Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Shadowplay"

2.5 stars

Air date: 2/21/1994
Written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by Robert Sheerer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

This episode is an amiable outing character-wise, but rather pedestrian and all too disconnected. Odo and Dax beam down to a planet only to find a small community of humanoids who are disappearing one by one. Surprisingly early in the story, it's revealed that the entire community—people and all—is an elaborate holographic simulation, and that people are vanishing because of the projector's malfunctions.

The premise makes for an obvious definition-of-life analysis (since these holograms are all sentient)—which, fortunately isn't stressed in the slightest. Instead, the writers choose to develop a surprisingly affecting friendship between Odo and the young girl, Taya (Noley Thornton). Watching the softer side of Odo emerge is pleasant, and a final scene where Odo morphs himself into a top is, well, quite cute.

The plot, however, is more or less perfunctory. Will Odo and Dax repair the projector and save the village? Are there stars in the sky? Also present is a somewhat unfinished B-story involving a romance between Kira and Bareil. And then there's the C-story involving Jake coming to terms with telling his father that he doesn't want to join Starfleet like the old man. These character moments are pretty much all effective. But there's probably one storyline too many, and the episode is so unfocused—endlessly switching back and forth between the three stories—that it gets hard to become particularly engrossed in any of them. "Shadowplay" is light and slight.

Previous episode: Paradise
Next episode: Playing God

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37 comments on this review

The Dream
Tue, Feb 26, 2013, 11:13am (UTC -5)
No Comments? I will add the first one. I have seen this show many times due to my large number of 8 hour VHS tapes that I would play while I slept recovering from the night shift.

Anyway, great analysis. An obvious goof pointed out elsewhere on the web is the fact that Colyus says that he scanned for transporter activity and then was surprised that Odo used the transporter.

The also was another episode to drop hints about the Dominion. I thought they did a great job of gradually bringing this menace to the fore. It was nice to see Jake follow a different path, but I guess that this did not warrant its own episode or further exploration, but nicely handled by Sisko.
kavatar
Wed, Apr 24, 2013, 9:13am (UTC -5)
I agree with the above and the rating.

In retrospect this episode is quite disappointing. I mean it's fine and all but there was a lot of missed potential. Jake/Sisko, Odo/Changelings/Dominion and to a lesser extent Kira/Bareil were all major plot arcs which have a lot of ground work here. Unfortunately, it's all sort of flung together without making much impact.
Kotas
Tue, Oct 22, 2013, 4:45pm (UTC -5)

Not a compelling episode. Odo and Dax don't have much chemistry.

4/10
Corey
Thu, Feb 27, 2014, 7:25pm (UTC -5)
The FX shot that opens Shadowplay is the FX shot that opens Paradise in reverse. They just flipped the shot to save money.
Moonie
Mon, Apr 7, 2014, 10:13am (UTC -5)
Hmmm I would give this at least 3 stars. I always like episodes that deal with "what is the nature of life?" questions.

Also, it was an Odo-centric episode!! He's by far my favorite charctr, maybe in all of Star Trek.

I don't understand why this gets a worse rating than the terrible "Paradise".
Yanks
Wed, Jul 2, 2014, 7:59am (UTC -5)
I'm always a sucker for this episode. I guess I'm a pushover for cute little girls.

The "B&C" stories were OK. Of course someone has to mind the shop while Odo is gone, and of course Quark has to see if he can take advantage. So we get to see the kindling Kira/Bareil relationship. We also start to learn that Jake probably wont fall in his father footsteps and join Star Fleet.

A note about the holographic community. I believe this is the only instance in trek where "omicron particles" are used to generate the holograms. Not sure if I agree with this technobabble creation and don't really see the need to recreate the principles of holographic projection. It had no bearing on the story.

I loved how Odo and Dax met the town’s “protector” Colyus.
“ODO: Are we being accused of some kind of crime?
COLYUS: Have you committed one?”
Then of course Odo beams out, Dax says he’ll be right back etc. 

This set the appropriate tone for the story I thought.

But the whole episode for me revolves around this little girl Taya played very nicely by Nola Thornton and her developing relationship with Odo.

We see a side of Odo we haven't seen yet which was enjoyable and the dialog between these two is written and delivered incredibly well.

I don't mind that "rights" weren't dragged into this episode. It really had nothing to do with it anyways. The important part is haw Odo and Dax convince Rurigan that his feelings are real for these folks and their feeling count too. I thought it was very interesting creatively brilliant that the programming for these holograms was written in such a manner that they could have children if they chose to. Couple things caught my attention here. Holograms having children is one thing, but only if they chose to, not programed to, was very telling of the programmer intent from the start. He wasn't just creating window-dressing to make him feel better, he was creating a family(s). All this contributed to the episode and the premise of what he was trying to replace after the Dominion conquered his world. I also liked that Rurigan didn’t run the town, from what we saw the protector did.

Also, Odo's turning into a top at the end for Taya wasn't "cute", it was touching.

Very well done.

3.5 of 4 stars for me.
Jack
Thu, Aug 28, 2014, 1:53pm (UTC -5)
So this holographic system simulates illness (assuming they have any), pregnancy and childbirth, including presumably all the er, messiness, that goes with it...very thorough.

Dusty
Thu, Nov 6, 2014, 8:50am (UTC -5)
One of the best episodes of DS9 I've seen so far, and--at least here--shockingly underrated. Almost everything in it works. Odo and Dax are an interesting combination that I quite enjoyed. I love the design of the village, right down to the holo-villagers' clothes. Unlike some settlements in the series, it looks like a place where I would actually like to live.

And more importantly, THREE plot arcs are advanced, all of which will have repercussions in some way later on. "Light and slight," my foot. We have Odo's friendship with the girl, which touched me and is easily one of the best performances by a child actress in Trek. We have Jake changing his mind about going into Starfleet. And finally we have Kira and Bareil falling for each other.

Disjointed? Maybe, but well done on all counts (and I don't even like Bareil). Not every episode has to be dark and complicated. I agree with Yanks: 3 and a half stars for this one.
Dimpy
Mon, Feb 2, 2015, 3:55am (UTC -5)
I thought this ep was cute:

She goes from having an imaginary friend, to being an imaginary friend.

Typecast ???
MsV
Mon, Apr 27, 2015, 10:01pm (UTC -5)
Now that Im back on track with my viewing from the beginnning to the end. Shows like this one are very cute, just like the previous posts suggest. I loved Odo in this one; I never knew he had such sensitivity for others. He always seemed to be so hard-nosed. The type of security officer that is always suspect of everyone. Almost expecting the worst like in "Dax".

I like this version of Jadzia much better than the pretty science officer that does nothing for the part. She is brilliant and her portrayal of Dax gets better as the series goes on.

Good Story!!
SamSimon
Sun, May 10, 2015, 12:51pm (UTC -5)
Agree 100% with your analysis, Jammer. I enjoy this episode, although I clearly see its flaws and its "mildness" (not to be read negatively: it's simply a very light episode).
Quarky
Wed, Jun 10, 2015, 9:35pm (UTC -5)
I want to talk about holograms in Star Trek and if some of them are alive. Most of the time holograms in Star Trek are explained to be just that with no life at all. Yet in season 2 of Next Gen it is explained that professor moriarty does reach a level of life and self awareness. I was surprised in this episode how quick Dax who is supposedly a science officer and Odo come to the conclusion that this village is full of holographic people who are alive and worth saving. I haven't seen much Voyager so I'm not sure if the holographic doctor is ever described as becoming a real person. One thing that makes me think that "some" holograms do become alive is the silly DS9 episode The Emperors Cloak where Vic is found to be alive in an alternate universe. It makes me think that even though not all holographic characters reach the point of life some do. I could see that maybe in one of the many parallel universes there would be a Sisko hologram that is alive. It's all a silly conversation but I feel that with the Vic, Moriarty and these people in this village the writers are saying that some holograms are alive.
Dimpy
Fri, Jun 19, 2015, 9:43am (UTC -5)
According to Captain Picard, in order to be alive “brain wise” you have to have these elements to be considered a life-form: Intelligence, Self Aware and Consciousness:


Therefore as applied to holograms:

Arguments for being alive as a hologram.

Intelligence

- How much computer memory is devoted to storing memories and raw data.

Self Awareness

has to be aware they are a hologram.
has to be aware they were created as a hologram.
programmed with personal memories.
self determination, allowed to make choices from complex situations, not just simply programming.

Consciousness

Awareness of inner self ( which nobody seems to define this precisely )
Dreams, Ambitions, Emotions, Goals
( not simply survival )



HOWEVER:

Arguments against being alive as a hologram.

Intelligence

versus a delete button for data and memory.

Self Awareness

its easy to manipulate their programming.

easy to install fake memories, or manipulate an entire day.

most holograms are choosing from a holograph reality, therefore cannot interact with the wider universe.

Consciousness

Is dreams, goals, emotions, friendships just a simulation or real.

This part is extremely difficult to understand and too long a conversation.



Final Verdict:

The more complex the program, the more “alive” the hologram.

or

If you, as a person, feel something like love or friendship, then the hologram is alive because of your feeling toward it.

“Are you the dreamer or a part of someone’s dream.”
Dimpy
Fri, Jun 19, 2015, 9:47am (UTC -5)
Forgot to add:

A stuffed toy is NOT REAL, and NOT ALIVE, however to a child ( and some adults ), if you have love towards a stuffed toy, it is real and alive, because your feelings make-it-so.

Android, Borg, Hologram, Q and sex-bot (wink) = ALIVE
People on internet / stuffed animals = also ALIVE ??? I don't know.
methane
Fri, Jul 10, 2015, 12:01pm (UTC -5)
I agree they never really proved the holograms are alive, but I don't think it mattered greatly. If they aren't alive and Dax restarts the machine, no harm done. If they are alive and Dax restarts the machine, they've saved everyone's lives. So there's no reason not to do it.

This is an episode that plays much better on DVD or Netflix than it did on commercial TV. All those breaks on commercial TV have sort of false cliffhangers, where it seems like the story is overplaying the concern you should have for the characters. Watching it with no commercial breaks, however, it plays like a light, pleasant story. There's no real tension through the story, but it keeps you entertained for the full 45 minutes.
William B
Thu, Aug 6, 2015, 7:46pm (UTC -5)
The village Odo and Dax investigate is the titular "shadowplay," using light to create a holographic village (in which all residents, weirdly, place the emphasis on the "ho") which, despite having the form of life, lacks the substance -- which to me describes the episode itself. You know an episode wants for material when it has *three* plotlines and still feels padded: there's not one but two scenes of Dax and Odo convincing the dim-witted lawman of something by making something disappear and reappear, for instance, there's a scene of Kira telling Bashir to spy on Quark which is a narrative dead end, and one of the Kira/Bareil scenes has the oddest bit of stuttering/mumbling I can ever recall seeing in Trek. The episode is not bad, but it still feels empty in spite of being packed with material. Taking the plotlines in turn from least to most screentime:

JAKE: I feel like the episode struggles to find even four scenes' worth of material built around Ben wanting Jake to go into Starfleet and Jake not having any interest. I also think that it's funny that the episode, in trying to depict why Jake is not cut out for Engineering, seems to be straining his brain to understand the notion of chips being colour-coded. But ultimately it's inoffensive; I like that Sisko has really just built up a vision of Jake going to Starfleet and Jake has never disabused him of it, so that it only takes a slightly awkward but ultimately pretty painless conversation to set things right between them. Fine.

KIRA: It may be the village Odo and Dax stumble upon that is "not real," but Bareil, as played by Anglim, seems to be the incompletely-rendered projection. Listen to the way he stutters and stumbles and looks confused when he and Kira talk about their refugee camps. I think I have some idea what the episode is going for -- either "generally loquacious man is tongue-tied around woman he is interested in," or maybe "man stumbles once he's gotten onto serious topic" -- but neither of them remotely fit the empty way the syllables come out, which at best reads as an actor forgetting his lines and the editor keeping it because the episode is pressed for time. In general, Anglim seems to play Bareil as so low-key that I don't quite know how Kira can be sure he's not dead.

So, you know, I get abstractly that Kira and Bareil spent time together on Bajor and that they can get into intellectual/religious discussions and have other interests in common. But I just can't see the chemistry between the performers, and combined with the idea that the reason they got close in "The Circle" in the first place is because the writers, I mean, the orbs sent both of them visions of the other. That Bareil is supposed to be so obviously attractive that not only are *we* expected to buy Kira/Bareil, but that it even turns out that Quark was counting on Kira being so smitten that bringing Bareil on the station would give Quark carte blanche to pull whatever crazy schemes he wanted, including schemes Kira was already aware of!

Anyway, I don't think that this relationship need be too big a deal and so I don't require the establishment of it to delve into Kira's soul. But I do feel a bit like I wish I had a better sense of what Kira's being with Bareil means about her. Maybe it's my fault for not simply seeing it. In "The Circle," Bareil's peacenik tendencies seemed to imply that association with him was going to help Kira continue moving toward peace (both inner and outer), and I see no reason that this is no longer true, but I don't actually see much evidence of that philosophical/emotional component to their relationship here, except maybe in the scene where they argue about his interpretation of scripture and can, if we wish to, fill in the blanks that he was advocating hugging trees as the solution to life's ills.

The Quark aspect of the plotline gets reused in "The Sound of Her Voice," but I think it works better there. Overall, the weakest of the three, one which I feel mostly fails in its only real job of making Kira/Bareil seem like a convincing and appealing couple.

ODO: This is the main story. If the episode has a central theme running through all stories, I think it would have something to do with the ways in which, as Odo says in the teaser about romance, love can be a distraction from what is important; Jake nearly has to keep going toward a career he doesn't want to avoid disappointing his dad, and Kira/Bareil nearly lets Quark get away with his heist. In the A-plot, the emotional pain that Rurigan feels about his artificial family is a particularly acute example of pain that doesn't *have* to happen: all he has to do is acknowledge that his fake-family wasn't real, and, well, he probably will still hurt, but he doesn't need to continue with whatever ups and downs the emotional attachments he has to them will bring. So for Odo to make the case that Rurigan's love for them *makes* the village real is a radical departure from the Odo in the teaser who believes that romance is only a distraction (though I think Odo is not quite able to make the connection between love in general and romantic love).

The emotional arc for Odo centres on his relationship with Taya, and the way her acceptance of him gradually thaws out his chilly demeanor. One thing I like, here, is that Odo (rather like Data) is given a chance to experience the childhood acceptance, friendship and love that he never had, which makes sense as part of Odo building up to being able to have real, open, adult relationships. Thinking about the key Odo episodes this season, "Necessary Evil" ends with Odo recognizing that he no longer wants to believe that justice is truly blind, or to prioritize abstract justice and work over all personal relationships -- which then opens him up, on some level, to being able to finally experience the love of a parent ("The Alternate") and here the childlike initial sense of friendship. And these follow fairly naturally from "Vortex" and "The Forsaken" which help Odo to recognize his genuine longing for family and help us understand what emotional traumas made Odo harden so fully. Odo's continued rants about how romantic love is stupid now are more recognizably the views of someone who is somewhere *below* a healthy human(oid) ten-year-old in terms of his ability to feel connected to others.

So in a big way, Taya's openhearted love for Odo, without fear and without exploitation (and without the complications of a work relationship), makes Odo realize that he doesn't have to be scary or an outsider; Taya's love makes him feel real -- which is probably why he ends up arguing that Rurigan's love can make the villagers real. Odo's turning into a top for Taya is definitely cute, and shows a willingness to do "tricks" for someone as a friend rather than as a circus freak -- and they also demonstrate Odo shapeshifting for his own fun, being willing to transform himself rather than remain rigid.

So the emotional stuff with Odo works for me. I am less pleased with the way the episode skirts whether the village is real or not, but I also get how this debate has been done quite a bit, and I guess it's not really necessary to go through it again. AND YET, if the episode doesn't want to examine the implications of a village of holograms, why have it be about a village of holograms? I guess episode is all about Odo opening his heart to the point where he believes in fairies -- I mean, uh, believes that loving someone can make them real, and that is the whole of it. Even then, the episode runs into unintentional comedy when we get the village's reactions -- when Dax says that if they can't repair the hologenerator, the village will disappear forever and they will completely cease to exist, there are some polite murmurs of "Oh no!" in the background, and the villagers naturally go from "I don't believe we are holograms!" to "okay, better stop existing, fingers crossed!" in a few lines, without anyone actually getting all that concerned. I don't demand histrionics, but no crowd of people would act like this.

So: the Odo stuff is nice but thin, with lots of unintentional (?) hilarity and padding. The Jake thing is okay. The Kira/Bareil material comes off badly. So -- I will go with a high 2 stars.
William B
Sat, Aug 8, 2015, 8:55pm (UTC -5)
I feel like I'm being a little too harsh on this season. I think this episode probably deserves 2.5 stars -- it mostly works, just in a padded and low-key way, and even Kira's reactions to Bareil are fine (if not Bareil himself).
Diamond Dave
Sat, Nov 14, 2015, 7:26am (UTC -5)
An interesting example of how DS9 is developing along its own path while keeping a foot in TNG. For me the A-story could easily have been a TNG episode. The Odo/Dax team up lends it a new chemistry and it's well handled indeed, as a credible child actor gives a realistic counterpoint for Odo to play off. I'm less convinced by Odo's arguments at the conclusion, but there you go.

The rest of the episode is more like the DS9 soap opera - previously established plot-lines about Jake and Kira/Bareil to fill the gaps. And noticeably again the Dominion is just touched upon but not expanded. It's this ongoing element which is becoming more definitively DS9. Good episode. 3 stars.
JC
Thu, Feb 11, 2016, 10:59am (UTC -5)
As far as holograms go my big issue with episodes like this, the Moriarty episode in TNG, the doctor in Voyager, etc. is that computers seem to have no issue whatsoever realistically simulating reasonable, dynamic emotions, even dozens of simulated people at once, yet somehow it was extremely difficult for Soong to give his androids reasonable emotional programming.

I can never reconcile Data's entire core character issues with the fact that computers seem to have no issue generating emotional simulations. It seems like Soong, given his skills, would have at least considered using portions of a well-established, effective holographic simulation program as the basis for his creation's emotional capacity and interactivity programming.
Robert
Thu, Feb 11, 2016, 11:05am (UTC -5)
@JC - Soong could have given Data emotions. He gave Lore emotions. The problem was that he couldn't give a fully sentient being perfect human emotions and he thought part of the reason Lore turned out bad was because the emotions weren't "right". In this episode Odo and company certainly believe that these holograms "feel"... but are they sentient?

My pets aren't sentient, but they have emotions. I think that Soong was more worried about the problems that came from giving sentient androids imperfect emotions than he was unable to give them any emotions.
Luke
Sat, Feb 27, 2016, 4:04pm (UTC -5)
"'Shadowplay' is light and slight." I would say that that is the best way to describe it, but, in fact, it's probably the only way to describe it. All three plot-lines don't really do that much or go anywhere.

The Jake plot-line is enjoyable enough, if only to show what a nice guy Sisko is for not being upset that Jake doesn't want to follow in his footsteps. It's highlight, however, is that it effectively means that Jake is the anti-Wesley (THANK GOD!). The Kira/Bareil one is much less effective because, as William B said, Bareil is just so damn bland. I don't know why Philip Anglim plays him so sedated. I've seen him do much better work elsewhere, so I'm always confused by his portrayal of Bareil. Aside from letting the audience know that these two have the hots for each other (something we already knew), what was added here? Nothing that I can see. There's a part for Quark in it which only serves to make Kira look overly controlling and temperamental, so nothing of note added there either.

The Odo/Dax plot is easily the best of the three. But even it doesn't really achieve lift-off. Odo's interactions with Taya are the best parts of the episode (because it further humanizes Odo and because, just like in TNG: "Imaginary Friend", Noley Thornton is just too damn adorable not to love). Poor Noley, she was in two Trek episodes and they were both run-of-the-mill average. :-( The discussion of whether or not the holograms were "real" was also nicely handled. Handled so well in fact that I'm sure we'll never have to hear about holographic rights or questions about their sapience ever again in Trek. Right? Right? :-P And we get our third and final name-drop for the Dominion, which aside from letting us know that they're not nice people doesn't really tell us much about them.

Meh. It could have been worse, but "Shadowplay" probably would only have benefited from cutting one of the sub-plots (preferably the Kira/Bareil one) and focusing on the other two.

HOLODECK TOYS - 3 (+1)

5/10
icarus32soar
Wed, Mar 16, 2016, 11:05am (UTC -5)
Deplorable dysfunctional dim-witted waste of time. If this was a VOY ep Jammer would have given it barely half a star. I don't care about stars. The little girl is brilliant and wasted in an ep with not a single convincing or dramatically satisfying premise.
At least I got to see Bareil, subtly underplayed by Anglim. He could teach Brooks a thing or two about how to stop chewing the scenery. I will never forgive the morons who killed off Bareil.
His character had such potential. Lazy scripting and direction. I hate it when TV series cop out on the hard stuff. Money or creativity issues? Sort it out.
I've had a running debate with one of my daughters about this ep. She adores DSN and kinda likes this ep. We rewatched it last night and as I started pointing out the silly premises her enthusiasm seemed to wane. I hate myself now.
But a dodgy piece of TV is a dodgy piece of TV. Just cos it's DS9 is not enough to earn my respect.
Staring eg: their tricorders could not pick up the holograms? They had to physically go to the edge of the projection field, and the girl had to stick her arm out? And when the arm half vanished and reappeared she did not freak out? Gimme a break!
Joey Lock
Mon, Jun 13, 2016, 11:09pm (UTC -5)
I love this episode, I don't analyse script or storyline to much because this episode as Ira Behr said is meant to be a "sweet episode" something a bit nice to make a change. This episode and The Ascent in Season 5 are great Odo adventure episodes, they're ones I can watch over and over and enjoy everytime.

So many people seem to have exceptionally high bars as to what they consider worthy as an episode, I'm surprised they'd enjoy anything in their lives if their expectations are that high.
Andrew Taylor-Cairns
Thu, Jul 7, 2016, 5:42am (UTC -5)
After the drivel that was Paradise, this light, amiable piece actually felt quite welcome. I think the only effective part of the story was Odo's with the little girl, which was a joy to watch.

I can't actually rank this more as average, but as fluff goes, it's good fluff.
Chris
Thu, Aug 18, 2016, 9:31am (UTC -5)

For some reason, I always remembered this as a Voyager episode, until I saw it recently on Netflix. In my memory, it somehow featured the doctor and the old guy was the last survivor of a Borg attack. I wonder if it would have been better or worse if it had been Voyager.
Robert
Thu, Aug 18, 2016, 10:13am (UTC -5)
@Chris - You messed up, because this was a DS9 episode AND an ENT episode. VOY was like the only series that didn't do it. And Odo was in both of them.
Welchie!!!!!
Sun, Feb 26, 2017, 1:39am (UTC -5)
I like this episode, because I love the character despite the thin plot. The A story premise initially had me worried that the episode would just turn out to be a meh episode, but once again the ensemble cast save us fans from a potentially disappointing show. If this was a TNG episode Kira would of done nothing with her attraction to Bareil and Jake would have acted with the same ability as Will Weaton, and the aliens of the week would have failed to make a blip on my radar. But this DS9 where terrible scripts have to fight tooth and nail, to the last cliche in order to sink an episode.
Lt. Yarko
Thu, Mar 9, 2017, 6:50am (UTC -5)
Another episode that belongs in TNG, or, really, TOS. It's weird that so many DS9 episodes have the head dudes who are supposed to be managing a space station running around doing stuff that clearly should be being done by lower level flunkies or even starships.

Would have been nice of the dude to tell Odo and Dax not to waste their time with a mystery investigation as they started one. Would have saved them some time. And why didn't he fix the thing himself? He built it. He just let people disappear and waited for someone else to come fix it? Then he doesn't want to fix it and bring it back up? This guy was really weirdly written. Early DS9 definitely suffers from really questionable writing.
Lt. Yarko
Thu, Mar 9, 2017, 6:59am (UTC -5)
Also, it was weird when the mother was excited to see her the little girl. Wouldn't the mother just be sort of confused? "Wait. I was just in my craft room. What just happened?" And all the people seemed to immediately know that the fix was a success and that they were brought back online successfully. Wouldn't they have to be told that the thing was fixed? It's as if the holograms go into some kind of hologram waiting room when they are shut off, just sitting around waiting to be brought back online. "Hey! We're back!" Weird writing.
Peter Swinkels
Mon, Apr 17, 2017, 2:53pm (UTC -5)
Let me see... What I liked about this episode:
1. Odo's friendship with the girl was nice given Odo's normal character.
2. While a very minor part, I really liked how Jake's father respected his son's decision not to join Star Fleet.
3. While I have no idea how advanced that man's (forgot his name) species is, that holo-projector appeared to be more advanced than a Star Fleet holodeck (although Voyager later appeared to contradict that). Hard to believe he could have built and programmed it all by himself. He could rival lt. Barclay if he joined Star Fleet. (!) Any way, it was a decent episode.
Rahul
Thu, May 4, 2017, 5:21pm (UTC -5)
I think the negatives easily outweigh the positives in this episode. Overall, it is disjointed with 3 unrelated plots all of which are ho-hum. The acting for Bareil was terrible but the little girl was nice to see and her interaction with Odo is the high point of this episode. But there really isn't much to this episode - just a lot of fluff. Yes, it's setting things up for future episodes (character development/relationships) but such "transition" episodes on their own are weak.

Questions about the holographic village/villagers - why did they not mention items disappearing? They just mentioned people disappearing (which is obviously more important). And why didn't the 1 guy who wasn't a hologram just fix the generator? After all he programmed the whole damn thing so well.

Good to see a more human side to Odo - one of my favorite characters on DS9. Jake not wanting to go to StarFleet and his father simply accepting it and providing the standard advice was quite predictable.

Kira suspicion of Quark - just more of the usual - padding to fill time.

There's just not enough in this episode to warrant a high rating. For some, it can be a relaxing, pleasant hour of Trek and those kind of episodes will be there. The writers probably fully understand that all episodes can't be like "Duet" or "Necessary Evil" and that's fine. These fluffy episodes that are very predictable just don't do it for me. But yes, they do have a purpose in the larger scheme of things. For me, "Shadowplay" gets 1.5/4 stars - not an awful way to spend an hour but won't deliberately watch it again.
grumpy_otter
Thu, Aug 10, 2017, 9:38am (UTC -5)
I have to completely disagree with Jammer -- this is the episode that has done it for me! I've been working my way through DS9 and haven't really been able to connect with it because I have to love the characters to enjoy a show. I can enjoy even lame episodes of TNG and VOY simple because I love most of those characters so much. I don't care how brilliantly plotted or wonderfully sci-fi and speculative an episode is--if I don't like the characters I don't care.

But now I'm in love! I thought Dax and Odo had great chemistry--it was funny of her to try and tell Odo about his Bolian crush (I googled her name and it didn't come up, so I assume we don't see that develop, but it was a nice little piece of character-building)

I thought every main character's development was wonderful in this--we see Kira having a bit of romance, Jake exploring who he is, Miles being kind, Dax being helpful, Quark being Quark (OMG I HATE THE FERENGI) and Odo being sensitive and sweet. And twirly. I feel connected to the characters now as I never did before. This is good--now I WANT to watch the rest.

I teared up when we learned that this was a holographic village. Kenneth Tobey played Rurigan beautifully and I felt his pain. But he did it without ever chewing the scenery--a subtle, masterful performance. I often bemoan how every alien we encounter has some evil undertone and wouldn't it be nice to meet some that were just nice people? Well here they are. I loved it.

Biological people are just a set of biological systems working together to create bodies and personalities; holographic people are just mechanical systems working together to create bodies and personalities. Holograms are people, full stop. Some are smarter than others, some have more complex emotions, and some can reproduce. Just like organic people. I do NOT understand anyone who claims they aren't real.

By the way, Rurigan must be the greatest holographic engineer ever, right?

As others have pointed out, Odo's friendship with Taya was the best part of this--she certainly is a talented little actress, and I loved that we see this side of Odo. Turning into a top was adorable and touching.

This one is a solid 4 for me.

@Dimpy

"She goes from having an imaginary friend, to being an imaginary friend."

lol-I had to go look her up right away when I saw her because I knew I recognized her!

@Lt. Yarko

"Would have been nice of the dude to tell Odo and Dax not to waste their time with a mystery investigation as they started one. Would have saved them some time."

I think they had to have him not say anything for the story to progress, but I actually liked the way this worked. I could tell he was hiding something, and figured it was some evil plot (as usual). Was SO glad it turned out to be nothing sinister.


"And why didn't he fix the thing himself? He built it. He just let people disappear and waited for someone else to come fix it? Then he doesn't want to fix it and bring it back up? This guy was really weirdly written."

I didn't think so--I thought he was perfectly created. In the short time we got to see him, I feel like I know him. I assumed his holo-engineering skills were faltering because he was frail because he was dying.
Startrekwatcher
Wed, Sep 6, 2017, 2:57pm (UTC -5)
2.5 stars. By far the most interesting plot featured was the holo-village. Lots of interesting characters, some decent suspense and yet another Dominion mention. I also really enjoyed Odo and the little girl's friendship

The second plot with Kira and Bareilly was okay but mostly pointless filler that DS9 was frequently prone to

The Jake story again okay but holds no real replay value. It just seemed to show that not every human wants to be in Starfleet
Jasper
Wed, Sep 27, 2017, 2:55pm (UTC -5)
Fine episode, much better than Paradise. 2,5 stars seems right. But two episodes in a row with isolated colonies lead by someone who is misleading all other people? That's a bit much. Next up: Kira and Bashir go out to find an isolated colony of humans lead by an android to study human behavior?
Elliott
Mon, Jul 16, 2018, 1:49am (UTC -5)
Teaser : **, 5%

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

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

Act 1 : **, 17%

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act 2 : **, 17%

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

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

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

Act 3 : **, 17%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act 4 : *.5, 17%

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

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

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

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

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

Act 5 : *, 17%

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

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

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

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

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

Episode as Functionary : *.5, 10%

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

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

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

Final Score : *.5
William B
Mon, Jul 16, 2018, 6:25pm (UTC -5)
@Elliott, I'm really looking forward to read you on Playing God.

I think you were being sarcastic about the spinning top, but still, it is pretty neat, a toy which teaches about conservation of angular momentum and its relationship to rotational symmetry. It's a hop, skip and a jump away to Noether's theorem.

Literal lol at the "awww" of one of the villagers when they're told they'll cease to exist.
Yanks
Mon, Jul 16, 2018, 7:27pm (UTC -5)
Elliot,

Sometimes I think you just completely miss what an episode is about.

Everything doesn't need to be 'Visitor' or ITPM.

1.5 stars? .... Come on man... I'm hoping there's a heart in there somewhere.

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