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Elliott
Thu, Oct 18, 2018, 12:58am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S3: The Die Is Cast

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

We pick up with Bashir attempting to carry on with O'Brien over a meal. Miles may be an adequate sparring partner at racquetball or darts, but the sod isn't really cut out for debates over the theatre. We learn that O'Brien's nan is would probably get along just fine with the folks in Fairhaven and that Bashir misses his enigmatic buddy. Some time has passed since he and Odo have disappeared. Miles is called to Ops to examine some crazy readings approaching the stations, and wouldn't you know it, Tain's Romulan fleet, along with a Cardassian fleet, equipped with cloaks, appears outside the station and both fleets enter the wormhole. Guess it's time for operation Lend Me Your Ears.

Act 1 : ***, 17%

In the GQ, Tain and Garak enjoy Romulan mimosas or whatever, reminiscing about the good old days, pulling teeth, torturing civilians, you know, back when Cardassia was Great™. It's actually very weird to see Garak being so relaxed and open with, well, anybody. He mentions Dukat as one of the people whose faces he's looking forward to rubbing in the dirt when they return to Cardassia, or you know, murdered. Speaking of murder, Tain tells Garak that old Mila is going to have to die, for the same reason as Tain's other protégés. What's most interesting here is that despite deliberate efforts by both men to see themselves in each other, what with their shared skills, profession, house-keepers and...other issues which we can probably guess at, Garak is quite insistent that he never betrayed Tain, while Tain doesn't really seem to care either way, provided Garak can serve his purpose. Garak pretends to be a lot of things to a lot of people, but to himself, he *pretends* to be Tain. But he isn't. Colonel Lovok, the Romulan leader, enters and reports that the fleet is (slowly) approaching its target. Oh, and Garak is expected to get Odo to give up his Changeling secrets.

Odo is his usual happy self, positively spitting at Garak in anger when he visits him in secured quarters. It's pretty remarkable that their verbal sparring has retained the same tenor, mixing menace and humour, despite this radical shift in power dynamics. While Garak may have the upper hand at the moment, leveraging his position to try and get Odo to talk, Odo (poor grammar notwithstanding) returns to the Julius Cæsar theme:

ODO: The only common enemy you and I share is Enabran Tain. The difference between you and I is that you don't know it.

Meanwhile, on DS9, the senior staff, with Eddington playing substitute for Odo, I assume, watch Tain's viral video in which he announces his plan to Cardassia (and Romulus), having passed the point where anyone could stop him. He warns the CCC in particular to be ready for an attack by the Jem'Hadar after he destroys the Founders, chastising the state for being blinded by their naïve peace treaties with Bajor and the Federation. This message has been brought to DS9 via Admiral Gold Shirt who explains that Starfleet intelligence believes Romulus and Cardassia are going to go ahead and let their spies proceed and see if he succeeds, the genocidal bastards. Oh, and the Federation hopes for this as well. Sigh...come on, DS9, you were doing so well! Do we REALLY have to fall back on this badmiral trope? Anyway, he orders the Defiant to remain at its post defending Bajor; Sisko is not permitted to try and rescue Odo. I guess he isn't too concerned about Garak. Well. It takes Sisko all of 2 seconds to order the Defiant prepared for launch anyway. For once, it seems, Sisko is aware that his violation of orders is going to carry serious consequences, but he has decided that Odo's life is worth the sacrifice. Sure, I'll play along.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

So, the Defiant is fully manned, with the entire senior staff prepared to be court-martialled for their infractions. Yeah. Admiral Goldshirt hails and reminds Sisko not to violate orders. Sisko, because he just can't help being a complete fucking asshole, has Kira pull the broken-radio gag. This does double-duty, filling an otherwise fresh and engaging story with tired clichés AND it means Sisko, true to character, would rather hide from Starfleet than tell the Admiral to his face that he is going to defy orders because he feels he must. None of this surprises me anymore. Anyway, they enter the GQ and engage the cloak.

On Tain's Flagship, Lovok briefs them all on the plan—they will proceed to that nebula from “The Search,” and bombard the Changeling homeworld from space...for five hours...destroying the entire mantle. Man...give people who spend their lives performing covert operations a few tanks and guns and they really go overboard! Although, I suppose genocide isn't something you want to half-ass. Tain believes it's possible the Founders have some heretofore unknown planetary defences that Odo would know about. Garak tries to avoid the unavoidable and convince Tain that Odo has definitely shared all he knew in his report to Starfleet. No, Garak is going to have to torture Odo. That is the inevitable place this story is headed. The question is, how do you possibly torture a shapeshifter? Well knowing Odo, I would say they should probably put him in a holodeck where he has to watch Quark perform oral sex on Kira, but Tain implies they have other methods at their disposal. Sensing Garak's reluctance, Tain threatens to have Lovok take over the interrogation, but Garak knows that Odo's best chance of avoiding unnecessary suffering is if he himself completes his task.

TAIN: You don't have to do this.
GARAK: Yes, I do. And I think we both know that you won't trust me until I do.

On the Defiant, a technical glitch causes the cloak to fail. Ah, good. So glad this plot is here.

Act 3 : ***, 17%

Eddington comes clean immediately. Admiral Goldshirt ordered him to prevent Sisko from pursuing the fleet. So naturally, Eddington sabotaged the cloak instead of, say the warp drive, which would have kept the ship docked instead of a sitting duck in the middle of Dominion space. Brilliant! What follows is an incredibly bizarre line of reasoning on Sisko's part:

EDDINGTON: I report directly to Admiral Toddman and he gave me an explicit order. I couldn't disobey it.
SISKO: I don't suppose you could.

Really? Didn't you say in your briefing that anyone going on this mission was risking a court martial for disobeying a direct order from the exact same admiral? Was it not implicit when Eddington reported to the bridge, that he had decided to do disobey an explicit order? Ah, but then, 30 seconds later:

EDDINGTON: Sir, if we run into the Jem'Hadar, you're still going to need a chief security officer.
KIRA: What makes you think we'll trust you again?
EDDINGTON: Because I give you my word.
SISKO: I make it a policy to never question the word of anyone who wears that uniform.

Wait—so you asked your crew to break their oaths and follow you into the GQ, only to discover that one of them *kept* their word to Admiral Goldshirt, and thereby broke their word to you. But now, because they wear the uniform—the same uniform they were wearing when they appeared to break their word to the admiral, who ALSO wears the same uniform—you decide you can trust this person? Hmm... well, if you were looking for a quick and efficient way to convince someone to betray Starfleet some day, maybe by joining the Maquis or something, I think you've made an effective case. Bravo, commander.

Alright, well with that shit finally over, we return to the Warbird. Garak brings Tain's device into Odo's quarters. Odo is expectedly sarcastic, taunting Garak over the imminent torture. It's easy to keep up a brave front when you think you can't be hurt, but it turns out this amazing device can prevent Changelings from...changing, essentially putting them in full-body stress positions when their cycles of regeneration begin. And of course, Tain, master spy, has made sure that there are people on Cardassia with knowledge of this technology so that it can be developed and replicated in case anyone ever needs to ferret out a Changeling spy in the future. Oh yeah.

Okay. Seeing Odo unable to transform is genuinely disturbing, Auberjonois showing the intense fear that accompanies being suddenly disabled and on the verge of great pain. Garak, for his part, displays another new facet himself, shades of Gul Madred, which is quite ominous. Like Madred with Picard, Garak plays up the similarities between the two men.

GARAK: You and I are so alike. We both value our privacy, our secrets. That's why I know there's something about the Founders you haven't told anyone. Something you didn't even share with Starfleet and Commander Sisko, hmm? But you are going to tell me, Odo.

Well, that was riveting. Hmm..how can we totally sabotage the mood? I know, let's return to the Defiant! Kira is antsy about sitting in the GQ without a cloak. Great. So glad we spent time on that.

Back to the torture. Odo looks...absolutely horrifying—like a decomposing zombie. And STILL through this further mutation of their dynamic, the verbal sparring continues. Incredible. Finally, Garak is begging Odo to give him something to end the torture, for it is Garak who has been broken by this process. Through groans of agony, Odo gives up his great secret:

ODO: Home. I want to go home!...Not the station. Home with my people.
GARAK: The Founders? You want to return to the Founders? I thought you turned your back on them.
ODO: I did, but they're still my people. I tried to deny it, I tried to forget, but I can't. They're my people and I want to be with them in the Great Link.

With his awful task complete, Garak runs over to release Odo from his suffering and the pathetic Changeling hobbles into a bucket while Garak collapses in a heap of grief. I want to give this scene ten thousand stars for the stunning performances and harrowing characterisations the torturing provides. It's truly inspired. I wish this were the whole episode.

Act 4 : ****, 17%

So, O'Brien has repaired the cloak and the Defiant can resume course. Great.

Garak, his composure restored, reports to Tain. Amazingly, after all of that, he lets Odo keep his secret. I'll come back to this. Tain wants Odo executed in that case, but Lovok steps in to agree with Garak's suggestion that he be kept alive for now—they don't want to provoke the Federation, right? The fleet has arrived at the nebula, so the trio head to the bridge, but Lovok takes a moment to confront Garak over his emotional attachment to Odo, which of course he denies. He tells Garak that he is “a practised observer.” Hintety-hint hint.

And now it's time to end the Dominion threat for ever! The fleet open fire on the planet, but there is no change in lifeform readings. Garak immediately surmises that the planet has been deserted, and somewhere, a catfish-headed alien screams, “IT'S A TRAP!” Yeah, the Dominion has sent about 150 ships—one of which was able to destroy a Galaxy-class starship, remember—to confront Tain's fleet.

Act 5 : ***, 17%

An impressive space battle, a little ironic quotation of Shakespeare. All in all, some great stuff in this climax. The Flagship is breaking apart around them. Lovok leaves the bridge to secure the Engine Room and Garak...Garak leaves to rescue Odo. Ah, but Lovok is not far behind. To their surprise, he gives them what they need to access the runabout. Lovok is a Changeling spy and, as we have been told twice this season, no Changeling has ever harmed another. Well that's ironic—Garak should have just let him do the torturing. The Founders intentionally helped Tain see his mission come to fruition, preying on his egomania in order to wipe out the OO and the Tal Shiar, leaving only the Klingons and Federation as significant AQ threats. Lovok offers to let Odo rejoin the Link, but Odo refuses.

Garak is going to try and rescue Tain. He returns to the bridge to find his old mentor pulling his best Kahn impression, babbling to himself semi-coherently as death closes in around him. Finally, Odo shows up, knocks Garak unconscious and drags him to the runabout. Tain can just burn in hell, I guess.

Because no Changeling has harmed another, the Jem'Hadar are pursing the runabout. You'd think Dominion bureaucracy would be more efficient in disseminating important directives like this. Ah well, there's actually a reason for this contrivance, we have to justify the Defiant's participation in this story. The Defiant blows some stuff up, beams the pair aboard, and barrels through dozens of Jem'Hadar ships. This is fun and all, but exactly when and how did the Defiant get upgraded so much since “The Search?”

In the epilogue, Admiral Goldshirt completes the circle of cheese with this stupid line: “If you pull a stunt like that again I'll court martial you or I'll promote you. Either way you'll be in a lot of trouble.” Please, sir, just shoot me instead.

Garak and Odo have a wonderful final scene together in the charred remnants of his shoppe, with Odo framed in a mirror. They've both decided to keep the more sordid details of the affair out of their reports, including Odo's confession. In the end, Odo asks Garak to join him for a meal sometime. Maybe they don't have to be quite so alone any longer.

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

Let's get this out of the way, the Definat subplot is like a rotting albatross fouling up a wonderful conclusion to a riveting story. It is nothing more than a series of clichés which do Sisko absolutely no favours (I'm starting to think this is a mandate amongst the writing staff). The only good part is the final battle sequence, which is really just some candy. Honestly, I would have excised most of it—let Sisko tell Admiral Goldshirt that he's going whether he likes it or not, have the Defiant take off and then appear in the finale. That would have been plenty and been much kinder to the characters.

The actual story is very, very strong, especially at the end. There are a few more logical holes than in “Improbable Cause,” but this is made up for by stunning performances and thrilling stakes. The Dominion has now proven itself to be dangerous in entirely new ways than was established in “The Jem'Hadar” and “The Search.” They don't just understand force, they understand politics.

Odo's arc, from “Necessary Evil” through “The Search” to here is quite compelling. Here is a man who has adopted a system of justice because it overlays, albeit imperfectly, over his innate desire for order. He does this in order to carve out an identity for himself, in contrast to what he observes to be fickle creatures around him. But this niche is terribly lonely, especially for a man who discovers that his natural state is to be in near-constant communion with his people. To twist the knife, those same people are revealed to be incredibly un-just in their relationship with the rest of the galaxy, the clear antithesis of those values Odo has adopted in his makeshift community. What his decision to deny Lobok's offer finally reveals to us, and to himself, is that, for better or worse, Odo has grown a humanoid conscience that no amount of temptation, no amount of torture can break. But that's small comfort to such a lonely man, who is forced to return to his little job, his little feuds with Quark, and the hope that maybe, someone like Garak can begin to understand him.

Garak is on a similar journey. Here is someone we know to have given up everything for his people. But he too, living amongst the democratic rabble, as Kor will one day put it, has changed fundamentally from the man he was when he was Tain's protégé. And yet...

In “Improbable Cause,” Odo told Garak that it remained to be seen whether he had a sense of honour. Despite the dark corners this story pushes him to, I think the answer to this looming question is “yes.” Despite his irrational affection and loyalty to Tain, despite his clear intents throughout the series to present himself to the world as a duplicate of of his mentor, as ruthless and as self-assured as Julius himself, Garak could not bring himself to betray Tain, nor could he bring himself to betray Odo. Garak does have a sense of honour. And in the end, it saved his life. It remains to be seen how that small comfort will serve him as he too returns to a lonely life, with perhaps only one person he can be honest with.

There was a Brutus once that would have brooked
Th’ eternal devil to keep his state in Rome
As easily as a king.
...
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,
And Brutus is an honourable man.

Final Score : ***
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Elliott
Wed, Oct 17, 2018, 1:44pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Heroes and Demons

Teaser : **, 5%

The Voyager is investigating “unusual” photonic activity in a proto-star. Mkay. Torres transports a sample of “photonic matter” to Engineering after overcoming a tech hiccough. Janeway decides that Harry will assist B'Elanna with her analysis, because I guess she's in a hurry. And of course, Harry Kim doesn't deserve a social life. Well, it turns out Kim isn't aboard the ship and they can't figure out how he left. The last anyone saw him was on the holodeck. Tuvok is picking up some vague weirdness therein, so he and Chakotay head down to investigate. The holodeck can't be shut off (of course) and so the pair find themselves in a spooky forest. That's the teaser? Yawn.

Act 1 : *.5, 18%

The computer identifies the programme as “Beowulf.” Beowulf happens to be one of my favourite stories from childhood, so, provided the episode stays away from the technobabble nonsense, it can earn back some points. A valkyrie or whatever throws a spear at the pair and Tuvok is unable to delete her from the programme. The woman identifies herself as “Freya, daughter of Hrothgar.” Yeah...I assume she is supposed to be Freawaru. I guess Kim has done a fan re-write because Freawaru is no “shield-maiden,” she's a cupbearer and dowry for a peace treaty. Sigh...so 90s wokeness demands that a classic example of the Eternal Feminine be given a sword? It's not a huge problem, I guess. It just means, like with Vic's (eventually) on DS9, we are robbed of the opportunity to really mine the extra-Trekkian environments because of pointless anachronisms like this. Well anyway, “Freya” notes that the Indian and the black Vulcan are not Danish—sharp this one—and wonders if they might be kinsman to her Korean friend, Beowulf. Chakotay has to explain to Tuvok that Harry would be playing the protagonist in this holonovel, because...Tuvok is being written like an idiot, I guess. Freya takes the pair to Heorot to meet with Hrothgar and get an explanation about how Harrywulf died.

So, we are somewhere near the beginning of the epic, with Grendel devouring the king's men one by one in the night. Hrothgar and Unferth are more or less in character, with the former resigned and pathetic, and the latter distrustful and petty. Chaktoay and Tuvok determine to assume the protagonist role and await Grendel. In the meantime, they report back to Janeway over the comm in a bizarre scene where Kate Mulgrew looks like she's trying to pop her ears during a flight.

With the holodeck characters all in bed, Tuvok starts looking for a control panel to shut down the programme—because of course, this is much easier than cutting the power. Whatever spell has made the Vulcan so obtuse bleeds over into his commentary regarding their setting. Ho doesn't understand the logic of stories with monsters in them. Yeah, because Vulcans wouldn't know the first thing about confronting horrible demons that lurk in the dark shadows of the psyche. Pshh. Janeway and Torres discover some of the photonic energy from the teaser having found its way to the holodeck, naturally. Finally, we get this line:

JANEWAY: We have to consider it a possibility. After all, the holodeck are basically an outgrowth of transporter technology, changing energy into matter and back again every time a programme is run.

Erm...no. Normally, I don't quibble over technobabble, but entire dramatic arcs have been mapped out under the premise that holograms are holograms! That was the whole plot of “Ship in a Bottle.” Why, after all can't the EMH exit sickbay? Naran Shankar, you are trying way too hard. Well, Grendel shows up in the form of a special effect, with the transporter not working (of course), and finally Tuvok and Chakotay get gobbled up.

Act 2 : ***, 18%

“There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” – Dr Albert Schweitzer

Torres and Janeway theorise that the transporter accident in the teaser created a malfunction in the holodeck which transformed the missing crewmen into energy. Sure. Paris hits on the idea of recruiting the EMH to go back in after them, since he should be immune to whatever techno-magic is going on in the holodeck. Janeway briefs the doctor on his mission; they will adapt his matrix to give him control over his permeability (something he was able to do by himself at a moment's notice in “Phage,” but will now take 3 hours for some reason), and he will familiarise himself with “Beowulf.” In another bizarre directing choice, Kes is seen to be standing right next to the Doctor while getting briefed. Then Janeway and co. exit sickbay and he moves into his office. Kes turns 90 degrees to ask him a question and the EMH behaves as though he didn't hear Kes enter the room. What the hell?

Well anyway, Kes recognises that the EMH is nervous about his first away mission. She points out how, lacking any expertise or even passing familiarity with tasks outside of medicine, this will challenge him to exceed the limitations of his programme.

EMH: I can describe every detail of every piece of equipment in this Sickbay from biobed to neurostimulator, but I've never even seen a sky or a forest, let alone Vikings and monsters. I can't afford to fail but I don't know what to expect in that holodeck.

She suggests it might help the EMH feel more like a person if he finally chose a name for himself.

Well, the Doctor does his homework and Paris—god knows why—transfers his programme to the holodeck. Robert Picardo does a lovely job of balancing the sense of wonder he feels in this strange new environment with the EMH's all-business personality. Freya returns, and the Doctor adapts to this strange situation quickly. Freya continues to display an odd characterisation, bragging about burning halls to the ground and ravaging entire cultures. Yeesh. The EMH identifies himself to her as Dr Schweitzer—an appropriately amusing choice for a great warrior. She leads him to Heorot, making conversation about herblore or whatever along the way.

FREYA: You are truly a man of many talents, Lord Schweitzer. Your people must value you greatly.
EMH: You would think so.

Zing. We get a repeat of the previous act, but with the EMH now occupying the protagonist's role. This time, the programme decides that Unferth would have the doctor “prove his worth” against him before being allowed to face Grendel. He draws his sword and Freya loans the EMH hers. Finally, accompanied by Christopher Reeve era Superman-inspired horns in the orchestra, the Doctor lays down his sword, makes himself impermeable and Unferth injures himself trying to slay him. Freya wets the floor over the arrival of their saviour, leading the hall in the chanting of “Schweitzer!”

In contrast to early Data, what's interesting here is that, because the Doctor has an ego (a product of his programming), what began as simply the no-frills personality which would allow the EMH to triage has become his façade. The Doctor has begun to develop and inner life, and exploring that is the one of the most rewarding aspects of epic poetry and myth.

Act 3 : ***, 18%

So, we proceed to the feasting scene. In the poem, Beowulf has to prove himself with words as well as swords, and Hrothgar demands Dr Schweitzer regale them with glorious tales of battle. The poetic Beowulf's tales of heroism, repeated many times throughout the narrative, reveal the cultural significance of the epic; these kinds of legends are the foundation of morality and provide a framework for our actions. Why are certain actions heroic? Noble? Evil? Etc. Beowulf's tales also foreshadow his ensuing triumphs and eventual tragic end. In the holodeck, the only story the EMH can pull out is his epic tale of curing some virus we've never heard about. Sort of funny. When Hrothgar asks about Lord Schweitzer's past, all he can say is that he doesn't remember much about it. Sort of sad. Even Data had a childhood of sorts. One amusing meta-aspect to this scene is how very Klingon the Danes are (“Perhaps you have forgotten that the work of a warrior is battle not rest!”). What was it Chakotay said in “Ex Post Facto”? “In the Delta Quadrant, every old trick is new again.” Indeed.

The men all head to bed, leaving Schweitzer and Freya alone for a moment. Of course, because she's the Smurfette of this village, she gets to be the greatest warrior AND do all the housework. They chat for a short while by the firelight:

FREYA: Do you know what it is to be alone among many and unable to speak your fears?
EMH: I think I do.
FREYA: How do you survive?
EMH: I'm still learning how.

It would be interesting to know what the Doctor got up to during those three days the crew was being held on the Caretaker's array. Finally, she kisses him in order to “keep him warm,” leaving him to face Grendel with a holo-boner. Thanks a lot, lady.

We now proceed to the part of the epic where Beowulf captures Grendel, with his superhuman strength. Fearfully, the creature struggles and struggles in vain until he rips his own arm off to escape the warrior. It's worth noting that in the poem, puns are employed to signify the meaning behind Beowulf's death-grip; holding the creature down = holding to his promise to Hrothgar, for example. In the Voyager version, a photonic fluffernutter bursts into the hall. Schweitzer manages to get a scan but when Paris returns him to sickbay, it's the hero who has had his arm “ripped” off. An amusing visual and reversal.

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

Well, back to the stupid. Torres and Janeway analyse the tricorder data and discover a synaptic pattern amongst the photonoic nonsense. “Synaptic pattern” doesn't seem to mean anything to these geniuses, so the best they can come up with is to just recreate the patterns in those samples collected during the teaser. Well, they science away and the photonic matter transforms into a mini-Grendel which tears through the ship, and into space. Oh, I forgot—Paris and Torres really want us to know how truly idiotic they've become this episode by trying to contain the creature with forcefields—which it avoids. They are just stumped as to how this is happening. Sigh...fuck me. Like Pakleds reading a fortune cookie, it slowly dawns on these two that maybe, just maybe this thing is actually a lifeform. Geeze....well, in case we spent the last three minutes shoving a screwdriver into our ears, all of this is *repeated* over the comm to Janeway. Finally, the thing breaches the hull and enters some sort of lattice.

Act 5 : **, 18%

Janeway reveals that they had sensor contact with the lattice long enough to detect 3, count 'em 3 “bioelectrical” patterns within. Poor Mulgrew tries really hard to deliver her brilliant deductive reasoning that these 3, count 'em 3 BIOlogical patterns might just very well be their 3, count 'em THREE missing crewmen. God. Damn it.

So, the lifeforms kidnapped Harry and co. in order to enact vengeance on the Voyager crew for stealing their photonic matter. Or maybe, they're hostages? Whatever—they're incredibly alien lifeforms, so of course their behaviour is as anthropomorphic as our tiny imaginations can muster. Dr Schweitzer suggests offering the creature they still have in Engineering to Grendel, and Janeway consents.

So he returns to the holodeck, carrying the creature in a jar—I bet it loves that. He finds Freya again, but this time Unferth has followed to be the arbitrary obstacle in the Doctor's way. Unable to become permeable lest he drop the “talisman” (just drop the damned thing!), Freya is forced to defend him, and finally to take a knife to the heart for him. Unferth steals the jar of light while Freya dies in his arms, a fate she foresaw. So, Lord Schweitzer takes her sword and storms the great hall. He demands that Hrothgar return the talisman to him, using the incredible force of...a torch to subdue Unferth. Huh? Whatever, Grendel reappears, the doctor releases its buddy and the creatures re-materialise Kim and the others. Well good, Garret gets a paycheque this week.

In the epilogue, the EMH delivers his report to Janeway. This is an amiable scene, thankfully, in which Janeway contextualises his little adventure as a successful first contact situation ending in a peace treaty. She puts in a special commendation for the CMO, who has chosen to retire the name Schweitzer, letting it die on Freya's lips.

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

So, if this episode had been written for TOS, the Enterprise would have encountered a planet where aliens had read a copy of Beowulf and re-created the story in some fashion. Because the TNG era is a bit more grounded, we substitute the “The Savage Curtain” model for the “The Big Goodbye” model. There isn't any substantive difference between the two, it's just that the producers or the writers or whoever felt that the latter begged fewer plausibility questions to a 90s audience. Maybe, but one thing TOS usually got right about these conceits was to gloss over the details and focus on the opportunities they offered for storytelling and commentary. This episode gets that about half-right.

Beowulf is full of light/dark imagery which lends itself well to the theme of creatures made of light, like the EMH. The story itself is an exemplary method of connecting with the culture of antiquity. Despite some hiccoughs in the tone (getting a little too goofy at times) and the characterisation of Freya, putting the EMH in this story is quite successful. The Doctor has knowledge, he has emotion, and he has a personality, giving him an edge, one might say, over Data. But he has no real history, no lore (get it?)--exploring mythology is an excellent way to help his character discover true sentience.

The decision to frame this tale with the unforgivably inane and frankly stupid photonic lifeform plot really drags the episode down, however. Every one of these scenes was a slog to sit through and did none of the characters any favours. Even reliable Mulgrew and Russ could not overcome the unadulterated tedium of this crap. What the writers should have done is condense the framing device to a single scene in act 1, let most of the rest of the episode take place in the Beowulf story with just the EMH (and completed the Beowulf story arc they ended up curtailing). Just gloss over the holodeck malfunction stuff (it's pointless anyway). The Doctor could have figured out the photonic lifeform crap on his own while in the holodeck, you know, like the audience did. Then we have the epilogue with the rescue and the commendation. That would have been a solid show. This? Half of this episode is really hard to sit though and the rest is just good enough to make you hate how banal the rest is.

Final Score : **
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Elliott
Wed, Oct 17, 2018, 9:46am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S7: Genesis

@Rahul:

This website's only "source" is a document in which 500 people who claim scientific credentials sign off that they think the theory of evolution is wrong. These credentials can't be checked, and the group's methodology is not explained. That is not journalism, good or bad; that is just propaganda. If you're going to be a skeptic about something about which there is broad consensus, you had better bother to actually understand the underlying science. Otherwise, you're just manufacturing consent for your own ignorance.
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Elliott
Wed, Oct 17, 2018, 1:02am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S3: Improbable Cause

Teaser : ****, 5%

I know that virtue to be in you, Brutus,
As well as I do know your outward favour.
Well, honour is the subject of my story.
I cannot tell what you and other men
Think of this life; but, for my single self,
I had as lief not be as live to be
In awe of such a thing as I myself.

Slashfic meets Shakespeare. What's not to love? Garak and Bashir are having one of their typical dates, mediocre food, cultural relativism, sexual tension and literature on the side. Bashir explains the concept of tragic character flaws to Garak by way of the Bard's “Julius Cæsar,” but Garak, as usual, takes a different view—how could such a powerful political figure be so naïve? he remarks. Garak also points out that it's rather odd the way Bashir and some other humans rush through their meals when human kind does not want for food at all (someone tell the Maquis). They part ways, only for Kira to get on Bashir's case a bit over some preparations for visiting guests—Yo'hooligans or something.

KIRA: Then I guess we'll just have to rip out the carpets.

Brazilian wax joke. Siddig/Visitor relationship joke. We're walking...BOOM! Garak's shoppe explodes and Bashir rushes into the inferno to rescue his lunch date, who is quite alive and full of quips. An extremely dramatic teaser with rich subtext, DS9's best character and little touches of humour to boot. But wherefore art not in thy shop today?

Act 1 : ***.5, 17%

O'Brien reports on the tech tech of the explosion and Odo is quite certain this was no accident, given the target. There is a foreign substance present in the rubble which suggests a micro-explosive and so Sisko has all outgoing traffic halted.

Odo questions the cobbler, I mean the good tailor. Garak demurs at the suggestion that this was any kind of attack, wryly listing some unlikely suspects—unhappy customers, tax-collectors...Kira. Put a pin in that one. Odo will investigate nonetheless and Sisko assigns Garak a security detail. When they leave the infirmary, Bashir gives his paramour shit over his lack of trust, citing, per their idiom, the Æsop about the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Typically, Garak re-interprets the parable from a decidedly Cardassian perspective: you should never tell the same lie twice.

Later, Odo calls Garak into his office to review some recent passenger manifests, displaying characteristic impatience and responding coldly to Garak's little barbs. O'Brien enters with a PADD, and explains, quietly, that the bomb in Garak's shoppe was keyed to explode by a genetic marker. Garak is of course the only Cardassian living on DS9 and easily overhears the report. Ah, but you see, dear countrymen, at police academy, Odo was trained in the fine art of racial profiling. So he concludes that the device was planted by Flavius, I mean a Flaxian who boarded the station that very morning.

Act 2 : ****, 17%

Said Flaxian (who looks like Maori catfish) is questioned by the Constable. The man has a sketchy record and happens to be a perfume merchant. Odo, regretting his lack of smelling sense, pretends to peruse the wares in search of a fragrance for his girlfriend in Canada. This unusual stab at the good cop culminates with Odo playing a little chemistry, mixing fragrances. The Flaxian stops Odo from mixing together a third fragrance, because this would cause a less appealing aroma, namely death.

Odo has had O'Brien plant a transponder on the Flaxian's ship. Sounds super legal. When Odo arrives on his runabout to follow him only to discover that Garak has already boarded with the intention of accompanying him. Their verbal sparring is ratcheted up a notch from their last conversation, with verbal quips now carrying the early percolations of menace, and neither party relenting until Odo just sits down, shakes his head and takes off. Garak promises “a most interesting trip” ahead for the pair. Within about 25 seconds, the Flaxian ship explodes. Hmm. That WAS interesting.

Act 3 : ****, 17%

O'Brien is again delivering his post-explosion report. Quite a day he's having. Well, the evidence gives Constable Racial Profiler another lead, pointing them towards the Romulans. Garak says he doesn't know why they might try to kill him and Sisko starts to get punchy. But Odo, the practised observer of humanoids, has peeled away at Garak's methodology:

ODO: He's telling the truth, Commander. He doesn't know why the Romulans would try to kill him.
SISKO: What makes you so sure?
ODO: Because if he did know, he'd already be spinning out an elaborate web of lies to cover up the truth.
GARAK: Well, the truth is usually just an excuse for a lack of imagination.

Odo and Sisko don't expect answers to flow easily from Romulus, but wouldn't you know it? Next scene, a Romulan representative is happily..er...casually taking credit for the assassination of the Flaxian assassin. Yeah, that seems legal. Actually, the Romulan insists it *is* legal, which is ridiculous, but whatever. The Romulan is unsurprised to hear about the attempt on Garak's life, mistaking him for a cobbler. I swear, I had forgotten that the show made this JC reference before I made my little joke in Act 1! I'm keeping it. Odo, once again in “Colombo” mode, mentions one last thing: the incredible coincidence of the Tal Shiar (last mentioned in “Face of the Enemy”) finding their target only hours after the attempt on Garak, which she brushes aside and curtly ends the transmission.

ODO: Considering those uniforms of theirs, you'd think they'd appreciate a decent tailor.

And he tells jokes! Well, with the Flaxian dead and the Romulan motivation unknown, the only remaining avenue of investigation is Garak himself. We are reminded of the fuzzy backstory revealed in “The Wire.” Unlike the good Doctor Bashir, Odo has some resources which may help illuminate their path forward, a contact within the Cardassian government with connections to the Obsidian Order. Sisko grants Odo access to a runabout to meet with him.

Back to the cave set, and we see Odo being observed from the shadows. The contact (a masterful Joseph Ruskin), who has “changed his appearance,” keeps Odo at a distance for their little chat. While the contact has no useful information about Garak per sae, he does tell the constable that the crime he's investigating pertains to a much larger mystery. Cloaked Romulan ships, communications and troops have been noticed near the Cardassian border. An invasion? Maybe. But unlikely. We also learn that five additional former OO agents died while Garak and Bashir discussed the Rubicon. The contact considers his debt to Odo repaid by this information.

On DS9, Garak is positively elated with the news. But the discourse between him and Odo is again ratcheted up:

ODO: I've had enough of your dissembling, Garak! I am not Doctor Bashir and we are not sparring amiably over lunch. Now, you dragged me into this investigation and you are now going to cooperate with me...You blew up your own shoppe, Garak!

Odo's conclusion to the first part of the mystery is thrilling to behold. Remember, the Flaxian used poisons to assassinate people, and so Detective Profiler determines that Garak threw the Flaxian off by blowing his own shoppe up instead in order to trigger Odo into an investigation.

Men at some time are masters of their fates.

So, Garak has manipulated Odo in much the same way as he did Bashir in “The Wire,” and well, this has really pissed Odo off. This time, Garak relents a bit. The five Cylons, I mean dead operatives and Garak himself were close advisors to Enabran Tain, the master spy. Tain himself might have more answers than either of them.

Garak makes contact with Cardassia, to an elderly woman called Mila who calls Garak by his given name, Elim. She reports that Tain has left in a hurry and she's worried he might have been killed, begging Garak to help him. Well, better late than never, the two men are going to get in that runabout and have an adventure, damn it.

Act 4 : ****, 17%

Before boarding the runabout, Garak leaves his paramour with a little inside joke, and Bashir re-gifts some chocolates. Well. The runabout has made it more than 25 seconds away from DS9 this time and Garak directs Odo towards a likely hiding place in Cardassian space. The pair begin their sparring again. We learn that Mila is Tain's housekeeper, and more profoundly, something deeper than debt is motivating the tailor to aid his old mentor, who so cruelly exiled him. Garak turns the analysis around on Odo.

GARAK: There's no feeling behind what you do, no emotion beyond a certain distaste for loose ends and disorder. You don't know what it means to care about someone, do you? People are just interesting creatures to be studied and analysed...I find it interesting that you ascribe feelings and motivations to me that you know nothing about. Or am I wrong? Tell me, is there one person in this universe you do care for? One person who's more than just an interesting puzzle to be solved. Is there, Odo? Anyone?
ODO: If there were, I certainly wouldn't tell you.
GARAK: And that would be a wise decision.

But *we* know who it is, don't we? Mhm. That girlfriend in Canada. When they arrive at the hideout, a Warbird decloaks right above them—in Cardassian space. Hmm. The Warbird locks on a tractor beam and finally boards the runabout. The pair are escorted aboard to a chamber (hey look, the Romulans *did* get a new tailor!), and who should be there to greet them but the man of the hour, with the flames of Troy upon his shoulder, Enabran Tain.

Act 5 : ***, 17%

The two men give each other shit for a few moments, prodding about necklines and waistlines. Tain also taunts Odo over a feigned wounded ego.

TAIN: Cunning, isn't he? He makes a racial slur within earshot of two Romulans, putting me in the position of either defending them, thus giving away my allegiance to them, or letting the comment pass, in which case he's managed to plant a seed of discord between us.
ODO: Frankly, I don't find any of this interesting. You both go to such lengths to hide the true meaning of your words you end up saying nothing.
TAIN: I think you'll find when I have something to say, you won't have any trouble understanding it.

Chilling. Speaking of which, Odo pieces together Tain's plan. The Obsidian Order and Tal Shiar will make a pre-emptive strike against the Dominion. Tain name-drops Orios, where those OO ships cornered the Defiant in...”Defiant.” Tain is quite confident—over-confident, in fact—that his plan to destroy the Founders' homeworld will stave off any threat of Dominion retaliation. Eh...this seems a touch specious. The Changelings definitely rule with an iron fist, but those Jem'Hadar and Vorta aren't likely to just shrug off their annihilation.

Anyway, Garak has an important question for Tain: how do you justify turning this minor mystery into a grand two-parter? Tain had his former protégés murdered (all but one obviously) in order to protect his legacy when, after completing his glorious mission, he exited retirement. This is also a touch flimsy, but he scintillating performance between Dooley, Robinson and Auberjonois makes it hard to care. Case in point, Garak's “I never betrayed you!” is delivered with unusual tumult for the tailor. A heart-breaking reveal of deep emotions.

Tain releases Garak, from the ship and from his death-sentence, but Odo has to remain. Ah, but Tain has another offer—Garak may rejoin his mentor and rejoin the Order. Right now. Odo tries to warn Garak away from this temptation, but Garak simply can't resist.

Episode as Functionary : ****, 10%

The last episode to really utilise Odo as an investigator was “Necessary Evil,” more than a season prior. There, his persona, I wrote, “as the neutral observer, cold investigator and un-relatable alien is cracked open.” This veneer is revealed to be quite fragile. Later, in “The Search,” Resusci Anne explained to the shapeshifter that his personal ethos was inherited from his people: “What you can control can't hurt you.” His pursuit for “justice” (order) consumes him because this is the only way he can define himself in relationship to the those around him.

“The Wire,” despite withholding many details about Garak's past (as does this episode), provided some similar key insights into his character: his personality is compartmentalised into various conflicting agendas, held together by ingenious but ultimately futile lies. The boy who cried “wolf,” indeed.

So bringing together the rigid shapeshifter, who is so practised at the art of sorting through humanoid lies in his attempt to put the universe in good order, and the elusive spy, who so practised at lying no one ever suspects him of being entirely truthful, is kind of genius. Their verbal sparring, enjoyable in its own right, drives the plot and slowly wedges the characters open for deeper analysis throughout the piece.

Overall, the story plays like a more refined version of “The Wire,” replacing a compelling medical mystery with a murder mystery (which is solved). However, the ending, as I think most of us know now, is the result of a late decision to expand this story to deal with the Dominion plot, which only really surfaced once in “Heart of Stone” since the beginning of the season. We shall see how “The Die Is Cast” deals with these threads, but the only real flaw I can discern in this story is the ending whose seams with the expanded story are visible. This by no means ruins anything—the episode is masterful, rivalling the very best this series has ever offered.

Th’ abuse of greatness is when it disjoins
Remorse from power. And, to speak truth of Caesar,
I have not known when his affections swayed
More than his reason. But ’tis a common proof
That lowliness is young ambition’s ladder.

Final Score : ****
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Elliott
Tue, Oct 16, 2018, 10:03pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: General Discussion

@Peter G

I don't want to go too far down the rabbit hole until I've actually watched the full season, but looking at TLJ, the most compelling characters are both men, Luke and Kylo, and those characters are both extremely grey. And I think Po and Finn are portrayed very heroically, just flawed. I think certain people reacted very viscerally to the Holdo character and let that resentment bleed over onto the rest of the film. It's disheartening. Anyway, at some point I'll hopeful have something more insightful to add about Discovery.
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Elliott
Tue, Oct 16, 2018, 9:56pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S3: Through the Looking Glass

@Peter G :

As I said in my Functionary section, I would have been fine if the writers had glossed over this point in any of the ways you and William B, suggested--all of those are fine options (not perfect, but acceptable). But they boxed themselves into a corner here, where the only way to arrive at such conclusions is to ignore the text of the episode:

SISKO: I'm sorry, but you're going to have to find someone else. I don't belong here and I'm not about to interfere with events going on in this universe.

... O'Brien explains the premise about Jennifer ...

O'BRIEN: Unless you can persuade Professor Sisko to join our cause, we'll have no choice but to kill her.
SISKO: Kill her?
O'BRIEN: We cannot let her finish the sensor array. It'd mean the end of the rebellion.
SISKO: I can't let her die. Not again.

There is only one reason why Sisko chooses to stay, and that's to save mirror-Jennifer. I didn't write this show, and I don't go looking for reasons to hate on Sisko. I'd really prefer to be presented an episode where he isn't written like a complete douchebag, frankly. It hasn't really happened this season.
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Elliott
Tue, Oct 16, 2018, 6:52pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S3: Through the Looking Glass

@William B

I think I agree with you as well—

I don’t have a problem patching up an episode when it messes up details or plays fast and loose with continuity (as I think I’ve proven in these reviews). It’s just that this episode in no way purchases that effort from me. Either something more clear cut about motivation/justification needed to be spelled out in act 1 (this could even have been Smiley convincing Sisko that the Terran cause was worth violating the PD, but instead, it’s *only* the Jennifer issue which moves him), or Sisko needed to proceed through the episode displaying an emotional state other than elation while larping about the MU. If he showed some regret or mixed feelings instead of enjoying the afterglow with Dax or being all yippee ki yay in act 5, I would be willing to cobble together some sort of excuse for his behaviour—at least partially. But the episode makes no effort in this regard. The audience is expected not to even consider the morality, I guess.
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Elliott
Tue, Oct 16, 2018, 5:46pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Prime Factors

@Iceman

There are worse ways to spend one’s time, or waste one’s life.
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Elliott
Tue, Oct 16, 2018, 5:45pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: General Discussion

@Josh:

I haven’t seen all of discovery yet, but based on the ridiculous fanboy rage against The Last Jedi, I’m pretty sure “SJW” is just code for “writers who put women in positions of authority.”
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Elliott
Tue, Oct 16, 2018, 1:31pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S3: Through the Looking Glass

@Chrome:

I thought I was pretty clear about this. The ground state for Starfleet officers is to always do the right thing. Now, sometimes morally grey issues arise and the right thing is in conflict with protocol, so a good officer might bend or even break the rules to follow his conscience. And sometimes, an officer might be so traumatised by an experience that he is unable to do the right thing. But in this episode, Sisko's only motivation for doing a blatantly unethical thing is that he wants to see Jennifer. On the one hand, the reasoning behind this is so wishy-washy that I'm still not clear what the intended line of thinking even was. Did he want to say goodbye? But, the only way to justify this behaviour is to say that Sisko is (suddenly) so broken up over Jennifer's death 5 years ago that he isn't fit to serve. But even this is completely undermined by Sisko's attitude throughout the episode which is basically, "Hey this is fun! Shooting things, making out with all the ladies!" Nothing about this reads like a man desperate for a reunion with this wife, which again, would only justify his actions on an emotional level, and *not* on a professional level.

As to your second point, actually Smiley didn't realise P-Sisko was married to or even knew P-Jennifer. He just wanted SIsko to take M-Sisko's place and pretend.
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Elliott
Tue, Oct 16, 2018, 12:11pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S3: Through the Looking Glass

SFDebris notes in some of his reviews that comedy outings often lead to the most disparate ratings by the audience. What is funny is perhaps more subjective that other affects attempted by Trek. And I have to agree that if something is mindless, but hilarious and entertaining, one can excuse the flaws—this is why I don't object to holodeck malfunction stories outright. However, “Mirror, Mirror” and “Crossover” have firmly established the MU to be a place to be taken seriously as far as the concepts and the characters are concerned. Yes, there is going to over-the-top goofiness—that's part of the charm—but we haven't been asked to turn our brains off. Both episodes are essentially Prime Directive stories which ask us to consider the effects of revolution, evolution and the human condition. Alright, let's get into this.

Teaser : ***, 5%

In a callback to “Playing God,” Odo has discovered a new vole infestation on the station. Quark had taken the economic opportunity to start staging vole fights, something the Cardassians used to do. On his way out of Ops, Sisko is greeted by O'Brien, dressed in civies and without his combadge. And sure enough, Miles pulls a gun on Sisko and orders him onto the transporter pad. Miles joins him him and waves another standard issue tech dildo over the controls before ordering the computer to energise.

The pair find themselves aboard a vessel and O'Brien says they've “stepped through the looking glass.” Good thing Terran slaves were taught the classics in those Bajoran mines, am I right?

Act 1 : zero stars, 17%

So, now that he's been successfully kidnapped, NOW, Sisko The Fist pulls a little move and takes Smiley (Mirror O'Brien)'s gun off him. Sisko, thankfully, knows exactly where he is, so we don't have to sit through too much exposition. Smiley informs him that, since “Crossover,” the Terrans have started a rebellion against the Alliance. Also, M-Sisko has died, I assume from space-ghonorrea. Smiley wants P-Sisko to take his place, temporarily, to complete a vital mission. At first, Sisko refuses to interfere—thank the Prophets for small miracles. However, it turns out that in the MU, Jennifer Sisko (yes, Sisko) is an important Terran scientist who is close to completing a sensor array which will expose the resistance, who are amusingly hiding in the Badlands, just like the Maquis in the PU. M-Sisko was convinced he could turn her to the cause. Smiley pulls out Felicia Bell's headshot, because of course the Terrans have photographs, and the image of his dead wife hits Sisko like a ton of bricks. Smiley tells Sisko that unless he convinces Jennifer to turn, the resistance will have to kill her.



….....

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sisko, feckless blob of pseudo-Starfleet garbage that he is, insists that he can't let her die “again,” and so agrees to help Smiley. I won't go on another enormous Sisko rant here. I don't need to. But THIS is the moment; from THIS point forward, Sisko has absolutely no moral authority to fall back on, not when he berates Eddington, not when he chastises Dukat, not when he makes his deleted confession—at this point, Benjamin Sisko has proven himself to be a man who will do whatever he wants whenever he the fuck he feels like it, regulations, ethics, and basic human decency be damned. It's over. He's not a hero; he's a Starfleet officer in title only. I'm done.

Intendant Kira, meanwhile, is broadcasting her bisexuality, because, hey it's the Mirror Universe, so non-heteronormativity can be written off as moral corruption, right? Professor Jennifer Sisko delivers her report about the sensor thingy, but M-Kira just wants to let her know that her pirate husband has died. Felicia Bell's performance here isn't quite the dreck it was in “Emissary,” perhaps because the dialogue isn't so impossible, but it's still rather wooden. What we do learn from the scene is that Jennifer has agreed to create the sensor in order to prevent more Terran deaths, by giving the Alliance an advantage which will end the conflict.

Meanwhile, Smiley continues to update Sisko before beaming them both onto a Rebel base. Hoooooly fuck. Well, what do we find here among the flimsily disguised Star Wars props and standby Trek cave set but Alexander Siddig delivering his worst performance since “The Passenger”? M-Bashir's little tirade is mercifully cut short by comments from M-Rom and....M-Tuvok? Heh. I guess that's why the call it “Crossover!” Wait...

M-Bashir wants to assassinate the Intendant, which is a plan I can get behind. Blow up the whole damned Universe while you're at it. M-Tuvok is typically skeptical, but then Smiley and Sisko show up to try and upstage this little circus. Well, thankfully Smiley spent his time so far coaching Sisko on how to act like his counterpart, which means turning the dial up to 11 on the Avery-Brooks-is-really-bad-at-this metre. This scene drags on, and on, and on, with M-Tuvok and Smiley providing momentary respites of sanity amongst the painful dialogue and hokey acting. Oh, and I forogt M-Jadzia is here, too. She plants a big kiss on Sisko before slapping him and demanding he fuck her.

Um. I...

Act 2 : *, 17%

Whelp, I guess we're doing this thing. Sisko makes minimal effort to get out of sex with M-Jadzia before deciding that he's going to go through with this. So, the sight of his dead wife's face—even though he knows it isn't his Jennifer—is enough to convince Sisko that he just has to get involved here, but somehow, he has no compunctions, let alone personal reservations about fucking his best friend. What. An. Ass.

Meanwhile, the Intendant is berating Gworfrak about worker quotas or whatever. She has three Terrans randomly executed to keep the rest “motivated.” Grotesque. Apparently, M-Kira is upset by the death of her favourite concubine, which he notes, but promises that the completion of Jennifer's sensor array will CRUSH THE REBELLION. Oh...if only they let Robinson do a Peter Cushing impression. I bet he could handle it.

Anyway, post-coital M-Jadzia is a bit pessimistic. She notes that a year of resisting the Alliance hasn't accomplished much. She wants to run away with Sisko and give up on this little venture altogether. We are treated to another round of Sisko-on-the-pulpit as he demands better ideas from his people on how to infiltrate Terrak Nor. I don't know if this is Winrich Kolbe's fault, or if Brooks just insisted on this method and the rest of the cast felt they needed to dial everything up to match his energy or what, but I swear to god, N-Bashir's gravelly posturing makes the Ferengi in “The Last Outpost”--who acted like excitable gerbils, remember—look positively subtle. I'm not kidding. This is horrendous. Smiley tells Sisko hit M-Bashir in the face. Oh yeah, that's a stretch for our Sisko, isn't it? Oh, and Sisko calls M-Jadzia “Dax,” which I thought would expose him to these people as a fraud, but I guess, somehow, the Trill are still joining hosts and symbionts in this hellscape universe and Jadzia has *also* been given the Dax symbiont. Does that mean M-Curzon and M-Sisko were old friends, too? Because that adds a whole other layer of creepy to her relationship with Sisko, here. The only thing these people seem to agree on is that it would be a lot easier to just kill Jennifer than to capture and turn her. Only Smiley insists that it would be to their benefit to have a brilliant scientist on their side.

In the next scene, M-Rom—a double agent it turns out—reports to the Intendant that Captain Nobeard is alive and well. M-Kira can't help but be pleased with the news and determines to “get her hands on him.” [shudder]

Act 3 : **.5, 17%

Something is itching Smiley's scalp, and Sisko is really enjoying letting his inner asshole dangle about, all pink and naked in a Universe which expects this behaviour of him. The episode pretends to get serious for a moment, with Sisko admitting he has a lot of feelings going into this meeting with Jennifer. Yeah. Maybe he taped that photograph to the back of M-Dax' head when he was ploughing her yesterday. For the feels. We get a little more backstory on the MU—like the P-Bajorans, some Terrans are born to a privileged cast which allows them to hold positions of relative freedom by collaborating with the Alliance. We also learn than P-Jennifer was incredibly kind and caring. Yeah. That's informative, deep cut there, Sisko.

Their ship is met by a cloaked Klingon vessel which delivers the pair straight to Terrak Nor. Sisko locks lips with the Intendant immediately, presumably on Smiley's advice. I will say, Garworf's expression during their disgusting little display is priceless. M-Kira reminds Smiley of his own backstory, undoing the good will from the beginning of the episode by providing exposition to events we all already knew, presuming we didn't need the exposition to begin with. She sends him to ore-processing, which is damned lucky as I would expect her to have him killed immediately. Sisko, meanwhile, is quite certain he's off to go screw another lady and accompanies M-Kira to her quarters. M-Kira is surprisingly thoughtful in deciding how to deal with Sisko. Her ego clearly wants him to repent and pledge his loyalty and his penis to her, but, thankfully, there's a glimmer of shrewdness peaking through which reminds her she should probably just kill him.

For absolutely no reason, Jennifer is brought in to chat with Sisko, per his request. Yeah. That seems reasonable. She considers this rebellion just another fools' errand in a long string of self-serving M-Sisko adventures. So clearly, her opinion of her people's political future is clouded by her personal history with her husband. One thing I admit I like about this episode is the framing of Jennifer (performance issues aside). She is relatively privileged—still a slave, but comfortable. This privilege inoculates her against the natural dialectical necessity for her people to rebel against the established power. This is a paradigm we see all the time, where a small but influential middle class chastises the working classes for disrupting their routine in an effort to overthrow the ruling class. In some ways, the actions of this group are more reprehensible than the actual oppressors.

Act 4 : *, 17%

Anyway, Sisko wants Jennifer to join the cause, but she notes that he has no credibility to be making ethical arguments. Talk about ironic. Sisko tries the “I've changed” angle, which of course fails. Jennifer is certain he's just playing games but Sisko seems to want to make amends for his counterpart's mistakes, and for a moment, you forget how stupid this all is. Finally, Sisko is able to convince Jennifer that she has allowed her anger at her husband to cloud her judgement and blind her to the reality of her situation.

Sisko taps his ear, which gives Smiley an itch and he starts futzing with panels in the ore-processing centre. Sisko all too easily takes down the two Klingon guards outside his room and Jennifer agrees to join the rebellion. This unearned character evolution brought to you by Cliché Dialogue Formula #17:

JENNIFER: All right. But lets get one thing clear.
SISKO: What's that?
JENNIFER: I still hate you.

Blegh. Oh, did I say contrived? Well, not only did Sisko and Smiley end up being taken *exactly* where they wanted to be against all reason, not only was Jennifer brought alone to Sisko's quarters against all reason, but when Smiley is caught tinkering by a Cardassian guard, the guard not only doesn't shoot him (against all reason), but crouches down low so that Smiley can punch him in the face, steal his weapon and free all the slaves. Jesus Christ.

So, Sisko does his double-gunned Die Hard shtick through the corridors, until he, Jennifer and the other Terrans re-unite and head towards the airlock. Ah, but M-Rom—who was actually a triple agent, I guess—is found, stabbed to the door like the 99 Theses and the ship quite gone.

Act 5 : .5 stars, 17%

So the chase resumes until the Intendant corners the rebels. Jennifer suggest offering a trade; if she stays behind, maybe the rebels will be let go, but Sisko won't have it. Jennifer is incredulous, but no time for that, it's time for another unintentional bit of hilarity with Robinson's absurd “PURSUE!!!!!” command. Hoy boy...well it looks like the rebels have escaped into the garbage shoot, I mean the mines. So Sisko holds them all up in the mine, but Sisko has a brilliant scheme up his sleeve. We get another Star Wars line from Kira, until finally the Alliance forces storm inside and we get a rehash of the finale from “Crossover.” So, Sisko has been able to activate the station's self-destruct—get this—because the Cardassian architect in the PU used the exact same code here in the MU, and we all know that the architect is one who chooses military access codes. Well, under threat of imminent death, M-Kira agrees to let the Terrans escape.

That anti-climax out of the way, we find ourselves back at the rebel base where Jennifer and Dax are commiserating, a scene lifted straight out of “Conundrum.” Sisko says he's going to try and get the Romulans to help in the fight (just kill one of their senators), but Jennifer has figured out who Sisko really is. The expected beats of their goodbye drag on for a bit before Smiley sends Sisko home.

Episode as Functionary : .5 stars, 10%

That was one of the most unpleasant episodes of Star Trek I can remember sitting through in a while. I can mostly overlook the absurd plot contrivances and the unsubtle characterisation of the mirror characters, but there's very little about this story that is entertaining. The only good elements are 1. Smiley is well-realised and there seems to actually be a point in him existing in this universe, following through with his development in “Crossover,” 2. the brief appearance of M-Tuvok is just whimsical enough to feel right, and 3. the discussion of class dynamics between Jennifer and Ben hits on some good themes, although this is material we've already covered at length in episodes like “The Collaborator.”

Besides that, most of the scenes are excruciating to sit through, and, even for a character as morally-bankrupt as Sisko has already been shown to be, this is nothing less than character assassination. I don't look up to Sisko, and even I'm appalled by his behaviour here. I don't understand how anyone who actually looks up to him doesn't feel betrayed by this story. Sigh...if we had had any indication that Sisko had regrets about his relationship with P-Jennifer (besides the fact that she died), and/or Smiley had incentivised Sisko to act (kidnap Jake?), some of this could have been glossed over, but the episode is quite deliberate in its characterisation; we are meant to see Sisko as a man who will ignore his duties, his alleged principles, and basic morality (see issues with M-Dax) to get what he wants, which is a chance to chat with this wife's dopplgänger, I guess—although it's never really made clear *what* is motivating him. The episode doesn't even have the moral fibre to portray Sisko as someone reluctantly going along with this madness, doing a hard thing because he thinks he has to. Instead, he's portrayed as having a grand ol' time, punching Bashir, fucking Dax, messing with Kira and joking with Smiley. It's absolutely revolting.

Final Score : *
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Elliott
Tue, Oct 16, 2018, 8:24am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: State of Flux

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

After having his dreams of re-uniting with his wife and kids dashed in last week's climax, Lt Carey is very enthusiastic about discovering some sort of alien apples on an unnamed planet. Now, this may seem ridiculous, but we are reminded quickly enough that the crew has had to endure the lethe that is daily meals in Neelix' kitchen. A sweet apple would probably, and appropriately, taste like paradise. And speaking of, Hell's chef is quick to point out that these particular apples are horrifically poisonous. Chakotay cuts him off before describing the way in which they will cause your dick to fall off (I'm not kidding), and consents to try a Leola root instead. After one bite, Chakotay is insulted by the idea that the disgusting vegetable is only reason the crew is scouting this planet.

Meanwhile, Paris notices an odd reading in orbit with the Voyager, but the sensors can't get a clear reading for some reason. To play it safe, Janeway orders the away teams return to the Voyager. Tuvok is finally able to use a torpedo or something to identify the vessel—Kazon. Ah...the space hobos are back! Seska is missing, and so Chakotay resolves to find her while the rest beam back to the ship. He tracks her to a cave where he observes several Kazon milling about. Finally, he runs into Seska, who had picked some mushrooms before being cornered by these Kazon. There's an exchange of phaser and Chakotay is injured before Seska is able to clear their path. So, right off the bat, the lingering problem characters from “Prime Factors” are introduced to the story, along with the villains from the pilot. Chakotay, who never had a chance to weigh in on the goings on last week is also being featured. The music is good...it's a promising start.

Act 1 : ***.5, 17%

Janeway's logs inform us that the pair managed to return to the ship without further incident, and that the Voyager escaped the planet without conflict. In his quarters, Chakotay is inscribing that one ubiquitous Indian symbol onto a piece of shale or something when Seska lets herself in. She's taken the liberty to make him a pot of mushroom soup from the supply she collected. Neelix wanted to stretch their supply with Leola root, leading to a little story of Maquis insurrection. Chakotay is all chuckles and grateful spoonfuls of soup right up until the point that Seska reveals that she and another former Maquis actually stole the mushrooms from the kitchen. Chakotay is incensed, and right on cue Neelix calls, complete with recommendations on punishment for the conspirators. Chakotay continues his Neelix theme of cutting him off mid-sentence and ignoring him, thankfully. Chakotay determines to punish Seska, the other Maquis and himself by suspending replicator privileges. Seksa—master manipulator that we've learned she is—gets very close to the XO, eluding to a casual, but amiable sexual relationship the two had before being stuck in the DQ. All of this—the minor infraction involving old allegiances, the callbacks to a relationship that defined a life before being re-conscripted into Starfleet, and the cocky, mischievous disregard for the rules—all of this points to the fact that Seska and perhaps a few others are wont to let go of the pointless divisions which so many seem to want this series to be about. More on this later. For the time being, Seska coyly threatens to bang Harry instead. Yeah...good luck with that one.

Janeway calls the senior staff to the bridge to observe a Kazon distress call. Neelix points out that this sect, called the Nistrim, is especially violent. I wonder if they know how to make water. Janeway, on the other hand, sees that responding to the call could help them make an ally (this is a different sect than the one in “Caretaker”), besides being the right thing to do, of course.

So, Chakotay leads an away team to the damaged Nistrim vessel and, in keeping with Voyager's penchant for effective horror, we see that several Kazon have been melted directly into the bulkheads of the ship. Wonderfully disgusting. There's some sort of crazy radiation in the area, as well as one living Kazon whom they beam to the Voyager. Tuvok and Torres examine a device whose tech tech is almost certainly Federation in origin. Hmm.

The EMH reports to Janeway; the Kazon survivor has been chemically fused to parts of their ship. Tuvok and Chakotay deliver even more disturbing news regarding the Federation tech, and the radiation levels are too high to attempt transport. Tuvok—in his wonderfully Vulcan way—concludes that, among only a few options, only one explanation as to how the Kazon obtained this tech is likely; someone on the Voyager gave it to them. Kate Mulgrew gives us a performance reminiscent of some of her scenes in “Caretaker,” displaying an almost panicked concern. This is consistent with the Janeway who is trying to cope with command crises that aren't about science (her field), or personal relationships. Tuvok corroborates his theory by pointing out how the Kazon vessel over Planet Mushroom Soup was able to evade the Voyager's sensors, suggesting the ship had some of their access codes. Seska is immediately considered a suspect as (one of) the saboteur(s), but Chakotay points out that at least a dozen people would have had the ability to make contact with the Kazon. Overall, the scene is well-handled and directed. While just last week, Janeway was feeling a little more comfortable and pleased with crew morale, now she is having covert conversations with her first and second officers in the elevator, realising that someone within their midst may be betraying them all.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

In Engineering, Seska, Carey and Torres volley some technobabble solutions around for retrieving the tech. We get a small moment for Torres where she informs Janeway that, in flagrant violation of Starfleet tradition going back at least 85 years, she doesn't exaggerate her timetables to the captain. Torres organises a team, but Chakotay pulls Seska off the team because of the suspicion Tuvok has on her. He tells her—genuinely—that he pulled her off to keep her away from the action, to provide her an alibi, essentially. She's not exactly grateful to him. Seska stops in to sickbay briefly to check on the status of the Kazon patient, claiming his testimony is the only thing that can exonerate her. Before she exits, Kes asks after the fact that Seska never got around to providing them a blood sample for their records (Kes is checking the crew for blood donors for the Kazon). Apparently, Seska's blood was tainted as a child of the Occupation. Mhm.

In the ready room, Tuvok confirms that a covert signal was indeed sent from the Voyager by someone in Engineering. Another Nistrim ship is approaching the distressed one, and only a few hours away from it and the Voyager. Before Janeway can even deal with that, Kim informs them that Seska has taken it upon herself to retrieve the Federation tech on her own. Why is still unclear—we have seen her, three times now, show little regard for Federation protocol or Starfleet command structures, but each time, she had a reason, an honest motivation. Chakotay sees this situation as similar, having witnessed her react to him divulge the suspicion on her. Tuvok, of course, suspects that she may be trying to cover her tracks. Well, it quickly becomes rather moot as we hear a scream indicating she had an accident on the Kazon ship. She's beamed to sickbay, where we see she's been severely burnt.

Act 3 : ***, 17%

Carey is brought before the command trio in the ready room where he's questioned. Janeway follows up on the events of “Parallax,” concerned that Carey may be having troubling accepting Torres as his superior. Tuvok asks directly whether he has contacted the Nistrim. It turns out that the signal to the Kazon was sent from Carey's workstation in Engineering. It's difficult to assess so long after broadcast if a mystery like this holds up, but the show has provided us a couple of reasons, in two episodes so far, why Carey might actually be the traitor: first was the incident in “Parallax.” We saw him and Torres put their differences aside, but it can't have ingratiated him to Janeway to be denied a command I'm sure he feels he deserves. Then in “Prime Factors,” we saw that he was again willing to defy the chain of command if it meant getting home to his family. We don't know much about the Kazon at this point—it is still possible for Carey to be the guilty party. For now, Janeway restricts him to quarters. Chakotay sums things up nicely:

JANEWAY: What do you think?
CHAKOTAY: He had the motive and the opportunity.
JANEWAY: He's also had a distinguished Starfleet career. Seska has spent most of the last two years as an enemy of the Federation.
CHAKOTAY: So have I.

Meanwhile, the other Nistrim ship arrives, commanded by a man called Caligula, or whatever. He insists on being allowed to see his crewman in the Voyager's sickbay. Before long, she brings him and an aide to the patient. The EMH and Janeway explain how volunteers from the Voyager provided donor blood to the man to save his life. Janeway is forthright with Caligula, refusing to release the ship him until they have concluded their investigation. Well, the Kazon are so grateful to the crew for saving the patient's life that they kill him with a poisoned needle. Janeway of course, has Caligula locked up in the brig whe...no, no, she tells him to get off her ship. Huh?

Well, that stupidity aside, the EMH and Kes report to Janeway about the oddities in Seska's blood, now that they have had a chance to examine it. It turns out she's actually a Cardassian. Yikes.

Act 4 : **.5, 17%

Tuvok suspects that Seska infiltrated the Maquis to spy on them, but Chakotay can't believe it. Best line of the episode is definitely :

CHAKOTAY to TUVOK: You were working for her. Seska was working for them. Was anyone on board that ship working for me?

Caligula hails, angered about Torres and her away team having returned to the other ship for their salvage operation. Janeway's finally had enough of his bullshit, flat-out threatening to destroy him if he doesn't knock it off. Amusingly, when Janeway calls Torres to let her know there's a ticking clock (those approaching Kazon reinforcements), the engineers have already completed their salvage and beamed back to the Voyager. That's a cute way to subvert clichés. Janeway is impressed.

Well, irony of ironies considering this all started when that poisoned apple fell, the mystery tech turns out to be a food-replicator, and it definitely came from the Voyager, since it contains those gooey bits unique to her (see “Caretaker”). Side-note, so a replicator, benign tech that it is, will turn you and your comrades into a horror show of melted flesh if your interior shield casing isn't thick enough. Got to love the future.

Meanwhile, Chakotay confront Seska in sickbay. He tells her about the replicator and asks her what she was trying to accomplish. She has an explanation about that Cardassian blood—a bone marrow transplant that she received as a child. While Beltran and Hackett pour their hearts into this scene, it falls pretty flat for me, and we can pretty much trace this back to the underlying problem with the Maquis. Without the sophistic web of bullshit surrounding their motivations, *and* the still unexplained motivations of the Cardassian paramilitary in the DMZ, there just isn't any there there regarding their conflict. Seska tells Chakotay that his Maquis secrets wouldn't be worth the effort for a Cardassian agent. And, well, yeah. What a fucking waste of time that would be! And so, the scene relies entirely on the actors' chemistry—which is good, don't get me wrong—but there isn't a lot of staying power to it, unlike other relationships we've seen.

Chakotay reveals that they're close to solving the mystery, reassuring her that they'll clear this issue up soon. Outside, Tuvok confirms that this chat was Chakotay setting a trap for Seska, a process which Tuvok mirrored with Carey.

Act 5 : **, 17%

Tuvok and Chakotay are playing gin, which is sort of fun, when someone sets off the trap. Someone is falsifying evidence—poorly. It appears that Carey is trying to frame Seska for the crime. Ah, but Chakotay quickly reveals that he knows the truth. He awakens Seska in sickbay to let her know that she's been caught. He explains the trap to her, which is sort of tedious. The scene is finally rescued by Robert Picardo who is activated and explains that he is certain—in a way only a medical genius like himself could be—that she is indeed Cardassian. Chakotay finally asks her outright why she did it.

SESKA: I did it for you. I did it for this crew. We are alone here, at the mercy of any number of hostile aliens, because of the incomprehensible decision of a Federation Captain. A Federation Captain who destroyed our only chance to get home. Federation rules. Federation nobility. Federation compassion? Do you understand, if this had been a Cardassian ship, we would be home now.

She has a point, which is good—bad guys should never be strawmen. But the point is, we already knew this. It's not a mystery that Janeway could have gotten them all alone in “Caretaker.” The only thing which makes her decision there “incomprehensible” is the lack of a moral centre. It would have been good to have Kes in this scene, so Seska could look her in the eye and tell her her people deserved to have the Kazon enslave them so that Seska could be home right now. She gets in some clichéd closing lines before executing a command which transports her to the Kazon ship. Well, good thing she planned on getting caught when they were so close by. Yeah...With the approaching reinforcements, Janeway is forced to let her go, I guess.

In the epilogue, Chakotay asks Tuvok for a little tough love. Tuvok earns the second-best line of the episode:

TUVOK: The demands on a Vulcan's character are extraordinarily difficult. Do not mistake composure for ease. How may I be honest with you today?

The Vulcan points out that, like all humans, our emotions are what make us susceptible to deception and errors, but admits that Seska was able to fool him just as easily. Chakotay is comforted by this. Emotions are weird.

Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

Isn't it interesting how Seska's values as a Cardassian spy (OO?) made her gel so well with her Maquis compatriots? Without those mean Cardassians to fight, B'Elanna found herself questioning the kind of rudderless antiauthoritarianism which bound the two women together in friendship. In this episode, Chakotay is at first lured by fond memories and “strictly Maquis operations.” In “The Maquis,” I touched on the idea that, lacking a clearly-realised motivation, the individual Maquis we get to know, like Cal Hudson, end up living out hyper-Romanticised fantasies. Kira took Thomas Riker to task for this very folly in “Defiant,” and (spoiler) Michael Eddington will prove to be the most Romantic figure of the movement. Seska has clearly preyed on these kinds of emotions in order to nestle herself within their ranks. Now, on the Voyager, with the ostensible purpose for the Maquis existing slipping further and further away from daily life, it is Seska who plays up Holden Caulfield snubbing of authority in order to keep the crew divided. Her efforts undermine the progress Janeway is beginning to make in establishing a Starfleet ethos amongst the crew. Unfortunately, this episode rushes her development and fails to give her a purpose. Yes, she is clearly motivated by philosophical differences with Starfleet and Janeway in particular, but what exactly is her goal, here? Did she think giving the Kazon replicators would stave off their attacks? Is that why we haven't seen them since the pilot? Well, that didn't prevent Chakotay from getting shot, did it? For proving to be such a master spy, this whole scheme seems poorly thought out. I would have preferred Seska remain aboard, hiding in plain sight, for longer.

The Kazon were put to okay use here, especially as a looming space-submarine threat in the opening acts. Caligula receives no particular characterisation, which is kind of a let down. The main characters fare better, especially Tuvok and Chakotay, whose conflicting personalities and agendas from “Caretaker” are effectively set in parallel without losing their defining qualities. For his part, Chakotay seems to realise that he needs to stop treating his former crew like they're still Maquis; all this does is invite discord and create opportunities for their enemies. They had better resolve these lingering Maquis issues soon, because the underlying problems with their conception will continue to plague the series until they do.

Final Score : ***
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Elliott
Tue, Oct 16, 2018, 8:20am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Prime Factors

This is true, but I feel that the star ratings do kind of work that way: 3.5 is a variant of 3 stars (so good, it's excellent), 2.5 is a variant of 2 stars (not just watchable, but entertaining), 1.5 to 1 star (annoying, but not quite terrible). The integer ratings are like letter grades, and the half stars like +/- modifiers. That's why I give x/10 ratings as well in the recaps.
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Elliott
Mon, Oct 15, 2018, 8:35pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Prime Factors

@Wiliam B

I stated that wrong--3.3-3.74 stars rounds to 3.5 stars. Hence why this and "Visionary" at 3.27 and 3.28 respectively score 3 stars.

0-.2999 = 0
.3 - .74 = .5
.75 - 1.2999 = 1
1.3 - 1.77 = 1.5
etc.
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Elliott
Mon, Oct 15, 2018, 8:26pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Prime Factors

Oy--rounds to 3 stars, obviously.
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Mon, Oct 15, 2018, 8:25pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Prime Factors

@William B

Lol--It is indeed a 3.27, which for me rounds to **.5 stars. I only bump up to 3 when there's a third decimal place above 4. I know it's super nit-picky, but I wanted to be consistent with the rest of the episodes I've reviewed. The only 3-star I've done so far which ranks higher (by like 1/100 of a star) is "Visionary." It's right on the border.

We're all nerds here :)
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Elliott
Mon, Oct 15, 2018, 2:43pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S3: Distant Voices

Teaser : **.5, 5%

As in “Past Tense,” I should confess that this episode has personal significance for me—I turned 30 this past January, and many of the themes ahead hit uncomfortably close to home.

Anyway, Bashir and Garak are having another one of their little dates when Garak offers his paramour an early birthday present, a Cardassian Enigma Tale. Like the Repetitive Epic, from “The Wire,” Bashir expresses a certain...lack of interest in the genre. Garak just sighs at Bashir's alleged anthropocentrism—Enigma Tales are equally predictable in terms of motive (everyone who goes against the state is guilty). He asks about the surprise party Dax is certain to be throwing for him. This is unfortunate as Dax has been pretty poorly handled most of this season and reminding us of her party-girl persona isn't exactly helpful. Bashir comments that he's not looking forward to his upcoming 30th birthday, a customary reminder (for humans) of one's inevitable march to middle age. Yeah...I have to admit, I've spent many a morning this past year counting the new grey hairs appearing on my head. As in “Prophet Motive,” Bashir self-consciously chooses to be grumpy about the whole affair, when Quark arrives at their table with a Lethian in tow.

The Lethian wants to purchase biomemetic gel (that nasty stuff from “Pre-emptive Strike” which is both highly dangerous and perfectly legal). Apparently, the Federation has since updated its hazard restrictions and Bashir disappoints the Lethian when he refuses to help him. The Lethian (who speaks as though he's extremely constipated) is quite insistent, telling the doctor to name his price. Quark apologises to Garak, which is...erm...

Later, Bashir catches the Lethian weeding through his stores in the infirmary and the Lethian attacks the doctor with some sort of electrical attack on his brain.

Act 1 : ***, 17%

Bashir awakens to find the station lights flickering, his laboratory a mess, the computer terminals inoperable and the communication system non-responsive. Adding to this weirdness are some distant voices...ahem...incoherently mumbling. Bashir notes his own temples starting to grey in a mirror when he hears noises coming from Quark's dishevelled bar. Quark himself is terrified, cowering in a corner and quite uncharacteristically panicked, unable to move for fear of being killed by the Lethian, we assume. Quark makes a run for it and Bashir finds himself alone again. But just for a moment, a noise brings him into Odo's office where he's confronted by Garak. Garak...is full of speculations about what may have happened to the rest of the people on DS9—viruses, Dominion nonsense, etc. More distant voices—which only Bashir can discern. Garak also notes that Bashir is greying rather quickly. They agree to split up in search for clues, after arming themselves. As Bashir searches corridors, he finds himself suddenly trapped by a forcefield and approaching darkness. Although there's very little going on, what helps tremendously here is the musical score which is unusually expressive and interesting for its era.

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

Finally, Bashir is able to board a turbolift, nearly being mauled by the Lethian in the process. He slumps, exhausted, while the Lethian tries to invade the lift from the ceiling. Hmm. Bashir ends up in the wardroom whence the distant voices of much of the senior staff are echoing. Bashir finds Kira, Odo, Dax and O'Brien within arguing incessantly over how to deal with the crisis. Like Quark and Garak, none of these people are acting normally, either. Dax is (unconvincingly) hostile, O'Brien is pessimistic and defeated, Kira is a ball of rage, and Odo is highly suspicious of everyone else...okay, so maybe those two are acting normally. Bashir is savvy to the odd behaviour and tries to get the computer to scan them all, but of course, it isn't working. Dax notes Bashir's appearance, but there are those voices again. Amusingly, he name-drops some possible Trek-explanations for his condition: a virus (“The Naked Now”), a subspace anomaly (“Night Terrors”), a neural inversion field (“Man of the People”), and an anaphasic parasite (“Phantasms”).

The crew continue to bicker with their odd behaviours intersecting uncomfortably. Bashir is able to get the squabbling quartet to attempt to repair a power junction nearby. O'Brien believes all he can manage is to repair the communications system, which would at least allow them to call for help. He's able to receive an audio signal, Dax', Sisko's and a medic's voices which inform them that Julian is actually in an induced coma. Okay...so this seems like a huge dramatic misstep, and overall, the drama is slipping further and further from intrigue to tedium, but I have this nagging little (distant) voice reminding me about the Enigma Tale, where you know everyone is guilty before you read it. As in “Masks,” perhaps Menosky's most infamous script, there is the suggestion that something more is going on which justifies the weirdness. I'm still open-minded.

Act 3 : *.5, 17%

So...Bashir decides to explain to these figments of his imagination...that they are indeed figments of his imagination, presumably because Ira Behr and Robert Wolfe lacked the imagination necessary to fill the script with genuine symbolism instead of having the characters prattle on like this. So, the DS9 characters represent different facets of Bashir's personality. And we know this because we have to endure minute after minute of these people explaining in excruciating detail what each and every representation in this mindscape represents. Well, good, I guess that means I can put my feet up and relax; absolutely no interpretation of effort required!

Sigh...so finally, the Lethian re-appears and captures Jadzia (adventure) only for Bashir to find his aged self playing tennis with Garak. Thank god for small miracles, he doesn't have to re-explain the plot to mind-Garak. Bashir decides to head to Ops to “repair himself,” but finds himself amid a crowd of sick people whom Sisko and Bashir's Bajoran nurse are treating. Sisko represents Bashir's professionalism, which is about the stupidest character to assign such an attribute to—I would think Miles would occupy that space in Bashir's head. Whatever. Sisko is likewise murdered by the Lethian, who issues a warning: “you can't outrun death!” Um, thank you.

Act 4 : * stars, 17%

Bashir finds Kira and Odo likewise murdered in the halls of DS9, looking older and older. Again, because the script-writers have no confidence in their audience, it is spelled out to us how the murder of these different personality facets robs Bashir himself of those qualities, erm, somehow. O'Brien is still alive—being the pessimist, this isn't exactly cause for celebration. Miles shadows Julian to remain the voice of discouragement (Julian is now so decrepit, he can barely walk). The pair end up back in Quark's where Quark is placing bets on Bashir's medical prognosis, until he finds himself murdered by the Lethian, who has more words of wisdom, “Everyone loses!” Sigh...thanks for that.

Act 5 : **, 17%

Bashir has now broken his hip, and insists that mind-Garak help him to Ops. So, for some reason, now Bashir is able to get into Ops with Garak's help. He finds a Starfleet counselor, I mean space-prostitute or whatever and she and Garak sing “Happy Birthday” in its entirety because...this episode has no plot and we need to kill time. I'll say this for “Distant Voices,” they have effectively showcased the impatience one feels with the elderly much of the time as we endure minute after minute of the aged doctor slowly climbing stairs and rambling on about the technobabble solution to his problem—notable because this is *symbolic* technobabble. At one point, a panel is opened a Bashir is assaulted by tennis balls...yeah. Oh, and then it happens again. Drama.

So, Garak finally reveals that he's actually the Lethian. All of this build-up leads to some semi-interesting backstory—Bashir was good enough to play professional tennis, choosing instead to “give up” and settle for being a doctor. We revisit that tidbit from “Q-less” (dear god) about Bashir botching his final medical exam and taking second place in his class. The Lethian claims Bashir didn't *want* to be first in his class. Hmm.

Finally, Bashir hits on the idea of repairing the Infirmary, rather than Ops (the “centre” of his world). In the end, Bashir accepts those things he cannot change, and makes peace with his life-choices. Real Julian awakens in the infirmary.

In the epilogue, we bookend with a meal between Bashir and Garak. Garak is mock-hurt that he was cast as the villain in Bashir's mind, but, if you think about it, Garak as the Lethian really means that Bashir believes if anyone truly knows Bashir's most intimate thoughts, it's Garak. It's like the writers *wanted* slash fiction written about these two.

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

While it's no “Darmok,” this story had the potential to be pretty interesting. The general conceit of using the medical drama to create a symbolic mindscape has a lot of potential, and Bashir is a character worth exploring in this way, with lots of unanswered questions and unique relationships amongst the cast. But, as in “Masks,” the script-rewrite absolutely kills this story. Instead of taking the time to explore the symbolism provided by the various characters and sets, the idea of who's who is just spelled out for us in tedious, mundane dialogue. Bashir should have had a short scene with each of his facets as they're slowly killed off by the Lethian. A piece of his backstory should have been discussed pertaining to each idea—courage, adventure, hostility, fear, etc, while he slowly aged. The voices coming through the comm system should not have been remarked on, just present.

In “The Wire,” the writers took the idea of the Repetitive Epic and made it a part of Garak's characterisation. They did NOT make the actual script to the episode follow the prescriptions of the Cardassain literary form. Something similar should have happened here; Bashir should have known from the beginning that he was guilty of concealing something from himself, of being in denial about something (perhaps some dark genetic secret?), and forced, like a character in an Enigma Tale, to finally face up to his guilt in order to make it out of his space coma. A sadly wasted opportunity. I'll say this though, Siddig does a decent job of portraying an increasingly older version of himself, something not always convincingly conveyed on TV, and the musical score is well above average for this era.

Final Score : **
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Elliott
Mon, Oct 15, 2018, 12:07pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Prime Factors

Teaser : ***, 5%

In the mess hall, where Neelix has completed his renovations to the kitchen, Torres and Bajoran Ja-Rule are gossiping about on-board flirtations. Apparently, after the events of “Time and Again,” Tom and Harry had their double date with the Delaney Sisters—which ended with Harry falling out of a gondola on the holodeck. The Maquis ladies, Paris and a few “Hey I'm part of this conversation, too” extras enjoy a laugh at Harry's expense. Nearby, Janeway comments to Tuvok that this behaviour pleases her.

Chakotay calls the senior staff to the bridge to respond to a distress call from a small vessel. The vessel responds to the Voyager's communiqué with a man—Meghan Draper's French Canadian Father, for you Madmen fans—claiming that it is they, the Voyager crew, who are in distress. Hmm. Well, that's a new one.

Act 1 : **.5, 17%

Fabio or whatever his name is insists on escorting the Voyager to his home system as well as bestowing gifts upon the crew, and Janeway consents. Before long, he's in the mess hall preparing some snacks. Neelix has heard of Fabio's people, the Sikarians, who are renown for their hospitality. The Sikarians are “well-travelled” and the Voyager's odd journey has intrigued his people, so they sought Janeway out quite on purpose. Even Tuvok can't come up with a reason to refuse Fabio's offer to provide the crew some shore leave, so they're off, but not before Janeway makes some googly-eyes at Fabio.

On Sikaris, Fabio keeps foisting gifts on Janeway, expressing his confusion over the crew's reticence to indulge themselves. Kim meanwhile is chatting up a young woman—the two nerd out momentarily before she offers to show him how to operate her musical dildo. Kim is delighted. All the while, Fabio is laying on his “pleasure” shtick a little heavily, at one point physically restraining Janeway and inviting the crew to dinner. All of this ranges from tepid to uncomfortable.

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

Kim recounts the events of “Caretaker” to the young woman, Eudana, after the evening's dinner. She asks for permission to share his story.

EUDANA:: But stories are an essential part of every person's being. I would never share one without permission.

This is an interesting contrast to the teaser, when the crew were jovially dumping on Harry over that gondola gossip. Eudana brings Kim to some sort of transporter pad and beams them to a different location, Alastria. This place, wherever it is, features a morning breeze that is essentially like a hit of ecstasy. So, she has brought Kim far away from the crowd and treated him to a natural high that gets you horny. She starts touching his neck and...Kim wonders how there can be a binary sunrise when Sikaris has only one sun. Jesus, Harry. Well, beyond all reason (unless he just wishes Tom were here with him instead of Eudana), Harry is more turned on by the idea of instantaneously travelling about 40K lightyears than by having sex. Kim insists on blue-balling the young woman and returning to report his finding to Janeway. Harry—you know, you could have sex with her under the viagra breeze and THEN go back and report to Janeway, right?

Well, back on Sikaris, Janeway is enjoying her little date with Fabio, only for Kim to blue-ball HER as well with his ill-timed interruption. It turns out the platform operates on a principle of folding space, which allows the Sikarians to travel wherever they wish within its range. Janeway asks Fabio if they could adapt the tech for the Voyager, but it turns out the Sikarians don't share technology with outsiders. Where have I heard that before?

Act 3 : ***.5, 17%

In the conference room, the crew debate the issue in frustration.

TUVOK: Since they've already said no, this kind of thinking is only going to make you feel worse.

Hahahhaha. Oh, Tuvok...I love it. Janeway points out the obvious—the Sikarians' law is their Prime Directive. She even concedes that many alien cultures probably hate the Prime Directive when its principles prevent Starfleet from aiding their worlds avoid natural disasters and so forth. Chakotay, well within character, points out that the PD is something Starfleet officers do choose to violate under certain conditions. The framing of this conversation is rather poignant, with Janeway being shot from outside the window in the foreground and her crew, blurred, in the background debating the issue. The camera tells us that the weight of the situation is beginning to get to her. This is the fourth time in the series that Janeway has had to contend with the PD. In “Caretaker,” she insisting on replacing her divot and destroying the Array, stranding the crew in the DQ. In “Time and Again,” she essentially did the same thing, replacing their time-displaced divot, but of course doesn't remember this since it didn't happen...then in “Ex Post Facto,” she almost lost her helmsman, allowing him to be prosecuted within the legal framework of an alien culture.

At any rate, the staff hit on the idea that the Sikarians' laws may not be as strict as their own, and Kim suggests offering to trade stories for the space-folding technology. Torres, meanwhile, wants to see if she can decipher the alien tech on her own, but Janeway forbids it. I realise this may upset the pragmatists in the room, but it makes sense, from a character perspective, for Janeway to be clinging to Starfleet protocol when dealing with her subordinates, especially someone like Torres whom she has given a bit of a wide berth so far. Torres notes darkly to Kim that she hopes Janeway is successful. For her, this has to be the final act of “Caretaker” all over again.

So, Janeway makes her play, offering to trade the Federation literary database for a single use of the trajector. And hell, cutting their trip down from 75 years to 30 is a very big deal. In Engineering, Bajoran Ra-Rule finally gets a real name—Seska. Torres attempts to placate her friend's melancholy by theorising about necessary tech tech to deal with the Sikarian space-folding. To her surprise, Carey pipes in to offer his input. It's certainly ironic that we should see the Maquis and Starfleet personnel come together behind this issue—of violating Starfleet protocols and disobeying the captain's orders.

On Sikaris, Eudana, presumably in the hopes of finally getting herself off, invites Kim to meet with one of the junior agents we saw earlier with Fabio, Jaret.

JARET: Many people believe that rules should be flexible enough to meet the needs of the moment. There is a great desire here for new stories and I want to be the one to supply them.

So, there's a lot going on here. Jaret sees the opportunity to gain prestige for himself by offering these aliens something they want. Jaret also insists that Fabio has no intention of making good on the deal with Janeway.

On the Voyager, the gondola gang all discuss Kim's little sojourn. Kim is called to the captain's ready room to share his findings, and Seska and Torres are left to ponder the inevitable. Seska believes they need to proceed with the transaction behind Janeway's back. She displays a talent for manipulation: on the one hand, she gives her friend shit for “waiting for permission” for taking a decisive action, something alien to the ethos of the Maquis. But on the other, she uses Janeway's own words against her, reminding Torres that everyone's primary mission is to return to the AQ. She exits the mess hall, leaving Torres in a dilemma—it's more or less certain that Seska is going to go ahead and make the trade with Jaret somehow. Torres has three choices: turn her friend(s) in for conspiring to mutiny, do nothing, or help them.

Act 4 : ***.5, 17%

Kim delivers his report to Tuvok and Janeway, and Janeway thanks him for helping her...by complicating the situation, and dismisses the ensign. Tuvok simplifies the issue: he believes that Janeway ought to deal with Jaret directly, as it would be Jaret who is violating his own law, instead of Janeway violating theirs. This strikes me as transparently sophistic for a Vulcan, and indeed Janeway calls him on it.

JANEWAY: I told the crew when we started this journey that we'd be a Starfleet crew, behaving as Starfleet would expect us to. That means there's a certain standard I have to uphold. Principles, principles. That's what it comes down to. Do I compromise my almighty principles? But how do I not compromise them if it involves a chance to get the crew more than half way home. How do I tell them my principles are so important that I would deny them that opportunity.

In my opinion, this is where Janeway displays a potent character flaw: as the captain, she is the responsible for leading the crew, literally *and* ethically. But here, she makes the issue personal in a way which boxes them all in. They are *her* principles, not the principles of this ship, of this culture they share. When Picard finally chose to release Hugh back to the Borg in “I Borg,” his ethical journey was about overcoming his own emotional limitations and acting upon the principles which define his entire crew, the entire ethos of Starfleet. It was in letting go of the personal issues that Picard re-discovered his own enlightenment and made a moral choice. We'll come back to this.

Anyway, Janeway presses the issue with Fabio, who displays a certain...boredom with those old Sikarian pleasures. He all but begs Janeway and co. to remain on Sikaris indefinitely. She notes that his interest in her, and in all of them, is inevitable fleeting. He will grow bored eventually, and then what? The Federation prefers “permanence,” she says; she worries that, given time, her crew may lose their attachments to relationships which endure and evolve for the ephemeral pleasures to which the Sikarians have become accustomed. Fabio scoffs at Janeway's “judgement,” upset that such introspection doesn't produce pleasure. This cracks it open for Janeway, concluding the Sikarian hospitality is really just a self-interested addiction to novel pleasures. Fabio dismisses her angrily.

Janeway cancels shore leave and admits to Tuvok that she cannot, despite her desire, entertain Jaret's offer. Meanwhile, Seska makes an interesting point to Torres—the Maquis are still going about their bullshit crusade in the AQ, and those on the Voyager aren't much use to them out here. Carey, on the other hand, admits he's desperate to return to his family. With her people on both sides pressuring her, Torres caves and commits to meet with Jaret. The trio head to the transporter room to proceed, but before Seska can even stand on the transporter pad, Tuvok interrupts them. Busted! Ah, but there's a twist—Tuvok has determined to make the exchange himself, and orders the trio to beam him down and prepare for the new technology.

Act 5 : ****, 17%

Tuvok returns and delivers the device to Torres. He orders her to wait to activate the device until he speaks to Janeway. Seska presses their luck by having them prepare a simulation—they quickly discover that part of what makes the trajector work is a natural technobabble phenomenon. In other words, they can only hope to use the thing while in orbit of the planet. Of course, if Tuvok is able to convince Janeway to use the device, they can always just return to Sikaris, but Seska and Carey are being swept up in the emotion of the moment, so the trio shuts down engines and Torres bullshits the captain to give them time to activate the trajector. But then the warp core is bombarded by technobabble, smoke starts billowing out of the core, Torres evacuates Engineering—the device locks up and finally, Torres is forced to destroy the trajector with her phaser. She concludes that the tech was never going to work with Federation systems—she also determines to come clean to Janeway in a lovely confession to her friend:

SESKA: I don't understand. There's no need for this.
TORRES: I'm sorry if you don't get it, Seska, but it has something to do with, er, with being able to live with yourself.
SESKA: That doesn't sound like you. You've changed.
TORRES: If that's true, I take it as a compliment.

Tuvok and Torres admit their transgression to the captain. Tuvok's confession pushes Janeway's reaction from profound disappointment, to gut-punched horror—beautifully conveyed by Mulgrew, as usual. She warns Torres never to pull this kind of shit again and dismisses her.

Then there's Tuvok...oh my.

JANEWAY: I don't even know where to start. I want you to explain to me how you, of all people, could be involved in this.
TUVOK: It is quite simple, Captain. You have made it clear on many occasions that your highest goal for the crew is to get them home. But in this instance, your standards would not allow you to violate Sikarian law. Someone had to spare you the ethical dilemma. I was the logical choice, and so I chose to act.

Again, Janeway calls him out: Tuvok isn't behaving logically—he's acting on behalf of his friend. He attempted to sacrifice himself, his career, possibly his friendship with the captain, in order to provide Janeway the means of giving the crew what they *want* without betraying her principles. And so, Janeway's error in framing this dilemma as a personal issue from the beginning ends up biting her in the ass. What Janeway needed from Tuvok was for him to the be Guinan to her Picard. In her words, she relies on him to be her “moral compass.” And he failed her. He took to heart her moral frustration and used logic to tidy up his emotional choices. This is extremely interesting on a character front—it reveals the affection Tuvok has for Janeway, buried under that Vulcan discipline. Remember that in “Ex Post Facto,” he would have allowed Paris to be punished his crime if he had been guilty. It says a lot that he was willing to assume the ethical responsibility of this choice for Janeway's benefit.

Episode as Functionary : ****, 10%

The episode is quick to frame the Sikarians as an alt-Federation. They have interests in art and science, avoid conflict, operate under a set of principles, and welcome the peaceful exploration of different cultures. But, there are some very subtle distinctions between the two which make all the difference. The Sikarians frame everything as transactional—they will bestow gift after gift on the Voyager crew, but only because they receive pleasure from the interaction; Fabio will offer the crew habitation on the world, but only because he's grown bored with the current climate; Jaret will violate their own inviolate laws, but only because this will bring him personal fortune; it's even implied that Eudana will assist in the trade, only because she's hot for Harry. So, even though there are numerous superficial similarities between Sikaris and the Federation, what we learn is that the only guiding principle on Sikaris is pleasure; it's shallow and it's fleeting. When Janeway tells Fabio that they prefer permanence, relationships which grow and mature over time (something reflected in her final appeal to Tuvok), we see that Federation principles mean something because they require sacrifice. Fabio sounds a lot like Picard at first when he refuses to share the trajector with the Voyager; “Once it's out of our control, it might fall into the hands of those who would abuse it, and our canon of laws strictly forbids that.” But later, it's revealed that he isn't willing to try and find a way to send Voyager a great distance, without sharing the technology, because there's nothing in it *for him*. He doesn't really care that the technology might be abused, he just doesn't want to be responsible.

The character work, even by the high standards the show has set for itself so far, is masterful here. First, we see that the crews have come together in a mutual desire to get home. They have a common goal which unites such disparate motivations as the Maquis' desire to return to the fight (amusing to imagine the Maquis just fleeing the Voyager the moment they return to the AQ somehow) and the Starfleet member's desire to see their families. What this episode proves is that Janeway has failed to unify the crew around a common *principle.* She reminds Tuvok that she said they'd be a Starfleet crew in “Caretaker,” but what is unifying them in this episode is self-interest, which is decidedly un-Starfleet. This is why Torres gets swept up by the emotions of her staff, and why Tuvok is able to twist his logical mind into betraying Federation principles. Yes, there are practical reasons why Janeway can't throw Torres and Tuvok in the brig, but I think her choice in the end is a reflection of her realising the magnitude of her own failure here. In Act 3, when Chakotay pointed out that Starfleet captains do sometimes violate the PD for moral reasons, Janeway had the opportunity, perhaps the obligation to point out that the only reason she has to violate the PD here is in the name of their own self-interest. Upon reflection, this would make her no better than Fabio and the Sikarians.

In the end, Tuvok, Torres and Janeway grow from the experience; Janeway impresses on the other two the deeper meaning behind the protocols she expects them to uphold; Tuvok admits that succumbing to emotional weakness was a mistake; and Torres realises that her character matters more to her than she had previously realised. However, we're left with two minor characters, Carey and Seska, who represent two lurking dangers to the stability of the ship and the success of their mission; the crew's self-interest overriding ethics and a lack of loyalty to Starfleet, respectively.

As a production, the opening acts on Sakaris/Alastria are a bit dull, and the dialogue rather pedestrian, but this is made up for with a climax that is virtually action-free, and technobabble which is mercifully subsumed into character-driven sequences (Kim doing savant maths while Eudana fondles him, the engineering trio being caught by Tuvok, B'Elanna phasering the trajector); the plot, much like in “Eye of the Needle” is *about* something relevant to the character material, which is about as good as it gets.

Final Score : ***
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Elliott
Sat, Oct 13, 2018, 3:31pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Emanations

Teaser : **.5, 5%

The Voyager has discovered a new element within the rings of a planet. Torres and Janeway continue their streak of nerding out over the discovery, excitedly speculating about its applicability. The asteroids in the rings support breathable atmospheres (of course they do), so Chakotay leads an away team back to the ol' cave set, which is now strewn with Hollowe'en prop spider webbing. Torres notes that the webbing is indeed organic. They stumble across several corpses wrapped up in this webbing, and at this point, I think they had better be on the lookout for Shelob. The production elements here are a bit goofy, reminding me of early TNG, but there are certainly a lot of directions the story can go from here. I'm neutral.

Act 1 : **, 17%

Chakotay reports their findings over the comm to Janeway. He speculates that the asteroid is a burial site, and Torres remarks that the webbing is the new element they discovered and is being excreted by the corpses, which manages to be even creepier than the giant spider idea. Chakotay and Kim disagree over how to proceed—Harry wants to examine the bodies, to learn as much as possible about this new species, whereas Chakotay doesn't want to desecrate the gravesite. Sigh...while Chakotay is entitled to his personal opinion about the “sanctity” of the dead bodies, Janeway choosing to humour him and ignore their Starfleet directive to investigate this phenomenon strikes me as ridiculous. Is she placating the commander for some reason? Honestly, this would have worked better if they hadn't contacted the Voyager, but just had Chakotay, recent Maquis, overrule the directive, backed up by Torres, leaving the green ensign to sheepishly accept this violation of protocol. A missed opportunity.

Instead, we get Chakotay being incredibly smug “you're looking, but you're not seeing.” Oh, fuck me. He speculates wildly about this culture's burial customs, and determines that they must be ritualistic, which is fair, and that they probably believe in an afterlife, which is baseless, as Torres is quick to remind him, citing Klingon customs. This tour of smug is thankfully cut short by the appearance of a “vacuole” in the cave. Chakotay calls for a beam out and Bajoran Ja-Rule attempts the transport. The vacuole distorts the beam and Torres, Chakotay and a fresh corpse materialise on the transporter pad. Torres determines the woman on the pad has only been dead for a few minutes, while BJ-Rule notes that Kim has been beamed through the vacuole to wherever these people come from. Chakotay gets one more dose of smug in, but finally relents to have the woman beamed to sickbay and revived so she can be questioned.

Somewhere else, a land of Dutch angles, a funeral rite is taking place. A priest says that the woman, Battering Ram or whatever, will thrive in “the Next Emanation.” The ceremony is interrupted by banging from within the space coffin and Kim is released, panicked.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

Elsewhere in Space Holland, an older couple is having a tearful goodbye. The husband is apparently about to die, and cross over to The Next Emanation, where he is expected to be able to interact with the family's other dead relatives. She makes sure to mention some Guerilla trees or something that his father had planted, suggesting the dead man will be pleased to know they're blooming. After the wife exits, Kim is led into the room by the priest and some other aliens. The dying man is intrigued by this person who has returned from Heaven, but his intrigue quickly turns to fear when Kim mentions all those corpses and spider webs. Before this can continue, a thanatologist (real thing, by the way) is brought in, who is equally horrified/confused by Kim's reports.

On the Voyager, the EMH reports to Janeway—he cured the alien woman's cancer and revived her, badda-bing. The Doctor manages to shame Chakotay a bit, which is most welcome, by informing him that, for all his sanctimonious effort to avoid desecrating a gravesite, the away team had been “strolling through” dead bodies which left behind those cobwebs. Kes, for her part, has become a full-fledged nurse for the EMH.

They awaken Battering Ram, which is wonderfully framed so that Janeway and the EMH appear like gods hovering above her. She asks after her brother and the rest of her family. Janeway's words explaining how they cured her, meant to comfort, horrify the woman who had expected to find the afterlife. She panics and the EMH sedates her. These two parallel scenes, in which the Voyager crew through the aliens' beliefs into doubt, are cleverly constructed; we get the cultural perspective from Kim's experience and the individual perspective from the woman in sickbay. Good setup.

Act 3 : ***.5, 17%

Kim and the thanatologist examine the space coffin together, where it is explained how the technology harnesses the vacuoles, which occur naturally, to allow the dead to pass on to the Next Emanation/spider asteroid. What I like about this is how the ritual associated with these people's belief is enhanced by sci-fi tech, but that it's perfectly plausible that this ritual predates modern technology. In ancient times, they probably just tossed the bodies through the ruptures. The tech just streamlines a conceivably pre-Enlightenment ritual.

The thanatologist questions Harry, deepening his horror when Harry explains that the aliens' bodies are on some asteroid decomposing instead of planting Guerilla Trees in Heaven. Harry is told that he will be analysed to help them better understand “life after death.”

On the Voyager, Mrs Butterworth or whatever has awoken and a bit calmer than before. She's able to provide Janeway with some answers about what has happened to Harry, but she is desperate for answers to her own questions. What happens when you die?

JANEWAY: I'm not sure what you mean.
PTERA: We're supposed to evolve into a higher level of consciousness when we die. We're supposed to gain a greater understanding of the universe. All of our questions are supposed to be answered.

Janeway is sympathetic to her fear, to her disappointment, but at no point does Janeway entertain her delusions about life and death. It's a wonderfully-written scene that reminds me of “Who Watches the Watchers” in its straightforward, empathetic but unapologetically-honest dialogue. A little boom interrupts them, and Torres reports that a vacuole has formed aboard the ship itself, depositing a new body in Engineering.

Act 4 : **.5, 17%

In Dimension X or whatever, Harry's presence has thrown the dying man into doubt about his future in the Next Emanation. He and his wife argue about his indecision.

LORIA: Hatil, we know nothing about him, or why he's come here, or why he's spreading lies about the Next Emanation. All I know is, you can't throw away a lifetime of belief because of him. It doesn't make sense.

Except, it actually does make sense. When your beliefs centre around scientifically-measurable ideas, they are subject to the scientific method. I'm looking at you, Bajor. These aliens believe that their afterlife revolves around a physical transformation, an assumption made in ignorance about exactly what the vacuoles are. True, all they have is the word of one alien, Harry, to cast doubt on this system. Harry's word shouldn't necessarily be believed outright—he may very well have some sort of agenda—but *doubt* is not only justified, it's a sign of intelligence. Harry is upset with himself about inadvertently interfering in this culture, but Hatil is quite serious in confronting the possibility that death is...the end, which is admirable.

HATIL: My people have come to think of death as just another stage of our existence. There are some people who are even eager to die. If they feel depressed or lonely in this life, they simply move on to the next one.

Yeah, that's exactly why suicide is considered sinful in so many religions; the only way to keep people from leaping to their divine reward is to remind them that it's supposed to be a reward for enduring life on earth—only god can will a person's time to die and so forth. Anyway, it turns out Hatil has suffered an accident which has made him a burden to his family, which has led to the family decision to terminate him. Harry can't conceal his disgust for this practice, even though, quite unlike Lwaxana Troi, he tries.

Meanwhile, the Voyager is still collecting dead bodies; the warp core is attracting the vacuoles away from the asteroids, which is starting to destabilise the core itself. Janeway discovers that the corpses are releasing energy into the rings. Meanwhile, Kes has taken Bathsalts or whatever her name is to the mess hall, in an attempt to console her. Unlike Hatil, the confrontation with the fact that her beliefs are a lie are more cause for depression than doubt. Kes explains that the Ocampa believe in an afterlife, but like Enlightened species, their beliefs are spiritual—the Ocampa soul transcends the physical universe in some, undisclosed way. Beetroot or whatever her name is can't relate. Her people have always believed they know *exactly* what Heaven is. They have anthropomorphised the universe to such a degree that Heaven itself is just another physical existence. How tragically shallow.

To help resolve the situation, Torres suggests trying to re-create the transporter accident by sending Petrock or whatever her name is back through a vacuole with a transponder that they can use to locate Harry. Torres has also created a stopgap to protect the warp core, and Bajoran Ja-Rule attempts the transport, but there's an accident of some sort and she ends up dying again right on the transporter pad. This time, the death is permanent, with no brain activity to speak of—okay, then. This is really rather dark—the young woman was diagnosed with cancer, but promised an eternity of happiness with her family, only to awaken in an alien place full of nothing but disappointment. She attempts to return to her old life, to at least find comfort in familiar surroundings, only to be killed again, but this time she died a terrified and suicidal mess.

Act 5 : ***, 17%

Back in Holland, the thanatologist and Harry argue about what to do next. Harry wants to examine the space coffin, but the aliens are worried about the ripples of doubt flowing through their culture, so they want to move Harry to a more secure location where they can examine him more thoroughly. Hatil, meanwhile, is wrapping himself in a death shroud, a ceremonial part of their death rites.

KIM: So they make you wrap yourself in your own death shroud.
HATIL: It's something we look forward to, actually. I remember when my father used this shroud, his father before him. The difference is, when my father put this on there was no doubt in his mind about where he was going.

Hatil has considered just fleeing his family instead of going through with the ritual, and Harry seizes the opportunity to get himself back to the Voyager. He will swap places with Hatil so the latter can go into hiding and Harry can be sent back to the Next Emanation. He'll die of course, but Harry thinks it's possible the EMH will be able to revive him. Hatil points out that his revival is not a certainty, and Harry agrees but will go through with it anyways. It's okay to live without such comforting certainties about life and death.

So they, go ahead with the swap—unconvincingly as Harry is about 60 lbs heavier than Hatil, but whatever, it's TV. The death ritual is completed, with the wife actually pressing the death button. And Harry dies.

On the Voyager, there's some typical drama around the warp core being close to DOOM. Janeway reluctantly agrees to fly away, but right in the nick of time, Harry is vacuoled aboard. He's revived in Sickbay—try not to be so surprised.

In the epilogue, Janeway orders Kim to take some time off duty to “reflect” on his experience. Mulgrew shepherds Wang through a touching little scene:

JANEWAY: This may not make much sense to you now, a young man at the beginning of his career, but one of the things you'll learn as you move up the ranks and get a little older is that you wish you had more time in your youth to really absorb all the things that happened to you. It goes by so fast. It's so easy to become jaded, to treat the extraordinary like just another day at the office, but sometimes there are experiences which transcend all that. You've just had one, Mister Kim, and I want you to live with it for a little while. Write about it, if you feel like it. Paint. Express yourself in some fashion.

I absolutely love this speech. How do non-believers like the Federation express themselves spiritually? Through art, through reflection, through discussion. Janeway also shares the information about that energy which goes into the rings, a sign that *something* happens to these people when they die which they can't explain, and a little healthy agnosticism is not a bad space to inhabit.

Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

The execution of this episode is rather uneven. Much of the cinematography and dialogue is actually quite breathtaking, but then there are oddly slow and tech-heavy bits, as well as a slightly underwhelming performance from the central character. The other major flaw was in not making the stakes personal for Kim in a way which would have fleshed out his character. Much like early Bashir, the writers seem a bit stuck in the etchings of Harry Kim instead of his soul, ironically enough.

That said, the way in which the message of the episode is conceived and delivered is brilliant. The parallel stories between Badminton or whatever and Hatil encapsulate the different manifestations of doubt, which are a real part of faith-based cultures, quite effectively—something sorely missing on DS9. The young woman, unable to reconcile her beliefs with a reality she is forced to confront, ends up dying tragically. The older man, in contrast, chooses to take the opportunity afforded him by this introduction of doubt and lead a new, more enlightened life instead of throwing it away to tradition. I like very much that it ends up being the older character, whom one would expect to hold the more stubborn and conservative beliefs, to be the one given a second chance at life.

Then there's Harry. He spends the first act eager to learn as much about the species as possible, only to get shut down by Commander smug. Then he becomes a source of revelatory information *to* that very species about their own existence, one with potentially devastating consequences. We have to imagine Bethany or whatever her name is wouldn't be the only person to want to kill themselves on their homeworld. Mulgrew's performance at the end was fantastic, but I think what would have really bumped up the quality of the message would have been for the conversation to take place between Harry and Chakotay: Chakotay, being allowed to be “the religious guy” because of Hollywood guilt, was just as certain in his evaluation of the corpses as the aliens were in their afterlife. Both were proven wrong here, and I think it would have been wonderful for the two men to grapple with this issue together. Exploring spirituality is good—through art, through ritual, through contemplation, through philosophy, even through religion—but when one begins to let faith intrude on matters of knowledge, one makes the Universe smaller, less mysterious and less inviting a place to explore with whatever lifespan one is lucky enough to live.

Final Score : ***
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Elliott
Sat, Oct 13, 2018, 8:30am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S3: Destiny

@Skeptical:

"Well, Catholics believe God is physically manifest in the Eucharist, so are we pagans too?"

Actually, Transubstantiation, and a lot of other Catholic/Christian symbolism, does come from pre-Judaic paganism: http://www.lazyboysreststop.org/apol8.htm

All the elements of modern religion which challenge scientific fact are throwbacks to the paganist roots of those religions, from Evangelical Creationism to Christian Scientist rejection of modern medicine.

"as I know, at this stage, the in-universe evidence for wormhole aliens is extremely thin."

Not at all. In the very episode which follows this one, "Prophet Motive," Zek and Quark are both able to contact the Prophets with little effort and the Prophets, twice, make psychological alterations to the Nagus as a result of that interaction. The Federation may not be able to replicate or fully understand the science behind this act--just like with Q--but it's most definitely happening. Eventually, [spoilers] the Prophets will delete an entire fleet of Dominion soldiers out of existence, cause neural trauma to Sisko, reveal that, in fact, they created Sisko--physically--and that's before all the Pagh Wraith crap.

Regarding scientific/archaeological evidence for the Gospel accounts--this is an enormous subject. I would suggest doing some further reading before making such assertions. If you're actually interested in the historicity of Jesus and the bible, good writers to begin with would be Craig Keener and Reza Azlan. I did not mention my mother's degree or my work to "pull rank," but just to demonstrate that this is not a casual subject for me. Many scientists take issue with several episodes of Star Trek, especially Voyager and Enterprise, for pretending to have scientific bases for their plots when they're just throwing around science terms with no accountability for actual science. That's how I feel about DS9 and religion--the writers clearly have no idea what they're talking about.
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Elliott
Fri, Oct 12, 2018, 2:46pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Ex Post Facto

I’ve long since come to peace with not being able to edit comments on this site:

Allow me to correct those last sentences:

“I just find the idea that Paris’ and the wife’s willingness to violate assumptions about monogamy makes them both so morally questionable that it begs the question whether they are capable of murder [ridiculous]. This is just [a] really trope-y and lazy way to drive the story. That’s what I object to most.”
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Elliott
Fri, Oct 12, 2018, 2:42pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Ex Post Facto

@William B & Peter G:

So, just like in “The House of Quark,” I don’t really hold this issue against the episode’s rating per sae. A lot of this is just symptomatic of the time in which the episode was written. The episode wasn’t interested in considering what cultural elements characterise the Baneans—they’re just humans with feathers. I just find the idea that Paris’ and the wife’s willingness to violate assumptions about monogamy makes them both so morally questionable that it begs the question whether they are capable of murder. This is just really trope-y and lazy way to drive the story. That’s what I object to most.
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Elliott
Fri, Oct 12, 2018, 12:15pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Ex Post Facto

Teaser : ***.5, 6%

A dark and stormy night...A beautiful woman kissing Paris in the rain....from our perspective, the woman's husband catches the two and is outraged. All of this is in black and white, with alien characters around the frame. Paris, in technicolour, is seeing this unfold with us, as the camera focuses upon his eyes. The husband warns Paris that he's going to tell Janeway about this incident and black-and-white Tom stabs the man in the abdomen, killing him. In full colour, the premise is laid bare:

BENEAN: Let the record show that the sentence of the court has been carried out. For the rest of his natural life, once every fourteen hours, Thomas Eugene Paris will relive the last moments of his victim's life. May the fates have mercy on you, sir.

The teaser is quite captivating. The homage to Noir is far more overt than in “Necessary Evil,” but it remains to be seen how this will complement the story.

Act 1 : ***, 21%

The EMH continues mentoring Kes on her medical studies. She asks him if he's chosen a name for himself, but the Doctor explains that Holograms “aren't capable of choosing.” The ensuing conversation is a bit reminiscent in philosophical content to discussions in “In Theory,” and “Hero Worship”; the two debate what processes are involved in decision-making and whether the Doctor's programming differs enough from Kes' chemical memory to warrant categorising these processes differently. So the content is derivative, but the tone is everything, highlighting the unique friendship these characters have developed. The EMH mulls over a few familiar doctor names from history, but none quite seem to fit.

KES: Take your time. After all, you will be that name for the rest of your life.
EMH: I never even considered that I had a life.

Deep cut. Janeway calls to turn the EMH on—a nod to continuity as the Doctor controls his own activation sequence now. She informs him that a shuttle is returning with a single, weak lifesign—either Kim or Paris. It's Kim of course, as Paris is still on Planet Dorothy Hughes. A dehydrated Harry narrates a flashback of the events to Janeway. When the flashback begins, a meeting between Kim, Paris and a scientist called Wren—because bird aliens QED—I'm immediately reminded of “A Matter of Perspective.” We have the exuberant older male scientist, the neglected wife who would just love to entertain some guests, the promise of splendid tech...

The trio arrive at Wren's home, greeted by the ugliest dog you've ever seen. The wife, Labial, greets them and Paris is immediately pulling a Kirk, eye-humping the woman with little to no subtlety. Kim is quite jealous that his paramour has eyes for someone else:

PARIS: What are you looking at?
KIM: Not the same thing that you're looking at, that's for sure.

These two are really giving Garak/Bashir a run for their money. The hideous hound yaps at the lovers until Labial feeds it. Over dinner, Geordi...I mean Kim tries to keep the conversation on the up and up, but Riker...I mean Paris just can't keep his Penis from doing the talking. There's some backstory about the Bird People; they're at war with the Numiri, who I assume all look like cats. We also learn that it was this very conflict which convinced Janeway to send these two alone in a shuttle rather than risk confrontation on the Voyager herself. Paris recounts his amazing piloting abilities just in time for Labial to excuse herself. A self-conscious Wren suggests the trio being their “work.”

Harry continues to narrate—Tom got “bored,” he says, with the dry technical gibberish (which we are mercifully spared), so he slipped out, presumably to chat up Labial. All Harry knew after that was that they got together the next day, and that night, Wren was murdered. Kim tells Tuvok and Janeway that Kim was detained and interrogated and finally released without Paris. So, Janeway has the Voyager set sail for Bird World.

Act 2 : **, 21%

Neelix is called to Janeway's ready room. He warns her about the Cat People or whatever they look like. Neelix tells a stupid joke which only he finds funny. Please stab me in the neck. Janeway really wants to know which hats these two species wear, so she can decide which stereotypes to play up in her negotiations. Nice to see Trek just kind of embrace its own formulae. They encounter a Numiri patrol vessel. Neelix is confused as to why only this one small ship as appeared to greet them. Catman is curt, but non-confrontational with Janeway. According to Neelix, this interaction was suspiciously friendly.

Janeway and Tuvok beam to the Bird People's security centre. The minister explains to them that Paris has already been tried, convicted and punished for murdering Wren. Janeway is incensed that the victim's own memories are used in the trial, before the punishment is administered—which we saw in the teaser.

Later, Paris is brought out to chat with Janeway and Tuvok. Emotionless Tuvok asks the pertinent questions: did he kill Wren? No. Did he rob the chicken coop? Well...yes he did. Paris picks up the flashback from where Harry had left off...for no discernible reason, his narration switches to Raymond Chandler mode, as does the dialogue between him and Labial. This Noir bit is really, really forced, complete with pretty hokey dialogue. This isn't quite as bad as the exchange in “Prophet and Loss,” but it's close. Before he can continue, Paris is struck with another bout of his memory punishment, causing him physical pain. A Bird doctor enters and explains that Paris' human physiology is to blame for the side-effects. Janeway asks to bring him back to the Voyager, and promises not to leave orbit since she intends on proving his innocence.

Act 3 : **.5, 21%

The EMH explains that the memories are actually causing brain damage, which Janeway determines might allow them to appeal Paris' sentence. But Tuvok warns that the legal alternative would be lethal injection. Tuvok asks the Doctor to set up a lie-detector for Tom when he regains consciousness. His objectivity is a splendid character touch—his thoroughness reminds one of Odo, but without the emotional suspicion or agenda of the Changeling.

Tuvok beams down to chat with Labial, who greets him, disgusting dog in hand. At one point, he accuses her of being “dispassionate”--having chosen to remain in the house where Wren was murdered. She responds by throwing herself over the chez lounge and pulling a Basic Instinct. While we get some backstory on Tuvok—he's been married 67 years—Labial admits to choosing to end her marriage after becoming attracted to Paris. That...is absurd, and cartoonishly telegraphed to be a motive for murder. Anyway, now she picks up the threads of the flashback from Tom; they were caught in a “cloudburst.” Got to love that natural dialogue. Tom is clearly horny for this woman, but seems hesitant to commit infidelity. Sigh...while I'm glad those Ferengi cod-pieces never made it into the show, I think the producers should have been more open to Gene Roddenberry's attitudes about sex. This extremely conservative position about monogamy that is so baked into the show that Paris *considering* making out with Labial implies he might be guilty of MURDER is super anachronistic for me. It's just sex, people. Labial insists she saw Tom kill Wren—though we don't see this in the flashback. Then Tuvok is called back to the ship.

Paris has woken up. The EMH concludes that Paris is being truthful when he says he blacked out after he and Labial went inside after the cloudburst. Before things can go further, Tuvok is called to the bridge where the Numiri are attacking. Chakotay is the helm, presumably preparing to kamikaze the Voyager if need be. Neelix takes the opportunity to brag about being right in telling Janeway the Cat People are aggressive. Yeah, thank you for that. Anyway, Chakotay and Torres pull “an old Maquis trick” to outmanoeuvre the Cat People. Janeway says this little trick isn't exactly original and Chakotay responds:

CHAKOTAY: Besides, out here in the Delta Quadrant, every old trick is new again.

Interesting. The trick works; Janeway takes the opportunity to flirt with her XO again and Neelix warns that more Numiri will be on their way. Given the urgency, Tuvok concludes that in order to expedite his investigation, he will have to mind-meld with Paris when he has another bout of Noir.

The EMH objects to this plan in an amusing scene, but Tuvok is committed so Janeway allows him to proceed. So we relive the black and white flashback yet again. In Tuvok's mind, he closes in on Paris' and Labial's heads, and later the little characters on the bottom of the screen, with the rest blurred. Tuvok has solved the mystery, it seems, and he asks to talk to Kim about Wren's research, which he think will provide him the motivation for this deception.

Act 4 : *.5, 21%

The security minister tells Janeway that he consents to have the memory implants removed, but she and Tuvok are actually deceiving him, claiming that Paris will have to be shuttled to the Bird Planet due to being weakened. In said shuttle, Kim and Paris briefly discuss the pitfalls of romance. To their expectation, the Numiri appear and tractor the shuttle.

PARIS: Hey, Tuvok, I know it's a little late to ask, but you're sure you've got the logic of this thing worked out?
TUVOK: If I am incorrect, we will know it shortly.

Cute. The Cat People capture and board the shuttle, with a photo of Tom in hand, ready to capture him too. But the pair are beamed away, before Janeway makes contact. She has loaded the shuttle with dynamite and threatens to destroy their vessel if the shuttle isn't returned. Clever. So, with that out of the way, Tuvok asks everyone to meet “at the scene of the murder” because, again for no reason, the plot demands we switch to Noir mode.

So, all the people gather in Wren's living room and Tuvok explains that Wren's memories were altered, that Labial was lying—having drugged Paris. He goes on to demonstrate that Paris is too tall for the altered memory, that Paris somehow knew exactly where these Birds' hearts are located when he stabbed Wren, and so forth. The symbols in the memory were actually Wren's military tech equations...and finally we get the most ridiculous clinching evidence, the ugly dog which greets the actual murderer, Doctor No-Name as though she recognised him. We get some maudlin closing moments between Labial and Tom, and yeesh, what a let-down.

Making up slightly for this idiocy, is the epilogue, where Paris confesses to Tuvok that, despite the dispassionate manner in which Tuvok pursued the truth here, he's made a new friend in Tom.

Episode as Functionary : *.5, 10%

The story is littered with clichéd tropes, even ignoring the Noir bits; the older man with a hot young wife, the adulterer considered morally-suspicious because marriage is sacred or whatever, the we're friends now resolution that comes out of no where...then there are the Noir bits themselves. I think the intention was to contrast this over-the-top window dressing with Tuvok's hyper-rational investigation. The problems are 1. the Noir stuff is inconsistently applied and doesn't have an in-Universe explanation (contrast to Odo's log in NE providing the detective narration device), 2. the Noir stuff is all superficial (contrast again where the effect in NE was to explore the theme of semblance in the characters and DS9 itself), 3. the mystery's resolution is painfully stupid. Didn't the writers learn anything from “Aquiel”? Stop solving mysteries with dogs!

Paris, the EMH and especially Tuvok get some decent characterisation, but the series has done much better. Another saving grace is the absence of technobabble—although in its place we get a lot of really corny dialogue, so this is really more of a wash. Not a useless episode, but there are more unpleasant bits than good ones.

Final Score : **
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Elliott
Fri, Oct 12, 2018, 9:49am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S3: Visionary

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

In Ops, O'Brien is revived from a tech accident by Bashir. Sisko assigns the chief, who seems genuinely humbled by his injury. Meanwhile, Sisko and Kira head towards a docking bay to meet a delegation of Romulans. On their way, they pass Odo arresting a drunk Klingon, whose ship is stuck on DS9 for a couple of days. Sisko asks Odo to monitor the situation for potential conflicts. Sisko greets the Romulans, who are on the station to receive the report owed them according the to deal that made to give the Defiant its cloak. The Romulans are curt—having no interest in diplomatic overtures—their dialogue is exactly the kind we would expect to hear from Ja-Rule, which makes her absence a bit glaring. I wonder if the producers didn't want Martha Hackett on both series at once.

Miles convinces Quark to hang a dart board in his bar, following up on the extremely minor subplot from “Prophet Motive.” Miles shows Quark how to properly throw a dart without impaling Morn in the eyeball, only to find himself flashing to a few meters away. He sees himself conversing with Quark, who informs him that the Klingons have destroyed his holosuites. The two O'Briens make eye contact, then our O'Brien flashes back to Quark's and feints. This is a really promising teaser, with a sci-fi mystery, continued political intrigue from “The Search,” and a focus on O'Brien, which is usually a sign of quality.

Act 1 : ***, 17%

Bashir explains to O'Brien that his “hallucination” (yeah right) and feinting spell are a result of his accident in Ops. A moment is spared for some character stuff—Bashir giving his buddy shit for having a “deficient fantasy life.”

In the Wardroom, the Romulans quiz Sisko and Kira about their Dominion intelligence. The Romulans think Odo, as a Changeling, should be able to provide insight into the machinations of the Founders, but our heroes are quick to point out that Odo is loyal to them and has no information about their plans. The Romulans demand to see classified reports on the Dominion, arguing that maintaining their new cloak-treaty (I didn't realise there was an entire treaty signed over this matter) as well as evaluating the Dominion threat are of utmost importance. Sisko agrees, provided Starfleet permits it. I wonder if he's going to tell them about destroying the wormhole...Sisko is...typically and unnecessarily hostile here. Yeah, the Romulans are a bit rude, but what they're asking for is perfectly reasonable.

Later, Quark approaches Miles and makes the same complaint we saw in the teaser. O'Brien realises mid-sentence what's going on and makes the point to look for himself across the promenade. Sure enough, the other O'Brien vanishes. Of note is that Quark is able to see him, so this is no hallucination. Dax is able to confirm that there was a temporal anomaly. While she lists all the technobabble theories on how this could happen—O'Brien has another flash, again to Quark's, but now there's a brawl between the Romulans, Klingons and, O'Brien himself again. Our O'Brien actually saves himself from getting stabbed by an errant Klingon. He flashes back and feints.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

Bashir notes that the cumulative effect of these jumps will eventually become fatal. Sisko deduces that the time shifting can't be more than a few days into the future, as the Romulans are supposed to leave within that timeframe. Kira retrieves him to give him the laundry list of the Romulans' demands—they want to debrief the entire Defiant crew, review all their logs, etc. The Empire has chosen not to risk their own ships going through the wormhole, “pulling the strings from behind” in Sisko's words. This doesn't quite work for me. Think of TNG's “Tin Man,” when the Romulans risked an entire vessel and its crew just to beat the Federation to the powerful entity. The Romulans may be devious, but they aren't cowardly. Sisko tells Kira to be diplomatic with the Romulans, which is among the most ironic statements I've ever heard on television.

Smash cut and Kira is screaming at them across the conference table. DS9 bring good the comedy! They have accused Kira of abandoning the Defiant prematurely in “The Search.” She explains about how Odo rescued her, having been knocked unconscious, in the shuttle. For a moment, I thought the Romulans were going to catch Kira in a lie—questioning Odo's motivations for abandoning the Defiant. This is a point I made in my review, as well. Rather, though the conversation turns to the idea that the Founders thought Odo would be upset if Kira were harmed, so only she was allowed to escape. They flat-out ask her if Odo ever indicated that he wanted to bang her, and she completely loses her temper, warning them they may end up “floating home,” which is a cute reference to “The Next Phase.”

In Quark's, Julian has humoured Miles by playing ten rounds of darts, waiting for that fight to start. Julian points out that the future has been altered by Miles' vision, but I'm sure Miles wants to be certain he isn't stabbed, so he presses on. Then, a trio of drunk Klingons enters the bar—Quark had agreed to keep them out, which I don't quite get. Is Quark allowed to racially-profile his customers? Well, it's moot anyway as they've paid triple for holosuite time and that's motivation enough for Quark to break his word. Immediately, tensions rise with the Romulans.

In Odo's office, Kira briefs the constable about her upsetting meeting. Odo's reaction at the suggestion of Kira-boning is sort of cute: “RiDICulous!” Before this can plummet to sitcom levels, Quark calls about the inevitable brawl. There's a brief shot of Quark itemising the damaged property, which is pretty hilarious, and finally O'Brien relives his flash, from the other side, complete with near-stab experience. But then, O'Brien has a new flash-forward—he sees himself get zapped by panel on the wall. A great detail is how Colm Meaney has our O'Brien react physically upon seeing himself get injured. A very realistic touch. Ooo, and the bad news—the zap turns out to be fatal. Our O'Brien flashes back, having collapsed about an hour ago, awaking in the infirmary. And Miles is quite certain he'll be dead in a few hours.

Act 3 : ****, 17%

O'Brien, Sisko and Odo examine the panel from O'Brien's flash, which appears benign. The trio realise that someone will boobytrap the panel within a few hours, per the pattern of O'Brien's jumps. They can't figure out why, though. Odo suggests placing a surveillance device nearby which is utterly shocking. Shocking, because I assumed Odo had cameras in every toilet on the station, let a lone the hallways.

Meanwhile, Dax has discovered a techno-clue. There's a tiny blackhole moving in space around the station. Now, if you're a Trek nerd, you already know the answer—there's a Romulan ship cloaked nearby. In “Timescape,” we learned about how the Romulans use tiny black holes to power their ships because...they're insane. Anyway, this new information reveals to the in-show nerds that the chief's jumps are being caused by this anomaly and Bashir thinks he knows how to prevent further jumps, but it will take time; O'Brien isn't done jumping yet. Then, Kira has a plot bombshell to drop—she had to move the Romulans to section 47 (duh)...the very same section where the booby-trap will be planted.

Odo, has discovered that the booby-trap *has* been implanted, but it was actually transported into the wall, not placed by hand. Odo's lead suspects are the Klingons.

SISKO: Do you have any evidence besides the fact that Klingons hate Romulans?
ODO: Not yet. But don't worry, I plan on investigating the Klingons, the Bajorans, Quark, the visiting Terrelians.
SISKO: You think Quark had something to do with this?
ODO: I always investigate Quark.

Zing. In Quark's O'Brien is replaying his own death in his memory. He doesn't mention that this was actually the second time O'Brien has seen himself die (“Whispers”). Which means they writers forgot a point of continuity, which means this show fucking sucks.

O'Brien flashes again—to the infirmary. And, oh shit, his own corpse is on a biobed.

Act 4 : ***, 17%

Our O'Brien runs into future Bashir, who's oddly casual about the fact that his friend has died. But he does tell O'Brien what to tell Bashir's past-self to scan for to avoid our O'Brien dying in the first place. Got all that? Miles flashes back. Meanwhile, Odo and Sisko investigate the source of the transporter beam—some vacant quarters. Odo has unravelled much of the mystery; following a line of clues—being amusingly cutoff mid-ramble by Sisko—he believes the three Klingons are part of a “covert strike force” who were sent to gather intelligence about the Romulans for Gowron. Sisko permits Odo to hold the Klingons for questioning. The Klingons deny their mission, for the moment.

O'Brien awakens and gives Bashir his own warning, who both prevents the radiation death and continues to rid Miles of his time-particles. In Ops, the senior staff begin discussing the orbiting black hole, but Miles flashes forward yet again. Now, the station is being evacuated. O'Brien finds his other self piloting a runabout away from DS9, which is exploding. Future O'Brien doesn't know what caused the disaster, but both the station and the wormhole are destroyed. Miles flashes back to Ops...and doesn't feint? Huh?

Act 5 : ***.5, 17%

In anticipation of the impending disaster, Sisko has Kira begin prepping for an evacuation...again. O'Brien hits on the idea of purposefully forcing himself into a time-jump. Of course, the time-particles will be toxic and might kill him. Via technononsense, he and Bashir determine a means to control how far Miles is able to jump.

One more moment is set aside for Miles to remind Julian about that message for Keiko in his quarters in case, well you know. And so does Bashir. So, they engage with operation forced-time jump—O'Brien finds himself in his own quarters, asleep. And the two agree to team up to save the day. The Mileses arrive in Ops together just as a Warbird decloaks and starts firing at the station. Our O'Brien is too poisoned to take the trip back, and dies...again. So, future-O'Brien will go back instead, even though he “doesn't belong there.” This seems like a really dopey semantics question to be quibbling over as the station blows up around them, but whatever, future-O'Brien consents and puts on the magic armband. So, he flashes back, and Sisko raises shields and weapons in preparation.

Finally, the two plots come together. The Romulans were sent to destroy the wormhole (yes, thank you!). Kira states that the Federation wouldn't stand by and let this happen—which is a head-scratcher. I mean, yeah, there are the Prophets, but shouldn't the Federation and Romulan Empire discuss the “nuclear option”? Having locked “about 50 photon torpedoes” on the cloaked warbird, the Romulans agree to leave. So...what's going to happen with that treaty?

In the epilogue, O'Brien is agonising a bit about being displaced in time, cueing a TOS-style comic ending bit with Miles predicting a Dabbo, and cue credits.

Episode as Functionary : ***, 10%

Like William B, I'm most reminded of TNG's “Time Squared,” which I think is one of the series' most unsung heroes. The sci-fi angle is pretty similar, but “Visionary” swaps out some of the existential questions for character moments between O'Brien and Bashir, which isn't bad by any means, but does make the story feel a bit smaller, despite the gigantic consequences portrayed in the final acts. It is certainly in keeping with Miles' character that he would begrudgingly deal with the temporal paradoxes, focused more on the consequences to his family if this should get him killed, instead of pondering the meaning of all this craziness.

The Romulan component to the story is a mixed bag, mostly good. First, the fact that it disguises itself as a B plot but is actually the crux of the mystery is fairly brilliant, even meta-textual; what appears to be a random Trek anomaly orbiting the station is actually an enemy vessel preparing to strike. The mystery itself is extremely well-handled, giving Odo a chance to shine and throwing a bone to fans of the series with several obscure references to TNG. There is one slight error: why did the arrested Klingons imply that they were guilty of spying by giving each other worried looks in Odo's jail? My only real problems with the story are, 1. the characterisation of the Romulans as cowardly seems really out of place, considering events before, during, and after this episode—maybe Sisko is just ignorant on the subject, 2. there would seem to be major consequences to the relationship between Romulus and the Federation given the events here; shouldn't the Romulans take their cloak back, having attempted to destroy a Federation outpost? 3. revisiting the events of “The Search” was a missed opportunity. Rather than exploring Odo's divided loyalties, which seemed to be where the Romulans were going in Act 2, they focus on the Odo/Kira romance thread. I said all the way back in “Necessary Evil” that I don't oppose this relationship developing, but it seems to me the writers are trying way too hard to push us here. Just let it happen, guys. Speaking of Kira, is she ever going to learn to control her temper?

Final Score : ***
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Elliott
Fri, Oct 12, 2018, 7:37am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S3: Destiny

@Peter G

I think this is a point at which we can agree to disagree--Keiko went out of her way to show respect for the Bajorans' religion, just not deference to it. My memory is fuzzy on Dax and Miles getting into it about the religion, so I'll save that for when it comes up in my re-watch; but the point is, no one--not even the Dukat--actually challenges the substance of their religion. No one ever says, "Have you stopped and thought about whether the wormhole aliens actually deserve your worship? Now, that you know exactly what they are and how they work, why do you call them gods?" I'm not saying the Bajorans should have all become atheists or anything...just that leaving these questions unasked meant the whole concept of their religion remained extremely shallow, and served no allegorical purpose. So, there's no more depth to this aspect of the show, really, than the fact that the Defiant has pulse-cannon phasers. It might be interesting; it adds to the mise-en-scène of the series; but it doesn't mean anything.

"So I like the lesson of the episode for that reason - that religion shouldn't be a vehicle for some person to elevate his own importance."

Yeah--except, at the end he goes from being an outcast Vedek to the Emissary's personal prophecy-interpreter. How is that a lesson about not using religion to elevate oneself?
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