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Stark - Tue, Oct 13, 2015, 4:26pm (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S7: Image in the Sand

Vic Fontaine is the shark DS9 jumped over. And Sisko's dad continues to try to upstage him in the bad-acting-department. "She's nobody at all!" Most daytime soap operas are better than that drivel.
Robert - Tue, Oct 13, 2015, 1:58pm (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S6: Tears of the Prophets

"Was it ever explained why Dax didn't go on this mission?"

Although he only specifically said ALONE, some Trekker believe that it stems from "Change of Heart" that Dax/Worf are never assigned to a mission together after that.
Luke - Tue, Oct 13, 2015, 12:54pm (USA Central)
Re: TNG S7: Dark Page


I think the little pond was supposed to be symbolic of a lake on Betazed. When Troi meets her father he says that they are at their old house by a lake on the planet.
Luke - Tue, Oct 13, 2015, 12:52pm (USA Central)
Re: TNG S7: Dark Page

Well, this sure seems to be a "love it or hate it" episode, doesn't it? Wow, I don't think I've seen an episode with the commenters so divided. At least it hasn't devolved into name calling.... yet. :P Anyway, how do I feel about "Dark Page"? Count me firmly in the "love it" camp. What the hell are some of you people talking about? This was a great episode!

"Dark Page" succeeds almost exactly where "Interface" and "Phantasms" failed. In "Interface" we were given a story about a main character's parent that we had never once been introduced to beforehand. Here we're given a backstory to a main character's parent who has been a part of the show almost since the beginning. That's exactly how you do stories like this. The audience can connect with a character we already know, even if it's Lwaxana Troi. In "Phantasms," the problem was that the dream sequences were never aided by a compelling story. Here the story is very compelling.

They took a recurring character who has been almost nothing but infuriating and actually redeemed her. Lwaxana, up to this point, was only good in her previous appearance, "Cost of Living." But this one almost makes me forgive all the dreadfully horrible uses of her earlier. Okay, not quite, but almost. Giving her a backstory like this makes a lot sense. It explains why she acts the way she does. Why is she so obsessed with Deanna? It's because she lost her other child. Why is she always so full of life (even if it's grating most of the time)? It's because she faced death in probably the two worst possible ways. She therefore subconsciously knows how important each moment has to be. Hell, it even gives an explanation for her, up until now, rather condescending nickname for Deanna - Little One. I'm sorry for all the people who disliked this episode, but I got to say it - Bravo!

The way in which the story unfolds is also wonderfully paced - even though, I will agree, that it does get rather bogged down early on with the exposition scenes about how the telepathy works. I especially loved how the viewers were expected to put several pieces together on their own instead of just having it all explained outright in the end. Case it point - what makes Lwaxana fall into the coma in the first place. It was because Hedril fell into the pond while playing - almost the exact same thing that happened to Kestra.

And Majel Barrett definitely rose to the occasion in my opinion. The climatic scene where she has her emotional breakdown with Deanna almost had me in tears - something Trek is only very rarely able to achieve. Maybe it spoke to me because I, personally, have had experiences in my past that I'd rather forget about - nothing as dramatic as the loss of a child, but it still connected with me. "Sobbing and maudlin excess"? Hardly. Whereas in "Face of the Enemy" Deanna Troi was, for 45 minutes, the most riveting character on TNG, here, for 45 minutes, Lwaxana Troi is TNG's most riveting character. And I most certainly NEVER thought I would say that!

Now, "Dark Page" is far from a perfect episode. I also could have done without the two Telepathic Care Bear Stares (even I have to admit - that was pretty funny, Jammer). It also would have been nice if Deanna had been the one to piece the clues together herself instead of relying on Picard to swoop in and discover the crucial missing link. But other than that I really can't think of much to criticize.

Some good acting, a wonderful bit of backstory and some superb character development all make this a winner in my book!

Greg - Tue, Oct 13, 2015, 12:44pm (USA Central)
Re: TOS S2: Patterns of Force

Fair at best.This episode seemed to exist merely to remind us that Nazi's were bad but very efficient. And so Kirk and Spock could try on the uniform. There is one thing I have noticed about this episode though. In the scene in which Kirk and Spock are first donning their uniforms dialogue has been cut. In the original release Spock says,"You should make a very convincing Nazi Captain." Kirk looks up and says,"Why thank you Mr. Spock, I think."
I can't imagine why the later line was cut other than maybe some one thought it might sound vaguely like Kirk was complementing the Nazi's. Any one else remember this?
Greg - Tue, Oct 13, 2015, 12:20pm (USA Central)
Re: TOS S2: Catspaw

A Star Trek Halloween episode. No more and no less. Scary when I was a kid but pretty dull now. No big questions asked or answered. Just black cats and castles. There was one joke though. Sulu and Scotty were catatonic. Yuk Yuk. About a 1.5.
For Jadzia! - Tue, Oct 13, 2015, 11:52am (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S6: Tears of the Prophets

I agree with the general sentiment about the plot holes.

Ross AND Sisko going against the Prophet's wishes is just clown-shoes. It's like in some TV shows where fantastic things happen all the time, yet nobody believes the protagonist that something fantastical has happened. Here, every single prophecy has come true. So if the "wormhole aliens", the things that prevent Dominion reinforcements from coming through, tell you to do something, it's patently stupid to not do it.
Though I will admit that Sisko choosing SF after that ridiculous ultimatum by the admiral was in line with his character - he does have that uniform fetish.

Then there's our typical problem of Sisko apparently being not only the Emissary to the Bajoran people, but also the Messiah of Star Fleet. The only dude who can do anything. Star Trek and its captain worship.

Was it ever explained why Dax didn't go on this mission? They usually take the whole merry bunch with them on every reconnaissance mission.
Her death was quite good, actually. I like that it was almost casual and not super heroic (*cough* Wrath of Khan... *cough*)
A bit sad about her, though her character was getting a bit long in the tooth...
Del_Duio - Tue, Oct 13, 2015, 11:05am (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S2: Cardassians

JMT, you're right- if you don't count Molly O'Brien. Yeesh!
Andrew - Tue, Oct 13, 2015, 9:03am (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S3: Family Business

I didn't think Ishka was unlikeable in fact (as someone somewhat fiscally conservative) I thought it was interesting albeit somewhat one-note to see a character earnestly believing in and trying to practice both capitalism and feminism and have the view that those were a lot more compatible than capitalism and sexism.
Quark in this episode OTOH was unlikeable and too inconsistent with how he had been before and Rom was mostly likeable but just a little too much.
Robert - Tue, Oct 13, 2015, 6:27am (USA Central)
Re: TNG S7: Thine Own Self

@DLPB - Strongly disagree with regards to Kira. She changes more than almost anyone else in 7 years. Although it's not because DS9 is less episodic, it's because the writers respect her changes.

Data changes quite a lot as well. Kira goes from being a terrorist who is distrustful of the Federation, hates Cardassians, doesn't understand her faith, and can't let others in... to something quite different. Her experiences soften her and leave her with a different kind of edge at the same time. She learns to care about many Cardassians, comes to believe in the Federation, makes peace with the war and so much more. I'm surprised you hit on this character because I feel her arc is one of the most satisfying ones.
Robert - Tue, Oct 13, 2015, 6:08am (USA Central)
Re: TNG S6: Chain of Command, Part I

@DLPB - Agreed. I kind of love this episode for that. Jelico probably would have failed in dozens of situations that Picard succeeded (Darmok and Watchers come to mind) but that's the beauty of using the right tool for the right job. Jelico stops the Cardassians, saves Picard and halts a war.

He's not the right man for the Ent D (IMHO), but he seems like he might have been the right man for this job. And while Riker may still not agree with all that he did, I wonder if he's a better captain now for having served with him.
Dexter - Tue, Oct 13, 2015, 4:12am (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S6: Time's Orphan

"There will be no one to grow up to become this Molly"

Muahahaha. What a load of bullshit. "This Molly" has lived alone for ten years in a cave. Literally! You have to say "literally" because it's grotesque.
Let's not deprive her of that experience! Don't erase that part and replace it with ten years of happy childhood.

Isn't this the dream of a lot of people? To do things over again. Don't most of think sometimes: "Ah, if I could go back to this moment 10 years ago and do things differently."
And that is people who just think they didn't study hard enough in college or shouldn't have broken up with their s/o.
This girl had 10 years of solitary confinement - that *really* is something you'd want to forget.

Imagine Bashir using this logic in the episode where O'Brien gets the fake memories of being imprisoned for 20 years. "Well Miles, we *could* erase those memories, but we'd be killing of this new you." -- "F*** You, Bashir."
Pam - Tue, Oct 13, 2015, 12:48am (USA Central)
Re: TOS S2: Catspaw

"Captain. A little more alacrity, if you please."
John - Tue, Oct 13, 2015, 12:41am (USA Central)
Re: TNG S6: The Quality of Life

Hated this episode. I hated it so much that I searched online for places where people discuss TNG episodes so that I could see if others hated it as much as I do.

I do not hate it for bad writing, bad character development or any other typical critique of film/TV.

I hated Data in this episode.

First of all, Data shows way too much emotion in this. He tests the exocomps 34 times after they tested it as a group. he expresses loneliness when he explains why he wants so damn badly for these little pieces of crap to be considered "alive."

Let's forget for a moment the absurdity of a simple tool, which is programmed to do (relatively) simple tasks and has, at best, a rudimentary form of AI (to identify a problem in the facility and fix it) somehow learning to preserve itself...and better yet, to "sacrifice" itself to save his little robot pals. As a software developer I am fully aware that machines do exactly what you tell them to do and absolutely nothing more.

Let's say these little crapbots are "living." Data decides, because he is feeling lonely (no emotions, eh?), that he is willing to kill the captain and jordi just to save these three buckets of bolts. The humans, who are obviously an infinitely higher form of life and sentience than exocmps, that Data considers "friends" are less important than these things?

If i were Riker, after seeing Data screwed over the only chance to save the captain and jordi, I would have told Data that not only was he going to be powered off, he was going to be ground up in a man-sized blender and his metal bits shot into space. Oh, and I would've included his precious, precious exo buddies in the blender as well. I then would have ordered Data to turn around, angrily fingered Data's power hole and done just that.

But before doing so, I would have powered him back on, then asked Data how he "felt" about his upcoming doom...since all the sudden he could feel so much love for his scrap-metal compadres. Then, in the middle of Data's response, I would have shoved my fingers back into his coin slot and made good on my promise.

I truly hated Data in this episode and cheered audibly for the Dr who created the robots.

Oh, and Crusher pissed me off, too. After he whining about being nice to ol' Hue the friendly Borg, she would've been packing in minutes.
Rikko - Mon, Oct 12, 2015, 11:47pm (USA Central)
Re: TNG S3: Menage a Troi

Worst episode of the season, imo. Captain's Holiday was bad, but this is terrible.

Funny enough, this was the first time I actually liked Lwaxana. But the Ferengi and the plot around him was the worst. Actually, I think the actors weren't that bad, nobody was acting badly iirc. It was just the script that sucked, the things they had to say and do were bad because of the script.

And even then, I liked Picard's "love" speech, and Wesley has an uniform now! (No more awkward 80s sweaters, yay). But, and I said this before, enjoying just a fun speech at the end is like going back to square one. More exactly, going back to Season 1. No wonder Luke recalled "Justice", that one episode also had a nice speech near the end (and only that).
Rikko - Mon, Oct 12, 2015, 10:55pm (USA Central)
Re: TNG S3: Sarek

I loved this episode!

The allegory of old age and ilness was really well done, a theme that's so universal that it makes this episode timeless. Also, the acting. I almost felt the "Irrelevant" scene was a bit over the top, as SkepticalMI said, but any doubts of this episode's quality were erased by the end of it.

I loved the mindmeld scene for all the reasons stated above and for something more: this is pure TNG optimism right here. Sarek's problem is everyone else's problems too. While they can't cure him, they can at least help him bear this burden. And you see Beverly Crusher helping Picard as well.

Btw, this is once again* a great way to bridge TNG with TOS, something the previous seasons couldn't do well at all. One of the greatest strenghts of S3.

* The other time (imo) was with the first Romulan episodes of the season. They made me care for that alien race, and at the same time, I acknowledged their importance in the overall universe of Star Trek.
Peremensoe - Mon, Oct 12, 2015, 10:02pm (USA Central)
Re: ENT S4: In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I

Peter, i's probably best to think of this as a *different* "mirror" universe/timeline than the one K&S see.
DLPB - Mon, Oct 12, 2015, 9:04pm (USA Central)
Re: TNG S6: Chain of Command, Part I

Picard wouldn't go as far as mining anything. Jellico got results Picard never could have.
JMT - Mon, Oct 12, 2015, 5:15pm (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S2: Cardassians

One thing I'll say that DS9 has over TNG is the use of child actors. I was also impressed with how pulled into the Garak/Bashir/Dukat dynamic I became. I'm viewing this for the first time so I don't know how everything is going to turn out, but neither Garak nor Dukat really strike me as having anybody but their own interests at heart.

I disagreed with Sisko's choice, and I can certainly see the other side of the issue, but it's disconcerting that the authors felt no need to explain his position. Maybe this is meant to make the Sisko character come off as wise and mysterious, but without the explanation the decision comes off as arbitrary.
Peter - Mon, Oct 12, 2015, 3:52pm (USA Central)
Re: ENT S4: In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I

I quite liked the realisation of the Tholian as a crystalline arachnid.
If the Terran Empire had access to TOS technology 100 years prematurely then by the time Kirk and Co have their transporter accident the Terran empire would be at TNG or beyond levels of technology so, just like season 2's Regeneration, this makes zero sense but I guess it isn't supposed to.

Midriff revealing costumes for the girls?Well this is just a reference to Uhura's bare belly in the equivalent TOS episode-but a century later-now that is one prevalent fashion!
William B - Mon, Oct 12, 2015, 12:24pm (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S3: The Die Is Cast

I like "The Die is Cast" very much, but I do admit that I do not love it as much as some here. There are some big-scale reasons which I will get to, but overall I also just find that in line-to-line dialogue it is weaker than the sparkling precedent set by part I. In particular, nearly every scene in "Improbable Cause" was a highlight in its own way, but I found that nearly all the scenes on the Defiant or station and even some of the scenes on the warbird with Tain or Lovok were competent but unexceptional. By itself, this does not damage the episode too badly, but I also wanted to explain some of why I do think that "IC" is the better episode of the two overall as well as for specific reasons. That said, "The Die is Cast" is a gripping hour in its own right, and if I don't think it is as strong as "IC," well, that is hardly anything for anyone involved to be ashamed of.

So: "IC" ended with Garak and Odo's investigation leading to them getting into a final state where Garak's people and Odo's people are heading for a dramatic confrontation. This episode continues and pays that off, and in a sense the episode is the personal story of Garak and Odo surrounded by behemoths: the three major players in this are Tain (who essentially *IS* the Obsidian Order, in this episode) the Founders, and Sisko & the Defiant, the neutral-ish Federation presence in the background. The Tal Shiar are of course relevant, but they are double-dupes: no significant Romulan characters appear in this episode, as the Romulans followed Tain's dead-end plan *and* the Lovok Founder's manipulations. So Garak and Odo started on DS9, which is Bajoran but essentially is protected by the Federation, investigate until they found a fundamental clash between Garak's "people" and Odo's "people," and end up back as outsiders in the Federation-Bajoran space. Obviously the episode parallels them, but watch how closely: in particular, the final shot of "Improbable Cause," with Garak and Tain shaking hands and Odo standing between them in the background, is closely repeated when Odo refuses the Lovok Founder's offer to join (Link) with him, with Garak's face in the background between the two.

So from an Odo-centric read, we can somewhat see what Garak goes through in this episode as a demonstration of the strength that Odo managed to find, and the devastating consequences should Odo have *not* mantained that strength. Tain and the Female Shapeshifter both have parental/mentor/peer ambiguous relationships with Garak and Odo (though the quasi-romantic component to Odo and FS is seemingly absent with Garak and Tain), and in both cases there is something manipulative and even abusive about the way Garak and Odo are treated. The Founders, after all, sent Odo and other baby changelings out into the universe which *they* consider to be so hostile that they have no choice but to conquer all of it, with the expectation that they will *eventually* come back to them, and so are directly responsible for Odo's lifelong feelings of loneliness and alienation, which, if not for the wormhole, would have lasted another couple hundred years before he had any chance of returning to his people, and in which he would obviously suffer tremendous persecution. Even then, in "The Search" they insisted on keeping him apart from his people until he could pass several arbitrary tests, while they ran cruel experiments on his companions. Tain is just a bit more explicit about what he is doing: he literally had just tried to kill Garak, but his belief that Garak coming to find him did show genuine character nad loyalty allows him to come back. And Tain, throughout the episode, does his benevolent, jolly mentor figure routine, all while putting Garak in more and more compromising positions, as if to test him. *Maybe* Tain was telling the truth that he will spare Mila if Garak wants him to, or that he won't hold it against Garak if Garak refuses to torture Odo for information, but his bringing these up at all suggest a careful effort to push Garak's buttons as well as to provide the type of carefully portioned out praise along with ambiguous undertones of threats that manipulate Garak into servitude.

The spectre of "Julius Caesar" from part one is all over this episode, most obviously at the end when Garak quotes it. Garak's belief in part I that no man of Caesar's stature could be so foolish and trusting obviously underscores how Garak throws himself into the service of the man who had just tried to kill him. So Garak has a massive blind spot where his feelings for Tain are concerned, which seems to be mostly undeniable...but I think it's not quite that simple. I think Garak *knows* how much he cares about Tain, how much he wants his approval, and indeed I think he knows how compromising that truly is, of his entire philosophy, and of Tain's entire philosophy. If he is a skillful enough liar and manipulator, he can make the weakness of his personal attachment to Tain appear as honourable loyalty, service to the state, or whatever. But in the end it is love, with big dashes of insecurity, which I really suspect that Tain created and exploited fairly deliberately. Garak feels incomplete when he does not have Tain's approval, just as Odo has *programmed* hard-to-control urges to return to the Founders' planet (from "The Search"). What Garak frames as professionalism and statism is a wounded child's need for approval, and I think Garak knows this more than he lets on, but has to hide from others and himself.

As it happens, Garak also has a conscience. The story about Garak staring at a doctor for several hours until he confessed weirdly makes it seem as if even at his worst period as a torturer, Garak was using imaginative, rule-breaking methods to find ways to be good at his job and to avoid detection without actually hurting people more than is necessary. But whether he had genuine compassion in those days, or whether it has taken his own coming to terms with and recognizing his own pain to be able to feel for others, is hard to say. With Odo, Garak is not bad at finding ways to avoid causing Odo undue pain, both before and after the central interrogation, but of course there is the key moment of the episode. Garak tortures Odo. He jokes that of course Odo should be upset, because Garak has declared his undying loyalty to the Federation and his personal friendship for Odo, but Garak has to know he responsible for dragging Odo into this investigation, if nothing else. Garak starts going through the motions, and puts on his best interrogator face, but soon things have gotten out of hand, Odo is in agony and Garak is begging him to break, because Garak needs to get *something* out of him, or else Garak's position at Tain's side is over. ("Lie if you have to!") And then when Odo finally confesses his desperate desire to rejoin his people, Garak lies about it and risks himself a little bit more to save Odo. I do think that Garak needed the *personal* experience of dominating Odo to prove that he "deserved" to be at Tain's side; he needed to prove that he was still an interrogator and a cold, hard member of the Obsidian Order rather than a tailor, and wanted to recapture some of the sadistic glee of a job well done. But on the way he merely discovers that he has lost some of the taste for it, and that Odo *wanted* to rejoin his people, and didn't...probably because it was wrong.

In "Improbable Cause," Garak's angrily demanding whether Odo cared about anyone had the tinge of defensiveness to it: he was saying, in a sense, "You cannot understand my actions, because you do not know what it means to care about someone." It was as close an admission as he made in "IC," and for much of this episode, that his willingness to take risks for Tain was actually irrational by Garak's stated value system, and -- as it turns out -- given that Tain is a killer, who in this episode talks about offing his beloved maid of decades because she Knows Too Much, morally indefensible. But as much as Garak does not want to admit to it, he has sentiment, and in that conversation with Odo he managed to make the subject, at least in part, about Odo's lack of feelings rather than Garak's own sentimentality. But with Odo's having a strong, overpowering desire to return to his people and his managing to hide that all this time, *and* to stay strong in the face of the possibility of rejoining them, Garak somewhat loses what rationalizations he had for joining Tain so readily. Odo is the strong one, and Garak the weak one. And this strong/weak pattern is repeated as Odo rejects Lovok's offer later in the episode -- though his own admission also allows Odo the space to express more openly his sympathy and empathy for Garak's choice.

And Tain is the bad guy here. It really is not just that he is bad for Garak, and bad for Odo. His preemptive strike on the Founders' homeworld, like Jack D. Ripper's plan in "Dr. Strangelove" (one of the bigger touchstones for this season), is designed with long-term dominance in mind: if Tain's initial strike on the Founders does not work, then the rest of the Cardassian and Romulan Empires will be responsible for carrying it out. Tain decides for his whole Empire that they go to war, despite ostensibly being retired. That Tain chooses this moment to come out of retirement suggests, too, that while he no doubt does believe that the Dominion poses a major threat, he also is using this massive strike as a way of launching himself into the public sphere (and into power) again; that committing genocide on an enemy and taking major risks with his own people (and no doubt condemning many to death) is essentially a move driven by career and ego. Without getting into the ethics of killing the Founders here, if the assault on the Founders did *not* succeed, as, it turns out, it didn't, it would absolutely confirm the Founders' worst suspicions about the trustworthiness of solids and would make the Cardassian (and Romulan) empires absolutely necessary targets for attack and domination, eliminating the slightest hope for any alternate strategies. And of course, he is foolish -- if the Dominion is such a threat, should he not be concerned about them having any listening posts at all in the AQ which can warn the Founders of his sneak attack once he sends out a MESSAGE TO THE CARDASSIAN CENTRAL COMMAND OF HIS PLAN? Of course, Lovok is also the bad guy here -- Lovok Founder tells us that while Tain originated the idea, the Founders stoked it, which is a form of what they call entrapment when police pose as drug dealers, and is a hell of a lot worse when it is essentially causing massive mobilization of fleets, under orders, into a trap and to their deaths. However...really, Garak and Odo have essentially no impact on the larger-scale actions going on around them, in this episode. Maybe in the future -- but not now. What I think the backdrop realy does for the characters is to emphasize the similarity of Garak and Odo's predicament, and to underline the tragedy of both their positions -- Odo's living in permanent "willing" exile, and Garak's betraying himself and values he did not particularly believe he had in a somewhat undignified willingness to go back to his supervillain mentor. Odo tried to some degree to tell Garak how dangerous Tain was, but Garak did not listen, and after briefly asking whether the Central Command or Starfleet should be informed, largely dropped criticizing Tain at all.

When the trap is finally revealed, Garak, who has been *inching* away from full-on commitment to Tain, immediately recognizes it for what it is, and insists that they must try to escape while they still can, while Lovok continues the trap and Tain wonders with frustration what is happening. It is here that Garak quotes "I'm afraid the fault, dear Tain, is not in our stars but in ourselves," which I think signals that at this point Garak understands that Tain's plan was obviously flawed and hubristic, inflated by Tain's own ego dreams...which Garak can recognize because he is able to recognize the same things about himself. Garak's need for mentor approval and a place in society renders his reasons for following Tain more sympathetic than Tain's reasons for his actions, I think, but Tain's blindness to his betrayers is as much motivated by personal failings/cognitive biases as by anything so prosaic as bad luck. Garak then runs to get Odo, which signals his total willingness to abandon Tain's plan, but he goes back for Tain himself; now the roles of mentor/protege are slightly reversed, and Garak tries to use his superior grasp of the situation to get Tain out of there, which fails. Odo punches Garak and drags him away. Garak's love for Tain, then, led to Garak's following Tain's evil and stupid plan in the hopes of winning Tain's approval, until the plan fell apart enough for Garak to trust his own judgment again...at which point Tain was too far gone to help. I have my suspicions that this reflects a repetition of the earlier dynamic: Garak's insistence that he never betrayed Tain, not really, and that he did what he did for Tain before his exile, suggests that at that time, too, there was a conflict between Garak's caring about what is actually good for Tain (love) and his need to follow Tain's orders (approval); this time, he seemed content to let approval win out over love, until it was too late. Odo comes across as the stronger of the two, and most of what Garak got out of the experience is his own failure to trust his own instincts and values, which over time have developed further apart from Tain's. He ends up back on the station, again in exile, his mentor dead and Garak having failed to save him. But Odo, who could just as easily be Garak and give up everything he has built for himself to be with his people, is sympathetic -- and so there is something good out of this, after all, as things go back to the way they were, and Garak realizes that despite his half-formed hopes, this life is his life, and really truly is no longer an interrogator (and hurt himself and others trying to be one):

"You know what the sad part, Odo? I'm a very good tailor."

I should add that I love that, in the Odo interrogation scene, the key to tormenting Odo is forcing him to remain permanently a solid; one of the clever ideas about that need to regenerate is that the difficulty that Odo has remaining permanently part of the humanoid is represented by his *literal, physical agony* when he is allowed no access to his changeling-ness at all. I suspect that part of the reason that Odo ultimately forgives Garak so readily for the torture is not just that Garak also saved his life, and not even just that he identifies with Garak and understands why Garak did what he did, but also that in some ways it was a relief for Odo to express the pain of his separation from his people; having someone who *knows* how painful this existence is for Odo, Garak having seen a physical manifestation of it and having heard Odo's speaking of it, is important to Odo, and he also genuinely has a personal feeling of connection to Garak and his plight, which goes far beyond the professional interest that caught his attention in "IC." I suspect, in the end, that the connection forged here suggests that some of Odo's interest in part one, especially as they got closer and closer to Garak's relationship with Tain, may have been some level of recognition of the similarity of Garak's plight to his own.

The Garak/Odo material in this episode really is wonderful, as is the way the Garak/Tain and Odo/Founders material parallel each other. I also do quite like the grand narrative of Tain's failed attack on the Founders' homeworld and how his individual hubris, exploited by the Founders, destabilizes the quadrant. In the overall story of Cardassia in this series, I think it's worth talking about how individuals like Tain and Dukat succeed based on ideals that Cardassians build up -- military might, careful strategic alliances, strength -- and ultimately do tremendous damage to Cardassia in those exact same ways; the Cardassian statist, militarist system builds up hubristic dictators into making devastating mistakes for ego-driven reasons, which means that the bad things that happen to Cardassia in the series are fully believable and also a repudiation of the worst parts of their philosophy.

The DS9/Defiant material, on the other hand, I could take or leave, but mostly leave. I find Bashir's scene with O'Brien at the beginning amusing and Bashir's concern over Garak in general touching. Other than that, the whole plot being variations on the question of whether Sisko et al. will go to rescue Garak and Odo was frustrating and a little pointless. As Elliott pointed out above, Lovok made a point of saying he wouldn't kill Odo, so why let him go in the Runabout if it was going to be shot down? Lovok could surely have given out an order if he was serious about protecting Odo, which I think he was. So I don't think the Defiant saving Odo and Garak was necessary on a plot level, although thematically I do think that Odo and Garak need to rely on the Federation/Starfleet/Sisko to save them makes some sense.

What bothers me, particularly given where this series will go, is the casualness with which everyone reacts to Tain's plan. Tain said in "IC" that Starfleet won't interfere because it isn't their fight, and, yeah, that makes sense. Still, the way Toddman says that people think that Tain et al. might really succeed suggests that everyone is hoping that the Founders will be wiped out. Blood would not be on the Federation's hands, but shouldn't someone, at least idealistic Bashir, point out that this is genocide, to say nothing of the fact that there has been so little Dominion activity in the Alpha Quadrant that, despite the Dominion's general warnings, this is pretty unprovoked. If the Defiant is going to mobilize because of Odo, should at least someone not suggest mobilizing to warn their enemies who, ultimately, *did* let the Defiant go in "The Search"? I maybe have my head in the clouds here, and I accept that is a possibility, and I do not demand that Sisko et al. ultimately make a decision to risk war with the Cardassians and Romulans to save the Founders, but still, I wish that *someone* had made the point of how bad this is for the Obisidian Order and Tal Shiar to do, and to consider whether they have a moral obligation to warn the Founders. I don't particularly think that it would be appropriate to spend time on this matter within this episode, because it's got enough material for Odo and Garak -- which is why that my preferred strategy would be to excise this material entirely, and have Tain *not* send a message out describing his plan, so that the question of what the appropriate actions for Starfleet to take would not be necessary in the story at all. And further, well, if the Cardassians and Romulans fail it might well be a good idea for the Federation to get ahead of things by telling the Founders that they condemn this genocidal sneak attack on the homeworld, which was planned to be a total destruction and not capture. This would of course make the Federation be in opposition to the Tal Shiar and the Obsidian Order, which might be bad news...but it is worth considering here.

Meanwhile, the material with Toddman's orders and Eddington and then Sisko going anyway and O'Brien is mad, etc., just seems like a waste when there are other, more interesting subjects to explore. That Toddman anticipates Sisko disobeying direct orders, and then Sisko not only does so, but then circumvents Toddman's actions done to anticipate him, means that Sisko should be in a hell of a lot more trouble than he is at the episode's end. But Toddman might promote him, because, um...well, he did get Odo back, I guess, which is good, I guess, but really, had the Jem'Hadar launched an attack on the station while they were gone, there would be no one there to protect them until reinforcements arrive. And certainly, don't send the WHOLE STATION CREW on the Defiant, the way they always do -- leave Kira, Bashir, whoever behind. The whole crew going on the Defiant leaving the station with probably Quark in charge is something that annoys me on a regular basis so I do not hold it *particularly* against this episode, but I do think this is a worse example than usual.

All that said, I think that the DS9/Defiant material can mostly be ignored. I guess ultimately the Garak and Odo material is strong enough, in conjunction with the effective action-y main plot, that I will go to 4 stars. This means that s3 is an extreme rarity: two 4-star shows, no 3.5-star shows.
William B - Mon, Oct 12, 2015, 10:50am (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S3: Improbable Cause

This two-parter still intimidates me but I'm going to roll up my sleeves and try to write a little about it:

Part of the fun of the pairing of Odo and Garak in this episode is that their *deliberately crafted identities* are ones of order and chaos. Odo values "justice" but we've already had the big hint from the Female Shapeshifter that what he cares most about is order; Odo seeks out the truth to resolve what is not resolved. It is his job and he is good at it. Garak's tailor job is orderly in some respects, but it is also chaotic -- stitching together disparate fabrics to make final products -- and his approach to his personal life, outside the tailor job, is to obfuscate, lie, destroy. Garak is the man who blows up his own shop. He runs around tying knots for Odo to untie. These first-order order/chaos identities really are just first-order. Odo's job in security and information is something like we imagine Garak's job may have been in the past, except that the Obsidian Order is far more ruthless. Odo now has contacts that Garak no longer has. And with people he knows dying, Garak is in a bind: he needs to unravel the mystery to save his life, and possibly others as well, but he wants to do so in a way that does not unravel his *own* mysteries, which are his own form of security.

"The Wire" did not reveal the details of Garak's previous life, since he told lie after lie, but they made clear how much his Plain Simple Garak tailor identity was an illusion crafted to hold himself together. He needed the wire to maintain his artificial positive attitude, and when that broke down, his whole identity broke down, leaving him scrambling for others for a time. But at the episode's end, Bashir saved him and Garak returned to the Plain Simple identity, despite Bashir now knowing that this is fake, because at least it is somewhat bearable. By blowing up his own shop, Garak starts by opening the door to the destruction of his current identity -- which he admits gives him a thrill -- which is his way of signalling to Odo (and perhaps the killers themselves) that he is in danger, and not who he says he is, without admitting openly to anything. Garak's security comes from the stability of his identity, but it also traps him; with his shop gone, he can then lie and lie to avoid being vulnerable, but hope that Odo can find out what is really happening to him, find the missing pieces in Garak's own view. And -- honestly -- I think that Garak's blowing up his own shop also means that Garak *hopes* on some level that whatever danger he is in will make his life on the station untenable, that maybe even a time of reckoning is at hand and he may just be able to rejoin Cardassia...though he cannot admit that.

Much of this episode is a tour-de-force of investigative work, moving from detective story to mystery-spy thriller to, eventually, war story as the scope of the matter expands outward; Odo unravels Garak's deceptions skillfully, actually shocking Garak (which delights Odo, one of whose relatively few real pleasures is to catch the perp in the act), tracks down the potential assassin, discovers the Romulan involvement, and finds that Tain's associates have died. "Necessary Evil" similarly had Odo moving outward, to some degree, in an investigation that began small and expanded, and this time Odo seems to recognize, on some level, that he is reaching the limit of where it is wise to proceed; when he and Garak go tracking down Tain, Odo seems somewhat to be trying to dissuade Garak...and yet Odo's curiosity is far too powerful to shut that down. The Runabout scene, coming after Garak has given Odo the figurative runabout all episode, has Garak turn Odo's surgical personality strikes against him, deliberately using Odo's own language ("it has been my observation...") to express some frustration at Odo's lack offeeling, with the hint of rising anger at Odo's judgment that Garak is going off on a maybe-suicidal mission to find Tain, probably anger because Garak is right. Regardless of the reasons, both are tied in to need resolution to this puzzle. That Garak's motivation for all this is deeply personal interests Odo, whose careful observation of humanoids means that he must eventually recognize the personal motivations at te root of most of their behaviour; Odo's outside-observer status makes his own interest in the investigation about a certain distaste for disorder...unless he can also identify, somehow, with Garak.

That the episode deliberately contrasts Odo/Garak with Bashir/Garak is a particular bright spot. Garak ends up having a major episode with several members of the cast -- "The Wire" among others with Bashir, this one with Odo, and (SPOILER) later things like "Empok Nor" with O'Brien, "In the Pale Moonlight" with Sisko, and, um, "Afterimage" with Ezri, in addition to his key involvement in several arc eps. Garak is fully, personally Garak while also doing his own form of shapeshifting depending on who he is with. Bashir tries to impart to Garak the value of telling the truth, tries to communicate to Garak that it is a trait of human(oid)s that they end up trusting those close to them, even if it hurts them, and ends up offering Garak chocolates as he goes away; Garak jokes with him and spars with him, and it's a game and also affectionate. Bashir is a kind of bright, lonely guy who takes pleasure in intellectual pursuits and discussions, and that aspect of Garak is brought out in his Bashir scenes. Odo cuts straight through the fun of sparring, and the slight hint of sadistic pleasure Odo gets when he shows Garak that he can play Garak's game better than him, and then flip the board over in his face, demonstrates that Odo, who makes careful observation of others his purpose work in the absence of his ability to live his own life, is playing for keeps. Often lonely and somewhat isolated due to his intellect as he is, Bashir he cannot quite grasp the level of alienation that Odo and Garak have, and those two *begin*, in an adversarial way, to connect on that level in this episode.

Garak's accusations that Odo cannot understand the personal nature of what happens turns out to be relevant for the test: as in "Necessary Evil," at the end of the investigation is something personal for Odo as well as for Garak, and it turns out that their extremely shaky alliance now puts them very clearly on opposite sides. Odo and Garak were both on the station, but on this seemingly neutral Romulan warbird their species allegiances suddenly come to the fore: Odo is a changeling who must be locked up by Tain, and Garak is a Cardassian who once more might return to the fold. As to the consequences of this, well, this is the subject of "The Die is Cast"; for now, I'll note that Odo drops pretense of acting as judge of Garak's behaviour on moral grounds when Garak seems to be making the disastrous move of reuniting with Tain, and starts moving straight for trying to reason with Garak: *this man is bad for you*. Garak does not listen.

4 stars.
Andrew - Mon, Oct 12, 2015, 9:32am (USA Central)
Re: TOS S1: Charlie X

I thought Charlie was somewhat sympathetic at first but quickly became and for a long time remained very evil so for Kirk to try to help in the end at all was very impressive.
Luke - Mon, Oct 12, 2015, 8:46am (USA Central)
Re: TNG S7: Phantasms

"Phantasms" is yet another episode that doesn't raise above its premise. An eerie atmosphere, surreal imagery, dream sequences, etc. can work. "Violations" and "Schisms" were examples of that to one degree or another. But here, like so many things in late TNG, it just falls flat.

I'm reminded of a moment in "Tapestry," which I'll paraphrase - "never [comes] into focus, [drifts] with no plan or agenda, going from one assignment to the next, never seizing the opportunities that [present] themselves." What we have here is a simple series of whimsical/goofy scenes that are loosely tied together with the idea that the Enterprise is being invaded by invisible creatures. It all flows together but never once feels like it means anything other than an excuse to have, as Jammer says, weirdness for weirdness' sake. We go from a scene of Data fighting the workers to Data watching Spot sleep to the cake sequence to a counseling session with Sigmund Freud to Data having waking dreams to more dream sequences until we finally get a resolution. Okay, all of that is okay for what it is, but it leaves me thinking - now what, what was the point? Brannon Braga can often make stories like this work, but this one never really achieves liftoff. And speaking of "never seizing opportunities," why isn't Troi involved in the holodeck search through Data's dream? You would think that would be something the Ship's Counselor, the one who is specifically trained in the interpretation of dreams, would be on hand for. Instead, they have the Chief Engineer and the Captain doing it. Um, okay. Why isn't Troi used here?! They, instead, have her confined to a Sickbay bed for no apparent reason - everyone, like her, is infected with the creatures and Crusher healed her stab wounds. Instead of actually using the character for something she would be helpful in they decide to just drop her from the story. If that doesn't tell you about how woefully misused Troi is as a character, I don't know what will. But then, what also does it say that Data got just as much good counseling advice from Sigmund Freud (a guy who had some good but a whole lot of bad things to say) as he did from Troi!

But, despite all that, "Phantasms" is just average. What really harms it, however, are the two sub-plots. So, one of the pieces of "drama" is that Picard REALLY doesn't want to go to a banquet with a bunch of admirals. Well, zip-a-dee-fucking-doo-dah! This is what passes for tension now? This?! Picard doesn't want to spend a few hours schmoozing with his superiors because he finds it tedious? Who the fuck cares?! It can't be more tedious than this concept. I've often defended Season Seven against people who say it was the season where they ran out of ideas, but - damn - those people might have a point about this one! (Though, I will say, given some of the things Picard likes to do for "fun," if he finds something tedious and boring then it most likely is. :P) Then there's the sub-plot of the ensign with a crush on LaForge. Braga, I'm trying to defend you here and will admit that you can produce some really quality stuff, but sometimes you make that awfully hard. Had the man even watched this show before him wrote this stuff? Had he seen what LaForge's "love life" has consisted of? He's been routinely shown to be so desperate for love that he's often willing to fall for women he hasn't even met! Now he's got an attractive woman who is also an engineer literally throwing herself at him and.... he's just not interested? Did I miss a memo here or something?! Talk about out of character!

But, in the end, it does have some genuinely enjoyable scenes like Worf with Spot and Data's attack on Troi, so I won't be too harsh with it.

John - Mon, Oct 12, 2015, 3:19am (USA Central)
Re: VOY S2: Lifesigns

Crying? Seriously? The Doctor programmed the woman's holographic body to shed tears? That's.......interesting.
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