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William B - Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 6:10pm (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S2: Melora

@Elliott, well, I may have had my own Melora-esque chip on my shoulder when I wrote about that episode. I suppose that picture demonstrates that Melora is supposed to be able to fly on her own planet -- and that this is the mythological background. This is all still very weird and crazy, because the whole idea is that her planet has LOW gravity led to her having, you know, humanoid limbs for walking which are too weak for Earth-style gravity, which goes against the whole zero-g thing in her quarters, and why -- well, okay, I'll stop. This still runs weird interference with the disability story.

It was her easy rapport with the Klingon restauranteur more so than her knowledge of different cultures that bothered me. Her social isolation leading to her having very particular tastes in alien composers and Klingon *food*, and even knowing Klingon language, is one thing, but there is something so easy and casual about her interaction with the restauranteur that really does suggest that she has near-magic ability to deal with others socially, which is absent the rest of the time. It bothers me a little because it did feel like the teleplay was stitched together -- and we end with the Klingon serenade because that's how close she is with the restauranteur. However, there are lots of people who deal with social isolation or difference by cultivating certain personality traits and not others -- like she's akin to the precocious child who can wow adults but struggles with connecting to other children. (Wesley, basically.)

Viewing things as more purely metaphorical, the Little Mermaid stuff sort of works, and especially if we view her zero-g chamber as her ultra-introverted inner life, which she lets Bashir into, and Bashir's excitement at being granted entry into her private life naturally leads to him trying to change her entirely -- which, yes, socially isolated brilliant scientists, likely autism spectrum. That being the case, the episode does have a lot going for it, except that the wires get so *very* crossed because of the several different contradictory stories the episode is telling.

For what it's worth, this is a much better Bashir story than The Passenger, which amounted to nothing, and this does tell us a fair amount about how he thinks, even if it doesn't really gel here. I guess 1 star was pretty harsh, when the episode is more like a confused but well-intentioned and interesting episode like The Outcast than a plodding waste of time like If Wishes Were Horses.
Elliott - Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 4:37pm (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S2: Melora

Teaser : **, 5%

So, those Cardassian “incompatibilities” with Starfleet's antigrav tech have created a dilemma for a new officer about to be stationed at DS9. The officer, Ensign Melora Pazlar, is severely immobilised due to the relative strong gravity on the station. This issue raises a few technical nitpicks which should be gotten out of the way. First, shouldn't the gravitational stress on Melora's circulatory system and vital organs be of some concern? If the gravity is so strong that her voluntary skeletal muscles can't get stand her up straight, how in the world can her heart pump blood to her brain? Second, so is every M-class planet the same size and shape as Earth or do all aliens just put up with a higher or lower gravity when on Federation starbases/ships? Best not to burrow too far down that rabbit hole I suppose.

On the other hand, there is a subtle touch that I do like about this situation: Cardassian technology does not make accommodation for the disabled, just as I imagine Cardassian society does not either.

Anyway, Bashir has apparently studied up on her (in his typically creepy fashion) in his preparation for her medial needs. The remainder of the teaser establishes two things: Melora is kind of a bitch (“chip on her shoulder” is a little more generous) and portraying practical technology in futuristic settings is dangerous. Melora's wheelchair is as advanced a wheelchair I have ever seen...in 1993. Next to technology which warps the fabric of reality, dematerialises whole people safely and creates objects (including, ironically, this very chair) out of thin air, the device really feels like a prop instead of a part of the Universe we're observing.

Act 1 : ***, 17%

Plot B: A Yuridian customer of Quark's buys a lost relic from the barkeep (nice to see him in action again). Interrupting Quark's capitalistic exploits is a menacing visitor with one of those impractical nose prosthetics who announces he's come to kill Quark. Of note here is an above-average musical score, unafraid to delve a bit into the emotional depth of the scene. Very welcome.

Plot A : Melora is introduced to Sisko. The camera chooses to make the most of the height differentials between the chaired ensign and her upright superior. She brings up the “Melora problem,” indicating she has a history of being defensive about her “condition.”

In Melora's quarters, Bashir picks up a photo of her and a man, and if you look, indeed it's a photo of them *flying in the clouds.* So sorry, William B., apparently that is exactly what her planet is like. It's damned stupid from a scientific perspective, but I'm willing (at this point) to be generous and point to the Little Mermaid source material as a justification for this idea—Elysians “swim” around their planet like fish in the sea, not to mention Elysium is the Greek equivalent of heaven, free and wistful fields of paradise.

I'm glad that Bashir calls out Melora's bullshit early on rather than forcing us to endure it for a few acts. I'm actually going to disagree somewhat with my esteemed colleague, William B., regarding the conceit that Bashir was the first person to notice her behaviour. I don't think that is what we are to infer here; I think rather that Bashir's attraction to her (based on a genuine psychological predisposition which you elaborated on) supersedes the more common “I won't insult you because you're in a wheelchair and I feel sorry for you” reaction that most people exhibit. Calling out someone's bullshit is a sign of emotional investment, something it seems clear that Melora has been very careful to avoid.

Alternately, her line “it's always seemed to work...until now,” doesn't need to be taken at face value. It's entirely possible if not probable that she says this on purpose, because the attraction to Bashir is mutual. It's a very classic flirtation tactic, really.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

Plot B : Quark lays out a table for his would-be assassin in an attempt to mollify (his word) him. That's pretty much it.

Plot A : Bashir takes Melora to the new Klingon restaurant so we can get that painful scene where Melora tries to impress us by how many times she can roll her 'r's. I don't have much to add to what's been said already other than to point out that the restaurant's only adornment is a giant symbol of the Klingon Empire. In other words, this is the Klingon equivalent of one of those restaurants whose primary decoration is an overstated and garish American flag. Make of that what you will.

Retcon notice : Bashir mentions that his father had been a Federation diplomat, which, if I'm not mistaken flies directly in the face of “Doctor Bashir, I presume.” Oh my god, bad continuity! Call the media!

Anyway, Bashir shares a little of his backstory and, feeling feelings, Melora calls it a night.

Melora has a little accident, prompted by her own unwillingness to be dependent. Intellectually, I realise that a lot of this “we must depend on each other” stuff is pretty shallow, but Ashbrook and Siddig do a very good job at making this all seem very human and gentle. The chemistry they demonstrate (not easy for a guest character) warms up and shapes the straight-forward philosophical issues to make them palatable.

William B. is completely right that no Starfleet officer should be “astonished” by the feeling of zero g, but again, I'm generally moved by three things, the convincing acting, the stylish cinematography and the invested score. Melora chooses this moment to point out that her fellow merman in the photo is her brother and she and Bashir share a first kiss.

Act 3 : **.5, 17%

I feel really guilty disagreeing so often with William B in this review, but this seems like the right spot to address Melora's cosmopolitanism. It seems very clear to me that her borderline savant-like knowledge of other cultures is a natural characteristic of someone who is very intelligent but socially isolated. I do object to the ease with which she bartered with the restauranteur because knowledge of a thing is no the same as practice, but it makes sense that she would fill the void in her life left by a lack of personal relationships with many hobbies and interests.

The runabout scene with Dax and Melora is actually pretty okay; nothing groundbreaking, but Ferrell does an unusually good job at balancing her “I've been alive for 7 lifetimes” with “I'm a goofy party girl” shtick. Typically in Trek romances, the romance itself feels incredibly rushed because it's squeezed into the space of a 45-minute TV show with ray guns, and here is no different, except that a rushed, exceedingly premature assessment of romantic feelings actually fits in perfectly with these characters. Both Melora and Bashir are socially awkward, brilliant and naïve. The story has cleverly taken an inherent weakness in Trek tropes and carefully adapted it to serve a particular narrative by being very wise about its character interplay. Kudos.

Plot B : Quark reports his assassin to Odo (what's his name? Phallic Cock? eesh), who knows all he needs to know about how Quark sold the man out for his freedom, even if “justice was served.” This plot maybe going nowhere, but best exchange of the episode has to be:

QUARK : He threatened to kill me!
ODO : [bemused smile]
QUARK : What?
ODO : Nothing. Just a passing thought.
QUARK : Odo he means it!...You've got to do something.
ODO : I'll do my job, Quark...unfortunately.

Plot A : Regarding Bashir's 10-minute “cure,” it should be borne in mind that Melora is the only Elysian in Starfleet. Bashir says he simply dusted off an old theory from 30 years prior that probably just didn't hold interest for any medical researchers until this situation. It's a little flimsy, but not unreasonable. Melora is delighted at the prospect of shedding her prosthetics (aren't we all) and chair.

Act 4 : **, 17%

Plot B : Phallic Cock is brought in for questioning by Odo. Bearing in mind I'm writing this during 2015, when the scandal of police brutality and other social relics from the Bush/Clinton era of crime-crackdown is of primary focus in the USA, I have to say that Odo's remark, “you can tell a man's intentions by the way he walks,” to be very unnerving.

Then again his hilarious line to Quark, “You people sell pieces of yourself after your dead...I'll buy one,” to mitigate this well enough.

Plot A : Julian is technobabbling his freaking ass off and has bestowed on Melora her first treatment, allowing her to move just a little bit. Music swells, closeup on Melora's smile. And jumpcut to Sisko, “How's the upgrade coming?” Very clever, Mr Somers. Very clever.

Mobile Melora steps onto the bridge and she is immediately treated like an object of curiosity and speculation—again. This is where the episode begins to sink a bit...we can already tell where this is heading. They may have been able to mitigate the romance cliché thus far, but one can already see the obligatory breakup being built.

Plot B : Phallic Cock ambushes Quark to kill him and Quark actually manages to save himself by promising to pay “199 bars of gold-pressed latinum.” Eh...this completely undermines what made the assassin at all interesting. That he can be bribed out of his revenge is really disappointing.

Act 5 : *.5, 17%

Bashir is continuing the treatments on Melora. To his credit, the moment she expresses any doubt about her treatment, he immediately tries to understand and discuss her concerns, like a good doctor should.

Back to the runabout for girlchat round 2: mythology trumps science again, I'm afraid. Melora apparently can't return to her home planet after she's treated which makes no sense at all, since Bashir was perfectly capable of flying around with her in her quarters, but like Dax says, “The Little Mermaid.” This will unfortunately be the episode's ultimate undoing, I'm afraid.

Plot B & A : Quark introduces Phallic Cock to his Yuridian friend who gets himself shot. On the way the plots collide. PC takes Quark, Dax and Melora hostage on a runabout and kills Melora to “make himself clear” to Sisko that he isn't fucking around. Sisko and co. follow them through the wormhole and ensue chase. Meanwhile, Melora wakes up...and shuts off the gravity so she get the jump on Phallic Cock and save the day. Horray?

So, as expected, Melora decides not to go through the treatments because she “wouldn't be Elaysian anymore.” So, if an Elaysian were born unable to fly around due to an actual disability, would he or she also not be Elaysian. What a crap ending. Oh and pile on that Klingon serenade which comes out of nowhere...Ach, get me out of here!

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

“The little mermaid parted the purple curtains of the tent and saw the beautiful bride asleep with her head on the Prince's breast. The mermaid bent down and kissed his shapely forehead. She looked at the sky, fast reddening for the break of day. She looked at the sharp knife and again turned her eyes toward the Prince, who in his sleep murmured the name of his bride. His thoughts were all for her, and the knife blade trembled in the mermaid's hand. But then she flung it from her, far out over the waves. Where it fell the waves were red, as if bubbles of blood seethed in the water. With eyes already glazing she looked once more at the Prince, hurled herself over the bulwarks into the sea, and felt her body dissolve in foam.”

If the writers had had a little more courage we could have had this ending, a real ending wherein Melora kills herself for the sake of her Prince (Bashir). Alas, they chickened out and gave us this vague Deus ex Machina with her treatments somehow making her phaser-proof.

Up until the ending I was enjoying “Melora,” but it totally falls on its face, abandons its mythical origins, abandons its social commentary, abandons its intrigue with the B plot, abandons the surprisingly successful romance. Everything just jumps ship and dissolves into seafoam...

Final Score : **.5
NoPoet - Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 4:30pm (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S5: Doctor Bashir, I Presume

Not sure if anyone said this, but this is the only episode of Trek where characters from three different series appear on screen at the same time or in the Sam episode.

It's also one of the only VOY and DS9 crossovers. I always wondered why no episodes of DS9 mentioned Voyager's disappearance.
William B - Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 3:44pm (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S2: Playing God

I guess one other thing to add is that Jadzia finding it in her to break out of Curzon Dax patterns assures that she is correct that she is strong enough not to be overwhelmed by the Dax personality entirely, which means that she has to relearn the lesson she teaches Arjin, which is a pleasing structure.
FlyingSquirrel - Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 1:33pm (USA Central)
Re: TNG S1: Symbiosis

It's been a long time since I've seen the episode, but from the review and from what I do remember, this, for me, represents one of the cases where the Prime Directive just starts to seem stupid and counterproductive.

For starters, it's not as if the Ornarans are a completely isolated society - they have space travel, and they clearly know that other species exist besides themselves and the Brekkians. Maybe their quality of life is below the level of most Federation worlds, but why does that preclude Starfleet from offering them a cure from drug addiction? That's like saying it's wrong for groups like Doctors Without Borders to go to an impoverished society to provide medical care that the residents couldn't otherwise get because it "interferes" with their civilization's development.

And even if you assume that the Ornarans would be better off in the long run if they devised a cure themselves, why does the Prime Directive prevent Picard or anyone else from at least *telling* them that the Brekkians are scamming them? The Brekkians are essentially committing a crime here. If the Brekkians were planning to nuke an Ornaran city, would it be "interference" to warn the Ornarans to evacuate?
Diamond Dave - Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 12:22pm (USA Central)
Re: TNG S2: Shades of Gray

So, that was the way they did season finales back then! Way to get people to come back next year...

OK, so it's a clip show, and we all know that because they blew the budget on early episodes they were told to bring one in quickly and cheaply. But you can bring a sense of style to a clip show, and this doesn't.

For the new scenes this actually starts OK, I guess there's no real sense of peril as Riker is clearly not going to die, but up until they start stimulating his dreams it's not too bad. But from then, the constant Troi and Pulaski "let's do this" interspersed with the clips is the lazy man's way out.

We do get to see the exploding head again, so that's something, and Data's character progression is clear for all to see. But there's not much else to see here. 1 star.

---

Overall my scores for this series average out at 2.3, coming in a hair under average and a hair up on season 1. Indeed, it was heading for a better score until the abysmal end to the series, which saw 4 of 6 score under 2. Ironically that came straight after the triumph that was Q Who, the only 4 star episode of the first 2 seasons.

Overall, the characters are now starting to blossom and back story being filled in. Data and Worf continue to star, Geordi is assuming greater prominence, and Chief O'Brien is now on regualar show. Wesley was even a bit less annoying. Personally, I was not unhappy with Pulaski - she brought a spiky quality which actually served as a nice counterpoint to some of the other main characters. Good groundwork for sure.
William B - Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 12:18pm (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S2: Cardassians

I remember enjoying Fair Haven when it aired and then agreeing when I read the negative reviews a few days later, actually (I have not revisited it any time recently), so I can see that as another example.

I was curious a while back when an episode might have an "Episode Functionary" rating significantly different than an act-by-act rating, and this seems like a good example. It really is, to me, a very good episode hampered by a frustrating non-ending -- but it's not as simple as that, because it's not like one could really fix the episode's problems by rewriting the last few minutes.

Actually, what may have helped the episode is simply to have the decision be taken out of Sisko's hands for some reason. The Prime Directive causes a lot of headaches for fans and the series, but one advantage of it narratively (in addition to its various other advantages) is that it also allows tragedies to unfold without (necessarily) forcing our heroes into making bad decisions (or glossing over the ambiguous decisions they make). It wouldn't remove the episode's problems, but having Rugal unhappily go off with his father, uncertain of what lies in store for him, would be a more satisfying ending if this was *also* the result of the larger sociopolitical machine that unscrupulous characters like Dukat manipulate for their gain, rather than because Sisko decided it offscreen for some reason.
William B - Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 12:08pm (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S2: Playing God

One thing I want to add, while I'm on the subject of Dax episodes, is that part of this episode is about fully demonstrating what a capital-P Personality Jadzia Dax is, all tongo and gagh and possibly-naked morning wrestling. And so some of the episode's success or failure resides on whether this personality seems convincing or merely grating. Some of the episode plays almost from Arjin's perspective, with Jadzia's off-the-wall-ness functioning like Lwaxana Troi's or something -- that the story is about how she's intimidating because she's nearly too much to handle -- and the first few acts almost ask us to be SHOCKED over and over again by how much personality she has, as if we didn't already know Jadzia. It's a pretty similar structure, too, to "Melora," with Jadzia in the Melora role and Arjin in the Julian one, minus romance. It makes me think a little of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl stereotype. It's mostly annoying in both places, for me personally. I enjoy Jadzia's personality when it's part of the story rather than the whole subject of the scene, as if LOOK SHE HANGS OUT WITH KLINGONS AND FERENGI! is everything we need to know. Knowing that Jadzia used to be shy and was presumably intimidated by Curzon Dax's forceful personality, it does seem as if she is unconsciously repeating the Curzon/Jadzia dynamic with herself and Arjin, intimidating Arjin and finding his shyness to be proof of his lack of direction in life, and so part of her arc here I guess is realizing that throwing a Trill who has *had* to make his whole life be about duty in order to get into the Initiate program (which has its parallels to women who devote themselves to landing a man, as methane points out) into situations where he has to feel at ease with Ferengi and Klingons and then criticizing him for not speaking up about his discomfort might not be entirely fair. It sort of works, but is not enough to sustain the episode.
William B - Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 11:36am (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S3: Equilibrium

I should say, Sisko articulating how much he cares for Jadzia as opposed to Curzon is another moment that works for me, and also emphasizes that hosts are not truly replaceable; they are a part of each other, on a continuum, but Joran being a killer does not make Jadzia a killer any more than Sisko having lost Curzon means he is prepared to lose Jadzia.

There have been five Dax episodes up to this point -- "Dax," "Invasive Procedures," "Playing God," "Blood Oath" and "Equilibrium." "Dax" and "Blood Oath" dealt specifically with Jadzia's tricky relationship to actions and oaths taken by Curzon and were pretty successful; the other three have left me somewhat cold, I think, because they keep trying to clarify what the Trill joining is like and what it means, and yet somehow don't quite do so. Where is Dax in Verad Dax, and why was he so willing to let Jadzia die? What qualities does a potential host really have to have to be successfully joined, and if it is mostly a matter of having one's own well-defined personality, what does the symbiont actually add there anyway? What is it like to have a killer as one of one's past lives and how much does that change one's personality in the present?

It's possible I'm just wanting something from these episodes that is not really that reasonable to ask. The joining is hard to pin down because it's a difficult idea to get across. That being the case, it may be that I'm underrating all three of these episodes -- I could, I suppose, see going up to 2.5 for this and for "IP," and up to 2 for "Playing God" (which still has the ridiculous subplot to deal with). Overall, I think I am going to say this episode maybe earns a 2.5 stars, since it's a mystery with a good clip and forward momentum even if I find it incomplete and frustrating.
William B - Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 10:42am (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S3: Equilibrium

The Trill host selection process looks worse and worse with each passing Trill-focused episode. In this episode we learn that unsuitable hosts are *supposed to* reject the symbiont to the point of death, but that this is a lie by the Symbiosis Commission to prevent "chaos," i.e. for them to maintain control by telling anyone they decide to blackball that they would *die* if they joined. This seems to contradict "Invasive Procedures," in which Jadzia says that an improper joining could cause permanent PSYCHOLOGICAL damage to host and symbiont, and "Playing God," in which it seemed like the big risk was not that Arjin would die if he misjoined but that he would be overwhelmed by his symbiont. I do find it funny to imagine, though, that the Symbiosis Commission's weeding through candidates, presumably with the scientific methodology akin to Jadzia's "weird vibes" feelings in "Playing God" is meant to be their determination of whether or not someone will die if they get a symbiont. Anyway, retcon or not, the basic philosophy seems to fit with the impression I got from those two season two episodes, which is that the Trill symbiocracy is unstable, placing JOINING as a kind of ultimate fulfillment goal to the point where their whole society seems to be built around it, while making excuses why most people just AREN'T GOOD ENOUGH in order to justify the vast majority of their population being left out. Here, the Symbiosis Commission is willing to kill Jadzia in order to cover up not even the fact that they have a killer skeleton in their closet, but the fundamental idea that just because someone is successfully joined does not mean they are a psychologically stable, or even non-murderous, person -- which to me seems once again about power and influence. If there is no *physical* guarantee that people who are joined are Good People, then not only are more people going to be banging down the doors demanding to be Joined, but -- perhaps even worse! -- joined Trills might actually be deeply flawed individuals who don't automatically earn awed hushes wherever they walk, and the Symbiosis Commission no longer holds sway over the whole planet.

As in most previous Dax episodes, Jadzia herself is sidelined partway through the episode, which is especially frustrating here; the big reveal about the Symbiosis Commission's essentially being willing to kill in order to hide their secret ends with them *still* keeping their secret anyway, so any changes in the Trill have to happen on the individual level, in the one Trill we know well. Jadzia does dominate the first few acts, but soon is comatose. The question of what it actually means to have the memories of a cold-blooded, psychotic murderer living inside oneself is largely ignored, or, generously, left to future episodes; and, yes, it is brought up again, though I'm not so sure if "Field of Fire" is a worthwhile exploration of this. The initial mystery is interesting, though, and the impact is something between a repressed memory coming to light and the revelation of a dark secret in one's family tree. Since Joran is A Part Of Jadzia but also a family member of sorts, maybe the best analogy is for someone to discover that they have a particular mental illness, which has largely laid dormant, and which has caused previous family members to violent tendencies and breaks from reality -- a genuinely scary idea, which this episode gets to a little bit in its early acts and weird masked dreams. But it's an incomplete idea, and there is no real discussion of what Jadzia does before taking her trauma-relieving pool visit, nor do I think Jadzia humming a lot and accusing Ben of cheating at their 2D chess game constitutes murderousness.

Aside: the pool stuff with the symbionts is interesting, but wow, Trill don't even let the Guardians go out and see the sun? Also, given that the electrical impulses are symbionts communicating with each other, how exactly is Jadzia Dax having some electrical zaps supposed to help relieve her trauma -- are other symbionts who talked to Dax about the whole Joran thing between joinings present there to remind Dax about it or something? ("Hey Dax! It's me, Odan. I heard they told you about the whole Joran thing. Sorry bro, they told us not to say anything." "It's cool, dude.")

Sisko and Bashir doing everything they can for Jadzia is good to see -- particularly evidence of Bashir's being a good friend to her, and whom she can trust, without pressing to sleep with her or trying to take advantage of her vulnerability. Thankfully he's not that much of a jerk, but it occurs to me that Jadzia might not have known beforehand exactly how much he cares about her *absent* the lust. That said, it's hard to imagine what could have possessed them to take their WARSHIP over to Trill, seemingly with more people milling about on the bridge than there were during their Gamma Quadrant trip, and who presumably weren't doing anything. Take a Runabout! What is wrong with you? Were you planning on blowing up the Symbiosis Commission if you didn't like what you heard?

The episode isn't bad exactly, but Jadzia's emotional arc is stunted and the revelations about the Trill rely on retconned information and don't go anywhere, either. 2 stars.
Elliott - Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 10:20am (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S2: Cardassians

@William B. : Episodes like this are exactly why I chose to do the act by act reviews. I think I enjoyed the episode as much as you did, but, as the "Episode as Functionary" paragraph points out, I do think the episode failed at what it had set out to do overall. Sometimes that's just the way these things go--I have similar feelings about VOY episodes like "Fair Haven." Unlike many, I generally enjoy the interaction of the characters there and find the story understated but pleasant. I do agree with most however who say the premise of the episode is completely flawed. I suspect my review when we get there will be similar to this one.

"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."

I have gone on the record about this before--I don't really think it's either most of the time. Or rather, it *is* ambiguity over sloppiness, but the ambiguity is there for its own sake rather than because it makes any sense. It's a kind of slight-of-hand magic trick meant to mimic depth or complexity, but too often it's really just a bit of audience pandering or writers' righteousness. The early seasons aren't so egregious in these tricks but it starts to get really frustrating during S5-7.
Del_Duio - Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 10:19am (USA Central)
Re: VOY S1: Caretaker

Just saw this again for the first time since it was first run. Actually, it was pretty awesome! Man they had so many angles to work and just left the majority of them behind though. All the great Marquis / Starfleet friction could have been mined for more than half an episode IMO.

One thing that bothered me though was when Janeway and the Kazon were on the planet in the middle of negotiations (that looked like they were going to be successful) and then out of nowhere Neelix jumps the head Kazon and holds a phaser on him for no reason. And then he destroys the 2 water tanks. I mean here you had a chance to make more allies and this new guy you just met totally blows it for you.

When they got back to Voyager I was expecting Janeway to go of on Neelix for jeapordizing everything like that and THEY NEVER MENTIONED IT AGAIN. Not only that, later in the episode when the Kazon ship appears (and that same Kazon guy is commanding it, no less) and nobody mentions the double-cross?? Couldn't they have made a line or two like "Captain Janeway- You had your chance back on the surface, but destroyed our water.. and your chances of making out of here alive now!" OK, that was stupid too but you get the idea haha.

So using the Voyager standard, This would easily be a 4 star episode for me. It's not as good as "The Emissary" was for an opener, but extremely strong with some, eh, stupid bits mixed in.
William B - Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 10:09am (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S3: The House of Quark

Yep, that is a lot of fun. I think it satirizes Klingon culture while also being affectionate of it, with Grilka in particular being a largely sympathetic and admirable heroine (and one for whom Quark's growing attraction to is very believable). It's an unusual Quark episode and the better for it.

I've talked before about how Quark's lack of "pride" compared to someone like Sisko works as a strength sometimes. The Klingons are much more intensely proud, and so the contrast with Quark pops all the more. The episode then is about Quark's gradually taking on the mantle of courage and honour, while being uniquely himself. This really is an episode about a Klingon-Ferengi wedding, insofar as we get a merging of Klingon and Ferengi values in Quark and in Grilka: He starts by claiming he defeated the Klingon in one-on-one combat because it's convenient for him to make money; then starts to realize that he actually values the respect that comes with it, in addition to the money; then because his lie had hurt Grilka she forces him to marry her to continue with the charade he has created; and finally he saves they day by risking his life for the House of Quark/House of Grilka, eventually creating a true story that earns him respect and admiration from Rom even if it no longer earns him the money he thought he wanted. The fake marriage with Grilka becomes real feeling along the same lines -- the lie of his nobility creates the fake marriage, and his real nobility brings him a real kiss. And he manages his heroic feats in his own way -- identifying D'Ghor's economic warfare against the House of Kozak (his demonstrating the economic warfare in the High Council in front of a bunch of confused, angry Klingons, especially Gowron, is one of the episode's highlights), and recognizing that his real chance to "win" combat with D'Ghor is to stand before him defenseless to prove his enemy's cravenness for all to see. Grilka learns to appreciate the value of Quark's pragmatism as he gets a bit of her nobility, and the romantic comedy is complete.

For the most part, Grilka does seem like a woman of honour who goes into duplicity because she needs to earn back what is rightfully hers and was taken away through Quark's lie and D'Ghor's treachery. Her initial reluctance to look over FILTHY LEDGERS, like Quark's initial unwillingness to believe that he really cares about nobility and honour, demonstrates that she is not initially willing to admit that she is engaging in some underhanded tactics to get what is rightfully hers, and her growing respect for Quark demonstrates her willingness to acknowledge that a bit of pragmatism in fighting for what's right, and in fighting against craven opportunists and liars at their own game, is not so bad. I guess I should say that I find Grilka's argument that Quark should face D'Ghor because of *honour* to be particularly rich, since of course D'Ghor's accusation that Quark is a liar is completely true. The real reason for Quark to fight is to protect Grilka's House, status and property, which Quark endangered by his lie. Fortunately, Quark makes clear that this is his real priority ("Who cares if some Klingon female loses her house?").

The Klingon wedding and divorce is very funny, and the use of the discommendation is so silly as to be a scream. Robert O'Reilly's face is also amazing.

The subplot with Keiko is handled well and touchingly; after a sense that their relationship was on the rocks for a while in season two, seeing Miles and Keiko really trying to make it work is refreshing. Removing the school from the show at a point where its role in the narrative has been unneeded for a year is a wise choice, and recognizing that Keiko needs her own job as purpose in life is a good step forward for both Miles and, well, the show. As a mostly-dramatic counterpart to the comic main plot this has a nice, small scale, but is nevertheless also about people recognizing the consequences of their actions and trying to correct it -- as the person who brought them to this station where Keiko's work has become irrelevant, it is up to Miles to fix it.

At least 3 stars, and...oh well, why not 3.5? It's definitely on the higher end of Trek comedies.
Diamond Dave - Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 9:39am (USA Central)
Re: TNG S2: Peak Performance

Well that above escalated quickly...

A solid but ultimately unsatisfying episode. We spend the whole hour building up to the Picard-Riker confrontation and then it is snatched away from us by an entirely random intervention from the Ferengi. You can see why the writers did not want to see who would win between the two - any conclusion would set up probably unwanted character dynamics. But to avoid that confrontation by introducing a conclusion so contrived it beggars belief is an unsatisfactory way out.

On the positive side, the familiarity with the characters is now completely coming through in their interactions, which are increasingly fleshed out and realistic. And if you can argue about the likelihood Data's crisis of confidence, there's little to argue about in his triumphant "I busted him up" finale. 2.5 stars.
William B - Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 9:38am (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S3: The Search, Part I

Also, while it seems plausible that Sisko would feel much more for Bajor than he did a while back, it is a development that has mostly occurred offscreen over the past year -- since The Siege, Sisko has either had minor functionary roles in episodes that involved Bajoran issues (Cardassians mostly, Sanctuary) or has stayed out altogether (The Collaborator -- except for Winn's appeal, which would hardly endear him to the planet). It's a development that's largely occurred off screen over s2, despite it being an important one.
Diamond Dave - Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 7:53am (USA Central)
Re: TNG S2: The Emissary

A climb back to respectability after a series of below par episodes. The chemistry between the dour, honourable Worf and the sardonic, wisecracking K'Ehleyr is memorable, and gives both a chance to shine. The conclusion is effective, giving Worf an opportunity for command ("comfortable chair") and showing he is more than simply rigid inflexibility. 2.5 stars.
Robert - Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 7:40am (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S6: Waltz

@Nathan - Voldemort was always an evil caricature. If anything they made him less so as the books went on.

I will say that I agree with you though, DS9's biggest misstep wasn't magic, or even associating Dukat with the Pagh Wraiths, it was making him (and them) not gray enough.

It actually ALMOST looked like they were going to redeem it in Covenant. Imagine how cool it would have been if after totally snapping he actually found the love of the Pagh Wraiths and their crime was that they wanted to violate the Prime Directive and directly help Bajor?

If instead of caricature evil they represented the temptation of getting everything the easy way. I think for a show that is so gray, they definitely did a disservice going black and white with their most interesting villain.
Jon - Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 12:26am (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S2: Paradise

Sisko should have pimp handed her like he did to Garak. I would have.
Dunsel - Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 11:02pm (USA Central)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

Hello,

My name is Captain Dunsel.

I'm sorry my command of the Enterprise did not go well.

I've been demoted to ship's junior cook, under some dude named Neelix.
William B - Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 9:49pm (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S3: Equilibrium

More comments to come but before I forget: in the scene where Dax trashes the chess set and storms out of Sisko's office, you can spot a second, fully-set up chess set in the background on Sisko's desk just as Dax is leaving. I presume it is a gaffe, and that multiple boards were set up to reduce waiting times between takes, but in universe it looks like not only has Sisko asked Dax to play a game of (2D, bizarrely) chess in his office but has set up multiple boards for the occasion.
William B - Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 8:22pm (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S2: Cardassians

@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.
methane - Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 8:06pm (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S4: Hippocratic Oath

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.
methane - Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 7:43pm (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S4: The Visitor

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.
Elliott - Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 4:56pm (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S2: Cardassians

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
phaedon - Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 4:44pm (USA Central)
Re: TNG S7: Lower Decks

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.
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