Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Dramatis Personae"

**1/2

Air date: 5/31/1993
Written by Joe Menosky
Directed by Cliff Bole

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

A Klingon ship returns from the Gamma Quadrant, virtually destroyed by an internal mutiny. When the DS9 crew beams aboard the only survivor, they also beam over a "telepathic matrix," which infects the senior staff and causes them to re-enact an alien power struggle.

"Dramatis Personae" does not have an inspired premise—the power play has been done before, and using a convenient sci-fi explanation to warrant erratic behavior is hardly conducive for real drama. However, what works to a degree here are some of the subtle details surrounding the concept, which makes it interesting enough to be reasonably entertaining.

The way Kira's mutiny grows out of the situation set up at the beginning of the episode—her disagreement with Sisko on allowing suspected Cardassian-aiding smugglers to dock at DS9—smoothly integrates the real plot into the contrived one. Also neat is how the different characters take on distinct personalities of circumstance once the mutiny begins to brew. The uncaring Sisko, the sultrily venomous Kira, the anecdote-spewing Dax, the strategizing O'Brien, and the "neutral" Bashir in the middle—all are characters who convey a weird persona that somehow adds a bizarre spin on the show's tone.

Odo's cleverness works decently in the plot, as he plays both sides long enough to resolve the problem. Most of the show's best moments are subtle touches that aren't crucial to the story, but raise the overall level of interest. Sisko's inexplicable clock-building is one welcome bit of strangeness in this 100 percent Joe Menosky concept. Still, the inevitable feeling of pointlessness that ultimately comes out of the forced situation is all but unavoidable.

Previous episode: The Forsaken
Next episode: Duet

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12 comments on this review

mike - Sun, Apr 14, 2013 - 6:48pm (USA Central)
"Still, the inevitable feeling of pointlessness that ultimately comes out of the forced situation is all but unavoidable". Oh, spare me. Star Trek is mostly characters in "forced situations" and this one in particular -- alien posession -- is standard Trek fare. If your major bitch about it is that it feels pointless, one wonders why you even watch the show. It's like complaining that Kung Fu movies "inevitably" have fight scenes.
Adam - Fri, May 17, 2013 - 11:56pm (USA Central)
@mike
"forced situations" is not standard fare for Deep Space Nine, or at least it ended up not being.
grumpy_otter - Mon, Jun 24, 2013 - 9:20pm (USA Central)
Yawn. Once I knew something was infecting their brains--about the time Dax started giggling--I was bored. Because they had no control over their behavior, there was no tension or character development--and no plot tension as well since it was obvious Odo would solve it.

Unlike Jammer, I didn't find their behavior entertaining in the least because I knew it didn't mean anything.

A miss for me.

azcats - Wed, Sep 11, 2013 - 11:28am (USA Central)
wow, i guess the comments section wasnt opened as early as VOY? only 3 comments...

this was an okay episode. nothing great.
Snitch - Mon, Oct 14, 2013 - 8:49pm (USA Central)
I really like the episode. Odo, Kira and O'Brien make for a fun hour or political intrigue. At least they waited till the end of season on unless TNG to pull this stunt.

3 stars from me.
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 2:08pm (USA Central)

Watchable but not very engaging. Another "meh" episode.

4/10
Dusty - Wed, Feb 26, 2014 - 10:49am (USA Central)
This was a blast. It was like an alternate universe, and the different personalities were really entertaining. Sisko is lazy and violent, Dax is scatterbrained and lost in the past, Kira's seductive and evil, and Odo is the only one not affected. I really felt like I was watching different people. I wish the episode summary hadn't spoiled me on the plot. But hey, I looked. xD
GATA4 - Sat, Apr 26, 2014 - 10:43am (USA Central)
Quite a fun episode, IMO, once you swallow the premise of this telepathic matrix acting out ancient history in any people it encounters.

The most interesting part for me though (brought on by binge-viewing DS9 again at the moment) is a throwaway comment by O'Brien right at the beginning, that keiko's taken a bunch of kids on an outing to Bajor. Its surely no coincidence that Winn turns up 2 episodes later ("In the Hands of the Prophets") at Keiko's school to sit in on one of her lessons, which is then denounced as blasphemous, presumably having got wind of Keiko's school through the Bajor outing. This is what sets DS9 above the other Trek series in my books, the way it's plotlines have been intricately laid out right from the start. Contrast this with Voyager, where promising antagonism between the Federation and Marquis crew was dropped pretty quickly by the end of Season 1.
Paul M. - Mon, Jun 23, 2014 - 8:59am (USA Central)
This one is a guilty pleasure for me. I don't care that it's silly and over the top, I like it! Agreed with Dusty above, it's like watching an alternate universe episode.
Quarky - Tue, Jun 24, 2014 - 8:02pm (USA Central)
Enjoyable episode. The one scene missing is the scene where Kira apologizes to Quark.

I like episodes like this. Back in the 90s I stopped watching because I can't stand stories about Bajor. I can't stand their race or their worshiping of the wormhole aliens. So I always wanted to see more episodes where weird things happened like this and the episode Visionary. Now later on I do like the long story arcs but I wish they would have gotten rid of 90% of the bajoran stories and added ones like this

Yanks - Mon, Jul 7, 2014 - 1:50pm (USA Central)
It appears that Enterprise learned a lesson from this below average episode.

'Observer Effect" is alien possession done right, this is not.

No drama, Odo was going to save the day. blah, blah...

2 stars because Rene Auberjonois again makes DS9 watchable.
Elliott - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 4:38pm (USA Central)
Teaser : ***.5, 5%

Kira shows up in Sisko's office to be a bitch (this is after all, her most natural state). She wants to deny a Valerian ship docking status at the station because the Valerians sold weapons to the Cardassians during the occupation and she believes they are continuing to do so. It's a nice callback to the more interesting parts of “Emissary” in that we are reminded why Starfleet is here, calling the shots: because the Cardassians would otherwise return on a moment's notice to reclaim Bajor. Sisko offers that the Federation would use political pressure to keep the Valerians from trading weapons with the Cardassians if Kira can find evidence to support her theory. Since it was Federation political pressure that finally drove the Cardassians off Bajor without starting another war, this should be an amenable idea to Kira. Shockingly, she actually follows this supremely logical course and decides to grant the ship access.

A Klingon ship emerges from the wormhole and explodes, transporting one injured individual to Ops who, with his dying breath, proclaims “victory.” Well, this is exciting! Mystery, political intrigue, reasonable characterisation. Looks like we're in for a great episode!

Act 1 : **.5, 17%

Sisko sends the Smart People in a runabout to investigate what the Klingon's ship was up to in the Gamma Quadrant and we get a close up on Terry Ferrel smiling goofily. Normally, this would just be another instalment of derp...acting? (see the last scene in “Q-less”), but the music tells us this is baaad news. She giggles and heads out with O'Brien.

Meanwhile, Kira is being her cheerful self, ordering a “slight delay” of the Valerian ship for her own personal suspicions, but Sisko overrides and clears the ship, cueing the third time Kira slams her hands against her console in this scene.

Odo and Quark chat about Klingons. Quark immediately sees through Odo's attempts to cull information about the ship, so Odo has to resort to bribery (you'd think Quark would be happy about this). Quark reveals the Klingon crew were after something “glorious” (what else could it be?). Odo turns to leave, but has a kind of Changeling seizure in which his head flaps open like a pair of wings and he falls unconscious (I immediately thought of Data's embossed tattoo from “Masks”). I still don't understand why an unconscious Odo wouldn't revert to a pile of goo. Is it not established that maintaining humanoid form requires concentration?

Act 2 : **, 17%

Odo “wakes up” in the Infirmary and Bashir has little to offer other than a rather cryptic set of paranoid theories.

Kira confronts Sisko in his office with her “hard evidence,” ready to confront the Valerians. She and Sisko get into a weird battle of wills and she steps aside.

O'Brien notes Kira's increased antagonism to Dax and they start acting weird as well, picking sides—Dax gets a little too chatty, O'Brien a little too terse.

Kira meets with Odo to gain his support, giving us a preview of her awful “intendant” style from the MU. Kira asks Odo to infiltrate the vessel behind Sisko's back. Odo refuses and she backs down offering the same “choose a side” bit from before. While these character shifts border on interesting, they are happening so quickly that they already feel like a gimmick, long before we know what's causing them.

Act 3 : **, 17%

O'Brien notes in his personal log that Kira “must have spies everywhere,” and thus the transformation from normal to influenced is basically complete in the course of the previous act. The Smart People retrieve a portion of the Klingon's logs and the crew review them in Ops, while Sisko expresses a profound boredom in the whole thing. Odo observes everyone's odd behaviour with concern.

Meanwhile, Quark makes Dax a sand sculpture to drink, mmm mmm. Kira shows up to try and recruit Dax to her team (cue: lesbian fan fic). Kira creepily maintains eye contact while sipping on her drink. Dax continues to absent-mindedly tell stories while Kira obsessively keeps trying to get her to help hold the Valerians and promises to “get rid of Sisko.” Quark overhears and Kira throws him down like an SS officer.

Apparently, this wiry Bajoran is so strong, she breaks Quark's neck. Jesus. So he reveals to Odo that he overheard Kira's little insurrection. Odo realises that everyone is acting strangely and Quark starts yelling, revealing that the neck brace is a Mort Goldman style ruse and he's not that badly hurt.

Odo finds O'Brien of all people sitting at Sisko's desk, reviewing the Klingon's logs. From what little we manage to garner from the video, something akin to the spheres from “Contagion” infected the Klingon vessel, and a mutiny ensued.

Odo finds Sisko in his quarters under heavy guard quietly and obsessively drawing a clock. In case we didn't already get it, he lets us know that he doesn't give a shit about the station anymore and tells Odo to talk to O'Brien.

Instead of slowly letting our characters transform into their various personæ, the episode has to beat us over the head with their new personalities ad nauseum. Either the writers didn't have confidence in the strength of their characters (and our ability to recognise the change subtly) or they really thought all these little performances were worth the screentime.

Act 4 : **, 17%

Mirroring O'Brien, Odo finds Kira with her feet up in his office, asking for his help. She confesses to locking down the Valerian ship. She tries seducing him with promises of her upcoming rule of the station. Odo tries communicating with an outside political party but the Federation and Bajor, but Kira and O'Brien have respectively restricted such communication. Odo is not surprised. He reviews the Klingon's newly reconstructed logs revealing the spheres of doom and an ancient power struggle.

Sisko orders O'Brien to arrest all the Bajorans, but O'Brien is more cautious and cunning. Sisko would rather go down phasers firing than play subterfuge with Kira, but O'Brien convinces him to wait while they conspire to leave on the Valerian vessel.

I think I know what Joe Menosky was going for here; the superimposed personæ attach themselves to hosts who most closely resemble the archived personality; Kira and Sisko are emotionally volatile leaders and, to a certain extent, don't trust each other; O'Brien is loyal and clever; Dax is nostalgic and aloof; Bashir is an observer, curious about politics (his later forays into spy thrillers are a testament to that). The problem is, the personality shifts are so extreme that we can't take these actions as revelations about their real characters (in contrast to, say, “The Killing Game”). If the episode could have been more patient and kept its cards closer, we could have followed a more natural progression from normal characterisation to exaggerated personæ.

So Odo finalises his theory about the telepathic matrix, using Bashir's own paranoia against him to get him to devise a technobabble solution to the real problem (the matrix) under the guise of dealing with the reenacted power struggle.

A Bajoran tries to poison Sisko in Ops. I suppose this particular Bajoran was in Ops when the Klingon was transported, because if he's just a regular unaffected officer following Kira's orders, that would reveal some major problems in the station's personnel.

So Sisko and O'Brien beat up Dax and the Bajoran agent, but Kira arrives with an armed party right before Sisko is able to kill the guy. Huh. So I guess there really will be some personnel problems. I'm sure there will be consequences...

Act 5 : *.5, 17%

Clever Miles beams Sisko and himself to safety (since Dax was too absent-minded to shut down the transporters). Odo plays along with Sisko while Bashir continues looking for his solution. Kira figures out that Odo is helping Sisko (but of course he plays it off as leading the commander into a trap).

Question : where is everybody? Isn't anyone else on duty? It seems like it's just the senior staff and a couple of extras running around the station at this point.

The notion that only those in direct proximity to the Klingon is confirmed as Odo drives out the matrix or whatever only when the senior staff is together (also ruling out the possibility that any of the other Bajorans (including the one who tried to kill Sisko) were affected, meaning they did this of their own volition. Geeze.

What follows is a goofy scene that takes all the suspense from the Beverly/Geordi plot in “Disaster” and throws it out so Odo can flush the matrices into space while the crew calmly avoids being blown out with it, suffering no ill effects. Great.

Kira tries to do some back-pedalling on this confusing idea by offering an apology to Sisko. We are given an interesting final shot where Sisko contemplates the clock he built while under the influence. Could this mean something? A sign of things to come?



Nope.

Episode as Functionary : *.5, 10%

A story with a lot of promise is really botched by some poor choices. How to fix this? Have the mutiny plot build up very slowly and naturally from Kira's initial disagreement with Sisko; there need to be a couple of scenes *after* they're affected by the matrix where they speak like themselves and gradually take on the exaggerated personalities unto a crisis point, when Odo can step in and save the day. Instead, they almost instantly change and we have to endure a bunch of pointless scenes that reveal to us nothing about these characters. Too bad. Another kind of significant issue is all the other people on the station! I mean, many of them went along with Sisko's and Kira's rivalry but weren't affect by the matrix. Shouldn't there be some fallout from how easily the Bajorans mutinied or how willing the Starfleet officers were to throwing the Bajorans under the bus?

Final Score : **

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