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Trent
Sun, Nov 15, 2020, 10:49am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Soldiers of the Empire

Ron Moore is arguably Trek's most consistent writer. And while this episode isn't as good as TNG's iconic "A Matter of Honor", or Moore's own "Once More Unto the Breach" (my favorite of DS9's Klingon episodes), it still has enough of those Ron Moore touches to makes it worth watching.

And so like a number of Moore's scripts (cf "Rules of Engagement"), this episode has a very militaristic, very nautical feel. The episode conveys well the ambience of a ramshackle warship, its cast feels like a band of ale-drinking, shanty-singing warrior-Vikings, and Moore sketches well the idea of a browbeaten, shell-shocked crew, whose "Klingon instincts" and "hungers for blood" are buried beneath layers of defeat, dejection, depression and even PTSD.

Like Moore's "Defiant", "Rules of Engagement" and "For the Cause", we also get a somewhat sophisticated take on naval combat, Moore eschewing FX porn for "highbrow" action scenes which slow things down, savor tension, and come at things from slightly odd angles.

And so in "For the Cause" we stalk a freighter while in cloak, in "Rules of Engagement" the episode revolves around a single salvo of fire, and in "Defiant" Sisko quietly co-ordinates the movement of entire fleets.

Here, meanwhile, Moore has Martok dodging Jem'Hadar fighters and then debating whether to scuttle/rescue a Klingon battleship that has drifted across enemy lines. In the way his violence always has an intellectual edge, Moore reminds me a bit of Nick Meyers.

90's Trek is always good with Klingon mess halls. "A Matter of Honor" showed us Riker ingratiating his way into a Klingon crew over plates of gagh and jugs of bloodwine. But here it is Dax who wields her sass, as she culturally appropriates her way into Klingon hearts and minds.

Also good is the episode's Martok arc, which convincingly picks up where "By Inferno's Light" left off. We see Worf and Martok growing close here, and we see a Martok who's been severely psychologically scarred by his time in the Dominion camps. The episode's ending, in which Worf is accepted into Martok's House, is particularly touching.
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Trent
Sun, Nov 15, 2020, 9:33am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Ferengi Love Songs

Ira Behr has a very blunt and obvious sense of humor, which never rises above the theoretical level. And so he sticks Quark in a dress, has the Ferengi start a union, marries the hideous Rom to the bosomy Leeta, sends Quark to area 51, has the grand Nagus hiding in Moogie's closet...all things which are theoretically funny, but only as a broad and basic premise. He's not witty or fleet-footed enough to elaborate these premises into anything really clever or funny.

And so in "Ferengi Love Songs" we have one obvious plotline juxtaposed with another. In one, Rom marries Leeta and tries to get her to give up her Bajoran customs. In another, Moogie starts a relationship with the Nagus and so violates Ferengi customs. In the first story, a husband and wife learn to share their assets and so treat each other as equals, in the second, Ferengi customs are violated when a woman wears clothes, offers financial advice, and exerts control upon men and indeed the entire Ferengi economy.

Though intended as a "sophisticated farce" and a "comedy of manners", Behr's characters are too grating, too broad, and too familiar a set of stock archetypes. Moogie and Nagus in particular are like a couple of cartoonish trolls, rather than savage satires of greedy merchants.

You can imagine a genuinely funny writer doing for the Ferengi what "Frasier" farcically did for the posh and the elite aroundabout the same time - the dialogue witty and flowing, as Quark mostly is when offering advice at his bar - but Behr's visits to the Ferengi homeworld typically do the opposite, degenerating into visits to Jim Henson's house of rejected Muppets.
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Trent
Sun, Nov 8, 2020, 8:51am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Business as Usual

A weak and obvious episode, "Business as Usual" opens with Quark in dire financial straits. To save his business, he begins selling weapons, using his holosuite as a sort of virtual arms fair. After having a dream in which he sees his friends dying of phaser blasts, Quark develops a guilty conscience, yells "What have I done!?", and then stops selling weapons.

Less murky and less interesting than TOS' "A Private Little War", and less morally forceful than TNG's "Arsenal of Freedom", DS9's take on the arm's trade plays out in slow and obvious ways. In typically literal DS9 fashion, the episode's A plot, in which weapons of death are coarsely traded, are "ironically counterpointed" against a B plot in which Federation officers try to delicately rock a baby to sleep.

Like most episodes in season 5, "Business as Usual" seems at odds with the events described in "By Inferno's Light". The Dominion have entered the Alpha Quadrant, the Cardassian Empire is rejuvenated, and yet it will be ten episodes of mundane standalones before the Federation gets its act together and mines the wormhole.
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Trent
Fri, Nov 6, 2020, 5:08pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Ties of Blood and Water

A sequel to the excellent "Second Skin", "Ties of Blood and Water" watches as Tekeny Ghemor visits Kira at DS9. He's a Cardassian who helped the Bajorans resist Occupation, and as he has a disease and is about to die, wishes to live out his final days with Kira, a woman whom he views with fatherly affection.

This episode has three little plot-lines. In one, Sisko, Dukat and Weyoun wander about the station, talking politics and insulting one another with great skill. The dialogue here is simply wonderful, particularly Dukat's insults ("I prefer the title Gul. So much more hands-on than Legate. And less pretentious than the other alternatives: President, Emperor, First Minister, Emissary.")

The episode's second plot-line watches as Kira bonds with Tekeny Ghemor, learns that he killed Bajorans, grows to despise him, and then grows to forgive him. Though a bit slow in places, it's a very good arc, culminating with yet another moment in which Kira is asked to "soften" and "re-evaluate" her hatred of Cardassians.

The episode's least successful arc involves a series of flashbacks. Here we watch as a young Kira fights in the Resistance, kills Cardassians and loses friends and family. Several heavy-handed scenes then echo the death of Kira's father, which Kira missed due to her hatred of Carassians, with the death of Tekeny Ghemor, which Kira is present for because of her newfound love of Ghemor. DS9 often gets too cute with its narrative parallels, too in love with neat screenplay structures, and that's arguably the case here as well.

Still, this worthy episode with several strong emotional scenes. It also works well as a kind of thematic sequel to "The Darkness and the Light". Incidentally, Dukat gets a Dominion battle cruiser in this episode; he's goes from a old space freighter to a Bird of Prey to a giant battle cruiser over the course of just two seasons. Not bad.
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Trent
Fri, Nov 6, 2020, 4:40pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: A Simple Investigation

Though a rather dull and familiar episode, "A Simple Investigation" is nevertheless clever in the way it mirrors Odo's "real life affair" with an alien woman, with a hologame played by Bashir, Dax and Miles.

And so Odo's affair is revealed to be as false and simulated as Bashir's hologame, the latter fueled by pixels and computers, the former fueled by alien tech and Odo's own fantasies and desires. This is love, yes, but love as a shared simulation and/or delusion, each person acting out fantasies unwittingly ported, not only from biology, but a wider cultural/social program as well.

But while interesting on a philosophical level, the episode fails dramatically. It tries to mimic old film noirs, but the best of those crackled with clever dialogue, a gruff hero, sexy femme fatales and interesting camera work. In contrast, "A Simple Investigation" plods, and Odo is a weak noir hero, a sexually inexperienced man child lacking the smoke-shrouded menace exhibited in "Necessary Evil".
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Trent
Fri, Nov 6, 2020, 4:18pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S3: People of Earth

IMO this is an excellent episode.

Trek is at its best when its showrunner is a genuine auteur. And so Roddenberry and Coon forged TOS into something special, TNG "grew a beard" with Michael Piller, and DS9 defined itself when Ira Behr was given free reign.

I don't want to jinx things, but it looks like new showrunner Michelle Paradise has significantly turned this show around. If Piller made TNG “grow a beard”, then we may one day say the same about Michelle Paradise: she made “Discovery” “grow its dreadlocks”.

Yes, Alex Kurtzman – who together with super hack Akiva Goldsman turned season's 1 and 2 into total trash – still has an Executive Producer role. But he now shares this title with Paradise, and only has co-writing credits on the first two episodes of this season. With those episodes gone, one feels as though Kurtzman can now no longer hurt us (unless he forces his writers to "tie in" to "Picard" somehow).

And so given control of the season, Michelle Paradise has decided to assemble a team of mostly female writers. There are some fresh men, and Alan McElroy remains (a Kurtzman pick, responsible for "Halloween 4", but thankfully paired with co-writers), but this is now largely a woman's show on-screen, and in the writer's room as well.

Most of these new writers are thankfully weird. How weird? DC Fontana weird. Science fiction weird. Ira Behr's blue beard weird. And so you have Hugo nominated writers, the daughter of Sidney Lumet, multi-lingual Koreans, and Paradise herself, previously notable for her work in New Queer cinema. The only lady here I'm skeptical of is Trek novelist Kirsten Beyer, who helped ruin “Picard” and who tends to write fan-fiction level Trek. She's given the seventh episode, “Unification 3”, all to herself. Will she pull it off?

Regardless, you sense that these are not the kinds of writers whose natural instincts would lead to anything resembling "Discovery" season 1 and 2. And already with this episode, the first one freed from Kurtzman's grip, you see a kinder and gentler show.

Michael Burnham is herself softer. She's less overbearing, she's likeable, she has great chemistry with Book, they joke affectionately, her jokes are kinder, and she does gracious things, like immediately turns the Captaincy over to Saru.

And you see Paradise putting so much more effort into creating an ensemble. This feels like a crew. Saru feels like a captain. Detmer and Bryce have started feeling like crewmen. The cast chemistry, and dialogue flow, just feels so much more better than what has come before.

The direction is also much more restrained, and aside from the CGI shots of space ships, no longer prone to outlandish camera work (Frakes, who directed this episode, can't help himself in one scene, his camera madly spinning).

There are other neat little changes. Past Trek, which salivated over women's bodies and was proud of Shatner's gut, has now embraced the female gaze, not afraid to gawk at Book's naked torso. Then there's a character called Adira Tal, a non-binary Trill (I think?), played by Blu del Barrio. Adira is instantly likeable, and the character's interactions here with Stamets are great. This feels like a gentler, more affectionate Stamets, finally free from all of Kurtzman's high-stakes madness.

Then there's the music, which is more playful, even childish in places.

The sisterly feeling that Brian Fuller captured well in his “Discovery's” season one pilot (The Michael and Phillipa show we all secretly wanted), is also resurrected. Gone is Kurtzman's version of Girl Power - a crass, vulgar thing, women punching people in the face and saving the world - replaced instead with a quieter, sisterly affection. Women talk. Women think. Women solve problems with a handshake and the building of a bridge.

The show is also a bit self-referential, acknowledging its past problems. Michael runs off to save the day, but only with Book at her side, and later she acknowledges that such actions are "something she has to learn to stop doing".

Significantly, this discussion takes place beside the telescope we saw in Fuller's season 1 pilot, when Michael turned her back on her crew and executed a Vulcan Hello all on her own. The implication is clear: Burnham, a woman who keeps running off alone, is now a woman learning to be a team player.

And of course the season's arc is itself about whole solar systems and planets (including Earth) learning to become team players. As Michael rebuilds her connections with the crew, and helps forge that typical Trek ensemble, so too do entire civilizations rebuild a galactic-wide ensemble.

One must remember the context in which this season was written. Trump's America has pulled out of the Paris Climate Deal, left the World Health Organization, pulled funding from the UN, weakened ties with neighbors and allies in Europe, and built all kinds of literal and psychosocial walls.

These stances and actions echo the behavior of populist movements across the world, from Brexit in the UK, to religious conservatives in Poland, to Hindu nationalists in India, to far right movements blossoming across Asia and South America. “Discovery” was written at a point in history when financial muscle has begun assuaging popular resentment toward globalism and neoliberal capitalism, by funneling a kind of "isolationist" hate toward brothers and neighbors. Indeed, the divisions of the Trump era are nothing compared to what's coming next. The Pentagon are already predicting weird ethno-religious wars across most of the world in the coming decades (exasperated by climate change), and futurologists anticipate American's growing Latino/Catholic population becoming weaponized by Republicans and primed by wedge issues (abortion etc), leading to all kinds of weird racial conflicts in the US as well; blacks against latinos, educated whites against suburban whites etc etc.

And so what Michelle Paradise gives is the opposite. Gone is Trump-Trek - with its divisions, its wars, its MAGA Klingons - and in is Biden Trek. Earth in the year 3188 has not only exited the Federation (like the US has “exited” the World Health Organization, the Paris Deal and defunded the UN), but cut itself off from its nearest neighbor, a little colony existing on Saturn's moon of Titan.

Rebuilding old alliances, and rekindling old familial relations, is the crew of the Discovery, a band of mostly black and Asian folk, women and queers (led by a lesbian showrunner) who reach out and shake the hands of an old white guy living on Titan. The political overtones are obvious. The kinds of bridge-building being implied, very contemporary, but also epitomizing a more timeless Trek humanism.

Fittingly the episode ends with our heroes hugging a Tree in California, California being the last stand of the hippies, the tree huggers and the flower power movements, all groups which influenced Roddenberry. But while this episode ends on a utopian moment, you sense that the real world won't play out so rosey. TOS ended in 1967. Martin Luther King was shot in 68.

Michelle Paradise airs “People of Earth”, an episode in which the crew of the “Discovery” make their first successful attempt to bring two rivaling groups together, on October 29, 2020.
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Trent
Thu, Nov 5, 2020, 11:39am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: By Inferno's Light

Jason said: "totally world breaking in its implications. "

Yeah, it's one of those things - like "going back in time by spinning around a sun" - that I just censor out. And it happens so fast in this episode, that it's easily forgotten about.

Jason said: "This plan also elevates Gul Dukat to a cartoonish level of comic book villainy"

I assumed Dukat didn't fully know about the plan. I don't think the episode makes it explicitly clear that he knew what the Dominion were doing.
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Trent
Thu, Nov 5, 2020, 11:35am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Doctor Bashir, I Presume

After two fantastic "epic episodes", DS9 hits us with "Doctor Bashir, I Presume", a rather small and low-key episode with a thematically related A and B plot.

And so on one hand we watch as Leeta and Rom forge a romantic relationship. She's treated as being stupid by everyone, and exalted only for her attractive body. Rom, meanwhile, is treated as an ugly, socially incompetent guy who is exalted only for his engineering skills. Both characters want to be appreciated for who they are, and viewed as fully rounded humanoids.

This echoes Bashir's plot, in which it is revealed that his father, an entrepreneur with an inferiority complex, had Bashir "genetically engineered to be smarter". Bashir feels belittled by this, disrespected - was he not a good enough son? - and also a charlatan; his "gifts", he believes, are the result of biochemical circumstances outside his control, and so should not be celebrated, in much the same way Leeta is resentful of her beauty. Such genetically dealt hands, she believes, distract from her owns personal and hard-fought accomplishments.

This episode features the one and only Robert Picardo. He's on DS9 to build a new "hologram doctor" and wants to use Bashir as a holo-template. This leads to many hilarious scenes, involving the EMH made famous in "Voyager". The episode shines when Picardo is on screen.

The episode climaxes with various arguments between Bashir and his father. This is all heavy handed and generic - fathers and sons reveal their grievances in obvious ways and learn to accept one another in overly cliched and tidy ways - but Bashir is acted well, conveys well a real sense of heartache and hatred, and manages to sell most of it.

I've always hated this episode for introducing the idea that Bashir was genetically engineered. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that this show eventually character assassinates Dukat, Sisko, Odo and Kira (Dax was literally killed) as well.

Remember, Bashir once represented the best and worst qualities of Starfleet and the Federation. He was sheltered, hopeful, innocent, wet-behind-the-ears, socially awkward, a bit over-bearing and naive, but also bright, eager to learn, intelligent, kind and ambitious. Over the show's first four seasons, it was fun watching him mature and grow. Indeed, he was essentially a better written Harry Kim.

And so to learn that he has super DNA, super memory and a super brain, seems to lessen the character. His achievements now seem less a result of a human overcoming hurdles, and more like a cheat. Of course you can argue that all human intelligence/skill/success has a biological component as well, and so is heavily dependent on luck - Bashir's genetic engineering is merely just another form of cosmic fate etc - but it nevertheless still feels like a cheat. It feels less relateable. Bashir is now suddenly Data. And it seems to come out of nowhere.

Indeed, I would go so far as to say it undermines the great progression we see Bashir undergo from "Invasive Procedures" to "The Wire" to "Life Support" to "Hippocratic Oath" to "The Quickening".

I know some fans say several episodes (eg "Rivals") can be retroactively interpreted to "foreshadow Bashir's powers", but that's not the overriding impression we get from DS9's first four season. No, we really did watch a newbie mature and gain experience before our eyes. And with the wave of a hand, he's revealed to have been faking it all along; he's been hiding his powers.

The episode also wastes an opportunity to delve seriously into genetic engineering itself, and why the Federation fears it. The show exhibited a very 1990s, very unfounded fear of such science, especially in the way it equates "eugenics", "genetic engineering" and "Nazis atrocities". It's all rather short sighted. You'd expect the Federation to embrace such technologies, but just heavily regulate it.
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Trent
Thu, Nov 5, 2020, 10:42am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: By Inferno's Light

"By Inferno's Light" opens with the Defiant and Gul Dukat's Bird of Prey assembling to face a Dominion fleet, which has recently crossed over into the Alpha Quadrant. It's a dramatic moment, topped suddenly by the revelation that the fleet is heading to Cardassia, who've forged an alliance with the Dominion. To our further surprise, Dukat's Bird of Prey joins the Dominion fleet.

When it comes to the second episode of two-parters, DS9 tends to have a better track record than TNG. Its second episodes are rarely as good as the first, but they oft come close. And before its silly ending, "By Inferno's Light" comes very close.

And so the episode jumps to a Dominion concentration camp, where Worf, Bashir, Martok and Garak act out a low-budget version of "The Great Escape". Garak "digs a tunnel" and "technobabbles an escape route", whilst Worf is forced into combat with various Jem'Hadar warriors.

The latter scenes are surprisingly great, Worf convincingly sketched as a skilled warrior, besting countless Jem'Hadar despite his numerous broken ribs. Impressed with Worf's fighting abilities, the Jem' Hadar concede victory and refuse to kill him when ordered to do so by a Vorta; we thus see the continued breakdown of relationships between the Vorta, the Dominion's managerial caste, and the Jem'Hadar, the Dominion's warrior caste.

DS9 is great at writing dialogue for Dukat when he is at his most tyrannical. Echoing the speech of countless similar real-world figures, Dukat's constantly talking about Cardassia's destiny, its natural superiority, its god-given right to rule, always counterpointing a kind of social Darwinianism with a fear of softness, outsiders and a "deviating from its past". In this episode, elevated to a position of power within Cardassia by the Dominion, Dukat can finally cut loose. The racist madman within him fully emerges, as we see here when he broadcasts his plans to slaughter Klingons, Maquis and strengthen all Cardassian borders. "We will reclaim all that we have lost", he says, and shall "destroy all who stand in our way" for "my son and all our sons" (never daughters; like all fascistic cultures, his is a highly masculinist culture, women rejected like Dukat shunts aside his own daughter).

This episode works well as a "prison escape" tale, and has neat details, like the silent Breen warrior in our heroes' cell, a cool and helpful Romulan woman, and General Martok himself, who forges an affectionate relationship with Worf. Garak, meanwhile, is cast in the Steve Mcqueen role ("The Great Escape"), slightly claustrophobic but forced to tunnel his buddies to safety.

Some great scenes then follow: a Klingon fleet arrives at DS9, led by the always amazing Chancellor Gowron. Sisko pressures him to restore the Khitomer Accords, thereby restoring the Federation/Klingon alliance. Later Dukat threatens Sisko and tells him he intends to "retake Terok Nor for Cardassia". Sisko dares him to try. A combined Federation/Romulan fleet then arrives at DS9, which mostly serves to remind how sucky Trek ship-models look post "DS9".

Then we get to the episode's climax, which is extremely silly and so stops this from being a flawless adventure. The Changeling Bashir steals a runabout, fills it with technobabble, and guides it toward Bajor's sun. He plans to trigger a supernova which will destroy the Romulan, Federation, and Klingon fleet at DS9, and also Bajor itself.

We're thus asked to accept several incredulous things here: that such a dangerous weapon can be constructed, that it can fit in a runabout, that a runabout can "enter a sun and deliver this weapon", that this weapon was detected by the Defiant, that our heroes can "decipher" the Dominion's plans within seconds and via a simple scan of the runabout, and that the Dominion knew a combined Fed/Rom/Kling fleet would turn up at DS9.

The idea that the Dominion would use the Changeling Bashir and a Federation shuttle to deliver this superweapon is also silly. They risk their plan being spoiled this way. Logically, they should use one of their own ships, and position it behind the sun where it can't be detected.

The introduction of sun-destroying super weapons also destroys any sense of verisimilitude. If these space-faring superpowers have access to such technologies, nobody should be fighting the kinds of fleet battles, and squabbling for territories, like we see in DS9. Either stick to a strict analogy of WW2 era combat, or extrapolate what real combat/Imperialism looks like given what we know of TNG/DS9 era technology.

Also confusing is why the wormhole aliens let the Dominion fleet across the wormhole. Presumably they know Bajor will not be annihilated by the exploding sun, and are setting up Cardassia to be decimated in the future. The wormhole aliens seem to thus be willing to risk billions of lives, so long as the best and most safest possible outcome for Bajo is created, decades in the future. No one else seems to matter to them. Which begs the question why they didn't intervene further to stop the Occupation itself. Or even the formation of the Dominion. It's a bit confusing; their motives and logic remain inscrutably alien.
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Trent
Thu, Nov 5, 2020, 8:57am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: In Purgatory's Shadow

One of DS9's most iconic episodes, "In Purgatory's Shadow" finally brings the Dominion's fleets into the Alpha Quadrant. But before they arrive, we get some great Garak one liners.

"Public opinion seems to be running against you!" Garak teases Gul Dukat, prompting Dukat to kick his ass, to which Garak says: "You know, I think that actually helped my back!". Garak then delivers his coup de grâce - "Your daughter must take after her mother" - before walking away with style.

Later Garak and Worf enter the Gamma Quadrant, leading to more good Garak zingers ("Lying is a skill like any other, and if you want to maintain a level of excellence, you have to practice constantly."), and some good Worf ones as well.

The episode then veers into Space Opera territory. Here Worf and Garak spot a huge Dominoin fleet (hiding in the Mutara Nebula FX from "Wrath of Khan") which beams Jem'Hadar soldiers onto their runabout. Faced with capture, Garak nonchalantly says: "Ah, are we glad to see you. Could one of you point us in the direction of the wormhole?"

Unable to tolerate his offensive witticisms, the Jem'Hadar send Garak and Worf to a concentration camp modeled on old WW2 films. Here they meet General Martok, the always-amazing Klingon who elevates every episode he's in. They also meet Bashir, who is revealed to have been captured months ago and replaced on DS9 by a Changeling. It's a shocking and creepy revelation, and points to how sinister and tactically manipulative the Founders are.

Meanwhile, Kira and Gul Dukat chat on DS9. DS9 firing on all cylinders tends to deliver great Cardassian dialogue, but here Kira is able to match their snark blow for blow.

"Garak is a heartless, cold-blooded killer!" Dukat says, admonishing Kira for letting his daughter chill with Garak. "Yeah," Kira agrees. "Like I said, he's a Cardassian." When Dukat later threatens her, Kira merely laughs. "There was a time when Bajorans took Cardassian threats very seriously," Dukat growls. "Not anymore," Kira says. After threatening each other, they then say a polite "good day".

We then get some scenes which highlight the Federation's continued ineptitude. Their "listening posts" in the Gamma Quadrant detect an incoming Dominion fleet, but Federation fleets are much further from the wormhole (two days away) than the listening posts are on the other side. Anything detected can thus cross over to the Alpha Quadrant before the Federation can assemble at the wormhole's mouth.

Luckily DS9 has a "technobabble ray" which can shut the wormhole, but it's never been tested, is easily sabotaged here by Changelings, and only strengthens the wormhole further, making it harder to collapse in the future. This is all bad writing, but it gives us a good brief scene which should have come two seasons sooner, and been turned into a full episode or arc: Kira and Sisko debate the ethical and political ramifications of shutting a Bajoran "religious site".

We then get a great scene between Dukat and his daughter, which signals the final breakdown of their relationship. We also get a good one between Garak and Elim Tain. Tain, his dialogue elliptical and tangential, rarely saying what he means directly, reveals that he is Garak's father.

Next comes the episode's now famous climax. The Defiant goes into the Gamma quadrant to scout about, spies the Dominion fleet and freaks out. It races back to the Alpha Quadrant, and the Dominion fleet emerges soon after. It's a great ending, which the opening of the next episode manages to top.

I would say this is the best episode of season 5 thus far. It's less ambitious than "Trials and Tribble-ations" (the previous best episode of the season IMO), but has better character work, and juggles its huge cast well.
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Trent
Tue, Nov 3, 2020, 11:53pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S3: People of Earth

Rahul said: "Please explain to me how I did this..."

You implied that "Discovery's" casting is a form of "political correctness" and "identity politics", and you equate this with a "hyper progressive" and "leftist agenda" which you believe is "anti white male".

Leftists are typically against forms of identity politics, and the term "political correctness" was popularized in the 60s by leftists to describe, not people who played identity politics, but an excessive orthodoxy who didn't (ie - someone was "politically correct" if they ignored the plights of minority groups).

The kind of "identity politics" you're talking about tends to be a product of contemporary liberalism, which makes personal identity and the self the entire horizon of political consciousness, whilst the left traditionally focuses on dismantling hierarchical structures and on mass, collective action. It's the old joke: a liberal wants more female drone pilots, a leftist wants less drones.

"Discovery" is owned by Viacom, one of the largest companies in the world, and who dominate print media, film and TV by their ownership of Paramount Pictures and Simon and Schuster. Progressiveness is anathema to a company like this.

I get what you're saying, though, and basically agree with your point on Disco (at least season 1), I just don't like how words and definitions keep shifting. The idea of Kurtzman and Viacom getting called "progressive" annoys me. I like Yank's description better: a kind of dumb, sheltered, West-Coast Hollywood version of wokeness.
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Trent
Tue, Nov 3, 2020, 9:21pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: For the Uniform

This episode opens with the following conversation:

EDDINGTON: Those people had farms, and shops, and homes, and schools, and then one day the Federation signed a treaty and handed their world over to the Cardassians. Just like that, they made these people refugees overnight.
SISKO: It's not that simple and you know it. These people don't have to live here like this. We've offered them resettlement.
EDDINGTON: They don't want to be resettled. They want to go home to the lives they built. How would you feel if the Federation gave your father's home to the Cardassians?
SISKO: I'm not here to debate Federation policy with-
EDDINGTON: Look at them, Captain. They're humans, just like you and me, and Starfleet took everything away from them. Remember that the next time you put on that uniform. There's a war out there and you're on the wrong side.
SISKO: You know what I see out there, Mister Eddington? I see victims, but not of Cardassia or the Federation. Victims of you, the Maquis. You sold these people on the dream that one day they could go back to those farms, and schools, and homes, but you know they never can. And the longer you keep that hope alive, the longer these people will suffer.

It's a good scene, nicely laying out everyone's position. But doesn't the scene also miss the point of the Maquis? Remember, the Federation and the Cardassians have a treaty allowing ex-Federation colonies to exist in the DMZ. The Maquis only become a resistance movement because the Cardassians break this treaty and attack ex-Federation colonists. Why then aren't the Federation pressuring the Cardassians to honor their agreement? Why are the Federation so preoccupied with the Maquis, and not the Cardassians who are breaking a Federation/Cardassian law?

Anyway, I've liked every previous Maquis episode ("The Maquis Part 1 and 2", "Tribunal", "Defiant" and "For the Cause"), and this one is as gripping as its predecessors. It starts out as Moby Dick, Sisko vengefully bent on capturing Eddington, who sees himself as an archetypal freedom fighter, a romantic hero saving underdogs from villains like Sisko.

What's neat, though, is how the script makes Sisko the bad guy from the get go. And so Sisko's working in tandem with a ship called the USS Malinche, a reference to the assistant of Hernan Cortes (the conquistador who slaughtered native peoples), and a Mexican slur hurled at the unpatriotic.

Elsewhere Sisko corners Eddington's tiny ship with the deadly Defiant, only to be outsmarted with tricks archetypal heroes traditionally use on the bad guys. When Eddington sneakily shuts the Defiant down, it's hard not to see him as Kirk outsmarting Sisko-as-Khan.

Thoroughly bested by Eddington, Sisko retires to DS9 to lick his wounds. Some great scenes follow: Captain Sanders of the Malinche informs Sisko that he's been tasked with hunting Eddington, Odo disses Sisko with style ("Please remind Starfleet command that they stationed Eddington here because they didn't trust me") and Sisko punches a boxing bag, which is hokey as hell, but entertaining in a hammy way.

We then get a great scene lifted from old submarine movies, in which the Defiant journeys with hampered navigation and communication systems. With Nog and other crewmen barking orders and verbally relaying commands across the ship, the Defiant has never felt more alive, and more nautical.

We then get some good tough guy dialogue, Sisko and Eddington now essentially in a revenge thriller. Eddingon makes references to Les Miserables, Sisko tells Eddington to kiss his ass, and Starfleet re-invents holograms.

Which brings us to the episode's ending, a ending that is staggeringly ill-judged. Here, Sisko drops chemical weapons on a planet in order to "flush the Maquis out" and "beat them into submission". People claim these chemical weapons affect humans only and not Cardassians, but the script never says this explicitly, and such a conclusion can only be derived from a single vague line. Such a crucial point - the effect of trilithium resin on Cardassians - needs to be much clearer.

Beyond this, it is simply unconscionable to drop chemical weapons on a civilian population. Sisko had no way of knowing whether all civilians had successfully left the planet, had heard his threat, if there were other aliens on the planet, or indeed if there were any Maquis on the planet at all.

The episode skirts over so many questions and complexities as it hurtles us toward its ending.

Yes, the episode successfully accomplishes its goal: to turn Sisko into a kind of villain. Yes, it's been building to this point for 45 minutes. Yes, it's a daring piece of writing to attempt.

But this is a serialized show in which Sisko is one of the chief heroes. You can't have your captain drop chemical weapons on a planet filled with innocent civilians, and then brush such an act aside. You can't have Sisko and Dax casually laughing afterwards at what they've done. You can't end a story this way and then completely forget about it in the next episode.

In a sense "For the Uniform" isn't a bad episode - it's entertaining, riveting and interesting - it's just that the show never follows up on this version of Sisko. The way Sisko is written here, you expect him to slowly turn into Gul Dukat.
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Trent
Tue, Nov 3, 2020, 4:11pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S3: People of Earth

Peter said: "Designing a show blueprint focused on stroking the egos of half of America while dissing the other half isn't Trek"

And going on social media, or talking to journalists, and baiting things further.

The fact is, "Discovery" season 1 explicitly set out to troll a certain type of conservative. The cast and crew were all doing this. Go back and look at Kurtzman's interviews during season 1, and you'll notice that he'd often name drop Trump, or cite his female heavy cast and captain as being a response to Trump or Trump's wall. Jason Isaacs literally called complaining fans racists and bigots.

I haven't seen the third episode of this season yet, so I don't know if Rahul is right about this stuff carrying on into season 3. But season 1 of "Discovery" was definitely trolling white dudes. The show started course correcting afterwards, and by season 3 it seems to have become a slightly gentler, softer thing.

Dave said: "Imagine a world where the "white hetro male" was secure with himself and his identity that he didn't get upset and uncomfortable if people that " dont look like him" are in positions of power or influence."

Absolutely, but as Peter said, it's the intention that matters. I'm sure most people could care less if a show bashes "white hetero males" or MAGA Klingons, but if you're doing it, you have to be smart about it.

"Discovery's" first season just pushed a subset of the fandom away, and spurred them into thinking the show's bad writing was due to quota picks, black people or a lack of white men (the level of homophobic hate mail its gay cast members got was ridiculous). Even worse, it offered fans of the season no insights into what causes Make Qo'nos Great Again phenomenons.


Jason said: "I think it was Trent who started this latest spat...his most recent posts have been attempts to incite this exact kind of argument."

How? I think you're confusing me with BOOMING, LEGENDARY INSTIGATOR OF ALL CHAOS.

This debate has been going on for days. I only entered this convo yesterday when I saw Rahul conflating "leftism" with "liberalism", and using "identity politics" as a slur.

Booming said: "Look at this: "Kirk, he'll be portrayed as bisexual... "

Kirk was always bisexual in my mind. Kirk and Riker always struck me as bi-curious sex junkies.
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Trent
Tue, Nov 3, 2020, 11:50am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S2: Second Season Recap

Out of ten, I'd rate the episodes of this season thusly:

The Homecoming - 8.5/10
The Circle - 8.5/10
The Siege - 8.5/10
Invasive Procedures - 5/10
Cardassians - 8.5/10
Melora - 7/10
Rules of Acquisition - 5/10
Necessary Evil - 8/10
Second SIght - 1/10
Sanctuary - 3/10
Rivals - 2/10
The Alternate - 5/10
Armageddon Game - 7/10
Whispers - 7/10
Paradise - 7.5/10
Shadowplay - 5/10
Playing God - 8/10
Profit and Loss - 6/10
Blood Oath - 8.9/10
The Maquis - 8.5/10
The Maquis Part II: 8.5/10
The Wire: 8.5/10
Crossover: 7.9/10
Collaborator: 7/10
Tribunal: 7.5/10
The Jem'Hadar: 7.5/10

I'm looking at my ratings and am quite surprised. There are a lot of highly ranked episodes here. Is this season more consistent than season 3?

I would say I differ from the consensus on "Crossover" and "Whispers", rating them a bit lower than others. I seem to also like "Playing God" and "Paradise" much more than most.
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Trent
Tue, Nov 3, 2020, 11:30am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S3: People of Earth

Matt said: "What evidence is there that DSC is promoting identity politics, other than you saying it?"

I wouldn't call what DSC is doing "promoting identity politics". That's a very loaded and now heavily weaponized term.

I would simply say "Discovery" is trying to be as diverse and politically forward thinking as it imagines Trek always was. These are great ambitions.

But as you say, bad writing sabotaged the effort. A diverse cast that is not fleshed out doesn't look like a diverse cast, it looks like a cast of tokens with nothing to do but "be black" or "be gay" or "be Asian". This led to a subset of misguided fans accusing the show of "being bad because of its identity politics", as though if all these poorly written character were all white, somehow the show would suddenly be better.

The show's producers then constantly issued press releases "praising the most diverse Trek cast ever", and picking fights with what they believed to be reactionary fans. Jason Isaacs, who played Lorca, then dared Trump himself to watch the show, and Kurtzman promoted the show by mentioning Trump's wall quite a bit. This led to harsh lines in the sand being drawn. Suddenly fans who hated "Discovery" were bigots, and those who liked "Discovery" were righteous angels.

The show's Klingon arc was itself touted by writers and producers as being about Trump fans. The writers honestly thought they were offering a politically edgy, and insightful tale about the Trump moment. This led to right wing fans bashing the show even harder. When "Picard" seemingly shoe-horned 7of9 into a lesbian relationship, and Patrick Stewart touted the show as a comment on Brexit, similar things happened.

And then there were the leaks that Kurtzman's writer's room cautioned black writer Walter Mosley for using the N word. Mosley, who pointed out that he was explicitly using the word to make a point about racism and racists, was aghast at how politically correct and oversensitive the HR and Code of Conduct departments under Kurtzman were, that he quit. Which is not to say that such codes of conduct are bad - the science tells us they lead to positive social effects (people less rapey, less racist etc) - but a N word here is not a N word there. A corporation's mechanical understanding of (or handling of) racism, diversity and art is always going to run the risk of leading to odd art. But to mistake this art as a "leftist plot" or "ultra progressive agenda" is to miss the point entirely.

IMO the end result of all these growing pains will be positive, though. If "Discovery" survives more seasons, and fixes its problems, and its characters get fleshed out, the early seasons will probably be reappraised a bit. They'll look less awkward.


Matt said: "Also, what obligation does a science fiction show about people flying through space have to address structural class issues?"

None. But when you have an arc about MAGA Klingons, and which bashes hyper-conservative traditionalism, and which professes to be about contemporary America, you have to understand the issues you're talking about. Otherwise you end up where "Discovery" ends up: WMD's placed under a planet to shut people up.
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Trent
Tue, Nov 3, 2020, 9:08am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: The Begotten

This episode is highly praised, but I found it almost unwatchably bad.

We have Odo like an angsty teenager, feuding with Dr Mora, his father. Odo thinks Mora treated him harshly as a kid, and Mora thinks he "did what he had to do" to "help Odo grow up into a good little boy". They bicker and quarrel for thirty minutes, acting out all the usual television sitcom cliches. Odo even comes close to yelling "I HATE YOU! I WISH YOU WEREN'T MY DAD!" on a few occasions.

The biggest cliche comes next. Odo has a child of his own - a glob of Changeling goo conveniently arrives at DS9 (why is Quark always the one finding this stuff?) - and faced with the task of fatherhood himself, Odo begins to sympathize with his daddy.

This is the hoariest and most middle-brow of cliches: the angsty child hates his parents until he gets a kid of his own and realizes, suddenly and with miraculous clarity, that being a parent is hard and, gee, maybe Mommy and Daddy meant well.

Odo and Mora thus kiss and make up. As is conventional in such stories, the shapeshifter also dies in the last act.

Echoing all this is a B-plot in which Miles and Shakaar watch over Kira as she gives birth. Like Odo and Mora, who battle over who is the better father, Miles and Shakaar bicker over who is the better surrogate daddy. They feud like a couple of silly kids, while Kira huffs and pants in the background.

The episode closes with Odo mournful over his lost child, and Kira mourning the loss of hers. Odo and Mora put away their differences, and Miles and Shakaar put away theirs.

The episode's intentions, and mirroring effects are so heavy handed, so so obvious, it's hard to take this all seriously. Too often DS9 takes soap-opera cliches, places them in space and then pats itself on the back for being daring. These tropes are rarely pushed further into an interesting place.

Incidentally, the Dr Bashir in this episode is a Changeling spy. Given how manipulative the Changelings are, is it possible that the baby Changeling was planted on DS9 to test Odo? Perhaps to determine how sympathetic he still is to his people? Just a fan-theory, of course, but Bashir does oversee Odo's relationship with the goo, and once Odo passes the test, maybe it was always intended that Odo's powers be reinstated.
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Trent
Mon, Nov 2, 2020, 6:55pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Let He Who Is Without Sin...

This much hated episode is actually interesting if you pretend it's a fable from season 3 of TOS.

And so you have a hyper conservative Worf being invited to a hedonistic, ultra liberal planet. Once there, he essentially meets Space Jordan Peterson. Peterson, who tweaks and repackages centuries worth of conservative memes for young 21st century audiences, is notorious for bashing permissiveness and offering spirited defenses of "tradition". Borrowing from the playbooks of fascist mystics, he associates tradition with strength, hardship, duty and personal mastery, and social degradation with "chaos" ("If you think tough men are dangerous, wait until you see what weak men are capable of!" he says, "Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times!" etc).

And so Worf, a hyper conservative dude who believes in no sex before marriage, and no space orgies with aliens and their xeno-STDS, is disgusted when Dax takes him on a trip to Risa. Thankfully Worf meets Space Jordan Peterson (or Space William F. Buckley if you're older), who tells him that actually, Worf is right to trust his instincts. Too much talking, and shagging, and tolerance and permissiveness, makes your society soft and weak and invites destruction from the chaotic hordes outside.

Worf is so stuck up - fittingly, his favorite drink is prune juice, which is a laxative - that he immediately joins Space Jordan Peterson's merry band of terrorists. They sabotage a weather system and so hilariously literally rain on everyone's parade. No more sex for anyone! Pull up your pants and go be grumpy in a corner!

The episode is ridiculous, but at least it's trying to say something. An early scene features a debate on the name "Sean", which is pleasant in English but rude in Bajoran, a debate which epitomizes the cultural relativism seen later; some folk think shagging on the beach is normal, some folk think it's a civilization-shattering heresy.

Later Worf gets angry when he realizes Dax has had many past lovers, some of whom were women. This upsets Worf, who chides Dax for not wishing to marry him. Indeed, Worf throughout the episode shows a remarkable distaste for female agency. Women must be repressed and contained, he believes, their desires and internal life denied lest they become wild and chaotic. In one scene he even comes to the conclusion that women, left alone, shall wander and commit illicit affairs with their lesbian lovers and strangely suggestive globs of clay.

In another symbolic scene Dax says she likes "icoberry juice" even though it "gives her a rash". Worf thus tries to ban her from drinking icoberries. But it doesn't matter if the icoberries have harmful effects, Dax tries explaining to him, what matters is that she has the choice to make this mistake herself. Worf, like a caricature of an evangelical Christian or Islamic fundamentalist, refuses to accept this. Traditional Laws dictate what we should and shouldn't do!

Then you have the Space Jordan Peterson, who's pretty funny when he's ranting about the need to "restore the moral and cultural traditions of the Federation" and "reverse the trend of softness" infecting Federation culture, a softness which is always tied to racial phobias and a fear of outsiders perverting that same culture. Too bad no body challenges him on any of this. Indeed, the Dominion arc affirms his beliefs.

So a pretty bad episode, but pretend its a radio play, or a late TOS episode fervently trying to say something, and it's pretty interesting in a wacky way.
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Trent
Mon, Nov 2, 2020, 5:51pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

I believe DS9's writers call "Destiny", "Accession" and "Rapture" their "Emissary Trilogy".

And so in "Destiny" you have an A plot in which Sisko misinterprets Wormhole Alien prophecies, and a B plot in which various Federation and Cardassian characters misinterpret Cardassian and Federation social customs. By the end of the episode, everyone's learned to let go of presumptions, personal beliefs, and trust in All Knowing Alien Gods.

In "Accession", meanwhile, you have an A plot in which Sisko learns to accept his role as the Emissary. Echoing this is a B plot in which Miles must learn to "prepare his home for the coming of his wife" and "prepare himself for his new role as father." Like Miles, Sisko must similarly make Bajor ready, and take the first steps to becoming its protective father.

In "Rapture", Sisko's arc develops further. We've watched him go from disbeliever, to believer, and now we watch him become an outright prophet. And so in "Rapture's" A plot Sisko is "granted visions" from the Wormhole Aliens, visions which inform him that Bajor should not join the Federation, as doing so will lead to calamity and destruction.

What's more interesting, though, is the episode's B plot. While Sisko gives himself completely to the "Gods", puts his faith completely in them, renounces his free will in a sense, various characters discuss whether or not they should intervene and use science to pull Sisko out of his fugue state.

And so the episode puts a kind of super-determinism on one hand - Sisko and everything in the Alpha Quadrant planned and controlled by the wormhole aliens, like Gods pulling puppets on a string (it will later be revealed that Sisko's very mother was impregnated by the aliens, his whole life pre-ordained) - and human agency, personal will and science naively on the other.

But Bashir, Jake and company don't just want Sisko pulled away from the aliens, pumped full of medicines and freed from ecstatic trances. No, they want him to trade a life as an Emissary for a life as a father and husband. Indeed, they want him to have the life Miles prepares for in "Accession". As such, the episode ends with Jake, Kassidy and Sisko with hands intertwined. In an episode obsessed with issues of belief, the closing lines demand that Sisko "Believe Kassidy". She and Jake are what's important.

That final scene, and final shot, will be imbued with tragic weight when the show ends. Sisko will have left Jake and Kassidy, renounced his human life as a father and husband, and given himself totally over to the Wormhole Aliens, putting his faith totally in these omniscient beings. Similarly, the Federation's sciences and "free choices" will prove small-potatoes compared to the God-like powers of the Wormhole Aliens.

This is as philosophically far from Roddenberry as you can go. Our hero is created by a God who sees all and knows all, has his entire life scripted for a specific end, and watches his evil adversaries destroyed in a Biblical fire by the Hand of God itself.

To sell all this, as such narratives are sold in the real world, God must not be interrogated at all. You will see no Federation science officers examining the wormhole, or communicating with the aliens, or asking them why Bajor is special, or why billions must die in a certain way, and billions more must be saved in a certain other way. Why lives must be given over to the Wormhole Aliens is never addressed, as is why fidelity must be sworn. You must just accept that the Aliens know best. Why do billions die? The Gods have a plan.

There is nothing wrong with DS9's use of a science fiction tropes to essentially repackage the Bible. What's bad is the lack of challenges to this narrative. Give us some Federation scientists getting schooled by the Wormhole Gods. Some skeptical Bajorans. Some biologists trying to make first contact with the Gods. Give us some dissent and substance before you throw the Torah at us.

Anyway, this trilogy is nevertheless interesting and endlessly fascinating. I'd say "Destiny" is the best of the three, with "Rapture" being the weakest, largely because the acting is poor throughout. As others have said, Avery Brooks and the Federation Admiral seem silly throughout the episode, and much of the rest of the cast seem slightly out of character. There's also something cheap looking about the monolith prop used in the episode, with its cartoonish hieroglyphs. Sisko screaming about his visions, or walking about the promenade like Jesus, is also pretty cringe-worthy.

What elevates the episode is the Bajor/Federation drama, and the audacity of the episode itself.

Incidentally, Elliot in an interesting review above complains that Kira and Worf's appeals to faith are silly, and that Dax, Odo and Miles don't challenge them properly. I got a different impression from that scene. Dax, Odo and Miles clearly disagree with Worf and Kira. They're just too polite, and ultimately good tolerant Federation officers. You don't argue religion with your friends and work mates.
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Trent
Mon, Nov 2, 2020, 4:36pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: The Darkness and the Light

This is another dark, sombre and interesting script by Ronald D. Moore.

Essentially a serial killer movie squeezed into 40 minutes, "The Darkness and the Light" watches as various Bajoran resistance fighters are mysteriously assassinated. These assassinations are quite original - one dies in a transporter accident, another killed by a probe, another by a microscopic bomb, others by a hull breech - and baffle Odo and Kira, who begin to suspect that Kira's death is next.

The episode climaxes with a series of great scenes. Kira steals data from Odo's computer, journeys to a creepy space domicile and battles a serial killer called Silaran Prin. Like "Things Past" earlier in the season, an episode which highlighted Odo's crimes during the occupation, this serial killer forces Kira to acknowledge the many "innocent" civilians she killed during the Occupation. Silaran views these innocents as "lights" unfairly caught up in a dark situation. Kira views her actions as an unavoidable "darkness" done in the name of a righteous "light". It's a metaphor which leads to a great moment in which Silaran agrees to kill Kira but spare the innocent child within her.

Also interesting is Kira's utter refusal to repent. Unlike Odo in "Things Past", Kira remains Kira to the end. You sense she's developed all kinds of rationalizations and defense mechanisms and justifications during the Occupation. She did what she did, and had to do, and that's that.

My gut tells me that Moore's script is much better than this actual episode. DS9's stock music lets the episode down, the opening assassination scene looks a bit hokey when it should look shocking, and the episode's first 25 minutes don't milk suspense as well as it should. Kira's "locating of Silaran" is also rather perfunctory, and neither she nor Odo does any interesting detective work to find the guy's location.

Still, the episode's second half is mostly excellent, and its climax powerful, let down only by a heavy-handed moment in which Kira attempts to absolve herself. "He [Silaran] wanted to protect the innocent and separate the darkness from the light," she says. "But he didn't realize the light only shines in the dark and sometimes innocence is just an excuse for the guilty."

It's an interesting line, and says a lot about how Kira views herself, but its a bit too flowery and verbose. It feels like Ron Moore, and not Kira speaking.
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Trent
Mon, Nov 2, 2020, 3:33pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S3: People of Earth

Shows like TNG and DS9 were part of the 1990s liberal consensus. Here everyone gets along, women are empowered, blacks are equal, and gays are cool, so long as they stay off camera.

Because this consensus ignores the working class in favor for "identity politics", and because it ignores larger systemic factors, and because the 2008 financial crisis led to a lot of poor white folk getting screwed, this liberal consensus eventually led to a hyper-conservative backlash and eventually Trump.

"Discovery's" first season was explicitly designed to troll Trump fans. On one hand it gave you a corporate machine's view of diversity - lots of "token minorities" - on the other hand it gave you a hack writer's view of Roddenberry "wokeness", with its Traditional White Captain revealed to be a villain and its MAGA Klingon's who wished to make Q'onos Great Again.

If this triggered you, the show achieved part of what it set out to do. And what it set out to do is as facile as the kinds of folk who are triggered by this kind of stuff.

It's worth remembering that identity politics is not a "leftist" or "progressive" thing. Leftist academics were the first, in the 1970s, to recognize that identity politics fractures and works against creating real opportunities for ending marginalization. They celebrated identity politics for being instrumental in bringing about gay rights, women rights, black rights etc, but also saw how, in supplanting class rights or commonalities, such things would inevitably lead to a moving away from broad-based coalitional politics.

This is why most serious leftist philosophers deem identity politics to function as a kind of divide and rule strategy. The Pulitzer prize winning journalist Chris Hedges explicitly calls it a, quote, "form of corporate capitalism that only masquerades as a political platform, and which will never halt the rising social inequality, unchecked militarism, evisceration of civil liberties and omnipotence of the organs of security and surveillance."

And you had countless leftist thinkers and sociologists (Chomsky, Derber et al) predicting decades ago that, because capitalism allows no meaningful class based critique, but countless identity-politics based groups, that fragmented and isolated identity movements would arise and lead to weird far-right resurgences ("Yeah I'm a Nazi, but I wouldn't be one if you leftys didn't parade about all those goddamned gays!").

So one has to be nuanced when talking about all this. Those fretting about "woke Trek" and "SJWs" are in a sense as responsible for the worldwide trading of the 1990s liberal consensus for far-right movements, as the liberal consensus itself is, both turning their backs on working people.

A better "Discovery" would have anticipated how it would trigger all kinds of divisions, and fostered instead the kind of brotherhood that past Trek's got right. But that would entail a gentler show (which Michelle Paradise may build), a smarter show, and one that talks about class and issues of post-scarcity economics, which a corporation like CBS, and a guy like Kurtzman, have a natural aversion to.

And so you're left with what Yanks calls "SJW Hollywood leftists" with an "asinine moral high ground". Or what I call the Democratic Party in space. Way better than the other guys, but so smug, and so adept at fueling the problems they pretend to be solving.

To "Discovery's" credit, its checklist crew/cast will age far better than the views of those criticizing it. American television is becoming more diverse by the year. In 5 years time, "Discovery's" crew won't look like a corporate machine's attempts at diversity, it will look utterly normal. Young Trek fans will be baffled by discussions like this.
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Trent
Sun, Nov 1, 2020, 3:33pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: The Ascent

As with many DS9 episodes, "The Ascent's" B plot serves as a microcosm of its A plot.

And so here we have the strict and orderly Nog struggling to share a quarters with the shifty and unreliable Jake Sisko. They fight, they argue, and then they put their differences aside and learn to live together.

Echoing this is a plot in which the strict and orderly Odo struggles to survive on an alien planet with the shifty and unreliable Quark. They fight, they argue, and then they put their differences aside after hiking up a mountain.

While it's fun seeing Nog back, and in a Starfleet uniform, Jake's reaction to his friend's return is unbelievable and over-the-top. Jack's a jerk from the get go, and plainly messy and inhospitable only for the sake of the episode's plot.

The episode also fails to milk its best gag: Nog, a model Starfleet cadet, is now the son Sisko would have preferred in Season 1, whilst Jake, who hangs out in bars and likes the ladies, has essentially become a shifty Ferengi.

People praise the Quark/Odo stuff in this episode, but outside of a few great insults and one-liners, I found it poorly written. We get the shuttle crash cliche, we get the contrivance of Odo failing to send a emergency signal before beaming out the bomb, we get the contrivance of only one emergency suit surviving, and the contrivance of the "communications panel" being a giant block to be lifted up a hill.

Then we get the "See No Evil, Hear No Evil!"/"The Defiant Ones" cliche, in which two opposite guys - injured in different ways - are tied together and forced to rely upon each other to survive.

Then there's the "people bickering then falling in love" cliche, which both plots hinge upon. Better to have Jake surprised by Nog's changes and, instead of arguing with the guy, slowly adopting some of them for himself. I'd rather watch Jake lift weights, asking about Earth, the duo catching up on the promenade - you know, being actual friends - rather than at each other's throats. The former is breezy and interesting, the latter is a bad gag.

And why not flip the convention for the Odo/Quark subplot as well? After all, we've seen them bickering a hundred times before.
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Trent
Sun, Nov 1, 2020, 3:04pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Things Past

I found this a very cliched episode. We move from the "accident on a shuttle shunting us back in time" cliche to various "dream reality" cliches in which the main narrative symbolically represents the unconscious of a main character, in this case Odo.

The idea of having Sisko, Dax and Garak "share the dream" also annoyed me, and seemed unnecessary. Better, IMO, to play this episode straight. Simply open with Odo being praised by Bajorans for his "sense of fairness". Feeling guilty, he walks the promenade, where he reminisces about his real role during the Occupation. No gimmicks, no SF hooks.

Also annoying is the way Sisko, Dax and Dukat are constantly ten steps behind the audience. They spend the entire episode struggling to answer a question - "Why is Odo not on the station?" - which we the audience have already figured out. There's no subtlety here, everything telegraphed. Consider, for example, the scene in which Odo yells "No! I'm not going to let this happen again! Not again!", upon realizing his unconscious is forcing him to remember the death of innocent Bajorans he once had killed. It's all too heavy-handed.

Still, the "technobabble" used to "justify the dream narrative" is very clever this time around - Odo accidentally sucks everyone into a mini Great Link! - and the conceit allows us to "suck Dax into the past", which is cool. I may have an aversion to "dream logic episodes", but more Dax is always good. Here she pretends to be a docile Bajoran slave and then kicks Gul Dukat's ass, and then hilariously rescues Sisko and the gang by blowing a hole in the wall.

As with most DS9 episodes set on the station during the Cardassian Occupation, the chief pleasures here are watching the moody, smoky sets, Dukat stomping about like a feudal lord, and Odo in his creepy Evil Odo uniform, slinking about like some kind of clay-faced Nazi.
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Trent
Fri, Oct 30, 2020, 12:44pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Trials and Tribble-ations

It's incredible how aesthetically coherent Trek feels from TOS to Voyager. You believe that the TOS sets (and production design work) lead directly to the TOS movies. You believe that the TOS movies lead directly to TNG. You believe that TNG leads directly to DS9 and Voyager.

There's a real sense of a shared universe, and an evolving one.

And so, in a sense, it's fitting that DS9 celebrates Trek's 30th anniversary by masturbating over decor. "Trials and Tribble-ations" recreates TOS sets, clothing, models, lighting and camera work with eerie fidelity; like an expert forger slavishly recreating a dead master's work. The heat of the lamps, the grain of the film stock, the quality of the lighting...on a technical level, this episode is incredible.

Yes, the episode's plot is a bit slight. And the episode doesn't do enough to explain itself to those not intimately familiar with TOS and "The Trouble With Tribbles", and doesn't do enough to explain who its villain is, what he's doing, and how he relates to the original episode.

But for hardcore Trek fans, the episode serves its purpose. It's cute, funny, clever, ambitious, and pulls off a difficult task as best as you can expect. From a writing perspective, reverse-engineering a DS9 adventure INTO one of TOS' most famous adventures, is an incredibly difficult task, nevermind actually pulling this off on a technical level in 1996.

Like DS9's other forays into the past (or Mirror Universes), the episode's set-up is also mercifully brisk. It took forever for Quark to travel back in time in "Little Green Men", and forever for our heroes to figure out what's going on in "Things Past". But in this episode, everyone quickly gets down to business, thanks largely to some voice-over narrating, which Ira Behr tends to favor, and oft wisely employs.

Standout scenes: anything with Kirk, of course. But the introduction of the undercover Klingon spy, Barry Waddle, was also clever, the guy racist toward Klingons in his very first scene ("They're foul smelling barbarians!").

Pretty much anything with Dax was also great, and it was fun seeing Julian and Miles wandering the Enterprise and being gawked at by 1960s sexpots, or struggling to use old-school turbolifts.

Then we have Dax salivating over an ancient tricorder, Worf ashamed about pre-forehead Klingons, Bashir mistaking a nobody for Kirk, and a CGI recreation of a classic D-7 battlecruiser. The only thing missing is a fetishization of Roddenberry himself. This episode's a loving tribute to decor and actors, prosthetics and plastics, the hems of dresses and the straps of tricorders, but it doesn't quite celebrate, or capture, that overlaying Roddenberry spirit*, that thing which elevated TOS above mere space opera.

*It's probably a bit reductive to attribute the "enlightened secular humanism" of TOS, which was wildly inconsistent, soley to Roddenberry. Gene Coon played a big part as well, as well as Oliver Crawford and DC Fontana.
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Trent
Fri, Oct 30, 2020, 11:47am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: To the Death

I've always liked "To The Death", and regard it as being better than DS9's first two Jem'Hadar centric episodes, "The Abandoned" and "Hippocratic Oath".

And so the episode opens with Bashir "taking Worf's chair". Rather than lock horns with the warrior, Bashir backs down and sacrificially gives up his seat. In an episode which examines the values of Klingons, Starfleet, Vorta and the Jem'hadar, this little interaction between Bashir and Worf will symbolically foreshadow what comes later.

The episode then gives us a pretty cool scene. The Defiant returns to DS9, only to find one pylon decimated, bits of rubble floating about. After learning that a band of renegade Jem'Hadar attacked the station and stole scientific equipment, the Defiant then pursues the attackers. It's a pretty tense opening, tight and well-flowing.

The Defiant then comes across a drifting Jem'Hadar warship, led by a Vorta and a Jem'Hadar called Omet'iklan. Oment'iklan is played by Clarence Williams III, who is simply outstanding. This is the first Jem'Hadar warrior to feel more than a walking cartoon. The guy imbues his character with so much gravity. He feels alien. He feels dangerous. His choice of diction and the way he carries himself feels several steps above every preceding Jem'Hadar actor, in much the same way Marc Alaimo elevates Gul Dukat.

We then learn that the Vorta and Oment'iklan are pursing the renegades. Why? The renegades have access to an Iconian Gateway (first seen in TNG's "Contagion), which the Vorta think will be used to "topple the Dominion Empire".

IMO this plot point makes absolutely no sense. Surely it will take a long time for a single band of renegades to use the Gateway to do damage to the Dominion. In this time, the Dominion can easily sent a giant fleet to suppress the renegades, and then capture the Gateway for themselves, and then use the technology to further oppress others, and reverse the damage caused by the renegades. Like "Hippocratic Oath" and "The Abandoned", the two previous Jem'Hadar episode, there is a certain lack of rigour and logic in this script. Characters behave in contrived ways to force certain outcomes, and Sisko never properly considers capturing the Gateway for the Federation, or letting the Jem'Hadar win access to it and so potentially gain emancipation. There are massive tactical and moral issues to consider here, which get skirted over.

Regardless, the Federation and Dominion form an alliance and journey to destroy the Gateway. From here on, "To the Death" becomes the spiritual success to "For the Cause", which contrasted Starfleet, Cardassian, Maquis and Merchant values.

We thus get various vignettes which highlight different forms of loyalty. The Jem'Hadar obey the Vorta because the Vorta have them addicted to ketracel white, to which Worf says "Loyalty bought at such a price is no loyalty at all." But this is complicated by the fact that the Jem'Hadar love and would die for the Founders despite the white, and that even though the Jem'Hadar's behavior is programmed, many break free of their programming, and those who do seem to still love the Founders, even as they murder Vorta.

Later a Jem'Hadar mocks Sisko's command style, to which Sisko informs him that, "A dead man can't learn from his mistakes" and "I don't get the same joy out of killing as you do." Sisko and Starfleet place a higher value on life, freedom and choice, a far cry from Jem'Hadar, who view themselves as being disposable.

This is epitomized by one great scene in which a Jem'Hadar give a pre-battle speech, in which he acknowledges that they are already cannon fodder: "As of this moment we are all dead," he says. "We go into battle to reclaim our lives. This we do gladly. Victory is life."

In response to this, Miles hilariously says: "I am Chief Miles Edward O'Brien. I'm very much alive and I intend to stay that way" to which Sisko literally gives an "Amen", aligning his Federation credo, his religion, to old Earth religions.

But even within Starfleet, different races have different views. In "Rules of Engagement", Worf is shown to be a bit of a bad Starfleet officer. He's swayed by anger, aggression and Klingon notions of pride and honor. The guy's a low-key Jem'Hadar, seeing a certain value in killing and battle.

Sisko kicks Worf's ass for this behavior, but he also tries to accommodate it to a degree. In contrast, the Jem'Hadar hunt down and kill anyone who doesn't toe the line.

Later the Vorta says to Odo "I find it somewhat disturbing seeing you working for these Federation people, letting them order you around. You should be the one giving the orders to them, to the Jem'Hadar, even me."

This echoes an earlier scene in which Sisko makes it explicit that the Jem'Hadar now work for him, rather than the Vorta. The Vorta believe they should be giving the orders, but the Federation has usurped them. And the Jem'Hadar - who hate the Vorta and could care less about obeying them - only obey the Federation because the Federation's order's temporarily align with their sense of duty to the Founders.

So it's an interesting web of cross-crossing allegiances. The Federation tend to value all life, the Jem'Hadar don't value their own lives, and you sense the Vorta value no lives other than the Founders. "Why don't you thus come back to Great Link?" the Vorta asks Odo. "Everyone would obey you if you returned."

But Odo turns him down. He and the Federation may be obsessed with certain forms of order, duty and justice, but not to an extent which tramples on lives or impinges upon another's autonomy.

Later, Sisko takes a knife to the gut so that Omet'iklan, a guy who earlier swore to murder him, may survive. This echoes Bashir's sacrificing his chair for Worf, an act which Omet'iklan finds surprising. "I threatened to kill you, but you were still willing to sacrifice yourself to save my life," he says bluntly. "Why?" Sisko essentially informs him that this should be self-evident, and if he doesn't understand why, he never will.

As if to affirm Sisko's pessimism, Omet'iklan kills his Vorta leader for "questioning Jem'Hadar loyalty". Fidelity to the Founders and the Dominion remains absolute, anyone else's life be damned.

The episode contains one other notable scene, in which Dax essentially "interviews" a Jem'Hadar warrior on the Defiant's bridge. It's a great scene, particularly if you watch it as a fact-finding mission, Dax the scientist exploiting this rare moment to learn as much about the Dominion as she can. She's all friendly and casual and jokey, but the ease which she extracts vital intelligence is pretty cool. We now know the Jem'Hadar don't eat, don't sleep, don't have women, don't relax, are bred in birthing chambers, take 3 days to mature, rarely live beyond 20 years etc etc. This is what DS9 needed more of: more scientists taking a scientific approach to conflict, war, diplomacy and intelligence gathering.

I would say the first two thirds of this episode are great, with its only flaw being any scene with Brian Thompson (the infamous square jawed actor from "The Terminator"), who plays a really cartoonish and poorly written "Jem'Hadar jock".

We then get a big action climax, which is both decent and silly (shades of "Blood Oath"), and which was heavily censored and trimmed to satisfy censors. This climax is typically criticized for being rushed and perfunctory, but I always found this to be suitable. Sisko gets stabbed for a Jem'Hadar, a Vorta gets shot, and next time Sisko will be shot too. The ending's supposed to have a staccato and blunt quality. Like a lot of war movies from the 1950s, it ends with an "it is what it is"; a shrug and a moving on.
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Trent
Thu, Oct 29, 2020, 12:28pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S2: Crossover

Peter said: "This isn't a cynical Behr concept, it's just obvious."

But DS9 doesn't think it's obvious. DS9 thinks Trek watchers are sheltered and naive. It keeps telling us that war is bad, and freedom has costs, and genuine threats exist, as though the Federation isn't a super advanced (and well armed) organization which has already considered all these nuances and possibilities and weighed the best ways to deal with them.

I feel DS9 bends over backwards to bash a point nobody ever believed. When you watch "Mirror Mirror", you don't feel as though Spock is about to immediately "set up a Federation". No, you're left with the feeling that the Mirror Universe is on a slow, hundred year drift away from psychopathy.

And the episode itself explicitly states Spock's revolution will require violence. "One man cannot summon the future," Spock says, to which Kirk counters: "One man can change the present. Find a logical reason to [help people]. Push till it gives."

When Spock brushes this off as naive - "A man must also have the power" he says - Kirk points out that Spock can "defend himself better than any man in the fleet" because "in my cabin is a device that will make you invincible."

"Mirror Mirror" explicitly makes a link between "Federationay values", revolution and the massive levels of power needed to uphold this culture.

But instead, DS9 literally has Spock start some kind of "Ultra Pacifist Federation", and then thumbs its nose at his naivety. Why do this? Why have Spock be so illogical? And given how bad everyone is in the Mirror Universe, how could this even get remotely off the ground?

Peter brings up "Unification" as evidence that this is a character flaw of his, and I'll have to rewatch that and refresh my memory. Maybe he's right. But the feeling I get from DS9 is always that its bashing an ethos that either nobody holds, or is more nuanced than it ever lets on.

I think I'd have preferred DS9 to outright say either one of two things:

1. The Mirror Universe is fundamentally at odds with our own. These are psychopaths, most of whom are unchangeable. If we hope our universe tilts toward the good, then the Mirror Universe tilts toward bad. Always.

2. Spock's reforms never took hold, and he was assassinated by Terrans. Some believers survive and preach his teachings, but they are marginalized and hunted. Will the Mirror Universe change? Who knows.

What I don't like is the idea of Spock actually succeeding, but succeeding in a way that creates a Neutered Federation, which I feel is a kind of strawman used only to sell the idea that DS9's conception of the Federation is thus "more realistic", more adept at realpolitik and galactic peacekeeping and policing.

Now I know I'm nitpicking what is essentially a SINGLE LINE in the episode, and I do agree with both your points. But I just always get a "let's troll the hippies!" vibe from Ira Behr.

Something I forgot to mention: I like Elliot's comments several years ago, in which he says he believes the MU is "ultimately hopeful" because it posits "environment" rather than "biological essentialism" as being a chief motivator of personality, which I thought is a neat angle of thinking about things.
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