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- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 7:47pm (USA Central)
The Inner Light
Ah, okay, I just realized one flaw in my first paragraph -- the family (sans Eline and Batai Sr.) were going to "the launching" excitedly and so presumably knew what was being launched. So, okay, that part of my argument is not so solid -- Kamin's family, within the probe's simulated universe, presumably approved of the probe. But the way in which Kamin's family are "good people" is personal, local -- rather than on a larger scale of the Kataan civilization. I think the episode encourages a rosy picture of Kamin's-family-as-community rather than Kataanians-as-probe-makers, is my point.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 7:40pm (USA Central)
The Inner Light
I'm not so sure that we are expected to think the Kataanian probe-makers are unquestionably good guys. Despite Eline being the voice of the probe's purpose at the end of the simulation, Eline, Meribor, Batai etc. seemingly had no involvement in the probe's construction, and so the parts of Kataan that Picard-as-Kamin comes to love are not necessarily the same part of the civilization that decided on the probe itself. The guy who says that they do have a plan is the commissioner fellow that Kamin has a somewhat chilly, distant relationship with. The Enterprise crew spend their whole time trying to stop what the probe is doing and just disagree on how. Riker gives Picard information at the end, but does not comment on it. Picard is *not* objective, but even he does not state that he approves of the probe. Picard-as-Kamin states that he understands, Eline et al. explain the probe's purpose, and that ends. There is no dialogue where Riker states that he now understands of the probe's purpose and that he approves of it, and is sorry for having tried to stop it. There is no dialogue where Picard explains to Riker the probe's meaning and its importance and why that justifies what it did to him. The crew's suspicion of the probe is never repudiated by their changing their behaviour, and Picard makes no steps to comment on it to the crew on screen. TNG's talkiness is sometimes overstated, but most episodes end with some sort of debrief where the position of the episode's protagonist and perhaps opposing opinions are reiterated. It is not that I think that the episode is presenting arguments *against* the Kataan probe. There are ways the episode argues in favour of it indirectly -- by having Picard-as-Kamin insist on the need for some way to save the civilization, for example, and of course by the fact that Picard *does* feel an attachment to Kataan and Ressik via the flute. But I don't take his emotional reaction purely as *approval* or as some statement on the goodness of the probe manufacturers.
Rather, I think Picard is humbled, dazed and moved by what has happened to him and has not the emotional context to evaluate the actions of a whole civilization which was dying -- nor does he feel the need to. Maybe that would come eventually, and I have no doubt that Picard has had something happen to him that is bigger than his ability to handle -- which means that the Stockholm Syndrome experience of loving his tormentors is a possible interpretation. But this strikes me as a particularly non-didactic episode of this show. This is how a planet responds to its destruction; this is what happens to Picard; this is how he feels. Responses to this obviously vary. The episode may manipulate in terms of getting the audience to *feel* what Picard feels, but that is distinct from a moral approval of the planet's last message into the darkness, which is left almost entirely unexamined, neither approved nor condemned but simply let to be as an imaginative experiment. Whether the lack of debate over the justness of what the Kataan probe does is a serious flaw in this episode or the result of this episode's focus being understandably elsewhere is a point about which people can disagree, though I am pretty firmly in the camp that the episode's focus being elsewhere is very much justified.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 3:49pm (USA Central)
The Man Trap
"He's dead, Jim."
Classic line, first reel before the first commercial of the first episode. Other than that... :-D
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 2:29pm (USA Central)
The Inner Light
Good point. I'll admit that I forgot about those people who die in "Q Who?". Given the choice between death and a lifetime forced on you, I'd gladly chose the lifetime of experience. Still, Q wasn't directly responsible for those deaths. Indirectly, he was absolutely responsible. But he, himself, didn't pull the trigger, so to speak; the Borg did. All he did was set the stage. To hold him accountable, we'd also have to hold Picard accountable since he also helped set the stage by refusing to follow Guinan's advice of "get out of Dodge as quickly as possible." In fact, to be honest, we don't even know what exactly happened to those people. They could be dead or they could have been assimilated; we just don't know. The episode itself, if I'm remembering correctly, only says they are "missing." And, I don't think that "Q Who?" expects the audience to think that Q is unquestionably the good guy like we're expected to think the Kataanians are. He's not presented as clearly a bad guy but not as clearly the good guy either.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 1:39pm (USA Central)
The Inner Light
I mean, Tapestry maybe, but eighteen people die in Q Who. Maybe a quick death is preferable to a lifetime positive experience, but I very much don't personally think that's true in this case.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 1:21pm (USA Central)
The Inner Light
"The probe would be less ethically dubious if it got his permission..."
You know, that's something I never considered but now that I think about it, it would have eliminated so many of the problems I have with the episode. If the writers had re-worked the script so that Picard agreed to it instead of having it forced on him, I would find the story much more moving. Instead of having the probe simply lock onto whoever it encounters, it instead comes with an automated greeting - something along the lines of "we offer you a chance to experience our world as it was, come aboard our probe for further instructions if you're interested." Picard then decides that any archaeologist worth his salt would never refuse such an opportunity and so beams over with Crusher (to monitor him during the "procedure") and Worf (for possible protection).
That would solve the problem of the mind-rape. It could also solve the problem I have with the coda. Instead of Picard's playing of the flute being disturbing (or bittersweet as the show-runners intended) it's now something more triumphant and I could buy his deep connection to it since it wouldn't be burdened by the bad subtext. Also, a simple line toward the end about it being possible for others to now experience the same "procedure" would solve the problem of "all your eggs in one basket." There would still be the problem of the over-the-top schmaltz. But, it would be a drastic improvement none-the-less because I do agree that the Kataanians do have something worthwhile to impart - it's just the method of delivery that really kills it for me.
I don't think you're comparison with Q in "Q Who?" and "Tapestry" quite works, however. Q indeed forced some experiences on them in "Q Who?" but he didn't make them live entire lives as Borg drones. And in "Tapestry," he didn't force Picard to live another life with his new altered past. Q was trying to teach a lesson in both instances, just like the Kataanians are trying to do, but his methods don't strike me as quite as morally reprehensible as theirs do.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:57am (USA Central)
I think this is the first episode where you really see the crew coming together. It had been in development for some time, with Bashir-Miles's friendship and Odo repudiating the Changelings in The Search Part 2. Now you see they have really developed into a team reminiscent of TNG.
I would have liked to have seen more of the Trill homeworld but that is only a minor point.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:53am (USA Central)
I agree in your review about Trek love stories. This is not a good episode. It reminds me of a lot of flimsy TNG mid-season Troi episodes: ''Troi falls in love with a member of an alien specie. It does not work because he devotes himself to his life's work (the sub plot) or dies or something or other. There is a Crusher love story involving a Trill which also is similar.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:48am (USA Central)
Good episode. There is an episode in TNG which this is a virtual remake of, 'Suddenly Human' (S4) with the exception that here the Jem Hader is a Jem Hader whereas in Suddenly Human it is a human boy who has been brought up as a member of an obscure hostile alien race. It is the same premise, an (ultimately doomed) attempt to teach someone inherently hostile (because of their upbringing) the merits of peace, civility, humour, etc, - there is even a scene in which they try to make him laugh in both episodes. The ending is a bit different though.
There is more than a bit of I, Borg also thrown into The Abandoned.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:39am (USA Central)
Voyager looks so small compared to the people standing on it. I don't think it's big enough.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:37am (USA Central)
The House of Quark
It is a nice comic interlude episode, what I call a typical Trek 'coasting' episode where there is a bit of comedy and character development but nothing is that tense or politically charged.
I do wish they would revise that matte of the Klingon home world - is that the only viewpoint?
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:34am (USA Central)
Great episode, even if it does borrow a lot from TNG's 'Face of the Enemy', that one where Troi wakes up and finds herself a Romulan. I suppose in someways both episodes owe a lot to TOS's Enterprise Incident, the whole plastic surgery thing (although there it was intentional).
Good episode though.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:31am (USA Central)
I thought it was an alright episode. Bit too heavy handed on lazy techno babble resolutions. What I did like about it was, it shows how paranoid a state the Cardassians are, as each attempt uncovers another protected layer, finally snaring Dukat. It was quite clever.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:27am (USA Central)
The Search, Part II
I completely agree with your review Jammer. It is as if the writers did not know what to do after the Defiant was captured and Odo met his specie and fell back on lazy plotting. I would also like to add that you see the 'twist' coming really early, as soon as O' Brian and Dax reappear. It is also a typical Trek plot trope, the whole ''Ship in a Bottle'' - false continuity - thing.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:20am (USA Central)
The Inner Light
To be clear, I think the Kataan arrogance is justified in that they DO have something worthwhile to communicate, and Picard ultimately would not trade this experience away. That is not me condoning the decision to launch the probe itself, about which I find myself ambivalent, an ambivalence I think the episode's elegiatic tone absolutely encourages.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:04am (USA Central)
The Inner Light
@Luke, I don't hate you for your mixed review of a favourite episode, so rest easy on that score :)
There is more to say, but I tend to view the morality of the Kataan probe on a similar level to the way I view the morality of Q in "Q Who" or "Tapestry" -- under normal circumstances, *AND PERHAPS EVEN IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES*, I would describe what is done here as wrong. However, the message that is communicated is extremely important, and Q/the Kataan people are not themselves Picard-like figures we should necessarily admire.
I very much agree with a point made by Lewikee earlier:
'I rationalize that aspect as the probe doing what life does to everyone of us. We didn't ask to live and yet here we are, whether we like it or not. Then we deal with it as best we can. I think the probe is as unethical as life itself. We all got hit with the "like it or not, live a life" directive. Picard just got hit with it twice.'
It is likely different for theists for whom life is a divine decision, but for me and many others simply *being here* is a fact that we have not had control over. Bringing a person into this world is a guarantee that they will suffer, at some point or another, and the people can hardly be asked permission before they are born. The hope is that their life will ultimately have more joys than sorrows, and that they will exit their lives having been glad they lived it.
O'Brien's lifetime in "Hard Time" was *specifically* designed to torture and break him. Picard's here is something different. And, yes, much of the goal of the Kataan civilization is the stated goal -- to preserve something of their culture, for someone in the future. AND YET -- it also imparts to Picard (and vicariously, the audience) something even greater. What is special about Kataan, for me, is not that they lived, but that they died, and Picard is given a chance to see into a dead civilization, and live through that death and still continue his life. He has seen his whole civilization die, and returns to his own world with fresh eyes. The probe would be less ethically dubious if it got his permission, but the full-immersion is what makes the probe's experience a kind of second life, including death.
I am glad that this episode happened, and thus I am "glad" the probe did what it did to Picard, just as Picard himself is on some level happy that the experience happened, but it is a particular kind of happy, of the kind of someone who nears the end of their life and realizes that they are glad to have lived, but are not sure that they would have chosen to do so. That the Kataan people have no *right* is plain, but then I rather think that of all parents. The "arrogance" of the Kataan people is that they have something to share with their probe, and on the balance I would say that this is justified; they are not imposing torture but the experience of what it is like for an individual lifetime and for a civilization to meet its end. It is an incredible gift, one which is also painful and unwanted.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 9:02am (USA Central)
The Inner Light
****Disclaimer - I honestly thought about not posting this review and have spent several days now debating with myself whether or not to do so. I thought about just skipping it outright or simply posting my score and hoping it would slip by unnoticed because I'm probably go to stir up some ruckus with this one. But, since one of the main messages of Star Trek has always been about being tolerant of others even if you don't agree with them, I've decided to go ahead and post it. So, here goes nothing.****
Well, ladies and gentlemen, we come to it at last - the show-stopper. I tend to run against the grain with a lot of episodes around here (especially well-loved episodes). I thought that "The City on the Edge of Forever" was over-rated. I thought that "Yesterday's Enterprise" was also over-rated. I stirred up some controversy with my thoughts on "Who Watches the Watchers?" and "First Contact." I even thought that "The Best of Both Worlds" was slightly over-rated. And I doubt it's going to be any different here with "The Inner Light." So, strap your seat-belts on, we're going in.
Is "The Inner Light" the single best episode of the entire Trek franchise? Is it the single best episode of TNG? Is it the best episode of Season Five of TNG? Is it even 10 out of 10 worthy? I can honestly answer each one of those questions with a resounding "absolutely not!" This, folks, is undoubtedly the single most over-rated episode of Trek I have ever seen. In some cases, I would go so far as to say that it is the single most over-rated "anything" I've ever seen. That's because, and I'm not joking or using hyperbole here, I have actually encountered people who have said that "The Inner Light" is hands-down the most poignant, moving, touching, heart-warming and emotionally satisfying piece of fiction they have ever consumed. Give me a break! Is it good? I can answer question with a "yes." But to listen to so many people, you would think that it doesn't just deserve a 10 out of 10 but an infinity to the infinity power out of 10. It's not that good. Sorry.
So, let's just get to the overall problem I have with "The Inner Light," shall we? The fact of the matter is that what the Kataanians do to Picard here is evil, pure and simple. Let me be as clear as I possibly can about this - they violated him, in about the worst way imaginable. What happens to Picard here is the exact same thing that happens later to O'Brien in the DS9 episode "Hard Time." But, at least that episode was willing to take the time to explore the emotional implications of what happened to the character. And yes, I know that in "Hard Time" O'Brien was forced to endure a lifetime of unpleasant memories while Picard here got to experience rather pleasant ones. But, that's a difference of degree, not of kind. They both still had a lifetime of experiences literally forced upon them against their wills. Who the FUCK did the Kataanians think they were to do that to another person? If this was the only way they could think to save their civilization, then I'm just going to say it - maybe their civilization wasn't worth saving! They apparently had the option of doing something like preserving genetic samples, or setting up a library or launching a traditional time capsule. Instead, they actively choose to go with the option that involved the mind-rape of an innocent bystander. And I don't use that term (mind-rape) lightly here. If we're going to accept what was done to Troi, Crusher and Riker in "Violations" as a form of rape, then what the hell else am I supposed to call this?! The fact that they provided Picard with a pleasing setting for his rape doesn't negate the fact that it is still rape! And the episode never addresses this issue. Not once! We're just supposed to accept what happened, think of it as moving beyond belief and then move on.
Now, let's get to a second huge problem I have - the fact that "The Inner Light" is so damn schmaltzy. Jesus Christ, apparently the show-runners decided to cover up the fact that Picard is being thoroughly violated by making the story as sickeningly, sugary sweet as possible. It's like they thought "if we just crank up the sweetness factor to a factor of about 1000 it will distract everyone from the subtext." God Almighty, this story is so damn sugary that I feel like I need an insulin injection! If I had to come up with a single word to describe this episode with, that word would undoubtedly be "schmaltz."
Now, with all that said, there's a much more practical problem I have with this story. Jammer is willing to skim over it in his review, but I'm going to focus on it because I think it is a rather significant plot element - the method the Kataanians used to preserve their culture/civilization. Leaving aside all the subtext and rather barbaric implications of the method, I'm still left thinking "talk about putting all of your eggs in one basket!". What exactly was their plan for the long-term here? They implant a lifetime of memories into a passing alien's mind and.... then what? Okay, so the Kataanian civilization now exists in one person's memory, but what happens when that person dies. Given that at it's heart this story is ultimately about mortality I really don't think the Kataanians were planning very far ahead. All they achieve is a momentary remembrance in the grand scheme of things. Once Picard eventually dies, their civilization dies with him. If I haven't lost you or you're not angry with me yet, prepare yourselves, because that is probably about to happen. If the Kataanians were really serious about preserving their culture and civilization in an actually tangible way, they should have done something similar to what the aliens in the future episode "Masks" did - create a moving library that actually materially recreates elements of their world. That's right, I'm going there. In at least one way, the much derided "Masks" does a better job than "The Inner Light." Also, talk about lucky that the probe managed to find a Human on a Federation ship to do this to. Just imagine if it was a Klingon, or a Romulan, or (God forbid) a Cardassian ship that stumbled onto the probe. It would have been destroyed the moment it locked onto any member of the crew, let alone the captain. Then the Kataanians would really have been up the creek without a paddle.
Finally, one last problem I have with the episode - the coda. I'm sorry, but I do not find the scene with Picard playing the flute in his quarters touching in any way whatsoever. Not. At. All. You know what the scene strikes me as? I strikes me as a man who has been so completely and thoroughly abused that he has come to identify with his abusers in a way. I'm probably going to lose anybody who stayed through the "Masks" comparison - but ,essentially, when he starts playing that flute and the episode fades to black he's basically displaying Stockholm Syndrome. The Kataanians have so thoroughly indoctrinated him that he now misses the mind-rape. And, once again, the episode doesn't focus on this and instead expects the audience to think it's sweet. It's not! To me, that damn flute is nothing but a symbol of Picard's torture and I simply don't understand why so many people both think the scene is touching and why so many people are so attached to the actual flute. (I mean, I've said it before and I'll say it again, to each their own, but I simply cannot wrap my mind around it.) The actual prop of the flute even once sold at auction for close to $50,000. WHY?!! Even Brannon Braga and Patrick Stewart himself have been known to laugh at that, through probably for different reasons than I would.
Okay, so I did say that I thought that the episode was good, so what did I like about it. Well, I can only point to one thing that I thought was good - the acting, because it seriously is top notch. Patrick Stewart, even though he was given some rather disturbing and not very well-thought-through material to work with here really knocks it out of the park. I really don't think much else needs to be said about that because it's one area that everyone agrees on that I'm more than willing to go along with. I also really liked the dynamics back on the Enterprise bridge. Not so much with the Kataanian characters (that's where the schmaltz comes in). I really liked that there was something of a tension with Riker and Worf on one side and Crusher on the other. All three had the same goal in mind - protecting Picard - but they had vastly different ways of going about it. And Frakes, Dorn and McFadden handled that tension rather nice I thought. I suppose I can also like the fact that the show-runners were trying to tell a story about the acceptance of mortality. If they had just turned the sugar quotient down by a factor of about 1000% it could have been much better.
So, there it all is - my thoughts on the most over-rated Trek (not just TNG) episode ever. If anybody is still reading this, this is the moment when you probably come to hate me, but....
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 7:57am (USA Central)
The A-plot here has two main functions: provide exposition on the Jem'Hadar and to further Odo's character. On that level, the episode is pretty much successful. What this episode does not do with The Nameless Jem'Hadar -- give him some individuality apart from his species, show ways in which he might be partially reachable (and enhance the tragedy when he cannot be reached) -- is later done in "Hippocratic Oath," "To the Death," "Rocks and Shoals" and "Treachery, Faith and the Great River" (admittedly with a Vorta instead of Jem'Hadar), and so I cannot really complain that this episode does not do it. This is the baseline for who Jem'Hadar are, which is: programmed killing machines loyal to and dependent on the Founders. That's it. That the crew immediately jumps on this improbably accelerated aging process and genetic engineering as probable proof that the Nameless Jem'Hadar is definitely unreachable is a bit unreasonable given that they have no real information about how deep this programming goes. But I don't mind, exactly, that it turns out that the Jem'Hadar really has no interest in becoming an independent person who is something other than a killing machine for the Founders' will. He is programmed with that, after all, and he is also isolated on a station with a bunch of people scared of him, knowing that his own people are out there to provide him with a life exactly along the lines of the one he wants.
The problem I do have is that the episode is kind of falt dramatically -- it's an exercise in futility. More to the point, Odo's attempts to get through to the Jem'Hadar are hobbled by Odo's limitations, and the episode would probably have been stronger if there were someone to point out those limitations beyond Kira tongue-wagging that he's wrong to try at all. It's worth remembering that this punk kid is also three weeks old. That he was programmed with rudimentary quick-forming language and whatever is one thing, but Odo keeps seeming to expect the Jem'Hadar to have spontaneously formed his own hobbies. I'm not sure I want a repeat of that banana cream split scene in "Suddenly Human," but without *some* scene of Odo at least attempting to get the Jem'Hadar to bond with others the episode's defeatism about the Jem'Hadar is a little hollow.
What works is that Odo's desire to help the Jem'Hadar hits several points of comparison with Odo himself and is clearly both a matter of Odo having guilt for what His People have done, and Odo projecting his own story onto the boy. Odo's moving out of his bucket and into a set of quarters, which he describes with Kira with an almost unsettling enthusiasm, is the backdrop against which this is presented, and his attempts to convince the boy that he *can* "fight his nature" and find satisfying alternatives to his fundamental urges is Odo's way of trying to tell himself that he is satisfied with the play structure he's made for himself as an alternative to his people and the Link. His insistence that the boy no doubt has his own desire to be a moral being, coexisting peacefully in spite of his violent instincts, probably also comes from Odo's attempt to affirm that his loyalty to "solids" comes from his sense of justice which is real and fundamental, and not at all just his self-deception about his desire for order, as the Female Changeling insisted. This all plays out while Odo is also telling everyone he is not trying to *control* the boy, and insisting that he is only giving him options, when, in the end, *of course* he is trying to control him. Odo's belief system requires that justice and goodness are external values that only need to be "discovered," that once he imparts the value of nonviolence the boy will immediately see things Odo's way, but it is more complicated than that, especially when someone's programmed nature runs counter to it. Odo's attempt to step in and prevent the boy from either being the Founder's slave or an experiment leads to him somewhat becoming both Founder and Dr. Mora in his effort to use whatever resources he has to force free will on a boy who does not want it. But ultimately, for Odo's flaws he did want to try to help the boy escape from the Founders' clutches, and it does hurt him that he fails. That he lets the boy go makes sense to me -- the Jem'Hadar has not hurt anyone, and he can hardly be locked up, and Odo's identification is such that on some level he would rather this analogue be with his people, whatever that means, rather than be a test subject (and one who genuinely may have to be killed in order for that to last).
The B-plot with Sisko, Jake and Marta bugs me a little in that there is some weird classism around Sisko's bringing up that she's a DABO GIRL every few minutes; he is called on this, indirectly, by Marta, who points out that her Dabo Girl job is a way to survive as an orphan Occupation survivor, so that helps, but I sort of wish he were less explicit about it, especially since Sisko has the advantage of coming from a post-money society where people don't have to take whatever jobs they need to in order to survive. I do agree with Ben that the age difference seems to be a problem, and I get why it bothers him on a visceral level that her job involves flirting with people. I have got to say, my reaction is pretty similar to O'Brien's mixture of confusion and suppressed disgust when Sisko reveals that he's mainly inviting Jake's girlfriend over for retcon so that he'll be better able to break them up. I'm not a father though, so who knows? Maybe this is one of those things people like me can't get. The turnaround that he realizes that the situation is not so much innocent-Jake and vamp-Marta but that both of them are a mixture of idealistic and worldly does work for me, for one thing because it ties in with the A-plot, where Sisko seems to recognize that the limits to his understanding of Jake mean that his attempts to control his son's life are bound to fail, or at least are bound to be a little on the misguided side. It's smaller-scale than the Odo/Jem'Hadar plot, of course, but Sisko reluctantly lets Jake go just a little bit.
The foregone conclusion feeling to the A-plot makes it drag in spots but it's a pretty decent Odo story. 2.5 stars for me, I think.
- Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 6:10pm (USA Central)
@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.
- Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 4:37pm (USA Central)
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
- Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 4:30pm (USA Central)
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.
- Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 3:44pm (USA Central)
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.
- Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 1:33pm (USA Central)
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?
- Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 12:22pm (USA Central)
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.
- Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 12:18pm (USA Central)
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.
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