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Fenn
Tue, Jan 21, 2020, 10:42pm (UTC -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
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 -6)
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.
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Fenn
Sun, Jan 19, 2020, 10:08am (UTC -6)
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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Fenn
Sun, Jan 19, 2020, 9:58am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Call to Arms

Yeah, the romantic interludes here just kinda suck across the board, don't they?

I don't think I personally like even one of these pairings. It's good that we're dealing with the extreme Odo/Kira fallout from 'Children of Time', but I won't hesitate in saying that pining Odo is easily my least favourite Odo. Rom/Leeta is just *too* odd for an odd couple dynamic -- it strains belief. Dax/Worf, I do have some ability to like (mostly when framed as "glorious Klingon battle couple"), but they seem to be jumping to marriage way too quickly -- I see no indication of much reason for it other than satisfying Worf's Klingon obligations. And Garak/Ziyal... sigh. It *could* be a sweet dynamic on a platonic level -- hell, it *was*! And yet they insisted on shoehorning in Ziyal having a crush on someone old enough to be her father. The kiss she gives him here is decidedly Uncomfortable -- at least Garak looks to be just as uncomfortable as I feel, or this'd be even worse than it is. It seems decidedly creepy on the part of the writers -- and it looks like Garak's discomfort here is solely an acting decision, since the script gives no indication of it.

(Verdict: "needs more Kasidy".)

Bleh. At least we've got plenty of good non-romantic character dynamics on display here. One particularly understated one is Jake helping Bashir distribute medical supplies in the Infirmary, in the same vein as '... Nor the Battle'. Jake's clearly on track to becoming a writer, but it almost feels like they're equally setting him up to be a wartime nurse.

The offputting romances really are the only thing that lower this, though, because it's stellar work otherwise. The buildup is incredible and unprecedented. Seeing Deep Space 9 become Terok Nor once more is heartwrenching to watch, epitomised by the Jem'Hadar forcing open those iconic cog airlock doors. And it's a hell of a move, too -- this space station is the goddamn title of the show, it's absolutely fundamental to it, and to wrest it out of our protagonists' grasp... things really won't be the same ever again.

We're left with some very interesting character combinations for the upcoming season. Garak with the Starfleet crew deserves a mention -- let's see if the sometimes-shaky trust he's built with them bears out. Regardless, as he tells Ziyal, he'll always find a way to thrive. I'll be *very* interested to see if this accompanies him in a far more prominent role -- maybe he's best if used sparingly, but eh, I'm very ready to see him brought on for longer stretches regardless.

I was half-expecting Leeta to hide on the station and stick around for Rom's sake -- do something interesting with her that way. But nope, bundled off to Bajor, just as Ziyal is.

I suspect that Terok Nor itself will be the most interesting setting for the upcoming season of DS9 (or 'TN'). There's so much at play there. The thought of Kira under Dukat's command is already making me squirm, and the Odo-Weyoun dynamic promises to be an interesting one -- a potential way for the protagonists to get the upper hand.

Then there's Jake. Jake, you idiot, you've put yourself in prime position to be used as a hostage. "The Dominion wouldn't dare hurt the Emissary's son"? Yeah, good luck with that, especially with Kai Winn holding sway over what counts as religion on Bajor. We've seen the title of Emissary switch places effortlessly before, and if that ever happens again, suddenly Jake Sisko's nothing more than a human in enemy territory. On a story level, I don't *think* they'd kill him off... but dammit, Jake, plot armour isn't a valid excuse in-universe.

(Looks like the Jake-Nog dynamic reversal is finally complete. Jake's the one hanging around the Ferengi family at the bar, and Nog's the one with Captain Sisko keeping him safe.)

And, uh. Rom as Terok Nor's resident Replacement Garak. That's gonna be. Interesting. Y'know, I half-expected him to be making up the "Federation spy" thing, but it honestly seems like it's *true*... in which case, I really have no idea WHAT to expect. He's a less *obvious* candidate for a spy than Garak, I will at least give him that...?

Well then! Onto Season 6! This finale has done far more than enough to whet my appetite for more -- I can't wait to see what it has in store.
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Fenn
Sun, Jan 19, 2020, 8:02am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: In the Cards

This one clinches the four-star rating with zero hesitation from me. I even watched the finale after this, and yet out of both of those excellent episodes, the one that sticks in my mind is not the status quo-shattering events of 'Call to Arms', but the beautifully nonsensical wild goose chase for a single baseball card.

There's just so much to love here! It harkens back to the self sealing stem bolts-style Jake and Nog shenanigans that I loved so much in the early seasons (hell, sometimes more than the A-plots). They've finally earned their promotion to A-plot here, and while I thought it was a curious choice (Bajor-Dominion politics is the B-plot? are you sure you guys didn't mix those up), it absolutely pays off. Considering the context -- as the teaser shows all too well, we're in some of the most depressing times DS9's ever given us -- this is the exact blast of entertainment our cells need.

I really love a good bit of *happy* comedy like this. The ending here is like the ending to 'Body Parts' -- despite the bleakness of the times, everyone's supporting each other, and everyone manages to find their little oasis of happiness in spite of everything...

... and not a single bar of Nog's latinum is spent!

And yet my *favourite* scene in this is one very specific moment during the final monologue: Weyoun getting himself snuggled up and comfy in the regeneration pod. Ready for a good, refreshing blast of entertainment, delivered straight to the cells? You'd better believe it!

(I keep misspelling Weyoun's name, and I know EXACTLY why. I teach English to Korean kids for a living, and a student I've had twice-weekly for about two years has a name that rhymes with "Weyoun" -- though it's romanised in a completely different way. You have no idea how difficult it is to physically stop myself from typing "Weoyoon", hit backspace, and type "Weyoun" instead. If you ever see a stray "Weoyoon" in one of my comments, or perhaps "Weoyoun" or "Weyoon"... now you know the reason.)
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Fenn
Sat, Jan 18, 2020, 5:25pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Children of Time

Pretty damn incredible, not a doubt about it. It didn't have quite the lasting impact on me that I generally require for a four star rating, but I will *easily* award the three-point-five.

Who needs "happy future where everyone gets married and has babies" when you can have "happy future where everyone got married and had babies... hundreds of years ago... and if you ever want to see your home again, you have to kill them all"!

This is one of those premises where you *know*, for the sake of the series continuing to be a series, that our main characters will get out of it somehow. The eight thousand descendants here and their Standard Star Trek Charmingly Rural Life are doomed from the start (barring the one-in-a-billion duplication that Yedrin tries peddling to them). But the show is sure to make that inevitability as painful as it possibly can. There's a tension building over the course of the episode, as our crew decide one by one that they want to ensure these people even got a chance to live in the first place: I couldn't help wondering "how is this going to go wrong?" With everyone on board with the plan by the time they're on board the Defiant, we're at the most vulnerable point for tragedy: what *could* it be? Is there some Random Ensign of the Day who's decided to sabotage the plan? Is it as simple and undramatic as an unfortunate accident?

Oh no. Ohhhh no.

Oh, Oldo. (Looks like I'm not the only one to come up with that nickname.) At the beginning, he feels like our resident changeling's dream come true: after Odo's spent years dancing around not confessing his feelings, here comes the older and wiser version who cuts out all the hard work by dropping the L-bomb with zero hesitation -- and garnering a positive reception for it, too!

And then he drops a different bomb altogether.

For all the breaches of trust that have come up in Odo and Kira's relationship, EIGHT THOUSAND PEOPLE *easily* outdoes one collaborator or three falsely accused innocents. It's one shocker of a bold move to pull, especially now that the feelings are acknowledged and out in the open -- normally, the stage would be set for something to come of that, but MY GOD! Can their relationship be the same after this? Should it? It's a different Odo, for sure, but by God, this feels like something that'd overshadow their relationship for a *long* time. Kira's continued *existence* has come at the cost of thousands of lives, in active defiance of her wishes, all for the sake of Odo's love. Her face of absolute horror really says it all. Imagine the survivor's guilt...

(... I *said* this ep didn't leave much of a lasting impact on me, but typing it out and processing it, I'm beginning to think it actually did.

Moving on. Is Oldo just Auberjonois with no prosthetics at all? Usually I have trouble recognising the actors of prosthetic-heavy characters as their usual selves, but had no trouble here. To me, it looks like regular smoothface Odo with detail added -- which speaks to the quality of the prosthetic work.

I saw a quote from Auberjonois going round about how Odo's smooth face stems from not having much of a grasp on his own identity. He may well be able to "do faces", just as he can easily make other complex forms (he doesn't become an oddly smooth hawk, after all -- he just becomes a normal goddamn hawk). But *his* face? Something he'd have to invent out of nothing? It's non-distinct to start with, and then that non-distinct "placeholder face" (faceholder?) just becomes his face anyway through comfort and familiarity. In light of that, then, Oldo's non-smooth face seems odd -- naturally, it's a visual convention to make him distinct and mark the passage of time, but nothing about Oldo seems to indicate any stronger grip on his identity as an individual and/or as a humanoid. Hell, if anything he has *less* of a grip on it -- he seems very much isolated from everyone else, and IIRC doesn't even talk to anyone apart from Kira. For all we know, he could've just one day escaped from his sci-fi breadmaker* and run off into the sunset, making no contact with The Society Formerly Known As The Defiant.

* (Memory Alpha says the Odo box here is literally just a breadmaker with sci-fi bits and bobs attached. No disrespect to the props department -- I actually kind of love that.)

The Sons of Mogh are a rather touching standout. I love the fact that membership of their little group is optional and apparently freely obtained rather than limited to Worf's descendants: "some by blood, some by choice". We have part-Klingon "Sons of Mogh" and part-Klingons in the main settlement; there are full humans in both too, including the kid who's desperate to join them. Little details like this inform mental images of the history that led up to this: an elderly Worf tells old Klingon tales to his children, his grandchildren, and anyone else sufficiently intrigued to listen -- creating a new mythology and culture for generations down the line.

It's also an interesting little cultural variation within this society. It's rare that Star Trek shows differences in culture on a single-planet basis, beyond a bare minimum (and if so, it'll be the thing an entire one-off episode revolves around). Here, it's just a background fact of the society, originally stemming from a species difference and yet not limited to it. Lovely little concept.

One final topic before I get to the bullet points -- this *was* going to be a bullet point, but then I started thinking too much (waaaaaay too much). There was one interesting background detail I was looking out for all episode, as soon as it was clear these were Defiant descendants: none of the part-Trill descendants look even *slightly* Klingon, and not one of the part-Klingons has even a single spot. What's the cause of that: genetic incompatibility or romantic incompatibility? If Worf and Dax's marriage didn't last, you'd think Yedrin would've mentioned it... though maybe his nonspecific non-answer to Jadzia's question is telling:

JADZIA: Were we happy together?
YEDRIN: He's a good man, Jadzia.

(while watching, I remember thinking "hah, they couldn't *possibly* have a male host talking about loving a man, gotta give the weakest response possible"... but it could equally hint at this little mystery about the lack of Worf/Dax offspring)

And if it's a genetics thing, you've then got to have them both banging other people for the sake of the gene pool. Which... may have led to the "romantic incompatibility" explanation in itself, because we've well and truly established how Worf feels about Dax doing that, and while genetic necessity gives her a *reason* for that other than bog standard infidelity, it also seems like a prime way to bring these issues between them to a head. No terrorist organisation for Worf to join this time, though! He'll just have to start his own!

Or *maaaaybe* the lack of Trillgons (Klingill? Trigons?) was a production oversight, probably like the lack of mixed-race humans in general. But that explanation is Boring. Why go with an obvious/Doylist answer when there's a golden opportunity to overthink things for several paragraphs instead?

... and now that's out of the way...

- There's something very bittersweet about insisting on planting their crops despite this being their last day alive. Insisting on preparations for the future, even in the full knowledge that they won't have one. Worf's action of reuniting the Sons of Mogh for this final action... god, it's the cherry on the cake.
- I will forever love how *immediate* it is that Sisko goes into Dad Mode in close proximity to babies. Like the flick of a switch.
- They make a big deal out of how O'Brien ended up with someone else despite having Keiko back on DS9, but there's not a single mention of Kasidy for Ben? I guess it's a less long-term relationship, and an unmarried one at that, but still.
- Julian, ever the opportunist, immediately making plans to hook up with his alt-future Babyshir-maker.
- What an anticlimactic ending for Kira/Shakaar! Just shoved under the table and there, done. I hate to say it, but... I really don't mind. He had a strong start and then pretty much went downhill right from the moment they set him up with Kira. But WOW, even less focus on their breakup than we had with Bashir/Leeta. Stone cold.
- I love the weirdness of the "we need to give Armin Shimmerman something to do this ep" cameo. Simulated maths teacher Quark. What a concept.
- And speaking of Quark's absence, I'm now wondering what it'd be like if he *had* come along. Picture it: in the absence of latinum, the Quark dynasty has developed a flourishing economy that uses, I dunno, particularly shiny rocks as currency. Oversized ears everywhere.
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Fenn
Sat, Jan 18, 2020, 1:20pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Soldiers of the Empire

I am someone who generally likes the Klingon episodes, especially ones with Worf and Dax (it's not really the focus in this one, but it's always interesting to see how their respective backgrounds affect how they function in Klingon settings; it seems that Dax often fits in better than Worf does). I definitely felt the similarity to 'A Matter of Honor' here, of holding a borderline mutinous crew together through some incredibly tense situations. It doesn't do *too* much that's new in that respect, but it's still worthwhile to see a different sort of Klingon crew: low morale is a different problem to face. Less a "fish out of water" story, more about leadership in general.

It's interesting how General Martok fits into this. Both he and this crew have spent the recent past being beaten into submission by the Jem'Hadar, and it's made quite an impression on both. And yet it affects them in different ways. Some clearly spoiling for any kind of victory in a fight, even if it's with their crewmates. Some feeling as if they've already lost whatever battle they're going into. And Martok seems to have grown more timid. No doubt he's suffered enough punishment at the Jem'Hadar's hands for one lifetime.

Contrast Worf, who came out of the Dominion prison victorious -- not just in battle, but in spirit. He *does* repay what Martok did to him there, and while he doesn't win this victory himself, he plays the key role. His invitation to the House of Martok is a touching moment, and well-deserved.

(I will note, though -- near the end of the episode I was thinking "wait, they've only just resolved the power struggles, there's no time for the actual battle!" And then there wasn't. This story does enough on its own, and doesn't *have* to be about GLORIOUS KLINGON BATTLE -- we've had our fair share of that elsewhere -- but I still feel a little let down dammit.)
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Fenn
Sat, Jan 18, 2020, 12:55pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: The Begotten

@Omicron: *ouch.* What a nightmare that must've been.

Checking the transcript now, and yeah, the little zapper circle is nothing in comparison. To quote Mora: "Odo, six millivolts is not going to hurt it."
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Fenn
Sat, Jan 18, 2020, 4:46am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Ties of Blood and Water

(Also, Kira smashing her cup on Dukat's face? Beautiful scene. I need more of that in my life.)
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Fenn
Sat, Jan 18, 2020, 4:41am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Ties of Blood and Water

I wasn't expecting Ghemor to come back, and yet DS9 is exactly the kind of series in which he would. I'm grateful for that -- I loved the unlikely "found family" dynamic they built up over their one appearance together, and I'm glad to see it withstand Dukat's meddling here.

Weyoun is kind of fantastic, isn't he? You really get the impression that he's constantly holding himself back from fits of manic giggling.
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Fenn
Fri, Jan 17, 2020, 5:07pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: A Simple Investigation

Definitely something that feels strange to have *not* been one of the solid Odo episodes. I can't help wondering, what specifically would changeling Odo get out of sex? Emotional intimacy, closeness, being able to please a partner, taking part in what's seen by many as a pretty damn fundamental part of "The Humanoid Experience"... all pretty solid (ha ha) reasons. Would he get anything out of the act itself, though?

For what it's worth, it does seem like Odo's been hoping a little more intimacy in his life, and not just Kira. That one self-help book he was reading in 'In Purgatory's Shadow'... and not to mention his choice of reading material in 'The Ascent'. Research, huh? That's next of kin to "reading it for the articles".

I will say that this feels like it worked better than a lot of Trek's sex (that rhymes). I mean, compare this to 'Let He Who Is Whatever'... that gives you a super low bar to clear, but still. It *kiiinda* feels like the main purpose of this story (on the level of the series as a whole) was to establish that Odo Can Sex, and it's pretty clearly heading that way from "bedroom eyes" onwards. It does also give a precedent for him actually having some success in romance, which might hopefully do something to increase his confidence in general -- if he can get over the heartbreak, that is.

Arissa here has details filled in well enough that I can muster up empathy, so that's good at least, and things like her data port and her involvement with the Orion Syndicate hint at greater worldbuilding. But it's clear she's not going to persist beyond the end credits, and all through her growing closeness with Odo I was thinking "okay, betrayal's gonna happen any time soon". So yes, this is still very much The Odo Show.

In other news: we have the triumphant return of the James Bond shenanigans! I *love* how much fun Dax has with the holosuites. Sure seems to be having fun with her gossip too, huh.

Also the two Orion Syndicate guys are a fun diversion, and that hasperat they get from the Promenade looks really nice. This line of the comment brought to you by Fenn's rumbling stomach.
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Fenn
Fri, Jan 17, 2020, 2:11pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Doctor Bashir, I Presume

(One note I forgot to mention in my initial comment: it's fascinating to read Jammer's contemporary reviews, I had no idea that Dolly the sheep happened around the same time as this.)

Anyway, Peter G: thanks for the background info! Yeah, this really does seem like the wrong time to pull a "surprise" like this. Episodes like 'The Wire', 'The Quickening', 'Nor The Battle' etc have already done far more than enough to depict a natural flow of character development... and then to suddenly introduce this (AND in such close proximity to Changeling Bashir, as you say) feels inorganic as well as unnecessary. Less an arc, more a loop-the-loop.

Ouch, speaking of which. After a month of no one knowing Changeling Bashir was any different from the regular one, now his own parents can't tell an incomplete hologram from their actual son.

As for how Siddig's playing it from now on, I'll have to keep an eye on him in upcoming episodes. Delving back into the history of the show in light of this twist may not be all that useful, but no doubt this is going to inform future choices.
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Fenn
Fri, Jan 17, 2020, 1:53pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Doctor Bashir, I Presume

Not sure how to feel about the Bashir revelation. As usual, I knew vaguely what the deal was with him, but was basically trying not to think about it until I actually saw it on screen. I wonder if we'll be perceiving much of a change in the character from here on out. It's probably one of those things that'll have you rewatching old content and going "hmm, was this because of this?", but it's a bit retcon-like for my tastes. Overall, it doesn't quite feel *necessary* for Bashir, and I worry that it might cheapen some of what he's been -- but I welcome the late-game addition of this theme into the story, of parents' "best intentions" not always being the best for the child. And often being for their sake instead of the child's.

I've been talking in the comments for 'The Begotten' about Odo's forgiveness of Dr. Mora, and there's definitely more to talk about on the "forgiving your parents" theme here. I really don't feel enough is done here to merit complete forgiveness. Comparing this with the script, I'd say there's a definite difference between how it was written and the eventual performance.

Stage directions for Bashir watching his parents leave in the script:

Bashir smiles back at him and then Richard and Amsha
EXIT to the transport ship. Bashir watches them go and
then he heads off down the Corridor.

But you watch the scene as it plays out, and Bashir's only smiling for the length of time that they can see him -- the moment they're gone, he's stony-faced. I like that touch. Makes it feel less like a lifetime of resentment has been paved over in a few conversations.

I've heard that Alexander Siddig hated this development for his character and made deliberate efforts to put in as little effort into the acting as possible. He must be a *really* good actor then, because if he's doing that here, it doesn't show!
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Fenn
Fri, Jan 17, 2020, 1:38pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: By Inferno's Light

Well. When writing up my comment for the last ep, the first thing I wrote was a rant about Dukat and how he's never really been "redeemed" at all in my view. I wrote the rest, looked back at my Dukat rant that didn't fit too well into the rest of the comment, and thought "man, is this really relevant? Dukat's barely in this one. Should I even include this?"

Glad I included it now, because oh boy, that was basically the last chance I had to rant about Dukat before the guy went and proved me very, very right. I'm shocked, but I really can't say I'm surprised.

Cardassia's taken us on a rollercoaster over the course of DS9. We had hostile Cardassia always lurking uncomfortably close to Bajor, we had weak and defanged Cardassia minus the Obsidian Order, and now we've got Dukat's Cardassia that's gleefully skipping right over to the baddies' side. Yeah, how long's that gonna last until Dukat gets tired of being harangued by Vorta and co? There goes Cardassian self-determination --they're Founder lackeys now. No coming back from this, not with the Dominion as the nigh-unbeatable threat they are.

I have surprisingly little else to say, but I loved the prison scenes -- both Worf fighting damn near to the death (the Jem'Hadar are just big ol' Klingon fanboys aren't they) and Garak having panic attacks in the wall (the pressure of finishing his father's work, as if the claustrophobia wasn't enough). Made for some intense stuff. Doesn't feel as well-constructed as last ep, but I loved this anyway.

Time for the bullet points, then:

- I liked Ziyal's little interaction with Quark... who's casually planning for all eventualities. The station's owner may change, but Quark is eternal. Reminds me of the "Welcome, Klingons!" banner that got rolled out in 'Rapture'.
- I'll be very happy to see more of Martok, as a wiser type of Klingon. He's a fixture on the station now, huh? I'll take him over Eddington any day!
- I'm getting a little tired of that "Cardassians on a rooftop watching a broadcast" stock footage they keep using (this is at *least* the third time). It looked unnatural and kinda silly the first time they used it, and it looks unnatural and kinda silly now.
- "By Inferno's Light" (excellent title, I love linked two-parter titles) could very well refer to the nova of the Bajoran sun.
- I'll never get tired of Sisko effortlessly wreaking verbal destruction on Dukat. "Funny, I thought it was built by Bajoran slave labour."
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Fenn
Fri, Jan 17, 2020, 10:45am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: The Begotten

Speaking of the baby changeling's absorption back into Odo: while watching, I expected that action to come with a full "download" of the baby's small amount of life experience and memories, and for Odo to come to an understanding of his li'l goobaby through that. Maybe that did happen -- if what we saw *is* anything like a changeling link, then it most likely did. But the show's too preoccupied with Odo getting his shapeshifting back to go into any detail on that.
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Fenn
Fri, Jan 17, 2020, 10:42am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: The Begotten

There's definitely a lot to consider in a situation like this. Odo definitely acted as a tempering influence to an extent, and I don't doubt that Mora had much nastier changeling-changer machines.

From the changeling's side of things, though, I don't think anything in that early a developmental stage would be able to consider the motive behind whatever's happening to it. Only just beginning to develop reactions to stimuli -- understanding would likely be a way off still. That's all well and good for forgiveness later in life, as with Odo, but the negative impressions get formed in the first place.

I feel one limitation when talking about what's going on here is that we can't fully know what babyling thinks. The upper limit of the self-expression that ever gets developed is that one beautiful moment of shapeshifting Odo's face -- clearly there's at least enough of an affinity developed there for that. Like baby's first word being "dad"! I'm not sure how to interpret the final action of absorption back into Odo's body -- maybe involuntary, maybe intentional. Baby's first link. And last. :(
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Fenn
Fri, Jan 17, 2020, 5:51am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: The Begotten

Odo definitely cared, and clearly never stopped caring (him talking to the baby changeling as it dies is heartbreaking). It just feels somewhat off that he even allowed Mora to begin using his methods in the first place, *even* under pressure. One mention from Sisko of Starfleet Command is all it takes for him to begrudgingly let Mora have a go. It doesn't quite feel like enough to erode Odo's bitter resistance.

I *would* agree on the forgiveness, and that definitely crossed my mind after my first viewing... but I've just now seen someone talking about the ep 'The Die Is Cast', and it's reminded me of how quickly and effortlessly Odo forgave Garak for outright torturing him. There are differences, of course: Mora experimented on Odo for the formative years(?) of his life; Garak only had one short session torturing Odo. But then Mora didn't know what he was doing to Odo, whereas Garak knew *exactly* what he was doing. And there's also the fact that Odo seems to take a good while longer to forgive Mora than he ever did with Garak. Proportionate for how protracted the suffering they each caused him was.

So, in the bigger picture: I think the forgiveness could work, given the greater context of Odo's character. But I'd still agree that it clashes with the rest of the episode. I don't doubt that Odo could have forgiven Mora -- but I don't think he *should* have forgiven Mora.
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Fenn
Thu, Jan 16, 2020, 6:18pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: In Purgatory's Shadow

I looked at Memory Alpha's background info for this episode, and I was not disappointed.

" Since Bashir said he went to bed one night and woke up in prison, Ronald D. Moore commented "He musta been verrrrrry tired and fallen asleep in his uniform." (AOL chat, 1997) "
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