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heffalump
Thu, Mar 3, 2016, 6:25am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Things Past

For me the "technobabble" explanation was one of the best things about this episode. Not because of its feasibility; I agree it was a stretch. But because it encourages a whole different kind of thinking than the usual wishy washy explanation of it "just" being the prophets or some other greater magical force, that we merely accept but never truly question as a storytelling advice.

No, instead what we got was an insight, being as we are "solids", into what being inside the Great Link — at least from a mental perspective — might actually be like. A completely fluid reality where nothing is quite as it seems, nobody is quite who they appear to be, where everyone, not only Odo, is a shapeshifter, in both time and space. And now we, the audience, are privy to some small part of that; if this is just what Odo's own mind could conjure, what about the *entire* Great Link on the Founders' homeworld?

I think this fact gets glossed over a little too quickly by the events of the episode but for me it's what truly sent shivers down my spine and sent my head spiralling about the possibilities of the experience of the Trek universe from a truly alien perspective, and not one that needlessly anthropomorphises or humanises the plight of every alien race. Yes, Odo's crime is "human", but the way his own mind tries to reconcile this is far from it.

And had the cause been the prophets instead, maybe their reality could be like this too, but they have seldom been portrayed by the writers in such an enigmatic or conflicted fashion before, and nor does their reality directly relate to any of the characters from the show, and that's why I think the Link explanation (and how it emanates from Odo himself) carries that much more weight. Odo's biggest failing is a character is how much he is locked inside his solid body by the confines of budget and storytelling constraints, but here we have a glimpse of something far greater.

One of my biggest complaints about DS9 is their tendency to "tell", not "show"; too much turmoil locked away in pained expressions as a troubled character relates their backstory to us. Too much unseen exposition about how the Cardassian occupation was this, that or the other. Perhaps I'm too simple-minded to really transport myself to those places, but here the episode showed not only the "reality" of those things, but also the reality of could be like to be a shapeshifter in a world of solids. It's only a shame that this theme isn't touched upon more often, but perhaps the writers hit upon something so profound that no mere 45 minute TV episode could have done the concept any greater justice.

Thus, it's 4 stars from me and perhaps one of the all-time greatest Trek episodes.
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heffalump
Thu, Oct 29, 2015, 5:25pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S1: Duet

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I think this episode is slightly overrated.

There was something slightly off about Yulin's delivery that made it harder for me to empathise with the "real" Marritza. Why did he over-dramatise his portrayal of Darhe'el in a way that clearly encouraged Odo and the others to suspect something was awry?

For a man as "meticulous" and possessing "exactitude" as Marritza is implied to have been, it seems that he didn't really think through his deception quite as well as he could have. Why would he think he could so easily assume Darhe'el's identity? News of the demise of an infamous decorated Gul would surely not have gone unheard of. He could have had years to plan his martyrdom down to the last detail, but it's all uncovered within the span of his short stay in a holding cell.

It seemed like he was creating one too many discrepancies in his story that the writers used as a means of leading the audience along to unravel the mystery of his true identity, except by the end of the episode, it almost seemed predictable. And why would a filing clerk have such a talent for theatrics? True to the title of the episode, this did indeed seem to be orchestrated as a "Duet" between Kira and Marritza that at times came across as unduly magnified and caricatured given the weight of its themes.

I appreciate the condensed format of the show means that often scenes have to be distilled, but Yulin's lightning transition from posturing, arrogant Darhe'el back to cowering, traumatised Marritza felt a little forced to me.

As NIssa points out, he also surely would have realised his ploy would ultimately fail, and I agree with Quarky that the writers of future episodes undermine this one by having Kira forget the lessons she has learned. A lot of the power of this show is eroded when it seems like what should have been a deeply poignant encounter has been erased from the memories of the characters.

I think TNG's The Drumhead set a more believable tone as an episode that forced characters to re-examine their preconceptions, albeit also suffering from TNG's flaw of hardly ever addressing its past at all, and with a similar "breakdown" at the end.

Duet is a thoughtful episode with great potential that sets a standard for future episodes exploring these themes, but to me it's not a perfect one. However, given the 45 minute run time of the show, it probably did the best it could.

3.5/4
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heffalump
Mon, Aug 17, 2015, 2:04am (UTC -5)
Re: Trek's Musical Problems

Ironically enough, I actually think TNG season 1 had some of the best music across all of Trek. As a fan of electronic music, I felt that some of the synthesizer-based scores, while at times sounding a little dated, still contributed other-worldly and futuristic atmospheres. One particular stand-out for me was Ron Jones' score for "Where No One Has Gone Before":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNrBXIYT6GY

It's sad that the overall poor quality of the earlier episodes can sometimes cause their intriguing and compelling music to be overlooked. The same goes for the early sound design work on Trek which I think far too often gets ignored; you only have to look at some of the behind the scenes footage and out-takes without the sound effects added to see *just* how much they add to the overall believability and feel of the show.

As for Trek music after Jones' departure...

Jay Chattaway's work is perhaps my biggest bugbear; I think his shows suffer the most from those thoroughly bland and repetitive horn sections (used over and over again), frequently heard during action sequences that could have been elevated to far greater heights with more tense, less meandering music, but as Jammer suggests, perhaps it Berman who is to blame.

Dennis McCarthy's scores, while perhaps not always as notable as Ron Jones', are still worthy of merit (given the limitations imposed on him), and in certain episodes he manages to include a theme or motif that still sends shivers down my spine (Picard bedding down with Beverly for the night in "Attached" took that scene to another level for me, for example). David Bell is also worth another mention for some sterling, albeit all too brief cues (most memorably Neelix's departure at the end of "Homestead").

So while later series never exhibited the originality or inspiration offered by Jones et al in the first few seasons of TNG, there were still moments that stick out in my mind, and I will simply never understand why the producers (and/or Berman in particular) chose to lessen the impact of their shows by insisting on bland music; maybe they thought it would compete with the storylines for the viewers' attention? But when composers are at their best, they only heighten the enjoyment, excitement and suspense, bolstering the emotional impact of key scenes, and lifting others from otherwise lacklustre fare.
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