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Fenn
Sun, Jan 19, 2020, 9:58am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Call to Arms

Yeah, the romantic interludes here just kinda suck across the board, don't they?

I don't think I personally like even one of these pairings. It's good that we're dealing with the extreme Odo/Kira fallout from 'Children of Time', but I won't hesitate in saying that pining Odo is easily my least favourite Odo. Rom/Leeta is just *too* odd for an odd couple dynamic -- it strains belief. Dax/Worf, I do have some ability to like (mostly when framed as "glorious Klingon battle couple"), but they seem to be jumping to marriage way too quickly -- I see no indication of much reason for it other than satisfying Worf's Klingon obligations. And Garak/Ziyal... sigh. It *could* be a sweet dynamic on a platonic level -- hell, it *was*! And yet they insisted on shoehorning in Ziyal having a crush on someone old enough to be her father. The kiss she gives him here is decidedly Uncomfortable -- at least Garak looks to be just as uncomfortable as I feel, or this'd be even worse than it is. It seems decidedly creepy on the part of the writers -- and it looks like Garak's discomfort here is solely an acting decision, since the script gives no indication of it.

(Verdict: "needs more Kasidy".)

Bleh. At least we've got plenty of good non-romantic character dynamics on display here. One particularly understated one is Jake helping Bashir distribute medical supplies in the Infirmary, in the same vein as '... Nor the Battle'. Jake's clearly on track to becoming a writer, but it almost feels like they're equally setting him up to be a wartime nurse.

The offputting romances really are the only thing that lower this, though, because it's stellar work otherwise. The buildup is incredible and unprecedented. Seeing Deep Space 9 become Terok Nor once more is heartwrenching to watch, epitomised by the Jem'Hadar forcing open those iconic cog airlock doors. And it's a hell of a move, too -- this space station is the goddamn title of the show, it's absolutely fundamental to it, and to wrest it out of our protagonists' grasp... things really won't be the same ever again.

We're left with some very interesting character combinations for the upcoming season. Garak with the Starfleet crew deserves a mention -- let's see if the sometimes-shaky trust he's built with them bears out. Regardless, as he tells Ziyal, he'll always find a way to thrive. I'll be *very* interested to see if this accompanies him in a far more prominent role -- maybe he's best if used sparingly, but eh, I'm very ready to see him brought on for longer stretches regardless.

I was half-expecting Leeta to hide on the station and stick around for Rom's sake -- do something interesting with her that way. But nope, bundled off to Bajor, just as Ziyal is.

I suspect that Terok Nor itself will be the most interesting setting for the upcoming season of DS9 (or 'TN'). There's so much at play there. The thought of Kira under Dukat's command is already making me squirm, and the Odo-Weyoun dynamic promises to be an interesting one -- a potential way for the protagonists to get the upper hand.

Then there's Jake. Jake, you idiot, you've put yourself in prime position to be used as a hostage. "The Dominion wouldn't dare hurt the Emissary's son"? Yeah, good luck with that, especially with Kai Winn holding sway over what counts as religion on Bajor. We've seen the title of Emissary switch places effortlessly before, and if that ever happens again, suddenly Jake Sisko's nothing more than a human in enemy territory. On a story level, I don't *think* they'd kill him off... but dammit, Jake, plot armour isn't a valid excuse in-universe.

(Looks like the Jake-Nog dynamic reversal is finally complete. Jake's the one hanging around the Ferengi family at the bar, and Nog's the one with Captain Sisko keeping him safe.)

And, uh. Rom as Terok Nor's resident Replacement Garak. That's gonna be. Interesting. Y'know, I half-expected him to be making up the "Federation spy" thing, but it honestly seems like it's *true*... in which case, I really have no idea WHAT to expect. He's a less *obvious* candidate for a spy than Garak, I will at least give him that...?

Well then! Onto Season 6! This finale has done far more than enough to whet my appetite for more -- I can't wait to see what it has in store.
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Fenn
Sun, Jan 19, 2020, 8:02am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: In the Cards

This one clinches the four-star rating with zero hesitation from me. I even watched the finale after this, and yet out of both of those excellent episodes, the one that sticks in my mind is not the status quo-shattering events of 'Call to Arms', but the beautifully nonsensical wild goose chase for a single baseball card.

There's just so much to love here! It harkens back to the self sealing stem bolts-style Jake and Nog shenanigans that I loved so much in the early seasons (hell, sometimes more than the A-plots). They've finally earned their promotion to A-plot here, and while I thought it was a curious choice (Bajor-Dominion politics is the B-plot? are you sure you guys didn't mix those up), it absolutely pays off. Considering the context -- as the teaser shows all too well, we're in some of the most depressing times DS9's ever given us -- this is the exact blast of entertainment our cells need.

I really love a good bit of *happy* comedy like this. The ending here is like the ending to 'Body Parts' -- despite the bleakness of the times, everyone's supporting each other, and everyone manages to find their little oasis of happiness in spite of everything...

... and not a single bar of Nog's latinum is spent!

And yet my *favourite* scene in this is one very specific moment during the final monologue: Weyoun getting himself snuggled up and comfy in the regeneration pod. Ready for a good, refreshing blast of entertainment, delivered straight to the cells? You'd better believe it!

(I keep misspelling Weyoun's name, and I know EXACTLY why. I teach English to Korean kids for a living, and a student I've had twice-weekly for about two years has a name that rhymes with "Weyoun" -- though it's romanised in a completely different way. You have no idea how difficult it is to physically stop myself from typing "Weoyoon", hit backspace, and type "Weyoun" instead. If you ever see a stray "Weoyoon" in one of my comments, or perhaps "Weoyoun" or "Weyoon"... now you know the reason.)
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Fenn
Sat, Jan 18, 2020, 5:25pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Children of Time

Pretty damn incredible, not a doubt about it. It didn't have quite the lasting impact on me that I generally require for a four star rating, but I will *easily* award the three-point-five.

Who needs "happy future where everyone gets married and has babies" when you can have "happy future where everyone got married and had babies... hundreds of years ago... and if you ever want to see your home again, you have to kill them all"!

This is one of those premises where you *know*, for the sake of the series continuing to be a series, that our main characters will get out of it somehow. The eight thousand descendants here and their Standard Star Trek Charmingly Rural Life are doomed from the start (barring the one-in-a-billion duplication that Yedrin tries peddling to them). But the show is sure to make that inevitability as painful as it possibly can. There's a tension building over the course of the episode, as our crew decide one by one that they want to ensure these people even got a chance to live in the first place: I couldn't help wondering "how is this going to go wrong?" With everyone on board with the plan by the time they're on board the Defiant, we're at the most vulnerable point for tragedy: what *could* it be? Is there some Random Ensign of the Day who's decided to sabotage the plan? Is it as simple and undramatic as an unfortunate accident?

Oh no. Ohhhh no.

Oh, Oldo. (Looks like I'm not the only one to come up with that nickname.) At the beginning, he feels like our resident changeling's dream come true: after Odo's spent years dancing around not confessing his feelings, here comes the older and wiser version who cuts out all the hard work by dropping the L-bomb with zero hesitation -- and garnering a positive reception for it, too!

And then he drops a different bomb altogether.

For all the breaches of trust that have come up in Odo and Kira's relationship, EIGHT THOUSAND PEOPLE *easily* outdoes one collaborator or three falsely accused innocents. It's one shocker of a bold move to pull, especially now that the feelings are acknowledged and out in the open -- normally, the stage would be set for something to come of that, but MY GOD! Can their relationship be the same after this? Should it? It's a different Odo, for sure, but by God, this feels like something that'd overshadow their relationship for a *long* time. Kira's continued *existence* has come at the cost of thousands of lives, in active defiance of her wishes, all for the sake of Odo's love. Her face of absolute horror really says it all. Imagine the survivor's guilt...

(... I *said* this ep didn't leave much of a lasting impact on me, but typing it out and processing it, I'm beginning to think it actually did.

Moving on. Is Oldo just Auberjonois with no prosthetics at all? Usually I have trouble recognising the actors of prosthetic-heavy characters as their usual selves, but had no trouble here. To me, it looks like regular smoothface Odo with detail added -- which speaks to the quality of the prosthetic work.

I saw a quote from Auberjonois going round about how Odo's smooth face stems from not having much of a grasp on his own identity. He may well be able to "do faces", just as he can easily make other complex forms (he doesn't become an oddly smooth hawk, after all -- he just becomes a normal goddamn hawk). But *his* face? Something he'd have to invent out of nothing? It's non-distinct to start with, and then that non-distinct "placeholder face" (faceholder?) just becomes his face anyway through comfort and familiarity. In light of that, then, Oldo's non-smooth face seems odd -- naturally, it's a visual convention to make him distinct and mark the passage of time, but nothing about Oldo seems to indicate any stronger grip on his identity as an individual and/or as a humanoid. Hell, if anything he has *less* of a grip on it -- he seems very much isolated from everyone else, and IIRC doesn't even talk to anyone apart from Kira. For all we know, he could've just one day escaped from his sci-fi breadmaker* and run off into the sunset, making no contact with The Society Formerly Known As The Defiant.

* (Memory Alpha says the Odo box here is literally just a breadmaker with sci-fi bits and bobs attached. No disrespect to the props department -- I actually kind of love that.)

The Sons of Mogh are a rather touching standout. I love the fact that membership of their little group is optional and apparently freely obtained rather than limited to Worf's descendants: "some by blood, some by choice". We have part-Klingon "Sons of Mogh" and part-Klingons in the main settlement; there are full humans in both too, including the kid who's desperate to join them. Little details like this inform mental images of the history that led up to this: an elderly Worf tells old Klingon tales to his children, his grandchildren, and anyone else sufficiently intrigued to listen -- creating a new mythology and culture for generations down the line.

It's also an interesting little cultural variation within this society. It's rare that Star Trek shows differences in culture on a single-planet basis, beyond a bare minimum (and if so, it'll be the thing an entire one-off episode revolves around). Here, it's just a background fact of the society, originally stemming from a species difference and yet not limited to it. Lovely little concept.

One final topic before I get to the bullet points -- this *was* going to be a bullet point, but then I started thinking too much (waaaaaay too much). There was one interesting background detail I was looking out for all episode, as soon as it was clear these were Defiant descendants: none of the part-Trill descendants look even *slightly* Klingon, and not one of the part-Klingons has even a single spot. What's the cause of that: genetic incompatibility or romantic incompatibility? If Worf and Dax's marriage didn't last, you'd think Yedrin would've mentioned it... though maybe his nonspecific non-answer to Jadzia's question is telling:

JADZIA: Were we happy together?
YEDRIN: He's a good man, Jadzia.

(while watching, I remember thinking "hah, they couldn't *possibly* have a male host talking about loving a man, gotta give the weakest response possible"... but it could equally hint at this little mystery about the lack of Worf/Dax offspring)

And if it's a genetics thing, you've then got to have them both banging other people for the sake of the gene pool. Which... may have led to the "romantic incompatibility" explanation in itself, because we've well and truly established how Worf feels about Dax doing that, and while genetic necessity gives her a *reason* for that other than bog standard infidelity, it also seems like a prime way to bring these issues between them to a head. No terrorist organisation for Worf to join this time, though! He'll just have to start his own!

Or *maaaaybe* the lack of Trillgons (Klingill? Trigons?) was a production oversight, probably like the lack of mixed-race humans in general. But that explanation is Boring. Why go with an obvious/Doylist answer when there's a golden opportunity to overthink things for several paragraphs instead?

... and now that's out of the way...

- There's something very bittersweet about insisting on planting their crops despite this being their last day alive. Insisting on preparations for the future, even in the full knowledge that they won't have one. Worf's action of reuniting the Sons of Mogh for this final action... god, it's the cherry on the cake.
- I will forever love how *immediate* it is that Sisko goes into Dad Mode in close proximity to babies. Like the flick of a switch.
- They make a big deal out of how O'Brien ended up with someone else despite having Keiko back on DS9, but there's not a single mention of Kasidy for Ben? I guess it's a less long-term relationship, and an unmarried one at that, but still.
- Julian, ever the opportunist, immediately making plans to hook up with his alt-future Babyshir-maker.
- What an anticlimactic ending for Kira/Shakaar! Just shoved under the table and there, done. I hate to say it, but... I really don't mind. He had a strong start and then pretty much went downhill right from the moment they set him up with Kira. But WOW, even less focus on their breakup than we had with Bashir/Leeta. Stone cold.
- I love the weirdness of the "we need to give Armin Shimmerman something to do this ep" cameo. Simulated maths teacher Quark. What a concept.
- And speaking of Quark's absence, I'm now wondering what it'd be like if he *had* come along. Picture it: in the absence of latinum, the Quark dynasty has developed a flourishing economy that uses, I dunno, particularly shiny rocks as currency. Oversized ears everywhere.
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Fenn
Sat, Jan 18, 2020, 1:20pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Soldiers of the Empire

I am someone who generally likes the Klingon episodes, especially ones with Worf and Dax (it's not really the focus in this one, but it's always interesting to see how their respective backgrounds affect how they function in Klingon settings; it seems that Dax often fits in better than Worf does). I definitely felt the similarity to 'A Matter of Honor' here, of holding a borderline mutinous crew together through some incredibly tense situations. It doesn't do *too* much that's new in that respect, but it's still worthwhile to see a different sort of Klingon crew: low morale is a different problem to face. Less a "fish out of water" story, more about leadership in general.

It's interesting how General Martok fits into this. Both he and this crew have spent the recent past being beaten into submission by the Jem'Hadar, and it's made quite an impression on both. And yet it affects them in different ways. Some clearly spoiling for any kind of victory in a fight, even if it's with their crewmates. Some feeling as if they've already lost whatever battle they're going into. And Martok seems to have grown more timid. No doubt he's suffered enough punishment at the Jem'Hadar's hands for one lifetime.

Contrast Worf, who came out of the Dominion prison victorious -- not just in battle, but in spirit. He *does* repay what Martok did to him there, and while he doesn't win this victory himself, he plays the key role. His invitation to the House of Martok is a touching moment, and well-deserved.

(I will note, though -- near the end of the episode I was thinking "wait, they've only just resolved the power struggles, there's no time for the actual battle!" And then there wasn't. This story does enough on its own, and doesn't *have* to be about GLORIOUS KLINGON BATTLE -- we've had our fair share of that elsewhere -- but I still feel a little let down dammit.)
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Fenn
Sat, Jan 18, 2020, 12:55pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: The Begotten

@Omicron: *ouch.* What a nightmare that must've been.

Checking the transcript now, and yeah, the little zapper circle is nothing in comparison. To quote Mora: "Odo, six millivolts is not going to hurt it."
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Fenn
Sat, Jan 18, 2020, 4:46am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Ties of Blood and Water

(Also, Kira smashing her cup on Dukat's face? Beautiful scene. I need more of that in my life.)
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Fenn
Sat, Jan 18, 2020, 4:41am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Ties of Blood and Water

I wasn't expecting Ghemor to come back, and yet DS9 is exactly the kind of series in which he would. I'm grateful for that -- I loved the unlikely "found family" dynamic they built up over their one appearance together, and I'm glad to see it withstand Dukat's meddling here.

Weyoun is kind of fantastic, isn't he? You really get the impression that he's constantly holding himself back from fits of manic giggling.
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Fenn
Fri, Jan 17, 2020, 5:07pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: A Simple Investigation

Definitely something that feels strange to have *not* been one of the solid Odo episodes. I can't help wondering, what specifically would changeling Odo get out of sex? Emotional intimacy, closeness, being able to please a partner, taking part in what's seen by many as a pretty damn fundamental part of "The Humanoid Experience"... all pretty solid (ha ha) reasons. Would he get anything out of the act itself, though?

For what it's worth, it does seem like Odo's been hoping a little more intimacy in his life, and not just Kira. That one self-help book he was reading in 'In Purgatory's Shadow'... and not to mention his choice of reading material in 'The Ascent'. Research, huh? That's next of kin to "reading it for the articles".

I will say that this feels like it worked better than a lot of Trek's sex (that rhymes). I mean, compare this to 'Let He Who Is Whatever'... that gives you a super low bar to clear, but still. It *kiiinda* feels like the main purpose of this story (on the level of the series as a whole) was to establish that Odo Can Sex, and it's pretty clearly heading that way from "bedroom eyes" onwards. It does also give a precedent for him actually having some success in romance, which might hopefully do something to increase his confidence in general -- if he can get over the heartbreak, that is.

Arissa here has details filled in well enough that I can muster up empathy, so that's good at least, and things like her data port and her involvement with the Orion Syndicate hint at greater worldbuilding. But it's clear she's not going to persist beyond the end credits, and all through her growing closeness with Odo I was thinking "okay, betrayal's gonna happen any time soon". So yes, this is still very much The Odo Show.

In other news: we have the triumphant return of the James Bond shenanigans! I *love* how much fun Dax has with the holosuites. Sure seems to be having fun with her gossip too, huh.

Also the two Orion Syndicate guys are a fun diversion, and that hasperat they get from the Promenade looks really nice. This line of the comment brought to you by Fenn's rumbling stomach.
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Fenn
Fri, Jan 17, 2020, 2:11pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Doctor Bashir, I Presume

(One note I forgot to mention in my initial comment: it's fascinating to read Jammer's contemporary reviews, I had no idea that Dolly the sheep happened around the same time as this.)

Anyway, Peter G: thanks for the background info! Yeah, this really does seem like the wrong time to pull a "surprise" like this. Episodes like 'The Wire', 'The Quickening', 'Nor The Battle' etc have already done far more than enough to depict a natural flow of character development... and then to suddenly introduce this (AND in such close proximity to Changeling Bashir, as you say) feels inorganic as well as unnecessary. Less an arc, more a loop-the-loop.

Ouch, speaking of which. After a month of no one knowing Changeling Bashir was any different from the regular one, now his own parents can't tell an incomplete hologram from their actual son.

As for how Siddig's playing it from now on, I'll have to keep an eye on him in upcoming episodes. Delving back into the history of the show in light of this twist may not be all that useful, but no doubt this is going to inform future choices.
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Fenn
Fri, Jan 17, 2020, 1:53pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Doctor Bashir, I Presume

Not sure how to feel about the Bashir revelation. As usual, I knew vaguely what the deal was with him, but was basically trying not to think about it until I actually saw it on screen. I wonder if we'll be perceiving much of a change in the character from here on out. It's probably one of those things that'll have you rewatching old content and going "hmm, was this because of this?", but it's a bit retcon-like for my tastes. Overall, it doesn't quite feel *necessary* for Bashir, and I worry that it might cheapen some of what he's been -- but I welcome the late-game addition of this theme into the story, of parents' "best intentions" not always being the best for the child. And often being for their sake instead of the child's.

I've been talking in the comments for 'The Begotten' about Odo's forgiveness of Dr. Mora, and there's definitely more to talk about on the "forgiving your parents" theme here. I really don't feel enough is done here to merit complete forgiveness. Comparing this with the script, I'd say there's a definite difference between how it was written and the eventual performance.

Stage directions for Bashir watching his parents leave in the script:

Bashir smiles back at him and then Richard and Amsha
EXIT to the transport ship. Bashir watches them go and
then he heads off down the Corridor.

But you watch the scene as it plays out, and Bashir's only smiling for the length of time that they can see him -- the moment they're gone, he's stony-faced. I like that touch. Makes it feel less like a lifetime of resentment has been paved over in a few conversations.

I've heard that Alexander Siddig hated this development for his character and made deliberate efforts to put in as little effort into the acting as possible. He must be a *really* good actor then, because if he's doing that here, it doesn't show!
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Fenn
Fri, Jan 17, 2020, 1:38pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: By Inferno's Light

Well. When writing up my comment for the last ep, the first thing I wrote was a rant about Dukat and how he's never really been "redeemed" at all in my view. I wrote the rest, looked back at my Dukat rant that didn't fit too well into the rest of the comment, and thought "man, is this really relevant? Dukat's barely in this one. Should I even include this?"

Glad I included it now, because oh boy, that was basically the last chance I had to rant about Dukat before the guy went and proved me very, very right. I'm shocked, but I really can't say I'm surprised.

Cardassia's taken us on a rollercoaster over the course of DS9. We had hostile Cardassia always lurking uncomfortably close to Bajor, we had weak and defanged Cardassia minus the Obsidian Order, and now we've got Dukat's Cardassia that's gleefully skipping right over to the baddies' side. Yeah, how long's that gonna last until Dukat gets tired of being harangued by Vorta and co? There goes Cardassian self-determination --they're Founder lackeys now. No coming back from this, not with the Dominion as the nigh-unbeatable threat they are.

I have surprisingly little else to say, but I loved the prison scenes -- both Worf fighting damn near to the death (the Jem'Hadar are just big ol' Klingon fanboys aren't they) and Garak having panic attacks in the wall (the pressure of finishing his father's work, as if the claustrophobia wasn't enough). Made for some intense stuff. Doesn't feel as well-constructed as last ep, but I loved this anyway.

Time for the bullet points, then:

- I liked Ziyal's little interaction with Quark... who's casually planning for all eventualities. The station's owner may change, but Quark is eternal. Reminds me of the "Welcome, Klingons!" banner that got rolled out in 'Rapture'.
- I'll be very happy to see more of Martok, as a wiser type of Klingon. He's a fixture on the station now, huh? I'll take him over Eddington any day!
- I'm getting a little tired of that "Cardassians on a rooftop watching a broadcast" stock footage they keep using (this is at *least* the third time). It looked unnatural and kinda silly the first time they used it, and it looks unnatural and kinda silly now.
- "By Inferno's Light" (excellent title, I love linked two-parter titles) could very well refer to the nova of the Bajoran sun.
- I'll never get tired of Sisko effortlessly wreaking verbal destruction on Dukat. "Funny, I thought it was built by Bajoran slave labour."
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Fenn
Fri, Jan 17, 2020, 10:45am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: The Begotten

Speaking of the baby changeling's absorption back into Odo: while watching, I expected that action to come with a full "download" of the baby's small amount of life experience and memories, and for Odo to come to an understanding of his li'l goobaby through that. Maybe that did happen -- if what we saw *is* anything like a changeling link, then it most likely did. But the show's too preoccupied with Odo getting his shapeshifting back to go into any detail on that.
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Fenn
Fri, Jan 17, 2020, 10:42am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: The Begotten

There's definitely a lot to consider in a situation like this. Odo definitely acted as a tempering influence to an extent, and I don't doubt that Mora had much nastier changeling-changer machines.

From the changeling's side of things, though, I don't think anything in that early a developmental stage would be able to consider the motive behind whatever's happening to it. Only just beginning to develop reactions to stimuli -- understanding would likely be a way off still. That's all well and good for forgiveness later in life, as with Odo, but the negative impressions get formed in the first place.

I feel one limitation when talking about what's going on here is that we can't fully know what babyling thinks. The upper limit of the self-expression that ever gets developed is that one beautiful moment of shapeshifting Odo's face -- clearly there's at least enough of an affinity developed there for that. Like baby's first word being "dad"! I'm not sure how to interpret the final action of absorption back into Odo's body -- maybe involuntary, maybe intentional. Baby's first link. And last. :(
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Fenn
Fri, Jan 17, 2020, 5:51am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: The Begotten

Odo definitely cared, and clearly never stopped caring (him talking to the baby changeling as it dies is heartbreaking). It just feels somewhat off that he even allowed Mora to begin using his methods in the first place, *even* under pressure. One mention from Sisko of Starfleet Command is all it takes for him to begrudgingly let Mora have a go. It doesn't quite feel like enough to erode Odo's bitter resistance.

I *would* agree on the forgiveness, and that definitely crossed my mind after my first viewing... but I've just now seen someone talking about the ep 'The Die Is Cast', and it's reminded me of how quickly and effortlessly Odo forgave Garak for outright torturing him. There are differences, of course: Mora experimented on Odo for the formative years(?) of his life; Garak only had one short session torturing Odo. But then Mora didn't know what he was doing to Odo, whereas Garak knew *exactly* what he was doing. And there's also the fact that Odo seems to take a good while longer to forgive Mora than he ever did with Garak. Proportionate for how protracted the suffering they each caused him was.

So, in the bigger picture: I think the forgiveness could work, given the greater context of Odo's character. But I'd still agree that it clashes with the rest of the episode. I don't doubt that Odo could have forgiven Mora -- but I don't think he *should* have forgiven Mora.
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Fenn
Thu, Jan 16, 2020, 6:18pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: In Purgatory's Shadow

I looked at Memory Alpha's background info for this episode, and I was not disappointed.

" Since Bashir said he went to bed one night and woke up in prison, Ronald D. Moore commented "He musta been verrrrrry tired and fallen asleep in his uniform." (AOL chat, 1997) "
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Fenn
Thu, Jan 16, 2020, 4:55pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: In Purgatory's Shadow

What an episode! I usually only comment on the second half of two-parters, but this one *definitely* merits a comment on its own.

I knew basically every spoiler there is to know here -- and yet all of it rang as true as if I never knew a thing. I shouldn't have been surprised by Bashir stumbling out of Dominion solitary confinement -- I knew damn well that he got changelingified around this point -- and yet something in the execution of it still preserved that for me. That's the mark of a good story: plot twists are one thing, but to have plot twists that still retain their gamechanging feel even when you know the spoilers? That's a step above. This doesn't rely on shock value -- it's good beyond just simple surprise.

(Speaking of things I've had spoiled ahead of time, though: I think I've actually run out of spoilers, for here at least. I really have no clue how the next episode might play out. And you better believe I'm excited!)

I don't really care about the uniform discrepancy. I will happily take Niall's explanation of "he was wearing it as pyjamas" as canon. It *is* a comfy-looking uniform -- though not quite so comfy to have been wearing for a month.

The truth and lies on Tain's deathbed... I can hardly describe it. Damn powerful. I've got into the habit of looking at the scripts of episodes, I like having that level of insight. It turns up some gems. While I didn't get to the point of tears while watching the episode, this phrasing in the script was what got me:

***

TAIN
I was very proud of you, that day.

And with that, Tain gives himself a private smile, and dies.

73 CLOSE ON GARAK

There're no tears, but for a moment Garak wears the face of that little boy.

***

I was also touched by the fact that Garak allows Bashir, and Bashir alone, into his last moments with his father. It's a way of confiding in him, opening up about something *very* personal, without having to tell his secrets directly. He's silently sharing the pain, as well -- ensuring he is understood without a word exchanged between the two of them. I wouldn't be surprised if this remained between the two of them for the rest of the series -- that Garak never tells another soul.

Speaking of Garak's relationships, whatever's going on between him and Ziyal gets a far clearer showing here. It's clearly lopsided, but with a genuine affection between kindred spirits. There's definitely an unfortunate feeling of "silly young girl with a crush" to Ziyal, which feels like some fairly shallow writing -- the obvious generational gap between them is awkward, but at least Garak seems to *know* it's awkward (as the better-written of them). Regardless, the foundation for their connection feels true. Their friendship doesn't feel as bad as it could be, nor is it as bad as I feared it *might* be.

I'm not about to post a whole second chunk of script, but there's a stage direction that really sums it up: "Garak sighs. He's not used to talking about his real feelings about anything, but he really doesn't have the heart to lie to this girl."

On the opposite extreme, there's Dukat. Thoughts on him as a character are one thing, but I see zero redeeming qualities for him as a person. He's someone who does awful things; occasionally, on his *very* best days, he decides to not do awful things and instead soars to such dizzying heights of... a very minimal level of basic decency. (Pertinent example: "congratulations, you decided not to murder your daughter after all -- what, d'you want a medal or something".) His actions are very often self-centred, too. Even his new lone wolf Klingonslayer persona is so transparently a way to big up his wounded ego.

A season ago, he was fine dragging her along on his self-aggrandising hero shenanigans, having her *directly* in the line of fire in the process. So him trying to get her off DS9 -- does he really care that much about her safety? I suspect he cares more about the fact that Kira isn't "protecting" (controlling) Ziyal in the way he wants her to -- that, god forbid, she's letting her do things Dukat wouldn't want her to do!

(Dukat and Kira really feel like a divorced couple arguing over who gets the kid. I say "divorced", but I don't want to even metaphorically imagine those two ever having been married in the first place. I'd like to imagine Kira just divorced Dukat pre-emptively, with no marriage involved. She anti-married him.)

Final notes:

- I appreciate DS9's "little" scenes, carrying on the life of the station and its crew outside the main plot. In particular, the chat about baby Kirayoshi (and what a name!) is a sweet one. I'd be interested to see if Kira keeps on being around the O'Briens -- let's see if "Aunt Nerys" continues beyond her pregnancy.
- It feels nice to have mention of Dax's ex-wife again, playing her part in this off-screen. That was a nice little mention.
- Julian bringing sandwiches would be lovely in any context other than "changeling infiltrator".
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Fenn
Thu, Jan 16, 2020, 1:19pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: The Begotten

Damn you, DS9 -- Odo being cute with kids is the #1 tried and tested shortcut for making me feel things...!

God, though, praise for the acting here. Takes a hell of a performance to sell genuine joy and adoration for a cup of goo. I can't help falling in love with Odo's smile, it's just too damn SWEET -- and he's absolutely infectious with his enthusiasm. I love the scene where he buys a drink for Quark as well, following on 'The Ascent' and the unlikely bond between the two.

I feel this might've been a bit too forgiving on Dr. Mora, though. It's one thing to understand that he a) didn't know he was experimenting on a living being, and b) was under harsh time constraints that could've had Odo in Cardassian custody instead, and undoubtedly treated much worse... but it feels off that he does eventually capitulate to Mora's methods. As I understood it, didn't one of those experiments straight-up involve having the changeling child subjected to electrical current before it fled into the safe region? That *really* sounds like a good way to have your kid hate you, and they have the benefit of hindsight this time round (as well as, y'know, the perspective of someone who'd grown up pained and bitter because of things like that).

Odo sure got de-solided earlier than expected, huh. Well, he's had a range of experiences in solid form ('The Ascent' being the most extreme), but there really hasn't been that much focus on him during this time. Apart from 'The Ascent', there were scattered moments in other episodes, and while 'Things Past' had a definite focus on him, it made use of his past rather than his present. As for his reaction to regaining his shapeshifting, his giddy relief definitely helps mitigate the absolute grief, but man, maybe that doesn't need mitigating (for the sake of the episode, anyway -- less so for Odo's emotional state, guy deserves to be happy).

B-plot left me cold, but eh, probably one of the less bad pregnancy arc resolutions (... or "births", as they're otherwise known) we could've had. Shakaar has been doing nothing to appeal to me since his first episode, though. *This* guy is First Minister of Bajor??
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Fenn
Wed, Jan 15, 2020, 5:39pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: The Darkness and the Light

I think I fall most in line with Springy's comment not far above me. Having rewatched 'Duet' recently, the line "you were all guilty and you were all legitimate targets" came off badly... and yet Kira here is in just about the most extreme circumstances she could ever be in here. Character development, or (to broaden it outside the world of fiction) personal growth is not always linear; learning one "lesson" does not mean you've immediately and irreversibly gone forward from where you were before.

I wouldn't call this a favourite, but I'm glad to see Kira retaking her active role at last. Even despite (or quite possibly *because of*) her nightmare of a situation, she's unstoppably driven here, and that's something we haven't seen for a good while.

(I've read that despite Kira's continued pregnancy, Nana Visitor had actually given birth back when 'The Assignment' was being filmed. Guess she'd recovered enough for the limelight here, though it looks like a harsh one to film anyway -- a scene where she lands flat on her stomach had me wincing. Hopefully her pregnancy was just a temporary interruption and this return to form is really how we'll be continuing.)
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Fenn
Wed, Jan 15, 2020, 5:48am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Things Past

From the minute we had Garak providing the Bajorans with an "opposing philosophical view" of the occupation, I fully expected this to be a "Garak Learns The Occupation Was Actually Kinda Terrible, And By 'Kinda' I Mean Very" episode. It may have turned out to be an episOdo instead, but there's still an element of that here -- I love the character, but I gotta admit, seeing him get punched out by the guards was at least mildly satisfying. (Nowhere near as satisfying as seeing Dukat get knocked out by Dax later on, though). For a former member of the Obsidian Order, assuming the Cardassian authorities would help them out as soon as he could logically demonstrate what was up was honestly pretty damn naive.

I also appreciate that we're keeping Garak flawed. The opening (everybody palling around chatting on a runabout after their little outing, despite Garak always having had to argue his way onto runabouts or the Defiant before now) was fun, but almost a bit too comfortably buddy-buddy. I assume Garak's finished doing his time for attempted genocide at this point...! If he learnt anything about the Bajoran plight, it's probably best that it remains unsaid. Hell, even if he *did* learn anything more than jack shit, would he really swallow his pride and his disingenuity for long enough to admit it? No, he keeps up the sniping throughout, because Garak being vulnerable enough to disclose any amount of soul-searching would require the episode to be far more about him than it is.

I found myself so caught up in the setting and the atmosphere of occupation life (Terok Nor feeling like an entirely different place to DS9, just as in 'Necessary Evil') that I felt disappointed when it shifted to the more staged-looking depiction of Odo reliving the execution. But that got us the Odo guilt story instead, which is worth telling and well-executed (ha ha). I noticed and appreciated how its ending was paralleled with that of the aforementioned 'Necessary Evil', now with the situations switched. I was about to claim that the situations weren't quite equal, but then brought up the transcript to that episode and realised I'd misremembered it: Kira hadn't planned to kill Vaatrik, and had only done so when he caught her. That was a failed mission for her. And Odo made a mistake himself, cutting corners and letting people die on account of being overburdened and overworked. Two stories about people in the occupation doing the best they could, but never quite managing "perfect" -- and having to deal with the consequences for their consciences.

A less consequential thing I was considering early on: why only go as far as Bajoran clothing when our main characters are being seen as fully Bajoran? The "human with ridged nose" look is definitely less time in the makeup chair for Auberjonois and Robinson, and potentially even Farrell as well -- those spots took time to draw on. It reminds me of TNG's 'Tapestry' depicting young Picard as regular Picard, but then the obvious justification there is reaping all the benefits of Patrick Stewart's acting... as well as the emotional impact of seeing an old Picard in his old life. The "emotional impact" reasoning works here as well to an extent, with a sort of irony in seeing a Cardassian treated by Cardassians as a Bajoran, but the "it was all in Odo's head" reveal at the end gives us some further justification. This is the way Odo knows them to look, after all.
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Fenn
Tue, Jan 14, 2020, 2:11pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Let He Who Is Without Sin...

I honestly find it funny that a hefty chunk of this comment section isn't talking about the episode at all, and instead seems to have turned into a massive debate about sports.

As for the episode itself... I said back in the comments for 'LFPIATWP' (god, even the acronym's a mouthful; I'll just say 'Par'mach') that I wouldn't be surprised to see friction between Dax's sexual liberation and Worf's relative prudishness. Wasn't expecting it so soon, and... it's been played out in pretty much the clumsiest possible way.

I feel it miiight merit a little more than the dreaded zero-star rating, but I'm finding it very hard to summon up even half a star's worth of evidence. If there is anything in here worthy of redeeming it above rock bottom, it's most likely scattered and incoherent.

So here's my scattered and incoherent attempt to mount a defence:

- Quark gets the best showing, oddly. I got a laugh out of "indoor hoverball? That's just wrong" while watching... and it's only making me more amused by the amount of fierce discussion here on "right" and "wrong" sports...!

- I appreciate how little drama is made of Leeta and Bashir's breakup. It fits the amount of attention their relationship received, honestly: we only saw about a minute of it, so we get about a minute of attention on its ending, and then it's as if they were never together at all. A ton of drama all of a sudden would be decidedly disproportionate given how much we [didn't] see of these two together. Says a lot that the best I can say about them is "could've been worse".

- A tiny little glimmer of non-heteronormativity, though it's nothing compared to 'Rejoined', in that this universe is at least marginally gay enough that Worf even *can* suspect Dax of getting a little too friendly with a woman (and that Bashir and Quark can go "eh, I see where he was coming from" afterwards). It's got the "this USED to be heterosexual" caveat again, but eh. I'm *really* scraping the bottom of the barrel here on redeeming factors here, though, because the whole "Worf suspects Dax of cheating on him every two seconds" thing makes me want to bash my head against a wall, and also the "Worf walks in on semi-gay clay shenanigans" scene is just embarrassing in how it plays out.

- Dax is pretty shitty in packing Worf those shiny golden swimming trunks, and doesn't even spare a thought for the poor people in prosthetics who'd have to sculpt the rest of his rockin' Klingon bod, but Worf's look of disbelief at them is as golden as the trunks themselves. I sent a screenshot to my partner, and got the response "worf in shiny golden undies is only gonna work on me if the context is him being a pro wrestler".

... yeah, that's all I've got.

As for why this episode *doesn't* work, I think most people here probably understand that pretty well already. I just feel the slightly petty need to point out something particularly audacious...

"WORF: I would not become a terrorist. It would be dishonourable."

-- Worf Sonofmogh Rozhenko, 2372

That's in 'For the Cause', when they're talking about the actions that drove the Maquis to... being the Maquis.

Looks like it would take something far, far greater than that to drive Worf to the point where he goes against his ingrained code of honour and commit acts of terrorism. And as it turns out: Worf's breaking point, the critical mass, the one thing that cuts so deeply to the heart of his character that it will drive him to acts of sabotage on a planetary scale is

a sort of blandly (un)sexy holiday resort with an artificial weather system, and also him being suspicious of his girlfriend

wow.
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Fenn
Tue, Jan 14, 2020, 12:55pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S1: Duet

@Peter G: that was pretty much his reasoning; looking back on that comment, I definitely phrased it clumsily in the retelling. Having Kira *condemn* this practice would be the controversial move, with Nazi atrocities still in living memory for many.

But yes: it's interesting, and quite possibly daring, to picture someone even *marginally* involved in "just following orders" trying to repent -- and through drastic suicidal action.

To extend from this, though: to what extent are Marritza's actions for the sake of Bajor/Cardassia, as opposed to just for his *own* sake? On one hand, he wants to "force Cardassia to acknowledge its guilt" -- but Gul Dukat and Central Command *know* that Darhe'el's been dead for six years, and Marritza appears to have only been taking concrete steps towards this for five (coinciding with the time he started taking dermal regenerators). Why proceed with this plan over a course of years when Darhe'el is known to be dead, and can easily be proven as such? Surely he must know of Darhe'el's death, as Cardassia producing a *living* Darhe'el would surely be an even more obvious way to shatter his plans. The short gap between Darhe'els death and the start of Marritza's plan seems like no coincidence: he's stepping into the dead man's shoes.

Given this, I honestly suspect that his actions might primarily be to clear his own conscience, to die easy, with the weak coverup of "my death is necessary for a better Cardassia" to make it seem less self-indulgent. There are obvious flaws that he's had years to potentially see, but he's pursued this plan regardless. That speaks to a death drive, a single-minded obsession with this as his only possible redemption. Tragic, for sure, but not quite so selfless.
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Fenn
Tue, Jan 14, 2020, 12:11pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S1: Duet

Over the past couple of days, I've finally managed to cajole my partner into watching beyond the very beginning of DS9 (the same way I took a hell of a lot of nudging from him to finally give TNG a watch!) From the looks of it, he's not hooked yet, but is definitely on track to sticking with it... even while skipping a few episodes along the way. He's mostly been watching alone, but today was the day he happened to reach 'Duet', and I wanted to watch this specific one alongside him.

We're in different countries at the moment, so this took place over a video call. As fate would have it, my laptop decided to crash *right* at the climactic moment, just as Marritza's facade is cracking and the truth is tumbling out. (Clearly my rickety old Toshiba buckled under the strength of his performance.) I tried messaging him through the same chat client on my phone -- no response. When I finally got my laptop up and running again, I found out he'd been too enthralled to even pause when I'd crashed out, and had watched all the rest of the episode without me... robbing me of the chance to see him react to the ending in real time. Bastard.

(I'm joking, of course, I don't hold it against him -- I reckon it speaks to the episode's quality that he just couldn't tear his eyes away)

We had a good deal to talk about afterwards, a lot more than the usual offhand post-episode comments he's been giving me so far (eg. "probably the worst Q episode" or "this is a pretty lame board game, even Monopoly has more player control than that", or simply saying "die with honour, Fenn" out of the blue, which kinda caught me off guard until I remembered the reference). Suffice to say, this has been his favourite episode so far; it was also a lot better than he was expecting it to be from the start.

He wanted to know what I thought of it. I told him actually wasn't too struck by it on my original viewing (thought it was good, but it didn't stick with me), but I did appreciate it more second time round, especially knowing Marritza's bluster to be an act. Partner mentioned in turn that he'd suspected something was up, given how far Marritza went in trying to prove himself as the evil Darhe'el. He certainly didn't predict exactly *what* was up, though, and he loved the reveal/the motivations behind it.

He was also curious about what other people's reactions were to it. Wasn't surprised by the fact that it's generally considered a classic. But he told me he'd expected Marritza's death to be somewhat controversial: not in the sense of "it wasn't necessary to kill the guy" that I told him I'd seen, but more related to this episode as a thinly-veiled Holocaust allegory. He reckoned having someone recently liberated from oppression/occupation striking out at (someone perceived as) one of the former oppressors to be a risky move, especially with the 90s having had a lot more Holocaust survivors alive compared to now. The way it played out wasn't something he *personally* had a problem with, but he anticipated a lot more disapproval there than I've seen (which is... none, as it happens, though I can't say I've done much of a deep dive for this ep given how it made less of an impact on me).

One final thought I had on second viewing related to the complexity of Marritza's coverup. There's two disguises involved: he's originally "Marritza-posing-as-Darhe'el-posing-as-Marritza" before that's stripped back to the relatively simple "Marritza-posing-as-Darhe'el". Posing as Marritza to start with seems like enough of an excuse to get him aboard the station safely for his scheme, and would also explain the years of living he'd done as Marritza. It seems risky, though: once they'd done sufficient investigation to peel back the first layer of disguise, wouldn't they potentially have dug up leads into the second layer in the process of seeing through the first? Marritza's been playing the long game, for sure -- a whole five years recovering from plastic surgery! But he's also clearly self-loathing and desperate for some redemption in death, and that concocts the right sort of mindset for mistakes.
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Fenn
Tue, Jan 14, 2020, 11:01am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Broken Link

@Chrome: thanks for posting that, it's some interesting info.

I almost always dislike it when a character's clearly been written solely for the sake of being a love interest -- which most often tends to happen with female characters. Rarely do these characters ever get to be characters of their own. They'll really only exist as attachments to a male character, will exist only for the purposes of that character, and will have no function (or at least nothing substantial) going for them outside that... except for being eye candy. I've heard many a female actor (famous ones, as well as personal friends performing to much smaller audiences) express the sentiment that they're sick and tired of playing those roles, probably even more so than I am of seeing them.

Aroya here gave me the impression of that kind of character from the start, and I can't say her character -- to the extent that she had characterisation -- inspired any reaction from me other than an eye roll. Owns a Bajoran restaurant on the Promenade? Could be something to work with, but they only pay lip service to that. Have someone who's consistently shown as a genuine contributor to the bustling life of this station, and I might actually be interested. But if you don't, then any romance arc with her is The Odo Show, Featuring Generic Pretty Lady. They *could* explore something with Odo through that, but any investment in the relationship would be limited when we're given no reason to care about the other party in it.

Maybe they *could've* built something up with her, given more time. Again, hurriedly-mentioned Bajoran restaurant could be a start. But given only what she's given here? No loss.
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Fenn
Tue, Jan 14, 2020, 10:39am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Looking for Par'mach in All the Wrong Places

Peter G: "I'm sorry to say, but I think there is approximately a zero percent chance that they were (subtly or not) portraying Keiko as hinting at an open marriage."

Oh yeah, of course not. I don't know if I made it clear enough in my original comment, but I definitely wasn't interpreting this as what the episode is actually *aiming* to depict. Big difference between intent and interpretation, and what I'm going on about is the latter. Just as a silly comedic alternate reading -- one that also happens to work surprisingly well with Keiko's behaviour, and which also happens to do away with her sitcom-induced obliviousness.

If you *do* want to read the episode as the writers intended -- no issue with that, just different ways of approaching media -- then yeah, that does come part and parcel with accepting Keiko as being shockingly clueless. Nah, Keiko draws the short straw often enough already. I'll happily see the silly solution here.
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Fenn
Tue, Jan 14, 2020, 10:29am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Trials and Tribble-ations

This was some good fun, no doubt about it. Impressively done, too -- it's seamless, I can't tell what's what! It's the same sort of "wow, how'd they do that?!" I remember experiencing as a young teen watching Forrest Gump for the first time. Now I know roughly *how* they'd do something like this, but something about the impossibility of what's being pulled off so well will never fail to impress.

But as someone who's never seen TOS, it doesn't carry any personal nostalgia for me, and I get the impression that'd be what bumps it up from "damn good fun" to "one of the best" for many. On the other hand, maybe it's even fresher for me given that I haven't seen the source material. The very concept of tribbles is somehow perfectly tuned to amusing the little kidliest parts of my sense of humour. I bloody love the little gags like a food tray full of stuffed full of tribble, and while that's probably from the original episode rather than unique to this, the fact that it's new to me means I get the full fresh experience watching this. (I wonder what it'll be like to watch 'The Trouble with Tribbles' after having seen this first?)

And yet there's also a lot of fun moments that are clearly original to DS9. Odo making a tribble friend was adorable: as a newly-minted humanoid, he now has the capacity to appreciate small furry animals! And then there's the fact that -- gasp! -- one of these tribbles is a BOMB! Camera pans over a floor covered in tribbles*, with ominous music: which of these adorable fluffs is hiding a Deadly Secret?? And now we watch our crew wading kneedeep in adorable and tossing various floofs behind them. Topped off with Deadly Tribble Space Explosion. It really is the pinnacle of glorious silliness.

* I sent a screencap of this scene to my partner, who replied "oh wow, assorted hairpieces of British Prime Ministers".

Everyone's clearly having a wild time doing this. It comes through in every second of the show, and it's infectious. What a way to do a time travel episode, huh?
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