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Thu, Apr 11, 2019, 2:51pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: For the Cause

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

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

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

You said it, not me.

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

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

Act 1 : ***, 17%

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

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

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

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

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

Act 2 : .5 stars, 17%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act 3 : **.5, 17%

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

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

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

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

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

Act 4 : **, 17%

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

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

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

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

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

Act 5 : .5 stars, 17%

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

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

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

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

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

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

-”Because we've left the Federation, and that's the one thing you can't accept. Nobody leaves paradise. Everyone should want to be in the Federation.”, you aren't mad about the treaty anymore? You're just upset with mommy and daddy? Let's remember what actually happened, asshole:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode as Functionary : *, 10%

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

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

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

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

@William B

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

@Peter G:

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

@William B:

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

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

Teaser : ***, 5%

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

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

Act 1 : ***.5, 17%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act 2 : ***.5, 17%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act 3 : ****, 17%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Act 4 : ****, 17%

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

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

Act 5 : ****, 17%

Janeway is reeling from her failure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode as Functionary : ****, 10%

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Score : ****
Set Bookmark
Mon, Apr 8, 2019, 9:33pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: The Jem'Hadar


I’m glad I’m not the only one on these threads who sees things this way.
Set Bookmark
Mon, Apr 8, 2019, 6:48pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Muse


Couple things:

1. I liked the Traveller in his first 2 appearances
2. The Milf was generally attracted to/needed artists not specifically writers—it’s just that they had established Jake to be a writer, so there it is.
3. Chrome; you’ll be happy (?) to know that your cynicism is fully justified, because that sweet story about Salinger...well it turns out that young woman was actually an under cover reporter trying to get a scoop on the enigmatic recluse!
Set Bookmark
Mon, Apr 8, 2019, 4:32pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Muse

Hi Chrome:

I suppose that's fair, but there isn't any difference in general (to me) between the vampiress and Melanie from "The Visitor." If Jake is the creator, then Milf lady is the consumer. There might be some metaphors floating about about consumer culture and the toll this takes on artists, but as I said, I don't think the episode left nearly enough time to explore this topic to the extent that it deserves that credit. Clearly she was enjoying the experience, possibly even having some sort of orgasmic experience from feeding off of Jake. I don't require more of an explanation than that really--I mean, it's not more egregious than the giant talking heads from "The Nth Degree" or the many dozens of strangely motivated aliens from TOS, right?
Set Bookmark
Mon, Apr 8, 2019, 1:33pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Muse

Teaser : **.5, 5%

We begin AGAIN with alleged main character Jake Sisko keeping watch from his perch on the Promenade. He observes several comers and goers milling about the station, emerging from a transport that just docked. One of the passengers and Jake make eyes at each other, and she's older so we know where this is going. Is it too much to hope that Jake will have more than a few token lines in a story that's supposed to be about him? Probably.

Meanwhile, Lwaxana has holed herself up in Odo's office. He finds her there, weeping like she just let her daughter drown. Too soon? Actually, she's sad because she's extremely pregnant. Yowza.

I thought about doing another trip down memory lane with the Lwaxana episodes, as I did recently for Q and “Death Wish” or Worf and TWotW, but 1. William B has a nice and succinct listing on this thread already which covers the major points and 2. unlike those others, this story doesn't play out like a culmination or turning point for her character. The fact that this is Lwaxana's final Trek appearance is kind of a footnote to this story. At any rate, the set-up so far is...tenuous. It could go either way, into the land of light but probing character study or the nightmare realm of clichéd 90s sitcom bullshit. We shall see.

Act 1 : **, 17%

It turns out that in the year or so since Lwaxana's menopause caused the DS9 crew to go fanfic crazy in (to date) the worst episode of Star Trek I have reviewed, she has gotten married to a man called erm...Jor-El? Is that the problem? Is Krypton about to explode and Lwaxana doesn't want to put the baby in a rocket ship? Nah, actually it turns out her husband is from a culture with Weird Rules that forbid the intermingling of sexes during childhood/adolescence. Lwaxana's male baby is required to be separated from her at birth. Thankfully, Lwaxana's breathless exposition makes it clear that she was under the impression that Jor-El wasn't going to adhere to traditional Kryptonian, I mean Tavnian norms, but the short months since the wedding have proved him unreliable in this promise.

LWAXANA: During our wedding ceremony, he spoke so beautifully about why he wanted to marry me, but afterwards it was as if I had become a piece of property in his eyes.

So here's the first major flaw with the construction of this story: unlike in “Cost of Living,” the social issue under scrutiny isn't given any development or nuance whatsoever. We don't come to understand this cultural perspective in any way beyond Lwaxana's objection to it. She was equally indignant over Timicin's mandatory suicide, but that was made clear *after* we had a chance to get to know Timicin, to empathise with his situation and the complexities of his life and work. Is anyone in this episode going to stand up for the pro-gender-segregationists? I doubt it.

Basically, I get the impression that Echevarria wasn't confident in this story's ability to be compelling. This isn't something I agree with necessarily, but the result is that the important backstory and context is whizzed through in this awkward dialogue scene upfront. While “Hard Time” was perhaps even more interested in getting past the polemics in favour of the character material, it did establish (in the teaser) what the relevant perspectives and arguments were. The Agrathi were given their say, albeit briefly. And throughout the episode, the morality of Miles' punishment was still being considered obliquely through the lens of his psychological break. Is the Agrathi system of simulating imprisonment more ethical than actual imprisonment? “Hard Time” actually spent, ahem, some time examining that question.

We cut back to Jake who is furiously working on story ideas in Quark's when the alien Milf sets herself down nearby and starts reading seductively, like you do. Like Lwaxana, she doesn't waste time and gets to her point rather quickly:

ONAYA: Kell [the architect] was shy, unsure of himself and his talent. Most people would never notice someone like him, but I have a weakness for artists...He accomplished more in the years that he had than most people could in a dozen lifetimes. His name is known throughout the quadrant. His buildings will stand for centuries to come. Isn't that what an artist wants, to be remembered? Isn't that why you write?

Kell died young, but is so famous that even teenaged humans know who he is and admire his legacy. I wonder where this is going. She suggests that Jake doesn't need school to become a great artist, he just needs training. Erm...what does she think school is, exactly? Nah, fuck actual work, there are “exercises” he can try that will make him more prolific or something. She invites him to ***CUM*** to her quarters later to learn them. Yeah.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

Jake is working his story in his own quarters when Sisko pops in wearing one of those god-awful 90s faux-African pyjama get-ups they insist on dressing him in when he's out of uniform. Sisko was under the impression that the three of them (the Siskos and Kassidy) were going on a camping trip to “the Bajoran Outback.” Yeesh. Ben, when are you going to learn that planning vacations with your son always ends in disaster? Knock it off, already. Anyway, whatever the lesson at the end of “The Visitor” was supposed to be, I got the distinct impression that Sisko was determined to stick close by his son, to not let him miss out on experiences (“It's life Jake. You can miss it if you don't open your eyes!”). But this time? Eh, fuck it, you're on your own, Jake-O.

Meanwhile, Lwaxana is finishing up her sob story to Mr Woof, Dax and Kira who were all geared up for a romantic trip to holographic Camelot. Quark suspects that there's some sort of inversion of “Fascination” going on. Oh, not that the episode is sublime instead of a crime against television, but that instead of infecting the crew with horniness, she's making them all sad. That is to say, poor customers. Apparently, in Quark's, being a sad lady is as offensive as being a violent drunk and can get you thrown out, so Odo agrees to try and cheer her up.

They go on stroll together where Troi conveys the backstory from “Dark Page.” Thematically, it does make sense for those events to be at the front of her mind, but it throws into even starker relief what a mistake airing “Fascination” was in between. She invites herself into his quarters to get some tea, using a transparent excuse about her replicator being on the fritz, and perks up substantially examining the curious array of objects Odo has strewn about the place. I really hope Dax has abandoned her juvenile pranking by now.

LWAXANA: Is this for shape-shifting?
ODO: Yes. Actually, most people think it's a sculpture.
LWAXANA: Well, what do most people know?...May I ask you something, Odo? Are you over her? Don't worry, I'm not going to throw myself at you if you say yes.

It's this level of interaction that always endears me to the Lwaxana/Odo relationship, despite the awkward turns we had to take to get here. Like in “The Forsaken,” it's Lwaxana's inability to give a damn over manners and politeness that allow her to break through Odo's shell in a way almost nobody else can (the only other contenders would be Dr Mora, who is borderline abusive, Resusci Anne, who skilfully manipulates him, and Garak, who literally had to torture him first). Odo explains that Shakaar has taken Kira off the table for Odo. Troi confirms that her off-screen marriage to Jor-El was an attempt to mend her broken heart after the events of “Dark Page” (again, WHY “Fascination,” WHY?). As William B noted, we cap this scene with an allusion to that first revelatory moment between the two as they sit together on the floor and she “relaxes her shape” and falls asleep in his arms. We also get an unexpected reference to, of all things, “The Child”:

LWAXANA: Sometimes, with Betazoid babies, you can actually sense their thoughts. Such contentment.
ODO: Yes, I can feel it, too.

Elsewhere, Jake makes his way to Alien Milf's quarters for his exercises. We learn that she and Guinan share a taste in fire-hazard interior design, with flowing tapestries and candles everywhere. I'm sorry to say that I know people who insist on decorating/unpacking in places they're only visiting. The dialogue very clearly draws a parallel between Jake losing his virginity (“You seem nervous...”) and whatever these creative exercises entail. There's another one of those 4th-wall nudging hints we get every so often, but this one has the distinction of displaying an ounce of humility, something lacking in most other cases:

JAKE: I have an idea for a novel. It's sort of autobiographical. The main character's mother dies. It's not about that really. It's about a lot of things.
ONAYA: So many it all seems so big to you right now. You're afraid that you can't do it justice?

She gifts him a special pen and paper which belonged to a famous author and encourages him to use them instead of his PADD. This is something I can attest to personally. As a composer, it is necessary nowadays to be adept at computer engraving—the musical equivalent of word-processing. You have to do this to make your work professional-looking and universally legible. However, too many composers compose *directly* into the computer, letting the synthesised instrumental playback guide their creation. This is a major problem in contemporary art music actually, and thus a practice my teacher strictly forbade when I was a student. To this day, I still do my writing by hand by a piano.

While Jake begins to write, Milf runs her hands over his neck and head, weaving together sci-fi brain chemistry elements with seduction and references to the creative process. None of this should work, but there's a kind of primal honesty about the scene that I find compelling. I don't know if I can explain it better than to simply point out that writers and composers and creators have these kinds of experiences sometimes, of feeling guided by almost supernatural forces. I want to be clear that being a successful artist involves a great deal of work, but there is also an essential element of spontaneous creation that may as well be an act of magic, or of God, or of (indeed) the muses working their power. It's also no secret that many artists make use of drugs to lower their inhibitions and make them more productive. This is essentially what whatever Milf's alien powers are doing to Jake. She's getting him high and this is letting him pour out his energies. As he works, Milf is able to extract some sort of energy from Jake's mind and feed herself (as with everything else she does, this has a highly sensual manner to it).The Gods always demand a sacrifice for their graces.

Act 3 : *.5, 17%

Lwaxana and Odo are playing “Find the Changeling,” a kind of light-hearted version of the opening from TWotW. The two admit that this game is a hell of a lot of fun, but Odo is called away, having been advised that Jor-El's ship has found its way to DS9. He instructs Lwaxana to wait in his quarters while he handles the situation.

In his office, it turns out that Jor-El is actually Kang in disguise! Heh! Once again, the Tavnian cultural perspective is reduced to tired clichés and platitudes:

JEYAL: I am not talking about her. I am talking about my son. I intend to see that he is raised by men, not by the pampering foolishness of women.

Of course, this couldn't be for anything besides your standard patriarchal attitude taken to an extreme. Anyway, as such things go, Odo has found a legal loophole that will solve this whole mess: the Tavnians are *such* assholes, that the child is considered the property of the mother's husband, not necessarily the child's father, so Odo is going to marry Lwaxana and claim ownership over the baby. I have to concur that this is probably the weakest part of the script; there have to be any number of legal options for a member of the Federation to avoid having her baby seized by a foreign government, but we're going for the most audacious spectacle possible because DRAMA.

Oh, did I say forced drama? Because it turns out for no discernible reason that Tavnian law demands the Bridegroom convince all present at the ceremony that his intentions are genuine, which means Odo has to convince Jor-El that he's madly in love with Lwaxana.

Anyway, Jake is still high on sexual muse magic, but he might be overdoing it a bit. His nose is starting to bleed, suggesting his brain is melting or something from the side effects of the experience.

Act 4 : **.5, 17%

So the ceremony ensues; Odo is goaded by Jor-El to explain why Lwaxana in particular is worthy of his eternal affection. I don't know what to say to the haters of this episode, but Odo's confession of why he considers Lwaxana to be a *friend* is quite moving and underscores the sweetness of their relationship. In Lwaxana, who has always been so loud, so forceful, so sexually aggressive and so opinionated, Odo found someone around whom he can utterly BE himself. Here is someone who behaves in a way that makes people dread her presence (audience and characters alike) by *choice*, and yet continues to live her life, continues to be exactly who she chooses to be, and in the rare circumstances she finds someone with whom she connects, is fiercely and uncompromisingly loyal. Why should a Changeling be shy or ashamed around such a friend?

ODO: The day I met her, is the day I stopped being alone. And I want her to be part of my life from this day on.

Despite this, the awkwardness of the plot continues to sabotage this story. Jor-El bids Lwaxana farewell and asks her to speak well of him to their son. I guess his fierce devotion to reclaiming his heir and prized possession is over now. Thanks for stopping by, buddy.

Anyway, Milf and Jake continue their work together, but she insists that he take a break. It seems he's been writing non-stop for as long as his father has been off the station. He emerges from her quarters looking like shit and eventually collapses on the Promenade, exhausted. Bashir later explains to Sisko in the infirmary that he's detected the weird brain stuff that Milf has been doing to his son. Luckily, the plot brings Jake into semi-consciousness just enough to utter Milf's name and give Sisko a clue as to what to look for. But while he rests, she materialises in the infirmary and tells Jake it's time to finish his great work.

Act 5 : **, 17%

The pair have hidden away in a Jeffries Tube.

ONAYA: Keep going, Jake. The moment I saw you, I knew you were worthy of what I could give you. But I can't stay with you forever. This is your chance to create something that will live on, long after you're gone.

Before Jake dies from writing, Sisko is able to track them down and point his phaser on Milf, telling her to back away. She tells him that Jake could have been great like her past conquests, Keats, Catullus and some alien, before doing as so many energy beings before her have done and disappearing into the vastness of space.

After this, erm, climax, Lwaxana pays Odo a visit to let him know she's returning to Betazed to have her baby there. Odo thinks maybe she should stick around a bit longer...

LWAXANA: You've gotten used to having me around, haven't you?...Don't you see? What you want is company, someone to take care of...As I wish that you were in love with me, I know you're not. I could stay, I try to make you fall in love with me, but we both know that won't happen. Then I'd end up resenting you, and our friendship is far too important for me to let that happen. That's why it's better for both of us if I leave now.

We close with the Siskos; Ben is impressed with what his son has created thus far. I think the resolution is sensible—perhaps too sensible, but I'll get back to that. It reminds me of the interaction in “Explorers,” but without being interminably boring. He explains to his son, essentially, that there are longer, less treacherous roads to creative output, and that Jake will eventually find his way down them. The final shot (and musical cue) reveal that Jake's novel is the same that won him fame in “The Visitor.”

Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

I have to laugh at Jammer's review here:

“What exactly are the writers going for here?...What kind of fantasy world does this sort of solution come from? Wouldn't a typical Star Trek solution try to actually deal with the problem in human terms instead of coming up with something that, in the real world, would probably make things worse for everybody?”

This is precisely how I felt about “The Visitor,” which is the Niners' “The Inner Light,” and left me a little cool. [chuckle] It's no secret that the writing staff was not pleased with how this episode turned out and I do understand why. The myriad changes the script went through show throughout the story and hold back the positives from ever taking off and being great chapters in this series. The construction of the story, the “plot,” is full of weird and uncomfortable contortions, especially in the Lwaxana/Odo material. In this respect, I concur with Jammer that this episode suffers from the A/B plot structure, but I think both of the stories deserved their own stand-alone episodes.

Let's start with Lwaxana. The general premise of her getting married (twice) and becoming pregnant, running away, etc...all of that works, I think, and the character scenes between her and Odo are charming and sometimes quite moving, especially the sleeping bit and Odo's vows. The problem is that the Tavnian culture is so cardboard and haphazard that it's like you can see the seams in the script where the writers cobbled together the backstory and exposition in desperation to save the character material. Jor-El and his customs serve the plot mechanics and nothing else, and this is because a ~22 minute story is insufficient to delve into the moral/cultural themes that demand attention from us. While the link between Lwaxana as Odo's positive muse and Milf as Jake's negative muse kind of sort of not really makes the two plots cohere, I maintain that these stories do not belong in the same episode. Given a “Cost of Living”-eque examination of the Tavnian culture and more effort expended in fleshing out the plot, the final Lwaxana story could have been a fine capstone to her arc. Instead, I think the story, such as it is, serves Odo well moving forward. He still laments the things he cannot have (Kira), but has, through this friendship, come to accept himself for who and what he is. This will play into heavily into the continuation of his story beginning at the end of this season.

The Jake story frustrates me because I think, despite the fact that this plot was kind of thrown together, the writers were really onto something. The general message and theme about art, artists and their lives ring very true. History is littered with examples of miserable people creating beautiful things that make life for the rest of us worth living. It's hard to ignore the very real possibility that accessing that numinous space necessary to produce such insightful beauty, be it poetry, music or great TV, requires sacrificing one's one happiness, or even one's own life to the muses. Doing the work of making art is such a unique process, that it defies our natural needs. You don't get inspired by eating your vegetables, exercising and getting plenty of rest, you get inspired by witnessing horrific wars, by hallucinating on drugs, by starving and suffering. Many artists believe that if they aren't suffering, they are failing to live up to their potential as creators. It's a maddening thought and an eternal question I'm not prepared to answer right now.

Anyway, those themes are present in the Jake/Milf story and I think are expressed honestly, so I appreciate that. However, there isn't time to make a compelling narrative out of this material, again in ~22 minutes. So we kind of glide past it and are left with a nebulous impression of something interesting happening with several awkward scenes gluing the (sometimes intriguing) scenes together. The vampirism and sexual awakening angles are hinted at and then abandoned, because, well, we ran out of time. A shame. All in all, I don't think this is a failure of an episode, but it falls very short of its potential.

Final Score : **
Set Bookmark
Tue, Apr 2, 2019, 12:01pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Shattered Mirror

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

We begin with a young man hanging out in the promenade...I feel like I've seen this guy before...oh, that's right! It's Jake Sisko, alleged main character. He explains to Odo who's passing by that he's searching for inspiration for a new story he's working on. Their conversation is surprisingly intimate for two these two characters; Jake confesses to missing his buddy Nog (who I assume is enjoying newfound popularity in the wake Red Squad being disbanded). Quark pops in to be hilarious:

QUARK: Poor kid. I suppose that's what you get for having friends.
ODO: Meaning what?
QUARK: Just that when you think you can count on them, they go off and leave you. No. You're much better off without them.
ODO: I imagine that's why you don't have any friends.
QUARK: Look who's talking.

Jake returns to his quarters and is greeted by an unexpected visitor. What is it with Jake and visitors? Besides Ben sits Jennifer, his long-dead mother. Twist!

Act 1 : *.5, 17%

Well of course, this is M-Jennifer. Ben told Jake all about his misadventure from last season, it seems. I assume he left out the part about fucking M-Jadzia under false pretences. Anyway, M-Jennifer says she's here to deliver “good news.” Uh-huh. When I'm in a desperate rebellion, my first instinct is to send a brilliant scientist across a dimensional threshold to deliver status reports. It's so natural and believable! Kind of like Felicia Bell's acting. Speaking of very believable character beats, Sisko doesn't have time for this boring parallel universe-the dead wife that I betrayed my uniform to help stuff, because he's got a meeting, you see. So, this totally not-suspicious visitor will be allowed to hang around with his son instead. I'm sorry Jennifer, how did you get here again? Why? You want to be alone with the one *other* person I would cross any lines for, you say? Okie-doke!

And poor Cirroc's been, what, seven years since P-Jennifer died? And here Jake is, supposed to convincingly portray the emotions of a teenager struggling with very confusing memories and mixed reactions. This was one of my biggest problems with “The Visitor,” too—the demands being placed on the actor are extreme. Unless you have someone of the calibre of Patrick Stewart of René Auberjonois or Kate Mulgrew, the interplay is going to read as flat and unconvincing.

Well, try not to act surprised, but when Sisko returns to his quarters from his meeting, M-Jennifer and Jake are missing, but have left behind a calling card, the metallic fleshlight thingy that Smiley used in “Through the Looking Glass” to transport Sisko to the Mirror Universe. The senior staff put these piece together like Pakleds chewing on a Rubik's Cube, and Sisko dusts off his Father of the Year award before beaming himself, Miles and Kira to the MU. Well, he tries to anyway, but it seems Smiley has rigged the device to prevent anyone but Sisko from transporting. And of course, our O'Brien wouldn't have the technical knowledge of a liberated slave enough to check for such booby traps. No no no. Just beam in blind! After all, we have every reason to trust these assholes, it's only the third time they've kidnapped one of us. So in the MU ops, Sisko is disarmed by Smiley and the dramatic chords swell.

Act 2 : **, 17%

Smiley has taken command of Terrak Nor and gets Sisko fully up to speed on the past year's developments in his office. Smiley is nothing like the man we saw last time, which was a highlight of that abysmal episode, so there had better be a good explanation for his radical character shift coming. So we get the set-up. Smiley and the Rebellion want Sisko to help them with their own Defiant, the specs for which he downloaded on his last visit. He figures the best way to keep the Alliance fleet at bay is with some dick-measuring guns. I guess Smiley didn't access the updated specs because they're having the same sorts of issues we were told the Defiant had in “The Search,” and that O'Brien has subsequently resolved. We were never told how they managed this Very Important plot device:

SISKO: We had to overhaul the structural integrity field grids.
SMILEY: How long did it take?
SISKO: Two weeks.

Ah. Well that was worth the two-year build-up. Smiley, now a hard-ass rebel, tells Sisko that he and Jake will die or be enslaved along with the rest of them if he doesn't help with the overhaul and manage it in a few days. I'll give “Shattered Mirror” this over its prequel; Sisko (easily-duped though he was) has a more sympathetic motivation this time. I know asking him to actually weigh the moral dilemma is too much for this show, but it's not as asinine to assist the rebels in order to save himself and his son. We had better see him trying to escape before this becomes the only option, however.

M-Bashir lets himself in, Siddig failing to act menacingly again. He repays Sisko's punch *while* explaining to Sisko why he's punching him. Now there's some deft exposition, Ira Behr.

“I'm punching you, see, because there was a previous episode where you punched me. You probably don't remember it, but it's important for us, the characters within this story, to remind each other that things happened in the past and that now we are following up on those past events. Am I speaking in sufficiently constipated tones to convey the fact that I am in fact not the same Julian Bashir that you interact with week to week? I thought perhaps maintaining this five-o'clock shadow and silly wig weren't enough.”

Meanwhile, M-Jennifer has introduced Jake to M-Nog, because...anyway, M-Nog is basically everything P-Nog would have been if not for his envy of the Siskos and desire to see himself rise above his own father's legacy; he's lecherous, lazy, crude and prejudiced. He's an adult version of S1 Nog, but without the maturity or depth. Seems about right. Sisko shows up, looking less like a man trying to keep his son from being slaughtered by Klingons than a peeved 90s sitcom dad angry at his son for looking at boobs. Cirroc does more of his patented gesticulation as he explains that he inherited his father's inability to resist M-Jennifer's needs and agreed to come to the MU quite willingly. Wait, really? I assumed she drugged him or stunned him. This...this is fucking stupid. I mean fuck. If Jake were still 13 years old then maybe, MAYBE I could buy that he'd be so enthralled by the possibility of seeing another dimension that he'd risk his and his father's lives for the chance to see it, but we've been told repeatedly that Jake is this gifted writer and very mature (that's why he likes older women, right?), so why is he acting like Kenickie Murdoch?

In private, M-Jennifer confesses that she concocted this manipulation herself.

SISKO: All right, I'm here and I'm going to help you. But I want you to leave my son alone.
JENNIFER: I can't.
SISKO: Why not?
JAKE: Jennifer!
JENNIFER: Because he won't leave me alone.

Then Jake beckons her to join him back at the bar. I'm sorry, was that supposed to be a convincing argument?

“Ben, I lied to you because we are in a desperate situation. This is no time to cry over feelings, we have a cause to uphold and lives to save! But look at that punim face! I can't just not talk to your son! Think about his feelings!”

We cut to a fanfic I'm pretty sure I've read once or twice, with Garak being dragged in chains aboard a giant Klingon vessel and made to kiss the boots of one Regent Worf. Now THIS is my kink! The Worf/Garak stuff leans into the original “Mirror, Mirror” over-the-top hamming that gave that story its charm. I really wish the writers would drop the pretence that these tales are connected to “Crossover” in any way save the superficial because this is sort of fun, in a mindless way.

Act 3 : **.5, 17%

Aboard the M-Defiant, Sisko and co. work swiftly on the overhaul. The set-designers have tried to give the M-Defiant a more lived-in, seat-of-the-pants feel, but the LCARS displays in optimistic purple and gold kind of ruin the illusion. M-Jadzia pops in to remind us she's still around and slaps him.

M-DAX: That's for making love to me under false pretences. I was suspicious of you from the start.
SISKO: You hid it well.

Yeah, that makes up for the rape. Totally. This fun in interrupted by the sound of the Intendant being tortured by M-Bashir in the corridor because, why the hell not? For a moment, I forget how stupid this all is:

SISKO: There's a difference between interrogation and torture.
BASHIR: The Alliance never made that distinction.
SISKO: But you should.

The Intendant makes an off-handed remark to remind us that, because the MU is full of degenerates, she's allowed to be bisexual. Then we cut to Regent Worf's ship where Garak is still being held like Princess Leia in Jabba's palace so M-Worf can remind us that, because the MU is full of degenerates, he too is allowed to be bisexual. I LOVE feeling included.

Back on Terrak Nor, Jake has made dinner for himself and M-Jennifer. Sisko enters, exhausted, so we can get this ham-fisted nuclear family signalling. Jake made dinner for mom and dad; mom gives dad a shoulder rub after his long day at the office, etc....Jennifer expresses some regret over fooling Ben like she did. And Sisko naturally takes the initiative to try and get her to help them escape...oh, wait, no he doesn't. Of course.

Act 4 : *.5, 17%

There's some really uncomfortable bullshit in Engineering where we learn that M-Bashir and M-Jadzia are a cringey couple because fan service. Sisko and Smiley devise a plan to stall Worf by using Intendant Kira. Seemingly because she can't resist the Sisko D (I'm not kidding), she agrees to expose a weakness in the Alliance fleet; the targeting systems can be fooled.

Worf and Garak continue their whole BDSM thing; the key to his collar is missing. Because of course, it's a collar, and why use a sci-fi lock when something medieval will do? Garak ends up being stabbed, but Worf doesn't want him to die yet. Can't fuck a corpse right? Eh, I wouldn't put it past him actually. Well, then the battle begins with Bashir's ship providing warp-shadow targets.

Meanwhile, Sisko and M-Jennifer are still working on the Defiant and taking the opportunity to discuss Jake. Because even the writers do not have faith in Lofton's ability to deliver, it is Jennifer who explains that Jake forgave her for her deception off camera at some point. This is a crucial emotional beat for the story they're trying to tell, so naturally, we don't get to see it or anything. Well, finally, Jennifer agrees to send Jake back to the Prime Universe on his own, before the project is complete, trusting Sisko to complete his work on the Defiant. Now, because Sisko is such a moral pragmatist, I'm sure he will sabotage his work and extricate himself from culpability as soon as Jake is safe, right?

Jake is in his usual spot in the Promenade, which is a nice touch. M-Nog joins him.

M-NOG: What's so funny?
JAKE: Where I come from, it's you and I that would hang out here, and it's your uncle that would chase us away.

Ah, the talented Ira Stephen Behr. Why show instead of telling when you can show AND tell. So *subtle*.

Nog, for some reason, manages to break the Intendant out of her cell. The reasoning for this is supposed to be that since she killed Quark and Rom, Nog gets to own the bar. Because M-Nog is super selfish, which is exactly why he felt the need to repay an unspoken debt of gratitude to M-Kira. Oh yeah. QED.

Anyway, the Alliance fleet begins its assault. Sisko, because he's a piece of shit chauvinistic dick-measuring hothead, can't resist the allure of taking his mirror baby into battle, however. And so kicks Smiley out of the Defiant's captain chair to begin the defence on his own. Admirable stuff.

M-Kira kills Nog, because that's how she rolls and ends up running into M-Jennifer and Jake as they make their way to Ops (I assume). Dun dun dun...

Act 5 : **, 17%

There's some space-fighting...

Jennifer takes a phaser blast from M-Kira to save Jake and dies. Jake calls her his mother, which, because the writers want us to know there will be yet another sequel, causes M-Kira to spare Jake's own life (“that's a debt I intend to collect.” because I'm the Intendant. Get it?)

There's more space-fighting...Bashir gives a “YEAH” that's supposed to be some Han Solo bullshit. More fighting...[yawn................................]

Whatever. They win. Jennifer isn't dead yet, so the Siskos can say “goodbye,” because we really cared about her, I guess.

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

I don't want to be too harsh here—the moment, in a vacuum, where M-Jennifer expires, with the DS9/Sisko theme quietly lamenting in the background, is poignant. Here they are once again, in the wake of a major battle, saying goodbye to her, just as in “Emissary.” But this moment was not earned by this story. And that's generally my feeling about this tale. There are moments, like this one, like Sisko's comment about being better than your enemy, like Nog's cynicism, that flirt with the philosophical content present in “Mirror, Mirror” and “Crossover,” but the story abandons them in favour of the more unbelievable and middling comic book action material that characterised “Through the Looking Glass.”

The episode wants us to take things seriously, so that the Siskos' family drama reads as authentic, but asks us to make too many leaps to get there. Why is Smiley suddenly this grizzled leader of men? Why is Sisko interested in the Rebels' cause? Why does Jake's allegedly intense longing for his mother manifest as a series of scenes that we DON'T GET TO SEE? Think about it; Jennifer and Sisko have a conversation in his quarters over coffee off camera. Then Jake interrupts and Sisko goes to his meeting. Something happens in the interim that convinces Jake to go to another dimension. Then Sisko finds them at the bar where Jennifer tells Ben (and us) that Jake has become attached to her. Cut to next scene. Then we see Jake and Jennifer finishing their dinner together as Sisko and Jennifer once again have the real conversation while Jake does the dishes. Then she takes a bullet for him and he calls her mommy (????). Then she waits for Sisko to return from the battle so she can say goodbye to him—and not to her, erm. “son.” Now, in place of these important conversations we get the BDSM Garak/Worf stuff and the overlong battle sequences. These are amusing in their own ways (I'm being generous about the battle, but I know a lot of fans like the lasers and 'splosions), but reveal that the intent of this episode is really just to be a spectacle. And from that perspective, the Sisko drama feels like dead weight keeping the story from taking off and being a really fun ride. This isn't nearly as unpleasant to sit through as the last MU tale, but I'm really done with this whole subplot.

Final Score : **
Set Bookmark
Tue, Apr 2, 2019, 7:40am (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S2: Cogenitor


I’m a socialist and I agree with Archer. Try again.
Set Bookmark
Sun, Mar 31, 2019, 11:48pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Perpetual Infinity

Set Bookmark
Fri, Mar 29, 2019, 11:18am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Innocence

Teaser : **.5, 5%

One of the Voyager's shuttles has crashed (OMG!). While the gold-shirted pilot whom we've never met is critically injured, the other occupant, Tuvok, is just fine. The extra actually puts in a pretty convincing little performance as he dies, but no time for that; a little girl who looks suspiciously like Lulu Hogg from “Cold Fire”) emerges from the forrest, spying on Tuvok and his dead friend. It should be noted that emotionless Tuvok chose to offer some emotional solace to ensign Dead Meat as he watched him expire. Tuvok understands emotions remarkably well. I couldn't help but smile when the girl tried to escape after he caught her:

TRESSA: Let me go!
TUVOK: Will you run if I do?

It's all so matter of fact. The girl, Terrace or whatever, says her parents are dead and that her ship crashed here. Those two facts are unrelated, but Tuvok has no particular reason to assume they aren't. I really do love when Tuvok gets to be exceedingly Vulcan. Terrace asks why he is preserving Ensign Dead Meat's body for burial. A human would probably scoff at the question, amazed that a person wouldn't implicitly understand the custom of funeral rites, but Tuvok treats every question equally, with no indignation, frustration or impatience to get in the way. It is revealed that there are two other children stuck on this moon with Terrace and Arnold Schwarzenvulcan here. One by one, like a scene from “Barney,” they run up to Tuvok and embrace him. Oh boy! How, wacky!

Act 1 : **.5, 17%

Well, the Voyager is both fully repaired and functional, but also in dire need for some minerals. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Janeway has sent shuttle scouts to some moons around a planet of Druids or something. Obviously, this is what Tuvok and Ensign Emmy Nomination were up to when they crashed. Janeway and Chakotay swap stories about first contact foibles. Janeway mentions that she always envied the Captain's prerogative to meet aliens for the first time, slotting in nicely to her arc about being a science officer at heart, and not-quite-a-captain in practice. Chakotay says that he accidentally propositioned a delegate when he was a young officer. The interaction is amiable and just interesting enough to pass my threshold of entertainment.

Anyway, the Druids are beamed aboard, described as xenophobes who have made an exception to their traditional custom out of curiosity about these travellers from across the galaxy. Alcia, the Druid leader, greets them with a “blessing,” which prompts Commander Spirit Walker to respond with what I'm going to hope is an actual Indian language of some kind, demonstrating that humans too can be superstitious morons if decorum demands.

During a tour of the Engine Room, Alcia condescends a bit to Janeway regarding her appreciation for advanced tech. It seems the Druids here had their own Alixa (hmm...I wonder if that's intentional...) who won over their whole society and convinced them to give up technology on an agenda-specific basis. Overall, this stuff is pretty dry and annoying, let's go back to Tuvok-the-babysitter.

Generally, I have very mixed feelings about these interactions. On the one hand, these kids are fucking irritating, both in how they're written and performed. But what really charms me is the way Tuvok respects and nurtures them. One might say he treats these children no differently than he would anyone else, probably because the gradient between how emotionally immature and intellectually deficient adult and child non-Vulcans are barely registers to him. Life among non-Vulcans is an exercise in patience.

The children warn him that they cannot remain on the moon at night:

ELANI: We can't be here when it's night.
CORIN: That's when the Morrok comes.
TUVOK: Is that some species of animal?
TRESSA: The Morrok is what takes you when you die.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

The tour of the Voyager continues. Janeway expounds upon Federation values and Starfleet's mission as they enter the Sickbay. After some nonsense, we get something character-adjacent for the EMH:

JANEWAY: You may be even more interested to learn that this man isn't really a biological lifeform. He's a computer generated holographic projection.
ALCIA: My people believe that physical matter is only an illusion. The body is not the true self, only a representation.
JANEWAY: One of our greatest philosophers, Plato, wrote that what we see around us are only poor shadows of ideal objects which exist on a higher plane.

Alcia doesn't actually understand Platonic thought as she confuses what Janeway calls a “higher plane” for spiritual silliness, but we can blame Janeway for misrepresenting him. At any rate, Kim calls down to inform them that Alcia has a call which she takes in the Doctor's office. Is someone going to show her how computers work or will she just mediate or whatever until the knowledge rains down upon her like mana?

Janeway starts to think about how to pivot this pleasant tour into negotiating for minerals (the same, it might be noted, they were looking for in “Tattoo.” After all, the warp coils may have been fused to the point of inoperability last week, but they still need that polyferranide. Yeah.) Ah, but Alcia emerges to inform her that there has been an emergency, that they have to leave and that the Voyager should go on its way.

Tuvok pursues a line of deduction with the children, trying to determine what this Morrok is and why the children are so afraid of it. But Tuvok is also a father and has experience teaching children how to suppress their emotions. I'll put this out there now: I'm a left-wing gay commie upstart bastard, but I find many of the “leftie” approaches to parenting eye-roll inducing to say the least. Who knows? Maybe when I'm a father, I'll turn into jello-soup and let them walk all over me, but as a teacher, I have always found that children respond best to being respected as full persons whose emotions need to be put in their place. Emotions are important and obviously, we aren't Vulcans, but relying upon them as a guide is self-evidently foolish and I think children can, on a subconscious level at least, recognise that they are more productive/fulfilled when they can learn to interact with their world logically.

ELANI: Do you live your whole life without feeling anything?
TUVOK: More accurately, we strive to control our feelings.
TRESSA: You don't get scared, ever?

Some of the patented 90s Kids bein' Kids stuff that follows does grate the nerves, but Tim Russ manages to hold the hole thing together better than the material should allow. Eventually, we get the question about how an emotionless father can love his children. The response is a low-key echo of what we saw in “Sarek” and “Unification”:

TUVOK: My attachment to my children cannot be described as an emotion. They are part of my identity, and I am incomplete without them.

The meditation instruction is interrupted by the approach of a Druid vessel. Oddly, the children are afraid of their own people, citing the fact that the Druids sent these children here specifically, it seems, to be consumed by the Morrok.

Act 3 : ***, 17%

Hedging his bets, Tuvok consents to hide the children from the Druid search parties. After they avoid detection (in a scene which tries and fails to feel tense), the children explain that they have been sent to this moon, as children are, to complete a final ritual and be killed by the Morrok. Their sacred texts suggest the children should be at peace with this custom. Based on what we saw on the Voyager, it's not too much of a stretch to imagine that the Druids are some sort of backwards cult, whose superstitions lead them to kill their own children, as illogical as this would seem. Tuvok determines to return the children to the Voyager until he can figure out what's actually going on, and we get another group hug. Yay....

The Voyager tracks Tuvok's overdue shuttle to the moon where a Druid vessel is already in orbit and ignoring hails. Alcia herself finally responds to berate Janeway for desecrating their sacred whatever. Janeway tells Torres to make the transporters work, damn it, because it would be better not to piss off the Druids further by setting down a shuttle. Oh? Does she actually think that there's a chance in hell Alcia will give her the polyferranide after this, or have the Plot Gods demanded a sacrifice in blood?

On the moon, the Druids have abandoned the shuttle crash—because this desecration of their sacred whatever can just remain here, right? The presence of Ensign Two Days From Retirement in a statis field doesn't indicate that the other crewman might return for him? God these people are dumb. Anyway, the kids are still kvetching about the Morrok, so Tuvok consents to sing them to sleep. This is a nice callback to “Persistence of Vision,” where the establishment of Tuvok's musical abilities provided an all too brief peek into his relationship with his family.

“Still unfulfilled, he journeyed home
Told stories of the lessons learned
And gained true wisdom by the giving.”

I'm a sucker for ironic song lyrics.

The children fall asleep peacefully, but only one of them awakens in the morning, the other two having somehow vanished during the night.

Act 4 : **, 17%

Tuvok leaves Tressa alone and armed in the ever more-repaired shuttle while he investigates the cave for clues. Within, he discovers the other children's clothes—several sets in fact, not just the two of the kids he had been caring for. He returns to Tressa to deliver the bad new (another hug). Tressa is quite certain that she will be the next to die.

A little later, Tuvok is finally able to make contact with the Voyager in orbit:

JANEWAY: We read you, Tuvok. Are you all right?
TUVOK [on viewscreen]: Yes, Captain, but Ensign Bennet is dead.
JANEWAY: We know.

[and we don't give a fuck] It's at this point that a big opportunity is wasted. Tuvok, having accepted that Tressa's claim that her people are trying to kill her, intends to get her off the moon and to safety. This decision has prompted Janeway to abandon her stance that they should respect the Druids' customs and laws (WHY?) and help Tuvok escape. If Janeway were solely intent on protecting her crew regardless of the infractions against these aliens, she wouldn't have waited 'til now to launch a rescue, and if she were determined to keep the peace no matter what, she would have ordered Tuvok, reluctantly, to leave the girl behind and take the shuttle home. Tuvok would naturally not abandon Tressa, meaning we'd have Tuvok violating orders and sacrificing his good standing with his captain and best friend in order to protect a child, something whose logic is rather nebulous, tying this whole thing back into the theme of the episode. But instead, the consistency in Janeway's character is sabotaged in order to make Tuvok's decision easier and rush the ending. Too bad.

Instead of that interesting stuff, we get a scene where Janeway and Paris make a “cold launch” of a second shuttle.

“Hey Mister Paris, the last time you and I were alone in a shuttle together, things got interesting.”
“If I learned anything as a science officer, it's that sometimes, you've got to make room for a little pointless fun in the midst of dire missions. Now take your pants off!”

Act 5 : **, 17%

Tuvok manages to launch his shuttle while Janeway's approaches the surface. Druids are closing in on all sides. Oh NO!!!! Anyway, Alcia makes contact with Tuvok—I guess now they can scan accurately enough to determine that one of their kids is aboard his shuttle even though they haven't been able to get a fix on them for days. Okay...

ALCIA [on monitor]: You're holding one of our children. I want to speak to her.
TUVOK: She believes you intend to kill her. Is that true?
ALCIA [on monitor]: The child is confused. I only want to help her.
TRESSA: You want me to die.

For drama's sake, or whatever, Alcia isn't at all more specific about what she means, she just insists that Tressa leaving this moon is unacceptable because GOD or something. Demonstrating even more logical behaviour, Alcia determines that the best way to protect the sacred cargo that must not be desecrated is to shoot at it. Brilliant!

Anyway, all parties converge on the surface, Tuvok's shuttle being forced to land. We FINALLY get the big reveal that the Druids age Benjamin Button-style. The resolution to the plot is really fucking stupid, but Tuvok manages to rescue things somewhat:

TRESSA: You said you would protect me.
TUVOK: I cannot protect you from the natural conclusion of life, nor would I try. Vulcans consider death to be the completion of a journey. There is nothing to fear.

The episode ends on a somber note as Tuvok and Tressa enter the cave together as the sun sets so she can complete her journey, fearlessly.

Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

This episode fluctuates wildly from quite good to absurdly bad. The plot itself is really, really forced and I was reminded many times of “Heroes and Demons,” where the crew had to be dumbed down in order for the story to unfold. At least here, it's mostly the aliens who behave like idiots instead of our regulars, but I remain disappointed by the way Janeway was written, lacking the kind of sturdy development we've seen from her most of the rest of the season.

But then there were several sublime moments around Tuvok, the lullaby being the highlight. Tim Russ really gets to show his mastery of the Vulcan portrayal which never even hints at being emotional (the way early Data and Spock often did), but is still engaging and dynamic throughout. I very much liked how logic led to catharsis here; Tuvok made the most sensible decisions at every step with the information he had been provided at the time. When it became clear what was really going on with the children and their dying, he immediately pivoted to helping Tressa accept her inevitable death, and this reversal feels fully consistent with his relationship with her throughout the episode because there is no emotion clouding his judgement. Obliquely, we see how good a father Tuvok must be, despite our preconceptions about the role love is supposed to play in parenting, and this further informs our understanding of the Vulcan culture. This isn't a great episode overall, but it is a great Tuvok vehicle, and for that reason alone, I recommend it.

Final Score : **.5
Set Bookmark
Wed, Mar 27, 2019, 12:57pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Hard Time

Teaser : ****, 5%

A grizzled old man is tracing his fingers through the sand of his prison cell. A harsh voice announces the beginning of “decontamination” set to begin immediately. The image the man has created is erased by a passing wall of energy and he himself suffers a brief, familiar bout of pain. The moment it passes, he begins his drawing again, unbothered.

Two green-faced aliens enter his cell from behind a large mechanical door which is opened abruptly. The two seem to emerge from nothingness, or perhaps it's just that the light from outside is so bright, nothing can be seen. They identify the old man as Miles O'Brien. They are here to release him.

O'BRIEN: Free?
RINN: The crime of espionage requires a minimum of fifteen cycles of correction. You've been here for twenty. It's time for you to go.
O'BRIEN: Go? I can't leave. Where would I go to?

As he's tossed out into the void, we see that the familiar, relatively young and kempt O'Brien awakens, screaming in agony, on an alien bed. Kira is there beside him, as are the aliens from the prison cell. But this is no return from Oz, as we learn that the twenty years he endured in that cell were simulated in a matter of hours by these aliens. There are a handful of Trek stories that confront the issue of implanted memories: “The Inner Light,” of course, but also “Violations,” “Eye of the Beholder,” “Remember,” “Random Thoughts” and “Memorial.” This one is unique in that the premise is laid bare almost immediately. This will not be a search for the answer to a mystery like in “Whispers.” We also quickly get out all of the moral talking points; the aliens (the Agrathi) view their system as “efficient.” We are conditioned to see Miles as especially upstanding and docile (despite that odd combat history discussed in “Rules of Engagement”), so immediately, the notion that he has been forced to spend 20 years rotting away in prison is disturbing. Overall, this is a very brave teaser, avoiding most of the crutches of TV narratives and letting us know up front that this story will live or die on the issues it is raising and the character(s) it is exploring.

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

Back on DS9, Sisko is explaining the situation to Keiko. Miles “asked a few too many questions,” for which he was captured, tried, convicted and punished before his crewmates even knew what had happened. This again shows a wonderful economy of storytelling, as we can see that the Agrathi's emphasis on efficiency has left them numb to the plight of those who fall victim to their system. After all, they don't actually have to spend 20 years watching a man be broken by his imprisonment, feeding him, beating him, seeing the hope drain from his eyes; they plop him down on a bed for a few hours and then he wakes up, “reformed.” No wonder they're so quick to mete out their form of justice.

Kira pilots the runabout back to DS9 while Miles wades through the fog of his memories, mentioning how he had dreamt of this time, of the beauty of the station, within his nightmare mistaken for reality. He's greeted first by Bashir. Bashir, as a blue shirt, is playing therapist, asking about whether Miles had any company during his imprisonment. We see in a flashback, the first moments of Miles' imagined sentence, and that his claim to have been alone the whole time is untrue. An Agrathi man called Ee'char shared his cell and was kind to him, so it seems.

Act 2 : ****, 18%

Bashir explains to Keiko that, for the appeasement of the plot gods, Dr Pulaski's selective memory erasure isn't an option for Miles. He also reminds her that this isn't the first time Miles has been tortured in one way or another, and that he always makes it through somehow. We see that he is at this moment trying to order Agrathan fruit from the replicator, which of course can't comply with the request. He's finally reunited with Keiko, who offers the comfort of her presence and words, even as she grapples with the fear of what has happened to him. The O'Briens get a lot of grief from the fan community, but I am nearly always very moved by their relationship, which feels as real as any.

Over dinner, in which Miles reluctantly partakes of an especially Irish menu (and Molly graces us all with her infectious cuteness), we learn that he will be seeing a therapist regularly. It would have been interesting if they went the Voyager route and brought in Troi for this, seeing as how she would have been Miles' own therapist for several years, but the story doesn't really support this development. And holy hell, does Miles need therapy. Keiko spots him trying to save his replicated dinner for later, citing the times in prison when he might go for days without being fed, and developing the habit of eating as little as possible in one sitting. In another flashback, we see that he actually picked this habit up from Ee'char. His cellmate also taught him about drawing those patterns in the sand.

O'BRIEN: How do you do that...laugh after six years in here?
EE'CHAR: Well, after six years in a place like this, you either learn to laugh or you go insane. I prefer to laugh.

In the present, Miles has crept out of his comfy bed with Keiko and fallen asleep on the floor, as he thinks he has done for 20 years now.

Act 3 : ****, 18%

For the second time at least, O'Brien spots Ee'char hanging about the station, an hallucination obviously. We see that Worf is happily playing daeerts with Miles, Jake is helping him with his engineering flashcards. What's great about these scenes is that they strike a balance between Miles being volatile and recovered. He cracks jokes and seems to make an effort to be himself and act normally, but we can see he's still disturbed.

Case in point: Julian pops in to remind Miles that he's supposed to be seeing his therapist, but has skipped the last several sessions.

BASHIR: I'd have thought after being alone for twenty years, you'd want someone to talk to.
O'BRIEN: If there's one thing I haven't missed in the last twenty years, it's your smug, superior attitude. Now I have told you I want to be left alone and I meant it. So if you know what's good for you you'll stay the hell away from me.

We see another flashback, where we see that a significantly older and more grizzled O'Brien and Ee'char have a fight, prompted by, you know, the insanity their punishment is no doubt designed to elicit. Miles screams into the void, but we can see that Ee'char and Bashir parallel each other in Miles' mind. Each is a well meaning friend trying to offer him, the uncomplicated but sincere everyman, tools to cope with his trauma, and it's all he can do not to snap both their necks.

Miles makes his way to Quark's for an ale, but the Ferengi is especially busy at the moment and so his order can't be immediately met. Miles almost breaks Quark's arm in order to get his mug filled. As he stews, Ee'char reappears and begs Miles to remember him. Hmm.

Act 4 : ***.5, 18%

O'Brien is summoned to Sisko's office for a conversation. Sisko is concerned about the incidents that are cropping up and has decided to place Miles on medical leave from his duties until Bashir and his counsellor (whom he must immediately resume seeing) declare him fit. Miles begs to be allowed to work, to have a renewable source of distraction from whatever miserable memory Ee'char's appearances represent, but Sisko denies him. For a second, I was worried we were going back to the “there are some things women just don't understand about men” territory from last season, but thankfully, Sisko sticks to his guns here. Mental health is serious and, whatever sympathy we feel for Miles, part of what's getting in the way here are his ego and his masculinity. Before the incels get triggered, I'm not suggesting that masculinity is bad or that men are evil (Zardoz voice: THE PENIS IS EVIL...); I'm saying that the quality of self-reliance, of rugged individualism that characterises many types of masculinity, including the Western one shared by the character of O'Brien and the writing staff of Star Trek, is a problem in this case, because it's hindering Miles' recovery.

Well, in full bullheaded mode, Miles tears off his combadge and storms into Bashir's office to confront him.

O'BRIEN: Don't you get it? You're not my friend. Not anymore. The O'Brien that was your friend died in that cell.
BASHIR: He's not dead. He just needs a little help, that's all.
O'BRIEN: Stay away from me.


Another great touch with this episode is the directing. In nearly every scene, the camera is very close to Colm Meaney's face, uncomfortable, claustrophobic. He's not in his cell anymore, but he's still confined within the prison of his own guilt. Is this what the Agrathi meant by “efficient”?

Okay. So, I'm a fan of Keiko most of the time, but the following scene is one where I think they dropped the ball with her. Miles returns to his quarters after his row with Bashir, sparring with head-Ee'char the whole while. Keiko offers platitudes and sweetness while Molly demands that her father come play with her, as children her age are wont to do. Keiko, for whatever reason, is made to behave stupidly, ignoring her daughter even though it's obviously giving Miles fits. Now, under normal circumstances, sure, Miles should be able to reign in the rage, but Keiko knows full well that this is a unique situation. That she stares daggers at her husband for raising his voice and the back of his hand...seems really forced to me. I get the dramatic significance of this build-up; Miles is so disturbed that he might threaten his own family's safety; but using Keiko as a prop to get us here feels a little cheap.

Anyway, Miles is taking his rage out on the cargo containers instead of his daughter, thank you. In his angry stupor, he happens across a weapons locker and pulls out a phaser. He sets it to maximum, which I think might vaporise half the room, and points the nozzle at his own neck.

Act 5 : ***.5, 18%

Julian finds him before he pulls the trigger.

O'BRIEN: You don't understand at all. I'm not doing this for me. I'm doing this to protect Keiko, and Molly and everyone else on the station.
BASHIR: Protect us from what?
O'BRIEN: From me. I'm not the man I used to be. I'm dangerous.

Through tears, Miles finally reveals to his friend the existence of Ee'char and the horrible thing he has done. The flashback resumes. We are now mere weeks from the time of the teaser, as advertised by Miles' part-the-red-sea hairdo. It has been an especially long while since he or Ee'char were fed. During the night, Ee'char awakens and pulls something from a hiding space. Ee'char has food squirrelled away; the two spar and finally, O'Brien snaps Ee'char's neck. In horror, Miles realises what he has done.

BASHIR: But it was a mistake. You didn't mean it.
O'BRIEN: I meant it. I wanted him to die. I keep telling myself it doesn't matter. It wasn't real. But that's a lie. If it had been real, if it had been you instead of him, it wouldn't have made any difference. He was my best friend and I murdered him.

Before I go on, let me say that Meaney is completely killing it here, as we should expect of him by now. The music, the acting, the dialogue, the reveal—all of it works marvellously, and I found the climax totally enthralling.

Then we get this.

O'BRIEN: When we were growing up, they used to tell us humanity had evolved, that mankind had outgrown hate and rage. But when it came down to it, when I had the chance to show that no matter what anyone did to me, I was still an evolved human being, I failed.

If Jammer's reviews allowed for them, this is where that meme of Picard facepalming would go.

I'll repeat what I said in the debate that popped up over on the review to “The Wire,”: this is a completely unnecessary and insulting straw man to toss into this story. Imagine for a moment that the Federation was actually a conservative Christian society, which had its ideals and taught its children to follow certain ethics. If O'Brien had said,

“When we were growing up, they used to tell us that Jesus died for our sins, that mankind had been redeemed by his resurrection. But when it came down to it, when I had the chance to show that no matter what anyone did to me, I was a pious Christian man, I failed.”

Follow the logic backwards; Miles failed to be above “hate and rage” (I'm getting back to that), therefore he isn't an evolved human being, therefore his teachers lied to him when he was growing up. That is the implication here. Metatextually, when the Star Trek itself preaches about human evolution, it too is lying, so goes the logic of this discourse. In “The Neutral Zone,” Picard describes human evolution as mankind “growing out of [its] infancy.” To be blunt, just because we are no longer infants doesn't mean that if circumstances weren't dire, we wouldn't still shit our pants. And if we do shit our pants, this does not therefore mean that are infants. It means that something is seriously wrong with our circumstances. And the worst part is, “hate and rage” have NEVER been things Star Trek has claimed to be qualities we have evolved beyond. S1 Picard was angry like 50% of the time. Star Trek is pretty specific in its list of evolutionary qualities; we evolve beyond greed, hunger, the need for possessions, etc. And this evolution is enabled by very specific social and technological advances like say, that replicator in Miles' quarters that eliminates the need for him to save food for later. According to Miles, he was taught that he would be incapable of acting the way he did in that cell because humanity had evolved, but that belief is completely absurd! Again, as a human I have physically evolved to the point where, unlike my ape ancestors, I don't throw poop and eat bananas with my feet. But that doesn't mean I COULDN'T if the circumstances required it, or if I was traumatised the way Miles was. And crossing that line doesn't mean that I didn't evolve either, because that's not what evolution means or was ever implied to mean.

If it seems like I'm getting bent out of shape over this, it's because I don't appreciate being gaslighted by media the way this scene does. Miles is the most pitiable of victims here; he was unjustly condemned for a crime he didn't commit; he was forced to endure miserable and inhumane imprisonment; this trauma was smugly dismissed as “efficient” by his faceless captors; and all he wants to do is return to some semblance of a normal life but can't because of this horrible weight of guilt he's carrying around with him. And the writers (I'm guessing Wolfe) take this opportunity to thumb their noses at the core of Trek's sociological conceits. This is like when FOX news interviews weeping white mothers whose children were murdered by gang violence and exploits their pain to warn about the dangers of immigration. It is dishonest and it makes me angry.

Setting all of that aside, Bashir makes the point that since Miles feels guilty—so guilty he's suicidal—obviously his humanity has not been destroyed. The Ee'char hallucination bids him farewell vanishes, symbolising the expulsion of that particular trauma from O'Brien's psyche.

The coda is quite sweet, with Miles thanking Julian sincerely, agreeing to medicated for his depression (which is something we don't see enough of), and returning to his quarters to find that Molly is still very much in love with her daddy and excited to seem him.

Episode as Functionary : ***.75, 10%

I'm glad I could get my grievances with the conclusion out of the way in the previous section because I don't want to dwell on them. That mess and the slightly off characterisation of Keiko prevent me from being able to regard this episode as a perfect 4-star outing, but boy does it come close.

Let's talk about that Agrathi prison. There's an offhanded comment from one of them about how the punishment is *designed* specifically for each offender. Botched though it was, the conclusion made clear that what Miles values most *in himself* is, for lack of a better word, his humanity. While we are led to believe the 20-year sentence was just a way of having Miles serve an “appropriate” term for his alleged crime, remember that Ee'char was murdered just before his release. I believe the whole point of the prison was specifically to get Miles to commit murder, to abandon his humanity, as he saw it. That *was* the punishment. So once Ee'char was dead and Miles had a few days to dwell on his descent, he was released.

“The Argrathi Authority has been conducting a review of your case...Your correction is completed. You are free.”

Once Miles admitted what he had done, Bashir recognised what was going on and found a way to help his friend reconcile his guilt with his humanity. It isn't every episode of television that makes its central thesis about the importance of mental health. Usually, these kinds of æsops are reserved for antiheroes like Don Draper or Bojack Horseman (tying back to the theme of toxic masculinity). So, it was very brave and I think quite effective to give this story to O'Brien instead of, say, Garak or Sisko. O'Brien is a good man, but he has some notable flaws and in this case, those flaws, coupled with the extreme misfortune of his circumstances nearly led to his own suicide.

There are themes in here on criminal justice, too, which I barely broached as the episode is so rich and complex already. All I'll say is that it isn't accidental that the tinkerer O'Brien holds on to his sanity by producing elaborate geometric patterns in the sand, only to see them swept away by an invisible hand, and then just start right over.

From a production side, everything was masterful, the acting, the music, the cinematography; the Bashir/O'Brien friendship is at its absolute best; Sisko is well-used; the story is extremely economical and well paced. All around, this is my favourite episode of the season so far, and I am honestly frustrated that I can't give it a perfect score.

Final Score : ***.5
Set Bookmark
Tue, Mar 26, 2019, 4:52pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Deadlock

@William B

Generally agree, but there is only one way a direct follow up to this episode, at least regarding the damage to the Voyager, could have worked in the way you describe, and that would be if the ship were irreparable. The crew would be forced to find a new ship, or build one or something crazy that was never going to happen. Otherwise, we're essentially doing Enterprise's "Mine Field." The direct follow-up, "Dead Stop" provides the similarly damaged NX-01 with a complete repair of its systems. My recollection is that both of those episodes are pretty good by Enterprise standards (that is to say, watchable), but the connection between the two doesn't actually mean anything. It makes the show feel more serialised, but that's it. The ship could have been repaired off-screen and then something else could have happened to the Enterprise that caused it to need repair. For me, a Trek show especially lives or dies on what it has to say and I can't picture a follow-up to "Deadlock" changing my view of it unless that follow-up actively undermined or contradicted the message here.
Set Bookmark
Tue, Mar 26, 2019, 12:14pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Deadlock

Teaser : **.5, 7% (long)

We start with Neelix trying to be cute (and failing) as he clumsily reminds the audience that Samantha Wildman, who's trying to get some work done in the Mess Hall (the fool), is extremely pregnant. And I mean extremely. If we assume that she and Greskrend..erm...Grindwald? Whatever his name is...if we assume they conceived on the day the Voyager left DS9, then it's been at least a year—probably closer to two—that she's been with child. Yikes. Neelix asks her to take a look something wrong with his space stove, since Harry hasn't yet come down from his bridge duties to deal with it. Hmmm...are there no maintenance engineers on this ship? I'm pretty sure if Scotty asked Spock to fix the radiator in his room, Spock would lift a single eyebrow and order Scotty's entire collection of contraband booze confiscated on the spot. Well, all of Neelix' pestering finally sends Wildman into labour.

We cut, mercifully, to the Sickbay where the Doctor and Kes are fulfilling their usual medical counterpoint of confusing the patient with mixed messages. The senior staff are anxiously awaiting news of the delivery on the bridge. Finally the triteness gives way to an interesting observation:

JANEWAY: In a way, this child belongs to all of us. It is the first baby born on the Voyager. I'm just not sure whether I should be welcoming it on board, or apologising...The Voyager isn't exactly anyone's idea of a nursery, and the Delta Quadrant isn't much of a playground.
CHAKOTAY: My father had a saying, Captain. Home is wherever you happen to be.

This of course explains why the Space Indians preferred armed rebellion against two civilisations instead packing up their shit and “being” in some other home. Okay, okay...Maquis bullshit aside, this line of dialogue picks up one of the only not-terrible threads from “Elogium,” and the burden Janeway bears to foster a community aboard her ship in a way she was never prepared for. The conversation is light, but behind Mulgrew's smile lurks a very deep concern over her ability to meet this challenge.

Tuvok reports that sensors are picking up several Vidiian vessels and colonies ahead, so Janeway orders Paris to take the ship through a plasma field that should mask their presence. Sounds like a solid plan. I mean, if it doesn't work, all this means as that Wildman's new baby is going to be raised as an organ slave and Torres is going to be strung up like a ham. No big.

Meanwhile, said pregnant ensign is going through something painful—erm, even more painful than squirting out a 2-year old fœtus. The baby has horns on its forehead (how else would we know it's an alien, right?), and these are digging into the uteran wall. Ouch. Well, no worry—the Doctor is able to beam the baby right out of her belly. This story is about to be typhooned with techobabble, but I have to say that the conceit of taking Trek staples like forehead ridges and transporters to these kinds of picky detail is amusing. It may not make a whole lot of sense, but the Trek-tech feels like a lived-in part of the Universe these people inhabit.

Back on the bridge, things start going to shit. There's a massive power drain all over the ship. Janeway orders Torres to start bombarding the warp core with protons, because why the hell not? But before she can start, the ship starts being hit with...protons. Hmm. Maybe Janeway is witch doctor. These bursts cause massive casualties in Engineering and the Sickbay systems—including the incubator keeping the new baby alive—start loosing power. Uh oh.

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

The Doctor and Kes rush about treating injuries and trying to keep the baby from expiring. We haven't seen this kind of serious medical drama since “Caretaker.” To make things worse, the proton bursts are fucking with the Doctor's imaging system, Engineering is a complete wreck, power is failing, there are hull breaches everywhere...and then things start to go badly. The baby dies from transporter complications, Hogan is severely injured and unable to re-route power to something, causing Harry Kim to be sucked out into space. Sorry. Blown out. Anyway, Harry has died again and Kes, who was sent to help Hogan, disappears into some sort of spacial vortex on Deck 15. There's not too much to say about this stuff. Much like Braga's “Cause and Effect,” there isn't a lot of substance to speak of, but the scenes are quite harrowing, the music lives up to the drama and the stakes feel enormous.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

Torres is able to determine that there's a breathable atmosphere on the other side of the rift, suggesting Kes is still alive somewhere. On the bridge, Chakotay has “magnetised the hull,” whatever that means, and this seems to provide some respite while Tuvok lists all the damage and casualties. After a brief couple of minutes, Chakotay's stopgap fails and the bridge catches fire. What's really great here is Janeway. Follow her expressions as she tries to process everything they're going to have to deal with. In the midst of the crisis, she reverts to her science-officer persona...something we've seen hints of before. The bridge is being evacuated, people are dead, the ship is a sieve, and here the captain is, furiously pushing buttons in an attempt to seal one hull breach. The only thing that finally forces her off the bridge is a beam collapsing nearly on top of her skull (the same one that fell out of the ceiling in “Projections,” I daresay).

As she watches her command centre be consumed in flame, she sees herself as a ghost image sitting in her chair. The two Janeways seem to make eye contact. Then we see ghost Janeway, except this seems to be the real Janeway, who sees the ghost image of shipwrecked Janeway evacuating the bridge. This Janeway's power bun is in place, Harry is quite alive and the bridge is clean and brightly-lit. She orders some scans. Harry discovers the presence of a very minor spacial rift that briefly appeared on the bridge. This is the same term that Torres used to describe the vortex on Deck 15.

More contrasts abound as we see that the Wildman baby is in tip-top shape and the Doctor is fully functional. The only odd thing is that the other Kes who disappeared before is unconscious and resting on a biobed.

Act 3 : **.5, 18%

Alt-Kes finishes her story and Janeway concludes that there is sci-fi weirdness going on. Always good to be genre-savvy. Immediately, any Trekkie should be reminded of “Parallels,” “Non Sequitur” and “Timescape” (I see you William B!). What works much better for me in this story is that the parallel reality stuff doesn't seem so arbitrary. Most of this is about the tone. This story feels much more like “Yesterday's Enterprise” than those other stories, and that's down to way the stakes are interpreted in the dialogue and the mise en scène. The Enterprising blowing up isn't some weird inconvenience, Geordi dying isn't something we throw a blanket over, and we don't have Harry desperately trying to return to his reality just because. Harry isn't being recovered from space. Baby Wildman is a puddle. There are only two realities here and which one “wins out” matters a great deal. Janeway orders the proton bursts stopped. Remember this:

JANEWAY: I don't know how, but there's another Voyager out there, and I intend to find it.

Just like her counterpart, Janeway's scientific curiosity overrules her command responsibility. This too will matter.

A “quantum level analysis”--yeah--explains what's going on here. Ah Science, such a giving mistress. what I think I get out of this is that the “divergence field” in the nebula they passed through caused all the matter on the Voyager, including the people, to be duplicated, occupying the same point in space in time. All hail holy Quantum. Ah, but Quantum is a fickle god, as she does not permit the duplication of *antimatter*, hence the two Voyagers are splitting the supply, explaining their power drain and the effect of the proton bursts...I guess...thankfully we have another “Parallax”-patented metaphor to wrap this all up: “like two siamese twins linked a the chest with only one heart.” Yikes.

In the Sickbay, Samantha Wildman is framed with her new baby as the dialogue between her and the Doctor fades into a portrait of blissful new motherhood. Alt-Kes watches, her mind flooded with the auditory memories of the horror on her own Voyager. Again, the tone is everything here. This *isn't* just another nuts and bolts goofy sci-fi plot.

Meanwhile, despite attempting to remodulate things on 47 (duh) different frequencies, Torres is unable to establish communication with the Alt-Voyager. Janeway instructs her to attempt a more roundabout method, “more primitive,” which might get their attention and allow them to work together to establish a link. So, we cut to the shitty Voyager Engineering where the shrill signal punches through and, waddyaknow, it works.

Here's where things start to slag a bit. Janeway has suggested to Alt-Janeway that their best bet is to “merge” the two ships and crews. I can write off a great deal of technobabble, but what in the fuck would this even look like? Are the people going to be half-injured with conflicting memories? Is Harry going to be half-dead or something? Is the ship going to be half-damaged? We also get repeats of the kinds of endless non-science passing as drama from “Twisted.” The Voyagers do something with their deflector dishes and...oh shit, there's too much plasma backflow! Damn it! Damn it! Anyway, the merge fails, of course, and Torres reminds Janeway that they're going to have to start those proton bursts again if they're to have any hope of restoring their power. Janeway determines to follow Alt-Kes back to her Voyager so she and her counterpart can figure out what to do next.

Act 4 : **.5, 17%

With special armbands that protect against science (c.f. “Timescape”), Janeway and Alt-Kes cross the threshold and make their way to Engineering. The Janeways retire to the upper level to hash things out. The effect is a bit more convincing than with the Kiras in “Crossover,” but there are still some errors, especially in the sight-lines. It turns out that Almighty Science has decreed that the Voyagers cannot split the antimatter or they'll blow up, and they can't all evacuate to Voyager Prime or they'll blow up. Alt-Janeway suggests that Janeway return to her own ship and do some metallurgical analysis, but of course, she sees right through her counterpart's scheme. Alt-Janeway has concluded that she should blow up her own vessel *on purpose* in order to save the other undamaged Voyager. The interaction here echoes much of what we've seen before, from the Picards in “Time Squared” to the Rikers in “Second Chances” to the Kiras in “Crossover.” Even have such intimate knowledge of someone you disagree with that that other person IS you, human nature dictates that we don't entirely trust each other. The Janeways here have life experiences which are completely identical save the last couple of hours or so, and yet each thinks she knows better than the other. Interesting. Alt-Janeway consents to give her counterpart a quarter hour to try and pull another solution out of her ass.

Well, fat lot of good that does as a Vidiian vessel drops out of warp nearby. The current crisis means both Voyagers are defenceless. For some reason, when the Vidiians fire, only Voyager Prime feels the impact. The vessel attaches itself to Voyager Prime and begins cutting its way inside. Dun dun dunnn...

Act 5 : ***, 18%

We see the crew efficiently (one might say pathetically) gunned down by the boarding Vidiians. Chakotay reports that 300 of them have taken most of the ship when Alt-Voyager makes contact once again. With the Vidiians unaware of Alt-Voyager's presence, she makes her own ironic decision.

ALT-JANEWAY: We can't just stand by and let you all be killed.
JANEWAY: I'm not about to let that happen. I'll destroy this ship.
ALT-JANEWAY: I don't suppose there's any way I can change your mind. I know how stubborn you can be.

Janeway decides to send Harry and the baby over to the other ship, citing fairness, and makes her counterpart promise to get her own crew home. We'll come back to this. Mulgrew really excels here, especially in her throaty “that's an order” bark to Kim to move his butt. So, Janeway initiates the self-destruct, Harry does some fancy heroics to recover the baby from the Sickbay, somehow avoiding capture, and makes his way to the vortex. Janeway calmy welcomes the boarders to the bridge, in a cute little badass moment that ends with the spectacular destruction of the Voyager and the Vidiian ship.

We get a coda that includes an odd exchange between Alt-Janeway and Alt-Tuvok:

TUVOK: One could say that you were both the doubter and the doubted. I do not envy the paradox of logic you were faced with in that situation.
JANEWAY: Neither did I. And neither did she.

What? Erm...nevermind. Better is the final bit between Kim and Alt-Janeway:

KIM: I'm not sure. I mean, this isn't really my ship, and you're not really my captain, and yet you are, and there's no difference. But I know there's a difference. Or is there? It's all a little weird.
JANEWAY: Mister Kim, we're Starfleet officers. Weird is part of the job.

Episode as Functionary : ***, 10%

I like the whimsical touch at the end here. It hits the right note of levity for a story that flirts dangerously with some very serious issues. While in many respects, as Kim said, it “doesn't matter” which of the two Voyagers he originated from, we have to remember which Janeway this is. This Janeway was a bit reckless when her bridge was catching on fire and she was trying to be a science technician instead of a captain. It was her counterpart who decided to stop trying to protect her ship from a serious power loss to pursue a scientific curiosity. I'm not saying Janeway Prime was wrong to do this—ethically, with Alt-Kes in her Sickbay, there wasn't much a choice. But her actions directly led her self-destructing her own vessel and killing her entire crew. It was this Janeway, beset by the realisation that she may have fucked things up here, who demanded that her counterpart get her own crew home, to make up for the loss in some way. As I said earlier, it's details like this that make this episode more than just a goofy tech story and more akin to dark elseworlds tale that was “Yesterday's Enterprise.” It doesn't have that episode's polish or focus, but we do get a glimpse of where this show, and especially this captain, are going.

Production wise, things are pretty impressive here, with strong performances, elaborate choreography (how often do we see people doing somersaults?), and ambitious pyrotechnics, to say nothing of the Janeway double-act.

*A brief note about the “reset button” here. I know it's the most famous of Voyager clichés, and I'm not about to pretend that it doesn't exist. However, just like how, for example, on DS9, the crew complement fluctuates between a few hundred and several thousand depending on what the script requires, or the Defiant can destroy almost anything or be an equal match to a single enemy vessel depending on what the script requires, I think it behoves us not to get into the weeds about things like this unless they become egregious. The next episode of Voyager, “Innocence,” is a story that would work exactly the same if we were shown the background characters dutifully repairing the ship, or if they resupplied their antimatter using reserves from the aliens they were negotiating with. If Voyager were being produced by more ambitious show-runners, I have no doubt these kinds of details would be included. My point is, adding these details would tie up the loose ends from “Deadlock”'s plot without changing the actual trajectory of the season, so, while their absence can be annoying, I don't believe they have the kind of deleterious effect on the show's credibility that others do. There *are* ramifications from this episode to be seen, most especially in Janeway's character. It's not that “it doesn't matter.” I share the frustration most people seem to feel about the physical damage to the ship not seeming to matter week to week, but in the end it's another one of those things we brush aside to a degree, just like the script conveniences that all Trek series rely upon to make their series work. I'll get into it more when we get to Season 4, but I wanted to make note of it here.

Final Score : ***
Set Bookmark
Fri, Mar 22, 2019, 3:52pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Rules of Engagement

@William B:

"if Sisko could prove that the ship was decloaking in order to fire on the Defiant, would the Klingons really be able to argue that Worf following his correct battle instinct would be wrong, because his instinct was insufficiently backed by the facts?"

Well, no, but that didn't stop them from arguing that Worf should be extradited for behaving like a Klingon in the first place. It seems to me that the episode presented the case pretty clearly that Sisko's priority was protecting Worf, not ferreting out the truth. That's what that whole coda was about, no?

In other words, while the messiness of the story's construction is the primary culprit, making Sisko a line-officer type is I believe quite intentional.

@Chrome: Really interesting insight regarding the negligence of the parties involved! However, I think this story tries to make the case that Worf, the commander in uniform, arm of the state, is responsible for the lives of everyone else, including the civilians. That's why there are *ahem* rules of engagement in battle. In principle, I agree with this, and I think Sisko does, too. That's why he tells Worf that sometimes, they have to die to protect the innocent. But with the incident over, Sisko's priority is clearly protecting his own officer, above learning the truth and abiding by the consequences.
Set Bookmark
Fri, Mar 22, 2019, 3:41pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Whispers


Thanks for the comment : )

I have sometimes unpopular opinions about certain episodes or series on this site. I thought it was only fair that I go through, scene by scene, each series and try to cobble together something cogent and holistic rather than just letting my reactions carry me. The resulting conversations with other commentators has been really enjoyable and enlightening, even when many still don't agree. I'm happy with how it's going and always grateful to Jammer for curating this space.
Set Bookmark
Fri, Mar 22, 2019, 10:15am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Rules of Engagement

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

We begin with a dream sequence, telegraphed by slo-mo, glissandi in the strings and dutch angles. This is Worf aboard the Defiant and witnessing a number of dead Starfleet officers and Klingon children. He awakens from this nightmare in one of Odo's cells. I guess Odo decided to regenerate or whatever he calls it during lunch because here he is at 4AM standing watch over his lone prisoner. Overall, this is exactly what a teaser should be, full of mystery and character and style.

Act 1 : **, 19%

Worf's hearing begins plainly enough. A Vulcan admiral dings her giant bell (you know it's RDM when there are anachronistic naval elements clanging about...) and informs us that the Klingon Empire wishes to extradite Worf on “charges of murder.” Let's get this stuff out of the way now. I'm 99% certain that Moore, “the Klingon guy,” wanted to write an interesting Worf story, and took as his inspiration a real-life incident, adapting elements to fit the current DS9 narrative. Upon first glance, those adaptations create some odd contradictions within the political framework of the universe.

-There are Klingon civilians, now?
-When did the Empire and Federation set up an extradition treaty?

While I would normally be willing to hand-wave these kinds of things away, provided the story was insightful and thoughtful, in this case, I actually think the contradictions serve the larger story we've been seeing all season of the collapse of the Empire. In all the Worf stories thus far on DS9 (and going back to “Redemption” on TNG), we have seen that the Klingons engage in the kinds of political games and unethical brinksmanship that might characterise the Romulans, but maintain a cultural currency called “Honour” (I've referred to this many times). Now we are being introduced to a Klingon *lawyer*--a symbol of the decadent decline of the culture if ever there was one.

The lawyer, Chickenbutt or whatever, stands up in typical TV courtroom style and accuses Worf of negligence during command, of allowing his lust for combat to override his good judgement. In other words, he's accusing Worf of acting like a Klingon is (usually) expected to, and perhaps genetically disposed to. His beef seems to be that Worf didn't act like a Starfleet officer. So the whole premise for extradition is incredibly dubious: Worf was negligent in his Starfleet duties, so he must be handed over to a foreign body for judgement; this body has determined that his actions were in keeping with the behaviour of a member of their own society;

Sisko, speaking on behalf of his officer, gives us the rest of the context. Worf destroyed a civilian vessel *accidentally* in the heat of combat. After the session is adjourned, Sisko instructs Odo to start digging into the civilian vessel's captain to try and discern a motive for the transport's odd presence in a battle to begin with. What's key here is the way Sisko frames his instructions:

SISKO: Was he reckless, did he have a reputation for drinking, did he have a death wish? Something.

Now, in episodes like “The Pegasus” or “The First Duty” (both RDM stories involving the malfeasance of Starfleet officers), Picard went digging for answers on behalf of his own (Riker and Wesley respectively). However in both cases, Picard was more concerned with the truth than he was over protecting his men. In Riker's case, he made it quite clear that he didn't care that he was his Number One or that Pressman was a decorated admiral or that Starfleet Intelligence seemed on board with the conspiracy; he was going to expose the truth; from “Redemption”: “It is a lie. Lies must be challenged.” In Wesley's case, we got the famous quote that gives the episode its title, “The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth.” We also saw that in “Ex Post Facto,” Janeway determined to prove Paris' innocence to the Bird People rather than protect him from his punishment via other means.

Sisko is about to tell Chickenbutt that the hearings are “a search for the truth,” but his method suggests something else. What difference does it make if the captain were reckless, a drunkard or suicidal? If these facts emerge, all they do is cast aspersions on the character of the captain, “justifying” Worf's actions by demonstrating that in some fashion, the captain “deserved” what happened to him. Remember this for later.

In the meantime, Chickenbutt makes it clear that this hearing is putting the Federation in a precarious political situation. Well, no points for cleverness here. Again though, I think this highlights the contradictions of the current Klingon Empire. In battle, a Klingon would announce to his victim, “I am going to kill you; your house will fall....blah blah blah.” He wouldn't sneak up and stab him in the back, right? Oh wait...that's exactly what happened in “Blood Oath,” isn't it? Well, because Honour™ has been commodified, Chickenbutt can announce to Sisko, “This trial is politically advantageous to us,” because it's “honourable” to do so, even though the subterfuge behind the proceedings is anything but.

So, Chickenbutt makes his case back in the Wardroom to the Vulcan with the Silver Bell. He admits that the facts of the case are not in dispute.

CH'POK: We Klingons are not concerned with matters of fact and circumstance.

2 minutes earlier...

CH'POK: It's an interesting system of justice you have, Captain. It does have its flaws, however. It emphasises procedure over substance, form over fact.

Hypocrisy is the highest form of honour, you know. Heh...explains how Sisko got so many pips on his collar.

Anyway, Chickenbutt says that if Worf was acting in bloodlust, then it is for the Klingons to judge him. This is absurd on several levels. Obviously, proving such a thing is impossible beyond hearsay. Moreover, if Worf was acting in bloodlust, then it is by *Starfleet's* regulations that he is guilty of a crime, not the Klingons'. Thus, extradition would make less sense than it already does IF CHICKENBUTT IS RIGHT. The Vulcan is correct that logic demands they explore the question of Worf's motives, but the premise that this would lead to extradition is totally contrived.

Jadzia is called in as a witness and questioned by Chickenbutt. She consents, marginally, to the characterisation of Klingons as violent, bloodthirsty, etc. We witness the fourth-wall breaking flashback to one of her and Worf's skirmishes in the holosuite. Her testimony just seems to confirm Sisko's feelings that they are skirting around an unprovable issue. She says she recognises the killer instinct in Worf's eyes when they fight, but is certain he would never cross the line and kill her. Well, that's the nature of relationships. We have to trust each other to be better than our instincts might have us be. But this doesn't prove a damned thing.

No time to dwell on that, as Chickenbutt wants to submit a piece of evidence for consideration, Worf's personal log, without a warrant. He did say the truth had to be “won,” but he also decried the Federation's emphasis on “form over substance.” But we have seen Klingons emphasise form ALL THE TIME. It's the foundation of what they call “honour,” satisfying rituals and codes of combat and bloodlines, etc. All of that is insubstantial and procedural.

Anyway, Worf of course has “nothing to hide,” so gives his consent right there. Hey, Worf gets a line in his own episode! Chickenbutt questions Dax about a specific holoprogramme in which Worf cos-plays as a Genghis Kahn type figure who murders an entire city full of more Klingon civilians. And it turns out Worf played this programme right before he went on his Defiant mission. GASP! Why that proves...that proves that...he...that he...????? Nothing. It proves absolutely nothing. But, the cellos are playing ominous chords of ominousness, so I guess that means bad news.

Act 2 : **.5, 16%

We pick up with Sisko on the stand. He's asked to explain how he assigned Worf to the mission. One plus side to this premise is that Worf actually seems to serve a function on the station, providing military/strategic advice to Sisko regarding the Klingon fleet. Up until now, all we've seen him do, outside of his specific assignment in tWotW is Odo's job.

Quark gives his testimony next. We get a really uncomfortable series of visual gags involving Bashir describing the Wormhole like a giant sexual orifice to a Dabbo girl—no wait it was Morn. Much like in “Facets,” it seems like the rest of the cast is being shoe-horned into the plot for no other reason than to justify their paycheques. I should also say that so far, the fourth-wall games, while novel, are actually pretty distracting. It's kind of ironic. The trick is supposed to break up the dialogue-heavy testimony necessary to the plot, but the actors aren't able to give good performances because the timing of the shots doesn't accommodate natural speech or body language. They actors have to wait around inside the flashbacks for the testimony to be delivered to Chickenbutt before responding.

Act 3 : **, 16%

Odo isn't able to come up with any convenient facts for Sisko's case. One lingering question is why the transport dropped its cloak in the middle of the battle to begin with. Actually, my first question would be why the hell a civilian transport would have a cloaking device unless it was being used for espionage or smuggling or something. Seems like a giant red flag, but whatever, Sisko orders Odo to keep digging, now into the passenger list.

Miles gives his testimony. Again, Colm Meaney does his best, but the non-diegetic interjections continue to be distracting. We learn that Worf discerned a pattern in the battle tactics of the attacking Bird of Prey, and ordered torpedoes fired as soon as a vessel began to decloak, but of course, this was the transport, not the Bird. Chickenbutt's cross-examination reveals something disturbing about the mild-mannered chief, as it seems he's been in battle almost 250 times during his 22 years in Starfleet. Like, I know we retconned the border war with the Cardassians in order to make “The Wounded” work, but this is insane. In the 9.5 years we've seen O'Brien in Star Trek, he's been in battle, what, maybe a couple of dozen times? And half of those were from the transporter room. Anyway, battle-hard O'Brien is forced to admit that, had he been in command, he would not have fired on the vessel before it could be identified. This is meant to be a devastating turn of events for some reason. Again, if Worf violated protocol or whatever by not doing as Miles would have done, then his transgression was against *Starfleet*, meaning extradition isn't going to happen. But this doesn't stop Chickenbutt from suggesting Sisko concede the trial later on in Quark's.

Act 4 : *.5, 17%

Odo still has nothing to offer Sisko in his case, so we proceed with Worf giving his own testimony. He explains himself, that the possibility of a civilian transport ship decloaking right in front of his priapic phaser cannons was “remote.”

SISKO: Mister Worf, I want you to think about the civilians who died on that transport ship and answer one question. Under the same set of circumstances, would you do it again?
WORF: Yes, sir. If I had hesitated, I would have been negligent. I would have been risking my ship, my crew and the entire convoy.

This would seem to support Worf's claims that he doesn't allow his feelings to interfere with his professional judgement. Remember that we opened with a dream sequence that loudly broadcasted Worf's guilt over the incident. However, I seem to recall a certain Klingon lieutenant tearing off his combadge, beaming over to a Klingon vessel, and killing a man for murdering his wife. I'm not sure that I would call this behaviour “professional.”

So, Chickenbutt goads Worf over his Dishonour at the hands of Gowron. The Lawyer—perhaps fully aware of the irony—embraces the neoliberalised version of Honour™ that has made the Klingons so despicable:

CH'POK: A true Klingon rejoices at the death of his enemies. Old, young, armed, unarmed. All that matters is the victory. Tell me, Worf, did you weep for those children?

But Worf is still clinging (sorry) to a more authentic sense of honour, as he has always done. He feels conflicted over the incident because his values *are* informed by humanity. Worf recognises that Chickenbutt will say literally anything to get what he wants. One moment, he condemns Worf for murdering children, and in the next he chastises him for grieving for those children who died with honour, I guess. Eventually, he hits on Worf's berserk button by mentioning Alexander. Worf stands and knocks the lawyer around with the back of his hand and Sisko facepalms. We all know Sisko would never punch somebody who pissed him off. Never.

What's really stupid about this whole thing, honestly, is the Vulcan admiral. Not only does she have absolutely no control over the proceedings, but you'd think a Vulcan would question the brazen sophistry that Chickenbutt is using to manipulate Worf.

CH'POK: I thought you said you'd never attack an unarmed man. Perhaps you should have said, not unless I get angry, not unless I have something to prove. I rest my case.

What Worf actually said was that there is no honour in attacking those who cannot defend themselves. Neither of these men is armed (I think). Worf attacked another adult with his fists, non-lethally. This is not Starfleet behaviour—make no mistake—but, this isn't a “gotcha” moment, and I'm pissed at this derpy admiral for not realising this.

Act 5 : *.5, 17%

Well, with no help from logic, we're going to have to rely on the Deus ex Machina. Odo presents Sisko some new evidence which we don't get to hear about just yet because “drama.” The admiral resumes the hearing with her giant bell and Sisko asks to present his evidence directly to Chickenbutt, again for drama. Vulcans are well known do indulge these kinds of fancies, especially in court, so of course she agrees.

Mostly this is just a waste of time and feels very much like an episode of TV instead of natural drama, but I did lol at Avery Brooks' theatrical mocking of the word “Children...” The courtroom is at least a good venue for his style of acting as theatrics tend to be mode of choice. Well anyway, it turns out that the manifest of the doomed transport is exactly the same as one from an accident months ago.

Sisko pays Worf a visit later in his Defiant quarters. Worf admits that he did have something to prove while he was in command. Sisko rightly chews him out for this because, AGAIN, Worf's actions, whether they resulted in a massacre or not, were not *Starfleet*. The dressing down devolves into some pro-military masturbating that I can't bring myself to comment on right now. Whatever, it's over.

Episode as Functionary : *.5, 10%

I don't think this one works. Structurally, the only thing fresh about this story is the fourth-wall breaking stuff which, as I said, is distracting and I think hurts more than it helps the episode. Court dramas can be great in Star Trek. Just look at “Death Wish” or “The Menagerie.” But compare this to “The Measure of a Man,” or “Author, Author”: in both cases, the legal question, about Data's status and the Doctor's artistic rights respectively, work on their own, in isolation from the deeper philosophical and character questions that the trials provide us space to explore. As in real life, the use of laws to establish or curtail justice is agnostic on the Big Questions, because it must be, because those issues are subjective. Here, the contrived nature of the extradition hearing is so ridiculous that it feels a bit like a parody of those superior episodes, squeezing a courtroom drama in a place it does not belong in order to explore Big Questions. As I said, I would normally be willing to overlook this contrivance if it meant we got a good story out of the process, but the opportunity to look at Worf and his motives, which is the excuse we are supposed to accept as to why this drama is even happening, is wasted. We get one dream-sequence and one brief conversation on the subject of what Worf was going through. And the Big Questions are abandoned in the final act as we have our Deus ex Machina wrap-up.

The point of this episode, I think, is supposed to be that line “Life is a great deal more complicated in this red uniform,” which, okay, sure. But, there was nothing complicated about the situation we've just examined. Worf made a couple of bad calls, which he recognises as bad calls, because he allowed his emotions to cloud his judgement. That's pretty much it.

We do have to talk about Sisko a bit. In the last scene he says to Worf:

“You made a military decision to protect your ship and crew, but you're a Starfleet officer, Worf. We don't put civilians at risk or even potentially at risk to save ourselves. Sometimes that means we lose the battle and sometimes our lives. But if you can't make that choice, then you can't wear that uniform...Part of being a captain is knowing when to smile, make the troops happy even when it's the last thing in the world you want to do. Because they're your troops and you have to take care of them.”

Remember that Sisko was originally trying to win his case by defaming the captain of the transport, as a drunk or something. He wasn't interested in the truth so much as he was interested in taking care of his troop. Sisko even makes the distinction between a military officer and a Starfleet officer in his speech, but then instructs Worf that he needs to be a good military man by ignoring the truth, smiling and taking care of his own troops. I gave up on Sisko all the way back in “Through the Looking Glass.” He has no moral authority anymore. But I had been encouraged by the way he's been used throughout most of this season. Seeing him play old tapes like this is disappointing.

Final Score : **
Set Bookmark
Fri, Mar 8, 2019, 7:29pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Investigations

Teaser : **.5, 5%

“Binging With Neelix” or whatever his YouTube channel is called premiers before our eyes. Sadly, as we all know, for every good Hot Takes Channel, there are at least 100 other incel-ridden Dunning-Krueger low-res nonsense commentators talking about how chem-trails ruined Star Wars or how Ben Shapiro is seven feet tall. Neelix, as we could all have guessed, definitely falls on the bottom end of this spectrum. In conception, this is meant, I believe, to comment on the morning coffee news hour culture that has ruined many a middle-aged caucasian mind.

NEELIX: But most of all, it will make you feel good, because what you see here will always be the most uplifting, optimistic view of everything that happens on our ship.

...until we get to the part about how Jeremy Corbyn is a secret anti-semite or whatever. Neelix' plan to edify and uplift the crew will begin with some incredibly annoying gossip about crewmen flirting below decks and an off-screen juggling act. Oof. The ONLY redeeming feature of this is that, much like Whoopi Goldberg's minor victory in “The Offspring,” the dialogue about the “lovebirds” is ambiguous about the genders of these anonymous crewmen, and Neelix' use of the word “handsome” leaves the door open for a potential same-sex pairing on the Voyager. And a thousand fan-fics were born.

We see that Neelix is replaying the inaugural broadcast for the Doctor, as well as stroking his ego with about as much subtlety as a man juggling fire. He wants the EMH to start hosting segments on the programme, something sure to garner him popularity and respect amongst the crew. If he can learn to be completely vacuous and disingenuous on command, he could be as big as Meghan McCain or Rachel Riley! Ahem.

Neelix continues his tour of “please, everybody love me” by begging Harry for some positive feedback. Master Chef Neelix is surprised to learn that people might crave foods that are nutritious instead of saccharine once in a while—this bodes well for the crew's diet. The inadvertent effect of this little pep talk is to convince Neelix that he has a responsibility to be independent if he's to be considered a “serious journalist.” Yeah, that's what I think of on shows featuring cooking segments, ship gossip and juggling; journalism. Well, it would certainly pass for it on Twitter these days...

We complete the tour of inanity with Neelix receiving a call in his quarters from an old Talaxian friend of his; and this one managed to escape prison! No, I'm serious. He manages a convoy which is set to rendezvous with the Voyager in a few days to take aboard a crewman who is defecting. Hmm. Now that IS interesting.

Act 1 : ***.5, 17%

Neelix reports his discovery to Janeway, who asks Tuvok for his opinion on whether it's time to spill the beans. See, she already knows about the defection, and Tuvok says that there aren't any security concerns in revealing the identity of the person (remember that for later). It's Tom Paris. Without getting too far ahead of myself, this episode is criticised for putting Neelix at the centre of the conclusion to one of the show's subplots, and I sort of see why. But I think it makes some sense to draw upon the relationship between Tom and Neelix. Neelix was one of the most skeptical crewmates of Tom's alleged reform from early on thanks to that love triangle with Kes. Setting aside how fucking annoying most of that was, we saw that they resolved that conflict in “Parturition.” In that review I wrote about how Tom's attraction to Kes is probably related to his inferiority complex arising from his arrested relationship with his father. Since he's (probably) let her go, and sees no other prospects beyond one-nighters with the Delaney sisters on the Voyager, it is plausible that his role as helm-boy isn't cutting it (remember in “Lifesigns,” he told Chakotay that he felt very restricting in the performance of his duties). We saw in “Non-Sequitur” how self-destructive Tom can become, and Tom is probably the member of the crew least anxious to return to the AQ, where a disappointed father and only partially-commuted prison sentence await him.

So, Neelix pays Paris a visit in his quarters—he's been released from the brig to pack his bags it seems. I'm not entirely sure what he's supposed to be hemming and hawing about with regards to which outfits he's packing—this isn't a vacation. Tom's confession to Neelix rings true:

PARIS: This isn't about anybody except me. I've done this to myself, just like always. No matter where I go or who I'm with, I make a mess of things. The unmistakable conclusion has to be that deep down, I don't want any friends, or a family, or a home. Otherwise, I wouldn't keep sabotaging the possibilities.

We'll come back to this stuff.

The EMH has not only consented to appear on Neelix' stupid show, but of course, with these new developments, Neelix must be A SERIOUS JOURNALIST and postpone his segment. And so, Neelix delivers a voice-over that covers Tom's departure from the Voyager. It's pretty well-handled, as Phillips is able to be subtle and warm instead of boisterous and overbearing; the camera shows us Chakotay, Janeway and Tuvok, Torres and Jonas, and finally Paris beaming away with Harry, Kes and Neelix seeing him off. The text of his speech covers Tom's growth from “Caretaker':

NEELIX: I first met this man almost a year ago, and tell you the truth, I didn't like him much. He seemed a little too cocky, a little too sure of himself. A lot of people had questions about him. He'd proven he'd pretty much sell himself out to the highest bidder, go wherever the wind blew him, so people wondered, could you trust this person when things got tough? Would he stand side by side with you, or would he let you down when you needed him most? But the fact of the matter is, he proved himself right from the beginning.

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

We resume with a rather mundane briefing covering the usual ship BS in which Janeway makes it clear that they are to move on from Tom, replace him and move forward. Jonas calls to inform Torres that, somehow that thing Seska told him to do while he was masturbating in his own subplot has happened! What are the odds? Neelix invites himself along to cover this “news of substance.” The Rick Berman approved danger music informs us as they enter Engineering that this problem is becoming kind of serious. So, they babble some technos at each other, but Jonas and several others are injured by those nifty Starfleet exploding consoles.

In the Sickbay, the EMH and Kes repair the injuries and the Doctor, hopelessly infected with the fame bug thanks to Neelix (sigh...) is being more puffed up and pompous than usual. Before he can interview Jonas to death, Neelix is called to the bridge to help with a new problem. Torres had to vent the nacelles to save the ship from exploding but this caused irreparable damage to the warp coils...which of course was the plan. And Neelix' suggestion as to where they might find replacement material (Hæmorrhoid IV) is the lynch pin in Seska's plan. So, thanks again, Neelix. There's additional news of substance: Neelix' friend contacts them to inform the Voyager that the Nistrim has attacked and abducted Tom.

Act 3 : *.5, 17%

And so, we find Paris being interrogated by Seska under that same impractical blue light we saw Chakotay endure in “Manœuvres.” Instead of giant needles and sexual innuendo, Seska just parades her swollen belly around and expresses suspicion about Tom's defection. Again though, the big problem is the writers failed to give Seska a reasonable plan with all this. They captured Tom, okay. For what? Command codes again? His piloting? She says he has “information,” but that's just a flimsy bit of spackle on the forced plot mechanics. The writers need Tom to get aboard the Kazon ship to discover who the traitor is, and Jery Taylor couldn't come up with a reasonable scenario to justify this action, so whatever, they're the bad guys. 'Nuff said. Equally implausible is the fact that Tom is able, thanks to being left alone, unguarded and equipped with fancy tech somehow, to start decoding their past transmissions.

Neelix, meanwhile, is suspicious that the Nistrim were able to track and capture Tom within a few days of his departure like this. He hypothesises that there's a mole aboard the Voyager, and not the kind he can make into lunch. Because now he's a SERIOUS JOURNALIST, he considers it his responsibility to ferret this person out himself instead of informing Tuvok of his suspicion. Great. A harried Torres consents to grant Neelix access to the comm logs for the purpose of his investigation. Okay. Michael Jonas overhears Neelix' snooping...okay. Torres takes the only other person in Engineering at this hour into the Jeffries Tubes and leaves Jonas and Neelix alone...isn't that CONVENIENT? Jonas pops over to offer his “help” to the chef/talkshow host, clumsily trying to throw him off the scent. Neelix spots some gaps in the logs and Jonas claims that THIS WAS NOT A BOAT ACCIDENT or whatever. I think Sbarge would make a good Joker with that smile. Finally, he picks up a plasma torch, I guess planning to murder Neelix. Way to think things through, buddy. Ah, but then the Doctor calls—and not on the comm, but via video on the screen right in view of Jonas. Isn't that CONVENIENT? The EMH has gotten especially irritable with his continuing postponement and Jonas is looking grim.

So here's the major problem with this subplot, which has now become The Plot. Who the hell is Michael Jonas? Why did he join the Maquis? What was his relationship to Seska? Why is he the only former Maquis besides her actively subverting Janeway's efforts? With Seska's own defection in Season 1 (which this story echoes), we understood from her past in the OO, her relationship to Chakotay and her own complaints about Starfleet and Janeway in particular why she acted the way she did. Jonas is just a plot element. So when he goes for the plasma torch, I have no idea whether he's just another psychotic like Suder, or has become desperate like Hogan, or feels conflicted like Torres...the story's focus is on Neelix. And as much as one may be tempted to complain about this on its face (Neelix suuux...or whatever), the problem is in taking the focus away from the person who has a stake in this events.

Act 4 : **, 17%

Well, Neelix finally reports his findings to Tuvok, who appears somewhat skeptical. But we will soon see this is by design. For the moment, Tuvok appears highly suspicious of Neelix' “journalism,” but agrees to look into the matter, considering the seriousness of the implications. He “asks” Neelix to withdraw from the investigation, but Neelix cites the journalistic responsibility he has to continue looking into things. I'm conflicted. On the one hand, I very much support the free press (and no, that's not FOX or MSNBC or the BBC)--the actual free press who, for example, expose the actual political situation in places like Venezuela and how our corporate media do the bidding of the CIA. On the other hand, we're talking about Neelix, not Glenn Greenwald. I guess we'll call this a wash. I take that back, I'm siding with Tuvok in this case because when Neelix starts mumbling to himself on his walk to Engineering, it becomes clear that Neelix' interests are not in being a good journalist, but in upholding the *reputation* of being a good journalist. As I've discussed before, this ego problem is something he and Paris actually share, which is why they are rather arrested in their development; but such personal issues do not justify risking ship's security. Obviously.

So, Hogan is assigned to help Neelix in his digging. Because Jery Taylor is kind of a hack sometimes, Hogan is able to access these logs with a generic “Engineering authorisation,” instead of calling on Torres or whomever to provide it. We'll see how stupid this is soon. Anyway, Hogan confirms that the messages between Jonas and the Kazon were cleverly hidden in some technobabble. He's able to point Neelix towards deck 4 and Neelix is off to go searching people's quarters without a warrant. Again, I respect the freedom of the press more than I do privacy rights, but Neelix IS NOT A JOURNALIST. Sigh...

Neelix is able to break into Tom's old files thanks to that generic authorisation (yeah...) and makes a startling discovery, which he shares on his YouTube Channel...Janeway isn't pleased with this, and orders Neelix dragged before her. Here's where the subplot is finally broken wide open. Tuvok mentions to Janeway that this correlation between the logs and Tom's files was obviously planted after the fact, since he found none before. See, he and Janeway already knew about the mole (again, borrowing from “State of Flux”) and used Tom to try and figure out who it is. But this time, they decided to to keep Chakotay in the dark about their plan. Chakotay is pretty pissed off about this, and I have to say this threatens to undermine the mutual trust between him and Janeway we saw developing in “Lifesigns.” However, Tuvok makes it clear that it was he who insisted on keeping Chakotay out of the loop, for tactical reasons. This is in character both in terms of Tuvok's job and executing it with cold logic, and his history of deceiving Chakotay. It also makes sense that, at this point, Janeway would still side with Tuvok in such a matter. But we had better see this conflict come to some sort of resolution beyond “we needed a good performance.”

The Quartet determine to use Neelix' bullshit to try and ferret out the spy, by having him continue his investigation, and cast doubts on his suspicions about Tom. Chakotay notes that this would be kind of dangerous for the “journalist.” Meh, whatever.

We pick up with Tom on the Kazon ship, discovering the identity of Jonas via some footage of “Lifesigns.” And right on cue, Seska re-enters the room *now* with security backup. Yeah. Ah, but more implausible crap...Tom's data device doubles as a bomb, which goes off and gives him a chance to escape the guards. Naturally, he doesn't shoot anyone in the leg or use pregnant Seska as a hostage, opting instead to roam about the ship and duck and roll a bunch. Yawn...

Act 5 : *, 17%

Neelix dutifully reports to Engineering to continue his investigation. Torres calls for a missing data PADD which must be delivered by hand, which means that Engineering is vacated of all but Jonas and Neelix AGAIN! ConVEEEEEEEENient, no? Meanwhile, red alert is called and Janeway reports to him—the only engineer in the room, that they have a shuttle on its way in and Tom Paris may be aboard. Right, because Janeway always, always, gives the specific mission specs on important covert operations to whoever the fuck happens to be on duty when she needs to increase transporter power. Right. Oh yeah, Tom has managed to steal a Kazon shuttle somehow. He is able to contact the Voyager and warn them away from the ambush planet. Jonas is obviously not working on the transporters, and instead contains them in a force field. Tom is finally able to reveal the identity of the spy to Janeway, who sicks Tuvok on him. Jonas relieves Neelix of his combadge...Janeway is able to recover Paris...Jonas continues to sabotage the weapons systems...Tuvok can't accomplish a damned thing it seems, so SERIOUS JOURNALIST Neelix takes Jonas on in hand-to-hand combat. Of especial absurdity is the fact that Neelix grabs ahold of a giant crescent wrench (yeah those are super necessary to 24th century tech). Then there's a massive green fire for some reason and Jonas, for whatever reason, hurls himself at Neelix and ends up being vaporised in the fire. Jesus Christ. Neelix also restores the weapons and give Janeway her mojo back, enabling her to fire on Seska's ship. Do they try and capture her or Cullah? Don't be stupid, Stupid.

We end with yet another segment of Neelix' stupid programme, where Paris apologises for his behaviour during the subterfuge, and we are promised many more updates to come. Thankfully, we'll only see this once more.

Episode as Functionary : *.5, 10%

The final couple of acts are pretty shitty. No doubt about it. Because we have been given no motivation for Jonas, the actions are entirely about fulfilling the plot mechanics, which I noted were incredibly contrived this week. I think the solution to this episode, and consequently the subplot, would have been to scrap “Innocence” (a pretty shitty episode in its own right), and insert one more episode before this one focusing upon Jonas and Tuvok. We could have had Tuvok performing his investigation in the background, maybe misdirecting Chakotay as he smarted over Paris' behaviour—maybe Chakotay and Paris have another row in the brig, even. Most of the story would be about Jonas' history with the Maquis. He and Hogan and Carey and Torres can reminisce about some late nights in Engineering before Seska left, about how fun she would make things. We could learn that Seska, for all her faults, was someone Jonas implicitly trusted to look after them, who no matter what, was tough and always had your back. Hell, maybe he was jealous of her and Chakotay's romance. We could see that Jonas felt that Janeway didn't really trust the Maquis crewmen thanks to the way she shut Hogan down in “Alliances.” Then in this episode, when it's revealed that Janeway kept the plan a secret from Chakotay in order to manipulate him, Jonas' fears seem somewhat justified. This gives him something to fucking say during the climax, instead of just acting like a fool and falling off the balcony to his death.

The Neelix/Paris material is pretty good, and I think the Tuvok/Janeway/Chakotay issues have potential. The JOURNALISM thread was mostly just annoying, despite having a message I agree with in principle. Whoever decided to make the resolution to this subplot about plot fuckery instead of character really let down the potential for the series as this level of serialisation would be laregely abandoned in future seasons, which is a shame. And honestly, I think the way this episode came together (or rather, didn't) is to blame. What's even more frustrating to me is that the material surrounding Tom's departure from the Voyager actually works, but we don't really address it again, thanks to cluttering this story up with nonsense. I would have appreciated a more substantive followup to his departure conversation with Neelix besides a joke about ribbing Chakotay. Maybe we'll see this again.

Final Score : **
Set Bookmark
Fri, Mar 8, 2019, 4:48pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Accession

@Peter G

"No, it didn't. That's the point; it has left them divided, sectarian (remember The Circle?), and open to manipulation."

What I mean is that this episode clearly uses the D'Jarras as a stand-in for any number of social issues; there's no ambiguity in this story that the Bajorans were forced to abandon the D'Jarras during the Occupation, and even someone as conservative as Winn hasn't attempted to bring them back.

"Are they concerned that Sisko is doing some particular thing *right now* or is that only because this sets into motion a series of events resulting in some outcome in 10,000 years?"

That doesn't seem to have any bearing on the assertion that the Prophets have an agenda and use their abilities to affect beings like Sisko on purpose to manipulate them into doing things. I'm not even getting into the value judgement of such a practice yet, but we need to be clear on the foundation. The Prophets want things for their own reasons and don't appear to hesitate in taking actions to achieve them.

"Wait, so you're telling me you never set up situations to limit the choices people make? You consider the actions of anyone around you (a significant other, a child, a friend, etc) to be so totally free that literally any act taken by them (including decapitating you) is acceptable and you wouldn't speak against it?"

Your examples are not equivalent at all--children? Certainly you limit their choices because they are children and we are responsible for their wellbeing. My husband? No I do not limit his choices because I respect him as an equal and I trust him to make choices that our in our mutual best interest. That's part of why I married him.

But to take your (IMO kind of absurd) extrapolation at face value, let's say the Prophets view humans and Bajorans and all linear beings as children (kind of like Q says he does of us). When I was a kid, my parents forbade me from doing things could be dangerous, like say touching the stove so I wouldn't burn myself. If I disobeyed them, I might be punished, so that I learned to respect their authority until I was wise enough to know better on my own. What you're suggesting is that the Prophets would parent by taking the child's hand and holding it over an open flame to teach them how their hands could be burned by hot things. That's psychotic. And that's exactly what they're doing to Ben--there is zero sign that the Bajorans are on the path to returning to the D'Jarras on their own; even the evil Winn, Jarro, whoever else might show up haven't managed that, despite the apparent ease with which the Bajorans can be convinced so to do (more on that later). So, they find the most contrived, convoluted and improbable circumstance they can in order to jeopardise Bajoran development (assuming they even see it as such) so that Sisko is forced to embrace his role. I say "forced" because the alternative would be to allow the Bajorans to descend further into regressive social practices.

If they *wanted to*--if it were in their agenda, the Prophets have many, many other options available to them on how to uplift the Bajorans and prevent them from making bad choices, to parent them, if you will. But they choose the method that requires Sisko to commit to his role as their Emissary, because that's what they really care about: fealty. That's fucking sick, dude.

"How much more respectful can it get for the wormhole aliens to emphasize how important it is for Starfleet to be listened to?"

So, you're contending that the Prophets want Bajor to join the Federation? I don't think you want to die on this hill.

"But I do see where your difficult with this comes in: it's the very bad, almost pernicious, modern concept that we need to have a strict choice between traditions (all wrapped up in religious trappings) and a completely secular, untraditional, irreverent, atheistic way of life. These are the two pre-packaged gift baskets being sold, and it is total B.S.!"

Maybe, but that's the show's fault, not ours. Are there ANY Bajoran social problems that aren't related to their religion? Whenever they do something stupid, like bombing schools or murdering people for being in the wrong caste, the justification for it is their faith in the Prophets. The opening acts of this episode actually set us up for a situation that is more nuanced than what we get.

This is (one reason) why FBtS is one of my favourite episodes, because the Prophet experience is actually treated as a plausibly religious/spiritual one that has a real effect on people without being stuck in the clichéd, regressive trappings of Hollywood's version of religion. It's also one thing I think works well about VOY's "Sacred Ground," but I digress...

I don't think you've made a convincing argument about why the Prophets are not manipulative. Whether their choices are for the greater good or not, well that's perhaps a matter of interpretation, but you can't deny that they involve themselves to an extent that makes our characters little more than cosmic puppets. Q was also manipulative, but the show held him accountable for his actions; he was never presented as a moral authority--even in his most benign role ("Tapestry"), his agenda was clearly personal, borne out of his relationship with Picard. Pretending that the Prophets don't commit the same sins does neither the show nor the concept of being a modern religious person any favours.
Set Bookmark
Thu, Mar 7, 2019, 6:03pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Accession

@Jason R

Ah, now that's an interesting discussion that's been had several times on this site. In a nutshell:

There are two types of deities, the natural gods (think Greek pantheon) who are in some respect separated from man and have power over him, but are subject to the same capricious "human nature" as man himself.

Then there are the supernatural gods (like the god of Abraham) who have absolute moral authority (or anti-moral authority in the case of figures like the devil). The kinds of religions these different types of god images generate are quite distinct.

The gods of Bajor are clearly the former type, but the religion of Bajor is conceived as of the latter. That's the root problem of all the DS9 religion stories. The reason for this is that the writers wanted to play in the mythical space afforded by the pantheonic gods (one could count Q as this type), but for Western audiences, the religions of Abraham are familiar, and so those are the kinds they use to make their Bajoran pastiche religion. It doesn't work.
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Thu, Mar 7, 2019, 4:57pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Accession

@Jason R

In the Star Trek universe, there are no gods. This is not gate-keeping; the Prophets are defined in the show as wormhole aliens. This is why in "Sub Rosa," Ronan is an "anaphasic lifeform" instead of an actual ghost, because there are no supernatural elements in Star Trek. I have a great affection and respect for the nuBSG plotlines of S4, despite the fact that I am not personally religious, because the probability/possibility of supernatural elements is an integrated part of that universe.

On DS9, there are alien beings with advanced abilities who reside in the wormhole and whom the Bajorans worship as gods. These aliens can be affected by technology, as we see various times. They are not gods.
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Thu, Mar 7, 2019, 3:41pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Lifesigns

Teaser : ***, 5%

Paris arrives late and disheveled, complete with an absurd story about helping the Doctor deliver the extremely gestated Wildman baby. I've seen people earnestly criticise this moment for being unbelievable—as though Paris were actually trying to convince Chakotay that his hair is messy because he got afterbirth in it or something, and not that he's intentionally showing as little respect for his job as possible. Chakotay isn't amused and remarks that this lateness is becoming a bad habit. The Voyager encounters a Vidiian vessel emitting a distress call with a single occupant onboard. With no obvious signs of deception, Janeway consents to beam her to the Sickbay for treatment.

The EMH and Kes do their best with the very phaged body in their midst. They discover that the Vidiians have equipped the woman with a tech tech thingy which is attached to her brain. While Kes' suggestion shows she is quickly becoming at least as competent as the tousle-haired flyboy liar at the helm, the Doc needs something a bit more novel to help save this woman. Novel treatments are a given when it comes to Vidiians (holo-lungs in “Phage” and species-splitting cloning in “Faces”); in this case the Doctor takes advantage of the tech thingy on her head to extract her brain-patterns and download them into the computer. But more than that, he's going to recreate her body (phage-free) using the holographic tech in the Sickbay.

KES: Is there enough storage capacity in the holo-matrix for such complex data patterns?
EMH: There's enough capacity for my programme, isn't there? And my programme contains over fifty million gigaquads of data, which I don't have to tell you is considerably more than most highly developed humanoid brains.

This will be important later. For now, the CGI tricks used in the creation of the holo-body are nifty, as is the Doctor's expression of pride at his success. I already like this better than “The Schizoid Man.”

Act 1 : ***, 17%

There's a brief conversation between Chakotay and Janeway in which he gives her the opportunity to intervene on Paris' behalf before he starts disciplining him. For the moment, this is an important development in their relationship; Chakotay is demonstrating that, in the wake of his machismo in “Manœuvres,” he wants to show her deference, that even his personal grudge with Paris won't cause him to act without her blessing; Janeway on the other hand seems to want to empower Chakotay to be as professionally Starfleet as possible, rather than the token Maquis he complained about in “Parallax.” There may be a couple of other things going on here, too, which we'll get to later in the season.

Meanwhile, the doctor completes construction on his Vidiian RealDoll, I mean patient. The woman, Denara, awakens in holographic form, overwhelmed by the physical transformation she appears to have undergone. He doesn't quite realise the gift he has given her. Considering the utilitarian existence we have witnessed the Vidiians living so far, it's not surprising that even the illusion of health would be a profound emotional experience. Before long, we meander into the topic of the Doctor's name, something we briefly touched on in “Projections,” but which went most fully explored in “Heroes and Demons.” And there's another pretty holographic lady in his company...I think we know where this is going. Give that man a sword! Denara, it turns out, is a hæmatologist, so she'll be assisting with her own treatment. many organs has she pilfered from other species? Is she like a Vidiian vampire?

Act 2 : ***, 17%

We pick up said treatment bringing Torres into the Doctor's office, where he asks for a piece of her brain tissue. This is vaguely reminiscent of the scenario between Worf and the Romulan captive in “The Enemy.” Torres' trauma is more personal and far more recent than Worf's, but the Doctor also has far less empathy and patience with stubborn Klingons than Beverly. What makes all the difference is Denara herself:

DENARA: Please understand this disease has been killing my people for hundreds of years. Trying to stop it has become an obsession, and many of our politicians and scientists have never developed compassion for the people who keep us alive. As much as I want to go on living, I've accepted the fact that I will die soon. I only want your help if you are willing to give it.

I have always thought that Worf may have been tempted to give over his ribosomes or whatever to the Romulan out of *spite,* since the Romulan himself would have considered the life-saving gift a pollutant to his body. Only Worf's understanding of what Honour and Paternity meant to him kept him stubbornly on the side of “then he will die.”

While they graft Torres' brain onto Denara's, the Doctor starts to babble and brag a bit, much as we saw in “Heroes and Demons.” It makes a difference when someone sees the things you do as an accomplishment of your own instead of the product of a programme functioning properly. Holo-Denara is anxious to keep enjoying her new body, and it doesn't take long before the Doctor realises they can take a trip to the Chez Sandrines.

Therein, Kenneth Biller manages to create a holographic French alien so fucking annoying, that Neelix' introduction to the episode seems absolutely charming by comparison. Interesting technique.

EMH: I apologise.
DENARA: No. They were just being nice.
EMH: Irritating, isn't it?

ha. The conversation continues, and Picardo strikes the right balance between being somewhat clueless, droll, sarcastic, kind and generally hilarious. Anyway, it turns out the Doctor doesn't know how to dance, as this was obviously not part of his programming, magnificent though it is. And there's that pesky lack of name issue, too. Denara decides she may as well give him one, “Schmullus,” I assume because “Zoidberg” is under copyright. Actually, the name refers to an uncle who made her laugh. The Doctor's names so far say a lot about who he is/will become: Schweitzer was a medical doctor who had an especial affinity for solitude, cats and music. As Jammer mentioned in his review, the interaction between these two can best be described as “cute.”

Act 3 : **.5, 17%

Back to the B plot, and we find Chakotay in the Mess Hall holding a cup of coffee, sauntering up to Paris and striking his best tough-love-dad pose. We all know from “Learning Curve” that Chakotay's first instinct is to deck him right there, but he holds back for now. Instead, he takes the Dr Phil approach and asks Tom what's been troubling him. Paris responds by making a big scene, accusing Chakotay of being...erm, Jellico-ish, maybe? It's all a little vague, and Tom seems more than a little unhinged. We take a moment to note that Jonas is still relaying the goings-on to Seska's aide: “So that guy who went so fast he broke space time, turned into a newt and impregnated the captain, well you're not going to believe this but he TALKED BACK to Chakotay! Crazy...” Anyway, the aide finally has some instructions of his own, as he wants Jonas to perform a specific sabotage, but Jonas isn't going to play ball until he gets to talk to Seska directly. He's paying for premium content on his Pregnant Cardassian Hotties OnlyFans account, damn it.

Meanwhile, Dr Schmollusc or whatever is performing a self-diagnostic, in the vein of our favourite android. It seems his interactions with Denara are causing malfunctions of a sort, symptoms of his obvious attraction to her. So here's the thing about the EMH v. Data: Data's limitations—his appearance, difficulty with human behaviour, lack of emotion, etc.--make it easier for humanoids to discriminate against him (“Pinocchio's strings are cut”). The EMH on the other hand appears fully human and his programming allows him to pick up human(oid) behaviours and additional skills so easily that he quickly surpasses his peers, and yet he *still* is a victim of discrimination. Why? While Data's journey is more interesting on a sci-fi level, learning what it is to be human without the ability to feel victories or defeats, the Doctor's is more interesting on a sociological level. It doesn't matter if he can learn to sing and dance and perform brain surgery, everyone *knows* that he isn't human, and so they can treat him as sub-human. This is a topic which we will obviously revisit, especially in the late seasons of the series, but for now, I think it's important to recognise why an emergency medical programme would allow for romantic feelings to cause such distractions that they impede his ability to perform medicine (he's dropping things, etc). Remember that the Doctor noted to Kes that his programme was more complex and sophisticated than the average humanoid brain pattern, which is why Denara's mind is able to be housed in a holographic body. The Doctor expresses pride, frustration, envy, ennui, curiosity...all products of the complexity which allow him to behave “as if he were” a real person. The only thing which separates him from us in this sense is the knowledge that he “isn't” one. Why shouldn't romantic feelings be a part of that collection of human adaptations?

EMH: Because I don't like what's happening to me. I'm used to being in control of my faculties, confident of my decisions...Why would people seek out situations which induce such unpleasant symptoms?
KES: Because when the other person feels the same way you do, it's the most wonderful thing in life.

Kes determines that the only course of action is to behave, again, as “if he were” a real person. So, while the trio are performing more brain surgery, he drops the bomb on Denara ungraciously. Given his, what shall we call it...autistic approach to this reveal, Denara rebukes him and they carry on with the delicate procedure.

Well, this requires a visit to the l-o-v-e doctor, Lieutenant Flyboy McChlamydia himself, who's enjoying a beer at Sandrines, conveniently.

EMH: Mister Paris, I assume you've had a great deal of experience being rejected by women.

This would explain a few things. Paris' advice is...fine. It's kind of trite and predictable without a lot of insight into his own character or anything particularly interesting to say. It's just rote romcom dialogue.

Speaking of romcom, we get the female side of things (TROPE, take a drink) as Kes confronts Denara over her own feelings. What works a little better here is the fact that we tie Denara's own attraction to the Doctor into her history of ostracisation, and the camera pans over to the sickly body still rotting away on the surgical bed. Kes and Paris both encourage their counterparts to have a date, you know, that thing people did in the 90s, or so I've read. Romcom tropes away!

Act 4 : ***, 17%

The Doctor makes a personal log, the inaugural entry in fact. He reports that Paris and Kes have conspired to provide them an appropriate setting for their date. They're goin' to Mars, dude. Actually, I think getting stoned would do these two a world of good. In lieu of that, the Doctor showers Denara with an armful of clichéd gifts, puts on the music and reports that he's made a large addition to his programme...if you know what I mean...he can dance now [wink]. The actors manage to elevate the somewhat unimaginative plot elements and portray a charmingly convincing mood overall.

The Love Doctor meanwhile arrives late on the bridge to find that Chakotay has taken him out of the crew rotations. Well, this leads to Paris actually shoving Chakotay to the floor in frustration, landing him in the brig. Eek. Jonas eagerly reports this on his webcam, finally being allowed to communicate directly with Seska. And off come the pants...things quickly go from sexy to ominous, however:

SESKA : I have no intention of raising my child on a Kazon ship. One way or another, I'm going to take the Voyager. You can either help me, or you can suffer along with Janeway and the others!

She repeats the instructions about how to sabotage the ship, name drops a planet called, um, Hæmorrhoid IV or something. Then I assume she starts unzipping her bra...

The Doctor voice-overs that he's pleased with how his relationship is progressing and that he's looking forward to continuing this experiment after Denara's brain is put back into her body. But the process doesn't seem to be working properly. Uh oh.

Act 5 : ***.5, 17%

Further examination suggests that someone sabotaged the procedure.

EMH: I can only conclude that someone is deliberately trying to kill Denara.
KES: Who would want to kill her?
EMH: Perhaps someone who bears ill will towards Vidiians. Whoever it is, I intend to find out.

Well, the assassination mystery ends abruptly as Denara confesses to having administered the sabotaging drug herself. We quickly learn that Denara has her own death wish; that's two guests of the week in a row! I told you this was a dark show.

While the EMH may have adapted to have the same feelings and desires as human beings, one advantage afforded to him by virtue of being a holographic doctor is that he isn't limited by natural superficial tendencies that govern human sexuality. He feels no disgust towards Denara because he has no instinctive drive to fuck. We humans have to develop deep, complex empathy for our partners before we're able to act above our carnal desires, but the Doctor is already there.

EMH: Denara, I was never afraid to touch you.
DENARA: Why? Because you're a doctor?
EMH: Because I love you.

He realises that the experience has been as radically transformative for him as her holo-body was for her, and pleads that she not throw her life away. We end with the heartfelt image of the two (Denara back in her real body) dancing in firelight of Sandrines.

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

This is an episode that is more than the sum of its parts. Those parts are all very adequate; the development of the Doctor is sensible; the POV with the Vidiians is sort of interesting; the continuity with Torres and Paris and Chakotay is logical; the plot is very subdued but with a reasonable arc; the music is a touch more inventive that the usual wallpaper; and the romance is handled with enough restraint to be believable. What really sells it are the performances which manage to convert occasional triteness into cuteness and usually manage to sidestep the trappings of the tropes they're exploring to be genuinely touching or amusing as the moment demands. As will become a pattern on Voyager, this story is something that probably would have worked better as a plot thread sprinkled throughout the season instead of condensed into a single episode. In TOS and often on TNG, the hyper focus of the episodic format meant we explored an issue to its core. If this story had taken that approach with the sociological factors and human questions for the Doctor, we wouldn't have had any time for the humour that makes the show entertaining. So it's a trade, and the end result is a charming little story that gently taps open several doors but never completely takes off.

Final Score : ***
Set Bookmark
Thu, Mar 7, 2019, 3:12pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Accession

@Peter G

"They're in the same boat in that respect, which is likely one of the reasons why he is 'of Bajor'. Comparing the Federation, for instance, to Bajor, we know that it's not enough to vaugely stumble towards technological advancement: but as a people Earthers need to learn that they *must* evolve socially to become better. Eugenics Wars and WWIII will have taught us that it can't just be 'whatever happens, happens' but rather we must make the future something of our choosing."

Huh? The Bajorans had their own disaster event akin to humans' WWIII, the Occupation. That experience was the thing that taught them that they needed to be better.

"That the Prophets affected Sisko's life through real knowledge and the desire to help him and others could be called manipulative insofar as they had a desired effect, but beyond that truism I don't see any reason to call it manipulation. That term carries the specific connotation of the intention being nefarious, which is textually not in evidence here."

Well, we don't actually know what is motivating the Prophets. Do they actually care whether the Bajorans use a caste system? Do they care so much that they allowed the Occupation to occur in order to "teach them a lesson"? I don't think the series ever actually answers these questions. And I suppose it doesn't have to explicitly, but even without being specific, the Prophets clearly have an *agenda.* They have preferences for how people end up. And they set up situations in order to limit the choices people have to affect those desired ends. To me that's more nefarious than mind control, because the latter at least doesn't leave the person being controlled under the impression that they are making free decisions.

I don't know. Maybe I read too many nihilists, but I find the relationship between SIsko and the Prophets and Bajor really disturbing. I don't know that we're going to come to a consensus on this.
Set Bookmark
Thu, Mar 7, 2019, 12:35pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Accession

@Peter G

As I pointed out, the Bajorans moved past the D'Jarras *on their own* without any Emissary. The Prophets decided they wanted one, and when he wasn't enthusiastic about it, they plucked a regressive dude who could steal is title from the past and forced SIsko's hand. That is manipulative.
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