Thursday, February 28, 2019

Episode Review - Blood Oath (Deep Space Nine: Season 2)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here.

Overview – Jadzia Dax is approached by three Klingon warriors: Kang, Koloth, and Kor. They were friends of Dax’s previous host, Curzon, and had taken a blood oath with him to find the Albino, a ruthless villain who had murdered their sons. Dax still feels an obligation to assist her friends in fulfilling their oath but is torn emotionally over the fact that she might have to take a life to do so. While Curzon had no such qualms about that possibility, Jadzia has not experienced that yet. When she discovers the truth about Kang’s mission, however, she is faced with a tough decision that could result in her own death.

Score: 9/10 – One of the DS9’s many strengths is how it was able to reach back to what had come before and successfully incorporate it into its own story. “Blood Oath” is an ideal example of this. Where TNG successfully brought in beloved characters from the past (Sarek, Scotty, and Spock), DS9’s complexity allowed for some really compelling stories. Here we see three former adversaries of Kirk in the form of Kang (“Day of the Dove”), Koloth (“The Trouble with Tribbles”), and Kor (“Errand of Mercy”). Each one is portrayed by the actor who first played them over 25 years earlier (Michael Ansara, William Campbell, and John Colicos respectively), and their characters have taken on the legendary status of Dahar Masters. The story, one of honoring an old oath, gives great depth and development to Jadzia, and it has an almost Three Musketeer feel to it. While this is a story used to develop Jadzia, it is truly a nostalgia tour de force that highlights three popular Klingons from the Original series. There is so much good stuff going on in this episode, from the humor to the action to the emotional gauntlet that Jadzia runs. I liked how they went with the updated Klingon look, and though these men are much older than when they last appeared, they look magnificent and powerful. Terry Farrell does a superb job and truly breathes some life into Jadzia’s character, the results of which will be felt for several seasons to come. The action is gritty and fun, and the Albino makes a convincing villain. Some have wondered if the Albino is also a Klingon, and there are some interesting comics and novels that add to his background. It is the mystery of the Albino that is the source of what is really my only criticism of this episode. I would have liked to know a little bit more about him to help make his involvement more impactful. That is, in truth, a very minor critique, and the episode as a whole is definitely a strong one. It is one of those stories that showed viewers that even in the second season, Deep Space Nine meant serious business.

Relevance – 3 points. That you take three popular Klingon characters from the Original series, update their look, and in two of their cases give them a glorious death in battle is more than enough to score a point here. Kor, the sole survivor of the three, will go on to appear in two more episodes of DS9, so that will score a point as well. This also marks a major development in Jadzia’s character, explaining a lot of Dax’s history with Klingons which becomes integral to much of the future’s Klingon storylines in the series. Full marks for relevance with this episode.

Continuity – 3 points. Character continuity is most intriguing here. Minor details, such as Odo showing a casual attitude towards Quark’s safety, are fun. Jadzia turning to both Sisko, her mentor, and Kira, someone who has had to kill before, makes a lot of sense for her. That she does not take the killing of someone else lightly is very appropriate for Jadzia. Sisko’s and Kira’s responses are also right in line with the characters. Story continuity works well here, with the writers providing us sufficient details in the dialogue to help us understand how these three Klingon legends fit into the current Trek universe. Speaking of universe, the fact they went with the (at the time) current look for Klingons helped secure the point here. Yes, the look of the Klingons has changed since the days of Kirk and Spock, and, as Discovery has shown us, they will continue to change. They could have gone with the classic look, but that would not have fit. Good thing Enterprise would provide us the reason for the different looks.

Character Development – 2 points. As previously mentioned, this is a major turning point for Jadzia. Her closeness to Klingon culture is established here, and lots of background to her character is provided. It is in this episode that the concept of Jadzia, the warrior, is fleshed out. Her intimate knowledge and experience with Klingons will go onto playing a key role in Klingon-centered episodes like “Way of the Warrior” and “Soldiers of the Empire” and gives a lot of weight behind her romantic relationship with Worf. Having said that, much of the focus is on her Klingon friends, and the rest of the main cast are only used to further the story. In fact, three main characters (Bashir, O’Brien, and Jake) do not even appear in this episode. This means that I can only award two points in this category.

Social Commentary – 2 points. How does one prepare themselves to take the life of another? To what extent does loyalty to friends and promises made to them supersede one’s personal integrity? These are two questions that this episode asks. Jadzia has, as far as we can tell, never killed someone in close combat before. She has to come to grips with that as she also has to find it within herself to honor the blood oath her former host made. It had already been established both in this and previous episodes that the actions and responsibilities of a previous host do not carry forward, but for Jadzia this extends beyond the host and taps directly into the symbiont. Jadzia is torn between her loyalty to Starfleet and her loyalty to her friends. For many of us, we can find ourselves in similar situations (although it is unlikely to involve life-or-death outcomes). A test of such loyalty can be a defining moment for us, and often we do not escape the situation unscathed.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. Take three popular adversaries from fan-favorite episodes that aired a quarter-century ago. Have the original actors reprise those roles while adding depth and background to their stories. Update them to the current look of the species they belong to, and you get a very cool moment indeed. I am also scoring a point for the Albino. While I do think they could have added more to his character, his look and demeanor were very cool.

Rank – Admiral (21 points). DS9’s second season was markedly stronger than the first, and this is a prime reason as to why. For fans of the original series, we are given a gracious and generous dose of nostalgia. For fans of action, we are given some great hand-to-hand battles. For fans of Dax, this is a must-see episode. Add to that the return of Kor in future episodes, and you get a wonderful episode.

If you would like to read other reviews from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, please click the following link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do.