Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Shadowplay"

**1/2

Air date: 2/21/1994
Written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by Robert Sheerer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

This episode is an amiable outing character-wise, but rather pedestrian and all too disconnected. Odo and Dax beam down to a planet only to find a small community of humanoids who are disappearing one by one. Surprisingly early in the story, it's revealed that the entire community—people and all—is an elaborate holographic simulation, and that people are vanishing because of the projector's malfunctions.

The premise makes for an obvious definition-of-life analysis (since these holograms are all sentient)—which, fortunately isn't stressed in the slightest. Instead, the writers choose to develop a surprisingly affecting friendship between Odo and the young girl, Taya (Noley Thornton). Watching the softer side of Odo emerge is pleasant, and a final scene where Odo morphs himself into a top is, well, quite cute.

The plot, however, is more or less perfunctory. Will Odo and Dax repair the projector and save the village? Are there stars in the sky? Also present is a somewhat unfinished B-story involving a romance between Kira and Bareil. And then there's the C-story involving Jake coming to terms with telling his father that he doesn't want to join Starfleet like the old man. These character moments are pretty much all effective. But there's probably one storyline too many, and the episode is so unfocused—endlessly switching back and forth between the three stories—that it gets hard to become particularly engrossed in any of them. "Shadowplay" is light and slight.

Previous episode: Paradise
Next episode: Playing God

Season Index

17 comments on this review

The Dream - Tue, Feb 26, 2013 - 11:13am (USA Central)
No Comments? I will add the first one. I have seen this show many times due to my large number of 8 hour VHS tapes that I would play while I slept recovering from the night shift.

Anyway, great analysis. An obvious goof pointed out elsewhere on the web is the fact that Colyus says that he scanned for transporter activity and then was surprised that Odo used the transporter.

The also was another episode to drop hints about the Dominion. I thought they did a great job of gradually bringing this menace to the fore. It was nice to see Jake follow a different path, but I guess that this did not warrant its own episode or further exploration, but nicely handled by Sisko.
kavatar - Wed, Apr 24, 2013 - 9:13am (USA Central)
I agree with the above and the rating.

In retrospect this episode is quite disappointing. I mean it's fine and all but there was a lot of missed potential. Jake/Sisko, Odo/Changelings/Dominion and to a lesser extent Kira/Bareil were all major plot arcs which have a lot of ground work here. Unfortunately, it's all sort of flung together without making much impact.
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 4:45pm (USA Central)

Not a compelling episode. Odo and Dax don't have much chemistry.

4/10
Corey - Thu, Feb 27, 2014 - 7:25pm (USA Central)
The FX shot that opens Shadowplay is the FX shot that opens Paradise in reverse. They just flipped the shot to save money.
Moonie - Mon, Apr 7, 2014 - 10:13am (USA Central)
Hmmm I would give this at least 3 stars. I always like episodes that deal with "what is the nature of life?" questions.

Also, it was an Odo-centric episode!! He's by far my favorite charctr, maybe in all of Star Trek.

I don't understand why this gets a worse rating than the terrible "Paradise".
Yanks - Wed, Jul 2, 2014 - 7:59am (USA Central)
I'm always a sucker for this episode. I guess I'm a pushover for cute little girls.

The "B&C" stories were OK. Of course someone has to mind the shop while Odo is gone, and of course Quark has to see if he can take advantage. So we get to see the kindling Kira/Bareil relationship. We also start to learn that Jake probably wont fall in his father footsteps and join Star Fleet.

A note about the holographic community. I believe this is the only instance in trek where "omicron particles" are used to generate the holograms. Not sure if I agree with this technobabble creation and don't really see the need to recreate the principles of holographic projection. It had no bearing on the story.

I loved how Odo and Dax met the town’s “protector” Colyus.
“ODO: Are we being accused of some kind of crime?
COLYUS: Have you committed one?”
Then of course Odo beams out, Dax says he’ll be right back etc. 

This set the appropriate tone for the story I thought.

But the whole episode for me revolves around this little girl Taya played very nicely by Nola Thornton and her developing relationship with Odo.

We see a side of Odo we haven't seen yet which was enjoyable and the dialog between these two is written and delivered incredibly well.

I don't mind that "rights" weren't dragged into this episode. It really had nothing to do with it anyways. The important part is haw Odo and Dax convince Rurigan that his feelings are real for these folks and their feeling count too. I thought it was very interesting creatively brilliant that the programming for these holograms was written in such a manner that they could have children if they chose to. Couple things caught my attention here. Holograms having children is one thing, but only if they chose to, not programed to, was very telling of the programmer intent from the start. He wasn't just creating window-dressing to make him feel better, he was creating a family(s). All this contributed to the episode and the premise of what he was trying to replace after the Dominion conquered his world. I also liked that Rurigan didn’t run the town, from what we saw the protector did.

Also, Odo's turning into a top at the end for Taya wasn't "cute", it was touching.

Very well done.

3.5 of 4 stars for me.
Jack - Thu, Aug 28, 2014 - 1:53pm (USA Central)
So this holographic system simulates illness (assuming they have any), pregnancy and childbirth, including presumably all the er, messiness, that goes with it...very thorough.

Dusty - Thu, Nov 6, 2014 - 8:50am (USA Central)
One of the best episodes of DS9 I've seen so far, and--at least here--shockingly underrated. Almost everything in it works. Odo and Dax are an interesting combination that I quite enjoyed. I love the design of the village, right down to the holo-villagers' clothes. Unlike some settlements in the series, it looks like a place where I would actually like to live.

And more importantly, THREE plot arcs are advanced, all of which will have repercussions in some way later on. "Light and slight," my foot. We have Odo's friendship with the girl, which touched me and is easily one of the best performances by a child actress in Trek. We have Jake changing his mind about going into Starfleet. And finally we have Kira and Bareil falling for each other.

Disjointed? Maybe, but well done on all counts (and I don't even like Bareil). Not every episode has to be dark and complicated. I agree with Yanks: 3 and a half stars for this one.
Dimpy - Mon, Feb 2, 2015 - 3:55am (USA Central)
I thought this ep was cute:

She goes from having an imaginary friend, to being an imaginary friend.

Typecast ???
MsV - Mon, Apr 27, 2015 - 10:01pm (USA Central)
Now that Im back on track with my viewing from the beginnning to the end. Shows like this one are very cute, just like the previous posts suggest. I loved Odo in this one; I never knew he had such sensitivity for others. He always seemed to be so hard-nosed. The type of security officer that is always suspect of everyone. Almost expecting the worst like in "Dax".

I like this version of Jadzia much better than the pretty science officer that does nothing for the part. She is brilliant and her portrayal of Dax gets better as the series goes on.

Good Story!!
SamSimon - Sun, May 10, 2015 - 12:51pm (USA Central)
Agree 100% with your analysis, Jammer. I enjoy this episode, although I clearly see its flaws and its "mildness" (not to be read negatively: it's simply a very light episode).
Quarky - Wed, Jun 10, 2015 - 9:35pm (USA Central)
I want to talk about holograms in Star Trek and if some of them are alive. Most of the time holograms in Star Trek are explained to be just that with no life at all. Yet in season 2 of Next Gen it is explained that professor moriarty does reach a level of life and self awareness. I was surprised in this episode how quick Dax who is supposedly a science officer and Odo come to the conclusion that this village is full of holographic people who are alive and worth saving. I haven't seen much Voyager so I'm not sure if the holographic doctor is ever described as becoming a real person. One thing that makes me think that "some" holograms do become alive is the silly DS9 episode The Emperors Cloak where Vic is found to be alive in an alternate universe. It makes me think that even though not all holographic characters reach the point of life some do. I could see that maybe in one of the many parallel universes there would be a Sisko hologram that is alive. It's all a silly conversation but I feel that with the Vic, Moriarty and these people in this village the writers are saying that some holograms are alive.
Dimpy - Fri, Jun 19, 2015 - 9:43am (USA Central)
According to Captain Picard, in order to be alive “brain wise” you have to have these elements to be considered a life-form: Intelligence, Self Aware and Consciousness:


Therefore as applied to holograms:

Arguments for being alive as a hologram.

Intelligence

- How much computer memory is devoted to storing memories and raw data.

Self Awareness

has to be aware they are a hologram.
has to be aware they were created as a hologram.
programmed with personal memories.
self determination, allowed to make choices from complex situations, not just simply programming.

Consciousness

Awareness of inner self ( which nobody seems to define this precisely )
Dreams, Ambitions, Emotions, Goals
( not simply survival )



HOWEVER:

Arguments against being alive as a hologram.

Intelligence

versus a delete button for data and memory.

Self Awareness

its easy to manipulate their programming.

easy to install fake memories, or manipulate an entire day.

most holograms are choosing from a holograph reality, therefore cannot interact with the wider universe.

Consciousness

Is dreams, goals, emotions, friendships just a simulation or real.

This part is extremely difficult to understand and too long a conversation.



Final Verdict:

The more complex the program, the more “alive” the hologram.

or

If you, as a person, feel something like love or friendship, then the hologram is alive because of your feeling toward it.

“Are you the dreamer or a part of someone’s dream.”
Dimpy - Fri, Jun 19, 2015 - 9:47am (USA Central)
Forgot to add:

A stuffed toy is NOT REAL, and NOT ALIVE, however to a child ( and some adults ), if you have love towards a stuffed toy, it is real and alive, because your feelings make-it-so.

Android, Borg, Hologram, Q and sex-bot (wink) = ALIVE
People on internet / stuffed animals = also ALIVE ??? I don't know.
methane - Fri, Jul 10, 2015 - 12:01pm (USA Central)
I agree they never really proved the holograms are alive, but I don't think it mattered greatly. If they aren't alive and Dax restarts the machine, no harm done. If they are alive and Dax restarts the machine, they've saved everyone's lives. So there's no reason not to do it.

This is an episode that plays much better on DVD or Netflix than it did on commercial TV. All those breaks on commercial TV have sort of false cliffhangers, where it seems like the story is overplaying the concern you should have for the characters. Watching it with no commercial breaks, however, it plays like a light, pleasant story. There's no real tension through the story, but it keeps you entertained for the full 45 minutes.
William B - Thu, Aug 6, 2015 - 7:46pm (USA Central)
The village Odo and Dax investigate is the titular "shadowplay," using light to create a holographic village (in which all residents, weirdly, place the emphasis on the "ho") which, despite having the form of life, lacks the substance -- which to me describes the episode itself. You know an episode wants for material when it has *three* plotlines and still feels padded: there's not one but two scenes of Dax and Odo convincing the dim-witted lawman of something by making something disappear and reappear, for instance, there's a scene of Kira telling Bashir to spy on Quark which is a narrative dead end, and one of the Kira/Bareil scenes has the oddest bit of stuttering/mumbling I can ever recall seeing in Trek. The episode is not bad, but it still feels empty in spite of being packed with material. Taking the plotlines in turn from least to most screentime:

JAKE: I feel like the episode struggles to find even four scenes' worth of material built around Ben wanting Jake to go into Starfleet and Jake not having any interest. I also think that it's funny that the episode, in trying to depict why Jake is not cut out for Engineering, seems to be straining his brain to understand the notion of chips being colour-coded. But ultimately it's inoffensive; I like that Sisko has really just built up a vision of Jake going to Starfleet and Jake has never disabused him of it, so that it only takes a slightly awkward but ultimately pretty painless conversation to set things right between them. Fine.

KIRA: It may be the village Odo and Dax stumble upon that is "not real," but Bareil, as played by Anglim, seems to be the incompletely-rendered projection. Listen to the way he stutters and stumbles and looks confused when he and Kira talk about their refugee camps. I think I have some idea what the episode is going for -- either "generally loquacious man is tongue-tied around woman he is interested in," or maybe "man stumbles once he's gotten onto serious topic" -- but neither of them remotely fit the empty way the syllables come out, which at best reads as an actor forgetting his lines and the editor keeping it because the episode is pressed for time. In general, Anglim seems to play Bareil as so low-key that I don't quite know how Kira can be sure he's not dead.

So, you know, I get abstractly that Kira and Bareil spent time together on Bajor and that they can get into intellectual/religious discussions and have other interests in common. But I just can't see the chemistry between the performers, and combined with the idea that the reason they got close in "The Circle" in the first place is because the writers, I mean, the orbs sent both of them visions of the other. That Bareil is supposed to be so obviously attractive that not only are *we* expected to buy Kira/Bareil, but that it even turns out that Quark was counting on Kira being so smitten that bringing Bareil on the station would give Quark carte blanche to pull whatever crazy schemes he wanted, including schemes Kira was already aware of!

Anyway, I don't think that this relationship need be too big a deal and so I don't require the establishment of it to delve into Kira's soul. But I do feel a bit like I wish I had a better sense of what Kira's being with Bareil means about her. Maybe it's my fault for not simply seeing it. In "The Circle," Bareil's peacenik tendencies seemed to imply that association with him was going to help Kira continue moving toward peace (both inner and outer), and I see no reason that this is no longer true, but I don't actually see much evidence of that philosophical/emotional component to their relationship here, except maybe in the scene where they argue about his interpretation of scripture and can, if we wish to, fill in the blanks that he was advocating hugging trees as the solution to life's ills.

The Quark aspect of the plotline gets reused in "The Sound of Her Voice," but I think it works better there. Overall, the weakest of the three, one which I feel mostly fails in its only real job of making Kira/Bareil seem like a convincing and appealing couple.

ODO: This is the main story. If the episode has a central theme running through all stories, I think it would have something to do with the ways in which, as Odo says in the teaser about romance, love can be a distraction from what is important; Jake nearly has to keep going toward a career he doesn't want to avoid disappointing his dad, and Kira/Bareil nearly lets Quark get away with his heist. In the A-plot, the emotional pain that Rurigan feels about his artificial family is a particularly acute example of pain that doesn't *have* to happen: all he has to do is acknowledge that his fake-family wasn't real, and, well, he probably will still hurt, but he doesn't need to continue with whatever ups and downs the emotional attachments he has to them will bring. So for Odo to make the case that Rurigan's love for them *makes* the village real is a radical departure from the Odo in the teaser who believes that romance is only a distraction (though I think Odo is not quite able to make the connection between love in general and romantic love).

The emotional arc for Odo centres on his relationship with Taya, and the way her acceptance of him gradually thaws out his chilly demeanor. One thing I like, here, is that Odo (rather like Data) is given a chance to experience the childhood acceptance, friendship and love that he never had, which makes sense as part of Odo building up to being able to have real, open, adult relationships. Thinking about the key Odo episodes this season, "Necessary Evil" ends with Odo recognizing that he no longer wants to believe that justice is truly blind, or to prioritize abstract justice and work over all personal relationships -- which then opens him up, on some level, to being able to finally experience the love of a parent ("The Alternate") and here the childlike initial sense of friendship. And these follow fairly naturally from "Vortex" and "The Forsaken" which help Odo to recognize his genuine longing for family and help us understand what emotional traumas made Odo harden so fully. Odo's continued rants about how romantic love is stupid now are more recognizably the views of someone who is somewhere *below* a healthy human(oid) ten-year-old in terms of his ability to feel connected to others.

So in a big way, Taya's openhearted love for Odo, without fear and without exploitation (and without the complications of a work relationship), makes Odo realize that he doesn't have to be scary or an outsider; Taya's love makes him feel real -- which is probably why he ends up arguing that Rurigan's love can make the villagers real. Odo's turning into a top for Taya is definitely cute, and shows a willingness to do "tricks" for someone as a friend rather than as a circus freak -- and they also demonstrate Odo shapeshifting for his own fun, being willing to transform himself rather than remain rigid.

So the emotional stuff with Odo works for me. I am less pleased with the way the episode skirts whether the village is real or not, but I also get how this debate has been done quite a bit, and I guess it's not really necessary to go through it again. AND YET, if the episode doesn't want to examine the implications of a village of holograms, why have it be about a village of holograms? I guess episode is all about Odo opening his heart to the point where he believes in fairies -- I mean, uh, believes that loving someone can make them real, and that is the whole of it. Even then, the episode runs into unintentional comedy when we get the village's reactions -- when Dax says that if they can't repair the hologenerator, the village will disappear forever and they will completely cease to exist, there are some polite murmurs of "Oh no!" in the background, and the villagers naturally go from "I don't believe we are holograms!" to "okay, better stop existing, fingers crossed!" in a few lines, without anyone actually getting all that concerned. I don't demand histrionics, but no crowd of people would act like this.

So: the Odo stuff is nice but thin, with lots of unintentional (?) hilarity and padding. The Jake thing is okay. The Kira/Bareil material comes off badly. So -- I will go with a high 2 stars.
William B - Sat, Aug 8, 2015 - 8:55pm (USA Central)
I feel like I'm being a little too harsh on this season. I think this episode probably deserves 2.5 stars -- it mostly works, just in a padded and low-key way, and even Kira's reactions to Bareil are fine (if not Bareil himself).

Submit a comment

Above, type the last name of the captain on Star Trek: TNG
Notify me about new comments on this page
Hide my e-mail on my post

Season Index

Copyright © 1994-2015, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of any review or article on this site is prohibited. Star Trek (in all its myriad forms), Battlestar Galactica, and Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc., NBC Universal, and Tribune Entertainment, respectively. This site is in no way affiliated with or authorized by any of those companies. | Copyright & Disclaimer