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Elliott
Sun, Aug 12, 2018, 6:39pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S3: Past Tense, Part II

@Robert, et al.

Without defending or dondemning the position, I never found Trek to be pro-diversity in the intellectual sense. Trek has pretty clear biases on the modes of thinking it condones. Phenological diversity—race, gender, etc—is a different story. The Trek idea is it doesn’t matter where you come from or what you look like, but it does matter what you think and believe.
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Elliott
Thu, Aug 9, 2018, 8:11pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: The Maquis, Part II

@Peter G.

“It's not anti-Trek to suppose that there can be rebellious colonies in the future who end up creating trouble for themselves.”

I think I explained in some detail why this doesn’t hold together as presented in the episode. If you’re going to take such a radical departure from Trek status quo, you have to justify it within the narrative. The 3 pre-Voyager Maquis episodes, in my view, did not accomplish this.

“Being a 'good guy' isn't enough to keep yourself alive, and it often ended up being in TNG.”

You are free to believe this, but again, that’s a conclusion from which the writers worked BACKWARDS. I find this very problematic because th conflict is completely contrived, which makes the ethical conclusions totally dubious.

I have criticisms of Voyager, and I loathe Enterprise. I’m excited that I’m getting close to “Caretaker” in the reviews. I don’t think Voyager is anything close to flawless or the best Trek. I have problems with it, I promise :)
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Elliott
Thu, Aug 9, 2018, 8:03pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: The Maquis, Part II

@William B

I take your point, and I think you’re right, I just have a hard time believing that Dukat, being the opportunist he is, wouldn’t have a more Garak-like insight into the politics of his himeworld. If Garak had said, “Cardassians don’t make mistakes,” we know he would have meant that the integrity of the system supersedes the verisimilitude of the information on trial. When Dukat says it, I feel like he actually believes it. This seems a little naïve to me.
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Elliott
Thu, Aug 9, 2018, 7:51pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: The Maquis, Part II

@Iceman: FBTS is one of my favourite episodes of any Trek, ever. I am trying to be very precise in my evaluations here. I honestly don’t have a problem with the idea of challenging the Trek ethos at all. I just think DS9 doesn’t do it very well most of the time. I find the attempts very trite and obvious. May I ask, since I’m taking the trouble to do episode by episode reviews here, that you confine your rebuttals to the the episodes at hand? Do you find a problem with my particular criticisms of “The Maquis”?
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Elliott
Wed, Aug 8, 2018, 12:36pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: The Maquis, Part II

Teaser : **, 5%

After the Previously On, Sisko and Cal find themselves in an intimate conversation. Cal is very nostalgic about the day he put on his Starfleet uniform for the first time, which of course explains why he is so enamoured by the colonists' rural success “with no help from the Federation.” Excuse me? How did these people get here? Who gave them replicators? An education? Vaccinations? All of this stems from a problem endemic to the series Deep Space Nine—one that I've been bothered by all the way since “Emissary.”

***

DS9 wants to be a space opera about the frontier of civilisation; a counterpart to TOS' famous conceit of being a western in space. For those who don't know, this idea was a slogan meant to help sell Star Trek to the network suits, not a central vision for the series, and in my opinion, the elements of TOS that retreated into this banal territory are some of its least successful. At any rate, Cal's little speech clearly reflects the writers' own affection for this romantic idea of DS9 being a pioneer town straddling the edge between the safe but comfortable familiar east and the dangerous but exciting west. The problem is, it just doesn't work within the confines of Star Trek. I've talked about this before, so I'll try to be concise: the tropes associated with the Hollywood idea of 18th and 19th century American pioneering are specific to the time and place they inhabit. To apply them to other cultures in at other times—like Phonetician explorers or First Nation pioneers in Alaska—just because they are also doing some pioneering is anachronistic in the extreme. When dealing with actual history, it can become offensive, because cultural specificities and historical realities become white-washed into tropes. With Star Trek, we have a mellontiki, an historical accounting of the *future*. This future is derived from a specific set of sociopolitical philosophies which should be familiar to most Trek viewers—they are mostly on the left side of the political spectrum, hyper-socialist, humanist, and globalist. So the “offence” in being anachronistic about the mellontiki of Star Trek is in undermining those philosophical positions WITHOUT ACTUALLY MAKING AN ARGUMENT. Rather than deconstructing their tenants, DS9 often simply ignores them and plugs in its own, contemporary (anachronistic) ideas while keeping the names, dates, setting, advantages, etc. in place. This is extremely unfair and, to this viewer, the most problematic aspect of this series. It is also a much more substantive reason why DS9 feels so un-Trek than the absurd “well it's a space station not a starship” idea.

***

At any rate, Cal still claims the Federation is “turning their backs” on the colonists, which I think we've clearly established just isn't true at all, but Sisko, seeing is friend out of uniform, still won't actually make the argument. He does try to offer a compromise—trying to prove that the Cardassian Central Command (the government) is violating the treaty, but Cal won't have it. He's too in love with the “fighting for the little guy” identity the Maquis provides him. This is something we will see repeated with Maquis characters in the future, on all three series that used the Maquis. Cal makes it clear to Sisko that he is out for vengeance, and Sisko knows it. Then he shoots him in the stomach, so I think we can conclude this friendship might be over.

Act 1 : *.5, 21% [very long act]

When Sisko and co. return to DS9, he has a surprise waiting for him, Admiral Necheyev. Since Sisko didn't think to have tea and canapés prepared, she's her usual charming self. As much of a pain in the ass as she is, her point that the Federation shouldn't have let these people remain in Cardassian space is valid. However, she claims that the colonists are Federation citizens, which is completely at odds with “Journey's End,” and obviously, throws a wrench into our discussion. So, “continuity error,” you might say. I'm afraid not. If we retcon the treaty, then Picard would have allowed Federation citizens to be at the mercy of Cardassian rule, which I cannot see him doing. The whole point of the episode was that, for spiritual reasons, those colonists were willing to sacrifice their safety and potentially their lives in order to remain on their land. If they never renounced their citizenship, then what was the point? No, this is precisely what William B noted in his review as the writers intentionally twisting and complicating things in order to force the drama. It's subversive and it's aggravating.

Moreover, Necheyev, we remember, advocated on the colonists' behalf during both the treaty negotiation and the “Journey's End” fiasco. Now, literally weeks later, she's a hardliner calling them hotheads? I don't buy it. Necheyev, because of her history with Picard, is supposed to be the ethical foil, the amoral bureaucrat who challenges our lead's conscience. By shifting her character this way, the writers want to transform the distant Federation bureaucracy from a group which ignores morality to one which ignores details, again, “the frontier” and all that bullshit. And we are going to get to THAT scene in a moment.

Two other points from this conversation: Sisko hasn't revealed to Starfleet that Hudson has defected to the Maquis, meaning he's putting his personal friendship with Cal above the demands of his office. Also, Necheyev still doesn't respect people wearing only 3 pips on their collar. Just as she was dismissive with Riker, she is unwilling to actually debate Federation policy with Sisko. He's not a captain, after all and has only been posted to this region for a little over a year. It makes sense. She leaves, and Kira walks in.

**sigh** Okay, here it is. THAT scene:

SISKO: Establish a dialogue? What the hell does she think I've been trying to do?

Um, you've been trying to rescue Dukat and you've been trying to get your buddy off the hook for defecting to a terrorist cell.

KIRA: Commander?
SISKO: Just because a group of people belongs to the Federation it does not mean that they are saints.

Ah, so being able to listen to a reasoned argument is the mark of saintliness, is it? Well, no wonder you resort to violent intimidation, deception and blackmail so often. After all, reasonable people are the things of legends and fairy tales.

KIRA: Excuse me?
SISKO: Do you know what the trouble is?
KIRA: No.
SISKO: The trouble is Earth.
KIRA: Really?
SISKO: On Earth there is no poverty, no crime, no war. You look out the window of Starfleet headquarters and you see paradise. Well, it's easy to be a saint in paradise, but the Maquis do not live in paradise. Out there in the Demilitarised zone, all the problems haven't been solved yet. Out there, there are no saints, just people. Angry, scared, determined people who are going to do whatever it takes to survive whether it meets with Federation approval or not.

No. No. No. NOOO. Why would Earth be the only part of the Federation where there is no crime, poverty, etc? That's not how this works. The Federation is not an empire, it's a constitutional collective. Up unto the point that the colonists in the DMZ renounced their citizenships, they were living in “paradise” as well. Whatever beneficent circumstances allow people living on Earth to be “saints” applied equally to these people up until the point they were asked to leave their homes. Now, Ira Behr, if you want to make the argument that human saintliness is so tenuous that within weeks of losing Federation status, we will turn to terrorism, then fine, make that argument. But to put Sisko up on this fucking soap box and claim that human evolution is actually the result of an elite group of Terrans *hoarding* paradise to themselves and expecting the rest of the shlubs to fall in line is incredibly dishonest, mean-spirited and fallacious.

This smug bullshit is mercifully cut short by a call from Odo, who has caught Sakon'as accomplice. That would be Quark, of course. Now, Quark is lying about his association with her, per his idiom, but Odo does a racism and he and Sisko get him to fess up. I did laugh out loud by Quark offering quite happily to testify against Sakona in court if it means getting himself out of prison.

A pumped up Legate from Cardassia arrives and informs Sisko and Kira that Dukat was part of a group of “misguided” officers supplying the DMZ colonists with weapons. It's a quick scene, but we get a lot out of it—the Legate is racist, vile, haughty and a bad liar. It's quite obvious that the CCC has decided to throw Dukat and possibly some other officers under the bus for the treaty violation, thus absolving the government of any official retaliation.

Retaliations for the Bok'nor incident are starting to unravel whatever peace remains in the DMZ, but luckily, O'Brien has tracked down Dukat's likely location. Kira wonders why they would bother trying to rescue him, seeing as how the CCC has abandoned him and the Legate would have him executed anyway. Sisko, having won points with his first officer by telling her he thinks his own people suck as much as she thinks they do, doesn't make the argument that, you know, it's the right thing to do since Federation weaponry and **sigh** citizens are responsible for his capture. Rather he opts for the chess argument. The CCC wants him to stay captured, so that's motivation for Sisko to rescue him.

Act 2 : ***, 16%

Sakona is trying and failing to mind-meld with Dukat. Dukat has a grand time mocking the Maquis for their unwillingness to “do what is necessary”--i.e. torture Dukat for information. All of this ties back into his conversation in part I with Sisko about Cardassian education, Federation softness, etc. It is a well-played scene. Alaimo's energy makes it easier to ignore the same kind of subterfuge going on as in the previous act between Sisko and Kira. The implication of Dukat's speech, again, is that Federation nobility is not a result of human evolution, but rather a symptom of indoctrination. The Maquis cannot be true terrorists because their education/indoctrination prevents them from unlocking that potential. We are expected to just ignore the fact that torture is fucking wrong, and that enlightened people simply do not do it. Sakona claims that they won't actually resort to torture, but I think a forced mind-meld would qualify.Whatever.

Sisko and co. show up to save Dukat. Bashir tries to convice the Maquis that, since they both want the same thing, there's every reason to work together. If only he'd been in Sisko's office for that little speech, then he'd know that reasonable people only live on Earth, where life's a waking dream. Dukat makes things worse by forcing a firefight—thanks, buddy. Sisko ends up letting one of the Maquis go free to deliver a message to Cal. Sisko wants to “solve the problem” while still letting Cal off the hook for his defection.

Act 3 : ***.5, 16%

Dukat is enjoying a meal on DS9. Sisko pays him a visit. The two have a very Bashir/Garak-style discussion about the differences between Federation and Cardassian jurisprudence. It's good, but has one flaw I can't overlook. Dukat seems to be saying that he understands that Cardassian trials are really just a form of propaganda. The people demand to see justice triumph, and so they do, even though the verdict of the trial is pre-determined. Dukat, as part of the ruling class, knows that this is just a way of appeasing the starving masses, but goes so far as to say “Cardassians don't make mistakes.” I don't know. I think Dukat is too smart to fall for his people's own propaganda like this. We already had an episode, “Duet,” in which Dukat made the claim that a Cardassian wouldn't lie, only to be proven wrong. Dukat may be a narcissist, but he isn't a fool.

At any rate, Sisko takes advantage of Dukat's bluster to throw in his face the fact that the CCC threw him under the bus. The conversation drifts into a discussion of the Occupation. This will come up a lot in later episodes, so we can leave it be, for now. Sisko seems surprised to learn that Dukat really was on the outside of the conspiracy to smuggle in weapons, and so is Dukat. He realises that the only way to get back into the inner circle of the CCC is to stop the Maquis threat, and for that he needs Sisko's help. So he offers to a trade; stop the arms shipments in exchange for stopping the Maquis. This should be an easy task for Sisko since, if Dukat is successful, this should end the reason for the Maquis' existence entirely.

Based on the information from Quark, the senior staff deduces that the Maquis are planning to escalate the fight, and soon. Odo can't make any headway interrogating Sakona, because Vulcan (did he try any of the humans?). Dukat guesses that the CCC is using the Zipolite and their beautiful beaches to...ah no, it's the ZEPolites, a new Trek alien, as intermediaries for their smuggling.

Cut to a runabout hailing a Zepolite freighter. Dukat thinks they should kill the bridge crew and take the ship back to DS9. Sisko tempers this suggestion and fires across the ship's bow, prompting a response to their hail. Sisko tries to be all badass and macho but is outdone easily by Dukat, who leverages his position, weapons' lock and command performance to get the Zepolite ship to let them confirm their smuggling mission.

Act 4 : **, 16%

Quark and Sakona are in prison together—in the same cell, huh? He's annoyed to be captured as her accomplice but says he empathises with her position. Quark knows the Cardassians would love nothing better than to destroy the colonies in the DMZ. Um, why would they want to do that? Put a pin in that. Quark claims that the Maquis' position is illogical—harsh burn against a Vulcan. Quark tries to use capitalist theory to prove his point, labelling the peace the Maquis are after their desired acquisition. Wait a minute, wait a minute. So, now the Cardassians want to destroy the colonies and the Maquis want peace? Talk about moving goalposts. Wait, so the Maquis want peace at any cost, which is why they are trying to escalate the violence? How is that supposed to work? I thought the Maquis wanted sovereignty, freedom. Also, how does escalating the conflict now make peace more “expensive” in the long run? Wouldn't making their position stronger give the Maquis even more bargaining power towards a kind of peace later on? This is another one of those scenes where, at first viewing, you might say, “Isn't that cute and clever?! Quark, the dirty capitalist, is making an argument for peace to the enlightened Vulcan. How subversive and cool!” But, even a cursory examination of the...ahem...logic of the dialogue reveals that, again, the writers are trying way too hard.

Quark succeeds in getting Sakona to divulge the Maquis' target, a weapons depot. Dukat is tasked with trying to determine exactly where this is. Sisko tasks himself with stopping the Maquis.

He barges into a colony meeting where the Maquis he let go is privy to Sisko's forthcoming speech: if you make yourself an enemy of Cardassia, you make yourself an enemy of the Federation. That, commander, is what we call overkill. Why would you be so incendiary here? Granting for the moment that these people still are Federation citizens—which makes no sense, but whatever—Sisko's speech just needs to be, “If you break the law, you will go to jail.” Duh.

Cal walks in. Sisko tries to return his uniform to him. He makes the obvious point; now that the smuggling of weapons has been stopped, the Maquis don't have any reason to exist. Cal says it's too late, they're at war! Blah blah blah. This cornball nonsense is capped off by Cal vaporising his uniform. Mmmm. Symbolism.

Act 5 : **.5, 16%

Sisko realises that the Maquis' escalation could easily lead to a war between the Federation and Cardassia, because of course, the Maquis are Federation citizens. Gaghh. God this contrivance is annoying. He mobilises their runabouts to intercept and stop Cal's assault. Apparently because he just doesn't like his face, O'Brien is paired with Dr Bashir in his runabout instead of, say, a tactical officer. Yeah, let's have the doctor and the engineer stop the terrorists.

Sisko tries one last time to get Cal to back down when his ships finally show up. There's a fight, complete with some nifty special effects. Sisko manages to disable Cal's ship and prevent the attack, but decides to let him escape. And of course, he doesn't send in O'Brien to tractor the ship because...um...um...he's a good man?

Sisko gets commended for preserving the peace (and lying about Hudson?). He thinks he just delayed the inevitable. And yeah, he's right.

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

This plot is...complicated. But what it wants to be is complex. Complexity requires nuance, depth and logic. The writers dropped the ball on these requirements, however. In their eagerness to be subversive of the Trek ethos, to “show the dark side” as it were, they display incredible incompetence. Rather than taking the premise of Star Trek and deriving interesting conclusions from it, they have worked BACKWARDS from a nifty soundbite-y conclusion about terrorism and utopia and forced the premise of the show into an unworkable mess. For example, while it's no surprise that the Cardassians would resort to such underhanded means as to sneak weapons into the DMZ and sacrifice Dukat, **why** do they care so much about arming their people there? What is the strategic advantage to them?

It makes no sense for the colonists to be Federation citizens, not because it violates almighty continuity with TNG, but because it makes the treaty too ridiculous to exist, and the treaty is the motivation for all the major players in this story, the CCC, Starfleet and the Maquis.

Cal's belligerent obstinacy can only be explained by the Maquis' disposition to self-romanticise, which I commented on already. This sort of works in a character sense, but it doesn't really come from anywhere. There was the suggestion in part I that he's on the same sort of path of Sisko himself, in despair and looking for a cause, but it isn't really fleshed out and Casey's performance doesn't give us much to fill in the gaps either.

Dukat, on the other hand is handled pretty well. His blindspot about the Cardassian legal system notwithstanding, we gain a lot of insight into his motivations, flesh out his backstory a little bit and are treated to an engaging performance.

Then there's Sisko. He seems to have reverted about a season. We are back to him doing things his own way, ignoring ethics and rules, risking lasting peace for the sake of his friend, etc. He's a passionate man, and far too volatile to be left in command of an important post like this. If Necheyev had more sense, she would recommend to Starfleet that he be replaced or assigned someone to oversee his work. But instead she has a medal pinned to his tunic. Whatever.

Quark and Sakona are enjoyable, but the logic v. greed dynamic they were going for doesn't really come together. Like nearly everything else in this episode, the drama is forced so the writers can try and make their point. Without getting too far ahead of myself, the Maquis idea is so fundamentally unworkable and flawed that I'm grateful it had so little bearing on the series it was created for, Voyager.

Final Score : **.5
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Elliott
Tue, Aug 7, 2018, 1:31pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: The Maquis, Part I

So, we've come to the point in DS9 where we have to review and revisit episodes from other Trek series. Although the previous episode, “Blood Oath” pulled in characters from TOS, those stories' impact on DS9 didn't require more than a passing comment—at least until we get to the character arc surrounding Kor later on. Picard, Vash, Lwaxana, the Duras sisters and Q have appeared already, but for the most part, those episodes were just cashing in on familiar guest stars from TNG. Now, however, we have to revisit one of my least favourite episodes of TNG, “Journey's End,” in some detail in order to fully explore the upcoming themes in “The Maquis,” although—thank the Almighty Traveller—NOT the parts about Wesley.

The relevant aspects of “Journey's End” also require us to go back to two earlier TNG episodes, “The Wounded” and “Descent,” albeit briefly. In the latter, we are introduced to Admiral Necheyev, who is one of the earliest examples of angsty, poorly-thought-out anti-Roddenberry elements to appear in Trek (a recurring element of DS9). While she is another crazy admiral in a long line of crazy admirals, her particular beef in “Descent” is with' Picard's choice in “I Borg” to release Hugh back to the Collective, without the deadly M.C. Escher drawing that would destroy them, apparently. Picard had overcome his human foibles and made an enlightened choice, despite seemingly impractical implications. Necheyev is angry with Picard for, you know, abiding by the principles upon which Starfleet is based, and tells him that he should henceforth behave like a military commander at war with a mortal enemy, and seize opportunities without regard to morality. The episode eventually vindicates Picard's choice, albeit obliquely by showing what amoral pragmatism leads to, that Data, robbed of his ethical programme, becomes a monster. The Admiral isn't heard from again in that story.

In “The Wounded,” we are introduced to the Cardassians via yet another crazy admiral. What's relevant here is that the Federation, crippled as it was in the wake of the Borg invasion in “Best of Both Worlds,” fought hard for a peace with the Cardassian Empire and eventually signed a tenuous treaty with them. Picard warned that the Federation, despite their preference for peace, would be on the lookout for treachery from the Cardassians forthwith.

Okay, so that's the backstory to the backstory. Phew. In “Journey's End,” the negotiations finally determine the official boundaries between the Cardassians and the Federation. Picard notes that several planets from both sides end up in each other's territory. Picard is tasked to evacuate one of the colonies that is to be turned over to Cardassia. Now, there's some contrived drama about the fact that this colony is comprised of American Indians, and there are parallels to the Trail of Tears (except, not really at all), and some vague New Age spiritual bullshit that justifies the decision, blah blah blah. What we are left with is a situation where some of the Federation colonists decide to renounce their citizenship in order to remain on their planet. Because the Federation is a post-scarcity society, and because space is very big, this decision can't be justified by any tangible reason—the colonists don't NEED to stay on their land or risk facing poverty or starvation or violence or disenfranchisement—remember, post-scarcity, post-property society—rather, they choose to give up the Federation's protection because they have an emotional, perhaps spiritual connection to the lands they've colonised. Now, that is the decision they've made and are free to do so, but we *cannot* forget the context of that decision. The colonists who remained in Cardassian territory chose to separate themselves from their own government, its resources, its protection, and the rights it guaranteed them in favour of Cardassian rule, because they wanted—not needed—to stay in their colonies.

Okay, now we can begin the two-parter.

Teaser : ***, 5%

A Cardassian ship, the Bok'nor is docked at DS9. When no one except the cameraman is looking, a gold shirted Starfleet officer begins fiddling with a panel. Meanwhile, we get another instalment of Deep Sex and the City as Jadzia and Kira banter about men. Way to beat that Bechdel test, ladies. Dax does make the point that Kira may be a tad superficial in her picks, which would explain why her boyfriend has the personality of a turnip. Dax notes some elevated levels of...she doesn't say but apparently, it's bad news because the Bok'nor explodes after decoupling from DS9. The banter bit is tedious and stupid, but mercifully brief. The plot bits effectively set up an intriguing mystery.

Act 1 : **.5, 17%

While the team investigates the explosion, Sisko is noticeably on edge as Starfleet is breathing down his neck and the Cardassians are MIA. Jadzia technobabble explains that she believes the explosion was not an accident. One touch I liked is that in their interactions, the political volatility of the situation is clearly weighing the characters down. O'Brien, Dax, Odo and Sisko are irritable and short-tempered with each other. To brighten his mood, Arch steps into Ops in a Starfleet uniform. He, Sisko and Dax are old friends (I like how introducing the new Dax informs us that Sisko and Arch...I mean Cal have known each other for a while via the relationship with Curzon). Cal has been assigned to oversee the colonies in the new DMZ. I assumed that the DMZ was a territory without any colonies prior to the treaty, hence its utility as a de facto border, but apparently, this treaty not only exchanged planets between the Federation and Cardassia, but left in place colonies which would belong to neither government. Did these colonists face a choice like the American Indians or are they still Federation citizens under Federation protection, but in a zone which prohibits military action by the Federation? None of this makes any sense and I'm rather irritated by a political story that is so hand-wavey with the details.

In Sisko's office, Cal and Sisko have a little...erm...locker-room talk which is banal and stupid. Then they talk about Jennifer's death, which is less stupid. Cal's wife has also recently died, and the writers are trying really hard to show that Cal's assignment to this god-forsaken DMZ mirrors that of Sisko's assignment to DS9, that the two men have similar backstories and personalities, similar duties, tastes (the banter about Dax' looks and baseball), etc.

Okay, so Cal claims that the colonies he is overseeing—in the DMZ—have been abandoned by the Federation. In the context of what we learned from “Journey's End,” this can ONLY mean that the colonists have renounced their citizenships, just like Wesley's buddies. Cal calls the treaty “bad,” because, in his personal appraisal of the lives these colonists have led, the sacrifice of having to relocate (within a society with LIMITLESS PERSONAL RESOURCES) is too great. Cal does make a couple of salient points, however. One is that the Cardassians now living in Federation space, under Federation protection give Cardassia a foothold into Federation society, while the Cardassians, who have radically different ethics, will likely be abusive towards the humans now living in their space. He's not wrong, but again, these people knew the consequences of the choice they were making when they refused to leave. Sisko, in the kind of moral cowardice which hardly surprises me anymore, just kind of lets that point go and tells Cal that the Federation is worried about fallout from the Bok'nor. The other point Cal makes is that the Cardassians will definitely respond to the incident, but it will be sneaky, “slick” as he puts it, not via some official military gesture.

Meanwhile, we see the human saboteur from the teaser (no longer in uniform) and a Vulcan exchange ominous words on the Promenade, overseen by what I thought at first were the time-travellers from “Captain's Holiday.” The Vulcan makes her way to Quark. She wants to make a business deal, he wants to get her drunk for...reasons. If you can ignore Sakona (the Vulcan) and her distracting eye-rolling (playing Vulcans is HARD), the scene is low-key hilarious thanks to Shimmerman's timing and some witty dialogue.

The not-time-travellers trick the human Sakona had words with and capture him. Um...dun dun dun?

Act 2 : ***.5, 17%

Sisko finds Gul Dukat in his quarters, and there's immediate suspicion that he may have harmed Jake in some way. He hasn't, but Sisko's point that Dukat is capable of anything is not without merit. As Cal predicted, Dukat has come to the station surreptitiously to deal with the Bok'nor incident.

Marc Alaimo gives a stunning performance with sinister shades of carefully guarded intent. It is a theme among many of the Cardassians we've met, Macet, Garak, Marritza. Somehow, Dukat knows that members of the Federation are responsible for the incident, and he wants to take Sisko to the DMZ to prove it to him.

Next thing you know, Sisko and Dukat are indeed in a runabout on their way to the DMZ. Well of course they are! Why wouldn't Sisko immediately go along with this plan and head, alone, to a hotly disputed territory? I mean, the last time he was on DS9 (“Cardassians”), Dukat spent the entire episode lying to Sisko to gain political advantage, so the last thing he would ever do is lie to Sisko to gain political advantage. At any rate, the dialogue between them in the runabout is pretty fun. I don't know if I'd characterise Sisko as not vulnerable, but joyless? I'll give you that one, Dukat. Sensors detect a Cardassian ship attacking a Federation merchant vessel within the DMZ. Dukat is angry and assures Sisko that the Cardassians would not violate the treaty by taking this action—which is just what Cal had told him, too, remember.

Dukat has Sisko hail the Cardassian vessels—which are way overpowered for their size. He orders them to disengage their attack. When they don't answer, he threatens to destroy them. Incidentally, Dukat reveals he fully understands Federation technology and controls, meaning he's already been lying to Sisko for political advantage. Try to contain your shock. Suddenly, a small Federation vessel (which Sisko labels “civilian”) appears, also way overpowered, and destroys the Cardassian vessels before they finish off the merchant ship.

Act 3 : ***, 17%

Back on DS9, Quark's date with Sakona is going...hilariously. She puts up with his overtures because she needs something from him. We get a little more backstory on the Rules of Acquisition (last mentioned in “The Nagus”). Quark is surprisingly successful in seeming to string Sakona along—one wouldn't think a Ferengi would illicit such positive feedback from a Vulcan. But it turns out that all Sakona wants from him are weapons. She wants a lot of them, and a continuous supply, no less.

On one of the DMZ planets, Gul Evek (whom we met in “Journey's End,” and seems to have been assigned a role similar to Cal's) is eviscerating some of the colonists for the destruction of those Cardassian ships. He claims that the merchant ship refused to be boarded which instigated the fighting. The colonists claim the ship was carrying medical supplies, Evek that it was smuggling weapons. Dukat and Sisko arrive. Dukat is seething a bit about the Cardassians' refusal to answer hails. Evek claims that the Cardassians in the DMZ have been responding to Federation terrorism. His logic is pretty bogus, of course; the Cardassians are justified in violating the terms of the treaty because the Federation is violating the terms of the treaty? If the Cardassians actually suspected that the Federation was behaving so duplicitously, they would have to know that the Federation would not let such a claim go un-investigated. It would give the Cardassians far more high-ground in their chess game to be the victims of Federation abuses rather than retaliate and risk losing all their advantages. However, it seems that Evek has the confession of the human saboteur, oh and also his dead body (Evek claims he committed suicide). The sight of his dead friend sends one of the human colonists into a rage against Evek. Dramatic as this wants to be, it's severely undermined by Bernie Casey's lame line-delivery (“come on. We'll talk later”) and some really cheesy blocking with the extras.

Act 4 : *.5, 17%

Cal is upset about the saboteur's death (understandable). In his emotional distress, he makes a fallacious argument to Sisko about the politics of the situation.

HUDSON: I knew him. Bill Samuels was a farmer. He cultivated his land for twenty years. He raised two kids on that land. He made something out of that land and the Federation told him he had to give it all up to the Cardassians. Well, he just was not willing to do that.

1. In the Federation, farming is a vocation. Robert Picard's family will not starve if he stops making wine because he doesn't need to sell the wine. He does it because it's fulfilling work to him.

2. The Federation did not tell him he “had to give it all up to the Cardassians,” they said, “In order for your children not to be threatened by war right in their backyard, you have the option of leaving your home and farming elsewhere if you so choose, or you can remain on your land but it will be governed by someone other than us. And this would be a risk.”

3. When Samuels decided he “wasn't willing to do that,” *he* became responsible for what happened to him and his family next. Don't misunderstand, the Cardassians obviously tortured and killed him, and that's just as wrong here as it was when Macet tortured and nearly killed Picard in “Chain of Command,” but in both cases, a choice was made to sacrifice lives to the mercy of the Cardassian government. Picard, under orders from Starfleet, knew he was violating their sovereignty and Samuels knew he was renouncing his Federation status.

HUDSON: [T]hose people have every right to defend themselves. When the Federation said goodbye to them, they left them no other choice.

The Federation didn't say goodbye to them, it was the OTHER WAY AROUND. Cal makes a valid point that obviously, the Cardassians are finding a way around the treaty to arm their people in the DMZ (under Federation jurisdiction?). The Federation should certainly make every effort to prove this is happening. This is, in fact, more or less the plot of “Redemption,” is it not? What would happen to these colonists if they just fucking left? Yes, I get it; leaving your home, even when resources are limitless, is rough. I wouldn't want to be forced off my land because my central government, hundreds of lightyears away, signed a treaty that gave it away to the enemy. But you know what? I'm not five years old. Given the choice between being obstinate to the point of turning to violence and terrorism, and packing up my things and starting fresh somewhere else? Well, that's no choice at all.

But since Sisko is our POV character and offers no retort to Cal's sophistry, we are expected to side with the colonists, or at least consider that everybody is wrong in some way. No the situation is not black and white; there's not a GOOD choice and a BAD choice, but the choices available are not equivalent either. There is clearly a BETTER choice for the colonists, and that is to fucking leave already.

Ugh

...the good part of this scene? Apparently, RuPaul had a city named after her.

On the way back to DS9, Sisko confronts Dukat about Samuels' death. Dukat actually agrees with Sisko that killing him (or “letting him die”) was a mistake, but not out of compassion, but because of that chess game I mentioned earlier. Dukat is a better strategist than Evek. Sisko berates him for his cold attitude, but there's an ironic bitchslap in store for the commander.

Sisko is looking for some way to justify Samuels' sabotage of the Bok'nor, insisting (probably correctly) that it was smuggling weapons to the DMZ Cardassians in violation of the treaty. Never mind the morality of blowing up a ship in an act of terrorism in, what we have established, is an incredibly dubious cause, Sisko is looking for the strategic high-ground here! He's looking to corner Dukat in this chess game, just as ambivalent to the loss of life as Dukat seems to be. Oh Sisko, I can always count on you to be completely fucking useless. What does work in this scene is the revelation that Dukat is a father (to seven children, yeesh). So, Sisko the writers have shown Sisko to share a great deal of characteristics with both Cal and Dukat, thus putting him in the centre of the conflict between them and their modes of thinking.

On DS9, Sakona completes her transaction with Quark. We haven't had a chance to discuss her much, yet, but I think it might fit better into part II. Sisko returns to receive confirmation on what he already knew. Kira, because the writers hate me personally, decides to play strawman for Sisko in his office.

SISKO: So, you'd suggest the Federation not keep our side of the bargain either, perhaps by arming these colonists?
KIRA: I can tell you one thing for certain. The Cardassians are the enemy, not your own colonists, and if Starfleet can't understand that, then the Federation is even more naïve than I already think it is.

First of all, bad dialogue there, writers, “more naïve than I already think it is”? Yeah, that's some natural human speech. You're trying too hard and it hurts my ears.

More to the point, the Cardassians WERE the enemy. If the Cardassian government or agents within their society are indeed undermining the treaty, then that is a real problem, but the treaty ENDED THE WAR. That makes the Cardassians, by definition, NOT. THE. ENEMY. ***deep sigh***

If the Cardassians are indeed not respecting the terms of the treaty and committing violence against the colonists, then the only reasonable option is for the Federation to renew their offer to the colonists to leave the DMZ, investigate the likely violations, and to denounce the actions taken by these rogue humans.

Again, for all his bluster in this scene, Sisko can't be allowed to make this simple argument to Kira. No, no. That would get in the writers' way of ham-fistedly trying to sell this bullshit argument of theirs that the Federation, and by extension, the ideals on which it is based (see the issues regarding “I Borg” and “Descent”) are hopelessly naïve in the face of “real” problems.

Meanwhile, Sakona and another human in Starfleet garb kidnap Dukat, and smuggle him off the station.

Act 5 : **, 17%

While Sisko is screaming at his monitor in his office, Odo goes on a rant that leads him to the conclusion that, under the Cardassian occupation, DS9 was safer than it is under Bajoran control and Federation management. This is unfortunate as it contradicts the growth he underwent in “Necessary Evil.” By the end of that episode, Odo remarks in his log: “There's no room in justice for loyalty, or friendship, or love. Justice...is blind. I used to believe that. I'm not sure I can anymore.” Sisko has O'Brien check the logs to try and figure out which ship Dukat was taken away on, and for a brief moment, it looks like Sisko isn't utterly failing at this job. But right before he can leave Ops, Kira gets to deflate him by reporting that the group responsible for the kidnapping—and consequently the other acts of Federation terrorism—is outing themselves as “The Maquis.”

They track down the Maquis ship heading towards The Badlands (a rough part of Bajoran? space near the Cardassian border). Bashir gets to have a line, asking whether Sisko is prepared to fight Federation colonists to retrieve Dukat. I feel like I'm beating a dead horse here, but the pattern needs to be called out: instead of responding, “They gave up their status, Doctor. They aren't Federation colonists anymore. Gul Dukat was kidnapped aboard MY station, and it's MY responsibility to rescue him,” he just says nothing. I'm ready to set this strawman on fire.

Sisko and co. beam down to the asteroid where the Maquis ship had landed. They are ambushed and leading the group is none other than Cal Hudson. Cue cliffhanger.

Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

The monicker “Maquis” reveals just how contrived and dubious this whole premise is. The Maquis of history were a group of French and Spanish resistance fighters (mostly civilian) who fought back against Nazi occupation. Yes, the Star Trek analogue for Nazis is the Cardassians, but I don't recall the French government negotiating a treaty with Germany giving away some of their land in exchange for peace. The highly romantic self-image these people adopt for themselves fits in perfectly with the illogical and childish stance they adopt in this story.

There is going to be a lot more to be said about the politics of this story in part II. I'll sum up my issues with the machinations in this part by saying, for now, that the premise is very, very forced. The writers want to talk about terrorism, but unlike in, say, “The High Ground” on TNG, they want to be ironic and badass by making the Federation culpable in the circumstances which lead to violent rebellion. In order to make that even plausible, they have to ignore or retcon some basic structural tenants of Federation society. Retconning isn't a crime unto itself in my book, but in this case, I have a very serious problem with it because of the political conclusions it is used to imply. Again, more in part II.

Otherwise, the mystery is executed well, and the supporting cast is pretty good (Sakona, Evek). The main cast besides Sisko all get a line or two, but feel pretty superfluous to the action. Among the principle players, Dukat is by far the strongest, written complexly and performed captivatingly; Sisko isn't performed so badly, but he keeps having his tongue cut off by the writers so that other characters just pontificate at him in the same aggravating manner as episodes like “In the Hands of the Prophets”; Cal Hudson is performed pretty mediocrely, which is sad because Bernie Casey was a fine actor. I wonder if putting on the Starfleet jumpsuit threw off his game.

It's ambitious, but it has some serious problems so far.

Final Score : **.5
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Tue, Jul 24, 2018, 6:15pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: The Drumhead

@JerJer

Oh please. In this episode, the shady spy is a black man, the noble hero is a straight white man and the crazed villain is a woman. Get off 4chan and grow up.
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Tue, Jul 24, 2018, 12:00am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Blood Oath

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

Quark is complaining to Odo about a Klingon—a drunk Klingon—overstaying his welcome in a holosuite. Odo has him shut the programme down before it's through. And who should emerge—er--stumble out but Kor, considerably greyer and bumpier in the forehead than we saw him last century. Odo throws his drunk ass in a holding cell. After a few seconds of montage music, Koloth lets himself into Odo's office. Koloth would see the Dahar master and his friend, Kor, released, but is ashamed to see that he has sullied their very serious mission—whatever it is—by his drunkenness, and leaves him to sleep it off in the cell.

So, if one is a TOS fan, this teaser is absolutely squee-inducing—so much so, that one is liable to forget that there is a plot here. Structurally, this effectively sets up the plot, introduces some character dynamics and gives René Auberjonois a chance to show off his signature harrumphing.

Act 1 : ***, 17%

Constable Harrumph shares his Klingon grief with Kira in Ops, giving Dax the opportunity to overhear his exposition. She name-drops the *other* TOS Klingon (Kang) before heading to the security office herself and claiming responsibility for the drunk Kor. What we quickly learn is that some time after Kirk's five-year-mission, all three major TOS Klingons got together, had their foreheads un-smoothed and befriended Curzon Dax. Beyond friendship, Curzon was a chief diplomat with the Klingon Empire. When Kang finally makes his appearance, he announces triumphantly, “I have found the albino!” Erm, cool, dude. Dax doesn't exactly look pleased to hear this news.

Kor is more or less over Dax' change of host, but Kang and Koloth are skeptical. The writers have chosen to repeat the sexism-as-stand-in-for-warrior-culture cliché from “The Outcast.” For those who don't remember, Worf was suddenly cast as sexist, transphobic, homophobic—all of the culturally conservative touchstones that make an easy strawman and totally ignore the Klingons' history of sexual equality. In any event, Kang reveals the backstory that led to his discovery of The Albino, and the episode is suddenly framed as a quest, with the penetration of the Albino's sanctuary and eventual murder of the Albino himself as the ultimate goal. The reason for this is hinted at—Dax is (or was depending on whom you ask) Godfather to the Kang's' son. She is visibly troubled.

Act 2 : ****, 17%

Walking the Promenade, Dax relates to Kang the story of Curzon's death—a popular topic among old men and all Klingons. Almost unbelievably, Kang knew that Dax was serving on DS9, but had no idea that his good friend had died, or obviously been replaced by Jadzia. Contrived backstory aside, the substance of the ensuing journey is made plain: Trill ideology means that the commitments of previous hosts are to be forgotten in each subsequent generation of host, the idea being that the Symbiont's life is enriched by a diversity of experience; Klingon ideology is quite the opposite, as it employs pre-modern codes of chivalry and honour that bind clans, families and houses to commitments (especially titular Blood Oaths) across generations, thus a Klingon's life is has very little to do with diversity. Curzon understood the Klingon spirit—and Jadzia seems to as well, so the choice of which ideology she embraces will be interesting to see.

Kang also broaches another fascinating topic, which we can call Disneyfication. Sacred cultural items, foods, legends, customs, etc. are commodified to be bought and sold in the marketplace of appropriation. Meaning has been all but destroyed in favour of commerce, the inevitable result of a Neoliberal philosophy. There is even a “meta” layer to this idea in that the Klingon culture being discussed is made up for a television show. It freely appropriates from real cultures and histories and makes for cosplay and Klingon-to-English dictionaries. It's a rich topic. Kang's pessimism in the face of his culture's slow demise leads him to release Jadzia from Curzon's obligation to the Blood Oath against the Albino.

In Ops, Dax asks Kira about her history of killing Cardassians during her time with the resistance. Now, we haven't really explored this issue this season. The last time it really mattered from a character perspective was in “Duet.” All subsequent references to her activities never carried the moral ambiguity of her actions. So, Kira's response “Why are we talking about this...it bothers me,” is really welcome. I also love the camera placement when Kira confronts Dax about her plan to help in the murder, from well below, creating the sense that Dax is being probed uncomfortably. Both Ferrel and Visitor give pretty stunning performances in this scene. She reveals the story of how the Albino had our Klingon friends' first-born sons murdered via some sort of virus—as children. In “Playing God,” we saw a Dax who admitted to being continuously confused by the person she was as a result of joining. We saw in “Dax” how the strong ethical and emotional concerns of Curzon weigh especially heavily on her psyche. So it is no surprise that she feels overwhelmed by him in this moment. Kira finally answers Jadzia's question about killing. It's a little cliché, but true nonetheless; you lose a little bit of yourself.

Okay, try not to be surprised, but Kor is drunk, again. In the ensuing conversation with Dax, the quest structure of the episode is fleshed out further.

1. Kor, the most easy-going of the trio, represents Dax' id, as well as the first riddle of the Klingon heart. Her instincts tell her she must fulfil her oath, and that is precisely the truth of the Klingon heart. A real warrior would not be able to ignore the primal need to exact vengeance or honour such a deep commitment. Kor needs no further convincing in the matter, but the other trials will be harder.

2. Koloth, who in his waning years could still muscle his way past Odo's security, represents Dax' ego, as well as the second riddle of the Klingon body. Dax confronts him in the holosuite. He accuses Curzon of having made the oath as a political gesture—very un-Klingon of course. So, she demonstrates that she THINKS like a warrior, as well as FEELING like one. She fights him, proving that she has the skills to fulfil the oath (Kor's littler interjection “There is tension on your face, Koloth. You ought to drink more!” lol). Koloth Stoneface is convinced. But Kang is still stubborn.

Act 3 : ***.5, 17%

3. Kang, of course, represents Dax' super-ego and the final riddle of the Klingon soul. Dax reminds him that Curzon impressed Kang by essentially forfeiting his life during negotiations. For the cause of peace, Curzon demonstrated that it would have been a good day to die. Jadzia throws Kang's pessimism from the previous act back in his face. She accuses him of playing Klingon, of being the Disney version of the man she knew, successfully pissing him off, and thus solving the final riddle.

“Come and be damned.”

Later, Sisko confronts her in his quarters, pre-emptively denying her a leave of absence for her little quest. Sisko quickly jumps between desperate tactics to get her to stay: he's the stern friend. That fails. He's the rules-lawyering commander. That fails, too. So he drops the act and reveals that he's terribly scared for her. The question remains, can and should Dax choose Klingon ideology over Trill ideology, Klingon justice over Federation justice, Curzon's life over Jadzia's? She turns it around on him—the consequences to her actions, from Starfleet anyway, will be his to impose or ignore. Given his actions in “Emissary,” “Captive Pursuit,” “Progress,” and “Duet,” I think we know there won't be any.

Act 4 : ***, 17%

So, the Fellowship of the Bat'leth is on its way, discussing strategy. Dax points out that their most likely method for success would be the element of surprise, but Kang continues to be the pessimist. It's clear that he does not expect them to succeed, but wants his expected death to be met with typical Klingon glory. That's all he hopes for now. The other Klingons are on board with the Kang's dicks first strategy. Dax is ready to die—maybe—but she sees through Kang's suicide strategy. It turns out Kang had already scoped out his lead on the Albino and tried to keep Dax away for this very reason. Dax isn't having it, and she's got that science officer advantage Curzon could never offer: TECHNOBABBLE! Horray! So they will carpet the fortress with nonsense particles, forcing the battle to be fought with melée weaponry only, giving the Klingons a decisive advantage. Kang perks up.

Act 5 : ***.5, 17%

Jadzia continues to dazzle with her tricorder, while the Klingons continue to dazzle us with their over-the-top personalities. Once they figure out their plan of attack, the quartet gathers at the threshold. It is here that the score takes centre stage for a bit, creating a foreboding tone in what is ostensibly the gearing-up before battle. It alone serves to remind us of the character stakes on the line for Dax. The ensuing action is pretty good. Of note is that Jadzia avoids lethal force until she is being directly attacked, in other words, it's self-defence; also, the Albino himself displays enough cunning and bravado to justify the way he's been built up during the dialogue in the episode so far.

The battle climaxes, Koloth and Kor are wounded. Kor is particularly effective in his Romantic take. Finally, Kang is wounded as well, but Jadzia disarms the Albino and has him dead to rights. This is of course, the moment when Jadzia has to choose whether to complete the quest, kill the murderer and ally herself to Klingon philosophy. But, irritatingly, the Albino seems to have an omniscience about her character journey that's a little too corny for my tastes. He encourages her to kill him in cold blood, a task he apparently knows goes against her nature, despite having just encountered her. His monologuing gives Kang the opportunity to be the one to kill him, sparing Dax her choice. Finally, only Kor is left to sing over his fallen comrades. The camera pans back to reveal the Albino's sanctuary ablaze. One can almost hear Kang's distant proverb: “We need no urging to hate Humans. But for the present, only a fool fights in a burning house.” Indeed.

There's a brief epilogue where Jadzia returns to her post on DS9, Sisko and Kira have meaningful stares for her, but no words.

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

I wonder if in the process of crafting this episode, the writers took note of Colicos' superb performance and decided to let him live at the last moment so they could bring him back. The range of emotions we get from him—sardonic, playful, wistful—is captivating, despite the more minor role he plays among the guest stars. The score was above average here, and really, there were no weak performances to speak of.

What is most effective about this story is its post-modern take. This is an adventure tale with clear stakes, heroes and villains (“Meet your executioners, killer of children!”). It invites us to enjoy the popcorn and have fun. But, tying Dax' character arc to the narrative means that we have deconstructed the legend. We have put a Federation lens on the concept of the vengeance kill and it makes her and us uncomfortable. While we may cheer Dax on in convincing her old Klingon pals to let her join the quest, what Kira warned has come true; she lost a part of herself, that is Jadzia lost to Curzon. Despite Sisko's objections, I think Curzon would have killed the Albino, but Jadzia can't do it. The lesson for her, really, is exactly the same as it was in “Dax;” her life is just beginning, she needs to stop living Curzon's. So the real tragedy here is that, in the end, Jadzia is just as stuck as she was in season 1. What's better, though, is that finally, a Dax story gives her genuine agency and control over these choices. As William B notes above, so engaged is her agency, that she is acting before fully internalising the emotions that go with those actions.

Overall, that makes for an effective character *study*, framed within an excellent adventure quest story, populated with excellent and nostalgia-heavy guest stars. Oh, and as predicted, Sisko lets her off the hook. I know, utterly shocked over here.

Final Score : ***.5
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Thu, Jul 19, 2018, 7:20pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Profit and Loss

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

To the accompaniment of the generickest of generic “doo...doo doo doo” wallpaper music, a damaged Cardassian vessel is tractored to DS9. Emerging from the craft are, unless I'm mistaken, the first Cardassian woman in the canon. Professor Lang and her students ask for help with repairs, and recognises the political/personal problems that their presence might cause on a Bajoran station.

Meanwhile, my fanfic is finally picking up where it left off. Garak and Bashir aren't whispering sweet nothings to each other, though. Damn it. Instead, they are discussing history. For about 15 minutes, I scoured The Argonautica for a reference I thought I had forgotten to Yeri from near the Tralonian Lake—turns out it's a fictional planet called Trelonia. Womp womp. Garak and Bashir have very different takes on the same history—Garak's point is that a good Cardassian is loyal to the state first and foremost. What I like about this is that it plays the typical Planet of Hats game that Trek often does, but humans are just another one of those hat-people. Our hat is Roddenberryan humanism, which is a sensible way to go about exploring any sociopolitical question in the Trekkian fashion. Finally, we get:

GARAK: Maybe, I'm an outcast spy.
BASHIR: How can you be both?
GARAK: I never said I was either.

File that one away.

Odo pays Quark one of his usual cordial visits—accusing him of having an illegal cloaking device. The Cardassian professor (Natima) makes her way into the bar and Quark trips over himself with glee to get to her. She recognises him. And she slaps him. And walks away. Quark says it's the happiest day of his life.

Act 1 : ***.5, 17%

Quark chases after the angry Natima. Through Quark's charms, some convenient comments from her students, and prodding from Odo, we get some quick and dirty back-story: she and Quark are old—er, friends (the love of her life, in Quark's estimation), and she is a teacher of political ethics whose ideas are controversial but promising, and she used to be a correspondent for the military well before the Bajoran revolution.

Natima is clearly torn between a genuine affection for Quark and a persistent knowledge that she hates him for some reason. But...when Garak and Bashir pass by, they exchange a look suggesting...something. This does not go unnoticed by the constable. She leaves quickly, citing the fact that she believed there were no other Cardassians aboard DS9. This whole scene is paced really well, and enjoyably stacks different nascent plot threads together, while showcasing DS9's better actors (and a good guest star) effectively.

In Ops, Miles reveals that his repair requires fixing damage from Cardassian weapons. Natima is forthcoming; she is smuggling her students away from Cardassia, and they represent the planet's political future.

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

Natima explains. She and her students are leading a movement to overthrow Cardassia's stratocracy. Now, Sisko is on the line of violating the Prime Directive in aiding fugitives from a government with which the Federation has an uneasy peace. But, I think this approach is fair—he's going to see that their ship is repaired quickly and that they be on their way. They aren't allies with Cardassia, so I think this neutral port idea is about right. A wrinkle in this is the sighting by Garak. We remember spent the teaser explaining that a true Cardassian is loyal to the state first. But Garak's true nature is, as Sisko notes, a mystery to them.

Speak of the devil, Quark pops into Garak's shoppe, providing us their first interaction in the series together. This scene has to be one of my favourites of the series so far—the two conmen use the euphemism of ladies' fashion to discuss the volatile situation with Quark's old flame. Garak makes it clear that associating with Natima means getting mixed up in a dangerously subversive political movement. He plays on Quark's expected nature as an opportunist to suggest not making this mistake. Quark, enamoured as he is with her, briefly breaks quickly breaks character and pledges to keep Natima safe. Garak is understandably suspicious that the little cheat has the will nor the means to follow through.

In Natima's quarters, we get MORE backstory. Quark sold food to the Bajorans during the Occupation and Natima helped keep him safe from the authorities for this transgression. This scene is far less artfully done. The substance is good, but it's very clumsy the way the characters reveal information to each other that they already know. Unfortunately, this falls more into the realm of soap opera.

Quark wants to rekindle their romance, even going so far as to offering total selfless aid to her if she would agree to stay with him. Of course, she's dedicated to her cause, and more to the point, she knows that this altruism in him is being fuelled by fresh and ardent emotions. As soon as they faded, his Ferengi nature would lead him to betray her again.

Before Miles can finish repairs on Natima's ship, a Cardassian warship locks appears and locks weapons on the station, but something really surprising happens, too: Garak steps into Ops.

Act 3 : .5, 17%

Sisko gets all blustery demanding to know what's going on. Garak is apparently a representative of the Central Command (though a simple tailor), and assures Sisko that Natima's group are terrorists. He points out that the conflict between the two groups is an internal matter, thus impelling the Commander to obey the Prime Directive and let the two settle their dispute without interference. But...there's still just enough wiggle room because Sisko has no reason to believe that Garak is authorised to speak on behalf of the Cardassian government. If the officials on that ship conquer, however, Sisko ought to be bound to comply. Okay? Okay?

[[[[[[[long sigh]]]]]]]]]

SISKO: Tell the Central Command if anyone attempts to take Hogue and Rekelen by force, I will respond in kind. Am I clear, Mister Garak?

Great. Just fucking great. Tell the tailor claiming to be an ambassador to tell the government of a volatile nation that they can go fuck themselves. Brilliant as always, Commander Asshat.

Quark is trying his luck getting to Natima through her students, or terrorists or whatever. They are resistant, but can't ignore his offer to get them safely off DS9—framed as their only option. Er—possibly. Armin Shimmerman gets to be hilarious again as he starts smacking and tasting the furniture trying to ferret out his Changeling nemesis. Turns out—try not to be surprised—Quark DOES have that illegal cloaking device. And he'll sell it to them—no wait, give it to them—no wait—trade it, for Natima. Okay, then.

We get an exterior shot of the Cardassian warship just hanging out. I guess Garak really does hold the cards here. Quark and Natima go back to the heavy melodrama. The character motivation works for me in theory—Ferengi treat everything as transactional, so I can buy that he would see BUYing his true love as a genuine expression, but the way the scene is played is so hammy and unbelievable, that I have a really hard time. Finally, mercifully, Natima pulls a gun on Quark and demands the cloak for herself and the students. He doesn't believe she'll fire, but in the end, she does. Eh. At least he didn't get strangled.

Act 4 : *.5, 17%

Then, we find out—she fired by accident.



NATIMA: I love you, Quark! I've always loved you, even when I hated you!

Okay, there went the last shreds of my patience with this crap. Here's looking at you, episode.

But seriously, this whole scene is one of the most uncomfortable things I can remember sitting through on Trek, and I include watching Kirk beat up a dinosaur and Tasha be kind of into her would-be rapist. If you sat down, wrote down the most hackneyed over-the-top lines you could think of, and strung them together randomly, I don't think you could come up with dialogue this ridiculous.

NATIMA: You painted my face with honey.

Ew. Just. Ew.

Anyway, they make the same point to each other over and over—he wants her to stay 'cause they're SO IN LOVE, she insists that THE MOVEMENT NEEDS HER. And she even fucking agrees to stay on DS9. Oh my Tap-Dancing Christ.

Odo arrives and breaks up this tedium to arrest her. Later, in the brig, Sisko explains to her and her students that he has to return them to the Central Command. And this is because the Prime Direc—oh, wait, what? Oh, apparently the Cardassians are also going to trade for them, in the currency of Bajoran prisoners (I assume previously occluded ones like those on Cardassia IV during the Circle Trilogy). Yep, can't give Commander I-Love-Starfleet-So-Much-I-Ignore-All-Its-Rules-And-Principles a clear motivation, can we? It has to be for the poor faceless Bajorans. Okay, in fairness, Sisko is being compelled to take this offer by the provisional government which he apparently serves *before* the Federation.

A man called Gul Toran lets himself into Garak's shoppe. He's disdainful, and we learn that Garak is indeed living in exile. The mystery is revealed completely—Garak offered up to the CC news of Natima and her group in the hope of returning to Cardassia. Toran says that the transaction needs a bit of gilding, namely, Garak has to kill them. Toran believes—and Garak doesn't seem to disagree—that arranging their deaths should be a wholly familiar task for the tailor.

Act 5 : zero stars, 17%

Quark confronts Odo and begs him to have the trio free. He frames the success of their political movement as being “good for business,” but Odo sees right through it. Quark furthers his plea by accusing Odo of having “the emotions of a stone,” of not understanding what true love is. And, based on what we've seen this episode, neither do the writers. Quark keeps trying to bribe, but finally appeals to his and Odo's friendship—because as someone who has the emotions of a stone, overt sentimentalism is bound to be effective. Finally, he's on his knees again—like in the one redeeming scene of “Move Along Home,” weeping and begging for Odo's help.

And then—grrgh—Odo decides he WILL free them “in the name of justice” (they would be killed for their crimes). AND he's going to let Quark use his illegal cloak to do it. This startling decision can be read one of two ways; 1. As in “Necessary Evil,” Odo's sense of justice is more important to him than the letter of the law, in which case, why is he only deciding to let them go NOW?, or 2. Odo is doing this for Quark, because he cares about him, and needs an excuse, in which case, this is a character moment that could have used a little fucking build-up. And to add to this scene's schizophrenia, the camera decides to show Quark getting to his feet as though he had just performed oral sex on Odo. Wow.

Quark gets them to their ship, but an armed Garak is waiting behind door #1.

So there's some more schmultzy crap with Quark and even poor Garak behaving entirely out of character. And then—I kid you not, a laughed out loud at this next bit—Toran steps out from behind door #2 and proclaims “What do you believe in Garak?” It's like a community theatre production of Rent in here. So, Toran shows up to make sure Garak kills them, but no wait he's going to do it himself because it never really mattered, because they were never going to let Garak go home, so of course he had to bribe Garak into agreeing to kill them because, in the end he knew it wouldn't matter. Of course. So, Garak pulls a second phaser from...somewhere and vaporises Toran instead. More maudlin crap, goodbye kiss and thank God it's over.

Episode as Functionary : *.5, 10%

GARAK: Never let sentiment get in the way of your work. A bit of a cliché but true, nonetheless.

Seriously.

DS9 has a habit of starting out promising and ending in disappointment, but this episode takes the cake. There are exactly two good things to take away from this; the intrigue around Garak's back-story and the world-building regarding Cardassian politics. Until the final acts, every scene with Andrew Robinson is really spectacular, and the opening bits before the romance was vomited into the plot were good as well. But oh my god, the scenes between Natima and Quark are worse than the hop-scotch in “Move Along,” worse than the Sisko whoops in “Emissary,” worse than the screeching of the Skreeans in “Sanctuary.” Between Sisko, Quark, and Odo, the only series regular who was in character at all was Sisko, and that's only because he was being bad at his job again. Without the Andrew Robinson bits, this is the absolute worst dreck DS9 has put out so far. Which is why, just like in the previous couple episodes, I have to apologise to the viewers, because the Garak bits are necessary to the series continuity, and mostly wonderful, so this one can't be skipped. But do yourself a favour; after Act 2, smoke a very large bowl. There might be some it's so bad it's good after that, but that's about it. Oh and the music is particularly sucky.

Final Score : *.5
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Tue, Jul 17, 2018, 1:20pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Playing God

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

Bashir escorts a young Trill, Arjin, aboard the DS9. We quickly learn that the young man is an initiate for joining and that he is extremely nervous to meet Dax, who, in its previous incarnations, has a reputation for washing initiates out of the programme. Now, the last time we saw Bashir and Dax together, he was—brace yourself—shamelessly and embarrassingly flirting with her. We haven't seen that the two have become friends, really; he's still pursuing her sexually and she puts up with him because it amuses her. So the fact that he knows exactly where she's bound to be in the middle of the night is unintentionally extremely creepy.

Where she is turns out to be Quark's (we've seen her gambling with Ferengi before). Some fun irony here: Arjin tells Bashir about the gruelling competition amongst initiates to be joined to a symbiont, mentioning that only the “best and brightest” make it that far—this would explain Barcalay-Trill's motivation in “Invasive Procedures”--only to see Jadzia whooping it up with the Ferengi and even giving flirtations ear-grabs to Quark. I guess she's forgiven him for nearly getting her killed. Jadzia is friendly and jovial with Arjin. She tries to get him to join their game of Tongo, but recognising he's nervous and tired, immediately turns it around and escorts him to his quarters, while simultaneously using the opportunity to leave the table with her winnings, which would aggravate Quark more if he weren't so clearly enamoured with Jadzia.

Overall, I like this portrayal of Jadzia, and the teaser is quite efficient in giving us the necessary back-story, establishing the character dynamics and setting the tone.

Act 1 : ***.5, 17%

The next morning, Arjin stops by Dax' quarters—as he was instructed to do—but he's a little early. So he finds that she's still not dressed and has a man in quarters with whom she requests a “rematch” the next time he's on DS9. Given what we later find out about Jadzia's relationship with Worf (erm, spoiler), they definitely fucked. She asks him to replicate a Ferengi drink (a black hole), almost certainly booze, and has all kinds of suggestions for how he might improve his life. You know, by being more like her. She clearly thinks he's lame and uninteresting, but she's being perfectly kind, albeit rather pushy with him.

Meanwhile, O'Brien and Kira are hunting in Ops—for Cardassian voles. The rodents have started disrupting station systems. Sisko orders the voles “be taken alive,” for some reason. Dax and Arjin arrive and the writers really want to play up the “Dax is has child-like curiosity” angle. Sisko confirms that Dax is infamous for being hard on initiates, but Jadzia makes it clear that that was Curzon, not her.

Later on, the two Trills take a runabout trip through the wormhole. We get some character growth out of their conversation. Arjin is over-achieving, a trait which Jadzia probably shared in spades before she was joined. She is adamant that Arjin not try to impress her. It turns out that Curzon actually recommended Jadzia be terminated from the programme. Hmmm...

The plot gods do not approve of this character interaction, so some technobabble hits the runabout hard. Some subspace goop has attached itself to the nacelle, and the chords of bad news indicate that this is probably bad news.

Act 2 : ***.5, 17%

O'Brien and Kira are starting to get desperate for a solution to their vole problem. Miles suggests driving them out with a high-pitched frequency. Quark appears, holding his dead vole prop up and threatening to leave DS9 if his landlords don't solve this infestation problem Except, didn't Sisko have to blackmail him to stay in “Emissary”? Miles turns on his sonic screw driver or whatever and it sends Quark into writhing agony, what with those big ears. At least no one strangled him this time. Oh, and for the record, Shimmerman is completely hillarious in this scene.

Jadzia and Arjin return and have the McGuffin on their nacelle transferred to a containment unit on the station. She takes him to dinner at the Klingon restaurant, which has its own fat singing Klingon waiter—playing an accordion. I'd like to object to this cultural appropriation of clichés set in Venice, but I actually find this pretty funny, too.

Arjin is totally uncomfortable. Jadzia is annoyed that he hasn't made any effort to speak up for himself, express his discomfort, or make interesting conversation. And frankly, I can't fault her. I mean, yes, we would all be nervous in Arjin's place, and might be inclined to be deferential to Dax, given that she has been tasked to judge his worthiness for joining, but she's been completely clear with him, multiple times that all she wants from him is to relax and be direct with her. Anyway, we learn that Arjin's father pushed him (and his sister) to join the programme. Essentially, his over-achieving nature is the result of having a helicopter parent. As a teacher, I can't help but empathise with Arjin, here. She sees right through him. She explains that the host's personality must be strong enough to balance that of the symbiont—implying, gently, that his may not be strong enough, given his tendency to defer to the will of his father, and now to her. He makes a genuine effort, pushing aside the Klingon food he finds so distatestful.

Dax delivers a gift to the harried Miles—the Pied Piper's pipe to help solve his vole problem. Cute. She meets with Sisko for some chess, and Sisko sees right through *her*. He recognises the disappointment he feels in Arjin as a familiar sentiment in his old friend Curzon. She lays it all out—he lacks ambition and direction. She doesn't think he's suited to joining. But, she won't be like Curzon—she won't be the reason he is dropped from the programme, although she believes he ought to be. Sisko believes that Curzon's harshness is part of what made Jadzia tough enough to make it through the programme at all—and obviously she ended up getting his symbiont. Jadzia, strangely, only seems to remember the abuse. Curzon's memories don't seem to surface.

Before the act break, a vole breaks the containment field and the McGuffin is let loose in the station.

Act 3 : **.5, 17%

Ah, now we know why Sisko ordered phasers on stun, so he change his order and tell Miles, “No more Mr Nice Guy.” This is one cliché too many for me, I'm afraid. While Dax and Arjin work on trying to fix the tech problem together, he back-pedals from the previous night at dinner, realising he screwed up in failing to outline his own goals and personality, but he still doesn't really have any. She can see he's telling her what he thinks she wants to hear. She's worried about him, she says—and I think she's being sincere. She says that performing above expectations—which has been his strategy—is no longer going to cut it.

This revelation sets Arjin off. He accuses her of living well below the standards of joined Trills—presumably for drinking booze in the morning? Getting angry and lashing out is understandable, but I think it's a little early in this arc for it. We haven't seen Arjin develop resentment towards Jadzia—he's been confused and a little frustrated, but she's been very patient with him.

Apparently, we are being denied more organic character development for the sake of Jadzia spouting reams of technobabble about the McGuffin to the senior staff. Turns out the thing they snagged on the runabout is...a universe. I...can't come up with the right words to describe how thoroughly, unforgivably stupid this is. Others have commented at length, so I'll try not to repeat their points (which I mostly agree with). At this point, though, they behave reasonably. The best option is destroying it—which they'd like to avoid, so they'll prepare for that contingency during the three hours they have to figure out another option.

Meanwhile, Arjin is drunk. Quark has some words of wisdom, “Never have sex with the boss' sister.” Heh. Actually, his point is one similar to Q's in the previous year's “Tapestry”; when presented with a big opportunity, don't play it safe.

I normally don't bug out about the bad science in Trek, but I am really amused that Jadzia can scan for “localised entropy readings” in the proto-universe. What her technobabble reveals, apparently, is that this little cosmos has life in it.

Act 4 : ***, 17%

So, because the microverse doesn't obey our universe's laws of nature, they reason that time may be moving much faster relative to us, and thus entire species may be evolving—intelligent species. You know what they should do? Probably hook the miniverse up to their car battery.

So they let the thing keep expanding, blowing a hole in the side of the station. And then, things take a nose-dive into the absurd. Kira thinks they need to destroy the miniverse lest they be destroyed, but since the miniverse might contain intelligent life, that would be committing “mass murder” as Odo calls it. Yeah, we don't actually have a word for what this would be—this isn't murder, this isn't genocide, this is...cosmocide? Omnicide? Kira compares it to stepping on ants (or killing voles).

What all this reminds me of is the discussion on the page for Enterprise's “Dear Doctor.” If I may quote myself:

“The question of the hour is about stakes—on the one hand, many seem to agree that when the extinction of a species is the inevitable outcome of inaction, any moral nuances are rightly cast out in favour of simple human compassion. It sounds alright in those terms, but only because the stakes are so high...the problem is our compassion sometimes blinds us to the larger picture. We see existing as an end unto itself, because, evolutionarily speaking, we want to exist for as long as possible. This isn't a question of correcting the injustice of an aggressive alien culture against another or aiding the victims of some isolated natural disaster, we're talking about one crew, one man taking responsibility for the ultimate fate of an entire species, and by proxy an entire civilisation. Becoming extinct by way of your own genes is not 'genocide.'

What Archer realises, finally, in this episode is that holding up human values an example is one thing, but inflicting them, even upon request, on a scale beyond the comprehension or purview of what any individual can possibly apprehend is hubristic in the extreme.

To quote the ever-wise Picard, '[t]he Prime Directive has many different functions, not the least of which is to protect us. It keeps us from allowing our emotions to overrule our judgment.'



[R]esponding with compassion is something a person can do to another person, but when it gets to this scale, responding emotionally to the plight or fate of an entire civilisation, the nature of the situation has changed. Societies don't feel pain or comfort, people do. Archer demonstrates larger thinking here in not indulging his smaller, humanitarian impulses. It is a decision which requires emotional detachment. And that's why the arguments against his choice stem from emotional reactions like empathy with the doomed Valakians.”

In my view, the same reasoning applies, here. The scale is simply too distant for humans (or Bajorans or whatever) to comprehend and apply human ethics to. The miniverse is going to destroy the station (and our entire universe, but we don't really need to even discuss that), so it must be destroyed.

Sisko decides to take an hour to decide what to do. He thinks that destroying the miniverse to save the universe is akin to how the Bord assimilate entire species. It is true that the Borg operate on a different level of consciousness and, right or wrong, believe that their conquests are for the greater good. That's exactly why Arturis' description in Voyager's “Hope and Fear” of the Borg as a “force of nature” is so apt. Dealing with the collective as though it is a civilisation is a mistake. It may be one, on some level, but on our scale of consciousness, the Borg are more like a natural disaster (like the Valakian disease) or a god. So, in a way, Sisko is not so wrong-headed here as many others seem to believe. He is playing god.

In the midst of this heavy stuff, Sisko stops in to his quarters talk to Jake, who is so divorced from the drama that all he can think about is his crush on a Dabbo girl. Sisko is mad, which is more 90s Dad DBI meh. Anyway, his decision to have Jake invite her to dinner “soon” lets us know that he has made up his mind to destroy the miniverse. Good.

Jadzia uses her hour to confront Arjin. She confirms that pre-Dax Jadzia was a lot like Arjin himself, and Curzon was a lot like Jadzia Dax has been. Jadzia's initial failure ended up giving her the motivation and lessons she needed to eventually succeed, and Curzon's dark sense of humour meant that Jadzia got to become the new Dax. This is a pretty good resolution to the dynamic here, but it does run counter to the lesson Quark had for us in the last scene. Apparently, you DO get second chances. And so the episode is over, right? Sisko is going to destroy the miniverse, Arjin gets his second chance and maybe keeps a vole as a pet?

Alas..Sisko actually orders Jadzia (and Arjin) to a runabout for a trip through the wormhole. Uh-oh.

Act 5 : zero stars, 17%

So, I guess they're taking the miniverse back to the GQ. There's some padding with the transporter not working and phasing, and ace-pilot Arjin avoiding bumper cars in the wormhole, taking the dampers offline so we can have shaky cam, etc. etc....ugh. So the little universe is frizzing and sparking—I bet that's really good for the billions of civilisations inside. They put it back “where it belongs” which, I guess solves the problem? Huh?

This is all handled off-screen anyway. Jadzia wishes Arjin good luck on...whatever it is he has to do, and...wait what about the voles? THE VOLES????!! NOOOOOOOOOOoooooo

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

Man this is frustrating. If this story had stopped after Act IV, it would have been one of the best of the season, so far. But all the BS with the wormhole theatrics and anti-resolution with Arjin and Jadzia, and no resolution with the voles is so totally useless that it makes it difficult to remember all the good stuff in the episode.

Despite the ridiculousness of the miniverse, the ethical dilemma it set up worked for me, just like in other Prime Directive stories. True, it came out of no where for Sisko, but it was a good opportunity for the character, nonetheless. But he doesn't make a choice in the end. He just sends it back to the GQ and the problem is erased.

The main plot is pretty great until the end. Dax finally has a vehicle that allows her to take agency, unlike in “Dax” and “Invasive Procedures.” Her mixed feelings about Arjin are understandable and well-portrayed. Arjin himself has a reasonable arc. The resolution to their dynamic makes sense, but is rushed to make room for the totally pointless final act, which I have to assume a producer insisted needed to be there to fill out the action quotient. It's so ham-fisted and useless that I genuinely feel like it's part of a different, far inferior episode.

The good that we're left with is some insight into Jadzia and Curzon's relationship that we didn't quite understand before, a good performance from Terry Ferrel, and some memorable comedy from Quark. I honestly recommend skipping the final act. It's a much better episode that way.

Final Score : **.5
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Mon, Jul 16, 2018, 1:49am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Shadowplay

Teaser : **, 5%

Dax and Odo are on a scientific mission in the Gamma Quadrant. Well, scratch that. Dax is on a mission, whereas Odo is “looking for clues to his origin.” Okay, Odo, you realise that a quadrant of space is like, really, really big, right? You're going to have to play an awful lot of Blue's Clues before you just stumble across a completely mysterious back-story. Dax is giving us our nearly weekly dose of DBI (DS9 Banality Indulgence), prattling on about some pointless station gossip. Sigh...this tiresome conversation trudges through a host of tropes; Odo apparently identifies as a heterosexual man, yet has zero interest in women (and thinks they have no interest in him); people in the future still play absurd little mind games in pursuit of romance; and you can always count on busybody Jadzia Dax to document said banalities for discourse on long shuttle missions. Mercifully, this snoozefest is interrupted by the exciting discovery of Dax' scientific expedition. Some particles are coming from a planet, so Queen Gossip and Just-How-Many-Exasperated-Huffs-Can-Auberjonois-Make Odo decide to beam down.

Turns out they're coming from a village with a large generator in the centre of town. While Dax is trying figure out the technobabble, an old fart sneaks up on the pair holding a gun, and end of teaser.

Act 1 : **, 17%

Kira enters a frustrated Quark's place after hours. She's taken up Odo's duties it seems—God knows why—but anyway, Quark's erm cousin was apparently trying to smuggle stolen merchandise to the bartender. The confrontation ends with Kira admitting that she “despises” Quark, delivered with delightful sincerity.

Meanwhile, the man who -insisted- Quark remain on DS9 in the first place is -insisting- to his son that he get a job. Here we go again. Jake has to get a job because he's a teenager and this is 1990s television. Nevermind that the Federation has no money, people work out a sense of labour-value and Jake lives on a diplomatic outpost, as far as the DS9 writers are concerned, we should just accept that humanity has not changed at all in 400 years.

SISKO: You're 15 years old. It's time you took a little responsibility.

Responsibility FOR WHAT? Jake never ever has to make a living in the contemporary sense. His obligation as a human being in the 24th century is to better himself, to find work that fulfils him. He does not have, nor will he ever have bills to pay. God this is aggravating.

Further depleting my tolerance for this stupid conversation is the return of the Sisko Family Sound Effects method of acting, with every sentence preambled or punctured by some whoop or sigh or other overly theatrical expulsion of carbon dioxide. It's like watching a cereal commercial or low-budget life-insurance advertisement. Whatever. Sisko still thinks Jake is applying to Starfleet, so Jake will shadow Miles.

Back on Planet Particles, Odo and Dax are being...erm...interrogated by the old fart. To prove their innocence of whatever crime they're being accused of, Odo demonstrates that they can beam away at any time. Old Fart flails about in surprise when the transporter is activated like a cartoon chipmunk. Dax maintains a sardonic demeanour until Odo comes back. What emerges is a mystery—people are disappearing from the village, and this old fart is really just worn down, desperate for an answer, but mostly abject at the futility of it all. The mood created between the fact that our heroes don't really seem to be in danger, Dax' bemusement and the resigned hopelessness of the alien is actually kind of welcome. These people, this problem and this episode cannot support a heavy drama, so the choices here are spot on. In the end, our heroes offer to help solve the mystery. They meet and even OLDER fart (Rurigan) whose daughter was the latest to disappear. While Dax tries some technobabble work, Odo meets Rurigan's granddaughter, Teya, who is playing with a spinning top—exactly the kind of toy you'd expect a society that understands matter transportation, warp drive and omicron particles to provide its children. Teya seems hopeful (and she's awfully cute), but doesn't have any answers.

Act 2 : **, 17%

Back to the Jake plot (long sigh...). Sisko (retaining his unexplained affection for Starfleet stuff from “Paradise”) gives Jake his My First Combadge and sets him off to shadow Miles.

And then right back to the Quark/Kira plot. For whatever reason, Kira asks Bashir to spy on Quark for her. I bet Odo's deputies feel really useful right now. Sisko calls to complicate this little subplot with the announcement that Vedek Driftwood Berail is about to dock. In case we forgot (we try to forget these things), the last we saw of that dweeb was rescuing Kira during the dubious infiltration mission in “The Siege.” The two had received Orb visions of each other making out and such, so Kira seems happy to see him. Driftwood is apparently trying an innovative twist on date-rape, by boring Kira (and us) to sleep with his incredibly dull delivery. Meanwhile, Quark is lurking around being creepy.

Back to Teya and her spinning top. We get an interesting dimension for Odo here. He's doing his usual interrogator bit, but his tone in dealing with the potentially orphaned girl has a softness that is new. Well wouldn't you know it? Teya brings up the “myth” of the Changelings. Good thing Dax set up the fact that Odo was explicitly looking for clues about his origin in her log or this would have been an untelegraphed bit of intrigue instead of a happy coincidence. Anyway, we get a rehash of Odo's backstory from “The Forsaken,” which was the best part of that episode, and proves equally effective here. Odo has a habit of being emotionally vulnerable like this at odd times. What emerges is the “nobody ever leaves the valley” trope, paired with an interesting (and effectively-delivered for a child actor) tidbit: she doesn't believe her mother will ever return, and she believes this because her mother's father told her so. There's some good grandparenting, “Hope is a lie, sweetie. Maybe you'll die in your sleep!” What hurts the scene somewhat is the incredibly saccharine and vacuous score, but that's par for the course in this era.

Act 3 : **, 17%

So, Miles is quizzing Jake on some engineering technobabble, which Jake seems unable (mostly unwilling) to grasp. Unfortunately, the script-writer has made it so Jake is apparently unable to remember the corresponding functions and colours of like four different doohickies. It kind of makes me question that scene where he taught Nog to read when the boy can't seem to master a matching game a toddler could figure out. Finally, mercifully, Jake tells Miles that he doesn't really want to join Starfleet. Good. Maybe he can find work with his Pakled buddy. Anyone remember “The Ensigns of Command”? Well congratulations, because you get to eat the Easter egg: Miles was supposed to play the 'cello. Anyway, Miles give the expected after school special advice: be yourself, your dad will come around, yadda yadda. Moving on.

Kira and Driftwood emerge from a spiritual lecture (sermon?) he has just given, and, while it's meant as a bit of fluffy character interplay to show that the two have intellectual disagreements (theoretically giving depth to their relationship...we'll come back to that), I have to pause and comment on the slight-of-hand bullshit the writers are again taking with the Bajoran religion (again):

DRIFTWOOD: You disagree with my interpretation of the Eighth Prophecy?
KIRA: “Disagree” is a bit of an understatement. “Passionately disagree” is more like it. The way you have of taking a prophecy and showing that it can mean exactly the opposite of the accepted interpretation is...
DRIFTWOOD: ...it's brilliant...uh...insightful!
KIRA: ...[through a smile] infuriating!

Now, it's been established that Kira is (or at least was) a member of the same conservative Orthodox order as Bitchwhore (Winn for those who've forgotten my nicknames), so it makes sense that she would adhere to conservative (or “accepted”) interpretations of their holy texts. The Bajoran religion borrows liberally (and often contradictorily) from many real religions, but is culturally most akin to modern Judaism. Be they Jew, Christian, Muslim or Shinto, however, an ORTHODOX person of faith does not abide wishy-washy, New Age, listen to your heart soft-peddling of the sort the writers are clearly intending Driftwood to be advocating for. I'm not saying Kira should be intolerant of his views. After all, it is acknowledged that different orders co-exist in Bajoran society. But that she would enter into a—spoiler here—sexual relationship with a person, let alone a priest whose religious advocacy is directly in conflict with tenants of the Orthodoxy she claims to ascribe to is utter bullshit. Kira's faith isn't really as strong or as absolute as she claims, but whenever the writers want to get on their soapbox about how the Federation's atheism isn't really so great, they trot out Major True Believer as an example of piety. But of course, the writers want to have their cake and eat it, too. So this allegedly devout and rigid person of faith is free to fuck someone whose philosophy and vocation her own faith should condemn as heresy. Sure.

This issue isn't an egregious sin in this particular episode, but much of what comes later on for these two begins with this scene, so I need to get my objections to the very premise of their relationship out now.

Getting back, I won't hold the issue of Kira's badly-written faith against this scene, but I will point out how distracting it is that Nana Visitor has to keep jerking her head around during this conversation. Hmm. Maybe Bajorans lay eggs like chickens.

Meanwhile (I think), Odo has moved on to interrogating the really old fart (Rurigan). Odo can't understand his seeming total resignation to the demise of his entire family and village, but Rurigan is adamant that the situation is indeed hopeless, and even now is preparing to tuck in his granddaughter, “Just stop breathing, pumpkin. Life is pain.”

Speaking of pain, Odo notices that Rurigan is in physical pain—because he's dying, it turns out. Rurigan remains oddly enigmatic about the townspeople's (and his own) certainty that none of the missing people have Left the Valley, registered trademark.

Odo and Dax are obviously not convinced as Teya takes them to the outskirts of the valley. While they travel, she recounts more of the Changeling legend to the pair. The myth she tells him is very reminiscent of a scene in “Das Rheingold,” but we've had enough tangents for one review I think, so I'll leave it at that. Odo has Teya hold back. He and Dax cross some sort of perimeter and her scanner (loaned from the villagers) vanishes (like, dare I say it, a shadow!!!). When Teya comes near the pair, her arm vanishes as well (and comes back—thankfully it doesn't seem to cause her any pain...or even much surprise). Odo and Dax seem to have solved the mystery as they give each other knowing looks. Well that's kind of early. Oh god, does that mean have to sit through more subplot?

Act 4 : *.5, 17%

Dax is futzing with the generator in the centre of town and demonstrates to the old fart that she can make objects (and people) disappear and appear—because the entire village is holographic. Now, Dax being a 300-year-old former diplomat and Starfleet Officer well-versed in the Prime Directive is naturally very cautious with this information, reflecting carefully on whether there is a moral justification for breaking such a protocol that could drastically impact this society in funda---psh, what am I saying? No, she just blurts it out in the middle of the square. Great. Good job, guys. Oh my god.

On DS9, Kira and Driftwood have moved on from talking about religion to talking about sports, and food, and the holocaust of their people. Ahem. Sexy times ahead. Once the making out ensues, Driftwood knows that the best way to up the foreplay is to drop some important plot points. Whoops. So, maybe less sexy times and more Kira strangling Quark (that's the pastime right), since he has apparently orchestrated Driftwood's visit to the station in order to distract Kira from his blackmailing of whatever money Ferengi thing. So, she runs out on Vedek Blueballs.

On Planet Particles, the townspeople are shouting, and telling each other what they already know (and we don't), that Dax has already shown them all the limits of the holographic field. There's some daft exposition for you. The mood of the Old Fart and the villagers is almost too absurd to be hilarious, as he and they have pretty much just accepted that they're all projections of light instead of flesh and blood. Now, we can be generous and say that this can be somewhat mitigated by the fact that it's possible that in the society from which the holograms come, holographic life is seen as equally valid as organic life. We can infer that much, but that isn't true in the society from which Dax and Odo come, yet they still refer to the holograms as people. All questions of sapience and the meaning of life (what was Odo on this mission for again?) are totally sidestepped, but this is compounded by the villagers' nonplussed attitude. Even if they view holographic life as equal to organic life (which they all believed themselves to be), are you telling me it would cause NO crisis of identity in ANY of these people? They just accept that their lives have been a lie for ever. Okay.

The best part is summed up when Dax warns, “Then, this village will cease to exist,” and one of the extras lets out an annoyed “aww.” Yeah guys. Stakes.

So Dax shuts down the hologram and, it turns out Rurigan is still there. Dun dun dun?

Act 5 : *, 17%

Rurigan lays out the backstory. The Dominion gets name-dropped as the cause of his self-imposed exile. He created himself an holographic village to live and die in. He asks Dax and Odo to take him back to his planet and abandon the village. And then, Odo pisses me off.

NOW he has the debate about the definition of life, whose interpretation of life is valid, it doesn't matter what you're made of, etc. Yeah, this belonged in the PREVIOUS act when the villagers were being told their very existence was a simulation. Putting it here just shines a spotlight on how poorly constructed this story is. It would have been much stronger to just gloss over the philosophical implications and discussions and focus upon the characters, but nope. They keep throwing further idiocies upon this scene with ideas like Teya's personality “is a combination of her parents' personalities. Just like a real child.” What? Is that what the DS9 writers think people are? Our lives are just...mitosis and meosis? Well, no wonder the villagers were so unbothered; being a projection of light run by software is much more exciting than that!

Oh dear god, and we have to wrap up the other plots. Jake tells Sisko he doesn't want to join Starfleet. Sisko is completely understanding—which is good parenting, but pretty anticlimactic given all the setup.

Kira confronts Quark. She thwarted whatever his scheme was and...actually thanks him for essentially pimping Driftwood onto her. Well, if that isn't the mark of a conservative Orthodox Bajoran of faith, I don't know what is.

Before Dax turns the holograms back on, Rurigan asks her to keep one aspect of the fiction in tact, that he is one of them. She turns it on, the people are all back, Teya tells Odo she'll miss him and he turns himself into a spinning top (the universal object of joy) as a parting gift, and we're done.

Episode as Functionary : *.5, 10%

The subplots are light as a marshmallow and often pretty irritating, but they are nonetheless necessary components to the continuity of the series. Damn it. Both plots, despite being so light, remind us that the DS9 writers are inept as ever in trying to subvert the Star Trek ethos. Jake's subplot takes a jab at the Federation economy without actually thinking through the implications of using the tired tropes it relies upon, and Kira's plot continues to show that the writers want to defend religiosity without bothering to understand it.

The main plot is almost totally botched, unfortunately. Rurigan's attitude is no different from how someone from the Federation would view a hologram (even someone like Geordi), yet it's the Alpha Quadrant people who have to convince HIM that a hologram could be alive? That's just stupid writing. Dax states unequivocally that Teya loves her grandfather, with absolutely no foundation for making such a claim. Rurigan has admitted that he KNOWS holograms aren't really people, but he's old and tired and lonely so he's become attached to them. And that's perfectly understandable, but trying to parse out the philosophy of this issue in the final 3 minutes of the story is just dreadful. Oh, and Dax violates the Prime Directive in one of the most egregious ways one can, without even mentioning the directive by name. This plot completely falls apart, but what rescues it somewhat is the chemistry between Odo and Teya, which is effective and cute.

As a whole, the performances aren't awful the way they often are in the bad DS9 episodes we've seen so far, but that makes the whole thing in some ways worse. It's a slog to get through, but it's not bad enough to laugh at like in “Move Along Home,” so mostly it's just boring. And because of the subplots, you can't really skip it. It's like eating over-steamed broccoli.

Final Score : *.5
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Thu, Jul 5, 2018, 2:14pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Paradise

@William B

That's really interesting! That would suggest to me that the director actually salvaged this script somewhat. The preachy tone Alixus adopts is mitigated by the fact that her hypocrisy is on full display. Without that, the contrivance of giving her this moral victory--when, as written, her philosophy is so totally vacuous--would have been utterly enraging and sent this episode to the bottom of the barrel for me. Corey Allen (Journey's End not withstanding) should be commended.
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Elliott
Wed, Jul 4, 2018, 12:48pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Paradise

Teaser : **, 5%

Chief of Operations O'Brien and Commander Sisko are on a survey mission, alone in a runabout. Because, of course they are. Remember all those times Kirk and Scotty decided to do routine bitch work alone in a shuttle? Totally. Not. Contrived. Anyway, Sisko introduces the concept of Jake joining Starfleet into the fabric of the show. This is familiar Wesley Crusher territory, but what irks me is that part of what has defined Sisko's character, for better or worse, is a contempt for Starfleet. The only reason he has remained at his post on DS9 after what transpired in “Emissary” is the relationships he has forged with the Bajorans, nuDax and his new crew. Since assuming command, he has frequently shown disregard for Starfleet ideals and protocols. The idea that, after losing Jennifer, he would willingly put his son in the line of fire by joining Starfleet demands an explanation. Anyway, O'Brien exposits that he learned everything he knows about technobabble during the Cardassian War.

Lewis and Clark discover a heretofore unknown colony of humans, and already I'm having PTSD to TNG's “Up the Long Ladder.” Miles says that there's an energy field interfering with their sensors on the planet. So Sisko, because he is a genius, decides that both of them will beam down to the surface where their technology doesn't seem to work. Totally. Not. Contrived. Anyway, surprise of surprises, their communicators, phasers and tricorders don't work down here. Duh. Anyway, within seconds of beaming down to the planet, they are ambushed by a couple of the humans, wielding bows and arrows. Because, of course they are.

Act 1 : **.5, 17%

The older human, Joseph, recognises their uniforms as Starfleet and has his distractingly attractive companion lower his bow. Apparently, a decade prior, a ship crash-landed here and, because of that field, found that they were permanently stuck on this planet. The pair seem friendly and bring Lewis and Clark to their village where they are greeted by Alixus, their leader. The villagers are curious and cordial, Alixus is warm and inviting. Nothing ominous here.

With the exposition out of the way, Alixus decides it's time for her to leave her mark and wander about the set delivering unto us her...philosophy. With electronics non-functional, the humans have had to learn to live as a pre-industrial society. Okay. Alixus says, “In a way, we have learned what man is capable of without technology.” Right. Because weaving clothing, tilling fields and making paper isn't technology! Ugh...... Lewis and Clark give her a goofy smile during this diatribe that I think is supposed to show that Alixus' views are mere eccentricities. We learn in the midst of this that 1. people have died from external conditions during the last ten years and 2. Alixus does not believe that many if any of her people will choose to leave when Lewis and Clark are rescued. She assigns them some bunks and comments to her distractingly hot son that “two more strong and healthy men....could mean a lot for this community.” Obviously, she doesn't think they're leaving anytime soon. The sophistry at the heart of Alixus' argument is clearly the backbone of this story, and the poor way in which it has thus far been thought out makes this whole outing feel quite tenuous. But, so far, the performances have been adequate.

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

Back on DS9, Samantha and Carrie—I mean Jadzia and Kira are discussing something or other. Kira name drops the U.S.S. Crocket, which is probably the least subtle ship-name allusion in the series. Dax is still doing her odd duck-walk from season 1, with both hands behind her back so that if she slips going down the stairs she'll eat it. Kira says she can't raise the runabout on subspace.

Meanwhile, Sisko has been reading Alixus' books, which are left like nightstand-bibles in Lewis' and Clark's...okay I'll stop that...quarters. We learn that she—try not to be surprised—is rather opinionated. She identifies, essentially, as an anthropologist. What we discover is that she's actually a two-bit philosopher. She claims that man's social evolution is a lie, that humanity has become fat and lazy, and lost its core identity. Like most dogmatic nonsense, this could mean anything, but in remaining vague, Alixus gets to moralise at her leisure.

O'Brien reveals that the humans have gotten rid of all the electronic technology on their ship. Of course, since none of it worked at all, I suppose having it around would be like a blind man stocking up on contact solution. In conversing with Joseph, we discover that the circumstances of their isolation, which nullify electronics, has conveniently created a situation in which Alixus' philosophical prescription perfectly suits the needs of the moment. Joseph sings Alixus' praises because, again under this unique circumstance, her philosophy provided the means for their survival. He goes further, claiming that there are other intangible benefits to her philosophy. They are...again extremely vague notions of community and commitment. Of course, he offers no specifics, or examples of how, before being shipwrecked, they lacked any of these qualities.

Then we learn that a woman, Meg, is terminally ill—from an insect bite. Sisko and Miles naturally want even more urgently to find a way to contact the runabout and retrieve the medkit. Alixus is indignant that they would rather try to technobabble their way to a solution that would save Meg's life than wander around the forest looking for the Deus ex herb or fungus that will magically cure the illness without any medical technology to speak of. She takes Sisko outside and states that none of these people follow her, that she is not their leader, they simply have chosen to adopt her entire way of thinking of their own volitions. In a moment I never expected to experience, Sisko is direct with Alixus—they are not doing what is necessary to save Meg's life. He doesn't let her off the hook or wring his hands in moral vacillation. She, being a zealot, cannot counter his simple reasoning, and falls back on the conservative's cultural argument, that Sisko's unorthodoxy is causing community upheaval. Then she insists—even though, you know, she's definitely not their leader—that he will have to “do things [their] way” until—if—Starfleet rescues them. She also advises him to abandon his uniform. Yeah, over Jake's dead body, lady!

Act 3 : **.5, 17%

Back on Sex and the Station, Dax learns that the Runabout is travelling around at warp with no passengers or crew. Kira decides that the two of them will go after it.

Meanwhile, Ben and Miles—still in uniform—are picking crops or something with Space Amish. Distracting Hotty remarks that fresh food is tastier than replicated, a wonderful discovery afforded them by their circumstance. It is a view reminiscent of Robert Picard's in many ways. That is with one *tiny* difference—I don't think even that bourru would let a young woman die of an insect bite instead of taking her to the nearest hôpital. Speaking of TNG season 4, Miles is amused at the idea of Keiko seeing him work the fields like this, ill-suited as he is to agriculture and horticulture.

Suddenly, some of the Amish open up a plastic crate and reveal that an emaciated young man is inside. Joseph and the others help him out and to the shade, kindly it should be added. Stephen, the young man, had stolen a candle, and somebody—not Alixus of course, because they have no leader—decided his punishment for this crime would be a full day in the hot box. Ah, and speak of the devil, she strolls over to Joseph and piously defends their absurd medieval torture-punishment to an incensed Sisko. Stephen, for his part, apologises to her directly. But, she's definitely not their leader.

We should pause to consider that there is no Prime Directive issue here. These are human beings—they may be lost, but they are still Federation citizens. These Federation citizens have chosen to introduce torture into their makeshift jurisprudence. This makes them all culpable in criminal activity. File that away.

Anyway, in the face of this, Sisko orders Miles to find a way to contact the Runabout somehow. Later that night, a young woman lets herself into Sisko's quarters. “I'm sorry, Alixus doesn't believe in doors.” Oh, but she's not their leader, you see. She makes a pass at him, offering a massage. Sisko quickly discerns that Alixus sent this poor mediocre actress to his quarters to fuck him. So, this ideal community is also dealing in coerced, transactional prostitution. He confronts Dear Not-leader, calls her contemptible. An admittedly nice touch is that Alixus is spending her evening hours writing to the illumination of several large candles. Good thing she seems to get whatever she wants so she doesn't have to steal from others, right?

Sisko points out the incredible convenience of Alixus finding this planet. She deflects by claiming that their crash-landing may have been divinely ordained by fate. Well, since Sisko has made himself an apologist for similar views from the Bajorans, he naturally...makes a sarcastic remark to her. Uh-huh. Not-leader orders that Sisko will be standing watch that night. I'm not entirely sure what or whom he's standing watching against, but endless gruelling labour is its own reward, right?

Act 4 : *.5, 17%

The next morning, Miles expresses doubts to a weary Sisko that the energy field suppressing their electronics is being generated naturally. Alixus isn't far behind offering up a hearty breakfast of fruit and condescension, playing a petty game of wills to get him to work his shift even after his sleepless night. Oh, and maybe he should take his uniform off, too.

Kira and Dax come across the runabout and get into this histrionic technobabble manufactured drama nonsense that's equal parts insipid, tedious and pointless.

Back on Planet Amish, poor Meg has died. Alixus spin-doctors her death into an act of martyrdom in order to make a dramatic reveal. Distracting Hotty brings in Miles who has “selfishly wasted precious time” trying to work around the energy field as Sisko had ordered. It is at this point that Alixus' villainy becomes entirely overwrought. She couldn't make it two sentences into her eulogy for the woman whose death she failed to prevent before using the platform as a pulpit. Continuing her twisted fuckery, Alixus frames the arrival (and alleged meddling) of Sisko and Miles as a test (presumably from whatever deity crashed their ship) of their communal convictions. She is now a deranged zealot with not a hint of sympathy. Dear Not-leader decides that Sisko, as the commanding officer, will be hot-boxed for this unforgivable crime. Of course, everyone in this little Stockholm goes along with the edicts of this psychopath. Totally. Not. Contrived. Well, at least now Sisko will get a nap, right?

Act 5 : .5 stars, 17%

The Derp Ladies give us exposition we don't need, seeing as we know what has happened already, and don't really care. It's revealed that their runabout was set, on autopilot, to fly directly into Planet Amish's sun, because how else could it be destroyed? Some sort of automatic system of destruction? So now, Dax and Kira know where to look for Sisko and Miles. Totally. Not. Contrived.

Sisko is released from the box and stumbles his way into Alixus' throne room. She hoards a glass of water in front of him and offers to exchange it for his conformity. He can have water and rest if he takes off the uniform. Sisko's response—a pretty powerful moment—is to crawl his way before the whole community back into his box, but still in uniform. He has made a public statement. Freedom is worth a sacrifice. Good.

Miles asks Joseph to “look the other way” while he tracks down the actual source of the energy field, knocking him out—consentually—to avoid Dear Not-leader's wrath. We are treated to a tedious scene of Miles tracking down the source—reminiscent of a similar scene in last week's “Whispers,” the low point of that episode. Finally, he discovers some sort of VCR buried in the ground, flashing lights, so it's functioning! An arrow misses his head because Distracting Hotty is a terrible shot. Miles manages to trick him by hanging his uniform and using it as bait, meaning Distracting is also culpable of attempted murder. Miles gets the drop on the pretty idiot and drags him back to the village, where Miles reveals that his phaser is fully functioning. He releases Sisko and explains to the community that the energy field was indeed created artificially. Her highness emerges and confirms the obvious to us—that she planned the crash all along, invented the energy interference, etc. The writing in this little speech is pretty awful. Alixus even pauses at one point, a little teary, calling their village an “Ideal Community,” registered trademark. Joseph and would-be prostitute lady are upset at having been lied to. What follows is pretty exasperating—Alixus defends her actions by claiming to know (she is a deity after all, right?) that the three named villagers would have had unhappy lives if not for their crash (tedious jobs and prison respectively). Okay, even if she, somehow, could actually know that, HOW IS ENDLESSLY TILLING FIELDS NOT TEDIOUS WORK? HOW IS BEING TORTURED TO EXAUSTION AND DEHYDRATION AN IMPROVEMENT OVER FEDERATION PENALTIES FOR THEFT? Sisko pointedly asks about what role the dead people played in Alixus' “rediscovery of man's potential.” Of course, she has no answer, she just plays the conservative martyr again. Playing over this garbage is a totally inappropriate score which is trying desperately to make Alixus seem sympathetic to us, making the whole scene even more arduous to sit through, given how unjustifiably evil she is. Anyway, exasperation turns to rage when her pitiful “I did it all for the community,” leads to credulous nods from said community of brainwashed idiots. (Oh, and of course, right at that moment, Kira contacts Sisko. Good timing, Major. Totally. Not. Contrived.) Joseph speaks for the morons saying that whatever else—torture, death, loss of contact with their loved ones—they have found “something” which compels them to stay behind on the planet instead of escaping with Sisko. What that something is isn't revealed because this is two-bit, fortune-cookie nonsense. More to the point, remember that these people have been complicit in criminal activity—torture, prostitution, denial of due-process—whether they want to or not, they should at least be tried for these activities. Not to mention offered some therapy. Ugh. Alixus, Hotty, Miles and Sisko beam up and we're left with the image of two badly-blocked children staring at the hot box. Yeah, way too late for this writers.

Totally. NOT. CONTRIVED!!

Episode as Functionary : *, 10%

Unlike some of the Bajoran episodes from season 1, the frustration with this episode builds gradually. Alixus begins as a somewhat underwritten but potentially-interesting villain. But she so quickly and forcedly becomes this murdering, pontificating cartoon that the complicity of her followers is absolutely maddening. A few things could have salvaged the episode somewhat:

1. Expunge the rescue plot. This is wasted time, poorly utilised and unnecessary. If Alixus had not tried to destroy the runabout (why does she need to do this, and in so silly a manner?), the ending would have been exactly the same but without Kira's all-too timely arrival. This time could have been used for...

2. ...Developing Alixus more gradually and subtly. The annoyingly vague “something” that the villagers claim justifies their absurd behaviour needed to be defined in a compelling way. As explained earlier, Alixus didn't shun “technology,” she believed that a pre-industrial level of technology, combined with Puritanical laws and customs was the ideal state of being for man. Now, that's fucking stupid, but at least it's a clear and defensible philosophy to base your antagonist on.

3. Change the ending. Giving Alixus the moral victory doesn't read as complex antiheroism, it makes the villagers seem even dumber than before. Moreover, the strong moment of Sisko making a public display becomes totally pointless. If NO ONE was going to react to this move, especially after learning that Dear Not-leader had been lying to them for a decade, what was the point? Yeah, I know, DS9 wants to be the anti-Trek Star Trek, but so far, it only seems to accomplish this dubious end by giving incredible leniency to credulous fools.

The frustrating cherry on top is Sisko. For once, I found the Commander's demeanour, philosophy and behaviour pretty admirable. I can even look past him doing nothing at the very end since the man had been sitting in the hot box for a day. This was out of character for Sisko, but whatever, I'll take the good where I can get it. So why give the antagonist the victory over him when he's finally acting like a hero? Arrgghhh.

Final Score : **
Set Bookmark
Elliott Fan
Tue, Jun 19, 2018, 10:05pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Whispers

Yes!! I welcome some alternative takes on these DS9 reviews.
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Tue, Jun 19, 2018, 8:02pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Whispers

Hello long-estranged Jammers Reviews community! With the renewed interest in Trek, mixed to positive reviews of Discovery everywhere, and some unexpected free time on my hands, I decided to pick up where I left off, re-treading Jammer's well-excavated path. I noticed a couple of comments lamenting my departure, although I'm sure there are others who were just as happy to see me go. Ah well, to hell with it, let's get back into DS9.

Teaser : ***.5 , 5%

We begin with Miles entering the wormhole alone in a runabout (at warp?). He's heading to the Parada system, and has about an hour to kill (hey, me too!). Of note, he is not wearing his combadge. He decides to give a personal log entry. Just like in “Necessary Evil,” the writers wisely re-purpose this Trek trope to do something meaningful with their protagonist. After ordering himself a drink (sidenote: if you put sugar in your coffee, you can go to hell), what emerges is a sense that O'Brien is disturbed, uncertain, and frightened, but reasonably secure in his decision to be on the journey he's on now.

He flashes back to waking up in his quarters on DS9 after a trip. Keiko apparently tried to have Molly fed and out the door before he got up. Both of them, Keiko and Molly are openly hostile towards him, but...Keiko perks up slightly when Miles starts talking about the training he received on Paradas (where he is returning to in the present). Chao's performance clearly demonstrates that she is, for some reason, disturbed or disgusted with Miles. Her elusive answers to him suggest infidelity of some sort.

Miles shows up at work, only to discover that one of his subordinates has begun a security project ahead of schedule—on orders from Sisko, thus subverting the chain of command and adding to Miles' irritation. When he enters the promenade, he is visibly wounded to see the two people who have apparently been fucking with him all morning engaged in conversation, Keiko having obviously lied to him about her workload and plans. Is she having an affair with Sisko?

I'm liking the paranoia and performance from Meaney so far, but the teaser is just a bit too long in my opinion. Ending before the flashback began, or offering just one scene in the past would have been much better, but we actually have a little prologue AND actual plot in what is supposed to be a teaser for the plot itself.

Act 1 : ***.5, 17%

In the present, Miles discovers that he is being followed by another runabout from DS9. He continues is log/flashback. Miles describes the actions of Sisko and his wife as “curious.” Frankly, if I discovered that my spouse was actively lying to me, even about something mundane, I would find the situation more than curious, but Miles is a patient man when it comes to his family. Bashir confronts him before he has a chance to talk to Sisko, even threatening to make an order out of the physical he insists on performing. ASAP. Well, that's one way to further the intimacy between the two. Sisko steps into the frame long enough to make it clear to Miles that this is happening. First though, Sisko placates Miles about the subversion of protocol and asks him about “the kinds of things we don't include in reports” regarding the Paradans. So, when Picard discovered that information was missing on the reports on the Pegasus mutiny, he was so angry that it led to the court-martial of an admiral and dressing down of his first officer of seven years. Commander I-have-no-principles just expects his officers to omit important information from their reports. Grand. At any rate, it turns out that ALL of the upper pilons have broken during Miles' trip, meaning that he has a great deal of work ahead of him after his physical. Oh and that illicit conversation between Sisko and Keiko? Sisko claims that Jake is having trouble in school.

Now on to the fun! The only way to make it clearer that Bashir has been abundantly thorough in Miles' physical would be for him to be snapping off the latex gloves at the start of the next scene while Miles gingerly sits himself back down. He is equally probing in his questions, while Miles has an endless supply of Irish sarcasm to counter. It's a pretty amusing back and forth, offering a different dimension to the odd behaviour Miles is experiencing from his familiars on the station. An odd bit is that apparently, Miles' mother died right before he transferred to DS9. Miles finally blows up at Bashir, thinking there must be something terminally wrong with him—but Bashir cuts him off before he can continue. In both these previous scenes, the camera lingers on the interviewer (Sisko, then Bashir) looking confused and concerned.

Jake runs into Miles. Lofton has apparently been directed to move his hands every time he talks, like some sort of prohibition-era Italian gangster. It is revealed that Sisko also lied to him, as Jake's grades are just fine, thank you. What has been quite effective in the story-telling is that there's clearly a mystery as to why everyone is acting so strangely—and we know from the framing device where this will eventually lead—but, like Miles, we are being jerked around and frustrated in our attempts to even consider the mystery. This creates a strong empathy with Miles himself.

Act 2 : ****, 17%

Poor Miles discovers that the difficulty with the upper pilons is subtle and going to take a great deal of time to resolve, keeping him away from the security arrangements with the Paradans. When he takes a break to check in, his subordinate cannot grant him access without permission from Kira. So O'Brien calls her up, and it turns out that Sisko is eavesdropping on the call. He dismisses Miles' request and orders him back to the pilons, embarrassing him. When he walks away, he sneaks a peak back at the door and the subordinate walks right in without any access code from Kira. Something is definitely wrong.

Later, we seek Jake being stared at by a wayward Pakled—ahem. Miles invites him over to work on his school project—where, presumably, he can confront Keiko about her and Sisko's deception in private. Before he can question Jake further, Kira appears, seemingly out of no where, to tell Jake that Sisko is looking for him.

By the end of the day, Miles has discovered that the only possible explanation for the broken pilons is sabotage. He returns to his quarters, where Keiko informs him that, suddenly, Jake isn't feeling well enough to come by anymore. Isn't that convenient? Molly is out for the night too. So...Miles decides it's time to reclaim his manhood after his morning with Bashir's probing and Sisko's undermining of his authority by trying to have sex with his wife. She's visibly upset by his advances and fumbles around for excuses not to be intimate. She has made his favourite meal, but isn't eating it herself. The music and cinematography make it seem that she's trying to poison him. The exchange is enough to convince Miles that Keiko is no longer the person he knows.

Act 3 : ****, 17%

Later that night, Miles starts searching for the typical sci-fi anomalies that turn people evil—you know, like goofy games you wear on your head, putting things in funnels that give you tiny orgasms. Science! He reviews the station logs. Two things of note here: 1. the story-telling is a little dubious as, because of the framing device, we are in the midst of a flashback, yet this part of the story is told like a montage; it's a bit clumsy; 2. Sisko's log makes a brief mention about tension in the DMZ, and later something about the Cardassians honouring “the treaty;” I wonder where that could lead...

Then he hits a roadblock. Miles has been denied access to the logs beginning the day he returned (wasn't that yesterday). He surreptitiously makes a midnight run to Ops to penetrate the security seal. What he discovers is that his colleagues having been pouring over Miles' activity and reports regarding the Paradans.

Odo returns to the statin from a trip, probably to Bajor. It seems that Miles is thinking that whatever has happened to his friends and colleagues may not have affected Odo since he's been away. Odo's absence was a key part of a previous scene regarding the security arrangements. This is a tightly woven plot. Miles confides his suspicions in him. Odo, being the paranoid weirdo he is, is right on board with trying to uncover the mystery. While he waits for Odo to do some investigating, Miles starts messing with some gadgets in his office.

Later, Quark assumes the role of the wise fool declaring, “The odds are against you, O'Brien.” He was actually talking about raquetball, but of course, O'Brien is on edge and lashes out at the Ferengi (seriously, can we stop strangling Quark already?). Almost immediately, though Quark is ALSO asking about the Paradans. Odo calls Miles to his office, and at first seems to confirm his suspicions about the crew. But before long, Odo ends up revealing that “they got to [him]” too. Almost instantly, he's ambushed by the senior staff, but his gizmos from earlier allow him to make an escape.

Act 4 : **.5, 17%

Miles disposes of his combadge, and runs through a series of traps and techno-trickery to get himself to a runabout. Along the way, he runs into Jake, who has also been compromised by whatever weirdness is happening around here. Having brought up “The Game,” this is a good time to mention that the entire escape sequence, while not awful, lacks the kind of urgency and tension that the episode has built up to so far. Miles barely runs into anybody, and rather easily makes it to the runabout and off the station. Wesley boy genius didn't do this well, and he's a genius.

Once aboard the runabout, Miles contacts Starfleet to report the conspiracy, but the admiral he talks to is ALSO compromised. Left with few options, we pick up where the teaser began, with Miles entering the wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant.

Act 5 : ***, 17%

Approaching the Paradan System, Miles quickly formulates a plan to try and evade his pursuers. Being very clever, he baits the other runabout to overtake him while he enters the magnetic field from a moon, shuts off the power and eludes his would-be captors—very much like in “The Hunted.” The pursuers beam to one of the planets. Miles arms himself and beams himself down there after them. He discovers Sisko and co. chatting with the Paradans, and forces them to disarm. One of the Paradan guards and Kira insist that they aren't Miles' enemy, just when another seizes the moment and shoots him in the chest. Clearly not his enemy. The mysterious door is opened, revealing another O'Brien being treated for injuries by Bashir. The other O'Brien emerges and the dialogue reveals that the Miles we have been following this whole time is a “replicant,” probably programmed to assassinate members of the peace delegation. The mystery is solved, but the dialogue is a little too expository—things like Bashir referencing the physical and Kira remarking that the replicant must have wondered what was wrong with them all. We really don't need this spelled out for us, episode. Replicant Miles calls out for Keiko as he dies, reminding us that, in having recreating O'Brien so perfectly, the dissidents replicated his soul along with his appearance, knowledge and instincts.

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

The episode is very clever and efficient in its story-telling. Despite the real Miles having only a few minutes of screen-time at the end, the nature of Replicant-O'Brien means that this is an effective character study, wrapped up in a thriller (not unlike “Necessary Evil,” a character study wrapped up in noire dressing). We learn more about Miles' priorities, his foibles, his abilities and his vulnerabilities. There are some minor technical complaints to be made about the technology which allowed the Paradans to make such a perfect copy this *one* time, and about the crew's odd choice not to simply lock Miles up and explain who they think he might be until they find the real Miles, rather than go through the whole song and dance of trying to convince him everything is just fine. These are both contrivances, but do not distract from the engaging story before us. On the other hand, the episode does feel a bit too long. Act IV especially feels like it could be excised. The framing device is effective in connecting us to this character in an intimate way, and we really do need to have Replicant Miles in every scene to make the paranoia work, but I feel like the episode could have been fleshed out just a bit more. Miles' scene with Quark was very short and Jadzia was not in the episode at all. Giving him some more interaction with them would have shored things up nicely. Still though, a very effective outing.

Final Score : ***.5
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Sat, Oct 17, 2015, 5:09pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Armageddon Game

Teaser : **, 5%

Bashir and O'Brien (last seen not resolving their racquetball issues) are helping the Maries (I'm beginning to feel that much of Trek's alien designs lately are from the “There's Something About Mary” School of Hairgel) dismantle some bio-weapons. Presumably, there are no other Federation doctors or engineers close enough by for Sisko to risk sending his only doctor away on a potentially suicidal mission. For a week now. Yeah. Bashir babbles some technos and manages to accomplish whatever it is they intended to do. And there was much rejoicing. There's an overload of saccharine back-patting and jerking off complete with the swelling brass music of triumph. This felt like a setup for a bait and switch, but all we get is an ominous of ominous cue on the remaining “disruptors” they need to neutralise. Okay...

Act 1 : ***, 17%

Over subspace, O'Brien is unusually congratulatory of Bashir and his accomplishment, although there's the hint that maybe the Chief is just trying to get his mission-accomplished ticket home.

Right before they neutralise the last cylinder, a raiding party emerges in the lab and starts killing the Maries. In the ensuing fight, O'Brien is infected by the cylinder goop. This perfectly watchable act is extremely short, giving us a brief and competent action scene.

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

On DS9, Sisko's brunch is interrupted by the arrival of the Hairgel ambassadors, who report that Bashir and O'Brien were killed in an “accident.” The lead Mary gives a good performance (although her counterpart, whose people shall be the Elizabethans, is painfully wooden) but that fucking hairdo is laughably distracting and really takes the pathos out of the scene.

Meanwhile, amid a typical wallpaper of boring score, O'Brien and Bashir hunt for supplies and find some military rations. The Chief is homesick, serious and cautious. The doctor is optimistic, calculating and naïve. As luck would have it, one of the first things they stumble across is a communications array. It begins to become clear that O'Brien saved up just enough tolerance for Julian's antics to last a week in the Hairgels' lab. Under duress, hungry and for god knows how long is another matter.

Meanwhile, Sisko and co. review a doctored video recording of the “accident.” In the welcomely understated scene which follows, the remaining staff prepare to deal with their loss, make funeral and personnel changes, etc. It's pretty good, but it can't hold a candle to similar scenes in “The Most Toys” or “Coda.” The reason is because of which characters we're dealing with here. Sisko, Kira and Odo have no particular connection to O'Brien or Bashir. They get along okay, sure, but there's no lingering regret from Kira on how she barely tolerated him. There's no sense of loyalty from Sisko for having so often used Miles as a cover for his questionable command decisions. The only relationship with some emotional investment is that between Dax and Bashir.

Speaking of romance, Bashir and O'Brien... are talking about women. It both scores and loses points with me. The positives are 1. reaffirming O'Brien's commitment to Keiko and Molly, which is always appreciated, and 2. adding to the O'Brien/Bashir conflict the differences in their career paths, Julian an officer and O'Brien an enlisted man. The biggest negative is the unapologetic sexism on display. The two speak as though the life of a Starfleet officer is too dangerous for one to risk leaving the “wife and kids” alone. In addition to being annoyingly sexist on its own terms, it also commits the sin of conflating the modern military with Starfleet (although the sexism would make it more the pre-modern military). Starfleet officers are explorers. Also, what about the Crushers? What I'm saying is that the conversation is more or less effective, but it totally abandons many of the unique features of the Star Trek universe in order to be so. Bashir and O'Brien could be members of any given military in any century it seems. Anyway, surprise, surprise Bashir manages to piss O'Brien off with his remarks and the Chief starts to show signs of illness. His infection by the harvesters is discovered.

Act 3 : ***.5, 17%

I have to disagree vehemently with Jammer's assessment of Rosalind Chao's performance which I think are the most effective of the episode. The look on her face when Sisko enters her quarters to deliver the news speaks volumes. One can see clearly the number of times she's worried about and confronted the feeling of losing her husband in the line of duty. The hurt is deep, but its a wound that has been rankled by fear and worry many times already. On the other hand, Brooks really lets us down here. He's somber and sober sure, but there's no sense of the personal behind his performance. Come on, man! You lost your wife and blamed, to an extent, Starfleet for that loss. Surely you can do better than “He was a fine man. I'll miss him.”

The Chief in the meanwhile is probably wishing he were dead. On top of his plague symptoms (side note: is the plague only effective against those it physically touches? Is such a dangerous weapon really not contagious to Bashir?), Julian is bossing him around.

Dax and Kira discuss Bashir with the camera way to close to their faces for some reason. Dax admits that she never got around to reading his diaries which he lent her, and she admits that she cared about Bashir. Quark even joins in the pathos by offering a toast to his fallen customers.

Then we get that scene. I concur with William B. that the goofy spectrograph thing notwithstanding, I felt the idea of Keiko's intimate knowledge of her husband being the clue to the deception to be spot on. They really could have cut the whole spectrograph thing entirely and had Keiko trust her instinct that she knew how he drank his coffee and could just tell by watching him what he was doing and that something was fishy about the video. Sisko would certainly have investigated the possibility of tampering if only to appease the grieving widow even he had his doubts.

O'Brien continues to deteriorate and starts to give Bashir the business. I got a big laugh out of Meaney's mocking English accent “Not quite close.” Bashir talks about some French ballet dancer he once fell in love with, but I'm calling BS. No ballerina has “beautiful feet,” trust me. They are war-weary, bruised and deformed in sacrifice to the art. The idea that Bashir would fall for a quintessential Dionysiac like a dancer is, however, perfectly in keeping with his established character, and what we eventually learn in “Dr Bashir, I Presume.” He is conditioned to be hyper-analytical, skeptical, logical, grounded. A dancer is, archetypically, a vessel for ecstatic emotional excess. This might explain his attraction to Jadzia who, it seems, is as brilliant as they come, but relishes her freedom and celebrates to excess.

With O'Brien's guidance, Bashir manages to get the comm panel working. Unfortunately, his condition has worsened to the point where he can no longer walk.

Act 4 : **.5, 17%

Sisko and co. arrive at Planet Hairgel and begin to investigate. Meanwhile, Bashir is still fiddling with the comm panel and manages to get a distress signal activated. O'Brien has all but resigned to his fate. In his resignation, he talks about marriage as the adventure of his life. Meaney gives a powerful little performance expressing his fulfilment in the knowledge that “at the end of the day, we always love each other. And that's all that matters.”

I again have to credit the actress playing he Mary ambassador who manages to give a solid performance which barely spares the scene from that ridiculous hairdo. Sisko expresses his suspicion. Dax discovers evidence of tampering on the Ganges and they discover that Bashir and O'Brien had been alive after the supposed accident.

While Miles starts knocking on death's doorstep, the Hairgel ambassadors discover them. We learn the devious plot: Bashir and O'Brien have to die because they know have knowledge of the harvesters function and that knowledge can't be allowed to exist. Man, if only it were possible to erase memories in the future! That sure would be handy right about now. Oh, wait...nah, let's just kill them.

Act 5 : *.5, 17%

While the executioners, stand around waiting for the camera to pan over them, Bashir pulls O'Brien to his feet so he can die with honour and offer a kind word to his companion. This little reprieve of course buys them just enough time for Sisko and Dax to beam them to relative safety. Using some Starfleet cleverness, Sisko manages to trick the Maries and Elizabethans into destroying the empty runabout. Cute. So even though they realise they failed to accomplish their insane mission of killing anyone with knowledge of the harvesters which has driven them to murder in cold blood, I guess they no longer give a shit anymore since we never hear from them again. Oh, and in the coda, we discover Bashir is able to cure O'Brien without a hitch, meaning all the Hairgel people would have to do to protect themselves from a future threat is ask for that medical knowledge which Bashir had up is butt this whole time. I'm sure there will be consequences.

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

The plot involving the Hairgel people is downright stupid. The motivations are dubious, the execution and makeup is laughable and allegory falls rather flat as the ambassadors' extremism only seems to come into play when the plot needs it to. On the other hand, the character dynamics between Bashir and O'Brien and the O'Briens are good, buoyed by strong performances from Siddig, Meaney and Chao. I didn't really enjoy the episode, but it was a necessary piece to resolve the dangling threads from “Rivals,” so it gets a pass.

Final Score : **.5
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Tue, Oct 6, 2015, 1:49am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S5: Course: Oblivion

Jack: um what? Janeway specifically called him lieutenant as a clue in the teaser.
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Sat, Sep 26, 2015, 5:08pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: The Alternate

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

Open on Quark auctioning off a bit of a deceased Ferengi (at bargain rates). Odo manages to sabotage the deal, taking particular zeal in telling Quark how much he's looking forward to his death. It turns out Plaig (the dead Ferengi) is not dead at all and Quark has either been duped or trying to dupe. It's the Capitalists' way.

Enter Dr Mora, who immediately starts scrutinising Odo's appearance. Mora is of course the scientist who was assigned to Odo after he was found. Quark pounces on the opportunity to embarrass Odo, recognising Odo's discomfort.

Particularly pleasurable is Sloyan's ability to match Auberjonois' gruff cantankerousness with nonplussed wit and self-confidence. The wit they share in common. Odo has the authority, Mora has the confidence. It mirrors in some ways the dynamic between Odo and Quark except that Mora seems to actually make Odo feel vulnerable. He knows that Odo still yearns desperately to understand himself and his origins (as does the audience), and he's counting on that truth to bridge the gap of trust between them. A great setup.

Act 1 : ***, 17%

Time for a bit of DBI, where we get one of those clichéd father-son conversations between Jake and Ben. [wretch]

Thankfully, Odo ends this crap and asks Sisko for runabout on his and Mora's behalf. Mora wants to investigate some lifeform readings in the Gamma Quadrant which could explain Odo's origins.

There's an amazing amount of information conveyed just by the performances from the more interesting father-son pairing of Mora and Odo. While on the runabout, Mora manages to continuously interrupt and speak for Odo to Dax, all while singing both their praises. It's clear that Mora gets carried away by his excitement and his pride (as many parents do), but also remarkable that this man's ego manages to shut Odo of all people down to nought but rolling his eyes in frustration.

The scientists and Odo beam down to a volcanic planet, which is covered in ruins. They find a pillar and a silicate lifeform which they beam back. This triggers a volcanic eruption which nearly kills them. The set may be cheap, but they manage to squeeze a great deal of drama out of the discovery and subsequent harrowing escape.

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

The Bajorans are critically injured by their experience. While Bashir treats them, Odo observes Dr Mora curiously, as one would a scientific sample, and quite likely they way Mora observed Odo many times during their time together.

Sisko shares the story about how his father almost died but didn't with Odo. This naturally triggers Ben to reflect on his own relationship with Jake and....oh wait, no that would make sense. Nevermind.

Later that evening, the lifeform that they brought back seems to have escaped from its containment field. Duhn duhn duhn...

Act 3 : ***, 17%

They deduce that the lifeform escaped through the ventilation shaft (isn't that always the way?) just in time for Dax to make an entrance. Turns out Bashir hid her clothes from her so she had to sneak out of the infirmary. I'm sure that had no ulterior motivations.

In the infirmary, Mora and Odo share a good scene. Mora called him in to ask to be of use. Odo assures him that the situation is under control. They discuss the metamorphic abilities of the lifeform, but what the scene is really about is what William B described above as “just the right set of contradictions.” In the same breath, we can become angry with Mora for being so single-minded in his scientific pursuit, but stilled moved by his genuine and unprompted concern for those around him. Likewise, Odo's feigned indifference is clearly betrayed by a sense of loyalty and affection for Mora, especially in his injured state.

Jammer complains about the dry, technical exposition during the hunt for the lifeform, but I vehemently disagree. While the actual dialogue is indeed dry, director David Carson is able to create a simmering sense of quiet dread. A very refreshing change from similar scenes in season 1. I find it quite effective. This is achieved primary by having the camera close to Miles so that he takes up most of the frame as he moves through the corridors (can we call them Jeffries Tubes?). As for the claim that this horror-movie stuff doesn't belong in a character study, I don't quite get that either. I mean this is really a horror movie populated by strong characters (Odo and Mora), so fleshing out their relationship is a necessary and welcome *addition* to the plot. O'Brien eventually discovers the now-dead life form in a startling moment which is undercut only slightly by the goofy sight of snot dripping onto the floor.

Even the Dax/Bashir flirting scene is palatable, giving way to a classic sneak-up-from-behind monster-movie bit. Is it a little corny? Yeah, but I think it's about as effective as it could be given the limitations present. A genuinely good effort.

Act 4 : ***.5, 17%

MORA : Constable?
ODO : It's a nickname I barely tolerate.
MORA : It's an expression of affection that you find difficult to accept.

Boom. Mora's dichotomy is on display again. While he pontificates (a little arrogantly) about the similarities between the scientific and police methods, one can attribute his enthusiasm to either grating egoism or an attempt to bridge the gulf between himself and Odo (which is probably even more grating to the Constable).

The script wisely takes every opportunity to flesh out Mora's motivations wherever there's a lull (like during his and Dax' analysis of the DNA residues).

Mora confronts Odo and reveals that he has deduced (secretly) that the monster is actually Odo. It says a lot about the man that, while he may partly still see Odo as a science project, the first person he tells about his discovery is Odo himself, out of respect for his personhood.

Act 5 : **.5, 17%

Odo's panic at the news is telling. He's not horrified by the idea of being a monster, but of being a *criminal*. This harkens back to my reflections on “Necessary Evil”: “[T]he story is given this noire veneer in order to accentuate the theme of semblance. Here, Odo's persona as the neutral observer, cold investigator and un-relatable alien is cracked open.” Another crack is forming. While in NE, Odo's persona as a lawman is what held him together, here the idea that he could be acting *illegally* cuts right into that veneer.

The only objection I have to this scene is, while Odo is visibly transforming under the stress of Mora's (understandably) angry reaction to Odo's rejection of his trustworthiness, the observing scientist fails to notice the heaping, sweating pile of goo Odo is becoming. Then again, I suspect Mora is purposefully antagonising Odo in order to test his theory.

After Odo transforms, Mora informs the senior staff about whom they're tracking and suggest using himself as bait to catch him.

Okay, so here's the bigger problem: Sisko decides, yeah sure, let's use this civilian as bait to catch the creature! Are you seriously telling me there aren't gasses they could use to render Odo unconscious? Or energy fields? Odo isn't a telepath, why not use a hologram of Mora to bait Odo? Talk about a needlessly reckless command decision. Likewise, the whole “set phasers to kill” fake-drama is ridiculous. Odo-as-The-Creature has not killed or even wounded anybody. Sure he's dangerous, but come on!

The other bad news is that the CGI creature bits which follow look terrible. Off-camera, Mora and Bashir rid Odo of the particles which turned his resentment into monster-mash. This is exactly how I prefer Trek deal with its sci-fi elements. The plot serves the purpose of creating the analogy which allows the writers to explore the “human” condition of the characters. Dwelling on the specifics is a waste of time, so I'm glad they don't.

Mora and Odo say their goodbyes, having developed a better understanding of one another and their relationship.

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

For not the first time, Commander Thinks-With-His-Dick sabotages an otherwise strong story, but at least not too badly as he's not the focus. The Mora-Odo material is very strong and plays well against the precedent set by “Necessary Evil.” Sloyan is a rock star in all his appearances on Trek and Auberjonois is typically strong. While I can understand the objections to the monster-movie bits in theory, they are mostly executed very well (save that last scene) and are integrated seamlessly into the fabric of the story, so I don't mind them. This feels for me like one of the few times DS9 attempted a real Star Trek story and succeeded. William B. gives an excellent analysis above of the Mora/Odo relationship and I have nothing else to add, so I won't. A refreshing change of pace from the last several episodes.

Final Score : ***
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Wed, Sep 23, 2015, 4:08pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Rivals

Teaser : ***, 5%

A drunk widowed Milf decides to buy a mining operation. She tells this creepy guy all about her plans while Odo looks on incredulously. As soon as creepy 90s dude suggests that he “help” her with her investment, Odo drags him out of the bar. Turns out the creep is an El'Aurian (the first we have met since Guinan). Martus, the “listener,” is some sort of extortionist. Odo throws him in a cell. There's very little to say about any of this. It's rather straight-forward, well-acted and clear, but not exactly riveting either. Things could go either way.

Act 1 : **.5, 17%

Plot B : O'Brien happily enters his newly-built racquetball arena (I assume “built” means “designed” as in the holodeck/suite programme, not physically by hand. I mean, he can't get the station to function properly as it is). He discovers Bashir, suited up and ready to go, apparently uninvited. Also uninvited are Bashir's comments about how he beat a Vulcan at the game while at the Academy. The dialogue is very efficient in setting up the dynamics here: Bashir is 1. younger, 2. more talented, 3. more eager, and 4. more competitive. I'm also pleased to report that the writers have honed their writing between the two considerably since that piece of crap, “The Storyteller”--I laughed out loud at Bashir's “I see by the lines you prefer the old-style rules.” While this is good fun, I'm hoping we get a bit of development for him; he's still very much the blank slate he was last season.

Plot A : Martus is bothered by a snoring Ent sharing his cell. The Ent wakes up and starts blabbering on about how he once had health, riches and fame but lost it all to “this”; [removes light-up 80s sextoy from cloak]. Odo, why wasn't this confiscated? The Ent explains that his toy is an ancient gambling device, then dies. The structure of the A-plot (as well as its author) would suggest a Trekkified Grimms' Tale of sorts—Martus collects the Rhinegold from a wizened sage and learns a painful and ironic lesson. But the tone is all wrong—it's this half-hearted (and very beige) comedy. I'm still feeling ambivalent.

Act 2 : **, 17%

Miles returns to his quarters sweaty and ashamed after his workout with Julian. *ahem* I think Garak is going to be jealous... The conversation between him and Keiko dusts off that ol' Season 1 trope, the DBI (DS9 Banality Indulgence). It's not that I don't think real people have these kinds of conversations (in fact, I know they do), it's just that I don't want to sit and watch them have them. It is odd to think that this is the same Miles O'Brien who can speak calmly about war combat and racial bigotry but gets himself into a mad frenzy over a game of racquetball.

In the meanwhile, Bashir shares his side of the story with Dax. It seems he attempted to spare the chief further embarrassment and/or death-by-exhaustion by trying to get out of the game.

BASHIR : I really respect him...the things he does, the kind of man he is. I just don't want to humiliate him.

The blithe visual metaphor accompanying this conversation is a little obvious, but I think it works: Bashir is after some space-catsup for his sandwich. His table's bottle is empty, so he asks another for theirs, which is also empty. Finally, he just grabs one without comment and succeeds in finding his catsup. He dresses his sandwich, looks at it, then sets it down uneaten. The man knows what he wants, asks for it politely, then finally just takes it, but is left unhappy with his success.

Plot A : Odo releases Martus and his new sextoy from his cell, charges having been dropped. He and Quark barter for his toy (for reasons that are left unclear) while Quark pours him pink lemonade. He asked for prosecco! Uh uh. You can't serve koolaide from glass jars when the characters ask for actual beverages. In spite of some genuine effort between the actors, the conversation is baffling, inane and seemingly without motivation. I don't recommend it.

Martus steps out of the bar and spots another Milf who's shutting down her business, her husband having just passed away. “You understand,” she says. I'm sorry what? What the hell is going on?

Plot B : Return to racquetball; Bashir is doing a bad job pretending to lose to Miles. And we're out.

Plot A : Martus has opened a night-club in the widow's old shoppe (presumably with her money). The entrance looks like a cheap carnival ride, so of course it's being flooded with clients.

Act 3 : *.5, 17%

Sisko flatly admits that he blackmailed Quark during “Emissary” to stay on the station while having the gall to invoke Federation morality, claiming Quark's bribes to the Cardassians don't constitute a contract in its eyes (he claims exclusive gambling rights on the station). Are we supposed to applaud Sisko for this assbaggery? Ugh.

Anway, Martus has spun his good luck sextoy into a thriving business, eh, somehow. Widow A from the teaser shows up looking for another investor in her “dream.” Widow B is on her heals wearing the latest in Playing Card Fashions. Martus proposes to her, I think.

Meanwhile, Dax has her own bout of luck running some sort of diagnostic. Oooo, “mystery”...

Plot B : Bashir decides to end his rivalry with O'Brien and calls it quits, leaving Miles blue. He pays a visit to Quark's which is woefully empty. Quark is determined to prove he can listen as well as his El'Aurian counterpart, er, rival.

QUARK : Tell me your problems. All of them.

Quark gets a bright idea to turn Miles' woes into a gambling opportunity. Holy 1-dimensional character traits Batman!

Plot A : Kira is hitting the furniture. Again. Everyone get it yet? Some people are really lucky. Some are really unlucky. Get it? Are we done yet?

Act 4 : *, 17%

Plot A/B : Quark sets up his “Grudge-Match of the Galaxy: The Mechanic versus the Doctor”! It's suppose to be funny that Quark uses his promise to donate half the proceedings to the Bajorans' Orphan Fund to strong-arm Bashir and O'Brien into playing his game, but on the heals of the last two episodes (and Sisko's unwelcome assbaggery), I can't help remembering that there are still starving orphans on Bajor and the Federation is just sitting around, gambling, wasting time. I don't care how much “funny flute music” you play, it's just not that funny.

On the heels of the reversal of luck between Quark and Marcus, everyone else's luck is also being reversed. Speaking of Marcus, he's resting his weary head on one of his not-dabbo-girl's bosom. Widow B bursts in, incensed, and orders him to leave and “take those damn things with you.” I always say I award points for clever innuendo. And boy does this sinking ship need some points.

Anyway, he decides to invest his profits in Widow A's venture. We close out the act with a closeup of one of his replicated gambling sextoys. Do you get it yet? Helloooo...

Act 5 : .5 stars, 17%

Keiko is being her awesome self:

to O'BRIEN : Win or lose, tonight, we celebrate [wink].

What a good spouse.

Quark drops by with a “gift” for Bashir (an anæsthetic). He's trying to fix the match (Quark is a crooked Capitalist. Get it? GET IT!!!!!!).

Meanwhile, Dax has discovered some quantum bullshit that reflects the luck-distribution-phenomenon. Bashir is losing badly. Neutrinos are spinning like ballerinas. Rom gets the girl. It's madness!

So, it turns out that the Ent's technology can change the laws of probability. And turn itself on. And power itself. And can be perfectly replicated. Uh huh. Fucking brilliant.

Dignity and an empty sac is worth a sac...even if you get kicked in the balls.

Episode as Functionary : *, 10%

This is the era of Menosky's writing that gave us “Masks.” Buried in here is a mythological story that could have been great fun, but the fairytale and Trek genre are so at odds that we feel this very uncomfortable tension that never really resolves. The “science” is laughably stupid and basically unexplained. Quark is one-dimensional and bland. Martus is insufferable and many of the characters (Kira, Dax and Sisko) have reverted to the dregs of their Season One selves. The only saving grace here is an amiable portrayal of the Bashir/O'Brien relationship. But even that is hampered by too little screentime, no development of the characters themselves, and a non-ending. Their story is swallowed up by the A-Plot and forgotten entirely. Skippable.

Final Score : *.5
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Elliott
Thu, Sep 17, 2015, 5:13pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Sanctuary

Teaser : **.5, 5%

Oh good, an episode with absolutely no real-world analogues, about which expressing an opinion cannot possibly offend anyone! Refugawhosawhats? Silly sci-fi...

So, Kira has been shouting at Bajoran ministers about irrigation or something (why is this Kira's problem?). Sisko breaks character by displaying competence, insisting that Kira's diatribe with politicians not interfere with her duties. The scene reëstablishes that Bajor is still in dire straights and hasn't made much progress recovering from the Occupation. I can see why duty rosters are the Federation priority right now.

Cut to Deep Space Burning Man and a “mesmerising” performance of Enya's new hit single as performed by the Bajoran Kenny G. We'll call him K'enny B. Quark is pissed off because the buzz his musical guest is creating is anathema to a casino-bar. But Kira “asked” him to try out K'enny B for a month, so Quark has to deal.

Execution aside, I like the idea here. The most engaging aspect of the Bajoran story is the idea that their culture was extremely rich (if bafflingly slow given how old it is) and that richness and beauty was all but destroyed by the Cardassians. We finally return to the theme that was explored in “Duet,” that of Bajoran cultural victimhood. Kira implores K'enny B. to “play a variety of styles” to appease Quark's interests. This would be analogous to asking Emanuel Ax to play lounge music (again, if we ignore the execution). What's worse, extinguishing completely the practice of Bajoran art, or having it survive only to be relegated to a position of utter embarrassment and corporate shilling?

K'ENNY : Bajorans must reclaim their artistic heritage if they hope to regain their sense of self-worth.

Indeed.

Kira returns to Ops (odd structural choice) when a damaged ship emerges from the Wormhole and Sisko has its frightened crew of burn victims beamed aboard.

Act 1 : *.5, 17%

So the burn victims start blabbering away in their language—in case you didn't pick up on the, erm, “subtlety,” the lone female is either their leader or their mother.

O'BRIEN : For some reason, [The UT] is having a hard time understanding their language patterns.

I'm going to guess that reason is a big fat albatross called FILLER.

So, we spend some excruciating minutes following Kira, Odo, Sisko, burn victim and her delinquent children around. I do like Bashir not cowing to the Skreeans' sexism.

Ugh, bless Ms May who manages to keep this burning raft afloat with some engaging acting. We finally discover that three million of her people are on the other side of the “Eye” (wormhole) and that they need help.

Act 2 : *.5, 17%

This episode is really damning. The obvious is confirmed when burn victim lets us know that Screean men are too emotional to involve themselves in “such matters” as the future of their own civilisation. So it seems like we are getting a repeat of “Angel One” (horray...). However, the theme of sexism is really just skimmed over. I think the intention here was to establish, along with the goofy translator issues, the idea that the Skreeans have a culture which is somewhat incompatible with Bajoran or Federation culture, thus adding realism to the real story, which is about refugees. Okay. Except, how much more incompatible is Skreean sexism than Klingon sexism? Once the UT figures out their language, how is that difference an issue at all?

So as if all of that weren't enough, we learn that, just like the Bajorans, the Skreeans' religious mythology is tied in with the wormhole. They (all, of course) believe that the Eye of the Universe will lead them to Kantana, a sacred home of salvation.

It does pose an interesting if disturbing question: did the Prophets allow Bajor to suffer the Occupation in order that their home become the “world of sorrow” in which the Skreeans were meant to “sow seeds of joy”? By rebuking the Skreeans (spoiler), are the Bajorans in fact defying the will of the Prophets? Are they damning themselves? These and other interesting questions will go unresolved until, um, ever. Yay...

Anyway, the Dominion gets named dropped for a second time. We learn that the Skreeans' 800-year (!) oppressors were conquered by them, thus allowing them to escape in search of Kantana. The parallel to the Bajoran story, of a people broken by oppression who steep themselves in religious mythology to survive is evident.

Later, we learn that Burn Victim sleeps with her males (I really hope they aren't her sons). I suppose this is meant to be analogous to, say, Islamic or Semitic polygamy which is based heavily on gender stereotypes. In a painful scene, Kira delivers a gift (a dress they saw on the Promenade) to Burn Victim. The two women agree the dress is very ugly and bond over this trite bullshit because, hey, we're super progressive and challenge gender stereotypes, but OMG Becky, that dress is TOTES UGLY. LOL! Giggle giggle...

So in the middle of this crap, we get a reminder that Jake and Nog exist and that Jake is dating some girl named Marta. The two agree that the Skreean man they see eating table scraps is “disgusting” even though Nog just made a comment about eating insects and Jake is, you know, a Federation human. Remember that insight from “In the Hands of the Prophets”? I guess puberty has addled his mind.

Burn Victim begins the process of welcoming more Skreean refugees to DS9 and we're treated to the Parade of the Extras.

Act 3 : **, 17%

So Nog played a practical joke on the Skreean boys, or men—males I guess. Odo carts him away to his office. Quark and Odo get a decent little bantering scene and Nog is released. One wonders if Quark was as indifferent and downright mean-spirited towards the Bajorans during the Occupation as he is to the Skreeans, offering tacit approval of Nog's bullying.

Amid the beguiling sounds of K'enny B.'s “Ode to Pinball Wizard,” the Skreean women decide to annoint Burn Victim as their leader.

We take a trip down After-School-Special lane as Nog, Jake and Burn Victim's husband-sons get into a little brawl. If everyone on DS9 is xenophobic towards the Skreeans, why is it only the Ferengi who seem to say so? Cheap.

Dax discovers a potential and viable home for the Skreeans and Sisko delivers the news to Burn Victim and the Vaginal Council. Burn Victim puts 2 and 2 together and decides that “Kantana is Bajor.”

Act 4 : 0 stars, 17%

William B. has succinctly summed up the rest of this refugee issue : “the sad fact [is that resources are finite and [one has] to choose, and people tend to choose their own family, tribe, people above another even if the other suffers just as much and is equally 'deserving.' And, fine, but the post-scarcity world means that there's no reason they can't just settle on Dralon II, instead of a planet in a system they stumbled upon like a week ago.”

A Vedik and a Minister compete for worst acting performance in Sisko's office, while debating their decision to turn down the Skreeans' request. What the hell did the Cardassians do exactly that rendered and entire region of Bajor un-farmable? I thought they Cardassians were cruel and efficient, not stupid and reckless. Given the minister's description of the Bajoran famine, one wonders why the Federation doesn't resettle the Bajorans on Drahlon II.

So just like the GOP red-scaring about Social Security, the Bajorans stand by their “math” and refuse to budge. The scene is meant to end with an emotional punch to the gut as the music swells, but Burn Victim has made absolutely no argument (including the God argument) about why Drahlon II is an unacceptable option. Fail.

Ready for some non-PC humour? So the comments earlier discussing whether the Skreeans are more like the Jews or the Palestinians (yes, I know that's an arbitrary distinction since they're racially identical) is settled when Burn Victim treats Kira to the standard Jewish mother guilt-trip. “I thought you loved me! Why did you even pretend to care? You betrayed me!” Fuck you, you ungrateful bitch.

The icing on this shit-cake comes when we learn that Burn Victim's husband-son (Tumak) has “taken a ship.” So apparently no one is too stupid to steal a freaking space ship on DS9.

Act 5 : *, 17%

So, Tumak's stolen ship is in danger. It is intercepted by two Bajoran patrols. The patrol are completely hard-headed and blow up the vessel full of children. What a cluster fuck. Tragic? Yes. Comically avoidable? Yes.

So now that it's apparently too late and people have died, Burn Victim finally makes the point she should have made from the beginning :

“Maybe we could have helped you. Maybe we could have helped each other. The Skreea are farmers, Kira. You have a famine on your planet...Fifty years of Cardassian rule have made you all frightened and suspicious. I feel sorry for you.”

It's a damned frustrating speech, because she's right! But...the episode took no time to bear this out and contrived the characters out of making this realisation when it would have been useful. As William B. pointed out, why couldn't some of the Skreea stay and attempt to revive the land? If they were successful, the rest could move back to Bajor/Kantana and everyone wins! No risk! No downside! What's the issue here?

Episode as Functionary : .5 stars, 10%

There are about a thousand interesting ideas buried in this trash heap of an episode, making the final product all the more frustrating. Immigration, gender issues, cultural norms, genocide, religious doctrine—hell even simple bullying—all are swiped away or explored in only the most superficial sense leading to a totally contrived and pointless tragic resolution. And by pointless, I don't mean the gut-punching pointlessness of Marritza's death in “Duet,” I mean no tragedy was necessary if these characters weren't so brain-dead. The Skreeans are apparently inbred beyond belief, but I don't know what the excuse is for the rest. Throw in the techno-nonsense with the UT and some really dreadful performances (although Visitor and May do a good job), and you've got the worst episode of the season so far.

Final Score : *
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Elliott
Wed, Sep 16, 2015, 3:12pm (UTC -5)
Re: BSG S4: Six of One

@Michael :

Remember Cavil specifically repressed knowledge of the final five, reducing it to a taboo mythology. I think we are to infer that all five survived (Tori didn't start out on Galactica) is a miracle--part of the divine hand guiding the events of the series.
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Elliott
Wed, Sep 16, 2015, 1:35pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S6: Chain of Command, Part II

Also, "So, spirituality (a.k.a. religion) can have a positive impact on society?"

Spirituality is not the same as religion. The inference here is that the Federation is a spiritual society (just look at the Vulcans), but rejects religion and, in all likelihood, theism in general. Please do not conflate the two ideas.
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Elliott
Wed, Sep 16, 2015, 1:30pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S6: Chain of Command, Part II

@Luke :

I don't think the message was "torture is an ineffective means of control" at all--more that Torture is an ineffective means of intelligence gathering--it is actually a way to exercise control for the emotionally desperate. Think about the (original) context for this episode--the Cardassians had just ceded control of Bajor to a group of terrorists. That's a huge blow to the Cardassian ego. That Madred would find satisfaction in gaining control of Picard (a Bajoran advocate and a prominent figure in the Federation) is not surprising. Torture is a way to control somebody, and an effective one, but you destroy the thing you are trying to control. That's what that final scene was about and why I think that without it, the story would be less effective.
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Elliott
Tue, Sep 15, 2015, 1:27am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Second Sight

Teaser : **, 5%

It's been 4 years since “Best of Both Worlds,” and Sisko almost let the anniversary go “unnoticed.” Bad fanboy. We are treated to a sincere little scene where Jake relives a dream to his father, which is severely undermined by a poorly directed performance from Lofton.

So, while Bajorans are apparently starving in the Northern Peninsula, Federation Commander Sisko has a case of the blues as he strolls about peering out the windows. A beautiful woman, dressed in red (and cynically cast by the way, but we'll save that discussion for later) appears by his side. Fenna is her name, but we're going to call her Batgirl, because, darn it, she has this tendency to keep disappearing! Batgirl and Sisko have one of those conversations that fiction writers often believe represents normal human speech, but are only correct insofar as describing two stoned college sophomores attempting to get into each others' pants by way of pseudo-philosophy. Batgirl vanishes and Sisko is left blue-balled for his lady in red.

Act 1 : **, 17%

Do you mean to tell me that after more than a year, in addition to still not having dealt with starving Bajorans, they haven't gotten the station to coöperate with them? Man, Q was right: these people are incompetent. Anyway, Kira gets all bothered because Sisko has ordered “something different” for his morning beverage. Riveting. Meanwhile, Dax and a “guest” (a terraformer) are working on some sort of something or other. Seyetik, the terraformer, is in this story, as far as I can tell, to shine a spotlight on the complete lack of personality displayed by the main cast or Batgirl. He's basically an updated Ira Graves, arrogant, but charming in his way. Indeed, other than the blandness, this episode feels like a typical TNG story from seasons 2-5 (my favourite run of the show). But that's just it—so far, it feels like we've regressed to last season's gris du jour. Seyetik, we learn, is going to reïgnite a dying star and thus restore life to a solar system.

After dinner with Dax, Sisko goes on another stroll and runs into Batgirl again. She takes him up on his offer to tour the station. All the while, neither actor seems to be able to utter a sentence above a sultry whisper, because you know that's how people talk when they're IN LOVE.....

You know one thing that tends to bother me about Brooks' performances—and this just dawned on me—he doesn't blink. He doesn't break eye contact. During “Emissary,” when he was staring at Locutus over the viewscreen, this kind of intensity worked, it matched the situation. But he's doing the same thing here, when he's on a first date! It's the kind of acting that does not translate well from the stage to the small screen. When your audience is far away from you, it can be advantageous to exaggerate your facial expressions, but when the camera is right up next you, the effect is to make you look incredibly creepy.

Anyway, Batgirl disappears again in a fizzle—no comment from Sisko on how she was wearing the same red dress from the night before.

Act 2 : *.5, 17%

We are treated to a another borderline unwatchable scene between Ben and Jake—he's distracted you see. In case it wasn't clear to you by the way he completely ignores his son and stares (creepy...) into his food, he tells us so. Subtle.

JAKE : What's she like?
SISKO : She's uh...*really* interesting.

Huh? We've seen about 45 seconds of screentime between Batgirl and Ben. Oh but please, episode, tell us why they're in love. No? Oh okay, sure we will just swallow whatever you tell us is true. Why not?

Sisko drops in on Odo to ask for a “personal favour.” He wants the Commissioner—er, Constable to find Batgirl for him. Apparently, whatever “interesting” conversation they had together didn't include finding out what species she is, how she arrived on DS9 or whether Fenna is her first or last name. But Sisko remembers that RED dress. [Did I mention how creepy he's acting?]

Dax corners Sisko in his office. Seriously though, how many of these scenes were written by humans and not generated by some “human behaviour” algorithm? Dax accuses Sisko of not confiding in her as he did Kurzon because she's a woman. Cue Sisko laughing hysterically (and I mean hysterically). Ugh.

The one bright spot in all this, Seyetik, entertains us (and the senior staff) with his egomania.

SEYETIK : Nothing of worth was ever created by a pessimist.

Interesting notion. Untrue, obviously, but interesting. I do like the little bit where Bashir comments that he finds Seyetik “remarkably entertaining.” Subtext: “It's nice not to be the arrogant prick in the room for once.” Seyetik introduces us to his wife, who turns out to be Batgirl.

Duhn Duhn Duhn!!!!

Act 3 : *.5, 17%

After dinner, Sisko discovers that Seyetik's wife is really more Barbara Gordon than Batgirl. She claims not to have met him and he, incensed, walks out of the room. Blink dammit!

SISKO : She's a married woman.
DAX : That would never have stopped Kurzon.

Okay episode, you get a point for that line.

Odo reports to Sisko that no one except Seyetik has left the Prometheus (his ship) since it docked on DS9. Meaning Batgirl couldn't be Barbara Gordon. Except, don't you people have these devices which transport you from one place to another? You know they provide a means of instant transportation which wouldn't register as a disembarkation onto the station. They bypass the need for traditional forms of transportation. What are those things called...? I must be misremembering.

Later, Batgirl appears—in that same red dress—and confuses Sisko about her identity. They have a kiss which wants to convince us they share some sort of deep bond—eh, somehow. Then she disappears. Mysterious! It's not like anyone around here has a device which makes people disappear in a pool of light. What would you call such a device?

So rather than react like a normal person : confused (why did she beam away?), horrified (did she just vanish?), or panicked (has she been kidnapped?), Sisko is...sad. Huh.

Act 4 : **.5, 17%

Sisko decides (under pretence) to join Dax on the Prometheus to witness Seyetik's “crowning achievement.” We discover that Barbara Gordon is an Halalan whom Seyetik met during one of these achievements. Kiley has a penchant for stealing every scene he's in, but really it's not that his acting is astonishingly good, just that his character seems in any way alive.

Sisko stumbles onto Batgirl and calls egghead Dax down to him, who pulls out the tricorder—turns out Batgirl is “pure energy”--a hologram basically. When they bring her in to Seyetik, Barbara Gordon is dying, unconscious. For reasons that are left completely unexplained, Seyetik fails to call a doctor in (William B's point about Nidell's lapses of unconsciousness are annoyingly valid—or I should say, valid, and the episode is annoying). Anyway, Seyetik recognises Gordon's alter ego by name.

Act 5 : *, 17%

One wonders if Batgirl has ever seen herself in a mirror—she's a “psychoprojective illisuion” created by Barbara Gordon's unconscious. He sends the women away (ahem) and questions Seyetik about the goings on.

Calm as all, Seyetik explains that his wife's emotional discord has created the alter ego projection. He explains to Sisko that all his previous wives eventually left him after the infatuation with his larger-than-life persona faded. But “Halanas mate for life.” Well isn't that just fucking convenient. All that hinting in the previous act—all the subtle cues about what unseen bond might exist between two dysfunctional people—no no—it's just some arbitrary cultural/biological practice. What a joke!

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.”

Sisko and Batgirl try in vain to convince us that they have some sort of history or connection and are interrupted by Dax who informs them that Seyetik has decided to commit suicide in completing his mission. Of course, when Seyetik references “The Fall of Kang” (“required reading at the academy” which Sisko was able to quote from memory), the captain of the Prometheus has no idea what he's talking about. Way to falsely bolster your protagonist there.

For what it's worth, Seyetik dies the way he lives, arrogant, grating and truly great to the last.

Batgirl is moved to tears for some reason and vanishes, restoring Barbara Gordon to life. She and Sisko have their little coda.

NIDELL : I wish that I could remember Fenna, what she did, what she felt...

That's alright. I can barely remember her either.

Episode as Functionary : *, 10%

“Second Sight or The One in Which Avery Brooks Gives Me Nightmares” is so empty, so void of life that it doesn't deserve much in the way of reflection. Seyetik is an engaging if slightly clichéd character, but otherwise, one may as well be witnessing the cold read of a D-rate science fiction play. The interpersonal relationships are, at best, a series of tired clichés (Sisko can't talk to Dax about women because she has a vagina now, Jake gives his father permission to date). The worst offender is the alleged romance between Batgirl and Sisko, which is supported by nothing other than “here are two attractive people who smile, cry and kiss a lot, They must be in love!” The romance in “Attack of the Clones” was more convincing. And as others have pointed out already, the explanation for Batgirl's existence and Barbara Gordon's dilemma are thin and contrived. Overall, a waste of time.

Final Score : *.5
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Elliott
Thu, Sep 10, 2015, 2:22pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S6: True Q

First of all, I was not trying to condescend. I could tell you were trying to make a point but didn't see what it was--and to a degree still don't. I could and can tell that you are against government regulation of (at least) environmental standards, but not why.

If we take at face value the notion that intelligent, forward-thinking capitalists will self-regulate themselves into protecting the environment in order to preserve their self-interests, that still leaves two major gaps in the logic here :

1. What is the harm in government regulation if its goals and the goals of those capitalists are the same? Is redundancy such a burden?

2. What about the unintelligent, present-minded capitalists who don't consider the long-term ramifications of their actions? How does one prevent them from destroying the environment if not with regulation?

There's also the more likely scenario that capitalists will instinctively seek out the highest profit margin over the ethical method. If I can destroy our environment, whilst making a huge profit from the lack of controls I would otherwise need to pay for to protect it, THEN sell a product which mitigates or corrects the very problem I created for even more profit, I definitely don't want regulation because it hurts my bottom line. If I'm going to be dead before the effects of my wanton selfishness reach me, all the more reason to exploit my surroundings.
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