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Elliott
Mon, Oct 7, 2019, 12:15am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Second Season Recap

@Peter G.

"But I think your observation that the best episodes (Meld, The Thaw, Death Wish) aren't part of the main arc is more than just coincidence; they were uttlery uninspired in terms of the show's direction and had to pray for random good ideas to come along."

As I alluded to, I disagree with the framing of this idea. The show's "direction" didn't have to be substantially different from TOS' or TNG's, except with this ongoing plot to get back home. The writers chose to attempt a semi-serialised arc, but their subject could hardly have been worse. That's a creative failure, yes, but it's not for a lack of ambition or ideas--the Trek ideas are there, evident in those good episodes. It was all just...unfortunate.
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Elliott
Mon, Oct 7, 2019, 12:10am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S3: The Search, Part I

@Gaius Maximus

Thanks for the question. My answer is that there is every indication within the text and execution of this episode that Sisko relished the opportunity to build the Defiant, and that shapes my reaction to him irrespective of whether it was his choice of assignment. I think my assessment (as I re-read it) isn't so much that this new backstory makes SIsko immoral but that it makes him unhealthy. The immorality comes in when he chooses to take actions that are unethical, but the unhealthy psyche we are seeing does factor into Sisko's decision-making.
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Elliott
Mon, Oct 7, 2019, 12:02am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Fourth Season Recap

@William B

Good to be back! Thanks. I just want to clarify that my character rankings are cumulative. So I think Sisko had ups and downs this season that cause him to have more or less the same "score" that he had at the end of S3. Other characters actually deteriorated (like Garak), but were starting from a much higher position. I suppose it's arbitrary, but when you watch the show, you go into a new season with preconceptions of the characters from the previous seasons, so this seems to make sense to me. When 7of9 gets introduced, I will start her from 0 since she's a blank slate. With Worf, like I said, I guessed at where he ended up after TNG and decided that he got a little worse over the course of this season. I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do with Ezri.
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Elliott
Sun, Oct 6, 2019, 11:55pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Apocalypse Rising

Teaser : ***, 5%

After the recap, we get a recycled season-opening move from “The Search.” Sisko has been off the station and the crew are awaiting his return (he's running late). The subversion comes when, instead of revealing his impossibly-overpowered new warship, Sisko slinks back to DS9 in a runabout, nearly destroyed. The intervening dialogue between O'Brien, Kira and Worf makes it clear that the war with the Klingons has escalated—it also makes it clear that Kira is in charge god damn it.

Sisko reports that the Klingons are “throwing everything they have” at the Federation now which...uh, I guess means the Cardassians are pretty jazzed.

KIRA: It's hard to believe one changeling could cause so much chaos.
DAX: He can if he's impersonating the leader of the Klingon Empire.

Monarchies are bad, kids. Anyway, Starfleet has decided that Sisko will lead an infiltration team to expose Gowron as a Changeling. I'm curious how this conversation went...

HQ: Captain Sisko, I see here you took the Defiant to the Gamma Quadrant on an un-scheduled mission without authorisation.
SISKO: Yes, ma'am. My chief of security, The One Changeling in the Galaxy We Can Trust, became sick and we needed to find him a cure.
HQ: You know, we have doctors who...
SISKO: So, we surrendered the Federation's only warship to the Dominion, let them fuck with our logs, and were led to their homeworld so they could cure him—er, judge him for being The One Changeling in the Galaxy We Can Trust.
HQ: Did Bajor sign an extradition for...
SISKO: We had a little problem as the Cardassian terrorist I brought along almost got us and all of the Founders killed, but luckily Mr Worf punched him in the face. Did I say “terrorist”? I meant tailor.
HQ: Ben, this is highly irregular...
SISKO: Anyway, the Founders found The One Changeling in the Galaxy We Can Trust guilty of treason and punished him. See, they can link with each other, body and mind, exchange thoughts, etc.
HQ: So the Dominion knows...
SISKO: While he was linked with them, The One Changeling in the Galaxy We Can Trust learned that Chancellor Gowron has been replaced with a Changeling—one we probably can't trust, I reckon.
HQ: They gave that information away?
SISKO: No, ma'am. He realised like a day later when he saw Gowron's face that he had...um...seen Gowron's face.
HQ: This seems really dubious, Captain, but I suppose if The One Changeling in the Galaxy We Can Trust says that...
SISKO: Oh, he's not a Changeling anymore. They made him a human, but he REMEMBERS being a Changeling, see.
HQ:...
SISKO: BTW, sorry it took me 2 months to bring you this information, I've been really busy visiting my Maquis girlfriend in prison. How's this fucking war going?
HQ: Ben, I have a new mission for you...

Act 1 : ***, 16.5%

Speaking of the constable, Sisko tracks Odo to Quark's. Turns out that as a solid, he's turned to alcoholism to numb his pain. May as well jump in with both feet to the human experience. This leads to a tight little scene between Odo and Sisko where the former monologues a bit on the tempting banalities of flesh (expertly of course). Sisko thinks he can tempt Odo away from the drink by recruiting him for his absurd mission.

ODO: What you need is someone who can turn into Gowron's pet targ. I can't do that anymore.

So Sisko just orders him to report to the mission briefing. Said briefing begins by learning that Gowron is deep within a fortified Klingon base and defended by dozens of warships, and is always being personally watched by private security guards.

BASHIR: The changeling impersonating Gowron must have already found a way around [blood tests].
WORF: There is another option. We could kill him.
O'BRIEN: Dead changelings do revert to their gelatinous state.
SISKO: Our orders are to expose Gowron, not assassinate him.

Couple things. The only dead Changeling you've met, Miles, disintegrated into a pile of cigarette ashes, not jelly. Also, I know it's a war or whatever, but it would be nice if the fucking Starfleet captain didn't chuckle at the suggestion of murder. Who wrote this? Oh of course it's Wolfe and Behr. Where's my beer, Odo...?

Anyway, Starfleet has developed some tech tech golden snitches that will force a Changeling to revert to its natural form. So, I'm quite certain that every starship, station and facility is going to be equipped with these things immediately, right?

To get into Klingon space quickly, Sisko has decided to recruit Dukat and his rebel ship. He of notices Kira's baby bump which leads to the expected...

KIRA: Shakaar's not the father.
DUKAT: Then who is?
KIRA: Chief O'Brien.

Cute. We then get the steady-cam reveal of O'Brien and Sisko, surgically altered to look Klingon. O'Brien looks like a terrified gerbil, but Sisko is in his cos-playing element it seems. I guess it also seems that, even though the Klingons have become “meticulous about blood screenings,” they don't bother actually analysing the blood to see whether it's Klingon. They probably just stab each other in the hand as a form of greeting. “Qapla' my brother! Do you too have sepsis?” Seems about right.

Act 2 : **.5, 16.5%

Dukat and his number 1 lackey, Dumbass—I'm sorry, he gets a personality upgrade this season, so I'll call him Damar—spend a moment teasing Sisko and co. over their make-up. They eliminate the possibility of just bombing the facility housing Gowron, Tiber Con or something, which is good. Always nice to tie up those loose plot threads so long as you don't dwell on it. It really is amazing how much more realistic Sisko comes across as a Klingon, rivalling and perhaps besting Dorn's sullen but practised portrayal of Worf. He should just keep the ridges. Auberjonois is very much himself under heavier prosthetics, but poor Meaney/O'Brien seems incredibly uncomfortable. Did they really need a fourth musketeer for this plot? The plan is crystallised; there's an induction ceremony happening on Tiger Corps or whatever for “The Order of the Bat'leth” [eyeroll], and so Dukat is instructed to falsify the quartet's credentials for candidacy. This will enable them to get close to Gowron and deploy the snitches.

Meanwhile, we get an update on the budding male lieutenant, DS9's offscreen olive branch to gender non-conformity, which is nice. Oh, and Kira and Bashir have a wink wink nudge nudge thing about her pregnancy that we all know about. That part of the conversation is, er, fine. But the following “do you think they'll make it?” is exceedingly trite. It all feels very fan-service-y and forced and I don't like it.

We pick up with Worf putting the rest of the quartet through their Klingon paces. Only Sisko seems to get that in order to pass as a Klingon, you should hit people and act like a psychopath. Like I said, he should just keep the ridges, they really make his characterisation feel more natural. O'Brien continues to play the comic relief role, but honestly it's uncomfortable how pathetic he seems. Fairing better (as a character) is Odo, whose self-doubts and depression are causing him grief. Sisko does his best to comfort him, but he doesn't have much to offer beyond, “you'd better suck it up, solid.”

This okay scene is interrupted by a hail from another bird of prey. Sisko and co. join Dukat on the bridge to address the issue. For drama's sake (or whatever term you prefer), Dukat's holo-filter isn't working, meaning that the hailing Klingons will see Cardies on the viewscreen. Worf offers to try and intervene, but Dukat says fuck it and just blows up the other ship. Cold, dude. It's an effective little scene for Dukat, but it does beg the question of why the Empire hasn't issued a warning regarding this lone bird of prey going around shooting their own ships. You'd think in a state of war, it might be standard procedure to keep the shields up. I'm sure it has something to do with honour.

So, they arrive at Tiberius Crone or whatever and Dukat informs Sisko that he's getting the fuck away as soon as they beam down. His logic—much like in the preceding scene—is tough to dispute; if Sisko is successful, Gowron will surely arrange for their return to the Federation, and if he's not, they'll all die well before Dukat could do anything about it. Because of course he would. Dukat's such a mensch.

Act 3 : **.5, 16.5%

Despite being on a space station, Tigger Crayon or whatever has these arched windows with sunlight streaming through. Meh. The way the scene is revealed to us in kind of interesting. The music is deadly serious, conveying the thrill and danger of the quartet's mission, but we are seeing Klingons belching and drinking and butting heads—generally being fratboy idiots per their idiom. The effect is palpably dissonant which is a very good and efficient means of ratcheting up the tension.

On DS9, ostensible main character Jake Sisko is at his usual perch making very “it was a dark and stormy night” level observations about the station's occupants. You know Jake, just because you're a writer now, you aren't entitled to monologue like some Eliot Ness knockoff. This is apparently here to justify some more pro-military, pro-Sisko masturbating on the part of the writers:

JAKE: I suppose. But sometimes I wish that he wasn't so good at his job. That way, maybe every once in a while they'd give someone else the tough assignments.
BASHIR: He goes where he's sent. It's all part of wearing the uniform, and I doubt that's ever going to change.

Oh for fuck's sake, Ira. Why not just change the Starfleet jumpsuits to say “Army Strong” or something if you want to be this unsubtle?

In the interim, the Klingons and the would-be Klingons are “celebrating” by telling the stories and getting incredibly drunk. Well, the away team has been given a drug to prevent getting too drunk from the blood wine. This is all a big endurance test to see who can binge drink for an entire night and still receive his induction from the Chancellor. Because nothing says “honourable warrior” more than ancient and revered customs of “Porky's.” One of the Klingons brags about murdering a friend of Sisko's, so Sisko punches him in the face, because he's a psychopath. But because he's got those ridges, it's very easy to make the excuse that he just wanted to clear a path to the booze. See? Just leave him a Klingon, it will all be so much better. Toxic masculinity is a pillar of Klingon society after all.

After some more Klingon-bro bullshit, something vaguely interesting happens; General Martok appears, whom we remember as Gowron's right hand man and father of disappointing sons in “The Way of the Warrior.” The quartet fear being recognised by him. I'd think Worf in particular might be a fucking liability since his entire disguise is a hair-do, but Martok doesn't seem to notice anything amiss. Knowing Gowron must be nigh, they split up and gently rest their balls all over the room—the snitches I mean, are set up, except that O'Brien is momentarily interrupted by a sceptical Martok. Oh, and Odo drops his snitch before it's picked up by a drunken Klingon.

Act 4 : **, 16.5%

With Worf's help, he's able to recover the thing and get it set just in time for Gowron's arrival. Sisko's alter ego is summoned to receive his medal before he can activate the balls. This is rather stupid as, if the things work, turning them on before he ascends the proscenium would expose Gowron and end this tedium, but the plot demands that he pocket the activation circuit instead. Like I said, Sisko may be an immoral opportunist, but he's not an idiot, so this is...really sucky characterisation for him, ridges aside. Anyway, Gowron pins the medal on, complete with that patented insane stare of his, but it is Martok who recognises Sisko and strikes him down before he can slink away, calling for the room to be sealed and secured.

I don't know...I'm kind of unimpressed with this whole subterfuge conceit. Yes, we know that the aliens on Star Trek are just people with rubber glued to their faces. That's part of the fun. And in fun and/or whimsical stories that more or less acknowledge the theatre of this trick work just fine. But when you have a serious plot hinging on the ability of an away team being able to infiltrate the enemy, we are expected to believe that Dr Bashir can make two humans and a human with the face of Resusci Anne look like a different *species*, but not different enough from their human selves not to be recognisable as themselves? When Worf had his face done up in “Homeward” or Chakotay got the Vidiian beef-jerky skin in “Faces,” we may have been able to identify Michael Dorn and Robert Beltran, but the aliens they needed to actually fool wouldn't have any means to recognise them within the story, whether the alien designs were as bare-bones as they were on TOS, or as elaborate as the most expensive modern-day CGI would allow. So this plot point kind of sort of completely ruins the magic. Shame.

Act 5 : **.5, 19% (long)

Martok dismisses the guards in the brig so he can level with Sisko and co. It becomes clear pretty quickly that Martok already suspects Gowron of being a Changeling.

MARTOK: He is a politician, too eager to compromise, too eager to talk. Last year, he stopped the attack on Deep Space Nine instead of going to war with the Federation. And then he changed. Suddenly he was the one calling for war...but after the war began, he started ignoring the counsel of his generals, throwing aside all wisdom in his pursuit of victory. Our losses continue to mount and still he listens to no one.

With the snitches destroyed, Martok concludes that the only way to prove Gowron a spy is to kill him, just as Worf had originally proposed. See, this is a major structural weakness of this story. Our main characters have already dismissed the ethical implications of such an act. Remember that they still don't actually *know* whether Gowron is a Changeling. To up the stakes (however contrived) and leave the heroes with a difficult choice is good, but by having Sisko casually laugh off the prospect in Act 1, I'm not inclined to suspect that he's actually going to have to wrestle with the whether in this situation, only the how. And that's just a far less interesting story, while simultaneously continuing to paint Sisko in a negative light.

Speaking of how, Martok isn't going to bother with honourable combat (red flag!), nor is he going to just murder Gowron himself (red FLAG!). Instead he's going to let the quartet out of their cell so they can murder Gowron. So Martok is obviously not behaving honourably, which is somewhat suspicious, but hey, maybe he's one of those Klingons who values pragmatism over custom. So, tell me how relying on the only people who would have a hard time getting close to Gowron again to kill him makes any practical sense? But Sisko and co. are too stupid to realise this and just nod in agreement. Great. Oh, and Martok murders four other Klingon guards to aid in the quartet's escape (RED FLAG!!).

Meanwhile, Gowron and the other inductees are still drinking, which...did it not occur to Gowron that Sisko had to get here somehow? That maybe they should scout for a ship or something? No? We're just going to drink more? Okay. Odo is held back by Martok from the Great Hall of Warriors.

MARTOK: Not you. There's no telling where your loyalties lie.

Worf and Gowron go at it and finally Odo wises up.

MARTOK: What are they doing? Why doesn't Sisko just shoot him?
ODO: I have a better question. Why isn't Gowron letting his bodyguards kill Worf? I'll tell you why. Klingon honour. A concept you should be very familiar with. My people, on the other hand, don't care about honour. How did you put it? There will be no honourable combat, no formal challenges. Hardly the words of a Klingon.

And so Odo exposes Martok as the true Changeling just in time to prevent Worf from killing the Chancellor and watches as his actions cause the horrific death of yet another one of his people.

In the first of two epilogues, Gowron is convinced to go as far as a cease-fire with the Federation in light of these new revelations. The portrayal of the Klingon people continues to be most unflattering as the only reasoning given for why the war itself can't end is because Klingons are both to proud and too insane to be called off mid-battle. So then how is a cease-fire possible? Is it because the Klingons require a tangible victory to sate their blood-lust? Perhaps. But remember what I mentioned in TWotW; Worf noting that the Klingons are going back “to the old ways” is a sign of their decadent decline. The Empire must maintain its bread and circuses in order to stave off a genuine political revolution that would (hopefully) dismantle the monarchy entirely. Oh yeah, and Gowron promises Worf that he won't get another chance to kill him. …

The second epilogue kind of sort of not really ties up Odo's character thread by having him choose to have Bashir restore his old shape-shifter face. I guess that, because Odo proved himself useful on this mission, given his insight into Changeling psychology (although again, Worf at least should have seen through Martok immediately), he wants to keep that part of himself that links him (haha) to his people. Or maybe he feels like he deserves to be seen as a Changeling because he's internalising the guilt imposed by his people for “betraying them.” Who knows? The scene is like 20 seconds long.

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

I find myself more or less in complete agreement with William B here. Dukat is a lot of fun. Some of the Klingon stuff is entertaining (especially Gowron). And the general function of the plot to move the series back on track to deal with the Dominion is appreciated. But the character touches for Odo and Sisko are half-baked, there are numerous plot holes and head-scratchy moments, most of the Klingon stuff is repetitive, Miles is pointless, and the scenes on DS9 are terrible. What this story needed was more compelling characterisation, mostly for Odo, but also for Worf and Sisko. It starts out with an intriguing tease: Odo's gone from a low-key fascist to a depressive substance-abuser and Sisko finds himself with a new challenge with one of his people; Worf is forced to *again* betray the letter of the law with his own people in order to uphold its spirit; and Odo must *once again* get one of his people killed. There's a lot of thematic overlap with these men and their relationships to their respective “people” here, but it's not really developed or explored in meaningful ways, leaving the script full of filler scenes and Klingon belching. Not a terrible opening, but less than unremarkable.

Final Score : **.5
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Elliott
Wed, Oct 2, 2019, 1:41pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Fourth Season Recap

Hello everyone!

Well I didn't mean to take a summer hiatus from posts, but life happens that way sometimes. Anyway, I'm back with my write-ups for VOY S2 and DS9 S4 and will be diving into the following seasons directly. Looking forward to more lively debates!

DEEP SPACE NINE SEASON 4

No. | Title | (x/10) | [Jammer +/-]

**** | Exceptional (must watch)
1. The Quickening (9.5) [+.5]

***.5 | Excellent (truly enjoyable)
2. Hard Time (9) [-.5]
3. Rejoined (8.5) [=]
4. Paradise Lost (8.5) [+.5]
5. The Visitor (8.5) [-.5]
6. Return to Grace (8) [+.5]

*** | Good (solid instalment)
7. The Way of the Warrior (8) [-.5]
8. Homefront (8) [-1]
9. Indiscretion (8) [+.5]
10. Body Parts (7.5) [=]
11.(tie) Little Green Men (7.5) [+.5]
11.(tie) Crossfire (7.5) [=]
13. Broken Link (7.5) [=]
14. Hippocratic Oath (7.5) [=]
15. Our Man Bashir (7) [=]

**.5 | Okay (problems, worthwhile)
16. Accession (6.5) [-1]
17. To the Death (6) [=]

** | Watchable (not good, not awful)
18.(tie) Bar Association (5.5) [=]
18.(tie) The Muse (5.5) [+1]
20.(tie) Starship Down (5.5) [-1]
20.(tie) Sons of Mogh (5.5) [-1]
22. Shattered Mirror (5) [-1.5]
23. Rules of Engagement (5) [-.5]
24. The Sword of Kahless (4.5) [-1.5]

*.5 | Poor (annoying)
25. For the Cause (4) [-1]

Average : 2.7721 stars (7/10) [-6.5]

Season Shape (10pt scale):

1 ********
2 ********.5
3 *******.5
4 ********
5 *******.5
6 *****.5
7 *******.5
8 ****.5
9 *******
10 ********
11 ********.5
12 *******.5
13 ********
14 *****.5
15 *****.5
16 ******.5
17 *****
18 *********
19 *****
20 *****.5
21 ****
22 ******
23 *********.5
24 *******.5
25 *******.5


Summary

I embrace the notion that “The Way of the Warrior” is actually a second pilot to a new series for which DS9 S1-3 serves as a prequel. Now, Trek has a bit of a tradition with that model. You could easily call “The Child” and “Evolution” second pilots to TNG as it struggled to define itself. And “The Expanse” is a very deliberate attempt to reboot a terrible programme. Some have said that “Brother” is a more recent example of this. The difference with DS9 is that the writers were quite happy with the direction their series was going and insisted that their plans not fall to the wayside amidst the new elements. So DS9 S4 is simultaneously a premiere season for certain facets of the series, and the creamy centre of the show as a whole. I think it's worth looking at these threads separately, because of all the episodes to focus on Worf and/or the Klingons (“TWotW,” “Sons of Mogh,” “Rules of Engagement” and “The Sword of Kahless”), only the pilot was enjoyable. There are a couple of episodes which make peripheral use of the Klingon/Cardassian conflict (“Return to Grace” and “Broken Link”) which are pretty good. And the remainder of the season (19/25 episodes) could exist, with very little tinkering, without any of the rebooted elements. Amongst these 19, only “For the Cause” was truly unpleasant to watch, getting about the same score as “Shadowplay” and “Profit and Loss.” But nothing fell to the level of “Sanctuary,” “Move Along Home” or “Fascination.” And otherwise, you've got 14 episodes, excluding the pilot, getting 3 or more stars from me. Taken together, that's a remarkably strong season of Star Trek. And it's understandable that the brand new elements would struggle, as all “first” seasons of Trek do.

So what made this season so good overall? Y'all may scoff, but I think it's exactly what made the good parts of Voyager's concurrent 2nd season good: classic Trek messaging with a fresh twist, deftly woven together with character development. “The Quickening” (best episode IMO) was a crucial and probing Bashir story with a brave message and gorgeous production; “Hard Time,” similarly, is a tour de force for O'Brien (and Colm Meany); “The Visitor,” despite not being as perfect as many Niners insist, is a stunning and moving tale, and quite effective for being so simple; “Rejoined” is a beautiful story that gets queer representation right for once; and “Paradise Lost” is DS9 doing a political story with polish and style, despite budget limitations. With Worf in the mix, the show didn't, perhaps, have the bandwidth to tackle issues related to the Prophets, Bajor and Major Kira. Now, that's a bit of an oversight in terms of what the series has thus far prioritised, but those elements have always been extremely problematic. So their relative absence is not something I'm prepared to complain about. But credit where it's due, “Accession,” while not good, was not nearly the cluster fuck of failure that its S3 prequel, “Destiny,” was. Finally, the smattering of comedies this season was unusually consistent; “Body Parts,” “Little Green Men,” and “Our Man Bashir” all managed to be sincerely funny.

Trends :

The Klingons

One of the most interesting threads from TNG's middle dealt with the decline of the Klingon Empire. It was sadly dropped after “Redemption” in favour of this new-agey pro-”diversity” spin on their culture which celebrated their nonsense (to be clear, I celebrate diversity, just not the shallow, virtue-signalling, limousine-liberal variety). It is most commendable that DS9 took an element which was forced upon them, the Klingons, and spent a great deal of time on this largely-abandoned theme. The writers were thrown a curve-ball in their carefully-laid plans, and I say that the series is all the better for it. As I said in “The Way of the Warrior:” “The foundations of Klingon society are falling away. Honour doesn't mean anything anymore, it's just a word, it's just political currency. As a culture, this is bound to lead to existential nihilism on a broad level. What the Klingon people need is massive reforms, the introduction of democracy, of social programmes, an end to the nobility, and an end to the Empire. All such reforms are a huge threat to Gowron and the rest of the Klingon leadership of course, so in lieu of genuine meaning, the people are given a chance to go back to the days of raping and pillaging, the Klingon bread and circuses.”

I think that what we see in “The Sword of Kahless” drives home the point that the Klingon culture is on the decline. Without the codependence on Federation antagonism we saw in the 23rd century, the Klingons' pernicious cultural perspective is a liability to their continuance, again explaining how easily they (and SPOILER Gowron himself) were manipulated into engaging the Cardassians. And don't get me started on the skull-fuckery going on in “Sons of Mogh” vis-a-vis “honour.” “Rules of Engagement” revealed some of the extent of Klingon rot, as the underhanded tactics employed by the Duras Sisters (“worthy of a Romulan” is how I believe Picard put it) now exemplify imperial policy.

The Dominion

The Klingon skirmish war allowed the writers to “tease” us with Dominion issues. Following the trend established in “The Adversary,” the Founders have taken to subterfuge and (dear God I can't believe I'm saying this) spreading Fake News amongst the Alpha Quadrant powers to destabilise them. Between “TWotW,” where Gowron is shown to be acceding to Klingon decadence in the most destructive of ways, and “Broken Link,” where Odo reveals that Gowron [[[is]]] actually a Changeling, lies the “Homefront”/”Paradise Lost” story, which effectively showcases Dominion political tactics. It all syncs up very well.

Dominion “culture,” such as it is, is expanded in small ways. In “Hippocratic Oath,” we see how the Jem'Hadar regard compassion and empathy as programmable traits, alien bugs their enemies suffer. Conversely, the Jem'Hadar are highly-propagandised victims of the Founders' war against the autonomy of solids. Despite some gummified bits, this is confirmed in “To the Death.” Then of course, there's “The Quickening” where we get a glimpse of the Dominion's sadistic wrath (far more effectively than in “Shadowplay”) against those who would oppose them. The religiosity of the Dominion and the Founders' status as its gods is made more or less explicit by Odo's punishment in “Broken Link.” The will of the gods is inviolate, and Odo is cast off from Olympus for his hubris.

Federation Values

When it comes to economics of the future, DS9 is still firmly in the regressive camp. Emblematic of this is the infamous “root beer scene,” where Quark and Garak brush over neoliberal destruction of labour value and focus upon an entirely superficial discussion of multiculturalism. But the example that is likely more insidious comes from “Homefront” in which societal ills (in this case paranoia and bigotry) stem not from malleable political systems, but from immutable human flaws. Or take O'Brien's off-handed remarks about his old job in the transporter room in “Bar Association” (an episode rife with philosophical inconsistencies); Miles was great at his job AND he had the ability to pursue any project his heart desired, 'cello, marriage, science projects, rafting, whatever. That's the point of the Federation economy. But now he's happier on DS9 because he's so busy fixing this hodgepodge space station that his work days are full? Whose fantasy of personal fulfilment is that? Or take “To the Death” where the Starfleet officers behave like Hollywood clichéd hyper-thyroid foot-soldiers when forced to work with the enemy. Starfleet is full of jarheads now. Fantastic. I've said it many times, but it remains true: these attitudes contradict the overarching thesis of Star Trek at its core. It is perfectly valid, as a matter of personal beliefs, to ascribe to this antithesis, but it disrupts the verisimilitude, at least for anyone grappling with the work as a coherent and philosophical piece of art, of the Universe. And far more so than unimportant disruptions to the continuity of certain plot points or world-building.

It should be noted that in most of the season's political outings, the anti-Trek messaging was only at a simmer (part of why this season is so good), but “For the Cause” unleashed the full onslaught of right wing bullshit upon us. And you know I'm no Sisko fan, but his total dumb-fuckery was way out of character in that story. I have issues with Sisko's ethics, with his hypocrisy and with his toxic masculinity, but he's not *dumb.* Yet in order to make Eddington look like he has a point, because this is DS9 and the assholes who hate the Federation must always be valiant anti-heroes, Sisko is made to look like a completely gullible fool. Good job, Ira.

Bajor & Cardassia

First of all, TWotW immediately resolves all the frustrating non-answers we had about the status of Cardassia from S2/3, which is very much to the series' betterment. Dukat's odd journey from deposed military leader to disgraced outcast to anti-establishment rebel over the coarse of the season vividly paints the picture of a dangerously unstable Cardassia.

The little peeks at Bajoran culture were typically not great. The hypothetical timeline from “The Visitor” was very unflattering to these people. The grab-bag of poorly thought-out Bajoran rituals continues to illicit facepalms (c.f. “Starship Down,” “Bar Association”). And the most Bajor-centric story, “Accession” continued the DS9 tradition of making the Bajoran religion and its (universal???) adherents look totally bonkers. However, that story also raises the possibility of reform for Bajor on its ostensible path to Federation membership. I describe Cardamom's challenge to Sisko's Emissary role as an impasse for the Bajoran people. It's all the more frustrating then that the Prophets self-consciously opt to make the choice for them. They deliberately affect THE Sisko in order to cause changes in the Bajoran people over linear time, despite claiming to have virtually no understanding of linear time. And before someone mentions that maybe Sisko's arrival in the wormhole—or hell Cardamom's arrival--*taught* the Prophets about linear time, remember that the reason the Prophets are considered gods at all is because they exist outside linear time. If the series really wants us to think that the Prophets exist outside linear time, but understand linear time AND utilise this advantage to affect changes to their favour, then they are not benevolent gods, they are devils, and the Bajorans are a planet-spanning group of cultists.

Characters (in order from best to worst):

Odo [+]

Odo remains DS9's most compelling character by a mile. Season 3 saw him trying to adapt to life amongst the solids, despite knowing he had a people to return to, in an attempt to embrace his humanoid ethics. And now, with the Dominion threat on the rise, all these people—the Federation, the Klingons, and even the Bajorans—regard him with growing suspicion and even contempt. So engrossing is his characterisation that he (with help from the excellent Auberjonois) is able transcend even banal plot points like the Kira-Shakaar love triangle and leave us with something compelling. Beyond the triteness of his attraction, Odo's otherness is at the heart of his uncharacteristic cowardice in expressing himself to Kira, leading to further heartbreak amidst an already broken existence. And yet, for now at least, he holds it together and finds solace and friendship where he can (c.f. “The Muse”).

Did I say “holds it together”? Well of course, the season finale cuts fundamentally into Odo's sense of self, bringing him home and making him a solid in retribution for violating the covenant of Changeling superiority.

“I'm trapped in this body. I can never rejoin the Great Link. My job is the only thing I have left.”

Bashir [+]

The first step in fixing this character was to drop the skirt-chasing entirely. Bashir's character this season centres around his job as a physician, and that works remarkably well. While his framing within certain stories (c.f. “Hippocratic Oath”) isn't always great (often way too cynical, per Behr's DS9 idiom), as a character, his professionalism has really done wonders for making his presence welcome. Thus, a lightweight tale like “Our Man Bashir,” which could have been a genre larping disaster, winds up being a fairly fun ride. And then there's “The Quickening,” which takes him to task for his arrogance in the most moving of ways. Bashir has been flighty, horny, brilliant, smarmy, insightful, brave, morose. But he has up to this point lacked a soul. We see now that his convictions as a doctor, and the choices he's made (c.f. “Emissary” and “Distant Voices”) stem from a deep need to help people. We've had some great MDs over the franchise so far, but this is the first one whose career feels truly personal...eh, without being weird and creepy (sorry, Bev).

Dukat [+]

I was worried about this guy after his anaemic appearances in S3, but he's back, baby! Politically, Dukat has evolved to become DS9's analogue character for the “West is best” philosophy within our own world, which is fitting. The man is an aggressive (if nuanced) fascist who happily represented the interests of a fascist state. When his state lost its direct power (losing Bajor in “Emissary” to losing the Obsidian Order in “The Die is Cast” to getting into a lopsided war with the Klingons in “The Way of the Warrior”), Dukat creeped into the “dark web” world of fascist apologism, re-writing history, gas-lighting Kira, etc. And this political orientation suits his personality perfectly, as Dukat's ego requires him to re-write and re-contextualise personal interactions all the time. Despite his intelligence, he is naïve enough to imagine that a relationship between himself and Kira is possible—any relationship, let alone a romantic/sexual one. But as luck would have it, “Indiscretion” provided him a new tool in this mad quest that actually forces Kira to conform; Ziyal, whom Kira all but adopts in “Return to Grace.” Through some very deft and thoughtful characterisation, Dukat is set up for a possible redemption arc that would turn him into one of the “good guys,” which is especially impressive for a space Nazi.

Garak [-]

Garak is still a superstar. Look no further than “Body Parts” for evidence of this. Very little could be done at this point to destroy his character (although, we still have 3 seasons to go), but I did find his appearances this season lack-lustre. Compared with the harrowing adventure in “The Die is Cast,” nothing came close this time. Take his blunt approach with Julian in “Our Man Bashir.” There was no subtlety or misdirection. Now, after the fall (and assumed death) of Tain, one would think Garak's reaction would be to do “The Wire” but in overdrive. Instead, he's become sort of normalised. Gone are the hints at pansexuality. Gone are the labyrinthine psychological games. This character-flattening is most evident in the season's worst offering, “For the Cause,” where his weird flirtations with Ziyal are boring and banal. For a character like Garak, such characterisation is a crime against fiction.

O'Brien [-]

“Hard Time” was a great story, and Colm Meany is a brilliant actor. However, I found O'Brien very problematic this season. In “Hippocratic Oath,” we see that his otherising of the enemy is so insidious that it will lead to outright insubordination. The ludicrous backstory (250 battle engagements in 22 years, 11 “battlefield” letters to Keiko) from “Rules of Engagement” and “To the Death” further emphasise the writers' seeming desire to alienate us from the tinkering family man with a heart of gold persona. But he's got a new kid on the way—maybe bringing Keiko back into the mix will help set him straight.

Kira [-]

Kira is probably most interesting in “Return to Grace” this season, where it is shown how her attraction to anti-authority figures, temper, vengefulness and distaste for bureaucracy can, under the right conditions, make her an unwitting ally to her greatest enemy, Dukat.

She has a boyfriend again because...um, feminism? Don't get me wrong, I'll take Shakaar over Driftwood any day, but the writers have spent approximately 0 moments considering what motivates Kira in this relationship, or almost anything else this season. Take her consideration of the new Emissary in “Accession”; she mentions that accepting this situation is difficult, but is never asked to contend with the ethical/philosophical implications of adhering to her faith. This isn't some minor character attribute, this is a defining feature of her life, and it's left dangling, flaccid and meaningless.

Oh yeah, and she's pregnant now. Do we have any idea how she feels about this? Of course not.

Dax [+]

Dax is finally, mercifully on the rise this season. While the Trill remain mostly unsalvageable (c.f. “Facets”), “Rejoined,” as I said, is kind of genius in its storytelling, not only for the very Trekkian analogy, but in how it makes sensible use of the contradictions in Trill backstory, much how some Torres episodes make use of the contradictions in the Maquis. “Rejoined” is also the first *Jadzia* episode since “Dax” in S1. All other Dax stories thus far have been about the symbiont, or more pointedly, about Curzon and his lingering dominance of Jadzia's personality. We finally see what she brings to the table besides her science background, which is to say, valuing personal freedom and agency. Quite the irony for a Trill.

One positive aspect of “The Sword of Kahless” is that it seems Dax has learnt to objectify Klingon culture more easily. She still has fun with it and feels affection for her old buddy (and a developing admiration for Worf, Prophets help us), but she finds the actual trappings of their society increasingly problematic, as Curzon never quite did. Despite hiccoughs like “For the Cause,” Jadzia's general characterisation is generally much better. Her supporting role in “The Quickening” was wonderfully realised. Ferrel's acting has improved quite a bit with these better stories, so overall I'm optimistic for Dax.

Quark [+]

Quark can certainly still be relied upon for a laugh, thanks to Shimmerman's consistently brilliant performances, but his character also saw a small amount of improvement this season, which was needed. I'd call his characterisation in “Bar Association” decidedly neutral (which is an improvement), but his standout episode was “Body Parts.” Similarly to Bashir, Quark's motivations are wonderfully humanised here. Beyond the avarice and one-liners, Quark craves human connections, a community, a family that values him for who he is. This makes sense given how political and emotionally distant his mother is, and how countercultural his brother and nephew have become.

Worf [(-)]

Since I haven't done an analytical TNG re-watch yet, my placement for Worf here is a bit of an estimate. As I said in TWotW, I loved him in early TNG and grew to kind of hate him by the end. While he showed promise in TWotW, the way his character had already been ruined by “Birthright” and “Rightful Heir” in particular persisted in his DS9 debut. He was good for a laugh or two in some of the subplots early on that added him as an afterthought to pre-planned stories, but his characterisation in “The Sword of Kahless” and “Sons of Mogh” was irredeemable (Kor's, too. And Sisko's. And Bashir's. Yeesh). “Rules of Engagement,” despite centring on Worf, didn't actually reveal anything interesting or important about his character. I'll say that he does feel fully-integrated into the cast, and that this is largely a result of the stories that did not fixate upon him. Little cameos/subplots that capitalised on his grumpiness worked, for the most part.

Sisko [=]

Sisko had ups and downs this season. He remains near the bottom of the list for me because the overall effect on his character was to stagnate, despite some significant changes to his life. And he has a lot of ground to make up from previous seasons. He's probably at his worst in his mentorship of Worf, because in these scenarios, Sisko is an avatar for the writers (hi Ira) lecturing the TNG transplant about how much better it is to be a nihilistic fuckwad. He forces a difficult issue out of sheer laziness (and implicit racism) in “Sons of Mogh,” and then doubles down by making Worf complicit in his cowardly plan to ferret out the Klingons' laying of illegal mines. Then he dresses Worf down for his un-Starfleet behaviour in “Rules of Engagement,” only to once again double down on un-Starfleet behaviour himself (c.f. “Shattered Mirror,” “For the Cause”). Like I said, these are old Sisko tapes, but it still sucks.

“Starship Down” was unkind to everyone' character in some way, but I think it was the worst for Sisko as it's a plot about military tactics, and Sisko is the (sigh...) military leader, so the poor choices in that story do him no favours.

As a captain, Sisko is at his best in “Paradise Lost,” which marries his militaristic loyalty to “the uniform” with a loyalty to Federation principles, which is the most Trekkian characterisation he's received since “Shakaar.”

However, what buoys Sisko up this season are Brooks' performances—lightyears above earlier seasons. This is achieved largely through the close relationships he has with others, Jake in “The Visitor,” Pa Sisko in “Homefront,” and Kasidy in “For the Cause.” That last example is a double-edged sword, though, because, barring some serious therapy or something, these two have no hope of continuing a healthy relationship after the Eddington incident. They lied to each other, over and over. She put Jake in serious danger over a dubious cause. He's responsible for her arrest and for allowing her crew to become renegades (SPOILER: they're all going to die).

Jake [+]

The big take-away from “The Visitor” is that Jake has some major psychological issues brewing between his art and his relationships. This thread actually showed some promise for the character as turning Jake into a tortured artist—while far-fetched—would at least be something interesting for him to do. And we saw them fumble with the theme in “The Muse” (although I maintain it's not a bad episode, just an unremarkable and unfocused one).

He had important character moments in “Shattered Mirror” that were completely left out of Lofton's written lines, assigned instead to be exposited in tedious conversations between Ben and M-Jennifer, so that was all kind of a waste of time.

Rom, Nog and Bitchwhore (/)

None of these appeared enough (or at all) for me to cast a rating, but I wanted to mention them as they will of course recur in later seasons. The Ferengi duo were pretty funny in “Little Green Men,” and I liked Nog's contributions in the Earth 2-parter. RIP Aron.

***

So yes, it S4 is very strong because DS9's toxic elements are far more subdued, it improved its more problematic characters, those characters who fell short were already strong to begin with, and the season had an understated but sensible arc, successfully marrying the shaky new elements with the confident old ones.
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Elliott
Wed, Oct 2, 2019, 1:40pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Second Season Recap

Hello everyone!

Well I didn't mean to take a summer hiatus from posts, but life happens that way sometimes. Anyway, I'm back with my write-ups for VOY S2 and DS9 S4 and will be diving into the following seasons directly. Looking forward to more lively debates!

VOYAGER SEASON 2

No. | Title | (x/10) | [Jammer +/-]

**** | Exceptional (must watch)
1. The Thaw (9.5) [+1]

***.5 | Excellent (truly enjoyable)
2. Meld (8.5) [+.5]
3. Death Wish (8.5) [=]

*** | Good (solid instalment)
4. Tuvix (8) [=]
5. Resistance (8) [-.5]
6. Lifesigns (7.5) [-.5]
7. Alliances (7.5) [=]
8. Dreadnought (7) [+.5]
9. Deadlock (7) [=]

**.5 | Okay (problems, worthwhile)
10. Innocence (6) [+.5]
11. Prototype (6) [=]
12. Resolutions (6) [+.5]
13. Manœuvres (6) [-.5]

** | Watchable (not good, not awful)
14. Cold Fire (5.5) [=]
15. Basics I (5.5) [-.5]
16. Investigations (5) [=]
17. Parturition (4.5) [=]
18. Non Sequitur (4.5) [=]
19. Persistence of Vision (4.5) [-.5]

*.5 | Poor (annoying)
20. Initiations (4) [-1.5]

* | Terrible (do not watch)
21. Tattoo (3) [-2]
22. Threshold (3) [+1]

Average : 2.4885 stars (6/10) [-2.5]

Season Shape (10pt scale):

1 ****
2 ****.5
3 ****.5
4 ****.5
5 ***
6 *****.5
7 ******
8 ********
9 ******
10 ******.5
11 ***
12 ********.5
13 *******
14 ********.5
15 *******.5
16 *****
17 *******
18 ******
19 *********.5
20 ********
21 ******
22 *****.5

Summary

Voyager's second season is notorious. Many reviewers (especially those that don't care for the show in general) view it as by far the worst of the seven. I'm reserving judgement till the end here, but I'm more interested in parsing out why that perception persists. In raw numbers, S2 is about the same as S1—of course, in my viewing, I reintegrated the holdover episodes “Elogium,” “Twisted,” “Projections” and “The 37s” into season 1. “Projections” was a great EMH story, but I think the Doctor does fine in S2 without it. “The 37s” was *meh*, but I think it's more functional as a season finale than an opener. The other two holdovers were fucking terrible—worse, in fact, than any of the remaining S2 episodes in my opinion including “Threshold.” So in realtime, we had a mediocre opening, one good Doctor episode, and two horrible episodes front-loaded onto the season. That's bound to make a viewer exasperated. To compound matters, the remaining episodes that make up the beginning third of the season are no better than *meh* themselves and frequently quite bad.

The real problem with this season is that it has the inverse issue that DS9's third had. That season had SIX really shitty episodes, but none of them were connected to the central arc, namely Odo's inevitable slide towards the Founders and the apposite political fallout. The “arc” stories which book-ended the season and peaked with the memorable “Improbable Cause” were no worse than fine and in many cases sublime. Voyager S2 has its sublime moments—more, I'd argue than DS9's 3rd—however, these are not stories connected to the main Kazon arc. “The Thaw,” “Meld,” and “Death Wish” are superb stories that have basically nothing to do with the Kazon, save the involvement of Suder in the finale. Of the remaining good (3-star) stories, only “Alliances” is connected to the arc, and for me denotes its high point. But that story had its problems, too. All of the remaining Kazon stories are okay at best and frequently tedious. Throw in a couple of shitty stories like “Tattoo” and “Threshold” and it's very difficult to remember the season's high points. There was one other arc (Michael Jonas) woven into the season, connected to the Kazon, which was built-up effectively, but ended on the low end of “watchable.” The irony of all this is that Voyager's second season is *actually* more serialised than any previously-aired season of Trek, including DS9 thus far. But the execution of the serialised material was so poor that that this approach was largely abandoned hereafter and DS9 became the vehicle series for arc-storytelling.

And this is sad to me, because Voyager's early strengths were improved upon—all of the main cast, Chakotay's racist backstory and Neelix' continued...personality notwithstanding—were enhanced. The most redeeming aspect of “Threshold” was the effect it had on Paris' character! The great stories this season had the philosophical chops to go toe-to-toe with TNG; if the show had been that—strong characters engaging in interesting Trek dilemmas while they made their way home—I think it would have been remembered differently. But the producers were intent on having the show be gritty...er, some of the time, and the conceptualisation of the recurring bad guys was too bland to sustain this approach.

Of course this brings up the elephant in the room. Jammer gets right to it in his recap:

“A Federation starship all alone, comprised of an initially divided crew with two distinctively different philosophies of life, separated from their origins and element by some 70,000 light-years of vast and unknown space.

A premise indeed.

Why in the world have the creators chosen to take this premise—perhaps the most important and potentially most intriguing asset the show has—and do so little with it?”

I have two thoughts about that: The first is that reading TV guide interviews in the 90s and absorbing the hype adds all kinds of unnecessary layers to the task of confronting and critiquing the art before us. That's why I do not intend to review Discovery any time soon. There's just too much crap swirling around the internet to address the series on its own terms. Voyager was “supposed” to be all of these things and failed to measure up, I guess. But I was 8 years old in 1996. I watched TNG with my grandfather and when Voyager aired, I found it to be a worthy sequel that gave me most of what I liked about TNG with some differences. While I think I've proved that I'm going to be just as critical of this series as I have thus far been of DS9, I don't harbour the animosity that so many reviewers I respect, including Jammer, the Agony Booth, and SFDebris, seem to, having absorbed the show concurrently with the marketing abomination that was Rick Berman and UPN. My second thought is that, as I've made clear in numerous reviews now, the notion that there are “two distinct crews with two distinctively different philosophies of life” is a premise that comes entirely outside of the show itself. No episode of TNG, DS9 or Voyager has ever demonstrated that the Maquis have a coherent philosophy of any kind. Attempts by the writers to make the Maquis crewmembers live up to this forced premise nearly always fail because no philosophy was ever developed for them that made any sort of sense. That said, I think the writers made some interesting decisions with the Maquis this season. I'll get to it (and you thought the Season 1 recap was long).

Trends :

Technobabble (“Sci”-fi)

At some point around TNG's fourth or fifth season (which just so happened to be Gene Roddenberry's final trip around the Sun), the series lost much of its mise-en-scène, by which I mean the music became bland, and the pacing of stories required much more dialogue to fill out the runtime. Think of a story like “Time Squared,” and the most memorable aspects of that weird sci-fi tale are shots of the Enterprise in swirling rainbow clouds or Picard scrutinising his doppelgänger. There's a sense in these early episodes (to say nothing of TOS) that these impossible sci-fi premises which defy explanation are wondrous and mesmerising. Without those elements, it comes to the writers to “explain” what the fuck is going on. And thus is born the infamous crutch known as technobabble. Voyager is littered with the stuff and so far, it has added nothing to the series. That said, I think the kvetching about it is a little much. DS9's early seasons had what I called the “DS9 Banality Syndrome (DBI),” which is endless blathering about personal bullshit that feels plagiarised from a Writing 101 class. That dialogue is equally useless as the technobabble on Voyager, but gets a pass because it's (ostensibly) about character instead of the plot. The irony is that Voyager's tech-heavy scripts are salvaged by its character elements. “Threshold” is bad, but it's not as bad as “Cathexis” (which was equally as brain-dead) because there's a redeeming character journey for Tom for us to latch onto amid the skull-fuckery lizard baby divide-by-zero story. I would much rather re-watch “Threshold” or “Deadlock” than “Initiations,” which had no technobabble to speak of.

Trek Ethos

There is a running theme of pitting traditional TNG ethics against the pragmatic considerations demanded by the Voyager's circumstances. The theme isn't developed yet, but it is nascent; Torres questioning the PD in “Prototype;” Chakotay getting on Janeway's case in “Alliances;” Tuvok considering capital punishment in “Meld;” Quinn begging for state-assisted suicide in “Death Wish;” Doc's possible sentience in “Lifesigns,” and of course, there's “Tuvix.” In general, Voyager has a very firm hand on Trek morality. “Death Wish” fits nicely into higher-being stories like “The Survivors,” and “Tuvix” does more with the transporter accident trope than any of the series has since the first season of TOS. There is a pernicious criticism of Voyager that it rehashes tired elements from TNG, but I challenge you to show me how the aforementioned stories repeat any lessons or takes from TNG or TOS. The lessons are, for the most part, fresh or reconsidered.

If you look at the episode list from this season, there are essentially 3 types: the nuts-and-bolts stories, the Kazon arc stories, and the philosophical Trek stories. The best of these by far have been the philosophical stories—and in many cases, the philosophical elements from the nuts-and-bolts stories. We know that the relative failure of the Kazon will lead to Voyager largely dropping its arc stories from now on, so the question becomes, what will take up the slack in future seasons?

The Maquis

I'll repeat briefly that the entire concept of the Maquis was a huge mistake on the part of the Trek writers, poorly thought-out, contrived, inconsistent, contradictory, and frustrating as hell. Whether by design or (more likely), in relinquishing to the unsolvable puzzle this presented to the show, the Voyager writers have reduced the Maquis label to something akin to a fraternity. The Voyager Maquis are, as a group, a bit more violent and prone to fits of emotion (c.f. “Meld”), and they share kinship simply for having lived as an outcast group for a time (c.f. “Alliances” and “Resolutions”). I know some will read this as rationalisation, but I sincerely believe that going any further with the Maquis would have required leaning in to the conceptual problems I have outlined at length, and that would have been to the detriment of the show and to the franchise. Comparing Voyager to nuBSG, splinter groups like the Sons of Ares or the Gemenese zealots have their own in-Universe raisons d'être which (mostly) make sense within the established history of that series, whereas the Maquis do not. Thus, when those cultural conflicts surface amidst the existential scenario on nuBSG, we can see how human nature would prolong and reproduce these conflicts despite seeming so petty in context. On Voyager, this would be too absurd to accept.

The “Bad” Guys

As I said, the Kazon arc is rather meticulously structured—it's just not good. Continuity and serialisation do not necessarily make good stories. The idea of starting out with “Initiations” (the first Kazon story of the season with or without the S1 holdovers) is rather smart. Here we meet a sect of Kazon who are at odds with the Nistrim and Seska. So, we delay the payoff from “State of Flux,” we create further tension, and we have the opportunity to explore the species' backstory in isolation from the season's plot. The structure is great; but the content is abysmal. It's a lazy collection of clichés, grunting and Klingon-lite. This improves slightly in the next chapter, “Manœuvres,” in which Seska's influence over the Nistrim leads to machinations of an alliance between the sects, all in an attempt to seize and control the Voyager. The arc reaches its zenith with “Alliances,” in which the backstory with the Trabe, Neelix' ostensible function in the show, Janeway's character flaws, and the complicated Chakotay/Seska story all meet and set the show on its inevitable course. “Basics” has so far fallen back on action/plot elements with the more interesting character and social issues largely pushed to the side. “Basics I” needed to be much more than it was, not only a spectacle, but a culmination of all the material that led to its creation. What is going on with Seska anyway? What's her plan to get back the AQ with this Kazon in tow? What does it mean for Caligula and his orange men to have finally overcome the Voyager and positioned themselves to exact revenge on the Trabe and the other sects? Well, “Basics” seems to invested in cliché action story bullshit to answer these questions, but final judgement will have to wait for S3.

The Vidiians

Nothing this season does as well with them as “Faces,” but we get a reasonable and oblique look at their culture through Denara Pel in “Lifesigns.” While her reaction to her sudden holographic de-phage-ing was telling, that episode did not find a way to make her sympathetic AND quintessentially Vidiian the way, say, Jarok was portrayed in “The Defector,” fully Romulan AND sympathetic. It would have been better to show her interact with other Vidiians, not least of which in “Resolutions.” The advantage the Vidiians have over the Kazon is that they are genuinely threatening and viscerally creepy. The way they casually harvest alt. Samantha Wildman in “Deadlock” is very disturbing. And it does feel reasonable that Janeway and Chakotay would rather be exiled on planet sexy monkey time than allow the Voyager to contact them. But aside from a couple of future cameos, this is the end of them. Shame.

Others

With the exception of the Clown and the Trabe, none of the one-off villains (Augris, the Roe-bits) are particularly memorable. The Clown was a tour-de-force and great success both in conception and execution. The Trabe helped flesh out the Kazon arc somewhat, but much more could and should have been done with them to make the ongoing story more interesting. The rest served their plot functions at best.

Characters (in order from best to worst):

Janeway [+]

Janeway's characterisation is the strongest this season, building on the successful introduction of the character in season 1. I thought the little glimpses into Janeway's vulnerabilities were especially effective, such as in “Persistence of Vision,” “Deadlock” and “Resolutions.” There are also signs of her increasing pragmatism. She maintains a strong Federation ethic (“Death Wish,” “Prototype,” “Meld”), but when it comes to her crew and its unique mission, we see that she has begun to bend the rules. She deals with outlaws in “Resistance;” she attempts a military alliance in, erm, “Alliances”; she murders a sentient lifeform in “The Thaw” and arguably in “Tuvix.”

Though not the best episode of the season, I think the centrepiece is definitely “Alliances.” The Kazon arc is at its most deftly-crafted, there's a crucial shift in Janeway's character for the rest of the series, and the Trekkian questions are woven into the fabric of the ongoing story. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself here, but there is going to be a lot to say in comparing Sisko to Janeway, and the sacrifices each make of their own souls. Sisko...sort of...sacrifices his “self respect,” eventually, in order to save lives. Janeway sacrifices her principles (eventually) in order to save *her people's idealism*. As I said, she fears the slippery slope. The cliffhanger has got to be a major blow to her confidence and her self-righteousness. We will see where this leads.

EMH [+]

Pretty much every episode has at least one hilarious EMH scene. In many cases, especially early on in the season, these are the most redeeming features of the stories. With “Projections” moved to S1, the most substantial Doc story is “Lifesigns,” which I think did a decent job of continuing and developing the themes from “Heroes and Demons.” Instead of a fully holographic character engaging in some light romance, unbeknownst to anyone else, we have moved on to an organic being, housed within a hologram, and the EMH's mentee/friend Kes offering her counsel throughout the process. It's also significant to see how the Doctor has grown as an individual by the time of “The Thaw,” when he's capable of witty subterfuge against the Clown.

Tuvok [+]

Tuvok is probably the MVP of the season. He held things together in the incredibly shaky “Cold Fire” and “Innocence,” both of which would have been total failures without his presence. We are introduced to Tuvok's dark side in “Cold Fire,” and begin to explore it in the excellent “Meld.” It's also hinted at in “Innocence” that Tuvok has a rather extensive academic knowledge of emotions—more-so than Spock, who was part human, did. This hint won't be fully fleshed out until Season 5. “Resistance” also establishes a the beginnings of a relationship between Tuvok and Torres that will also get development further along.

Torres[+]

Torres was generally well-handled this season, “Persistence of Vision” notwithstanding. The threads connected to her backstory and internal conflict are woven into otherwise nuts-and-bolts tales in “Prototype” and “Dreadnought.” We discover that Torres' skills as an engineer stem from her trauma, which was explored in “Faces” last season. She channels her self-loathing into her work. Unlike Geordi, who probably flocked to engineering in an attempt to remain anonymous (he lacks confidence, so this way his work speaks for itself—it isn't flashy), or Miles, who simply seems to have “working class labour” built in to his DNA, Torres needs her energy to go somewhere. She needs to hit something, or someone. So it may as well be a hammer. But of course, the Roe-bit she created had to be destroyed, Basic Instinct-style, and the Dreadnought missile also had to be destroyed. It doesn't matter whether she creates to save a race or destroy an enemy, her creations always seem to end in tragedy. Methinks the trauma will continue.

Chakotay [=]

If you want a complete summary of my problems with Chakotay's backstory, the reviews of “Initiations” and “Tattoo” will provide. I assume most of you are familiar with the botched sourcing the producers used for him. And the credulity and/or laziness that went into adopting that research accounts for much of the racism in the development here. But I tend to blame Michael Piller for the character's true failings. The vague Native American stuff was just a convenient, very 90s vessel for him to explore this fetish for earthy back-to-nature subcultures. There are natural conflicts between societies which choose to reject technological advancement and the Federation, whose economics and social philosophy depend upon technologies which eliminate material scarcity. But that's not what Chakotay or his “people” represent; Chakotay is a self-help book, a new-age cultural appropriation, whitewashed and filtered down to the most superficial elements for the benefit of the overworked and stressed-out Me-Generation folks at home. This will reach its zenith with “Insurrection,” Piller's final creative project for Star Trek. I'll talk more about it there.

On the other hand, the continuation of the Seska material is pretty good. Her pattern of betrayal continues well beyond her defection from the Voyager, manipulating Chakotay's macho back-to-nature ego via sci-fi rape, and leading his crew into a trap. There's also something darkly weird in the fact that Janeway also manipulates him throughout the Michael Jonas subplot, preying on his resentment of Paris to oust the mole. I don't question Janeway's pragmatism per sae, but the fact that the followup to all this is their budding romance in “Resolutions” is interesting and, well, kind of weird.

Paris [=]

As I said, the character work from “Threshold” is what keeps the episode from falling all the way to the bottom for me (well, that and I'm not offended by DEGREES of messed up fake science). Tom's daddy issues are hardly original, but they fit his personality and serve to carry the character forward. He has a purpose on the Voyager. And hey, now he's the crew's only hope of ending their exile. The real problem for Paris this season is that a lot of his character material outside of “Non Sequitur” and “Threshold”--which were not good stories—revolved around his subterfuge in the Michael Jonas plot. Those bits were kind of interesting, but they ended up not meaning much to his character other than the acknowledgement that Janeway had learnt to trust him with a delicate mission. His confession in “Investigations,” while interesting on its own, is especially frustrating for its lack of follow-up.

Seska [-]

Seska was almost always entertaining when on screen. Martha Hacket managed to turn otherwise cringey material between her and Caligula into semi-entertaining villainy, and she always felt substantially more dangerous to the Voyager than the Kazon themselves in her chaturbate cam calls to Jonas. But given the excellent set-up we had for her back in “State of Flux,” the writing definitely let her down this season. We can (pretend to) hope that things go better for her in the continuation of “Basics.”

Kes [+]

Like Troi, Kes is often present but unused. However, I think she makes small but important strides this season, questioning her loyalty to Neelix and realising the potential breadth of her mental abilities. What we eventually see emerge is a character who still yearns for growth and adventure, but is paradoxically terrified of change. She rejects Thanos' offer to join the exulted Ocampa in “Cold Fire;” she violates her own conscience to plead for the restoration of Tuvok and Neelix in “Tuvix;” and she is the catalyst for the rescue of Janeway and Chakotay in “Resolutions.” “Cold Fire” showed us why this might be, as lurking within the kind and gentle soul we know is a dark and powerful creature who would destroy the very people she loves.

Kim [+]

As a supporting character, Harry is fine. The one episode that was about him, “Non Sequitur,” succeeded only insofar as it accidentally revealed that he is attracted to suffering. I don't mean in the joke way that Harry is the show's punching bag (although considering he's already died three times, that's a valid issue), but rather that the character seems to be most meaningful in improving the lives of the people he's around, most notably Paris. Kim's best episode is probably “The Thaw,” which managed to weave some character insights into the madcap masterpiece; Harry is embarrassed by how much he misses home, by how this infantilises him in the eyes of the crew. So, his lack of lines in other episodes (a technical flaw, make no mistake) can be interpreted as intentional reservedness for fear of being judged. The kid needs a major shake-up, though.

Neelix [=]

Sigh...the “Parturition”/”Investigations” resolution to the Paris/Neelix feud, though mostly unpleasant to watch, was a positive step in shedding the character of his shittiest quality, that pubescent and grating jealousy. His egoism is clearly alive and well throughout, however, making him the most unpleasant character on the screen most of the time. No attempt is made all season to return to the potent spring of character possibilities set up in “Jetrel.”

***

So, S2 is not a good season, but it isn't awful either. There are some genuinely great stories and the characters are progressing nicely, but the series' attempts at telling long-form stories are a major nuisance. If it is to improve, it needs to focus on its strengths and develop a new way of creating momentum from episode to episode.
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Tue, May 14, 2019, 11:24am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Broken Link

@William B

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

@Chrome:

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

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

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

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

@Dave in MN & @Springy:

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

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

Teaser : **.5, 5%

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

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

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

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

Act 1 : **.5, 18%

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

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

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

Act 2 : **.5, 18%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act 4 : ***.5, 18%

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act 5 : ***, 18%

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

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

Cute. William B said:

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

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

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

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

Ah, but the epilogue has a coda.

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

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

Episode as Functionary : ***, 10%

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

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

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

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

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

Guess who got to meet Robert Picardo last night! 😁

Teaser : ***, 5%

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

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

Act 1 : **.5, 17%

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

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

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

This brings us to the next sticking point:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lol

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

Act 2 : **, 17%

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

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

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

Act 3 : **.5, 17%

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

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

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

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

Act 4 : *.5, 17%

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

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

Act 5 : **.5, 17%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

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

“[T]his episode does some important and mostly good things with characters and concepts, but is hampered by execution issues. Much of the dialogue and plot points are rushed through without being thought out to their full potential, creating several unnecessary frustrations.” Aside from the cliffhangery aspect and the bits with Suder (which are good), “Basics” so far is that episode on steroids. The action elements are fine. As I've maintained, these points usually tend to bore me anyway, but the plot does not hold up to a lot of scrutiny. There are a number of contrivances both with Seska's intricate and improbable plan and with Janeway and co.'s reaction to it. The story goes to great pains to portray all of them as Very Clever, savvy and somewhat cynical, but it just doesn't hold up in execution.

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

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

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

@Peter G

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

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

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

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

Teaser : **.5, 5%

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

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

Act 1 : **.5, 18%

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

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

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

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

Act 2 : ***, 18%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act 3 : ***.5, 18%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act 5 : ***.5, 18%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode as Functionary : ***, 10%

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

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

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

@Peter G

I have to say I completely disagree with you.

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

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

As to your nits:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teaser : ***, 5%

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

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

Act 1 : **, 17%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act 2 : **, 17%

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act 3 : **, 17%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act 4 : ***, 17%

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

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

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

*ahem*

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

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

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

Act 5 : ***, 17%

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

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

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

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

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

Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

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

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

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

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

@Peter G

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

Re: "Up the Long Ladder"

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

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

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

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

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

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

@William B:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

@Peter G:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, precisely.

@Jackson:

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

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

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

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

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

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

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

Act 1 : ***.5, 17.5%

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Act 2 : ***.5, 17.5%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act 4 : ****, 17.5%

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

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

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

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

Act 5 : ****, 17.5%

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode as Functionary : ****, 10%

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teaser : **.5, 5%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

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

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

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

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

Act 3 : ***, 17%

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

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

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

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

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

Act 4 : ***.5, 17%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah, shit.

Act 5 : ****, 19%

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

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

IIIII'M CAPTAIN KIIIRRRKK!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Score : ***

CODA:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

@Chrome:

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

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

@William B: Welcome back!

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