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Jamie Mann
Sun, Mar 8, 2020, 4:48pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: It's Only a Paper Moon

As previously mentioned, I’m not a fan of Vic Fontaine; there’s just too much of a cultural gulf for me to enjoy the character, his music or the setting he’s placed in.

But even so, this is still a superb episode. Because Vic’s cabaret club is just the container through which we get to see a much deeper story: the convalescence of Nog.

DS9 has previously taken several looks at the impact war has on the people who get caught up in it, from civilian survivors (The Quickening), to support and medical teams (Nor the Battle to the Strong) and then to the soldiers themselves (AR-588).

But in general, the combination of the episodic “reset button” format and Star Trek’s roots in Western/Space Opera pulp fiction has meant that we’ve seldom seen any psychological effects on the characters in DS9; they can crashland a runabout on a random planet, bury their dead, kill a dozen Jem Hadar, strike up a relationship with a random alien, steal a spaceship with the assistance of said alien (with optional tragic self-sacrifice), and then make it back to DS9 in time for last orders at Quark’s bar, before retiring to bed and getting up to do the very same again the next day without even batting an eyelid.

However, for once, this doesn’t happen. Nog finally returns from his brief stint on the front lines, where he saw violent action and ended up badly injured. With his leg replaced with a robotic appendage, Nog literally limps back to DS9, only to discover that he can’t just go back to the way things were.

It’s a classic example of PTSD, and Aron Eisenberg puts on a fantastic performance as a deeply unhappy Nog.

Equally, the interactions between Nog and Vic are well portrayed. For Nog, the cabaret club is somewhere to heal and hide - perhaps forever. Conversely, Nog’s decision to live in the holosuite gives Vic a chance to experience continuous time - to actually spend time in his apartment and live for more than just the moment. And Vic’s realisation that this situation isn’t sustainable is a bittersweet moment which is very well played.

Overall, while I’m still not a fan of Vic, this is an episode where the sum does manage to be more than it’s parts.
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Jamie Mann
Sun, Mar 8, 2020, 4:06pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Covenant

Another episode I’ve got mixed feelings about.

In some ways, it’s a pretty logical progression. After all, having hosted a Pah Wraith, Dukat has arguably become a dark mirror to Sisko; an anti-Messiah of sorts. So it makes sense that the Pah Wraith cultists from the first episode of this season would latch onto him.

Equally, Dukat’s behaviour fits in well with his past portrayals: being worshipped by the cultists feeds both his ego and his belief that he’s morally superior to everyone around him, and his kidnapping of Kira continues his tradition of wanting to prove his superiority to those who doubt him.

Meanwhile, he’s still displaying distinct double standards, as he first impregnates one of the Bajoran cultists, then lies about it’s parentage before trying to flush the mother out of an airlock when she threatens to reveal the truth. And when that plan goes wrong, his decision to pretend to suicide alongside the rest of the cult is just as naturally self-servicing as all his other actions, even if he does justify his actions as being justified as part of his service to the Pah Wraiths.


The “fake religious leader who abuses his flock” is a pretty cliched setup, and do we really need to be reminded about just how gullible Bajorans are? At times, it’s almost like watching the crowds from A Life of Brian, with Kira doing her best to persuade them that he’s not the messiah, but a very naughty Cardassian…

Equally, the about-face of (virtually) all the cultists is a bit abrupt; given how tenaciously Bajorans tend to cling to their beliefs, I would have expected more of them to go through with the ritual. And (mild spoiler): what happens to the cult after this episode? If memory serves, they don’t appear again in DS9; even with Dukat’s duplicity, I’d expect at least some of the cult members to stick around, especially those who hadn’t migrated to Dukat’s space station.

So yeah. A middling episode at best.
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Jamie Mann
Sun, Mar 8, 2020, 2:25pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: The Siege of AR-558

Another episode I’ve got mixed feelings about.

As usual, the less said about the Vic Fontaine elements, the better.

Beyond that, this is the usual DS9 interpretation of war: poorly equipped infantry end up in short term hand-weapon shootouts and struggle in hand-to-hand combat, and in doing so throw away virtually every lesson learned in the last century of industrialised war. The only real “future war” element is the presence of invisible, randomly drifting mines, which are taking their toll both physically and mentally on the soldiers stuck defending this bit of land.

To be fair, the depiction of the effects on these soldiers is well handled and sympathetically portrayed. But it’s still frustrating to see how utterly /stupid/ this vision of future war is, especially since it which carries all the way through the rest of the season.

(And can we please please please stop putting humans in direct hand-to-hand combat with all these theoretically superior alien races? It makes things increasingly farcical…)

There’s also the odd juxtaposition of how the episode portrays the communications array as vital to Starfleet, while simultaneously abandoning the ever-decreasing group of increasingly fatigued soldiers tasked to defend it. In a war where battles involving thousands or millions of troops are routinely mentioned, couldn’t the Federation have sent a few reinforcements along with the supplies delivered by the Defiant?

I also have to question Quark’s presence on the mission, and the way that the writers tried to use him to provide a commentary on the barbarism of Humanity. It was overly facile, and arguably does Humanity a misservice: as with the medics we encountered in Nor The Battle To The Strong I’d prefer to think of the soldiers as volunteers who have accepted the need to make personal sacrifices to protect a greater good, rather than savages descending back to some barbaric state. After all, the former is in keeping with the traditional perception of the Federation as a post-scarcity society where everyone can choose how to better themselves and/or contribute back to society.

Conversely, Nog’s role is a lot stronger; the way he tries to live up to the perceived expectations of the soldiers is believable, and for once, something happens which can’t be immediately hand-waved away with a simple reset-button. Instead, it actually sets things up for a surprisingly effective episode a few steps down the line.

Still, overall it makes for a distinctly moving episode.
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Jamie Mann
Sun, Mar 8, 2020, 1:37pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Once More Unto the Breach

Here we go again. Klingons, blah blah, a glorious death, blah blah, blah blah.

Having said that, this is perhaps DS9’s best attempt to explore this theme.

One of the things I find most interesting is the fact that this episode paints Kor in a mixed light - he may be a hero, but he’s also an old and prejudiced reactionary, who doesn’t even remember the people whose careers he destroyed because they weren’t “purebred”. It’s a reminder that even heroes are human - or at least Klingon.

And as other people have said, the fact that he dies in a mythical last-battle /which we don’t get to see/ is pretty much a perfect way to wave goodbye to the character.

Though saying that, I don’t really buy into the Davy Crockett comparison, or Worf’s assessment of it. After all, the Texans weren't fighting a rearguard action and ended up losing the battle of Alamo; the question around Davy Crockett’s legend lies around whether he died fighting, or if he was executed after surrendering.

Here, Kor was defending a fighting retreat and it’s fairly safe to assume that there was never any question of surrender. As such, it would have been more appropriate to draw parallels with the Spartan defence of Thermopylae, Little Big Horn or even the Battle of Samar, where a small group of US ships successfully fended off a much larger Japanese fleet, thereby protecting a fleet of ships unloading troops...

(IMO, either way Davey Crockett can be considered a hero - after all, whatever happened, he chose to remain and fight. But it's still a poor parallel with the events in this episode)
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Jamie Mann
Sun, Mar 8, 2020, 12:55pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Treachery, Faith, and the Great River

An interesting chance to explore a bit more of Weyoun’s character, and that of the Vorta in general. And for the fact that it throws a new element into the season-7 melting pot: the Founders are all dying! Except for Odo...

This episode also gets some bonus points for the scene where Weyoun 7 looks meaningfully over at Damar when discussing how Weyoun 5 died in an “accidental” transporter accident!

In fact, this is generally a good episode; it’s fascinating to see how the two Weyoun clones are both equally committed to the Founders, but in different ways. It’s a shame that there’s not much exploration of why this difference emerged, other than to hand-wave some justification around the cloning process.

If I was guessing, Weyoun 6 presumably sees conciliation with the Alpha quadrant as being a way to get help for the Founders (or at least protect Odo, as he’s the only known uninfected Founder), while Weyoun 7 wants to bring the war to an end quickly to allow the founders to focus all their resources on finding a cure…

With that said, there’s still some elements which bug me. The key one being the fact that the Federation is still using runabouts with a maximum speed of warp 5 (approx. 213c) to travel through areas filled with Jem Hadar ships capable of travelling at warp 7 (approx. 656c).

Why? Just why would you travel through space in a ship three times slower than your enemy’s? Talk about being fish in a barrel; surely at this point in the war, Star Fleet should have banned all use of runabouts in contested space and introduced some new ships - or at least bolted another warp nacelle onto their existing ships.

Pimp my runabout, anyone?

Sadly, the B-plot felt like little more than a recap of the episode when Jake and Nog were horse trading for a baseball card. Which in turn wasn’t that different to the horse trading Jake and Nog did in Progress when they found themselves stuck with a cargo of stem bolts...
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Jamie Mann
Sun, Mar 8, 2020, 12:00pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Chrysalis

Oh goody. The genetically-engineered comedy-characters are back.

I’m not quite sure if I enjoyed the two episodes these characters appeared in. As previously mentioned, they’re an odd mix: intelligent to the point of being weakly godlike (to quote Charles Stross) while being unable to bring that intelligence to bear to help them fit into society, leaving them to behave like children. They’re fey, and just as likely as any mythical demi-god to bestow curses as blessings.

This episode also brings a distinctly disturbing element into Bashir’s personality, as he decides to try and form a romantic relationship with his patient while she’s still recovering and while she’s still under his care.

In some ways, it makes sense. After all, if Bashir is just as weakly godlike as his fey compatriots, then baseline humans must mostly seem like untrained monkeys; to meet someone who he can interact with as an equal must be a breath of fresh air.

But at least in our relatively primitive 20th century timeline, a romantic relationship between a doctor and their patient is considered as gross misconduct in most countries, and I find it hard to believe that 24th Century medical ethics would view things differently.

Frankly, I’m disappointed that the writers decided to go down this path. It would have been different (if perhaps overly cliched) if Sarina had fallen for Bashir, and he’d then had to choose between his ethics and his heart.

As it is, any enjoyment which can be derived from this episode has to be counterbalanced by the fact that Bashir is frankly being creepy.
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Jamie Mann
Sun, Mar 8, 2020, 11:38am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Take Me Out to the Holosuite

Urgh. A fluff episode set in a 20th century American baseball park? I guess the DS9 production team were still paying off the special effects budget from the first two episodes of the season.

Surprisingly, for all that it leans heavily on US-centric tropes[*], it’s not too bad an episode. Because when all’s said and done, it’s a comedy fluff-episode and it leans into that.

Don’t know if I’d ever want to watch it again, mind. Now, if it was cricket, played by robots re-enacting an ancient galactic war…

[*] I know baseball is popular in Asia, but this is very much modelled on the American concept of the sport and follows firmly in the footsteps of A League of Their Own, Field of Dreams, etc.
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Jamie Mann
Sun, Mar 8, 2020, 11:24am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Afterimage

Time to finish off the last few loose threads from the big events of the last few episodes, the most notable of which is Ezri Dax, who’s still doing her best to channel Jadzia Dax’ mannerisms.

There’s some interesting interactions in this episode - most notably when Garak dresses down Ezri for her mediocre counselling skills - but in general, there’s not really much here other than the attempt to settle Ezri firmly into a Jadzia-shaped hole...
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Jamie Mann
Sun, Mar 8, 2020, 11:07am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Shadows and Symbols

And they’re off! The starter’s pistol has fired and the story arcs are racing towards the finish line!

In the lead, we have Sisko, eager to get to the end of his increasingly convoluted plot. Along the way, he’ll pass the discovery that his mother was actually a prophet, in the best traditions of mediocre soap operas the world over. But we don’t have time to consider the ramifications of how the prophets deceived his father (and arguably raped and then perhaps killed his mother), nor even how a Prophet would be able to exist in “linear” time for two years without anyone suspecting anything. Surely, all the conversations about “what should we do yesterday?” would have given something away? And let’s not consider the fact that this reduces Sisko to little more than a tool built by the prophets for their own purposes. Still, there’s no time for questions like that - we have vast swathes of sand to plough through! Though Sisko will get the chance to have a bit of a rest when he reaches the 1955 checkpoint, so long as he can remember where he put his pencil...

Coming up close behind - and occasionally helping when he staggers on the dunes - is the new Dax. Who’s surprisingly similar to the old Dax - cute as a button, bubbly and (consciously or otherwise) mimicking a lot of Jadzia’s mannerisms. I can’t help but wonder if this was an easy way for the writers to avoid rewriting too much of the early S7 plotlines following Terry’s departure. Any which way, she’s gamely doing her best to plough along through the wake of Sisko’s over-acting.

And then there’s Worf! Oh so angry Worf, being angry, in the best Angry Klingon tradition, ploughing along like a Cardassian Stud boar on heat, even though he’s having to drag half the DS9’s command crew behind him, eager to join in with the massacre. Sadly, for all that it’s an impressive spectacle, this little sequence does raise some questions (above and beyond the Death Star question about the murder of all the non-military people present at the shipyards): if it’s so easy to trigger a focused solar flare which can scorch anything clear out to 100 million klicks (aka: all the way out to Venus!), why isn’t this used more often? And why would anyone build any infrastructure close enough to the sun to be vulnerable? Surely something like this (and the various planet-destroying tricks used in previous DS9 and TNG episodes) should be covered by some form of interstellar Geneva convention.

Be that as it may, thousands - if not millions - of soldiers and civilians are murdered in cold blood, regardless of whether they were sleeping, eating or working - and most definitely without the chance to retaliate. As tactical moves go, it’s quite an impressive slaughter, but I’d question whether it truly qualifies as a battle worthy of Klingon Valhalla. Still, at least Worf gets to keep trudging on towards the finish line after a heart-to-heart with O’Brien, Bashir and Quark. Won’t it be a nice surprise when he finds who’s waiting for him?

Meanwhile, Kira’s bringing up the rear, doing her best to maintain the pace while dragging 7,000 Romulan plasma torpedos behind her. It’s a believable plot line, if somewhat pedestrian when lined up against the more melodramatic elements of this episode. And once more, we get some incredibly precise timings, as Sisko’s actions to restore the wormhole are concluded at the exact moment when the Romulans are about to piledrive over Kira’s ships. Whodathunk it, eh?

Finally, there’s Damar and Weyoun. Sadly, Damar swigged a bit too much Kanar and is currently draped over a toilet, while Weyoun sent some Jem Hadar in his place and is currently sat in his office trying to decide if the splatter from Damar’s vomiting counts as art. After all, it’s not that far different from the pieces in the nearby Cardassian Modern Art gallery...

It’s a fairly action packed episode, even if there’s a notable number of plot holes and the desert scenes with Sisko drag on. But arguably, it’s little more than an oversized Reset Button: the wormhole’s back, the war with the Dominion remains as-is, relationships with the Romulans return to BAU and new-Dax is a bit shorter, but otherwise pretty much identical to old-Dax.

Which doesn’t bode too well for the rest of the season!
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Jamie Mann
Sun, Mar 8, 2020, 9:39am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Image in the Sand

As season starters go, this is a bit of an odd one, as it doesn’t really resolve any of the plot threads from the previous season’s finale. Instead, it’s more of a middle-act, designed to set things up for the next episode.

First, we get a bunch of mumbo-jumbo chanting devil worshippers... also known as the cult of Pah Wraith. Less said about this plot thread the better - even the writers didn’t really know what to do with it, other than to send Mr Stabby off to have a poke at Sisko in a highly conveniently timed attack on Earth.

(I suppose you can argue the cult ties into the later stories involving Dukat, but they’re arguably used as little more than window dressing…)

Sisko meanwhile spends his time getting yet more mumbo-jumbo visions, this time of a vision of a woman’s face in sand. Which is somehow enough for him to identify the planet where the vision came from, despite the fact that as Doctor Who has demonstrated over the decades, one bleak quarry or beach looks pretty much the same as any other bleak quarry or beach, regardless of which planet it’s meant to represent. And then it turns out the woman in his visions is his mother, which he knew nothing about as his father lied to him - all the way up to marrying another woman who was willing to also keep this great secret!

As with the revelations about Kira’s mother, it’s not quite a Dallas dream-sequence, but it feels a bit late in the show’s lifespan to be revealing twists of this nature, especially when there’s been little or no buildup to it.

(Equally, and without spoilering future episodes, the fact that Sisko’s real mother was conveniently killed in a hovercraft accident before Joseph could find her is distinctly disturbing. After all, this was highly convenient for the Prophets, as it reduced the risk of Sisko discovering the truth about his origins. Could it be that Prophets are really just as nasty as the Pah Wraiths?)

Be that as it may, Sisko discovers that his real mother had a connection to the prophets, giving him a clue to a previously unknown Orb. Naturally, this is when the aforementioned Mr Stabby turns up, in one of those highly contriv… I mean convenient bits of timing which happen so often in Star Trek. Quite how Mr Stabby arrived at the right place at the right time - and to have knowledge of something no-one else on Bajor has ever heard of - is glossed over quickly than Ferengi graffiti on a Star Fleet base.

Worf spends pretty much the entire episode brooding, all the way up to - pardon me while I fast-forward through the crooning - repeatedly trashing Vic Fontaine’s cabaret club. Because it turns out that if someone doesn’t die in combat, they can’t go to Klingon Valhalla unless their loved ones go out and massacre hundreds of other people in battle. Once more, you really have to wonder how the Klingons didn’t wipe themselves out several thousand years earlier, never mind developing an advanced scientific society and then going into space to inflict their stupidly lethal rituals on the rest of the quadrant. Thankfully, here’s Martok with a neat little suggestion on a forlorn hope which will allow them to massacre a large bunch of enemies. And look, Bashir and O’Brien want to come along and join the fun, even if the odds of survival are minimal.

And then there’s trouble in’t’pit, in the shape of the Romulans sneaking a few gazillion weapons onto their hospital base. Their rationale for this is plausible, but then, so is Kira's response - after all, the Romulans have a tendency to annex any rock larger than a baseball in the name of the Empire.

And so, the pieces are prepared for the final act in this particular arc.

No, wait. What’s that knock on the door? Could it be…?
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Jamie Mann
Sat, Mar 7, 2020, 11:02am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Tears of the Prophets

And so, we come to the end of the penultimate season.

The B-plot (C-plot?) about the argument between Kira and Odo is a bit forced - why would Kira be angry about Odo behaving like Odo? And the conversation where they make up is odd - Kira’s response of “I don’t know” to Odo’s question about if she loves him is pretty much ignored. But then, this episode really isn’t about the B-plots: it’s all about setting things up for the next season.

And, of course, the death of a major character. Which is arguably telegraphed in just as clumsy a way as in the old British war movies, where a pilot or soldier would stare at a photo of their wife and talk about their plans for when they get home. In much the same way, Dax and Worf discuss their marriage, drop hints about baby-making and share a passionate kiss as part of Worf’s farewell.

Might as well have stuck her in a red shirt, painted a target on her back, stuck a vial of White in her hand and then teleported her to a planet crawling with Jem Hadar suffering from withdrawal symptoms.

… scuse me, just got to skip through yet another interminable bit of lounge singing from Vic. Where was I?

Ah, now we get Dukat in full scenery-chewing mode, as he lights candles and chants before dramatically… snapping a cheap-looking statue in half. Because when breaking a demon - sorry, Pah Wraith - out of a bit of clay, you have to have chanting and candles. Just don't ask how the Pah Wraith got stuck in there in the first place.

I must admit, I half expected Buffy the Vampire Slayer to appear at this point. It’s the final nail in the coffin (after The Reckoning) for me: the Prophet arc is reduced to little more than a set of supernatural cliches and tropes; demons, demon worshippers, dusty tomes of Forbidden Knowledge(tm) and incantations. It’s not even Doctor Who style science-fantasy!

Though it does lead to an entertaining scene where Weyoun takes affront at Damar doubting his Gods. And it does mean Sisko gets to do his little homage to Obi Wan Kenobi...

Any which way, possessed-Dukat gets to teleport onto the station without triggering any alerts or sensors, and then deactivates the wormhole - a move which even this episode concedes is of little or no strategic or tactical benefit. After all, for all that it’d affect the morale on Bajor, they’re not actively involved in this war, and whatever impact it has on Sisko, he’s just a single captain. But hey, it helps to build up towards the cliffhanger ending.

Oh, and he takes a pot-shot at Dax along the way, who manages to survive just long enough to allow the symbiote to be removed, and to have a dramatic farewell with Sisko and Worf. In much the same way as those old WW movies!

There’s also the bit where the Cardassians and Dominion defences are chewed up by the Federation/Klingon/Romulan alliance, after Garak spots a weakness in their centrally-powered weapons systems. A weakness no other ship spotted, despite the fact that millions of gigavolts of energy has to be constantly streaming between all the satellites and *somehow* getting through their shields.

And then, through the power of technobabble, the satellites are convinced to destroy their own power supply. Might as well have painted the satellites with the tricolor and called it the Maginot line...

Cut to the end, where Sisko decides that he’s made so much of a mess that he needs to dump all of his responsibilities and to go back to Earth to scrub clams at his father’s economically-questionable restaurant. Oh no, he’s even taken his baseball with him!

It’s not a bad episode, and it does set things up nicely for the final season. I just wish they’d taken a more sophisticated approach to the Prophets arc...
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Jamie Mann
Sat, Mar 7, 2020, 8:52am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: The Sound of Her Voice

An episode I sadly never got around to finishing, and which wasn't really interesting enough to justify coming back to once I'd skimmed Jammer's review.

The idea of having a hotline to talk to someone in a different time period is an interesting one, and it's been used successfully in a number of books and shows.

But as other people have noted, it's hard to believe that neither the Defiant crew nor Cusack would have realised the time difference. The Federation is now deep into a war which started less than three years ago; surely something would have come up in conversation to make one side realise something was askew. Then too (and to go geeky), I'd expect the communication stream itself to contain a timestamp for synchronisation and auditing purposes.

In fact, it would have made the episode more poignant if one side - or perhaps both - had realised, and decided to conceal that knowledge...
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Jamie Mann
Sat, Mar 7, 2020, 8:35am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Time's Orphan

Uh oh. The writers ran out of ideas again and tossed the “Kira or O’Brien” coin. Come on Miles, time to suffer again…

It’s not a particularly great episode, as it’s hugely contrived. We’re meant to accept that the Miles go for a picnic on a planet right next to where an ancient - and still functioning - time-travel mechanism is located. And then when Molly accidentally triggers the mechanism, we’re meant to believe that an eight-year old girl is able to survive for a decade on an empty planet by herself, while simultaneously managing to lose the ability to talk. On the plus side, she did manage to figure out how to make clothing which handily covered all the areas considered taboo by US network television…

Overall, it’s a pretty weak episode, even before you consider the further series of contrivances which force Miles and Keiko to return Molly to the planet.

But, it does have one redeeming feature, in the shape of O’Miles exclaiming “Bollocks!”. It’s a shame it was censored out of the original British airing...
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Jamie Mann
Sat, Mar 7, 2020, 8:04am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Profit and Lace

Nope. Skipped.
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Jamie Mann
Sat, Mar 7, 2020, 7:58am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: In the Pale Moonlight

Wow, this triggered a lot of new conversations :)

> Another point that I think is important that neither Jamie or Peter bring up is that Starfleet only gave its blessing to the original plan

True, but even then, they were still being asked to give their blessing to a plan which would outright lie to a neutral party (famed for being paranoid, to boot). If it failed, it'd almost certainly cause the Romulans to move towards actively supporting the Dominion; if it succeeded, then thousands of Romulans would be killed fighting for a lie.

And it goes beyond that. Failure would mean certain defeat. Success might mean short-term survival, but could then lead to significant long term issues - after all, if the lie is ever discovered, what would the impact be? It could well be Star Fleet's Watergate, with political consequences which could tear the Federation apart. And then there's the impact it could have on the Federations's alliances - who knows how the Klingons would react, and as for the Romulans? If they ever discovered the lie, it could lead to a new war which could finally destroy the Federation, especially if it's already reeling politically and abandoned by it's usual allies.

As I mentioned before, it's "too big", in much the same sense as Roosevelt's alleged knowledge about Japan's plan to attack Pearl Harbor.

And that's why I think the plan should have come from Section 31.

> What’s interesting is this breaks TNG/DS9 into a couple schools of thought about the norm for Federation values. One way of reading this is that Sisko would normally behave like Picard and uphold the highest standard of Federation values, but only in ideal circumstances. Another way of reading this is that Picard is somewhat of a preachy outlier who may have a higher (or simply different, depending on your POV) set of morals than the Federation itself

I think it's perhaps simpler than that.

Picard (and to a degree, Janeway in Voyager) represent the "exploration" aspect of Star Fleet: they look towards negotiation and diplomacy as the primary means of resolving issues. However, there's then the "military" aspect of Star Fleet, which is focused on dealing with threats, ideally permanently, and this is usually represented by the Admirals who pop up from time to time.

Sisko generally fell somewhere between the two poles, depending on what the writers wanted to do that week.
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Jamie Mann
Sat, Mar 7, 2020, 7:07am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Valiant

Ah. Star Trek, the Teenage Years. Lord of the flies, sanitised and repackaged for the modern generation.

Though first, you need to buy into the highly contrived conceit that all the adults conveniently died in a way which left a bunch of hormone-addled “alpha” teenagers in charge of a (mostly) fully functional warship. And for an added bonus, while limping around the universe, they happen to stumble across another ship with two teenagers in, one of which knows how to fix the engines of said warship.

The icing on the cake is that this half-baked crew has been stumbling around for eight months in radio silence - and without any resupplies - for yet more contrived reasons, and is attempting to hunt down a Dominion super-battleship, despite the fact that they don’t have a cloaking device and have been stuck at warp 3 - or approx. 200 times slower than the Jem Hadar ships they’ve been trying to avoid.

I dunno. There’s only so much suspension of disbelief I can do, especially when the main plotline isn’t particularly engaging. It perhaps doesn’t help that the teen-crew is structured around the American frat-house trope, all the way down to ritual chants and closing ranks to outsiders. But as with other things the DS9 writers brought into the show (e.g. Vic Fontaine) that trope is pretty uniquely American in nature and just looks bizzare if not both pathetic and ridiculous from a European perspective.

(Though University sports societies in the UK can sometimes bear a passing resemblance; there was a night when a bunch of dress-wearing rugby players stood on tables at a nearby pub to bellow out politically incorrect songs inbetween chugging pints of beer, before linking arms between each other’s legs and staggering off in a bizarre human chain. But I digress…)

Sadly, things go pretty much as you’d expect. The highly arrogant teen-captain has been abusing space-amphetamines, which in turn leads him to abuse the ship’s internal monitoring systems and then to object to Jake’s presence as an potentially disruptive outsider. And when they do stumble across the super-battleship, he naturally decides to try and destroy it rather than returning to the Federation undetected.

But since this is DS9, the plan fails, the ship is destroyed and everyone onboard is killed - except, in an oddly convenient way, for a single escape pod which just so happens to hold Jake, Nog and a token survivor, whose final action is an attempt to defend the teen-captain as being a great man, despite all evidence to the contrary.

I can see what they were going for, but it all falls a bit flat for me.
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Jamie Mann
Thu, Mar 5, 2020, 4:05pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: The Reckoning


I don't know if DS9 can ever be said to have jumped the shark as a whole, but for me, the Prophet arc certainly did, and I'd say that this episode was where Kira daintily tip-toed over the carcass of a space-whale.

Sisko becomes yet more obtuse with his Prophet obsession! Kai Winn undoes the last few seasons of development and goes back to being a one-dimensional walking cliche! The prophets and their evil red-eyed arch enemies settle things in the time honoured tradition of any advances civilisation, by taking over the bodies of more primitive beings and waving their space-genitals at each other until someone submits!


I could question the behaviour of the various characters in this episode. I could ask why the nominally non-linear prophets and pah-wraiths decide to settle things via fisticuffs. I could question Sisko's involvement in the entire affair. I could even point and laugh at the special effects used for the end battle.

But to be honest, the carcass of that space whale is starting to stink. I'm out of here…
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Jamie Mann
Thu, Mar 5, 2020, 4:04pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: His Way

We’ve had a run of dark (and presumably fairly expensive) episodes, so it’s perhaps not surprising that the DS9 writers decided to throw something a bit lighter into the mix. Though arguably it’s a bit disappointing, after the universe-reshaping events of the previous episode.

Either way, the DS9 writers decided to bring one final new piece to the board in preparation for the final season. A holographic 1960s lounge singer, who lives in a conveniently 20th-century cabaret club, complete with a band and virtual audience dressed in equally 20th-century clothing.

Because that keeps costs down, and it's something the DS9 audience will appreciate, right? Let's have a shout out to the purely American, white-male, pension-age viewers who were watching TOS when it first aired, something that'll make 'em feel all warm and nostalgic about the good old days.

Except… that’s probably a tiny percentage of the DS9 audience. In fact, I can't help but think that Vic was more for the writers benefit than anything else. Even if they were mostly /born/ in the sixties and hadn't actually lived through it...

Certainly, as a non-american who was a young adult when DS9 first aired, it's probably a good job I never got around to watching these episodes back at the time. Because for all that other series such as Babylon 5 drew significant influence from American social and military culture, DS9 absolutely wallowed in it.

(Then too, I was into electronic music and heavy metal at the time; having to sit through the extended lounge music scenes would have been torture at the time.

I'm still not that keen on lounge music 20-odd years later, barring the odd bit of Richard Cheese, but at least it's a lot easier to fast forward through the singing these days!)

To be fair, DS9 is an American TV show and is well within it's rights to focus on American themes. And equally, I can see why Vic was brought in. DS9 lacked a "neutral sympathetic ear" character who could act as a "Doctor Watson" for the audience's benefit, or help guide interpersonal relationships between other characters. Where TNG had Guinan and Voyager had Neelix (for better or - more often - worse), the best DS9 had to offer was Quark, who was never particularly neutral or sympathetic unless money was involved.

Admittedly, there was also Morn, but he wasn't a particularly scintillating conversationalist onscreen ;)

Sad to say though, Vic’s character did absolutely nothing for me, and nothing ever happened to change my opinion of his character.

(That said, I did enjoy the episode where Vic helps a DS9 character come to terms with a tragedy. But that episode was more about the character than Vic, and that way lies spoilers…)

Vic also raises a much bigger question - one which pretty much all Star Trek series have shied away from exploring. As with Moriarty in TNG and perhaps to a lesser extent with Discovery's Doctor, Vic is presented as being more than just a pre programmed holographic NPC.

He's self aware and potentially more intelligent than the physical entities which control him. And so arguably, he's just as sentient as any other character on the show.

What does that say about the holograms which are routinely brought to life to serve the whims of the crew? Quark even makes a point of advertising his holodeck's many sexual simulations, and Bashir and O'Brien routinely run scenarios which involve the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of holographic characters.

Meanwhile, Vic and Moriarty show that all of these characters are just a stepping stone away from being fully sentient, self aware and living beings.

(I know some people argue that holograms can't be sentient because they don't have a body and are stored in a computer program. I'm inclined to dispute this on general principles, but for now, I'll just note that there’s a number of DS9 and Voyager episodes where various characters are turned into holograms and are later brought back to a physical existence, and there’s generally no question that they’re sentient while existing as a hologram, nor that the ship’s systems are able to both store and accurately reproduce their personalities, memories and behaviours)

What does that say about the Federation, that it facilitates the creation of potentially sentient beings, to be used and abused and even killed?

To be fair, this is a pretty big can of worms for a TV show to delve into. And there’s a Ferenghi freighter full of worms when it comes to the starships which feature so heavily in Star Trek. Because if a starship is powerful enough to power multiple human-level (or greater) AIs - and provide them with simulated bodies, why are the ships themselves not sentient? Why are their computers generally restricted to simple, literal responses? And why is their destruction treated in such a blase way? The closest we ever get to this subject is a few throwaway episodes, such as the Short Trek episode where an abandoned ship (perhaps notably, built using pre-TOS era technology!) develops a personality.

Should ships have rights? Why doesn't the ship have it's own avatar on the bridge? Why is their intelligence been so constrained?

Alas, much as with robots in Star Wars, I suspect Trek will never fully explore the implications of AI and holographic personalities. Instead, we'll keep getting stuck with scenarios thrown together by desperate writers looking to scrape one more low-budget American-themed holodeck scenarios out of the previously-abandoned-plots barrel...

(I'm conscious I haven't covered any of this episode's actual content. This partly because it's fluff, but mostly because I hit fast-forward whenever there was any risk of lounge singing!)
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Jamie Mann
Thu, Mar 5, 2020, 1:45pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: In the Pale Moonlight

> The way I remember it, Sisko was acting as a rogue and did not have Starfleet's blessing. He even deleted his log at the end.

The initial plan is carried out as a black op, but when Garak suggests that they pass a forged data-rod to the Romulan Senator, Sisko decides to discuss his plan with Starfleet.

To quote Memory Alpha's precis of the episode:
Sisko points out that he'll need approval from Starfleet to proceed with the plan, but Garak assures him that with the takeover of Betazed they should be more than willing to approve the plan, which ultimately they do.

You can argue that at this point Starfleet was desperate and would have approved any and all plans, but even so, something like this would surely have to go all the way up to the President for approval - and would vastly increase the risk of discovery.

And either way, Sisko offloaded at least some of the responsibility (and/or blame) on whoever it was that gave approval for his plan...
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Jamie Mann
Tue, Mar 3, 2020, 12:07pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: In the Pale Moonlight

This is a popular episode, with glowing reviews pretty much everywhere you look on the web.

Personally, I strongly suspect it was inspired by Operation Mincement back in WW2, when the British dressed the body of a tramp in an officer's uniform, planted some forged papers on the body and then dumped it where the Germans could find it, in the hope of misleading their intelligence services. And the Germans did indeed end up shifting a significant chunk of their troops as a result, making the allied invasion much less costly.

Credit also goes to Garak (and his actor), as he shines in his role as a reactivated intelligence operative. Plans within plans and secrets within secrets - all the way up to hiding his true intentions from Sisko.

But I still don't like this episode.

Partly, this is because as with much of this season, the plot feels very contrived, starting with the fact that the Dominion are now viewed to be winning this war.

With what, pray tell? They have no access to resupply through the wormhole, their fleets have already been ravaged, their Cardassian allies had already been gutted by the Klingons, and while I’m willing to suspend disbelief around their abilities to force-grow Jem-Hadar soldiers, I find it much harder to believe that they’d have the manufacturing capabilities or supply chains needed to build ships quickly enough to make up for their naval losses, especially since DS9 battles now involve hundreds of ships on either side.

(To partly counterbalance my argument, I’m guessing the Founders are willing to sanction the production of lower-quality ships, and to cut corners with the production techniques - after all, they’ll only be crewed by disposable solids. But we never really got any hints that they were actually doing things like this - and even then, quality can still beat quantity if you’re careful...)

Leaving that aside, we’re also meant to buy into the idea that Star Fleet High Command is willing to let Sisko and Garak put together a high-risk plan which goes against pretty much every single Federation principle.

Sisko is a captain with a history of questionable decisions and has gone native on Bajor, so much so that he now believes in their gods and has religious experiences which can sometimes actively work against Federation goals. And Garak is an ex-Cardassian secret agent with a highly questionable past, a tendency to play all sides and a character whose first loyalty is not to the Federation - in fact, his ultimate loyalties can’t be fully confirmed.

And High Command decided to let this pair of loose cannons go ahead with this extremely unethical and incredibly high risk plan? It’d be one thing if Sisko had decided to proceed with this plan by himself, but if nothing else, the fact that he’s officially gone on record to get his plan approved means that it’s far more likely that the Romulans will discover evidence about this plot. At least if he’d ahead purely on his own authority, Star Fleet would be able to distance themselves from it and paint it as a rogue operation.

(Equally, the fact that he asked for sanction weakens the story’s message; for all that he may have suggested the plan, arguably, the things which happened were at least partly the responsibility of the people who approved it! And indeed, all of the direct murders in this episode were carried out by Garak, without Sisko’s knowledge)

Then too: a key element of this episode is around how Sisko is forced into making ever more questionable choices in his effort to make his plan succeed. But his actions feel incredibly out of character, starting with the scene where Quark smugly extorts a number of concessions from him in return for not pressing charges against the forger. Normally, Sisko would have something up his sleeve to push Quark into cooperating; here, he just sits dumbly while Quark makes a surprisingly small number of demands.

But the thing which annoys me most is that the DS9 writers had already come up with a perfect way to explore Sisko’s descent down the road to Hell.

Section 31. As literally introduced in the previous episode. A black-ops department which officially doesn’t exist and routinely performs illicit and unethical operations to protect the Federation.

Imagine if Section 31 had come to DS9 with impeccable and unarguably authority. Imagine if they’d engaged Garak’s services in a plot like this, and ordered Sisko to support him by any and all means necessary. Imagine the conflict within Sisko of having to obey orders which he knows are morally wrong, but which could help end the war and save the Federation. Or imagine if Sisko wasn’t involved, but found out and had to choose between obeying his conscience or accepting their actions and keeping quiet about this conspiracy?

In fact, the DS9 writers could have put together a plotline similar to that in The Dark Knight Returns (released a decade earlier), where Commissioner Gorden reflects on how he couldn’t pass judgement on Roosevelt’s actions in WW2, because what happened “was too big”. It wouldn’t have even involved any significant changes to the episode’s format; Sisko could have still flashback-monologued to camera about how he slowly discovered what had happened, and had to make a choice as to whether to support S31 or not. And at the end, he could have still stated that he was willing to live with the consequences of his decision.

But they didn’t. And so we got an episode which somewhat works as a standalone piece, but sits very uncomfortably in Sisko’s personal-development arc and wastes a perfect opportunity to use DS9’s newest chess pieces.

Worse (and without wanting to spoiler things), the big Reset Button is triggered at the end of this episode: the only thing which carries forward is the Romulan decision to join forces with the Klingons and Federation. Sisko doesn’t do any further introspection, the Romulans never appear to suspect anything and even Quark doesn’t attempt to extort anything further out of Sisko, despite now knowing that he’s susceptible to bribery and blackmail.

So, yeah. It’s a popular episode. But I’m not convinced it’s a good one, and I do think it could have been much better...
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Jamie Mann
Sun, Mar 1, 2020, 8:06am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Inquisition

Another episode which isn't quite equal to the sum of its parts.

In some ways, it's interesting to see DS9 choosing to do another witch hunt story- if anything, it's arguably overdue, given the Founder's shapeshifting capabilities and willingness to embrace strategies considered unethical by the federation, from secret treaties and betrayals to manipulating and perhaps even turning Federation staff with the assistance of their superior medical sciences.

Equallly, it’s nice to see that it’s not just another courtroom drama. And there’s some entertaining elements - the writers almost break the fourth wall when highlighting just how ridiculous - and potentially suspicious - some of Bashir’s past escapades have been.

However, for all that it’s front and centre, the trial of Bashir isn’t really the main element of this episode - after all, everything gets reset back to Business As Usual at the end of the episode. Instead, the main point of this episode is to introduce Section 31.

(And arguably, the trial was entirely a sham, intended solely to test Bashir’s suitability as a S31 resource...)

Truth be told, I’m comfortable with the concept of Section 31; there’s always been people willing to perform illegal or immoral actions “for the greater good” (or to maintain the status quo, which isn’t always the same thing…), and virtually all societies have had black ops organisations dedicated to protecting or maintaining the status quo. From drug-running CIA agents to the British Special Irish Branch and the Roman frumentarii, there’s plenty of examples going back all the way to the dawn of civilisation.

And so, I’m more than willing to accept that the Federation has its own clandestine organisation, to counter those of their traditional rivals, the Klingons and Romulans, both of which have had their own secret organisations muddying the waters since the days of TOS. And with the Cardassians and Founders proving to be at least as devious, it makes perfect sense that Section 31 would be involved in pushing them back.

However, for all that the episode has some good points, the ending is pretty ridiculous; we're meant to buy into the idea that there has never even been a single rumour about S31's existence? The writers could have maybe made this work if they'd wiped Bashir's memory before returning him (in some conveniently reversible way), but instead S31 left Bashir with all his memories intact, which in turn meant he could freely discuss them with the rest of the crew.

If they’re really so blase in their approach to interrogation and recruiting, how can there not be a single bit of evidence, rumour or conspiracy theory to be found anywhere in the Federation about their existence?

It’s almost as if this is because they didn’t exist before this episode. And therein lies the main issue I have with Section 31. As with several other recent revelations (Bashir’s genetic engineering, Dukat’s dalliance with Kira’s mother, etc), their appearance from the shadows feels distinctly contrived - little more than a set of new elements to throw into the final season.

So yeah: an interesting concept, but one that came too late in the show's lifecycle for me.

It's a shame, as S31 would have been a perfect tool to explore some of the more morally ambiguous aspects of DS9. After all, can a society be deemed valid if it's principles can only be maintained by breaking those principles? Can a society retain it’s principles when interacting and/or competing with other societies with differing or actively contradictory principles? How do you fight against someone who’s prepared to use tactics deemed immoral or invalid by your society? Who watches the watchers? And so on.

Sadly, all we get in this episode is some grandstanding from Sloan and a single throwaway conversation between Sisko and Bashir. And while I generally try to avoid future-episode spoilers, the few later episodes which do feature S31 are distinctly underwhelming when it comes to exploring the ramifications of their existence.

I also find it incredibly odd that the very next episode didn’t feature S31, given how the plot was pretty much tailor-made for their underhanded machinations…
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Jamie Mann
Wed, Feb 26, 2020, 5:07pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Cathexis

I should be finishing off my reviews of season 7 of DS9, but this episode made me break radio silence.

Because it's bad. So bad that I actually gave up and switched it off.

Where do you start? The medical mumbo-jumbo that somehow extracts the "energy" from a brain in a way which doesn't instantly kill the victim /and/ is somehow reversible.

Then there's the bit where Chakotay somehow found time to both bring his ceremonial items aboard Voyager *and* give detailed instructions to Torres, which just happen to cover this eventuality.

Then there's the whole "nebula" thing - which to be fair, is a fairly standard Star Trek trope. But to quote Wikipedia:

Most nebulae are of vast size; some are hundreds of light-years in diameter. [...] Although denser than the space surrounding them, most nebulae are far less dense than any vacuum created on Earth – a nebular cloud the size of the Earth would have a total mass of only a few kilograms.

So, the idea that an alien ship could hide in something which is literally a vacuum is ridiculous. Even if it is a concept Voyager inherited from earlier ST episodes.

But then, there's the icing on the cake.

Faced with the fact that there's no evidence as to who caused the ship's course change, the Doctor scans Paris and confirms that there are mysterious patches in his mental timeline, which happen to coincide with when the ship's course was altered.

So, not only are we expected to believe that there's no video recording on the bridge a or any other form of auditing or logging - but that at the same time, the Doctor was recording Paris's brain waves. Either that, or he has some magical scanning equipment which has a time machine built into it.

And that's when I bowed out. Because it's all the dumb, and a low point for a series which has already spent most of it's time scraping the bottom of the barrel...
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Jamie Mann
Sat, Feb 22, 2020, 1:00pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night

Ah, a time travel episode. We've not had one of these since tomorrow.

At least this time, we're not going back to some period in American history. Instead, the writers dug out their "Kira or O'Brien" coin and it came up tails. So this week, it's time for Kira to suffer...

First, we get the highly implausible revelation that Dukat was in a relationship with Kira's mother. Seriously? Were the writers really down to scraping the bottom of the barrel for relationship plots? This is /bad/ soap-opera writing, and arguably on a par with the "Geordi LaForge's mother" episode from TNG.

But then again, this is really just a contrivance to justify putting Kira back on Terek Nor. Again. Because we've not turned the lights down on the DS9 set for a few episodes...

In any case, this "flashback" plot once more draws inspiration from the occupied territories of WW2, and the "comfort women" who were forced to service the troops who conquered their countries.

For all that it's heavily sanitised - the comfort women are positioned as (relatively) well-rewarded courtesans servicing officers - it's still disturbing to watch the way that they're rounded up and shipped out like cattle, thanks in part to the willing involvement of a Bajroan collaborator.

But then we come to the crux of the episode: Kira is forced into passing judgement on her mother's actions. And for me, it's the wrong judgement.

Her mother wasn't a willing collaborator. She was in a position of having absolutely no power, having been taken by force and forced into a role she never wanted. About the only action she could have taken would be suicide, and the Cardassians had already preempted that option by promising to provide slightly better conditions for her family. And Kira even gets direct evidence of this when she sees the message from her father talking about how young-Kira and himself were doing.

As such, the idea that Kira would remain so fixated on viewing her mother as a traitor seems overly judgemental.
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Jamie Mann
Sat, Feb 22, 2020, 11:56am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Change of Heart

I'm a bit torn about this episode.

There are some good aspects to it; it's one of the few times when the relationship between Worf and Dax doesn't feel forced, and his decision to save her is believable. It's also a reversal of sorts to the choice Worf found himself forced to make a few episodes earlier in Waltz, when he had to choose between searching for Sisko and protecting a convoy transporting thousands of Federation soldiers.

But at the same time: once more, Star Trek weapons are highly variable in their effects. This time, the Jem Hadar have their weapons set to "anti coagulant" rather than the more traditional "turn the enemy into a conveniently bloodless pile of dust" setting.

(And just how does an energy weapon have anti-coagulant properties? Lasers and plasma cauterise wounds...)

And it's a good job the Jem Hadar don't carry communicators, and that they don't report back to headquarters when encountering enemies. And it's equally good that they don't bother keeping track of their troops - after all, they can just grow new ones!

Then too, why does Dax insist on continuing with Worf? The sensible thing would have for her to either return to the ship or (if not possible) hold up somewhere and avoid any exertion to help minimise the blood loss.

So yeah. An interesting moral dilemma, but overly contrived for my tastes...
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Jamie Mann
Sat, Feb 22, 2020, 11:36am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Honor Among Thieves

One of those episodes I ended up skipping large chunks of.

DS9 has dabbled with film noir stylings a few times, especially when doing flashbacks to when DS9 was still Terek Noir.

Here though, it just doesn't work for me. The whole gangster plot is distinctly pedestrian and O'Brien does not make for a convincing undercover agent, even putting aside the fact that he has no training or experience to be put in such a position.

And the dilemma Miles goes through is a bit too predictable. In some ways, it's a reflection of the issues I generally have with Quark's position on DS9; he's heavily involved with illegal activities - and in this case, murder - but it's somehow ok because he's a nice guy.

Sorry. That plot's been done to death.
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