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Elliott
Wed, Dec 12, 2018, 3:11pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Prototype

Teaser : ***, 5%

We begin with a POV of the Voyager transporting something aboard. The images are in black and white, but there's no corny noir dialogue this time, so that's a good sign. Torres, Tuvok and Janeway appear in the field of vision. Torres mentions that the whatever it is is quickly losing power and Janeway consents to allow Torres to try and repair it. She and Kim devise a stopgap and eventually, the whatever catches site of itself in a mirror. It's a robot! With clothes! Oh, and as you read this review internet people, you must hear the word “robot” as “roe-bit.”

Act 1 : **.5, 18%

Back in TECHNICOLOUR, Kim and Torres examine the robot's six-pack metallic abs. There's some technobabble that leads to the conclusion that they need to figure something out quickly or the thing will shut down and die. Harry even gets to be kind of funny as the two have some friendly sparring over what to do next. In the end, she sends him to bed and sends herself to the mess hall for some coffee. Neelix eventually cuts her off, because as we recall from “State of Flux,” Neelix is the master of all foodstuffs on the Voyager. He is here to explain why he's a terrible cook, believing salt to be a “spice” and somehow failing to include it in his food. In keeping with the theme, he sends her to bed. She gets as far as putting on some very unflattering pyjamas before hitting on some sort of breakthrough, taking her to sickbay. So, the plot and dialogue here is very minimal, borderline banal, but the production is rescuing the scenes from feeling tedious. The acting, directing and music fill in the gaps in characterisation we need to connect with Torres and her dilemma. There's a misconception amongst some viewers/reviewers that the text of a work is the most pivotal metric of its success. This can be true, and I love a good one-man play with no sets and mellifluous powerful dialogue, but I also love a Wagnerian epic with contrived plot and minimal dialogue. Storytellers get to set their own parameters for how their stories are conveyed.

Anyway, Torres activates the EMH to troubleshoot her tech issue. The robot is humanoid after all, so maybe there's a medical analogy that can inspire a solution. And what do you know, there is. So, she drags Harry and Janeway out of bed and sets up her plasma transfusion relays. It's nice to see a return of Janeway and Torres doing the science together. The robot finally comes to life and asks Torres (politely) to identify herself, and thanks her for re-activating it.

Act 2 : ***, 18%

The robot is friendly, very much like Data, but there's something off-putting about its face which is a fixed metallic shape. The robot is intrigued, maybe something like elated by the fact that Torres was able to repair his power module, something only “the Builders” are supposed to be able to manage. Maybe she could construct a new one?

See, the Builders are all dead (from a war), and without new power modules, the robots will eventually all perish as well. Torres lays this all out for Janeway, but the captain isn't willing to let her violate the PD and make fundamental alterations to this “species.”

JANEWAY: I feel for the robot's plight, but what you are proposing is exactly the kind of tampering the Prime Directive prohibits. We know almost nothing about these creatures or the race that built them. What would be the consequences of increasing their population, both to their own civilisation and others in this quadrant? Who are we to swoop in, play God and then continue on our way without the slightest consideration of the long term effects of our actions?

It isn't spelled out (thankfully), but I find Janeway's rigidity here consistent with what we've seen so far. In “Caretaker,” Janeway found herself inadvertently involved in the struggle between the Ocampa and the Kazon. She made what she believed was the most ethical choice available to her at the time, and the Kazon have been dogging the Voyager ever since, attempting to steal Federation technology. Given the fact that there's no way for her to confer with more experienced captains or the Federation Council or whomever, I think adhering to the PD, when there's no discernible benefit in getting the Voyager closer to home, is the right call.

What's also kind of interesting here is Torres:

3947: The automated units were not created naturally. We were built. You can help us build more.
TORRES: Captain Janeway doesn't think that's a good idea.
3947: But Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres does.
TORRES: Maybe. I don't know. I'd like to try, but I can't.
3947: Without your help, we will not survive. I thought Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres was a Builder.
TORRES: So did I.

If we go back to “Parallax,” we might remember that without her engineering skill, Torres is little more than an angry mess of a half-breed with no discernible direction or purpose. And of course, “Faces” explored the issue of self-hatred so endemic to the character. Being a “builder” is one of the few expressions, perhaps the only expression of Torres that doesn't make her feel shitty about herself. She can contribute positively to the world in this respect. Being denied the opportunity to do something like prevent the extinction of a species, well, that has to sting.

The robot's vessel makes contact with the Voyager and Torres sees the unit off in the transporter room. But the robot shocks her into unconsciousness, kills the transporter chief and kidnaps Torres.

Act 3 : **, 13% (short act)

The robot has decided that Torres is going to build the prototype power module anyway because the robots are quite desperate. The Voyager finds itself out-classed by the robots' weaponry and defences, so Torres is compelled to proceed. Most of this short act is just action BS. It's fine. Nothing terribly interesting, but competent.

Act 4 : **, 18%

Torres is given a pile of equipment and told to begin. The robots have replicated different power modules several times but all such efforts ended in failure. The leader robot enters after a few seconds to check on her progress. In a lot of ways, I think these robots get at what the Pakleds were supposed to represent. Their manners and succinctness present a placid veneer to a deadly-serious threat, much like how the Pakleds' bumbling stupidity masked their true nature. “If you fail, you and your people will die.”

A while later, Torres has managed to determine why the robots have failed thus far. Their power units a designed to work in one robot and one robot alone. It is impossible to simply recreate a unit exactly and stick it in another robot. So in a way, this distinction between power units provides these creatures something like a soul. Once one life is snuffed out, it can't simply be replaced.

Meanwhile, the senior staff are talking tactics:

PARIS: I don't need a diversion. Just give me a chance, I'll get her out of there.
CHAKOTAY: You don't mind if the rest of us give you a little help, do you, Paris? I'd hate to lose another shuttle.
PARIS: Your concern for my welfare is heartwarming.

Nice to see that rivalry still percolating in the background, and Janeway is amusing in her “can it, meatheads” reigning in of the conflict.

While they work, Torres and the robot explore robotic backstories. Data is name-dropped, which flirts dangerously close to fan-service, but there is a point here—drawing the parallel between Data and the automated units helps to create sympathy for this heretofore unheard of race of robots. That will be important later. With a little more effort, Torres succeeds in creating the prototype. Their celebration is cut short by the arrival of a nearly-identical vessel manned by gold-coloured robots.

Act 5 : **.5, 18%

Janeway takes advantage of the fight between the robots and sends Paris off in his shuttle to retrieve Torres. The robot explains to her that—TWIST—both robots come from civilisations which destroyed their Builders. Why did they do this? To continue the fighting of course! The Builders attempted to make peace, but had designed their robots to wage war.

3947: When it was anticipated that the war would end, the Builders no longer required our services and they intended to terminate us. In doing so, they became the enemy. We are programmed to destroy the enemy. It is necessary for our survival. Now that you have constructed a prototype, we will soon outnumber the Cravic units. We will achieve victory.

Torres realises that her breakthrough has bypassed a safety measure added by the Builders themselves specifically to prevent procreation. So, echoing Janeway's decision in “Caretaker,” she destroys the prototype, stabbing it right in the unit she designed. Paris beams her to safety and the Voyager escapes.

In the epilogue, Janeway herself offers her counsel, similarly to the way she counselled Kim after his ordeal in “Emanations.” If being prevented from exercising the creative forces which give your life some sort of meaning is difficult, succeeding in creation and being forced to destroy that fruit has got to be devastating.

Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

If “Resistance” was an example of Voyager doing a typically strong unit of Star Trek, “Prototype” is an example of typically average Star Trek. The character material is pretty good, there's an okay moral dilemma to explore, the action pieces are fine, the production is a bit unconvincing, but the acting makes up for it. Personally, I would have scrapped the technobabble and action sequence for more time confronting Torres' feelings. I think the way this story maps onto her character arc works, but it's all a bit rushed and shallow. I needed a scene like the one in “Faces” where she talks about her painful childhood to Paris. Maybe when she was hiding from the bullies at school, she occupied herself building things in the science lab? Maybe when she was at the Academy, that professor who thought she showed promise allowed her access to his office so she could tinker instead of interacting with her fellow cadets? As it stands, the resolution feels a little weightless.

I think the Janeway material is at about the same level. It fits the arc, it makes sense and is well conveyed, but it's all too brief to feel significant. I was never bored, I was never angry, but I was never riveted. Do better, Voyager.

Final Score : **.5
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Elliott
Tue, Dec 11, 2018, 11:59pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S1: The Man Trap

@Viktor:

Ich bezweifle, dass sehr viele der Besucher dieser Website Deutsch verstehen. Wünschst du nicht Reaktionen dieser Gemeinschaft?

Zu dieser Serie, was war alt, ist wieder neu, nicht? Wenn man über die Anachronismen der Zeit hinaus schauen kann, dieses ein ganz besonders Fernsehprogramm ist. Viel Spaß!
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Elliott
Tue, Dec 11, 2018, 11:41pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Paradise Lost

@Iceman

"Did you like that it made you think or did you think that the episode is another attack by DS9 on Roddenberry's vision?"

I actually think that this is one of the rare instances when DS9 challenges the Trek ethos successfully, in that it earns its conclusion. Leighton is the episode's antagonist; it's perfectly reasonable within the established universe that an evil or misguided man with access to the Academy could disrupt the legacy of Roddenbarrian humanism. This is because Trek humanism is a learned behaviour, human evolution is cultural. So if you fuck with the institutions that create culture, you can counterpose Federation ideals without cheating.

"So those that do get in will probably develop a serious superiority complex." You can maybe argue that the Starfleet officers depicted in TNG and TOS were a bit arrogant towards some alien species, but not as a rule towards their fellow humans. There is something fundamentally different about the way that cadet behaved than any of the young officers we've seen previously like Locarno or Harry Kim.
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Elliott
Tue, Dec 11, 2018, 10:18pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Paradise Lost

Teaser : ****, 5%

After the recap, which is kind enough to gloss over Dax' sorority pranks, we pick things up four days later with Sisko getting antsy over this whole affair. He can't seem to figure out how the Dominion managed its sabotage of the power grid. Odo has some additional troubling information. It turns out Red Squad was demobilised for three hours during the crisis. Hmm. So, he contacts a Bolian officer, who amazingly is NOT a barber, and asks about the transporter record. This triggers something, as the officer wants Sisko to erase the record immediately. Sisko is quick on the uptake, realising that he thinks Sisko is in on whatever is going on. Leighton is also implicated here, as the Bolian doesn't want wind of this oversight reaching him. A very catchy teaser.

Act 1 : ***.5, 17%

Pa Sisko is now quite gleefully undergoing blood screenings. It turns out the sabotage has quite effectively scared him into surrendering his civil liberties. That's...depressing as fuck. I'm liking Sisko the contrarian here. DS9 needs more of that sauce. Nog turns up for a lunch meeting where Sisko brings up the topic of Red Squad again, hoping to get some answers from someone closer to the ground. Well, whoever these Hitler Youths are being inducted into Red Squad (ironic name), Nog admires the fact that unlike Joseph Sisko, they don't fear the Dominion at all.

NOG: You're kind of their hero. The man at the front line in the war with the Dominion.

Oh so we're at war with the Dominion, now? They must have caught Sisko's new CNN segment. Anyway, Nog knows who the Red Squad are, but isn't supposed to. His lobes have helped him ferret out the secret members of this little club. Sisko flexes his big dick energy and orders Nog to give him a name, providing Sisko a lead in his investigation.

This introduces us to one Cadet Shepherd, who just might be the most insufferable human in Star Trek this side of Okana. Holy Hourglass Orbs, this smarmy, arrogant, affluenza-ridden, privileged little fuck makes a strong argument in favour of involuntary euthanasia. Sisko stays in character in order to get to the truth of the conspiracy. Red Squad's actions were not supposed to be made public (“for now”). Sisko preys on this brat's arrogance, accusing his team of “sloppy work.” It's pretty amusing, and I'm genuinely happy to see Sisko using his powers of manipulation to *expose* the truth instead of hide for his own reasons. Kudos. Well that truth is quite the bombshell. Red Squad itself was responsible for the power outage, acting on secret orders.

Back in New Orleans, Sisko and Odo discuss the matter. While Odo still thinks the Dominion may be manipulating Red Squad, Sisko points out that the results of this attack have only strengthened security. People are off the streets, skeptics like Pa Sisko are happily giving away their blood to the ubiquitous armed guards milling about. Maybe that's the Dominion's secret: turn your enemies into authoritarian dictatorships through paranoia so they'll embrace your, erm, dominion. Unfortunately, the gears start to grind a little bit here as Sisko can't fathom “turning against” his fellow officers. Sisko was willing to violate his own family's civil liberties in order to protect the Federation from invasion but he isn't willing to confront people committing treason against the Federation because they wear the uniform? Gross.

Act 2 : ****, 17%

So, Sisko presents his evidence to President Jared. Jared is angry and incredulous, because now the script needs him to be incredulous, whereas in “Homefront,” the script needed him to roll over for Leighton. Sure. It turns out Leighton has been vying for these security upgrades for months. The Antwerp bombing gave him the excuse he needed to begin the process of creating martial law. Jared's gummification aside, the scene sizzles with sensible dialogue and passionate performances. And despite my frequent criticisms of Avery Brooks, I think he's spot on here. Conveniently, in the four days since the outage, Jared has had time to conduct gallop polls which indicate that, like Pa Sisko, the public suddenly supports being treated like mewling babies. Glad to see politics is more or less the same in the future. So, Sisko is going to have to provide hard evidence of Leighton's treason.

Sisko tries to use Nog again, but Leighton is already ahead of him, having sent Red Squad into hiding. He shows up at the restaurant and attempts to justify his mad plans to his former XO. Now that the admiral is being written by Ron Moore, it's no surprise that there are echoes of Eric Pressman in his exhortation of duty and loyalty which, like with Riker, gives Sisko pause. It seems that getting promoted above captain seems to make old men forget that they live in a democratic society. Leighton finds the chain of command the most effective method of maintaining security and order and, in the face of this crisis, sees it quite necessary to impose that order upon the earth. The irony is red-hot spicy at Sisko's this evening. In the end, Sisko refuses to obey Leighton's orders, so he's relieved of his temporary assignment and sent back to DS9.

Sisko sulks a bit on HQ grounds (not sure why he went back to San Francisco, but okay) and is joined by...O'Brien? No, of course this is a (the?) Changeling posing as O'Brien so the budget isn't blown on hiring an additional actor. Well, this production handicap is put to excellent use as Colm Meaney delivers a devastating performance here.

CH-O'BRIEN: We're smarter than solids. We're better than you. And most importantly, we do not fear you the way you fear us. In the end, it's your fear that will destroy you.

Indeed.

Act 3 : **.5, 17%

Ben and Joseph engage in a little light DBI, but it's portrayed amiably enough. Pa is able to get Ben to realise he needs to stop pondering and take action—again very much like Riker in “The Pegasus.” So, Sisko commits himself and contacts Kira over a Bajoran frequency (good to see that upgraded Earth security is totally ineffective). She reports that the wormhole has stopped puckering randomly. Later, Odo and Sisko break into Leighton's files and discover that he has been assigning former protégés, like Bactine, to many key posts. This definitely has echoes of “Conspiracy.” It looks like he's planning a full-blown coup. Yikes. Bactine enters his office and he decides, for no particular reason, to act extremely suspiciously and say he's going to take some leave and stick around for the coup...I mean the president's big speech on the 14th. Well, this is stupid and clumsy, but at least someone got to say the word “paradise” again.

The next morning, Sisko arrives in Paris to deliver his incriminating evidence to Jared, but Leighton has beaten him to the punch once again, as his stupidity from the night before made sure Bactine was able to help stage a scene in which Sisko is made to appear to be a Changeling in the president's office.

Act 4 : ***.5, 17%

Leighton confronts Sisko in his cell and he confirms the worst, that Starfleet will be assuming control of the planet, suspending democratic rule until the Dominion threat is over. Later on, Odo decides to free Sisko using the most ironic means at his disposal, posing as an instrument on a tray designed to help Starfleet perform blood tests. Cute. We learn that Leighton had a man on DS9 all along who has been tickling the wormhole or whatever in order to make it spasm. Kira has him on the Defiant which is on her way to Earth. Odo is sent to confront Jared, while Sisko is going directly after Leighton.

Sisko lays it out in Leighton's office (holding the admiral at gunpoint), but Leighton is ahead of him once again. Newly-promoted captain Bactine is on her way in the Lakota to intercept the Defiant and keep the clinching evidence far away from his mad plans. The Lakota crew is under the impression that the Defiant is full of Russian bots...I mean shapeshifters, and thus won't hesitate to open fire.

Act 5 : ***, 17%

The two men argue the issue briefly—and this raises an odd issue. Why does President of the Federation Jared get to establish domestic...or military or whatever policy on Earth, which is a member planet OF the Federation? The story is definitely playing fast and loose with the rules of how these offices work. I mean, are there NO other admirals besides Leighton at Starfleet HQ? Isn't there a Federation Council somewhere?

Brushing that aside, the Lakota and Defiant finally meet in space and shots are fired. You've got to love that just about the only people on the Defiant's bridge are the rest of the cast besides Quark, including Bashir for no particular reason. As he gets all of about two perfunctory lines.

In Leighton's office, it's revealed that despite Sisko's engineering background, it was during their service together that then Captain Leighton determined Sisko ripe for command and promoted him to the red shirt. At any rate, the buck is passed to Captain Bactine as Leighton orders her to destroy the Defiant to prevent it from reaching Earth and disrupting this insanity. Worf is facing the same dilemma, but luckily Bactine decides to end the fight. The battle has cost several people their lives, but at least the evidence is on its way. In a slightly over-played scene to follow, Leighton finally removes his pips and surrenders himself to the inevitable.

In the epilogue, the lingering issues from “Homefront” are put to rest, thankfully.

ODO: Am I the only one who's worried that there are still changelings here on Earth?
JOSEPH: Worried? I'm scared to death. But I'll be damned if I'm going to let them change the way I live my life.
SISKO: If the changelings want to destroy what we've built here, they're going to have to do it themselves. We will not do it for them.

We are even treated to a classic finish with the trio beaming up and Pa Sisko flashing a big smile for the camera. Good stuff.

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

I once again find myself in disagreement with Jammer, as DS9 does a bit better with its part 2 than part 1, “The Die is Cast” notwithstanding. With very little money for effects and guest stars, the story has to borrow heavily from TNG stories like “The Drumhead” and “The Pegasus” to flesh out its story, but it does so very effectively. From a production standpoint, the team should be commended for stretching things out so well.

The story isn't perfect. Leighton's arc is a little thin. Going from “please increase security” to “I will be the acting emperor of the entire Federation for its own good” is pushing things dangerously close to absurdity, but the chemistry between him and Sisko keeps the situation grounded enough. Sisko himself has definitely grown from his portrayal in “The Maquis.” He still values loyalty to Starfleet, but here its not just about the uniform, its about the ideas it represents. He hesitates to call out his fellow officers, but in the end commits to doing the right thing rather than hide behind militaristic notions of officer-solidarity.

What is worrisome coming out of this story is distilled in Changeling O'Brien's little speech. The evolved human condition is fragile. It must be protected, but what we have seen from Cadet Smug Asshole Shepherd, things don't look promising for the upcoming generation. Leighton and those like him are creating an insidious anti-Federation culture among the future members of Starfleet, dripping with elitism, aggressiveness and a thirst for conflict. Despite the upbeat ending, I find myself very disturbed by this two-parter and what it means moving forward.

Final Score : ***.5
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Elliott
Tue, Dec 11, 2018, 8:38pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Homefront

@Iceman:

The only thing I'll agree with in that last post is that DS9 isn't the most right wing Trek, it's the second most right wing. Enterprise is the worst.
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Elliott
Tue, Dec 11, 2018, 8:36pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Homefront

@Iceman

"This is a highly contentious point that I'm not going to comment on. Just the wrong place for it. But I will say that there are plenty of terrorists that have nothing to do with Western foreign policy. So I don't think they need to portray how the Federation is responsible for the Dominion's terrorist attack, necessarily."

The writers have been very good about trying to be honest and accurate in their depiction of the Cardassians as analogues for nazis. They create a nuanced picture of a society that faces economic troubles coupled with racism, arrogance and a penchant for wanton cruelty. Not every Cardassian episode is "about" every one of these traits, but they inform each (good) story nonetheless. I am not saying that the writers need to show that the Federation is responsible for the Dominion attacks--I don't believe they are. I still think they should have closed the damned wormhole already, but that's another matter. What I'm saying is that the kind of events which in the real world would trigger terrorism *of the type* that could cause such massive social upheaval, in the vein of 9/11, only occur as a result of the post-imperialist mess that the Cold War wrought upon the world. I think school shootings qualify as terrorism, generally, but such events don't seem to trigger people into handing over their liberties, while attacks from foreign bodies which seem to represent *existential* threats often do.

The eventual direction this story takes in PL reveals that this stuff does hold together in the end. And as Chrome points out, the inspiration for this story is based events which have little to do with actual terrorism. But if the Changelings *had* caused the power outage and *had* upped their attacks, seeing Earth submit to martial law so easily would reveal that the Federation's principles don't amount to much in the face of fear. And that image is the lynchpin of the cliffhanger.
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Elliott
Tue, Dec 11, 2018, 7:45pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Homefront

@Iceman & Chrome

Thanks for the comments. I am going to elaborate more on what I mean in PL--maybe I should have waited 'til I finished and posted them together. These reviews take time! But to be clear, it's not that I'm upset that this episode isn't what I want it to be about, it's that it cheats to make its point. Terrorism doesn't happen in a vacuum. It is a byproduct of complex socioeconomic issues. And although this story (obviously) isn't allegorising 9/11, it *is* allegorising terrorism in general. So, just like in "Past Tense," the writers arrive at a kind of half-hearted analysis of a potent issue.

To be clear, I think PL cleans this up a bit, in exposing the perceived invasion as an internal conspiracy, but I'm following Jammer's format and reviewing the episodes separately. With the information present in this story alone, I find the premise contrived. This goes back to the discussion from years ago on this thread; we are meant to believe that humans would accept the idea that the Dominion (choose any number of terrorist organisations for allegory) just "hate their freedom." They should be asking "why is this happening?" The West has a lot of culpability in creating the socioeconomic conditions that breed terrorism against itself and I think the writers had a responsibility to contend with that in their writing.

PS. I think Iceman was referring to "The Drumhead."
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Elliott
Tue, Dec 11, 2018, 2:54pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Homefront

Oh man, ELATED to get back onto this thread...

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

Dax and Sisko observe the wormhole behaving strangely, opening and closing, seemingly at random. There's some of your typical overly-proud-of-itself DS9 dialogue which clumsily exposits superficial changes to the characters. Sisko has a beard now, in case you didn't notice. And it's been a while since he had a chat with the Prophets. Why is this here? Well, this was supposed to be the S3 cliffhanger episode and as such, feels the need to be insufferable in the writers' attempts to prove how conscientious they are about continuity. Odo arrives on the promenade, Quark tells Morn a dick joke and Sisko is summoned to Ops over a message from Starfleet.

For his part, Odo is furious with Quark. Please contain your surprise. Actually, his grievance is of a personal nature this time—Dax has been playing pranks on Odo, messing with the shit in his quarters just to be annoying. Apparently, “Rejoined” left the character far too sympathetic, so we need to give the audience reasons to loathe her. I think the intention with this scene is to remind us of that genetic sense of order Odo inherited from his people. Loveable Odo here is just in a tizzy, but the Founders, they will fucking kill you if you introduce disorder into their domain. The problem is, well, Dax and Quark are being childish assholes, so unless you find the people who inflict their personalities on others charming, this doesn't quite work.

Speaking of the Founders and fucking killing people, that communiqué indicates that 23 people were just 9/11ed on Earth. Yikes. Worf reports to the senior staff that the evidence shows a Changeling detonated a bomb at some sort of conference between the Federation and Romulus.

Act 1 : ***, 17%

Odo forces Dax to set his room back in order, giving the pair the opportunity to engage in more exposition. He and Sisko have been called to return to Earth to try and offer some more counsel about the Changelings. They'll be travelling there aboard the Lakota. What, no pan flute music? Meanwhile, Sisko is informing Admiral Cartwright, I mean his dad who's totally alive and everything, that he and Jake are looking forward to cooking with the old man at his restaurant in New Orleans. Sisko asks after his health, prompting your typical crochety old person reaction. He recently had his aorta replaced. A little bit of DBI with Sisko and his own son...somebody stab me please.

Bashir and O'Brien emerge from the holosuite, Miles putting on a lower-class English accent and the two sporting bomber jackets. Obviously, they've been playing Red Dead Redemption. The pair don't quite have the spirit for another game as they're worried about the fate of their homeworld. Quark likens their grief to his own after some financial disaster on Ferenginar. Naturally, this reads like some nightmarish Wallstreet Journal OpEd.

We are treated to one more unessential scene in which Kira laments the idea that the wormhole's odd activity doesn't seem to have been a sign from the Prophets. Isn't religion great? I mean, if the Prophets *were* trying to send a message, then this would all be a giant diatribe on how belief is good (c.f. “Destiny”), but because that's not the plot this week, whatever, no call for scepticism. Instead we get Worf repeating the lore from “Firstborn” about how in Klingon mythology, the ancient warriors slew their gods. And of course, such an act of rebellion ensured their people a millennium of conservative imperial monarchy. You're welcome. Also, the Klingon gods were alive and walking around in the 1300s AD? You know there's this thing called archaeology. Whatever, I suppose all ostensibly noble species should be as credulous as the Bajorans.

Finally, we find ourselves in San Francisco, where Sisko and Odo are greeted by one Admiral Leighton and one of his former XOs (Sisko was another). Leighton is optimistic that their presence will reward them with more successful countermeasures against the Founders. So confident is he that Sisko is immediately re-assigned to acting head of Earth security. This seems...dubious. Shouldn't someone in charge of security for a planet have experience other than building warships and commanding religious zealots? Maybe a gold shirt? Eddington?

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

We pick up at Sisko's Restaurant where Ben and Jake make their entrance. The shit-shooting is mercifully brief as the conversation turns towards the mood of the population. Odo has chosen not to interact with the public at large because, given his experience with the kind of small-minded bigots who frequent DS9, he expects humans to regard him with suspicion. Papa Sisko agrees because Ira Behr is an asshole.

Alright, let's address this head-on. In “The Best of Both Worlds,” a devastating attack on the Federation gave us a complex and riveting story of human crisis. In the end, humanity won a pyrrhic victory over the Borg, managing to end the invasion, but losing most of the Starfleet, hundreds of thousands of lives, and costing men like Picard and Sisko parts of their souls. When the Enterprise encountered a Borg drone again in “I Borg,” the two who treat Hugh with the most prejudice are Picard and Guinan, both having suffered quite directly under Borg tyranny.

I'm not going to beat around the George W Bush about this; yes, part of what allowed the US to further the evisceration of civic liberty during the aftermaths of 9/11 was the public mood, which was decidedly, scared shitless. But that mood wasn't just a natural fear in the face of scary shit, which obviously the attack was, but also the way in which the political and media infrastructure which grew up during the Cold War allowed the public to be manipulated into that frame of mind. Every screen was emblazoned with the phrase 'WAR ON TERROR,' every dipshit splitscreen “analysis” was (and is) populated by a host of weapons merchants and military generals while the anti-war left had/has essentially no mainstream media presence. Rampant nationalism was celebrated as a “non-partisan” issue, which made it feel like something which transcended philosophy or ethics. In the post-Reagan, post-Clinton Neoliberal wasteland of American society that was (is?) the early 2000s, this is hardly surprising. But the Federation is not that place. Numerous references are going to be made to the Earth being a “paradise,” but how exactly is that label being justified? Surely a paradise is not a place in which people are easily duped by corrupt military industrial complexes! I'm going to get further into this topic but suffice it to say for now that this two-parter suffers the same fundamental problem as the last one, “Past Tense,” in that it fails to address the *systemic* issues which drive the kind of social problems being tackled, attributing everything to regrettable human foibles instead of systems purposefully designed to manipulate the human condition.

Speaking of human foibles, it seems that Pa Sisko has lost weight since his surgery and isn't eating with his son and grandson. Jake is concerned over the obvious, but something like suspicion flashes across Ben's face. He tries to brush it aside by commenting on the gumbo, but we are left feeling very disquieted. Clearing the air is Nog, who shows up for his “usual” dinner of live tube grubs. Nog reports that he's “doing okay” with his studies. Sure.

After dinner, the boys continue their chat. Nog is a bit disillusioned by his treatment by the upper classmen. Apparently, they've stuck to the “Tapestry”/”First Duty” model of depicting cadets as, well what's the theme of this episode? oh yeah ASSHOLES. There's some sort of elite group that is especially dismissive of Nog called “Red Squad.” I find this whole notion completely preposterous, but please remember that Red Squad was created well before the Changeling attack. There's already going to be a lot to talk about this episode, so I'll save my disappointment in turning Wesley from Mozart into the roguish ace pilot with a spiritual side for another day.

Sisko and Leighton meet with the president the next morning.

LEIGHTON: Captain Sisko has several suggestions on how to combat Dominion infiltration. I think you'll find them very interesting.
JARESH-INYO: Hmm. I understand the need for increased security, but blood screenings? Phaser sweeps?
SISKO: They've proven very effective on Deep Space Nine.

Huh? Since when? The last time we saw phaser sweeps (“Way of the Warrior”), everybody failed to figure out that Odo was hiding as a control panel. Before that, the only thing which prevented a war between The Federation and the Hummus people was Odo's willingness to violate his people's sacred law and murder the saboteur. Oh, and SPOILER, but Changeling-Martok bypassed the blood test right in front of Sisko. Even without that knowledge, I think Sisko's being presumptuous here. Here again, we see how the writing fails to address the underlying issues of terrorism and civil liberties:

JARESH-INYO: Precautions may be advisable, but I will not disrupt the lives of the population. Despite what happened at Antwerp, I believe the changeling threat to be somewhat less serious than Starfleet does.

Wait a minute, wait a minute. These two sentences have almost nothing to do with each other. Being unwilling to disrupt people's lives is a value judgement, a statement of principle, whereas President Jared's incredulity is a tactical judgement. The two are not interchangeable! But just like with the Prophet stuff, the writers pull a fast one and swap out one idea for another (à la the Prophets are non-linear so their prophecies grant them divine status). So, what began as a statement of values “I am unwilling to blah blah blah” instead becomes a conversation about just how serious the Changeling threat is, which is IRRELEVANT to the topic at hand. But anyway, Jared is obviously not aware that shapeshifters can, you know, shapeshift, as he's caught off guard by Odo who appears, having been disguised as a briefcase. Let me be clear; Sisko's demonstration *is* effective in proving how dangerous the Founders are (in case the bomb in Antwerp wasn't enough), but this argument has NOTHING TO DO with Jared's, and by proxy, Star Trek's attitudes regarding civil liberties. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, how is it that the president is able to unilaterally approve of Sisko's security upgrades? Starfleet should be able to increase security around its own installations (AND SHOULD HAVE ALREADY DONE SO) without approval from the civilian government anyway. The only spillage comes from that “and their families” tag that Sisko throws in surreptitiously. How exactly is that supposed to help? Someone like Quark has a lot more access to Captain Sisko than his father does. This is some serious plot-lubricating.

Act 3 : **.5, 17%

Sisko and Commander Bactine or whatever her name is test the phaser sweepers on Odo. This is a lot more effective in its subtlety. Like in “The Adversary,” Odo is willing do endure, to suffer in order to explicitly undermine his own people and assist the Federation. Sisko is put through his own ordeal as he's treated to more of Nog's bitching about his lousy Academy experience. He thinks that if Sisko helps him join Red Squad, it will improve his standing amongst his peers. The good news is that Sisko has never heard of Red Squad and finds it dubious that such an “elite group” would even exist at the Academy. Good. Thank you, Ira. Was that so hard?

We return to New Orleans (and we know it's New Orleans because there is a horse-drawn carriage on the street, QED). This leads to a somewhat tedious conversation between Ben and Pa regarding who visits whom, blah blah blah. You know, the usual DBI. What's important here is that it turns out Pa hasn't been to see his doctor, endangering his health.

JOSEPH: Ben, at my age, staying healthy is a full time job, and I am too old to work two jobs.

The attempt in the script here is to draw a parallel between Pa's behaviour in response to his health and the Federation's in response to the Changeling threat. I'm reminded of a wonderful line from Rick and Morty: “I have no doubt that you would be bored senseless by therapy, the same way I'm bored when I brush my teeth and wipe my ass. Because the thing about repairing, maintaining, and cleaning is, it's not an adventure. There's no way to do it so wrong you might die. It's just work. And the bottom line is, some people are okay going to work, and some people... Well some people would rather die. Each of us gets to choose.” Ignoring one's health completely is impractical, but there comes a point at which the maintenance of a life *becomes* that life. It's too much. Is that the paradise Sisko is trying to save?

The problem once again is that the story is not bothering to delve into the systemic causes of terrorism. I'll save the real-world parallels for the next episode, but even in-Universe, Sisko is focused entirely upon the effects of terrorism and how to prevent it. That's why it seems that no one is considering closing the damned wormhole. After all, we have tullaberries to trade and Bajoran colonies to erect in vain. In other words, the powers that be have economic incentives to keep the passage to the GQ wide open and those concerns override the danger posed by the Founders. So, fuck it. Let's deprive our own citizens of their civic liberties to keep them “safe” so that we don't have to be bothered to rethink our economy. Is that paradise?

Anyway, Odo is passing the time imitating a seagull at Starfleet HQ. Bactine and Leighton say hello. Leighton is weirdly hostile, pointing out that the other Changelings can imitate human beings and are probably doing so at this very moment. You don't say? Well, master investigator Odo picks up on this extremely obvious behaviour and exposes this Leighton as another Founder, who promptly flies off. Glad to know that in all their security preparations, no one thought of erecting a fucking force field around HQ. No, better just to steal people's blood. Later, the real Leighton, Odo, Bactine and Sisko discuss the implications of this reveal. Sisko is tasked with another clumsy bit of LOOK CONTINUITY dialogue to remind us that Odo killed that ambassador Changeling in “The Adversary.” Well, the real Leighton concludes that this hippy-dippy president isn't going to acknowledge the fact that we are at war, god damn it. Once again, the script is just dripping with self-satisfaction and eye-roll-inducing dialogue:

LEIGHTON: We have a war on our hands. He doesn't seem to understand that. All he cares about is not upsetting people. But humans are tougher than he thinks. We've created a paradise here and we're willing to fight to protect it.

Jesus. He even gets a little racist, suggesting that Jared can't really understand what's at stake because he isn't a human, thus giving credence to Quark's remark from earlier “HumOns. All you care about is yourselves.” So, he's clearly a bad-miral, but Sisko is too dense to realise it yet. Before things can continue, Jake calls to inform Ben that Pa has been arrested.

Act 4 : ****, 17%

Well, it turns out Jake was exaggerating. A lot. There is a very young and nervous security officer holding Joseph at bay in his own kitchen with...a hypospray. He tries to explain about the blood tests being required from family (thank you, plot-lube) and Pa Sisko is incensed that his son would condone such a policy. You and me both, buddy.

SISKO: This isn't about you. We've got civilian families living on starships and Starfleet installations all over the Federation. The only way we can secure those facilities is to test everyone there, whether they wear a uniform or not.
JOSEPH: I'm not living on a Starfleet installation.
SISKO: Dad, if we're going to test the family members of one Starfleet officer, we must to test them all.

Um. Why? Ignoring the ethics for the moment, why couldn't the policy be to test people who live and work on Starfleet installations instead of everyone who happens to share blood factors with officers? Are they making Molly O'Brien take blood tests, but none of the Ferengi working in Quark's bar?

I actually really like the way this scene is set up—Ben and Joseph have a very believable dynamic that lets us deal with father-son issues without involving Cirroc Lofton too much (thank you). I especially like Sisko ordering the security officers to sit down and order some lunch, trying to show respect for his father's domain while not backing down from the argument. In the midst of their fight, Pa Sisko accidentally cuts his hand with his chef's knife. Sisko's eye lingers on the blood stain, apparently waiting for it to revert to Changeling goo. Well, this sets Joseph off.

JOSEPH: Don't you see? There isn't a test that's been created a smart man can't find his way around. You aren't going to catch shape-shifters using some gadget.

Despite some over-acting on the part of Avery Brooks, this scene is quite effective, building very quickly to an emotional climax that actually causes poor Pa Sisko to suffer a stroke.

He's going to be okay, we learn in the following scene in Sisko's new office. Sisko wrestles with fact that he couldn't trust his own father not to be an enemy spy. Odo says that this is why his people are doing what they're doing, in order to undermine Federation principles. Uhuh...when did Odo become a Federation cheerleader? What ever happened to the Odo who was ready to quit his job because Starfleet didn't trust *him* to do things the right way?

Later that night, the entire planet suffers a power loss, suggesting a serious breach in security and Dominion sabotage.

Act 5 : ***.5, 17%

Leighton and Sisko utilise the Lakota's systems to beam to President Jared's office and propose a radical solution: they want to institute martial law. Leighton is so excited by the prospect of mobilising the Starfleet into a personal defence force, he just about pops a boner the size of the Eiffel Tower looming in the background.

SISKO: Sir, the thought of filling the streets with armed troops is as disturbing to me as it is to you, but not as disturbing as the thought of a Jem'Hadar army landing on Earth without opposition. The Jem'Hadar are the most brutal and efficient soldiers I've ever encountered. They don't care about the conventions of war or protecting civilians. They will not limit themselves to military targets. They'll be waging the kind of war that Earth hasn't seen since the founding of the Federation.

Sisko and co.'s argument is essentially: we must not succumb to fear, so let us do whatever we want or our worst fears will be realised! Someone get this guy a job on CNN. Well, Jared decides to hand the planet over to Leighton, the consequences seen by Jake and Joseph as Starfleet officers start materialising outside the restaurant.

Episode as Functionary : ***, 10%

The last line of Jammer's review for this episode states: “President Jaresh-Inyo is reluctant to do this—he doesn't want to be remembered as the president who put arms on every street of Planet Paradise—but he ultimately agrees. There is no other option. If the Dominion attack without encountering some sort of resistance, Paradise will be more than lost—it will be destroyed.” I don't know why I have to ask this question, but what is the difference between something being lost and being destroyed? If it is lost it can be found again, I suppose. But if it is destroyed, it can be rebuilt.

Paradise Lost, the poem, is essentially a critique of idolatry. Man manifests his corruption akin to Adam by building temples and creating symbols which mask the essence of God. He is banished from the Garden because he loses his essential connection to the divine, that which makes “paradise” possible. His abstractions (knowledge) destroy his ability to comprehend the perfect. So “Paradise” is defined by its lack of abstraction. Things exist in their essential forms. We see no shadows, but Platonic reality. How does this translate to Roddenberry's Earth? Well, if Earth is a paradise, it's because humanity has evolved to the point where it no longer disguises its negative qualities behind convenient euphemisms. Like the Vulcans from whom they have learnt so much, humans live their lives according to philosophical principles. Things are as they are, not as so-called pragmatism might dictate. And thanks to advances in technology, an absence of scarcity enables mankind to live peacefully and prosperously without any economic competition whatsoever.

But we have to remember that this episode was penned by the same writers that gave us “Paradise” in S2. Their notion is that societies built in such a fashion are fabrications. Alixus had high-minded (and erroneous) ideals, but had to lie and manipulate her followers into adopting her methods. It's no secret that the Federation as described in TNG is viewed not so dissimilarly by these creators.

So the idea here is that extenuating circumstances will force people to abandon their principles. And that's not necessarily incorrect, but it doesn't PROVE anything other than that the circumstances are, well, extenuating. The situation is extreme and so is the fallout. If we don't want people to abandon their ideals, we should make efforts to prevent such conditions. This brings us back to my essential critique of this episode which I repeat: no effort is made to understand or explore the root causes of terrorism, merely the effects.

As a story, I think the parallel threads between the mounting security threats and Joseph Sisko's health is quite effective and we make much better use of the setting than in, say, “Non Sequitur.” Despite the shoestring budget, there is a sense of scale that helps punch up the understated drama very well. Brock Peters is an especially welcome guest star, imbuing this character who has become off-screen important with humour, depth and pathos, finding just the right balance to make his preaching feel natural instead of soap-boxy. The other actors do fine, but I do find the President character to be just as much a gummified strawman as Augris in “Resistance.” The plot is chuck full of contrivances, but there's enough humanity that things don't get bogged down. An intriguing setup.

Final Score : 9/11 stars...I mean ***
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Mon, Dec 10, 2018, 3:09pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S2: Crossover

@William B

I've recently begun travelling a great deal between New York and San Francisco, so have started listening to the TrekFM podcasts to pass the time. The casts are led by people who interact with the fan community boards on a regular basis. I was pretty shocked to find that some of my favourites like "The Muse" were dismissed by the fanbase, while anything hinting at the Janeway/Chakotay "love story" gets high praise. It's been an interesting experience. I think "Dark Frontier" is quite good, I just don't think Voyager's action-heavy stories are its best even though they got the most attention from the producers.

@Peter G

I think I agree with you about the actors thing. TNG always had that albatross called Marina Sirtis dragging things down, and Garret Wang struggled some of the time, but I find the overall quality of DS9's principal cast to be a notch lower than the other series (except Enterprise--that's mostly garbage). Terry Ferrel and Nicole DeBoer were only ever okay, Cirroc Lofton was quite bad, and Avery Brooks took a loooong time to figure out how to act in front of TV cameras.

Anyway, like I said, I'm kind of a weird fan. I'm not crazy about Wrath of Kahn, which is considered to be the best thing ever by much of Trekdom. I don't think Troi improved when she put the uniform on. I think Voyager is actually quite a dark series, despite its rosy veneer.

Set Bookmark
Elliott
Mon, Dec 10, 2018, 2:37pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S2: Crossover

@wolfstar

It's a shame you were so needlessly hostile and dismissive of me as we seem to have pretty similar feelings about the shows.

@Springy and the rest

When you get down to it, I think the 3 90s-era Treks are more or less of equal quality. They each have strengths and weaknesses; one's impression of how they rank depends a great deal on which qualities one values more. I admire DS9's revolutionary storytelling for its time, but I find much of its philosophical content wanting, and I actively dislike several of the characters who are meant to be sympathetic. I consider myself a Voyager fan, but a weird one. I don't get drippy over the episodes that most fans seem to love like "Coda," "The Cloud" or "Dark Frontier." For me, the best of the series are shows like "The Thaw," "Course Oblivion" and "Workforce." I also think the best of DS9 is "Far Beyond the Stars" and "Chimera," while "In the Pale Moonlight" and "Rocks and Shoals" are somewhat lacking.

I have to agree that there's a bit of an inferiority complex with DS9 in that it was objectively less supported by the powers that be than any of the other series. But it's a double-edged sword. The fact that the suits were less involved is exactly what allowed the writers to get away with many of the things which DS9 fans love so much about the show.
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Wed, Dec 5, 2018, 7:39pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Resistance

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

The crew are seen surreptitiously trading for some substance in civilian clothing on an alien planet. Before they can make off with the goods, Tuvok and Torres are captured and Janeway is shot. Before she can be hauled off by the helmeted guards, an old man runs up screaming at them. Only Neelix manages to slip away. Certainly an engaging teaser.

Act 1 : **.5, 17%

We pick up in Engineering where Chakotay and Harry are watching the warp core lava lamp churn reluctantly. They are dangerously close to some sort of permanent shut-down that fuck them over. I've seen/read some objections to the bullshit technobabble around this premise; that if the core is ejected, wouldn't that slow the anti-matter reaction rate to zero? I don't really need to defend this topic, but if you watch “Day of Honour” and “Renaissance Man,” you'll see that, even when ejected, the swirling blue energy continues to circulate. There's also “Night” and “The Void” in which the core is shut down entirely, but I have to assume in those instances, they had the macguffin substance they needed to make things not lock up. Whatever. None of this really matters, but for the pedantic at heart, answers do exist. Chakotay and his freshly-died hair is forced to shut down shields to extend their clock. Neelix checks in and gets beamed aboard to deliver the magic goo, stabilising the core and ending the crisis. So we can get under way yes? Oh, yeah we should probably rescue the captain and security and engineering chiefs, huh? Neelix reports that the Okra or whatever (the alien overlords) must of spied on the away team's transactions with a resistance movement on the planet. Kim finishes rebooting their systems, and with his shields and phasers back in working order, Chakotay is ready to confront the overlords.

On the bridge, Neelix warns Chakotay that the aggressive Okra will probably start shooting them right away. So it's a surprise (assuming you find Neelix reliable) that they are greeted cordially, if stiffly, by Augris. He promises to look into the likely detention of Janeway and co.

Meanwhile, Torres is getting herself shocked by the force field keeping her an Tuvok imprisoned. Her temper is getting the best of her, naturally. Tuvok's cool logic allows Torres to “hope for the best,” at least for the time being. So, what of Janeway? Well it seems that the old man, who is singing to himself, managed to smuggle her to safety in his home. She awakens to his mercies and discovers her combadge has gone missing. He tends to her injuries in an overly familiar way, calling her “his little girl.” Janeway is to weak at the moment to do more than roll her eyes at the compounding grief this little away mission is causing her.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

Later, Janeway has regained her strength and questions her would-be saviour who insists on calling her Raquella or something, his daughter's name. He has clearly succumbed to some sort of dementia, but he is still in control of his basic faculties, and clearly has a great deal of transferred affection for Janeway. She does her best to humour him to figure out what happened to her crewmen. Her insistence on storming the prison to mount a rescue seems to trigger him—he thinks Janeway is going after her long-lost mother. He embraces her, catching Janeway off guard.

Augris meets with Chakotay on the Voyager and maintains an air of diplomacy. It seems that the rumour mill established in “Cold Fire” continues to plague the Voyager's reputation in the DQ. The Okra have a justification to treat them with extreme prejudice. He confirms that the missing crew have been imprisoned, but promises to do his best and accommodate him. Chakotay privately advises Neelix to resume contact with the resistance in hopes of pursuing better options.

How does Augris make good on his promise? By interrogating Tuvok and Torres! Tuvok's unflappable logic and Torres' frustrated lashing out yield nought but frustration from Augris. So he opts to have Tuvok tortured for information. Apparently, this confrontation between the Voyager crew and the Okra has led to increased police presence, as Janeway observes from her would-be childhood home. He's gearing up for their two-man raid with such essentials as a pretty dress and jewellery for his wife to wear. But Janeway's not crazy. She's going in alone. Eventually, their conversation leads to the revelation that the old man has a collection of letters he's written to his wife, the tragedy punctuated by Joel Gray's quirky, pathetic and desperate performance. Despite herself, Janeway is touched by this victimised old man and his plight. His garbled recollections give us hints about the effects of the totalitarian regime. Janeway is still adamant that she go alone, but a raid by the helmet people sends the pair running out together through a secret exit.

Act 3 : ***, 17%

The pair make their way to the home of a resistance-member. Augris himself appears on the street, triggering the old man once more. It was he who captured the wife, apparently, as it is his duty to do, well, everything on this planet except wear a helmet. Janeway observes Augris and the helmet club question some civilians and stop the resistance contact from the teaser before he can get to her. The begin to haul him off, but the old man (Janeway calls him Caylem) intervenes, playing up the street-hobo clown persona to its fullest. Augris is so entertained by this little act that the contact is able to slip away. Augris is happy to humiliate the old man before the crowd, shoving a fruit on his head. Appropriate that he should remind me of Diogenes: “Man is the most intelligent of the animals—and the most silly.” While Torres continues to vainly find a way out of her cell, she hears Tuvok's unbridled screams of pain in the distance as the Okra have their way with him.

On the Voyager, the crew search for a way to break the away team out of the prison, but there are tech-problems. Taking a cue from DS9, this problem is presented in an un-belaboured fashion that is most welcome. On the planet, Janeway is also working on a way to infiltrate the prison. The contact is understandably incredulous about Caylem's involvement. He proves himself useful once again, letting Janeway trade the wife's jewellery for some weaponry.

Act 4 : ***.5, 17%

Janeway and Caylem await the overdue weapons merchant, providing another opportunity for exposition. The wife was a resistance fighter in her own right. Caylem was finally convinced to join the fight, but he didn't quite have the chops for it and she ended up getting arrested waiting for him to join her. He never told his daughter, whatever happened to her, out of shame. We can start to piece together what drove this poor fool insane. The merchant finally arrives, but Janeway notices his military boots which give him away as an informant for the Okra. Undiscouraged, Janeway spots a pair of prostitutes ambling by and realises that when violence fails, sex always sells.

Tuvok is tossed back into his cell, looking badly-beaten by his ordeal. Torres manages, just barely, to control her temper and adopt a modicum of Vulcan discipline. She apologises to Tuvok. The exchange is telling:

TORRES: I guess I always assumed that Vulcans didn't feel pain like the rest of us. That you were able to block it out somehow. Until I heard. Was that you I heard?
TUVOK: Vulcans are capable of suppressing certain levels of physical pain. Beyond that we must simply endure the experience.
TORRES: How can you say that so calmly? You must feel some anger at what they did to you, some desire to fight back.
TUVOK: Under the circumstances, physical resistance is ineffective. We are fighting back by refusing to give them any information.

Tim Russ is especially effective in his portrayal here, heartbreakingly Vulcan in his demeanour, struggling through the intense pain he feels. Torres notices the contact being tossed into another nearby cell. Janeway has gussied herself up, meanwhile, and propositions one of the prison guards. Caylem gets the drop on him and Janeway is able to collect a weapon. She gets herself into the prison, but makes sure to keep Caylem safely outside, promising to try and find the wife. She hasn't lost her objectivity, despite the outpouring of feeling she clearly has for this man.

Harry Kim has devised a clever plan of his own to give Paris and his rescue team a small head start in its efforts—ah, but the Okra quickly adapt to this cleverness and open fire on the Voyager. Augris makes contact and warns them away.

Act 5 : ***.5, 17%

Janeway, meanwhile, is able to shut down the internal force fields, giving Tuvok and Torres the opportunity to escape their cell. From the Voyager, Paris surmises that this presents an opportunity to mount a rescue, and Chakotay consents. Caylem has also taken advantage of the situation and stumbled his way inside. Augris, too, has made his way within this prison and the helmet boys capture the resistance members, the Voyager crew and the wise fool.

AUGRIS: I must say I'm impressed, Caylem. You never made it this far before. Every so often he goes on one of his missions to rescue his wife. She's been dead for twelve years...Sometimes he gets all the way up to the front gate. We send him on his way and allow him to serve as a reminder of just how futile it is to challenge us. I thought you'd learnt that lesson when you lost your daughter. She made it as far as the tunnels before she was shot...So much tragedy for one man to bear. And now your foolishness has condemned another innocent woman.

Caylem once again provides a momentary distraction and manages to stab Augris in the gut, but not before getting shot himself. Janeway makes an unusual choice here, play-acting as his daughter and offering him absolution before he finally dies. It's a lovely scene that makes the most of the enormous talent on the screen. Paris and his team finally arrive and complete their rescue, and the contact promises to memorialise Caylem for his contribution to the resistance.

Episode as Functionary : ***, 10%

For me, this is a typically strong episode of Star Trek. Not exceptional, but strong. There's a competent story that gives us a framework to meditate on some weighty themes, delivered by strong performances. The depiction of the fascist state is a bit rushed, but Augris proves to be an effective (if ridiculously omnipresent) antagonist. I like the way the he baits the Voyager into giving him a legal excuse for firing on her. Obviously, he never had any intention of returning Tuvok and the others, so by just sitting on his captives, he forces Chakotay's hand and makes the Voyager look like aggressors against this planet.

I very much like the way resistance to the state is explored in its different manifestations; there's the overt paramilitary activity taken up by young men like the contact, but the story is careful to point out that those whom society punishes most severely have their own contributions to make. Janeway manages to mount her rescue by virtue of posing as a sex worker, an activity that the regime doesn't celebrate but privately tolerates in corruption. And of course, Caylem has been driven to madness by the state's injustices. Giving him the killing blow against Augris was a bit pat, but the message couldn't be clearer; eventually the oppressed masses will overthrow their overlords.

The Torres/Tuvok dynamic is nicely handled, beginning a new relationship for the series that will be explored further in later seasons. The Voyager material is also competent and manages to give Kim and Chakotay a sense of purpose that is often missing when Janeway is on the bridge. It should also be mentioned that, unlike in “Prime Factors,” Janeway has chosen to make an illegal deal with members of an alien society. What has changed since that episode is the Kazon arc (“State of Flux,” “Initiations,” “Cold Fire” and “Manœuvres”). Seska has propagated harmful rumours about the Voyager that has made trade extra difficult, and Janeway has become more desperate as a result. That issue is not reckoned with here, but it will be.

Final Score : ***
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Wed, Dec 5, 2018, 4:46pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Our Man Bashir

@Peter G

"The reason why I'd dock the episode some points is that I actually don't think they went nearly far enough creating a 'Bond-persona' for Julian. His just seemed like himself, whereas I feel like the idea here was that he was playacting as a Garak-type, but when push came to shove he would reject that fake persona and be the humanitarian that he is."

I'll actually disagree on this quite firmly. The fact that the Bond persona *is* Julian Bashir (he does, after all, keep his real name in the fantasy) is precisely the point. The Bond scenario allows Julian to be himself without being problematised because the genre is full of problematic tropes; machismo, objectification, etc. Julian doesn't have to censor or sublimate the negative shades of his personality in the holosuite, just like he doesn't have to censor or sublimate his genetically-engineered abilities. In the "real world," only a super-man could actually be a Bond-type protagonist.

As for the rest of it...the Sloan stuff and what-not, I think it best to hold off on that debate for now.

@Luke:

"Quick question - how do you compute your final rating for a given episode?"

I list the percentages each act contributes to the final score in the review itself. x/10 scores are also calculated. Star ratings are rounded. This episode got 2.915 stars, which rounds to 3 and gets 7/10. It got the exact same score as "Defiant" from me, which holds up in my mind. So far, I have found that the way these act by act reviews end up producing scores and creating a ranked list seems to match really well with my overall feeling about individual episodes. It does present something of a problem with season averages. I enjoyed S3 a bit more than S2, but S2 ranked much higher because there were fewer really bad episodes and more mediocre ones.

@William B

"I mean, look: where exactly have Federation philosophy and Cardassian philosophy *gotten* their respective societies, and why is it that Bashir should always be deferential to Garak, as a result?"

This is an excellent point, and one I will remember when eventually getting to that debate, Peter. Cardassian pragmatism doesn't exactly have a record of success, does it?

"So maybe for Garak to believe that he's doing Bashir a real favour by saving him from going down with his five crew members makes some sense considering that Garak himself had to be knocked out to be dragged away from thousands of his people not long ago. Garak's bad experiences have warped his view of every scenario for him to be more pessimistic than is warranted."

Maybe, but I still find this methodology way out of character. In "The Wire," Garak could have sent Bashir to Tain directly, being his ultimate goal. But instead, he manipulated Bashir into getting him what he wanted through careful obfuscation and misdirection. I can see Garak trying something similar here, trying to lead Bashir to a pessimistic conclusion by the nose, but instead he just kind of blurts out his objection to the whole premise. I really do think the characterisation for Garak stopped at "he's a spy."
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Tue, Dec 4, 2018, 7:12pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Our Man Bashir

Teaser : **.5, 5%

We begin with some stolen footage of a Bond knockoff. Full confession: I am not a big fan of of the Bond films. I have seen most of them once, but I don't have any great love for the spy-thriller genre or the Bond formula in particular. I don't dislike it either, but right out the gate, this episode is going to have to do more than adequately replicate those elements to work for me. “The Nagus” wasn't just “The Godfather” with Ferengi and it was superb. “Profit and Loss” wasn't just “Casablanca” with Cardassians either, but it was pretty horrid. “Starship Mine” and “Northstar” are pretty tedious to me, while “Bride of Chaotica” and “Elementary, Dear Data” are splendid entertainment. When Trek does this sort of thing, it's very difficult to be objective.

Anyway, we find Bashir in the titular role performing the typical antics and “conversing” with the typical airheaded blonde in the holosuite. His brief performance is interrupted by “an uninvited guest,” Garak providing enthusiastic applause. He likes to watch. And he wants to play, having donned appropriate garb. It turns out Julian has been spending a lot of time in here, but hasn't shared his experience with his friends.

GARAK: It's just that you're such a...a talkative man, and it's so unusual for you to have secrets.
BASHIR: Well, I picked up that habit from you.

File that one away. So, provided Garak doesn't put on the red dress (damn you 90s liberal media!), Garak will be allowed to stay and play with his, erm, “friend” for the next couple of hours. The scene concludes with Garak proclaiming “What could *possibly* go wrong?” Robinson's performance here is typically strong, but I'm rather put off by this characterisation. Garak isn't a troll. He may very well be interested in Bashir's fantasy life for a variety of reasons, but intentionally cock-blocking the doctor like this, then mocking him...it's just not the kind of nuanced enigmatic character we've come to know. Now Jadzia, she'd be all about that.

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

We are introduced to the next walking pair of tits, his valet Mona Lovesit, at Bashir's holo-appartment. The girl has brains to match her beauty which is why she has made a stunning career hauling Julian's luggage around and shaking martinis. Ah, the 60s... Bashir passes on the customary pre-dinner blowjob for the moment, inviting Garak to speculate on just what exactly it is his character does in this world. He's...ambivalent, for the moment, that Bashir has chosen to play-act at his profession under these particular, rather indulgent conditions.

Meanwhile, the plot is on its way back to the station. For no particular reason, half the cast has crammed itself into a runabout, because we aren't ready to blow up the Defiant yet. There's technocraziness threatening to destroy the warp core somehow—there are actually missing parts aboard the runabout. From Ops, Eddington, attempts an emergency beam out. The cast briefly materialises before there's a flash and they're gone.

Act 2 : **.5, 18%

Odo and Eddington try to figure out what went wrong. The quintet's patterns are still in the buffer, but unable to be materialised. The data within the buffer—all those brainwave patterns—can only be stored if they dump the patterns into the main computer. This causes the lights to go out because...um, quantum.

Of course, this can only mean...that back in the holosuite, Kira has appeared in a pink silk negligé and speaking like an MSNBC nightmare accent. Bashir thinks that this is all a trick for the moment, but Kira insists that she's actually a KGB agent, which explains why she's been taking a nap in Bashir's combination sex-bed/bar. A few inquiries reveal that the holosuite is frozen because of the tech emergency. Of course. They can't turn the god-damned lights on or PAUSE the programme, but it functions normally all the same. Eddington figures out that, quite naturally, the programme has stored the crew's patterns within the holosuite. And it must be kept running. And the safeties are off (duh). Okay, all of that bullshit out of the way, we can finally get down to the point of all this.

Natashira Nerysnekov here says the Soviets have determined a series of earthquakes have been artificially generated. Garak doesn't quite seem to get the rules, yet. He finds the whole premise kind of ridiculous, because it is. Dr Honey Bear (Dax) has been kidnapped! And she wears glasses! Bashir says that he and Garak have to play along because the programme will delete Dax' pattern if Honey Bear is killed. Uhuh. That sounds exactly like how a programme would work. A character has died? Delete all associated code so the programme can never be run again! Yeah. Let's see what else?...O'Brien shows up as The Falcon, kills Mona and aims his now deadly holo-gun at Bashir.

Act 3 : ***, 18%

O'Bird gives Bashir and Nerysnekov time enough to pull an unlikely escape, eliciting more incredulity in Garak.

GARAK: I want you to stop treating this like a game where everything's going to turn out all right in the end. Real spies have to make hard choices.

This is a fair point in a vacuum but...is Garak just super dense this week or what? The point of this isn't for Bashir to learn how to be a “real spy,” it's to keep the crew alive. This whole idea that Garak is getting butt-hurt, as the kids say, over Bashir's fantasy strikes me as way out of character. Anyway, the Bond plot thickens as Nerysnekov exposits the pressing need to get to Paris and find out Dr Noah.

In the Paris nightclub, our trio are escorted to Duchamps (Worf) who asks for Bashir's invitation in between puffs on a cigar. This leads to Bashir figuring he'll bribe his way into Dr Noah's circle through gambling.

We cut to the holosuite interface where Rom reveals his jerry-rigged circuit board to Eddington and Odo. Eventually, Odo explains that The True Way—a Cardassian separatist group we've never heard of—was responsible for sabotaging the runabout. You know. Because. Anyway, Rom is going to save the day with his implausible genius.

Back in the holosuite, Julian has won himself several million Francs, and thereby purchased an invitation to see Dr Noah, specifically a face full of crazy knockout gas from D'uqcCHOMP's cigar. My guess is that Michael Dorn really enjoyed spitting in Gates McFadden's face in “Genesis” and asked to do more spit takes. The trio awakens on Mount Everest, of course, and Hippocratus Noah (Sisko) greets them manically.

Act 4 : ***.5, 16% (short act)

Dr NoAAAAAHH explains his explain plan to Inconvenient Truth the world into a massive flood and leave his island of brilliant minds and nubile breeding stock to flourish. Honey Bareback is revealed by yet another revolving platform, not so much kidnapped as collaborating. Avery Brooks' manic energy is a great fit for this wacky character (“demolish the HOUSE!”), and marinating in the Bond plot for so long is a welcome change of pace. What undermines things somewhat is the score which is as typically Berman trekky as any serious Dominion plot would find itself. Bring back the saxophones, please. So, Siskoah ties Garak and Bashir to the base of one of his giant lasers (Kira is going to be making babies).

Act 5 : ***.5, 19% (loooong act)

Garak seems to have been proven right here, as letting O'Bird remain alive proved to be a mistake. Falcon was working for Noah all along. His irritation with Bashir's refusal to be pragmatic, spurred on by likely imminent death, has him especially angry with his good buddy. But no, Bashir is going to keep playing the game, because that's the only way to save his colleagues. So, he seduces Dr Bear to the accompaniment of eyerolling from Garak. She passes Bashir the key to their...ahem...bonds in just enough time to free the pair from their doom.

The score finally picks up and gets into the spirit of things, with the big brass and electric guitars blaring. The problem is that, this is moment for less diegetic music. Now is when Garak is screaming for them to cut their losses, accept that indulging in infantile fantasies is going to get them all killed and make a practical decision. The dialogue between these two is scintillating and deadly serious, yet the score is asking us to pop the corn and be amused. WHY?? Well, in the end, Bashir actually shoots Garak, apparently nearly killing him.

The pair storm Siskoah's office just in time for Eddington to call and inform them that they're minutes away from saving the crew. So, Bashir stalls and gives Brooks the opportunity to monologue. He adopts Garak's attitude (verbatim) and opts to quit the role of intelligence agent altogether. Now that we're immersed in the fiction, the music has reverted to its typically quality (WHY?), Anyway, Bashir throws the programme for a loop by destroying the world, buying just enough time to save the crew. Garak seems quite surprised by this because...because he's been written rather poorly this episode.

Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

I'm more or less in agreement with Jammer on this one. The episode takes far too much time away from the highly-entertaining holo-adventure to try and techno-explain the actual plot. Ironically, the most important aspect to the plot, the motivation for the unseen culprits, is kind of glossed over and forgotten about. Does anyone care about The True Way?

I also echo William B's sentiments about Garak. He's way too thinly-written this episode. You'd think that witnessing the fall of Tain would have made Garak a bit less romantic about his views on espionage. Bashir is the romantic, you say? Well, of course he is, per his own idiom. But Garak is no less nostalgic about a life he once lived than the fantasy Bashir wishes he could. Both men are brilliant, creative, cunning and mischievous in their own way (Bashir far more than he is usually allowed to let on). So, why is Garak so dense about finding a way to save the crew at the expense of spy-logic? Garak would gladly kill them all for Cardassia, sure, but would he really be willing to sacrifice Sisko and co. to preserve his own image of the master spy? This seems incredibly petty. It's just so disappointing to see him lose sight of the big picture like this, when Bashir is able to keep all these plates spinning in his mind with ease.

While the performances are on point, I do not understand the musical choices at all. It seems rather intentional that the immersive bits are scored like a typical episode, while the genuine dialogue is cued in the anachronistic Bond style, but I cannot summon a plausible explanation for this. The Bond stuff is made to feel more tepid on the one hand, and one is distracted away from giving serious credence to the important dialogue by the plunger mutes and high hats on the other. I say this as someone who isn't a particular fan of James Bond; I wish this episode was more Bond than it ended up being. A bit of a missed opportunity.

Final Score : ***
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Thu, Nov 29, 2018, 1:58pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Maneuvers

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

We begin with a feisty Chakotay and Torres being called to the bridge in the midst of a game of hoverball. He rather casually demonstrates how well he knows her and her foibles—a nice little touch of characterisation. When the pair arrive on the bridge, Tuvok and Janeway reveal that the Voyager is being hailed by a Federation signal. Intriguing.

Act 1 : **.5, 17%

The properties of the signal indicate that it had to have been sent after the Voyager's arrival in the DQ. So, Janeway has them track the signal to a beacon within a nebula. Before they can proceed, a Kazon vessel emerges and begins firing, inflicting significant damage. It seems to be able to match the blah blah frequency to the Voyager's shields, creating an opening in them. A smaller ship emerges from the nebula, passes through the rift, and jack-knifes into the hull.

The Kazon aboard the smaller ship manage to evade Tuvok's security team long enough to steal a transporter module and beam themselves back to the larger vessel. So, all of this action stuff is pretty effective if you don't think about it too long—very much like the capture and escape sequences in TNG's “The Hunted.” For my money, whether one can overlook the plot contrivances—and there are many more to come—is determined by the story's ability to explore concepts and themes which justify the mechanics of it. “Twisted” didn't make any god-damned sense AND the story wasn't about anything. Let's see how this plays out.

Chakotay is able to capture the Kazon with a tractor beam before they can escape, prompting a call from Caligula. Oh, and Seska is there, too, partially-restored to her Cardassian appearance. Through some tech tech, she and the Kazon break free, leaving Chakotay quite personally humiliated in front of the bridge crew.

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

NEELIX: I've never seen the Kazon do anything like this before.
TUVOK: Until now, the Kazon have never had an advisor with Cardassian, Maquis and Starfleet tactical experience.

Neelix questions Janeway's choice to pursue Seska and the Nistrim over the theft of a single tech component. This provides the opportunity for Janeway to state her case plainly, something that's been needed since this story's prequel, “State of Flux.” Despite her misgivings, Janeway stands by her choice not to upset the political structures of the DQ, as established in “Caretaker.” For his part, Chakotay is quite certain that Seska is toying with them, leaving an obvious means of pursuit after schooling them on tactics. He's even willing to overlook Tuvok's unintentional dig about “intimate knowledge.”

Torres has devised some sort of plan involving a light-up fleshlight to neutralise the stolen tech. Chakotay decides they're going to need to employ a little Maquis improvisation to pull this off. Their conversation turns again to the personal, as Torres recognises that his position as cell-leader to these Maquis and his sexual relationship with Seska make him specifically culpable for letting things get to this point, even though Seska has successfully fooled them all. I have mixed feelings about the scene in general. The ideas expressed are appropriate and the actors sell the material, but it bears the mark of many an early DS9 episode in being far too self-aware of its own character beats. It doesn't feel as natural as other scenes between these two, such as in “Parallax.”

Meanwhile, Caligula is bragging to another Majh about his recent acquisition. He wants help from other sects in order to capture the Voyager entirely and seize its wondrous tech. The other Majh taunts him for his poor leadership; it seems that Seska has joined up with the sect which has used up its goodwill and its resources. Seska diffuses some male posturing by sticking her tits out and suggesting some time to think things over. Well it turns out her actual plan was to use the transporter to beam the Relora leaders into space. The Voyager runs across the bodies, providing a pretty chilling visual. Once again, Voyager gets a lot of mileage out of horror imagery.

Act 3 : ***, 17%

Neelix proves useful for a change, using his knowledge of the Kazon's markings to explain to Janeway and Chakotay about the likely political implications of this execution-by-teleporter. Janeway calls a meeting to discuss (likely non-Maquis) options for getting their flashlight close enough to the Nistrim to work, but it seems Chakotay has tensed up and once again taken a shuttle out on his own.

Caligula, fragile male ego that he is, needs his sex-mommy Seska to explain to him how beneficial to his plans this little execution is. She has also taken it upon herself to contact some of the smaller sects in his name. It is here that we get the confirmation that the Kazon are intensely—one might even say cartoonishly—patriarchical, as he is incensed that she and her vagina would deign to take such bold action. For a Cardassian spy, it has to be difficult for her to put up with this nonsense, but she plays her part and appeases his ego in a scene that is, again, clumsily overt in its sexual undertones.

Far better is the scene that follows. Torres takes it upon herself to try and explain Chakotay's behaviour to Janeway. The captain is rightly pissed at him for not only defying her command but also being rather narcissistic (“self-indulgent” in her words) in assuming this whole endeavour to be about himself and Seska.

TORRES: I know Chakotay. This is his way of taking responsibility. In his mind, he's trying to protect the rest of us from a dangerous situation which he created.

Janeway empathises with this and admires Torres' tenacity, so she agrees to consider the personal dimension to this behaviour—something Chakotay would never admit to himself—when disciplining him, assuming they can rescue him. What I like about this is how it harkens back to B'Ellana's own experiences thus far on the Voyager. Chakotay went to bat for her and Janeway promoted her to chief engineer instead of locking Torres away for punching Kerry in the face. Even though I have made my feelings on the Maquis quite clear, it's examples like this which make me scratch my head when people complain that the Maquis' history has little to no bearing on the series. We are nearly half way through the second season, these people have been a crew for a year now, and still Chakotay has enough of that residual Maquis instinct in him to defy orders. No, the Maquis aren't staging a rebellion nuBSG-style, but who is to say that this was the *only* viable way to tell this story? Chakotay's history with the Maquis is every bit as relevant to his characterisation as Kira's history as a resistance fighter is to hers.

Anyway, Chakotay's shuttle reaches its Kazon target and he tries to sneak past the Nistrim sensors. Seska sees through his trick, but Chakotay has a contingency plan of his own. Again, Seska has to hold Caligula's hand through the manoeuvres. Chakotay manages to make the shuttle's tech useless...erm somehow, but also gets himself within phaser range of the module, destroying it and sending out a message buoy to the Voyager.

Act 4 : *.5, 17%

Chakotay is roughed up a bit, shackled, and left alone with Seska, who begins the standard “I'm a bad guy” stuff. She offers him a drink, paces around and takes credit for bringing out his more aggressive impulses. In some ways, though it lacks the political layers, this conversation mirrors that between Dukat and Kira in “Indiscretion.” But, while the ideas show promise and the actors do their best, the dialogue and especially the blocking do not pass muster here. Seska comes across as rather “crazed” as she manically paces about, grabbing Chakotay's face one moment and insulting him the next. What's appealing about her character is the way she carefully and subtly manipulates those around her, preying on their ideals. This stuff is, well, hackneyed and kind of pointless.

Meanwhile, the Voyager encounters Chakotay's beacon whose message indicates that he doesn't want the crew coming after him. In a weird bit, Tuvok seems to endorse the idea, implying some sort of malicious grudge that is so very un-Vulcan, I'm rather offended by its inclusion. Torres, of course, wants to rescue him. She makes an explicit appeal to emotionality and convinces Janeway to go ahead with the rescue, despite the mounting odds against them. It goes unstated, but it would certainly work against Janeway's longterm goals of uniting the crew under one banner if the Maquis leader turned first officer risked his life to defend *Federation* principles and the Federation captain left him for dead.

We pick up with Chakotay being brutalised by Caligula while Seska watches. He's trying to beat “the Voyager's command codes” out of him. Uhuh. So, we all know what this is right? This is the military plot equivalent of writing “tech tech” into the script which gets swapped out for biometric quantum inversion matrix capacitance or whatever. I understand why this thing might bother you, but again, for me, so long as the script isn't focusing upon the nonsense (just like in the tech plots, so long as we aren't trying desperately to *explain* made-up science), I really don't care. Caligula wants a thing from Chakotay which justifies not immediately executing him. This could easily have been something like a profile on Janeway and her psychological weaknesses, or the latest security measures discussed between him and Tuvok, or Neelix' recipe for Leola Root Stew, which could be used as biological weaponry. Biller got a bit lazy and wrote “command codes.” And yes of course, in a military strategic sense, this is kind of ridiculous. Of course, the Voyager should have had these codes changed immediately, but it's really just a plot point, not an exercise in flawless military logic.

Anyway, this contrivance provides Robert Beltran the opportunity to chew the scenery a bit, while also exploring why he takes Seska's betrayal so personally. After all, she infiltrated his rebellion, stole his secrets and betrayed his adopted family, but worst of all, they used to FUCK. High-minded stuff here. Caligula has a minion inject him with some sort of truth serum or LSD. Seska convinces him to let Chakotay stew for an hour and pokes his neck with something before leaving the room.

Act 5 : **, 17%

Telemetry from the gathering Kazon forces leads to a discussion on the bridge. The idea of an alliance between sects is unusual, by Neelix' accounting and Tuvok sees the tactical risk of engaging the coalition as insurmountable. So it's time for a crazy plan. Torres wants to beam Chakotay out (through the shields) at warp speed because, you know, she's a Maquis and the Maquis are badasses or whatever.

The Kazon coalition, an auspicious group of sect leaders whom...we have never seen before and know next to nothing about...meet on Caligula's ship to discuss this impending conquest of the Voyager. He offers the council of morons “proof” that he can access the Voyager's systems by having the hostage Chakotay brought in. Of course, when the ship approaches and the Kazon weapons don't penetrate the shields, this kind of undermines the whole thing. B'Ellana is playing a game of transporter ping pong with Seska, trying to grab Chakotay through the dampening field, which is much more difficult than beaming through both sets of shields, don't you know?

After more tedious fighting and technobabble, Janeway finally has the bright idea to beam the council of morons—who of course are NOT protected by the magical dampening field—to the Voyager directly, and leverage their release for the return of Chakotay and a cessation of fire. Tuvok demands the return of the shuttle as well, but Seska can stay with the Kazon oafs. That's a far worse fate than being thrown in the brig, ins't it?

In the epilogue, Janeway tries to wrap her mind around Chakotay's choices. There are echoes of the closing scenes from “Prime Factors” here, which is to the story's credit.

JANEWAY: Tell me this. How do you expect me to keep order when the First Officer takes it upon himself to run off like some cowboy because he decides it's a good idea? What you did was commendable. The way you did it was not. You set a terrible example. And on a personal level, you've made my job more difficult.

In a final twist, a final message beacon is discovered with a message from Seska. She informs him that she impregnated herself with a sample of his DNA she stole during his imprisonment. Those Cardassian villains love to make babies with their enemies, don't they?

Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

Like with the previous Chakotay/Kazon story “Initiations,” this episode does some important and mostly good things with characters and concepts, but is hampered by execution issues. Much of the dialogue and plot points are rushed through without being thought out to their full potential, creating several unnecessary frustrations. The Chakotay arc works rather well. His choice to join the Maquis in the first place was won borne of emotional short-sightedness (a common trait among the group). “Tattoo,” despite its myriad problems, gave us some insight into how Chakotay came to be such a directionless and passionate man. This mode of thinking is exactly what allowed Seska to infiltrate his ranks and gain his confidence. Then, when she betrayed his new crew, he repeated the mistake and made things personal. And in the end, his choice leads to an extreme violation of personal liberty, being forced to procreate (essentially rape) with his nemesis.

The general idea of moving the pieces around with the Kazon to set up the inevitable changes that having the Voyager in their space, despite Janeway's efforts, is also pretty good. The Voyager is actually unifying the Kazon by its presence and the temptation it offers. However, the good that this offers the series is severely limited by the incredibly superficial and corny portrayal of Caligula and the rest of the Kazon. Only Seska appears to have any layers to her and that's mostly in retrospect to her previous appearances on the show. It's all far less than it should be, but for a season that has been mostly shitty thus far, it's a welcome shift to more substantial storytelling.

Final Score : **.5
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Mon, Nov 19, 2018, 4:24pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: The Sword of Kahless

I should have proofread that post. A bit rushed today, sorry.
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Mon, Nov 19, 2018, 4:17pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: The Sword of Kahless

Okay, a little more backstory before we get into this one. First, allow me to repeat what I wrote about Worf in his re-introduction, as this is the first S4 story since WotW conceived with him in mind:

“Worf himself is was an excellent example of what multiculturalism means in the Federation. He was educated about Klingon honour and warrior culture—and certainly had the natural temperament to match—but he wasn't *indoctrinated* with it. He was able to parse out the symbols and artefacts of his culture which gave him identity, while still conforming to the ethics of the Federation...This is not to say that Worf was flawless. His personal history with the Romulans, much like Picard's with the Borg, led to some questionable choices in episodes like 'The Enemy'...Then along came 'Birthright'...which caused serious damage to Worf's character...Worf, upon meeting a group of young Klingons who, like him, were NOT indoctrinated by Klingon silliness, becomes a hardline conservative Klingon-values man, and doubles down on his racism towards Romulans...This crap is re-enforced soon after in 'Rightful Heir,' which establishes that Worf isn't just spiritual (which is fine), he's explicitly religious, not to mention absurdly credulous. After all the craziness he has seen on the Enterprise (“Where Silence Has Lease” comes to mind), the appearance of a Kahless clone is enough to turn Worf into a zealot.”

Next: while, Kor had some memorable lines in “Blood Oath,” that story wasn't really about him. That story could have worked with three theretofore unheard of Klingons of old (although it certainly would have been less effecting). Now, however, we are going to be doing a bit of character study. So let's talk about “Errand of Mercy” (a four-star episode, in my book, FYI). For my money, Kor is actually a more effective foil for Kirk than Kahn. His ruthlessness is perfectly captured in his verbal dismantling of illustrious captain:

KOR: The fact is, Captain, I have a great admiration for your Starfleet. A remarkable instrument. and I must confess to a certain admiration for you...You of the Federation, you are much like us.
KIRK: We're nothing like you. We're a democratic body.
KOR: Come now. I'm not referring to minor ideological differences. I mean that we are similar as a species. Here we are on a planet of sheep. Two tigers, predators, hunters, killers, and it is precisely that which MAKES US GREAT [shudder]. And there is a universe to be taken.

As has been discussed before, in the TOS era, the Federation was an analog for the United States and the Klingons for the USSR (duh). However, with TNG and continued human evolution (c.f. “The Neutral Zone”)–saying nothing of the fall of the Berlin Wall—that analogy becomes largely irrelevant by the time we get to DS9. What makes Kor so compelling, especially in his interactions with Kirk, is his ability to ferret out hypocrisies within our protagonist. Kor himself is very comfortable with his methods (imperialism, torture, war), whereas Kirk believes the rhetoric of democracy makes him immune to such evils. He describes himself as “a solider, not a diplomat,” emblematic of the differences between the 23rd and 24th century Starfleets. Indeed, Picard seems more like Ayelborne than like Kirk.

Conventionalisations, I should say.

Teaser : **.5, 5%

Kor is again aboard DS9, telling tall tales about his TOS-era glory days to a captured audience in Quark's bar. Quark isn't very impressed, but Worf is particularly enraptured, but too in awe of the old master to engage with him personally. Dax pokes a few holes in his story, but of course, the details don't really matter to Kor, what matters is the moral of the story, which is that Kor kicked everyone's ass and ate the the heart of T'Nag. Jadzia takes it upon herself to make Worf really uncomfortable, per her idiom, but introducing him to Kor directly. Worf thinks his disgrace in light of siding against Gowron will dishonour the old story-teller, but Kor is no fan of Gowron himself. It turns out Kor is on a quest for the legendary Sword of Kahless (title drop), which he quite loudly and drunkenly announces to Worf and the rest of the bar. Worf believes that the return of this artefact would change the course of Klingon history. How, isn't specified, but post-”Birthright” Worf isn't particularly concerned with making sense. As I said, he's been transformed into a credulous zealot, so attach some vague Klingon mysticism to the artefact, and Worf is all over that nonsense. He invites himself (respectfully) on Kor's little quest. Oh and Jadzia is going along, too. In for a penny, in for a pound, I guess. As in “Blood Oath,” she wants to apply some, you know, science and reason to their adventure. Kor asks her to confirm the authenticity of the sword's shroud which Kor happens to have in his possession.

As he stumbles him drunk ass back to his quarters, Kor is assaulted by a Lethian who steals some information from him. So, I guess we're in for another medical drama plot.

Act 1 : ***, 18%

Well, instead of entering another Menosky head-games script, Kor just awakens to the chiming of his door, believing himself to be hung-over. Didn't “Distant Voices” establish that Lethian attacks were usually deadly? Oh no! Continuity violated! Bad show. Bad show. While Kor slept on his floor, Jadzia has confirmed that the shroud is *probably* authentic. So they're off! But not before Jadzia get's Elrond—I mean Sisko's blessing. Turns out the shroud was recovered in the GQ.

WORF: The Hur'q invaded our homeworld over one thousand years ago. Whatever they could not pillage, they destroyed. They took the Sword and my people have been searching for it ever since. It is said its return will bring back a new era of glory for the Klingon Empire. With the Sword, the Emperor will be able to unite my people again.

“It is said” by WHOM, Worf? I get so frustrated by these crap. Read actual mythology and you will see that prophecies are proclaimed by specific beings with specific agendas, because mythology is meant to be revelatory about ideals, morality, etc. Here, it's just treated like some arbitrary plot contrivance. The Sword will unite the Klingon people because I fucking said so. Well, Sisko sees the upside in the Federation helping the Klingons recover an important relic, contrivances aside. Of course, this is bound to piss Gowron the fuck off, but never mind logic; give that man a runabout!

Before they enter the wormhole, Kor is careful to preface their adventure with legendary rhetoric. There is something kind of sweet about his need to couch himself in the trappings of an adventure. Later while he rests, Dax and Worf make small talk. It's interesting that, after grappling with her beliefs in “Blood Oath,” Jadzia seems to view Kor as an anachronism. She finds the Dahar master endearing, but doesn't really take all his posturing about legend seriously. She's humouring him out of affection but no longer seems to actually take all this Klingon crap very seriously. I;d call this very positive character development for Dax. Then there's Worf who can't seem to see that behind the legend, Kor is an old man well past his days of influence. Kor awakens and recalls his dream to the pair, where the Sword has brought Kang and Koloth back to life in the presence of the Emperor himself. Dax seems to recognise what the Sword means for her friend, a way to re-capture the glory of the past.

They arrive at the Hur'q homeworld and narrow their search to a chamber protected by a force field. Dax is able, with minimal effort, to technobabble her way through, something the Vulcan survey team was unable to manage. Yeah...that sounds like Vulcans. They enter the chamber and learn that someone has already ransacked it, taking all the stolen Klingon artefacts with them.

Act 2 : **.5, 18%

While Kor feels sorry for himself...I mean the empire, Dax and Worf discover evidence of a second, more secret chamber. Using the magic of SCIENCE, the trio enters and discovers the Sword, still backlit after ten centuries because...anyway, Worf allows Kor to take hold of the artefact. Their victory is short-lived however, as they are confronted by Duras' son, Pipsquea'Q. It seems that at Kor has boasted about his quest in bars across the galaxy, prompting the employ of the Lethian. The trio are able to subdue them and escape, but Worf is injured in the process. A jamming signal is preventing the trio from beaming back to the runabout, but Kor's grandstanding is starting to become a liability.

DAX: Kor, go make sure no one's following us.
KOR: Did you see the face of that Klingon that I killed? It was as if he understood the honour bestowed upon him. The first man in a thousand years to be killed by the Sword of Kahless.

As they walk through the tunnels, Kor questions how Worf could have spared Pipsquea'Q's life in “Redemption,” you remember, in the days before his character had been assassinated. Despite Jadzia's claim that Kor is not “like most Klingons,” his attitude is very much the same of a typical Klingon in balking at this mercy. After all, if Worf had been a good little Klingon and killed the boy, Kor's drunken ramblings wouldn't have gotten Worf stabbed. You THINK about what you did. Jadzia chastises her friend for being so cruel, but Kor is being especially hard-headed. This is rather disappointing, as Kor's gifts are in disarming his opponent through pointing out hypocrisies (this was true in “Blood Oath” in his dialogue with Kang, as well as with Kirk in EoM). His attitude here is just sort of generically Klingon, posturing and senseless.

Act 3 : *.5, 18%

The trio slay a small cave-cat thing and eat it around a fire (much like the Torri in “Faces”). Kor is already cooking up ways to embellish the story.

WORF: A true warrior has no need to exaggerate his feats.
KOR: You'd better hope that I exaggerate or when they start singing songs about this quest, they'll come to your verse and it will be, and Worf came along.

So much for Kor preferring friends who don't smile much. Also, exaggerating is one thing, but whence this contempt for Worf? Would he have so easily cut out Koloth's and Kang's contributions to their adventures? Kor certainly doesn't hesitate to kill people, but it's always for a reason. You'd think he'd have some empathy for Worf's choice to spare the Son of Duras. Despite being out of character, Kor does make a valid point in his argument with Worf. The Emperor is a fucking clone and Worf was wrong to support him and the Klingon clerics. They both believe that whoever wields this Sword will “unite” the houses of the empire—still no word on how. Worf will give it to nuKahless but Kor is starting to think he'll just do this himself. Think of how big his statue will be if he did all that!

While Jadzia changes his bandage, Worf expresses his concern over the man not living up to the legend. So, basically Worf's reasoning is that, while a clone of Kahless is so worthy of honour that he should be granted a status that throws Klingon society backward to a more theocratic and monarchic state than it already suffered from, ceding power to Kor would be a big mistake because, hey, he drinks too much and exaggerates. Nothing Klingon about that. Oh, and to top it off, since apparently the Sword is NOT powerful enough to deliver control unto nuKahless, Worf will just have to seize power for himself. How did he reach this conclusion? Well, hold on to your butts for the asspull of all retcons here: it turns out that retarded vision that was alluded to in “Rightful Heir” about Worf doing amazing things and what not wasn't about THAT plot, but THIS one. And next week, when Worf gets turned into a Bond villain, THAT will be his glorious destiny, and when he punches a Klingon lawyer in the face, THAT will be his glorious destiny...see, now that Worf has been transformed into a credulous, gullible zealot, no stupid plan is beyond his scope.

Act 4 : .5 stars, 13% (very short)

Kor has overheard Worf's mad ramblings as the trio reach a dangerous chasm. Kor, slips and of course, ends up holding onto dear life by the handle of the Sword itself, the other end grasped by Worf. While it should be pretty easy for him and Jadzia to pull him up together, Worf insists that Kor has to let go and be rescued by a ledge below him that may or may not exist. Kor isn't about to let go or allow Worf to assume power, so yeah, they pull him up. They get all alpha male and begin fighting over the damned thing. Dax offers to play Switzerland and carry the Sword herself, but not before confirming that Worf nearly let the old man die for his ambition. Both Worf and Kor taunt each other like childish morons while Dax tries to get some fucking sleep.

Act 5 : *, 18%

Before this idiocy can continue, the trio are finally confronted by Pipsquea'Q's men and there's a brief battle. While they successfully fight them off, Kor and Worf are quickly at each other's throats over possession of the Sword. So Dax shoots them both. Good. She forces Pipsquea'Q to unblock their signal to the runabout.

In the epilogue, Kor and Worf determine DESTINY has determined that they should throw the magic sword back into space and let some other people find the damned thing. More bullshit about destiny and a complete lack of taking accountability for their actions, and it's over.

Episode as Functionary : *.5, 10%

As usual, DS9's greatest strengths are in drawing on continuity. Here, threads from a TOS story and a TNG story unite to provide a sequel to a S2 DS9 story. Ferrel, Dorn and especially Colicos put in strong performances, the set pieces and battles were handled pretty well I think. But holy shit does this story fall off the rails after the second act.

The idea of a corrupting influence, the adventure-tale mythology angle and all that, wasn't a bad one at all. “Blood Oath” had the air of a popcorn adventure as well. But that story used the veneer of an adventure story to reveal things about Jadzia and draw a contrast between the promises of legends and the realities of cold-blooded murder. It may not seem obvious, but what ruins this story is exactly what ruined “Sub Rosa.” Transposing a genre into Star Trek requires a very deft hand. There are no such things as ghosts, so, whatever, just call it an anaphasic lifeform and be done with it! Use all the same trappings and clichés of Gothic stories but with a really lame sci-fi band-aid over the genre-discrepancies. This approach completely ignores WHY Gothic stories can be so resonant—the ghosts are a way of discussing the psychology of the protagonists. They are symbolic. Something similar applies to the mystical objects in quest mythology. Such objects *represent* something sociological or psychological. Their magical abilities are analogies for the forces which drive human beings to behave in certain ways. That magic absolutely NEEDED to be present with the Sword of Kahless in order for this story to work, because otherwise, the potential for craven mad power-grabs would have to be present within Worf's and Kor's characters well before this episode. So either we take this episode at face value and assume that Worf and Kor have always been completely irredeemable assholes, or we head-canon some sci-fi whatever properties onto the Sword to patch together this insanity.

The interactions between post-Sword Worf and Kor are extremely unpleasant to watch. Neither seems remotely in character and Worf's actions in particular are rather unforgivable. I cannot believe the episode didn't include some sort of reckoning between the two regarding their horrible behaviour. The only character who doesn't come out of this story looking awful is Dax, whose frustrations with her Klingon idiots captures the audience POV quite well.

Final Score : **
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Sun, Nov 18, 2018, 7:11pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Starship Down

@Jammer

That is so odd! Considering all the instances where the producers screwed up the air-date of certain episodes, I think this might be the one example where it really doesn't matter at all which order these two episodes air, so of course it's this one that has been retconned into the intended order.
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Sat, Nov 17, 2018, 7:15pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Cold Fire

Teaser : ***, 5%

After the brief recap of “Caretaker” in which we are reminded of the existence of Banjoman's mate (whom I suspect guises herself as Lulu Hogg), we pick up with Tuvok and Kes practising mind powers, as she had indicated had become their custom in “Persistence of Vision.” Through a mindmeld-adjacent head-grab, Kes is able to sense the minds of the crew. I very much like the way in which Tuvok describes the act of disciplining the mind. Unlike with things like, say, the pond analogy in “Parallax,” the notion of treating the minds of the crew like a symphony and honing in on the various instruments with emotional distance, is sort of compelling. She is drawn to the mind of Neelix, who is heard to be worrying over his haircut. God pity the ensign who has been assigned to to trim Neelix' ear hairs. It's probably Chell.

TUVOK: If you are to succeed in honing your telepathic abilities, you must learn to control these emotional outbursts.
KES: Outburst? It was a giggle.
TUVOK: Tomorrow I will teach you a Vulcan mind control technique that will help you inhibit your giggles.

Cute. We follow Kes to the sickbay where the EMH is a bit possessive about sharing his teacher-status with Tuvok. Before we can get into things, a ringing sound fills the air. The sound is coming from a storage closet which is housing the remains of Bajoman. After a moment, it stops shaking and singing, going silent.

Act 1 : **.5, 17%

The Doctor reveals to Janeway and co. that for a moment, the remains were emitting lifesigns, but no longer. They consider how much they don't really understand about Sporocystians (yeah, maybe you people should have been studying this rock instead of letting it collect dust) when it starts up again. Torres figures out that the remains are reacting to the lifesigns of a different Sporocyst, like a radiation detector. Kim is tasked to track the original source and finds a spot about 10 lightyears distant. The prospect of finding Lulu Hogg puts the crew in hopeful spirits about getting home...again.

TORRES: We've placed the remains in a HEXIPRISMATIC field, Captain. The next time it responds to sporocystian energy, the field should give us a heading to the source.
JANEWAY: You're using the remains like a compass.

Ah, that's the kind of “Parallax”-style bullshit, we know and love. After stealing a smile with Chakotay, a moment I quite liked, Tuvok proposes they take some precautions against the potentially dangerous Sporocyst they're pursuing. He suggests a toxin of some sort.

Well, their compass works and takes them to another array like the one in “Caretaker,” but it's much smaller. Scans reveal the presence over 2000 Ocampans on board. These Ocampa aren't the garden-happy gophers from the pilot though, as they immediately start firing weapons at the Voyager. After a bout, one Ocampa man hails and warns Janeway away, telling her they are not welcome.

Act 2 : **, 17%

An elated Kes is brought to the bridge.

KES: The idea that there could be Ocampa anywhere but on the homeworld is something no one ever considered. I thought I was the only one.

Janeway asks her to help her arrange a meeting, and she successfully convinces a few of them to join them in the conference room. The Ocampa are openly hostile towards Janeway and co., suggesting they're trying to kill Lulu Hogg. It is revealed that the Voyager is regarded as a “ship of death” in this region. This makes some sense: in “Caretaker” a Kazon Ogla vessel was destroyed by Chakotay; in “Ex Post Facto,” Paris is connected with the murder of a prominent Benean scientist; in “State of Flux,” a group of Nistrim are melted to death by a Federation replicator; and in “Initiations,” the Ogla Majh is killed thanks to interactions with Chakotay. Well it turns out the Kazon (Seska) have been spreading rumours about the Voyager and ruining its reputation, saying they regularly steal resources from other worlds, declared war on the Kazon themselves, and murdered Banjoman. While Janeway and Chakotay defend their actions, the lead Ocampa, Thanos or whatever, telepathically asks Kes to speak to her alone. Kes asks for some privacy and the others leave.

Thanos is more interested in Kes' personal life for some reason, and she gives him a brief tour of her life on the Voyager. He finds the ship impossibly sterile and barren, and it turns out he's fourteen years old, nearly twice a typical Ocampa lifespan. For whatever reason, men can't seem to help but condescend to Kes, as Thanos literally laughs at her naïvety. Lulu Hogg (I'm not calling her Susperia) has helped these Ocampa develop their mental powers and extend their lives, an approach to care-taking quite different from her mate. He proves how advanced their abilities have become by causing all the plants in the aeroponic bay to grow spontaneously, and leaves her to ponder her options.Janeway is quite pleased with the diplomatic progress, but Kes is feeling a bit overwhelmed. Tuvok advises a non-emotional response (duh), and Janeway suggests cautious optimism.

Thanos returns to the array and makes telepathic contact with Lulu Hogg who quite cheesily tells him that he can have the girl, but is to bring the ship to her. Bwahahahahha

Act 3 : **, 17%

During a tepid dinner scene, Thanos makes two offers, one to the crew to bring them to the “meeting place” and one to Kes to remain with her cousins on the array. Neelix starts of course but Janeway once again advises being cautious but thoughtful about the prospect. The topic turns inevitably back to the issue of mental powers, as Kes is eager to learn more. So Thanos agrees to give her some coachings.

For dessert, Tuvok and the EMH show Janeway the toxic weapon they've been developing. Kes meanwhile is trying to learn telekinesis while Neelix observes. With Thanos' help and the aid of analogies, Kes is able to heat a cup of tea. She says that the process seems so simple in retrospect. Later on, Kes reports her breakthrough to Tuvok and attempts to demonstrate the “next level” the “fire in her mind.” This quickly leads to the infamous face-melting scene, which is effectively horrifying. As far as Kes' Nazgûl scream, I kind of like it.

Act 4 : ***, 17%

The EMH is able to fix him right up, of course, leading to some expectedly amusing banter. But more significant is this exchange:

TUVOK: You are probably feeling the emotion known as remorse, possibly guilt. I advise you to look on this incident as a learning experience.
KES: It's not that easy. I almost killed you.
TUVOK: That is correct. But you did not. Try to remember that.

For one thing, I love the characterisation of Tuvok here. His mentorship of Kes is about more than honing her abilities, it's also about giving her the tools to evolve the discipline required to master extraordinary abilities. For another, it's a harbinger of where Kes' arc is taking her, and does a much better job at exploring how her powers coincide with her personality than “Time and Again,” “Cathexis” or “Persistence of Vision.”

Kes an Thanos have another meeting in the aeroponic bay, and she informs him that she is reticent to leave the Voyager, especially after the accident with Tuvok.

TANIS: I'm afraid it isn't going to get any easier, Kes. You're already starting to manifest abilities far beyond anything you've ever imagined. Soon you'll be so far beyond the other beings on this ship that you'll look at them as they look at pets.

In a lot of ways, Thanos' whole touch-with-the-fire spiel reminds me of the way the Q or the Prophets condescend to humans. I remember this scene being really cheesy when I watched it as a kid, but honestly, I kind of dig now. Despite the somewhat underwhelming visuals, Lien sells the idea of breaking free from her humanoid shell quite well. Kes has learnt to objectify life and death, something at odds with her natural compassion. While Bajoman chose to be a kind of benevolent clock-maker god, Lulu Hogg has taken a very different approach with these Ocampa. They have been exulted to demi-gods, and the accompanying arrogance tells us a lot about the kind of caretaker she has chosen to be.

Act 5 : *.5, 17%

Some CGI craziness has gotten itself into Engineering and repeated calls from the bridge yield no response. In the Mess Hall, Thanos tells Kes that it's time to leave the Voyager. Tuvok and a security team investigate the engine room and report that Lulu Hogg has arrived, prompting Janeway to join him. When Janeway arrives, instead of Lulu Hogg, she encounters a young girl in a pink dress, weeping over Bajoman's remains. Kes makes telepathic contact and realises that Hogg is horribly angry and vengeful. And indeed, there's a bit of a horror show in Engineering as Lulu Hogg has strung up the crew like turkeys, inflicts massive pain and starts tearing the ship apart.

Amidst this goofiness, Kes unleashes her dark phoenix powers upon both Thanos and Lulu Hogg, showing a wilfulness that's been sorely lacking in her character thus far. Janeway is freed long enough to use her toxin and incapacitate the Sporocyst. In what is supposed to me a momentous gesture, Janeway shows the girl mercy and releases her. And Lulu Hogg repays this gesture by...leaving and taking all the Ocampa with her to Exocompland or whatever.

In the epilogue, it turns out Kes' abilities have become dormant again, as she has reverted back to her teaser level. She wants to bury this darkness away for ever, regretting having been tempted to go with Thanos.

TUVOK: Without the darkness, how would we recognise the light? Do not fear your negative thoughts. They are part of you. They are a part of every living being, even Vulcans.
KES: You?
TUVOK: The Vulcan heart was forged out of barbarism and violence. We learned to control it, but it is still part of us. To pretend it does not exist is to create an opportunity for it to escape.

Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

The episode is rescued by the interactions between Kes and Tuvok which do wonderful things for the growth of both their characters. Kes has this very powerful and dangerous darkness growing within the kind and naïve shell that is the character we have come to know. It's a very mythological sort of truism that accessing supernatural gives man extraordinary abilities at the cost of his soul. Contrary to prior uses, Kes' mental powers are actually a part of her personality in this episode, which makes for a much more fulfilling viewing experience.

Tuvok reveals some layers as well, the propensity for his own darkness, as well as an affection for and attachment to his mentorship of Kes. Vulcan discipline is a part of a larger ethos not of *rejecting* emotions, but of harnessing them in a healthy way, in contrast to Thanos' hedonistic approach. Aside from the Doctor, this is the most believable relationship we've seen Kes have so far.

The story itself is pretty clunky. As an analogy for puberty, it works a hell of a lot better than “Elogium,” but as usual, techno-nonsense and plot contrivances get in the way. I'm reminded very much of the Traveller/Wesley arc from TNG, which had its ups (“Remember Me”) and downs (“Journey's End”). There's an attempt to blend the mystical with the sci-fi which works up unto a point, but hasn't been infused with enough artistry to really sing at this point, making it feel sort of psycho-babbly at times. The Suspiria stuff feels very much like an afterthought. They really should have had this be a two-parter (not necessarily back to back), with Kes meeting the wayward Ocampa here and eluding to the existence of the other Caretaker. Then, later we could have an episode where she actually makes her appearance. I don't know. This was a difficult episode to review as I struggled to put into words how I felt about the ideas present, probably because it requires a lot of work on the viewer's part to piece together the possible meanings within the story. I think Braga was on the right track here overall, but the story is overall rushed and anti-climactic.

Final Score : **
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Elliott
Fri, Nov 16, 2018, 3:15pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Little Green Men

Teaser : **.5, 5%

We begin with another silly Ferengi ceremony, the auctioning of “boyhood treasures” (I'm not in love with this turn of phrase). Nog is about to head out to the Academy (I guess we're subscribing to the affirmative-action theory of how the hell he got in), and is raising capital for his venture into manhood. Sigh...it would have been a nice gesture for Nog, self-consciously embracing more human values to *give* some of his possessions away (there are always starving Bajoran orphans around, right?). What is he going to do with “capital” on Earth? Worf gets in a little racist remark because, since Quark is the star of this episode, Worf is the runner-up conservative jerk. Jadzia buys Julian some Betezoid porn, Kira gets her stolen racquet back, Worf buys a tooth-sharpener with glee...

Eventually, Quark makes an appearance, and announces to Rom that his ship has finally come in! Literally. Gaila bought him a vessel, citing a ten-year-old debt. You know, it's a wonder that any Ferengi technology works, the way they're depicted. You'd think all their shit would be breaking down all the time given the Ferengi propensity for cheating their customers.

Quark orders Rom to inspect the ship for likely malfunctions, but Rom declares the vessel “perfect.” Quark decides to be uncharacteristically magnanimous and treat his overly progressive nephew to a trip to Earth “in style.” Ah, but Quark decides to tell the empty room that his store is actually full of contraband. Wah wah wahhhhh

Act 1 : ***, 17%

Quark leaves Morn in charge of the bar. Odo is immediately suspicious of Quark's generosity in giving Nog his lift to the Academy—which casts a spotlight on how unnecessary that moustache-twirling in the teaser was.

Meanwhile, Nog and reminisce about their friendship.

JAKE: You know, aside from playing dom-jot and watching the Bajoran transports dock, it seems like we spent most of our time doing nothing.
NOG: Maybe so, but I can't think of anyone I'd rather do nothing with than you.

Well, I hope that puts to rest any discussions about the alleged allegorical significance of their relationship. As far as I'm concerned, Aron Eisenberg should get his name in the credits and Lofton can be the guest star. Bashir and O'Brien gift Nog a guidebook to Earth, and Nog says his goodbye to the Promenade.

On the SS Quark's Treasure, Nog reads from the guidebook, which explains about human evolution,economics, etc.

NOG: But think about it, uncle. That means they went from being savages with a simple barter system to leaders of a vast interstellar Federation in only five thousand years It took us twice as long to establish the Ferengi Alliance, and we had to buy warp technology from the—
QUARK: Five thousand, ten thousand, what's the difference? The speed of technological advancement isn't nearly as important as short-term quarterly gains.

Quark grumpily pushes Rom to hurry them along on their journey, but Rom counters that he already knows about Quark's contraband, Kemacite, having snuck around the cargo hold while Quark was in the toilet. Despite the unspecified dangers of the cargo, father and son bribe Quark out of 30% of the profits, and he doesn't even haggle. Losing his touch, I think.

As the Treasure approaches Earth, Nog points to a picture of Gabriel Bell, as played by Avery Brooks. Awe Nog, no foreshadowing during Quark's nap! Then, there's a crisis. Gaila sabotaged the ship, locking the warp drive and disabling the ejection systems and emergency overrides. Somehow, Rom the genius failed to note these issues in his inspection. But, I kind of like this idea. Rom is exactly the miss the forest for the trees kind of intellect. Speaking of which, he hits on the technobabbliest of asspull solutions to their problem, very much in the Scotty/Geordi/Torres vein of nonsense (Quark even comments on the gobbledygook). Rom dumps the kemocite into the warp core or something and there's a flash.

Next thing you know, Quark is waking up in the hospital ward of a B-movie, complete with ominous cigarette dude. The dialogue, set pieces, and other hints like the calendar which reads 1947 in big red letters *very subtly* inform us that indeed, the trio have been time-travelled.

Act 2 : ***.5, 17%

From behind a two-way mirror, perpetual scary motherfucker and chanter of “Herbert,” Charles Napier name-drops Roswell while the smoke billows around they other movie archetypes. The Americans here think that the Ferengi are Martians (duh) and patching in the audio reveals that their words are not being translated to English. Short-term gains Quark is concerned about their predicament, but mostly about the fate of his ship and cargo. Armin Shimmerman is especially good this week—not many actors can pull off being hysterical while spouting alien gibberish and banging on a door. Napier has brought in Professor Lefty McOpenmind and his fiancée, Nurse Sympathetic Tits, to try and communicate with the Martians...after their smoke break, of course. Meanwhile, Quark and Rom debate the afterlife:

ROM: Maybe this is the Divine Treasury.
QUARK: Oh, don't be ridiculous. The Divine Treasury is made of pure latinum. Besides, where's the Blessed Exchequer? Where are the Celestial Auctioneers? And why aren't we bidding for our new lives?
ROM: You don't think we're in the other place?
NOG: The Vault of Eternal Destitution?
QUARK: Don't be ridiculous. The bar was showing a profit.

Although it's being played for laughs, I actually like this little commentary. People who take their religions literally often have a transactional view of god and the afterlife, and the Ferengi just happen to take this view to its logical extreme.

The Professor, the Nurse, Cigarette Man and some guards enter the room and try to communicate. One production snafu that kind of hurts the scene is that, rather than having the humans speak in “made up” English, their words are filtered or rendered backwards or something, making it feel very artificial. There is an episode of the comedy “Coupling” where one of the characters has to render his English to sound like a foreign language, and ends up combining some Welsh, Italian and German to hysterical effect. Oh yeah, there's also “Twisted” when Janeway stood up and shouted something about eating Gandhi's dog to unintentionally hysterical effect. I wish they'd tried that here. Anyway, the Ferengi realise their UTs are malfunctioning, leading to some head banging antics. Finally, Nog realises that they've travelled back through time, and suddenly dollar signs or latinum sings or whatever appear in Quark's eyes.

Act 3 : ***.5, 17%

GARLAND: I've given them every medical test I can think of, but the only thing I can tell you for sure is they're not human.
CARLSON: Well, that's a start.

Yes. Thank you, nurse. While the humOns study the trio like zoo animals, Nog and Rom piece together that the radiation from nearby nuclear weapons is what's disrupting their UTs. Rom manages to borrow a hairpin from Sympathetic Tits and uses it to work on their translators. One thing I admire about the dialogue the humans have is that it manages to be playfully corny and sincere at the same time. Unlike similar sentiments expressed by strawman Federation characters sometimes, the 1947 humans are simultaneously prodded for their dated, silly behaviour and uplifted for their potential. In this way, despite the very different tone, LGM hearkens back to “City on the Edge of Forever” in a way no Trek time travel story has at this point.

Slightly less successful is the anti-tobacco PSA snuck in. I mean, Quark's “if they'll buy poison, they'll buy anything” is apt, but the Ferengi use beetle snuff and Quark sells alcohol for a living. This seems too dense and forced a comment. Finally, with the translators repaired, Quark offers General Napier “a business proposition.”

Act 4 : **.5, 17%

Quark has decided to sell 24th-century Trek tech to the Americans, in exchange for gold. Napier takes about 3 minutes to determine that he's being taken for a ride. Ah, but Quark it's not every car-salesman that threatens to sell quantum torpedoes to the Soviets. So Napier's allegiance to free-market capitalism takes a bit of a hit and he says he'll take Quark's offer to Truman.

We cut to probably the worst bit in the episode, when Nog tricks Sympathetic Tits to give him an earjob in front of her fiancé, his own father and a damned dog. I wonder how long it will take for Nog to end up in a sexual harassment seminar at the Academy. The humans leave and Odo makes himself known, having disguised himself as the dog in question. I admit, I did not see that coming the first time I saw this episode. We will just have to hand-wave away the idea that Odo just kind of waited around on Quark's ship for an entire day at least when he already knew Quark was guilty of smuggling. Adding Auberjonois to the story is worth greasing the plot wheels a bit. Rom reasons that if they can blah blah blah the tech tech tech, they can recreate the accident and return to the 24th century, but that will require finding a very large energy source. Hmmm....what could that mean?

But Quark has other plans. He's going to pull a Mirror Hoshi and become Emperor of the Earth. Neat.

QUARK: I mean the whole planet. Harumph all you want. But these humans, they're nothing like the ones from the Federation. They're crude, gullible and greedy.
ODO: You mean like you.
QUARK: Yeah. These are humans I can understand and manipulate.

The commentary is good, but Quark's characterisation is a bit off the rails. He may be ambitious, but he's not insane. This plan to introduce warp to the 20th century Ferengi is totally bonkers.

DENNING: That little piano-playing Democrat's not as dumb as he looks. He's not about to make a deal with these aliens until we learn more about them.

That line is so apropos, I can't help but admire it. Napier assigns Cigarette Man to get serious with the Martians, so the trio are brought into an interrogation chamber and threatened with a ominous needle.

Act 5 : **.5, 17%

After six hysterical (thanks Armin) injections of sodium pentathol, Quark starts to have second thoughts about his business scheme. Rom, for his part, spills the beans and tells Cigarette Man everything...but Nog tells him what he actually wants to hear:

NOG: You want the truth, I'll tell you the truth. We're advance scouts for the Ferengi invasion fleet....We've been studying you puny Earthlings for centuries and you're ripe for conquest.

Nog must really be a quick study. That or that guide book is more NYPost than NYTimes. He successfully convinces Cigarette Dude that the Ferengi are about to Mars Attacks America...well, Cleveland anyway. The professor and the nurse decide to help their alien friends and knock out the guards, freeing the trio for their escape.

After Odo helps take out Napier, the sextet make their way to Quark's shitty ship. There will be an A-bomb test in the dessert soon, and that will provide the Deus to their Machina escape to the future. So they fly into some stock footage, Sympathetic Tits and McOpenmind steal a kiss, and Napier files the whole event under “conspiracy theories.”

QUARK: Just remember. Under that placid Federation veneer, humans are still a bunch of violent savages.
NOG: Maybe. But I like 'em.

God damn it, Ira. Why did you have to ruin it? The correct answer was: “You wish, unlce. But not anymore.”

In the epilogue, Odo completes his arrest, having waited until Quark sold his ship for passage home. Spiteful, thy name is Odo. Nog goes to the Academy and Rom looks forward to a few weeks of running the bar on his own.

Episode as Functionary : ***, 10%

Question: when did the Ferengi go from hostile (if pathetic) foreign power (c.f. “Rascals”) to friendly neighbour that can appear over Earth without incident?

As comedy outings go, this one is up there. It has some inspired ideas, and I really like the opening act of their time on Earth, but the story loses some gas after a while. Basically, while the high-concept conceit works surprisingly well, allowing for a deft blend of humour and Trek commentary, there's a bit missing from the characterisation of our mains. Quark, Odo, Rom and Nog are all kind of one-note for characters with so much history to them. The human archetypes work quite well for me, as they're supposed to be one-note, and many of the gags are hysterical. The story could have certainly fallen flat on its face and didn't, but it also could have been a bit better.

Final Score : ***
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Wed, Nov 14, 2018, 4:00pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Tattoo

Teaser : **.5, 5%

While searching a moon for a mineral the Voyager desperately needs, Chakotay comes across a symbol drawn into the soil. This triggers a flashback in which an adolescent Chakotay and his father explore the rainforest. This same symbol had been carved into a piece of wood left by the Rubber Tree People. …

Okay...as I referenced in my pre-amble (pre-RAMBLE) to “Caretaker,” the background to Chakotay's people is all kinds of messed up. Without rehashing all of that, I think the biggest problem stems from good intentions. Jeri Taylor wanted Chakotay to be “Voyager”'s Uhura. Now, in TOS, the ethnicities of the various crew-members was shorthand for the Trekkian ideal of human multiculturalism. In the famous Uruha/Kirk kiss from “Plato's Stepchildren,” the actors' lips had to be hidden from the camera lest the 1960s audience should have to start casting out demons from their TV sets, so depicting the 23rd century as somewhat post-racial (as the logic of the Trek universe suggests things would actually be) wasn't going to happen on that series. But now, it's the 90s, baby. Michael Dorn gets to have off-screen monster-frog sex with Marina Sirtis, Avery Brooks gets to bed Terry Ferrel, and Tim Russ gets to touch minds with Tank Girl, so a modicum of progress has been made. My point is that Berman-era Trek can more closely guise itself as post-racial. Sure, Picard makes references to his French heritage and Sisko to his Creole roots, but this is more sentimental than it is identitarian. This was not the case for Uhura, whose East African identity was pretty specific for the time. But the PTB wanted to follow the Hollywood “Dances with Wolves” trend make Trek an inclusive place for Native Americans. And that in itself is wonderful. Making Chakotay of Native heritage, like making Torres of latin heritage and Kim of Korean/Chinese heritage, is a positive way to carry on this legacy of representation. However, thanks to “Journey's End,” there seems to be this odd notion that in the wake of the rise of the Federation, Native Americans (alone) reverse-colonialised themselves into a group more culturally isolated from the rest of humanity in the 24th century than Native tribes are TODAY. And somehow, this process of isolation also homogenised the diverse tribes into one Ur-tribe calling itself “Indian.” This is all very dubious and offensive, but I think the reason this came about is rather simple.

See, Star Trek (especially of the TMP/TNG era) is highly critical of present-day humanity. The conceit of human evolution is that we, as a species, will outgrow or at least consciously-suppress certain unfortunate facets of our being, including religiosity, greed, prejudice, and imperialism. So, Picard can enjoy his French wine in the same way I (of Spanish descent) enjoy recreating my grandmother's paella. This does not mean I believe in the Inquisition or handing out Smallpox blankets! But First Nation people? No, they are the one subset of humanity that has remained rigidly conservative, flat-out rejecting human evolution altogether...somehow. And the implication from “Journey's End” is that they did this to “undo” the genocide of their people from the colonial era. I can't quite capture in words how much I hate this idea. You cannot *undo* great evils. They happen and they have consequences. The establishment of Israel, for example, does not *undo* the Holocaust. They are connected, sure, but one does not balance the scales of mass murder. Ever. That we should learn NEVER to repeat the mistakes of colonialism? Yes. That we should always be mindful that colonialism permeates every facet of our human culture today? Yes. That any amount of cultural conservatism can “wipe clean the very old stain of blood” that colonialism is? No. Fuck no.

But, thanks to Michael Piller and his weird back-to-nature bent, we're stuck with The Rubber Tree People, who still live in Central America, practise the religion of the North American plains, and (eventually) are shown to use dream-catchers, which neither of these groups did. A full breakdown of Chakotay's contradictory heritage can be found here: http://www.spiletta.com/rubbertree.html. If only they had stuck to their plan make Chakotay Mayan, we could have had the episode where he eats Neelix' heart.

I choose to get most of this out of the way upfront because I've already made my feelings on the content of the episode clear on the page to “The Search I.” So, I'll focus more upon the actual structure of the story in the following sections. The brief flashback indicates that young Chakotay and his father didn't exactly see eye-to-eye on issues regarding their heritage. Baggage aside, the idea that the Voyager would encounter a symbol from Chakotay's childhood in the DQ is handled alright and sets up an amiable mystery.

Act 1 : **, 17%

We pick up with the EMH and Kes examining the now mid-term Samantha Wildman (c.f. “Elogium”). The Doctor has a rather...Republican view of pregnancy discomfort. After she leaves, Kes mildly berates him for his lack of empathy.

EMH: Every member of this crew is an adult. I will not coddle them. Compassion can be your department. Fortunately, you have enough for both of us.

Hysterical. Kes points out that his inability to suffer physical discomfort may be partially to blame for his lack of bedside manner. Right. Because being eternally-confined to a single room wouldn't cause him pain in the slightest.

In his quarters, Chakotay explains the context of his flashback to Janeway. His father had dragged him to Earth on a quest to meet the descendants of the made up tribe. When Janeway wonders aloud how the symbol on Chakotay's sacred stone and on the flashback log could end up in the DQ, his sarcastic response is to explain the myth of the “Sky Spirits,” the creator-gods of the fake Indians.

CHAKOTAY: How much faith do you put in Adam and Eve? Hasn't science proved that all humans developed from a single evolutionary process?

Mhm. Is Janeway a Jew or a Christian or a Muslim? Because, I think it's been firmly established that Chakotay actually believes in the religion of his people, whoever they are. This fact has provided half his characterisation so far. Here, I think is where the writers run into the same type of problem with Chakotay as in “Initiations.” Their instinct is to write Chakotay like a normal Federation human with some particular ethnic quirks playing up the peaceful one-with-nature tropes. But, they also want to make him a Maquis AND a believer. These ideas are not really compatible. In fact, the contradictory ideas compound upon one another. Chakotay is a peaceful man (like all Federation humans), but this is something he inherited from his tribe. Okay. Also, they don't believe in owning land, which is why he renounced his citizenship and joined a violent terrorist organisation in order to defend land that never belonged to him, either in the legal sense or the spiritual sense. Huh? Just like with the Bajorans on DS9, the writers' attempts to mollify the elements of fandom which is uncomfortable with Trek's atheistic humanism runs right up against the architecture of the Trek universe and create a mess.

Of course, Chakotay's Adam and Eve comment could be interpreted to demonstrate that Chakotay is religious, but not fundamentalist, like a Unitarian or something. It's still quite problematic that he would take his beliefs so seriously that he would risk his life just to honour the anniversary of his father's death, but not so seriously that he doesn't really believe in his religion's foundational myths. Janeway has a practical take on the whole thing: maybe the Sky Spirits abducted Amelia Earhart! Something like that.

The Voyager tracks a warp trail from the moon in the teaser to a possibly-inhabited planet, rich with the mineral they need. Chakotay brings Tuvok and...Neelix? (what are they going to EAT the minerals now?)...with him to the transporter room to explore. But Torres reports that the transporter beam seems to trigger the formation of a very rough thunderstorm, thus making transportation impossible. So, they take a shuttle instead. But the shuttle too seems to trigger a storm as well. Tuvok finds this curious, of course, but no one else seems the least bit suspicious that Odin is angry with their attempts to land on this world.

The storm sends us back into the flashback, to the rainy jungle of Arizona-Wyoming-Alberta-Venezuela. Papa Chakotay realises that his son is miserable, “a contrary.” Here, Michael Piller confuses “contrarian” with an actual (non-Mayan) philosophy, but we have enough to cover already. Papa worries that Chakotay is will be lost without embracing the beliefs of his people, which his disdain for rain and mosquitos clearly indicate he has not done. Before the shuttle can land in the present, Chakotay sees a Rubber Tree Person, Mufasa-style, amongst the clouds. Ooooooo.

Act 2 : *.5, 17%

We pick up in sickbay, where the EMH explains to Kes two important things: 1. he's keeping his catchphrase, “please, state the nature...” and 2. he's programmed himself with some sort of alien bug (the symptoms obviously) in order to learn empathy. This very Data-esque attempt to quantify experience points is pretty amusing.

KES: I think this is very brave of you.
EMH: Nothing of the sort. I intend it to be an educational experience.
KES: I'm sure you'll learn a lot.
EMH: I meant for the crew. I'm tired of the whiny, cranky attitudes we see around here. I intend to serve as an example of how one's life and duties do not have to be disrupted by simple illness.
KIM (enters): Doc, I don't feel so good.
EMH: Neither do I, and you don't hear me complaining.

Lol

Alright, enough fun. The away team marvels at how the weather seems to have cleared up and Chakotay in particular is astonished to find a flower that he recognises from his visit to the Rubber Forest. So, the Sky Spirits were botanists, I guess. And so too, it turns out, is Tuvok, who reveals his knowledge of horticulture, in particular the breeding of orchids. Oh, and wouldn't you know it, Neelix ALSO breeds rare orchids. You know, for salads. Glad we brought him along. Torres reports that there's plenty of their needed mineral, so all they need now is to find the planet's inhabitants and ask for permission to mine it. But then, Chakotay spots a hawk, triggering the flashback.

Young Chakotay tells his father that he met Captain Sulu (wouldn't he have to be like 100 years old at that point?) and received his sponsorship to join Starfleet Academy. Wait a minute. Nog needed Sisko's sponsorship because Ferengi are not part of the Federation. So why would Chakotay need sponsorship? Are the Indians really so xenophobic that their citizenship is provisional? Anyway, he's leaving the tribe, disappointing his zealous and close-minded father.

KOLOPAK: You will never belong to that other life. And if you leave, you will never belong to this one. You'll be caught between worlds.

Oh for fuck's sake. He's not the little mermaid. Young Chakotay is actually being pretty reasonable, and I'm offended by the implication that we are meant to side with Papa in his argument. Well, the group finally finds evidence of the RTP, a thatched hut.

In the present, Neelix is attacked by the alien hawk, which seems to have taken out his eye. Jesus. Tuvok calmly reveals that he too has discovered a hut (of course), but this one is a made of fancy alien metal...and just as useless in keeping out the elements.

Act 3 : *.5, 17%

The A and B plots intersect briefly as a holographically-congested EMH repairs Neelix' eye. The Doctor explains how he requires no compassion for his self-induced condition, despite being obviously miserable.

Meanwhile, Chakotay reports their findings, including the Mufasa-faces and the anachronistic dwellings. Finally, he determines to re-create what he saw his Papa do on Earth, and orders Torres and Tuvok to lay down their weapons, expecting that his Gesture of Peace™ might bring the aliens out of hiding. Tuvok continues the theme of logical dissent to Chakotay's Indian-hunch-driven decision-making (c.f. “Twisted”), but follows orders in the end.

The flashback team's gesture brings the RTP out of hiding (who are so peaceful they nearly impale one of the expedition-members with a spear). The RTP are apparently so named because they have the rubber foreheads of a Trek alien, along with Chakotay-like tattoos. Everything else aside, it's actually kind of interesting that the design of Chakotay's tattoo (not remotely Mayan btw) follows the contours of these ridges. Papa Chakotay does more peace-gesturing and demonstrates he knows their written and spoken language. Then there was much rejoicing as the women emerge, smiling and giggling, dressed in perfectly clean white linens and begin undressing the expedition team. Umm...ok.

In the present, the away team is less fortunate, as all they get for their trouble is another storm. Chakotay spots a white-faced alien before being knocked out by a falling branch. Tuvok calls for an emergency beam-out, but Chakotay's com-badge has fallen off. As the camera zooms in on his unconscious form, the lightning flashes assault the audience with the Mufasa image over and over again. DO YOU GET IT? DO YOU GET IT??????

Act 4 : **.5, 17%

Before Janeway can lead a rescue team to find Chakotay and the shuttle (they've already lost three this season), the EMH calls her to report that his pre-programmed virus has lasted an hour longer than it was supposed to. He begs, nay demands that someone help him, so she sends Harry down to the sickbay. Kes attends to his symptoms before informing Harry that she just adjusted his experiment by extending the simulation by a couple of hours, making the point that part of bedside manner is demonstrating compassion for the uncertainty that accompanies sickness. It's a cute scene and, while I find the “lesson” for the Doctor overly cartoonish, it's nice to see Kes take initiative like this and demonstrate her rapid maturation.

Chakotay awakens on Planet Lion King and notes that the shuttle and his crewmen are missing. So, having been likely concussed, he returns to the hut and starts talking to thin air and taking off his clothes (something teenage Chakotay was too body-conscious to allow in the flashback). He dons a white robe that has appeared and enters a Jedi cave or whatever.

On the Voyager, Tuvok finally concludes that the storms and the hawk are all being caused artificially. Duh. So, Janeway decides to land the ship again. This time, for reasons, the storms are so strong that they threaten the ship. In fact, the Voyager is caught in a cyclone, an amusing visual image.

Act 5 : .5 stars, 17%

While Torres tries to techno-save the ship from Janeway's stupid decision, Chakotay finally encounters on the aliens inside the cave, speaking the same words Chakotay recalls from his trip to Central America. The aliens have Chakotay tattoos and the same ridges as the RTP, but more pronounced. The lead alien hands Chakotay a universal translator and then we get the backstory.

“Forty-five-thousand years ago, on our fist visit to your world, we met a small group of nomadic hunters. They had no spoken language, no culture, except the use of fire and stone weapons. But they did have a respect for the land and for other living creatures that impressed us deeply. We decided to give them an inheritance, a genetic bonding so they might thrive and protect your world. On subsequent visits, we found that our genetic gift brought about a spirit of curiosity and adventure. It impelled them to migrate away from the cold climate to a new, unpeopled land. It took them almost a thousand generations to cross your planet. Hundreds of thousands of them flourished in their new land. Their civilisation had a profound influence on others of your species. But then, new people came with weapons and disease. The Inheritors who survived scattered. Many sought refuge in other societies. Twelve generations ago, when we returned, we found no sign of their existence.”

So, as others have pointed out, even divorcing this absurdity from the confines of Star Trek, the message here is that the Native Americans only discovered advanced civilisation through the intercession of pale-faced aliens. In other words, precisely the kind of racist, arrogant, West is Best attitude held by the conquistadors whom Michael Piller is trying to apologise for. But instead of Smallpox, the aliens bestowed rubber face ridges, tattoos, and the ability never to have to do laundry. Maybe they should have shared their magic tornado technology instead. I bet those rumours about dragons on the edge of the world would have kept my people at bay for a while longer with some Weather Wizard tech.

The aliens mistook the Voyager for “human conquerers.” Uh-huh. Well, instead of apologising for maiming Neelix, injuring Chakotay and nearly destroying the Voyager, the aliens turn off the cyclone, turn off their cloak and offer Chakotay and co. some of the minerals they need. Chakotay reveals that Papa was actually killed by the Cardassians. So, we can add vengeance to the grab-bag of contradictory traits in Chakotay's so-called character. More Dancing with Hawks or whatever, pan-flutes and thank the Sky Spirits, it's over.

Episode as Functionary : zero stars, 10%

Roberts Beltran and Picardo give good performances, and the structure of the flashbacks is nicely-handled, but none of that can overcome the incredibly ill-advised and horribly racist message of the episode. Good intentions cannot make up for the piss-poor premise any more than than the implication that Indians thriving in the 24th century can make up for their near-genocide in the colonial era. Chakotay's backstory will be gradually smoothed over to some extent in the future, beginning with “Basics,” but his character will never fully-recover from this travesty, I'm afraid. If you're feeling white guilt, or just want to make a meaningful gesture towards the continued plight of some native peoples, this is a good place to begin: https://standwithstandingrock.net/. “Tattoo,” on the other hand, is a failure.

Final Score : *
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Tue, Nov 13, 2018, 8:23pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Starship Down

Doing this one next. Very curious how this and “Little Green Men” got mixed around in Jammer's Reviews. Even the air-dates are reversed.

Teaser : *.5, 5%

So, Sisko has taken the Defiant into the GQ to deal with some of the fall out from the Dominion Cold War. I feel like I missed something here. The Ferengi have been trading Tullaberry wine with the Dominion via the Karemma for years now. The Federation tried to exploit that relationship to establish *contact* with the Dominion in “The Search.” But when and WHY IN THE FUCK would the Federation get itself involved in secret trade agreements in the heart of Shapeshifter space? Oh right, contrived conflict. Great. James Cromwell is back as the Keremma representative, Hammok or whatever, and complaining to Sisko that all these extra taxes and fees have made trade economically prohibitive. Of course, these aren't actually taxes or tariffs, but Quark's personal amendments to the trade contract that just happen to line his pockets.

Meanwhile, we learn that every time you stick Worf in the Captain's chair, he turns into an insufferable ass (c.f. “Conundrum”). What else?...Kira is fasting for made-up Bajoran ritual #247. It turns out there's a *holiday* that's been added to the calendar to celebrate the anniversary of Sisko's arrival. Glad the Bajoran bureaucracy has its priorities in order.

--Madame First Minister, many people are starving after the Cardassians destroyed our land and pillaged our resources.
--Ah, so the people are hungry? Hmm. What if—and hear me out—we told them that being hungry will make God happy?
--I'll get started on those re-elect the Space Pope flyers, ma'am! “There are no choices. Hope is a lie. God thanks you for misery.”

But seriously, do the DS9 writers know ANYTHING about religion that they didn't pick up from reading comic books or watching daytime TV? Religious people don't *fast* in order to celebrate. From Buddhists to Methodists, some religions encourage or require fasting in order to create a sense of introspection, either metaphorically (Catholics fasting during Lent to recall Jesus' 40-day sojourn in the dessert) or psycho-actively (Vajrayanas fast because starving can cause mild hallucinations and altered mental states, critical to intensive meditations). But in Ira's world, Bajorans are religious, so we better have them to a religious-y thing lest we forget. Also, try to ignore the fact that this reverence for the Emissary is being grafted onto the show. Jarro certainly didn't seem to give a fuck that Sisko was sent by the Prophets when he tried to have him killed. Whatever. We can just say that Kira's lack of nutritional intake is causing her to say very stupid things. She's disappointed that Sisko skipped the “festival of lights” on Bajor the previous evening, but Dax says he just doesn't like to be the centre of attention, proving that she's a very practised and brazen liar.

This idiocy is cut short by the arrival two Jem'Hadar ships entering the area. Naturally, the Defiant hasn't been cloaked for these little talks because...yeah.

Act 1 : **, 17%

Hammock offers to turn himself in to save the Federation's butt, but Sisko isn't ready to concede this fight. I mean, we've seen the Defiant cut through Dominion ships like butter...and we've seen the Dominion overpower the Defiant without seeming to try at all. So who knows what the rules of engagement are this week? Well, the Karemma ship tries to run away, which makes things more complicated; the ship enters the dangerous atmosphere of a gas giant, hoping the Jem'Hadar won't pursue them there. But, waddaya know, they do. So, Sisko takes the Defiant in right after them. The quantum bullshit naturally makes sensors all but useless, meaning now shit is low tech and badass. Yeah! Manual targeting! Up para-scope! Phones with cords on them, damn it! Actually, they're going to use a form of echolocation to try and track the other ships. Hammock returns to the mess hall to confront Quark over his deception. He assured Quark that his business ventures in the GQ are over after this, which is probably a good thing for everyone.

Well, Dax' and Kira's echogram plan backfires, and the Definat finds itself under siege by the Jem'Hadar ships. Their systems are damaged, people are hurt and the ship is sinking into the atmosphere, causing the hull to buckle. Naturally, with his entire crew in mortal jeopardy, Sisko's first priority is figuring out how to blow shit up, so he has O'Brien rig some probes with torpedo warheads. And waddaya know, there's a hull breach. Dax, Muniz and the sickbay are cut off by the breach, so now Sisko has to choose between letting all the people on Deck 2 die and letting the Defiant explode. Leadership!

Act 2 : **, 17%

Welp, eventually Jadzia gets trapped behind a bulkhead with crazy quantum atmosphere flooding the room, because obviously, humanoid flesh is much more reliant to gas pressure and techno-insanity than a force field. Julian heroically seals himself in with Jadzia and pulls her into a room with a door, which protects them from the atmosphere...hmm. Maybe you guys should have installed an extra door in the corridor instead of relying on those flimsy force fields? Communication is down—but just to Deck 2, I guess—so Bashir can't let Sisko know that he hasn't gotten his best friend killed for stupid reasons just yet. Ah, but the chief has gotten those torpedo-probes armed, so Sisko can go back to his submarine plot.

We pick up with Quark and Hammock in the mess hall. Quark apologises in a Ferengi way for cheating the Karemma—specifically, he congratulates Hammock for having “the lobes” to see through his schemes, something the Federation has apparently failed to do. Yeah, that sounds right. If you can fault Odo on anything it's a lack of thoroughness, right? I'm sure stuff just slipped by. We might recall that the Karemma are essentially the GQ version of the Ferengi (c.f. “The Search, I”), when the derpy representative tried haggling over Kira's earring while the Defiant searched for the Founders. Quark tries to play up this kinship but Hammock just metaphorically spits in his face.

They detect one of the Jem'Hadar ships, and Sisko gets on with the submarine contrivances. They shut down non-essential systems and arm the prob-pedos to target the nearest metallic signature, because Sisko too “has the lobes” and suspects the other ship is very close by. Well, he was right this time, for all the good it does. The other ship emerges from a cloud and shoots the living shit out of the Defiant (again), causing many casualties, including a head injury to Captain Foresight. Good.

Act 3 : **.5, 17%

After this devastating attack, Commander Worf, displaying keen Starfleet tactical insight says:

WORF: Computer, lights!

...yes, the ship decided to turn the lights off. That's definitely the problem, dumbass. Anyway, a couple of red shirts are dead and Sisko is badly hurt. Worf decides he will need to reach the engine room, but normally in these situations, a severed head is required. Well, Kira isn't ready to let Worf take Sisko's head with him just yet, and with the Defiant crew decidedly non-pregnant, Worf has a fairly simple mission ahead of him for once.

We then get to the point of the episode, 22 minutes into the runtime. Dax and Bashir know each other better than a year ago, thanks for that. Kira needs to keep Sisko awake, so she's saddled with corny dialogue. Ferengi and Hammock continue their whole Adam Smith v. Ayn Rand schtick. Worf takes command over the grease-monkeys in Engineering. My format is not particularly condusive to the rapid switching between subplots, but I'll do my best.

Bridge: Kira finds herself ill-equipped to engage Sisko in conversation to keep him conscious. They realise the two of them don't have much of a relationship outside of work, and in her opinion, the lack of personal relationship comes down to his place in her religion. Even if we accept the ret-con going on here, this is absurd on its face. It shouldn't be that much easier for Kira to have a working relationship with the Emissary than a personal one, really. Kira was in a serious relationship with a man who nearly became the Kai, and the current Kai is the recipient of Kira's unbridled scorn. Moreover, as others have pointed out (and I want Dramatis Personae to matter more, too William B, but I'm pretty sure the writers have mostly forgotten it), Kira has been very friendly with Sisko at times, and openly hostile at others. Sisko just asks to hear a story and be done with this awkwardness.

Engineering: They manage to avoid being hit by Jem'Hadar torpedoes—well almost. One of them becomes lodged in the hull of the mess hall.

Act 4 : **.5, 17%

Mess Hall: Quark wants to defuse the bomb because, you know, he's a gambler. And as we all know, people who play poker and bet on horses also regularly play Russian Roulette, because that's just logic.

Engineering: Worf orders people around, because he's in charge God damn it. O'Brien explains the obvious, that Worf is ordering engineers around like they're officers. So, Worf is basically in the plot of “Learning Curve,” and O'Brien gets to be Neelix. Lucky them. So, he thinks it over and applies Miles' advice, giving the boys “a task.” They get technobabble boners together and figure out a way to give Worf a weapon. O'Brien gets *this close* to giving Worf an approving sit-com nod for this momentous character growth.

Deck 2: They hug. They joke about Bashir's juvenile fantasies. Essentially, Dax is the writers' voice, commenting on how insufferable early Bashir was, with his skirt-chasing and arrogant condescension.

Bridge: Kira is still telling her story, but then she becomes overwhelmed be her emotions (please contain your shock). She says there's “still so much for [the Emissary] to do.” So, she gives him a stimulant to try and keep him alive, and then starts praying. Sisko has become vaguely religious since “Destiny,” damn it, so it's hard to say how the dying man feels about her decision to pray, loudly, in his face. I hate to keep bringing this up—really—but, the Prophets have TWO methods of communicating directly with corporeal beings, and prayer is not one of them. So why do Bajorans pray, instead of just visiting the orbs or, now, flying through the wormhole? Because they're religious, and in Ira's world, that means they pray, lest we forget they're religious.

Act 5 : **, 17%

Mess Hall: Quark and Hammock manage to jail-break the torpedo. It turns out Hammock is a liar, having happily sold torpedoes to the Dominion, including this one. While the “we're happy capitalists” bs is tiresome, Shimmerman and Cromwell have excellent timing together and Hammock's bit about offering the Jem'Hadar a refund is rather amusing. This comic moment works about a hundred times better than the sandspike scene from “Indiscretion.” So, Quark gets Hammock to pull the trigger on their game of roulette, and he manages to get lucky for once, disarming the device. He leverages this success to convince Hammock to continue business with him, proving that Late Stage Capitalism is real and we're all going to die.

Bridge: Kira's useless chanting is interrupted by the miracle of modern medicine, as the stimulant seems to have roused Sisko back to life. He asks Kira to finish her inane story, if only to stop the thoughts and prayers.

Engineering: Worf gets to wrap up Sisko's submarine plot using the engineers' nifty techno-stuff, so the day is saved.

There's a voice-over log from Worf, showing how all the plots have worked out followed by an epilogue at Quark's Bar. Hammock proves to be a better gambler than Quark, giving Odo a laugh. Worf gives the engineers latitude in doing their jobs, and Miles pulls on the reins because...moderation or something? Something about darts... We finish out with Sisko inviting Kira to a ballgame, complete with cheeseball “Thanks Mean Joe!” throwing of hats and corny clarinets playing. Fuck it. It's over.

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

It's always Ira. It's always Ira Steven Behr. He just cannot help himself from taking a big dump on Gene Roddenberry's grave, even when the plot has nothing to do with it. His superficial understanding of religion leads to awkward and unnecessary character moments for Kira (although Sisko's opinion is left unstated). The more I think about this particular subplot, the more it bothers me. Kira says she regrets not having a closer relationship with Sisko, which, fine. And in the course of her Florence Nightingale plot, she broaches the topic of faith with him. And he, the Emissary, has NOTHING to say about it. Why would two people trying to forge a closer relationship talk about God? Nah. Let's just watch baseball. That's fucking intimate.

Slightly less bad is the Worf plot. Mostly, this is just tired and clichéd, but Worf seems very out of character for all of this to work. Worf may be new to long-term thinking and wartime strategy (which is of course why he's IN CHARGE of that department on DS9...), but managing personnel? He's been good at that since at least S3 of TNG (c.f. “The Bonding”), and we saw examples of this throughout the rest of that series. This feels quite forced.

The Quark plot benefits from being pretty amusing, thanks to the actors' delivery. What the message is supposed to be is anyone's guess. I guess since Hammock gets the better of Quark in the end, we should conclude that gambling is a vicious cycle of loss and heartbreak. Which it is.

The “best” plot is probably the Dax/Bashir bit. There's not much to it, but the idea that Bashir has grown as evidenced by Jadzia's comfortable friendship with the reformed lecher works for me.

The biggest problem is that we take WAY too long to get to any of these sub-plots, making their development very shallow and fast. Each gets essentially 3 brief scenes: 1. There's a impasse, with the emergency forcing character issues to the surface. 2. There's a moment of heightened conflict as the protagonist(s) must confront their problem. 3. Resolution and epilogue.

Compared to the very similar “Disaster,” I found this episode very unsatisfying, even if the former is hardly compelling either. However, the character elements are probably the best elements of the story. The framing device of this submarine trade plot thingy is rather silly and eats up valuable screentime. This is the first real stumble of the season for me.

Final Score : **
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Elliott
Fri, Nov 9, 2018, 3:02pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Rejoined

Thanks William B and Peter G

I feel I should repeat that, in my view, the party line about the dangers of re-association is totally bogus. Kahn and Dax are not going to live on in host after host as a married couple ad infinitum, thus denying the symbiont the chance to have "new" experiences (although this is also bunk, since, as has been pointed out, each new joining *is* a new experience, so even if Dax and Kahn were together for ever, the symbionts are still gaining new experiences, which is supposed to be the point).

Now, the Trill aristocracy theory is interesting, and I don't dismiss it out of hand, but from what we've seen, the only advantage afforded joined Trill is the experience of joining. There's no economic or political advantage per sae (although, I guess you could argue that all joined Trill must be super geniuses in some capacity--but this is never really depicted on screen). I still think that the matter boils down to choice. If Lenara had met Curzon, you *know* he would have wanted to sleep with her, but he would never have acted on the impulse. Ezri? I can see that going either way. The point being that the idea that granting joined Trill the freedom to re-associate if that's what their hearts and minds tell them they need to do to be happy does not *set the precedent* for all joined Trill. There is no slippery slope. The fear of the slippery slope is exactly why I think the gay analogy holds up so well (people will marry horses and children!).
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Elliott
Fri, Nov 9, 2018, 12:57pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Rejoined

@Chrome and Peter:

I think this episode is a successful allegory for homosexuality. Was it groundbreaking? Did it stick? Was it a ratings ploy? None of that really matters in 2018.

Let's not forget that the producers totally played up lesbian innuendo on numerous occasions for the ratings, so this would be nothing new. Chrome, your point about MM relationships NEVER been shown in any way on 90s Trek (with one, very, very small exception in "The Emperor's New Cloak") is well taken. Like I said, I think the story more than earned its conceits. However, I think that "Chimera" is a superior episode for a number of reasons, not least of which is that the homosexual allegory cannot possibly be construed in terms of audience titillation: I don't think anyone was going to tune in to see JG Hertzler and René Auberjonois go at it.
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Fri, Nov 9, 2018, 10:35am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Rejoined

Teaser : **.5, 5%

We begin with Dax producing an egg in her mouth while Quark and Julian gawk at her. Lesbian porn joke...we're walking...it turns out Tobin Dax was a magician, so for no particular reason, Jadzia is showing off her skills. Overall this whole scene has major Season 1 DBI vibes and I'm not enjoying it. Sisko calls her to his office to give her some Serious News. Some Trill scientists are coming to the station to try and make artificial wormholes and Sisko is letting them use the Defiant. Can the Defiant do anything besides shoot things? The lead scientist is named KAAAAHHHNN, someone Dax recognises. Well, whoever she is, Sisko thinks it might be a good idea for Jadzia to take holiday for the time being. Kahn is someone from Dax' past life, and Jadzia recognises that Ben was trying to give the old man an easy out (that's just kind of Sisko's thing). She thanks him. The Trills arrive and we learn that Kahn used to be Dax' wife.

Act 1 : ***.5, 17%

Quark, the resident Conservative Values Man, is trying to wrap his head around this whole Trill thing, which strikes me as kind of lazy. Quark was already inhabited by one of Dax' female hosts. Why is figuring out this issue so complicated?

Alright. No use postponing it. When I was seven years old and saw this episode broadcast, hearing Lenara Kahn referred to as Jadzia's ex-wife sent shivers down my spine. As a little closeted boy, the casualness with which the cast used the term “wife” to describe a relationship between two women was astonishing, even bracing. For those who claim that this issue has nothing to do with gay representation on Trek, you're nuts. Go re-watch “The Host”; like any good Trek concept, what we see on the screen is a sci-fi analogue for something in our world. The symbionts have no gender and apparently, this means that Trill hosts are all bisexual or pansexual. I find this fascinating.

KIRA: One thing I don't understand is why Dax and Lenara can't just pick up where they left off. I mean, if they're still in love with each other.
BASHIR: Ah, now there's the rub. Even if they do harbour feelings for each other, it's strictly against the rules of Trill society for them to acknowledge it in any way.
KIRA: Rules?
BASHIR: Well, it's more of a taboo, really. Having a relationship with a lover from a past life is called re-association, and the Trill feel very strongly that it's unnatural.
KIRA: Unnatural? How can it be unnatural for a married couple to resume their marriage?
BASHIR: Well, the whole point of joining is for the symbiont to accumulate experiences from the span of many lifetimes. In order to move on from host to host, the symbiont has to learn to let go of the past, let go of parents, siblings, children, even spouses.

You can easily swap this out for a contemporary discussion of same-sex marriage:

“Well, the whole point of [marriage] is for the [humans to make babies and raise families]. In order to [keep society healthy], [gay people need to accept that marriage is meant to be between one man and one woman].”

What makes this concept so compelling is that, in-Universe, Bashir (the Trill taboo) makes sense on the surface. The point of joining is XYZ, so we frown upon behaviour that subverts these expectations. Except of course, in the end, Trill society is curtailing human(oid) rights by imposing this restriction, whether legal or social. Consenting adults have autonomy and choice. If two joined Trill feel the need/desire to re-associate [if two people of the same sex feel the need/desire to marry], then denying them that option is a violation of their rights.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. There are severe consequences to re-association; hosts are exiled, meaning the symbionts die when the hosts die. This strikes me as exactly the kind of backward-headed conservative nonsense that permeates our own heteronormative laws and taboos. Timmy is depressed because he feels attracted to other boys? Well then, we should definitely encourage the idea that there's something fundamentally wrong with him! Then he might become suicidal! Problem solved. Likewise with the Trill; no two people are going to be in love to such a degree that they will NEVER want to end their relationship, after several lifetimes. If Kahn and Dax got back together in these iterations, they would eventually grow tired of each other. That's human(oid) nature. Part of what's at play here is the fact that their marriage was tragically cut short by Torias' accident.

A formal reception for the Trill is held in the wardroom. This gives Worf the opportunity give one of his classic lines:

KIRA: What do Klingons dream about?
WORF: Things that would send cold chills down your spine and wake you in the middle of the night. It is better you do not know. Excuse me.

Hysterical. Well eventually, Kahn and Dax note that their totally non-flirtatious flirtation is the party spectacle (been there). I haven't seen Dax have this much chemistry with anyone so far on DS9, so kudos for casting Susanna Thompson.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

Kahn's very attractive brother briefs the Defiant crew on the tech tech specs...eventually Dax and Kahn are left alone on the bridge encountering tech issues. They rather quickly start manifesting familiar habits from their past selves. Jadzia feels compelled to apologise for Torias' bullheaded decision that led to his accident. And eventually, to invite her a threesome with Bashir (ahem)...for dinner.

We pick up at dinner where Bashir is bored to tears playing chaperone to these two beautiful women on their date. Eventually, Bashir allows himself to be called away for a medical problem. What emerges in this scene is summed up by:

DAX: The irony is, you and I have more in common than Torias and Nilani ever did.
...
LENARA: It's really good to see you again, Dax. That sounds so strange. I mean, I'm looking at a different face, hearing a different voice, but somehow it's still you.

The two hold hands, but their stolen moment is overseen by Dr Pren.

Act 3 : ****, 17%

On the Defiant, people are sciencing their science. Quietly, Pren tells Kahn's brother about his concerns. Their test ends up being a great success, but Jadzia's open affection for Lenara raises several eyebrows.

Well, Kahn and her brother have lunch and talk tech tech. She mentions that Dax popped by her quarters last night leading to MORE raised eyebrows. Considering we don't know either of these characters, it's remarkable how quickly their dialogue and performances flesh out their relationship, creating a suitably substantial counterweight to the Dax/Sisko dynamic. Kahn assures her brother that he has nothing to worry over, rather unconvincingly.

Dax is doing sit-ups or yoga or something. Lenara lets herself into her quarters to vent about her conversation. As with Penny Johnson and Avery Brooks, Thompson's wonderfully layered performance seems to bring out the best in Terry Ferrel's acting. The two finally break down and admit the obvious—neither of them has gotten over the other, and this leads to a surprisingly natural kiss before Kahn leaves in tears. Jadzia falls back, overwhelmed with emotion.

Act 4 : ***.5, 17%

So, we get the inverse conversation on the other side of the kiss. Dax confesses everything to Ben in his office.

SISKO: What do you want to do?
DAX: Throw myself at her. Profess my undying love and my complete disregard for Trill society.

Brooks gives an exemplary performance as the informed counsel, expressing his compassion for his friend, his empathy for her pain, and his understanding of her dilemma all while sticking hard to the tough love Dax needs at this moment. And he does it all without screaming or strangling anybody! Remarkable. This line

SISKO: But if you're sure, if this is what you really want, I will back you all the way.

put a tear in my eye in a way “The Visitor” didn't manage. There are real stakes here, and the relationship under examination has earned this degree of pathos.

We return to the Defiant, where they begin the followup experiment. This seem fine at first, but then there's an accident leading to massive damage to the ship. The Engine Room in particular is heavily damaged—and just happens to be where Dr Kahn is. Without hesitation, Dax storms down there to rescue the survivors. This has shades of “Lessons” to it, another very successful Trek romance story. Dax and the crew discover a massive plasma fire ('cuz it's green, ya know) cutting Kahn off from escape. Dax tech techs a force field and *walks* over it, which is a surprisingly effective bit of sci-fi tech weirdness. Kahn is rescued and Eddington vents the compartment to put out the inferno. This harrowing experience seems to seal the bond between Dax and Kahn as the two mutter “never again” to each other.

Act 5 : ***, 17%

We pick up in Lenara's quarters where the brother seems in on the secret and begrudgingly approves, much like Sisko, of his sister's dangerous liaison. He leaves them alone, and they tip-toe around the issue, wrapping up the tech tech plot. Dax finally makes the big move and asks Kahn to remain on DS9, breaking the taboo and condemning the symbionts to death. Kahn isn't quite as convinced as she was in the heat of the moment (no pun intended).

DAX: Ultimately, it comes down to this. If you feel about me the way I feel about you, you won't go on that transport tomorrow. And if you do leave, I think we both know you're never coming back again.

In the end, Lenara simply lacks the courage to be a scientist, a lover and an taboo-breaking martyr all at once. Jadzia watches her board the transport. It's an effective scene, but I wish Ferrel were a touch stronger here in her portrayal of grief.

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

What I find most compelling about this episode (something it shares with the final moments of “The Host”) is how the analogy for homosexuality is...homosexuality, except filtered through this Trill lens. The analogy *would* have worked even if the new Kahn had been a man, but in actually portraying the relationship between two women, it becomes all the more powerful. This is one place “The Outcast” really dropped the ball; in that story, a society of genderless people was conveyed as stereotypically lesbian, and the “subversive ((gay))” relationship was portrayed by a male actor and a female actor. “Rejoined” is kind of genius. Imagine a TOS episode in which Uruha had a relationship with a white male alien, violating an alien taboo that those aliens could not have sexual relationships with off-worlders. THIS story is pure Star Trek and I love it.

Unlike in some previous Trill episodes, I think the illogic of the taboo is quite intentional here. It doesn't bode well for Trill society, and that is the point. The consequences to hosts who re-associate are contrived because of Trill concern-trolling, which is EXACTLY the way consequences to lgbtq+ people work in our world.

On a character level, this is the best Dax episode to date. While Curzon is mentioned as being a part of Dax' overall rebellious nature, what we are finally seeing is an episode about Jadzia, about her values, her strengths and her vulnerabilities. Curzon would not have re-associated, despite his disposition to give societal norms the middle finger, because in the end, he values the integrity of symbiont lineage. Jadzia values this, too, but not so much as her own right to self-determination. For better or worse, what Jadzia values is *freedom*. Dax is afforded a story where SHE has the agency, she calls the shots and is willing to pay dearly for the consequences. Sisko and Bashir are both utilised well as supporting characters, and the brother and sister team are remarkably well characterised for one-off guest stars. Susanna Thompson's performance is standout.

The only elements that hold this back for me are that I find Brooks' directing a little heavy-handed. I'm often distracted by the camera work which doesn't always capture the heart of the scene but seems to be showing off for its own sake. Oh, and the music is dreadful. Otherwise, I'm quite impressed.

Final Score : ***.5
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Elliott
Thu, Nov 8, 2018, 10:59pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Persistence of Vision

Teaser : ***, 5%

Janeway has a busy morning. On her way to Engineering she receives a call from Paris, letting her know they're about to enter Bothan? space. Return of the Jedi joke...we're walking...Neelix accosts her in person about meeting this new alien species. She tells him to fuck off and proceeds to her meeting with Torres and Kim. Apparently, the EMH shared his experience in “Projections” with the crew and they're trying to set up remote emitters for him for real now. Janeway is here to observe their first test of the system. Something goes a bit wrong as Dr Ego Maximus materialises about 4 inches tall. Janeway lays into Kim for wasting her god-damned time and Tuvok calls in to call for for his own pound of flesh. The EMH, despite his stature, decides to pull rank and order the captain to report to the holodeck and unwind. This is basically a Star Trek right of passage.

So Janeway puts on her period dress last seen in “Learning Curve.” Before she departs for the holodeck, she takes a moment with her photograph of Mark, her fiancé, a lovely moment as portrayed by Mulgrew. On the holodeck, Lord Sideburns seems to sense Janeway's loneliness and steals a big kiss before declaring his love for her.

Act 1 : **.5, 17%

We pick right up with the limey little brats entering the room, followed by Malcorian scientist, Romulan commander and stuffy British stereotype #7 Mrs Templeton. Much like in “The Big Goodbye,” we just kind of live in this world for a while. And like that episode or the Sherlock Holmes scenarios, it might be understandable to loathe this break from the 24th century world we are supposed to be watching, but personally, I judge the execution in these matters. The guest actors and Mulgrew do a fine job with this Gothic plot. There's a “Jane Eyre”-ish mystery regarding the dead wife and the fourth floor. Right as she's getting into it, Chakotay calls to inform her that it's time to meet with the Bothans.

So she changes and arrives on the bridge. Neelix fills her in quickly—these aliens are just kind of lazily xenophobic and very mysterious. Maybe THEY know what's on the fourth floor! Hmm? Well, the head Bothan hails—the image on the viewscreen is backlit so the alien's face cannot be discerned. He says he'll send a ship to “evaluate” the Voyager and cuts the transmission. Paris gives his usual quip and the crew speculate on this guy's motivation. Neelix suggests to Janeway that they continue her briefing in the mess hall. She looks around the room to Tuvok and to Kim and to Chakotay, begging for a way out of this nightmare scenario but receiving no lifeline.

The Morale Officer shows off his buffet which includes a tray of cucumber sandwiches identical to the ones in Janeway's holonovel. But he's not done—he serves Janeway her tea in one of the porcelain cups from the programme as well. Well, these may have just been coincidences, but as Janeway is returning to duty, she starts hearing Sideburn's voice and sees little Beatrice in the corridor.

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

Janeway's first thought is that Torres' and Kim's experiments with the EMH are responsible for these images appearing around the ship, but they have to let her down. They decide to humour her and run diagnostics on her programme, so Janeway is sent back to the holodeck to resume the novel. So, we get right back to the kissing. Unwilling to deal with this shit at the moment, Janeway deletes Lord Sideburns.

With the diagnostic turning up empty, Janeway returns to the mess hall to verify her memory of the event. It turns out there weren't any cucumber sandwiches or Victorian teacups. Resigned to troubling prospects, Janeway checks herself into sickbay to be scanned. The EMH's scans turn up empty as well, but something is giving Kes a case of Hokie Pokie. Then, the little girl shows up again screaming at Janeway about her dead mother. The Doctor doesn't see her, but Kes seems to, and somehow causes the image to vanish. They consider the possibility that her mental exercises with Tuvok (c.f. “Cathexis”) have something to do with it.

Janeway is sent to her quarters, where she replicates some ice cream and starts having hallucinations again. She hears a man's voice and a dog barking—Mark and her pet. The voice of Mark gives her shit over her attraction to Lord Sideburns and finally Mrs Templeton enters her quarters with a knife and attacks. Then it's revealed that Janeway has been in the sickbay the whole time, her delusions having taken over completely.

Act 3 : **, 17%

Well, this is pretty serious, so Janeway puts Chakotay in command and briefs him about the laundry list of tasks she had pending. He returns to the bridge and meets with the Bothan, who remains as unpleasant and enigmatic as before. Tuvok cuts the transmission, noting an odd scan and the alien responds by having two other ships decloak and all three begin attacking the Voyager. There's a brief and rather gutless battle sequence that finally ends when the ships surround the Voyager, but just then Janeway returns to the bridge to assume command. This proves to be a less than great idea as the alien steps into the light and reveals himself to be Mark.

Act 4 : .5 stars, 17%

Well, the delusions are spreading—Paris sees his father, Kim sees Libby, Tuvok sees his wife...naturally the second black Vulcan in Star Trek history *has* to be married to the first one...little by little, throughout the ship, the crew are entering catatonic states. Torres explains that there's some quantum whatever happening that's causing the hallucinations. Grand.

Chakotay arrives in Engineering to assist Torres, but it looks like the two of them are the only ones left conscious. This leads to the two of them fucking in her quarters—in her mind of course. Yeah...On the bridge, Owen Paris is berating his son over his endless failures in rather stilted dialogue, propped up only by an inventive score. When Janeway enters the turbolift to go to Engineering, she sees that Chakotay has succumbed to whatever. But Mark is there too now, guilt-tripping her over getting her corset in a twist on the holodeck. This seems to break through her defences and she submits to the delusion.

Act 5 : *, 17%

In sickbay, Kes and the EMH conclude that actually THEY are the only two left. Thankfully this doesn't lead to more ill-advised boning. Instead, the Doctor sends Kes to Engineering to complete Torres techno-whatever solution. Along the way, Kes herself starts hallucinating, seeing Tom badly burnt and pleading for help. She ignores him and makes it to the Engine room. While the EMH brushes up on technical manuals, Neelix shows up—obviously another hallucination. As she tries to save the day, she begins hallucinating these painful growths, but she channels her chi or whatever and reflects the pain back to Neelix, whose illusion is finally disrupted and revealed to be the prune-faced Bothan. She activates the quantum and ends the mass hallucination. Torres seems unruffled for having bee interrupted from her nasty sex dream and calmly points a phaser at him. Janeway arrives as the Bothan expresses his surprise at how powerful Kes' abilities are. She asks him why he did all this...and his only answer is “because I can.” Then he says that he's not really there and vanishes completely.

In the epilogue, Torres confronts Janeway. Obviously her little tryst with Commander Spirit Walker has her wondering whence the motivation for any of this. Janeway concludes that in the end, it's better to confront buried feelings that try and suppress them. Sure.

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

This episode isn't so much bad as it is a complete mess. There are at least three different stories in here, all of them worth exploring, but trying to tell them all at once creates the sensation that nothing has finished cooking—the ideas are severely underdeveloped.

1. We have the enigmatic alien who, like Loki, pushes the crew out of their established order and forces them to confront deep-seeded feelings.
-Kim misses Libby. That's about as far as that goes.
-Tom feels the shadow of his father in everything he tries to accomplish. This is slightly more interesting.
-Tuvok misses his wife. The introduction of his musical talents is sort of interesting but goes no where.
-Kes definitely has buried feelings for Paris and resentment towards Neelix for the way he treats her. This I'm happy to see, even if it's barely on the screen.
-Torres wants to fuck Chakotay....the less said about this, the better. This is straight-up “Fascination” material.
-Janeway...

2. We have an exploration of Janeway's loneliness, which is very welcome. Season 1 worked pretty well in establishing the big picture conflicts regarding her role as captain, but now we're finally addressing the personal issues. Her longing for Mark and her dogs, and the accompanying guilt that goes along with her escapism in the holodeck all work to create vulnerability in the character, something the producers were loathe to do given their trepidation over how to portray a female captain.

3. We have, I believe, Jeri Taylor attempting to do “Sub Rosa,” but properly. While none of the material on the holodeck is what I would call riveting, it displays a competence and a respect for the protagonist that was sorely missing from the TNG story, and she gets to play around with the Gothic genre.

Any one of this ideas would make for a decent episode, possibly even a great one—and the ideas are connected, I don't want to undersell it—but trying to do all of this at once creates the feeling of being totally ungrounded. Who is the protagonist of this story? Is it Janeway or Kes? What is the message we are to be considering from Prune-face's little adventure? What insights to we have into all the non-Janeway characters with respect to their hallucinations? Because the episode is so crowded, we can't really say, making the whole thing feel like a waste of time. This feeling of wasted opportunity tends to bleed over onto the other elements of the story, which aren't actually offensive in their own right—the Botham's enigmatic non-answer goes from intriguing to annoying, the Gothic characters go from competently executed to distractingly stupid, and Kes' mental powers go from potential character development to plot element. As usual, things are held together by solid performances all around, especially from Mulgrew. And this week, we had an above-average score to boot.

Final Score : **
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