Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"The Muse"


Air date: 4/29/1996
Teleplay by Rene Echevarria
Story by Rene Echevarria & Majel Barrett Roddenberry
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"The dialogue is sharp, the story is involving, the characters are real...the spelling is terrible." — Sisko, after reading his son's novel; demonstrating life without a word processor (and perhaps explaining everything "The Muse" lacks)

Nutshell: The lesson: Beware abysmal dual-plotted stories with no discernible direction. The verdict: The worst episode of the season.

After a very long streak of solid episodes ranging from "excellent" on the high end to "okay" on the low end, DS9's creative team takes its first major stumble of the season with "The Muse."

And when I say major stumble, I mean major stumble—something along the lines of, say, tripping and falling out an airlock.

"The Muse" is easily the worst thing DS9 has done all year, and it easily falls into DS9's all-time bottom five list. It's a rambling, pointless mess of an episode—a complete waste of time. It's one of those shows where you wait all hour for something to happen, and as it appears nothing is going to happen, you hope that you are wrong—thinking that maybe something interesting is just around the corner—but then you realize the show is not going to prove you wrong.

The episode features two separate stories, both of which receive about equal screen time, and both of which are bad. It's impossible to determine which one was intended as the A-story and which one the B-story because they're crammed right up against each other with alternating scenes of irrelevancy. It doesn't much matter—neither deserves to be a main plot. Hell, neither deserves to be a subplot. Both would be more accurately called F-stories.

One plot (we'll label it the A-story since it was the one exclusively featured in the trailers) involves a mysterious alien woman named Onaya (played by Meg Foster, with those distinctive eyes that make her the perfect candidate for an alien) who somehow helps Jake channel his creative power into writing his first novel. Unfortunately, while unleashing his creativity this also allows Onaya to drain Jake's neural energy or something—it's never really clear what she's actually doing or why—but it's clear that this will certainly injure or kill him if Onaya is not stopped. Yet even though it's harmful, Jake is completely submissive to this "procedure" because of some unfathomable power Onaya has over him. Ultimately, Sisko learns of the alien's presence and tries to capture her. Onaya escapes into space. Ho-hum.

The problem here is that this is a brainstormed concept, not a finished, thought-out story. There simply isn't enough material for the plot to come close to sustaining its half of the episode. Scene after scene is long, repetitive, drawn-out, and pointless. We're treated to hokey-looking special effects as Onaya grabs Jake's head and acts like she's pulling his brain power through his skull and depositing it into her chest. Rene Echevarria does absolutely nothing with the entire thread, neither plotwise nor characterwise. So by the end of the episode we're just staring passively at the screen wondering what in the world we're supposed to be thinking. The line toward the end suggesting Onaya has "channeled the creativity" of famous minds for centuries (including John Keats, no less) is just plain silly. This has to be Echevarria's worst effort ever.

The other story centers around Lwaxana Troi's visit to the station. (Her last visit to DS9 was in "Fascination," a show that was just as bad as this one—it makes one worry what Lwaxana's next visit will bring. I suppose we can always hope there isn't a next time.) She's still in love with Odo, and asks him if he's over Kira yet (I thought we had resolved all of this already). This time she's pregnant (!) and crying to Odo over the fact that her husband's customs require boys to be raised exclusively by men and girls by women. Since her baby is going to be a boy, Lwaxana ran away from her husband to avoid losing the child to him. At first this seems like standard filler, but then the whole thing turns appallingly stupid when Odo agrees to go through with a staged wedding to make Lwaxana's husband—who has chased her all the way to the station—leave her alone.

What exactly are the writers going for here? Are they saying that to solve marital problems you run away from your spouse and then pretend to marry somebody else so your real spouse will give up and stay out of your life? What kind of fantasy world does this sort of solution come from? Wouldn't a typical Star Trek solution try to actually deal with the problem in human terms instead of coming up with something that, in the real world, would probably make things worse for everybody?

Aside from the questionable approach of the solution, the whole wedding thing is practically unwatchable. I like Odo stories that get into the heart of his character, but "Muse" tries to be cute at the expense of all credibility. This show wants to think we'll just accept Odo's completely-out-of-character actions. It's strange, in fact, because Odo seems perfectly in sync for the first act or so, but in act two all of a sudden something goes "click" (around the point where Lwaxana and Odo are playing the hide-and-seek shapeshifting game) and Odo's character runs awry with erratic behavior—the flagship example being the fact that it is his idea to engage in a mock wedding with Lwaxana.

And so on. "Muse" is pretty much a waste of television air time; an uncharacteristically ultra-bad Trek that would best be put to use as fodder for MST3K. Slow, uneventful, annoying, trite, and lame—did I leave anything out? Oh, yeah: It's talky. Talky can be fine, but not when the characters have nothing to say. In short: There's nothing worth musing over in "The Muse."

The only good moment in the episode is when the camera pans down on Jake's novel, and it turns out to be Anslem. But an episode this bad probably doesn't deserve to make references to an episode as wonderful as "The Visitor."

Previous episode: Shattered Mirror
Next episode: For the Cause

Season Index

30 comments on this review

Jakob M. Mokoru - Fri, Nov 9, 2007 - 5:05pm (USA Central)
Lwaxana never worked in DS9! No Deanna - no Lwaxana! She would have made much more sense in Nemesis!
vince - Sun, Aug 9, 2009 - 3:55pm (USA Central)
Well the premise of sucking whatever out of Jake's brain was pretty weak, but given than, what really annoyed me is that the muse escaped when there, right on the station was Lwaxana Troi who should have easily been able to track her and maybe even capture her. OMG, that part almost writes itself. I wish that Mrs. Roddenberry could have been used as a more powerful character than the bumbling Lwaxana Troi and the voice of the computer.
Nic - Fri, Oct 16, 2009 - 6:54pm (USA Central)
Thank God this ended up being her last appearance! Mama Troi's best episodes were "The Forsaken" and "Dark Page", and they were not gems.
Elliott - Sun, Dec 26, 2010 - 3:16am (USA Central)
The 'a' story is stupid because if for no other reason, asking me to believe that Jake Sisko has a talent for writing is asking too much. Buuuut, the idea of creative energy made tangible and that creative expression feeding the soul is meaningful at least to someone who is himself an artist. I can't speak for everyone.

The 'b' story however has a lot of heart in it, quiet and understated. The scene where Lwaxana falls asleep in Odo's quarters is much more than sentimental, she makes some very poignant comments to Odo about his life and his way without being overt and preachy (like most of the characters on this show tend to be) and it's welcome. Odo's speech at the wedding is also quite sincere and powerful (Lwaxana's reaction to it is telling in itself) in spite of the fact that 1) the episodes in which she's appeared before were so-so to terrible and 2) we shan't see her again.

Regarding Jammer's complaints about the moral implications of marriage, remember we're dealing with Lwaxana Troi--her morals are a little offbeat. Her option is better for herself and her baby even if it defies the traditional supremacy of contractual relationships. Remember her attitude in "Half a Life."

It was fun seeing Kang again too!

It wasn't a great episode, but it was a refreshing change from DS9's foolishness and had far more emotional resonance than most of those in this series.
Jay - Sun, Oct 16, 2011 - 6:36pm (USA Central)
The notion that Betazoids moods can be "contagious" would seem to have some extreme social and security repercussions. Funny how the stupidest teleplays also tend to spawn some of the stupidest notions.
Jay - Sun, Oct 16, 2011 - 6:44pm (USA Central)
Sine paper is pretty much extinct in this time, one wonders if handwriting is taught anymore, and if Jake or anyone else would even know cursive.
Nathan - Mon, Oct 17, 2011 - 5:50pm (USA Central)
Jay, I'm pretty sure an earlier episode (perhaps The Visitor) showed Jake using the bottom of his hand-held whatever as a writing tablet.
Lucian - Sat, Jan 21, 2012 - 3:20pm (USA Central)
While this was a miserable episode, it did provide me with one of the best laughs I ever had at star trek.

When odo walks into the bar and asks if she wants to go for a walk , worf says "I do "
Justin - Sun, Mar 18, 2012 - 9:23am (USA Central)
This is, unfortunately, DS9′s worst episode. That it should happen in the midst of an otherwise stellar season is even more unfortunate.

And then there’s the irony that this is the story behind Jake Sisko the writer’s eventual masterpiece. And it was badly written.

Too bad, too, that this was a wasted guest spot for Michael Ansara who played Kang in "Day of the Dove," "Blood Oath," and "Flashback."
Nebula Nox - Fri, Jun 8, 2012 - 1:05pm (USA Central)
I agree with Elliot! I think people are way too hard on Lwaxana and on the Ferengis, because they're not beautiful people running around in starfleet uniforms. I found the relationship between Troi and Odo touching. It taught Odo to open up a bit.
Ian - Thu, Jul 5, 2012 - 9:12pm (USA Central)
This would have made a bad TOS episode...
...In fact, I think it did.
Joel - Wed, Aug 22, 2012 - 6:38pm (USA Central)
Oh my God. I just saw this episode and had to rush to the internet to find anyone as outraged as I was. I can't believe that I couldn't find a single person mentioning that taking a child from their parent is called 'kidnapping' and the whole idea that Lwaxana is somehow a victim just because she doesn't agree with their traditions is absurd! If she hates Tavnian culture so much, why the hell did she marry a Tavnian!?!? Is the moral that a woman is allowed the final say in how a child is raised? Whatever happened to equality? That a Starfleet officer would go out of his way to assist in a kidnapping is beyond, disappointing. It's morally repugnant! I'm sure that some will argue that Odo maintained the letter of the law. But come on! If roles were reversed and a husband showed up with a baby claiming that he needed asylum because the mother "just won't leave us alone" he'd be turned around to settle things in some kind of family court! Lwaxana is upset that Tavnians believe in seperation of the child from one of their parents. Her solution? Do the exact same thing! Hypocrisy! Oh, but I guess it's okay because a mother stealing a child is obviously way better than a father stealing a child. Ridiculous! They were both wrong. So how come she gets away scot free with her crime? There's no way in my imagination that the Federation would allow either parent to simply cut out the other one just because they can. Not sure if Tavnia is a Federation member, but I'd expect the Federation to at least hold Betazed to a higher standard.
Angel - Mon, Oct 29, 2012 - 7:13am (USA Central)
Apparently this is one of the least favourite episodes by the producers. The director, Ron Moore and others all have stated that though they started off with what seemed like good ideas, did not come out on camera and ultimately they all pretty much admitted it was a bad effort. The only thing they liked was Meg Fosters performance (source Memory Alpha ST Wiki).
DG - Mon, Dec 3, 2012 - 1:45am (USA Central)
Elliot is so right!

With a completely different A-Story, Odo and Lwaxana would have been just fine as a B-Story. Loved the blankie!

Odo's using her as a rebound relationship from Kira's problems. (character development?) Them playing hide and seek was cute, too.

Lwaxana's... being herself, as always, and not too much in your face about it, either.

Problem was this episode was 2 b-stories, one decent and cute, and one sort of cringe-worthy, and no good A-story.
Cyndi - Tue, Mar 5, 2013 - 11:59pm (USA Central)
Most of this episode was pretty silly, but the hide and seek scene was absolutely adorable. We don't get to see Odo show his less-than-serious side much, so this episode was worth it to me just for that alone.
Kotas - Wed, Oct 23, 2013 - 6:11pm (USA Central)

This is one to skip.

Vylora - Tue, Feb 25, 2014 - 12:05am (USA Central)
I agree the hide-and-seek part was very cute. "Fascination" was a better Lwaxana episode, though, and even that wasn't that good. I honestly wish that episodes involving her were better than they were. I've always felt she had genuinely good moments. Very unfortunate that the writing for her character just never turned out that great.

The plot with Jake and the feeding off of his creativity was abhorrent and a crappy thing to do to his character.

This wasn't the worst episode of DS9 but definitely a major fall from the mostly wonderful fourth season.

Thanks, but no thanks. 1 star.
Toraya - Wed, Mar 12, 2014 - 11:25am (USA Central)

Lwaxana states in her first scene that her husband started off promising he adored her and would NOT follow his people's traditions, and that after the marriage he went back on his word, began treating her like property, and kept her virtually imprisoned. A pretty common scenario of domestic violence. You cam blame Lwaxana for being naive enough to believe her lover's promises, but she isn't the bad guy here.

My objection to the Lwaxana eps is that her shtick of sad-middle-aged-woman-desperate-for love is boring, cliche and somewhat insulting . How many times have we seen this? Does she ever do anything besides chase men or cry over men? Is it meant to be amusing? Maybe it was...for about two minutes, the first time. Though not really.
Rena - Thu, May 1, 2014 - 8:43am (USA Central)
I just saw this episode for the first time and I don't think it was as bad as Jammer makes it out to be. In fact I found it to be quite funny and the Lwaxana/Odo arc was really rather touching. Sure it wasn't a heavy duty DS9 episode, but it was lighthearted and fun. The Jake arc was suitably creepy, but as a lit student, I can completely understand the need to unleash those words that are all bottled up inside you but which don't translate onto paper. Especially enjoyed the reference to Keats, who also died young.

Methinks Jammer is biased against Lwaxana in general. I thought that the 'Naked Now' verson of DS9, can't remember its name but it too was a Lwaxana episode, but I found it hilarious and idiotic in a good way. Both of these episodes merit a much rating.
Rivus - Sun, May 4, 2014 - 1:45am (USA Central)
As a visual artist myself, the A-plot in this episode really struck a chord with me. Often times, when a young, naive, and inexperienced artist is faced with an undertaking that seems almost insurmountable in scale, we become desperate in our methods of tackling it... Often to the detriment of our health. This could be anything from losing sleep due to a coffee-fueled all-nighter, to cocaine for the more foolish and monetarily privileged (fortunately, I am not a member of the white-nosers club). But, as a result of these behaviors, often we'll drop everything in favor, even some healthy family time (much like Jake in his ditching of his father and Yates). Onaya very much feels like a symbol for how an artist's addiction, not only pertaining to his work, but also to substances that may seem beneficial in the short term, can take hold on anyone, even the best of us... Almost without any warning sign, just being pushed in the right direction by a soothing voice. I like to think that Jake could easily have given in at any time, but he was so drawn to his own work that it almost killed him to finish it in the end.

As for the B-story... Well, it fits the characters, and has its head in the right place regarding abusive partners (aside from the fact that this kind of thing DOES happen, and often times the abused will be reckless in choosing another suitable to protect them... Potentially leading to more abuse in truth). But the execution here I felt was a bit lacking.

I'd give this one more along the lines of 2.75 stars, though I can easily see why the A-plot would go right over the average watcher's head. Hell, I could very easily be reading way too into it for my own good!
Rivus - Sun, May 4, 2014 - 1:49am (USA Central)
Ugh, my ability to write here tonight is pretty one-star worthy, though...

*oftentimes we'll drop whatever isn't pressing to us (even some healthy family time) in favor of the art we seek to accomplish

*I like to think that Jake could easily have stopped himself
NCC-1701-Z - Wed, Jul 23, 2014 - 1:25am (USA Central)
Onaya felt like a villain right out of Doctor Who, specifically, the witch-beings in the Doc Who episode "The Shakespeare Code", basically aliens controlling Shakespeare in order to accomplish their evil plan of the week. Except "Shakespeare Code" was fun while "The Muse" was just lame.

And I still can't stand Luaxana. Jammer put it just right - a major stumble in what is otherwise one of DS9's best seasons. Odo had the best line though: "I trust I can count on you to accept me even if I just stand there and read last week's criminal activity report."
Yanks - Wed, Aug 6, 2014 - 11:46am (USA Central)
1/2 star for the alien babe. Her eyes were freaky good.

1/2 star for Majel gracing the screen once again, albeit in a cockamamie story.

1 star.
Sonya - Sat, Nov 15, 2014 - 2:54pm (USA Central)
Toraya said, "My objection to the Lwaxana eps is that her shtick of sad-middle-aged-woman-desperate-for love is boring, cliche and somewhat insulting . How many times have we seen this? Does she ever do anything besides chase men or cry over men? Is it meant to be amusing? Maybe it was...for about two minutes, the first time. Though not really."

I completely agree! Although I would add, it *is* insulting. I blame the writers for the annoying aspects of Luaxana Troi's personality. The fact that she could get on so many viewers' nerves over the years is a testament to her solid acting ability.

The "sad desperation" plot lines also undermined one of the things I initially liked best about Luaxana - she had a healthy attitude towards sexuality and her own body. I wish the writers would not have made her chase after men who clearly had no interest in her. I wish they hadn't made her seem so self-absorbed, just as a device to later show how thoughtful and supportive she really could be. There weren't enough older women in the show to counter the portrayal of Luaxana. (My favorite was Dr. Pulaski, and sadly, she was only on TNG for 1 season.)

I also agree with Jammer that the show's portrayal of how to resolve marital problems was not good. Why couldn't Luaxana ask for asylum and obtain competent legal counsel? (Oh, it's a device to foist Luaxana on Odo, who isn't romantically interested in her. "Won't you protect me, Odo?" - that alone is insulting.)

Re: Jake's story line, I found it disturbing that the writer paired Onaya, an older woman, with Jake, a teenaged boy. Why did the writer even need themes of sexuality and seduction for Onaya to accomplish her objective? I suppose Onaya had to touch Jake's head to steal his life force, and the writer thought sexuality was the most plausible way to achieve that end.
Chelsea - Sat, Jan 24, 2015 - 12:33am (USA Central)
Reading through these comments I can see that people really hated this episode. But I thought it had some good moments! I've always thought that Jake as a writer was kind of a joke since he's never actually written anything. But here he actually comes out of his shell and nearly finishes a book! Who cares if the plot device was a little droll? The point was to get Jake writing and I think it worked.

The B plot was the weak point in the episode. I like Lwaxana Troi. She's always seemed like a fun and kooky aunt who comes over some times and spices things up. But I have to agree with the guy who said that her actions here were wrong. She's the non-custodial parent taking to the space lanes with her infant in contravention of the law. In our society, that would be grounds for an amber alert. But I guess alls well that ends well. I give it 2.5 stars.
Icarus32Soar - Tue, Mar 10, 2015 - 10:30am (USA Central)
Like Fascination this ep works better as a metaphor and allusion to the powers within us to transform ourselves and others, the idea of artistic inspiration, the alien muse, is destructive and vampirical, Luaxana the cliche lovesick older woman transforms Odo into his most human yet. Did you lot not notice how he transforms himself to a blanket to cover the sleeping Luaxana ever so tenderly? Not every episode has to move the main arc along. Nor can every episode be interpreted literally. A provocative episode far more worth the 43 mins of tv space than that atrocity The Visitor that's got everyone pissing in their pants.
DVMX - Thu, Apr 9, 2015 - 2:15pm (USA Central)
I didn't mind The Muse. Didn't care for it either. Its firmly in the middle with me. I wouldn't turn it off if it came on TV, but if I had the box set I might never watch it. Its a firm "meh" to me. Half because I actually dislike any and everything Lwaxanna. Other half the idea of a Muse as presented her is fine even if the execution is so so.

Not sure I'd put it on a Top 10 Worse DS9 eps, and if I did, maybe #9 or #10.
Mythic - Sun, Aug 30, 2015 - 6:55am (USA Central)
The notion of a vapiric muses is not new. See the Celtic Leanan Sidhe for example.

Ben Franklin - Thu, Sep 24, 2015 - 3:22pm (USA Central)
This episode was painful when it first aired, it was painful when I rewatched the series beginning to end in 2009, and it is still painful as I am rewatching the series again. I should have skipped it! I can't even put into proper words why I hate it. Jammer covers it well.

The Jake Sisko storyline was okay (muse who tortures artists). The execution was just plain bad, though. The acting was nothing to write home about but the writing was boring and stale.

I used to hate Lwaxana, then I grew to love her, but in the last few episodes over the course of her character I found her to be weak and whiny. This episode was just plain wierd. I guess it could be a bit amusing.

1/4 star.
methane - Mon, Nov 2, 2015 - 7:55pm (USA Central)
I'm always wary of art about art. Whenever someone makes a movie/play/song/painting/etc. about something artistic, the creators are pretty much guaranteed to be far more interested in the subject than non-artists. Their artistic colleagues and friends, as well as many critics (who spend a lot of time with artists, and often fit the stereotype of being failed artists themselves), will praise the effort more than the rest of us. This doesn't mean that art about art can't be good, but it fails to live up to the hype of artists & critics more often than art on other subjects.*

That's why it doesn't surprise me that several commenters who identify as artists find the Jake story interesting, or that the writers of the show failed to see the problems with the story before it was filmed. The idea is somewhat interesting, if not original (as Mythic points out). It just wasn't used well here, as Jammer's review details. (as an aside, I agree with those who believe Jake could have stopped if he truly wanted to; he was addicted to the thrill of creation, not helplessly controlled by the woman)

I agree with those who say that the Odo/Lwaxana story is OK. It's certainly not memorable, but there are some decent character moments, and I don't mind them using the rules of an alien culture to solve a "problem" caused by the rules of an alien culture. This would have been fine trimmed down some and paired with a better "A" story.

So, yeah, this is the worst episode of the season. 1 star is fair. But it's certainly not the worst episode in the 7-year run.

*this doesn't relate to this episode, but I am just as wary of TV shows or Movies about journalism. Writers (of Movies or TV shows) glorifying other writers (journalists), generally get the praise of still more writers (Movie or TV critics...who also consider themselves journalists)! Lack of perspective all the way around!

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