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- Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 8:22pm (USA Central)
@Elliott, it's funny that I agree with most of your review and still rate the episode more highly. Your post (and MsV's comment to me) did make me realize that I gave a bit of the short shrift (originally) in talking about why I think Rugal's desire to stay with his parents probably should be respected.
First point: I assumed that the Rugal was adopted before the end of the Occupation. We know he was dropped off by Dukat's lackey eight years ago, at the Bajoran orphanage. We know that the Bajorans ran some functions in the Occupation, and this is probably one of them.
That Rugal bit another Cardassian is a big, neon sign pointing at big self-hatred, and it's hard to believe his parents did not indoctrinate him with race-hatred, especially when they say things like YOU CAN TRUST THEM, THEY'RE HUMANS, NOT CARDASSIANS -- which does make it very much seem like he is in need of some real counseling, and maybe even some stable foster care, maybe part time. However, the choice is still kind of between Bajoran parents who do seem to love him, with big blinders, and a Cardassian father he has not seen in years, and who was an active, high-level political participant in a huge machine of destruction, i.e. the Occupation. That his Bajoran parents are unconcerned about his hatred of Cardassians is a huge red flag that they are not fully fit parents, but I am not sure that it's cause to take Rugal away against his wishes -- and especially not to remove him to Cardassia which is itself repressive, anti-orphan, and to Pa'Dar who we also know has little interest in helping the Cardassian orphans beyond his son, and so is also likely to send his son signals that he dislikes him for his Bajoran-ness. It's a bad situation, and short of letting Keiko or another enlightened (?) neutral person with no cause to hate or disrespect Cardassians or Bajorans or orpahns raise him, nowhere will result in the best outcome for Rugal, which means that his preferences rule even though those preferences are obviously going to be dominated by some of the unhealthy things he's been told. Rugal, and those he represents, are in quite a bad spot -- despised by Bajorans as Cardassians, despised by Cardassians as orphans.
I do think that the writing and acting around Rugal is strong enough to get to some of these complexities -- though I'd have to rewatch to talk about this closely. I mean, Rugal biting Garak is a very weird, off-putting way to start the episode, and makes his more nuanced, reasonable response later a bit odd -- so it's not like it's perfect. However, neither his Bajoran parents nor Pa'Dar are particularly well developed, so that his character exists somewhat in isolation and it is a bit hard to evaluate the larger social forces at work that act to squeeze the kid out to an unhappy place.
"I have no idea what to think about Rugal or the issue of wartime orphans other than what I might care to make up in my mind (or observe as speculated by others)."
And that's the crux of it. I feel that the episode did give enough for Rugal to come alive in the ways I articulte here, for me -- but I also know I'm bringing my own baggage and history to it, and the episode's running off for fun times with Garak and Bashir, while I'm certainly not complaining in those scenes in and of themselves, do mean that I can't say with much certainty what is actually going on. I also feel frustrated with DS9 sometimes because I can't quite tell if what I'm seeing is ambiguity or sloppiness -- which makes episodes like this hard to rate. (For the record, Blood Oath comes to mind as another where I can't quite tell what to think about the ostensible central character -- Jadzia, there -- but I like the episode so much that I am tempted to overlook it, and mostly do, provisionally.)
I really agree about O'Brien. O'Brien's casual racism is so bizarre, especially because he wasn't even like that in the beginning of The Wounded, where he was understandably wary and standoffish with Cardassian soldiers rather than using racial epithets about teenagers -- and there he had already gotten to "It's not you I hate, Cardassian" within about a day.
- Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 8:06pm (USA Central)
We have commenters saying O'Brien is clearly right and Bashir is an idiot; we also have commenters saying Bashir is totally correct and O'Brien is all in the wrong.
Clearly the writers did a good job; this is a real dilemma with both sides having points in their favor. With the stakes so high, the characters were willing to risk their friendship to do what they believe in.
If Bashir was right, curing the addiction could lead to peace, saving countless lives. If O'Brien was right, curing the addiction could lead to never-ending war (perhaps Jem'Hadar never make peace once freed from control) that would cost countless lives. We don't know which one is truly correct.
- Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 7:43pm (USA Central)
A strong episode, though I wouldn't rank it as high as most here (I would say the same thing about "Inner Light"). I do think the acting is strong from everyone involved.
We often have dramas where a parent is willing to give everything up for his child; here we have a child giving everything up for his parent.
One thing noone has brought up yet: Captain Sisko's recurring appearances in Jake's life plays into his characterization as a man out of time. From his problems getting over the death of his wife in the pilot, to his devotion to the "dead" sport of baseball, to events that happen later in the episode "Far Beyond the Stars", Sisko is consistently out of step with time.
What does he do when he gets possessed by an alien consciousness? Well in "Dramatis Personae" we find out he builds a cool-looking clock! Time is a recurring theme with Benjamin Sisko.
Cail Corishev above said "This story could have been told on any show with an established father/son pairing and a sci-fi/fantasy way to setup the situation". While that is true, I think it resonates more strongly when Ben Sisko is the one dislodged from time; it fits the DNA of the character.
Some (maybe all?) of the elder Sisko's ties to time trace back to the wormhole aliens. Junuxx above compared this episode to "Tapestry". I couldn't help but wonder if the wormhole aliens are playing a role here, just as Q did in that episode. The technobabble starts with the "inversion" of wormhole, so they're present, even if unseen.
If they are playing a role, I'm unsure what it is. They could be presenting the whole thing as a vision to the father, showing him how much his son still cares for him even as an 18 year old. Or perhaps they didn't cause the event, but they're somehow helping the son get his father back.
Ultimately, there's nothing here proving the wormhole aliens are involved, but it would fit them.
- Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 4:56pm (USA Central)
Teaser : ***, 5%
Hark! What do I see, but the return of Garak! Rejoice!
Garak toys a bit with Bashir (come on boys, hook up already!), while the latter tries to get Garak to confess his [former] status as a spy. Amid their conversation about lingering distrust between Cardassians and Bajorans, a Cardassian child (a rare sight on DS9 to be sure) arrives accompanied by a Bajoran guardian. The boy is wearing a Bajoran earring (because they ALL practise exactly the same religion, don't be stupid) and gives Garak a cold stare. Garak attempts to make, erm, conversation (“What a handsome young man you have here.”) The boy bites Garak severely on the hand. At this point, we have to assume that the boy was raised in the Catholic sect of the Bajoran uni-religion and has been conditioned to react this way to pædophilic advances...
Act 1 : **.5, 17%
Kira deduces that the boy is an orphan left behind after the Cardassians pulled out of Bajor. Apparently, many Bajorans chose to raise the orphans as their own children. Cue a message from Dukat, who learned of the “assault” on Garak before Bashir even made it up to Ops. Dukat naturally uses the event to justify his own opinion that the war-orphans are being raised to “hate their own kind.” His next bit, “Why would he attack poor Garak, an amiable fellow if ever there was one?” is difficult to scrutinise as a viewer who knows the later exploration of their history and relationship, but I'm going to try in the context of what we know at this point; Garak is the only Cardassian who chose to remain on DS9 after the Occupation; the only Cardassian we have seen arrive on DS9 so far was murdered by a Bajoran; the Cardassians actively tried to oust the Federation from Bajor by supplying the rebels in the Circle. So, Dukat finds his fellow Cardassian Garak amiable but is willing to risk his being murdered by vengeful Bajorans and makes no mention of his involvement in or collusion with the takeover of DS9 just a few episodes prior? That should be a big red flag to Sisko, but he seems to miss it entirely.
Question: Bajor has been a free nation for about a year now correct? So it's safe to assume that Rugal (the boy) was adopted by his foster parents around that time as well. Rugal is at *least* ten years old, I'd say, so how did his intense hatred for Cardassians arise in just a year's time?
Rugal's foster father makes a good case for why trauma victims like the entire Bajoran population might not make the best parents for trauma victims like the war-orphans; he made no attempt to curtail his son's hatred for his people. Now of course, no one really had a choice, but the Bajorans continue to be presented in this series like battered wives or soldiers with PTSD, in other words, not as people who should be making the kinds of decisions with which they are entrusted.
Bashir strikes up a conversation with Rugal's foster father's travelling companion trying to learn more. The companion reveals the other side to his foster parents' attitude of acceptance—the constant abuse by other traumatised Bajorans who view his as “Cardassian scum...Rugal is their revenge, their revenge against all Cardassians.”
And again, I'm stumped by legal questions: Sisko insists (nay, demands) that Rugal be kept under Keiko's watch while they investigate claims about Rugal's mistreatment. Okay, surely the treatment of foster children is entirely a civil matter and thus the purview of the civilian (Bajoran) government, meaning whoever replaced Jarro should be making this call, correct, or at least Kira? It seems highly unlikely that the Bajoran government, such as it is, would sanction the separation of child and parent on the grounds that the Bajorans are brutalising a Cardassain! So, is this a Federation initiative? Is Sisko doing this to appease Dukat? How does the Bajoran government feel about that? They've had a say every other time Sisko has stepped in during civil matters haven't they? Remember this kind of thing when criticising Voyager's issues with addressing the Maquis...
Act 2 : **.5, 17%
Bashir it seems has completely accepted the premise that Rugal's life was in jeopardy while he remained on Bajor, disclosing to Garak his feelings that “a wounded hand is certainly worth saving a boy's life.” A priceless moment follows when Garak bursts out laughing at the suggestion that he and Dukat were friends. Garak points out the obvious to Bashir : “Do you think we simply forgot about those poor orphans when we left Bajor?” It turns out Dukat was in charge of the Cardassian withdrawal; the same man who is so eager to bring home the war-orphans is the one who purposefully left them behind.
Dukat and Sisko are discussing the details of determining Rugal's parentage when Bashir pipes in and directly addresses Dukat, prompting an hilarious grimace from Sisko. Dukat claims that he was ordered to withdraw and to leave the orphans behind. William B's quote above follows, and I fully concur that it's a golden moment in this episode.
And the writers decide to remind us they hate us by continuing to present Miles as the regressed trauma victim he was in the first part of “The Wounded:” by having him utter a statement so baldly racist that Keiko has to point out how “ugly” it was.
I have made statements before alluding to the ineptitude of DS9's writers in questioning the Star Trek ethos and this is a prime example. It's one thing to say, “The Roddenberry human seems too perfect. I'm going to use our show to expose cracks in the veneer that reveal a more complex truth to this Universe,” and quite another to say, “The Roddenberry human seems too perfect. I'm going to have one of them exhibit a racism on par with your average Klan member.” Subtlety, thy name is DS9.
Anyway, at least Keiko continues to be my hero on this series, having absolutely no tolerance for Miles' character assassination, I mean character growth. Ah, but we get this great moment where both Rugal and O'Brien push away their Cardassian meal which Keiko thoughtfully prepared and lock eyes, creating a bond between them. Nothing like blind, hateful bigotry to bring people together!
I apologise that this act seems to keep inviting digressions, but I can't help myself. Later that night, O'Brien comments to Rugal that it must be hard living amongst Bajorans as a Cardassian, to which the boy responds, “It's not my fault! I was born that way.” The immediate association this brings to mind is, of course, homosexuality. O'Brien uncomfortably responds that there's “nothing wrong with being Cardassian,” (rather tepidly, but at least he says it). Rugal is convinced (by his adopted parents) that there *is* something wrong with it. After all, Cardassians occupied Bajor and all but destroyed their society. The allegorical translation is that Rugal's parents have told him that the way he is is wrong, but not his fault, akin to “you didn't ask to be born as a sinful homosexual, but you are.” I can't think of anything more damaging to a child's psyche than this kind of taught self-hatred. Bear this in mind.
Act 3 : ***.5, 17%
“Come doctor. Get dressed. We need to be going,” cooed the mischievous tailor to his sleeping companion...
Bashir, unsure, but titillated, awakens his commander. Benjamin greets the young doctor in his velvet, barely-there robes. He is clearly unhappy with the young man. He might need to be punished.
“I'm waiting,” he says.
Commence the fan fiction!
Dukat, who is apparently content to sit dressed in his military uniform at his desk during every waking and unwaking hour, calls Commander Naughty Robes to inform him that he has discovered Rugal's biological parentage. Dukat has sent the boy's bio father to DS9 to collect him. In light of this mysterious behaviour, Sisko authorises Bashir and Garak to travel (alone) to Bajor. Ahem.
At the orphanage, Garak is his usual magnanimous self, making friends...it's all pretty hilarious stuff. During the humorous search, a few Cardassian orphans emerge and ask if Garak is going to return them to Cardassia, jack-knifing a bit of pathos into the mix. Quite a different take from Rugal's, I see.
Act 4 : ***, 17%
Bashir has had enough work for the day. He orders the computer shut down all engines, dims the lights and turns his heavy gaze to Garak...
Actually, he's angry with Garak for “playing games” with the lives of the abandoned children on Bajor and Garak returns to his Socratic method. His “I believe in coincidences. Coincidences happen every day. But I don't trust coincidences,” is worth the price of admission here. It turns out Rugal's father is a political enemy of Dukat's and thus, it appears that Dukat has been manipulating the situation with Rugal since before the Cardassian withdrawal.
Pa'dar (the biodad) arrives and, for not the first time, Sisko has sent O'Brien, his engineer, to greet a foreign visitor. Geez.
O'Brien warns Biodad about Rugal's prejudices, and Biodad is clearly a social conservative when it comes to Cardassian culture, disgraced that he has not been able to raise his son. Rugal is brought in by Keiko, who tries to facilitate the beginnings of a bond between Biodad and his son. Alas, Rugal has been too indoctrinated against his people to allow himself to be open to his father's overtures.
Sisko agrees to arbitrate the dispute between the dads as to Rugal's custody. Aren't there any lawyers in the Federation? Why is it that command officers end up fighting legal disputes in civilian cases so often?
Odo calls in to inform Sisko that Dukat has arrived on DS9.
Duhn duhn dunn!!!!!
Act 5 : *.5, 17%
Dukat does his best Helen Lovejoy “What about the children!?” while Garak makes a realisation: Dukat must have purged Rugal's adoption file.
Bashir contacts Rugal's adopting agent, who reports that Rugal was brought to the orphange by a female Cardassian solider serving on Tarak Nor (DS9 before it was DS9, of course).
Considering Sisko's, “don't do it again,” from before, he sure takes Bashir's interruption of the trial rather easily...Bashir begins to unravel Dukat's scheme: he had Rugal stolen from Biodad and planted as an orphan on Bajor in order to “someday humiliate” Biodad (there's a hearing taking place on Cardassia and apparently Dukat would benefit from Biodad's career ending). Except, the only real evidence Bashir has in the testimony of the social worker. Anyone ever heard of circumstantial evidence? Eh, whatever. Dukat leaves in a huff, so we can assume it's all true.
As William B. pointed out, Sisko's decision regarding Rugal's custody is not even glossed over, it's just skipped entirely.
There's a little coda with Bashir and Garak. Something about crumbs...
Episode as Functionary : **, 10%
I actually find this episode very difficult to rate. As William B. rightfully complained, the meatier, emotionally complex story of Rugal is sacrificed to the political story with Dukat, Bashir and Garak. But the latter story is so much better executed and enjoyable, I almost want to forgive them. I'm reminded of Star Trek IX, where complex issues are brought up, glossed over and basically forgotten in order to have a “fun and sexy” romp in space. In the end though, too much of the story here is devoted to the meatier issues and the better B story (though it's technically not a separate story) is not nearly as amusing as it thinks it is, though it does have some notably brilliant moments. For me this story's value is in furthering my own Bashir/Garak fanfic and for reminding me that Keiko is awesome. But really, as intended, the episode is actually and tragically a failure. I have no idea what to think about Rugal or the issue of wartime orphans other than what I might care to make up in my mind (or observe as speculated by others). Dukat's political duplicity is nothing new. The real success here is introducing us more fully to Garak, which earns this episode its points.
Final Score : **.5
- Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 4:44pm (USA Central)
Brilliant episode. Death. One of our own. Sacrifice. Friendship versus command. The wisdom of Starfleet leadership. What makes the Enterprise special in cold space is that it has a beating heart.
The Gik'tal really touched me. "But perhaps the next time you are judged unfairly, it will not take so many bruises for you protest."
Stand up for yourself. And give people second chances.
- Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 3:59pm (USA Central)
They were going through Kazon space to gather supplies, because with a less advanced species they were safer, and knew there could be bigger problems, like cy-borgs, space dino and the WWE Rock, Dwayne Johnson.
Barclay invented a hyper fast ship, going at Dr Crusher's Warp 14, and went to get them. Voyager was towed back home by this ship.
Sisko gave them the info for the fast ship, by coming back from the wormhole with new info from the prophets.
- Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 3:53pm (USA Central)
Skin of Evil
Dax's death should have been more like this, she should have just died with one of those sparky computers going off, rather then the big villain killing her in church.
- Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 3:49pm (USA Central)
Star Trek: First Contact
And that's to "Mr Data", not Robert :)
- Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 3:48pm (USA Central)
Star Trek: First Contact
A troll for bringing up the fact that Trek and the writing is heavily Left Wing? What planet are you on? It's called discussion. Sci-fi often gets involved in politics by the very nature of the storytelling.
- Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 3:46pm (USA Central)
Frankly, I *love* watching Dukat, and I have enormous sympathy for him, though not for his unethical actions themselves. DS9 did him a great disservice here, and probably harmed the series, too.
It's something that's been bothering me for some time: remember how fun "The Hobbit" was? It got turned into a strict good vs. evil plotline in the Lord of the Rings. I enjoyed the LOTR, of course, but that set the stage for Harry Potter. Again, a fun, multi-faceted story with evil in it ended up getting turned into another epic good vs. evil story. And DS9 goes the same way. Star Wars, too, is a strict good vs. evil affair. Just because there's war or conflict involved in a story doesn't mean the writers have to go for a heavy-handed morality play.
- Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 3:43pm (USA Central)
Lwaxana episode and holodeck episode all rolled up into one? Hallelujah! I suppose this was planned as an out and out comedy extravaganza, and to be fair there are some laughs in here (Worf's admiration of the "handsome" Antedeans in particular).
But overall it's completely inconsequential, the holodeck sequences are utterly irrelevant (and worse that that, boring), and the conclusion comes completely out of left field. 3 stinkers in a row then. 1 star.
- Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 1:58pm (USA Central)
Up the Long Ladder
Funnily enough, I was also about to start this with something along the lines of ""Sometimes you just have to bow to the absurd," says Picard. Not me."
This is a horror show of epic proportions, and smacks to me of two ideas not strong enough for their own show being rammed together. From the broad humour and brazen caricatures of the first half, to the more serious and disturbing elements of the second half, to the morally questionable conclusion, this hits all the wrong beats.
The tea ceremony offers some redemption - including a welcome call back for Klingon love poetry - but it can't save it. A shocker. 1 star.
- Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 12:44pm (USA Central)
@Dave - "Picard getting stabbed through the heart by a Nausicaan seems a stretch"
Are you watching the series for the first time by chance?
I really did like the reveal that the man that Wesley idolizes and wants to be like was absolutely NOTHING like him at his age. That was pretty fascinating.
- Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 12:08pm (USA Central)
I suppose there had to be come down from Q Who, and boy was this it. This would be all well and good if the Pakleds were played for laughs - but they're not. And if you're laughing at a story and not with it, that's never a good sign.
The B-story is decent enough, and it's fun to see Picard wrestle with his vanity. But the scenes in the shuttle are a bit of a struggle, and Picard getting stabbed through the heart by a Nausicaan seems a stretch. 1.5 stars.
- Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 10:54am (USA Central)
A classic episode by any criteria. The introduction of the Borg as a new existential threat is extremely well handled - especially compared to the introduction of the Romulans earlier on in the series. As a harbinger of doom this is also nicely done - we now know the Borg are out there, know they are coming, but know it will be a while before they arrive.
The seriousness of the threat is nailed home by having the crew fail to overcome the problem - and Picard forced to beg to Q to get them out of trouble subverts our expectations of the series.
Elsewhere, the back story for Guinan gives sudden and unexpected depth to that character. The score, as noted above, is excellent. The character design - while it will be still improved in the future - is right there, and the Borg cube design is genius. These are not beings who care about form - just brutal, efficient functionality.
You also have to wonder why Gomez was introduced and not the first to be assimilated - perhaps a further clever twist on our expectations? A worthy 4 stars.
- Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 8:55am (USA Central)
The Search, Part II
@Grumpy, Yeah, I should say that the simulation was weird and disappointing while it was going on, so I don't know what to say about that. The ending is pretty bad but the first few acts get harder and harder to take, so I am not sure what to say about it.
And ha, for some reason while writing that I was thinking you could use "orphan" to describe any child who has lost a parent, even if the other parent is still alive, which now that I think about it is clearly wrong. My brain just slipped, I guess!
- Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 8:04am (USA Central)
methane, we are saying the same thing. since we don't ever see a power battle between Sisko and the ambassador I think it's fair to assume that the arrangements you mention happened off screen.
- Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 7:12am (USA Central)
This episode does indeed give an interesting spin on two issues - the philosophical imperative of the Prime Directive, and the nature of command and authority.
I agree with others that Data's behaviour seems odd from the start - if his curiosity is overriding his programming it would suggest he's pretty human already... But this behaviour is required in story terms to effectively present Picard with a fait accompli - everyone recognises it's the wrong choice, if the morally right one. Telling O'Brien that "this never happened" suggests to me that the command staff are indeed up to their necks, and then over their heads.
But the fact there is no consequence to their actions acts to deflate the conclusion - although I can't help feeling that Data, by leaving the stone, pretty much spits in the face of his superiors.
The Wesley B-story is handled well, and by not making his team the usual reject everything protagonists it reaches a much more grounded resolution. 2.5 stars.
- Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 5:41am (USA Central)
The Icarus Factor
A welcome character piece, that is happy to hang its hat on the strength of those characters and let them lead the plot. The further insight into Riker's, Worf's and to a lesser extent Pulaski's back story continue to enrich the characters.
In terms of delivery it starts well, but the Riker story tails off badly to the end, and the final martial arts combat of him and his father facing off in spandex and chasing each other round like a piñata is, frankly, risible. It does, however, at least address the issue early of why, if Riker is so competent as a number one, he doesn't have his own command.
"BE GONE..! Sir" is another great Worf line though. 2.5 stars.
- Wed, Aug 26, 2015, 11:43pm (USA Central)
The Search, Part II
William B: "Sisko et al. are left completely passive, and their actions of rebellion come to naught..."
Right there, you may have put your finger on why I never liked this episode. At least, you've elaborated on what Jammer said "torpedoed" the story. Actually, I wasn't liking this episode even before the twist ending, so that can't be it. I dunno; I should rewatch Season 3 just for this.
Tangentially, one other thing:
"(Barash being an orphan like Riker was)"
Riker had a tense relationship with his father, but I didn't think he was dead to him!
- Wed, Aug 26, 2015, 10:40pm (USA Central)
Robert - I always assumed ambassadors for the Federation either resigned/retired from Starfleet or were on an indefinite leave of absence. I suppose that could be different in the Federation.
Yanks - "The civilians are above the military. Ambassadors many times are put in positions in charge of military assets".
Ambassadors don't put themselves in charge of military assets; the civilian leader (President, Prime Minister, etc.) can assign military assets to ambassadors. This episode gives a good reason why random civilians (even those with titles like ambassadors) can't go in an just order the military assets around. They could be trying to start a war!
In a situation like this, you'd expect the Federation diplomatic corps to ask the Federation President (or whichever official runs Starfleet) to officially order Starfleet to take the ambassador out (this could be the Presidential underlings making the arrangement, with him just signing orders), and even follow the ambassador's commands to an extent. Starfleet Command would then issue their orders to Sisko (or to an Admiral who would then order Sisko), detailing the mission, which Sisko would then carry out.
Yanks - "my point is, why should Sisko get promoted if he hasn't completed his mission?"
Well, I think Federation membership is a long-term goal, not something they expected to happen in a few years. To use real world examples, the Berlin Wall fell in 1989; other than Eastern Germany, the first nations from the Communist block didn't join NATO until 1999; they didn't join the EU until 2004! Sisko can be doing his job well (worthy of promotion) even if he hasn't completed that long-term mission.
- Wed, Aug 26, 2015, 8:04pm (USA Central)
The Mind's Eye
Thanks everyone - I'm almost as impressed by the quality of your comments as I was by this episode, which does deserve 4 stars I think.
- Wed, Aug 26, 2015, 7:02pm (USA Central)
I must of watched Voyager all the way though at least 7 times now and I always look forward two this two parter, It feels almost like a movie at times, really interesting seeing some the characters playing different lives, especially Janeway.
- Wed, Aug 26, 2015, 5:23pm (USA Central)
Good lord, I came here after talking to a friend about the worst Trek episodes and looking what this one was called. We were *both* dead sure that this was a Season One episode. I mean, come on!!!
- Wed, Aug 26, 2015, 4:51pm (USA Central)
The Search, Part II
The very weird choice to have the entire Starfleet-crew (plus T'Rul) plot be a simulation has some justification: as with Eris' deception in The Jem'Hadar, the Dominion is being set up as placing big emphasis on trickery (particularly with their shapeshifting leaders) s a way to gauge and undermine their opponents. On that level, I like that the simulation essentially tells us what the Dominion is like by showing what types of events the Founders expect if they set foot into the AQ. If Sisko et al. can't stand a little random exclusion of nations, random violence against citizens, and being asked to fight wars against their neighbours, then they are probably not the type of people worth "conquering" and seem more like the type that will require special subjugation. That they bother to program in Jem'Hadar -- who, remember, are completely loyal -- accosting O'Brien more or less sets that as their baseline: they want people to be willing to put up with random, pointless bullying without a fight. That Sisko rebels against this, and that people even tell him that the "peace" that is created is his fault, plays out like a mini-version of his arc up to Call to Arms, with the moral being that even making peace overtures is stupid appeasement which will eventually lead to everyone you love being threatened. Which, more on that argument at a later time, maybe.
I think the reason that the simulation is more frustrating to me in this episode than in, say, Future Imperfect or Frame of Mind, is that the key thing is that Riker works his way out of those simulations. Frame of Mind is *about* questioning reality from start to finish, in different ways. Future Imperfect, with its weird fake-peace that is somehow lightly unsettling, is the closest analogue. But the episode is mostly about Riker finding himself out of place and out of time, and eventually finding the reason why -- a reason which turns out to resonate with Riker's own experience (Barash being an orphan like Riker was). Future Imperfect would hardly be satisfying if essentially Riker spent the whole time debating the merits of the treaty with Tomalak without ever guessing that there is something wrong with this picture, and then Data or whoever happened to unplug him at the end and reveal that it was fake. Sisko et al. are left completely passive, and their actions of rebellion come to naught -- which may be the point, except, well, that we don't even get their reaction once they get out of the simulation, besides momentary confusion. It really would be a lot more satisfying for Sisko et al. to figure things out themselves, too, especially since keeping in the dark leads them to ignoring key facts (e.g. not bothering to wonder where Kira and Odo are after the first couple of minutes).
The big problem with playing out this big simulation as part two of this two-parter is that it distracts from the fact that the whole point of them going to the GQ in the first place was to talk to the Founders and try to communicate to them about peace, and so when they wake up, dazed from being inside a simulation, it is pretty counterproductive that Odo just shoves them off on the Defiant with words about how he'll explain later, and there is no real chance for them to say much else. It's not really that I expect the Founders are going to respond well to peace overtures, because they clearly aren't, but it does also mean that this episode does indeed end with Sisko et al. knowing the location of the Founders' homeworld and how to talk to them, but...WITHOUT any of that whole talking thing happening now or for quite a while. It sidesteps, and the simulation forms a substitute for the dramatic question of what trying to avoid war with the Dominion would actually be like. For that matter, given that it ends with the collapsing of the wormhole, it should be clear that collapsing the wormhole *should* be on the table as an option, starting now, and I can't quite remember when it is brought up again as an option. What this episode lacks, I guess, is a scene between Sisko and the Dominion leader, given that he is *right there*.
The stronger story here is the Odo and Kira material, obviously. I like that Kira is torn between being supportive of Odo and going to defy orders to look for Sisko and to follow her suspicions that all is not as it seems with the Founders. The character work for Odo over the rest of the series will do quite a lot with what the Link means, so I don't really need to talk about all of it here, but I do like that the temptation that is dangled before Odo of *THE LINK* is the ultimate answer to Odo's feelings of loneliness. I like, too, that Odo's somewhat restricted, imagination-deprived view of what his shapeshifting can mean is challenged. One irony is that for all the Female Shapeshifter's concerns that Odo's time in the solids has ruined him, his time as a solid really *has* brought him some understanding for what it means to be a humanoid, on a much deeper level perhaps than the "what it's like to be a rock" type of thing that the FS instructs him in. She seems to get the idea of empathy without the essence of it. The somewhat isolating way they treat Odo, insisting he train alone for hours at a time before he can pass their test when they have caused is misery by setting him off as an orphan to spend centuries by himself, further indicates the moral rot at the core of the Founder philosophy, which they remain unaware of.
Anyway, the dialogue at the end as Odo rushes off and the Female Shapeshifter explains why they need to subjugate the galaxy does bring up some interesting points, most of all the idea (to be explored later) that Odo's desire for justice is actually his instinctive desire for order, instead -- which is an awesome choice for the character. However, the dialogue is so rushed that there is little chance to examine these ideas, either to try to get through to her that subjugating the galaxy is not necessary or desirable or for Odo to express his inner conflict. Fortunately, as with the other plot (with the simulation), the frustrating and rushed non-ending is not truly the end of the story, and Odo's division between His People and those humanoids he cares about remains.
A low 2 stars is probably fair.
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