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Elliott
Sat, Oct 17, 2015, 5:09pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S2: Armageddon Game

Teaser : **, 5%

Bashir and O'Brien (last seen not resolving their racquetball issues) are helping the Maries (I'm beginning to feel that much of Trek's alien designs lately are from the “There's Something About Mary” School of Hairgel) dismantle some bio-weapons. Presumably, there are no other Federation doctors or engineers close enough by for Sisko to risk sending his only doctor away on a potentially suicidal mission. For a week now. Yeah. Bashir babbles some technos and manages to accomplish whatever it is they intended to do. And there was much rejoicing. There's an overload of saccharine back-patting and jerking off complete with the swelling brass music of triumph. This felt like a setup for a bait and switch, but all we get is an ominous of ominous cue on the remaining “disruptors” they need to neutralise. Okay...

Act 1 : ***, 17%

Over subspace, O'Brien is unusually congratulatory of Bashir and his accomplishment, although there's the hint that maybe the Chief is just trying to get his mission-accomplished ticket home.

Right before they neutralise the last cylinder, a raiding party emerges in the lab and starts killing the Maries. In the ensuing fight, O'Brien is infected by the cylinder goop. This perfectly watchable act is extremely short, giving us a brief and competent action scene.

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

On DS9, Sisko's brunch is interrupted by the arrival of the Hairgel ambassadors, who report that Bashir and O'Brien were killed in an “accident.” The lead Mary gives a good performance (although her counterpart, whose people shall be the Elizabethans, is painfully wooden) but that fucking hairdo is laughably distracting and really takes the pathos out of the scene.

Meanwhile, amid a typical wallpaper of boring score, O'Brien and Bashir hunt for supplies and find some military rations. The Chief is homesick, serious and cautious. The doctor is optimistic, calculating and naïve. As luck would have it, one of the first things they stumble across is a communications array. It begins to become clear that O'Brien saved up just enough tolerance for Julian's antics to last a week in the Hairgels' lab. Under duress, hungry and for god knows how long is another matter.

Meanwhile, Sisko and co. review a doctored video recording of the “accident.” In the welcomely understated scene which follows, the remaining staff prepare to deal with their loss, make funeral and personnel changes, etc. It's pretty good, but it can't hold a candle to similar scenes in “The Most Toys” or “Coda.” The reason is because of which characters we're dealing with here. Sisko, Kira and Odo have no particular connection to O'Brien or Bashir. They get along okay, sure, but there's no lingering regret from Kira on how she barely tolerated him. There's no sense of loyalty from Sisko for having so often used Miles as a cover for his questionable command decisions. The only relationship with some emotional investment is that between Dax and Bashir.

Speaking of romance, Bashir and O'Brien... are talking about women. It both scores and loses points with me. The positives are 1. reaffirming O'Brien's commitment to Keiko and Molly, which is always appreciated, and 2. adding to the O'Brien/Bashir conflict the differences in their career paths, Julian an officer and O'Brien an enlisted man. The biggest negative is the unapologetic sexism on display. The two speak as though the life of a Starfleet officer is too dangerous for one to risk leaving the “wife and kids” alone. In addition to being annoyingly sexist on its own terms, it also commits the sin of conflating the modern military with Starfleet (although the sexism would make it more the pre-modern military). Starfleet officers are explorers. Also, what about the Crushers? What I'm saying is that the conversation is more or less effective, but it totally abandons many of the unique features of the Star Trek universe in order to be so. Bashir and O'Brien could be members of any given military in any century it seems. Anyway, surprise, surprise Bashir manages to piss O'Brien off with his remarks and the Chief starts to show signs of illness. His infection by the harvesters is discovered.

Act 3 : ***.5, 17%

I have to disagree vehemently with Jammer's assessment of Rosalind Chao's performance which I think are the most effective of the episode. The look on her face when Sisko enters her quarters to deliver the news speaks volumes. One can see clearly the number of times she's worried about and confronted the feeling of losing her husband in the line of duty. The hurt is deep, but its a wound that has been rankled by fear and worry many times already. On the other hand, Brooks really lets us down here. He's somber and sober sure, but there's no sense of the personal behind his performance. Come on, man! You lost your wife and blamed, to an extent, Starfleet for that loss. Surely you can do better than “He was a fine man. I'll miss him.”

The Chief in the meanwhile is probably wishing he were dead. On top of his plague symptoms (side note: is the plague only effective against those it physically touches? Is such a dangerous weapon really not contagious to Bashir?), Julian is bossing him around.

Dax and Kira discuss Bashir with the camera way to close to their faces for some reason. Dax admits that she never got around to reading his diaries which he lent her, and she admits that she cared about Bashir. Quark even joins in the pathos by offering a toast to his fallen customers.

Then we get that scene. I concur with William B. that the goofy spectrograph thing notwithstanding, I felt the idea of Keiko's intimate knowledge of her husband being the clue to the deception to be spot on. They really could have cut the whole spectrograph thing entirely and had Keiko trust her instinct that she knew how he drank his coffee and could just tell by watching him what he was doing and that something was fishy about the video. Sisko would certainly have investigated the possibility of tampering if only to appease the grieving widow even he had his doubts.

O'Brien continues to deteriorate and starts to give Bashir the business. I got a big laugh out of Meaney's mocking English accent “Not quite close.” Bashir talks about some French ballet dancer he once fell in love with, but I'm calling BS. No ballerina has “beautiful feet,” trust me. They are war-weary, bruised and deformed in sacrifice to the art. The idea that Bashir would fall for a quintessential Dionysiac like a dancer is, however, perfectly in keeping with his established character, and what we eventually learn in “Dr Bashir, I Presume.” He is conditioned to be hyper-analytical, skeptical, logical, grounded. A dancer is, archetypically, a vessel for ecstatic emotional excess. This might explain his attraction to Jadzia who, it seems, is as brilliant as they come, but relishes her freedom and celebrates to excess.

With O'Brien's guidance, Bashir manages to get the comm panel working. Unfortunately, his condition has worsened to the point where he can no longer walk.

Act 4 : **.5, 17%

Sisko and co. arrive at Planet Hairgel and begin to investigate. Meanwhile, Bashir is still fiddling with the comm panel and manages to get a distress signal activated. O'Brien has all but resigned to his fate. In his resignation, he talks about marriage as the adventure of his life. Meaney gives a powerful little performance expressing his fulfilment in the knowledge that “at the end of the day, we always love each other. And that's all that matters.”

I again have to credit the actress playing he Mary ambassador who manages to give a solid performance which barely spares the scene from that ridiculous hairdo. Sisko expresses his suspicion. Dax discovers evidence of tampering on the Ganges and they discover that Bashir and O'Brien had been alive after the supposed accident.

While Miles starts knocking on death's doorstep, the Hairgel ambassadors discover them. We learn the devious plot: Bashir and O'Brien have to die because they know have knowledge of the harvesters function and that knowledge can't be allowed to exist. Man, if only it were possible to erase memories in the future! That sure would be handy right about now. Oh, wait...nah, let's just kill them.

Act 5 : *.5, 17%

While the executioners, stand around waiting for the camera to pan over them, Bashir pulls O'Brien to his feet so he can die with honour and offer a kind word to his companion. This little reprieve of course buys them just enough time for Sisko and Dax to beam them to relative safety. Using some Starfleet cleverness, Sisko manages to trick the Maries and Elizabethans into destroying the empty runabout. Cute. So even though they realise they failed to accomplish their insane mission of killing anyone with knowledge of the harvesters which has driven them to murder in cold blood, I guess they no longer give a shit anymore since we never hear from them again. Oh, and in the coda, we discover Bashir is able to cure O'Brien without a hitch, meaning all the Hairgel people would have to do to protect themselves from a future threat is ask for that medical knowledge which Bashir had up is butt this whole time. I'm sure there will be consequences.

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

The plot involving the Hairgel people is downright stupid. The motivations are dubious, the execution and makeup is laughable and allegory falls rather flat as the ambassadors' extremism only seems to come into play when the plot needs it to. On the other hand, the character dynamics between Bashir and O'Brien and the O'Briens are good, buoyed by strong performances from Siddig, Meaney and Chao. I didn't really enjoy the episode, but it was a necessary piece to resolve the dangling threads from “Rivals,” so it gets a pass.

Final Score : **.5
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Elliott
Tue, Oct 6, 2015, 1:49am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Course: Oblivion

Jack: um what? Janeway specifically called him lieutenant as a clue in the teaser.
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Elliott
Sat, Sep 26, 2015, 5:08pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S2: The Alternate

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

Open on Quark auctioning off a bit of a deceased Ferengi (at bargain rates). Odo manages to sabotage the deal, taking particular zeal in telling Quark how much he's looking forward to his death. It turns out Plaig (the dead Ferengi) is not dead at all and Quark has either been duped or trying to dupe. It's the Capitalists' way.

Enter Dr Mora, who immediately starts scrutinising Odo's appearance. Mora is of course the scientist who was assigned to Odo after he was found. Quark pounces on the opportunity to embarrass Odo, recognising Odo's discomfort.

Particularly pleasurable is Sloyan's ability to match Auberjonois' gruff cantankerousness with nonplussed wit and self-confidence. The wit they share in common. Odo has the authority, Mora has the confidence. It mirrors in some ways the dynamic between Odo and Quark except that Mora seems to actually make Odo feel vulnerable. He knows that Odo still yearns desperately to understand himself and his origins (as does the audience), and he's counting on that truth to bridge the gap of trust between them. A great setup.

Act 1 : ***, 17%

Time for a bit of DBI, where we get one of those clichéd father-son conversations between Jake and Ben. [wretch]

Thankfully, Odo ends this crap and asks Sisko for runabout on his and Mora's behalf. Mora wants to investigate some lifeform readings in the Gamma Quadrant which could explain Odo's origins.

There's an amazing amount of information conveyed just by the performances from the more interesting father-son pairing of Mora and Odo. While on the runabout, Mora manages to continuously interrupt and speak for Odo to Dax, all while singing both their praises. It's clear that Mora gets carried away by his excitement and his pride (as many parents do), but also remarkable that this man's ego manages to shut Odo of all people down to nought but rolling his eyes in frustration.

The scientists and Odo beam down to a volcanic planet, which is covered in ruins. They find a pillar and a silicate lifeform which they beam back. This triggers a volcanic eruption which nearly kills them. The set may be cheap, but they manage to squeeze a great deal of drama out of the discovery and subsequent harrowing escape.

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

The Bajorans are critically injured by their experience. While Bashir treats them, Odo observes Dr Mora curiously, as one would a scientific sample, and quite likely they way Mora observed Odo many times during their time together.

Sisko shares the story about how his father almost died but didn't with Odo. This naturally triggers Ben to reflect on his own relationship with Jake and....oh wait, no that would make sense. Nevermind.

Later that evening, the lifeform that they brought back seems to have escaped from its containment field. Duhn duhn duhn...

Act 3 : ***, 17%

They deduce that the lifeform escaped through the ventilation shaft (isn't that always the way?) just in time for Dax to make an entrance. Turns out Bashir hid her clothes from her so she had to sneak out of the infirmary. I'm sure that had no ulterior motivations.

In the infirmary, Mora and Odo share a good scene. Mora called him in to ask to be of use. Odo assures him that the situation is under control. They discuss the metamorphic abilities of the lifeform, but what the scene is really about is what William B described above as “just the right set of contradictions.” In the same breath, we can become angry with Mora for being so single-minded in his scientific pursuit, but stilled moved by his genuine and unprompted concern for those around him. Likewise, Odo's feigned indifference is clearly betrayed by a sense of loyalty and affection for Mora, especially in his injured state.

Jammer complains about the dry, technical exposition during the hunt for the lifeform, but I vehemently disagree. While the actual dialogue is indeed dry, director David Carson is able to create a simmering sense of quiet dread. A very refreshing change from similar scenes in season 1. I find it quite effective. This is achieved primary by having the camera close to Miles so that he takes up most of the frame as he moves through the corridors (can we call them Jeffries Tubes?). As for the claim that this horror-movie stuff doesn't belong in a character study, I don't quite get that either. I mean this is really a horror movie populated by strong characters (Odo and Mora), so fleshing out their relationship is a necessary and welcome *addition* to the plot. O'Brien eventually discovers the now-dead life form in a startling moment which is undercut only slightly by the goofy sight of snot dripping onto the floor.

Even the Dax/Bashir flirting scene is palatable, giving way to a classic sneak-up-from-behind monster-movie bit. Is it a little corny? Yeah, but I think it's about as effective as it could be given the limitations present. A genuinely good effort.

Act 4 : ***.5, 17%

MORA : Constable?
ODO : It's a nickname I barely tolerate.
MORA : It's an expression of affection that you find difficult to accept.

Boom. Mora's dichotomy is on display again. While he pontificates (a little arrogantly) about the similarities between the scientific and police methods, one can attribute his enthusiasm to either grating egoism or an attempt to bridge the gulf between himself and Odo (which is probably even more grating to the Constable).

The script wisely takes every opportunity to flesh out Mora's motivations wherever there's a lull (like during his and Dax' analysis of the DNA residues).

Mora confronts Odo and reveals that he has deduced (secretly) that the monster is actually Odo. It says a lot about the man that, while he may partly still see Odo as a science project, the first person he tells about his discovery is Odo himself, out of respect for his personhood.

Act 5 : **.5, 17%

Odo's panic at the news is telling. He's not horrified by the idea of being a monster, but of being a *criminal*. This harkens back to my reflections on “Necessary Evil”: “[T]he story is given this noire veneer in order to accentuate the theme of semblance. Here, Odo's persona as the neutral observer, cold investigator and un-relatable alien is cracked open.” Another crack is forming. While in NE, Odo's persona as a lawman is what held him together, here the idea that he could be acting *illegally* cuts right into that veneer.

The only objection I have to this scene is, while Odo is visibly transforming under the stress of Mora's (understandably) angry reaction to Odo's rejection of his trustworthiness, the observing scientist fails to notice the heaping, sweating pile of goo Odo is becoming. Then again, I suspect Mora is purposefully antagonising Odo in order to test his theory.

After Odo transforms, Mora informs the senior staff about whom they're tracking and suggest using himself as bait to catch him.

Okay, so here's the bigger problem: Sisko decides, yeah sure, let's use this civilian as bait to catch the creature! Are you seriously telling me there aren't gasses they could use to render Odo unconscious? Or energy fields? Odo isn't a telepath, why not use a hologram of Mora to bait Odo? Talk about a needlessly reckless command decision. Likewise, the whole “set phasers to kill” fake-drama is ridiculous. Odo-as-The-Creature has not killed or even wounded anybody. Sure he's dangerous, but come on!

The other bad news is that the CGI creature bits which follow look terrible. Off-camera, Mora and Bashir rid Odo of the particles which turned his resentment into monster-mash. This is exactly how I prefer Trek deal with its sci-fi elements. The plot serves the purpose of creating the analogy which allows the writers to explore the “human” condition of the characters. Dwelling on the specifics is a waste of time, so I'm glad they don't.

Mora and Odo say their goodbyes, having developed a better understanding of one another and their relationship.

Episode as Functionary : ***.5, 10%

For not the first time, Commander Thinks-With-His-Dick sabotages an otherwise strong story, but at least not too badly as he's not the focus. The Mora-Odo material is very strong and plays well against the precedent set by “Necessary Evil.” Sloyan is a rock star in all his appearances on Trek and Auberjonois is typically strong. While I can understand the objections to the monster-movie bits in theory, they are mostly executed very well (save that last scene) and are integrated seamlessly into the fabric of the story, so I don't mind them. This feels for me like one of the few times DS9 attempted a real Star Trek story and succeeded. William B. gives an excellent analysis above of the Mora/Odo relationship and I have nothing else to add, so I won't. A refreshing change of pace from the last several episodes.

Final Score : ***
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Elliott
Wed, Sep 23, 2015, 4:08pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S2: Rivals

Teaser : ***, 5%

A drunk widowed Milf decides to buy a mining operation. She tells this creepy guy all about her plans while Odo looks on incredulously. As soon as creepy 90s dude suggests that he “help” her with her investment, Odo drags him out of the bar. Turns out the creep is an El'Aurian (the first we have met since Guinan). Martus, the “listener,” is some sort of extortionist. Odo throws him in a cell. There's very little to say about any of this. It's rather straight-forward, well-acted and clear, but not exactly riveting either. Things could go either way.

Act 1 : **.5, 17%

Plot B : O'Brien happily enters his newly-built racquetball arena (I assume “built” means “designed” as in the holodeck/suite programme, not physically by hand. I mean, he can't get the station to function properly as it is). He discovers Bashir, suited up and ready to go, apparently uninvited. Also uninvited are Bashir's comments about how he beat a Vulcan at the game while at the Academy. The dialogue is very efficient in setting up the dynamics here: Bashir is 1. younger, 2. more talented, 3. more eager, and 4. more competitive. I'm also pleased to report that the writers have honed their writing between the two considerably since that piece of crap, “The Storyteller”--I laughed out loud at Bashir's “I see by the lines you prefer the old-style rules.” While this is good fun, I'm hoping we get a bit of development for him; he's still very much the blank slate he was last season.

Plot A : Martus is bothered by a snoring Ent sharing his cell. The Ent wakes up and starts blabbering on about how he once had health, riches and fame but lost it all to “this”; [removes light-up 80s sextoy from cloak]. Odo, why wasn't this confiscated? The Ent explains that his toy is an ancient gambling device, then dies. The structure of the A-plot (as well as its author) would suggest a Trekkified Grimms' Tale of sorts—Martus collects the Rhinegold from a wizened sage and learns a painful and ironic lesson. But the tone is all wrong—it's this half-hearted (and very beige) comedy. I'm still feeling ambivalent.

Act 2 : **, 17%

Miles returns to his quarters sweaty and ashamed after his workout with Julian. *ahem* I think Garak is going to be jealous... The conversation between him and Keiko dusts off that ol' Season 1 trope, the DBI (DS9 Banality Indulgence). It's not that I don't think real people have these kinds of conversations (in fact, I know they do), it's just that I don't want to sit and watch them have them. It is odd to think that this is the same Miles O'Brien who can speak calmly about war combat and racial bigotry but gets himself into a mad frenzy over a game of racquetball.

In the meanwhile, Bashir shares his side of the story with Dax. It seems he attempted to spare the chief further embarrassment and/or death-by-exhaustion by trying to get out of the game.

BASHIR : I really respect him...the things he does, the kind of man he is. I just don't want to humiliate him.

The blithe visual metaphor accompanying this conversation is a little obvious, but I think it works: Bashir is after some space-catsup for his sandwich. His table's bottle is empty, so he asks another for theirs, which is also empty. Finally, he just grabs one without comment and succeeds in finding his catsup. He dresses his sandwich, looks at it, then sets it down uneaten. The man knows what he wants, asks for it politely, then finally just takes it, but is left unhappy with his success.

Plot A : Odo releases Martus and his new sextoy from his cell, charges having been dropped. He and Quark barter for his toy (for reasons that are left unclear) while Quark pours him pink lemonade. He asked for prosecco! Uh uh. You can't serve koolaide from glass jars when the characters ask for actual beverages. In spite of some genuine effort between the actors, the conversation is baffling, inane and seemingly without motivation. I don't recommend it.

Martus steps out of the bar and spots another Milf who's shutting down her business, her husband having just passed away. “You understand,” she says. I'm sorry what? What the hell is going on?

Plot B : Return to racquetball; Bashir is doing a bad job pretending to lose to Miles. And we're out.

Plot A : Martus has opened a night-club in the widow's old shoppe (presumably with her money). The entrance looks like a cheap carnival ride, so of course it's being flooded with clients.

Act 3 : *.5, 17%

Sisko flatly admits that he blackmailed Quark during “Emissary” to stay on the station while having the gall to invoke Federation morality, claiming Quark's bribes to the Cardassians don't constitute a contract in its eyes (he claims exclusive gambling rights on the station). Are we supposed to applaud Sisko for this assbaggery? Ugh.

Anway, Martus has spun his good luck sextoy into a thriving business, eh, somehow. Widow A from the teaser shows up looking for another investor in her “dream.” Widow B is on her heals wearing the latest in Playing Card Fashions. Martus proposes to her, I think.

Meanwhile, Dax has her own bout of luck running some sort of diagnostic. Oooo, “mystery”...

Plot B : Bashir decides to end his rivalry with O'Brien and calls it quits, leaving Miles blue. He pays a visit to Quark's which is woefully empty. Quark is determined to prove he can listen as well as his El'Aurian counterpart, er, rival.

QUARK : Tell me your problems. All of them.

Quark gets a bright idea to turn Miles' woes into a gambling opportunity. Holy 1-dimensional character traits Batman!

Plot A : Kira is hitting the furniture. Again. Everyone get it yet? Some people are really lucky. Some are really unlucky. Get it? Are we done yet?

Act 4 : *, 17%

Plot A/B : Quark sets up his “Grudge-Match of the Galaxy: The Mechanic versus the Doctor”! It's suppose to be funny that Quark uses his promise to donate half the proceedings to the Bajorans' Orphan Fund to strong-arm Bashir and O'Brien into playing his game, but on the heals of the last two episodes (and Sisko's unwelcome assbaggery), I can't help remembering that there are still starving orphans on Bajor and the Federation is just sitting around, gambling, wasting time. I don't care how much “funny flute music” you play, it's just not that funny.

On the heels of the reversal of luck between Quark and Marcus, everyone else's luck is also being reversed. Speaking of Marcus, he's resting his weary head on one of his not-dabbo-girl's bosom. Widow B bursts in, incensed, and orders him to leave and “take those damn things with you.” I always say I award points for clever innuendo. And boy does this sinking ship need some points.

Anyway, he decides to invest his profits in Widow A's venture. We close out the act with a closeup of one of his replicated gambling sextoys. Do you get it yet? Helloooo...

Act 5 : .5 stars, 17%

Keiko is being her awesome self:

to O'BRIEN : Win or lose, tonight, we celebrate [wink].

What a good spouse.

Quark drops by with a “gift” for Bashir (an anæsthetic). He's trying to fix the match (Quark is a crooked Capitalist. Get it? GET IT!!!!!!).

Meanwhile, Dax has discovered some quantum bullshit that reflects the luck-distribution-phenomenon. Bashir is losing badly. Neutrinos are spinning like ballerinas. Rom gets the girl. It's madness!

So, it turns out that the Ent's technology can change the laws of probability. And turn itself on. And power itself. And can be perfectly replicated. Uh huh. Fucking brilliant.

Dignity and an empty sac is worth a sac...even if you get kicked in the balls.

Episode as Functionary : *, 10%

This is the era of Menosky's writing that gave us “Masks.” Buried in here is a mythological story that could have been great fun, but the fairytale and Trek genre are so at odds that we feel this very uncomfortable tension that never really resolves. The “science” is laughably stupid and basically unexplained. Quark is one-dimensional and bland. Martus is insufferable and many of the characters (Kira, Dax and Sisko) have reverted to the dregs of their Season One selves. The only saving grace here is an amiable portrayal of the Bashir/O'Brien relationship. But even that is hampered by too little screentime, no development of the characters themselves, and a non-ending. Their story is swallowed up by the A-Plot and forgotten entirely. Skippable.

Final Score : *.5
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Elliott
Thu, Sep 17, 2015, 5:13pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S2: Sanctuary

Teaser : **.5, 5%

Oh good, an episode with absolutely no real-world analogues, about which expressing an opinion cannot possibly offend anyone! Refugawhosawhats? Silly sci-fi...

So, Kira has been shouting at Bajoran ministers about irrigation or something (why is this Kira's problem?). Sisko breaks character by displaying competence, insisting that Kira's diatribe with politicians not interfere with her duties. The scene reëstablishes that Bajor is still in dire straights and hasn't made much progress recovering from the Occupation. I can see why duty rosters are the Federation priority right now.

Cut to Deep Space Burning Man and a “mesmerising” performance of Enya's new hit single as performed by the Bajoran Kenny G. We'll call him K'enny B. Quark is pissed off because the buzz his musical guest is creating is anathema to a casino-bar. But Kira “asked” him to try out K'enny B for a month, so Quark has to deal.

Execution aside, I like the idea here. The most engaging aspect of the Bajoran story is the idea that their culture was extremely rich (if bafflingly slow given how old it is) and that richness and beauty was all but destroyed by the Cardassians. We finally return to the theme that was explored in “Duet,” that of Bajoran cultural victimhood. Kira implores K'enny B. to “play a variety of styles” to appease Quark's interests. This would be analogous to asking Emanuel Ax to play lounge music (again, if we ignore the execution). What's worse, extinguishing completely the practice of Bajoran art, or having it survive only to be relegated to a position of utter embarrassment and corporate shilling?

K'ENNY : Bajorans must reclaim their artistic heritage if they hope to regain their sense of self-worth.

Indeed.

Kira returns to Ops (odd structural choice) when a damaged ship emerges from the Wormhole and Sisko has its frightened crew of burn victims beamed aboard.

Act 1 : *.5, 17%

So the burn victims start blabbering away in their language—in case you didn't pick up on the, erm, “subtlety,” the lone female is either their leader or their mother.

O'BRIEN : For some reason, [The UT] is having a hard time understanding their language patterns.

I'm going to guess that reason is a big fat albatross called FILLER.

So, we spend some excruciating minutes following Kira, Odo, Sisko, burn victim and her delinquent children around. I do like Bashir not cowing to the Skreeans' sexism.

Ugh, bless Ms May who manages to keep this burning raft afloat with some engaging acting. We finally discover that three million of her people are on the other side of the “Eye” (wormhole) and that they need help.

Act 2 : *.5, 17%

This episode is really damning. The obvious is confirmed when burn victim lets us know that Screean men are too emotional to involve themselves in “such matters” as the future of their own civilisation. So it seems like we are getting a repeat of “Angel One” (horray...). However, the theme of sexism is really just skimmed over. I think the intention here was to establish, along with the goofy translator issues, the idea that the Skreeans have a culture which is somewhat incompatible with Bajoran or Federation culture, thus adding realism to the real story, which is about refugees. Okay. Except, how much more incompatible is Skreean sexism than Klingon sexism? Once the UT figures out their language, how is that difference an issue at all?

So as if all of that weren't enough, we learn that, just like the Bajorans, the Skreeans' religious mythology is tied in with the wormhole. They (all, of course) believe that the Eye of the Universe will lead them to Kantana, a sacred home of salvation.

It does pose an interesting if disturbing question: did the Prophets allow Bajor to suffer the Occupation in order that their home become the “world of sorrow” in which the Skreeans were meant to “sow seeds of joy”? By rebuking the Skreeans (spoiler), are the Bajorans in fact defying the will of the Prophets? Are they damning themselves? These and other interesting questions will go unresolved until, um, ever. Yay...

Anyway, the Dominion gets named dropped for a second time. We learn that the Skreeans' 800-year (!) oppressors were conquered by them, thus allowing them to escape in search of Kantana. The parallel to the Bajoran story, of a people broken by oppression who steep themselves in religious mythology to survive is evident.

Later, we learn that Burn Victim sleeps with her males (I really hope they aren't her sons). I suppose this is meant to be analogous to, say, Islamic or Semitic polygamy which is based heavily on gender stereotypes. In a painful scene, Kira delivers a gift (a dress they saw on the Promenade) to Burn Victim. The two women agree the dress is very ugly and bond over this trite bullshit because, hey, we're super progressive and challenge gender stereotypes, but OMG Becky, that dress is TOTES UGLY. LOL! Giggle giggle...

So in the middle of this crap, we get a reminder that Jake and Nog exist and that Jake is dating some girl named Marta. The two agree that the Skreean man they see eating table scraps is “disgusting” even though Nog just made a comment about eating insects and Jake is, you know, a Federation human. Remember that insight from “In the Hands of the Prophets”? I guess puberty has addled his mind.

Burn Victim begins the process of welcoming more Skreean refugees to DS9 and we're treated to the Parade of the Extras.

Act 3 : **, 17%

So Nog played a practical joke on the Skreean boys, or men—males I guess. Odo carts him away to his office. Quark and Odo get a decent little bantering scene and Nog is released. One wonders if Quark was as indifferent and downright mean-spirited towards the Bajorans during the Occupation as he is to the Skreeans, offering tacit approval of Nog's bullying.

Amid the beguiling sounds of K'enny B.'s “Ode to Pinball Wizard,” the Skreean women decide to annoint Burn Victim as their leader.

We take a trip down After-School-Special lane as Nog, Jake and Burn Victim's husband-sons get into a little brawl. If everyone on DS9 is xenophobic towards the Skreeans, why is it only the Ferengi who seem to say so? Cheap.

Dax discovers a potential and viable home for the Skreeans and Sisko delivers the news to Burn Victim and the Vaginal Council. Burn Victim puts 2 and 2 together and decides that “Kantana is Bajor.”

Act 4 : 0 stars, 17%

William B. has succinctly summed up the rest of this refugee issue : “the sad fact [is that resources are finite and [one has] to choose, and people tend to choose their own family, tribe, people above another even if the other suffers just as much and is equally 'deserving.' And, fine, but the post-scarcity world means that there's no reason they can't just settle on Dralon II, instead of a planet in a system they stumbled upon like a week ago.”

A Vedik and a Minister compete for worst acting performance in Sisko's office, while debating their decision to turn down the Skreeans' request. What the hell did the Cardassians do exactly that rendered and entire region of Bajor un-farmable? I thought they Cardassians were cruel and efficient, not stupid and reckless. Given the minister's description of the Bajoran famine, one wonders why the Federation doesn't resettle the Bajorans on Drahlon II.

So just like the GOP red-scaring about Social Security, the Bajorans stand by their “math” and refuse to budge. The scene is meant to end with an emotional punch to the gut as the music swells, but Burn Victim has made absolutely no argument (including the God argument) about why Drahlon II is an unacceptable option. Fail.

Ready for some non-PC humour? So the comments earlier discussing whether the Skreeans are more like the Jews or the Palestinians (yes, I know that's an arbitrary distinction since they're racially identical) is settled when Burn Victim treats Kira to the standard Jewish mother guilt-trip. “I thought you loved me! Why did you even pretend to care? You betrayed me!” Fuck you, you ungrateful bitch.

The icing on this shit-cake comes when we learn that Burn Victim's husband-son (Tumak) has “taken a ship.” So apparently no one is too stupid to steal a freaking space ship on DS9.

Act 5 : *, 17%

So, Tumak's stolen ship is in danger. It is intercepted by two Bajoran patrols. The patrol are completely hard-headed and blow up the vessel full of children. What a cluster fuck. Tragic? Yes. Comically avoidable? Yes.

So now that it's apparently too late and people have died, Burn Victim finally makes the point she should have made from the beginning :

“Maybe we could have helped you. Maybe we could have helped each other. The Skreea are farmers, Kira. You have a famine on your planet...Fifty years of Cardassian rule have made you all frightened and suspicious. I feel sorry for you.”

It's a damned frustrating speech, because she's right! But...the episode took no time to bear this out and contrived the characters out of making this realisation when it would have been useful. As William B. pointed out, why couldn't some of the Skreea stay and attempt to revive the land? If they were successful, the rest could move back to Bajor/Kantana and everyone wins! No risk! No downside! What's the issue here?

Episode as Functionary : .5 stars, 10%

There are about a thousand interesting ideas buried in this trash heap of an episode, making the final product all the more frustrating. Immigration, gender issues, cultural norms, genocide, religious doctrine—hell even simple bullying—all are swiped away or explored in only the most superficial sense leading to a totally contrived and pointless tragic resolution. And by pointless, I don't mean the gut-punching pointlessness of Marritza's death in “Duet,” I mean no tragedy was necessary if these characters weren't so brain-dead. The Skreeans are apparently inbred beyond belief, but I don't know what the excuse is for the rest. Throw in the techno-nonsense with the UT and some really dreadful performances (although Visitor and May do a good job), and you've got the worst episode of the season so far.

Final Score : *
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Elliott
Wed, Sep 16, 2015, 3:12pm (UTC -6)
Re: BSG S4: Six of One

@Michael :

Remember Cavil specifically repressed knowledge of the final five, reducing it to a taboo mythology. I think we are to infer that all five survived (Tori didn't start out on Galactica) is a miracle--part of the divine hand guiding the events of the series.
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Elliott
Wed, Sep 16, 2015, 1:35pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S6: Chain of Command, Part II

Also, "So, spirituality (a.k.a. religion) can have a positive impact on society?"

Spirituality is not the same as religion. The inference here is that the Federation is a spiritual society (just look at the Vulcans), but rejects religion and, in all likelihood, theism in general. Please do not conflate the two ideas.
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Elliott
Wed, Sep 16, 2015, 1:30pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S6: Chain of Command, Part II

@Luke :

I don't think the message was "torture is an ineffective means of control" at all--more that Torture is an ineffective means of intelligence gathering--it is actually a way to exercise control for the emotionally desperate. Think about the (original) context for this episode--the Cardassians had just ceded control of Bajor to a group of terrorists. That's a huge blow to the Cardassian ego. That Madred would find satisfaction in gaining control of Picard (a Bajoran advocate and a prominent figure in the Federation) is not surprising. Torture is a way to control somebody, and an effective one, but you destroy the thing you are trying to control. That's what that final scene was about and why I think that without it, the story would be less effective.
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Elliott
Tue, Sep 15, 2015, 1:27am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S2: Second Sight

Teaser : **, 5%

It's been 4 years since “Best of Both Worlds,” and Sisko almost let the anniversary go “unnoticed.” Bad fanboy. We are treated to a sincere little scene where Jake relives a dream to his father, which is severely undermined by a poorly directed performance from Lofton.

So, while Bajorans are apparently starving in the Northern Peninsula, Federation Commander Sisko has a case of the blues as he strolls about peering out the windows. A beautiful woman, dressed in red (and cynically cast by the way, but we'll save that discussion for later) appears by his side. Fenna is her name, but we're going to call her Batgirl, because, darn it, she has this tendency to keep disappearing! Batgirl and Sisko have one of those conversations that fiction writers often believe represents normal human speech, but are only correct insofar as describing two stoned college sophomores attempting to get into each others' pants by way of pseudo-philosophy. Batgirl vanishes and Sisko is left blue-balled for his lady in red.

Act 1 : **, 17%

Do you mean to tell me that after more than a year, in addition to still not having dealt with starving Bajorans, they haven't gotten the station to coöperate with them? Man, Q was right: these people are incompetent. Anyway, Kira gets all bothered because Sisko has ordered “something different” for his morning beverage. Riveting. Meanwhile, Dax and a “guest” (a terraformer) are working on some sort of something or other. Seyetik, the terraformer, is in this story, as far as I can tell, to shine a spotlight on the complete lack of personality displayed by the main cast or Batgirl. He's basically an updated Ira Graves, arrogant, but charming in his way. Indeed, other than the blandness, this episode feels like a typical TNG story from seasons 2-5 (my favourite run of the show). But that's just it—so far, it feels like we've regressed to last season's gris du jour. Seyetik, we learn, is going to reïgnite a dying star and thus restore life to a solar system.

After dinner with Dax, Sisko goes on another stroll and runs into Batgirl again. She takes him up on his offer to tour the station. All the while, neither actor seems to be able to utter a sentence above a sultry whisper, because you know that's how people talk when they're IN LOVE.....

You know one thing that tends to bother me about Brooks' performances—and this just dawned on me—he doesn't blink. He doesn't break eye contact. During “Emissary,” when he was staring at Locutus over the viewscreen, this kind of intensity worked, it matched the situation. But he's doing the same thing here, when he's on a first date! It's the kind of acting that does not translate well from the stage to the small screen. When your audience is far away from you, it can be advantageous to exaggerate your facial expressions, but when the camera is right up next you, the effect is to make you look incredibly creepy.

Anyway, Batgirl disappears again in a fizzle—no comment from Sisko on how she was wearing the same red dress from the night before.

Act 2 : *.5, 17%

We are treated to a another borderline unwatchable scene between Ben and Jake—he's distracted you see. In case it wasn't clear to you by the way he completely ignores his son and stares (creepy...) into his food, he tells us so. Subtle.

JAKE : What's she like?
SISKO : She's uh...*really* interesting.

Huh? We've seen about 45 seconds of screentime between Batgirl and Ben. Oh but please, episode, tell us why they're in love. No? Oh okay, sure we will just swallow whatever you tell us is true. Why not?

Sisko drops in on Odo to ask for a “personal favour.” He wants the Commissioner—er, Constable to find Batgirl for him. Apparently, whatever “interesting” conversation they had together didn't include finding out what species she is, how she arrived on DS9 or whether Fenna is her first or last name. But Sisko remembers that RED dress. [Did I mention how creepy he's acting?]

Dax corners Sisko in his office. Seriously though, how many of these scenes were written by humans and not generated by some “human behaviour” algorithm? Dax accuses Sisko of not confiding in her as he did Kurzon because she's a woman. Cue Sisko laughing hysterically (and I mean hysterically). Ugh.

The one bright spot in all this, Seyetik, entertains us (and the senior staff) with his egomania.

SEYETIK : Nothing of worth was ever created by a pessimist.

Interesting notion. Untrue, obviously, but interesting. I do like the little bit where Bashir comments that he finds Seyetik “remarkably entertaining.” Subtext: “It's nice not to be the arrogant prick in the room for once.” Seyetik introduces us to his wife, who turns out to be Batgirl.

Duhn Duhn Duhn!!!!

Act 3 : *.5, 17%

After dinner, Sisko discovers that Seyetik's wife is really more Barbara Gordon than Batgirl. She claims not to have met him and he, incensed, walks out of the room. Blink dammit!

SISKO : She's a married woman.
DAX : That would never have stopped Kurzon.

Okay episode, you get a point for that line.

Odo reports to Sisko that no one except Seyetik has left the Prometheus (his ship) since it docked on DS9. Meaning Batgirl couldn't be Barbara Gordon. Except, don't you people have these devices which transport you from one place to another? You know they provide a means of instant transportation which wouldn't register as a disembarkation onto the station. They bypass the need for traditional forms of transportation. What are those things called...? I must be misremembering.

Later, Batgirl appears—in that same red dress—and confuses Sisko about her identity. They have a kiss which wants to convince us they share some sort of deep bond—eh, somehow. Then she disappears. Mysterious! It's not like anyone around here has a device which makes people disappear in a pool of light. What would you call such a device?

So rather than react like a normal person : confused (why did she beam away?), horrified (did she just vanish?), or panicked (has she been kidnapped?), Sisko is...sad. Huh.

Act 4 : **.5, 17%

Sisko decides (under pretence) to join Dax on the Prometheus to witness Seyetik's “crowning achievement.” We discover that Barbara Gordon is an Halalan whom Seyetik met during one of these achievements. Kiley has a penchant for stealing every scene he's in, but really it's not that his acting is astonishingly good, just that his character seems in any way alive.

Sisko stumbles onto Batgirl and calls egghead Dax down to him, who pulls out the tricorder—turns out Batgirl is “pure energy”--a hologram basically. When they bring her in to Seyetik, Barbara Gordon is dying, unconscious. For reasons that are left completely unexplained, Seyetik fails to call a doctor in (William B's point about Nidell's lapses of unconsciousness are annoyingly valid—or I should say, valid, and the episode is annoying). Anyway, Seyetik recognises Gordon's alter ego by name.

Act 5 : *, 17%

One wonders if Batgirl has ever seen herself in a mirror—she's a “psychoprojective illisuion” created by Barbara Gordon's unconscious. He sends the women away (ahem) and questions Seyetik about the goings on.

Calm as all, Seyetik explains that his wife's emotional discord has created the alter ego projection. He explains to Sisko that all his previous wives eventually left him after the infatuation with his larger-than-life persona faded. But “Halanas mate for life.” Well isn't that just fucking convenient. All that hinting in the previous act—all the subtle cues about what unseen bond might exist between two dysfunctional people—no no—it's just some arbitrary cultural/biological practice. What a joke!

Anyway, Sisko convinces Batgirl to let go of her existence—I guess. No input from the scientist Dax or any of the medial officers on the Prometheus, no it's just Sisko. I do appreciate the following line for entirely unrelated purposes however :

FENNA : But if she lives, then I die! And everything that you and I have dies with me.

File that away for when we get to “Tuvix.”

Sisko and Batgirl try in vain to convince us that they have some sort of history or connection and are interrupted by Dax who informs them that Seyetik has decided to commit suicide in completing his mission. Of course, when Seyetik references “The Fall of Kang” (“required reading at the academy” which Sisko was able to quote from memory), the captain of the Prometheus has no idea what he's talking about. Way to falsely bolster your protagonist there.

For what it's worth, Seyetik dies the way he lives, arrogant, grating and truly great to the last.

Batgirl is moved to tears for some reason and vanishes, restoring Barbara Gordon to life. She and Sisko have their little coda.

NIDELL : I wish that I could remember Fenna, what she did, what she felt...

That's alright. I can barely remember her either.

Episode as Functionary : *, 10%

“Second Sight or The One in Which Avery Brooks Gives Me Nightmares” is so empty, so void of life that it doesn't deserve much in the way of reflection. Seyetik is an engaging if slightly clichéd character, but otherwise, one may as well be witnessing the cold read of a D-rate science fiction play. The interpersonal relationships are, at best, a series of tired clichés (Sisko can't talk to Dax about women because she has a vagina now, Jake gives his father permission to date). The worst offender is the alleged romance between Batgirl and Sisko, which is supported by nothing other than “here are two attractive people who smile, cry and kiss a lot, They must be in love!” The romance in “Attack of the Clones” was more convincing. And as others have pointed out already, the explanation for Batgirl's existence and Barbara Gordon's dilemma are thin and contrived. Overall, a waste of time.

Final Score : *.5
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Elliott
Thu, Sep 10, 2015, 2:22pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S6: True Q

First of all, I was not trying to condescend. I could tell you were trying to make a point but didn't see what it was--and to a degree still don't. I could and can tell that you are against government regulation of (at least) environmental standards, but not why.

If we take at face value the notion that intelligent, forward-thinking capitalists will self-regulate themselves into protecting the environment in order to preserve their self-interests, that still leaves two major gaps in the logic here :

1. What is the harm in government regulation if its goals and the goals of those capitalists are the same? Is redundancy such a burden?

2. What about the unintelligent, present-minded capitalists who don't consider the long-term ramifications of their actions? How does one prevent them from destroying the environment if not with regulation?

There's also the more likely scenario that capitalists will instinctively seek out the highest profit margin over the ethical method. If I can destroy our environment, whilst making a huge profit from the lack of controls I would otherwise need to pay for to protect it, THEN sell a product which mitigates or corrects the very problem I created for even more profit, I definitely don't want regulation because it hurts my bottom line. If I'm going to be dead before the effects of my wanton selfishness reach me, all the more reason to exploit my surroundings.
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Elliott
Thu, Sep 10, 2015, 1:10pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: Who Watches the Watchers

@John Logan :

Human beings are sentient and intelligent. A zygote does not have a brain. Sure it's "alive," but so is a virus and a plankton. Until the cluster of cells reaches a point of complexity to display intelligence, killing it is no more a crime than killing an insect. Until it displays sentience, killing it can not be reasonably called "murder."
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Elliott
Thu, Sep 10, 2015, 11:01am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: Who Watches the Watchers

Haha--the Rabbit Hole Petition. I can see the site turning into a kind of MC Escher maze of topics.

Glad to hear about Sanders' momentum. Keeping my fingers crossed.
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Elliott
Thu, Sep 10, 2015, 10:52am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S6: True Q

Luke : "In other words, they only care about their self-interest but are too stupid to see their self-interest. See the problem? The script calls for this to be a society of capitalist morons and there you have it. ... it's mostly based on just one line of dialogue early in the episode (I think from Amanda) about how they should just have regulated the problem beforehand - because, you know, government regulation has such a sterling track record of environmental protection !"

I know you think you're making a point here, but what exactly is it? So they shouldn't have regulated their businesses, but should have prevented environmental disaster another way? How?
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Elliott
Thu, Sep 10, 2015, 10:45am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: Who Watches the Watchers

Ah, Robert you beat me to it!

I think Jammer would hate for the forum to start to include presidential race material, but I have to ask, because I believe at one point you said you were from one of the southern states (?): what's Sen. Sanders' momentum like in that part of the country?
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Elliott
Thu, Sep 10, 2015, 10:40am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: Who Watches the Watchers

John Logan :

"The Catholic Church merely wants to protect all human beings."

....doodly doodly doodly....

"The death penalty is the killing of guilty evil, mortal sinners. This is compatible with the teachings of Augustine, or a great hero like Pope Pius XII. They defended the death penalty as it is aimed at the evil who harm the innocent. Like just war."

So guilty, evil, mortal sinners are not human beings in the eyes of the Church? I don't remember that particular bit from the Sermon on the Mount....

"Could you tell me which Republicans reject those exceptions?"

Off the top of my head, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee and Paul Ryan. But if you read the officially GOP platform, it's there too.

----

Any definition of life has to include all the scientific data we possess as well as any relevant philosophy. Your whole stance is based on the idea that sexual intercourse automatically invalidates personal autonomy for women who become pregnant. Except, we in the modern world, having an understanding of biology, evolution and reproduction, are able to moderate our own interaction with nature--we can cure diseases (artificially), we can engineer our food, we can create life asexually (in-vitro), and we can prevent pregnancy from leading to the creation of life, yes artificially. That is modern medicine. You don't get to retroactively label a zygote "human life" in order to mitigate our wondrous ability to have a little more control over our lives than our ancestors did.
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Elliott
Thu, Sep 10, 2015, 10:20am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S4: Devil's Due

Hi Brian, thanks for the note.

I have witnessed/suffered enough myopia on these threads myself, that the accusation you make is distressful to me--the last thing I would want is to be considered one of "those" kinds of people. I obviously don't try to hide my biases, but try to be logical, critical and genuine in my responses. That said, I obviously fail in that sometimes.

To your points :

"ever notice how if it wasn't for your posts the Jammer's Reviews comment threads wouldn't have nearly as many- and on some episodes, none- comments against religion made in such over the top and needlessly abrasive/annoying fashion? THAT is actually what I would expect from a Sta[r] Trek board/comments section. Like here, pretty much directly calling anybody who reads one post of yours who is a Jew/Christian/Muslim gullible/masochistic/oppressed/whatever else. And on a thread with nobody even arguing with you really."

Post made before my first :

TheRose : "Devil's Due show us a nice insight how easy future generations will expose our faith and believes."

So, in fact, on this page at least, I was not the first person to bring up or decry religious belief. My first post took umbrage with Jammer's star-rating which I still find very unfair.

Every other post I have made on this thread (including this one) has been in direct response to a comment or question from another commenter.

The first came in response to my insinuation I found the Ventiaxans to resemble, in terms of Earth religions, Mormons most closely. 213karaokejoe said that my comment insulted him, specifically because Mormons believe in Jesus' resurrection, and so does he along with billions of others. In response, I clarified *exactly* how I feel about religion and the religious--not because I have a chip on my shoulder but because it was prompted. If responding to such a comment is "classless, immature behaviour," then you will have to explain that one to me.

You say you are an agnostic, which is your right. I say that agnosticism on an issue gives one a pass on making a commitment to any cause or perspective. True, it may be wise to practise agnosticism about subjects with which one is insufficiently familiar to take a position; for example, I am an agnostic when it comes to quantum theory. I am aware that there are debates and disagreements on the subject, but don't know enough about it to form an opinion. Maybe, when it comes to religion, that is where you stand, but I highly doubt you would peruse the quantum physics pages and accuse advocates of quantum determinism of being autistic, no matter how forcefully or even myopically they pushed their perspective.

To be perfectly clear, I have no intention of evangelising (or "de-vangelising) any person on these reviews or elsewhere. I happen to believe that any religious view (including an athiestic one) not arrived at through personal introspection and deliberate Sehnsucht is faulty. The reason you see me popping up so often on the pages dealing with religion (and economics and militarism, if you bothered checking) is because nearly all the episodes in which the *writers* take an anti-religious stance are belittled, nit-picked and generally dismissed by both Jammer and a large section of the commenting community, whereas the pro-religion episodes are generally praised. If there is a chip on my shoulder, THAT would be it, not being anti-religious per sæ.

Please know that I am not trying to insult you or anyone else by saying so, but the gentle agnosticism which you profess often arises from an intellectual fallacy that non-alignment is automatically morally superior, for which there is no evidence. Discussions can often become heated, but I always try to keep discussions civil and on-topic. But I will also not mince or obfuscate the issues under discussion in order to spare someone a possible feeling of insult.
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Elliott
Tue, Sep 8, 2015, 1:23pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: Who Watches the Watchers

"This country was discovered by Catholics. The constitution written by devout conservative Christians of various creeds. Founding fathers who[] opposed abortion and the like[].

-This is a bridge way, way, way too far. The continent was indeed discovered by emissaries of the Spanish Empire (or at least, their discovery of it was what propelled mass European exploration of it, including the Dutch, French and English). That fact has exactly zero bearing on the founding of the United States and far less the constitution.

-Almost none of the founding fathers were theists (and therefore could not, by definition, be called Christians). The only orthodox Christian among them was John Jay who, ironically, attempted to ban Catholics from holding office. The most generous description one can make of their religious beliefs would be to call them (the majority) "Deistic Christians," which is to say, men who retained the rhetoric and general cultural norms of their Judeo-Christian European ancestry, but did not believe in the supernatural claims of any church, or of any church's moral authority over men. Two prominent fathers were outright anti-theists (Deists), Paine and Allen.

ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/anti-catholicism-founders

-More to the point, medical abortions were not a thing in the 18th century. There was no practice for anyone to condone or oppose. Women were not considered people and the biology of reproduction and evolution was not understood. To make any claims about the fathers' stance on abortion is completely specious, regardless of which position one might take.
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Elliott
Sat, Sep 5, 2015, 2:38pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S2: Necessary Evil

Teaser : ****, 5%

I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried - "La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!"

“I didn't him, you know.”

Since this episode is so popular, I'm going to try and focus on those things which have not been mentioned or explored in detail (although I'm bound to retread a little bit). I think the operative word here is “semblance.” William B noted the strength of juxtaposing Odo (a seeming constant) against the highly contrasting landscapes of Terrak Nor and DS9. I think the whole episode is a standout example of what DS9 as a series attempted (and too often failed) to do with the Trek Universe in general—question assumptions. Let's begin with the initial setting: as Jammer points out, we are clearly troping the noire genre, with the blackout, thunderstorm and eventual copper monologue. The genre-play is fun, mysterious, anachronistic, whimsical and dark. It plays directly against the inner life of the story however, one of deep personal and cultural tragedy. Likewise, Pallra herself, in this opening scene, is dressed to the nines, even sporting a huge, gaudy Bajoran earring (a symbol of their religion) in her own home which doesn't even have electricity at the moment. Her veneer is a lie, just like the noire genre is a lie.

Into this remarkably focused and thematic teaser is sat ol' Quark, accenting the ostentatiousness perfectly. Pallra offers to pay him to recover a box her husband had hidden away on DS9 “a long time ago.”

Act 1 : ***.5, 17%

You've got to love the insight into Odo's way of thinking. Basically it's, “I'm right. Everyone else is stupid.” But he has a patented (and it will turn out, racially borne out) fashion of diplomacy to mitigate this attitude: he makes a log entry, the majority of which is his explanation as to why it's unnecessary and superfluous and the final sentence of which carries the substantive information, “everything is under control.” The (usually captain's) log is traditionally an expository device, meant to give the audience the necessary background information for the episode to get underway. While it would still be used as such all the way through to Star Trek X, on DS9 and Voyager, they began to mix it up a bit. Here, the background information is precisely what we're going to end up figuring out as the episode gets underway. The purpose of the log is to bridge the genre gap between Trek and noire. Trek characters don't have inner monologues, but they do make log entries (mono-logs?). It's kind of like repurposed furniture. The beauty of its odd contours comes from the fact that it was meant to be something else entirely (like Odo missing the point of making the log in the first place).

We take a moment to cement the Rom 2.0 (lisping savant) idea, having him break into the vault more quickly than Quark would be able to and generally being a genius-idiot. Again, although it's more subdued, we see the theme of semblance emerging. Quark recovers Pallra's box and opens it (of course), only to discover a list of names. Pallra's shadowy companion emerges and steals the paper away from poor Quark, who gets shot in the chest (and killed?) for his trouble. Faced with imminent death, we get another entry into the theme: Quark, the thieving, lying, misogynistic misanthrope, faces his own execution with gall and calm, revealing a more honest portrait of his inner self.

Act 2 : ****, 17%

Someday, some nerd is going to write a thesis on how Trek weaponry works. You'll recall that Quark was shot in the chest resulting in thoracic cavity rupture. Which of course causes neural trauma (?). Because we all know the brain is located on the thorax...of humanoids...

Side note : Bashir calls for an anti-gravity stretcher, but didn't we just have an episode about how Cardassian technology inhibits the use of anti-gravity equipment (“Melora”)? Oh No! Continuity Error!!!!!!

Fitting in with the idea of semblance is this notion that while Quark is being hauled off, in mortal peril, we get this hilarious interrogation of Rom :

ODO : I've had my eye on you for a long time, Rom. You're not as stupid as you look.
ROM : I am too!

Pressured by Odo and good-copped (credit, William B) by Sisko, Rom quickly reveals the nature of the “robbery.”

Much has been made (rightly) of the lighting job during the flashbacks, but equally impressive is the way the station is being lit during the present. Cutting shadows and penetrating angles create an uneasiness, a hallmark of the fatalistic genre.

We take our first plunge into the tragic depths of this tale's inner life, as I'm calling it, with the jump flashback into the shoppe where Pallra hid her list. There sits Gul Dukat, sipping tea. What's interesting is how much Dukat seems to know about Odo (“you've become quite the student of humanoid nature, haven't you?”). Semblance requires study.

As William B pointed out, it's very telling that Odo was equally critical of Cardassian “justice” as he has been of Federation “justice” (see “A Man Alone”).

A couple things are of note here :

1. Dukat's complicated relationship with the Bajorans is already established: in once scene he is angrily defensive of his own “tempered” treatment of the conquered slaves outside his door, while casually telling Odo he should be “grateful” not to be a Bajoran himself, what with their petty disputes over things like food, while he sips tea over the body of a murdered man.

2. Odo owes much of his affected identity (there's that semblance again) to Dukat. Dukat offers him not only the job which permits him emotional detachment from others (investigator), but also the monicker of “neutral observer.”

The only witness at Odo's disposal is...Pallra, who still manages to reek of 1%ish arrogance as a member of a slave caste—semblance to a tee. I love the way Odo begins his task visibly uncomfortable with the idea of questioning a grief-stricken widow (as of 2 hours ago). When he begins to investigate (noticing she has *not* been grieving or crying), he immediately straightens up and becomes the gruff skeptic we saw earlier with Rom. Pallra offers to point out the girl her husband had allegedly been having an affair with. And it turns out to be Kira.

Cue flashforward, and there's Kira. They have both made the connection to Vatrik (Pallra's deceased husband).

Act 3 : ****, 17%

One other great touch is the fleshed out use of the log entry. I've already explained it's structural significance, but notice here that Odo uses the log to dump his feelings onto the audience, under the guise of giving a security report about Quark's attempted murder (have I mentioned semblance, yet?).

In another comedic detour, Odo guides Rom into remembering names written on the list (with plenty of zinging one-liners thrown in from both parties).

Note : they've chosen to have Odo (a Changeling) and Rom (a Ferengi) refer to Bajoran names in Bajoran script with Roman letters and diacritics ('c', 'o' and apostrophe). Huh? I suppose it's one of those don't-think-to-hard-about-it contrivances we have to accept in science fiction, but it's so technical and yet familiar that it stuck out to me.

KIRA : I would have been executed.
ODO : You were innocent of the crime I was investigating.
KIRA : That wouldn't have mattered to the Cardassians!
ODO : It mattered to me.

And jump flashback. Playing children replaced with near-starving miserable ones. In an interesting meta-twist, Odo attempts to play noire genre by saying to Kira “Pretty girl like you shouldn't be eating alone.” Just need to throw in a “toots,” and we can call it clichéd. Of course, he's totally uncomfortable with this farce and as soon as Kira rejects this play, he immediately reverts to his strong persona. Kira gives Odo her alibi and plants another complication in this mess, namely why Dukat would want Odo investigating this crime. Regardless of that motivation, the reason Odo accepted is because of what Dukat and the investigation gives him, his persona, which protects him from emotional vulnerability.

ODO : I don't choose sides.
KIRA : Everyone has to choose sides, Constable.

Nice touch.

Odo questions Pallra in the present. To further cement the semblance from the teaser, it turns out Pallra's displays of wealth are even more in denial than it had seemed, since her power was out for lack of payment, not inferior Bajoran utilities services.

Act 4 : ***.5, 17%

Quark clings to life and Kira hands Odo a photograph of Stanley Kubrick. Actually it's supposed to be the “Che'sso” Rom saw on the list (actual name: Che'saro). And he's dead as of last night. Oops. Poor Argentian.

Flashback to the first meeting of Odo and Quark. Of note here: Quark heavily implies that Kira slept with him in an attempt to gain employment. Might explain her attitude towards the “troll” these days. Turns out it was the other way around—she paid HIM for her alibi. Cue the reentry of Dukat. “You're not afraid of anyone, are you Shapeshifter? Not even me.”

Flashforward. Odo has reassembled the list from Pellra's communications records. She has blackmailed those listed (collaborators) for large sums of cash.

Act 5 : ***.5, 17%

“There's no room in justice for loyalty, or friendship, or love. Justice...is blind. I used to believe that. I'm not sure I can anymore.”

Odo confronts Kira in the past about her broken alibi. Odo maintains his stance that he won't choose sides. Kira informs him that she didn't kill Vatrik...because she is a terrorist who was sabotaging the Cardassians. Another timely entry from Dukat. Odo stays true to his word. Having deduced that she did not commit the murder he's investigating (even though she is still a guilty party in Cardassian jurisprudence), he releases her from Dukat's custody.

In the present, Pallra's henchman breaks into the infirmary and murder's Quark's security guard with a knife. He then takes the knife out and stabs Qua...no, he leaves the weapon behind and tries to smother Quark with a pillow. Okay...

The Rom alarm sounds and ends up saving Quark's life. It's a little cheesy, but Quark's semi-conscious grin is a worthy payoff.

Odo arrests Pallra (a satisfying end to her story is seeing her smug ass tossed in a cell). Odo has pieced together the mystery. Kira was lying. She did kill Vatrik because he was a collaborator. All the loose ends are neatly tied up. All but one.

For all of Odo's talk about distance, neutrality and justice, he compromised his ethical rigidity for one person, Kira.

Episode as Functionary : ****, 10%

I know people have mixed feelings about the eventual romance between Odo and Kira, but really there was no better option based on the seeds planted here: Kira is Odo's femme fatale. She seduces him to his own destruction (or at least the destruction of his persona). Thus the invocation of the noire genre is elevated beyond homage to deep thematic irony.

This is a story about a man discovering he has humanoid feelings and vulnerabilities only through the knife-twist that the object of his feelings betrayed his trust and preyed on his nature to do so.

Unlike the only other episode to reach the heights this one manages, “Duet,” the story is not played as straight tragedy, although it is extremely tragic. Rather, the story is given this noire veneer in order to accentuate the theme of semblance. Here, Odo's persona as the neutral observer, cold investigator and un-relatable alien is cracked open. As a character study it's just about perfect (and also gives me reason to object even more strongly to that throwaway bit from “Rules of Acquisition”). The story also reveals how fragile personas are. Not only Odo, but Kira, Quark, Rom, Dukat and the station itself are all revealed to have inner lives which are highly at odds with their personas. That very semblance though is the barrier which keeps the lights on. In the end, maybe that's exactly what “justice” is all about.

And this is why I sojourn here,
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is wither'd from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Final Score : ****
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Elliott
Fri, Sep 4, 2015, 7:43pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S2: Rules of Acquisition

Teaser : ***, 5%

DS9's best prop, Morn, has his drunk ass thrown out by Odo. In the meantime, we are properly introduced to Dax 2.0 (the gambling cheerleader). She and a contingent of Ferengi are playing Tongo. We are reminded that Ferengi women are 2nd-class citizens, entitled not even to clothes on their backs. I believe we are meant to infer that the Ferengi seated here accept Dax at their table because she has a mind which was once male (Kurzon). It makes for an interesting allegory to our current culture: how would misogynistic males react to a transgendered man? Assuming an absence of transphobia, how would they treat a man who was not always a man, or for that matter a woman who was once a man?

A slimy little Ferengi named Pel sells some pill (and himself) to Quark, all the while disparaging small-lobed females. Zek calls up Quark to announce that expansion into the Gamma Quadrant is to begin and the Quark will be leading the charge. I smell a sequel...

Act 1 : **, 17%

Zek snorts himself to some blow in Sisko's office (maybe that explains the shrill timbre of his voice?). It's an interesting conversation because it's a more subtle exposition of the capitalist mindset than we often get: Kira is at first disparaging to Zek (the head of state), offering her unfiltered opinion that business with the Ferengi is a mistake. Zek offers her and Bajor “free” fertiliser which could apparently go a long way to dealing with a crop shortage on the “Northern Peninsula.” “Free” is of course a euphemism for “not free at all,” but how quickly Kira puts on the puppy eyes and looks to Sisko for approval when he offers her something she wants. Okay, what the fuck is the Federation doing with itself if the planet it's assigned to safeguard is having food shortages more than a year after their arrival? Talk about contrived. This calls for a peak at the writing credit and...oh look it's Ira Steven Behr. Mhm. Whenever the strawmen appear (in this case the Federation's inability or unwillingness to feed the Bajorans with their unlimited supply of food) related to economics, count on Behr being behind the pen. When it's military scapegoats, look for Ronald Moore. Of course Zek's “gift” is actually the price he pays for conducting business on DS9. Didn't see that coming.

Side note : what kind of geography does Bajor have that allows one to refer to a single peninsula as “the Northern One”?

Cut and we bear witness to two non-unseeable sights: Zek having his ears combed and Quark presenting his rear to Zek. Yep.

Zek reveals his plan to sell Tullaberry wine to races in the Gamma Quadrant. “Tullaberries” gets passed around for a while, becoming the Peewee's Playhouse bit of irritation for this episode. I find it odd that Quark takes Zek's reasoning at face value (getting a Ferengi foothold in the Quadrant from which to expand). I mean, do either of them seriously believe that no Gamma Quadrant races have every heard of commerce? The Federation's lack of capitalism is a rare accomplishment in the Trekverse, after all.

Anyway, Pel continues to impress Quark with his skepticism, brushing Rom aside. This is one of those S 1 Wesley Crusher strategies where, in order to make him look smart, everyone else has to be dense, so the obvious seems genius.

Pel returns to his quarters and...removes his ears. Turns out he is a she...and while I want to applaud the reveal here, rather than letting us piece together the “small-lobed females” comment from before, we are given a long shot of Pel's breasts while the trumpets soar dramatically. Thus a potentially moving moment is unintentionally hilarious.

Act 2 : **, 17%

Well, in case you thought the trapezoid-tattoo-sporting Waddi from “Move Along Home” didn't look retarded enough, a new terribly cheap alien design is here to answer your requests. They're Mediæval Times ™ employee meets football fan meets furry dominatrix. Let's call them the Kinky Knights. They are some race with which Quark and Pel begins their negotiations for vats of Tullaberries, I think. I'm a little fuzzy on the details as the scene is so horribly acted, I had to turn away momentarily to dry heave.

I looked up Zek's manservant's name on MA, but I don't want to use it. We're calling him Lurch2 (Lurch1 would be Mr Hom, Lwaxana Troi's manservant). Lurch2 shows up in Ops to give Kira a piece of jewelry on Zek's behalf. Behr pulls another one of his annoying tricks. Let's run the remainder of this scene backwards :

DAX : Neither would I, but once you accept that, you'll find they can be a lot of fun.
KIRA : They're greedy, misogynistic, untrustworthy little trolls, and I wouldn't turn my back on them for a second.
DAX : I admit they place too much emphasis on profit, and their behaviour towards women is somewhat primitive...
KIRA : Did anyone ever tell you you have very strange tastes?
DAX : That's because you don't socialise with them the way I do. Looking back over seven lifetimes, I can't think of a single race I've enjoyed more [sic. ew.]
KIRA : I don't understand your attitude about the Ferengi.
DAX : I suppose in a way I do.
KIRA : You sound like you admire them for it.

So Dax admires the Ferengi, even though she finds their culture abhorrent, because they're “a lot of fun.” Just checking. Sounds like a cheerleader to me.

A return to the Tongo table, with Zek this time to loose to Dax along with the other Ferengi. He ups the ante for Quark's negotiations, demanding more vats from the Kinky Knights even though Quark can't hope to acquire the original number. Pel intervenes to save face.

Later on, Dax questions Pel, having deduced that she is in love with Quark. I echo William B. above and applaud the bit where Dax' surprise is not that Pel is in love with Quark but that she is a woman. Kudos, Behr.

Act 3 : *.5, 17%

Kira returns her trinket to Zek (you have to admire his tenacity). Quark and Pel report their failure with the Kinky Knights. In the middle of Zek's rant, Pel intervenes again, offering to pursue the KK in Zek's ship until they convince them to sell their berries. Quark and Pel deduce that Zek is withholding information and seems to be trying to sabotage the negotiations. Quark starts in with the not-gays and Pel tries to quell her disappointment.

Meanshile, Rom is running the bar, feeling neglected by Quark's new friendship. The really weird thing is Odo, who's just loitering around for no reason :

ODO : If I did have a brother [crosses arms and scowls], I wouldn't let anyone come between us.

I think the implication is that Odo thinks of Quark like a brother and empathises with Rom's pain. If that's the case, it's a major mistake and totally contradicts the character play we've seen so far. I mean, whatever affection Odo might have for Quark at this point is not something he would openly share with ROM of all people. I honestly don't know what to make of this.

Rom breaks into Pel's quarters and discovers her secret (a spare pair of manlobes). Again, I cannot escape my recollection of “Menage à Troi” and “Q-less” in that Ferengi ears are auxiliary sex organs. Meaning Rom is essentially holding up Pel's strapon in his trembling hands (again with the dramatic trumpets, making the whole thing feel like a parody). Fail.....

Act 4 : *.5, 17%

On the Planet of the Kinky Knights (who say “eee...”), we are treated to another barrage of terrible acting. Ugh...Quark tries to get Zek's deal pushed through, and is told that the request for 100K vats is impossible to fill.

Pel begins to freak out at the prospect of sleeping next to Quark (I guess in case she gets a girl boner for him). But after a sip of blue liquor, she has kissed and mounted him, only to be interrupted by one of the butcher female Kinky Knights. Not-gay Quark welcomes the interruption. Butch offers to direct them to the Karima (“an important power in the Dominion”) who might be able to fill their order.

Upon returning to DS9, Zek admits that his goal all along was to make contact with the Dominion. Quark negotiates a sweet deal on all Ferengi trade with the Dominion in exchange for putting Zek in touch with the Karima. Rom then outs Pel to him. This time, instead of a dramatic moment (with generic dramatic music) being undercut with unintentional hilarity, an ostensibly funny moment (Quark's feinting) is treated to the same musicalis dramatis generico, thus rendering the moment emotionally inert.

Act 5 : **, 17%

Bashir makes a cameo, treating Quark's, erm, injury. Note: Rom refers to the Rules of Acquisition (which Pel and Quark have been quoting to each other) as “sacred.”

Quark coerces Rom into keeping Pel's secret. The question of course is why.

Quark drops in on Pel and orders her to put on her lobes. It's unclear (at this point) where Quark's conservatism comes from. Rom dropped the hint that Ferengi customs are wrapped up in a kind of religion, but it doesn't seem like Quark feels them in earnest, more that he relies on things being the way they are. A kind of cowardly conservatism to balance his otherwise progressive nature, I suppose.

Later, Pel drops in on dinner with Zek, Quark, Rom and Lurch2. I have to admit, the episode finally strikes a comic note properly with Wallace Shawn's pitiful “ohhhh! IT's a female!!!”

Zek decides to keep Pel's secret (for his own protection), but punishes Quark by relieving him of his potential profits.

The ending is rather confused. I'm glad they decided to make a stand-up guy who sacrifices his Ferengi-driven greed to stand up for the freedom of another, but the idea that Quark has fallen in love with Pel (as their kiss implies) is ridiculous and completely unnecessary. In fact, it makes it seem like Quark's primary motivation for helping her was his lust/love rather than his ethics.

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

One thing that made “The Nagus” (to which this episode serves as followup) so effective was the juxtaposition of truly gratifying comedy (the Ferengi, almost unbelievably) with sincere human drama (the Siskos and Nog). That episode was brash in its comedic mise en scène and perhaps overly sanguine with its appraisal of the Nog/Jake friendship, but touching nonetheless. Here, the human story is rather confused as the romance between Pel and Quark is very forced and unconvincing. Additionally, the comedy is not in the same league as “The Nagus”'s. The rest of the main cast kind of orbit around the plot, adding very little (other than Dax' convoluted explanation).

I think the ultimate goal here was to develop Quark, which is moderately successful (if one overlooks the romance) and to introduce the issue of Ferengi women's rights, which is lukewarm. It takes tremendous skill to write good comedy and even finer talents to work in social commentary into your comedy. This is not an utter abomination like the eventual “Profit and Lace,” which borrows heavily from here, but it's a significant step down from “The Nagus” and a generally unworthy followup.

Final Score : **
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Elliott
Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 4:37pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S2: Melora

Teaser : **, 5%

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

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

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

Act 1 : ***, 17%

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

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

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

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

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

Act 2 : ***, 17%

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act 3 : **.5, 17%

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

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

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

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

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

Act 4 : **, 17%

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

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

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

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

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

Act 5 : *.5, 17%

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

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

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

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

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

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

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

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

Final Score : **.5
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Elliott
Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 10:20am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S2: Cardassians

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

"I also feel frustrated with DS9 sometimes because I can't quite tell if what I'm seeing is ambiguity or sloppiness -- which makes episodes like this hard to rate."

I have gone on the record about this before--I don't really think it's either most of the time. Or rather, it *is* ambiguity over sloppiness, but the ambiguity is there for its own sake rather than because it makes any sense. It's a kind of slight-of-hand magic trick meant to mimic depth or complexity, but too often it's really just a bit of audience pandering or writers' righteousness. The early seasons aren't so egregious in these tricks but it starts to get really frustrating during S5-7.
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Elliott
Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 4:56pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S2: Cardassians

Teaser : ***, 5%

Hark! What do I see, but the return of Garak! Rejoice!

Garak toys a bit with Bashir (come on boys, hook up already!), while the latter tries to get Garak to confess his [former] status as a spy. Amid their conversation about lingering distrust between Cardassians and Bajorans, a Cardassian child (a rare sight on DS9 to be sure) arrives accompanied by a Bajoran guardian. The boy is wearing a Bajoran earring (because they ALL practise exactly the same religion, don't be stupid) and gives Garak a cold stare. Garak attempts to make, erm, conversation (“What a handsome young man you have here.”) The boy bites Garak severely on the hand. At this point, we have to assume that the boy was raised in the Catholic sect of the Bajoran uni-religion and has been conditioned to react this way to pædophilic advances...

Act 1 : **.5, 17%

Kira deduces that the boy is an orphan left behind after the Cardassians pulled out of Bajor. Apparently, many Bajorans chose to raise the orphans as their own children. Cue a message from Dukat, who learned of the “assault” on Garak before Bashir even made it up to Ops. Dukat naturally uses the event to justify his own opinion that the war-orphans are being raised to “hate their own kind.” His next bit, “Why would he attack poor Garak, an amiable fellow if ever there was one?” is difficult to scrutinise as a viewer who knows the later exploration of their history and relationship, but I'm going to try in the context of what we know at this point; Garak is the only Cardassian who chose to remain on DS9 after the Occupation; the only Cardassian we have seen arrive on DS9 so far was murdered by a Bajoran; the Cardassians actively tried to oust the Federation from Bajor by supplying the rebels in the Circle. So, Dukat finds his fellow Cardassian Garak amiable but is willing to risk his being murdered by vengeful Bajorans and makes no mention of his involvement in or collusion with the takeover of DS9 just a few episodes prior? That should be a big red flag to Sisko, but he seems to miss it entirely.

Question: Bajor has been a free nation for about a year now correct? So it's safe to assume that Rugal (the boy) was adopted by his foster parents around that time as well. Rugal is at *least* ten years old, I'd say, so how did his intense hatred for Cardassians arise in just a year's time?

Rugal's foster father makes a good case for why trauma victims like the entire Bajoran population might not make the best parents for trauma victims like the war-orphans; he made no attempt to curtail his son's hatred for his people. Now of course, no one really had a choice, but the Bajorans continue to be presented in this series like battered wives or soldiers with PTSD, in other words, not as people who should be making the kinds of decisions with which they are entrusted.

Bashir strikes up a conversation with Rugal's foster father's travelling companion trying to learn more. The companion reveals the other side to his foster parents' attitude of acceptance—the constant abuse by other traumatised Bajorans who view his as “Cardassian scum...Rugal is their revenge, their revenge against all Cardassians.”

And again, I'm stumped by legal questions: Sisko insists (nay, demands) that Rugal be kept under Keiko's watch while they investigate claims about Rugal's mistreatment. Okay, surely the treatment of foster children is entirely a civil matter and thus the purview of the civilian (Bajoran) government, meaning whoever replaced Jarro should be making this call, correct, or at least Kira? It seems highly unlikely that the Bajoran government, such as it is, would sanction the separation of child and parent on the grounds that the Bajorans are brutalising a Cardassain! So, is this a Federation initiative? Is Sisko doing this to appease Dukat? How does the Bajoran government feel about that? They've had a say every other time Sisko has stepped in during civil matters haven't they? Remember this kind of thing when criticising Voyager's issues with addressing the Maquis...

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

Bashir it seems has completely accepted the premise that Rugal's life was in jeopardy while he remained on Bajor, disclosing to Garak his feelings that “a wounded hand is certainly worth saving a boy's life.” A priceless moment follows when Garak bursts out laughing at the suggestion that he and Dukat were friends. Garak points out the obvious to Bashir : “Do you think we simply forgot about those poor orphans when we left Bajor?” It turns out Dukat was in charge of the Cardassian withdrawal; the same man who is so eager to bring home the war-orphans is the one who purposefully left them behind.

Dukat and Sisko are discussing the details of determining Rugal's parentage when Bashir pipes in and directly addresses Dukat, prompting an hilarious grimace from Sisko. Dukat claims that he was ordered to withdraw and to leave the orphans behind. William B's quote above follows, and I fully concur that it's a golden moment in this episode.

And the writers decide to remind us they hate us by continuing to present Miles as the regressed trauma victim he was in the first part of “The Wounded:” by having him utter a statement so baldly racist that Keiko has to point out how “ugly” it was.

I have made statements before alluding to the ineptitude of DS9's writers in questioning the Star Trek ethos and this is a prime example. It's one thing to say, “The Roddenberry human seems too perfect. I'm going to use our show to expose cracks in the veneer that reveal a more complex truth to this Universe,” and quite another to say, “The Roddenberry human seems too perfect. I'm going to have one of them exhibit a racism on par with your average Klan member.” Subtlety, thy name is DS9.

Anyway, at least Keiko continues to be my hero on this series, having absolutely no tolerance for Miles' character assassination, I mean character growth. Ah, but we get this great moment where both Rugal and O'Brien push away their Cardassian meal which Keiko thoughtfully prepared and lock eyes, creating a bond between them. Nothing like blind, hateful bigotry to bring people together!

I apologise that this act seems to keep inviting digressions, but I can't help myself. Later that night, O'Brien comments to Rugal that it must be hard living amongst Bajorans as a Cardassian, to which the boy responds, “It's not my fault! I was born that way.” The immediate association this brings to mind is, of course, homosexuality. O'Brien uncomfortably responds that there's “nothing wrong with being Cardassian,” (rather tepidly, but at least he says it). Rugal is convinced (by his adopted parents) that there *is* something wrong with it. After all, Cardassians occupied Bajor and all but destroyed their society. The allegorical translation is that Rugal's parents have told him that the way he is is wrong, but not his fault, akin to “you didn't ask to be born as a sinful homosexual, but you are.” I can't think of anything more damaging to a child's psyche than this kind of taught self-hatred. Bear this in mind.

Act 3 : ***.5, 17%

“Come doctor. Get dressed. We need to be going,” cooed the mischievous tailor to his sleeping companion...

Bashir, unsure, but titillated, awakens his commander. Benjamin greets the young doctor in his velvet, barely-there robes. He is clearly unhappy with the young man. He might need to be punished.

“I'm waiting,” he says.

Commence the fan fiction!

Dukat, who is apparently content to sit dressed in his military uniform at his desk during every waking and unwaking hour, calls Commander Naughty Robes to inform him that he has discovered Rugal's biological parentage. Dukat has sent the boy's bio father to DS9 to collect him. In light of this mysterious behaviour, Sisko authorises Bashir and Garak to travel (alone) to Bajor. Ahem.

At the orphanage, Garak is his usual magnanimous self, making friends...it's all pretty hilarious stuff. During the humorous search, a few Cardassian orphans emerge and ask if Garak is going to return them to Cardassia, jack-knifing a bit of pathos into the mix. Quite a different take from Rugal's, I see.

Act 4 : ***, 17%

Bashir has had enough work for the day. He orders the computer shut down all engines, dims the lights and turns his heavy gaze to Garak...

Actually, he's angry with Garak for “playing games” with the lives of the abandoned children on Bajor and Garak returns to his Socratic method. His “I believe in coincidences. Coincidences happen every day. But I don't trust coincidences,” is worth the price of admission here. It turns out Rugal's father is a political enemy of Dukat's and thus, it appears that Dukat has been manipulating the situation with Rugal since before the Cardassian withdrawal.

Pa'dar (the biodad) arrives and, for not the first time, Sisko has sent O'Brien, his engineer, to greet a foreign visitor. Geez.

O'Brien warns Biodad about Rugal's prejudices, and Biodad is clearly a social conservative when it comes to Cardassian culture, disgraced that he has not been able to raise his son. Rugal is brought in by Keiko, who tries to facilitate the beginnings of a bond between Biodad and his son. Alas, Rugal has been too indoctrinated against his people to allow himself to be open to his father's overtures.

Sisko agrees to arbitrate the dispute between the dads as to Rugal's custody. Aren't there any lawyers in the Federation? Why is it that command officers end up fighting legal disputes in civilian cases so often?

Odo calls in to inform Sisko that Dukat has arrived on DS9.

Duhn duhn dunn!!!!!

Act 5 : *.5, 17%

Dukat does his best Helen Lovejoy “What about the children!?” while Garak makes a realisation: Dukat must have purged Rugal's adoption file.

Bashir contacts Rugal's adopting agent, who reports that Rugal was brought to the orphange by a female Cardassian solider serving on Tarak Nor (DS9 before it was DS9, of course).

Considering Sisko's, “don't do it again,” from before, he sure takes Bashir's interruption of the trial rather easily...Bashir begins to unravel Dukat's scheme: he had Rugal stolen from Biodad and planted as an orphan on Bajor in order to “someday humiliate” Biodad (there's a hearing taking place on Cardassia and apparently Dukat would benefit from Biodad's career ending). Except, the only real evidence Bashir has in the testimony of the social worker. Anyone ever heard of circumstantial evidence? Eh, whatever. Dukat leaves in a huff, so we can assume it's all true.

As William B. pointed out, Sisko's decision regarding Rugal's custody is not even glossed over, it's just skipped entirely.

There's a little coda with Bashir and Garak. Something about crumbs...

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

I actually find this episode very difficult to rate. As William B. rightfully complained, the meatier, emotionally complex story of Rugal is sacrificed to the political story with Dukat, Bashir and Garak. But the latter story is so much better executed and enjoyable, I almost want to forgive them. I'm reminded of Star Trek IX, where complex issues are brought up, glossed over and basically forgotten in order to have a “fun and sexy” romp in space. In the end though, too much of the story here is devoted to the meatier issues and the better B story (though it's technically not a separate story) is not nearly as amusing as it thinks it is, though it does have some notably brilliant moments. For me this story's value is in furthering my own Bashir/Garak fanfic and for reminding me that Keiko is awesome. But really, as intended, the episode is actually and tragically a failure. I have no idea what to think about Rugal or the issue of wartime orphans other than what I might care to make up in my mind (or observe as speculated by others). Dukat's political duplicity is nothing new. The real success here is introducing us more fully to Garak, which earns this episode its points.

Final Score : **.5
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Elliott
Tue, Aug 18, 2015, 12:19pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S2: Invasive Procedures

Apologies for anyone who gives a damn: just got married and honeymooned and eager to catch up on these. Continued gratitude to Jammer for hosting such an open and inviting conversation space for Star Trek!

Teaser : ***, 5%

I know Jammer finds the idea of the plasma disruption to be a tad too contrived, but I appreciate that at least the show's setting is being properly utilised. Unlike in episodes like “Q-less,” the station isn't interchangeable with a starship. Random anomalies (not that Starfleet are particularly apt at avoiding them anyway) must be endured rather than circumvented. I'm calling this a win. On the other hand, given how chaotic and difficult a mass evacuation of the station was shown to be...when was it...?...oh yes...the PREVIOUS episode, it retroactively sucks even more drama out of that flaccid episode when here it's all handled off-screen, and STILL there's an available runabout for the left-over senior staff.

Anyway, “Pines of Rom” Quark is discovered in a docking port doing...something. He evades explaining his presence, but the camera shows us a blinking device attached to the wall. Generic cue of ominous music and we're out.

Act 1 : ***, 17%

Ops receives a distress call from a wayward vessel and Sisko decides to let the ship dock. The crew emerges, having left their fog machine on too long, only for a Klingon Tim Russ to pull a weapon on Miles. Did Headdress just remove Odo's combadge? How does that work? If you're going to say in the same freaking camera shot that “this one must be the shapeshifter,” don't contradict that notion at the same time! Eh. Their leader, a Barclay-esque Trill has Odo contained in a thermos. The boarding party's dialogue and actions suggest they knew exactly what and whom they would find on DS9.

They seize control of Ops, remove all the combadges, and disable DS9's systems. O'Brien realises that Quark's little device is responsible for the raid's success (how many times is poor Armin Shimmerman going to get strangled by someone on this show?). And indeed it seems Quark made a deal with Verrad (that's the Trill) who also hired the Klingon mercenaries. His purpose is revealed—he wants Jadzia's symbiont : “I want Dax.”

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

It's worth bringing up the episode “Dax” at this point. In that review I wrote, “Most of the character work with Jadzia is done vicariously, with other people examining her on her behalf. In this way, it's weaker than 'Measure of a Man,' where Data did a lot of his own heavy-lifting.” Here again, Bashir and Sisko are eager to defend Jadzia from Barclay-lite's threat, but she is silent. In “Dax,” her silence was a part of the tapestry of the plot, her history with Tandro and his widow. Why would Dax be so nonplussed about being MURDERED by this dude? Rather, her first line to Barclay-lite is “[being found unsuitable for joining] is nothing to be ashamed of.” Wow, talk about Zen...

My immediate thought with this guy is that he is an allegory for the overachiever who is slighted opportunity. He worked hard, studied hard, but still didn't achieve his ultimate goal of being joined. For those troglodytes who find the idea of the Federation economy (or any communist economy) to be ludicrous on the grounds that it requires the dissolution of natural human competition, here's Exhibit A as to how competition, winning and losing are still part of the lives of human(oid)s, but not linked to the materiel of economic survival.

The overly tepid dialogue between Dax and I-can't-believe-it's-not-Barclay does a reasonable job of giving us more backstory on the Trill and the politics of a joined society. Ironically, not-Barclay has demonstrated a passionate pursuit in achieving his goal, including his clever raid on DS9, genetic and sociological research, quasi-military leadership and even finding a suitable romantic partner who supports him—yet, he is convinced that without a symbiont, his life is doomed to perpetual “mediocrity.” It's sad.

Broccolibutter shoots O'Brien to coerce Bashir into performing the surgery to remove Dax from Jadzia. There's a needless bit of padding where Bashir treats him and the crew give their expected bits.

While Bashir gets underway, Klingon Tuvok instigates another bit of padding with a brief fight where Kira actually gets her ass kicked for once. What the surgery itself requires is a scene which is richly coloured by a complex musical score. Unfortunately all we get is the usual wallpaper with the volume turned up. Take a few moments to check out the similar surgery scene in “The Host” and you'll hear (and see) exactly what I mean. Second act if you're interested.

I realise they want to push with Quark's character by giving him “bad guy” traits, but really Kira is right, he definitely “crossed the line” by sentencing at least one of his friends to death to make a buck. I'm sure there will be consequences...

Sisko points out to Verrad's mate (whose life he apparently saved—yet another example of his so-called mediocrity) that he won't be the same after joining. She shrugs it off in time for him to make his reveal, furthering his “I'm really not Barclay” arc by pulling an “Nth Degree” shoulders back, deepened-voice entrance.

Act 3 : **.5, 17%
Meanwhile, Bashir is trying to keep Jadzia alive. Klingon #2 is there to remind us how not to write Klingons; Bashir points out how Jadzia sacrificed herself to save her comrades, and the Klingon's response is to call her a fool for not defending herself? Yeah, noble sacrifice, honourable death—those sure aren't Klingon ideals are they? But Bashir pins his “fight-no-matter-what” stance as “Klingon philosophy,” so I guess we have to go with it. Bashir manages to save her life, but Jadzia is reasonably terrified and “empty” without her symbiont.

Sisko makes his expected move by appealing to his relationship(s) with Dax' previous hosts and bantering a bit with Verrad. I think we all know where this is going...Sisko will appeal to Dax' sense of ethics to convince him to give Jadzia back her symbiont. It's not a bad message, just a little easy.

I do have a technical question: aside from the metabolic issues that require joined Trills to remained joined lest they die, in which being are the memories actually stored? Did Jadzia forget all her experiences before joining? Well no, because for one thing, she knows Julian. So the memories exist permanently in host as well. So if Verrad could remove Dax and not die (presumably because the joining was so recent), would he not retain all of Dax' memories as well, thus making his need to keep the physical symbiont moot? There are only two justifications I can think of: either Verrad now needs his symbiont to survive (in which case Sisko is faced with a moral dilemma similar to Janeway's in “Phage”), or he is so consumed by his own ego that he feels the need to pass his experiences on to a new host at the end of his life. But if that's the case, how does he expect to pass Dax on when he's tens of thousands of lightyears away from the nearest Trill in the Gamma Quadrant? I suppose he will make plans to travel home when he's on his deathbed? Seems really dubious to me.

Act 4 : ***, 17%

First question: what are Verrad and his party waiting for exactly? They have what they came for, why not leave? Anyway, Sisko starts to plant his wedge, as expected (even by the characters themselves). His mate exemplifies that incredible human(oid) capacity to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time (contradictory, not simply complex); Verrad Dax is different from Verrad son of Barclay yet also somehow “nothing his different” between him and his mate. This is the essence of the argument by faith, my friends and it's not impressive.

In an attempt to save Quark's character, a clever bit follows here: Quark baits Klingon Tuvok into letting down his guard briefly so Quark can assault him. As logic requires, Quark is quickly thwarted by the Klingon BUT is able to use the event to feign an injury. Having just heard Verrad Dax state explicitly that he doesn't want to see anyone hurt, he is banking on being sent to the Infirmary. What he hopes to accomplish is anyone's guess, but he is doing a lot more trying to escape that Kira or O'Brien are managing. It's all really worth it just to see the look on Shimmerman's face when Klingon #2 snarls at him and he has to keep up his fake moaning and screaming. I definitely laughed out loud, or loled for you kids.

Hey, my question is answered! Verrad is waiting for the storm to die down. Okay, thanks episode. Of course, at this point, Mate begins to suspect that her Verrad has indeed fundamentally changed now that he has literally fundamentally changed. Sharp, this one.

Really sharp in fact because, having left Quark behind with Julian, the two manage to outwit the philosopher Klingon with the off-button hypospray (TM SFDebris), who was the only remaining guard. Quark continues his theft of the show by amusingly breaking into Odo's prison-bucket and freeing him. Verrad makes his escape taking Kira along as a hostage.

Act 5 : **.5, 17%

Verrad's mate and Sisko team up (yeah really) in order to “save them both,” that is Verrad and Jadzia. It turns out Verrad no longer needs his mate (Muriel, is that her name? Can I call her Mrs Goldman?) and in order for her to keep him, he will have to be separated from Dax. She frees Sisko and returns his combadge.

Odo and Kira manage to prevent Verrad's escape and Sisko confronts him phaser in hand. The scene is meant to be dramatic (and has some good elements, like Sisko's “don't call me Benjamin,” solidifying the disconnect between Dax and its host), but if stunning Verrad is a threat to the symbiont, why not shoot him in the leg? Also, where the hell did Odo end up that he isn't around to help out now? It's just a little contrived to sit perfectly well for me.

Cut to post-op and the symbiont has been returned to Jadzia. Verrad is back to normal. Again, he remembers the exchanges between himself and Sisko, but not the “knowledge or the confidence.” So what, the cool stuff is remembered only by the symbiont, but the humdrum memories are shared by the host? Well that's fucking convenient.

Jadzia also recalls all of Verrad's actions post-joining and says she'll have to live with it. I guess there will be consequences...

Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

What I really like about the episode is its consistency with “Dax” in establishing that the lives of each Trill host are unique and separate despite their continuity as provided by the the symbiont. Just as Jadzia and Curzon are distinct individuals, so are Jadzia and Verrad. The effect is to clarify that Sisko's relationship with Jadzia is not determined by their history as Sisko and Curzon, merely initiated by it. Verrad's arc is expected, but handled and performed reasonably well. I found the idea of Muriel reducing him back to man who needs her to be perfectly in keeping with the tragedy of his existence. His obsession with joining completely blinds him to the accomplishments of his own unique life, a uniqueness which the episode emphasises with its portrayal of Verrad Dax as a man who is not Sisko's friend.

What I really don't like is the assassination of Quark's character. His cleverness at the end and Shimmerman's amusing portrayal help somewhat, but seriously, how can things go on as usual after he nearly got Jadzia killed for profit? William B. tacks it up to Quark's stupidity, and I guess in that context, it's not so offensive, but the episode makes a big deal out of how Quark ends up out-smarting everyone else. He never actually expresses any remorse or has a dialogue with Jadzia or even Kira at the end.

The seemingly arbitrary rules governing Trill memories are also rather annoying, as is Verrad's (especially after joining with Dax) lack of forethought regarding the fate of the symbiont after he flees.

My biggest gripe is that we are again denied the chance to get to know Jadzia Dax through Dax herself. Any character growth is handled vicariously, just like in Dax. That episode was so strong in other areas that we could forgive it, but here it's frustrating.

Final Score : **.5
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Elliott
Thu, Jul 23, 2015, 2:14pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S5: Darmok

At the risk of getting flagged for preaching or whatever nonsensical insult one wants to hurl, I believe that faulting this episode based on the plausibility or workability of the Tamarian "language" is missing entirely the point of the episode. When Data and Troi are searching through the databanks to try and figure it out, do they at any point discuss grammar, semantics or etymology? No, they discuss history and mythology. The Tamarian language does not make sense in a *literal* sense, but in a metaphorical sense, just like our own mythologies don't make literal sense, but metaphorical sense. The Tamarian language and culture are themselves metaphors for our own connection to the primitive sources of our own culture. The language is not meant to be plausible, it's meant to be representative; to cause us to reflect on our cultural history and value of stories like "Gilgamesh."

That said, if you absolutely must find the apologist's answer to the Tamarian dilemma, don't forget that they have a written language as well. Their written language may be able to convey non-metaphorical ideas like mathematics. They did after all make contact with the Federation by sending out mathematical sequences. If you need a little bit of filling in the blanks to get at the heart of this episode, then fine, they aren't difficult to concoct, but I would beg you not to allow those blanks to obfuscate the incredible depth and power of this episode.
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Wed, Jul 22, 2015, 7:12pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S2: Invasive Procedures

Dammit, William B you passed me!
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