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Elliott
Wed, May 1, 2019, 3:54pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: The Quickening

HAMLET: You do lie in it, to be in it and say it is yours. It is for
the dead, not for the quick, therefore you lie.
CLOWN: It is a quick lie, sir, it will go away again from me to you.

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

We begin by finding an entertaining way to justify paying most the cast in this week's episode. Quark has begun inserting YouTube ads for his bar onto the station monitors, which I think entitles him to a life sentence in a Cardassian work camp. If ever there was a cogent anti-capitalist message on this show, it's here. Quark didn't just advertise on the monitors, however, as an enraged Worf—yes noticeably enraged, even for him—barges in demanding Quark's head on a platter of Gagh. The prune juice he ordered *on the Defiant* was dispensed in a tacky-as-hell plastic mug that plays Quark's jingle every time it's tipped over to imbibe. Double life sentence. Well between Worf and Kira, Quark's sphincter has tightened enough to produce his own diamonds, so he's going to purge the system while Kira's off in the GQ. I assume the Bajorans are setting up a Disneyland or something considering how they keep establishing colonies for the Dominion to destroy.

Actually, she's been tasked—for whatever reason—with piloting the blue shirts, Dax and Bashir, to a planet they've decided to bio-survey. I think Julian has been taking LSD or something because he's acting like his S1 self, prattling on about stars in some ill-advised attempt to impress these ladies. Thankfully, this fluff is put to rest when their runabout receives a distress call from a planet just outside of Dominion space.

Dax and Bashir beam down to the besieged world and are greeted by an impressive matte painting, reminiscent of the pull-back effect used in the teaser to “The Best of Both Worlds.” The world they find is populated by a lot of miserable-looking people scavenging about the ruins of their civilisation. There are dead people being carted around, everyone is filthy, the sun is just a little too bright. A woman approaches the pair and starts convulsing in pain, begging them to take her to Truvada or something so she can die. He apparently runs a hospital. A man sets himself down by Bashir as Dax makes inquiries.

EPRAN: The Blight's quickened in her. There's nothing you can do. You should leave here. now. Go back to where you came from and forget about this place.

Act 1 : ***.5, 17.5%

Dax manages to trade her hair clip for transportation to the hospital and Bashir determines that these aliens' physiology is sufficiently different from their own that the blight is not a threat, but also that his medicines don't seem to work on them. We see the woman who now has Jadzia's hair clip admiring its loveliness on her own blight-disfigured head. Adorning injustice.

The blue shirts carry the quickened woman to Truvada's hospital, which resembles a church or a cult more than a place of medicine. Then it's time for confession. A man whose lesions have become inflamed (he's quickened) stands up to express his gratitude for Truvada's care.

TAMAR: Yesterday, when I woke up, I saw that it had finally happened. I'd quickened. I always thought I'd be afraid but I wasn't, because I knew I could come here. Last night I slept in a bed for the first time in my life. I fell asleep listening to music. This morning I bathed in hot water, dressed in clean clothes. And now I'm here with my friends and family. Thank you, Trevean, for making this day everything I dreamed it could be.

Then he takes a deep drink from a goblet. Truvada and the blue shirts chat a bit. Bashir is incredulous about what's going on here, but Truvada explains the backstory: they were once a sophisticated people, but in choosing to defy the will of the Dominion, their world was ransacked and their entire population cursed with this blight. They are an example to others—cough couch—who might choose to defy the Changelings. Then Tamar convulses, the poison he drank taking effect. Bashir rushes over to help.

BASHIR: Can't you see he's dying?
TREVEAN: Of course he's dying. He came here to die. People come to me when they quicken. I help them leave this world peacefully, surrounded by their families and friends...The Blight kills slowly. No one wants to suffer needlessly. Not like that woman you brought me.

***

Truvada's “hospital” here, to me, reads like a very clear allegory for Teresa of Calcutta's House of the Dead, made infamous in the British documentary “Hells' Angel.” A humanitarian worker called Hemley Gonzalez wrote about his experiences there:

“Workers washed needles under tap water and then reused them. Medicine and other vital items were stored for months on end, expiring and still applied sporadically to patients...Volunteers with little or no training carried out dangerous work on patients with highly contagious cases of tuberculosis and other life-threatening illnesses. The individuals who operated the charity refused to accept and implement medical equipment and machinery that would have safely automated processes and saved lives.”

In Teresa's hospice care centres, she practised her belief that patients only needed to feel wanted and die at peace with God—not to receive proper medical care.

“There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ’s Passion,” Mother Teresa said. “The world gains much from their suffering.”

The difference between Mother Teresa and Truvada here is that his evangelism is not voluntary. This is of course because Teresa's Catholicism and the religion of the Dominion are of different types. I've talked about this before; the religion of the Bajorans and the Dominion are actually of the Pantheonic variety, where the gods are measurable and subject to the laws of the Universe, instead of the author and master of those laws, immeasurable and omnipotent like the God of Abraham. Truvada evangelises on behalf of the Dominion because he's been beaten into submission by it, conditioned by the literal and eternal plague which claims the lives of his entire race. While it's very good that this episode doesn't conflate the two types of religion unlike the myriad Bajoran faith stories we've had so far, it would have been braver to contextualise this story within a Bajoran tale. It would have made a good Kira story actually, but we will get there eventually.

What the blight has done to these people is to subjugate them into the religion of the Founders by force. This is not exactly the same as what Catholic missionaries do, but there are important similarities. Missionaries like Teresa of Calcutta consider illness to be an act of God; as she herself said on many occasions, it was more important that the ill (and the poor, and the maligned) accept the grace of God than be cured of their ailments. She and others would advertise medical care for the infirm, but offer only conversion. “The Quickening” was written at a time when AIDS was an incurable and fatal disease. In many communities, HIV had become a defining feature, a culture all its own, like the blight. In all cases, the culprit is ignorance; Teresa believed in ignorance that God created illness and that it was immoral to even attempt to defy his will; AIDS was considered fait accompli for groups like the gay community because they were kept ignorant of preventative and eventually curative measures (if you don't know what I'm talking about, look up Ronald Reagan and the AIDS crisis); the Dominion takes elements of both, exacting divine judgement on a race which defied their will. It may not be “immoral” in the same way as it was for Teresa to attempt to cure the blight, but it may as well be since hubris against the Dominion is what condemned them to begin with. Truvada doesn't love the Founders the way Weyoun does, but they are, for all intents and purposes, gods to both men in equal measure, inviolate.

***

Dax determines that the distress beacon has been repeating the message for over 200 years, an idea borrowed, oddly enough, from “The 37s.” Bashir, though incensed by the suffering here, has accepted that they should leave, but before they can a very pregnant and blighted woman greets them. Her baby is due in a couple of months and she wants to live long enough to bear it, but fears that she'll quicken before that happens. Truvada may have rejected them, but she and others would welcome any help Bashir could offer. But there's a complication as Kira calls down from the runabout to report that there are Jem'Hadar ships in the area.

Act 2 : ***.5, 17.5%

Bashir and Dax believe they might be able to cure the blight, much like they did on some other mission we never saw. Kira gives the two optimistic nerds a look that's just about perfect for this story. She agrees to hide the runabout in a nebula for a week so the blue shirts can make their stand. This isn't a flaw in the story by any means, but two things stand out to me here:

1.Kira is good in these scenes, but her presence in most of this season has felt incidental. Like Riker and especially late Chakotay, she seems to be suffering from first-officer syndrome; she is her job and little else.
2.I like the return of science officer Dax a LOT, but this throws into relief how stupid her characterisation is in episodes like “For the Cause” was.

Anyway, the pregnant lady, Ekoria, finds the blue shirts a place to work in her group home. Dax manages to use her humour and soft touch to inject a little levity in the situation, complimenting Ekoria's husband's defiant optimism, expressed in visual art he left her and their town, as well as making good-natured jokes at the expense of Julian's doctor ego “they love to keep people waiting; it makes them feel important.”

After a little while, Julian manages to isolate the virus. His exuberance has carried him off to the clouds, but Jadzia manages to keep things grounded, translating his tech-talk for Ekoria and conveying the significance of their findings. The blue shirts have inspired so much hope in the young woman that she decides the three of them should enjoy her final meal, a feast she's been saving up for her death at Truvada's hospital. And she's three days from retirement, too.

Julian's having less luck recruiting volunteers for his study. He needs people who have quickened to chart the progress of the virus, but they aren't in the mood to be guinea pigs. Finally, Bashir makes a demonstration of the magnificence of Federation medical technology but repairing the arm of a young boy so he can play with his friends.

EPRAN: How did you do that?
EKORIA: Does it matter? He can find a cure for us if we help him.

Oh man...credulity is so dangerous, so pernicious. These people are ready to believe in anything if it might mean an end to their suffering, not unlike those poor souls in India who converted for dear old Mother Teresa. But Bashir does his very best to keep expectations realistic. He explains to Truvada and the crowd that he cannot promise them a cure, but nor will he ask for anything beyond the opportunity to try and help them. Post-scarcity society, baby.

Act 3 : ****, 15% (shortish)

EKORIA: Maybe you should go home. Maybe my people don't deserve your help.
BASHIR: They've just been suffering so long they've lost hope that things can be better.
EKORIA: It's more than that. We've come to worship death. I used to wake up and look at myself in the mirror, and be disappointed that I hadn't quickened in my sleep. Going to Trevean seemed so much easier than going on living.

Ekoria found a reason to try and go on living when she discovered she was pregnant, but Bashir has brought a new hope to these people. Jadzia reports that there is a line of quickening folks ready to let Bashir work on them, including Epran from the teaser, “I cancelled my death for you. I was really looking forward to it.” Ouch.

Several days later, we surmise, Epran is very close to death, but Bashir is passing around a new hypospray to the volunteers. Julian thinks it might contain the cure they've been after. While they wait, Bashir and Ekoria have an interesting conversation.

BASHIR: Sometimes. I prefer to confront mortality rather than hide from it. When you make someone well, it's like you're chasing death off, making him wait for another day.

See, myths aren't a bad thing. They give meaning to our lives. The point is how we interact with them. Do you worship death, or do you tell it off?

This tender moment is interrupted by Jadzia reporting a problem; Epram is convulsing, dying in agony.

Act 4 : ****, 17.5%

Epram begs for help and Bashir makes a startling discovery; the EM fields from their equipment are causing a reaction in all the patients who are now screaming and writhing in pain. Jammer was a little down on this, but this scene was genuinely one of the most difficult to watch on Trek for a while. Epram dies and Truvada enters the clinic where the others are begging for him to help them. The whole lot of them start crying out for their dose of hemlock.

Morning comes in the form of a distressingly beautiful outdoor shot, and Bashir is left with a pile of dead bodies and his own profound disappointment and self-disgust.

BASHIR: I'm going to tell you a little secret, Jadzia. I was looking forward to tomorrow, to seeing Kira again and casually asking, how was the nebula? And oh, by the way, I cured that Blight thing those people had.

This concludes with the oft-quoted bit about arrogance and how it cuts both ways. Siddig and Ferrel are extremely effective here. This is fascinating because we see that credulity, despite being tied to humility in the face of divine will, is in its own way a kind of arrogance. You can try and be a genuinely humble servant of God, or a mediator for the suffering, or a doctor with the best of intentions, and still be so arrogant that you miss the forest for the trees. Bashir stumbles through the streets, exhausted and subdued, like those around him, by the cruel might of the Dominion. He finds Ekoria, now quickened—probably thanks to Dr Bashir's would-be cure. She isn't bitter towards him though, thanking him for the hope he offered and wishing him well. But we aren't done yet. Kira returns to pick up Dax and return to DS9, but Bashir is staying behind, armed only with low-tech alternatives and his own will to do no harm.

Act 5 : ****, 17.5%

He holes up with Ekoria who's trying to survive long enough to give birth. He discovers that the antigen he gave her has vanished from her system. Hmmm. He estimates that the baby will be due in about a month and a half.

EKORIA: I'll never make it that long.
BASHIR: Well, I can induce labour in two weeks. The baby will be old enough by then.

The quiet ferocity with which Siddig gives these lines is simply marvellous. He talked with her earlier in the Kukalaka scene about a doctor's bedside manner, about projecting the air of “caring competence.” He's not projecting, though. He *is* competent, and by god does he care. Ekoria is going to die and they both know it, but her baby has a chance. Two weeks.

Later, we find Truvada tending to her. To his credit, he asks her if she wants her chalice of death. She rejects it.

Finally, the weeks have passed and Ekoria is giving birth. Bashir makes the discovery, that the baby has absorbed all the antigen, like a vaccine. The unhindered joy in Bashir's voice is really quite wonderful as he hands her her people's hope for the briefest moment before she finally dies.

The story continues to crescendo from this beautiful scene as we see Truvada accept the privilege of seeing that his people are inoculated and the blight erased from their future generations. He takes the baby outside and holds it high for all the world to see, while Bashir watches from afar. The religious imagery is quite intentional, as we see that Truvada and his people have now been evangelised by Bashir. But his mythology doesn't demand worship, subservience or credulity, only hope.

Episode as Functionary : ****, 10%

I didn't report it in the act to act reviews, but I had to stop several times during the episode to shed tears. The writing, directing, acting and scoring of this episode are quite masterful, brimming with bittersweet moments, profound insights and quiet dignity.

There's an epilogue on DS9 where Avery Brook earns his paycheque. He congratulates Bashir on his accomplishment, but Bashir isn't finished working; he's still trying to find a cure. Now THIS is one of those DS9 meta-commentary bits that actually works and doesn't come across as presumptuous. Back in “Explorers,” the writers were so desperate to prove that long-term stationary storytelling is more rewarding than the planet of the week ethos of TOS/TNG. That was annoying and, ironically for this episode, arrogant of them. Here, Bashir thinks he's going to fix the planet of the week all by himself. And he does after a fashion, but he also realises that there's value in sticking with it, in looking to expand upon his success and develop a cure as well as a vaccine. It's as if the series is saying, “While there's value in the Trek model as it is, there's more that can be said if we don't try to cram it all into 45-minute episodes,” instead of “Our stories aren't episodic because we're better than you.”

While this story seems disconnected from the broader themes and plots of DS9, it's actually integral to the mythology around the Dominion which is going to be explored heavily in later seasons. The Founders are so convinced of their own superiority that god-like wrath and—hehe—dominion have come to define them and the culture they rule in every way. Federation optimism and ideals, personified as they tend to be in Bashir (c.f. “The Wire”), are the one subversive element with any hope of countering this malevolence. Great work all around.

Final Score : ****
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Elliott
Wed, May 1, 2019, 8:54am (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: The Road Not Taken

Seth, I mean Ed says "the second time around?" at one point in reference to his and Kelly's relationship. I chuckled. Got to have a pop song reference somewhere even if we don't have time to put it in the soundtrack.
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Elliott
Tue, Apr 30, 2019, 2:40pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Tuvix

Oh good, an episode that doesn't generate about 800 memes a day and about which the Trek community has no strong feelings whatsoever. Just a nice, uncontroversial story...

Teaser : **.5, 5%

Neelix and Tuvok have been sent on an away mission to collect some nutritious flowers because, you know, this is a matter concerning ship's security and crew morale. Yeah...Neelix is being his usual boisterous and irritating self, and Tuvok is clearly replaying his strangling holo-fantasy in his mind to keep his Vulcan cool. Neelix' usual lack of social awareness has been dialled up to eleven for some reason. Must be all that fresh air. We do get one good line out of it:

TUVOK: Do you think you could possibly behave a little less like yourself?

Meanwhile, in the Transporter room, Harry has worked through some technical glitch (he thinks) and prepares to beam the odd couple and their harvest back from the planet. But then there's a TRANSPORTER ACCIDENT. How dare Voyager repeat such a tired cliché, that has repeated, over the 30 years Star Trek had been on the air at this point, seven times! Wait...that's it? Seven? That's not even once every season. Then, why is this considered an horrendous cliché? Actually, I think I know the answer: of those seven, FOUR occurred in or very near to TNG's 6th season. “The Next Phase” was at the tail end of S5, then we had “Realm of Fear,” “Rascals” and “Second Chances.” TNG's 6th season is one I have gone on record as saying I don't care much for, although that's not the consensus in the Trek community by any means. The concentration of transporter accidents (among other things) in late TNG contributed heavily to the sense that the series was tired and running out of ideas. Of course this is also when DS9 aired and brought its own perspective to the table. So, bringing this element to Voyager may feel treading water in the very ideas that heralded the decline of TNG. The thing is, those TNG episodes, except maybe “Second Chances,” failed to adequately explore the philosophical issues their scenarios raised, in my opinion. So the gimmick felt, well, like a gimmick instead of a story-telling device. Really, the only time a transporter accident was the basis of a serious philosophical story was way back in “The Enemy Within.” We'll come back to that.

Act 1 : ***, 15% (short)

In “The Enemy Within,” the plausibility of splitting a man along the axis of his psychology was, typically, non-existent. However, the premise was so intriguing that this didn't really matter. Likewise, in “Faces,” the idea of splitting Torres into her different species selves was ridiculous, but the episode worked because we glided past that silliness to focus upon the philosophy and the character issues raised by the premise. In this story, the first thing we see standing on the transporter pad is a combination of Tuvok and Neelix—not unlike Torres herself is normally, a combination of her Klingon and Human selves that we saw. In “Faces” though, we saw that H-Torres kept her Starfleet uniform, while K-Torres was put in a kinky Vidiian jumpsuit. Tuvok-Neelix here has had his uniform “combined” into one garment that draws attention to the wacky science instead of gliding past it. It's a minor detail, but it sticks out to me because it demonstrates a lack of awareness on the part of the creators here. We're going to get an explanation for the men themselves becoming one creature which in no way explains how their outfits could merge like this. It's all a bit clumsy.

Kim demands to know who this person is and he answers that he is, somehow, both Tuvok and Neelix. The EMH confirms that “all biological material was merged on the molecular level.” Mhm. Janeway theorises that the alien orchids they were collecting affected the transporter and caused this accident. She regards this person with a great deal of suspicion and has posted not one but two security guards in the sickbay to monitor him while the Doctor and Kes proceed with their scans. Kes herself is charged with performing a somewhat lengthy scan in the science lab where we start to get to know this creature. Leaving the dubious setup behind, Biller's script and Tom Wright's performance are surprisingly effective at conveying to us the strange notion that this is two very different people speaking as one.

KES: Do you feel as if you're thinking with two minds, two separate minds? Are Neelix and Tuvok inside of you, talking to me, talking to each other?
TUVIX: If you mean am I suffering from some form of multiple personality disorder, I don't think so. I do have the memories of both men, but I seem to have a single consciousness.

Already we can see how Neelix' and Tuvok's personalities complement each other—weird though this seems. Neelix' joie de vivre allows Tuvok's natural curiosity and affection to emerge without the veil of stoicism that often reads like irritability. He decides to call himself Tuvix which, for reasons left up to Biller's strange sense of fashion, is somehow much better than the alternative “Neevok.” Tuvix lets his pet name for Kes slip out during their conversation, causing her to recoil.

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

I continue to be impressed by Tuvix' characterisation. While the most obvious way to convince us that this is a fused being would be to have him say things that either Tuvok or Neelix would say in succession—like a battle between two distinct personalities—his actually lines and delivery aren't quite what either parent character would manifest. He would be “delighted” to resume his Mess Hall duties, but this is conveyed with a sense of warmth instead of presumption—showing us that Tuvok's humility has reined in Neelix' ego—but he has decided that he should resume the more important post of Tactical. He calls this “sensible,” which is Tuvok of course, but he gives Janeway a raised eyebrow and a bit of self-congratulatory puffing to sweeten the deal, as it were, showing how Neelix' pride makse Tuvix a better salesman than Tuvok.

EMH: According to my tests, he's quite correct when he says that he possesses Tuvok's knowledge and expertise. He also possesses Tuvok's irritating sense of intellectual superiority and Neelix's annoying ebullience. I would be very grateful to you if you would assign him some duty, any duty somewhere else.

Tuvix is brought into the noon briefing where the senior staff discuss the accident. After a few minutes, he interrupts the stream of technobabble to proclaim “SEX.” Okay then. Actually, he's hit on a theory as to what happened, a kind of suped-up nucleogenesis. SCIENCE!

After a little interlude where Tuvix takes command of the kitchen, he and Kes finally address the elephant in the room. He is in love with Kes every bit as much as Neelix, but this only seems to remind her of what she's lost, that jealous, overbearing, patronising furry companion of hers.

Act 3 : ***, 17%

Tuvix has now assumed Tuvok's place on the bridge.

JANEWAY: Well, he's certainly fitting in, isn't he?
CHAKOTAY: There's an old axiom. The whole is never greater than the sum of its parts. I think Tuvix might be disproving that notion.

Meanwhile, Paris and Torres have shuttled down to the planet to perform a little experiment. They transport the alien orchid and a couple of flowers from the aeroponic bay up to the Voyager, and indeed what emerges is a symbiogenetically-fused flower. The EMH however has failed at every turn to separate the species. He confesses to harbouring little hope of finding a cure any time soon.

EMH: I feel as though I've lost two patients. I'm sorry.

We pick up with Tuvix paying Kes a visit in her quarters. He understands that for her, he represents everything she has lost. Given the unlikelihood of being separated, he expresses a desire to come to terms with his new identity. We are reminded that every passing day for Kes is a substantial chunk of her life. Lien and Wright have surprisingly good chemistry in this scene and we are left with this sinking feeling; Tuvix has perhaps been able to harness Tuvok's mental discipline and keep his psyche compartmentalised throughout this. He is two people suffering from a weird alien accident and just has to endure until he/they can be cured. But now, with a cure either impossible or far off, maintaining that discipline seems futile. He has feelings and he has needs. This is what I meant about exploring the premise properly. “Rascals” and “The Next Phase” squandered their opportunities to delve into the real dilemmas those accidents produced. Not so here.

Act 4 : ***.5, 17%

Reeling, Kes pays Janeway a visit in her quarters. We are reminded of the captain's and Tuvok's unique bond, something I wish we saw more of. Then there's the issue of Tuvix' love for Kes and the topic of loneliness. Janeway in her bathrobe recalls the wonderful scene in “Eye of the Needle” where she let her guard down a bit with the Romulan and took stock of the enormous emotional burden she has to bear as the leader of an isolated and fragile community.

JANEWAY: I know how you feel. You're experiencing what people on this crew have been going through since we first got stranded in this quadrant. Do we accept that we're separated from our loved ones forever, or do we hold onto the hope that someday we'll be with them again?
KES: What do you do, Captain?
JANEWAY: Oh, I struggle with it every day. Sometimes I'm full of hope and optimism. Other times. Then I dream about being with Mark and it's so real. Then when I wake up and realise it's just a dream, I'm terribly discouraged. In those moments, it's impossible to deny just how far away he really is. And I know that someday I may have to accept that he's not part of my life anymore.

I have to stress how masterful Mulgrew is here. We are at the tail end of the second season. In TNG, we had seen glimpses of Patrick Stewart's enormous talent in episodes like “The Measure of a Man” and “Samaritan Snare,” but wouldn't get anything this intimate or raw until “Sarek” in the following season. And on DS9, at this point, we have yet to see an instance where Avery Brooks is as compelling as Mulgrew is here, and we're almost to season 5. This isn't me trying to be divisive or hate on the other series—I'm just saying that, for all its flaws, Voyager seems to know what an asset it has in its lead actor and makes great use of her.

We learn that the Voyager has continued on her journey for a couple of weeks now, and Tuvix is starting to make a life for himself. Janeway's captain's log voice-overs a short montage where we see him performing at Tactical, cooking and trying his best not to make Kes too uncomfortable.

But then, the EMH interrupts Harry's alone time with his clarinet—ahem—to ask him about a wild theory he's devised. He wants to try attaching a radioactive isotope to DNA sequences and then use the transporter to separate them out. Because the episode foolishly tried too hard to explain the SCIENCE! behind Tuvix' creation, this “solution” raises a number of unnecessary questions, like what will happen to all the organic material that isn't DNA, what will happen to the orchid that still swimming about in the mix, and most importantly, will he be able to restore their outfits?

In Sandrine's, Kes, the “last holdout” as it were, makes peace with Tuvix, telling him she's ready to be friends and see if that friendship might grow into something more. Which of course means it's time for a call from the EMH. He and Harry explain the SCIENCE! they're going to use to try to restore Tuvok and Neelix.

KES: That's wonderful. Isn't that wonderful?
EMH: I assure you, Mister Tuvix, there's nothing to worry about. We've accounted for every variable.
TUVIX: Except one. I don't want to die.

Ah, shit.

Act 5 : ****, 19%

Jammer notes that the real meat of this story is reserved for the final act. That's not entirely true, but it's worth noting that the final act is a full 12 minutes long according to my Netflix bar, which is more than a quarter of the full runtime of the episode.

JANEWAY: It's funny. If we'd had the ability to separate Tuvok and Neelix the moment Tuvix came aboard, I wouldn't have hesitated...But now, in the past few weeks, he's begun to make a life for himself on this ship. He's taken on responsibilities, made friends...So at what point, did he become an individual and not a transporter accident?

IIIII'M CAPTAIN KIIIRRRKK!!!!

Indeed, in “The Enemy Within,” it could be argued that each of Kirk's halves was its own autonomous being. Both were humans. Unlike H-Torres, there was no physical need to restore the whole. But they still did.

Janeway calls Tuvix in to discuss the issue. Tuvix insists that as it's his life on the line, it should be his decision what happens to it. Janeway counters that the voices of Neelix and Tuvok have been silenced by Tuvix' very existence, in a way. Their will to live should be considered as well, no? Tuvix insists that their will to live IS his own. Janeway tries to weasel her way out of the moral dilemma at first:

JANEWAY: Then you know Tuvok was a man who would gladly give his life to save another. And I believe the same was true of Neelix.

Tuvix admits that his will to live is perhaps not the noble “Starfleet” way of doing things, but there's something compelling about this brand new life. When he insists he has the *right* to live, it's a truly devastating and powerful moment.

“good” KIRK: Can half a man live?
“bad” KIRK: Take another step, you'll die.
“good” KIRK: Then we'll both die.
“bad” KIRK: Please, I don't want to. Don't make me. Don't make me. I don't want to go back. Please! I want to live!
“good” KIRK: You will. Both of us.
“bad” KIRK: I want to live!

While Janeway considers her options, Tuvix makes an appeal to Kes. He begs her to talk to the captain on his behalf. She consents, but when she arrives at the Ready Room, Kes can't bring herself to do it. She wants Neelix back. God knows why.

Finally, Janeway comes to a decision. He insists that she make her declaration publicly. In a truly disturbing scene, Tuvix rushes about the bridge and begs the crew to help him, but despite conflicting feelings, none are willing. Janeway calls security and has Tuvix brought to the sickbay by force. But we aren't done yet. When the quartet arrives in Sickbay, the EMH is unwilling to complete the procedure, because Tuvix does not wish to sacrifice himself and a physician does no harm. His programming is (LIKE MANY OF THE COMMENTORS ON THIS PAGE AND ALL OVER THE INTERNET) very black and white on this issue.

Let's not beat around the bush any longer. In the United States at least, many states are pushing for (and passing) laws which force women to look at ultrasounds of their foetuses before being allowed to have abortions. There are billboards everywhere with photoshopped images of fully-developed babies inside uteruses with sad puppy eyes begging for mommy not to kill them. These kinds of manipulative tactics exist to obscure the issue at the heart of the moral imperative behind abortion rights: consent. If you believe in God, then you might believe that all successful mating is by his design and that each of those lives is *meant* to be. That is your right. But it is not your right to impose that perspective on anyone else. Barring that theological framing, morality dictates that human beings have the *right* to consent to having their genes used to create new life. We decide to have children, and unless/until we provide that consent, the process of fertilisation and gestation is just a biological process, nothing more.

Kirk did not consent to have himself split in two. The fact that his two halves were objectively less useful than the original made the decision to destroy the split halves in order to restore him relatively easy. But at least one of the two was begging to be allowed to exist. Tuvix, on the other hand, shows that he is a great guy, useful, friendly, sympathetic...he is a living ultrasound or billboard ad. Many provisionally pro-choice people hide behind the fact that nearly all abortions take place well before the foetus begins manifesting brain activity or anything like sentience. Destroying a foetus is not the same as murdering a baby. And while that's true—it IS true—the fact remains that, barring complications, the foetus will inevitably *become* a sentient being before long. So let's not hide. Abortion is a right because consent is a moral imperative. Tuvok and Neelix did not consent to being combined into Tuvix. As difficult, as gross and uncomfortable as the idea of ending his life is, if one believes in the consent of creation, there is no moral alternative.

If this episode has a conceptual flaw, it is indeed that this issue—just as contentious in 1996 as today—is subsumed into the drama of the story instead of spelled out in dialogue. But I don't think dialogue to the effect of my paragraphs above would have been allowed past the censors any more than having Neelix and Tuvok begin a romantic relationship would have. This is Trek using the science fiction camouflage to make a bold progressive statement that flies just under the radar. Janeway looks Tuvix right in the eye as she completes the procedure herself and restores Tuvok and Neelix to life, because she (and the Federation) believes in consent. But the burden of upholding this very difficult position takes an obvious toll on the captain. She steps out of sickbay, seemingly ill. Then she looks at the camera and says “Computer, delete that entire personal log.” Nah...

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

I hope I've made it clear that I believe in the right to choice, and that I accept that this stance is incredibly untidy. Unlike most of the contrived bullshit over on DS9, THIS is how you talk about an issue that is morally grey; you don't just say, “This issue is morally grey. I guess both sides are sort of right.” You say, “This issue is complicated with no easy answers, but I am taking a stand on the issue because I'm not a coward.” The last time Trek ventured into this territory was in “Up the Long Ladder,” where Pulaski and Riker murdered their own clones. And why? Because they did not consent to their creation. End of discussion. This episode makes a unique and compelling case that you should not discount the billboards or the saccharine appeals to ignore your own rights, but rather embrace them and accept that having principles is fucking difficult sometimes. To this end, Wright and Mulgrew give standout performances, especially in the final couple of acts, and Lien manages to hold her own.

While I maintain that the episode seems to spend too much time in the beginning working through the silly SCIENCE! and all that, the effect is to lull you into a false sense of security. Oh, it's a science-gone-wrong transporter accident show! Maybe it will be entertaining, but this isn't something I need invest myself in. And that makes the final turn of events all the more devastating as you aren't prepared for it. “Tuvix” today is now almost as old as “The Enemy Within” was at the time of its airing, and I think it's a testament to its quality that it continues to demand so much from its audience. A difficult, but worthwhile episode.

Final Score : ***

CODA:

I would also remind y'all of what I wrote in DS9's “Second Sight”:

“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.'”

I don't remember anyone accusing Sisko of cold-blooded murder or even assisted suicide just because he convinced Batgirl to kill herself so Barbara Gordon could live. Just wanted to close that thread.
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Wed, Apr 24, 2019, 1:05pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: To the Death

The linguistic issue is not pedantic—conceiving of Starfleet as a military in the modern sense completely misses the mark on what it is or means. Like I said, the distinction in 24th century terms is important because other cultures still have modern-style militaries. So you could say that Starfleet “redefined” what a military means, that’s true, but I think Picard makes the distinction specifically because there are other forces which operate as militaries, like the Zakdorn, which must be understood to be quite different.

@Jackson: well you’re free to assert that, just like many claim that the Federation’s abolition of wealth is absurd, or how warp drive as presented is absurd, or holodecks, or the fact that language hasn’t changed. There are some conceits we make to immerse ourselves in the fiction and understand the premise/messages of the writing. I also should have mentioned the MACOs, which clearly are military, distinct from Starfleet, which is not. We’ll get there one day...

@Chrome:

You aren’t wrong, but I object to the idea that these people are comfortable in this position. “Doesn’t everyone?” Dad asks regarding the recording of farewell messages as though this shit is routine. Sisko referring to “his men,” Word behaving like some Saving Private Ryan reject...it’s those anachronisms (nothing new for this series) that frustrate me.
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Wed, Apr 24, 2019, 9:52am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: To the Death

William B, that's true, however, it's relevant that the other Trek nation states *do* have militaries (the Romulans, Cardassians, Klingons, etc). Just like those cultures are organised under familiar political umbrellas like "empire," the Federation is something entirely different; a peaceful coalition of planets which has abolished money. So too goes what passes for a military in the Federation, which is Starfleet. It wouldn't be fair to call the Federation an empire or even a republic, and it isn't fair to call Starfleet a military.
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Tue, Apr 23, 2019, 9:51pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: For the Cause

@William B: Welcome back!

Structurally, I think I agree that this one sort of kind of works if you frame it as Eddington being the antagonist who's clearly wrong and the other players as misguided but ultimately "good guys." The problem of course is the way is big speech is framed, as though he's caught Sisko, the Federation, and Star Trek in a trap of his/its own making. These two ideas are not compatible, and the directing choices in this episode lack sufficient ambiguity to seriously consider this option, in my opinion, which is why I take a dim view of the episode itself. Much like in "Paradise," the writers attempt to be edgy by giving the villain the last word on the subject, but it backfires.
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Tue, Apr 23, 2019, 9:42pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: To the Death

Regarding Starfleet as a military organisation, this is probably a discussion to be had more thoroughly on the "Peak Performance" page, but this is how I see it:

As a teacher, one is required to learn CPR, first aid, and a number of other emergency skills. A really well-prepared school district might train its teachers so well in these skills that they would qualify as nurses or even medics if the situation demanded. That they are qualified to perform such tasks does not define them as nurses or medics, however. They are still teachers.

So it goes with Starfleet. Starfleet is capable of performing military action when the situation demands, but its purpose is not to fulfil military functions.

I have made this point before but it bears repeating: if DS9 wanted to comment honestly on this aspect of Star Trek in the negative (a valid opinion, even if it's one I don't share), then it could have demonstrated how the Federation's choice to not have a military left it vulnerable to attack or invasion. Some have argued that the events of "Q Who" actually did lead to a militarisation of Starfleet, but that didn't really bear out on screen. We had an arms build up in BoBW, yes, but not a change in protocol or mission, at least not until Necheyev and her bs, but I'm getting off topic.

What I'm getting at is that it would be one thing for the DS9 writers to say, "hey, we SHOULD have a military to deal with the Dominion." Instead, they ret-con the hell out of the institutions they are playing with and suddenly CPO O'Brien and Science Officer Dax and random gold-shirts are so indoctrinated with (contemporary) military culture, that you can't tell the Defiant's mess apart from a modern military barracks. It's absurd and it's dishonest. Just recently in "Hard Time," we had Miles contemplating suicide because he thought he had betrayed his Federation values (leaving aside that episode's problems in this regard); now he's cracking jokes about insane military raids.

We will get to ARR-58 in due course, but I will say that this was the first episode in the series that at least attempted to deal with the fact that you've turned a bunch of botanists and astrophysicists into foot-soldiers, severely fucking them up psychologically.

"Chain of Command" is essentially the backdoor DS9 pilot (and was conceived to be a crossover episode), so it is not surprising that the DS9 ethos permeates the writing there.
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Tue, Apr 23, 2019, 12:58pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: To the Death

So, I re-watched “Contagion” (which was pretty enjoyable, by the way). I didn't think I really needed to do a backdrop review à la “Death Wish” for this one, as the continuity between that episode and “To the Death” is incidental. Except that it may not be.

WESLEY: So they colonised those worlds?
PICARD: Probably conquered.
WESLEY: You mean they were warlike?
PICARD: Perhaps. Ancient texts did speak of 'Demons of Air and Darkness'.
WESLEY: Air and darkness?
PICARD: Legend has it that they travelled without the benefit of spaceships, merely appearing out of thin air on distant planets.
WESLEY: Sounds like magic.
PICARD: Well, we would appear magical to Stone Age people.

Something to bear in mind.

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

So the Bajorans have set up ANOTHER colony in GQ called Free Haven because if there's one thing a Bajoran loves, it's irony. Sisko reports that the Defiant was tasked with driving away “Breen privateers.” “Privateer” is the word one uses to describe pirates when trying to sound really impressive, like a college freshman making passes at a kegger, or Pete Buttigieg trying to make militarism sound hip. Anyway, for no reason, the entire Starfleet cast was tasked with this assignment. There's a DBI scene involving prune juice and Bashir courting death that I don't want to talk about. What's important is that the Defiant returns to DS9 to find one of those upper pylons (curved for her pleasure) obliterated.

An injured Kira reports to Sisko that this was a result of a Jem'Hadar raid. Sisko determines to take the Defiant right back out to pursue the Dominion party and recover whatever it is they stole. Overall, this is a very exciting teaser, but it's worth noting that the general “vibe” here is very much the tonal landscape that will be drawn upon for the remaining three seasons of the show vis-à-vis war stories. The all-business military brave-men-and-women thing that made Guinan queasy in “Yesterday's Enterprise” is now the default mode for the actual Starfleet. Scary stuff.

Act 1 : ***, 17%

In the GQ, the Defiant crew is surprised to discover that a Jem'Hadar warship is damaged, so the seven survivors aboard are beamed over. There are six typically confident and blood-thirsty Jem'Hadar in the bunch and one other figure, Jeffrey Combs playing a Vorta. Eh, I'm sure he won't matter much. The Vorta demonstrates (in a narratively clumsy way) that he is only able to control his soldiers by threatening to withhold their allowance of “white,” and petitions to speak to Sisko one on one.

After one of those Hollywood bits with the Vorta offering to make Sisko “absolute ruler of the Federation,” they get down to it. The Jem'Hadar who attacked DS9 are renegades from the Dominion; the Vorta will guide Sisko to them if he promises to “eliminate them.” Yeah, I'm sure you'll have to twist his arm. We learn that the renegades are trying to complete a recently discovered Iconian gateway in Dominion space, hence the raid for equipment. The Vorta's explanation that there “isn't time” to send a fleet after these guys doesn't really add up given what we know about the threat and the capabilities of the Dominion, but we can just wallpaper over that for now.

SISKO: Couldn't the Founders just order them to surrender? From what I know, the Jem'Hadar have been genetically conditioned to obey them.
WEYOUN: The Founders' ability to control the Jem'Hadar has been somewhat overstated. Otherwise we never would have had to addict them to the white.
SISKO: Sounds like the Dominion isn't quite as stable as you'd like us to believe.
WEYOUN: The Dominion has endured for two thousand years, and will continue to endure long after the Federation has crumbled into dust. But we'll leave that to history.

The characterisation of the Vorta (we haven't yet heard his name) is well-handled in this brief material. We see that he is diplomatic and pragmatic, but whereas with the Jem'Hadar, loyalty to the Founders is ensured with chemical addiction, with the Vorta, it is purchased with the opiate of faith. Given the potential threat to the Federation, Sisko agrees to help destroy the Iconian gateways.

Act 2 : **, 17%

Thankfully—and to my surprise—the senior staff discuss the events of “Contagion” and reason that Starfleet Command would endorse Sisko's decision, given their feelings about Iconian technology falling into the hands of the Romulans. Except of course, Worf is lying. Picard decided to assume the Yamto's mission all on his own, something I always thought was strange about that episode. Speaking of lying, Worf objects to lying to the Jem'Hadar about this mission (Weyoun—who's been named now, thinks telling them the whole story would be a bad idea). Worf thinks it would be dishonourable of course because, you know, Klingon. I guess it's lucky for Sisko that Bashir stayed behind or he would probably have told them the truth.

So, the Cylons—I mean the Jem'Hadar and Starfleet crew are briefed “A New Hope”-style on this little mission, requiring some against all odds swash-buckling bullshit. In the midst we get this exchange:

OMAN'TORAX: It is our duty to punish those who would break their vow of loyalty.
ODO: Are you accusing me of something?
OMET'IKLAN: It is not for us to accuse a god of betraying heaven. The gods themselves will sit in judgement over you.

The Jem'Hadar keep make snide remarks against Odo, against Worf, etc. It's a very different take than we saw in “Hippocratic Oath,” and frankly, a hell of a lot cheesier and more boring. Those Jem'Hadar felt like victims of an oppressive philosophy; they were fearsome and prideful, yes, but felt like genuine people. These assholes are just cardboard soldier archetypes akin to the most clichéd of meatheaded goons you'd find in such masterworks as “Avatar.” And Worf is hardly better, less able to control his temper now, in what is effectively TNG's 9th season for him, than he was in “Encounter at Farpoint.”

Act 3 : **, 17%

We get another drill like the one we saw in TWotW that likewise ends in failure. I especially like Odo's line here:

ODO: Look for a slight rippling effect.

Got to respect that fourth wall. “Look for a special effect, suspend your belief!” We get a little more of the Jem'Hadar mindset at play: Omicronklaxxon or whatever his name is believes the Starfleet crew are unable to succeed in this mission because they “values their lives more than victory.” Yeah, that's what happens when you aren't a drug-addicted mutant zealot. Anyway, it turns out these guys already know about the Iconian tech.

OMET'IKLAN: It doesn't matter how we know. The point is, we know. You think you have to lie to us and use the white to ensure our loyalty. But the fact is, we are more loyal to the Founders than the Vorta ever will be. It is the reason for our existence. It is the core of our being.
WEYOUN: There's an entire company of Jem'Hadar down on Vandros Four who would disagree with you.
OMET'IKLAN: And for that, they will die.

We don't yet know about the renegade Jem'Hadar, but we do know from “Hippocratic Oath,” that subversive elements do exist within their society:

GORAN'AGAR: Our gods never talk to us and they don't wait for us after death. They only want us to fight for them and to die for them.

Goran'agar's men were conflicted about their loyalty to the Dominion and how that loyalty structure fit in with following a leader who was actively rebelling against his gods. While I generally dislike the Jem'Hadar in this episode so far, I think the idea of setting up opposing philosophies within their culture is a good one. You can get at the core of who they are and what they represent through an argument, much like Worf v. Duras or Hugh v. Picard.

Meanwhile, one of the other Jem'Hadar is hovering over Dax, studying her like a skin-suit sewing creep. Their dialogue reveals the antiseptic nature of the Jem'Hadar, bred in vats, needing neither sleep nor sex nor entertainment nor sustenance beyond the White. I admit to chuckling a bit at the soldier's very confident “I am EIGHT!” line—like a schoolboy bragging about having learnt to ride his bicycle.

Later, we get more DBI in the mess hall. Worf and Dax flirt a bit, O'Brien laughs and Weyoun stares at Odo from across the room. Weyoun performs the White Ritual with amusing indifference, like a hung-over priest tossing host at his flock like so many scraps of bread. Then one of the Jem'Hadar resumes his “look how big my dick is” shtick with O'Brien, teasing him over his lack of appetite for battle. I really hate this. We just established that part of the tragedy of the Jem'Hadar is the fact that the juice of life, such as it were, has been squeezed out of them by the Founders' genetic tampering and loyalty breeding, yet they have ample capacity for pointless posturing and antagonism. With a smile, this Jem'Hadar taunts Worf, leading to a TOS-style bar brawl. You know, in the 60s, toxic masculinity was so ubiquitous that we can (sort of) look past all the displays of “don't you dare question my erection!” But I have a hard time with it after we had a deliberate, one might even say overwrought rejection of the sentiment in 1987 with TNG's first season. This doesn't feel like Star Trek at all; it feels like “Armageddon” or...heh, you know what the pile-on actually reminded me of? “Living Witness” and the hilarious parody of dude-broism that museum Janeway put a stop to by phasering a wall panel. Or if you like, “Sarek” or “Night Terrors,” where the crew become violent due to sci-fi machinations. But on DS9? This is just regular Starfleet people! For fuck's sake. This ends with a very hammy side-by-side display of discipline. Omegaclarion or whatever murders his subordinate who started the fight with Worf, while Sisko has Worf confined to quarters. Much as in “For the Cause,” Sisko is unable or unwilling (the writers are unwilling) to remember what show they're writing for.

OMET'IKLAN: I did what had to be done, what any First would do. I placed the good of the unit above my personal feelings. Any soldier who cannot follow orders is a danger to his unit and must be eliminated.
SISKO: Mister Worf is not a danger to my command. But if I eliminate him for a simple breach of discipline, then I would be. My men would stop trusting me, and I wouldn't blame them.

See, the way Sisko answers creates a slippery slope. Sisko frames his choice not to kill Worf in terms of military tactics. He may or may not be correct in that regard; it is a debatable position, I suppose. But all Sisko had to do was echo Odo's “I am NOT a god,” remark and say, “we are NOT soldiers.” Just like with Eddington's tirade about the Federation being like the Borg and all that crap, Sisko is letting his opponent frame the terms of the argument. Sisko may win his spat with Eddington by capturing him and making him pay for his disloyalty, but in so doing cedes the philosophical ground to the man who compared a benevolent coalition to an insidious force. Sisko may win the argument with Orionaxegrinder here, but in so doing, he cedes the point that Starfleet IS a military organisation, which it fucking is not.

Act 4 : ***, 17%

Weyoun finally approaches Odo one-on-one in a corridor, expressing his discomfort with his god's lack of authority.

WEYOUN: Please, hear what I have to say. Your people want you to come home, Odo. No matter what differences you may have with them, no matter what mistakes you may have made, they still love you.

The conversation does double duty of helping flesh out Weyoun's character very efficiently (an expert in lies) and reminding us of Odo's sincerest wish to return to his people, something we were forced to abandon after “The Die is Cast,” so the producers could bring the Klingons into the show. I think this scene is exhibit A for the theory above regarding whether the Dominion engineered this insurrection in order to get their hands on Odo. Why else would Weyoun have been briefed on the Founders' intimate wishes regarding one of their own, not to mentioned outfitted with the Changeling virus. Oh, um, spoiler! I prefer to imagine that the Founders rather seized the opportunity created by this insurrection in order to continue their plans with Odo, because I prefer to imagine that Dominion society is more complex than perhaps it is.

Meanwhile, we're continuing the assault on O'Brien's character and Starfleet's:

DAX: For Keiko?
O'BRIEN: It's my eleventh goodbye message since we've been married. I average almost two a year.

Since the Enterprise was never “sent into battle” between “Data's Day” and “Chain of Command,” we know that those eleven notes were begun *after* he started on DS9. If we are generous, we can count the Circle trilogy and “The Search” as instances of being sent into battle. Then there's “The Jem'Hadar,” of course, “The Die is Cast,” “The Adversary,” TWotW, “Starship Down” and “Paradise Lost.” That's eight instances of being sent into battle, again, if we're being very generous. What's insidious about his claim that it's now been eleven times, even though it's more like half that number, is that it implies, once again, that Miles' mode is as a soldier. Discounting the possible Circle Trilogy, ALL of these instances have been since TNG went off the air actually. I'm sure that's a coincidence.

After a little more Klingon bullshit, the Defiant arrives at their target and the teams are issued phaser rifles. There's another Jem'Hadar battle ritual (Victory is Life) while Weyoun rolls his eyes. They beam down and Dax realises that the gateway is fucking with their equipment because Worf is an idiot and didn't remember anything useful about his last trip to the Iconian Empire.

Act 5 : **, 17%

There's a mêlée ambush by the renegade Jem'Hadar. I don't think we're going to be afforded an opportunity to hear their side of this rebellion. Anyway, two gold shirts are dead. There's more clichéd we're-all-soldiers dialogue, a surprise attack from their resident Changeling (Look for a rippling effect...) and finally they make their way to the gateway which includes a trip to beautiful Paris, France! Sisko gets stabbed protecting Orientalismcracker because we shan't leave any clichéd rocks unturned. Weyoun beams down to gloat and gets vaporised for his trouble and the other Jem'Hadar vow to remain behind and murder their disloyal brothers. The End.

Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

I found this episode difficult to rate. There are moments of Ira Behr being Ira Behr that are typical of his Gene-Roddenberry-can-rot-in-hell approach to crafting his DS9 stories, but are overall more subdued than in other episodes. There are genuine attempts at human interaction but that can't be bothered to treat our main characters as much more than generic ciphers. There are hints and exploring the Jem'Hadar/Vorta/Founders dynamic from earlier episodes, but are tossed aside in favour of action-movie nonsense.

I was really hoping that we would explore the similarities between the Iconians and the Dominion, as that seemed to be exactly what we were setting up. People regarded the Iconians as Demonic conquerers because of their technology, yet Data pointed out that the actual evidence for such a culture was lacking. The Founders programme their slave races to believe them to be gods and instil the notion that they're quasi-omnipotent in the cultures they conquer with their technology. Yet Weyoun admits that their ability to control their empire is tenuous.

I suppose what bothers me most about this story is its flippancy. Weyoun rolling his eyes at his men's rituals was funny and quite telling about their dynamic and his character, but Sisko *also* kept rolling his eyes, Dax kept making her sex jokes, Miles kept doing his racisms. I mean, people are dying; the Jem'Hadar are on the verge blowing up the galaxy or whatever, and these people act like it's another day another dollar. And of course there's Worf who is somehow less civilised and sympathetic than he was in “Where Silence Has Lease,” when he was banging his head against the walls of reality.

The one thing I found compelling was the Weyoun/Odo material which rekindled that dangling thread from season three, and of course will have major consequences soon. It's fitting that he should be betrayed by his own men at the end, given his willingness to betray his own god.

Final Score : **.5
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Thu, Apr 11, 2019, 2:51pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: For the Cause

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

Kasidy slinks out of Ben Sisko's bed after what we assume was a fun night. I just hope there aren't fluid conduits running into Jake's room like there are on the Voyager. I don't know if it's just that Avery Brooks has a special affinity for the ladies or what, but as usual, his interplay with Penny Johnson (Gerald) brings out the most natural and warm side of his performance.

SISKO: I am a Starfleet officer, the paragon of virtue.
KASIDY: You're more like a parody of virtue.

You said it, not me.

Later on we are in the Wardroom where—well, look who it is! Alleged main guest star Michael Eddington is leading a briefing of the upper Senior Staff. He has a classified report to share, that the Federation is sharing some industrial replicators with the Cardassians which have been ravaged by the recent Klingon attacks. The secrecy around this event is explained by the writers' desire to talk about the Maquis again. Damn it. Starfleet is worried that the Maquis may try and steal the replicators for themselves. With the shipment passing through DS9 on its way to Cardassia, Sisko orders tightened security and has Worf take the Defiant to patrol the Badlands.

After the briefing, Eddington and Odo relay an unsubstantiated theory that they have concocted, that Kassidy Yates is a Maquis smuggler. The Shapeshifter stands nearest to Sisko, knowing that the barrage of angry punches on their way don't pose a threat to him. All in all, an intriguing set-up.

Act 1 : ***, 17%

Odo and Eddington explain their suspicions and Odo asks for permission to “step up his surveillance.” Huh, there's a first time for everything, I guess. I thought it was firmly established that Gestapo Man here had everybody's quarters bugged.

EDDINGTON: If she's really a Maquis, then she's no longer a Federation citizen.

Now there's some Galaxy-brained sophistry right there. Actually, if we go back to “Journey's End” and “The Maquis,” it is the occupants of the DMZ who are no longer citizens—by choice. The Maquis is a terrorist group composed of both non-citizens and citizens whose legal statuses are distinct. Knowing what we know, I'm actually okay with Sisko missing this fine point; he's worked up and distressed. Odo, on the other hand, should be smarter than to fall for this line. Sisko allows the two to find an excuse to search Kasidy's vessel, in much the same manner we've become accustomed to from him.

Meanwhile, Garak and Bashir and watching Kira play Springball (I think), but Garak is more interested in watching Ziyal. Don't ruin my slash fic, Garak. Ziyal has aged about 5 years since “Indiscretion” it seems because TV sucks. Anyway, Bashir warns him to leave her be, lest he invite the rage of both Dukat and Kira. And we all know Garak listens to everything Julian tells him to do.

In the Siskos' quarters, a comment from Jake gives Ben the opportunity to surreptitiously ask Kasidy about her cargo route, which is under suspicion at the moment. It's a scene reminiscent of “Paradise Lost,” when Sisko wasn't certain whether he could trust his own father. Now, he's in his own home, unsure of whether he can trust this woman he loves.

Act 2 : .5 stars, 17%

There's a brief scene where Garak and Ziyal officially introduce themselves to one another. I'm a little disappointed that Garak is so flat this week. He appears to have genuine feelings of some sort for this girl, but that's just so...obvious. We're talking about the man who couldn't ask his friend for life-saving help without stacking up a series of ruses and deceptions.

Odo has concocted his excuse to search Kasidy's ship and this leads to a confrontation in the pylon. His inspection is specifically timed to delay her run just long enough to make it impossible for her ship to make a delivery to the Badlands—if that's indeed what she's doing—before completing her route, which is what he and Eddington suspected. Clever. Well, Kasidy calls in a favour to her captain boyfriend. Sisko equivocates, while Eddington urges him to try and complete the inspection. Here's where things start to go off the rails a bit:

SISKO: You are clear to leave the station. Just remember to irradiate that cargo.
KASIDY [on monitor]: Thanks, Ben. I owe you one. See you tomorrow.
SISKO [to Eddington]: Do you have something to say, Commander?

Uhhhh....it's one thing for me to excuse Ben missing a twisted bit of gaslighting in the Wardroom because he was upset, but now he's *daring* one of his subordinates to question his probably fool-hearty decision. And Sisko obviously knows that he is letting his feelings for Kasidy override his better judgement which is why he's defensive about it. I empathise with the position he's in...it's very human. But he's the fucking captain, and it's more than a little rich for him to give Worf shit about his own emotional behaviour in “Rules of Engagement” when he's letting himself be so easily duped here. Speaking of Worf, Sisko has decided that to make up for his gelatinous command, he's going to take Worf off the important monitoring mission in the Badlands to tail Kasidy's ship instead. Well of course! I mean, he could put a tracking device on her ship, or Odo could disguise himself as a piece of cargo as he has done many times before, but this way, we get to be as useless as possible!

Oh, and in case anyone was stupid enough to think that maybe Sisko chose the Defiant option to be more ethical (tracking a citizen is still a violation of their rights as much as unlawful search), the Defiant is *cloaked*, something expressly forbidden by their treaty with Romulus. But hey, we are talking about the needs of Sisko's penis here; what's a little treaty violation? And it's only fair after all, since the Maquis violated the treaty with Cardassia, right? Sigh...Kasidy's ship does indeed make a course violation and head directly into the Badlands. Then we get this nonsense:

O'BRIEN: [The Maquis are] just fighting for something they believe in...Look at what's happened to those people. One day they're trying to eke out a living on some godforsaken colonies on the Cardassian border, the next day the Federation makes a treaty handing those colonies over to the Cardassians. What would you do?

I can barely fucking deal with this heaping mound of stupid.

No one in the Federation “ekes out a living.” There is no scarcity of need; there is no reason to colonise remote planets beyond *personal fulfilment.* That doesn't mean it's wrong to colonise new or distant worlds, but it's not as if the DMZ occupants were pilgrims or refugees looking for economic opportunities. They had a ROMANTIC notion of following their dreams and colonising these worlds. Or like Chakotay's people, they had a SPIRITUAL cause. I've gone on about this at length already in episodes like “The Maquis” and “Tattoo,” but it bears repeating: the premise of the Maquis is ludicrous.

So what would I do? I, a Federation citizen who can do literally almost anything in the vastness of space? I would fucking leave because I'm not a petulant self-important little prick. Worf has a different answer:

WORF: I would not become a terrorist. It would be dishonourable.
O'BRIEN: I wouldn't say that around Major Kira if I were you.

Oh yeah. Here's an experiment: the next time an organic weed farmer starts an armed insurrection against the government for selling his land to big agriculture, tell a Holocaust survivor or a Palestinian living in the West Bank that you finally understand their plight. I'm sure that will go over well.

Is this excrement over yet? NOPE! There's yet more shitting on Star Trek:

EDDINGTON: I do my job, Chief. Starfleet says to find the Maquis, I'll find the Maquis. They tell me to help them, I'll help them. My opinion is irrelevant. What matters to me is doing my job like a Starfleet officer. Anything else is an indulgence.

When in the actual fuck did Starfleet become the “I was only following orders” Full Metal Jacket nightmare organisation Eddington seems to think he belongs to? I'm guessing it was around the time RDM and Ira Behr starting furiously masturbating over Gene Roddenberry's grave.

Oh yeah, the plot: Kasidy is definitely helping the Maquis, as they witness her ship transporting cargo to a raider. Because the Maquis, a haphazard organisation of self-righteous renegades, have their own identifiable class of starships now. Always important to have marketable designs for your terrorist fleet.

Act 3 : **.5, 17%

On DS9, Ziyal pays a visit to Garak's shop and invites him to join her in the holosuite for some sauna time. Apparently, the #nohomo is so strong in the writers' room, that it was worth suggesting that Garak is a hebephile than live with the insinuation that he might be gay or asexual. Love to feel included!

We take a moment for the Siskos, which I think is handled pretty well.

JAKE: Something happen between you and Kasidy?
SISKO: Not exactly.
JAKE: If you want to talk.
(Sisko puts his hand on Jake's arm.)
JAKE: What?
SISKO: This is important. You and I. Things change, but not this.

I also like that Sisko has chosen to cut Dax off from her usual sage advice role (“Dismissed, Old Man.”); this is something he's going to have to grapple with on his own. And so, he puts on a happy face for Kasidy's return. He does his best to gently coax a confession out of his girlfriend—yeah this seems like standard procedure. He excuses himself and tells his security chiefs that he learned she's going on another run this evening. Odo is asked to leave so Eddington can make an additional request; he doesn't want to have to be the one to make the arrest of his captain's girlfriend or, you know, shoot her, he says. Except of course, we just heard him prattle on about how such “indulgences” are not what he's interested in, so he's clearly bullshitting Sisko yet again. Sisko volunteers to take command of the Defiant, I assume because Worf is going to be too busy sharpening his toenails or something.

Sisko makes one final attempt to avoid the inevitable; he stops Kasidy before her late-night run and practically begs her to drop everything and go to Risa with him. They can get STIs together, much more fun than baseball! But she has to refuse.

Act 4 : **, 17%

While Sisko hunts his girlfriend, we get an appearance from Quark whose trip to his tailor gives him a front-row seat to some Kira-coloured fireworks.

KIRA: I don't want to hear any of your lies. Now, that girl is here under my protection and I swear if you do anything to hurt her, I will make you regret it. Is that clear?

So we get the “twist”; Garak has only been trepidations in approaching Ziyal because he was worried she was colluding with her father to have him killed, but Kira's zeal has assured him otherwise. So now he can plunge headfirst into this river of character banality.

Meanwhile, Odo starts to get antsy as Kasidy's ship is just parked in the Badlands with no trademarked Maquis vessel to rendezvous with. Finally, Odo hits on it; the point of this run was to lure Sisko and the Defiant away from DS9. So they beam over and Sisko rakes her over the coals for potentially putting Jake in danger, but she believes she is here to make another delivery and nothing more. As Jammer alluded to, here's where the plot contrivances really start to pile on. So Eddington manipulated Sisko into taking the Defiant after Kasidy—erm, somehow, and leaving him in charge of the far more important replicator delivery. Sisko decided to take himself, Worf AND Odo on this mission to catch his girlfriend, again for *reasons*. I'd really be okay if the episode were trying to show that Sisko's vulnerability to Kasidy messes with his command decisions, but this is too far. He may be struggling, but he still managed to lie to her face and feign levity in order to set her up to be captured, so he isn't incapacitated or inept. That he would just FORGET about this important plot point (that is at the centre of this whole renewed Maquis scare) is absurd and makes Sisko and Odo look like total boobs.

So yeah, Eddington is giving secret orders to his security team, shooting Kira—meh, not like she was doing anything else—and taking command of the station.

Act 5 : .5 stars, 17%

ODO: You realise we'll probably never see the Xhosa or Captain Yates again.
SISKO: It's a possibility.
ODO: I'd say it's more than that. If I'd been allowed to leave a security detail behind
SISKO: Our priority is to get back to the station, Constable. Captain Yates is my responsibility and I will thank you to leave it at that.

Uhhhh....what? I'm pretty sure that Maquis terrorists are Starfleet's responsibility. Why are you acting like a jackass, Captain? Because of feelings? Is that all we're going to get? Okay...

Eddington manipulates a junior officer into taking command until Sisko's return. This meat-headed anachronism doesn't ask why Major Kira or Dax or Bashir can't take command because fuck you. Thus, the Maquis spy is able to make off with the replicators without a hitch. But, he isn't done making the crew look like complete fools.

He makes contact with Sisko back in his office and makes his “kill the phonies” speech. In a series replete with dishonest and subversive messages, this is one of the worst. Let's pick it apart.

-”Why is the Federation so obsessed about the Maquis?”

What are you, the Federation's ex? No one is “obsessed” with you, drama queen. You violated a treaty and engage in acts of theft and violence against the Federation and its ally. What did you expect to happen?

-”Because we've left the Federation, and that's the one thing you can't accept. Nobody leaves paradise. Everyone should want to be in the Federation.”

Oh....so, you aren't mad about the treaty anymore? You're just upset with mommy and daddy? Let's remember what actually happened, asshole:

PICARD: Anthwara, I want to make absolutely sure that you understand the implications of this agreement. By giving up your status as Federation citizens, any future request you or your people make to Starfleet will go unanswered. You will be on your own and under Cardassian jurisdiction.

In other words, the Federation was more than happy to let people leave, but if you leave, you don't get to start stealing Federation resources and technology to aid your cause. You're on your own, which is what you fucking asked for.

-”You know, in some ways you're worse than the Borg. At least they tell you about their plans for assimilation. You're more insidious. You assimilate people and they don't even know it.”

You're a HUMAN, Eddington. You were born in Canada or whatever. You weren't forcefully assimilated, you grew up in a culture. That's not insidious, that's society.

Now, if Sisko had heard all of this and told Eddington that he is a spoilt, presumptuous and arrogant little twit who has risked the lives of innocent people in a completely misguided parody of social justice, I would give this scene four stars, but instead, the only thing Sisko cares about is the fact that Eddington betrayed him and his uniform. That means that 1. Sisko hasn't learnt ANYTHING this episode; he's just as emotionally gelatinous with Eddington as he was with Kasidy, and 2. he apparently shares Eddington's view that Starfleet is an organisation of unthinking militaristic sycophants. When the “bad guy” and the “good guy” agree on something which undermines the premise of the entire franchise, that is underhanded subversion in the extreme. This is unforgivable.

Anyway, we conclude the B plot with Ziyal and Garak in the holo-sauna. A badly-performed Ziyal blithers on about backstory we already know and basically says that despite the danger, she wants a Cardassian companion and Garak is her only option. Touching.

Oh yeah, and Kasidy comes back to turn herself in because she's still in love with Ben. It's unclear (since we haven't heard anything about the Maquis for like 2 years on this series) what her impression of the Maquis is, so I can't adequately judge her choice to smuggle them medical supplies. If we assume that her understanding of their cause was super vague and she just wanted to make sure they received medical attention, we can sort of empathise, but remember that Eddington flat out used her to steal the replicators. And she and Sisko lied to each other's faces repeatedly in this story. Whosever fantasy permits a healthy relationship between these two to continue after this is delusional. It's a shame. They have such great chemistry. So, she's arrested by Lieutenant Meathead and Sisko is left to brood.

Episode as Functionary : *, 10%

Star Trek is famous for its message episodes. And sometimes, things go a little overboard because the writers, lacking confidence in their message, stack the deck to make the message completely inevitable and obvious, instead of a hard-won questions and answers. DS9 sometimes has the opposite problem; it is so intent on being “morally grey” that it takes messages which are clear and twists them around so as to appear ambiguous. There isn't a lot of ambiguity with the Maquis. The Star Trek Universe simply does not leave room for their actions to be justifiable. This episode has the gall to draw *attention* to the reason the Maquis are impossible by making its central plot about replicators, you know, that technology that eliminates scarcity, that eliminates any material or existential reason for the DMZ colonists to reject the treaty with Cardassia. But, moral ambiguity is what the big fancy grown-ups do, right? We aren't like those starry-eyed hippies who wrote for TNG, we wear leather jackets over here on DS9. We smoke in the bathroom and our dads just can't accept our alternative lifestyle that's too cool for you to understand, Phony. This episode should be called “Without a Cause.”

Even with all of the self-important bullshit being flung around here, the characterisation of Sisko was enjoyable, even if his choices were pretty pathetic. The Sisko/Kasidy relationship buoys this up for me more than I think this episode deserves.

The Garak/Ziyal stuff on the other hand is a complete waste of both characters. I seriously don't even want to talk about it; it's creepy, it's out of character, it's pedestrian (there's that good ol' DBI!) and half of it is terribly performed. Please no more.

Final Score : *.5
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Thu, Apr 11, 2019, 10:55am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: The Muse

@William B

Already missing you, buddy. Good luck with your new projects and I'll look forward to your return some day. Won't be the same without you!
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 1:22pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: The Muse

@Peter G:

I don't want to speak for you, but for me the difference between artists and other professions isn't that artists are the only ones who suffer OR that they are doomed to suffer, it's that art (maybe) cannot exist in its sublimest form without the profound suffering of the artist. It's a paradox: I won't be able to write a truly transcendent work unless I am miserable, but if I don't write the transcendent work, then why am I an artist? This is a Romantic view, certainly, but I don't know that it's ever been disproven.

@William B:

I hope my comment to Peter makes it clear what at least I think is *special* about being an artist. I daresay my numerous takes on economics and labour all over this site put you and me roughly in the same camp when it comes to economic justice. I can absolutely relate to your story from childhood myself.

Regarding the pen/paper v. natural food thing. For me, it's about the zealotry. Sisko's father grows his own food and has his own views on the subject, and that's fine, but he doesn't reject food replication outright the way, say, Alixus did. He still presumably recognises that replicators eliminate scarcity which eliminates hunger. In the same way, I don't think computers or word/music processors are evil or useless. I use them all the time. It's just for the specific task of composition, which is an art that developed before computers existed, they create problems. Likewise, I think chef's recognise that for the *art* of cooking, replicators are a problem.
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 1:04pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: The Thaw

Teaser : ***, 5%

We begin with Harry playing a little classic jazz on his clarinet. What appears to be a private recital for Tom [fan fic fan fic fan fic fan fic...] is actually bleeding through the bulkheads, causing some other ensign to bang on the walls. It seems those amazing gel packs that can get sick from cheese infections have the added benefit of conducting sound. Of course, what this tedious scene is actually about is reminding us that Tom and Harry are totally not gay, because they're both chasing the same girl, someone called Nicoletti. She plays the oboe, you see. Mhm...

With that out of the way, the senior staff are summoned to the bridge. The Voyager has encountered a planet which has been devastated by natural disasters, but is in a state of ecological recovery. Despite an absence of lifesigns, they receive a hail from the surface. How refreshing to have a set-up like this; minor mystery with some light characterisation. I feel like I'm watching TOS.

Act 1 : ***.5, 17%

The hail turns out to be an automatic message from what we assume is this planet's leader, a man called Viagra or something.

VIORSA: A few of us have managed to survive in a state of artificial hibernation, programmed to end in fifteen years from the date this was recorded. At that time, when the eco-recovery has begun, we will attempt to rebuild our settlement. Please, do nothing to interrupt our timetable.

Well, they're way past the expiration date on that time-table, so Janeway has Kim scan for suppressed metabolic activity which he discovers underground. Intrigued, she orders a stasis pod containing three hibernating aliens and two dead ones to the cargo bay.

One of the hibernators is Viagra himself and there don't appear to be any malfunctions to explain the two deaths. Further scans reveal that the minds of the occupants have been interconnected by a sophisticated computer.

JANEWAY: Years ago, Starfleet used a technology to assist deep space travel that kept the body in stasis, but provided a mental landscape to keep the mind active and alert.

The mystery deepens: the occupants were given control over their own hibernation, as the planetary conditions would be transmitted to their “mental landscape” periodically. They ought to have emerged from stasis many years ago. The EMH's autopsies reveal that the dead aliens were literally scared to death (heart failure) by whatever imagery this system is providing. Tuvok determines that the only option, save fucking off and leaving these people to their fate (I'll get back to that), is to enter the system themselves using the empty pods. They will use their own stasis technology to isolate themselves from the alien system as much as possible. So, Torres and Kim are put under ice and given five minutes to check things out.

Up until now, the mood aboard the Voyager has been very subdued. The dialogue is sensible, but dry, the pitch moderate; no red-alert klaxons, no phaser fire. The mystery is interesting, but in a purely intellectual way—there's almost no character behind the lines of dialogue; the crew are performing their functions in expected ways, but it's all detached and professional.

Then, we enter the Matrix...I mean the system.

The atmosphere is garish—the set made deliberately to look like a very large black-box. The computer-generated characters are pulled straight from the Commedia dell'Arte. The music has a flare of anachronistic medieval timbre. Nearly everyone is in a mask, adorned with make-up; there's fire, there is dancing, bright colours, and constant movement.

Hovering over this scene is a unique figure, a monochromatic clown whose smile is deeply unsettling. Eventually, the clown ropes Torres and Kim into a feverish dance. The carnival atmosphere recalls such pop-culture touchstones as “The Killing Joke” or maybe “Falstaff.” And at the centre of the “town” is a wonderfully absurd PINK guillotine whose Folsom Street Fair attendant dutifully shows off by chopping a log in twain, ending the dance. Torres and Kim try to make their exit, but the carnival goers aren't yielding. With those terrifying smiles still plastered across their faces and their schoolyard taunts cascading about, the Starfleet Trek-fu laughed off as completely ineffectual, Harry is captured by the mob and cuffed. They cart him off to the guillotine. The camera makes note of the Grey Clown observing, seemingly from everywhere, enthralled by the terror on Harry's face.

What makes this scene so very effective is the contrast. These characters are violent, sadistic and invulnerable, but their behaviour is childish, playful and giddy. As with the aforementioned Batman rogue, this may be a cocktail we're familiar with nowadays, but Voyager executes it extremely well, and the effect is nothing short of terrifying.

Act 2 : ***.5, 17%

Before the choppy-choppy, Viagra and his two companions enter the square and warn the Clown that executing these aliens will likely illicit retribution from their companions in the waking world. The Clown is visibly terrified by this prospect and wastes no time in ordering Harry set free. Again, his sentiments are childish, basic and primal. There are no ethics guiding his thirst for entertainment, but threaten him, and it's fight or flight.

VIORSA: Who knows what kind of people they are? Who knows what will happen to this world if you hurt them?
CLOWN: I do. I know.

The Clown demonstrates that he is beginning to understand his new guests, as he mocks Torres for her temper and mixed heritage. He laughs at Harry's technical-minded analysis. The theatricality in the blocking and directing never lets up, even when the dialogue becomes intimate. The Clown will dance around, amused by Harry's ignorance and the remaining cast of characters dances with him, chanting in unison. The Clown will become deadly serious, upset with Viagra for disrupting his fun, and the cast will be shown behind him, solemn and menacing. What's so great about this is that it demonstrates an understanding of what theatre is and why it works as an artform. This is TV; you can create mesmerising special effects and optical illusions. Think of all the smoke and mirrors bullshit from “Move Along Home”! But here, in the mindscape, we are using the tools of the live theatre; masks and choreography and costume. The effect is to make one feel drawn in the world itself, for being at once so impossible and so real. This also lends an air of timelessness to the world and to the episode. Even now, 30 years later, you wouldn't want to do much differently in terms of production.

The Clown and his world will disappear, that is cease to be if the humanoids are disconnected from the system. The Clown's desire to exist (accompanied by that over-the-top crying gesture from the whole town) indicates that he/they have achieved some level of sentience. The recall subroutine is activated and Torres and Kim make to escape:

CLOWN: If you leave, one of them will die. One of them will die. Try it and see.
...
TORRES: How is that possible?
CLOWN: I cut off their heads.
TORRES: But none of this is real.
CLOWN: Of course it's real. As real as a nightmare.

And so, Harry relents and cancels the recall, but he makes it clear that if the Clown wants to continue to exist, he had better give them the chance to inform the Voyager. While the Clown and his, erm, clown possy deliberate, Kim and Torres have a brief moment to confer with the alien trio. Herein, we learn that there is a small delay before the Clown and the system can process their thoughts, which might be their only advantage in this world. They hypothesise that the Clown is a manifestation of their latent fears, created accidentally by software too smart for its own designers. Isn't that always the way?

The Clown determines that Harry is to stay behind as a hostage, but Torres will be permitted to leave and convey the Clown's demands to Janeway.

Act 3 : ****, 17%

Back in the conference room, whose dark grey and quiet hues are, ironically, a relief from the Clown's garishness, the senior staff consider their options. Janeway wants to reduce the number of hostages.

JANEWAY: All we have to do now is decide how to negotiate with an emotion. With a manifestation of fear.
TUVOK: Fear is the most primitive, the most primordial of biological responses.
JANEWAY: The ability to recognise danger, to fight it or run away from it, that's what fear gives us. But when fear holds you hostage, how do you make it let go?

In keeping with this story's deftness, Neelix' ridiculous suggestion of trying to combat fear with humour is met with impatient glares from Janeway and co. It's an understated and hilarious moment in an otherwise pensive and quiet scene. We're left to wonder what they'll come up with.

Meanwhile in Carnival Hell, Viagra expresses his regret to Harry, for dragging him and the others into this mess. Viagra just tells him that hope is a lie and that after a few months, he'll give in to Fear and his endless whims. Cue a side glance from Folsom Street Man. I SAID HE'S NOT GAAAY!

KIM: Why does he do it?
KOHL MAN: We're his canvas, his blocks of marble. With us, he practises his ghastly art.

Sensing Harry's transgressive desire to escape, the Clown determines to punish him. He's made into an old man, helpless and decrepit. Then, of course, he's turned into an infant (“Koochy Coo!”). The Clown plays Michael Jackson with baby Harry for a few moments, but quickly grows bored. In one of many favourite moments, the Clown utters a deep-sounding truism:

“When your only reality is an illusion, then illusion is a reality.”

For a second, we're thinking: that's a little obtuse, isn't it? But then, the Clown snaps his finger and a cartoonish gong is hit, like a 1960s Hanna Barbera “Confucius Says” moment. The fact that Harry is Chinese makes this all the more subversive and I love it. Anyway, the Clown finally taps into a memory that really disturbs Kim; when he was nine years old, he witnessed a radiation disaster, sick and dying people, and a little girl receiving some sort of emergency surgery.

And then just as quickly, the EMH appears and corrects the Clown's grip on his little scalpel. I can't possibly recreate the comedy with my wordy review here, but the Picardo/McKean double act is one of the most hysterical performances in the history of the franchise.

CLOWN: How am I supposed to negotiate if I don't know what you're thinking?
EMH: I have a very trustworthy face.

Lololol

Ahhh, anyway the EMH has been sent by “a miracle of technology” (bless the Maker we didn't have to endure any technobabble to explain this miracle) to act as Janeway's representative. Janeway suggests replacing the hostages with a simulated brain to provide input for the Clown's existence, but the Clown suspects this is impossible. Viagra is hauled over to corroborate his fears, but says something cryptic about the optronic pathways which is dismissed instantly as a lie. Despite his trustworthy face and bedside manner, the Doctor is unable to get the Clown to budge.

Act 4 : ****, 17%

When the Doctor reports to Torres the message from Viagra, Tuvok realises that he must have been trying to communicate something else to them. Clever. They determine that they can dismantle the environment using the optronic pathways without disrupting the hostages or their brain functions, removing the threat of execution. The EMH is tasked with distracting the Clown while they work. It's a desperate move, but that's where we have landed.

So the plan begins. The EMH bullshits with Michael McKean while Torres begins disconnecting the characters from the simulation. Of note here is how the Doctor has grown as a character, able to improvise and lie—tricks he has learnt from his experiences in “Heroes and Demons,” “Projections,” and to some degree in “Lifesigns.” For a tense couple of moments, we dare to hope that they might succeed, but before Torres can finish, the Clown sees through the deception and he knows exactly whose fault this is. Poor pathetic Viagra is dragged to the guillotine. The Doctor tries his best to live up to his oath, but there's nothing they can do, and Viagra is beheaded. In the real world, his heart gives out and Janeway has no choice but to relent and restore the programme. Amid the carnage, the Clown and his people dance in celebration, as if you expected anything else.

Act 5 : ****, 17%

Janeway is reeling from her failure.

JANEWAY: Have I misjudged him somehow? Is there another way to reach him? Isn't there more to fear than a simple demand to exist? Why do people enjoy dangerous sports or holodeck adventures with the safety off? Why, after all these centuries, do children still ride on roller coasters?
EMH: Fear can provide pleasure. To seek fear is to seek the boundaries of one's sensory experience.
JANEWAY: But what does fear seek at the end of the ride?

For the third and final time, the Doctor interrupts the party (“I don't get out very much.”) and explains Janeway's final terms. There's a mention of the Galorndon Core for the nerds, but the EMH is deadly serious; Janeway will allow the Clown to keep one hostage and one only, but that hostage will be Janeway herself. The Clown is hesitant, but sensing (from Harry, we surmise) that Janeway is very much willing to go through with risking brain damage to the hostages if it comes down to it and destroy him, he accepts.

And indeed, we see Janeway being hooked up to the system as the Clown prepares for her arrival. Finally, the extraneous characters vanish and Janeway appears before the Clown. While the interactions between Picardo and McKean were hilarious, this new dynamic between Mulgrew and McKean is something else entirely. With the eerie, Ligeti-esque score backing them up, the scene is almost sublime. Harry and the aliens are released, and the Clown tucks in for an eternity with his new plaything.

ANEWAY: Would you be honest with me?
CLOWN: Fear is the most honest of all emotions, Captain.
JANEWAY: You really want this to end as much as I do, don't you?
CLOWN: Now, now, don't even think about leaving. I'm not going to let you go, not after all this. Mirror? Don't we make a beautiful couple, Captain?
JANEWAY: I'm not Captain Janeway.
CLOWN: Could have fooled me.
JANEWAY: I'm afraid I did.

As the Clown becomes aware of the truth of Janeway's deception (the one he's talking to is a hologram), the world itself begins to spin out of control around him. Literally.

The final moments of the episode are spectacular. We resolve the lingering question, “What does Fear seek?” The answer of course, is to be conquered. As the world dissolves into nothingness, there's a chilling musical cue—the return of those carnival accordion chords that add the perfect touch of macabre whimsy to this dark finale.

CLOWN: I'm afraid.
JANEWAY: I know.
CLOWN: Drat.

Episode as Functionary : ****, 10%

I think I know why this episode is so polarising. I don't agree with the comment above that this is an episode “for smart people,” but there is something in that instinct that's worth examining. This is not an episode that faithful viewership of Star Trek prepares you for. People try and intellectualise the disparity by saying that things are “weird” or “over-the-top” or “campy.” And those might be true but not particularly useful descriptors. Like the very best of Star Trek (which this is), we are dealing with an idea and how that idea relates to the human condition, examined through a sci-fi lens. The reason this story had to be “weird” is because the idea we are dealing with, fear, is by its very nature irrational. When you're in a dark room and feel panicked, you lose the ability to rationally consider your environment. It's the same damned room whether or not the lights are on, but our inability to see what may or may not be there invites wild speculation, turns our imaginations into overdrive and makes our hearts race. The Clown's environment is extremely uncomfortable and it is superbly irrational. Most of the holographic environments we see in Trek do their best to simulate reality in some way, but this one, this one is designed to feel like a nightmare. In a nightmare, you can't crawl out of the hole no matter how hard you try; the water will always drown you; you can't stop falling even though you don't remember when you fell; your loved ones will hate you; you will always fail.

So, I think those who dislike or hate this episode do so for the same reason many people dislike horror films, even good ones. They are very uncomfortable, and intentionally so. But beyond the horror elements, this story is pure theatre. The scenes aboard the Voyager itself, deliberately subdued and utilitarian (save some excellent dialogue), are little more than a framing device for the madcap theatre that is the simulation. This was something hinted at in “Frame of Mind,” to similar effect, although its purpose was quite different.

There's room in this story for some character elements. Harry's fears of dependency and being coddled are explored. Mention is made of how much he misses Libby and his parents, but what we learn here is that he is embarrassed to admit how much he does. This isn't the result of a carefully laid character arc, mind you, but Menosky manages to take what was a weakness in the development of Harry's character and transform it into an asset. That's real skill, and not the last time he will be called upon to do this for poor Harry. The EMH is primarily a deadpan foil to the Clown's exuberance, but there are some touches that reflect how he's grown, but that also remind us that he is still not regarded as a sentient member of the crew. The notion that a simulated brain—like his—could satisfy the Clown is dismissed as impossible. And the Doctor owns his own limitations. I believe that if not for the fact that 1. the plan depended on the Clown believing he had captured Janeway and 2. the fact that they still need a doctor, Janeway would have been willing to sacrifice the Doctor to the Clown as she did her own hologram.

Speaking of Janeway, let's remember that this is the captain who did *not* end up sacrificing her crew because she got curious about the mysterious visitor in “Deadlock.” This is the other one. Thus, we see the curiosity overriding the crew's wellbeing motif repeated, but this time Janeway isn't trifling. In “Deadlock,” her counterpart ordered Harry to the alt-Voyager to save his life, a recompense for her mistake. Here, she has decided to murder a sentient albeit malevolent lifeform to save Harry. The conflict between her blue-shirted and red-shirted selves are coming into greater relief.

I don't need to gush about the acting in this episode, but save some tepidness in the teaser and a few missteps from the guests, everything was marvellous. McKean, Picardo and Mulgrew were all delicious in different ways and even Wang managed to step up his game a bit. I like that they found a use for Kes in all this, who's been a bit forgotten since “Cold Fire.”

***
How should we be able to forget those
ancient myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into
princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses
who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps
everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless
that wants help from us.

Final Score : ****
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Mon, Apr 8, 2019, 9:33pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S2: The Jem'Hadar

@Trent

I’m glad I’m not the only one on these threads who sees things this way.
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Elliott
Mon, Apr 8, 2019, 6:48pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: The Muse

Hahahah

Couple things:

1. I liked the Traveller in his first 2 appearances
2. The Milf was generally attracted to/needed artists not specifically writers—it’s just that they had established Jake to be a writer, so there it is.
3. Chrome; you’ll be happy (?) to know that your cynicism is fully justified, because that sweet story about Salinger...well it turns out that young woman was actually an under cover reporter trying to get a scoop on the enigmatic recluse!
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Elliott
Mon, Apr 8, 2019, 4:32pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: The Muse

Hi Chrome:

I suppose that's fair, but there isn't any difference in general (to me) between the vampiress and Melanie from "The Visitor." If Jake is the creator, then Milf lady is the consumer. There might be some metaphors floating about about consumer culture and the toll this takes on artists, but as I said, I don't think the episode left nearly enough time to explore this topic to the extent that it deserves that credit. Clearly she was enjoying the experience, possibly even having some sort of orgasmic experience from feeding off of Jake. I don't require more of an explanation than that really--I mean, it's not more egregious than the giant talking heads from "The Nth Degree" or the many dozens of strangely motivated aliens from TOS, right?
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Mon, Apr 8, 2019, 1:33pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: The Muse

Teaser : **.5, 5%

We begin AGAIN with alleged main character Jake Sisko keeping watch from his perch on the Promenade. He observes several comers and goers milling about the station, emerging from a transport that just docked. One of the passengers and Jake make eyes at each other, and she's older so we know where this is going. Is it too much to hope that Jake will have more than a few token lines in a story that's supposed to be about him? Probably.

Meanwhile, Lwaxana has holed herself up in Odo's office. He finds her there, weeping like she just let her daughter drown. Too soon? Actually, she's sad because she's extremely pregnant. Yowza.

I thought about doing another trip down memory lane with the Lwaxana episodes, as I did recently for Q and “Death Wish” or Worf and TWotW, but 1. William B has a nice and succinct listing on this thread already which covers the major points and 2. unlike those others, this story doesn't play out like a culmination or turning point for her character. The fact that this is Lwaxana's final Trek appearance is kind of a footnote to this story. At any rate, the set-up so far is...tenuous. It could go either way, into the land of light but probing character study or the nightmare realm of clichéd 90s sitcom bullshit. We shall see.

Act 1 : **, 17%

It turns out that in the year or so since Lwaxana's menopause caused the DS9 crew to go fanfic crazy in (to date) the worst episode of Star Trek I have reviewed, she has gotten married to a man called erm...Jor-El? Is that the problem? Is Krypton about to explode and Lwaxana doesn't want to put the baby in a rocket ship? Nah, actually it turns out her husband is from a culture with Weird Rules that forbid the intermingling of sexes during childhood/adolescence. Lwaxana's male baby is required to be separated from her at birth. Thankfully, Lwaxana's breathless exposition makes it clear that she was under the impression that Jor-El wasn't going to adhere to traditional Kryptonian, I mean Tavnian norms, but the short months since the wedding have proved him unreliable in this promise.

LWAXANA: During our wedding ceremony, he spoke so beautifully about why he wanted to marry me, but afterwards it was as if I had become a piece of property in his eyes.

So here's the first major flaw with the construction of this story: unlike in “Cost of Living,” the social issue under scrutiny isn't given any development or nuance whatsoever. We don't come to understand this cultural perspective in any way beyond Lwaxana's objection to it. She was equally indignant over Timicin's mandatory suicide, but that was made clear *after* we had a chance to get to know Timicin, to empathise with his situation and the complexities of his life and work. Is anyone in this episode going to stand up for the pro-gender-segregationists? I doubt it.

Basically, I get the impression that Echevarria wasn't confident in this story's ability to be compelling. This isn't something I agree with necessarily, but the result is that the important backstory and context is whizzed through in this awkward dialogue scene upfront. While “Hard Time” was perhaps even more interested in getting past the polemics in favour of the character material, it did establish (in the teaser) what the relevant perspectives and arguments were. The Agrathi were given their say, albeit briefly. And throughout the episode, the morality of Miles' punishment was still being considered obliquely through the lens of his psychological break. Is the Agrathi system of simulating imprisonment more ethical than actual imprisonment? “Hard Time” actually spent, ahem, some time examining that question.

We cut back to Jake who is furiously working on story ideas in Quark's when the alien Milf sets herself down nearby and starts reading seductively, like you do. Like Lwaxana, she doesn't waste time and gets to her point rather quickly:

ONAYA: Kell [the architect] was shy, unsure of himself and his talent. Most people would never notice someone like him, but I have a weakness for artists...He accomplished more in the years that he had than most people could in a dozen lifetimes. His name is known throughout the quadrant. His buildings will stand for centuries to come. Isn't that what an artist wants, to be remembered? Isn't that why you write?

Kell died young, but is so famous that even teenaged humans know who he is and admire his legacy. I wonder where this is going. She suggests that Jake doesn't need school to become a great artist, he just needs training. Erm...what does she think school is, exactly? Nah, fuck actual work, there are “exercises” he can try that will make him more prolific or something. She invites him to ***CUM*** to her quarters later to learn them. Yeah.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

Jake is working his story in his own quarters when Sisko pops in wearing one of those god-awful 90s faux-African pyjama get-ups they insist on dressing him in when he's out of uniform. Sisko was under the impression that the three of them (the Siskos and Kassidy) were going on a camping trip to “the Bajoran Outback.” Yeesh. Ben, when are you going to learn that planning vacations with your son always ends in disaster? Knock it off, already. Anyway, whatever the lesson at the end of “The Visitor” was supposed to be, I got the distinct impression that Sisko was determined to stick close by his son, to not let him miss out on experiences (“It's life Jake. You can miss it if you don't open your eyes!”). But this time? Eh, fuck it, you're on your own, Jake-O.

Meanwhile, Lwaxana is finishing up her sob story to Mr Woof, Dax and Kira who were all geared up for a romantic trip to holographic Camelot. Quark suspects that there's some sort of inversion of “Fascination” going on. Oh, not that the episode is sublime instead of a crime against television, but that instead of infecting the crew with horniness, she's making them all sad. That is to say, poor customers. Apparently, in Quark's, being a sad lady is as offensive as being a violent drunk and can get you thrown out, so Odo agrees to try and cheer her up.

They go on stroll together where Troi conveys the backstory from “Dark Page.” Thematically, it does make sense for those events to be at the front of her mind, but it throws into even starker relief what a mistake airing “Fascination” was in between. She invites herself into his quarters to get some tea, using a transparent excuse about her replicator being on the fritz, and perks up substantially examining the curious array of objects Odo has strewn about the place. I really hope Dax has abandoned her juvenile pranking by now.

LWAXANA: Is this for shape-shifting?
ODO: Yes. Actually, most people think it's a sculpture.
LWAXANA: Well, what do most people know?...May I ask you something, Odo? Are you over her? Don't worry, I'm not going to throw myself at you if you say yes.

It's this level of interaction that always endears me to the Lwaxana/Odo relationship, despite the awkward turns we had to take to get here. Like in “The Forsaken,” it's Lwaxana's inability to give a damn over manners and politeness that allow her to break through Odo's shell in a way almost nobody else can (the only other contenders would be Dr Mora, who is borderline abusive, Resusci Anne, who skilfully manipulates him, and Garak, who literally had to torture him first). Odo explains that Shakaar has taken Kira off the table for Odo. Troi confirms that her off-screen marriage to Jor-El was an attempt to mend her broken heart after the events of “Dark Page” (again, WHY “Fascination,” WHY?). As William B noted, we cap this scene with an allusion to that first revelatory moment between the two as they sit together on the floor and she “relaxes her shape” and falls asleep in his arms. We also get an unexpected reference to, of all things, “The Child”:

LWAXANA: Sometimes, with Betazoid babies, you can actually sense their thoughts. Such contentment.
ODO: Yes, I can feel it, too.

Elsewhere, Jake makes his way to Alien Milf's quarters for his exercises. We learn that she and Guinan share a taste in fire-hazard interior design, with flowing tapestries and candles everywhere. I'm sorry to say that I know people who insist on decorating/unpacking in places they're only visiting. The dialogue very clearly draws a parallel between Jake losing his virginity (“You seem nervous...”) and whatever these creative exercises entail. There's another one of those 4th-wall nudging hints we get every so often, but this one has the distinction of displaying an ounce of humility, something lacking in most other cases:

JAKE: I have an idea for a novel. It's sort of autobiographical. The main character's mother dies. It's not about that really. It's about a lot of things.
ONAYA: So many it all seems so big to you right now. You're afraid that you can't do it justice?

She gifts him a special pen and paper which belonged to a famous author and encourages him to use them instead of his PADD. This is something I can attest to personally. As a composer, it is necessary nowadays to be adept at computer engraving—the musical equivalent of word-processing. You have to do this to make your work professional-looking and universally legible. However, too many composers compose *directly* into the computer, letting the synthesised instrumental playback guide their creation. This is a major problem in contemporary art music actually, and thus a practice my teacher strictly forbade when I was a student. To this day, I still do my writing by hand by a piano.

While Jake begins to write, Milf runs her hands over his neck and head, weaving together sci-fi brain chemistry elements with seduction and references to the creative process. None of this should work, but there's a kind of primal honesty about the scene that I find compelling. I don't know if I can explain it better than to simply point out that writers and composers and creators have these kinds of experiences sometimes, of feeling guided by almost supernatural forces. I want to be clear that being a successful artist involves a great deal of work, but there is also an essential element of spontaneous creation that may as well be an act of magic, or of God, or of (indeed) the muses working their power. It's also no secret that many artists make use of drugs to lower their inhibitions and make them more productive. This is essentially what whatever Milf's alien powers are doing to Jake. She's getting him high and this is letting him pour out his energies. As he works, Milf is able to extract some sort of energy from Jake's mind and feed herself (as with everything else she does, this has a highly sensual manner to it).The Gods always demand a sacrifice for their graces.

Act 3 : *.5, 17%

Lwaxana and Odo are playing “Find the Changeling,” a kind of light-hearted version of the opening from TWotW. The two admit that this game is a hell of a lot of fun, but Odo is called away, having been advised that Jor-El's ship has found its way to DS9. He instructs Lwaxana to wait in his quarters while he handles the situation.

In his office, it turns out that Jor-El is actually Kang in disguise! Heh! Once again, the Tavnian cultural perspective is reduced to tired clichés and platitudes:

JEYAL: I am not talking about her. I am talking about my son. I intend to see that he is raised by men, not by the pampering foolishness of women.

Of course, this couldn't be for anything besides your standard patriarchal attitude taken to an extreme. Anyway, as such things go, Odo has found a legal loophole that will solve this whole mess: the Tavnians are *such* assholes, that the child is considered the property of the mother's husband, not necessarily the child's father, so Odo is going to marry Lwaxana and claim ownership over the baby. I have to concur that this is probably the weakest part of the script; there have to be any number of legal options for a member of the Federation to avoid having her baby seized by a foreign government, but we're going for the most audacious spectacle possible because DRAMA.

Oh, did I say forced drama? Because it turns out for no discernible reason that Tavnian law demands the Bridegroom convince all present at the ceremony that his intentions are genuine, which means Odo has to convince Jor-El that he's madly in love with Lwaxana.

Anyway, Jake is still high on sexual muse magic, but he might be overdoing it a bit. His nose is starting to bleed, suggesting his brain is melting or something from the side effects of the experience.

Act 4 : **.5, 17%

So the ceremony ensues; Odo is goaded by Jor-El to explain why Lwaxana in particular is worthy of his eternal affection. I don't know what to say to the haters of this episode, but Odo's confession of why he considers Lwaxana to be a *friend* is quite moving and underscores the sweetness of their relationship. In Lwaxana, who has always been so loud, so forceful, so sexually aggressive and so opinionated, Odo found someone around whom he can utterly BE himself. Here is someone who behaves in a way that makes people dread her presence (audience and characters alike) by *choice*, and yet continues to live her life, continues to be exactly who she chooses to be, and in the rare circumstances she finds someone with whom she connects, is fiercely and uncompromisingly loyal. Why should a Changeling be shy or ashamed around such a friend?

ODO: The day I met her, is the day I stopped being alone. And I want her to be part of my life from this day on.

Despite this, the awkwardness of the plot continues to sabotage this story. Jor-El bids Lwaxana farewell and asks her to speak well of him to their son. I guess his fierce devotion to reclaiming his heir and prized possession is over now. Thanks for stopping by, buddy.

Anyway, Milf and Jake continue their work together, but she insists that he take a break. It seems he's been writing non-stop for as long as his father has been off the station. He emerges from her quarters looking like shit and eventually collapses on the Promenade, exhausted. Bashir later explains to Sisko in the infirmary that he's detected the weird brain stuff that Milf has been doing to his son. Luckily, the plot brings Jake into semi-consciousness just enough to utter Milf's name and give Sisko a clue as to what to look for. But while he rests, she materialises in the infirmary and tells Jake it's time to finish his great work.

Act 5 : **, 17%

The pair have hidden away in a Jeffries Tube.

ONAYA: Keep going, Jake. The moment I saw you, I knew you were worthy of what I could give you. But I can't stay with you forever. This is your chance to create something that will live on, long after you're gone.

Before Jake dies from writing, Sisko is able to track them down and point his phaser on Milf, telling her to back away. She tells him that Jake could have been great like her past conquests, Keats, Catullus and some alien, before doing as so many energy beings before her have done and disappearing into the vastness of space.

After this, erm, climax, Lwaxana pays Odo a visit to let him know she's returning to Betazed to have her baby there. Odo thinks maybe she should stick around a bit longer...

LWAXANA: You've gotten used to having me around, haven't you?...Don't you see? What you want is company, someone to take care of...As I wish that you were in love with me, I know you're not. I could stay, I try to make you fall in love with me, but we both know that won't happen. Then I'd end up resenting you, and our friendship is far too important for me to let that happen. That's why it's better for both of us if I leave now.

We close with the Siskos; Ben is impressed with what his son has created thus far. I think the resolution is sensible—perhaps too sensible, but I'll get back to that. It reminds me of the interaction in “Explorers,” but without being interminably boring. He explains to his son, essentially, that there are longer, less treacherous roads to creative output, and that Jake will eventually find his way down them. The final shot (and musical cue) reveal that Jake's novel is the same that won him fame in “The Visitor.”

Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

I have to laugh at Jammer's review here:

“What exactly are the writers going for here?...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?”

This is precisely how I felt about “The Visitor,” which is the Niners' “The Inner Light,” and left me a little cool. [chuckle] It's no secret that the writing staff was not pleased with how this episode turned out and I do understand why. The myriad changes the script went through show throughout the story and hold back the positives from ever taking off and being great chapters in this series. The construction of the story, the “plot,” is full of weird and uncomfortable contortions, especially in the Lwaxana/Odo material. In this respect, I concur with Jammer that this episode suffers from the A/B plot structure, but I think both of the stories deserved their own stand-alone episodes.

Let's start with Lwaxana. The general premise of her getting married (twice) and becoming pregnant, running away, etc...all of that works, I think, and the character scenes between her and Odo are charming and sometimes quite moving, especially the sleeping bit and Odo's vows. The problem is that the Tavnian culture is so cardboard and haphazard that it's like you can see the seams in the script where the writers cobbled together the backstory and exposition in desperation to save the character material. Jor-El and his customs serve the plot mechanics and nothing else, and this is because a ~22 minute story is insufficient to delve into the moral/cultural themes that demand attention from us. While the link between Lwaxana as Odo's positive muse and Milf as Jake's negative muse kind of sort of not really makes the two plots cohere, I maintain that these stories do not belong in the same episode. Given a “Cost of Living”-eque examination of the Tavnian culture and more effort expended in fleshing out the plot, the final Lwaxana story could have been a fine capstone to her arc. Instead, I think the story, such as it is, serves Odo well moving forward. He still laments the things he cannot have (Kira), but has, through this friendship, come to accept himself for who and what he is. This will play into heavily into the continuation of his story beginning at the end of this season.

The Jake story frustrates me because I think, despite the fact that this plot was kind of thrown together, the writers were really onto something. The general message and theme about art, artists and their lives ring very true. History is littered with examples of miserable people creating beautiful things that make life for the rest of us worth living. It's hard to ignore the very real possibility that accessing that numinous space necessary to produce such insightful beauty, be it poetry, music or great TV, requires sacrificing one's one happiness, or even one's own life to the muses. Doing the work of making art is such a unique process, that it defies our natural needs. You don't get inspired by eating your vegetables, exercising and getting plenty of rest, you get inspired by witnessing horrific wars, by hallucinating on drugs, by starving and suffering. Many artists believe that if they aren't suffering, they are failing to live up to their potential as creators. It's a maddening thought and an eternal question I'm not prepared to answer right now.

Anyway, those themes are present in the Jake/Milf story and I think are expressed honestly, so I appreciate that. However, there isn't time to make a compelling narrative out of this material, again in ~22 minutes. So we kind of glide past it and are left with a nebulous impression of something interesting happening with several awkward scenes gluing the (sometimes intriguing) scenes together. The vampirism and sexual awakening angles are hinted at and then abandoned, because, well, we ran out of time. A shame. All in all, I don't think this is a failure of an episode, but it falls very short of its potential.

Final Score : **
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Tue, Apr 2, 2019, 12:01pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Shattered Mirror

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

We begin with a young man hanging out in the promenade...I feel like I've seen this guy before...oh, that's right! It's Jake Sisko, alleged main character. He explains to Odo who's passing by that he's searching for inspiration for a new story he's working on. Their conversation is surprisingly intimate for two these two characters; Jake confesses to missing his buddy Nog (who I assume is enjoying newfound popularity in the wake Red Squad being disbanded). Quark pops in to be hilarious:

QUARK: Poor kid. I suppose that's what you get for having friends.
ODO: Meaning what?
QUARK: Just that when you think you can count on them, they go off and leave you. No. You're much better off without them.
ODO: I imagine that's why you don't have any friends.
QUARK: Look who's talking.

Jake returns to his quarters and is greeted by an unexpected visitor. What is it with Jake and visitors? Besides Ben sits Jennifer, his long-dead mother. Twist!

Act 1 : *.5, 17%

Well of course, this is M-Jennifer. Ben told Jake all about his misadventure from last season, it seems. I assume he left out the part about fucking M-Jadzia under false pretences. Anyway, M-Jennifer says she's here to deliver “good news.” Uh-huh. When I'm in a desperate rebellion, my first instinct is to send a brilliant scientist across a dimensional threshold to deliver status reports. It's so natural and believable! Kind of like Felicia Bell's acting. Speaking of very believable character beats, Sisko doesn't have time for this boring parallel universe-the dead wife that I betrayed my uniform to help stuff, because he's got a meeting, you see. So, this totally not-suspicious visitor will be allowed to hang around with his son instead. I'm sorry Jennifer, how did you get here again? Why? You want to be alone with the one *other* person I would cross any lines for, you say? Okie-doke!

And poor Cirroc Lofton...it's been, what, seven years since P-Jennifer died? And here Jake is, supposed to convincingly portray the emotions of a teenager struggling with very confusing memories and mixed reactions. This was one of my biggest problems with “The Visitor,” too—the demands being placed on the actor are extreme. Unless you have someone of the calibre of Patrick Stewart of René Auberjonois or Kate Mulgrew, the interplay is going to read as flat and unconvincing.

Well, try not to act surprised, but when Sisko returns to his quarters from his meeting, M-Jennifer and Jake are missing, but have left behind a calling card, the metallic fleshlight thingy that Smiley used in “Through the Looking Glass” to transport Sisko to the Mirror Universe. The senior staff put these piece together like Pakleds chewing on a Rubik's Cube, and Sisko dusts off his Father of the Year award before beaming himself, Miles and Kira to the MU. Well, he tries to anyway, but it seems Smiley has rigged the device to prevent anyone but Sisko from transporting. And of course, our O'Brien wouldn't have the technical knowledge of a liberated slave enough to check for such booby traps. No no no. Just beam in blind! After all, we have every reason to trust these assholes, it's only the third time they've kidnapped one of us. So in the MU ops, Sisko is disarmed by Smiley and the dramatic chords swell.

Act 2 : **, 17%

Smiley has taken command of Terrak Nor and gets Sisko fully up to speed on the past year's developments in his office. Smiley is nothing like the man we saw last time, which was a highlight of that abysmal episode, so there had better be a good explanation for his radical character shift coming. So we get the set-up. Smiley and the Rebellion want Sisko to help them with their own Defiant, the specs for which he downloaded on his last visit. He figures the best way to keep the Alliance fleet at bay is with some dick-measuring guns. I guess Smiley didn't access the updated specs because they're having the same sorts of issues we were told the Defiant had in “The Search,” and that O'Brien has subsequently resolved. We were never told how they managed this Very Important plot device:

SISKO: We had to overhaul the structural integrity field grids.
SMILEY: How long did it take?
SISKO: Two weeks.

Ah. Well that was worth the two-year build-up. Smiley, now a hard-ass rebel, tells Sisko that he and Jake will die or be enslaved along with the rest of them if he doesn't help with the overhaul and manage it in a few days. I'll give “Shattered Mirror” this over its prequel; Sisko (easily-duped though he was) has a more sympathetic motivation this time. I know asking him to actually weigh the moral dilemma is too much for this show, but it's not as asinine to assist the rebels in order to save himself and his son. We had better see him trying to escape before this becomes the only option, however.

M-Bashir lets himself in, Siddig failing to act menacingly again. He repays Sisko's punch *while* explaining to Sisko why he's punching him. Now there's some deft exposition, Ira Behr.

“I'm punching you, see, because there was a previous episode where you punched me. You probably don't remember it, but it's important for us, the characters within this story, to remind each other that things happened in the past and that now we are following up on those past events. Am I speaking in sufficiently constipated tones to convey the fact that I am in fact not the same Julian Bashir that you interact with week to week? I thought perhaps maintaining this five-o'clock shadow and silly wig weren't enough.”

Meanwhile, M-Jennifer has introduced Jake to M-Nog, because...anyway, M-Nog is basically everything P-Nog would have been if not for his envy of the Siskos and desire to see himself rise above his own father's legacy; he's lecherous, lazy, crude and prejudiced. He's an adult version of S1 Nog, but without the maturity or depth. Seems about right. Sisko shows up, looking less like a man trying to keep his son from being slaughtered by Klingons than a peeved 90s sitcom dad angry at his son for looking at boobs. Cirroc does more of his patented gesticulation as he explains that he inherited his father's inability to resist M-Jennifer's needs and agreed to come to the MU quite willingly. Wait, really? I assumed she drugged him or stunned him. This...this is fucking stupid. I mean fuck. If Jake were still 13 years old then maybe, MAYBE I could buy that he'd be so enthralled by the possibility of seeing another dimension that he'd risk his and his father's lives for the chance to see it, but we've been told repeatedly that Jake is this gifted writer and very mature (that's why he likes older women, right?), so why is he acting like Kenickie Murdoch?

In private, M-Jennifer confesses that she concocted this manipulation herself.

SISKO: All right, I'm here and I'm going to help you. But I want you to leave my son alone.
JENNIFER: I can't.
SISKO: Why not?
JAKE: Jennifer!
JENNIFER: Because he won't leave me alone.

Then Jake beckons her to join him back at the bar. I'm sorry, was that supposed to be a convincing argument?

“Ben, I lied to you because we are in a desperate situation. This is no time to cry over feelings, we have a cause to uphold and lives to save! But look at that punim face! I can't just not talk to your son! Think about his feelings!”

We cut to a fanfic I'm pretty sure I've read once or twice, with Garak being dragged in chains aboard a giant Klingon vessel and made to kiss the boots of one Regent Worf. Now THIS is my kink! The Worf/Garak stuff leans into the original “Mirror, Mirror” over-the-top hamming that gave that story its charm. I really wish the writers would drop the pretence that these tales are connected to “Crossover” in any way save the superficial because this is sort of fun, in a mindless way.

Act 3 : **.5, 17%

Aboard the M-Defiant, Sisko and co. work swiftly on the overhaul. The set-designers have tried to give the M-Defiant a more lived-in, seat-of-the-pants feel, but the LCARS displays in optimistic purple and gold kind of ruin the illusion. M-Jadzia pops in to remind us she's still around and slaps him.

M-DAX: That's for making love to me under false pretences. I was suspicious of you from the start.
SISKO: You hid it well.

Yeah, that makes up for the rape. Totally. This fun in interrupted by the sound of the Intendant being tortured by M-Bashir in the corridor because, why the hell not? For a moment, I forget how stupid this all is:

SISKO: There's a difference between interrogation and torture.
BASHIR: The Alliance never made that distinction.
SISKO: But you should.

The Intendant makes an off-handed remark to remind us that, because the MU is full of degenerates, she's allowed to be bisexual. Then we cut to Regent Worf's ship where Garak is still being held like Princess Leia in Jabba's palace so M-Worf can remind us that, because the MU is full of degenerates, he too is allowed to be bisexual. I LOVE feeling included.

Back on Terrak Nor, Jake has made dinner for himself and M-Jennifer. Sisko enters, exhausted, so we can get this ham-fisted nuclear family signalling. Jake made dinner for mom and dad; mom gives dad a shoulder rub after his long day at the office, etc....Jennifer expresses some regret over fooling Ben like she did. And Sisko naturally takes the initiative to try and get her to help them escape...oh, wait, no he doesn't. Of course.

Act 4 : *.5, 17%

There's some really uncomfortable bullshit in Engineering where we learn that M-Bashir and M-Jadzia are a cringey couple because fan service. Sisko and Smiley devise a plan to stall Worf by using Intendant Kira. Seemingly because she can't resist the Sisko D (I'm not kidding), she agrees to expose a weakness in the Alliance fleet; the targeting systems can be fooled.

Worf and Garak continue their whole BDSM thing; the key to his collar is missing. Because of course, it's a collar, and why use a sci-fi lock when something medieval will do? Garak ends up being stabbed, but Worf doesn't want him to die yet. Can't fuck a corpse right? Eh, I wouldn't put it past him actually. Well, then the battle begins with Bashir's ship providing warp-shadow targets.

Meanwhile, Sisko and M-Jennifer are still working on the Defiant and taking the opportunity to discuss Jake. Because even the writers do not have faith in Lofton's ability to deliver, it is Jennifer who explains that Jake forgave her for her deception off camera at some point. This is a crucial emotional beat for the story they're trying to tell, so naturally, we don't get to see it or anything. Well, finally, Jennifer agrees to send Jake back to the Prime Universe on his own, before the project is complete, trusting Sisko to complete his work on the Defiant. Now, because Sisko is such a moral pragmatist, I'm sure he will sabotage his work and extricate himself from culpability as soon as Jake is safe, right?

Jake is in his usual spot in the Promenade, which is a nice touch. M-Nog joins him.

M-NOG: What's so funny?
JAKE: Where I come from, it's you and I that would hang out here, and it's your uncle that would chase us away.

Ah, the talented Ira Stephen Behr. Why show instead of telling when you can show AND tell. So *subtle*.

Nog, for some reason, manages to break the Intendant out of her cell. The reasoning for this is supposed to be that since she killed Quark and Rom, Nog gets to own the bar. Because M-Nog is super selfish, which is exactly why he felt the need to repay an unspoken debt of gratitude to M-Kira. Oh yeah. QED.

Anyway, the Alliance fleet begins its assault. Sisko, because he's a piece of shit chauvinistic dick-measuring hothead, can't resist the allure of taking his mirror baby into battle, however. And so kicks Smiley out of the Defiant's captain chair to begin the defence on his own. Admirable stuff.

M-Kira kills Nog, because that's how she rolls and ends up running into M-Jennifer and Jake as they make their way to Ops (I assume). Dun dun dun...

Act 5 : **, 17%

There's some space-fighting...

Jennifer takes a phaser blast from M-Kira to save Jake and dies. Jake calls her his mother, which, because the writers want us to know there will be yet another sequel, causes M-Kira to spare Jake's own life (“that's a debt I intend to collect.” because I'm the Intendant. Get it?)

There's more space-fighting...Bashir gives a “YEAH” that's supposed to be some Han Solo bullshit. More fighting...[yawn................................]

Whatever. They win. Jennifer isn't dead yet, so the Siskos can say “goodbye,” because we really cared about her, I guess.

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

I don't want to be too harsh here—the moment, in a vacuum, where M-Jennifer expires, with the DS9/Sisko theme quietly lamenting in the background, is poignant. Here they are once again, in the wake of a major battle, saying goodbye to her, just as in “Emissary.” But this moment was not earned by this story. And that's generally my feeling about this tale. There are moments, like this one, like Sisko's comment about being better than your enemy, like Nog's cynicism, that flirt with the philosophical content present in “Mirror, Mirror” and “Crossover,” but the story abandons them in favour of the more unbelievable and middling comic book action material that characterised “Through the Looking Glass.”

The episode wants us to take things seriously, so that the Siskos' family drama reads as authentic, but asks us to make too many leaps to get there. Why is Smiley suddenly this grizzled leader of men? Why is Sisko interested in the Rebels' cause? Why does Jake's allegedly intense longing for his mother manifest as a series of scenes that we DON'T GET TO SEE? Think about it; Jennifer and Sisko have a conversation in his quarters over coffee off camera. Then Jake interrupts and Sisko goes to his meeting. Something happens in the interim that convinces Jake to go to another dimension. Then Sisko finds them at the bar where Jennifer tells Ben (and us) that Jake has become attached to her. Cut to next scene. Then we see Jake and Jennifer finishing their dinner together as Sisko and Jennifer once again have the real conversation while Jake does the dishes. Then she takes a bullet for him and he calls her mommy (????). Then she waits for Sisko to return from the battle so she can say goodbye to him—and not to her, erm. “son.” Now, in place of these important conversations we get the BDSM Garak/Worf stuff and the overlong battle sequences. These are amusing in their own ways (I'm being generous about the battle, but I know a lot of fans like the lasers and 'splosions), but reveal that the intent of this episode is really just to be a spectacle. And from that perspective, the Sisko drama feels like dead weight keeping the story from taking off and being a really fun ride. This isn't nearly as unpleasant to sit through as the last MU tale, but I'm really done with this whole subplot.

Final Score : **
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Tue, Apr 2, 2019, 7:40am (UTC -6)
Re: ENT S2: Cogenitor

@SteveRage

I’m a socialist and I agree with Archer. Try again.
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Elliott(trolls-be-damned
Sun, Mar 31, 2019, 11:48pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: Perpetual Infinity

I_assume_no_one_has_clicked_the_”destroy_control”_llink.—This_is_infuriating.
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Fri, Mar 29, 2019, 11:18am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Innocence

Teaser : **.5, 5%

One of the Voyager's shuttles has crashed (OMG!). While the gold-shirted pilot whom we've never met is critically injured, the other occupant, Tuvok, is just fine. The extra actually puts in a pretty convincing little performance as he dies, but no time for that; a little girl who looks suspiciously like Lulu Hogg from “Cold Fire”) emerges from the forrest, spying on Tuvok and his dead friend. It should be noted that emotionless Tuvok chose to offer some emotional solace to ensign Dead Meat as he watched him expire. Tuvok understands emotions remarkably well. I couldn't help but smile when the girl tried to escape after he caught her:

TRESSA: Let me go!
TUVOK: Will you run if I do?

It's all so matter of fact. The girl, Terrace or whatever, says her parents are dead and that her ship crashed here. Those two facts are unrelated, but Tuvok has no particular reason to assume they aren't. I really do love when Tuvok gets to be exceedingly Vulcan. Terrace asks why he is preserving Ensign Dead Meat's body for burial. A human would probably scoff at the question, amazed that a person wouldn't implicitly understand the custom of funeral rites, but Tuvok treats every question equally, with no indignation, frustration or impatience to get in the way. It is revealed that there are two other children stuck on this moon with Terrace and Arnold Schwarzenvulcan here. One by one, like a scene from “Barney,” they run up to Tuvok and embrace him. Oh boy! How, wacky!

Act 1 : **.5, 17%

Well, the Voyager is both fully repaired and functional, but also in dire need for some minerals. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Janeway has sent shuttle scouts to some moons around a planet of Druids or something. Obviously, this is what Tuvok and Ensign Emmy Nomination were up to when they crashed. Janeway and Chakotay swap stories about first contact foibles. Janeway mentions that she always envied the Captain's prerogative to meet aliens for the first time, slotting in nicely to her arc about being a science officer at heart, and not-quite-a-captain in practice. Chakotay says that he accidentally propositioned a delegate when he was a young officer. The interaction is amiable and just interesting enough to pass my threshold of entertainment.

Anyway, the Druids are beamed aboard, described as xenophobes who have made an exception to their traditional custom out of curiosity about these travellers from across the galaxy. Alcia, the Druid leader, greets them with a “blessing,” which prompts Commander Spirit Walker to respond with what I'm going to hope is an actual Indian language of some kind, demonstrating that humans too can be superstitious morons if decorum demands.

During a tour of the Engine Room, Alcia condescends a bit to Janeway regarding her appreciation for advanced tech. It seems the Druids here had their own Alixa (hmm...I wonder if that's intentional...) who won over their whole society and convinced them to give up technology on an agenda-specific basis. Overall, this stuff is pretty dry and annoying, let's go back to Tuvok-the-babysitter.

Generally, I have very mixed feelings about these interactions. On the one hand, these kids are fucking irritating, both in how they're written and performed. But what really charms me is the way Tuvok respects and nurtures them. One might say he treats these children no differently than he would anyone else, probably because the gradient between how emotionally immature and intellectually deficient adult and child non-Vulcans are barely registers to him. Life among non-Vulcans is an exercise in patience.

The children warn him that they cannot remain on the moon at night:

ELANI: We can't be here when it's night.
CORIN: That's when the Morrok comes.
TUVOK: Is that some species of animal?
TRESSA: The Morrok is what takes you when you die.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

The tour of the Voyager continues. Janeway expounds upon Federation values and Starfleet's mission as they enter the Sickbay. After some nonsense, we get something character-adjacent for the EMH:

JANEWAY: You may be even more interested to learn that this man isn't really a biological lifeform. He's a computer generated holographic projection.
ALCIA: My people believe that physical matter is only an illusion. The body is not the true self, only a representation.
JANEWAY: One of our greatest philosophers, Plato, wrote that what we see around us are only poor shadows of ideal objects which exist on a higher plane.

Alcia doesn't actually understand Platonic thought as she confuses what Janeway calls a “higher plane” for spiritual silliness, but we can blame Janeway for misrepresenting him. At any rate, Kim calls down to inform them that Alcia has a call which she takes in the Doctor's office. Is someone going to show her how computers work or will she just mediate or whatever until the knowledge rains down upon her like mana?

Janeway starts to think about how to pivot this pleasant tour into negotiating for minerals (the same, it might be noted, they were looking for in “Tattoo.” After all, the warp coils may have been fused to the point of inoperability last week, but they still need that polyferranide. Yeah.) Ah, but Alcia emerges to inform her that there has been an emergency, that they have to leave and that the Voyager should go on its way.

Tuvok pursues a line of deduction with the children, trying to determine what this Morrok is and why the children are so afraid of it. But Tuvok is also a father and has experience teaching children how to suppress their emotions. I'll put this out there now: I'm a left-wing gay commie upstart bastard, but I find many of the “leftie” approaches to parenting eye-roll inducing to say the least. Who knows? Maybe when I'm a father, I'll turn into jello-soup and let them walk all over me, but as a teacher, I have always found that children respond best to being respected as full persons whose emotions need to be put in their place. Emotions are important and obviously, we aren't Vulcans, but relying upon them as a guide is self-evidently foolish and I think children can, on a subconscious level at least, recognise that they are more productive/fulfilled when they can learn to interact with their world logically.

ELANI: Do you live your whole life without feeling anything?
TUVOK: More accurately, we strive to control our feelings.
TRESSA: You don't get scared, ever?
TUVOK: No.

Some of the patented 90s Kids bein' Kids stuff that follows does grate the nerves, but Tim Russ manages to hold the hole thing together better than the material should allow. Eventually, we get the question about how an emotionless father can love his children. The response is a low-key echo of what we saw in “Sarek” and “Unification”:

TUVOK: My attachment to my children cannot be described as an emotion. They are part of my identity, and I am incomplete without them.

The meditation instruction is interrupted by the approach of a Druid vessel. Oddly, the children are afraid of their own people, citing the fact that the Druids sent these children here specifically, it seems, to be consumed by the Morrok.

Act 3 : ***, 17%

Hedging his bets, Tuvok consents to hide the children from the Druid search parties. After they avoid detection (in a scene which tries and fails to feel tense), the children explain that they have been sent to this moon, as children are, to complete a final ritual and be killed by the Morrok. Their sacred texts suggest the children should be at peace with this custom. Based on what we saw on the Voyager, it's not too much of a stretch to imagine that the Druids are some sort of backwards cult, whose superstitions lead them to kill their own children, as illogical as this would seem. Tuvok determines to return the children to the Voyager until he can figure out what's actually going on, and we get another group hug. Yay....

The Voyager tracks Tuvok's overdue shuttle to the moon where a Druid vessel is already in orbit and ignoring hails. Alcia herself finally responds to berate Janeway for desecrating their sacred whatever. Janeway tells Torres to make the transporters work, damn it, because it would be better not to piss off the Druids further by setting down a shuttle. Oh? Does she actually think that there's a chance in hell Alcia will give her the polyferranide after this, or have the Plot Gods demanded a sacrifice in blood?

On the moon, the Druids have abandoned the shuttle crash—because this desecration of their sacred whatever can just remain here, right? The presence of Ensign Two Days From Retirement in a statis field doesn't indicate that the other crewman might return for him? God these people are dumb. Anyway, the kids are still kvetching about the Morrok, so Tuvok consents to sing them to sleep. This is a nice callback to “Persistence of Vision,” where the establishment of Tuvok's musical abilities provided an all too brief peek into his relationship with his family.

“Still unfulfilled, he journeyed home
Told stories of the lessons learned
And gained true wisdom by the giving.”

I'm a sucker for ironic song lyrics.

The children fall asleep peacefully, but only one of them awakens in the morning, the other two having somehow vanished during the night.

Act 4 : **, 17%

Tuvok leaves Tressa alone and armed in the ever more-repaired shuttle while he investigates the cave for clues. Within, he discovers the other children's clothes—several sets in fact, not just the two of the kids he had been caring for. He returns to Tressa to deliver the bad new (another hug). Tressa is quite certain that she will be the next to die.

A little later, Tuvok is finally able to make contact with the Voyager in orbit:

JANEWAY: We read you, Tuvok. Are you all right?
TUVOK [on viewscreen]: Yes, Captain, but Ensign Bennet is dead.
JANEWAY: We know.

[and we don't give a fuck] It's at this point that a big opportunity is wasted. Tuvok, having accepted that Tressa's claim that her people are trying to kill her, intends to get her off the moon and to safety. This decision has prompted Janeway to abandon her stance that they should respect the Druids' customs and laws (WHY?) and help Tuvok escape. If Janeway were solely intent on protecting her crew regardless of the infractions against these aliens, she wouldn't have waited 'til now to launch a rescue, and if she were determined to keep the peace no matter what, she would have ordered Tuvok, reluctantly, to leave the girl behind and take the shuttle home. Tuvok would naturally not abandon Tressa, meaning we'd have Tuvok violating orders and sacrificing his good standing with his captain and best friend in order to protect a child, something whose logic is rather nebulous, tying this whole thing back into the theme of the episode. But instead, the consistency in Janeway's character is sabotaged in order to make Tuvok's decision easier and rush the ending. Too bad.

Instead of that interesting stuff, we get a scene where Janeway and Paris make a “cold launch” of a second shuttle.

“Hey Mister Paris, the last time you and I were alone in a shuttle together, things got interesting.”
“Captain?”
“If I learned anything as a science officer, it's that sometimes, you've got to make room for a little pointless fun in the midst of dire missions. Now take your pants off!”

Act 5 : **, 17%

Tuvok manages to launch his shuttle while Janeway's approaches the surface. Druids are closing in on all sides. Oh NO!!!! Anyway, Alcia makes contact with Tuvok—I guess now they can scan accurately enough to determine that one of their kids is aboard his shuttle even though they haven't been able to get a fix on them for days. Okay...

ALCIA [on monitor]: You're holding one of our children. I want to speak to her.
TUVOK: She believes you intend to kill her. Is that true?
ALCIA [on monitor]: The child is confused. I only want to help her.
TRESSA: You want me to die.

For drama's sake, or whatever, Alcia isn't at all more specific about what she means, she just insists that Tressa leaving this moon is unacceptable because GOD or something. Demonstrating even more logical behaviour, Alcia determines that the best way to protect the sacred cargo that must not be desecrated is to shoot at it. Brilliant!

Anyway, all parties converge on the surface, Tuvok's shuttle being forced to land. We FINALLY get the big reveal that the Druids age Benjamin Button-style. The resolution to the plot is really fucking stupid, but Tuvok manages to rescue things somewhat:

TRESSA: You said you would protect me.
TUVOK: I cannot protect you from the natural conclusion of life, nor would I try. Vulcans consider death to be the completion of a journey. There is nothing to fear.

The episode ends on a somber note as Tuvok and Tressa enter the cave together as the sun sets so she can complete her journey, fearlessly.

Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

This episode fluctuates wildly from quite good to absurdly bad. The plot itself is really, really forced and I was reminded many times of “Heroes and Demons,” where the crew had to be dumbed down in order for the story to unfold. At least here, it's mostly the aliens who behave like idiots instead of our regulars, but I remain disappointed by the way Janeway was written, lacking the kind of sturdy development we've seen from her most of the rest of the season.

But then there were several sublime moments around Tuvok, the lullaby being the highlight. Tim Russ really gets to show his mastery of the Vulcan portrayal which never even hints at being emotional (the way early Data and Spock often did), but is still engaging and dynamic throughout. I very much liked how logic led to catharsis here; Tuvok made the most sensible decisions at every step with the information he had been provided at the time. When it became clear what was really going on with the children and their dying, he immediately pivoted to helping Tressa accept her inevitable death, and this reversal feels fully consistent with his relationship with her throughout the episode because there is no emotion clouding his judgement. Obliquely, we see how good a father Tuvok must be, despite our preconceptions about the role love is supposed to play in parenting, and this further informs our understanding of the Vulcan culture. This isn't a great episode overall, but it is a great Tuvok vehicle, and for that reason alone, I recommend it.

Final Score : **.5
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Elliott
Wed, Mar 27, 2019, 12:57pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Hard Time

Teaser : ****, 5%

A grizzled old man is tracing his fingers through the sand of his prison cell. A harsh voice announces the beginning of “decontamination” set to begin immediately. The image the man has created is erased by a passing wall of energy and he himself suffers a brief, familiar bout of pain. The moment it passes, he begins his drawing again, unbothered.

Two green-faced aliens enter his cell from behind a large mechanical door which is opened abruptly. The two seem to emerge from nothingness, or perhaps it's just that the light from outside is so bright, nothing can be seen. They identify the old man as Miles O'Brien. They are here to release him.

O'BRIEN: Free?
RINN: The crime of espionage requires a minimum of fifteen cycles of correction. You've been here for twenty. It's time for you to go.
O'BRIEN: Go? I can't leave. Where would I go to?

As he's tossed out into the void, we see that the familiar, relatively young and kempt O'Brien awakens, screaming in agony, on an alien bed. Kira is there beside him, as are the aliens from the prison cell. But this is no return from Oz, as we learn that the twenty years he endured in that cell were simulated in a matter of hours by these aliens. There are a handful of Trek stories that confront the issue of implanted memories: “The Inner Light,” of course, but also “Violations,” “Eye of the Beholder,” “Remember,” “Random Thoughts” and “Memorial.” This one is unique in that the premise is laid bare almost immediately. This will not be a search for the answer to a mystery like in “Whispers.” We also quickly get out all of the moral talking points; the aliens (the Agrathi) view their system as “efficient.” We are conditioned to see Miles as especially upstanding and docile (despite that odd combat history discussed in “Rules of Engagement”), so immediately, the notion that he has been forced to spend 20 years rotting away in prison is disturbing. Overall, this is a very brave teaser, avoiding most of the crutches of TV narratives and letting us know up front that this story will live or die on the issues it is raising and the character(s) it is exploring.

Act 1 : ***.5, 13% (short)

Back on DS9, Sisko is explaining the situation to Keiko. Miles “asked a few too many questions,” for which he was captured, tried, convicted and punished before his crewmates even knew what had happened. This again shows a wonderful economy of storytelling, as we can see that the Agrathi's emphasis on efficiency has left them numb to the plight of those who fall victim to their system. After all, they don't actually have to spend 20 years watching a man be broken by his imprisonment, feeding him, beating him, seeing the hope drain from his eyes; they plop him down on a bed for a few hours and then he wakes up, “reformed.” No wonder they're so quick to mete out their form of justice.

Kira pilots the runabout back to DS9 while Miles wades through the fog of his memories, mentioning how he had dreamt of this time, of the beauty of the station, within his nightmare mistaken for reality. He's greeted first by Bashir. Bashir, as a blue shirt, is playing therapist, asking about whether Miles had any company during his imprisonment. We see in a flashback, the first moments of Miles' imagined sentence, and that his claim to have been alone the whole time is untrue. An Agrathi man called Ee'char shared his cell and was kind to him, so it seems.

Act 2 : ****, 18%

Bashir explains to Keiko that, for the appeasement of the plot gods, Dr Pulaski's selective memory erasure isn't an option for Miles. He also reminds her that this isn't the first time Miles has been tortured in one way or another, and that he always makes it through somehow. We see that he is at this moment trying to order Agrathan fruit from the replicator, which of course can't comply with the request. He's finally reunited with Keiko, who offers the comfort of her presence and words, even as she grapples with the fear of what has happened to him. The O'Briens get a lot of grief from the fan community, but I am nearly always very moved by their relationship, which feels as real as any.

Over dinner, in which Miles reluctantly partakes of an especially Irish menu (and Molly graces us all with her infectious cuteness), we learn that he will be seeing a therapist regularly. It would have been interesting if they went the Voyager route and brought in Troi for this, seeing as how she would have been Miles' own therapist for several years, but the story doesn't really support this development. And holy hell, does Miles need therapy. Keiko spots him trying to save his replicated dinner for later, citing the times in prison when he might go for days without being fed, and developing the habit of eating as little as possible in one sitting. In another flashback, we see that he actually picked this habit up from Ee'char. His cellmate also taught him about drawing those patterns in the sand.

O'BRIEN: How do you do that...laugh after six years in here?
EE'CHAR: Well, after six years in a place like this, you either learn to laugh or you go insane. I prefer to laugh.

In the present, Miles has crept out of his comfy bed with Keiko and fallen asleep on the floor, as he thinks he has done for 20 years now.

Act 3 : ****, 18%

For the second time at least, O'Brien spots Ee'char hanging about the station, an hallucination obviously. We see that Worf is happily playing daeerts with Miles, Jake is helping him with his engineering flashcards. What's great about these scenes is that they strike a balance between Miles being volatile and recovered. He cracks jokes and seems to make an effort to be himself and act normally, but we can see he's still disturbed.

Case in point: Julian pops in to remind Miles that he's supposed to be seeing his therapist, but has skipped the last several sessions.

BASHIR: I'd have thought after being alone for twenty years, you'd want someone to talk to.
O'BRIEN: If there's one thing I haven't missed in the last twenty years, it's your smug, superior attitude. Now I have told you I want to be left alone and I meant it. So if you know what's good for you you'll stay the hell away from me.

We see another flashback, where we see that a significantly older and more grizzled O'Brien and Ee'char have a fight, prompted by, you know, the insanity their punishment is no doubt designed to elicit. Miles screams into the void, but we can see that Ee'char and Bashir parallel each other in Miles' mind. Each is a well meaning friend trying to offer him, the uncomplicated but sincere everyman, tools to cope with his trauma, and it's all he can do not to snap both their necks.

Miles makes his way to Quark's for an ale, but the Ferengi is especially busy at the moment and so his order can't be immediately met. Miles almost breaks Quark's arm in order to get his mug filled. As he stews, Ee'char reappears and begs Miles to remember him. Hmm.

Act 4 : ***.5, 18%

O'Brien is summoned to Sisko's office for a conversation. Sisko is concerned about the incidents that are cropping up and has decided to place Miles on medical leave from his duties until Bashir and his counsellor (whom he must immediately resume seeing) declare him fit. Miles begs to be allowed to work, to have a renewable source of distraction from whatever miserable memory Ee'char's appearances represent, but Sisko denies him. For a second, I was worried we were going back to the “there are some things women just don't understand about men” territory from last season, but thankfully, Sisko sticks to his guns here. Mental health is serious and, whatever sympathy we feel for Miles, part of what's getting in the way here are his ego and his masculinity. Before the incels get triggered, I'm not suggesting that masculinity is bad or that men are evil (Zardoz voice: THE PENIS IS EVIL...); I'm saying that the quality of self-reliance, of rugged individualism that characterises many types of masculinity, including the Western one shared by the character of O'Brien and the writing staff of Star Trek, is a problem in this case, because it's hindering Miles' recovery.

Well, in full bullheaded mode, Miles tears off his combadge and storms into Bashir's office to confront him.

O'BRIEN: Don't you get it? You're not my friend. Not anymore. The O'Brien that was your friend died in that cell.
BASHIR: He's not dead. He just needs a little help, that's all.
O'BRIEN: Stay away from me.

Ouch.

Another great touch with this episode is the directing. In nearly every scene, the camera is very close to Colm Meaney's face, uncomfortable, claustrophobic. He's not in his cell anymore, but he's still confined within the prison of his own guilt. Is this what the Agrathi meant by “efficient”?

Okay. So, I'm a fan of Keiko most of the time, but the following scene is one where I think they dropped the ball with her. Miles returns to his quarters after his row with Bashir, sparring with head-Ee'char the whole while. Keiko offers platitudes and sweetness while Molly demands that her father come play with her, as children her age are wont to do. Keiko, for whatever reason, is made to behave stupidly, ignoring her daughter even though it's obviously giving Miles fits. Now, under normal circumstances, sure, Miles should be able to reign in the rage, but Keiko knows full well that this is a unique situation. That she stares daggers at her husband for raising his voice and the back of his hand...seems really forced to me. I get the dramatic significance of this build-up; Miles is so disturbed that he might threaten his own family's safety; but using Keiko as a prop to get us here feels a little cheap.

Anyway, Miles is taking his rage out on the cargo containers instead of his daughter, thank you. In his angry stupor, he happens across a weapons locker and pulls out a phaser. He sets it to maximum, which I think might vaporise half the room, and points the nozzle at his own neck.

Act 5 : ***.5, 18%

Julian finds him before he pulls the trigger.

O'BRIEN: You don't understand at all. I'm not doing this for me. I'm doing this to protect Keiko, and Molly and everyone else on the station.
BASHIR: Protect us from what?
O'BRIEN: From me. I'm not the man I used to be. I'm dangerous.

Through tears, Miles finally reveals to his friend the existence of Ee'char and the horrible thing he has done. The flashback resumes. We are now mere weeks from the time of the teaser, as advertised by Miles' part-the-red-sea hairdo. It has been an especially long while since he or Ee'char were fed. During the night, Ee'char awakens and pulls something from a hiding space. Ee'char has food squirrelled away; the two spar and finally, O'Brien snaps Ee'char's neck. In horror, Miles realises what he has done.

BASHIR: But it was a mistake. You didn't mean it.
O'BRIEN: I meant it. I wanted him to die. I keep telling myself it doesn't matter. It wasn't real. But that's a lie. If it had been real, if it had been you instead of him, it wouldn't have made any difference. He was my best friend and I murdered him.

Before I go on, let me say that Meaney is completely killing it here, as we should expect of him by now. The music, the acting, the dialogue, the reveal—all of it works marvellously, and I found the climax totally enthralling.

Then we get this.

O'BRIEN: When we were growing up, they used to tell us humanity had evolved, that mankind had outgrown hate and rage. But when it came down to it, when I had the chance to show that no matter what anyone did to me, I was still an evolved human being, I failed.

If Jammer's reviews allowed for them, this is where that meme of Picard facepalming would go.

I'll repeat what I said in the debate that popped up over on the review to “The Wire,”: this is a completely unnecessary and insulting straw man to toss into this story. Imagine for a moment that the Federation was actually a conservative Christian society, which had its ideals and taught its children to follow certain ethics. If O'Brien had said,

“When we were growing up, they used to tell us that Jesus died for our sins, that mankind had been redeemed by his resurrection. But when it came down to it, when I had the chance to show that no matter what anyone did to me, I was a pious Christian man, I failed.”

Follow the logic backwards; Miles failed to be above “hate and rage” (I'm getting back to that), therefore he isn't an evolved human being, therefore his teachers lied to him when he was growing up. That is the implication here. Metatextually, when the Star Trek itself preaches about human evolution, it too is lying, so goes the logic of this discourse. In “The Neutral Zone,” Picard describes human evolution as mankind “growing out of [its] infancy.” To be blunt, just because we are no longer infants doesn't mean that if circumstances weren't dire, we wouldn't still shit our pants. And if we do shit our pants, this does not therefore mean that are infants. It means that something is seriously wrong with our circumstances. And the worst part is, “hate and rage” have NEVER been things Star Trek has claimed to be qualities we have evolved beyond. S1 Picard was angry like 50% of the time. Star Trek is pretty specific in its list of evolutionary qualities; we evolve beyond greed, hunger, the need for possessions, etc. And this evolution is enabled by very specific social and technological advances like say, that replicator in Miles' quarters that eliminates the need for him to save food for later. According to Miles, he was taught that he would be incapable of acting the way he did in that cell because humanity had evolved, but that belief is completely absurd! Again, as a human I have physically evolved to the point where, unlike my ape ancestors, I don't throw poop and eat bananas with my feet. But that doesn't mean I COULDN'T if the circumstances required it, or if I was traumatised the way Miles was. And crossing that line doesn't mean that I didn't evolve either, because that's not what evolution means or was ever implied to mean.

If it seems like I'm getting bent out of shape over this, it's because I don't appreciate being gaslighted by media the way this scene does. Miles is the most pitiable of victims here; he was unjustly condemned for a crime he didn't commit; he was forced to endure miserable and inhumane imprisonment; this trauma was smugly dismissed as “efficient” by his faceless captors; and all he wants to do is return to some semblance of a normal life but can't because of this horrible weight of guilt he's carrying around with him. And the writers (I'm guessing Wolfe) take this opportunity to thumb their noses at the core of Trek's sociological conceits. This is like when FOX news interviews weeping white mothers whose children were murdered by gang violence and exploits their pain to warn about the dangers of immigration. It is dishonest and it makes me angry.

Setting all of that aside, Bashir makes the point that since Miles feels guilty—so guilty he's suicidal—obviously his humanity has not been destroyed. The Ee'char hallucination bids him farewell vanishes, symbolising the expulsion of that particular trauma from O'Brien's psyche.

The coda is quite sweet, with Miles thanking Julian sincerely, agreeing to medicated for his depression (which is something we don't see enough of), and returning to his quarters to find that Molly is still very much in love with her daddy and excited to seem him.

Episode as Functionary : ***.75, 10%

I'm glad I could get my grievances with the conclusion out of the way in the previous section because I don't want to dwell on them. That mess and the slightly off characterisation of Keiko prevent me from being able to regard this episode as a perfect 4-star outing, but boy does it come close.

Let's talk about that Agrathi prison. There's an offhanded comment from one of them about how the punishment is *designed* specifically for each offender. Botched though it was, the conclusion made clear that what Miles values most *in himself* is, for lack of a better word, his humanity. While we are led to believe the 20-year sentence was just a way of having Miles serve an “appropriate” term for his alleged crime, remember that Ee'char was murdered just before his release. I believe the whole point of the prison was specifically to get Miles to commit murder, to abandon his humanity, as he saw it. That *was* the punishment. So once Ee'char was dead and Miles had a few days to dwell on his descent, he was released.

“The Argrathi Authority has been conducting a review of your case...Your correction is completed. You are free.”

Once Miles admitted what he had done, Bashir recognised what was going on and found a way to help his friend reconcile his guilt with his humanity. It isn't every episode of television that makes its central thesis about the importance of mental health. Usually, these kinds of æsops are reserved for antiheroes like Don Draper or Bojack Horseman (tying back to the theme of toxic masculinity). So, it was very brave and I think quite effective to give this story to O'Brien instead of, say, Garak or Sisko. O'Brien is a good man, but he has some notable flaws and in this case, those flaws, coupled with the extreme misfortune of his circumstances nearly led to his own suicide.

There are themes in here on criminal justice, too, which I barely broached as the episode is so rich and complex already. All I'll say is that it isn't accidental that the tinkerer O'Brien holds on to his sanity by producing elaborate geometric patterns in the sand, only to see them swept away by an invisible hand, and then just start right over.

From a production side, everything was masterful, the acting, the music, the cinematography; the Bashir/O'Brien friendship is at its absolute best; Sisko is well-used; the story is extremely economical and well paced. All around, this is my favourite episode of the season so far, and I am honestly frustrated that I can't give it a perfect score.

Final Score : ***.5
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Elliott
Tue, Mar 26, 2019, 4:52pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Deadlock

@William B

Generally agree, but there is only one way a direct follow up to this episode, at least regarding the damage to the Voyager, could have worked in the way you describe, and that would be if the ship were irreparable. The crew would be forced to find a new ship, or build one or something crazy that was never going to happen. Otherwise, we're essentially doing Enterprise's "Mine Field." The direct follow-up, "Dead Stop" provides the similarly damaged NX-01 with a complete repair of its systems. My recollection is that both of those episodes are pretty good by Enterprise standards (that is to say, watchable), but the connection between the two doesn't actually mean anything. It makes the show feel more serialised, but that's it. The ship could have been repaired off-screen and then something else could have happened to the Enterprise that caused it to need repair. For me, a Trek show especially lives or dies on what it has to say and I can't picture a follow-up to "Deadlock" changing my view of it unless that follow-up actively undermined or contradicted the message here.
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Elliott
Tue, Mar 26, 2019, 12:14pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Deadlock

Teaser : **.5, 7% (long)

We start with Neelix trying to be cute (and failing) as he clumsily reminds the audience that Samantha Wildman, who's trying to get some work done in the Mess Hall (the fool), is extremely pregnant. And I mean extremely. If we assume that she and Greskrend..erm...Grindwald? Whatever his name is...if we assume they conceived on the day the Voyager left DS9, then it's been at least a year—probably closer to two—that she's been with child. Yikes. Neelix asks her to take a look something wrong with his space stove, since Harry hasn't yet come down from his bridge duties to deal with it. Hmmm...are there no maintenance engineers on this ship? I'm pretty sure if Scotty asked Spock to fix the radiator in his room, Spock would lift a single eyebrow and order Scotty's entire collection of contraband booze confiscated on the spot. Well, all of Neelix' pestering finally sends Wildman into labour.

We cut, mercifully, to the Sickbay where the Doctor and Kes are fulfilling their usual medical counterpoint of confusing the patient with mixed messages. The senior staff are anxiously awaiting news of the delivery on the bridge. Finally the triteness gives way to an interesting observation:

JANEWAY: In a way, this child belongs to all of us. It is the first baby born on the Voyager. I'm just not sure whether I should be welcoming it on board, or apologising...The Voyager isn't exactly anyone's idea of a nursery, and the Delta Quadrant isn't much of a playground.
CHAKOTAY: My father had a saying, Captain. Home is wherever you happen to be.

This of course explains why the Space Indians preferred armed rebellion against two civilisations instead packing up their shit and “being” in some other home. Okay, okay...Maquis bullshit aside, this line of dialogue picks up one of the only not-terrible threads from “Elogium,” and the burden Janeway bears to foster a community aboard her ship in a way she was never prepared for. The conversation is light, but behind Mulgrew's smile lurks a very deep concern over her ability to meet this challenge.

Tuvok reports that sensors are picking up several Vidiian vessels and colonies ahead, so Janeway orders Paris to take the ship through a plasma field that should mask their presence. Sounds like a solid plan. I mean, if it doesn't work, all this means as that Wildman's new baby is going to be raised as an organ slave and Torres is going to be strung up like a ham. No big.

Meanwhile, said pregnant ensign is going through something painful—erm, even more painful than squirting out a 2-year old fœtus. The baby has horns on its forehead (how else would we know it's an alien, right?), and these are digging into the uteran wall. Ouch. Well, no worry—the Doctor is able to beam the baby right out of her belly. This story is about to be typhooned with techobabble, but I have to say that the conceit of taking Trek staples like forehead ridges and transporters to these kinds of picky detail is amusing. It may not make a whole lot of sense, but the Trek-tech feels like a lived-in part of the Universe these people inhabit.

Back on the bridge, things start going to shit. There's a massive power drain all over the ship. Janeway orders Torres to start bombarding the warp core with protons, because why the hell not? But before she can start, the ship starts being hit with...protons. Hmm. Maybe Janeway is witch doctor. These bursts cause massive casualties in Engineering and the Sickbay systems—including the incubator keeping the new baby alive—start loosing power. Uh oh.

Act 1 : ***.5, 13% (short)

The Doctor and Kes rush about treating injuries and trying to keep the baby from expiring. We haven't seen this kind of serious medical drama since “Caretaker.” To make things worse, the proton bursts are fucking with the Doctor's imaging system, Engineering is a complete wreck, power is failing, there are hull breaches everywhere...and then things start to go badly. The baby dies from transporter complications, Hogan is severely injured and unable to re-route power to something, causing Harry Kim to be sucked out into space. Sorry. Blown out. Anyway, Harry has died again and Kes, who was sent to help Hogan, disappears into some sort of spacial vortex on Deck 15. There's not too much to say about this stuff. Much like Braga's “Cause and Effect,” there isn't a lot of substance to speak of, but the scenes are quite harrowing, the music lives up to the drama and the stakes feel enormous.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

Torres is able to determine that there's a breathable atmosphere on the other side of the rift, suggesting Kes is still alive somewhere. On the bridge, Chakotay has “magnetised the hull,” whatever that means, and this seems to provide some respite while Tuvok lists all the damage and casualties. After a brief couple of minutes, Chakotay's stopgap fails and the bridge catches fire. What's really great here is Janeway. Follow her expressions as she tries to process everything they're going to have to deal with. In the midst of the crisis, she reverts to her science-officer persona...something we've seen hints of before. The bridge is being evacuated, people are dead, the ship is a sieve, and here the captain is, furiously pushing buttons in an attempt to seal one hull breach. The only thing that finally forces her off the bridge is a beam collapsing nearly on top of her skull (the same one that fell out of the ceiling in “Projections,” I daresay).

As she watches her command centre be consumed in flame, she sees herself as a ghost image sitting in her chair. The two Janeways seem to make eye contact. Then we see ghost Janeway, except this seems to be the real Janeway, who sees the ghost image of shipwrecked Janeway evacuating the bridge. This Janeway's power bun is in place, Harry is quite alive and the bridge is clean and brightly-lit. She orders some scans. Harry discovers the presence of a very minor spacial rift that briefly appeared on the bridge. This is the same term that Torres used to describe the vortex on Deck 15.

More contrasts abound as we see that the Wildman baby is in tip-top shape and the Doctor is fully functional. The only odd thing is that the other Kes who disappeared before is unconscious and resting on a biobed.

Act 3 : **.5, 18%

Alt-Kes finishes her story and Janeway concludes that there is sci-fi weirdness going on. Always good to be genre-savvy. Immediately, any Trekkie should be reminded of “Parallels,” “Non Sequitur” and “Timescape” (I see you William B!). What works much better for me in this story is that the parallel reality stuff doesn't seem so arbitrary. Most of this is about the tone. This story feels much more like “Yesterday's Enterprise” than those other stories, and that's down to way the stakes are interpreted in the dialogue and the mise en scène. The Enterprising blowing up isn't some weird inconvenience, Geordi dying isn't something we throw a blanket over, and we don't have Harry desperately trying to return to his reality just because. Harry isn't being recovered from space. Baby Wildman is a puddle. There are only two realities here and which one “wins out” matters a great deal. Janeway orders the proton bursts stopped. Remember this:

JANEWAY: I don't know how, but there's another Voyager out there, and I intend to find it.

Just like her counterpart, Janeway's scientific curiosity overrules her command responsibility. This too will matter.

A “quantum level analysis”--yeah--explains what's going on here. Ah Science, such a giving mistress. Okay...so what I think I get out of this is that the “divergence field” in the nebula they passed through caused all the matter on the Voyager, including the people, to be duplicated, occupying the same point in space in time. All hail holy Quantum. Ah, but Quantum is a fickle god, as she does not permit the duplication of *antimatter*, hence the two Voyagers are splitting the supply, explaining their power drain and the effect of the proton bursts...I guess...thankfully we have another “Parallax”-patented metaphor to wrap this all up: “like two siamese twins linked a the chest with only one heart.” Yikes.

In the Sickbay, Samantha Wildman is framed with her new baby as the dialogue between her and the Doctor fades into a portrait of blissful new motherhood. Alt-Kes watches, her mind flooded with the auditory memories of the horror on her own Voyager. Again, the tone is everything here. This *isn't* just another nuts and bolts goofy sci-fi plot.

Meanwhile, despite attempting to remodulate things on 47 (duh) different frequencies, Torres is unable to establish communication with the Alt-Voyager. Janeway instructs her to attempt a more roundabout method, “more primitive,” which might get their attention and allow them to work together to establish a link. So, we cut to the shitty Voyager Engineering where the shrill signal punches through and, waddyaknow, it works.

Here's where things start to slag a bit. Janeway has suggested to Alt-Janeway that their best bet is to “merge” the two ships and crews. I can write off a great deal of technobabble, but what in the fuck would this even look like? Are the people going to be half-injured with conflicting memories? Is Harry going to be half-dead or something? Is the ship going to be half-damaged? We also get repeats of the kinds of endless non-science passing as drama from “Twisted.” The Voyagers do something with their deflector dishes and...oh shit, there's too much plasma backflow! Damn it! Damn it! Anyway, the merge fails, of course, and Torres reminds Janeway that they're going to have to start those proton bursts again if they're to have any hope of restoring their power. Janeway determines to follow Alt-Kes back to her Voyager so she and her counterpart can figure out what to do next.

Act 4 : **.5, 17%

With special armbands that protect against science (c.f. “Timescape”), Janeway and Alt-Kes cross the threshold and make their way to Engineering. The Janeways retire to the upper level to hash things out. The effect is a bit more convincing than with the Kiras in “Crossover,” but there are still some errors, especially in the sight-lines. It turns out that Almighty Science has decreed that the Voyagers cannot split the antimatter or they'll blow up, and they can't all evacuate to Voyager Prime or they'll blow up. Alt-Janeway suggests that Janeway return to her own ship and do some metallurgical analysis, but of course, she sees right through her counterpart's scheme. Alt-Janeway has concluded that she should blow up her own vessel *on purpose* in order to save the other undamaged Voyager. The interaction here echoes much of what we've seen before, from the Picards in “Time Squared” to the Rikers in “Second Chances” to the Kiras in “Crossover.” Even have such intimate knowledge of someone you disagree with that that other person IS you, human nature dictates that we don't entirely trust each other. The Janeways here have life experiences which are completely identical save the last couple of hours or so, and yet each thinks she knows better than the other. Interesting. Alt-Janeway consents to give her counterpart a quarter hour to try and pull another solution out of her ass.

Well, fat lot of good that does as a Vidiian vessel drops out of warp nearby. The current crisis means both Voyagers are defenceless. For some reason, when the Vidiians fire, only Voyager Prime feels the impact. The vessel attaches itself to Voyager Prime and begins cutting its way inside. Dun dun dunnn...

Act 5 : ***, 18%

We see the crew efficiently (one might say pathetically) gunned down by the boarding Vidiians. Chakotay reports that 300 of them have taken most of the ship when Alt-Voyager makes contact once again. With the Vidiians unaware of Alt-Voyager's presence, she makes her own ironic decision.

ALT-JANEWAY: We can't just stand by and let you all be killed.
JANEWAY: I'm not about to let that happen. I'll destroy this ship.
ALT-JANEWAY: I don't suppose there's any way I can change your mind. I know how stubborn you can be.

Janeway decides to send Harry and the baby over to the other ship, citing fairness, and makes her counterpart promise to get her own crew home. We'll come back to this. Mulgrew really excels here, especially in her throaty “that's an order” bark to Kim to move his butt. So, Janeway initiates the self-destruct, Harry does some fancy heroics to recover the baby from the Sickbay, somehow avoiding capture, and makes his way to the vortex. Janeway calmy welcomes the boarders to the bridge, in a cute little badass moment that ends with the spectacular destruction of the Voyager and the Vidiian ship.

We get a coda that includes an odd exchange between Alt-Janeway and Alt-Tuvok:

TUVOK: One could say that you were both the doubter and the doubted. I do not envy the paradox of logic you were faced with in that situation.
JANEWAY: Neither did I. And neither did she.

What? Erm...nevermind. Better is the final bit between Kim and Alt-Janeway:

KIM: I'm not sure. I mean, this isn't really my ship, and you're not really my captain, and yet you are, and there's no difference. But I know there's a difference. Or is there? It's all a little weird.
JANEWAY: Mister Kim, we're Starfleet officers. Weird is part of the job.

Episode as Functionary : ***, 10%

I like the whimsical touch at the end here. It hits the right note of levity for a story that flirts dangerously with some very serious issues. While in many respects, as Kim said, it “doesn't matter” which of the two Voyagers he originated from, we have to remember which Janeway this is. This Janeway was a bit reckless when her bridge was catching on fire and she was trying to be a science technician instead of a captain. It was her counterpart who decided to stop trying to protect her ship from a serious power loss to pursue a scientific curiosity. I'm not saying Janeway Prime was wrong to do this—ethically, with Alt-Kes in her Sickbay, there wasn't much a choice. But her actions directly led her self-destructing her own vessel and killing her entire crew. It was this Janeway, beset by the realisation that she may have fucked things up here, who demanded that her counterpart get her own crew home, to make up for the loss in some way. As I said earlier, it's details like this that make this episode more than just a goofy tech story and more akin to dark elseworlds tale that was “Yesterday's Enterprise.” It doesn't have that episode's polish or focus, but we do get a glimpse of where this show, and especially this captain, are going.

Production wise, things are pretty impressive here, with strong performances, elaborate choreography (how often do we see people doing somersaults?), and ambitious pyrotechnics, to say nothing of the Janeway double-act.

*A brief note about the “reset button” here. I know it's the most famous of Voyager clichés, and I'm not about to pretend that it doesn't exist. However, just like how, for example, on DS9, the crew complement fluctuates between a few hundred and several thousand depending on what the script requires, or the Defiant can destroy almost anything or be an equal match to a single enemy vessel depending on what the script requires, I think it behoves us not to get into the weeds about things like this unless they become egregious. The next episode of Voyager, “Innocence,” is a story that would work exactly the same if we were shown the background characters dutifully repairing the ship, or if they resupplied their antimatter using reserves from the aliens they were negotiating with. If Voyager were being produced by more ambitious show-runners, I have no doubt these kinds of details would be included. My point is, adding these details would tie up the loose ends from “Deadlock”'s plot without changing the actual trajectory of the season, so, while their absence can be annoying, I don't believe they have the kind of deleterious effect on the show's credibility that others do. There *are* ramifications from this episode to be seen, most especially in Janeway's character. It's not that “it doesn't matter.” I share the frustration most people seem to feel about the physical damage to the ship not seeming to matter week to week, but in the end it's another one of those things we brush aside to a degree, just like the script conveniences that all Trek series rely upon to make their series work. I'll get into it more when we get to Season 4, but I wanted to make note of it here.

Final Score : ***
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Fri, Mar 22, 2019, 3:52pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Rules of Engagement

@William B:

"if Sisko could prove that the ship was decloaking in order to fire on the Defiant, would the Klingons really be able to argue that Worf following his correct battle instinct would be wrong, because his instinct was insufficiently backed by the facts?"

Well, no, but that didn't stop them from arguing that Worf should be extradited for behaving like a Klingon in the first place. It seems to me that the episode presented the case pretty clearly that Sisko's priority was protecting Worf, not ferreting out the truth. That's what that whole coda was about, no?

In other words, while the messiness of the story's construction is the primary culprit, making Sisko a line-officer type is I believe quite intentional.

@Chrome: Really interesting insight regarding the negligence of the parties involved! However, I think this story tries to make the case that Worf, the commander in uniform, arm of the state, is responsible for the lives of everyone else, including the civilians. That's why there are *ahem* rules of engagement in battle. In principle, I agree with this, and I think Sisko does, too. That's why he tells Worf that sometimes, they have to die to protect the innocent. But with the incident over, Sisko's priority is clearly protecting his own officer, above learning the truth and abiding by the consequences.
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Elliott
Fri, Mar 22, 2019, 3:41pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S2: Whispers

@CPUFP

Thanks for the comment : )

I have sometimes unpopular opinions about certain episodes or series on this site. I thought it was only fair that I go through, scene by scene, each series and try to cobble together something cogent and holistic rather than just letting my reactions carry me. The resulting conversations with other commentators has been really enjoyable and enlightening, even when many still don't agree. I'm happy with how it's going and always grateful to Jammer for curating this space.
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