iklan is having none of it; he was genetically created to serve the Dominion and every ounce of his being must follow "the order of things." Sisko asks whether he's really willing to sacrifice his life to which he replies "it is not my life to sacrifice. And it never was." He assures his men that their deaths will be glory to the Founders and they charge toward Sisko's men who have no choice but to kill them. Amid the carnage, Keevan steps over the bodies of his men and smugly notes that "if I'd had just two more vials of White you never would have had a chance." O'Brien takes Keevan back to base camp and will get to work on repairing the comm unit as the other crewmen prepare a burial detail. Sisko is left, staring down at the bodies, contemplating what he's just done.

(NB: This review is taken from my The Dominion War Arc review)

Just when you thought things couldn't get any more exciting, the writers churn out what is probably the strongest episode of the entire arc. Sheesh, I don't even know where to begin. The teaser was absolutely stunning, the most exciting we've had for a long time. The episode proceeds smoothly along course, setting up the poignant chain of events that comprise the main plot. Basically it's a gritty "in the trenches" story, with both our Defiant crew and a Jem'Hadar crew stranded on the same planet.

The Jem'Hadar out-number the Defiant crew two-to-one, but Keevan, the Vorta on charge of the Jem'Hadar, has a wild card up his sleeve, and betrays his own men, realising that once they run out of Ketracel-white, his hold over the Jem'Hadar will be broken. Lack of the drug will turn them into "senseless, violent animals" and they will kill everyone in sight, before eventually turning on each other. The Jem'Hadar are going to attack Sisko's base camp, and Keevan gives him their precise plan of attack, so they can ambush and kill the Jem'Hadar. That way, the Starfleet crew will be saved, and so will Keevan.

Sisko is left with a tough dilemma - is it ethical to take up the dispicable Vorta's offer and kill the Jem'Hadar? The dilemma causes conflict of opinion among Sisko's men, but ultimately the Captain decides - "We are at war. And if it comes to a choice between them and us, there is no choice." Throughout the episode, we're given a look at things through the perspective of the Jem'Hadar, and you know what? You actually feel sorry for these guys! They have been genetically engineered to take orders without question from the Dominion. It's all hammered home in the final exchange between Sisko and Remat'Iklan, the unit leader. Sisko asks "are you really willing to sacrifice your life for the "order of things"?". Remat'Iklan somberly replies; "It's not my life to sacrifice...and it never was."

Well, I dunno about you, but that's a pretty poignant comment, and it all adds to the tragedy of the episode. Sisko is forced to gun down the Jem'Hadar, as their repulsive Vorta strolls across the corpses of his men, with a smirk on his face, having sold out his own men. Gads, I was really, really rooting for Sisko to shoot the slimey Vorta! The whole climax is actually painfully tragic to watch. Kudos to director Mike Vejar for some brilliant work (his use of slow motion was very effective) and all the cast were superb, particularly Avery Brooks, who did a very good job as the Captain forced to abandon his ethics in order to save his men.

Let's not forget the B-story, which is equally powerful. We see some strong character work for Kira, who slowly begins to realise that she's become the one thing she despises the most: a collaborator. Vedek Yassim is a protester against the Dominion; "the Dominion is evil, and the Prophets tell us that evil must be opposed." You don't understand the issues at stake, Kira tells her. "You are right," replies Yassim. "I do not. Perhaps tomorrow we will both understand." The next day, in one of the most shocking scenes I've ever seen on Star Trek, Yassim hangs herself on the promenade, screaming "evil must be opposed". Well, that's Kira's wake-up call, and she decides she must start a resistance against the Dominion.

This is an emotionally compelling, intelligent and provocate tale. Stylish, sophisticated and beautifully performed. And I could go on like this for another page! Absolutely first rate.

Rating: 10

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