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Anonymous Texan
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 2:26pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Paradise

Thanks for re-posting. I somehow missed this comment earlier; it's very thoughtful and on point. I hadn't thought about the psychological aspects of this episode enough, and your analysis of Alixus' character, her control of the colonists, and her dynamic with Sisko really highlight some strengths of the episode I hadn't considered.

I also hadn't noticed the subtle racial dynamic between Alixus, Sisko, and O'Brien. Interesting that Star Trek, which displays a post-racial society, can wordlessly address racial issues through powerful images.

@Peter G.,
Thank you for the kind response.

You make a very good point about the failings of Alixus' characterization. The writers went for the villain mold right off the bat, maybe to set up the interesting Sisko/Alixus dynamic for tension or just because of lazy writing. I did like her overall personality because I think it makes a small point on how extremist positions tend to find a voice in extreme, inflexible personalities. I think the qualities (of which @wolfstar has given a spot-on analysis) ought to have been revealed more slowly, as you suggested, or maybe needed to coexist with more virtuous qualities to complicate her character.

On further thought, I agree with you that my response is perhaps reading between the lines too much and giving the writers too much benefit of the doubt. There really is only implicit evidence throughout for my final conclusion - I would add the interesting bit about Starfleet uniforms, Alixus' desire to remove them, and how O'Brien only commits an act of violence when he is physically out of his uniform, perhaps a commentary on what the uniform embodies (again, probably reading between lines too much). I will also blatantly plagiarize @wolfstar's great comment and point out the ingenuity displayed in the Dax/Kira plot, in spite of the poor dialogue and silly plot, serving as an example of the daily challenges faced by Starfleet officers. And lastly the virtuous characters of Sisko and O'Brien, contrasted with the cowed colonists and psychotic cult leader, really speak to those characters' strengths, if only implicitly Starfleet's (and also to the failings of Alixus' so-called strong community).

Like you said, I think this episode needed more time to work through the problems it presented. It feels like it should have run somewhere between the length of a full episode and a two-parter. Ultimately, I think there was a lot of missed opportunity to flesh out issues of technology, power, cult psychology, violence, 'the uniform,' the good life, etc. Perhaps a high-concept idea was marred by the need for a 45-minute, tension-oriented format.
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Anonymous Texan
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 11:57am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Paradise

Surprised at how many people outright hate this episode. Definitely has flaws in execution, but I think the concept is very good.

The SETUP IS INANE. There's no reason why two senior staff members of DS9 have to do scouting missions like this one. Their procedures during the mission are nonsensical. Further, the Kira/Dax plot is facepalm-inducing: "We lost two senior staff members, so let's send another two galloping to their rescue!" And the 'roping' dialogue - urgh.

Regardless, I'm WILLING TO IGNORE these stupid plot points on the grounds that many Star Trek episodes, even the good ones, have questionable setups or finishes.

People here appear to have TWO LINES OF CRITICISM for this episode (with variations): (1) There's no way that the colonists would so easily get on board, and even if they did, there's absolutely no way they would all choose to stay at the end, and (2) Alixus' anti-technology stance is stupid, unconvincing, hypocritical, and yet another example of Star Trek inexplicably promoting primitivism.

WE SHOULD RETHINK (1). Keep in mind, these people are colonists - therefore they were prepared to be away from family (if they even had any), friends, career, etc. for an extended period of time. Yes, they may have embarked with the idea that they could go back at some point, but I think colonists probably self-select as generally unattached people (or even social outsiders, like the pilgrims). In fact, colonists, by their very nature, seek a sense of purpose, of building something of their own. What better demographic for Alixus to seduce to her extremist philosophy?

We also don't know what has happened for the past 10 years. There's no indication that Alixus immediately took over; the Starfleet engineer guy even admits he was 'the last conquest.' There may have been a power struggle, but we don't know because the episode is purposely giving us the perspective of Sisko and O'Brien. So, from the inside, the community had a history that perhaps justified how people thought in the present, but Sisko and O'Brien had the right sort of outside perspective to realize that everyone was a bit loony.

Many have pointed to Alixus' speeches as dull, repetitive, and unconvincing, but she won the argument long ago and the speeches are perhaps an almost RITUALISTIC REAFFIRMATION of belief for the community, a phenomenon easily observable in cults, mainstream religions (think of Christian litanies), or fanatical political movements. These speeches don't ring true only to the uninitiated (us!).

I agree that it's both UNLIKELY AND INTELLECTUALLY INSULTING that one man could 'speak for the community' at the end, and would have liked to have seen a more agonizing decision. I also agree that the acting, beyond Brooks and Meaney, was lackluster.

As for Alixus' philosophy (2), I find it HIGHLY BELIEVABLE. But just because it's fleshed out in a 3-D form does NOT automatically make the script an ENDORSEMENT for this philosophy, as some seem to be taking it.

One of the great things about DS9 was its DESIRE TO POKE HOLES in the TNG narrative and flesh out 24th century humans. TNG showed the best of humanity using its best technology to explore new worlds, all while moralizing about how humanity has 'evolved.' DS9, by contrast, thrust us to the margins of the Federation, politically UNSTABLE and morally AMBIGUOUS. We meet species who don't like the Federation; we see exploitation, corruption, militarism; and best of all, we see how these 'evolved' humans react to these pressures.

This episode is in that DS9 tradition. Here we have MARGINAL figures (colonists who perhaps were such outsiders that no one ever checked in with them) taken over by a marginal thinker. We see that the best and brightest of TNG are NOT representative of everyone. In fact, some question how 'evolved' humanity really is. Some feel RUDDERLESS AND SOFT in a society where EVERYTHING IS PROVIDED for them (Alixus!). Aren't these echoes of the very criticisms we hear of the Federation from Cardassians, Ferengi, Klingons, etc.? That they are 'soft,' morally 'arrogant,' and 'insidious.'

OF COURSE primitivism is utter fantasy - the writers point this out: people die needlessly, Alixus hypocritically uses technology, institutionalized violence has taken hold (the spears, the 'hot box'). The idea of this story is that TECHNOLOGY ALONE DOES NOT IMPROVE HUMANITY. Alixus is an EXTREMIST who sees technological society as IRREDEEMABLE.

THE POINT is that having better technology does not make us better humans - humans have to WORK to be virtuous, by PRACTICING MORALITY. This is the crux of the episode, and why focusing on Sisko and O'Brien's perspective is BRILLIANT. Alixus sees material comfort as preventing the sort of tests that improve humans. But the answer to Alixus is STARFLEET ITSELF, an organization that puts 'evolved' humans TO THE TEST every day, and has proven itself to be an overall MORAL INSTITUTION. Sisko and O'Brien, even with their technology, are just as tough and virtuous as the community members, because they pursue challenging careers that put their morals on the line (I hear echoes of 'Encounter at Farpoint').

Indeed, what more powerful demonstration can there be of true 'evolved' humanity than Sisko's non-violent protest of Alixus' brutal methods? Or O'Brien's real ingenuity in discovering the truth and outwitting the colonists? Whereas the colonists, with Alixus' guidance, hide the truth from themselves (I think this is part of why they hadn't discovered the field dampener) and make hollow paeans to 'ingenuity' and 'toughness,' those very qualities are what Sisko and O'Brien use to defeat Alixus.

Alixu is unlikable. Her moral equivocating is repugnant. But the fact that she exists, and that she could win people over to her side under the right circumstances, complicates the Federation for us. The people not in Starfleet, the people with boring desk jobs or uninspiring careers, at some level sense that they are NOT REACHING THEIR POTENTIAL in a world of MATERIAL ABUNDANCE (notice the Starfleet guy was the last one won over).

This internal sense of failure matters to our understanding of Star Trek, and it matters to us today. In the 21st century technology and material conditions in the US are better than ever, and yet many feel an INTANGIBLE SENSE OF DESPAIR and frustration (which we see every day in politics and online discussions). Think historically too, of UTOPIAN SOCIALISTS in the 1800s or MODERNISTS at the turn of the century. This dissatisfaction is a VERY REAL PHENOMENON. And still the episode has a positive message, implicitly rebutting Alixus with Starfleet itself, an organization that synthesizes technological progress with the improvement of humanity. The episode even acknowledges that some (the colonists) feel the need to find purpose elsewhere.

In short, thought-provoking and believable concept hampered by flaws in execution.

Sorry for the long comment. I actually haven't posted here before and usually roll my eyes at the longer comments, but now I understand why people post them.
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