Nutshell: The lesson: Beware abysmal dual-plotted stories with no discernible direction. The verdict: The worst episode of the season.
After a very long streak of solid episodes ranging from "excellent" on the high end to "okay" on the low end, DS9's creative team takes its first major stumble of the season with "The Muse."
And when I say major stumble, I mean major stumble—something along the lines of, say, tripping and falling out an airlock.
"The Muse" is easily the worst thing DS9 has done all year, and it easily falls into DS9's all-time bottom five list. It's a rambling, pointless mess of an episode—a complete waste of time. It's one of those shows where you wait all hour for something to happen, and as it appears nothing is going to happen, you hope that you are wrong—thinking that maybe something interesting is just around the corner—but then you realize the show is not going to prove you wrong.
The episode features two separate stories, both of which receive about equal screen time, and both of which are bad. It's impossible to determine which one was intended as the A-story and which one the B-story because they're crammed right up against each other with alternating scenes of irrelevancy. It doesn't much matter—neither deserves to be a main plot. Hell, neither deserves to be a subplot. Both would be more accurately called F-stories.
One plot (we'll label it the A-story since it was the one exclusively featured in the trailers) involves a mysterious alien woman named Onaya (played by Meg Foster, with those distinctive eyes that make her the perfect candidate for an alien) who somehow helps Jake channel his creative power into writing his first novel. Unfortunately, while unleashing his creativity this also allows Onaya to drain Jake's neural energy or something—it's never really clear what she's actually doing or why—but it's clear that this will certainly injure or kill him if Onaya is not stopped. Yet even though it's harmful, Jake is completely submissive to this "procedure" because of some unfathomable power Onaya has over him. Ultimately, Sisko learns of the alien's presence and tries to capture her. Onaya escapes into space. Ho-hum.
The problem here is that this is a brainstormed concept, not a finished, thought-out story. There simply isn't enough material for the plot to come close to sustaining its half of the episode. Scene after scene is long, repetitive, drawn-out, and pointless. We're treated to hokey-looking special effects as Onaya grabs Jake's head and acts like she's pulling his brain power through his skull and depositing it into her chest. Rene Echevarria does absolutely nothing with the entire thread, neither plotwise nor characterwise. So by the end of the episode we're just staring passively at the screen wondering what in the world we're supposed to be thinking. The line toward the end suggesting Onaya has "channeled the creativity" of famous minds for centuries (including John Keats, no less) is just plain silly. This has to be Echevarria's worst effort ever.
The other story centers around Lwaxana Troi's visit to the station. (Her last visit to DS9 was in "Fascination," a show that was just as bad as this one—it makes one worry what Lwaxana's next visit will bring. I suppose we can always hope there isn't a next time.) She's still in love with Odo, and asks him if he's over Kira yet (I thought we had resolved all of this already). This time she's pregnant (!) and crying to Odo over the fact that her husband's customs require boys to be raised exclusively by men and girls by women. Since her baby is going to be a boy, Lwaxana ran away from her husband to avoid losing the child to him. At first this seems like standard filler, but then the whole thing turns appallingly stupid when Odo agrees to go through with a staged wedding to make Lwaxana's husband—who has chased her all the way to the station—leave her alone.
What exactly are the writers going for here? Are they saying that to solve marital problems you run away from your spouse and then pretend to marry somebody else so your real spouse will give up and stay out of your life? What kind of fantasy world does this sort of solution come from? Wouldn't a typical Star Trek solution try to actually deal with the problem in human terms instead of coming up with something that, in the real world, would probably make things worse for everybody?
Aside from the questionable approach of the solution, the whole wedding thing is practically unwatchable. I like Odo stories that get into the heart of his character, but "Muse" tries to be cute at the expense of all credibility. This show wants to think we'll just accept Odo's completely-out-of-character actions. It's strange, in fact, because Odo seems perfectly in sync for the first act or so, but in act two all of a sudden something goes "click" (around the point where Lwaxana and Odo are playing the hide-and-seek shapeshifting game) and Odo's character runs awry with erratic behavior—the flagship example being the fact that it is his idea to engage in a mock wedding with Lwaxana.
And so on. "Muse" is pretty much a waste of television air time; an uncharacteristically ultra-bad Trek that would best be put to use as fodder for MST3K. Slow, uneventful, annoying, trite, and lame—did I leave anything out? Oh, yeah: It's talky. Talky can be fine, but not when the characters have nothing to say. In short: There's nothing worth musing over in "The Muse."
The only good moment in the episode is when the camera pans down on Jake's novel, and it turns out to be Anslem. But an episode this bad probably doesn't deserve to make references to an episode as wonderful as "The Visitor."