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Fenn
Fri, Jan 31, 2020, 5:45am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Strange Bedfellows

I'm still writing up a bunch of half-written comments on the past two seasons, but for now my partner and I are ploughing through the finale, and this looks like a good "checkpoint" to type up some thoughts on the fly.

My biggest gripe through the first three parts has been all the drama around Worf/Ezri (with a bonus /Julian tacked on the end there). Dear god, make it stop (well, I guess it *has* stopped here... hopefully). I can't stand this stuff at the best of times, not least when it's taking up valuable real estate in the finale to the whole damn show. (Partner, as we grimaced our way through yet another of those scenes: "This is why they need ten parts!!! Just for this!!!!!") Ambitious as a massive multi-parter finale might be... dare I say it's *too much* room?

We absolutely do need to keep the "low-level" human (or Trill, or Klingon, or whatever) side of this story going while the other tensions of the show escalate to their fullest heights. But my god, this cliché-riddled soap opera nonsense is not the way to do that! A few of Ezri's jabs landed, but apart from that, I kind of wanted to bash my head on something repeatedly.

(As for another take on "the human side", this time with actual humans, I've been enjoying Ben and Kasidy. We've followed these two a long way, we've had a genuinely real-feeling relationship built up with them -- best in the show, even -- and now we see it tested by the high stakes of everything else that's going on. It pains me in *good* ways. I want these two to be happy in their comfy Bajoran home, dammit, even though that's likely impossible. And I gotta add: as someone whose wedding day is now less than a fortnight away, everything that's happened with that has had an extra level to resonate on for me. I may have in-laws trying to wheedle far more from my partner and I than the barebones ceremony we've opted for, but I look at these eps and go "you know what, it could be worse, at least it's not All Of Bajor". And thank goodness there's no Prophets trying to get us to call it off!)

Back to Worf/Ezri, because they really have been the blight on this so far. For Worf in general: anyone else had the distinct impression that his characterisation in DS9 has been unfortunately dominated by the stick up his Klingon arse? He's gone from being one of the best characters in TNG (I always looked forward to the Klingon Civil War episodes) to one of the worst in DS9. This is a biiiig showcase as to why. Great, more focus on what a prude he is -- it was clear in TNG, but they tended to shine the spotlight on more interesting aspects of him. At least he comes to *finally* respect their differences and stop leaping down Dax's throat about every person she's been with in her nine lives. And if the writers know what's good for them, that'll be the last of it.

God, though, Ezri comes out worse for having had so little -- when she's barely had any episodes in the first place, being saddled three episodes of soap opera detracts from her all the more. It really feels like they've gone and taken a series' worth of romantic drama for Ezri and shoved it into a single season. Is This Necessary.

To quote my partner: "They had the *perfect* excuse to drop all this when Jadzia died! But NO! Apparently this was Just Too Important to drop!"

Oh well. It's another opportunity for Weyoun 7 to be a catty bastard, and that's always fun to see. It's almost a shame to see him get his neck snapped for it. Number Seven's delicious gleeful pettiness is his downfall...

... and god damn, it might be part of the downfall of the Dominion in the Alpha Quadrant, if Damar gets his way. We've finally reached his breaking point, and it feels goooood!

So far, Damar has been the standard macho military Cardassian: blunt and uncharismatic, patriotic with bonus ego, obstinate, susceptible to vice. Not really someone you could hang a plotline on in isolation; he could just as easily be a background grunt, just how he started out. What makes him interesting is the situation he's been thrust into, having gone from freighter ship to leadership with no time to prepare. Up to this point, that "susceptible to vice" characteristic has been his easy way out -- distracting himself through each day with the Dominion. But we've got a mirror (metaphorically and literally) to Kira recognising her behaviour in 'Rocks and Shoals' here: the effective mirror shots of him having to look himself in the eye, always accompanied by his glass of kanar, forcing him to recognise his own self-destructive drinking. And so he takes action.

On the whole, the trigger cause for Damar's first act of rebellion actually seems to be a "noble" one: he's driven by the deaths of Cardassians in a war that was never really for Cardassia. But there's definitely ego in there, an ego that's had enough of constant needling from Weyoun. A sort of racial ego, too: he's a proud Cardassian, determined to prove their superiority. Won't play subordinate to the Vorta any longer, and certainly won't be swept aside in favour of the Breen.

(Partner on the Breen: "They've finally done it. They've finally gone for the budget-saver of having an alien race just be a costume.")
(Me: "And their dialogue saves on writing budget!")
(By the way, modern slang has aged their military ranks hilariously badly. The moment we first heard an individual Breen being introduced, my partner had to pause for hysterical laughter. Thot Gor, what a name! It's sex and violence all in one!)

Regardless of what exactly what makes up his motivation here, turncoat Damar is definitely making for an interesting next instalment in the "which side are the Cardassians on today" political saga. More of this and less argue-sex followed by sex-arguing, please!

As for the final plotline at play here... wow. Kai Winn's corruption makes for a hell of a tragedy. She's been a constant power-hungry thorn in our protagonists' side, and yet it feels sad to see her in this state. Her scene with Kira is *definitely* the highlight here. She's on her knees, begging for forgiveness -- and despite Kira's history with her, she's prepared to give it, and believes the Prophets will too. All it takes is giving up the one thing Winn isn't prepared to give up: her desire for power, her fatal flaw.

Her story here feels like a villainous replay of Sisko in 'In the Pale Moonlight', with her "simple farmer" as parallel to the "simple tailor": led by a Cardassian down a cascade of dominos, going deeper into darker activities. Making deals with the devil, damn near literally so in this case. What opens the door for both is the belief that this is for "the greater good". The twists that make this a villain arc, though, are that once it's clearly no longer for "the greater good"... she continues. And unlike Sisko, her final scene here makes it clear she's not going to wrestle with her conscience. Oh yes, she can live with it. And she *will.*

(I honestly loved that final scene, by the way. I'm a sucker for a good villain, and she's a good villain.)

I do think this makes a lot of sense for Dukat, in light of his track record. Like masterminding the Cardassian alliance with the Dominion, he's taking advantage of a more powerful force so that he can claw back power for himself (my odds are on this force taking advantage of him too). He repeatedly extols his "love" for Bajor and the Bajorans, so now he gets to roleplay as one and receive that love without the petty little details of his species and his vile history in the way. He gets to decide the fate of Bajor once more. And sweet-talking his way into Kai Winn's bed is the ultimate reprehensible victory in his sexual pursuit of Bajoran women. To have presided over the oppression of her planet, and now trick her into willingly falling into his arms. Strange bedfellows indeed.

Bringing Dukat and Winn together is the masterstroke here, though. I'm honestly still sort of "eh" on the idea of opposing him with Sisko -- it feels too standard, too "main protag-main antag" -- but the juxtaposition with Winn is perfect. Putting the opposing sides on the same side, having them manoeuvre their megalomania together despite the rich dramatic irony of who "Anjohl" really is. Surely it's inevitable for Winn to find out she's working with Dukat (though whether this happens "too late" in his plan or not is yet to be seen). Will even *that* stop her at this stage, or is she simply too far gone?
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Fenn
Thu, Jan 30, 2020, 4:24am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Take Me Out to the Holosuite

Partner wants to add that he fully expected Quark to be the hotdog vendor.

Given the tales I hear of the food prices at baseball games... much profit to be made.
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Fenn
Tue, Jan 28, 2020, 8:40pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Take Me Out to the Holosuite

Glad I had my partner around to translate for me on this one -- I grew up in two countries where baseball barely exists, but him? Born and raised on it. (He didn't know what a Fancy Dan was, though. Now he does! Star Trek is Educational.)

But hey, barely knowing baseball works out alright for this one, cos barely any of the characters know anything about it either. Just as confused as they are. Meanwhile, partner was rapt from the moment it became clear this was gonna be A Baseball Episode. Definitely got the impression that gave him the edge on enjoying it -- it's the hardest I've ever heard him laugh at Trek (some of my hardest too, for what it's worth).

We joked about one particular shot of Sisko's baseball enshrined in white light, same style as when Sisko's meeting the Prophets. Baseball, the new Emissary (the *true* Emissary). Honestly, from my partner's reactions, the whole ep was a religious experience for him. Fitting, then...!

There's a lot to love here. Everything Worf says in the game, for instance. And Odo is adorable. Years of meting out justice during the Cardassian occupation have prepared him for this, and this alone! It's also good for our crew to get in a victory during the Dominion War -- manufactured or otherwise, battle or baseball.

Visuals-wise, I loved the individuality of the signatures on the baseball (ah yes, "WORF"). And that design on their caps, integrating the space station and a baseball? Perfect little detail. Clearly a lot of love here.
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Fenn
Tue, Jan 28, 2020, 12:50pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Afterimage

I think I basically fall in line with the "bit too simplistic" take here. I certainly hope this isn't the last we see of Garak's guilt, because when he finally allows himself to acknowledge it to the point where it completely overwhelms him... it doesn't end there. He's stopped running from the problem; now, he has to fight it. This is really only the beginning.

I disagree with the decision to promote Ezri, too. None of her past selves have gone through full counsellor training, and having 300 years of life experience does not equate to that. It's a discipline like any other -- you wouldn't suddenly allow her a promotion to Fully Qualified Starfleet Doctor even though Audrid Dax looked after her sick kid or something. You can live eight lives and all eight of them can be absolutely terrible at preparing you for a counselling job. Not quite the case with Dax, but then she does have Joran in the mix.

And blehh, Bashir and Quark now chasing after Ezri... Jadzia's still barely cold in her coffin, guys. Calm down. (Partner, who found Bashir's pursuit of Jadzia vomit-worthy from the moment it started, pretended to get up and leave the moment the two of them started looking a little too friendly. And was only half-joking.)

I'm probably sounding like I hated this one, but no, it was somewhere on the scale between "alright" and "fairly good" to me. 2.5 stars is pretty accurate, on that front. Having Ezri share her first focal ep with Garak is downright daylight robbery -- he steals the show. (Partner pointed out while watching that his blistering "confused child" rant to Ezri was notably out of character for him -- not in a "bad writing" way, but in a "he's seriously not in a good state right now" way. Definitely lashing out; no fear about showing the harshest and most difficult to swallow sides of emotional turmoil.) We both found ourselves liking and empathising with Ezri around this point, though.

But oh man, I do not envy her.

"Congratulations, Lieutenant. I want you to take a good look around. You have just agreed to take responsibility for the mental health of everyone in this room. You have your work cut out for you."

"Hahahaha is it too late to resign and run faaaar away from here, hey maybe I can come back when I've finally got the 'just had eight lives dumped into my brain' thing got under control, and also after proper training" -- me in Ezri's shoes

Living a life more interesting than being perpetually underground in the symbiont caves doesn't necessarily have to involve putting yourself in a situation as stressful as this, *especially* when other people will be depending on your mental health for the sake of *their* mental health. Just sayin'. She seriously needs her own damn therapist.
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Fenn
Tue, Jan 28, 2020, 11:57am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Shadows and Symbols

Watching the hefty recap at the beginning of this episode, my partner commented on just how much it was trying to summarise: "if I were a regular viewer tuning in, I would be *really* confused right now". Indeed, the fact that the recap's doing such a crappy job of what it's got to handle is emblematic of DS9's shift towards serialisation -- in full swing by this point -- and quite possibly of how unsuitable the series was for 90s TV. Good thing we have Netflix these days, eh?

I wasn't actually expecting this one to be a two-parter. I got suspicious that it might be a sneaky feature-length episode somewhere towards the end of 'Image in the Sand', when the ep was getting overly long with no resolutions in sight, but then the cliffhanger and credits proved me wrong.

As far as this two-parter goes, though, it really does manage everything on its plate. We can afford to have a B-plot *and* a C-plot when we've got a whole two-parter to cover it all -- and the interesting thing is, I could imagine either of those plots managing to take up full episodes, if we had more time in this final season for them.

I will say, though, that the B- and C-plots didn't grab me as much as much as the A-plot does. That's to be expected -- if they were *more* compelling, you'd imagine they'd take the A-plot spot -- but I personally did find myself getting impatient through them. The B-plot (Kira's Romulan standoff) was more guilty of this than the C-plot (Worf, Bashir and Quark all being Sad about Jadzia, and doing Big Klingon Things to make up for it with O'Brien along for the ride) -- which surprised me, given that I found the Bashir and Quark elements of 'Tears of the Prophets' tiresome, and I generally love seeing Kira take action. But while 'Image in the Sand' set up something fascinating with Cretak -- a nice Romulan senator who almost seemed too nice to be too good to be true -- seeing far less of her in the second half felt like a bit of a letdown. I hope we get to see more of her later on. On top of that, I think waiting through the blockade kinda wore me out and killed a bit of the tension it should've had.

And on the C-plot's end, I'm always a sucker for Klingon battle shenanigans. But I did feel it was a little odd not to mention the potential future of the Dax symbiont at all in that plot -- they're all concerned with Jadzia's afterlife there, but not once does anyone mention that she's not quite as dead as your average doornail. In fact, I was half-expecting the mention of Worf's unusually long mourning period to lead into him having difficulty with the complicated nature of death for Trills (though we got Klingon battle shenanigans instead, so I'm not complainin'). But it's most likely better for the sake of the character we had with Jadzia that we deal solely with her in that plot, and leave the complications that Ezri brings for Worf to future episodes.

Anyway, Sisko's story! That's the real meat here, no doubt about that. I love how the Sisko family is put at the heart of this (and of course it's especially fitting once the question of Sisko's mother comes into play). Between the S6 finale's final shot and this two-parter, you get a poignant sense of Sisko's troubled healing process -- isolating himself, throwing himself entirely into work. And the younger and elder Siskos worry from afar. (Looking back on this from further into the seasson, I reckon this'd be interesting to compare/contrast with 'It's Only A Paper Moon' -- but I'll cover that over there.)

Then we've got the introduction of Ezri Dax, slotted into that. If there's anything her very brief intro (showing up at the Sisko family's door) at the end of the first ep tells us, it's that she's got the knack for dramatic timing...! Conveniently, Sisko gets to have both halves of his grief (the wormhole and Jadzia) dealt with at the same time. Partner and I had differing levels of knowledge re: Ezri. I knew full well that she'd be turning up at some point... but spent the whole damn time in 'Image in the Sand' wondering "where the hell is she". Meanwhile my partner had no idea. That could've just been any old Starfleet blueshirt at the door, and then he got a good look at the spots -- "is that Dax???" (He's developed a big ol' crush on Terry Farrell over the course of the series, but his verdict on the new Dax is: "she's still cute".)

First look at her is decent, I guess. In spite of the confusion and spacesickness so far (I hope they don't last *too* long... though the fact that she only ever gets one season is reason to worry in itself), she is a cute character, and she gets some laughs here. "You have DEFINITELY gotten stranger." Her scene with Jake is pretty sweet, too. (Given that Ezri's only an ensign and Jake must be roughly 20 by now, these two may well be about the same age. I did get the feeling here, at least, that they were starting to set something up between the two of them.)

Loved the desert scenes. (What IS it with DS9 and deserts? They're consistently beautifully shot, but that can't be fun for the actors.) Interesting note: the hooded white desert robes worn here by our Emissary's entourage feel like a light mirror to the red robes that the pah-wraith cultist/would-be assassin wears.

And wow, the 'Far Beyond the Stars' reprise! I wasn't expecting that! I commented on that episode's page about how the vision's framing in the DS9 context was essentially an impassioned plea for Sisko to remain a Starfleet captain. This inverts that entirely: a desperate attempt to have Sisko give up his role as the Emissary. In that respect, I think it's well-used. And I can't help feeling for Benny Russell, no matter how real he might be -- the man *is* right, dammit, and deserves far better than this.

(Also, for completionism's sake: good to finally see 'Far Beyond' Damar. Can't think of any character insights to be gleaned from his role as Wykoff, though.)

And then finally the orb vision reveal. The Prophets, non-linear as they are, are kind of difficult to talk about -- as a bog standard linear being, I'm having a little trouble expressing my next idea here, but bear with me. I can't help but wonder if the Prophets might've arranged Sisko's birth *after* having met Sisko, to whatever extent they even can have an "after". Picture it like this: "for the sake of our Greater Plan, we need to have X person in Y situation, and we need to make this happen ourselves" -- but that would have had to take place with an awareness of who The Sisko was, which must've been post-'Emissary' in some way. Who knows. The Prophets work in mysterious ways.

Interesting commonality between Sarah Sisko and Ezri Dax: each of them has suddenly found herself having to "share her existence" with a being greater than their own self, for the sake of that greater being's continued existence, and with no choice in the matter. Only natural that they end up sharing the same space of the episode, but then I don't feel the episode really does much/anything with the parallel... though perhaps Ezri's total confusion (finding herself saddled with years of things that she herself didn't do) can give us a bit of an insight into what Sarah lived off-screen.

Regarding "Sisko is a rape baby" talk up above: yeah, I wouldn't disagree. If she'd gone through this on a voluntary basis, or wanted this husband and child in her life, I doubt she'd be leaving them out of the blue. And they've had no problem inflicting things on people unwillingly before (lest we forget that weird ep where they brainwashed Grand Nagus Zek). It's not like much can be done about it, though, with Sarah dead and the Prophets as amoral superbeings that you can't exactly punish for this (I mean, Jason R jokes above about Sisko going into the wormhole and lecturing them about consent, but he *is* the guy who taught them about linear time in the first place... it wouldn't be the first thing he'd lectured them on...) Regardless, it's a mark against the Prophets as the "Good" side, as far as Grand Cosmic Scale Battles of Good And Evil go...

[mid season 7 SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS]

... and it could've made for an interesting stick to beat Kira with in 'Covenant'. Who knows if the truth of Sisko's parentage ever made it into the mainstream of Bajoran religion, or if it had remained a secret between Sisko, the Prophets and potentially his immediate family (I feel it'd most likely be the "secret" option) -- but if it was the former and it became public knowledge, I could definitely imagine Dukat using it to try and make a point. As in: sure, he took advantage of one of his followers and got her pregnant in the process, but hey, that's *nothing* compared to taking over a woman's life, getting her pregnant with a baby she doesn't want, and making her spend a year of her life with a husband and child she didn't choose to have. So who is Kira to say her Prophets are better than his pah-wraiths?

Note that this is hypothetical Dukat making that case here, deliberately trying to shake Kira's conviction. They're definitely not equivalent situations, but I can easily see Dukat Logic working that way. I imagine Kira's response would be something along the lines of "you're just a dirty old creep who fetishises Bajoran women and abuses his power to get them into bed; they're gods who know far more than we Mere Mortals ever can, and sometimes have to allow bad situations for the sake of good" (in line with how she might justify the Prophets allowing the occupation of Bajor). But despite how *obviously* awful Dukat's side of it is... could the Prophets' side do something to dent Kira's faith regardless?
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Fenn
Mon, Jan 27, 2020, 10:54am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Tears of the Prophets

Sorry for the vagueness re: the exec in question -- I thought this was fairly well-known. It was Rick Berman; I've heard the same story in various places, but just searched and found this link has direct quotes from 'The Fifty Year Mission' (Terry Farrell directly telling her side of the story): https://www.reddit.com/r/startrek/comments/525q85/terry_farrells_departure_has_anybody_else_heard/

I also read on Memory Alpha that her reduced presence in 'The Sound of her Voice' was so that she could attend auditions for other shows -- which corroborates her story of not having already got the job of Becker at that point.

As for Dukat and Sisko, @Peter G: good list there, and yeah, they do parallel each other in a lot of ways (that Kira and Dukat don't really match too well). I find it strange though that, as far as direct interaction has gone, there's been far more between Kira and Dukat up to this point; Sisko and Dukat's particular rivalry definitely seems to be an invention of 'Waltz' -- six years in. Definitely fertile ground to work with there, and better to start late than never, but I can't recall much Sisko-Dukat interaction before that point (apart from, say, official comms). Regardless: interested to see what they do with it.
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Fenn
Mon, Jan 27, 2020, 4:52am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Tears of the Prophets

Thoroughly amused by Jammer's choice of which line to quote at the top.

This finale really did not hit me as hard as some others have. Functionally, I'd put it about on par with 'Broken Link', where the biggest draw is a major paradigm shift for a major character (solid Odo back then, and Sisko's departure here). But then Season 5 proceeded to make resoundingly underwhelming use of Solid Odo. As for Season 7 and Sisko? I'll be vague for spoilers' sake, but having watched up to the resolution of his predicament here, I'd say it feels more fulfilling. That gives 'Tears of the Prophets' the edge, at least in retrospect.

Only on the Sisko angle, though. There's a lot else in here that doesn't work, or that I just flat-out don't like.

I'll start with the most glaring flaw, given that we've had her as a main character for six whole seasons: this is *not* a good exit for Jadzia, dammit! Mostly just a frustrating one. I knew it was coming, saw through all the obvious telegraphing, and then the actual event wasn't able to muster much more than a "well, I guess that's how that happens". Same problem as Jammer, of having the event deflated by foreknowledge? Maybe. But for a different perspective, my partner has consistently held Jadzia as a favourite (though wishing they'd make better use of her) and had no idea her death was coming... and he still barely reacted. I think the conclusion we have to draw here is that that was just a bad way to kill her off.

Also, she's dead enough in the Bajoran chapel and gets left there for however long, and yet the magic of Julian Bashir can bring the host back to life/consciousness only long enough to say a few soulless deathbed lines? Felt *extremely* contrived. But I do think Worf's warrior cry worked, at least. The no explanation tacked on" helps a lot, making sure the scene doesn't get bogged down; faithful Trek-watchers know what's going on, and those less familiar can easily infer at least the grief if not the ritual aspect. DS9 has enough faith in its audience to not go expositing all through its vital scenes.

And I am not into the sudden "both Bashir and Quark were in love with her" thing they've been going for these past... few episodes. Good job guys, you've basically gone and brought this outta the blue last-minute to try and make us feel Sad about her death haven't ya. Well, it just ain't working on me.

Feels like an unwanted resurgence for Bashir. I appreciated how he settled down into a comfortable platonic dynamic with her as part of his growing maturity (the guy finally learned to keep it in his pants, I'm so proud). I can buy that Character Developed Bashir might fall into a more mature form of love with her, rather than just pestering her for sex every two minutes. He's not pushy with her, at least. Doesn't treat her any differently. Doesn't let it get in the way of anything. And yet these all feel like concessions I'm making, to say "I guess this COULD work, but it doesn't".

On Quark's side of it, what I have to say is "fine, I guess it makes sense" and "you know, I really thought he was making it up in that one ep just to distract Bashir and beat him at Tongo". With a side of "I suppose this could be part of him growing past his misogyny, but I really think that would be stronger without the sudden pining after her -- being able to have a strong relationship with an attractive woman and have it be *platonic*". Unrequited love angst is something I have low tolerance for anyway (see previous gripes about Odo with Kira). Our obligatory Vic appearance does salvage that a little. And yet overall this just feels like something that's bogging down both the characters and the story... something that hasn't really had enough buildup to feel dramatically effective, and instead just feels tacked on to add cheap dramatic weight to the inevitable death. Both Quark and Bashir have had enough going on with Dax in the past for this to feel like it could make sense (I'd be even harsher if it came completely out of nowhere -- say, O'Brien suddenly pining for Dax despite little-to-no distinct relationship as characters beforehand). I'm just not feeling it overall.

So, in summary: what purposes does Jadzia's death serve?

- Pure shock value
--- (Very cheap reason to kill a main character, and deflated by the news having seemingly got out far ahead of time. She may as well be a redshirt, the way her initial death scene plays out.)
- Making the audience Sad
--- (I'm mostly just frustrated by this, really.)
- Making Bashir and Quark even Sadder than they already are
--- (Doesn't really work, as thoroughly outlined above.)
- Making Worf super duper Sad
--- (Ever heard of the term "fridging"?)
- Adding a bonus reason for Sisko's noping out to New Orleans
--- (Redundant. He already has reason enough.)
- Establishing Dukat's pah-wraith as ruthless, cruel and powerful
--- (Do we need to establish this? It basically goes without saying.)
- Removing the Dax symbiont from Jadzia, opening up the opportunity to tell different stories with a different host
--- (... but this probably isn't the right episode for commenting about that.)
- Getting Terry Farrell off the show, and far away from *a certain exec*
--- (From what I hear, she didn't even want to leave outright -- her hand was forced, again by *a certain exec*.)

All in all... I'm just not satisfied.

I rewatched 'The Sound of her Voice' with my partner directly before this -- I'd told him about the impact it'd had on me. It got the waterworks going from me again, and got a strong reaction from him too. I appreciate the emotional groundwork it lays for dealing with Jadzia's death, but you know what the most tragic thing is? The death of Lisa Cusak, a one-off character, hit me far harder than the death of Jadzia Dax.

So that's that. What else do we have going on here?

Dukat's shift to essentially being "the Emissary of the Pah-Wraiths"* feels... uh... where did this even come from? Has he even cared about the whole religious side of things before now? William B's making sense in saying it's basically to oppose himself with Sisko. And yet something about Dukat even being *directly* opposed with Sisko in the first place rubs me the wrong way. Seems to be a Season 6 invention, with groundwork laid by the opening arc and with 'Waltz' serving to finalise it. Feels like the writers going "okay, Main Protagonist vs Main Antagonist, let's do this" --making the overarching story more simplistic in the process. No, the character with which Dukat is far more diametrically opposed is Major Kira, stretching all the way back to the Occupation/the Resistance. And while the interplay between those two doesn't seem to have been abandoned ('Wrongs Darker...' was post-'Waltz', after all), it seems to have been nudged out of the way for the sake of this Grand Cosmic Rivalry with Dukat and Sisko. Shame.

* That sure seems to be the role he's fallen into narratively, but going by the definition of "first person to make contact with them"... that'd be Keiko, of all people. Surprise Final Season Major Villain??? can't wait to see her and Miles going all Dragonball Z on us with blue/red beams on the Promenade

Weyoun's one-line takedown of Dukat is absolutely spot-on, by the way. I love Weyoun. I also had a laugh at Dukat's later scene, reporting back to Damar and Weyoun:

"Victory!!"

"What the hell, this is not a victory, you sealed the wormhole and now our reinforcements are even more trapped than they already were??"

"V I C T O R Y"

So for now, Dukat's basically back to the same sort of role as his "lone wolf Klingonslayer" turn back in S4. Seen as an embarrassment back on Cardassia, but too self-absorbed with his own little crusade to care. The main difference: his crusade this time round is a lot less "little" than before.

Other than that, there's the changing nature of the Dominion War, from defensive to offensive. It's another one of those paradigm shifts, but man, not much of the actual battle here really made an impact on me. It's mostly just a reason for Sisko to be off the station.

(Speaking of which, an observation: It's not often that Garak's allowed to be a background character. Unlike Nog, who appears roughly as frequently but often pads out Starfleet or Ferengi ensembles, Garak's rarely in episodes unless those episodes are *about* him in some way. I always get excited whenever I see Andrew J. Robinson's name superimposed on the first act, but here, he has a perfunctory line about Cardassia and then functions as any old member of the Defiant's crew. He gets five lines in the entire episode -- even Vic (who seems almost designed to make short, perfunctory appearances) gets twice as many as that. Not inherently a bad thing, but perhaps symptomatic of how many characters and storylines DS9's having to juggle these days.)

There's the abrupt closure of the wormhole, cutting Bajor off from their Prophets. Which does make for a good "oh shit!" moment, even if the mechanism for its execution (Dukat) is flawed. Yet another paradigm shift for the next season to deal with. Seems like a lot of the best (or least worst) things happening here are just breadcrumbs leading into next year...

... including Sisko's situation, which is undoubtedly the best thing on offer here. Granted, its setup rankled a little. People often seem far too quick to dismiss "the wisdom of the Prophets". These are beings that can see through time, guys -- sure, they can be vague, but when they give a clear instruction like this, maybe you should listen??? But Admiral Ross follows in the grand tradition of Starfleet admirals being obstinate, short-sighted and generally cumbersome, so he *insists.* And Sisko's forced into the Starfleet choice for the sake of not losing his career.

The ramifications are devastating. Written effectively, performed effectively. Sisko's scene with Jadzia's coffin is perhaps the only good thing here relating to her death. (I don't think there was much Sisko could've done personally to stop Dukat dropping by and zapping her, unless his presence on the station was an anti-wraith ward in itself. But survivor's guilt doesn't care about that.) And I'd say it makes sense for Sisko to return to Earth: both DS9 and Bajor will be constant reminders of his failure. The final scene of Sisko scrubbing clams is a hell of a poignant note to end on.

It's a hell of a dramatic fall from grace for Sisko to take. Hell of a compelling depiction here, on top of what it sets up for the final season to follow. I only wish the episode it's couched in could be anywhere near as good.
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Fenn
Sun, Jan 26, 2020, 4:21pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: It's Only a Paper Moon

Have spent most of today collapsed on a sofa with my partner after a long flight, binging DS9 together -- this was as far as we got, and man, was it a hell of an episode to reach.

Busy few days, but I'll definitely be writing up something substantial at some point: my partner (who knows of my habit of writing up thousands of words about things) has practically *commanded* me to write an essay on this one. It's been a definite favourite for both of us.

For now: I just wanna say that my partner is big on war stories, has seen a *lot* of stories about war and old soldiers in his time... and he says this episode is one of the very best depictions of PTSD he's ever seen. And that's saying somethin'.

God damn, Nog. Kid's had a hell of a life.
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Fenn
Fri, Jan 24, 2020, 5:36am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: His Way

I also wanna say that Vic Fontaine is also kind of terrifying. He can just... drop into other people's holosuites? And somehow get access to the comm?

Is this guy gonna be the next Moriarty? Is DS9 gonna get re-recaptured by the Dominion and then fought off singlehandedly by a lone holographic lounge singer?
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Fenn
Thu, Jan 23, 2020, 6:07pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Far Beyond the Stars

Peter G: "We could call it a fault or deliberate, but Jake Sisco seriously does not know what he wants, and sort of sits around doing nothing most of the time. That might come with the territory of being a writer/artist[...]"

That, and it very likely also comes with the territory of being in your late teens/early 20s. Rarely an age when people have everything figured out. He's a Federation kid with everything provided for him, who can afford to sort of drift between whatever looks interesting without needing a solid workable backup plan in order to stay alive...

... and then contrast that with Fifties Fake Jake, who might naturally be in the same sort of "drifting" state, but is also in a time and place where he needs money to keep on living. And crime is an easy solution to that. Easy to fall into and hard to fall out of, especially for someone who's mostly inclined to do nothing rather than make some serious effort to get out of this.

I dunno, I wrote that line originally thinking the acting wasn't quite convincing, but dammit now you've gone and got me thinking further about Actual Characterisation. Thanks, hahah.

As for Brooks... my first thought on that is one hell of a "damn". Wow. I have a lot to say about that.

It sort of opens up questions about exactly what counts as good or bad acting -- and what exactly acting even *is* or "should be". People do expect a certain degree of smoothness on TV. You won't have people overlapping in conversations, for clarity's sake. You won't have people lost for words, unless it's significant. Natural imperfections like that are normal to be part of real life, but on a screen, they can pull people out of what's being shown. People looking to impart a vision will generally try to smooth over anything "messy" that might detract from that, unless part of that vision *is* messy naturalism.

Hell, Visitor on set watching Benny/Brooks have his breakdown is a different context in itself: instead of watching something that's already been swept together and cleaned up for TV, she was in the same room as someone she worked with and knew. And watching him have a breakdown. But it's only natural to see the reality in it when you're there in real life. Happens automatically.

People watching TV are used to smoothness to the point where *that* is what is expected automatically. This is a very rare departure from that. That departure's gonna call attention to itself: it goes so sharply against the grain of the TV version of "natural" that it's impossible not to notice. Perhaps a different show with a different director might discourage this, opting instead for something that doesn't "break the flow".

But Brooks is the one calling the shots, on an even more fundamental than a director usually would. As director *and* actor, Brooks would have had complete creative control over his personal part in that scene -- what his vision of it was, and how he would bring it to be. And I'm getting the impression that this jarring break from conditioned TV smoothness very much *was* an inherent part of his vision. The all-out, heartachingly genuine approach is what he went for: completely embodying the character in himself, feeling what he feels and reacting how Benny Russell as a real human being would react. I think it's fantastic. He makes the imaginary story into something utterly real, blends the dreamer [the actor] and the dream [the character]. It's fiction, and yet -- as he so fervently insists -- *it's real*. For the themes of this story, it couldn't possibly be a more perfect approach.

So in essence, it's not just Benny Russell and Benjamin Sisko -- Avery Brooks is his own layer to this. It seems he's just as much part of this as his characters are, and he adds his own dimension.
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Fenn
Thu, Jan 23, 2020, 4:56pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: His Way

@Peter G: well, when you put it like that, it is actually kind of a relief. There's so many layers of angst getting between these two that they really could take years digging through it all -- and we'd have Pining Odo the whole time (and also the nondescript Kira that we always seem to get on the other side of this).

I haven't seen much further than this, and definitely not to any Serious Odo/Kira-centric episode, but the background bits of their relationship I've seen? Not sure how I feel in general, but relatively, I do know that I prefer Soft Sappy Odo to Pining Odo. So, in retrospect: yeah, glad that this one put the kibosh on the latter.

Kira still seems to be Nondescript Kira, though. Dammit, Kira.
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Fenn
Thu, Jan 23, 2020, 10:34am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: The Sound of Her Voice

I'm genuinely surprised to see such a lukewarm reception here. I guess this was just one of the ones that struck me on a personal level. Struck me *hard,* too. I haven't had this much of an ugly cry at anything since 'The Visitor', and in fact I think this even hit me harder than that did.

Strangers are often easier to talk to than friends or family. Having grown up online, with all the vast networks of strangers it connects you to, I've had years of my life to learn that fact. Friends and family are often too bound up in your problems to help with them, or you feel as if you never really have the opportunity when you see them in real life, or you don't want to "burden" them, don't want to be a downer when you usually just have fun with each other... any number of reasons. And yet it's remarkably easy to spill out thousands of deeply personal words to pseudononymous strangers or dying starship captains or Star Trek review sites. Less pressure to keep up whatever persona you might have, and the honesty starts tumbling out.

Hell -- in the near future, I'm marrying someone with whom I started off as one of those internet strangers. Met him online five years ago, met him in person three years ago, and have lived with him on and off since until now we're finally settling down together. My soon-to-be husband has told me about the first time he realised he wanted us to be more than just people who vaguely knew each other online -- he'd seen me in a group chat talking someone through some worries they had, and come to admire me for how I'd go to such lengths to talk to and help someone I barely knew. We've come to be the "talk forever about absolutely anything" people for each other, and while we're far more than internet strangers to each other now, that's how we started out.

So, watching as the Defiant's crew talks for hours on end to someone they barely know and have never even seen face-to-face... it resonated with me. I've been on both sides of that over the years, and it's come to shape the most important relationships in my life. I've been able to talk to people thousands of miles away when I couldn't talk to anyone "in real life". Lisa physically can't, all alone on her Class-L planet, but the rest of them *emotionally* can't.

This episode is a love letter to long-distance friendships with people you've never really "met". It's aged well as the internet's grown more and more universal -- internet friendships definitely already existed when this aired, but they're more prominent every day than ever before.

Like Jammer, it was Lisa's chats with O'Brien that hit home the most. They resonate the most with the theme of the episode and with what I've been saying above -- being able to talk honestly to strangers when you can't do the same with your friends. Was also amused by the talk about ship's counsellors. You *think* you don't need them, but then surprise, if you're feeling like you can't talk to anyone else, then maybe you actually do...!

(And hey, you never know, a counsellor might be an interesting character to see regularly on DS9. You know. Speaking purely hypothetically. Of course.)

Stepping aside from my emotional reaction, this definitely isn't a perfect episode. I'd like to have heard more about Lisa's life, rather than the couple halves of anecdotes she gave us. If not that, I'd appreciate having heard her talk to Kasidy, because on the whole, a lot of this was about getting an insight into various different men -- Sisko, Bashir, O'Brien, even Quark in the B-plot (which was nice, but I'm glad it finished early so we could focus all-in on Lisa). I say Kasidy in particular because -- given how Sisko's talks are about his relationship with Kasidy -- I'd appreciate having her side of the story.

To do a little further analysis gender-wise, it's interesting that it's only men confiding anything and everything in this disembodied voice -- because all too often men *are* the ones being brought up feeling like they can't really talk to anyone about their emotions, and needing all the more to get everything out. Too often, though, the women in their lives -- who *are* raised with the ability to talk honestly about how they feel -- end up having to shoulder more than they can deal with as one person. Lisa's character feels very genuine to me: I am someone who *was* raised with emotional understanding, and I often want to listen to everyone and give them the understanding they need -- and that has led to me taking on a lot more than I can bear, often without saying so, thinking it's "for everyone else's good". That's another reason why I would've appreciated hearing more from Lisa, not just having it fade to black mid-anecdote.

And on that note, I appreciate O'Brien's closing speech all the more. *Everyone* needs to talk to each other more. A burden shared is a burden halved, but half is still a lot to carry -- especially when the person you're sharing with is still carrying their own burden. Far better to share among more people than just one sole recipient, to ensure that nobody ever has to carry too much.

(that metaphor breaks down if you analyse it for more than a second, but the point stands. just work with me on this one)

I knew there was gonna be a twist when they discovered Lisa, and I don't think the sci-fi explanation quite works on me; I fully expected her to be already dead and for her voice to be a sort of technological echo ('Silence in the Library' from modern Doctor Who has a similar concept), but time travel atmosphere... kind of eh.

I hadn't realised that this was the last episode before the finale until reading Jammer's review. It's a fitting one. And yeah -- like Jammer, I'm fully aware of who that "certain crew member" is going to be in the next episode. Makes it even more poignant in retrospect.

***
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

Given the death of you-know-who next episode, and given that you-know-who's replacement ends up being the crew's resident counsellor (I know these two facts, and not much more), I'm feeling a potential thematic consistency going on here. Interested to see if they end up addressing things like this all the more -- and especially as the war drags on.
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Fenn
Thu, Jan 23, 2020, 10:34am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Profit and Lace

@Nolan: for sure. And it's even more noticeable among all the high points this season has to offer.

There are potentially interesting (and fun!) ways to do a "Ferengi feminism" episode. This is all the worst ways rolled up into a big awful ball.
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Fenn
Wed, Jan 22, 2020, 6:02pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Profit and Lace

Well, this was an episode I spent largely in various stages of grimacing. Teaser is rock bottom "oh god no please don't", first half is at least standard Ferengi episode (and has the mildly amusing scene where Quark's family call up various Commissioners)... but from the second we see "Lumba", I knew there was no coming back from the zero star rating. Wasn't even funny to Jammer watching at the time, and it's aged to be even worse, for reasons I really don't need to elaborate on.

The one line (apart from Worf's one) that got a laugh out of me was... probably unintentional. "Giving females the right to wear clothes allows them to have pockets." Women's clothing -- *with pockets???* Looks like the Ferengi are ahead of us hu-mans on one thing, at least.

Now I'm gonna forget I had to watch this and move swiftly onwards.
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Fenn
Wed, Jan 22, 2020, 1:15pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: His Way

I'm pretty much entirely with Jammer on this. There's fun fluff, I love the musical interludes, I'm a sucker for Sinatra style, and yet... you could put any awkward man and any generic woman of his interest into this. It doesn't really say anything about them as characters. We've had six seasons building up everything they are together, all the complexity of their history. What they mean to each other is unique. This isn't.

I can only hope we see more from them that isn't just "generic romance" but actually *uses* these characters to the fullest.
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Fenn
Tue, Jan 21, 2020, 10:42pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Rocks and Shoals

This was my favourite section of the arc, no doubt. Everything on display here is top-notch.

It's visually stunning, to start off with. The extreme harsh daylight of the setting makes everything feel more threatening. The feeling of being slowly boiled alive hangs over the whole show. It's a hell of a directorial job in general -- back on Terok Nor, we've got the shots of Kira having to wake up and look herself in the eye every day, and that really drives home how soul-crushing her predicament is.

Intense moments here. Vedek Yassim hangs herself on the Promenade; Starfleet puts the Jem'Hadar to the slaughter. This is extremely weighty subject matter on both sides, and aptly-handled -- with a hell of a lot of moral complexity in both.

Kira's plot shows how easy it is to get caught up in day-to-day life in a situation like this -- to lose track of the bigger picture. Like the proverbial frog in boiling water, noticing no change when the heat's ramping up bit-by-bit. It's an insidious display of Dominion technique. It'll take something drastic before she can realise, and Yassim is the one to provide that -- it's just as much a shock to Kira as it is to the audience, and it's the shock she needs.

The final showdown between Starfleet and the Jem'Hadar is difficult to assess from a moral perspective. At what point does this stop being combat and start being a massacre? Their opponents aren't defenceless, and do manage to cause one Starfleet death in the end, but it's so heavily weighted in Starfleet's favour. What matters more is the purpose of the assault: Keevan's sending them into battle purely to have them die, with Starfleet as the executioners.

Sisko talking it out with the Jem'Hadar changes the nature of the situation. He wants an option other than life or death, but for the Jem'Hadar, there's no such thing. We know how they see things: they are dead, and victory is life. So to them, it's a simple matter. If there's no chance of victory, there's no chance at life. They simply stay dead. And they cannot/will not diverge from that. So Sisko is forced to play by their life-and-death rules.

Effective use is made of the individual characters on Starfleet's side; the close-ups during the massacre show us the different perspectives. Seasoned soldier O'Brien has lived through more than enough death in his life already; young cadet Nog has never had to see or do anything like this before. Garak, with no moral compunctions, is grimly relieved to get the dirty job done; Sisko has to agree with Garak despite wishing it could be otherwise. He gives the order; he bears that guilt.

Special mention to the early scene between Garak and Nog, just before they're caught by the Jem'Hadar. Empok Nor was Nog's most brutal Starfleet experience before now, and it's good to see he hasn't forgotten it... or come to trust Garak again. Garak might be on Starfleet's side for the purposes of this arc -- participating in the group scenes, joking with the others, taking his place on the Defiant -- but they do well to give us reminders that he's not one of them. Leaves just that little bit more tension in there.
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Fenn
Tue, Jan 21, 2020, 9:14pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Far Beyond the Stars

I'll come clean and admit that I'm skipping around a very tiny bit, largely based on what type of episode I'm in the mood for -- the result being that I watched 'Waltz' and then this back to back.

They make for an interesting comparison: hallucinations/visions experienced in a character's most vulnerable moments. The crucial difference is that Dukat's in the middle of a crisis of the ego, which his imagined characters serve only to attack or inflate. Sisko's crisis is far beyond just him: it's the entire situation around him. Both Bens find themselves at the mercy of the times they're in; Benny Russell fights for his dream, inspiring Benjamin Sisko to do the same.

At the beginning, before we topple headfirst into the 1950s, Sisko's existence as The Sisko We Know is in danger. What follows is a metafictional plea, making the case for why our world and his world both *need* Captain Sisko. Makes the case for representation in general, as something worth fighting for -- making sure that *everyone* gets all the benefits that fiction's potential can bring. Not just white people on the moon.

The acting in Benny's breakdown scene seems to be what makes or breaks this for a lot of people. I'm on the side of "makes", for what it's worth. It's so rare to see such absolute messy despair, unfiltered and unsanitised by the TV screen. I've been there, I've seen it in myself, and I see it in him.

In modern terms, Pabst is the "I'm not racist, but..." character. There's always the limit. In somewhat more contemporary terms (to the 1950s), he embodies the "white moderate". Martin Luther King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail in 1963 sums up this kind of person:

***
First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
***

This fits Pabst perfectly. Not, say, *disapproving* of what Benny wrote... but not wanting any tension, not wanting to play even a small role in facilitating what a black man has to say for fear of the upset it might cause. What King said about a "more convenient time" is something Pabst says directly: "stick it in a drawer for fifty years or however long it takes the human race to become colour-blind". It also fits some of the tensions we've seen with Odo: "order" rather than "justice". (And to go further on that theme, 'Rocks and Shoals' had Kira slowly come to realise she was becoming the person to say "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action".)

To go further with parallels to the characters of Deep Space Nine: Mal a few comments up makes good comparisons. I'll add something of my own about newsboy Nog -- in the minute or so he appears, he spills out his all his "badass war hero" fantasies, and... yeah, can't help worrying that this is what Nog's got going on as well. I think Weyoun as half of the racist cop duo is a bit miscast though: it doesn't really say anything about his character other than "villain" and "in a position of power, with the potential to hurt Sisko". Given that Weyoun's less violent and more just "middle manager", it'd probably work better as someone like Damar.

- Seeing all the black characters together in the café made me realise how *almost* everyone on this show played by a black actor is there because they're "attached to" Sisko. There's Sisko himself, Sisko's girlfriend, Sisko's son, Sisko's dad... And Then There's Worf.
- (speaking of which, Worf in full Klingon armour popping up to say "catch the game last night" -- I found that strangely hilarious)
- Man it feels weird to have Kasidy back after everything that's happened. Not even a mention of her between 'Rapture' and this? And people still don't care about her working for the Maquis? I guess no one really cares about the Maquis any more.
- Hearing the N-word on Star Trek *really* caught me off guard. Said by Fake Jake, though? Ehh... I've liked Cirroc Lofton, but he's kiiind of a weak link here.
- Can I just say how beautifully done this is, in general? It's a hell of a period piece, and every intercut between the "dreamer" and the "dream" (especially when Benny and Cassie are dancing) was incredible. Intentionally jarring at times, smoothly disorientating at others.
- Avery Brooks directing *and* playing the focal character. There's clearly been a hell of a lot of work and passion put into this from him. Hell of a testament to it.
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Fenn
Tue, Jan 21, 2020, 12:25pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: One Little Ship

What is this, The Magic Schoolbus? "Shrink down and go for an adventure inside someone's body", except replace "someone" with "The Defiant"? Complete with Miles Frizzle telling us what all the bits and bobs are.

I was giggling the whole time. The Rubicon booping the door panel is the cutest. No doubt this helped toy sales...!
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Fenn
Tue, Jan 21, 2020, 9:36am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Quickening

My partner's been tearing through DS9 over the past week or so -- he's skipped an episode or few, mostly the Ferengi ones, but he's still watching the vast majority of 'em. I have no idea how he's almost finished season 4 already. (Probably because he doesn't spend half his DS9 time writing up comments on this site.) At this rate, we'll be watching the finale together...!

He's been enjoying it, but with a big caveat: so far, he's absolutely *hated* Bashir. He wrote up a half-serious half-joking character ranking list (with Odo at the top) that had Bashir right at the bottom underneath "unnamed background extra #214". He has been thoroughly irritated by his chatter and his status as Series' Designated Horndog, and has said in no uncertain terms: "hey fenn if bashir and dax get together at some point, it's in your best interest not to tell me, because I will drop this series like a brick".* **

Anyway, when I heard he had 'The Quickening' coming up next, I made a bet with him that he would like Bashir in this episode. The bet's stake is... one steak, bought for me if he ended up liking Bashir and bought for him if he didn't.

One episode later... he owes me a steak. Only "a very mild steak", but hey -- I won the bet, and he's developed a very mild liking for Bashir now. Win/win.

In the process of posting about this, I've come to realise I never actually left a comment on my runthrough, so let me just say I really love this one. Bashir is at his finest when dedicated to healing, no matter how difficult it may be. His dynamic with Dax is a lot better now -- the awkward pickup attempt phase has ended, letting them settle into something comfortably platonic. I love how the two complement each other here, with Dax as the "worldly" one translating for Bashir off in his own little medical motormouth world. She gives him the push he needs to go from being self-absorbed to being truly selfless -- staying on the planet, no matter what, until the cure is found.

I'm with Jammer on loving the episode's final shot. I remember watching that, expecting Bashir to wade into the crowd and the adulation... but no, he watches, happy for the long-awaited vaccine to take up all the attention instead of himself. As it should be.

Also his teddy bear story is sweet as hell. Nominating Kukalaka for best character in the Star Trek franchise.

* He added a caveat to his "Dax + Bashir = drop the series" ultimatum halfway through watching 'The Wire': he said he'd drop the series not because he hates Bashir, but because him being with Dax would mean Bashir's not being true to himself. Because he belongs with Garak instead. Clearly.

** SPOILERS I'm aware that spoilers spoilers Dax spoilers Bashir spoilers spoilers season 7... though definitely not in the way he'd imagined it. Neither of us have reached that point yet, though.
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Fenn
Mon, Jan 20, 2020, 2:27pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Children of Time

" I think one can compliment an episode if you can be on both sides of the argument for good reasons. "

No doubt there. Says good things about its complexity.

Yeah, that's definitely an ongoing thing with Odo. I have a low tolerance for romantic angst Odo, but it does make sense, doesn't it? "The first cut is the deepest" -- he looks and sounds old but really he's experiencing a lot of things for the first time. Teen angst.

Maybe he hasn't got the detail in his face yet because he hasn't quite finished his "coming of age"...!

And then we get Oldo in 'Children of Time' who *is* sure about things, *can* say the "I love you" with no hesitation. But while he might have become more sure of himself, on his own, I get the impression he's gone the opposite way when it comes to interaction with other people. Hence not taking Kira's wishes into account.
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Fenn
Mon, Jan 20, 2020, 1:49pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Children of Time

Ehh, for what it's worth I was trying to downplay the point of the 8000 descendants thing in my last comment. That ain't the hill I'm gonna die on here.

No matter what, it was something that mattered to Kira -- enough that she was willing to die for it. She commits a selfless action, but from the end of this episode onwards she goes on knowing that Odo, despite his love for her, is fully willing to undercut her on this for his own selfish reasons.

[SPOILERS FOR EARLY DS9 S6 BELOW]

That's a tendency of his that continues from here, actually. 'Favor the Bold' has Odo too caught up in linking to even care about the Resistance any more -- he *hears* Kira calling to him, but he doesn't *listen*. One could argue that Oldo's distance and isolation from the humanoid society in this episode is comparable to the emotional distance Odo develops from humanoids in 'Favor the Bold' on account of repeated linking.
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Fenn
Mon, Jan 20, 2020, 12:58pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Children of Time

Replying to both here, but mostly to Peter G: the definition of "murder" or "death" is definitely a weird one in sci-fi situations like this, but I feel the majority of the episode *is* dedicated to having both the characters and audience see these people as living beings with a right to persist.

And regardless of how killing's defined in this situation, Oldo's decision displays another worrying trait: actively going against Kira's wishes. He knew exactly what her choice was, so he denied her the ability to make that choice, and all for the sake of his past self getting a chance at love. It's a tremendously selfish action all round -- placing his own desires above that of both the 8000 and of Kira.

I do love the idea of Odo's inability to "show his face" being based in fear. In which case, the prosthetic mask... genuinely is a mask, in a sense. Living apart from the others, as Oldo seems to have done, there'd be no reason to hide behind a featureless front any more.
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Fenn
Mon, Jan 20, 2020, 12:48pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: A Time to Stand

I gotta say, I was happy to hear "and now the continuation" at the start of this, instead of "the conclusion". Long-term story, here we come!

It's been a while since we've seen Garak and Bashir's Spirited Conversation... except not quite so spirited here, of course. Maybe this is Siddig's less-than-enthusiasm about his character's shift into Human Computering, but whether he's deliberately torpedoing the performance here or not, the result's actually turned out to be strikingly effective -- like Jammer, I felt a real fatigue coming off Bashir here, that he's been absolutely shattered by the hopeless conflict. Another nail in Early Seasons Julian "Frontier Medicine" Bashir's coffin.

While watching, I did *not* like Bashir coming up with his "32.7%" figure for their survival, and agreed with Garak saying he was just showing off -- "where do you even GET a figure like that, that's nonsense" was my train of thought. My thoughts on this have changed since, but you'll have to read my comments on episodes ahead for that. Suffice to say, it came off badly here, especially as a first impression.

"If I'm a Vulcan, how do you explain my boyish smile?" Dare I say, that line came off... a little flirtatious...? (Also notable, as Jammer points out, as being the only time Bashir smiles this whole episode. Not so boyish indeed.)

Sisko's call home is a definite highlight here -- as in 'Paradise Lost", the grimness of the dynamic between them is a telling sign of the mood of the times. Naturally, recurring cast availability means we can't have scenes like this on a regular basis, but this is good placement for this kind of scene -- adds an extra dimension to the conflict by showing how the mood stretches back to Earth.

Feels like Dukat's relishing his new position above Kira just as much as he relished the recapture of Terok Nor. No surprise whatsoever that he sets immediately to lusting after her as soon as he has the chance, but it makes for some intensely shudder-inducing scenes. They're a microcosm of the Cardassian-Bajoran dynamic, too -- not quite on same sides, but definitely in the same vicinity on account of circumstance, and with the former desperate to lever this as a way to "conquer" the latter. Both the planetary and personal levels to this are deeply unsettling.

I will say that I don't have as much to say re: the Starfleet plot as I thought I would -- it *is* pretty straightforward. But I love seeing Garak take a role as part of the Starfleet ensemble cast. He's even got a Starfleet combadge. Match that with his Jem'Hadar headset (when he gets it) and the fact that both of these are being worn by a Cardassian... he's ended up a very multicultural person, by the necessity of survival rather than choice.
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Fenn
Mon, Jan 20, 2020, 7:54am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Statistical Probabilities

You know, I was surprised by how much I liked this one. The moment I first saw the colourful assortment of seemingly one-note Ha Ha Crazy People!!! on screen, I was ready to skip ahead to something more interesting and less *dire*. I'd come back to it later, but only after picking up my eyes -- you know, after having rolled them right out of my skull.

But I left it on as background noise, while working on something else. And then it pulled me in. I'm glad it did.

This is indeed a *far* more interesting use of Bashir's genetic status than 'A Time to Stand' tried introducing. [Note: I haven't yet left comments on any part of this season's excellent opening salvo, but I do plan to. I watched them all last night, loved them, and took a hell of a lot of notes that are still in the process of coalescing into something more solid.]

Bashir can now Do Maths Real Good? Nah. Give me a single goddamn reason to care. (Give his actor a reason, too.)

Bashir, after years of passing as a neurotypical person, finds community with people whose brains function like his does? People who then proceed to work with him on psychohistorical predictions of the Dominion War? And now we're grappling with the possible fates of hundreds of billions of very real lives? hat's... several goddamn reasons to care, and a lot more than I expected. (And going on the Memory Alpha page for this ep, looks like it worked on giving the actor reasons to care -- it's one of his favourites, apparently.)

To work through these one by one:

Having read other comments here, I'll say this outright: there's zero possibility that there *isn't* a neurodivergence allegory going on here, and nothing I've read above gives me any reason to doubt that. It doesn't map *exactly* to neurodivergence (these people weren't born neurodivergent) -- but the mapping doesn't *need* to be exact to be an allegory, and it rarely is. TNG's 'The Outcast' isn't a perfect match, for example. "Some people in this nongendered society begin to living as a certain gender, and risk stigma/conversion therapy if they express this" doesn't map exactly to "some people in this heterosexual society experience attraction to their own gender, and risk stigma/conversion therapy if they pursue this" -- and yet it was explicitly intended as The Big Gay Rights Episode.

So we've unarguably got a neurodivergence allegory on our hands here. It definitely has pitfalls. The initial impression of "Ha Ha Crazy People" that I got, as did pretty much everyone else -- while mentioned elsewhere in these comments as a potentially useful shorthand for showing the audience what this episode is going to deal with, it's still a pretty crappy depiction to start off with. Additionally, people other than Bashir only seem to find worth in the "Jack Pack" once they turn out to be clever, and *useful* for their cleverness. Before that, they're just treated as tragedies of misguided science and isolated in a research facility. An episode like this would not and could not turn out the same way had these genetically engineered people *not* been clever, though Bashir's genuine kinship with them could still have played out.

That kinship he develops here is strong and compelling. He's spent his life having to hide, and now he's among people who have *never* hidden who they are (and never been able to) and have *been* hidden from society for it. The atmosphere that develops between them -- of unpatronising acceptance, not having to hide a single damn thing among people who are truly like you -- is really sweet, and something I imagine would resonate with a lot of people belonging to marginalised groups. I know it does with me. The celebration scene is a highlight there -- it turns the dimensionless quirks of the "Jack Pack" into nothing worse than simply their personalities, and those personalities are shown to be more than just the single adjectives you might apply to them at the episode's beginning. And Bashir really comes to treat them as genuine equals, regardless of how his... "high-functioning" status might set him apart in the beginning.

I love the psychohistory angle this goes for. To expand on what I said about 'A Time to Stand' earlier, with Bashir suddenly bringing up percentages on how likely they were to survive: I thought that was bullshit, and I thought Garak was right to dismiss it. But this almost redeems it in retrospect, showing there's far more thought to it than the pure numbers might show, and couching it in strong sci-fi concepts (good old Asimov).

I don't think it fully nails the landing on that. I think the scope of the concept -- and of the many-pronged political situation DS9 has built up -- might've been larger than what this can take into account for TV, and especially in only one episode. But it sure ain't a bad depiction for mainstream sci-fi TV.

And finally: billions of lives staked on projections. Well, this ep does a hell of a lot to reassert the feel of the Dominion War. And to give a handful of ordinary people access to info defining the fates of those billions? The megalomania aspect is, in my opinion, most interestingly considered in light of how little power these people have had until now. It's the biggest reversal possible for them. The first time they have the chance to make some sort of impact on *anything*, their chance is to make the deciding moves in an interstellar war! And when they've initially been offered a leap from nothing to *everything*, it's bloody hard to go back to nothing.

But it's not *just* megalomania, which I think is a vital thing to cover here. They have full faith in their predictions, and so from their perspective, the dilemma becomes a trolley problem. Take no action: cause a death count of 900 billion. Take an ostentibly "wrong" action: cause an astronomically lower death count, just in a more direct manner. I appreciate how frankly the episode depicts their plight: they're morally right, just on a basis that's factually wrong. I will say that Bashir reverses his opinion on their predictions too quickly -- if Sarina's one action can change his mind so completely, it makes him look horrendously short sighted for being so doubtless initially. But the fact that he understands them, no matter what, is crucial.

To conclude, I'm intrigued to see what comes of our "pretender" Damar. Precarious position he's in. He ties in well with the theme of individuals versus "the bigger picture" -- he's just a talking head for the Dominion here, and could so easily be replaced (perfectly in line with the Founders' attitudes -- the drop is the ocean; the ocean is the drop). But we'll see if his individualism asserts itself yet.
Set Bookmark
Fenn
Sun, Jan 19, 2020, 10:08am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Call to Arms

(One more interesting dynamic I forgot to mention: the strain beginning to show between Weyoun and Dukat, and Cardassia/the rest of the Dominion in general. No attacking Bajor for you, Dukat -- and god, please don't use Kira as a proxy for her planet...)
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