Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"The Storyteller"

***

Air date: 5/3/1993
Teleplay by Kurt Michael Bensmiller and Ira Steven Behr
Story by Kurt Michael Bensmiller
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"The Storyteller" is one of those lightweight shows that shouldn't really work as well as it does, but it manages to get past the part of your brain looking for probing drama and simply leaves you with a silly grin on your face. The two plot lines are fairly mundane, in which (a) O'Brien and Bashir travel to a Bajoran village to aid a dying leader, only to get caught up in a Bajoran ritual; and (b) Sisko moderates a negotiation for two feuding Bajoran areas on the brink of a civil war, only to find out that the leader of one of the sides is a young girl named Varis (Gina Philips) who looks to be about 15 years old.

The familiar A/B-story structure is nothing compelling, and the plot is hardly one of the season's more important. Yet this show works very well, because it's so well characterized, and it knows better than to take its plots too seriously. On one hand we have O'Brien and Bashir, who, paired for the first time, promise to be one of the series' most reliable comic combinations. Bashir is young, naive, and annoying, whereas O'Brien is an experienced, serious personality who isn't big on wasting time. Dropping O'Brien unwittingly and unwillingly into the middle of a Bajoran ritual situation is successfully milked for all the low-key comedy it's worth. Meaney plays the role straight—flabbergasted over being mistaken as the successor to the village's dying Sirah—which proves to be one of the show's best ideas. What doesn't quite work here is the idea of the Dal'Rok, a fantasy-like cloud of darkness that feeds off negative emotions to threaten the village—an idea rooted in Bajoran mysticism that really strains the boundaries of believability.

Meanwhile, the B-story, involving Jake and Nog's adolescent mayhem and the way they come to know Varis, is surprisingly palatable and very entertaining. One amusing scene features the three of them breaking into Odo's office to steal his bucket—a humorously appropriate notion. There's not much depth in this episode, but the execution definitely makes it good for some genuine smiles.

Previous episode: Battle Lines
Next episode: Progress

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11 comments on this review

John - Sun, Jul 1, 2012 - 2:12am (USA Central)
O'Brien's lame pep-talk was pretty funny... "Ok, let's really try to focus..."

But this is a pretty ordinary and corny episode really; the O'Brien/Bashir partnership being the only thing that works.

The 'child' actors are all very flat and DS9's first season had far too many annoyingly dumb mobs.
William - Wed, Jul 25, 2012 - 8:07pm (USA Central)
I pretty much agree with your analysis (Thank you again for these. I'm enjoying them).

I liked the B-plot better. And we got yet more Ferengi redemption -- this time Nog unwittingly helps two Bajoran factions avoid bloodshed. I kind of liked Nog and Jake have a much more mature friend who carries adult concerns and responsibilities.

The other plot was OK. I wanted to like it more -- I wanted to like a lot of the Bajoran plots in Season 1 more, because there was so much potential there. They just always seemed to find lightweight actors and unmemorable storylines.

The good news is they do find their Bajoran stride in time.
Cail Corishev - Wed, Sep 12, 2012 - 12:48pm (USA Central)
I've been going back and forth between early DS9 and early Voyager lately, and got to wondering why I enjoy an episode like this so much better than when Voyager did the equivalent. There's nothing special about either story here. The A story is a typical Monster of the Week with a fairly obvious conclusion, that could have been done on any Trek. The B story is about a kid who needs to grow up and learn to compromise -- not exactly anything new.

I think it's because the rapport between people -- O'Brien and Bashir, Jake and Nog, Odo and Quark -- was already so strong that it's a pleasure to watch them even when the stories are fairly banal. (That may also explain why I find Dax stories so tedious -- she never clicked with any of the other characters that way.) I don't know whether that's due to great acting, great casting, or dumb luck, but it turns a lot of so-so stories into solid episodes for me.
Van_Patten - Thu, Nov 1, 2012 - 2:16pm (USA Central)
I can recall my first exposure to DS9 back in the mists of 1995 when the show first aired onbBritish network television, on Thursday nights. Due to my then job requiring me to work till 9pm in the evening, I would set up the VCR to record the episodes. One misstep saw the recording cut off the last three minutes of 'Babel' whilst a power outage caused me to miss 'The Storyteller' completely so I didn't watch this episode until about 3 years later, and it remains probably the episode in Season 1 I have seen the fewest times.

I agree with Jammer, much to my surprise this episode worked far better than on paper it should. I groaned outwardly upon seeing Varis (Gina Phillips) but her scenes with Nog and Jake worked surprisingly well. Although not the focus of the episode, the ever reliable Rene Auberjonois ( does he ever strike a wrong note?) is as good as ever.

The main highlight of the episode was that it marks the first real interaction between O'Brien and Bashir, a theme that would recur throughout the series run. Those scenes, from the opening in the runabout strike me as wholly on the money. I can well believe that O'Brien, being the enlisted, experienced engineer and all round 'fixer' would find Bashir's naïveté and enthusiasm intensely irritating, and although the story is extremely lightweight, Imfound my self enjoying it far more than I expected. As Carl Corishev points out, I think had the Voyager ensemble done this in season 1(I'd need to consult Memory Alpha to see if there is an equivalent, unless any Voyager stalwarts can help me out?), it'd have been rated a Turkey but the cast chemistry lifts this one into an unexpectedly strong 3 stars for me.
grumpy_otter - Wed, Apr 17, 2013 - 8:36am (USA Central)
I am SEETHING! Unlike Jammer, I thought both stories could have been brilliant and I was enjoying both of them until the idiocies started to pile up.

First, the story of the Tetrarch, which had so much potential. A young girl of immense poise and strength has had to take over her father's role and is finding it difficult. The other negotiator obviously thinks of her as a child and she has to not only represent her people, but earn his respect. A good setup with lots of potential.

She finds good advice for the situation in the oddest of places--from a Ferengi. When Nog suggested that her situation might be an opportunity, I thought that was very well-done. She has an idea for something that she could want from the opposing side, and in return will concede the land "stolen" by the Cardassians.

And then it derails into her search for a parental figure. Instead of learning and growing through the influence of kids her own age, she has to be soothed by Sisko. I was really disappointed--either exploration ("knowledge from the young" or "guiding mentor") would have worked by itself, but to conflate the two took away the strength of either effort. And then we don't even get to see the payoff of the negotiation!

Jake and Nog were great in this episode--it was disappointing to see their contributions made secondary to Sisko. The bucket trick was funny too--I actually gasped when I though Nog had dumped Odo all over Jake's shirt! I think Odo thought it was funny, too--he had a little grin when he sent the kids to clean up the oatmeal.

The writers should have focused on ONE idea for the growth of the Tetrarch--trying to do two made both of them weak. But that was just disappointing--the other story is the one that got my knickers in a twist.

The setup for Julian and Chief's adventure was great! Their interactions were terrific and that Bajoran village was a beautiful set--made me want to live there. But then we met the Sirah. I can't remember the TNG episode--wasn't he the actor who played the floating head who transported the Enterprise far out into space to meet them? A little distracting. And the leader of the village was another very familiar character actor--this is getting a bit much! So far, every episode has had very recognizable guests.

But back to the story itself--I was actually a little tense. Apparently a scary thing shows up and the Sirah has to fight it off with the help of the village--cool. And the situation with Chief trying to be the new Sirah was good.

Then when the Sirah's apprentice tried to kill the Chief, it all went to hell. First, Chief forgets his homicidal attack right away? But that's a small thing compared to the bullshit that follows.

The Dal'Rok was CREATED by the first Sirah to unite the village. Okay, I can buy that as a solution to prevent conflict. But once the village has gotten used to working together, wouldn't it have been time to reveal it wasn't "real?" As a lesson to teach them they didn't need to be fighting?

And apparently this whole situation with the Chief was orchestrated by the dying Sirah so they would accept his apprentice. How about, instead, you false-prophecy-perpetuating selfish old bastard, you take the opportunity of your upcoming death to dismantle the myth of the demonic entity? The apprentice knew the truth--they could have worked together to show the people the truth.

But NOOOOO, it is better to continue a lie for the sake of harmony instead of pursuing truth. I am so sick of people being treated as children who can't handle truth. That's what made me give up on BSG.

I'm so mad I could just spit.
T'Paul - Sun, Jun 30, 2013 - 3:51pm (USA Central)
While not outstanding it is in the tradition of Star Trek moralising...

O'Brien as the Sirah was hilarious "once upon a time...", and then there's the evolving friendship between him and Bashir.

The kids weren't as annoying as they could have been, and did actually serve a purpose here.
azcats - Tue, Sep 10, 2013 - 10:45am (USA Central)
i would say this is the beginning of the "bro-mance." i did like this one better than harry and tom from voyager.

hmm...i might even like it better than data and geordi on TNG.

i liked that Chief thought Bashir was annoying at first. bashir really did grow up during the series.

oatmeal scene was great.

as for grump otter. i think they continued the myth...because it ALWAYS made sure they had unity. look at the B story. almost civil war. i doubt civil war would happen here...
Snitch - Mon, Oct 14, 2013 - 6:26pm (USA Central)
This new age mumbo jumbo episode with the children leader illogical subplot made me quit watching DS-9 in its original run. It can't be good. The apprentice tries to murder O'Brien and what, nothing. Overall total crap in my book, 1/2 a star.
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 1:59pm (USA Central)

The main plot is just not good.

2/10
kmfrob - Fri, Nov 22, 2013 - 10:10am (USA Central)
I just don't get it...

I've come to DS9 after watching Enterprise (big fan of TNG when I was a kid though), and I'm reading these reviews as I go along. But what is beginning to annoy me is that there were plenty of episodes of ENT as least or more entertaining than this that you give lower scores to. Now I read your reviews for ENT carefully and I'd say that a lot of your scores and reviews were fair judgements, but it just seems that you apply a completely different scoring system when it comes to DS9. I mean ultimately it makes no difference to my enjoyment of the shows, but it just seems like ENT has been cast in a much more negative light than I think it deserves.

Anyway, I do DS9's heavy handedness with its life and morality lessons a little jarring at times, and Sisko is painful to watch, but the show is growing on me I admit!
Elliott - Mon, Dec 2, 2013 - 7:53pm (USA Central)
I really mean it, if I were religious, I would be extremely angry with the DS9 writers for portraying the Bajorans as such a pathetically credulous and weak-minded race who excuse ALL of their incompetences with "belief". What a disaster.

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