“Star Trek: DS9” (Season 3)

Introduction

This season is a must-see for fans of Trek (Trekkies, Trekkers, or whatever you prefer)! S3 has some of my fave eps of the entire series (so far I’ve watched 6 seasons). When DS9 originally aired, I saw most of the eps in S3; my faves then were Bashir (Alexander Siddig) and Dax (Terry Farrell). Now, I’d say that Odo and Kira are my faves. There are a few eps which you can skip (check out the IMDB ratings), but this is the transitional season which will lead us to the (exciting) S4.

Episodes 1 & 2: “The Search, Parts I & 11”

Episode 3: The House Of Quark

Quark: Now I know we’re doomed.

Rom: Why, brother?

Quark: Rule of Acquisition 286: When Morn leaves, it’s all over.

Rom: There is no such rule.

Quark: There should be.

“War is good for business” is the 34th Rule of Acquisition, but the bar is almost empty; people are leaving b/c they fear the Dominion. A drunk Klingon, Kozak, refuses to pay, assaults Quark (Armin Shimerman), and dies falling on his knife! When Quark sees curious crowds outside the bar, he decides to tell everyone he killed the Klingon to increase business. He soon gets a visit from Kozak’s brother, D’Ghor, seeking confirmation he died an honorable death. Quark has to tell the truth to Kozak’s widow, Grilka (Mary Kay Adams); she kidnaps him and forces him to marry her to save the House of Kozak. Keiko has to close the station’s school b/c all the kids left.

[Quark is looking over the financial records of Kozak and D’Ghor]

Quark: Very clever… Very clever, indeed… D’Ghor has manipulated your family’s holdings, devalued the lands you hold… and he is the principal creditor on Kozak’s outstanding gambling debts. It’s no accident that your family is getting weaker and D’Ghor’s family is getting stronger, he has been systematically attacking your family’s assets for over five years now.

Grilka: [outraged] You mean D’Ghor has been scheming and plotting like a…

Quark: …Like a Ferengi.

Stephen Hawking visited the set during the filming of this ep. We see the Klingon homeworld (Qo’noS); Chancellor Gowron (Robert O’Reilly) appears for the first time in this series. Veteran ST actor Joseph Ruskin plays another Klingon- Tumek. Some astute viewers will notice that the scenes in the Great Hall echo the TNG ep Sins of The Father (1990), but w/ a comedic twist; Ronald D. Moore also wrote the teleplay for that ep. This is a fun ep, which is must-see esp. for those who are fans of the Klingons!

Quark [facing a fight to the death w/ D’Ghor]: Having me fight D’Ghor is nothing more than an execution. So, if that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get – an execution. No honor, no glory. And when you tell your children and your grandchildren the glorious story of how you rose to power and took Grilka’s house from her, I hope you remember to tell them how you heroically killed an unarmed Ferengi half your size.

Episode 5: Second Skin

Kira (Nana Visitor) is contacted by a Alenis Grem from the Bajoran Central Archives, who’s doing research on the former Elemspur detention center. Grem has proof Kira was once detained there; also, the last remaining former inmate recognizes her, so Kira decides to travel to the Archives. She never arrives, but awakes on Cardassia looking like her enemy! She is told that she was sent as a spy to Bajor many years ago; her long-term memory was altered to avoid being found out. She is called Iliana Ghemor, daughter of legate Tekeny Ghemor (Lawrence Pressman). Though Kira rejects all this, she starts having serious doubts when Entek (Gregory Sierra) from the Obisidian Order provides convincing proof.

Garak: I’ll go along on your fool’s errand, but I want one thing to be perfectly clear: I have no intention of sacrificing my life to save yours. If it looks like we’re in danger of being captured, if there’s any sign of trouble at all, you’re on your own!

Cmdr. Sisko: Mr. Garak, I believe that’s the first completely honest thing you’ve ever said to me.

The teleplay is by Robert Hewitt Wolfe (I wrote to him on Twitter- he replied), who came over from TNG. Wolfe started writing on DS9 at age 31 (as he said in an interview on The 7th Rule YT channel); he also served as a producer. I think this is one the the best eps of S3; it’s intelligent, mysterious, and touching. We get to learn more re: the Cardassians (considered to be one of Trek’s most interesting/well-developed aliens). Garak (guest star Andrew Robinson) plays a pivotal role. There is the father-daughter story, which is very well-played by Visitor and Pressman (a veteran character actor). For perhaps the first time in her life, Kira sees that NOT all Cardassians are evil!

Episode 6: The Abandoned

Quark buys the rights to a ship from the Gamma Quadrant; a crying baby is discovered among the items! Bashir notices the boy has a V fast metabolic rate, so is growing quickly. In a few hours, he’s a teen who starts fighting on the promenade. Odo (Rene Auberjonois) is the ONLY one who is able to calm him down; Jadzia realizes he’s Jem’Hadar! When Odo hears the boy is to be examined in a Federation lab, he convinces Sisko to let him be in charge of the young man. Odo wants to try to change his nature, so he can live as a normal humanoid. Meanwhile, Sisko (Avery Brooks) invites Jake’s (Cirroc Lofton) girlfriend, Mardah, over for dinner. Since Mardah is 4 yrs older than Jake and works as a Dabo girl at Quark’s bar, Sisko is opposed to their relationship.

Director/actor Brooks saw this ep as something of a metaphorical study of racial tension and gang culture: “For me, it was very much a story about young brown men, and, to some extent, a story about a society that is responsible for the creation of a generation of young men who are feared, who are addicted, who are potential killers.” This is the first ep to refer to Jake’s literary talents; this is also the first appearance of Ketracel-white (the “missing enzyme” to which the Jem’Hadar are “addicted”). Some viewers were reminded of Hugh who had been separated from the Borg collective on TNG. I thought the A story w/ the Jem’Hadar was rather engaging; I liked the alien make-up and the action scenes.

Episode 7: Civil Defense

Rule of Acquisition #75: Home is where the heart is, but the stars are made of latinum.

O’Brien (Colm Meaney) and Jake (who has been assisting him w/ Engineering tasks) are preparing one of the ore processing units to convert it into a deuterium refinery. Sisko checks up on them, just as Jake finds a strange file in the database which can’t be deleted. O’Brien accidentally trips a Cardassian security alert, and must enter a password, but fails. Suddenly, the room’s locked down, and a recorded message from Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo) appears on view screens, warning the “Bajoran workers” to surrender! This resembles the VOY ep Worst Case Scenario (1997); in both stories the crew trigger a computer program which they can’t to shut down which proves life-threatening.

We see Dukat express a desire for Kira, something that would return many times in the future. Here his attempt to impress her is treated as comedy. This is something which displeased Nana Visitor, who commented: “I would have liked my character to make the point that only a few years earlier, Dukat’s wanting me would have meant that he could have had me, and I wouldn’t have been able to do a thing about it. So it shouldn’t have been seen as a ‘cute’ moment. It was actually a horrifying moment, one that would make Kira feel disgust and panic. To Kira, Dukat is Hitler. She’s not ever going to get over that. She can never forgive him, and that is important to me. Kira may have started to see Cardassians as individuals, but she will always hate Dukat.”  

We also hear the first mention Quark’s cousin, Gaila (Josh Pais), who Quark is always jealous of for this wealth/status. This ep also builds upon the antagonism between Gul Dukat and Garak which was first hinted at in S2 E5 (Cardassians).

Episode 9: Defiant

Riker: Looks like you got your evening all planned. Hope you’ve got room for the unexpected.

It’s V busy on the station and Kira hasn’t even got time to read reports. Then, Starfleet requests a complete report on the computer calibration subroutine. When Bashir asks for a runabout to get medical supplies, she snaps! Bashir says Kira is overworked and orders her to rest. At Quark’s bar, she meets Cmdr. Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) who is on his way to the pleasure planet (Risa). They chat and she seems to like him. At the end of the next day, she runs into him again; Riker asks to have a look at the Defiant. Sisko assists Gul Dukat on Cardassia Prime to prevent the ship from entering Cardassian territory.

If you’re a fan of Riker (like me), this is the story for you; even if you’re not, it’s a compelling story (written by Moore). It turns out that this is Thomas Riker; he quickly/cleverly takes over the warship! Romance (potentially) wasn’t only in the cards for Kira and Riker; two of Maquis crew- Kalita (Shannon Cochran) and Tamal (Michael Canavan) met on the DS9 set and got married a few years later. Cochran played Gen. Martok’s formidable wife (Sirella) in S6, E7 (“You Are Cordially Invited.”) TNG fans may also recognize the Obsidian Order officer Korinas (Tricia O’Neill); this actress played Capt. Garrett in S3, E5: “Yesterday’s Enterprise.” I liked how Korinas swiftly cut down Dukat. This ep really builds up tension well; we get to learn more re: the Cardassians.

Episodes 11 & 12: “Past Tense, Parts I & II”

Episode 14: Heart of Stone

Olivia [to Viola disguised as Sebastian]: I have said too much unto a heart of stone. And laid mine honor too unchary on ’t. There’s something in me that reproves my fault. But such a headstrong potent fault it is, that it but mocks reproof. -Twelfth Night (Act 3, Scene 4)

Kira and Odo are returning to DS9 in a runabout. They are coming from Prophet’s Landing (a colony close to the Cardassian border) to review security procedures. They receive a distress call from a Lissepian supply ship that was attacked by a Maquis vessel. They start to follow the Maquis; the ship lands on a moon and Kira and Odo follow the man into a V unstable cave. Kira’s foot gets stuck inside a strange crystal. While the crystal slowly encapsulates her, Odo tries to free her. Meanwhile, Nog makes a special request to Sisko. As an adult, he is compelled by Ferengi by-laws to purchase an apprenticeship from a role model. Nog wants to be the first Ferengi in Starfleet, so he asks Sisko to write a recommendation for Starfleet Academy.

I think that was an interesting direction. Somehow, Captain Nog sounds cool. -Ron Moore

Rules of Acquisition #18: A Ferengi without profit is no Ferengi at all.

It is revealed that a non-Federation citizen, in order to be admitted to the Academy, needs a reference from a command-level officer. This is the first ep in which Rom openly defies his brother Quark; this would continue in S3-4. We learn the origin of the name “Odo;” this is also the first time that he is seen handling a weapon. The ep title is taken from the Shakespeare play Twelfth Night, which also has themes of disguise and mistaken identity. Odo’s revelation that he loves Kira had been hinted at in several eps (The Collaborator and Meridian); Lwaxana Troi (who is Betazoid and telepathic) had guessed it in Fascination. Odo himself had never admitted it before! Both the A and B stories are terrific; I think I’ve seen this ep (written by Behr and Wolfe) 3x so far. I always liked the chemistry between Odo and Kira; the actors had much in common and became close friends while working on the series.

Episode 15: Destiny

A team of Cardassian scientists (incl. Tracy Scoggins; one of top contenders for Capt. Janeway on ST: VOY) comes to visit DS9 to help set up a subspace communications relay in the Gamma Quadrant. Suddenly, Vedek Yarka (Erick Avari), wants to speak with Sisko; he has a warning from the prophets. According to Trakor’s 3rd prophecy, 3 vipers (Cardassians) will return to their nest in the sky (DS9) which ultimately leads to the destruction of the Celestial Temple (the wormhole). Sisko and Kira dismiss it at first, since only 2 Cardassians scientists are coming. But, when a 3rd scientist arrives, Kira begins to worry. With more predictions coming true, Sisko must make a choice: between his Federation duties and his role as Emissary.

Gilora: It has been my experience that it…

Chief O’Brien: What? That Humans aren’t good engineers?

Gilora: No, not Humans. Males.

Chief O’Brien: I beg your pardon?

Gilora: Men just don’t seem to have a head for this sort of thing. That’s why women dominate the sciences.

Chief O’Brien: Maybe on Cardassia. But on this station, this man is Chief of Operations, and I know more about these systems than anyone, including you.

Sisko is (once again) tackling two roles- Starfleet officer and Emissary; he is not yet comfortable being a religious figure. This is the ep where we get to see “regular” Cardassians out there; two of these women (Ulani and Gilora) are scientists- professional, friendly, and have distinct personalities. The third woman (Dejar) is tough and judgmental to the others; she’s a member of the secretive spy group- the Obsidian Order!

Episode 19: Through the Looking Glass

A man looking exactly like O’Brien suddenly pokes a phaser in Sisko’s back and disappears w/ the captain through the transporter. He is taken to the Mirror Universe, where Kira and Bashir got stuck in S2. O’Brien (AKA Smiley) tells how the Mirror Sisko was the leader of a rebellion against the Klingon-Cardassian-Bajoran alliance, but he recently died. Sisko tells Smiley he’s not interested in replacing him, but his interest is piqued when he learns that a “Jennifer Sisko” (Felicia M. Bell) is alive and working for the alliance.

[Mirror Jadzia kisses Sisko]

Mirror Jadzia: That’s to let you know I missed you. [slaps him] And that’s for letting me think you were dead!

As fans know, in the Mirror Universe, clothes are more risque, the acting is over-the-top, and violence can break out anytime. Brooks was esp. happy when he read the teleplay, b/c Sisko has sex for the first time since the show began (w/ Mirror Dax and The Intendant). However, this is problematic (to our modern sensibilities) b/c Mirror Dax doesn’t know that he is a different man than her Sisko!

The raider’s corridor, transporter room, and turbolift, are redresses of the USS Defiant sets, using computer graphics from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The lighting department had a harsh red light to make contrast to the bright white lights of “our” universe. The raider’s bridge was a redress of the runabout cockpit which served as the Maquis raider Val Jean in VOY series pilot (Caretaker). This is the second role for Tim Russ on DS9, the played the Klingon, T’Kar, in Invasive Procedures. His character role of Tuvok is a crossover from the role he played in VOY.

Episode 20: Improbable Cause & Episode 21: The Die is Cast

Garak: Never tell the same lie twice.

Garak’s shop explodes, but the tailor isn’t hurt badly; Odo immediately expects foul play. Odo asks Garak if he can think of possible suspects, but the Cardassian seems uninterested, and frustrates Odo’s investigation. Evidence of a pheromonic sensor in the bomb is found; this is a method favored by Flaxian assassins. A Flaxian had just arrived on DS9 prior to the explosion, so Odo decides to interrogate him.

Cmdr. Sisko: The question still remains, why would the Romulans want to have Garak killed?

Odo: I don’t know. Considering those uniforms of theirs, you’d think they’d appreciate a decent tailor.

I loved this joke from Odo, didn’t you? We see a new style of Tal Shiar uniform; this was Moore’s idea. After Visionary, Moore came to feel that the old style Romulan uniforms were unacceptable; he had Robert Blackman (costume designer) give the design an overhaul. Moore said: “I hated, underline hated, the Romulan costumes. Big shoulder pads, the quilting, I just loathed it. I begged, insisted, screamed, pleaded.” This was the first Star Trek two-part ep w/ different names for Part I and Part II. (There had been a 3-parter with different titles: The Homecoming, The Circle, and The Siege.)

Informant: Garak isn’t the only former operative in the Order who had an “unfortunate incident” yesterday, but he’s the luckiest. The other five didn’t survive.

Odo: Five operatives were killed yesterday?

Informant: Killed? No. Three died from “natural causes”, the other two perished in “accidents”.

Odo: Quite a coincidence.

Informant: If you believe in coincidence.

Robert Lederman and David R. Long’s original idea for this ep revolved around the punishment exacted upon Garak by the Obsidian Order for his killing of Entek in Second Skin. Garak realizes that someone is planning on assassinating him, so he blows up his own shop to ensure Odo gets involved. The producers decided to connect the ep to Defiant (to reveal what the Obsidian Order was up to in the Orias system). Joseph Ruskin (who plays The Informant who meets w/ Odo) has played the roles of Galt in TOS: The Gamesters of Triskelion, Tumek in The House of Quark and Looking for Par’Mach in all the Wrong Places, a Son’a officer in the TNG movie Star Trek Insurrection, a Vulcan master in VOY: Gravity, and an alien doctor on ENT: Broken Bow. Another veteran actor (Paul Dooley) plays Enabran Tain, the former head of the Obsidian Order and a mentor to Garak.

Enabran Tain: Always burn your bridges behind you. You never know who might be trying to follow.

The (imposing) joint Romulan-Cardassian fleet approaches DS9; Sisko is ready for a fight, but the fleet flies goes through the wormhole. We meet Col. Lovok (Leland Orser); he doesn’t seem to respect or fully trust Tain. The Tal Shiar and Obisidian Order ships are on a renegade mission to destroy the Founders’ home planet! Sisko (perhaps taking a cue from Kirk) decides to pursue them, defying Adm. Toddman’s (Leon Russom) orders to guard Bajor. Tain gives Garak his first assignment: interrogate Odo to find out more re: the Founders. Garak is given a device created by the Romulans which prevents Changelings from altering their form (yikes)!

Garak: We both value our privacy, our secrets. That’s why I know there’s something about the Founders you haven’t told anyone, something you didn’t even share with Starfleet and Commander Sisko. Hm? But you are going to tell *me*, Odo.

There are references to ancient Roman dictator Julius Caesar in this ep. The title The Die is Cast is taken from the words reportedly said by Caesar in 49 BC, as he led a legion of troops across the Rubicon River (an illegal act that started the Great Roman Civil War). Garak also quotes Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar to Tain (“I’m afraid the fault, dear Tain, is not in our stars but in ourselves”). The Changeling says to Odo at the end that the Dominion already has plans for the Klingon Empire and the Federation. This line is foreshadowing of the story arc in S4.

Odo: They’re still my people. I tried to deny it, I tried to forget. But I can’t! They’re my people, and I want to be with them, in the Great Link!

E21 is the first w/ Behr as EP; one of the major changes he made to the show was in action sequences. Space battles had to be shown onscreen more, not just referred to (as TNG had repeatedly done). We see the most number of ships (so far) in any of Trek. We see (again) that Garak isn’t a typical good guy; he’s capable of shady deeds (incl. torture). We see another side of Eddington (who reports directly to Toddman, not Sisko); he sabotages the cloaking device! The stakes are high here, the writing is very good, and also the directing is interesting (w/ some shots reminiscent of film noir).

Lovok: [just as Odo and Garak are to make their escape, Col. Lovok arrives armed with a disruptor, but he then hands Odo a PADD] You will need this in order to gain access to your Runabout.

Odo: [surprised] Why are you doing this?

Lovok: Because no Changeling has ever harmed another.

Episode 24: Shakaar

Odo: It has been my observation that one of the prices of giving people freedom of choice… is that sometimes, they make the wrong choice.

Sisko gets an urgent message from Bajor and delivers some bad news to Kira. Kalem Aprem, First Minister of the Provisional Government, has died from a heart attack. Kira is V upset to hear spiritual leader Kai Winn (Louise Fletcher) has already been appointed as successor. Kira can’t shake the feeling that giving Winn control is a mistake. Suddenly, Winn visits the station to see Kira; she has a favor to ask. Shakaar (Duncan Reghr), the leader of Kira’s resistance cell during the Cardassian occupation, refuses to return some government-loaned soil reclamators (used to detoxify soil poisoned by the Cardassians). Winn wants to use them in the Rakantha province, which was once Bajor’s most productive farmland. She thinks this will once again make export possible, increasing Bajor’s chances of being accepted into the Federation. Kira agrees to talk to Shakaar, who is now a farmer.

Shakaar: I didn’t fight the Cardassians for 25 years just so I can start shooting other Bajorans.

This ep serves as a sequel of sorts to Life Support; it contains references to the death of Vedek Bareil and the signing of the Bajoran-Cardassian Treaty. We meet Kira’s friends Furel (William Lucking) and Lupaza (Diane Salinger) for the first time; they have also become farmers and jokingly bicker like a long-term couple. We also see the Bajoran phaser rifle for the first time. Lenaris Holem (John Doman) is a leader in the civil police; he was also a freedom fighter in his day (and doesn’t want to fire on his own people).

I have met people who are obsessive and I find it fascinating to watch Kia Winn throughout the DS9 run. Her obsession over power is a cautionary tale about the power of fanaticism and watching her slow march into insanity is intriguing. -Excerpt from IMDB review

Episode 26: The Adversary

Major Kira: Well, now that you have another pip on your collar, does that mean I can’t disagree with you anymore?

Capt. Sisko: No. It just means, I’m never wrong.

Major Kira: Ah – we’ll see about that.

Sisko is (finally) promoted to captain; we see him for the last time w/ a full head of hair! We have the first appearance of several new sets on the Defiant, incl. main engineering, the mess hall and the extended corridor. This ep also has the first mention of the Tzenkethi, who fought a war against the Federation that Sisko participated in. They’re mentioned again later, but never seen onscreen. Sisko takes the Defiant to Tzenkethi space to prevent a coup-de-etat, which Ambassador Krajensky (Lawrence Pressman) said could be problematic. While working on the ship, O’Brien hears strange sounds; soon, breakdowns and mishaps start occurring. Sisko believes someone on-board is the cause of these acts of sabotage. This ep is the last time Alexander Siddig is credited as Siddig El Fadil as an actor.

Before things get quite serious/risky, I liked the light-hearted scene where Dax playfully questions Sisko re: Kasidy, who he recently met and went on a date w/ (thanks to Jake). Suddenly, there is a message (w/ heavy static) from a planet (Barisa Prime) saying they are under fire; Sisko assumes that war w/ Tzenkethi has broken out. They try to contact a nearby Federation ship (USS Ulysses), but it turns out that the communications relay isn’t working. O’Brien and Dax find parasites (w/ force fields protecting them) growing inside all the major systems of the Defiant.

Moore really liked this story b/c he considers it to be very un-Star Trek. Krajensky morphs into his true form as a Changeling and escapes into the conduits! You can’t trust anyone, since the enemy could be disguised as anyone. The non-essential crewmen are locked into their quarters. Then, Dax is knocked out, so O’Brien has more work to do. Control of the ship is gone; it’s cloaked, armed, and flying to the Tzenjethi border at high warp. Sisko declares to Kira that if O’Brien can’t regain control, he’ll have to destroy the ship (to prevent a war)!

Odo: [on using a phaser on a fellow Changeling] In the history of my people, no Changeling has ever harmed another. I’d hate to be the first.

Eddington: Apparently that Changeling doesn’t feel the same way. If we don’t stop him, no one on board will escape unharmed, including you.

Odo: You may be right. But I’ve been a Security officer most of my humanoid existence; and in all that time, I’ve never found it necessary to fire a weapon, or take a life. I don’t intend to start now.

They break off into teams of 2, armed w/ phaser rifles (modified NOT to damage equipment), and sweep the ship. The Changeling attacks a security officer (stunt coordinator Dennis Madalone) and strangles him inside a Jeffries tube! Sisko tries to follow it, then comes across a stand-off between a Bolian security officer and Kira in the corridor. Odo and Eddington come upon the scene also. Odo punches out the Bolian who was refusing to drop his phaser. Sisko decides that Bashir will test everyone’s blood to reveal who is the Changeling. Unlike humanoids, they revert to their natural gelatinous state when injured. Though we think Eddington is the one, it turns out the Changeling has morphed into Bashir (trapping the real doctor in the brig)! The Changeling escapes again inside the conduits- Odo follows him.

We learn that the ship has changed course and it heading to a Tzenkethi colony just 12 mins away. On the bridge, Sisko initiates the auto-destruct sequence, then Kira follows up; it’s set to a 10 min. counter. While O’Brien and a crewman work to get the force fields down around the Changeling, two versions of Odo appear in Engineering! Kira says that shuttlebay doors are closed and evacuation pods are locked also. Whoa, this is as tense as things can get!

The fight between Odo and the Changeling was very complicated to put together b/c of many morphing effects. There were more morphing effects in this scene than in the the rest of S3, producer Steve Oster noted. The writers decided to use the line “no changeling has ever harmed another” as an important element; this line had been heard before (The Search, Part II, Heart of Stone and The Die is Cast). Odo is very affected by the other Changeling’s death.

Odo: Captain, there’s something you need to know. The Changeling, before he… died – he whispered something to me.

Capt. Sisko: Go on.

Odo: He said…”You’re too late. We are everywhere.”

[1] This is a very tense episode with lots of surprises and twists. I also appreciated the ending when you see Odo do something you’d never expect! All in all, one of the better episodes- which is true of all the Changeling episodes.

[2] As the crew start to distrust each other and the sense of paranoia increases the atmosphere becomes more tense.

[3] Good story, good action, and good performances combine to make an open-ended season finale without a contrived or over-the-top cliffhanger.

Deep Space Nine can be great Trek when it wants to be…

-Excerpts from IMDB comments

“Meet John Doe” (1941) starring Gary Cooper & Barbara Stanwyck

As a parting shot, fired reporter Ann Mitchell (Barbara Stanwyck) prints a fake letter from unemployed “John Doe,” who threatens suicide on Christmas Eve in protest of declining society. This is during the Great Depression where many are unemployed and starving; Ann has to support her widowed mother and two younger sisters. The letter causes such a stir that the editor, Henry Connell (James Gleason), is forced to rehire Ann. They hire an unemployed/former baseball player, “Long John” Willoughby (Gary Cooper), to impersonate Doe. An old pal of John’s reluctantly comes along, The Colonel (Walter Brennan), who was happy to be a carefree hobo owing nothing to anyone. John wants money to fix his injured elbow (so he can play again). Ann and her bosses milk the story for all it’s worth, until the “John Doe” philosophy starts a nationwide political movement! In a few mos. time, many (incl. Ann) start taking it seriously; publisher D.B. Norton (Edward Arnold) has a plan of his own to use it for his benefit.

Mayor Hawkins: Why, Bert. I feel slighted. I’d like to join, but nobody asked me.

Sourpuss Smithers: I’m sorry, Mayor, but we voted that no politician could join [the Joe Doe Club].

Mrs. Hansen: Just the John Does of the neighborhood because you know how politicians are.

Director Frank Capra didn’t want anyone to play John Doe except Cooper, who agreed to the part (w/o reading a script) for two reasons: he had enjoyed working w/ Capra on Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) and he wanted to work w/ Stanwyck. Well into production, Capra refused to reveal publicly what the film was about b/c of the fear that powerful US fascist organizations would pressure Warner Bros. not to make the film and also the screenplay hadn’t been finished. In the end, Capra (a first gen Italian American) produced this film independently, along w/ his partner Robert Riskin (a first gen Russian-American who wrote the screenplay). Riskin was married to actress Fay Wray w/ whom he had several children, incl. historian/author Victoria Riskin. As she explained in a 2019 interview, her father was given the opportunity to showcase Hollywood films to European countries as the Allies were liberating them from the Nazis; he didn’t include this film, as he thought it’d convey an dark view of the U.S. Four different endings were filmed, but all were considered unsatisfactory during previews. A letter from an audience member suggested a fifth ending, which Capra liked and used in the final version. The original copyright was never renewed, and the film fell into public domain (so you can see it for free).

D. B. Norton: What the American people need is an iron hand!

When films contain an ensemble, romance, a sense of optimism (even as life becomes dark), and a belief in the goodness of America- they may be labeled “Capraesque”). Capra directed some of the most iconic films in his day which still appeal to modern audiences: It Happened One Night (1929)- perhaps the 1st rom com, You Can’t Take It with You (1938) w/ young Jimmy Stewart, It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)- a holiday staple starring Stewart, and State of the Union (1948) w/ Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Although most of his films were written by individuals on the political left, Capra was a lifelong conservative Republican! He was awarded the American National Medal of the Arts in 1986 by the National Endowment of the Arts. If you haven’t seen this film before, it’s worth a look. Though I wasn’t a big fan of the ending speech by Stanwyck (which seemed a bit shrill), it had some fine (and funny) moments.

I thought drama was when the actors cried. But drama is when the audience cries. -Frank Capra

[1] This film is even more relevant today than when it was made… Capra is asking his viewers to think critically of EVERYTHING they hear on the radio or see in papers or hear from elites, and amen to that!

[2] Capra weaves his well-loved everyman through a tale of both simplicity and political intrigue, taking in the American depression and Biblical references along the way, and comes up with messages that remain startlingly relevant today…

[3] He [Capra] backs up his strong, daunting ideology with sharp, crisp writing and even sharper character delineation. Capra’s social piece was timely released in 1940, when Nazi sympathizers were gaining a potent voice in America, just prior to our involvement in WWII.

Cooper and Stanwyck are ideal in their top roles. Stanwyck is peerless when it comes to playing smart, gutsy gals.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

 

“The Godfather: Part II” (1974) starring Al Pacino & Robert De Niro

[Don Cicci is threatening to kill young Vito]

Signora Andolini: But Vito is only nine. And dumb-witted. The child cannot harm you.

The early buzz on The Godfather (1972) was so positive that a sequel was planned before filming ended. Francis Ford Coppola re-wrote the entire script over a weekend b/c Al Pacino said he didn’t like the original and wouldn’t do the film. Later, he admitted to Coppola that he hadn’t actually disliked the first script all that much, but knew it could be better. Pacino was paid $500,000 plus a 10% share of the profits; he’d earned only $25,000 for the first film. Since Coppola had such a difficult time directing The Godfather, he asked to pick a different director for the sequel (and take the title of producer for himself). He chose Martin Scorsese, but the film executives rejected the idea; Coppola agreed to direct again and was given a lot of creative freedom.

Only the scenes about the young Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) have any basis in Mario Puzo’s book. The story re: Michael (Al Pacino) and family in Las Vegas is unique to the film. De Niro (just 30 y.o.) had screen tested for Sonny; Coppola was so impressed that he called him back again to audition for Vito. De Niro (who is 25% Italian) lived in Sicily for 3 mos. and studied the Sicilian language for 4 mos. – wow! This was the first sequel to receive 5 Academy Award noms for acting: Talia Shire (Best Actress in a Suporting Role), Lee Strasberg (Best Actor in a Supporting Role), Michael V. Gazzo (Best Actor in a Supporting Role) and Pacino (Best Actor); De Niro took home the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Sen. Geary: I despise your masquerade, the dishonest way you pose yourself. You and your whole f*****g family.

Michael: We’re both part of the same hypocrisy, senator, but never think it applies to my family.

The communion party here is a stark contrast to Connie’s wedding in Part I; it is out on Lake Tahoe (and for show/publicity), lacks culture (Frank Pentangeli laments that there is no traditional Italian food/songs), and (above all) seems emotionally cold. Sen. Geary (G.D. Spradlin) intentionally mispronounces “Corleone.” There is the awkward photoshoot w/ the donation check Michael gave to the local university. Before he died, Vito admitted to Michael that he hoped he’d a “big shot” who “pulled the strings” (like a governor or senator). We see Michael rebuffing the demands of the (openly racist) Sen. Geary, and making demands of his own. He is seeking respectability (still) and also trying to expand his empire to Cuba (w/ the help of Hyman Roth, played by renown acting teacher Lee Strasberg). Pacino requested that Strasberg take on this role, as he admired the man’s talent so much!

[during the play ‘Senza Mamma’]

Genco Abbandando: Vito, how do you like my little angel? Isn’t she beautiful?

Vito Corleone: She’s very beautiful. To you, she’s beautiful. For me, there’s only my wife and son.

In flashback, we see the life of young Vito Andolini; his father was killed for insulting a powerful man, Don Cicci. Soon after, his older brother (in hiding) was killed. When his mother (boldly) appealed to Don Cicci, she was shot/killed also. Vito was hidden by some (brave) neighbors and travelled alone to Ellis Island. The clerk thinks that Vito’s surname is the name of his hometown (Corleone). Then the boy is put into quarantine for several weeks in a tiny room from where he can see the Statue of Liberty. Wow, what an impactful series of scenes (w/o much dialogue)!

Michael Corleone: My father taught me many things here – he taught me in this room. He taught me: keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

As one astute reviewer noted: “The Godfather Part II is not really a movie about the mafia, it is a movie about a man’s life long struggle.” While Vito’s empire was built on respect, Michael’s empire is built on fear. Look at the way Michael treats his own family- yikes! He doesn’t even acknowledge the fiance of his younger sister Connie (who he compares to a “whore”). Connie (Talia Shire) has lived overseas, trying to escape issues at home; she hasn’t spent much time w/ her kids (which concerns Mama). As for older brother Fredo (John Cazale), he’s still handling the hotel/casino end of the business, but wants to do more. His blonde/buxom wife gets drunk and flirts openly w/ other men. Michael is embarrassed by her behavior; Fredo is emasculated as he can’t control his wife (w/o intervention from bodyguards). There is an (obvious) distance between Michael and his adopted older brother/lawyer, Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), who is no longer privy to certain aspects of the biz. Kay (Diane Keaton) is still around, BUT we can sense the tension in the marriage; Michael had promised her that the biz would be “legitimate” several years ago. Then there is the audacious shooting in their bedroom; hitmen were able to come onto the estate w/o being noticed!

Vito Corleone: I make him an offer he don’ refuse. Don’ worry.

In 1920, Vito is already married w/ a baby son (Sonny) and delivering groceries in Little Italy; he is a quiet and observant young man. His best friend Genco (Frank Sivero) takes him to a show to see the actress he has a crush on. They see a flashily-dressed local man, Don Fanucci (Gaston Moschin), threatening the actress and her father backstage w/ a knife; Genco said they need to get out of there. It turns out that Don Fanucci is pushing around local businessmen; Vito loses his job b/c his boss (who is like a father to him) is forced to hire the don’s nephew. Vito handles this disappointment well, not even taking the box of food offered to him. We sense that somehow he will find a way to provide for this family. Enter Clemenza (a very young Bruno Kirby- best known for When Harry Met Sally), who is a petty criminal who asks Vito for help. Vito seizes the opportunity, hiding a bedsheet folded up w/ handguns in his apt.

This is NOT your typical sequel; it’s a mix of a sequel and prequel (as many viewers have commented). The two stories have distinct looks, as they take place in different time periods (mainly the early 1920s and late 1950s), and b/c of their different tones. Though Michael’s world is much bigger in scope than young Vito’s, it lacks the warmth of a happy home/family and close friendships/connections. Michael has distanced himself so far from his Italian/immigrant roots that he no longer recognizes the values of his father’s generation. Is Michael the villain and Vito the hero (some viewers have wondered)? De Niro (youthful/slim/handsome) knows how to play subtlety; he just becomes the character! You will even see a few gestures that Brando used, but they come off as natural.

[1] Al Pacino’s performance is quiet and solemn… He is cold and ruthless, with a whole contrast from the idealistic innocent war hero we initially met at the beginning of the first film…

De Niro’s rise, from an orphan child by a family feud back in Italy to a hood in New York and his position as a respected Don, provides a welcome break from Pacino’s relentless attitude…

[2] Al Pacino is the standout in the ensemble cast and its amazing how his eyes have changed from the first part. They are now cold , ruthless and unemotional and betray the price which Michael Corleone has paid for power.

[3] Without spoiling, I will simply say the Robert De Niro as the young Vito is the best acting performance of all time, a role for which he won a richly deserved Oscar.

[4] Nino Rota’s musical score plays an even greater role in this equal but different successor than it did in the predecessor. Yearning, lamenting, stimulating bygone ages, see how infectiously Nino Rota’s music affects our sentiments for the savage events on screen. It is the pulse of the films.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

“The Remains of the Day” (1993) starring Anthony Hopkins & Emma Thompson

There’s nothing to being a butler, really; when you’re in the room, it should be even more empty. -Cyril Dickman, former butler (for 50 yrs) at Buckingham Palace

In pre-WWII England, the duty-bound head butler at Darlington House, Stevens (Anthony Hopkins- age 55 and at the top of his game), meets his (potential) match in a young housekeeper, Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson- just 33 and already quite accomplished). Stevens oversees a staff of over 30 servants; Miss Kenton is second-in-charge (though she isn’t afraid to stand up to him when he is wrong). Stevens’ elderly father (Peter Vaughn, best known for Game of Thrones) works as an under-butler, though he is in failing health. The young nephew of Lord Darlington (James Fox), Mr. Cardinal (Hugh Grant), worries that his uncle is making the wrong decisions. (Grant once stated that this movie was the best one that he ever made.) Leaders from various nations gather at the house for an important conference, incl. the American senator, Jack Lewis (Christopher Reeve- a fine performance and looking gorgeous). The possibility of love and his master’s involvement w/ the cause of appeasement (w/ the Nazis) challenge Stevens’ orderly little world, as well as the world-at-large!

...as a bit like a priest who puts his life almost on an altar. He serves his lord unconditionally, and in this case, his lord is literally a Lord (Darlington). Perhaps it’s a mentality that we don’t know so well in the United States, except in the military, or indeed, in the priesthood. Within Stevens’ life there is a very, very small area that is his, and the rest of the time he belongs to, or is committed to, a larger idea, or ideal: that of unquestioning service to an English aristocrat: his master, right or wrong. -James Ivory, director (describing Stevens)

Stevens is a devoted man. He’s very conscientious of his duties, but he never wants to express himself too loudly. He has been trained since birth to know his place, never to speak out. That is one of the things which is sad about the film. Stevens has lost the opportunity in life. He wanted Miss Kenton, but he never could come to express his feelings to her. If you are not ready to express yourself or grab the moment, you lose out. -Ismail Merchant, producer

Did you know that many of the individuals who contributed to this film are outsiders to British high society? The author of the source novel, Kazuo Ishiguro, was born in Japan and raised in England by his immigrant parents. As a young man in his 20s, he traveled across the US, w/ the dream of becoming a singer/songwriter. Director James Ivory is an American known for his calm demeanor and low-key style. Ismail Merchant (his partner in work and life) hailed from India; he was known for his outgoing personality. Their frequent collaborator/screenwriter, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, is a German-born/Jewish Brit who married an Indian man and lived most of her life in India. She also wrote the screenplays for A Room with a View (1985) and Howards End (1992)- which also starred Hopkins and Thompson. Hopkins is from a small town in Wales (where his idol-turned-mentor, Richard Burton, also grew up). Reeve is American, though he attended college/trained for several years in England.

Stevens: …a man cannot call himself well-contented until he has done all he can to be of service to his employer. Of course, this assumes that one’s employer is a superior person, not only in rank, or wealth, but in moral stature.

This movie was nominated for 8 Oscars incl. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Screenplay Adapted from Another Medium, Best Original Music Score, Best Costume Design, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (but it didn’t win in any of these categories)! John Cleese was offered the role of Stevens and loved Ishiguro’s novel. He withdrew after Harold Pinter (the first screenwriter) “took the humor out.” Anjelica Huston was being considered for Miss Kenton; Meryl Streep wanted the role, but didn’t get it (a rare case)! Jeremy Irons had also been considered for a part in this movie (I’m assuming Lord Darlington). Look for young/Irish actress Lena Headey (Cersei on Game of Thrones) as a maid who falls in love w/ the head footman, Charlie (Ben Chaplin).

Lewis: You are, all of you, amateurs. And international affairs should never be run by gentlemen amateurs. Do you have any idea of what sort of place the world is becoming all around you? The days when you could just act out of your noble instincts, are over. Europe has become the arena of realpolitik, the politics of reality. If you like: real politics. What you need is not gentlemen politicians, but real ones. You need professionals to run your affairs, or you’re headed for disaster!

I saw this movie a few times as a teen w/ my family; we tended to watch more drama than comedy (even when young). FYI: My parents lived 7 years in England in the 1970s (where I was born). I’m definitely an anglophile, as some of you have already noticed from this blog (as well as my tweets). Though this is mainly a story of unrequited love, on my recent re-watch, I noticed the importance of politics. After all, we (in U.S.) just had an “amateur” go into politics (which Sen. Lewis warned against); he even become president in 2016! Just b/c Lord Darlington had class privilege and wealth, he assumed he was better suited to make decisions than common men. In one of the deleted scenes, Lord Darlington even commented to Stevens that “democracy won’t work in England.” Compare that w/ the scene in the pub (in the final act), where an opinionated/working-class man declares: “I think any man in England has the right to be called a gentleman.”

The British Government was trying to keep England on an even keel, so that they would not have to go back to war. World War I was a terrible tragedy for that country, and no one wanted to face a war of that sort again. Historically, it seems now to have been a fruitless and dangerous kind of appeasement of a proven dictator, but a generation of young Englishmen had been recently decimated by the Germans, so it’s not surprising that figures in the British government in the late thirties tried to reason with Hitler. -James Ivory, director (on Naziism and WWII aspects of the movie)

In the 1930s, Stevens was proud to serve his Master’s cause. As the years pass, and new, more accurate information becomes available, Stevens’ pride diminishes. Lord Darlington is used as a pawn by the Nazis, because he yields to a common aristocratic urge to contribute something large to the world. He is somebody who starts off with very good and noble impulses, but because of a certain kind of naiveté, which almost all of us would share, he becomes a pawn. -Kazuo Ishiguro, author of the novel

There is some terrific acting here, from both Hopkins and Thompson; they’d previously played a romantic pair in Howard’s End (which I haven’t seen in many years). They seem to genuinely like and respect each other also IRL. The key to Stevens is restraint, though he probably feels deeply (you just see it in his eyes). Miss Kenton eventually reveals her emotions; Stevens can’t express himself to her (sadly). In the tense/pivotal scene in Stevens’ study, Miss Kenton asks re: what book he is reading. She questions/teases him until he backs himself into a dark corner. In perhaps a (masculine/penetrative) move, Miss Kenton enters Stevens’ personal space and takes the book from his hands. Their faces are very close, but (alas) there is no kiss! Some critics/viewers have wondered what exactly Miss Kenton sees in Stevens. Perhaps he is attractive b/c he is unapproachable (hard to get)?

“Citizen Kane” (1941) starring/directed by Orson Welles

Radio’s Most Dynamic Artist . . The Man At Whose Voice A Nation Trembled . . . Now the screen’s most exciting NEW star! ORSON WELLES in the picture Hollywood said he’d never make! – A tag line from the film

Following the death of publishing tycoon Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles- just 26 y.o.), reporters scramble to uncover the meaning of his final word: “Rosebud.” The film begins with a news reel (which comes directly from RKO Pictures) detailing Kane’s life for the masses. Then, we see flashbacks from Kane’s life- his simple boyhood, life as an idealistic young newspaper publisher, attempt at politics in mid-life, and two (failed) marriages. As the reporters investigate more, we see a man’s rise to fame and fall from the top of his world. Kane (who died alone surrounded by statues and other treasures from all over the world) is based on media tycoon William Randolph Hearst.

Kane [in old age]: You know, Mr. Thatcher, if I hadn’t been very rich, I might have been a really great man.

Young Charles Foster Kane (8 y.o.) comes into a LOT of money; his mother/owner of a boarding house, Mary (Agnes Moorehead), decides he should be sent away from Colorado to the East. He will be raised by his new guardian, a humorless banker named Mr. Walter Parks Thatcher (George Coulouris). Charles’ father (Harry Shannon) is reluctant to give up his son; though he’s an alcoholic w/ potential for violence, the boy seems to love him. When Mary is signing away the boy, there is the (then innovative) use of the “deep focus lens.” While the mother acts cold (calling him “Charles), his father takes a warmer tone (calling him “Charlie”). Upon reaching 25, Kane (handsome/energetic) comes into ALL his inheritance; he impulsively buys a newspaper (The New York Inquirer) against the wishes of Thatcher. His closest pal Jedediah Leland (Joseph Cotten) becomes the theater critic; being from “old money,” Jed can scoff at high society. Kane’s general manager, Mr. Bernstein (Everett Sloane), is loyal/helpful until the end. When Kane writes up his “declaration of principles,” his face is almost obscured in shadow; this is a hint of things to come. Jed looks almost directly at the camera, saying that paper will be worth something one day.

Mr. Bernstein: Old age. It’s the only disease, Mr. Thompson, that you don’t look forward to being cured of.

Kane’s first wife, Emily Monroe Norton (Ruth Warrick), is the sophisticated niece of the president; they meet (offscreen) in Europe and have a whirlwind romance. Emily starts to resent the long hours Kane spends at the newspaper; their politics are also different. In a series of clever/concise scenes at the breakfast table, we see the deterioration of their relationship (from flirty/loving to silent/cold). One night, outside a pharmacy, Kane meets a 22 y.o. aspiring opera singer- Susan Alexander (Dorothy Comingore). It turns out that he can maker her laugh; Susan also doesn’t know who Kane is (being a naive girl new to the city). After Kane enters politics, his affair w/ Susan is uncovered by a private detective working for his rival. When given the choice between Emily (who was loyal to him for 15 yrs) and Susan, Kane chooses Susan (thus loses his political career).

Kane: Mr. Carter, here’s a three-column headline in the Chronicle. Why hasn’t the Inquirer a three-column headline?

Carter: The news wasn’t big enough.

Kane: Mr. Carter, if the headline is big enough, it makes the news big enough.

Mr. Bernstein: That’s right, Mr. Kane.

They get married and he even builds an opera house where Susan can perform; it turns out she’s a terrible singer (no matter how hard she practices). Kane and Jed have a falling out; Jed is drunk and gives his true opinion re: Susan’s “talent.” Their break-up scene where we are looking up at the characters was achieved by Greg Toland (cinematographer) cutting holes in the floor of the studio. Later on, there is break-up w/ Susan, after she gets tired of living a lonely/unfulfilled life in his huge California estate Xanadu (named for the “pleasure palace of Kubla Khan” in the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge).

Jed [to Kane]: You don’t care about anything except you. You just want to persuade people that you love ’em so much that they ought to love you back. Only you want love on your own terms. Something to be played your way, according to your rules.

Once you see this film (or rewatch it a few times), you realize how influential it was to later films! It is very well made and ahead of it’s time, as I realized seeing it recently. Watching this film on TV, a young Scorsese began to notice editing techniques and camera moves (incl. the use of the “wide angle lens”). In previous American films, the camera didn’t move, Scorsese noted. As NYT film critic A.O. Scott commented: “Most of the scenes are shot a low angle, so we feel as if we’re sitting in an orchestra seat watching a play. It is also un-mistakenly cinematic… deep focus asymmetrical compositions and bold contrasts in light and shadow to get at themes not explicitly stated in the film’s script. Welles slows time down w/ subjective dream-like sequences and speeds it up w/ witty and inspired montages.”

[Susan is leaving Kane]

Kane: [pleading] Don’t go, Susan. You mustn’t go. You can’t do this to me.

Susan: I see. So it’s YOU who this is being done to. It’s not me at all. Not how I feel. Not what it means to me. [laughs] I can’t do this to you? [odd smile] Oh, yes I can.

Is this the best film ever made? I don’t think so, but it’s worth a watch for cinephiles. Citizen Kane is essentially a character study of a man who is rich, powerful, yet probably feels inadequate inside (as he can’t connect to other people). Love is something that Kane wanted all his life, both Jed and Bernstein tell the reporter. Most the the actors are newcomers from The Mercury Theater, Welles’ theater company. Cotten went on to have a fine career; he said he was proud to have appeared in several box office hits. He is perhaps best known as Uncle Charlie in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt. Sloane makes a terrific villain in Welles’ film noir The Lady from Shanghai.