“In Purgatory’s Shadow”

I think… maybe I will attempt to log the remainder of my maiden voyage through Deep Space Nine and Voyager here. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been alternating between the two series over the past several months. For a while, I was alternating season-by-season, but I recently switched over to an alternating schedule by episodes. This had some weird side effects due to the random, unspoiled approach I’m taking — I ended up seeing Kurtwood Smith’s appearances in both shows within the space of a few days — but it worked for a while. At least, until I hit a lull in Deep Space Nine (mid-season 5) right as Voyager became really consistently good (the start of season 4), at which point I decided to go back to viewing by seasons. I had a feeling that DS9 would only be in its lacuna for a little while, given all the good things I’ve heard about its latter seasons, and its increasingly serial nature doesn’t seem to lend itself to interruptions.

Anyway, I was right. With this latest episode, I feel like things Just Got Real.

I don’t know a whole lot about DS9 beyond this point. Basically, I know:

  • There’s a big, nasty war with the Dominion;
  • Gul Dukat isn’t on the side of angels for it, despite his apparent redemptive arc over the past season;
  • Sisko’s religious role is a big deal;
  • I think maybe Dax gets a new host?

Everything else is completely fresh and unexpected to me, and with “In Purgatory’s Shadow,” I get the unmistakable impression that the show is about to hit another one of its points of no return. It contains shocking revelations about Garak’s parentage, about Bashir’s authenticity as a human being, and also of a huge Jem’Hadar fleet massing near Sullust the wormhole. I wonder if Sisko’s actions in the previous episode were meant to pave the way for tough choices to come — recalibrating viewers’ expectations of what a Starfleet captain can and should do when his back’s against the wall. That would make it an easier pill to swallow, I think.

Although this episode wasn’t listed as a two-parter, it feels extremely serial in nature. I’m curious to see if it’s simply a stealth two-parter, or if in fact DS9 is about to embrace continuity and go full-on Farscape. I feel I can’t really comment much more on this episode until I see how (or if) its various scenarios are resolved next episode. But I am enjoying the uncertainty and sense of discovery. (And I have to mention here how much I appreciate the person who wrote DS9‘s episode synopses for Netflix — unlike with other Trek series, their DS9 descriptions pretty much never give away anything beyond the pre-credits set-up sequence, which means I never know where an episode will actually end up. It’s a nice touch I’d like to see exercised more often.)