You Talking Season 5 DS9 to Me? – “Ties of Blood and Water”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Season 5, Episode 19

For my money, I think Kira Nerys is the most important character of Deep Space Nine. Of course, Benjamin Sisko is the lead character and the chosen one and all that. But I think in terms of thematic importance, Kira is the most central to what Deep Space Nine was about. Superficially, she’s a Bajoran and the series takes place near Bajor and was primarily interested in that planet’s struggles for the first few seasons. However, on a deeper level her character arc is endemic of the series’ theme of rebuilding and healing – not to mention the show’s strength in developing its players throughout its run. She’s one of my favorite characters of Star Trek because of the evolution she undergoes throughout Deep Space Nine. “Blood and Water” focuses on a particularly painful moment of her past – the death of her father – and thematically links it to the death of her pseudo-father.

Ghemor is arriving at DS9, having become a political refugee on Cardassia following its absorption into the Dominion. Formerly a high-ranking military officer, he was also the leader of the Cardassian dissident movement, a group who wished to extricate Cardassian society from its totalitarian military rule. In their first meeting, he was led to believe that Kira was his secret surgically-modified operative daughter, which turned out to be a ruse to suss his traitorous activities out. It all sounds nuts but it makes total sense, really! It’s a great way to follow up on how the Dominion’s foothold in the Alpha Quadrant is shaking out and the disruptive ripples it’s creating.

At any rate, with his real daughter still being unaccounted for, Kira is the closest thing to family he has. I feel that “Second Skin” kinda jumped the gun a bit dramatically in making these two almost family, and this episode just rolls with it from the start and doesn’t let off the gas. It does fit in with the series’ themes of found families and the station as an outpost for outcasts, at least. It still doesn’t quite work for me, but Lawrence Pressman has a cuddly dad energy and Visitor exudes an anxious eagerness to please that help sell the emotional connection. After arriving, Ghemor holds Kirayoshi and snoops into Kira’s romantic life with Shakaar. Typical dad stuff!

“Oh, I’m full. Two babies is my limit, thanks.”

Ghemor is greeted at the station warmly by Kira (who is wearing a gaudy piece of Cardassian jewelry he gave her, cute). But he soon harshes the mellow by revealing that he’s suffering from a terminal disease. More importantly, he wants to partake in a Cardassian ritual called Shri-tal in which a dying person tells a trusted associate all their most valuable secrets so that they can be used against their enemies. That’s so Cardassian! It really does fit in with the cultural personality of his people – there’s something brutal and venomous about them in keeping with their reptilian appearance.

Ghemor has decades of valuable secrets about high ranking military officers and politicians in the Cardassian government. It’s a veritable treasure trove of intelligence that the Federation could potentially make use of. Kira agrees to do it, but frets to Sisko if she’s the right person for the job. Maybe Odo would be better suited to the task and ask the right questions. Sisko emphasizes that Ghemor doesn’t just want to be debriefed, he needs a trusted person at his side for his final days. Kira’s mind wanders and we get a quick flashback to her resistance days as her fellow fighters bring her injured father into their hideout. Already tearing up, Kira realizes that she is all Ghemor has left.

In the present, Bashir explains to Kira the medical equipment Ghemor will be hooked up to and emphasizes how difficult and draining caring for a terminal patient is.

As Kira interviews Ghemor, her mind wanders again to her father as the flashback continues. In the cave, her father writhes in agony from his wounds and explains to Kira how he was trying to reason with some Cardassian assholes when they shot him. He cried that they destroyed his garden. It’s very rough, emotionally. Back in the present, Ghemor has drifted off to sleep and Kira ends the recording.

“It’s a good start. He seems to know all the embarrassing nicknames of everyone in the Cardassian government.”

Sisko reviews her material and is pleased with the information it contains. He’s concerned about her state, and she seems exhausted. Her voice is weak and raspy, which is some impressive acting. But before she can get any rest, Bashir calls to inform her that Ghemor has stopped responding to his treatment and probably doesn’t have a lot of time left. Ghemor is insistent that they continue.

In other alarming news, a Jem’Hadar battleship approaches the station with its weapons at the ready. Dukat is aboard, and wants to personally meet about extraditing Ghemor back to Cardassia. Walking into Sisko’s office, he’s revealed to be traveling with Weyoun, who we last saw getting vaporized by one of his own men in the Gamma Quadrant last season. As we learn, the Dominion are experts at cloning, which tracks with their overall proficiency at genetic engineering. Weyon cheerfully explains that he’s the fifth incarnation of himself, which will open up all sorts of wacky story possibilities as the series continues.

“Ghemor, bubbe! You belong at home!”

Dukat and Weyoun meet with Ghemor, who despite being confined to a bed, doesn’t mince any words or hold back his true feelings about the Dominion. I love Weyoun’s impassive head tilt as Ghemor insults him to his face, like he’s studying a bug or something. Dukat claims that Ghemor’s crimes have been cleared and that they’ve located his daughter, to which Ghemor’s resolve immediately wavers. Standing beside him, Kira calmly reminds him not to believe anything they’re saying, and I like how reassuring and supportive she is. Undeterred, Dukat and Weyoun decide to stick around on the station.

“There was this one dipshit, we called him Gul Cheesecrack. Because you see, he was always eating cheese, so one day me and the boys…”

Kira continues to interview Ghemor and we get a montage that illustrates the exhaustive process for both of them. While reviewing her notes, Dukat drops by her quarters (ew) and tries to drive a wedge between her and Ghemor by giving her his military record. Turns out he was present during the Kiessa Monastery massacre. In one of her best moments, Kira throws a teacup at his head which narrowly misses. She promises that one day she’ll make him pay. “Maybe, but not today,” Dukat replies before leaving. However, she starts reading Ghemor’s record.


Later, Kira angrily lashes out at Ghemor who seems much feebler and weaker now. He regrets ever joining the military and is sorry for keeping his involvement in the massacre from her, but it falls on deaf ears as she storms out.

In one of my favorite scenes that breaks up the heaviness somewhat, Weyoun happily plays Dabo at Quark’s. The place is notably emptied out of all guests, presumably for security reasons (except of course for a requisite Dabo Girl to egg Weyoun on). Off to the side, Dukat sneers that he’s so amused by a foolish game. And indeed, there’s something childlike about Weyon’s glee. It’s an interesting facet to his character, and the episode casually drops a bunch more that help to build up what would become one of the show’s most memorable recurring characters.

Sisko drops in with a glass of Cardassian kanar under the guise of being more welcoming and diplomatic. Dukat refuses a drink, and Sisko insists. He then reveals that the bottle was delivered to Ghemor’s quarters with enough poison to kill a dozen people, and Dukat bristles at the accusation. Weyoun – god, I love this guy – sits off to the side, gleefully entertained at the verbal parry and thrust of their conflict. And then he drinks a glass of poison to confirm that it’s quite deadly, and the looks on Sisko’s and Dukat’s faces is priceless. Weyoun casually states that the Vorta are immune to most poisons (which comes in handy in his line of work). It’s the best.

“I’m not touching this box wine, but I will have some of that poison, thanks.”

Kira has been avoiding Ghemor, and Odo gently calls her out on it in that direct Odo way he has. He reminds her that he was in his first year of service when it happened and he may not have even fired a shot. Kira responds that he shouldn’t have even been there, Odo replies that none of this is really new information for her, so what’s her deal?

Kira has another flashback to her injured father, who feels his death is near. Furel (who still had both his arms at this point) says he’s found the Cardassians who attacked him and is going out to hit them. Kira insists on joining them, and Furel is in disbelief. Her father begs her not to leave, but she won’t be deterred.

In a parallel plot point in the present, Bashir informs Kira that Ghemor’s condition in in its final stages and he will be dead within the hour. Kira thanks him for the info, but refuses to see him. Bashir is horrified, and implores her that despite whatever he’s done, he still doesn’t deserve to die alone.

Kira flashes back to the aftermath of the attack. Furel is overjoyed that they beat them so badly and wants to celebrate their deaths, but Kira glumly observes the futile cycle of death and killing they’re caught in. That is, until she finds out that her dad died while she was gone, and she immediately thirsts for revenge against the Cardassians. While digging a grave for her dad, Furel drops in to arrange some sort of quick funeral, but she’s not having it. It’s all very much consistent with Kira’s past recountings of her life in the Resistance. As she once told Dukat, it’s a life based on hate and adrenaline and we see that illustrated vividly here.

Kira finally shows up at Ghemor’s side and he’s conscious enough to notice and appreciate it. Later on, she sits in the infirmary as Bashir finishes the certificate of death. She’s taken aback at how pat that final process is, and Bashir solemnly denies its apparent ease and simplicity. She recounts Ghemor’s final moments, and it’s a quietly brutal scene as she talks about the things he mumbled and her waiting for his final breath, counting them, etc. Like in “The Darkness and the Light,” the long focus on her tearful face during the soliloquy is arresting. Visitor just kills it in these scenes.

She confides in Bashir how she had missed her own father’s death by an hour, but admits that it was intentional. She couldn’t bear to see the source of her strength slip away in such a painful way, so she ran. And in giving Ghemor the final gift of her presence for his last moments, she feels that in doing so it healed her as well, and allowed her to make up for her previous mistake. It’s a sad but beautiful notion.

Dukat and Weyoun meet with Sisko before they leave, and Dukat informs him of the official bullshit story that Ghemor repented on his deathbed and praised the Dominion and their glorious totalitarian nutsack (actual dialogue). It’s disturbing to see how much of an anti-truth propaganda-based society Cardassia is (even more so now with their Dominion overlords). Sisko replies with one of his best lines in the series – “That’s very moving. Except for one small problem. It never happened.” Dukat is undeterred and requests that Ghemor’s body be returned to Cardassia for full funeral honors. Sisko informs him that it’s already being taken care of as we see Kira praying at his grave, which is right next to her other dad’s. Whereas the locale was burned up and lifeless before, it now teems with grass and sunlight. It’s a good visual metaphor for both the healing of Bajor from the Occupation, and of Kira from her personal wounds.

Deep Space Nine was a darker and more serious Trek series from the start, and focused on death, tragedy, and healing in many different ways. Sisko’s painful grieving and Bajor’s wounds from the Occupation were major plot points. Kira’s agonizing journey here highlights another theme of the series and shows that healing, like family, can be found in unexpected places.

Stray Observations:

  • So none of the supposedly invaluable secrets Ghemor gave Kira were mentioned again. It would have been nice to have some payoff, in the way that the captured Jem’Hadar ship figured into the plot later on. I guess we can just assume it proved useful. Is it a little too much to ask that everything be drawn out for me in painfully overwrought detail?
  • Ghemor gets a pretty pathetic welcoming when he boards DS9 – just Dax and Worf? Sisko or some diplomatic representative from Starfleet couldn’t be bothered to say hello?
“Well, thanks for rolling out the sad grey carpet for me. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to walk right into space.”
  • Dukat’s transmission to Sisko is a great scene, and the way he’s flanked by a Jem’Hadar and Cardassian soldier in the background is a telling detail. It seems very facshy in a North Korean way. I love when Sisko insults the Dominion and the Cardassian briefly looks over at his Jem’Hadar comrade to see if there’s any reaction. It’s a nice detail about how uneasy this alliance is.
“Psst, I think he’s talking about you.”
  • The series would go on to drop many more little details and tidbits about the Vorta and each one seemed to make them seem that much more sad and pathetic. The immunity to poison is a nice callback to “The Ship,” in which Sisko probably narrowly avoided being killed by some alien hor’dourves.
  • Speaking of poison, I love Sisko just leaving that bottle of it when he gets up to leave.
  • It’s nice to Furel here alive and well, still sucks that he bit the dust.
“When this whole war is over, I was thinking of opening up a coat store. Or a boxing gym. Maybe a drumming academy? I have so many ideas, it’s hard to get my arms around them, y’know? I’m always swinging for the fences!”
  • Presented without context:
“Dad, look what I won! I’m going to get that whistle! Or maybe a sticky gummy hand!”