WARNING: Friends, Klingons, countrymen, "Sons and Daughters" spoilers, ...
In brief: A middle-of-the-road entry; not particularly unpleasant, but not particularly compelling either.
After "Rocks and Shoals" last week, my first thought was "will another four weeks be enough to deal with everything that's been raised?" After "Sons and Daughters", my first thought was "with all that's happening, why are we seeing a Worf/Alexander show now?" When the first question that comes to mind after the show is effectively asking why it wasn't something else, that's a sign that the show itself wasn't riveting.
The Worf/Alexander relationship has always been something of a muddle, ever since Alexander came to live with Worf in TNG's "New Ground". The idea of Worf, the more-Klingon-than-Klingon officer, having to deal with a son who isn't interested in Klingon ideals, is a solid premise, and the relationship is something that could have and should have worked pretty strongly. Unfortunately, due to a combination of writing and acting problems, it just never came off in the TNG days -- so "Sons and Daughters" had something of an uphill battle at the outset when it came to TNG fans with memories.
Unfortunately, a description of what we got might be "more of the same". Alexander as a child was whiny, petulant and irritating (thanks partially to Brian Bonsall, but also partially to the situations the character kept being put in). Given that fact, I suppose making the teenage Alexander whiny, petulant, and irritating is consistent characterization -- but like Lwaxana Troi, it's consistent characterization of a character people aren't going to want to see. Worf expects more from Alexander than he should? Check. Worf tries to send Alexander away? Check. Alexander tries to be a warrior, but is completely inept? Okay, that's slightly new -- but it's really nothing we haven't seen before, and I'm not at all sure it's something worth building an episode around. Additionally, when Worf vows at the end to teach Alexander how to be a warrior and learn from him how to be a father, I can't have been the only one saying "um, we've tried this before."
As for acting problems ... well, Marc Worden was an improvement over Brian Bonsall -- and if you think that sounds like damning with faint praise, you're right. In fairness, Alexander is a tough character to play -- it's hard enough playing a Klingon well as it is, and having to play a Klingon who doesn't want to be one is harder still. Even so, most of the time I felt as though I was watching an actor rather than Worf's son, which didn't help matters -- and the fact that Worf-as- father has never been Michael Dorn's strongest suit either made things difficult as well.
As such, the scenes on board the Rotarran were a seriously mixed bag. The conversation between Martok and Alexander was solid, and I rather liked Alexander's nemesis Ch'Targ (even if his eventual acceptance of Alexander was telegraphed almost from his first appearance). On the other hand, Martok spent a reasonable fraction of the episode being far more shallow than he usually is (with such deep observations as "when a father and son don't speak, it means there's trouble between them"; as my students might say, "well, *DUH*!"), and even the good scenes felt like echoes of some far superior scenes on the Rotarran last year in "Soldiers of the Empire".
So much for "Sons". How about "Daughters"?
Well, the daughter in question is named Tora Ziyal, and she wound up as little more than a pawn. Given how interesting Kira's situation on board the station has been so far this year, I was hoping for something just as good this time. I didn't quite get it, but what I got was quite respectable.
Given Dukat's twofold interest in Kira, both personally and as a means to validate his own actions, it's understandable and expected that he'd pull out all the stops to try to bring Kira over to his point of view. Family ties may be strong on Cardassia, but I have the distinct feeling that Dukat's dual obsession with power and with Kira is a lot stronger -- and as such, his reunion with Ziyal was not much more than a scheme to snare Kira. That works so nicely that even Ziyal's incredible naivete about her father ("he admits he overreacted" about leaving her on DS9 to be killed?) works without much of a problem.
There were really only two weak points in this half of the episode. One of them is one I've made before -- Melanie Smith is just not that compelling as Ziyal. Given her ancestry and her life up to now, she should be a gigantic mess of contradictions and questions, wondering if she fits in anywhere and who her friends really are. Smith is able to get across some of that (and Ziyal's naive wish that her art could "bring people together" was a good example), but not all of it.
The second point has to do with Kira's current situation. The last time we saw Kira, she'd just decided to fight back somehow, so that she could "look in the mirror and not be nauseated by what I see." Most of this show felt like a regression from that. It's certainly understandable that she can't simply sever all ties with the Cardassians given her current position, but she should be dead set against doing *anything* that might play into their hands, and I wouldn't have expected even Ziyal's presence to change that conviction. Had this episode taken place before "Rocks and Shoals", it would have made a lot more sense to me where Kira's concerned. (A few lines of dialogue here and there would have needed to change, but the basic idea would have worked a lot better.)
The other regular characters pretty much just got token scenes, and that's also something I sort of wish had been avoided. The Worf/Dax scene was okay (and was at least addressing their sex life without smirking about it), but having the Rotarran just happen to be the ship that rescued Sisko et al. from their plight strains credibility more than a little. As for Jake, Quark, and Odo -- the words "loose lips" came to mind rather strongly, especially in Jake's case. Jake's inexperienced and somewhat naive, but he's never been stupid -- and having him pester Kira and Odo out in the open, particularly right in front of Quark, is exceptionally stupid. (Of course, it could be that Quark's the one who tipped Jake off in the first place, but we've no particular reason to believe that.) Other tidbits, like the O'Brien/Bashir grumbling about living on a Klingon ship, worked fine -- but that's all they did.
All in all, then, "Sons and Daughters" was something of a disappointment. Very little in it (with the exception of Martok's early dialogue) was actually *bad*, but much of the Alexander plot felt like a rehash of something we didn't need to see again, and so much of the Kira/Ziyal plot felt like it was a week too late that an awful lot of its impact was blunted. Ah, well; DS9 is still two for three so far, and next week looks like it has the potential to be a real winner.
Some shorter thoughts:
-- I do like Dukat's aide Damar. The scene where he brought the dress to Kira ("[Dukat] thought it might amuse you to have me deliver it") was an awful lot of fun.
-- Worf hasn't tried to see or to talk with Alexander for five years? Pardon? Five years ago, Worf and Alexander were *still on the Enterprise*. Two or three would be believable, but not five.
-- Ziyal's status on Bajor was a very welcome subject, and one I hadn't thought much about. I suppose being the daughter of someone leading a war against the Emissary would lead to certain tensions...
-- Dukat's actions after Kira returned the dress were extremely interesting; never let an opportunity lie, I suppose...
-- Is Alexander actually going to be a recurring character now? Based on the show, I would tend to hope not, but it seems very possible...
-- The one pleasant surprise I got from "Sons and Daughters" is that Alexander wasn't killed while proving himself to Worf. Going into the final act, I expected some final act of martyrdom (or at the very least, heroism); it was nice to simply have Alexander realize his limitations, and accept them. (Locking himself in a corridor, though? Sheesh.)
-- The shot near the end of the Rotarran zipping away felt very much like a similar shot towards the end of "Soldiers of the Empire". I think they reused it -- which, given how terrific a shot it is, is certainly understandable.
That about covers it; I hope the six-episode arc takes a turn back to form next week. So, wrapping up:
Writing: Not a lot of new ground, unfortunately -- reasonable, but that's all. Directing: Nothing stood out, positively or negatively. Acting: Both the son and the daughter were somewhat weak spots; Hertzler was fine, and Alaimo was his usual delicious self.
OVERALL: 6, I think; solidly watchable, but that's all.
The Last Temptation of Odo.
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.) firstname.lastname@example.org <*> "You don't like the dress." "The dress is fine; I don't like YOU." -- Dukat and Kira Copyright 1997, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask... This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the author*. Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.