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Elliott
Tue, May 14, 2019, 11:24am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Broken Link

@William B

Good points all around. If memory serves, the S5 Garak arc does a better job with him. I love Garak and usually am happy to see him on screen but I wonder if it was a mistake to pepper him about S4 like they did. If we had barely seen him—his appearances in “Our Man Bashir” and “Body Parts” would probably still work out—then I think his story here would be more satisfying. We could fill in the blanks about the brooding, second guessing, regret, etc he’s been experiencing since the loss of Tain. The exposure we got, especially vis-à-vis Ziyal, get in the way.
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Elliott
Tue, May 14, 2019, 11:19am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Broken Link

@Chrome:

Maybe I should have elaborated—with Odo, there is the opportunity to present an allegory for non-heteronormative/gendered relationships. “He” is a bucket of goo. The humanoid male shape of him is no more real than the LCARS screens and rocks he transforms into. That Odo would seek companionship/romance or even some sort of sexual relationship (although there’s no evolutionary drive in his species for such interactions) is perfectly fine, but he shouldn’t feel physical attraction the way we do. He isn’t a straight man. He’s not even a man. So, as I said, the fact that he and Garak act like frat boys is disappointing to me because it’s lazy.

The same disappointment extends to Data and the EMH, by the way, but one can at least use the excuse that they were programmed with the personalities of straight men and thus emulate their desires.

I think “Chimera” is a good salve to all the Odo heteronormalising that goes on in the series but that’s a long way off.

Oh, and I’m married, since you asked.
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Elliott
Tue, May 14, 2019, 12:32am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Basics, Part I

@Dave in MN & @Springy:

Thanks guys. There's not a whole lot to tell I'm afraid. He's in a play at a small theatre in the building where I have one of my singing gigs here in New York. I ran into him before his show and did my best not to gush too embarrassingly and he was gracious enough to pose for a photo. My boss and I are both Voyager fans (I find TNG and VOY are popular amongst my musician colleagues who dig sci-fi) so we geeked out a little bit when we found out he was hanging about. The play is running a few more weeks, so I may try and engage him again.

Regarding Suder, I agree! But he doesn't get a lot of screentime in this half of the story.
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Elliott
Tue, May 14, 2019, 12:28am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Broken Link

Teaser : **.5, 5%

As I said in the review to TWotW, I commend the writers for rolling with the punches and crafting an enjoyable story after being thrown a curve ball by the producers. “The Adversary” was fairly unremarkable, but that was a result of trying to end a season that had a clear trajectory in a different way from planned at more or less the last moment. Now at last, we are picking up the threads from “Improbable Cause”/”The Die is Cast,” which have been dangling for over a year. That re-focusing is heralded by a scene between Odo and Garak, which we haven't really seen since their strange but wonderful resolution to the aforementioned 2-parter. It's not exactly the grandest of scenes however, as Garak has chosen to finally honour his debt to Odo and secret knowledge of his loneliness by trying to get him laid. He introduces the Changeling to a sultry Bajoran woman whose eye he has caught. She makes clumsy overtures and shows off her cleavage for a few moments while Odo stutters and gapes at her per television law, then leaves.

GARAK: You're such a sensitive man, yet there are so many aspects of humanoid life that you simply refuse to explore.
ODO: I have no desire to become a slave to humanoid obsessions.
GARAK: But you have to admit, she is quite lovely.
ODO: Well, she is, isn't she?

Sigh...we all knew it was inevitable, but I can't help hating this. I'm not a big fan of Odo/Kira, but it's firmly established in the series that “his” attraction to her—and remember that Odo's gender is completely arbitrary—is based on their relationship. Odo doesn't have hormones or genitals. Odo doesn't have orgasms. If he finds himself attracted to a solid, it could only be for reasons that have nothing to do with our conceptualisations of physical beauty or sexiness. And Garak used to have such wonderful ambiguity in his own sexual proclivities. Seeing the two of them drool over this woman like cartoon hounds is cheap and profoundly disappointing.

As if to remind us why Odo shouldn't be pining after “loveliness” in this matter, he has a strange goo-spasm and collapses, unconscious. Garak calls for an emergency medical mopping crew.

Act 1 : **.5, 18%

Dr Bashir can't actually diagnose the condition, but he notes that Odo's mass, which is typically constant, is fluctuating. That's never a good sign. Fluctuations in Star Trek are like dragons on the edge of a map. Stay far away from those.

Meanwhile, we learn that, off camera, the Federation has demanded that the Klingon Empire return conquered Cardassian territories. Unsurprisingly, Gowron has not taken these demands very well and issues a demand of his own, that Starfleet abandon its bases in the Archanis sector or risk all-out war. Sisko and his staff are worried over these developments, but they realise they can't do anything about it, so instead Kira has a sneezing fit to remind us that she's pregnant. And that's the end of her characterisation for this episode. Moving on. Dax and Worf do some flirting. Oh, this is worse, go back to the sneezing.

Kira pays Odo a visit, disguising her concern over her friend by delivering the criminal activities report (c.f. “Crossfire”). Unfortunately, Odo notices something funny, which turns out to be the return of one of the giant troll doll aliens performing a smuggling job. Diamonds of course, because anything else wouldn't be clichéd as hell. When he attempts to apprehend the thief, he's overwhelmed by another attack and melts into a puddle of agonised goo. The hand reaching out in desperation is a nice visual touch.

Act 2 : **.5, 18%

Bashir reports that Odo's condition is rapidly worsening and that he won't survive more than another week or two. Dr Mora can't provide any help, but Odo already realises that there's only one option with any hope of saving his life; he's going to have to return to the Founders. It's an interesting character choice. Odo wouldn't normally be one to ask others to risk themselves for his needs, but he's not accustomed to physical suffering. We saw how radically Garak's torture affected him last time, so this condition is no doubt making him feel desperate.

I don't believe anyone has noticed the similarities here between this set-up and the one from “Basics” (which aired first). In this case, there isn't a baby but this medical condition affecting one of their own which is going to draw the crew into a trap set by the enemy. Given that, I'm a little shocked we don't get a similar tactical discussion here as we did on Voyager. We cut immediately to Sisko explaining his plan to bring Odo into the GQ and begin transmitting a message for the Founders to hear. Kira gets fridged, O'Brien readies the Defiant for launch and Bashir explains that the plot gods demand a not-at-all-contrived character moment for Odo, explaining that he cannot be transported in his current condition. The unexpected twist is that Garak has requested to come along as well.

We find him in the Mess Hall bantering with the security personnel, making a not-undeserved jab at the uniform hardline material we saw in “Learning Curve.” In another disappointment, Garak explains himself to Sisko, but completely straight, plainly and simply you might say. He isn't obfuscating or misdirecting or manipulating anyone, which makes his presence in the episode feel uncharacteristically bland.

GARAK: The Cardassian Empire lost a number of ships during their aborted attack on the Dominion. I want to know what happened to the crewmembers.

Uh-huh...so when did Garak get put in charge of paramilitary recovery operations? Who vested him with this authority? Well, Sisko doesn't have time for logical and pertinent questions, so he tells Garak that he can come along provided he use his backstory to keep Odo distracted during the trip.

Quark is already ahead of him though during the not-at-all contrived character scene on the station. Odo is walking to the Defiant looking like someone left their Barbie doll in the sun. I guess with Melora choosing not to join the staff, no one bothered to make DS9 wheel-chair accessible. Anyway, Quark makes a comment that he's looking forward to his profits soaring—which kind of deflates the resolution we came to in the LAST FUCKING EPISODE. The sentiment, showing that Quark wants Odo to live despite their rivalry is fine, but it would have been nice to see some sort of consequence to the Ferengi losing his business license and contact with his people. After all, we are witnessing Odo leaving to make contact with his own people, who have spurned him for similar cultural purity reasons. You'd think the scene would write itself.

While the Defiant warps towards the Dominion, and after some eye-roll-inducing bridge banter, we pick up with Garak providing his distractions in the Sickbay. I guess that's what Garak is reduced to now, parodying himself by spinning a web of lies and half-truths in service the characters instead of the story itself. More DBI on the bridge to make me just a little more nauseated, then finally the Dominion shows up. And boy do they, with what looks like dozens of ships encircling the Defiant.

Act 3 : ***.5, 13% (short)

Sisko moves to be diplomatic, but the Dominion has its own ideas. As soon as the shields are down, Rescusi Anne and half a dozen Jem'Hadar beam aboard the bridge and one of them attacks the chief. I should feel badly for him, but after that stupid story he just told about the women in his life overwhelming him, I just can't muster much sympathy. Anne calls him off and the weapons are lowered. She tells Sisko to leave Odo with her but he refuses. Surprisingly, she agrees to let them come along, but insists on having her men pilot the Defiant and using their tech to wipe the memory banks. This again is a subtle reminder of the culminating events from Season 3 and Tain's original plan to destroy the Founders' old planet.

Speaking of Tain, Garak is nervously awaiting her arrival in the Sickbay, hoping to get his questions answered. She appears, ignoring Bashir and the rest. She briefly links with Odo which sets his shape back to normal, although the effect, she says, is only temporary. The solids are shooed out of the room so they can have a real conversation. She reveals that the Dominion knows all about Kira and Shakaar, which is an advantage for them since we haven't seen a hint of their relationship all season. Oh, and they are also responsible for his condition.

FOUNDER: You killed a changeling, Odo.
ODO: He was trying to kill my friends. I had no choice.
FOUNDER: Of course you had a choice, and you chose to side with the solids. To protect them, you were willing to violate the most sacred law of our people.
ODO: No changeling has ever harmed another.

Others have already pointed out that her position is borne entirely of sophistry; Odo has been harmed by his people several times. What she really means is that no Changeling, until Odo, has ever defied the political consensus of the Dominion. Framing this trait as she does in, er, humanistic terms—solidarity with one's race, with one's family even—is a manifestation of the propaganda that keeps the Dominion hierarchy in place. The Founders see themselves as gods; their commands are inviolate, and deviation from their will is nothing short of heresy. That's why she calls the law “sacred,” and that is Odo's actual crime against his people.

Act 4 : ***.5, 18%

She informs him that the next step is for Odo to be judged by entering the Great Link. If his actions are deemed unjustifiable—which of course they will be—then he will be punished. The writers gloss over the timeline a bit by explaining that Odo's transgression created such chaos amongst the Founders that it took them a year of deliberating since “The Adversary” to decide how to proceed. That's allegedly why we've seen so little of them this season. It's transparent, but rather neat.

As she leaves, Garak attempts his question, but she brushes him off brusquely.

FOUNDER: There were no Cardassian survivors.
GARAK: You mean, they're all dead?
FOUNDER: They're dead. You're dead, Cardassia is dead. Your people were doomed the moment they attacked us. I believe that answers your question.
GARAK: It was a pleasure meeting you.

FINALLY a bit of the Garak we know and love shows up. Marvellous stuff.

Meanwhile, Sisko and O'Brien are brainstorming ideas on how to safeguard Odo if they can, but the Constable interrupts and tells them to knock it off. He's gotten all melty again, but he insists that they let him be judged by his people. After all, if he's ever to reconcile with his people—his profoundest which, remember—then he cannot refuse the Great Link, even if it means he will be punished.

They arrive at last and the Changelings, Sisko and Bashir beam down to a small island in a sea of Shapeshifters. Anne and Odo wade into the living sea while the humans are left to wait.

Act 5 : ***, 18%

After another stupid gag (the genius doctor making to skip stones over the Changeling waves. Guess they didn't think to bring a book or something), we catch up with Worf on the Defiant. He has caught Garak messing with the weapons systems and tosses him aside. Garak was trying to launch the quantum torpedoes. Apparently, the Defiant by herself can match the firepower of the entire combined Tal-Shiar and Obsidian Order fleets. Please. Anyway, what has Garak so crazed?

WORF: We are not here to wage war.
GARAK: I'm not talking about war. What I'm proposing is wiping out every Founder on that planet. Obliterating the Great Link. Come now, Mister Worf, you're a Klingon. Don't tell me you'd object to a little genocide in the name of self-defence?
WORF: I am a warrior, not a murderer.
GARAK: What you are is a great disappointment.
[fisticuffs]
WORF: You fight well for a tailor.

Cute. William B said:

“I guess the biggest other note here is about Garak. I like the structure here, where Garak's dangerous past is played for comedy as he is a wry entertainer of Odo, only to turn things around at the last moment and reveal that this is still a *very* dangerous guy.”

True—however, aside from that veiled pleasantry he gave to Resusci Anne, we haven't seen a return of Garak's enigmatic personality. Firing all the weapons in a blaze of glory and being so inept as to get caught by the guy who once lost control of the Enterprise to a bunch of Ferengi isn't exactly the subtlest move. While I like the idea that Garak is so shaken by the news of Tain's and Cardassia's literal and/or figurative deaths, we haven't seen many signs of the “old Garak” this entire season. So, this alleged reversal doesn't pack the punch it would have had if this story were much closer to “The Die is Cast,” or if they had written him better in the intervening episodes.

Back on the planet, the Great Link coughs Odo up onto the shore, now naked and fully “human.” Anne emerges and explains that he has been transformed into a human (the ur-solid, I suppose) as punishment for his crime. This makes sense. If he is unwilling to follow Changeling doctrine, then he cannot truly *be* a Changeling. The poetry of this action fits their self-appointed divinity quite well.

The crew return to DS9, where Odo explains that they left his face unchanged so that the audience wouldn't be confused, I mean so that Odo wouldn't forget what he has lost. Garak fashions Odo a new, real uniform. Odo shows that this experience has profoundly changed him by...realising he's hungry and returning right back to his typical ways, wryly smiling as he arrests Garak for attempted genocide. Did I say DBI? Well, we put a bow on this silly scene by having Sultry Bajoran Lady return, making pouty lips and sticking her boobs in Odo's face. Now that he has a human penis, however, we are promised more painful scenes in the future.

Ah, but the epilogue has a coda.

ODO: Every once in a while I still get flashes of memory from the Great Link. A jumble of images or a word, but I can't quite make sense of it...When I joined with the other changelings in the Great Link, I felt something I've never felt before. In that moment, I knew I was home. For the first time, I felt that I understood my people. Their distrust of the solids, their willingness to do anything to protect themselves. And then in an instant it was all snatched away. I'm trapped in this body. I can never rejoin the Great Link. My job is the only thing I have left.

If Odo's character ever had a thesis statement, this is probably it. And Auberjonois delivers as always. Before the season closes, we get another broadcast from Gowron. Oh yeah, we still have all this Klingon bullshit to deal with, don't we? He makes good on his promise to retake the Archanis sector by pledging military forces to the region. While he babbles, Odo makes a realisation, however: Gowron is a Changeling. Dun dun dun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Episode as Functionary : ***, 10%

This episode had a lot it needed to do, which makes it surprising that the plot is so thin. On the one hand, it needed to bring to a climax the events set in motion at the season's start, and technically it did—it's just that Gowron's actions are little more than a framing device for this story. That's not a criticism exactly; there hasn't been much this season directly confronting the New Empire. Most of the Klingon stories were just Worf stories or Dukat stories. But I'll get to that stuff in the season recap. What I mean is, I think the writers realised that there wasn't much material to draw on regarding the Klingon-Cardassian war and so relegating it to the prologue and the epilogue exclusively works. We are promised a follow-up to this thread in Season 5.

The principle material in this story is a follow-up to “Improbable Cause”/”The Die is Cast,” which is why Odo and Garak are the primary characters, of course. As wonderful as Andrew Robinson is, and as compelling a character as Garak has always been—I found him pretty disappointing in this episode, and season overall. His little genocide speech and reaction to Resusci Anne's cold anger were great moments, but I've lost his arc. When you compare him here to the aforementioned S3 material, it feels very much like the character is flailing about for direction.

Odo fairs much better, managing to balance the cosmic-scale implications of challenging his own people's self-importance with the almost trivial latent feelings he's harbouring for Kira. These themes are connected, of course; whether programmed or naturally-occurring, Changelings clearly possess an acute need companionship. In Odo, this serves to highlight the tragedy of his life and personal loneliness, but with the Link, we see how that interdependence has degenerated into xenophobic imperialism. I'm recalling my observations from “The Muse” in how it is precisely Odo's suffering which prevents him from becoming a tyrant, not unlike how artists' suffering allows them to create. There are whiffs of Christ and Moses allegories in Odo's story that I think work nicely because they aren't overt or forced. SPOILING for the future, we see that the conceit Anne hides behind when explaining why it took them a year to go after Odo can actually be explained by their machinations in the Klingon Empire. Neatly done.

With all of that to cover, not to mention the medical drama, there are a lot of padding scenes involving the rest of the cast, something “Improbable Cause” wasn't plagued with. Worf, Dax and especially O'Brien are pretty insufferable in these scenes which dampened the whole mood of the piece for me. All of that said, I have not really liked any of DS9's finale's so far, but this one works for me, despite its flaws.

Final Score : ***
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Elliott
Fri, May 10, 2019, 2:10pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Basics, Part I

Guess who got to meet Robert Picardo last night! 😁

Teaser : ***, 5%

Resident serial killer Suder is pleased to show his mentor/would-be-murderer Tuvok a new hybrid flower he's managed to create in his lock-down quarters. This is a subtle foreshadowing regarding this story's McGuffin, a being forced into existence by genetic tampering to service the needs of someone seeking to change the paradigm of his life. We learn that the events of “Meld” have stuck with the whacky Betazoid, giving him both a sense of calm and purpose, as well as an interest in horticulture. This is a nice touch of continuity with “Sarek”/”Unification;” Suder has retained “the best parts of” his meld-partner. This also fits in nicely with Janeway's sentiment from “Meld” that the Federation's criminal justice system is designed to reform, not punish. Suder wants to make more substantive contributions to the Voyager from his confinement by way of making that tiny vegetable garden we saw in “Cold Fire” more productive. Yeah, I think any gains in that department would be a good idea. Tuvok agrees to discuss the idea with Janeway, but Suder is...er, a bit too eager.

On the bridge, the crew runs across a Kazon message buoy. The message is from Seska; it turns out her baby has been born and, upon discovering its parentage, Caligula did something bad to her and to it. Seska begs Chakotay to help for the sake of “his son.” There's a lot to unpack with this, but we will get there. As a teaser, I think this is pretty effective. In my re-ordering of the series, season 2 began with “Initiations,” a rather bland and ineffective story true, but one which saw the Kazon arc begin in earnest. As a season finale, seeing a culmination of the arc seems like the right way to go.

Act 1 : **.5, 17%

We continue in medias res with Chakotay and Janeway alone in the ready room. As I said, the dynamic between them is radically different now that “Resolutions” has aired. The two discuss this baby and the implications of Seska's message in strikingly intimate terms.

JANEWAY: She knows you, Chakotay. She knew how you'd react when you saw your son in danger.

Janeway mentions that Seska obviously knows that Chakotay wouldn't be allowed to go after the baby on his own. In “Initiations,” Chakotay going off in a shuttle on his own proved disastrous (although, they should have realised that beforehand anyway). And while Chakotay going off to solve his problems in “Manœuvres” was perhaps less disastrous (they managed to keep the transporter tech and the shuttle out of the Nistrim's hands), it ended with him having his DNA stolen and Tuvok forgetting to demand Seska be handed over to the Voyager.

This brings us to the next sticking point:

JANEWAY: I'm not going to resume our course just yet. I want you to think about it, Chakotay. This has to be your decision. If you choose to go after him, I know I speak for the entire crew, Starfleet and Maquis alike, when I say we'll stand behind you.

On the most basic level (haha), this is a plot contrivance to shunt all of the story beats into the emotional arc of one character, Chakotay. Structurally, it's just simpler that way, rather than trying to contend with the whole crew weighing in on the decision. We saw just last episode how unwieldy such attempts can be. However, there are thematic echoes to other important episodes which have led up to this point. In “Deadlock,” alt-Chakotay mentions that he's surprised at how nervous he was while Samantha Wildman was in labour, even though the child wasn't his own.

JANEWAY: In a way, this child belongs to all of us.

I said in that review that I appreciated the way this tied into the thread from “Elogium,” and Janeway grappling with the prospect of fostering a real and entire community aboard the Voyager. We saw in (what I'm calling) season 1's finale, “The 37s,” how tempting the prospect of a real community must be for this crew. So here we have another baby which “belongs to all of them” in probably mortal peril. Letting Chakotay deal with this crisis on his own would not only contradict Janeway's command decisions (c.f. “Manœuvres”), but also undermine her attempts to be a community leader. But of course, the decision as to whether it's worth the risk to the family to go after this baby must be Chakotay's because, as we saw viscerally in “Tuvix,” this is an issue of consent. Chakotay was violated by Seska. It needs to be up to him to accept whether this baby is actually his son before they can proceed. All of that said, it seems really silly that they wouldn't have discussed this issue before now. Talk about procrastinating.

So, Chakotay holes up in his quarters and embarks on a vision quest to talk to his father. The Chakotay/Kolopak relationship has demarcated the beginning, midpoint and now finale of the whole season. Interesting choice. Thankfully, this vision quest tones down the offensiveness from “Tattoo” in several ways. The panflute music is absent, and an older Papa Chakotay speaks to his son in personal terms that don't attempt to cobble together a cultural backstory for the RTP. I say the offensiveness is toned down, but of course the back-to-nature silliness of Michael Piller is by no means absent. Papa Chakotay is pretty rigid in his morality, which is that a new life is cause for celebration, end of discussion. His view is definitely not one I agree with, but credit where it is due: the “pro-life” argument he makes—that the baby is innocent of all the intrigue, deception and weirdness which led to his conception—is a valid one, and serves as a counterweight to the arguments from “Tuvix.” However, in the end, the decision IS Chakotay's. Some women who are raped choose not to abort the foetuses that might develop as a result, and even raise them. That this is something THEY might choose does not negate the concept of choice or consent. One detail of Papa Chakotay's story that was probably left out (although, who knows given the fictitiousness of his tribe?) is that the women of his tribe who were raped and impregnated by consquistadors probably did not have a say in whether they accepted those children. I'm guessing the men of the tribe forced them to for their own reasons.

So, with the character questions answered for the time being (and thus some camouflage provided for the plot), the crew begin their preparations. Neelix makes contact with a Talaxian military group in the area who are willing to help out for some reason. Kim, Torres and the EMH devise plan to create sensor echoes of Talaxian ships and some holographic trickery to help sell the illusion to the Kazon (did I mention I met Robert Picardo last night?).

JANEWAY: Please, Doctor, your suggestions on any subject are always welcome.
EMH [on monitor]: Really? In that case, you may expect several more on a variety of matters in the near future.

Lol

After a while, the Voyager intercepts a Kazon shuttlecraft with a single weak lifesign. He's beamed to the Sickbay where the Doctor and Kes get to work saving his life. Chakotay recognises him as one of Seska's aides from his time aboard her ship in “Manœuvres.” The man, Terracotta or whatever, grabs Chakotay by the shoulder and dramatically informs him that Seska is dead. Dun dun dun!!

Act 2 : **, 17%

Terracotta explains how Caligula had her throat cut immediately after that message buoy was sent and how he himself only managed to survive by bribing a guard and lucking out. Mhm. Sounds plausible. Terracotta is incredulous that they would attempt to rescue the baby, who's going to be raised as a slave on a planet called Gema II, but Chakotay has already completed the character beats for that decision, so that's that. The Doctor is able to confirm that the man was in really rough shape, that if this were a deception, it was a hell of a risk for this guy to endure what he did. Right. Because the Kazon are not about taking stupid risks to advance their cause. That's why they definitely didn't get themselves melted into the bulkheads of their ship to try and activate a replicator in “State of Flux,” or fly a shuttle directly into the Voyager's hull in “Manœuvres,” or hold a meeting with their mortal enemy, the Trabe, in “Alliances.”

Chakotay still doesn't trust him, but they're moving ahead anyway. Huh? Okay, well Terracotta lays out a route for the Voyager which would bypass the Nistrim fleet and get them to Gema II. Neelix is on hand to confirm that this definitely not a trap. Thanks for the input. Ah, but Terracotta has the codes to the defence net, which overlay a series of lines and circles on the LCARS. The dramatic music seems to make us want to think that this guy is being truthful. After all, he entered information into the computer and it showed them an image that confirms his story. He MUST be telling the truth! So, when he says there are rogue Kazon sects roaming about this part of space, we must also believe that this is true. I mean, he's so credible!

Lo and behold, one of these rogue Kazon raiders ends up attacking the Voyager, causing damage to a few systems including the secondary command processors. They shoo it away and begin repairs, moving out of comm range of the Talaxian army (shudder). Given this brief respite, Tuvok asks Janeway to keep her appointment with his prisoner/protégé. The two of them visit Suder and he expresses his gratitude to them both, and she asks him to explain his vegetable proposal in more detail. Once again, Suder's eagerness gets the better of him. While Janeway is friendly and open to the idea, she's not ready to sign on the dotted line just yet. He presses and she turns her nose down and him and walks out, curtly. Both reveal some understandable but regrettable flaws in this interaction. Suder feels like a new man, ready to take on the world with his Vulcan quasi-discipline and vocation, but he seems to have forgotten that he KILLED A MAN FOR LOOKING AT HIM THE WRONG WAY. This isn't someone people are likely to just forget about and lend uncritical support to. On the other hand, Janeway, in a position of privilege, once again falls victim to her White Feminism (c.f. “Alliances”). Suder shouldn't treat her this way, this is true, but her haughty reaction to him isn't going to help in his rehabilitation or make him a productive member of her community again.

Act 3 : **.5, 17%

There's a brief montage where Janeway explains that there have been three additional attacks by the “rogues.” The attacks have targeted the secondary command processors and so, although none of them have posed a serious or immediate threat to the Voyager, they ought to be incredibly suspicious of this activity. It might be a good idea for someone to explain just what the fuck these processors do.

Meanwhile, the EMH is frustrated that Terracotta's odd blood polycythæmia isn't clearing up. He and Chakotay mix it up a little, Chakotay pulling out his “Learning Curve” toxic masculine bs by pinning the Kazon to the wall by his windpipe. His suspicions have apparently reached their apex, so it's time for the plot gods to strike. The red alert klaxon sounds and Chakotay reports to the bridge. They repel the latest attack, but Kim notes that Deck 12 and the “Starboard Ventral”--which has conveniently replaced “Secondary command processors” in the parlance—is a giant mess. Finally, they decide to reverse course and re-assess their options. Good.

Terracotta, meanwhile is sent to quarters and given a meal by Neelix. This dovetails nicely with a stop by Suder's quarters for dinner time. We see that he is not processing his rejection very well at all, reverting to that quiet and dangerous shadowy figure he was in “Meld.”

Well, now that the Voyager has reversed course, the rogue duck-pecking Kazon vessels have been replaced by a eight large warships headed straight towards them in a Cardassian attack pattern. How they avoided being detected by the sensors is anyone's guess. The Plot Gods are a fickle sort.

Act 4 : *.5, 17%

So, they implement their echo-displacement thingy and set up the holographic Talaxian ships. All the Very Serious Fighting includes a memorable gag with the Doctor being accidentally projected into space. While the eye candy is going on, Terracotta is alone and unguarded in his quarters—I mean, what else would you do with him with the suspicion so high? He pulls back his big toenail, which is pretty gross, and reveals that it's actually some sort of little needle device, not unlike the poison applicator we saw in “State of Flux.” And of course this is something that the EMH would not notice after days of close examination. Nah...Anyway, he injects himself with the little needle and this causes his whole body to explode, like a gigantic bomb. Well, the Voyager crew was good enough to house Terracotta in a spot within the ship that would make this explosion as detrimental to their systems as possible, so the holographic lights go out, and the Voyager finds itself overwhelmed. Paris volunteers to take a shuttle out and retrieve the Talaxians—because now would be the time for that, not BEFORE they began this mad quest. However, Tom's shuttle is destroyed and so now Tom Paris is dead. For ever. Mhm.

Given all the damage and the boarding parties now crowding the ship, Janeway repeats her counterpart's actions from “Deadlock” and orders the self-destruct. HOWEVER, those secondary command processors' function was to enable voice commands that blow up the warp core, I guess, so Janeway Pi is futile. The bridge is boarded and the crew forced to its knees.

Act 5 : **.5, 17%

Caligula, Seska and the baby enter and gloat a bit. Despite the tiredness of the set-up, she's back to her amusingly acerbic ways.

SESKA: Hello, everyone. What do you think of your son, Chakotay? He has your eyes, don't you think? Thank goodness he doesn't look too human. You all have such weak foreheads.

Cute. Caligula reveals that he's under the impression that Chakotay raped Seska—well before she defected to the Kazon. Those aliens and their whacky gestation periods, huh? One of the braver choices in this scene was having Caligula backhand Janeway to the ground, finally letting loose his 4chan grossness in an overt display of misogyny.

The crew is rounded up in a fairly visceral display. The Doctor turns himself off for the time being and Suder is revealed to have survived the explosion and is hiding in the Jeffries Tubes. While Caligula has never been impressive as a villain, I did get a chuckle from the way he tolerates what, to him, is Seska's incessant hen-pecking. I mean, she's telling him to do basic military stuff and he's acting like she's pestering him about mowing the lawn. It's stupid, but amusing.

Finally, the Voyager arrives at a hostile planet in the Hanan system and Caligula lands her, echoing “The 37s,” which became the season opener, but was planned to be the season 1 closer. Either way, it's an effective way to highlight the contrast. What was then a (overly proud of itself) majestic event, is now the harbinger of doom.

CULLUH: A fitting end for a people who would not share their technology. Let's see if you manage to survive without it.

This isn't inspired or anything, but it does hearken back all the way to “Caretaker” and “Alliances,” in that the Kazon are a people driven by a culture-wide inferiority complex. They rose to relative power by overthrowing their oppressors, the Trabe, and stealing their technology. When the Voyager arrived in their space, they refused to share their own advanced resources and even allied with their mortal enemy. The notion that depriving the crew of their special technologies would be extremely satisfying for him rings true.

Janeway immediately sets out to try and find the BASICS for survival, water, shelter, food, tools, etc. She divides the crew into teams—two of which are headed by Harry and Neelix because...anyway...the complexities of the series are seemingly stripped away as the now desperate crew watches their ship fly away. For ever.

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

This is what I wrote in my summary of “Manœuvres”:

“[T]his 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.” Aside from the cliffhangery aspect and the bits with Suder (which are good), “Basics” so far is that episode on steroids. The action elements are fine. As I've maintained, these points usually tend to bore me anyway, but the plot does not hold up to a lot of scrutiny. There are a number of contrivances both with Seska's intricate and improbable plan and with Janeway and co.'s reaction to it. The story goes to great pains to portray all of them as Very Clever, savvy and somewhat cynical, but it just doesn't hold up in execution.

The opening acts drew on a great deal of the material that has built up to this finale, moreso than any finale of TNG or DS9 so far (“Basics” aired the same day as “The Quickening”), except maybe “Redemption.” The character interplay with Chakotay and Janeway and with Tuvok and Suder was quite good. Even Chakotay's vision quest managed to bypass most of the pitfalls from “Tattoo” that made that episode so vile. The problem is that this episode is way too interested in executing the contrived plot and being “cool” than in exploring those relationships, which have always been Voyager's strength. Jammer compared this to “Descent” which I think is apt. That story began with a bit of interesting character study but quickly became about The Plot and spent its goodwill. Now, the setup for Season 3 is a hell of a lot more interesting than what we had to hope for in TNG's Season 7, but the writers seem overly proud of this fact and force us to dwell on the cliffhangery aspects for way too long. Here's a shot of Janeway's face. Then Caligula. Then Seska. Oh here's the Doctor. Here's Suder. Did you see the land eel? And the alien neanderthals?

In order for this story to really work as an intense and impactful season finale, it needed to add a new element to the Kazon arc which it is culminating. A new insight in the Seska/Caligula relationship, perhaps, or an unexpected alliance between the Kazon and the Talaxians, maybe. The development of the Kazon as a species has been way too anæmic to just rely on that backstory to carry the episode, and I feel like the writers have forgotten what made Seska interesting in Season 1. I'll have much more to say on how this story affects the season overall in the Recap.

Final Score : **
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Tue, May 7, 2019, 2:43pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

@Peter G

Poe v. Holdo: The scene where Holdo sacrifices herself for the fleet is the counterpoint to Poe learning about the burden of command. There is a place for grand gestures, theatrical, jaw-dropping heroics and favouring the bold, as it were, but knowing when such decisions are for the best requires the benefit of experience and wisdom. That's a lesson that has its roots all the way back in A New Hope, with Kenobi's choice to sacrifice himself to Vader. Holdo at first let her contempt for Poe's choices (which were wrong) bleed over onto contempt for him as a person. By the end, she understood where he was coming from and even admired him. Is there some sort of political analogue there? Like maybe don't call people deplorable even if you find their political choices untenable? Hmm...

Fine v. Rose: Rose's position is similar to Holdo's. She is correct when she snarls at Finn for trying to desert. She becomes cynical about the character of her heroes when she learns that they have very human weaknesses. But over the course of their adventure, she learns those human qualities are what make resisting worthwhile. In Finn, she gains an intimate friend--maybe more, we'll see--which is something she could never hope to have if she saw him as a perfect Luke Skywalker figure.

The Rey/Kylo stuff is more complicated. Like the other pairs, they are mirrors for each other, but there isn't as wide a gap. Only the thinnest of happenstances keep them on opposite sides of the conflict. They have equal gifts and willpower, as well as an adversarial/mentor connection to Skywalker. The difference between them boils down to heritage. Kylo is *supposed* to be a great Jedi because of his parentage, whereas Rey is not. And it's that humility which keeps her in the light and him in the darkness. The synthesis here is about recognising that the legacy of Luke Skywalker, his lightsaber and the Star Wars franchise in general is a mixed bag. Luke himself *is* a synthesis of good and evil, light and dark. His struggle has been in how to pass on what he learned, and Rey and Kylo represent that internal conflict.

I have a lot more to say about this movie. Maybe I'll do a write up in between Star Trek reviews and, you know, real life.
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Elliott
Tue, May 7, 2019, 2:09pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Body Parts

Teaser : **.5, 5%

Miles is fretting about Keiko being on an away mission “in her condition,” because he's a dude and this is television. We've seen that he's a low-key sexist and racist already, so this is nothing unexpected. Dax is on hand to remind him that he's being an asshole, which is a novelty for her.

Meanwhile, Quark is being weirdly affectionate and generous with his grease-monkey brother. He has been on Ferenginar for two weeks and is acting...exuberant. Even the mention of Suzy Orman can't quell his good mood. In truth he's burying the lede here—he blurts out to the assembled, “I'm dying!” The way Shimmerman plays this scene, it's clearly meant to be funny, but the chords of bad news are playing, so there's a bit of dissonance in the execution here.

Act 1 : **.5, 18%

The results of Quark's “annual insurance physical” (of course) revealed the presence of an incurable, erm...Dorks' Syndrome, is that it? His doctor (one of the most expensive on Ferenginar) gives him about a week to live. Like in “Bar Association,” the writers have chosen to tie together the Ferengi hat of unregulated capitalism with medical drama. And likewise, it's very uncomfortable in 2019 when we're up against the issue of capitalism disrupting healthcare. Quark's doctor is expensive, which of course means he's “good,” right? Quark makes a good living—this week anyway—so, he can afford better quality healthcare. I'd wager that Dr Bashir would actually provide better care than any of the doctors on Ferenginar, but that doesn't gel with Quark's ethos, does it? Julian doesn't charge his patients, so that's suspicious. I sort of buy this on an allegorical level, but not on a character one. Quark isn't an idiot. If he thinks he's going to die THIS WEEK, I'm pretty sure he'd get a second opinion from the doctor who has saved his life numerous times already on this show, even if he didn't agree with the man's economic ethics. But having Quark behave like something other than a cartoon would ruin the plot, so onward.

So, Quark has all these debts he has to pay off before he dies. I gather that the reason a greed-driven society would instil such a moral framework into their people is because at some point, a Nagus realised that their absurd economy had to be regulated against entire generations defaulting. And how do you introduce moral strictures that are in conflict with the ethos of your society? Why, religion of course! It's kind of an exaggerated Catholicism; instead of purchasing indulgences from the church in order to absolve your mortal sin, you pay off your creditors in order to get into heaven, erm, the “Divine Treasury.” In order to accomplish this, Rom suggests selling his desiccated remains, like you do.

QUARK: Who'd want to buy a disk of desiccated Quark? I'm nobody. Just some bartender with a domineering mother and an idiot brother.
...
ROM: You anticipated the change of administrations here on the station.
QUARK: And as a reward I'm inextricably linked to the Federation. I'm a joke on Ferenginar. Starfleet's favourite bartender. The Synthehol King. What a legacy.
ROM: You're not a joke here. You're a respected businessman, a pillar of the community, a man with many friends.

Meanwhile, the Volga has returned from the GQ, and it turns out Miles' incel-instincts were correct (great job, writers), as there has been some sort of accident requiring both Keiko and Kira to be sent directly to the Infirmary. So, we get the big reveal; Kira is now “housing” the O'Briens' baby. And if she's very lucky, she may be allowed more than 10 lines of dialogue this week.

Act 2 : ***, 18%

Bashir explains to Sisko and Miles the circumstances of this development; there was an accident involving asteroids and the good doctor had to move the foetus to another womb in order to save its life. The only options were Kira or—I don't know, putting Keiko in transporter suspension. Of course, this contrivance is all just a way to allow Nana Visitor to have her real-life baby bump on screen. One touch I actually liked quite a bit was Sisko, believe it or not. An exhausted Bashir casually explains the mad science that enabled him to make a Bajoran's womb viable for Miles' son and Sisko interjects, “But the bottom line is it worked, right?” He's a father, and he understands where Miles' head probably is right about now. But there's more—Kira has to carry the baby to term because of alien biological silliness.

Meanwhile, Rom has been the only person to bid on Quark's remains and the result is one unusually existential Ferengi.

QUARK: This has all been a mistake. My life, coming here, putting a bar on this Cardassian monstrosity of a station. What was I thinking?

But then, there's an enormous bid on the remains from an anonymous, errr collector. Quark assumes it must be Zek. And without much deliberation or, you know, thinking about how weird this all is for more than half a moment, he accepts the offer and sells his corpse to Rich Anon.

Kira visits Keiko in the Infirmary in what is probably the stand-out scene of the episode. Chao especially gives an incredible performance, blending the sorrow of what is essentially a woman forced to miscarry and the strange jealousy that accompanies surrogacy.

While Quark is giving Rom instructions on how to disperse his “winnings,” Bashir pops by to deliver news. Quark's doctor contacted him to let him know that the infallible rich Ferengi quack made an oopsie—or so he claims—and that Quark does not have Dorks' Syndrome. Rom is elated, but Quark is borderline orgasmic. Now he gets to sue for malpractice!

In the middle of the night, Quark is visited by three spirits...I mean he's visited by Jeffrey Combs, reprising the role of Blunt (FCA). He was of course the anonymous buyer, and he still wants his vacuum-sealed Quark, whether or not he's dying of Dorks' Disease.

Act 3 : ***.5, 18%

Quark tries to negotiate with Blunt, offering some latinum in exchange for his promised remains, but Blunt isn't having it. This obviously isn't about money for him, which is an irony I'll get back to. He's losing a large sum to Quark's creditors and probably Nog and Rom—probably—just to see that Quark dies, per his contract.

BRUNT: This is not business, Quark. This is personal.
QUARK: Why? What have I ever done to you?
BRUNT: Done to me? And you call your brother an idiot? Nothing you've ever done to me has been more than a minor inconvenience. No. Protecting your mother from an FCA audit, and secretly settling with your striking employees were nothing more than symptoms of a vile and insidious weakness. A weakness that makes me loath you, not for what you've done but for who you are, what you are...a philanthropist.

Weirdly enough, this reminds me of “The Last Outpost.”

KAYRON: You see? They are demented. Their values are insane. You cannot believe the business opportunities they have destroyed.
LETEK: Proof of their barbarism. They adorn themselves with gold, a despicable use of a valuable metal. And they shamelessly clothe their females.
MORDOC: Inviting others to unclothe them. The very depth of perversion.

Capitalism for the Ferengi is a cultural fetish. They frame it in terms that sync it up with “normal” cultural paradigms, like ethics, religion, tradition, etc. But fealty to these norms is so de riguer that a good Ferengi like Blunt will actually prioritise cultural purity over avarice—the so-called value for which the culture is supposed to serve as a justification. This furthers the theme I touched on regarding the Ferengi and the Klingons this season. The concepts which give structure to whatever innate or inherited or contrived values give each culture its hat are becoming commodified—simulacra, valuable only for their arbitrary purchasing power, innately worthless. Blunt is pulling this stunt, despite the fact that in principle, the notion of losing a profit in order to make a statement is against Ferengi principles, in order to stand up for Ferengi principles. Quite the house of cards.

The only alternative for Quark to killing himself would be to break his contract which, according to Ferengi law, would leave him and his family destitute and isolated from their own people. No more insurance physicals.

Miles is helping Keiko with her PT, which is unexpectedly sweet. She would like for them to spend more time with Kira—so as to be close to the baby.

KEIKO: I know I'm being selfish. I should be grateful that my baby's alive and well, but I shouldn't have to make appointments to be with my own child. Miles, what are we going to do?
O'BRIEN: I don't know.

Kudos to the writers here—this baby plot is pretty whacky, but they are choosing to approach the topic in raw, human terms. Capturing forlorn ambivalence on screen is not easy, but they've done a pretty marvellous job, I think.

While Rom is begging his brother to embrace what has become a family legacy at this point and defy Ferengi custom, Quark is paying a visit to Garak in his shop. He comes right out with it; he wants to hire Garak as an assassin. Robinson's facial expressions are pretty priceless in this scene, as he revives some of his old S1/2 obfuscatory habits. He isn't looking to –liquidate— Blunt however (yuk yuk yuk), he wants Garak to kill him. I thought this tale of pregnancy scares, terminal disease, and cultural pushback needed another element. I just didn't realise it was euthanasia.

Act 4 : ***, 13% (short)

Quark gives a little speech to his brother that, if you substituted “businessman” for “warrior, “Divine Treasury” for “Sto-vo-kor,” and “exploitation” for “honour,” you could honestly not tell the difference between it and typical Klingon bluster. Amusing stuff.

There's a brief scene at the O'Briens where Kira is conscripted into their family. It's a little on the overly cute side, especially after the more probing scenes we got earlier, but I'm disposed to the concept: how about a threesome?

We cut to the holosuite where Garak is going through his catalogue of murder techniques. Quark has ruled most of them out for various reasons.

GARAK: For a man who wants to kill himself, you're strangely determined to live.

Quark decides that he wants his murder to be a surprise—at least that's what he thinks he wants...we soon see that this arrangement has made it so that Quark is terribly paranoid. He has a dream—it's obviously a dream—where he has died and awoken in the Divine Treasury, an appropriately garish and obscene display of plastic opulence.

Act 5 : ***.5, 18%

Quark is greeted by uh, Peer Gynt? the first Grand Nagus, as portrayed by Max Grodénchik. Suddenly, I feel like I'm watching a really weird Muppets movie.

GINT: Don't blame me for your limited imagination. Now, I'll make it simple. You have to break the contract with Brunt.
QUARK: You got to be joking. You're Gint. You wrote the Rules of Acquisition. The sacred precepts upon which all Ferengi society is based. You of all people can't expect me to break them.
GINT: Why not? They're just rules. They're written in a book, not carved in stone. And even if they were in stone, so what? A bunch of us just made them up.

Uh-oh, someone hit the analogy button...

QUARK: Are you saying they don't matter?
GINT: Of course they matter. That's why they're a best-seller. But we're talking about your life here. The Rules are nothing but guideposts, suggestions.
QUARK: Then why call them Rules?
GINT: Would you buy a book called Suggestions of Acquisition? Doesn't quite have the same ring to it, does it?
QUARK: You mean it was a marketing ploy?

I'm not saying that the episode is suggesting that religions are designed they way they are because their founders used the same bullshit tactics as modern advertisers do to get you to buy pet insurance and Big Macs...but I'm not not saying it either. Nor am I objecting.

And so, Quark returns Blunt's money and informs him he's breaking the contract. Blunt gloats, of course, but Quark gets the last word in, threatening to kill them man if he ever returns to the bar. He may be out of assets and his business license, but he's still got some Grrumba! However, it's a pyrrhic victory, as Quark is forced to close shop for ever.

We close up the B-plot with Kira moving in. The O'Briens went to some effort to make her feel welcome and cutest-kid-in-the-galaxy Molly is there to sweeten the pot.

The final scene, in which the entire cast and extras re-stock the bar under the pretence of looking for places to offload their junk is surprisingly effective.

ROM: Look at them, brother. And you thought you had no assets.

Episode as Functionary : ***, 10%

For me, this is the first successful character piece for Quark since “The House of Quark,” nearly two seasons ago. It's everything “Sons of Mogh” should have been for Worf, had the writers not sabotaged the ending. Quark has always prided himself as the one member of his family who followed Ferengi traditions properly, despite being dragged into countercultural projects by his affection for them. Despite this status, he's a mediocrity by Ferengi standards. A genuine love for greed and selfishness is neither interesting nor especially realistic. I like very much that both Quark and Blunt are revealed to have more basic, human needs undergirding their actions. Quark craves community—that is probably why he chooses to run a bar despite being capable of greater profits in other businesses. He could easily have other business fronts for his illegal mafia dealings that didn't require so much socialising. Both he and Blunt are Ferengi fundamentalists at heart, but that social need is what keeps Quark from going over the edge. And the seeds he has sown amongst that community (or the “assets” if you want to be Ferengi about it) yield fruit in the final scene, which is why I think it's so effective. We will just gloss over the fact that Quark has almost gotten some of these people killed more than once and that Sisko had to bribe him to keep his business here.

William B summarised the B plot nicely and I don't have much to add. I think it was as sensible as could be given the premise, and I really enjoyed the Keiko material throughout. I have to agree, however, that Kira continues to be shortchanged any insight into her own character and motivations, which is frustrating.

Final Score : ***
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Mon, May 6, 2019, 1:07pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

@Peter G

I have to say I completely disagree with you.

"the story was ill-conceived and that there was essentially no thematic depth to the material"

I have a really hard time with a statement like this since TLJ was by leaps and bounds the most deliberate of any Star Wars film ever made in terms of theme. The film is critical of the black/white, dark/light binary that has dominated the other films; each sub-plot features 2 characters who appear to be on opposing sides of an issue and find synthesis in their ideas and values (Poe v. Holdo, Finn v. Rose, Rei v. Ren). The Casino plot was the weakest, but that doesn't mean it wasn't necessary or poorly-conceived; it's just that it was a lot more allegorical/political than Star Wars tends to be, hence why Jammer mentioned the Star Trek-iness of this film.

As to your nits:

1. "hen there's the issue of the entire sabotage subplot going nowhere and abruptly ending"

But again, that's the theme of the film. None of the characters' plans are achieved; they all fail, but are redeemed by synthesising with their counterparts.

2. "the secrecy around that plan, which makes no sense other than to toy with the audience."

No, that's a character choice. Poe proved that he didn't respect the chain of command or have the leadership skill necessary (yet) to be trusted with sensitive information like that. We are frustrated on Poe's behalf, but this is by design. We are meant to have contempt for Holdo because she frustrates our fantasy about what heroism is supposed to look like.

I posted my youtube like as a snarky reply to Yanks, but I suggest seriously watching it. I loathe Disney and am very pessimistic about the mega-blockbuster endless sequel industry that Star Wars is now only one example of in our media, but I think that TLJ somehow emerged as one of the most interesting, engaging and complex films of the entire franchise.
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Elliott
Mon, May 6, 2019, 11:28am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

If you want to know why this movie is wonderful, listen to this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIUerVY_Yno
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Mon, May 6, 2019, 11:14am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Resolutions

Teaser : ***, 5%

In a freshly-shorn meadow, by the looks of it, Janeway and Chakotay are awoken inside two class-4 Starfleet coffins. They're contacted by the EMH from the Voyager which is in orbit. The Doctor informs them, regretfully, that he's been unable to devise a cure to whatever they need to be cured of over the last seventeen days. He lays out the other plot contrivances to make things work—which as others have pointed out, are scientifically rather silly—but which work in a narrative sense. The Doctor thinks the only alternative which might yield results would be to contact the Vidiians, who have advanced medical tech. Otherwise, the two coffin-dwellers are going to have to remain on the grassy knoll indefinitely. Of note is Jennifer Lien's wordless performance while the EMH reports to the captain. The Doctor's explanation is clinical and blunt, per his idiom, but in her expressions, we see the exhaustion, depression and dread that accompany this news.

Janeway and Chakotay discuss the option briefly, but they know that sending the Voyager after the Vidiians deliberately would be suicidal, so she calls Tuvok to relinquish command to him permanently. An intriguing start.

Act 1 : **, 17%

The remaining senior staff—and Neelix and Kes of course—discuss the situation in the conference room. Most of the crew seem distraught over the decision to leave their leaders behind. And it's true that it's difficult, based on what we've seen, to picture the Voyager without *either* of it's command leads.

TUVOK: I'm not certain what it is you expect me to do, Lieutenant.
PARIS: I guess clearly something you can't do, which is to feel as rotten about this as we do.
TUVOK: You are correct that I am unable to experience that emotion. And frankly, I fail to see what the benefit would be.

I'm reminded a bit of the secondary plot in “Gambit,” where Data assumed temporary command and his emotionless approach to decision-making butted up against Worf's, erm, Klingon approach.

Janeway and Chakotay are provided with a great deal of survival gear, but Janeway is only interested in the research equipment, which she thinks will help her devise a cure for their condition—caused by an insect bite, if you care. I think that it's in the bones of the story that the characterisation of Janeway is meant to show us that, once again, she's hiding behind her blue-shirted persona to avoid confronting more difficult, existential issues that come with command, or in this case, relinquishing it “permanently.” This research equipment is a placebo. Where I think the way this is realised is a bit weak is in Jeri Taylor's unwillingness to put that sentiment in the dialogue. I would have liked a scene where Tuvok consults with the Doctor about the the equipment before it's beamed down to the planet. The Doctor quietly informs the Vulcan that there is simply no chance that Janeway working on her own without the laboratories on the Voyager can hope to develop a cure. Tuvok says he has learnt humans require time for their emotions to catch up to their logic, even brilliant ones like Janeway. I think Taylor was worried that such dialogue, which would serve to highlight the Janeway/Tuvok friendship, Tuvok's growth, and gel with the development of this story, would make Janeway look irrational. And you know, female sci-fi leader in the 1990s looking irrational would be bad for the show, I guess.

What does work is these two starting to re-assess how they interact with each other. Janeway suggests they could probably drop the formality of addressing each other by rank, and Chakotay makes little jokes.

Meanwhile, Torres berates one of her engineers for delivering a shitty report in the midst of the shipwide grief over the loss of their leaders. Kim pulls her aside and polls her on the feelings of “the Maquis.” This brings up another missed opportunity—the stability of the Voyager crew depends upon the alliance between Janeway and Chakotay. That's been clear since “Parallax.” Unlikely as it may seem, in order to maintain that alliance, Tuvok should have made Torres is first officer. Instead, it's Paris, whom the Maquis are likely to resent as much as Tuvok himself. Good call. Anyway, Kim notes that the Starfleet crewmen he's been talking to want to “do something,” not that anyone has a clue what that might be.

We cut back to the planet, where a couple of days have passed. J&C are in civilian garb and Janeway has set up her insect traps to keep her impossible dream alive. It's quite clear that she believes she will devise a solution to their ailment before the Voyager is even out of hailing range. Chakotay, however, has some sort of surprise waiting for her in the woods—a project he's been toiling at to pass the time. Their frolicking is interrupted by a call from Tuvok. They are about to leave communication range, so it's time for them to say goodbye for ever. Definitely.

Between some now-expected Mulgrew radiance in delivery and Tuvok offering an olive branch to his former rival in the form of the signature Vulcan farewell, the goodbye speech manages to be effective, if unoriginal.

Act 2 : **, 17%

We see that after nearly a month on “New Earth” (ick), Chakotay has built Kathryn an outdoor bathtub so she can relax in her preferred method. She soaks under the stars while he paints in their glamping shelter. She hears a rustling and Chakotay leaps to her rescue—literally—with a phaser to thwart whatever evil creature is lurking nearby. We soon see that it's just a badly-trained monkey who's come by to say hello, I suppose. Janeway wants to dissect it or something to further her research, but it's only interested in being a metaphor. With the danger past, Chakotay becomes aware that his former captain is sopping wet and naked next to him, so he excuses himself. In response, Janeway gets dressed and turns on her laptop, deciding that they've been wasting time not hunting for other monkeys, damn it!

CHAKOTAY: My people have a saying. Even the eagle must know when to sleep. Maybe it's time we both considered that.
JANEWAY: You mean quit, give up?
CHAKOTAY: Why do you have to see it as defeat? Maybe it's simply accepting what life has dealt us, finding the good in it.
JANEWAY: There may be a day when I'll come to that, Chakotay, but, I'm a long way from it right now.

We'll come back to this. Meanwhile, Tuvok is still giving “Acting Captain's” logs, which also seems like a strange choice. We all know that Janeway and Chakotay are going to get rescued in the end, and that's fine, but why not put Tuvok in a red shirt and give him four pips? Maybe, as a Vulcan, he doesn't stand on such ceremony, but I think it would have been a more effective illusion for the audience to see that Tuvok is trying in every way to establish this new normal for the crew, to dissuade them of notions that they might go back for J&C. Kim excitedly detects a Vidiian vessel within hailing range and essentially begs Tuvok to ask them for help, but of course, that's not happening.

In a surprising turn, Kim loudly asks the rest of the bridge crew why they don't commit mutiny against Tuvok. It seems like the experience with the Clown has given Harry something resembling a spine. Paris quietly shakes his head signalling his friend to back down, or perhaps, letting him know that he's not very good at this sort of thing. Kim is relieved of duty and pouts as he leaves the bridge.

News of Ensign Backbone's little tantrum has reached the lower decks. In the Mess Hall, he's approached by Hogan, who has a history of being skeptical of command decisions, and that engineer who couldn't complete her report. They all agree that there's consensus among many in the crew that they should try and contact the Vidiians. So, the three of them ambush Torres to present a plan—oh and Neelix is also a part of the conversation because he's fucking Neelix.

Kim comes to Tuvok's quarters to apologise for his behaviour, and to offer his suggestion on behalf of “a lot of people.” Kim brings up the events of “Lifesigns” as points in their favour with the Vidiians, but Tuvok counters that the events of “Deadlock” make these points moot. Again, I must lament the wasted opportunity here. Tuvok and Kim are now the only senior officers on the ship who graduated from the Academy. In addition to putting Tuvok in a redshirt (it's been over six weeks already), shouldn't we be promoting, say Lieutenant Carey to a senior position? Who's the new tactical officer? The dynamic between green emotional Kim and experienced emotionless Tuvok is a really interesting idea, but it all feels pointless because the episode keeps insisting to us that none of this is permanent.

Act 3 : **, 17%

On New Earth, Chakotay confronts Janeway about her resisting his efforts to make their lives more comfortable. Comfort = acceptance, which we've firmly established is not on Janeway's to-do list.

CHAKOTAY: I can't sacrifice the present waiting for a future that may never happen. The reality of this situation is that we may never leave here. So, yes, I'm trying to make a home. Something that's more than a plain, grey box.

While Janeway checks her insect traps, she has another encounter with the Metaphor Monkey. It's here to warn her of a fast-approaching storm of some sort. No, seriously. Janeway ends up getting thrown to the grown by green lightning as she tries to bring her traps back to the shelter. Once again, Chakotay and his big strong man arms are there to rescue her.

On the Voyager, Kes decides to confront Tuvok with some of her backstory. She compares her Vulcan mentor here to her own father, who apparently inspired her to leave the Ocampan city in the first place. She suggests that he's not looking after the crew's emotional needs alongside their physical ones. And like that, she convinces him to talk to the crew.

TUVOK: In general, I believe it demonstrates faulty leadership to be guided by the emotions of a distraught crew.

If this story were willing to dig into this premise properly, his speech would have ended there. Instead, he's decided, for no apparent reason, to start heeding the demands of his subordinates and contact the Vidiians. And there was much rejoicing. If I'm being generous, I can point out that this action is consistent with his behaviour in “Prime Factors,” and there are a number of echoes to that stronger story. I can see how logic might dictate that he make the “wrong choice” in this situation, as he did with the Sikarians. He cannot bring his logic to Janeway obviously, so he's again acting on his own. He tells the crew that he is taking full responsibility for this action, as he did before.

On New Earth, the storm has caused a lot of damage and totally destroyed Janeway's research equipment. Do you get it? She has to let go now. Do you get it?

Act 4 : ***, 17%

In Tuvok's log, he reports that the Vidiians responded positively to their hail. They agreed to contact Dr Pel from “Lifesigns” and meet with the Voyager to pass along the cure. She contacts them directly, which makes for a nice little cameo—and perhaps explains why Joe Carey isn't to be found this week.

Janeway and Chakotay clear away the debris from the storm and Janeway manages to say something optimistic about their life on New Earth, which catches Chakotay off guard. Metaphor Monkey is back to mark the character beat.

CHAKOTAY: I doubt that he can be domesticated, at least not very easily.
JANEWAY: Well, we have plenty of time. The rest of our lives.
CHAKOTAY: That's a long time.

*ahem*

That evening, Janeway consents to let Chakotay give her a should rub. There's soft lighting, sensual flute music...mhm. Sensing some stirring feelings, she stands and says goodnight. I think there MIGHT be some sexual tension in this room, but I don't know...better consult the monkey.

We cut briefly to the Voyager which finds itself ambushed by the friendly Vidiians. *SHOCK*

Janeway emerges from her bed and decides to confront the issue directly. I've been pretty sour on this story, but I have to say that this scene is extremely good. First, we get the Chakotay “ancient legend” which he improvises as a way of telling Kathryn how he feels about her. Despite the paperback romance window-dressing “Resolutions” has been wallowing in, I like that there is a believable depth to the connection between the characters. The Maquis stuff is an albatross around Chakotay's (and Torres') neck. I've made it clear by now that the Maquis don't work as a concept in Star Trek and Voyager has struggled with its characterisation of Chakotay as a result. However, the idea that the Maquis was an outlet for unresolved childhood trauma (c.f. “Initiations” and “Tattoo”) works on a certain level. The Maquis cause is dubious, but at least he got to punch people and be a rebel. The events of “Caretaker” put Janeway in a position where she needed Chakotay, whom she had been assigned to capture. And that need in turn gave Chakotay a purpose, a real cause, and as he puts in in his story, “peace within himself.” They join hands...

Act 5 : ***, 17%

With the Voyager's shields down to 47 (duh) per cent, Tuvok sets Torres on an intricate plan he has devised to get themselves out of this mess. Meanwhile, the Doctor is contacted by Pel in the Sickbay. She explains that she has the magical serum, but the EMH will have to find a way to lower the Voyager's shields so they can beam it aboard. Apparently, the Voyager lost the ability to beam through shields since the events of “Manœuvres.” While I'm never very impressed by space battles in Star Trek, I did enjoy seeing Tuvok implement his crazy plan and adapt it to allow for the recovery of the serum. It's good to show the tactical officer devising, you know, tactics.

We cut to the next morning on New Earth, so to speak. Janeway is up, planting Talaxian tomatoes. Is this a metaphor for something too? Planting new life in the ground after the two of them realised their feelings for each other and probably boned? Hmm. Too subtle for me. Okay okay. Clumsy metaphors aside, there's a hint of something else here in Janeway, a nascent need to be nurturing. I don't love that this is something we just have to overlay onto the first female captain to head a Star Trek series, but it does work within this story quite well. We saw in “Elogium” and “The Thaw” how Janeway will of course live up to her duties when tasked with parental roles—just like how she will make it work on New Earth if she's forced to live here. But now we see that she is capable, when she lets her guard down, of actually enjoying the role.

The two of them have developed an easy-going and [[[(((probably)))]]] romantic rapport that feels genuine and lived-in thanks to Mulgrew and Beltran's performances. While Chakotay starts to tempt Kathryn with another project—building a boat to explore the nearby river—they hear Tuvok's voice on the comm. They've given up wearing the combadges altogether and have left them sitting up on a shelf, forgotten remnants of their old lives. And now they're calling.

The pair are back in uniform. Janeway sadly admires her new garden and is pleased to see that Metaphor Monkey is around to say goodbye. As they beam away, the monkey repeats Janeway's gesture, as if to plead with her not to go.

Janeway gives Tuvok a bit of a ribbing over his “emotional” decision to disobey her order. A far cry from “Prime Factors.” Meh. The final lines of dialogue are between Janeway and Chakotay—dry technical instructions given to each other without making eye contact. All that intimacy and growth now purposefully buried far from the eyes of the crew. Ouch.

Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

This story could have been a lot more than it ended up being. Removing Chakotay and Janeway from the Voyager revealed how lacking in experienced leadership this crew really is. On the Enterprise D—even in Season 1—you had five bridge officers with a rank of lieutenant-commander or higher (Picard, Riker, Crusher, Troi and Data). Here, we were left with Lt Tuvok and Ensign Kim, along with Maquis-promoted to lieutenant Torres and paroled prisoner Paris. That isn't a criticism. It makes complete sense given the set-up for the series, with Janeway's senior staff dying and being supplemented by the Maquis. My problem is that this power vacuum didn't get properly explored. Instead we've got Tuvok learning to accede to the emotional needs of his peers, something I think was handled more appropriately in “Innocence,” to be honest. The way he comforted Ensign Deadmeat in the teaser showed a greater sensitivity to the emotional needs of non-Vulcans than we get from him in this story. That said, it's not unwatchable material, it's just rather bland.

The New Earth stuff on the other hand isn't bland at all. Some of the short-handed metaphors with the monkey and the tomatoes felt clumsy to me, but chemistry between Beltran and Mulgrew makes up for it. I think the series earns this unrequited romance. Chakotay's story puts a plausible spin on their attachment to and need for each other. Putting them in this (admittedly contrived) situation on planet Manicured Lawn sees that attachment grow into (probably) full-fledged romance in the end. That's a relationship with some depth in what could have been a very shallow character 'shipping story.

I'll just add that complaining about the rest button on the J/C stuff is unfair. The final scene with the two of them actively (and clearly premeditatively) ignoring their new romance is a minor tragedy, but their relationship following this episode is not the same as it was before. Chakotay and Janeway maintain a real intimacy throughout the rest of the series that we don't get any hint of prior to this story. That makes it an episode with consequences.

Final Score : **.5
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Elliott
Sat, May 4, 2019, 8:32am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Tuvix

@Peter G

Tuvix’ has a unique consciousness. That much was clear. There was no way to assume that his will represented Tuvok’s and Neelix’ anymore than theirs represented his when they were restored. In the end Tuvix insists that he has he right to live. And no one disputes that, it’s just that their ethics—or at least Janeway’s...again I cited precedent that it might be Federation law, but that’s not certain—indicate that Tuvok’s and Neelix’ right to consent AND to life supersede Tuvix’ right to live.
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Elliott
Fri, May 3, 2019, 4:01pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Tuvix

Re: "Up the Long Ladder"

First, I agree that it's a pretty shitty episode and that the messaging struggles against the absurd and often offensive plot. I only brought it up as an example of what Federation law/ethics probably has to say on the matter. Another would be "The Child" (also a horrible episode); but regardless of the outcome, Deanna was the only person allowed to determine whether Ian was to be born, despite potential risks to the Enterprise.

The ethics of these examples are not black and white--do I think Riker had the right to phaser Thomas in "Second Chances"? No. And would Janeway have the right to murder Tuvix if Neelix and Tuvok had been combined but also *copied* by the transporter, such that there were now three fully sentient men--even though Tuvok and Neelix did not consent to his creation? No. And that's because we are weighing conflicting moral ideas: right to life, sentience, autonomy and consent.

1. It's okay for Riker to murder his undeveloped clone because it is not yet sentient and was created without his consent. The clone's right to life is overshadowed by Riker's right to consent and the fact that the life he's taking is not (probably) sentient.

2. It's not okay for Riker to murder Thomas because a. neither man has a greater claim on having been the person whose consent was denied to create the other, b. Thomas is sentient and c. Riker doesn't have to die for Thomas to live.

3. It's okay for Janeway, on Tuvok's on Neelix' behalf, to murder Tuvix because Tuvok and Neelix did not consent to his creation AND they would have to cease to exist so that Tuvix could live on.

These issues are complicated.
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Elliott
Fri, May 3, 2019, 3:42pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Tuvix

@William B:

"A person is pregnant with twins, and already it seems that she will not survive the pregnancy."

The problem with this reversal is what I originally wrote about--it's not so much about potential life v. existing life, but about consent. The woman in question did not consent to die for her unborn twins, just like Tuvok and Neelix did not consent to die in order to make Tuvix.

"The other question I guess is whether there is a statute of limitations on the absolute control of one's genetic material."

That's certainly a relevant question to the topic of cloning/abortion. Do your parents have a right to kill you after you're born if they decide they never really wanted to have you? Obviously, the answer is "no." So how does that map on to real-life pregnancies and abortions? For me, I think it's fair to say that a person has the right to terminate pregnancy until the point of viable birth, which in humans is usually around 7 months. It's by no means a perfect scenario, but I think a person under most circumstances would be able to make an informed consent to have a baby by that point, and there is no way to keep the foetus alive without the mother's consent before that point.

"The proper order of things is for there to be one Kirk, and that the two halves seem to be sick reinforces this. "

I agree that these sorts of assumptions serve to obscure the core issue (consent). "Tuvix" is uniquely brave in not hiding behind those kinds of assumptions at all.

"I do wonder also whether any parallels [were intended] between this episode and the Seska stealing Chakotay's DNA plot."

Not something that escaped my attention either! I'll be talking about it when I get to "Basics."

@Peter G:

"The 'evil Kirk' saying he wants to live isn't a human rights issue or anything to do with priority in who should exist and who shouldn't; it means that in the struggle to perfect ourselves the baser side demands to live too, and that if we try to push it down or squash it we're in for trouble because we will become divided from ourselves."

Except that we saw in this episode how Tuvix made a "better" man than Neelix or Tuvok alone, able to combine their traits in a *positive* way. But just because the results of a transporter accident make one guy out of two who seems great or two guys out of one who seem sick doesn't alter the morality of the situation, whichever side of it you come down on.

I'll also say that authorial intent is not the end of the discussion about a work of art. That is the argument made against "Dear, Doctor," for example. The intent was to analogise Western colonialism, but many people conclude that the actual message is pro-social Darwinism or whatever. I'm not weighing in on this thread about that episode, but my point is, these stories often have meaning beyond what they were intended to convey.

"Well, let's go further: imagine if a woman who was raped got pregnant, went into a coma (let's say), and gave birth without knowing about it. Upon waking up would she be within her rights to kill the child (of whatever age) because she hadn't consented to its existence?"

That's a fair question, but what doesn't quite work is that the woman in question was not asked or forced to give up her own life so that her baby could live.

"The fact that he wanted to live, and they probably would have agreed to let him live at their expense, means that Janeway not only killed someone pleading for his life, but that it was probably against the likely wishes of all three parties involved."

It's not fair for you to make assumptions like that. Tuvok and Neelix were not asked whether they wished to be combined. We don't know what their wishes might have been if they could somehow be communicated with while Tuvix was still alive. Maybe introducing time travel? The point is Janeway had to make a choice based on the information she had.

"And actually the episode does strangely seem to fit more closely into a pro-life worldview, insofar as Tuvix *does* insist on his right to live, and Doc refusing to harm a patient even for the sake of another."

I addressed that point in my review. The doctor, a computer programme, has rigid views of right and wrong built in to his software. The point of the conclusion is to say, try as we might, we cannot just ignore those views; we have to accept that being pro-choice is difficult; we are saying, "unborn person, you don't get to exist because I did not consent to your existence." With foetuses, the conversation is not literal, with "Tuvix," it is.

"That's part of what Elliott finds impressive about the episode, is that Tuvix is given many qualities that pro-life people assert fetuses have and still supports Tuvok and Neelix's right to choose where their genetic material goes."

Yes, precisely.

@Jackson:

Very good point. We are far from the scenario in our current society where we need to worry about going "too far" in the other direction and having parents murder their adolescent children. Abortion rights are severely restricted in most parts of the world.
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Elliott
Wed, May 1, 2019, 3:54pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Quickening

HAMLET: You do lie in it, to be in it and say it is yours. It is for
the dead, not for the quick, therefore you lie.
CLOWN: It is a quick lie, sir, it will go away again from me to you.

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

We begin by finding an entertaining way to justify paying most the cast in this week's episode. Quark has begun inserting YouTube ads for his bar onto the station monitors, which I think entitles him to a life sentence in a Cardassian work camp. If ever there was a cogent anti-capitalist message on this show, it's here. Quark didn't just advertise on the monitors, however, as an enraged Worf—yes noticeably enraged, even for him—barges in demanding Quark's head on a platter of Gagh. The prune juice he ordered *on the Defiant* was dispensed in a tacky-as-hell plastic mug that plays Quark's jingle every time it's tipped over to imbibe. Double life sentence. Well between Worf and Kira, Quark's sphincter has tightened enough to produce his own diamonds, so he's going to purge the system while Kira's off in the GQ. I assume the Bajorans are setting up a Disneyland or something considering how they keep establishing colonies for the Dominion to destroy.

Actually, she's been tasked—for whatever reason—with piloting the blue shirts, Dax and Bashir, to a planet they've decided to bio-survey. I think Julian has been taking LSD or something because he's acting like his S1 self, prattling on about stars in some ill-advised attempt to impress these ladies. Thankfully, this fluff is put to rest when their runabout receives a distress call from a planet just outside of Dominion space.

Dax and Bashir beam down to the besieged world and are greeted by an impressive matte painting, reminiscent of the pull-back effect used in the teaser to “The Best of Both Worlds.” The world they find is populated by a lot of miserable-looking people scavenging about the ruins of their civilisation. There are dead people being carted around, everyone is filthy, the sun is just a little too bright. A woman approaches the pair and starts convulsing in pain, begging them to take her to Truvada or something so she can die. He apparently runs a hospital. A man sets himself down by Bashir as Dax makes inquiries.

EPRAN: The Blight's quickened in her. There's nothing you can do. You should leave here. now. Go back to where you came from and forget about this place.

Act 1 : ***.5, 17.5%

Dax manages to trade her hair clip for transportation to the hospital and Bashir determines that these aliens' physiology is sufficiently different from their own that the blight is not a threat, but also that his medicines don't seem to work on them. We see the woman who now has Jadzia's hair clip admiring its loveliness on her own blight-disfigured head. Adorning injustice.

The blue shirts carry the quickened woman to Truvada's hospital, which resembles a church or a cult more than a place of medicine. Then it's time for confession. A man whose lesions have become inflamed (he's quickened) stands up to express his gratitude for Truvada's care.

TAMAR: Yesterday, when I woke up, I saw that it had finally happened. I'd quickened. I always thought I'd be afraid but I wasn't, because I knew I could come here. Last night I slept in a bed for the first time in my life. I fell asleep listening to music. This morning I bathed in hot water, dressed in clean clothes. And now I'm here with my friends and family. Thank you, Trevean, for making this day everything I dreamed it could be.

Then he takes a deep drink from a goblet. Truvada and the blue shirts chat a bit. Bashir is incredulous about what's going on here, but Truvada explains the backstory: they were once a sophisticated people, but in choosing to defy the will of the Dominion, their world was ransacked and their entire population cursed with this blight. They are an example to others—cough couch—who might choose to defy the Changelings. Then Tamar convulses, the poison he drank taking effect. Bashir rushes over to help.

BASHIR: Can't you see he's dying?
TREVEAN: Of course he's dying. He came here to die. People come to me when they quicken. I help them leave this world peacefully, surrounded by their families and friends...The Blight kills slowly. No one wants to suffer needlessly. Not like that woman you brought me.

***

Truvada's “hospital” here, to me, reads like a very clear allegory for Teresa of Calcutta's House of the Dead, made infamous in the British documentary “Hells' Angel.” A humanitarian worker called Hemley Gonzalez wrote about his experiences there:

“Workers washed needles under tap water and then reused them. Medicine and other vital items were stored for months on end, expiring and still applied sporadically to patients...Volunteers with little or no training carried out dangerous work on patients with highly contagious cases of tuberculosis and other life-threatening illnesses. The individuals who operated the charity refused to accept and implement medical equipment and machinery that would have safely automated processes and saved lives.”

In Teresa's hospice care centres, she practised her belief that patients only needed to feel wanted and die at peace with God—not to receive proper medical care.

“There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ’s Passion,” Mother Teresa said. “The world gains much from their suffering.”

The difference between Mother Teresa and Truvada here is that his evangelism is not voluntary. This is of course because Teresa's Catholicism and the religion of the Dominion are of different types. I've talked about this before; the religion of the Bajorans and the Dominion are actually of the Pantheonic variety, where the gods are measurable and subject to the laws of the Universe, instead of the author and master of those laws, immeasurable and omnipotent like the God of Abraham. Truvada evangelises on behalf of the Dominion because he's been beaten into submission by it, conditioned by the literal and eternal plague which claims the lives of his entire race. While it's very good that this episode doesn't conflate the two types of religion unlike the myriad Bajoran faith stories we've had so far, it would have been braver to contextualise this story within a Bajoran tale. It would have made a good Kira story actually, but we will get there eventually.

What the blight has done to these people is to subjugate them into the religion of the Founders by force. This is not exactly the same as what Catholic missionaries do, but there are important similarities. Missionaries like Teresa of Calcutta consider illness to be an act of God; as she herself said on many occasions, it was more important that the ill (and the poor, and the maligned) accept the grace of God than be cured of their ailments. She and others would advertise medical care for the infirm, but offer only conversion. “The Quickening” was written at a time when AIDS was an incurable and fatal disease. In many communities, HIV had become a defining feature, a culture all its own, like the blight. In all cases, the culprit is ignorance; Teresa believed in ignorance that God created illness and that it was immoral to even attempt to defy his will; AIDS was considered fait accompli for groups like the gay community because they were kept ignorant of preventative and eventually curative measures (if you don't know what I'm talking about, look up Ronald Reagan and the AIDS crisis); the Dominion takes elements of both, exacting divine judgement on a race which defied their will. It may not be “immoral” in the same way as it was for Teresa to attempt to cure the blight, but it may as well be since hubris against the Dominion is what condemned them to begin with. Truvada doesn't love the Founders the way Weyoun does, but they are, for all intents and purposes, gods to both men in equal measure, inviolate.

***

Dax determines that the distress beacon has been repeating the message for over 200 years, an idea borrowed, oddly enough, from “The 37s.” Bashir, though incensed by the suffering here, has accepted that they should leave, but before they can a very pregnant and blighted woman greets them. Her baby is due in a couple of months and she wants to live long enough to bear it, but fears that she'll quicken before that happens. Truvada may have rejected them, but she and others would welcome any help Bashir could offer. But there's a complication as Kira calls down from the runabout to report that there are Jem'Hadar ships in the area.

Act 2 : ***.5, 17.5%

Bashir and Dax believe they might be able to cure the blight, much like they did on some other mission we never saw. Kira gives the two optimistic nerds a look that's just about perfect for this story. She agrees to hide the runabout in a nebula for a week so the blue shirts can make their stand. This isn't a flaw in the story by any means, but two things stand out to me here:

1.Kira is good in these scenes, but her presence in most of this season has felt incidental. Like Riker and especially late Chakotay, she seems to be suffering from first-officer syndrome; she is her job and little else.
2.I like the return of science officer Dax a LOT, but this throws into relief how stupid her characterisation is in episodes like “For the Cause” was.

Anyway, the pregnant lady, Ekoria, finds the blue shirts a place to work in her group home. Dax manages to use her humour and soft touch to inject a little levity in the situation, complimenting Ekoria's husband's defiant optimism, expressed in visual art he left her and their town, as well as making good-natured jokes at the expense of Julian's doctor ego “they love to keep people waiting; it makes them feel important.”

After a little while, Julian manages to isolate the virus. His exuberance has carried him off to the clouds, but Jadzia manages to keep things grounded, translating his tech-talk for Ekoria and conveying the significance of their findings. The blue shirts have inspired so much hope in the young woman that she decides the three of them should enjoy her final meal, a feast she's been saving up for her death at Truvada's hospital. And she's three days from retirement, too.

Julian's having less luck recruiting volunteers for his study. He needs people who have quickened to chart the progress of the virus, but they aren't in the mood to be guinea pigs. Finally, Bashir makes a demonstration of the magnificence of Federation medical technology but repairing the arm of a young boy so he can play with his friends.

EPRAN: How did you do that?
EKORIA: Does it matter? He can find a cure for us if we help him.

Oh man...credulity is so dangerous, so pernicious. These people are ready to believe in anything if it might mean an end to their suffering, not unlike those poor souls in India who converted for dear old Mother Teresa. But Bashir does his very best to keep expectations realistic. He explains to Truvada and the crowd that he cannot promise them a cure, but nor will he ask for anything beyond the opportunity to try and help them. Post-scarcity society, baby.

Act 3 : ****, 15% (shortish)

EKORIA: Maybe you should go home. Maybe my people don't deserve your help.
BASHIR: They've just been suffering so long they've lost hope that things can be better.
EKORIA: It's more than that. We've come to worship death. I used to wake up and look at myself in the mirror, and be disappointed that I hadn't quickened in my sleep. Going to Trevean seemed so much easier than going on living.

Ekoria found a reason to try and go on living when she discovered she was pregnant, but Bashir has brought a new hope to these people. Jadzia reports that there is a line of quickening folks ready to let Bashir work on them, including Epran from the teaser, “I cancelled my death for you. I was really looking forward to it.” Ouch.

Several days later, we surmise, Epran is very close to death, but Bashir is passing around a new hypospray to the volunteers. Julian thinks it might contain the cure they've been after. While they wait, Bashir and Ekoria have an interesting conversation.

BASHIR: Sometimes. I prefer to confront mortality rather than hide from it. When you make someone well, it's like you're chasing death off, making him wait for another day.

See, myths aren't a bad thing. They give meaning to our lives. The point is how we interact with them. Do you worship death, or do you tell it off?

This tender moment is interrupted by Jadzia reporting a problem; Epram is convulsing, dying in agony.

Act 4 : ****, 17.5%

Epram begs for help and Bashir makes a startling discovery; the EM fields from their equipment are causing a reaction in all the patients who are now screaming and writhing in pain. Jammer was a little down on this, but this scene was genuinely one of the most difficult to watch on Trek for a while. Epram dies and Truvada enters the clinic where the others are begging for him to help them. The whole lot of them start crying out for their dose of hemlock.

Morning comes in the form of a distressingly beautiful outdoor shot, and Bashir is left with a pile of dead bodies and his own profound disappointment and self-disgust.

BASHIR: I'm going to tell you a little secret, Jadzia. I was looking forward to tomorrow, to seeing Kira again and casually asking, how was the nebula? And oh, by the way, I cured that Blight thing those people had.

This concludes with the oft-quoted bit about arrogance and how it cuts both ways. Siddig and Ferrel are extremely effective here. This is fascinating because we see that credulity, despite being tied to humility in the face of divine will, is in its own way a kind of arrogance. You can try and be a genuinely humble servant of God, or a mediator for the suffering, or a doctor with the best of intentions, and still be so arrogant that you miss the forest for the trees. Bashir stumbles through the streets, exhausted and subdued, like those around him, by the cruel might of the Dominion. He finds Ekoria, now quickened—probably thanks to Dr Bashir's would-be cure. She isn't bitter towards him though, thanking him for the hope he offered and wishing him well. But we aren't done yet. Kira returns to pick up Dax and return to DS9, but Bashir is staying behind, armed only with low-tech alternatives and his own will to do no harm.

Act 5 : ****, 17.5%

He holes up with Ekoria who's trying to survive long enough to give birth. He discovers that the antigen he gave her has vanished from her system. Hmmm. He estimates that the baby will be due in about a month and a half.

EKORIA: I'll never make it that long.
BASHIR: Well, I can induce labour in two weeks. The baby will be old enough by then.

The quiet ferocity with which Siddig gives these lines is simply marvellous. He talked with her earlier in the Kukalaka scene about a doctor's bedside manner, about projecting the air of “caring competence.” He's not projecting, though. He *is* competent, and by god does he care. Ekoria is going to die and they both know it, but her baby has a chance. Two weeks.

Later, we find Truvada tending to her. To his credit, he asks her if she wants her chalice of death. She rejects it.

Finally, the weeks have passed and Ekoria is giving birth. Bashir makes the discovery, that the baby has absorbed all the antigen, like a vaccine. The unhindered joy in Bashir's voice is really quite wonderful as he hands her her people's hope for the briefest moment before she finally dies.

The story continues to crescendo from this beautiful scene as we see Truvada accept the privilege of seeing that his people are inoculated and the blight erased from their future generations. He takes the baby outside and holds it high for all the world to see, while Bashir watches from afar. The religious imagery is quite intentional, as we see that Truvada and his people have now been evangelised by Bashir. But his mythology doesn't demand worship, subservience or credulity, only hope.

Episode as Functionary : ****, 10%

I didn't report it in the act to act reviews, but I had to stop several times during the episode to shed tears. The writing, directing, acting and scoring of this episode are quite masterful, brimming with bittersweet moments, profound insights and quiet dignity.

There's an epilogue on DS9 where Avery Brook earns his paycheque. He congratulates Bashir on his accomplishment, but Bashir isn't finished working; he's still trying to find a cure. Now THIS is one of those DS9 meta-commentary bits that actually works and doesn't come across as presumptuous. Back in “Explorers,” the writers were so desperate to prove that long-term stationary storytelling is more rewarding than the planet of the week ethos of TOS/TNG. That was annoying and, ironically for this episode, arrogant of them. Here, Bashir thinks he's going to fix the planet of the week all by himself. And he does after a fashion, but he also realises that there's value in sticking with it, in looking to expand upon his success and develop a cure as well as a vaccine. It's as if the series is saying, “While there's value in the Trek model as it is, there's more that can be said if we don't try to cram it all into 45-minute episodes,” instead of “Our stories aren't episodic because we're better than you.”

While this story seems disconnected from the broader themes and plots of DS9, it's actually integral to the mythology around the Dominion which is going to be explored heavily in later seasons. The Founders are so convinced of their own superiority that god-like wrath and—hehe—dominion have come to define them and the culture they rule in every way. Federation optimism and ideals, personified as they tend to be in Bashir (c.f. “The Wire”), are the one subversive element with any hope of countering this malevolence. Great work all around.

Final Score : ****
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Elliott
Wed, May 1, 2019, 8:54am (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: The Road Not Taken

Seth, I mean Ed says "the second time around?" at one point in reference to his and Kelly's relationship. I chuckled. Got to have a pop song reference somewhere even if we don't have time to put it in the soundtrack.
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Elliott
Tue, Apr 30, 2019, 2:40pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Tuvix

Oh good, an episode that doesn't generate about 800 memes a day and about which the Trek community has no strong feelings whatsoever. Just a nice, uncontroversial story...

Teaser : **.5, 5%

Neelix and Tuvok have been sent on an away mission to collect some nutritious flowers because, you know, this is a matter concerning ship's security and crew morale. Yeah...Neelix is being his usual boisterous and irritating self, and Tuvok is clearly replaying his strangling holo-fantasy in his mind to keep his Vulcan cool. Neelix' usual lack of social awareness has been dialled up to eleven for some reason. Must be all that fresh air. We do get one good line out of it:

TUVOK: Do you think you could possibly behave a little less like yourself?

Meanwhile, in the Transporter room, Harry has worked through some technical glitch (he thinks) and prepares to beam the odd couple and their harvest back from the planet. But then there's a TRANSPORTER ACCIDENT. How dare Voyager repeat such a tired cliché, that has repeated, over the 30 years Star Trek had been on the air at this point, seven times! Wait...that's it? Seven? That's not even once every season. Then, why is this considered an horrendous cliché? Actually, I think I know the answer: of those seven, FOUR occurred in or very near to TNG's 6th season. “The Next Phase” was at the tail end of S5, then we had “Realm of Fear,” “Rascals” and “Second Chances.” TNG's 6th season is one I have gone on record as saying I don't care much for, although that's not the consensus in the Trek community by any means. The concentration of transporter accidents (among other things) in late TNG contributed heavily to the sense that the series was tired and running out of ideas. Of course this is also when DS9 aired and brought its own perspective to the table. So, bringing this element to Voyager may feel treading water in the very ideas that heralded the decline of TNG. The thing is, those TNG episodes, except maybe “Second Chances,” failed to adequately explore the philosophical issues their scenarios raised, in my opinion. So the gimmick felt, well, like a gimmick instead of a story-telling device. Really, the only time a transporter accident was the basis of a serious philosophical story was way back in “The Enemy Within.” We'll come back to that.

Act 1 : ***, 15% (short)

In “The Enemy Within,” the plausibility of splitting a man along the axis of his psychology was, typically, non-existent. However, the premise was so intriguing that this didn't really matter. Likewise, in “Faces,” the idea of splitting Torres into her different species selves was ridiculous, but the episode worked because we glided past that silliness to focus upon the philosophy and the character issues raised by the premise. In this story, the first thing we see standing on the transporter pad is a combination of Tuvok and Neelix—not unlike Torres herself is normally, a combination of her Klingon and Human selves that we saw. In “Faces” though, we saw that H-Torres kept her Starfleet uniform, while K-Torres was put in a kinky Vidiian jumpsuit. Tuvok-Neelix here has had his uniform “combined” into one garment that draws attention to the wacky science instead of gliding past it. It's a minor detail, but it sticks out to me because it demonstrates a lack of awareness on the part of the creators here. We're going to get an explanation for the men themselves becoming one creature which in no way explains how their outfits could merge like this. It's all a bit clumsy.

Kim demands to know who this person is and he answers that he is, somehow, both Tuvok and Neelix. The EMH confirms that “all biological material was merged on the molecular level.” Mhm. Janeway theorises that the alien orchids they were collecting affected the transporter and caused this accident. She regards this person with a great deal of suspicion and has posted not one but two security guards in the sickbay to monitor him while the Doctor and Kes proceed with their scans. Kes herself is charged with performing a somewhat lengthy scan in the science lab where we start to get to know this creature. Leaving the dubious setup behind, Biller's script and Tom Wright's performance are surprisingly effective at conveying to us the strange notion that this is two very different people speaking as one.

KES: Do you feel as if you're thinking with two minds, two separate minds? Are Neelix and Tuvok inside of you, talking to me, talking to each other?
TUVIX: If you mean am I suffering from some form of multiple personality disorder, I don't think so. I do have the memories of both men, but I seem to have a single consciousness.

Already we can see how Neelix' and Tuvok's personalities complement each other—weird though this seems. Neelix' joie de vivre allows Tuvok's natural curiosity and affection to emerge without the veil of stoicism that often reads like irritability. He decides to call himself Tuvix which, for reasons left up to Biller's strange sense of fashion, is somehow much better than the alternative “Neevok.” Tuvix lets his pet name for Kes slip out during their conversation, causing her to recoil.

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

I continue to be impressed by Tuvix' characterisation. While the most obvious way to convince us that this is a fused being would be to have him say things that either Tuvok or Neelix would say in succession—like a battle between two distinct personalities—his actually lines and delivery aren't quite what either parent character would manifest. He would be “delighted” to resume his Mess Hall duties, but this is conveyed with a sense of warmth instead of presumption—showing us that Tuvok's humility has reined in Neelix' ego—but he has decided that he should resume the more important post of Tactical. He calls this “sensible,” which is Tuvok of course, but he gives Janeway a raised eyebrow and a bit of self-congratulatory puffing to sweeten the deal, as it were, showing how Neelix' pride makse Tuvix a better salesman than Tuvok.

EMH: According to my tests, he's quite correct when he says that he possesses Tuvok's knowledge and expertise. He also possesses Tuvok's irritating sense of intellectual superiority and Neelix's annoying ebullience. I would be very grateful to you if you would assign him some duty, any duty somewhere else.

Tuvix is brought into the noon briefing where the senior staff discuss the accident. After a few minutes, he interrupts the stream of technobabble to proclaim “SEX.” Okay then. Actually, he's hit on a theory as to what happened, a kind of suped-up nucleogenesis. SCIENCE!

After a little interlude where Tuvix takes command of the kitchen, he and Kes finally address the elephant in the room. He is in love with Kes every bit as much as Neelix, but this only seems to remind her of what she's lost, that jealous, overbearing, patronising furry companion of hers.

Act 3 : ***, 17%

Tuvix has now assumed Tuvok's place on the bridge.

JANEWAY: Well, he's certainly fitting in, isn't he?
CHAKOTAY: There's an old axiom. The whole is never greater than the sum of its parts. I think Tuvix might be disproving that notion.

Meanwhile, Paris and Torres have shuttled down to the planet to perform a little experiment. They transport the alien orchid and a couple of flowers from the aeroponic bay up to the Voyager, and indeed what emerges is a symbiogenetically-fused flower. The EMH however has failed at every turn to separate the species. He confesses to harbouring little hope of finding a cure any time soon.

EMH: I feel as though I've lost two patients. I'm sorry.

We pick up with Tuvix paying Kes a visit in her quarters. He understands that for her, he represents everything she has lost. Given the unlikelihood of being separated, he expresses a desire to come to terms with his new identity. We are reminded that every passing day for Kes is a substantial chunk of her life. Lien and Wright have surprisingly good chemistry in this scene and we are left with this sinking feeling; Tuvix has perhaps been able to harness Tuvok's mental discipline and keep his psyche compartmentalised throughout this. He is two people suffering from a weird alien accident and just has to endure until he/they can be cured. But now, with a cure either impossible or far off, maintaining that discipline seems futile. He has feelings and he has needs. This is what I meant about exploring the premise properly. “Rascals” and “The Next Phase” squandered their opportunities to delve into the real dilemmas those accidents produced. Not so here.

Act 4 : ***.5, 17%

Reeling, Kes pays Janeway a visit in her quarters. We are reminded of the captain's and Tuvok's unique bond, something I wish we saw more of. Then there's the issue of Tuvix' love for Kes and the topic of loneliness. Janeway in her bathrobe recalls the wonderful scene in “Eye of the Needle” where she let her guard down a bit with the Romulan and took stock of the enormous emotional burden she has to bear as the leader of an isolated and fragile community.

JANEWAY: I know how you feel. You're experiencing what people on this crew have been going through since we first got stranded in this quadrant. Do we accept that we're separated from our loved ones forever, or do we hold onto the hope that someday we'll be with them again?
KES: What do you do, Captain?
JANEWAY: Oh, I struggle with it every day. Sometimes I'm full of hope and optimism. Other times. Then I dream about being with Mark and it's so real. Then when I wake up and realise it's just a dream, I'm terribly discouraged. In those moments, it's impossible to deny just how far away he really is. And I know that someday I may have to accept that he's not part of my life anymore.

I have to stress how masterful Mulgrew is here. We are at the tail end of the second season. In TNG, we had seen glimpses of Patrick Stewart's enormous talent in episodes like “The Measure of a Man” and “Samaritan Snare,” but wouldn't get anything this intimate or raw until “Sarek” in the following season. And on DS9, at this point, we have yet to see an instance where Avery Brooks is as compelling as Mulgrew is here, and we're almost to season 5. This isn't me trying to be divisive or hate on the other series—I'm just saying that, for all its flaws, Voyager seems to know what an asset it has in its lead actor and makes great use of her.

We learn that the Voyager has continued on her journey for a couple of weeks now, and Tuvix is starting to make a life for himself. Janeway's captain's log voice-overs a short montage where we see him performing at Tactical, cooking and trying his best not to make Kes too uncomfortable.

But then, the EMH interrupts Harry's alone time with his clarinet—ahem—to ask him about a wild theory he's devised. He wants to try attaching a radioactive isotope to DNA sequences and then use the transporter to separate them out. Because the episode foolishly tried too hard to explain the SCIENCE! behind Tuvix' creation, this “solution” raises a number of unnecessary questions, like what will happen to all the organic material that isn't DNA, what will happen to the orchid that still swimming about in the mix, and most importantly, will he be able to restore their outfits?

In Sandrine's, Kes, the “last holdout” as it were, makes peace with Tuvix, telling him she's ready to be friends and see if that friendship might grow into something more. Which of course means it's time for a call from the EMH. He and Harry explain the SCIENCE! they're going to use to try to restore Tuvok and Neelix.

KES: That's wonderful. Isn't that wonderful?
EMH: I assure you, Mister Tuvix, there's nothing to worry about. We've accounted for every variable.
TUVIX: Except one. I don't want to die.

Ah, shit.

Act 5 : ****, 19%

Jammer notes that the real meat of this story is reserved for the final act. That's not entirely true, but it's worth noting that the final act is a full 12 minutes long according to my Netflix bar, which is more than a quarter of the full runtime of the episode.

JANEWAY: It's funny. If we'd had the ability to separate Tuvok and Neelix the moment Tuvix came aboard, I wouldn't have hesitated...But now, in the past few weeks, he's begun to make a life for himself on this ship. He's taken on responsibilities, made friends...So at what point, did he become an individual and not a transporter accident?

IIIII'M CAPTAIN KIIIRRRKK!!!!

Indeed, in “The Enemy Within,” it could be argued that each of Kirk's halves was its own autonomous being. Both were humans. Unlike H-Torres, there was no physical need to restore the whole. But they still did.

Janeway calls Tuvix in to discuss the issue. Tuvix insists that as it's his life on the line, it should be his decision what happens to it. Janeway counters that the voices of Neelix and Tuvok have been silenced by Tuvix' very existence, in a way. Their will to live should be considered as well, no? Tuvix insists that their will to live IS his own. Janeway tries to weasel her way out of the moral dilemma at first:

JANEWAY: Then you know Tuvok was a man who would gladly give his life to save another. And I believe the same was true of Neelix.

Tuvix admits that his will to live is perhaps not the noble “Starfleet” way of doing things, but there's something compelling about this brand new life. When he insists he has the *right* to live, it's a truly devastating and powerful moment.

“good” KIRK: Can half a man live?
“bad” KIRK: Take another step, you'll die.
“good” KIRK: Then we'll both die.
“bad” KIRK: Please, I don't want to. Don't make me. Don't make me. I don't want to go back. Please! I want to live!
“good” KIRK: You will. Both of us.
“bad” KIRK: I want to live!

While Janeway considers her options, Tuvix makes an appeal to Kes. He begs her to talk to the captain on his behalf. She consents, but when she arrives at the Ready Room, Kes can't bring herself to do it. She wants Neelix back. God knows why.

Finally, Janeway comes to a decision. He insists that she make her declaration publicly. In a truly disturbing scene, Tuvix rushes about the bridge and begs the crew to help him, but despite conflicting feelings, none are willing. Janeway calls security and has Tuvix brought to the sickbay by force. But we aren't done yet. When the quartet arrives in Sickbay, the EMH is unwilling to complete the procedure, because Tuvix does not wish to sacrifice himself and a physician does no harm. His programming is (LIKE MANY OF THE COMMENTORS ON THIS PAGE AND ALL OVER THE INTERNET) very black and white on this issue.

Let's not beat around the bush any longer. In the United States at least, many states are pushing for (and passing) laws which force women to look at ultrasounds of their foetuses before being allowed to have abortions. There are billboards everywhere with photoshopped images of fully-developed babies inside uteruses with sad puppy eyes begging for mommy not to kill them. These kinds of manipulative tactics exist to obscure the issue at the heart of the moral imperative behind abortion rights: consent. If you believe in God, then you might believe that all successful mating is by his design and that each of those lives is *meant* to be. That is your right. But it is not your right to impose that perspective on anyone else. Barring that theological framing, morality dictates that human beings have the *right* to consent to having their genes used to create new life. We decide to have children, and unless/until we provide that consent, the process of fertilisation and gestation is just a biological process, nothing more.

Kirk did not consent to have himself split in two. The fact that his two halves were objectively less useful than the original made the decision to destroy the split halves in order to restore him relatively easy. But at least one of the two was begging to be allowed to exist. Tuvix, on the other hand, shows that he is a great guy, useful, friendly, sympathetic...he is a living ultrasound or billboard ad. Many provisionally pro-choice people hide behind the fact that nearly all abortions take place well before the foetus begins manifesting brain activity or anything like sentience. Destroying a foetus is not the same as murdering a baby. And while that's true—it IS true—the fact remains that, barring complications, the foetus will inevitably *become* a sentient being before long. So let's not hide. Abortion is a right because consent is a moral imperative. Tuvok and Neelix did not consent to being combined into Tuvix. As difficult, as gross and uncomfortable as the idea of ending his life is, if one believes in the consent of creation, there is no moral alternative.

If this episode has a conceptual flaw, it is indeed that this issue—just as contentious in 1996 as today—is subsumed into the drama of the story instead of spelled out in dialogue. But I don't think dialogue to the effect of my paragraphs above would have been allowed past the censors any more than having Neelix and Tuvok begin a romantic relationship would have. This is Trek using the science fiction camouflage to make a bold progressive statement that flies just under the radar. Janeway looks Tuvix right in the eye as she completes the procedure herself and restores Tuvok and Neelix to life, because she (and the Federation) believes in consent. But the burden of upholding this very difficult position takes an obvious toll on the captain. She steps out of sickbay, seemingly ill. Then she looks at the camera and says “Computer, delete that entire personal log.” Nah...

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

I hope I've made it clear that I believe in the right to choice, and that I accept that this stance is incredibly untidy. Unlike most of the contrived bullshit over on DS9, THIS is how you talk about an issue that is morally grey; you don't just say, “This issue is morally grey. I guess both sides are sort of right.” You say, “This issue is complicated with no easy answers, but I am taking a stand on the issue because I'm not a coward.” The last time Trek ventured into this territory was in “Up the Long Ladder,” where Pulaski and Riker murdered their own clones. And why? Because they did not consent to their creation. End of discussion. This episode makes a unique and compelling case that you should not discount the billboards or the saccharine appeals to ignore your own rights, but rather embrace them and accept that having principles is fucking difficult sometimes. To this end, Wright and Mulgrew give standout performances, especially in the final couple of acts, and Lien manages to hold her own.

While I maintain that the episode seems to spend too much time in the beginning working through the silly SCIENCE! and all that, the effect is to lull you into a false sense of security. Oh, it's a science-gone-wrong transporter accident show! Maybe it will be entertaining, but this isn't something I need invest myself in. And that makes the final turn of events all the more devastating as you aren't prepared for it. “Tuvix” today is now almost as old as “The Enemy Within” was at the time of its airing, and I think it's a testament to its quality that it continues to demand so much from its audience. A difficult, but worthwhile episode.

Final Score : ***

CODA:

I would also remind y'all of what I wrote in DS9's “Second Sight”:

“Anyway, Sisko convinces Batgirl to let go of her existence—I guess. No input from the scientist Dax or any of the medial officers on the Prometheus, no it's just Sisko. I do appreciate the following line for entirely unrelated purposes however :

FENNA : But if she lives, then I die! And everything that you and I have dies with me.

File that away for when we get to 'Tuvix.'”

I don't remember anyone accusing Sisko of cold-blooded murder or even assisted suicide just because he convinced Batgirl to kill herself so Barbara Gordon could live. Just wanted to close that thread.
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Elliott
Wed, Apr 24, 2019, 1:05pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: To the Death

The linguistic issue is not pedantic—conceiving of Starfleet as a military in the modern sense completely misses the mark on what it is or means. Like I said, the distinction in 24th century terms is important because other cultures still have modern-style militaries. So you could say that Starfleet “redefined” what a military means, that’s true, but I think Picard makes the distinction specifically because there are other forces which operate as militaries, like the Zakdorn, which must be understood to be quite different.

@Jackson: well you’re free to assert that, just like many claim that the Federation’s abolition of wealth is absurd, or how warp drive as presented is absurd, or holodecks, or the fact that language hasn’t changed. There are some conceits we make to immerse ourselves in the fiction and understand the premise/messages of the writing. I also should have mentioned the MACOs, which clearly are military, distinct from Starfleet, which is not. We’ll get there one day...

@Chrome:

You aren’t wrong, but I object to the idea that these people are comfortable in this position. “Doesn’t everyone?” Dad asks regarding the recording of farewell messages as though this shit is routine. Sisko referring to “his men,” Word behaving like some Saving Private Ryan reject...it’s those anachronisms (nothing new for this series) that frustrate me.
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Elliott
Wed, Apr 24, 2019, 9:52am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: To the Death

William B, that's true, however, it's relevant that the other Trek nation states *do* have militaries (the Romulans, Cardassians, Klingons, etc). Just like those cultures are organised under familiar political umbrellas like "empire," the Federation is something entirely different; a peaceful coalition of planets which has abolished money. So too goes what passes for a military in the Federation, which is Starfleet. It wouldn't be fair to call the Federation an empire or even a republic, and it isn't fair to call Starfleet a military.
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Elliott
Tue, Apr 23, 2019, 9:51pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: For the Cause

@William B: Welcome back!

Structurally, I think I agree that this one sort of kind of works if you frame it as Eddington being the antagonist who's clearly wrong and the other players as misguided but ultimately "good guys." The problem of course is the way is big speech is framed, as though he's caught Sisko, the Federation, and Star Trek in a trap of his/its own making. These two ideas are not compatible, and the directing choices in this episode lack sufficient ambiguity to seriously consider this option, in my opinion, which is why I take a dim view of the episode itself. Much like in "Paradise," the writers attempt to be edgy by giving the villain the last word on the subject, but it backfires.
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Elliott
Tue, Apr 23, 2019, 9:42pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: To the Death

Regarding Starfleet as a military organisation, this is probably a discussion to be had more thoroughly on the "Peak Performance" page, but this is how I see it:

As a teacher, one is required to learn CPR, first aid, and a number of other emergency skills. A really well-prepared school district might train its teachers so well in these skills that they would qualify as nurses or even medics if the situation demanded. That they are qualified to perform such tasks does not define them as nurses or medics, however. They are still teachers.

So it goes with Starfleet. Starfleet is capable of performing military action when the situation demands, but its purpose is not to fulfil military functions.

I have made this point before but it bears repeating: if DS9 wanted to comment honestly on this aspect of Star Trek in the negative (a valid opinion, even if it's one I don't share), then it could have demonstrated how the Federation's choice to not have a military left it vulnerable to attack or invasion. Some have argued that the events of "Q Who" actually did lead to a militarisation of Starfleet, but that didn't really bear out on screen. We had an arms build up in BoBW, yes, but not a change in protocol or mission, at least not until Necheyev and her bs, but I'm getting off topic.

What I'm getting at is that it would be one thing for the DS9 writers to say, "hey, we SHOULD have a military to deal with the Dominion." Instead, they ret-con the hell out of the institutions they are playing with and suddenly CPO O'Brien and Science Officer Dax and random gold-shirts are so indoctrinated with (contemporary) military culture, that you can't tell the Defiant's mess apart from a modern military barracks. It's absurd and it's dishonest. Just recently in "Hard Time," we had Miles contemplating suicide because he thought he had betrayed his Federation values (leaving aside that episode's problems in this regard); now he's cracking jokes about insane military raids.

We will get to ARR-58 in due course, but I will say that this was the first episode in the series that at least attempted to deal with the fact that you've turned a bunch of botanists and astrophysicists into foot-soldiers, severely fucking them up psychologically.

"Chain of Command" is essentially the backdoor DS9 pilot (and was conceived to be a crossover episode), so it is not surprising that the DS9 ethos permeates the writing there.
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Elliott
Tue, Apr 23, 2019, 12:58pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: To the Death

So, I re-watched “Contagion” (which was pretty enjoyable, by the way). I didn't think I really needed to do a backdrop review à la “Death Wish” for this one, as the continuity between that episode and “To the Death” is incidental. Except that it may not be.

WESLEY: So they colonised those worlds?
PICARD: Probably conquered.
WESLEY: You mean they were warlike?
PICARD: Perhaps. Ancient texts did speak of 'Demons of Air and Darkness'.
WESLEY: Air and darkness?
PICARD: Legend has it that they travelled without the benefit of spaceships, merely appearing out of thin air on distant planets.
WESLEY: Sounds like magic.
PICARD: Well, we would appear magical to Stone Age people.

Something to bear in mind.

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

So the Bajorans have set up ANOTHER colony in GQ called Free Haven because if there's one thing a Bajoran loves, it's irony. Sisko reports that the Defiant was tasked with driving away “Breen privateers.” “Privateer” is the word one uses to describe pirates when trying to sound really impressive, like a college freshman making passes at a kegger, or Pete Buttigieg trying to make militarism sound hip. Anyway, for no reason, the entire Starfleet cast was tasked with this assignment. There's a DBI scene involving prune juice and Bashir courting death that I don't want to talk about. What's important is that the Defiant returns to DS9 to find one of those upper pylons (curved for her pleasure) obliterated.

An injured Kira reports to Sisko that this was a result of a Jem'Hadar raid. Sisko determines to take the Defiant right back out to pursue the Dominion party and recover whatever it is they stole. Overall, this is a very exciting teaser, but it's worth noting that the general “vibe” here is very much the tonal landscape that will be drawn upon for the remaining three seasons of the show vis-à-vis war stories. The all-business military brave-men-and-women thing that made Guinan queasy in “Yesterday's Enterprise” is now the default mode for the actual Starfleet. Scary stuff.

Act 1 : ***, 17%

In the GQ, the Defiant crew is surprised to discover that a Jem'Hadar warship is damaged, so the seven survivors aboard are beamed over. There are six typically confident and blood-thirsty Jem'Hadar in the bunch and one other figure, Jeffrey Combs playing a Vorta. Eh, I'm sure he won't matter much. The Vorta demonstrates (in a narratively clumsy way) that he is only able to control his soldiers by threatening to withhold their allowance of “white,” and petitions to speak to Sisko one on one.

After one of those Hollywood bits with the Vorta offering to make Sisko “absolute ruler of the Federation,” they get down to it. The Jem'Hadar who attacked DS9 are renegades from the Dominion; the Vorta will guide Sisko to them if he promises to “eliminate them.” Yeah, I'm sure you'll have to twist his arm. We learn that the renegades are trying to complete a recently discovered Iconian gateway in Dominion space, hence the raid for equipment. The Vorta's explanation that there “isn't time” to send a fleet after these guys doesn't really add up given what we know about the threat and the capabilities of the Dominion, but we can just wallpaper over that for now.

SISKO: Couldn't the Founders just order them to surrender? From what I know, the Jem'Hadar have been genetically conditioned to obey them.
WEYOUN: The Founders' ability to control the Jem'Hadar has been somewhat overstated. Otherwise we never would have had to addict them to the white.
SISKO: Sounds like the Dominion isn't quite as stable as you'd like us to believe.
WEYOUN: The Dominion has endured for two thousand years, and will continue to endure long after the Federation has crumbled into dust. But we'll leave that to history.

The characterisation of the Vorta (we haven't yet heard his name) is well-handled in this brief material. We see that he is diplomatic and pragmatic, but whereas with the Jem'Hadar, loyalty to the Founders is ensured with chemical addiction, with the Vorta, it is purchased with the opiate of faith. Given the potential threat to the Federation, Sisko agrees to help destroy the Iconian gateways.

Act 2 : **, 17%

Thankfully—and to my surprise—the senior staff discuss the events of “Contagion” and reason that Starfleet Command would endorse Sisko's decision, given their feelings about Iconian technology falling into the hands of the Romulans. Except of course, Worf is lying. Picard decided to assume the Yamto's mission all on his own, something I always thought was strange about that episode. Speaking of lying, Worf objects to lying to the Jem'Hadar about this mission (Weyoun—who's been named now, thinks telling them the whole story would be a bad idea). Worf thinks it would be dishonourable of course because, you know, Klingon. I guess it's lucky for Sisko that Bashir stayed behind or he would probably have told them the truth.

So, the Cylons—I mean the Jem'Hadar and Starfleet crew are briefed “A New Hope”-style on this little mission, requiring some against all odds swash-buckling bullshit. In the midst we get this exchange:

OMAN'TORAX: It is our duty to punish those who would break their vow of loyalty.
ODO: Are you accusing me of something?
OMET'IKLAN: It is not for us to accuse a god of betraying heaven. The gods themselves will sit in judgement over you.

The Jem'Hadar keep make snide remarks against Odo, against Worf, etc. It's a very different take than we saw in “Hippocratic Oath,” and frankly, a hell of a lot cheesier and more boring. Those Jem'Hadar felt like victims of an oppressive philosophy; they were fearsome and prideful, yes, but felt like genuine people. These assholes are just cardboard soldier archetypes akin to the most clichéd of meatheaded goons you'd find in such masterworks as “Avatar.” And Worf is hardly better, less able to control his temper now, in what is effectively TNG's 9th season for him, than he was in “Encounter at Farpoint.”

Act 3 : **, 17%

We get another drill like the one we saw in TWotW that likewise ends in failure. I especially like Odo's line here:

ODO: Look for a slight rippling effect.

Got to respect that fourth wall. “Look for a special effect, suspend your belief!” We get a little more of the Jem'Hadar mindset at play: Omicronklaxxon or whatever his name is believes the Starfleet crew are unable to succeed in this mission because they “values their lives more than victory.” Yeah, that's what happens when you aren't a drug-addicted mutant zealot. Anyway, it turns out these guys already know about the Iconian tech.

OMET'IKLAN: It doesn't matter how we know. The point is, we know. You think you have to lie to us and use the white to ensure our loyalty. But the fact is, we are more loyal to the Founders than the Vorta ever will be. It is the reason for our existence. It is the core of our being.
WEYOUN: There's an entire company of Jem'Hadar down on Vandros Four who would disagree with you.
OMET'IKLAN: And for that, they will die.

We don't yet know about the renegade Jem'Hadar, but we do know from “Hippocratic Oath,” that subversive elements do exist within their society:

GORAN'AGAR: Our gods never talk to us and they don't wait for us after death. They only want us to fight for them and to die for them.

Goran'agar's men were conflicted about their loyalty to the Dominion and how that loyalty structure fit in with following a leader who was actively rebelling against his gods. While I generally dislike the Jem'Hadar in this episode so far, I think the idea of setting up opposing philosophies within their culture is a good one. You can get at the core of who they are and what they represent through an argument, much like Worf v. Duras or Hugh v. Picard.

Meanwhile, one of the other Jem'Hadar is hovering over Dax, studying her like a skin-suit sewing creep. Their dialogue reveals the antiseptic nature of the Jem'Hadar, bred in vats, needing neither sleep nor sex nor entertainment nor sustenance beyond the White. I admit to chuckling a bit at the soldier's very confident “I am EIGHT!” line—like a schoolboy bragging about having learnt to ride his bicycle.

Later, we get more DBI in the mess hall. Worf and Dax flirt a bit, O'Brien laughs and Weyoun stares at Odo from across the room. Weyoun performs the White Ritual with amusing indifference, like a hung-over priest tossing host at his flock like so many scraps of bread. Then one of the Jem'Hadar resumes his “look how big my dick is” shtick with O'Brien, teasing him over his lack of appetite for battle. I really hate this. We just established that part of the tragedy of the Jem'Hadar is the fact that the juice of life, such as it were, has been squeezed out of them by the Founders' genetic tampering and loyalty breeding, yet they have ample capacity for pointless posturing and antagonism. With a smile, this Jem'Hadar taunts Worf, leading to a TOS-style bar brawl. You know, in the 60s, toxic masculinity was so ubiquitous that we can (sort of) look past all the displays of “don't you dare question my erection!” But I have a hard time with it after we had a deliberate, one might even say overwrought rejection of the sentiment in 1987 with TNG's first season. This doesn't feel like Star Trek at all; it feels like “Armageddon” or...heh, you know what the pile-on actually reminded me of? “Living Witness” and the hilarious parody of dude-broism that museum Janeway put a stop to by phasering a wall panel. Or if you like, “Sarek” or “Night Terrors,” where the crew become violent due to sci-fi machinations. But on DS9? This is just regular Starfleet people! For fuck's sake. This ends with a very hammy side-by-side display of discipline. Omegaclarion or whatever murders his subordinate who started the fight with Worf, while Sisko has Worf confined to quarters. Much as in “For the Cause,” Sisko is unable or unwilling (the writers are unwilling) to remember what show they're writing for.

OMET'IKLAN: I did what had to be done, what any First would do. I placed the good of the unit above my personal feelings. Any soldier who cannot follow orders is a danger to his unit and must be eliminated.
SISKO: Mister Worf is not a danger to my command. But if I eliminate him for a simple breach of discipline, then I would be. My men would stop trusting me, and I wouldn't blame them.

See, the way Sisko answers creates a slippery slope. Sisko frames his choice not to kill Worf in terms of military tactics. He may or may not be correct in that regard; it is a debatable position, I suppose. But all Sisko had to do was echo Odo's “I am NOT a god,” remark and say, “we are NOT soldiers.” Just like with Eddington's tirade about the Federation being like the Borg and all that crap, Sisko is letting his opponent frame the terms of the argument. Sisko may win his spat with Eddington by capturing him and making him pay for his disloyalty, but in so doing cedes the philosophical ground to the man who compared a benevolent coalition to an insidious force. Sisko may win the argument with Orionaxegrinder here, but in so doing, he cedes the point that Starfleet IS a military organisation, which it fucking is not.

Act 4 : ***, 17%

Weyoun finally approaches Odo one-on-one in a corridor, expressing his discomfort with his god's lack of authority.

WEYOUN: Please, hear what I have to say. Your people want you to come home, Odo. No matter what differences you may have with them, no matter what mistakes you may have made, they still love you.

The conversation does double duty of helping flesh out Weyoun's character very efficiently (an expert in lies) and reminding us of Odo's sincerest wish to return to his people, something we were forced to abandon after “The Die is Cast,” so the producers could bring the Klingons into the show. I think this scene is exhibit A for the theory above regarding whether the Dominion engineered this insurrection in order to get their hands on Odo. Why else would Weyoun have been briefed on the Founders' intimate wishes regarding one of their own, not to mentioned outfitted with the Changeling virus. Oh, um, spoiler! I prefer to imagine that the Founders rather seized the opportunity created by this insurrection in order to continue their plans with Odo, because I prefer to imagine that Dominion society is more complex than perhaps it is.

Meanwhile, we're continuing the assault on O'Brien's character and Starfleet's:

DAX: For Keiko?
O'BRIEN: It's my eleventh goodbye message since we've been married. I average almost two a year.

Since the Enterprise was never “sent into battle” between “Data's Day” and “Chain of Command,” we know that those eleven notes were begun *after* he started on DS9. If we are generous, we can count the Circle trilogy and “The Search” as instances of being sent into battle. Then there's “The Jem'Hadar,” of course, “The Die is Cast,” “The Adversary,” TWotW, “Starship Down” and “Paradise Lost.” That's eight instances of being sent into battle, again, if we're being very generous. What's insidious about his claim that it's now been eleven times, even though it's more like half that number, is that it implies, once again, that Miles' mode is as a soldier. Discounting the possible Circle Trilogy, ALL of these instances have been since TNG went off the air actually. I'm sure that's a coincidence.

After a little more Klingon bullshit, the Defiant arrives at their target and the teams are issued phaser rifles. There's another Jem'Hadar battle ritual (Victory is Life) while Weyoun rolls his eyes. They beam down and Dax realises that the gateway is fucking with their equipment because Worf is an idiot and didn't remember anything useful about his last trip to the Iconian Empire.

Act 5 : **, 17%

There's a mêlée ambush by the renegade Jem'Hadar. I don't think we're going to be afforded an opportunity to hear their side of this rebellion. Anyway, two gold shirts are dead. There's more clichéd we're-all-soldiers dialogue, a surprise attack from their resident Changeling (Look for a rippling effect...) and finally they make their way to the gateway which includes a trip to beautiful Paris, France! Sisko gets stabbed protecting Orientalismcracker because we shan't leave any clichéd rocks unturned. Weyoun beams down to gloat and gets vaporised for his trouble and the other Jem'Hadar vow to remain behind and murder their disloyal brothers. The End.

Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

I found this episode difficult to rate. There are moments of Ira Behr being Ira Behr that are typical of his Gene-Roddenberry-can-rot-in-hell approach to crafting his DS9 stories, but are overall more subdued than in other episodes. There are genuine attempts at human interaction but that can't be bothered to treat our main characters as much more than generic ciphers. There are hints and exploring the Jem'Hadar/Vorta/Founders dynamic from earlier episodes, but are tossed aside in favour of action-movie nonsense.

I was really hoping that we would explore the similarities between the Iconians and the Dominion, as that seemed to be exactly what we were setting up. People regarded the Iconians as Demonic conquerers because of their technology, yet Data pointed out that the actual evidence for such a culture was lacking. The Founders programme their slave races to believe them to be gods and instil the notion that they're quasi-omnipotent in the cultures they conquer with their technology. Yet Weyoun admits that their ability to control their empire is tenuous.

I suppose what bothers me most about this story is its flippancy. Weyoun rolling his eyes at his men's rituals was funny and quite telling about their dynamic and his character, but Sisko *also* kept rolling his eyes, Dax kept making her sex jokes, Miles kept doing his racisms. I mean, people are dying; the Jem'Hadar are on the verge blowing up the galaxy or whatever, and these people act like it's another day another dollar. And of course there's Worf who is somehow less civilised and sympathetic than he was in “Where Silence Has Lease,” when he was banging his head against the walls of reality.

The one thing I found compelling was the Weyoun/Odo material which rekindled that dangling thread from season three, and of course will have major consequences soon. It's fitting that he should be betrayed by his own men at the end, given his willingness to betray his own god.

Final Score : **.5
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Thu, Apr 11, 2019, 2:51pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: For the Cause

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

Kasidy slinks out of Ben Sisko's bed after what we assume was a fun night. I just hope there aren't fluid conduits running into Jake's room like there are on the Voyager. I don't know if it's just that Avery Brooks has a special affinity for the ladies or what, but as usual, his interplay with Penny Johnson (Gerald) brings out the most natural and warm side of his performance.

SISKO: I am a Starfleet officer, the paragon of virtue.
KASIDY: You're more like a parody of virtue.

You said it, not me.

Later on we are in the Wardroom where—well, look who it is! Alleged main guest star Michael Eddington is leading a briefing of the upper Senior Staff. He has a classified report to share, that the Federation is sharing some industrial replicators with the Cardassians which have been ravaged by the recent Klingon attacks. The secrecy around this event is explained by the writers' desire to talk about the Maquis again. Damn it. Starfleet is worried that the Maquis may try and steal the replicators for themselves. With the shipment passing through DS9 on its way to Cardassia, Sisko orders tightened security and has Worf take the Defiant to patrol the Badlands.

After the briefing, Eddington and Odo relay an unsubstantiated theory that they have concocted, that Kassidy Yates is a Maquis smuggler. The Shapeshifter stands nearest to Sisko, knowing that the barrage of angry punches on their way don't pose a threat to him. All in all, an intriguing set-up.

Act 1 : ***, 17%

Odo and Eddington explain their suspicions and Odo asks for permission to “step up his surveillance.” Huh, there's a first time for everything, I guess. I thought it was firmly established that Gestapo Man here had everybody's quarters bugged.

EDDINGTON: If she's really a Maquis, then she's no longer a Federation citizen.

Now there's some Galaxy-brained sophistry right there. Actually, if we go back to “Journey's End” and “The Maquis,” it is the occupants of the DMZ who are no longer citizens—by choice. The Maquis is a terrorist group composed of both non-citizens and citizens whose legal statuses are distinct. Knowing what we know, I'm actually okay with Sisko missing this fine point; he's worked up and distressed. Odo, on the other hand, should be smarter than to fall for this line. Sisko allows the two to find an excuse to search Kasidy's vessel, in much the same manner we've become accustomed to from him.

Meanwhile, Garak and Bashir and watching Kira play Springball (I think), but Garak is more interested in watching Ziyal. Don't ruin my slash fic, Garak. Ziyal has aged about 5 years since “Indiscretion” it seems because TV sucks. Anyway, Bashir warns him to leave her be, lest he invite the rage of both Dukat and Kira. And we all know Garak listens to everything Julian tells him to do.

In the Siskos' quarters, a comment from Jake gives Ben the opportunity to surreptitiously ask Kasidy about her cargo route, which is under suspicion at the moment. It's a scene reminiscent of “Paradise Lost,” when Sisko wasn't certain whether he could trust his own father. Now, he's in his own home, unsure of whether he can trust this woman he loves.

Act 2 : .5 stars, 17%

There's a brief scene where Garak and Ziyal officially introduce themselves to one another. I'm a little disappointed that Garak is so flat this week. He appears to have genuine feelings of some sort for this girl, but that's just so...obvious. We're talking about the man who couldn't ask his friend for life-saving help without stacking up a series of ruses and deceptions.

Odo has concocted his excuse to search Kasidy's ship and this leads to a confrontation in the pylon. His inspection is specifically timed to delay her run just long enough to make it impossible for her ship to make a delivery to the Badlands—if that's indeed what she's doing—before completing her route, which is what he and Eddington suspected. Clever. Well, Kasidy calls in a favour to her captain boyfriend. Sisko equivocates, while Eddington urges him to try and complete the inspection. Here's where things start to go off the rails a bit:

SISKO: You are clear to leave the station. Just remember to irradiate that cargo.
KASIDY [on monitor]: Thanks, Ben. I owe you one. See you tomorrow.
SISKO [to Eddington]: Do you have something to say, Commander?

Uhhhh....it's one thing for me to excuse Ben missing a twisted bit of gaslighting in the Wardroom because he was upset, but now he's *daring* one of his subordinates to question his probably fool-hearty decision. And Sisko obviously knows that he is letting his feelings for Kasidy override his better judgement which is why he's defensive about it. I empathise with the position he's in...it's very human. But he's the fucking captain, and it's more than a little rich for him to give Worf shit about his own emotional behaviour in “Rules of Engagement” when he's letting himself be so easily duped here. Speaking of Worf, Sisko has decided that to make up for his gelatinous command, he's going to take Worf off the important monitoring mission in the Badlands to tail Kasidy's ship instead. Well of course! I mean, he could put a tracking device on her ship, or Odo could disguise himself as a piece of cargo as he has done many times before, but this way, we get to be as useless as possible!

Oh, and in case anyone was stupid enough to think that maybe Sisko chose the Defiant option to be more ethical (tracking a citizen is still a violation of their rights as much as unlawful search), the Defiant is *cloaked*, something expressly forbidden by their treaty with Romulus. But hey, we are talking about the needs of Sisko's penis here; what's a little treaty violation? And it's only fair after all, since the Maquis violated the treaty with Cardassia, right? Sigh...Kasidy's ship does indeed make a course violation and head directly into the Badlands. Then we get this nonsense:

O'BRIEN: [The Maquis are] just fighting for something they believe in...Look at what's happened to those people. One day they're trying to eke out a living on some godforsaken colonies on the Cardassian border, the next day the Federation makes a treaty handing those colonies over to the Cardassians. What would you do?

I can barely fucking deal with this heaping mound of stupid.

No one in the Federation “ekes out a living.” There is no scarcity of need; there is no reason to colonise remote planets beyond *personal fulfilment.* That doesn't mean it's wrong to colonise new or distant worlds, but it's not as if the DMZ occupants were pilgrims or refugees looking for economic opportunities. They had a ROMANTIC notion of following their dreams and colonising these worlds. Or like Chakotay's people, they had a SPIRITUAL cause. I've gone on about this at length already in episodes like “The Maquis” and “Tattoo,” but it bears repeating: the premise of the Maquis is ludicrous.

So what would I do? I, a Federation citizen who can do literally almost anything in the vastness of space? I would fucking leave because I'm not a petulant self-important little prick. Worf has a different answer:

WORF: I would not become a terrorist. It would be dishonourable.
O'BRIEN: I wouldn't say that around Major Kira if I were you.

Oh yeah. Here's an experiment: the next time an organic weed farmer starts an armed insurrection against the government for selling his land to big agriculture, tell a Holocaust survivor or a Palestinian living in the West Bank that you finally understand their plight. I'm sure that will go over well.

Is this excrement over yet? NOPE! There's yet more shitting on Star Trek:

EDDINGTON: I do my job, Chief. Starfleet says to find the Maquis, I'll find the Maquis. They tell me to help them, I'll help them. My opinion is irrelevant. What matters to me is doing my job like a Starfleet officer. Anything else is an indulgence.

When in the actual fuck did Starfleet become the “I was only following orders” Full Metal Jacket nightmare organisation Eddington seems to think he belongs to? I'm guessing it was around the time RDM and Ira Behr starting furiously masturbating over Gene Roddenberry's grave.

Oh yeah, the plot: Kasidy is definitely helping the Maquis, as they witness her ship transporting cargo to a raider. Because the Maquis, a haphazard organisation of self-righteous renegades, have their own identifiable class of starships now. Always important to have marketable designs for your terrorist fleet.

Act 3 : **.5, 17%

On DS9, Ziyal pays a visit to Garak's shop and invites him to join her in the holosuite for some sauna time. Apparently, the #nohomo is so strong in the writers' room, that it was worth suggesting that Garak is a hebephile than live with the insinuation that he might be gay or asexual. Love to feel included!

We take a moment for the Siskos, which I think is handled pretty well.

JAKE: Something happen between you and Kasidy?
SISKO: Not exactly.
JAKE: If you want to talk.
(Sisko puts his hand on Jake's arm.)
JAKE: What?
SISKO: This is important. You and I. Things change, but not this.

I also like that Sisko has chosen to cut Dax off from her usual sage advice role (“Dismissed, Old Man.”); this is something he's going to have to grapple with on his own. And so, he puts on a happy face for Kasidy's return. He does his best to gently coax a confession out of his girlfriend—yeah this seems like standard procedure. He excuses himself and tells his security chiefs that he learned she's going on another run this evening. Odo is asked to leave so Eddington can make an additional request; he doesn't want to have to be the one to make the arrest of his captain's girlfriend or, you know, shoot her, he says. Except of course, we just heard him prattle on about how such “indulgences” are not what he's interested in, so he's clearly bullshitting Sisko yet again. Sisko volunteers to take command of the Defiant, I assume because Worf is going to be too busy sharpening his toenails or something.

Sisko makes one final attempt to avoid the inevitable; he stops Kasidy before her late-night run and practically begs her to drop everything and go to Risa with him. They can get STIs together, much more fun than baseball! But she has to refuse.

Act 4 : **, 17%

While Sisko hunts his girlfriend, we get an appearance from Quark whose trip to his tailor gives him a front-row seat to some Kira-coloured fireworks.

KIRA: I don't want to hear any of your lies. Now, that girl is here under my protection and I swear if you do anything to hurt her, I will make you regret it. Is that clear?

So we get the “twist”; Garak has only been trepidations in approaching Ziyal because he was worried she was colluding with her father to have him killed, but Kira's zeal has assured him otherwise. So now he can plunge headfirst into this river of character banality.

Meanwhile, Odo starts to get antsy as Kasidy's ship is just parked in the Badlands with no trademarked Maquis vessel to rendezvous with. Finally, Odo hits on it; the point of this run was to lure Sisko and the Defiant away from DS9. So they beam over and Sisko rakes her over the coals for potentially putting Jake in danger, but she believes she is here to make another delivery and nothing more. As Jammer alluded to, here's where the plot contrivances really start to pile on. So Eddington manipulated Sisko into taking the Defiant after Kasidy—erm, somehow, and leaving him in charge of the far more important replicator delivery. Sisko decided to take himself, Worf AND Odo on this mission to catch his girlfriend, again for *reasons*. I'd really be okay if the episode were trying to show that Sisko's vulnerability to Kasidy messes with his command decisions, but this is too far. He may be struggling, but he still managed to lie to her face and feign levity in order to set her up to be captured, so he isn't incapacitated or inept. That he would just FORGET about this important plot point (that is at the centre of this whole renewed Maquis scare) is absurd and makes Sisko and Odo look like total boobs.

So yeah, Eddington is giving secret orders to his security team, shooting Kira—meh, not like she was doing anything else—and taking command of the station.

Act 5 : .5 stars, 17%

ODO: You realise we'll probably never see the Xhosa or Captain Yates again.
SISKO: It's a possibility.
ODO: I'd say it's more than that. If I'd been allowed to leave a security detail behind
SISKO: Our priority is to get back to the station, Constable. Captain Yates is my responsibility and I will thank you to leave it at that.

Uhhhh....what? I'm pretty sure that Maquis terrorists are Starfleet's responsibility. Why are you acting like a jackass, Captain? Because of feelings? Is that all we're going to get? Okay...

Eddington manipulates a junior officer into taking command until Sisko's return. This meat-headed anachronism doesn't ask why Major Kira or Dax or Bashir can't take command because fuck you. Thus, the Maquis spy is able to make off with the replicators without a hitch. But, he isn't done making the crew look like complete fools.

He makes contact with Sisko back in his office and makes his “kill the phonies” speech. In a series replete with dishonest and subversive messages, this is one of the worst. Let's pick it apart.

-”Why is the Federation so obsessed about the Maquis?”

What are you, the Federation's ex? No one is “obsessed” with you, drama queen. You violated a treaty and engage in acts of theft and violence against the Federation and its ally. What did you expect to happen?

-”Because we've left the Federation, and that's the one thing you can't accept. Nobody leaves paradise. Everyone should want to be in the Federation.”

Oh....so, you aren't mad about the treaty anymore? You're just upset with mommy and daddy? Let's remember what actually happened, asshole:

PICARD: Anthwara, I want to make absolutely sure that you understand the implications of this agreement. By giving up your status as Federation citizens, any future request you or your people make to Starfleet will go unanswered. You will be on your own and under Cardassian jurisdiction.

In other words, the Federation was more than happy to let people leave, but if you leave, you don't get to start stealing Federation resources and technology to aid your cause. You're on your own, which is what you fucking asked for.

-”You know, in some ways you're worse than the Borg. At least they tell you about their plans for assimilation. You're more insidious. You assimilate people and they don't even know it.”

You're a HUMAN, Eddington. You were born in Canada or whatever. You weren't forcefully assimilated, you grew up in a culture. That's not insidious, that's society.

Now, if Sisko had heard all of this and told Eddington that he is a spoilt, presumptuous and arrogant little twit who has risked the lives of innocent people in a completely misguided parody of social justice, I would give this scene four stars, but instead, the only thing Sisko cares about is the fact that Eddington betrayed him and his uniform. That means that 1. Sisko hasn't learnt ANYTHING this episode; he's just as emotionally gelatinous with Eddington as he was with Kasidy, and 2. he apparently shares Eddington's view that Starfleet is an organisation of unthinking militaristic sycophants. When the “bad guy” and the “good guy” agree on something which undermines the premise of the entire franchise, that is underhanded subversion in the extreme. This is unforgivable.

Anyway, we conclude the B plot with Ziyal and Garak in the holo-sauna. A badly-performed Ziyal blithers on about backstory we already know and basically says that despite the danger, she wants a Cardassian companion and Garak is her only option. Touching.

Oh yeah, and Kasidy comes back to turn herself in because she's still in love with Ben. It's unclear (since we haven't heard anything about the Maquis for like 2 years on this series) what her impression of the Maquis is, so I can't adequately judge her choice to smuggle them medical supplies. If we assume that her understanding of their cause was super vague and she just wanted to make sure they received medical attention, we can sort of empathise, but remember that Eddington flat out used her to steal the replicators. And she and Sisko lied to each other's faces repeatedly in this story. Whosever fantasy permits a healthy relationship between these two to continue after this is delusional. It's a shame. They have such great chemistry. So, she's arrested by Lieutenant Meathead and Sisko is left to brood.

Episode as Functionary : *, 10%

Star Trek is famous for its message episodes. And sometimes, things go a little overboard because the writers, lacking confidence in their message, stack the deck to make the message completely inevitable and obvious, instead of a hard-won questions and answers. DS9 sometimes has the opposite problem; it is so intent on being “morally grey” that it takes messages which are clear and twists them around so as to appear ambiguous. There isn't a lot of ambiguity with the Maquis. The Star Trek Universe simply does not leave room for their actions to be justifiable. This episode has the gall to draw *attention* to the reason the Maquis are impossible by making its central plot about replicators, you know, that technology that eliminates scarcity, that eliminates any material or existential reason for the DMZ colonists to reject the treaty with Cardassia. But, moral ambiguity is what the big fancy grown-ups do, right? We aren't like those starry-eyed hippies who wrote for TNG, we wear leather jackets over here on DS9. We smoke in the bathroom and our dads just can't accept our alternative lifestyle that's too cool for you to understand, Phony. This episode should be called “Without a Cause.”

Even with all of the self-important bullshit being flung around here, the characterisation of Sisko was enjoyable, even if his choices were pretty pathetic. The Sisko/Kasidy relationship buoys this up for me more than I think this episode deserves.

The Garak/Ziyal stuff on the other hand is a complete waste of both characters. I seriously don't even want to talk about it; it's creepy, it's out of character, it's pedestrian (there's that good ol' DBI!) and half of it is terribly performed. Please no more.

Final Score : *.5
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Thu, Apr 11, 2019, 10:55am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Muse

@William B

Already missing you, buddy. Good luck with your new projects and I'll look forward to your return some day. Won't be the same without you!
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Elliott
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 1:22pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Muse

@Peter G:

I don't want to speak for you, but for me the difference between artists and other professions isn't that artists are the only ones who suffer OR that they are doomed to suffer, it's that art (maybe) cannot exist in its sublimest form without the profound suffering of the artist. It's a paradox: I won't be able to write a truly transcendent work unless I am miserable, but if I don't write the transcendent work, then why am I an artist? This is a Romantic view, certainly, but I don't know that it's ever been disproven.

@William B:

I hope my comment to Peter makes it clear what at least I think is *special* about being an artist. I daresay my numerous takes on economics and labour all over this site put you and me roughly in the same camp when it comes to economic justice. I can absolutely relate to your story from childhood myself.

Regarding the pen/paper v. natural food thing. For me, it's about the zealotry. Sisko's father grows his own food and has his own views on the subject, and that's fine, but he doesn't reject food replication outright the way, say, Alixus did. He still presumably recognises that replicators eliminate scarcity which eliminates hunger. In the same way, I don't think computers or word/music processors are evil or useless. I use them all the time. It's just for the specific task of composition, which is an art that developed before computers existed, they create problems. Likewise, I think chef's recognise that for the *art* of cooking, replicators are a problem.
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Elliott
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 1:04pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: The Thaw

Teaser : ***, 5%

We begin with Harry playing a little classic jazz on his clarinet. What appears to be a private recital for Tom [fan fic fan fic fan fic fan fic...] is actually bleeding through the bulkheads, causing some other ensign to bang on the walls. It seems those amazing gel packs that can get sick from cheese infections have the added benefit of conducting sound. Of course, what this tedious scene is actually about is reminding us that Tom and Harry are totally not gay, because they're both chasing the same girl, someone called Nicoletti. She plays the oboe, you see. Mhm...

With that out of the way, the senior staff are summoned to the bridge. The Voyager has encountered a planet which has been devastated by natural disasters, but is in a state of ecological recovery. Despite an absence of lifesigns, they receive a hail from the surface. How refreshing to have a set-up like this; minor mystery with some light characterisation. I feel like I'm watching TOS.

Act 1 : ***.5, 17%

The hail turns out to be an automatic message from what we assume is this planet's leader, a man called Viagra or something.

VIORSA: A few of us have managed to survive in a state of artificial hibernation, programmed to end in fifteen years from the date this was recorded. At that time, when the eco-recovery has begun, we will attempt to rebuild our settlement. Please, do nothing to interrupt our timetable.

Well, they're way past the expiration date on that time-table, so Janeway has Kim scan for suppressed metabolic activity which he discovers underground. Intrigued, she orders a stasis pod containing three hibernating aliens and two dead ones to the cargo bay.

One of the hibernators is Viagra himself and there don't appear to be any malfunctions to explain the two deaths. Further scans reveal that the minds of the occupants have been interconnected by a sophisticated computer.

JANEWAY: Years ago, Starfleet used a technology to assist deep space travel that kept the body in stasis, but provided a mental landscape to keep the mind active and alert.

The mystery deepens: the occupants were given control over their own hibernation, as the planetary conditions would be transmitted to their “mental landscape” periodically. They ought to have emerged from stasis many years ago. The EMH's autopsies reveal that the dead aliens were literally scared to death (heart failure) by whatever imagery this system is providing. Tuvok determines that the only option, save fucking off and leaving these people to their fate (I'll get back to that), is to enter the system themselves using the empty pods. They will use their own stasis technology to isolate themselves from the alien system as much as possible. So, Torres and Kim are put under ice and given five minutes to check things out.

Up until now, the mood aboard the Voyager has been very subdued. The dialogue is sensible, but dry, the pitch moderate; no red-alert klaxons, no phaser fire. The mystery is interesting, but in a purely intellectual way—there's almost no character behind the lines of dialogue; the crew are performing their functions in expected ways, but it's all detached and professional.

Then, we enter the Matrix...I mean the system.

The atmosphere is garish—the set made deliberately to look like a very large black-box. The computer-generated characters are pulled straight from the Commedia dell'Arte. The music has a flare of anachronistic medieval timbre. Nearly everyone is in a mask, adorned with make-up; there's fire, there is dancing, bright colours, and constant movement.

Hovering over this scene is a unique figure, a monochromatic clown whose smile is deeply unsettling. Eventually, the clown ropes Torres and Kim into a feverish dance. The carnival atmosphere recalls such pop-culture touchstones as “The Killing Joke” or maybe “Falstaff.” And at the centre of the “town” is a wonderfully absurd PINK guillotine whose Folsom Street Fair attendant dutifully shows off by chopping a log in twain, ending the dance. Torres and Kim try to make their exit, but the carnival goers aren't yielding. With those terrifying smiles still plastered across their faces and their schoolyard taunts cascading about, the Starfleet Trek-fu laughed off as completely ineffectual, Harry is captured by the mob and cuffed. They cart him off to the guillotine. The camera makes note of the Grey Clown observing, seemingly from everywhere, enthralled by the terror on Harry's face.

What makes this scene so very effective is the contrast. These characters are violent, sadistic and invulnerable, but their behaviour is childish, playful and giddy. As with the aforementioned Batman rogue, this may be a cocktail we're familiar with nowadays, but Voyager executes it extremely well, and the effect is nothing short of terrifying.

Act 2 : ***.5, 17%

Before the choppy-choppy, Viagra and his two companions enter the square and warn the Clown that executing these aliens will likely illicit retribution from their companions in the waking world. The Clown is visibly terrified by this prospect and wastes no time in ordering Harry set free. Again, his sentiments are childish, basic and primal. There are no ethics guiding his thirst for entertainment, but threaten him, and it's fight or flight.

VIORSA: Who knows what kind of people they are? Who knows what will happen to this world if you hurt them?
CLOWN: I do. I know.

The Clown demonstrates that he is beginning to understand his new guests, as he mocks Torres for her temper and mixed heritage. He laughs at Harry's technical-minded analysis. The theatricality in the blocking and directing never lets up, even when the dialogue becomes intimate. The Clown will dance around, amused by Harry's ignorance and the remaining cast of characters dances with him, chanting in unison. The Clown will become deadly serious, upset with Viagra for disrupting his fun, and the cast will be shown behind him, solemn and menacing. What's so great about this is that it demonstrates an understanding of what theatre is and why it works as an artform. This is TV; you can create mesmerising special effects and optical illusions. Think of all the smoke and mirrors bullshit from “Move Along Home”! But here, in the mindscape, we are using the tools of the live theatre; masks and choreography and costume. The effect is to make one feel drawn in the world itself, for being at once so impossible and so real. This also lends an air of timelessness to the world and to the episode. Even now, 30 years later, you wouldn't want to do much differently in terms of production.

The Clown and his world will disappear, that is cease to be if the humanoids are disconnected from the system. The Clown's desire to exist (accompanied by that over-the-top crying gesture from the whole town) indicates that he/they have achieved some level of sentience. The recall subroutine is activated and Torres and Kim make to escape:

CLOWN: If you leave, one of them will die. One of them will die. Try it and see.
...
TORRES: How is that possible?
CLOWN: I cut off their heads.
TORRES: But none of this is real.
CLOWN: Of course it's real. As real as a nightmare.

And so, Harry relents and cancels the recall, but he makes it clear that if the Clown wants to continue to exist, he had better give them the chance to inform the Voyager. While the Clown and his, erm, clown possy deliberate, Kim and Torres have a brief moment to confer with the alien trio. Herein, we learn that there is a small delay before the Clown and the system can process their thoughts, which might be their only advantage in this world. They hypothesise that the Clown is a manifestation of their latent fears, created accidentally by software too smart for its own designers. Isn't that always the way?

The Clown determines that Harry is to stay behind as a hostage, but Torres will be permitted to leave and convey the Clown's demands to Janeway.

Act 3 : ****, 17%

Back in the conference room, whose dark grey and quiet hues are, ironically, a relief from the Clown's garishness, the senior staff consider their options. Janeway wants to reduce the number of hostages.

JANEWAY: All we have to do now is decide how to negotiate with an emotion. With a manifestation of fear.
TUVOK: Fear is the most primitive, the most primordial of biological responses.
JANEWAY: The ability to recognise danger, to fight it or run away from it, that's what fear gives us. But when fear holds you hostage, how do you make it let go?

In keeping with this story's deftness, Neelix' ridiculous suggestion of trying to combat fear with humour is met with impatient glares from Janeway and co. It's an understated and hilarious moment in an otherwise pensive and quiet scene. We're left to wonder what they'll come up with.

Meanwhile in Carnival Hell, Viagra expresses his regret to Harry, for dragging him and the others into this mess. Viagra just tells him that hope is a lie and that after a few months, he'll give in to Fear and his endless whims. Cue a side glance from Folsom Street Man. I SAID HE'S NOT GAAAY!

KIM: Why does he do it?
KOHL MAN: We're his canvas, his blocks of marble. With us, he practises his ghastly art.

Sensing Harry's transgressive desire to escape, the Clown determines to punish him. He's made into an old man, helpless and decrepit. Then, of course, he's turned into an infant (“Koochy Coo!”). The Clown plays Michael Jackson with baby Harry for a few moments, but quickly grows bored. In one of many favourite moments, the Clown utters a deep-sounding truism:

“When your only reality is an illusion, then illusion is a reality.”

For a second, we're thinking: that's a little obtuse, isn't it? But then, the Clown snaps his finger and a cartoonish gong is hit, like a 1960s Hanna Barbera “Confucius Says” moment. The fact that Harry is Chinese makes this all the more subversive and I love it. Anyway, the Clown finally taps into a memory that really disturbs Kim; when he was nine years old, he witnessed a radiation disaster, sick and dying people, and a little girl receiving some sort of emergency surgery.

And then just as quickly, the EMH appears and corrects the Clown's grip on his little scalpel. I can't possibly recreate the comedy with my wordy review here, but the Picardo/McKean double act is one of the most hysterical performances in the history of the franchise.

CLOWN: How am I supposed to negotiate if I don't know what you're thinking?
EMH: I have a very trustworthy face.

Lololol

Ahhh, anyway the EMH has been sent by “a miracle of technology” (bless the Maker we didn't have to endure any technobabble to explain this miracle) to act as Janeway's representative. Janeway suggests replacing the hostages with a simulated brain to provide input for the Clown's existence, but the Clown suspects this is impossible. Viagra is hauled over to corroborate his fears, but says something cryptic about the optronic pathways which is dismissed instantly as a lie. Despite his trustworthy face and bedside manner, the Doctor is unable to get the Clown to budge.

Act 4 : ****, 17%

When the Doctor reports to Torres the message from Viagra, Tuvok realises that he must have been trying to communicate something else to them. Clever. They determine that they can dismantle the environment using the optronic pathways without disrupting the hostages or their brain functions, removing the threat of execution. The EMH is tasked with distracting the Clown while they work. It's a desperate move, but that's where we have landed.

So the plan begins. The EMH bullshits with Michael McKean while Torres begins disconnecting the characters from the simulation. Of note here is how the Doctor has grown as a character, able to improvise and lie—tricks he has learnt from his experiences in “Heroes and Demons,” “Projections,” and to some degree in “Lifesigns.” For a tense couple of moments, we dare to hope that they might succeed, but before Torres can finish, the Clown sees through the deception and he knows exactly whose fault this is. Poor pathetic Viagra is dragged to the guillotine. The Doctor tries his best to live up to his oath, but there's nothing they can do, and Viagra is beheaded. In the real world, his heart gives out and Janeway has no choice but to relent and restore the programme. Amid the carnage, the Clown and his people dance in celebration, as if you expected anything else.

Act 5 : ****, 17%

Janeway is reeling from her failure.

JANEWAY: Have I misjudged him somehow? Is there another way to reach him? Isn't there more to fear than a simple demand to exist? Why do people enjoy dangerous sports or holodeck adventures with the safety off? Why, after all these centuries, do children still ride on roller coasters?
EMH: Fear can provide pleasure. To seek fear is to seek the boundaries of one's sensory experience.
JANEWAY: But what does fear seek at the end of the ride?

For the third and final time, the Doctor interrupts the party (“I don't get out very much.”) and explains Janeway's final terms. There's a mention of the Galorndon Core for the nerds, but the EMH is deadly serious; Janeway will allow the Clown to keep one hostage and one only, but that hostage will be Janeway herself. The Clown is hesitant, but sensing (from Harry, we surmise) that Janeway is very much willing to go through with risking brain damage to the hostages if it comes down to it and destroy him, he accepts.

And indeed, we see Janeway being hooked up to the system as the Clown prepares for her arrival. Finally, the extraneous characters vanish and Janeway appears before the Clown. While the interactions between Picardo and McKean were hilarious, this new dynamic between Mulgrew and McKean is something else entirely. With the eerie, Ligeti-esque score backing them up, the scene is almost sublime. Harry and the aliens are released, and the Clown tucks in for an eternity with his new plaything.

ANEWAY: Would you be honest with me?
CLOWN: Fear is the most honest of all emotions, Captain.
JANEWAY: You really want this to end as much as I do, don't you?
CLOWN: Now, now, don't even think about leaving. I'm not going to let you go, not after all this. Mirror? Don't we make a beautiful couple, Captain?
JANEWAY: I'm not Captain Janeway.
CLOWN: Could have fooled me.
JANEWAY: I'm afraid I did.

As the Clown becomes aware of the truth of Janeway's deception (the one he's talking to is a hologram), the world itself begins to spin out of control around him. Literally.

The final moments of the episode are spectacular. We resolve the lingering question, “What does Fear seek?” The answer of course, is to be conquered. As the world dissolves into nothingness, there's a chilling musical cue—the return of those carnival accordion chords that add the perfect touch of macabre whimsy to this dark finale.

CLOWN: I'm afraid.
JANEWAY: I know.
CLOWN: Drat.

Episode as Functionary : ****, 10%

I think I know why this episode is so polarising. I don't agree with the comment above that this is an episode “for smart people,” but there is something in that instinct that's worth examining. This is not an episode that faithful viewership of Star Trek prepares you for. People try and intellectualise the disparity by saying that things are “weird” or “over-the-top” or “campy.” And those might be true but not particularly useful descriptors. Like the very best of Star Trek (which this is), we are dealing with an idea and how that idea relates to the human condition, examined through a sci-fi lens. The reason this story had to be “weird” is because the idea we are dealing with, fear, is by its very nature irrational. When you're in a dark room and feel panicked, you lose the ability to rationally consider your environment. It's the same damned room whether or not the lights are on, but our inability to see what may or may not be there invites wild speculation, turns our imaginations into overdrive and makes our hearts race. The Clown's environment is extremely uncomfortable and it is superbly irrational. Most of the holographic environments we see in Trek do their best to simulate reality in some way, but this one, this one is designed to feel like a nightmare. In a nightmare, you can't crawl out of the hole no matter how hard you try; the water will always drown you; you can't stop falling even though you don't remember when you fell; your loved ones will hate you; you will always fail.

So, I think those who dislike or hate this episode do so for the same reason many people dislike horror films, even good ones. They are very uncomfortable, and intentionally so. But beyond the horror elements, this story is pure theatre. The scenes aboard the Voyager itself, deliberately subdued and utilitarian (save some excellent dialogue), are little more than a framing device for the madcap theatre that is the simulation. This was something hinted at in “Frame of Mind,” to similar effect, although its purpose was quite different.

There's room in this story for some character elements. Harry's fears of dependency and being coddled are explored. Mention is made of how much he misses Libby and his parents, but what we learn here is that he is embarrassed to admit how much he does. This isn't the result of a carefully laid character arc, mind you, but Menosky manages to take what was a weakness in the development of Harry's character and transform it into an asset. That's real skill, and not the last time he will be called upon to do this for poor Harry. The EMH is primarily a deadpan foil to the Clown's exuberance, but there are some touches that reflect how he's grown, but that also remind us that he is still not regarded as a sentient member of the crew. The notion that a simulated brain—like his—could satisfy the Clown is dismissed as impossible. And the Doctor owns his own limitations. I believe that if not for the fact that 1. the plan depended on the Clown believing he had captured Janeway and 2. the fact that they still need a doctor, Janeway would have been willing to sacrifice the Doctor to the Clown as she did her own hologram.

Speaking of Janeway, let's remember that this is the captain who did *not* end up sacrificing her crew because she got curious about the mysterious visitor in “Deadlock.” This is the other one. Thus, we see the curiosity overriding the crew's wellbeing motif repeated, but this time Janeway isn't trifling. In “Deadlock,” her counterpart ordered Harry to the alt-Voyager to save his life, a recompense for her mistake. Here, she has decided to murder a sentient albeit malevolent lifeform to save Harry. The conflict between her blue-shirted and red-shirted selves are coming into greater relief.

I don't need to gush about the acting in this episode, but save some tepidness in the teaser and a few missteps from the guests, everything was marvellous. McKean, Picardo and Mulgrew were all delicious in different ways and even Wang managed to step up his game a bit. I like that they found a use for Kes in all this, who's been a bit forgotten since “Cold Fire.”

***
How should we be able to forget those
ancient myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into
princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses
who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps
everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless
that wants help from us.

Final Score : ****
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