Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"The Muse"

1 star

Air date: 4/29/1996
Teleplay by Rene Echevarria
Story by Rene Echevarria & Majel Barrett Roddenberry
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"The dialogue is sharp, the story is involving, the characters are real...the spelling is terrible." — Sisko, after reading his son's novel; demonstrating life without a word processor (and perhaps explaining everything "The Muse" lacks)

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."

Previous episode: Shattered Mirror
Next episode: For the Cause

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143 comments on this post

Jakob M. Mokoru
Fri, Nov 9, 2007, 5:05pm (UTC -6)
Lwaxana never worked in DS9! No Deanna - no Lwaxana! She would have made much more sense in Nemesis!
Sun, Aug 9, 2009, 3:55pm (UTC -6)
Well the premise of sucking whatever out of Jake's brain was pretty weak, but given than, what really annoyed me is that the muse escaped when there, right on the station was Lwaxana Troi who should have easily been able to track her and maybe even capture her. OMG, that part almost writes itself. I wish that Mrs. Roddenberry could have been used as a more powerful character than the bumbling Lwaxana Troi and the voice of the computer.
Fri, Oct 16, 2009, 6:54pm (UTC -6)
Thank God this ended up being her last appearance! Mama Troi's best episodes were "The Forsaken" and "Dark Page", and they were not gems.
Sun, Dec 26, 2010, 3:16am (UTC -6)
The 'a' story is stupid because if for no other reason, asking me to believe that Jake Sisko has a talent for writing is asking too much. Buuuut, the idea of creative energy made tangible and that creative expression feeding the soul is meaningful at least to someone who is himself an artist. I can't speak for everyone.

The 'b' story however has a lot of heart in it, quiet and understated. The scene where Lwaxana falls asleep in Odo's quarters is much more than sentimental, she makes some very poignant comments to Odo about his life and his way without being overt and preachy (like most of the characters on this show tend to be) and it's welcome. Odo's speech at the wedding is also quite sincere and powerful (Lwaxana's reaction to it is telling in itself) in spite of the fact that 1) the episodes in which she's appeared before were so-so to terrible and 2) we shan't see her again.

Regarding Jammer's complaints about the moral implications of marriage, remember we're dealing with Lwaxana Troi--her morals are a little offbeat. Her option is better for herself and her baby even if it defies the traditional supremacy of contractual relationships. Remember her attitude in "Half a Life."

It was fun seeing Kang again too!

It wasn't a great episode, but it was a refreshing change from DS9's foolishness and had far more emotional resonance than most of those in this series.
Sun, Oct 16, 2011, 6:36pm (UTC -6)
The notion that Betazoids moods can be "contagious" would seem to have some extreme social and security repercussions. Funny how the stupidest teleplays also tend to spawn some of the stupidest notions.
Sun, Oct 16, 2011, 6:44pm (UTC -6)
Sine paper is pretty much extinct in this time, one wonders if handwriting is taught anymore, and if Jake or anyone else would even know cursive.
Mon, Oct 17, 2011, 5:50pm (UTC -6)
Jay, I'm pretty sure an earlier episode (perhaps The Visitor) showed Jake using the bottom of his hand-held whatever as a writing tablet.
Sat, Jan 21, 2012, 3:20pm (UTC -6)
While this was a miserable episode, it did provide me with one of the best laughs I ever had at star trek.

When odo walks into the bar and asks if she wants to go for a walk , worf says "I do "
Sun, Mar 18, 2012, 9:23am (UTC -6)
This is, unfortunately, DS9′s worst episode. That it should happen in the midst of an otherwise stellar season is even more unfortunate.

And then there’s the irony that this is the story behind Jake Sisko the writer’s eventual masterpiece. And it was badly written.

Too bad, too, that this was a wasted guest spot for Michael Ansara who played Kang in "Day of the Dove," "Blood Oath," and "Flashback."
Nebula Nox
Fri, Jun 8, 2012, 1:05pm (UTC -6)
I agree with Elliot! I think people are way too hard on Lwaxana and on the Ferengis, because they're not beautiful people running around in starfleet uniforms. I found the relationship between Troi and Odo touching. It taught Odo to open up a bit.
Thu, Jul 5, 2012, 9:12pm (UTC -6)
This would have made a bad TOS episode...
...In fact, I think it did.
Wed, Aug 22, 2012, 6:38pm (UTC -6)
Oh my God. I just saw this episode and had to rush to the internet to find anyone as outraged as I was. I can't believe that I couldn't find a single person mentioning that taking a child from their parent is called 'kidnapping' and the whole idea that Lwaxana is somehow a victim just because she doesn't agree with their traditions is absurd! If she hates Tavnian culture so much, why the hell did she marry a Tavnian!?!? Is the moral that a woman is allowed the final say in how a child is raised? Whatever happened to equality? That a Starfleet officer would go out of his way to assist in a kidnapping is beyond, disappointing. It's morally repugnant! I'm sure that some will argue that Odo maintained the letter of the law. But come on! If roles were reversed and a husband showed up with a baby claiming that he needed asylum because the mother "just won't leave us alone" he'd be turned around to settle things in some kind of family court! Lwaxana is upset that Tavnians believe in seperation of the child from one of their parents. Her solution? Do the exact same thing! Hypocrisy! Oh, but I guess it's okay because a mother stealing a child is obviously way better than a father stealing a child. Ridiculous! They were both wrong. So how come she gets away scot free with her crime? There's no way in my imagination that the Federation would allow either parent to simply cut out the other one just because they can. Not sure if Tavnia is a Federation member, but I'd expect the Federation to at least hold Betazed to a higher standard.
Mon, Oct 29, 2012, 7:13am (UTC -6)
Apparently this is one of the least favourite episodes by the producers. The director, Ron Moore and others all have stated that though they started off with what seemed like good ideas, did not come out on camera and ultimately they all pretty much admitted it was a bad effort. The only thing they liked was Meg Fosters performance (source Memory Alpha ST Wiki).
Mon, Dec 3, 2012, 1:45am (UTC -6)
Elliot is so right!

With a completely different A-Story, Odo and Lwaxana would have been just fine as a B-Story. Loved the blankie!

Odo's using her as a rebound relationship from Kira's problems. (character development?) Them playing hide and seek was cute, too.

Lwaxana's... being herself, as always, and not too much in your face about it, either.

Problem was this episode was 2 b-stories, one decent and cute, and one sort of cringe-worthy, and no good A-story.
Tue, Mar 5, 2013, 11:59pm (UTC -6)
Most of this episode was pretty silly, but the hide and seek scene was absolutely adorable. We don't get to see Odo show his less-than-serious side much, so this episode was worth it to me just for that alone.
Wed, Oct 23, 2013, 6:11pm (UTC -6)
This is one to skip.

Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 12:05am (UTC -6)
I agree the hide-and-seek part was very cute. "Fascination" was a better Lwaxana episode, though, and even that wasn't that good. I honestly wish that episodes involving her were better than they were. I've always felt she had genuinely good moments. Very unfortunate that the writing for her character just never turned out that great.

The plot with Jake and the feeding off of his creativity was abhorrent and a crappy thing to do to his character.

This wasn't the worst episode of DS9 but definitely a major fall from the mostly wonderful fourth season.

Thanks, but no thanks. 1 star.
Wed, Mar 12, 2014, 11:25am (UTC -6)

Lwaxana states in her first scene that her husband started off promising he adored her and would NOT follow his people's traditions, and that after the marriage he went back on his word, began treating her like property, and kept her virtually imprisoned. A pretty common scenario of domestic violence. You cam blame Lwaxana for being naive enough to believe her lover's promises, but she isn't the bad guy here.

My objection to the Lwaxana eps is that her shtick of sad-middle-aged-woman-desperate-for love is boring, cliche and somewhat insulting . How many times have we seen this? Does she ever do anything besides chase men or cry over men? Is it meant to be amusing? Maybe it was...for about two minutes, the first time. Though not really.
Thu, May 1, 2014, 8:43am (UTC -6)
I just saw this episode for the first time and I don't think it was as bad as Jammer makes it out to be. In fact I found it to be quite funny and the Lwaxana/Odo arc was really rather touching. Sure it wasn't a heavy duty DS9 episode, but it was lighthearted and fun. The Jake arc was suitably creepy, but as a lit student, I can completely understand the need to unleash those words that are all bottled up inside you but which don't translate onto paper. Especially enjoyed the reference to Keats, who also died young.

Methinks Jammer is biased against Lwaxana in general. I thought that the 'Naked Now' verson of DS9, can't remember its name but it too was a Lwaxana episode, but I found it hilarious and idiotic in a good way. Both of these episodes merit a much rating.
Sun, May 4, 2014, 1:45am (UTC -6)
As a visual artist myself, the A-plot in this episode really struck a chord with me. Often times, when a young, naive, and inexperienced artist is faced with an undertaking that seems almost insurmountable in scale, we become desperate in our methods of tackling it... Often to the detriment of our health. This could be anything from losing sleep due to a coffee-fueled all-nighter, to cocaine for the more foolish and monetarily privileged (fortunately, I am not a member of the white-nosers club). But, as a result of these behaviors, often we'll drop everything in favor, even some healthy family time (much like Jake in his ditching of his father and Yates). Onaya very much feels like a symbol for how an artist's addiction, not only pertaining to his work, but also to substances that may seem beneficial in the short term, can take hold on anyone, even the best of us... Almost without any warning sign, just being pushed in the right direction by a soothing voice. I like to think that Jake could easily have given in at any time, but he was so drawn to his own work that it almost killed him to finish it in the end.

As for the B-story... Well, it fits the characters, and has its head in the right place regarding abusive partners (aside from the fact that this kind of thing DOES happen, and often times the abused will be reckless in choosing another suitable to protect them... Potentially leading to more abuse in truth). But the execution here I felt was a bit lacking.

I'd give this one more along the lines of 2.75 stars, though I can easily see why the A-plot would go right over the average watcher's head. Hell, I could very easily be reading way too into it for my own good!
Sun, May 4, 2014, 1:49am (UTC -6)
Ugh, my ability to write here tonight is pretty one-star worthy, though...

*oftentimes we'll drop whatever isn't pressing to us (even some healthy family time) in favor of the art we seek to accomplish

*I like to think that Jake could easily have stopped himself
Wed, Jul 23, 2014, 1:25am (UTC -6)
Onaya felt like a villain right out of Doctor Who, specifically, the witch-beings in the Doc Who episode "The Shakespeare Code", basically aliens controlling Shakespeare in order to accomplish their evil plan of the week. Except "Shakespeare Code" was fun while "The Muse" was just lame.

And I still can't stand Luaxana. Jammer put it just right - a major stumble in what is otherwise one of DS9's best seasons. Odo had the best line though: "I trust I can count on you to accept me even if I just stand there and read last week's criminal activity report."
Wed, Aug 6, 2014, 11:46am (UTC -6)
1/2 star for the alien babe. Her eyes were freaky good.

1/2 star for Majel gracing the screen once again, albeit in a cockamamie story.

1 star.
Sat, Nov 15, 2014, 2:54pm (UTC -6)
Toraya said, "My objection to the Lwaxana eps is that her shtick of sad-middle-aged-woman-desperate-for love is boring, cliche and somewhat insulting . How many times have we seen this? Does she ever do anything besides chase men or cry over men? Is it meant to be amusing? Maybe it was...for about two minutes, the first time. Though not really."

I completely agree! Although I would add, it *is* insulting. I blame the writers for the annoying aspects of Luaxana Troi's personality. The fact that she could get on so many viewers' nerves over the years is a testament to her solid acting ability.

The "sad desperation" plot lines also undermined one of the things I initially liked best about Luaxana - she had a healthy attitude towards sexuality and her own body. I wish the writers would not have made her chase after men who clearly had no interest in her. I wish they hadn't made her seem so self-absorbed, just as a device to later show how thoughtful and supportive she really could be. There weren't enough older women in the show to counter the portrayal of Luaxana. (My favorite was Dr. Pulaski, and sadly, she was only on TNG for 1 season.)

I also agree with Jammer that the show's portrayal of how to resolve marital problems was not good. Why couldn't Luaxana ask for asylum and obtain competent legal counsel? (Oh, it's a device to foist Luaxana on Odo, who isn't romantically interested in her. "Won't you protect me, Odo?" - that alone is insulting.)

Re: Jake's story line, I found it disturbing that the writer paired Onaya, an older woman, with Jake, a teenaged boy. Why did the writer even need themes of sexuality and seduction for Onaya to accomplish her objective? I suppose Onaya had to touch Jake's head to steal his life force, and the writer thought sexuality was the most plausible way to achieve that end.
Sat, Jan 24, 2015, 12:33am (UTC -6)
Reading through these comments I can see that people really hated this episode. But I thought it had some good moments! I've always thought that Jake as a writer was kind of a joke since he's never actually written anything. But here he actually comes out of his shell and nearly finishes a book! Who cares if the plot device was a little droll? The point was to get Jake writing and I think it worked.

The B plot was the weak point in the episode. I like Lwaxana Troi. She's always seemed like a fun and kooky aunt who comes over some times and spices things up. But I have to agree with the guy who said that her actions here were wrong. She's the non-custodial parent taking to the space lanes with her infant in contravention of the law. In our society, that would be grounds for an amber alert. But I guess alls well that ends well. I give it 2.5 stars.
Tue, Mar 10, 2015, 10:30am (UTC -6)
Like Fascination this ep works better as a metaphor and allusion to the powers within us to transform ourselves and others, the idea of artistic inspiration, the alien muse, is destructive and vampirical, Luaxana the cliche lovesick older woman transforms Odo into his most human yet. Did you lot not notice how he transforms himself to a blanket to cover the sleeping Luaxana ever so tenderly? Not every episode has to move the main arc along. Nor can every episode be interpreted literally. A provocative episode far more worth the 43 mins of tv space than that atrocity The Visitor that's got everyone pissing in their pants.
Thu, Apr 9, 2015, 2:15pm (UTC -6)
I didn't mind The Muse. Didn't care for it either. Its firmly in the middle with me. I wouldn't turn it off if it came on TV, but if I had the box set I might never watch it. Its a firm "meh" to me. Half because I actually dislike any and everything Lwaxanna. Other half the idea of a Muse as presented her is fine even if the execution is so so.

Not sure I'd put it on a Top 10 Worse DS9 eps, and if I did, maybe #9 or #10.
Sun, Aug 30, 2015, 6:55am (UTC -6)
The notion of a vapiric muses is not new. See the Celtic Leanan Sidhe for example.ídhe
Ben Franklin
Thu, Sep 24, 2015, 3:22pm (UTC -6)
This episode was painful when it first aired, it was painful when I rewatched the series beginning to end in 2009, and it is still painful as I am rewatching the series again. I should have skipped it! I can't even put into proper words why I hate it. Jammer covers it well.

The Jake Sisko storyline was okay (muse who tortures artists). The execution was just plain bad, though. The acting was nothing to write home about but the writing was boring and stale.

I used to hate Lwaxana, then I grew to love her, but in the last few episodes over the course of her character I found her to be weak and whiny. This episode was just plain wierd. I guess it could be a bit amusing.

1/4 star.
Mon, Nov 2, 2015, 7:55pm (UTC -6)
I'm always wary of art about art. Whenever someone makes a movie/play/song/painting/etc. about something artistic, the creators are pretty much guaranteed to be far more interested in the subject than non-artists. Their artistic colleagues and friends, as well as many critics (who spend a lot of time with artists, and often fit the stereotype of being failed artists themselves), will praise the effort more than the rest of us. This doesn't mean that art about art can't be good, but it fails to live up to the hype of artists & critics more often than art on other subjects.*

That's why it doesn't surprise me that several commenters who identify as artists find the Jake story interesting, or that the writers of the show failed to see the problems with the story before it was filmed. The idea is somewhat interesting, if not original (as Mythic points out). It just wasn't used well here, as Jammer's review details. (as an aside, I agree with those who believe Jake could have stopped if he truly wanted to; he was addicted to the thrill of creation, not helplessly controlled by the woman)

I agree with those who say that the Odo/Lwaxana story is OK. It's certainly not memorable, but there are some decent character moments, and I don't mind them using the rules of an alien culture to solve a "problem" caused by the rules of an alien culture. This would have been fine trimmed down some and paired with a better "A" story.

So, yeah, this is the worst episode of the season. 1 star is fair. But it's certainly not the worst episode in the 7-year run.

*this doesn't relate to this episode, but I am just as wary of TV shows or Movies about journalism. Writers (of Movies or TV shows) glorifying other writers (journalists), generally get the praise of still more writers (Movie or TV critics...who also consider themselves journalists)! Lack of perspective all the way around!
William B
Sat, Nov 28, 2015, 10:42am (UTC -6)
As with many commenters here, I think that the Lwaxana story is fine and indeed has some very good moments. There is something very half-hearted and perfunctory about the plot, which I do think is a weakness, and might be worth discussing more if it weren't that the plot of the Jake story is so terrible that it seems hard to get too up in arms about the Lwaxana story. What impressed me the more I thought about it is the following: (episode appearance spoilers) I don't think I'm giving too much away in saying that this is Lwaxana Troi's last appearance after having made one annual appearance in Trek since TNG's first season. This means that this episode has the honour/burden of closing out a *nine-year* annual tradition, which is especially difficult considering that the majority of the episodes featuring Lwaxana over the years have been terrible. However, despite the poor execution of most Lwaxana stories, and perhaps because of the repetitive nature of those stories over the years, this episode manages to provide something of a capstone for most of the recurring themes that have followed Lwaxana through her appearances on both series while also wrapping up her role in Deep Space Nine in what is to me a satisfying way.

While I dislike most Lwaxana episodes, I don't (usually) dislike Lwaxana herself; I think it is more the way she is frequently used that is grating, problematic, and often sexist. Zooming out, though, the key elements of this episode have to do with Lwaxana's pregnancy/motherhood, marriage and dissolution thereof, and loneliness and her relationship to distant, lonely men. Deanna's role in TNG is largely to highlight the emotional side of life, and Lwaxana's story zeroes in even more closely on family and to some degree on traditional mother-hen assumptions about the goal of life being familial, as well as a boundary-defying unwillingness to let people be alone (or lonely). That she is largely a nuisance to the TNG crew comments to some degree on the individualism that the starfleet explorer life produces. Lwaxana, caught between tradition and modernity, is both an aristocrat and a shameless breaker of rules, obsessed with coupling and wanting badly to avoid any compromises of herself, and her stories all come down to variations on a handful of conflicts -- the desire to be in a relationship versus the desire to be oneself, the importance of one's children becoming independent versus the gap left when they leave and the parent continues aging.

And so, in order:

1. Lwaxana's first appearance heralds her association with tradition and marriage ("Haven") where she paradoxically is present partly to enforce tradition and partly to flaunt it, ending with her giving Wyatt the push he needs to leave Deanna.
2. "Manhunt" introduces Lwaxana's desire and her menopause-metaphor The Phase fixation on Picard as a man of her age who refuses to let her interrupt his lonely life.
3. "Menage a Troi" (i.e. "menage a trois") whose title evokes the weird and perhaps inappropriate way Lwaxana throws herself into her daughter's romantic life, features Lwaxana's attempts to escape the clutches of an unwanted suitor and Picard's necessarily play-acting Lwaxana's lover to save her.
4. "Half a Life" gives Lwaxana the chance at a happy relationship with a quiet, lonely man who reciprocates her advances, only to have it cut short by the recognition that others in the galaxy place far less value on the possibilities of life for the elderly than she does, and signals tragedy that Lwaxana is not ready to give up on her life, but cannot change that others with whom she could are unwilling to break with societal pressure to stop being inconvenient.
5. "Cost of Living" has Lwaxana teaching Alexander how to have fun while she plans to marry herself off to a stultifying bore out of desperation, until she finally rejects him -- with the recognition that she is partly giving up on marriage as a way of happiness. Her bond with Alexander suggests rebirth.
6. "The Forsaken" has Lwaxana bond with Odo, who over the course of the episode moves from Picard-solidity to falling into her lap; unlike Picard, Odo needs her, and unlike Timicin, she is able to help him.
7. "Dark Page" suggests that Lwaxana has suffered a huge loss of a child (loss of innocence, etc.) which underscores the tragedy and death and loss that follows Lwaxana around, and has her recovering only when she is able to face her problems.
8. "Fascination" has Lwaxana's feelings for Odo boiling over and causing chaos throughout the station, and has her able to recognize Odo's own lonely, unrequited feelings for Kira.

So this episode in some ways refers to all of the above in some sense or another. Lwaxana refers to "Dark Page" explicitly, of course. Odo's declaration of love to free Lwaxana recalls Picard in "Menage a Troi"; the marriaged ended after-the-fact recalls the near misses (for Lwaxana and for her daughter) in "Haven" and "Cost of Living"; Lwaxana's mood being infectious with negative, disruptive results, which is to some degree always true and was most true in TNG in "Manhunt" and had its most literal form in "Fascination," is suggested when she recounts her life tragedy to Kira, Dax and Worf in Quark's. Her falling asleep in Odo's arms/lap and Odo putting his arm around her as a blanket is a repayment of her gesture, allowing him to take his liquid form in her lap, in "The Forsaken." And the death/rebirth issues (from all episodes, and especially "Half a Life") come to the fore, as Lwaxana unexpectedly has a child, and there is the suggestion that this child represents a future lonely, sad Lwaxana did not particularly know she had.

The Odo/Lwaxana material in the episode generally works for me both for Lwaxana's character and (more importantly, for this series) for Odo's. I do agree with Jammer's assessment that Odo gets a little too cute in characterization for the usual portrayal of him, but I think that his growing enthusiasm for having someone to take care of makes sense. In particular, Odo is on some level more strongly looking for a way to connect to the world without getting hurt; "Crossfire" eliminated Kira (for now) as the person he could connect with, but his recognition that he can do something for Lwaxana shows how eager he actually is not to be so totally alone. I do think that the awareness of what he has lost in discovering that there is no place for him among his people (first by choice, and then because of what he had done) has changed things for Odo pretty significantly, but in a way that had not quite settled in even by "Fascination." And moreover, Odo really *did* bond with Lwaxana in "The Forsaken" (and to a lesser extent "Fascination") and with Kira somewhat out of the picture for now he is more willing to explore what that means, and more willing to try, on some level, to live vicariously through her. He gets to play the hero for a little while, using his legal knowledge to help another person connect to the stream of life with which he feels permanently disconnected. The reversal at the episode's end -- that after declaring his (fake) love for her he declares his real (platonic) love for her, and that his finally embracing the idea of Lwaxana in his life is what means that Lwaxana must finally leave, is also pretty touching, I think. In some ways it is a reversal of "Crossfire" for Odo, in that he now finds himself as the best friend who will not become a lover, and Lwaxana is able to be honest with Odo about her reasons for breaking with him, in a way that Odo cannot be to Kira.

I do agree though with the criticisms of this plot as a *plot*. I don't know if I am that concerned about Lwaxana using shams to escape from her marriage. To the comments above to the effect that Lwaxana should not have taken the child away from the father, I think that the idea here is that Lwaxana would be willing to raise a child together with the father, and would be willing to raise a child with the father being involved in the child's life, but is not willing to be cut out of the child's life because of Tavnian rules, which Lwaxana did *not* agree to. Presumably neither expected child-rearing to become an issue when they walked into marriage, and cultural differences suddenly became not just important but essential. But in any case, whatever the legal issues are, Lwaxana obviously (to me) has the same right she did within Federation/Betazoid culture, especially if that was the original marriage agreement, and the marriage does not actually nullify Lwaxana's rights. The various hoops that are introduced into Tavnian marriage laws are clearly contrivances to get to Odo's (platonic posing as romantic) love declaration, and as such seem increasingly ridiculous, as does the Tavnian father's willingness to drop out of his child's life entirely when even he doesn't seem to believe Lwaxana will give all the child-rearing responsibilities to Odo (though he apparently believes the wedding is real). It's a pretty stupid plot taken literally, and is mostly there to get to the emotional beats, which to me actually work pretty well.

Anyway, right, there's the Jake plot. The Jake plot in some ways works as commentary on the Lwaxana-Odo plot, in that Onaya extracts what was actually inside Jake, in a way that Lwaxana brings something out of Odo that he was not fully aware was there, but in a less predatory way (this time, at least). And the metaphor is fine, as far as it goes -- that creative expression can become a destructive obsession that can destroy a person all while they make something of beauty is a reasonable theme to explore. But yeah, the plot goes nowhere very slowly, and because the episode never gives us any taste of the actual quality of Jake's work we just have to sit around and believe that he's writing the great space station novel through endless variations on the same scene. And then the way Sisko shoots her and she zaps out of the station! The cheese! It feels honestly like "Sub Rosa" with, admittedly, less sex, but has even less entertainment value.

Anyway 2-2.5 for the Odo-Lwaxana plot (I like it, but serious contrivances) and 0.5-1 for the Jake plot, which comes to about 1.5 stars.
Diamond Dave
Sun, Jan 3, 2016, 10:22am (UTC -6)
There are indeed some fine moments in the Lwaxana/Odo story, and it tries very hard to rekindle the strong interaction between the two. But the story itself is just a little on the nose - sham marriage to get out of loveless marriage. It's a bit of a soap opera convenience and seems to pay lip service to what is actually quite a finely drawn relationship between Lwaxana and Odo.

The muse story just doesn't work at all, and is tiresome and repetitive. Kudos for the Anslem call back though. 1.5 stars.
Sat, Apr 16, 2016, 8:45pm (UTC -6)
LOL! Okay, where to begin with this one? You know, SFDebris often talks about how there are a lot of VOY episodes focusing on Janeway that are little more than masturbation fantasies for the writers. While I can see how that might be true, "The Muse" is quite possibly the quintessential definition of television writers having a masturbation fantasy. Get this - the A-plot is about how a beautiful woman wants nothing more than to sit and watch Jake write. Not only that, she also gets off while doing it! LOL! If that isn't some insane wet dream on the part of the male writers, I don't know what is! A beautiful woman just wants to watch you write? Not read what you've written, just watch you perform the action of writing? Yeah.... no. Oh, and said beautiful woman is also a space vampire. Think about that for a minute - a space vampire. And I thought Beverly Crusher falling in love with a space ghost was pushing it. Does anybody remember the episode of "The Simpsons" where Homer eats some kind of insane chili pepper and goes on a massive, freaky acid trip with his coyote spirit guide? The coyote tells him that he has to find his soul mate and that it might not be Marge. In the end it turns to be Marge after all and Homer screams to the sky "in your face, space coyote!". Anybody remember Marge's response? Here it is - That tone of complete condescension and bewilderment was exactly my response to this story. A space vampire! LOL!!

That's pretty much all there is to say about the A-plot because there is absolutely nothing praiseworthy, or even watchable, it in. Zero out of ten for this one.

Meanwhile, the B-plot involving Odo and Lwaxana is much more enjoyable, but still deeply flawed. It's main problem is that it shares an episode with the absurd A-plot. But more than that, the problem is that Lwaxana's marriage, pregnancy and troubles literally come out of left field and are resolved far too simplistically. And why exactly does she run to Odo, of all people, for protection during this, her time of greatest, crisis? Don't you think it would have been better for her to run to, oh I don't know, her daughter for help?! As much as she and Picard dislike the woman I doubt they wouldn't go to the wall to help her here. But instead she seeks out Odo's assistance because if she didn't the episode couldn't have been made (and that would have been a real pity, wouldn't it have?). Good grief, Deanna doesn't even get a mention in this episode (despite the fact that she's soon to have a baby brother!), but Kestra Troi does! Still, it's a pleasant enough fluff plot with some nice moments from Rene Auberjonois once you get past those shortcomings. And it gave us another appearance by Michael Ansara. That man could bring dignity to anything, even that asinine Techno-Mage crap over on "Babylon 5". It's a shame, really, that this is Majel Barrett Roddenberry's final appearance as Lwaxana Troi. For all the episode's faults, Lwaxana isn't one of them. They finally managed to make her not only tolerable but genuinely likable in her final handful of appearances. It's sad that she had to go out with such a bad episode.

I'll be generous to the B-plot (since it was the only thing that saved me for the A-plot) and give it a 4/10. Average both plots together and "The Muse" gets a 2/10

WTF HAIR - 31 (+1)

Wed, Jun 29, 2016, 9:06pm (UTC -6)
I actually really enjoyed this episode. I have a soft spot for Lwaxana episodes because she really was Trek royalty and I always felt bad for how crappy she got treated in most episodes. She was such a truly beautiful woman and deserved so much more in Trek. RIP Majel Barrett. No matter how badly her episodes are reviewed by the masses I will always enjoy her charm and beauty.
Wed, Jun 29, 2016, 10:24pm (UTC -6)
I Liked the Odo Lwaxana story. I found her interactions with Odo nice. It really is her fault she's i this mess Oh I'll marry this guy from a culture that segregates both genders until a certain age because he said he will ignore his peoples traditions! of course Lwaxana married a guy uncomfortable with a traditional Betazoid wedding while insisting she have a traditional wedding so this doesn't surprise me.

I consider the jake gets seduced by a brain vampire thing to be the subplot and I truly couldn't bring myself to care about it.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 9:46am (UTC -6)
@Ivanov - As somebody that dislikes a large portion of her appearances in TNG (with 1 major and 1 minor exception), I will agree. I don't know why this story gets so much hate. I love her with Odo and while her middle appearance was a bit ridiculous I really, really like her 1st appearance on DS9 and her appearance here. She's really good with Odo.
William B
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 10:47am (UTC -6)

Major: Half a Life?
Minor: .........Haven? Dark Page?
William B
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 10:49am (UTC -6)
(I genuinely like Half a Life. I think that Haven has problems, but I don't think Lwaxana is a significant problem, especially considering that it's season 1 we're talking about. I don't like Dark Page but I know lots of people do.)
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 11:13am (UTC -6)
There's sort of a hidden gag in "Half a Life" where the very first line gives away what kind of show you're about to see:

"Counselor Deanna Troi, personal log, stardate 44805.3. My mother is on board."

(Cue scene with Picard avoiding Troi's mom)

At the onset, you're on alert and can either avoid the episode if you dislike Lwaxana, or keep watching and see where it goes. Personally, I find Picard's humorous ways of dealing with her to be worth the price of admission, but I definitely understanding wanting to avoid shows with Lwaxana Troi.
Peter G.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 12:19pm (UTC -6)
Conceptually there's something I like a lot about Lwaxana. She invariably acts as an agent of chaos, and her episodes tend to show that being sophisticated and proper all the time isn't desirable. In "Cost of Living" we see her espouse the need for a 'laughing hour', to say "ha!" to the sense or order and propriety enforced by others, and to literally cover oneself with mud from time to time in an age of immaculate cleanliness. I almost think of this episode as a counterargument against how sanitized TNG can be at times. Even her eventual choice to appear at her wedding in the traditional Betazoid nudity is a statement about how important it is to exhibit humanity in its naked beauty and flaws, rather than to only clothe humanity in its evolved values.

In DS9 Lwaxana is the only one who doesn't need to see Odo's mask and prefers to see the being as he is; even by Season 7 the crew of DS9 are still grappling with accepting a Changeling among them *as he really is*, while Lwaxana accepted him right away and was even honored to see him in non-humanoid form. It even made her care for him more.

Lwaxana seems to me to fit better in the DS9 setting than on TNG, since on DS9 there are many troubled individuals who have something of merit to share with others, whereas on TNG the crew tended to be a bit more perfect in their own way, and Lwaxana was just in their way. She can be a 'serious character' on DS9, whereas on TNG she was a bothersome clown. To be fair, this is partly due to how she was written, and in fairness I also find Barrett's portrayal of her to be often tedious and irritating, but as a conceptual character I like what she represents and actively appreciate some of her scenes with Odo.

The whole 'mind reading' aspect to Betazoids has always troubled me, both because it's a storytelling cheat and also because Star Trek never took psi ability seriously other than as a gag. In Babylon 5 the implication is taken very seriously about what it would be like to have telepaths around, and what sorts of laws would be required to keep it in check. I don't like how Betazoids are treated in this sense, but what I do like about them (even though this is rarely mined by the writers) is the notion that a race such as them can be superior *empathizers* than anyone else, and can understand and accept someone's true nature without judging them. In this context the Betazoids could represent what's best in the Federation, and although this aspect of them is thinly portrayed if at all, in Lwaxana's case this is exactly the core of her character and I only wish the writers had taken her presence in episodes a little more seriously.
William B
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 1:12pm (UTC -6)
I think that the thing that rankles me a bit about Lwaxana's "agent of chaos" nature is how strongly it's tied to her aristocracy; she can afford to say and do what she pleases because she's got a live-in servant and the entitlement that goes along with being, or, as Deanna implies, believing herself to be royal. She's based on Auntie Mame, and in the film at least I think there were big elements of classism against the nouveau riche for not having enough fun like aristocrats should. In this case, Lwaxana can flaunt that she doesn't care about propriety because at the end of the day, she's still got a tall servant who follows her around everywhere cleaning up after her.

If we take Deanna seriously that the sacred chalice of Rixx is just dusty old cup, and that Lwaxana in fact has no particular authority in the 24th century (and that Mr Homm hangs out because he likes it, I guess?), then it becomes something of a matter of attitude and it works better for me -- Lwaxana dares to pretend that she deserves to break the somewhat sanitized rules, but in fact the sense of entitlement is just an excuse to do what she believes everyone should do. I actually like this though; Lwaxana breaks the rules, but she wilfully ignores how she makes other people uncomfortable and outright insults and demeans them (as in the "Mr. Woof" stuff). It is good for us to eventually find out with Timicin, Alexander and Odo that she does want to extend her philosophy to others besides herself and her daughter, and view it as more than a matter of birth and breeding, though I think that is some of where her belief that people are entitled to do whatever they want and not care about propriety comes from.

This tells us something about Deanna, who spends more of her time helping others with their emotional problems and telling them that they deserve to be the happiest they can be, but who also maybe does so out of a somewhat exaggerated sense of entitlement -- she mostly (not entirely) rejects discipline because she has a general sense that it is possible for people to meet their emotional needs without it. In Disaster and Thine Own Self we see that Deanna's weakness in command is an unwillingness to commit to believing that there is a no-win scenario where sacrifices must be made, though in Disaster in particular we see that it's not entirely a bad thing. SkepticalMI talked about Deanna's aristocratic leanings in The Masterpiece Society, and I think that it's an important element of the character -- that despite her empathy, she is a little detached from the knowledge of real suffering, despite her having known tragedy in her life.

I suspect some of this has to do with Betazoid society. In a society where everyone can read each other's thoughts, obviously there is less need for pretense. But more than that, I think that a Betazoid would basically *know* if they are badly hurting another person. As uncomfortable as she makes Picard with her unwanted advances and as much as she ruffles Worf's feathers by calling him Mr. Woof, she also knows that she is not traumatizing them by having fun with them. Social rules are sometimes enforced to keep people from hurting each other; if you can know whether or not you're "really" hurting someone, what is the use of them?
Peter G.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 2:48pm (UTC -6)
To lend credence to Deanna's position on this, it's hard to imagine someone being a legitimate aristocrat in a post-scarcity age when anyone can have whatever they want. Maybe Lwaxana's title is inherited from long before Betazed joined the Federation, and is now largely irrelevant.

Either way, to further the point that Lwaxana knows she's not 'really' hurting anyone, we can look at this from a socio-economic perspective as well. On Earth there is no need for people to be subject to the whims of other people to get what they need in life; there is no need to suck up to the boss, to beg for a raise, or to sweat at a job interview because you need to put food on the table. *Having* to show respect to 'one's betters' because they have power over you would not exist, and so there is a significant burden raised on the need for average people to be polite and respectful merely as a matter of utility to get what they need. They'll get it anyhow whether or not they're polite. From what I've seen of people this freeing up of restrictions can have funny effects, some of which would probably result in some people being a**holes just because there's no tangible negative consequence, and some of which would become more than merely polite in facade but would actually embrace others in a sense of brotherhood. Lwaxana is a good example of how lifting the restrictions on behavior due to need might have interesting effects on the populace at large. Why act 'proper' when you'll get your credit allowance either way? Why take crap from anyone when there is no upper class? It doesn't mean that utopia brings with it a license to act like a dick, but on the other hand it does mean that no one has to act like a stuffed shirt anymore either just to get the office job running smoothly and keep middle management happy.

In this sense I think DS9 did a good job of repeatedly illustrating that, if anything, it's Federation citizens *as a whole* who are in some ways aristocrats compared with less fortunate peoples like the Bajorans. In addition to various Bajoran and Maquis episodes that describe how the Federation can appear to be lording over those who'd like to partake in paradise, we are also shown various people who defy prescribed behavioral codes and who may even reject outright a Federation sensibility. We have examples of people with legitimate points here, like Quark (who sometimes makes a good case for the Federation as having shortcomings), mixed cases, such as Mullibok in "Progress", who is a bit right and a bit wrong, and less credible cases, such as Alixus in "Paradise". Somewhere in and amongst all that are Eddington and Cal Hudson. Some of what they discuss is about lifestyle, values, economics even, but certainly in the cases of Quark, Mullibok, Eddington, and even Kira in her general temperament, we see an argument against the need to 'behave oneself' in the stuffed-shirt sense, and I see Lwaxana as being in there somewhere. If anything, a lack of scarcity and want is exactly the environment where proper behavior codes should be discarded, and yet it's amongst the people in the greatest need where we see them as having the greatest liberty to be eccentric or weird if they feel like it. Lwaxana in particular isn't in need materially, but I would say emotionally she really, really is, and so I'll put her in with the Bajorans in terms of needing to let loose rather than explode with repression.

Just to contrast this with TNG, Will Riker is as close as we get to 'free and loose' among the crew, and even just him flashing the winning smile at a lady is enough for us to classify him as a sort of devil-may-care fellow in contrast to the officious comportment of pretty much everyone else (ironically exemplified by Data). Barclay is a big exception to this, and I think it's one of the reasons he works so well on the show. He's quirky, has problems, doesn't get along with everyone, and breaks up what sometimes amounts to a static energy of everyone agreeing with each other except in regards to strategic choices.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 2:53pm (UTC -6)
@William B

I took the "dusty old cup" line by Troi to mean that Lwaxana doesn't keep her "sacred family artifacts" in very good care. But I think there's ample evidence of Lwaxana's royalty throughout the series. Mr. Homm is just one example, but "Cost of Living" also implies that Lwaxana is marrying not out of love, but for political reasons. Thus, we can only assume she has some political importance on Betazed, however limited.

Lwaxana's also threatens the Ferengi with political repercussions in "Menage à Troi" for her kidnapping. I mean that could all be a bluff, but there's nothing in the episode that indicates she needed to bluff. Indeed the Ferengi considering her precious is reinforced by the fact she's politically valuable.
Peter G.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 3:00pm (UTC -6)
@ Chrome,

"Lwaxana's also threatens the Ferengi with political repercussions in "Menage à Troi" for her kidnapping. I mean that could all be a bluff, but there's nothing in the episode that indicates she needed to bluff. Indeed the Ferengi considering her precious is reinforced by the fact she's politically valuable."

Remember, though, that she is the Betazoid ambassador to the Federation, which is no doubt the single most important job on the planet other than the President (or whatever they have). That alone makes her way more than even a normal VIP, and I'm sure that kidnapping a Federation ambassador is, indeed, a grievous offence that the Federation wouldn't take lightly.

With regard to her having a servant, we might suspect that calling him that is a personal eccentricity rather than a sign that she has some kind of royal powers or privileges. We may observe that ambassadors will all tend to have aides and assistants with them, including even Sarek who had an entire entourage. Given the image of herself she puts it, it doesn't surprise me to Lwaxana would choose to call Mr. Homn her 'servant', but in reality she would certainly need an assistant, regardless of what title she chose to give him/her.
William B
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 3:03pm (UTC -6)
Mr. Homn is the main reason why I think that there's some leftover aristocratic elements to Lwaxana. However, I agree that in other areas she seems to mostly not have much power and has a lot of emotional needs. It would be interesting to know exactly why Homn continues to serve Lwaxana -- it may have something to do with the degree of tragedy in her life, that his species see it as an important and sacred duty to help take care of the emotionally vulnerable.
William B
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 3:10pm (UTC -6)
I hadn't seen Peter G.'s last comment when I just posted. It's a good point that other Ambassadors have staff.

I do tend to think that Lwaxana's free-spirited style is, and is portrayed as, a mixed bag, but mostly a good thing. I think the episode where it seems like a real problem is in Manhunt, where Picard is informed that he has to hide from Lwaxana rather than disappoint her emotionally.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 3:12pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

Actually, the part where Lwaxana threatens her political importance she specifically cites only her Betazoid credentials. Without word from the show otherwise, I don't see any reason to believe she couldn't carry out the threat of an "interstellar incident" on her Betazed creds alone.

That said, I'm sure whatever political importance her family possesses has rusted over time, much like the Sacred Chalice of Rixx.
Peter G.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 3:23pm (UTC -6)
@ Chrome

Oh, I entirely agree that this is how she presents herself. I just tend to see it as a sort of Blanche Dubois pretensious eccentricity rather than a legitimate reflection on some power she has. You can kind of see it every time Lwaxana mentions her Betazoid status and Deanna rolls her eyes. It's the sort of thing you'd expect from a child who knows their parent spouts off at the mouth about BS, but has a lifetime of experience knowing you have to humor them anyhow. It kind of reminds me a bit of the dynamic between Julian and Richard Bashir when Richard would recite some spurious tale of his achievement and Julian would show irritation. Obviously in the case of the Bashirs it's not a cutesy eye rolling but rather open condemnation, since Richard Bashir isn't presented as a comic character. It just feels different to me than it would in the case of an actually royal person with real power; I somehow don't think her child in that case would openly scoff at her position or status if it really meant something and was meant to be taken seriously.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 3:49pm (UTC -6)
No, however much Troi resents her mother's boasting, Lwaxana is a political figure for Betazoid. She's represents Betazoid at Pacifica Conference, according to her introductory episode, "Manhunt". She's also is appointed to the trade delegation of Betazed for conference we hear of in "Menage à Troi".

These aren't boasts, they're facts presented by the show. Lwaxana makes herself to be greater than these posts because of her history, but whatever the case with her royal status, she holds Betazoid political power.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 3:56pm (UTC -6)
And now I've written Picard one too many times. Sorry, I promise I'm not him. :)
Peter G.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 4:11pm (UTC -6)
@ Chrome/Picard,

I'm not sure but I think we're agreeing with each other. There's no questions that Lwaxana has real and substantial [political] power. It's my contention, at any rate, that her power isn't based on her royal status but rather on her diplomatic status, and that she just likes to put on airs that her royal lineage is somehow relevant to her status.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 4:39pm (UTC -6)
I have nothing to add to this discussion, but I just wanted to say thank heavens for this comment section, it's gotten me through a really dull group presentation class.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 4:44pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

I honestly don't think the show ever clarifies whether her power is based on royal status or not. I had always assumed she got the position of diplomat because she both has royal heritage (and thus reverence) among her people and also had a human husband who was well-connected.

So there might be multiple character interpretations. I'm open to any sources that might explain this better.
Peter G.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 5:35pm (UTC -6)
@ Chrome, it's just my take on it. I base my guess on the fact of Deanna's scoffing at her mother's references to royal station, on the fact that I can't really imagine there being such a thing as practical nobility on a Federation world, the fact that Lwaxana perpetually embellishes and exaggerates everything, and on the fact that we only ever hear Federation personnel refer to her as an ambassador rather than as "your highness" or any honorific like that. It appears, at the very least, that her prestige according to the Federation comes from her diplomatic status and not from her being a royal person. We do see royal people on Star Trek from time to time, and they're always referred to by their royal honorifics. The lack of such in Lwaxana's case may mean that it's not a title Betazed itself pushes to be respected.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 8:01pm (UTC -6)
@William - Yes, Half a Life and Dark Page

Haven is not that good overall, but for S1 it's pretty ok I guess.

I also think she fits better on DS9.

And I think she's an aristocrat in an age where money money and power get you nothing. Imagine a descendant of royalty in an age where such means little. But she is an ambassador, so maybe a figurehead like role?
Andy's Friend
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 9:01pm (UTC -6)
Interesting talk. We can't really know, can we? But if we do what I dislike and use Earth as benchmark, here's my take on Lwaxana, with a quote about something else I wrote in "Cogenitor":

"I actually had a very interesting discussion once about this, trying to describe the differences between what is a Viceroy, and what is a titled noble: ranks, privileges, and such. It boils down to this: a Viceroy represents the Monarch, and rules in his stead. But his power is confined, in space, and in time. Outside his Viceroyalty, he enjoys lesser privileges. After his term has ended, he is what he was before.

A Duke is a Duke, whether he is 8 years old or 88. He enjoys all the privileges of his rank at any time, anywhere within the realm and the empire, and in the good old days in other kingdoms and empires as well. Until a few years ago when Spain joined the European Union, for example, every Spanish Duke held a diplomatic passport as default. He was seen as an old lineage, an embodiment of history, and a representative of the Kingdom of Spain. He was more than a man."

I believe that, continuing the example, Lwaxana, too, is an old lineage, an embodiement of history, a representative of the World of Betazed. She is more than a woman.

I therefore think that there are strong reasons to believe that what constitutes Lwaxana's power and prestige *on Betazed* is her royal lineage, and not some random status as Ambassador. That status as Ambassador, as Chrome points out, is almost certainly, much like the Spanish Dukes with diplomatic passports by default until a few years ago, most likely only because of that royal prestige.

I imagine most commenters here are American; and therefore, this for you may perhaps be a little more difficult to fully assimilate. Any British, French, Spanish etc. Duke is, above all, a Duke―not a Prime Minister, Ambassador, or whatever. That is only temporary; and, if you ask me, largely irrelevant. Churchill was more than a Prime Minister: he was a Churchill.

In fact, Churchill is a wonderful example of what Chrome and I mean. Is it far-fetched to believe that the little house he was born in contributed considerably to his career?

Say the names: Bedford. Brissac. Béjar. Norfolk. Noailles. Nájera. To most well-educated people in Britain, France, or Spain, this is all one needs to know. I couldn't personally care less about offices: they just come with the name, and they come and go. What matters is the name: for that is intemporal.

If the Betazoids are anything like us, Lwaxana is a Daughter of the Fifth House, Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed. Her current office should be completely irrelevant.

Also, we must differentiate between the Federation and the individual homeworlds. This is something William B and I have written extensively about, and also the usual suspects: Paul M., Robert, Yanks, etc. As William noted, the Vulcans are notoriously different from us socially. Paul noted the same for the Trills, which I then much elaborated on.

Peter G. now "can't really imagine there being such a thing as practical nobility on a Federation world." It depends on definitions of nobility. The joined Trill, as a concept, are an ultra-elite hyper-aristocracy that far surpasses anything we have ever had on Earth: beings bound by force of biology to be *better* than non-joined Trill, and by statistical probability to remember the memories of their own ancestors. They are, quite simply, *superior beings.* I call this a practical nobility of the highest order.

And isn't it interesting that we observe a similar reverence for the joined Trill *among the Trill* as for the truly high-born on Earth *in monarchies,* or countries with a long aristocratic tradition?

This is important. I can speak much better about nobility with an Indian, or a Japanese, than with a Canadian or a Chilean, for the latter quite simply have no real idea of what nobility is, of what it means to have noble Houses permeate not only a thousand years of history, but the top levels of society today.

It is a little bit like the Emperor of Japan. He may hold much less power than the President of the United States; but he holds it for life, not four or eight years. And outside the United States, he enjoys much more prestige. Or perhaps it would be better to say: a different kind of prestige. The President of the United States will typically be admired for what he has *achieved.* The Emperor of Japan is simply admired for what he *is.*

I am reminded of a memorable quote by Camacho once (legendary left back for Real Madrid and Spain in the 70s and 80s, and later manager for the club and the Spanish national team. Real Madrid are the most winning football club in the world; they just won their 11th Champions League a month ago):

Camacho, talking about the attitudes of fans towards football clubs, also noted the different "kinds of prestige." He said: "Real Madrid is feared everywhere, and Real Madrid is respected. But Real Madrid is not loved."

I have thought much about this ever since, because it is about much more than football. It is about the feelings we humans feel.

The Emperor of Japan is loved in Japan, just as the King of Thailand is loved in Thailand, in a way no President of the United States has been in the US in a very long time, if ever.

This is what I mean: we must consider how royalty is regarded in their own culture. If the Betazoids are anything like us, Lwaxana is a Daughter of the Fifth House. She may not be the Empress of Japan; but she's likely at least the Duchess of Devonshire. Whatever office she currently holds is largely irrelevant, for it is temporal only. The Sacred Chalice of Rixx is intemporal.

And how can we see this? Precisely because she never refers her title as Ambassador. That, to her, is completely irrelevant. As it would be, I imagine, for most Betazoids. Just like a Duke's identity is not about his office: it is about his heritage.

Deanna is a typical son or daughter. Fortunately, we humans can be completely irreverent at times, and even mock that prestige we simply take for granted. That doesn't mean it isn't there.

Deanna's attitude towards her mother is also a bit like when we criticize our own country. I may criticize my country as much as I please. But if you begin critizing my country, be sure to tread very, very carefully...

As to Homm, if we follow human benchmarks, he's a manservant. Not much to discuss there, is there?

But as Chrome points out, the series itself never clarifies any of this; my take on it is only if we use human standards as guiding light. So anything goes, and the more outlandish your theories, the better ;)
Peter G.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 9:51pm (UTC -6)
@ Andy's Friend,

Good point about cultures that revere the heritage of nobility, and it seems in keeping with the way Lwaxana speaks that Betazed might be of that historical tradition. She does, at the very least, make it known that her lineage is more important to her than her diplomatic status. It should be mentioned in this context, as an aside, that certain ambassadors to the Federation, such as Sarek, were apparently appointed for life, which would make their position in that case much more like the permanent status of a noble. Sarek wasn't merely Sarek, but was "Sarek of Vulcan", no doubt a reference to his service to the world he represents.

However there are a couple of points I'd like to make to clarify what I said. First of all, I was speaking only about active, practical power, such as the ability to issue orders or make decrees. I have no doubt at all that Lwaxana receives things like respect and honorifics back home for her noble title, but the question I pose is whether being a noble actually means anything in terms of her ability to, for example, issue threats to the Ferengi, or to even wield power back home. We can't know for sure either way, but I have a hard time believing the Federation would admit a member that actively endorsed a ruling class that had practical power over the lower classes and could order them around. Just from what I've seen from the various Star Trek series, it appears to me that Federation membership has a requirement that a member planet be united and that it be a sort of democracy. That automatically rules out having a noble class with real political powers, since that setup is strictly anti-egalitarian. Given that Federation worlds will also have access to technology such as replicators, I find it doubly unlikely for Federation worlds to have disproportionate power in the hands of few based on familial lineage, since it is scarcity conditions that lead to feudal-style monarchy.

The second point I'd like to make is that while it's true that many Earth cultures as we see them now revere outward signs of a historical tradition, whether that be familial lineage, or even membership in historic institutions like the Knights of Malta or the Knights Templar, the fact that such people are often imbued not only with respect but with tangible power is, I think, an artifact of Earth's past rather than its future. I would like to think that such cabals of privileged people and the power they wield will fade as culture and technology (hopefully) advance in the direction of Star Trek, to the point where we might enjoy a real egalitarian sense of brotherhood and civility in the future. In the sense of there is some mystery and prestige surrounding it I can see why the people of some nations even now hold royalty and nobility in high regard, but to be honest I think it's a romanticized and vestigial remnant of an institution that has historically been all about doing murder to poor people and pillaging the wealth of those less powerful. There is simply nothing good about this when seen from the vantage point of an enlightened culture (not that America is that).

I like the *idea* of your comparison between Earth nobility and joined trills in terms of being a living link to history, but I think that's where the similarity ends. In particular, regarding this quote:

"The joined Trill, as a concept, are an ultra-elite hyper-aristocracy that far surpasses anything we have ever had on Earth"

I see no evidence of this anywhere; certainly not in DS9. Joined Trill appear to be regarded as the lucky ones, and certainly they've 'won' something in life that is coveted, but I'm not sure why you think they are an aristocracy in any sense. Aristocracy literally means "rule of the best", and even if we grant you that they are "the best" Trills (debatable, and I would argue that this is not how Star Trek itself views them, and certainly not how I do) there is no reason to believe they rule the Trill homeworld. And this is my main point. If being an aristocrat does not actually entail ruling or having power then it's just an honorific, much like, frankly, the way people are now called "Sir" in McDonald's as an honorific, or the way all theatre audiences are "ladies and gentlemen." It's a title with no real meaning meant to convey respect. And in any case, as opposed to a title obtained through family lineage, being chosen for Trill joining is supposedly done strictly through merit, so again the comparison seem limited to the fact that they are a living piece of history. That's worth something, to be sure, but it hardly makes anyone a aristocrat that's better than anyone else. Even the notion of that seems antithetical to everyone Picard ever claimed about the Federation (or even Kirk, for that matter).
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 10:19pm (UTC -6)
They don't rule the Trill world anymore than Paris Hilton rules America if you want to go that route. But she is more important than I am, and I get the feeling so are joined Trill.
Peter G.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 11:42pm (UTC -6)
"But she is more important than I am"

I don't agree :)

Call me crazy, but I think fans of science fiction like Trek will be more important going forward in the long-term compared to the celebrity of the day. She gets more airtime, but probably isn't thinking much about the future of humanity.
Fri, Jul 1, 2016, 6:25am (UTC -6)
More important to the future of the world? Yes. Could she walk into most restaurants and get a table without a reservation though? That's the type of thing I imagine Mrs. Troi as able to do.
Sun, Jul 3, 2016, 10:31pm (UTC -6)
@Luke, thank you for reminding me about one of my favorite Simpsons episodes! "In your face, space coyote!" " Space coyote?!" LOL! I am going to work that like into conversation some time this week.

Another appropriate reaction from that Simpsons episode is when Homer in mid-trip checks his popping pupils in the water, which then transforms into an enormous rattlesnake that winds around him, and benignly slithers away as Homer cautiously remarks, "Oooooooooookaaaaayyyyyyy....." That sums up my response to this episode!

Majel wrote this episode? I guess that explains a lot. She sort of writes her character a kind of ending (though I would have liked more resolution to Lwaxana). And Majel's effect on the consummate Trek writer Gene Roddenberry might have inspired Onaya's character.

Considering Jake Sisko never writes on paper and hasn't even been to school in years (nice parenting on that one, Benny), he has amazing cursive handwriting!
Andy's Friend
Thu, Jul 7, 2016, 1:50pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

As regards "active, practical power, such as the ability to issue orders or make decrees," we really have no idea, do we? We know that noble Houses play a significant role in Klingon society and politics. Is the same true on Betazed?

What is the Fifth House exactly? Is the the fifth of five or more collateral lines, or Houses, of the ruling Royal House? Or is it actually the fifth ruling dynasty, in chronological terms?

Is the Fifth House in a bitter feud with the "Third House" for supremacy on the "Council of Rixx?" Or is it just a sentimental memory of eras past?

PETER G.―"I have a hard time believing the Federation would admit a member that actively endorsed a ruling class that had practical power over the lower classes and could order them around."

Based from what we've seen on Star Trek, I mostly agree. A little "ordering them around" might be tolerated; but I also believe that Federation policy must have some clear limits to how the lower classes are ruled.

But that doesn't preclude the Fifth House from being in a bitter feud with the "Third House" for supremacy on the "Council." What powers such a hypothetical Council might hold is speculation. Maybe its role could be to conduct foreign policy. Maybe it could be something else entirely. The point is, it is perfectly possible to have a conspicuously aristocratic political system, *and* democracy at the same time: the two are not actually mutually exclusive.

If the aristocratic ethos in society is strong enough, and/or specific requirements are demanding enough that only aristocrats can meet them, the people will simply vote for the aristocrats for certain specific bodies, and/or certain specific functions, and political rivalry will then be a question of "Fifth House vs Third Houses". Aristocrats may then continue to exert considerable or even overwhelming influence, even with a democratic political framework.

PETER G.―"That automatically rules out having a noble class with real political powers, since that setup is strictly anti-egalitarian."

See what you did there? You are conflating concepts: democracy is not necessarily strictly egalitarian. Isonomia, isegoria, and isokratia are different things. The commoners of some alien species may be perfectly happy with their equal rights before the law, or their equal rights to adress authorities and have their cases heard, or their single vote, and not demand equal participation in politics. Taken to its extreme, if the people systematically wishes to vote for aristocrats only, a democratic system may actually enforce strict aristocratic rule.

And there are other ways this can happen: democracy can take on many guises. As I wrote, we can perfectly imagine a poly-synodal system where aristocracy exerts significant power in certain bodies without affecting participation of the people in others, and the overall democratic nature of the system. The British House of Lords, until very recently, was the prime of several examples in the West. In most of Europe, we slowly eroded such aristocratic power over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. But what if the aristocratic ethos on some alien world is so widespread among the people that such a process has not occurred, and aristocratic institutions instead have even more power, sanctioned by the people, than they traditionally enjoyed in Earth constitutional, parliamentary monarchies?

Simply put, what if the people *wants* to be ordered around by aristocrats? Is it so outlandish a thought? What if aristocrats, due to biological differences, are actually, much as the joined Trill, demonstrably superior, in one way or another (always beware of anthrocentrism...), and therefore better suited for some particular fields? A democratic division of power, placing some, or even much of it in the hands of the aristocracy isn't difficult to imagine; this is science-fiction, after all. We cannot simply rule out powerful, and fully constitutional and institutionalized aristocratic influence in democratic systems on alien worlds. In fact, I would be surprised if Trill doesn't develop into one such hyper-aristocratic-within-a-democratic-framework hybrid system over time.

But indeed, as so often on Star Trek, we have no clue as regards the specifics, in this case, Betazed. I guess it's the writers' way of making everybody happy: everything is left vague enough that anyone can have whatever they wish to believe be true. I like Lwaxana, and I like aristocracy, so I say the Fifth House rules the Council of Rixx! :)
Peter G.
Thu, Jul 7, 2016, 2:35pm (UTC -6)
@ Andy's Friend,

I never said such forms of democracy/aristocracy cannot exist. Just look at the ancient Roman Republic for a good look at how one can construct a mishmash between populism and oligarchy. What I was saying is that I have a hard time believing the Federation would admit such a planet. I don't think the Roman Republic would be accepted into the Federation. Again, I say this based more on the tone of TNG and TOS than on anything we're explicitly told, but I get the feeling that prospective Federation applicants are given a list of what they have to achieve first, and by and large I expect that list conforms mostly to the Federation ideals that we know. Are there influential people in the Federation? Of course. Even families? Probably. But that's different from a systemic political structure that actually enforces a class to have a certain disproportionate influence. I don't think the Federation would accept that.

Regarding the analogy between noble houses on Betazed and Kronos, we can be quite sure that Kronos would not be accepted into the Federation even if it begged for it. The Klingons are best suited as allies, but could never be members unless they reformed their way of life wholesale.
Sun, Sep 11, 2016, 10:55am (UTC -6), yeah.

The odo-lwaxana plot doesn't bother me as much as it seems to bother others, but the bit that bugged me right from the start was part of it's premise - the moment Lwaxana reveals, in the cold opening, that she's pregnant, my immedate thought was that years before, one of her first TNG appearances revolved around her going through the betazoid menopause? Ok, alien species, different rules, but it's beginning to raise the question of in what sense "the Phase" is equivalent to menopause... but w/e, I can roll with it.

It's not the strongest plot, but it's not bad, it just couldn't carry an episode on it's own, and between the episode's title and the climax coming so early in the episode, it is quite clearly intended to be the B-plot.

As to the space vampire... :shudder:

The only redeeming point of the entire Jake subplot was a subtle bit at the end, when after talking to his dad, he wrote and signed the title page - "Anslam," a call-back to The Visitor, this was the title of the only novel that future Jake had published. Not nearly enough to redeem this awful mess, but it seemed worth noting.
Intrinsic Random Event
Mon, Dec 26, 2016, 8:15pm (UTC -6)
Going through a run of the DS9 DVD set at the moment, and stumbled on to this ep... eek...
Really quite awful and annoying. I suppose when you have 26-episode seasons, occasionally one like this will blurt out. A dumb thing to do to Jake's character, and, well, a dumb thing to do to Odo's character too... maybe there were usable ideas here somewhere, but the writing wasn't up to it this time... maybe it's the writers who needed a visit from the magic-creativity-space-vampire...
Perhaps worst of all, Lwaxana had the opportunity to bring back the "Mr Wolf" Worf gag, and she passed it up... he was sitting right there!
Tue, Dec 27, 2016, 7:19pm (UTC -6)
2 stars for me - 1.5 for Odo/Lwaxana (some great interactions, and a lot of heart and warmth; put these two actors and characters together and magic happens) and 0.5 for Jake/Onaya (which has almost no redeeming features; a couple of the Jake/Ben scenes are OK, but everything with Onaya is terrible, hackneyed, repetitive schlock with no discernable point, and Meg Foster's performance is comically dreadful).

William B's analysis of Lwaxana and Odo/Lwaxana above is one of the best things he's ever written on this site (some feat in itself).
Tue, Jan 31, 2017, 11:29pm (UTC -6)
I must say, regardless of the criticisms of the writing, character analysis, etc. The so-called irrational behavior of Odo marrying her to help her isn't that irrational. Lwaxana showed Odo, in more ways than Kira nor any other character had done up to this point, the acceptance, welcoming, and appreciation he'd longed for.

He was an outcast, outsider, the "other" his whole life. So to expect that her kindness wouldn't have a powerful affect on him isn't (in the words and of the Great Spock) "logical". Friendship and appreciation is gold for the lonely. Just ask any truly lonely person (not just someone who's alone). In addition to her kindness, they had grown to have a better friendship than Odo had with people he'd worked YEARs with. There were several examples of this displayed in the episode.

I genuinely think Odo (especially in light of his pseudo-rejection from Kira) grew to appreciate his relationship with Lwaxana. And I think he meant everything he said at there wedding (minus that he loved her and really wanted her to marry him). He expressed a great deal of appreciation for her friendship in his vows and he meant them. So is it really that irrational that he wouldn't do everything to help her? Odo is very loyal to his friends, that much is clear.
Sat, Mar 4, 2017, 7:36pm (UTC -6)
I saw the Netflix preview of this episode which seemed to show Kira and Odo in some really weird costumes and knew then and there that this would a be a 1 star ep. Yep.
Andrew Hoffmann
Wed, Mar 8, 2017, 8:26pm (UTC -6)
Odo inviting Quark to his wedding is a bit of a reach, even for their Odd Fellows relationship.
Sat, May 6, 2017, 8:02pm (UTC -6)
Soo......this is the DS9 version of "Not without my daughter?" Except, it's a boy child, there's a green card wedding at the end and a B plot of Jake and a cougar/MILF (M=Muse).

0.8 stars

I hope the next episode breaks the streak of crap stories.
Mon, May 22, 2017, 6:13pm (UTC -6)
I thought this episode really was alright, and not one of the worst episodes of DS9 as Jammers and commenters are making it out to be.

It would have fit right into seasons 1-3, and still had some nice moments in the Luxwana plot.

1.5-2 stars for me.
Peter Swinkels
Sat, Jun 10, 2017, 3:09am (UTC -6)
Boring and pointless episode...
Sat, Aug 5, 2017, 7:45pm (UTC -6)
Yawn! This episode I couldn't get through--either of the. plots. Season four was a waste and very mediocre.
Mrs Peel
Sat, Nov 11, 2017, 12:51pm (UTC -6)
While the plot lines are a mess, the one thing I love in this episode is the chemistry between Lwaxanna and Odo. Rene Auberjonois and Majel Barrett are just terrific together and their character’s relationship reveals an important side of Odo - his desire to be loved. I’m rewatching the series and really have come to appreciate Lwaxanna’s arrival on DS9 and I credit that to the actors.

The storyline of Troi’s pregnancy and marriage are certainly far fetched and raise a lot of philosophical questions, but for me, I prefer to look at the bigger picture of the friendship. I am just floored by Auberjonois’s performance and I love his speech at the wedding. Barrett also sells it in the last scene where she tells him she’s leaving and he doesn’t really love her in the same way she loves him. (I would argue he does love her.)

As for the Jake storyline, I’d rather that it just be forgotten.
Sat, Jan 20, 2018, 6:56pm (UTC -6)
Boring as hell.
Thu, Jun 21, 2018, 9:32pm (UTC -6)
Terrible episode. Pointless, boring, and it even disrespects Odo's fine character with some nonsense that has no applicability to DS9's arcs or even as an analogy to something in real life. Quite clearly one of DS9's worst episodes with 2 subplots that are probably equally stupid and that have nothing to do with each other (which further affects the sum total of the episode).

When Lwaxana showed up pregnant I knew we were in for some stupidity. But I guess when she falls asleep on Odo, his character changes and he says he'll marry her?? What ever happened to trying everything possible to get away from her -- there's just no explanation for Odo's about-face. I suppose in the wedding ceremony, there's some truth to his desire for companionship and that Lwaxana didn't recoil given how different he was. But this is not enough of a payoff given how much crap the viewer has to sit through. And even Lwaxana admits the friendship is more important and Odo doesn't really love her so she goes off to Betazed to have the baby -- at least she won't be on DS9 anymore. Anyhow, it's a shame that a great Trek actress like Majel Barrett has taken on this Lwaxana role. She could be given so much better.

As for Jake and the alien woman -- I guess the payoff is Jake gets the start to a great novel before being saved from having all his brain power or whatever drained. This subplot was downright weird, farfetched, and I'm not sure what the point was. Is it to say Jake can't come up with something great on his own and needs this alien to help him?

In the initial encounter the writer(s) didn't even make it seem like Jake was under the spell of Onaya and he just innocently decides to go to her quarters. So he's naive but then just goes along with her massaging his head while he keeps writing? Just really weird and nonsensical. Highly questionable.

1 star for "The Muse" -- a mashup of 2 awful subplots (one of which was written by Majel Barrett). Slow, boring, and disappointing. So Onaya was behind some of the greatest writers and she/it can just come and go -- was she even done with using Jake when Sisko showed up? Anyhow lots of unanswered questions that aren't worth asking given how bad and forgettable this episode was.
Thu, Aug 2, 2018, 9:27pm (UTC -6)
More stars deserved

It expands on Odo, his discovery of childbearing and the psychological connection. And it that scene to finally treat her seriously.

That was a really good scene
Mon, Aug 20, 2018, 2:16am (UTC -6)
When Lwaxana Troi is the highlight of the episode, you know you're in bad shape. Maybe that's being unfair though-this plot actually works quite nicely-it's the god-awful A-story that really dooms this episode. Similar to "Move Along Home", it's too ridiculous to begin to take seriously, but not entertaining enough to warrant a roast-it's just awful.

1.5 stars.
Fri, Nov 16, 2018, 4:58am (UTC -6)
I think this one probably suffers from sitting in the middle of the superb series 4. Worst of series 4, no question, but the show has made far worse, and the very worst episode, Profit and Lace, is yet to come. The scenes between Odo and Lwaxana are sweet and have some emotional truth to them. The Jake stuff is just empty rubbish. It might be interesting if he made a choice to trade longevity for a burst of brilliance, but he never appears to understand what his happening to him, so it's just a bunch of weird nonsense with no consequences.
Sun, Nov 25, 2018, 2:03pm (UTC -6)
This episode is utter tripe, of course. It goes beyond merely boring the audience, and actually insults their intelligence. I agree with others who commented above with the sentiment that this isn't a good send off for Lwaxana, and that I wished that they had given Majel Barret better material over the years. Rene Auberjonois does well in the heartfelt speech revealing his inner isolation and how she was the only one who accepted him for what he really was. It was the best thing about this episode, but it wasn't enough. I also agree with those who stated that it was very uncharacteristic of him to come up with the idea of marrying her on his own.

As for the A-story: this is a witch/sorceress story, nothing more. It comes complete with hokey sets full of candles and curtains. This is kind of the "Sub Rosa" of DS9. I checked the air date to see if it was near Halloween, but it aired in April. I don't understand why the writers sometimes get it into their heads that *Star Trek* would be a good vehicle for this type of story. It's not Supernatural or Buffy. Couching the mystical elements in sci-fi terms only makes it worse. Really? They are using their tricorders to scan for "psionic energy?" When I saw Sisko crawling through the Jefferies tubes doing that, all I could do was scoff and roll my eyes. At least when they talk about detecting neutrinos, or EM fields, those exist in real life. Again we are treated to the silly notion that there are different categories of "energy" with different properties (TIL: "psionic energy" dissipates quickly from bulkheads). Ugh. Inventing a mystery field is can be *okay* (theoretical physicists sometimes even do so and then work out what its properties would be, to see if it could explain observed phenomena). So it would be different if this had been introduced as an element of Trek from the get go to explain how telepathy works, in-universe. But it was just shoehorned in for this episode, and was as hokey as everything else.

I don't usually bother giving episodes a quantitative rating, but this is definitely a:

Wed, Jan 9, 2019, 6:37am (UTC -6)
It was a solid, decent ep.

The Jake plot was not very engaging, not well developed, and the sexual way Onaya interacted with young Jake was creepy. Just not much meat in that story. Meg Foster was perfectly cast, though.


This ep is about CONNECTIONS. And I liked the Odo plot. Sweet and well done, especially the wedding scene. Odo and Llwaxana have managed to establish a true connection, a rarity for both. Llwaxanna even talks to him about Kestra. They've both turned into puddles and successfully trusted the other to care.

Unlike the Jake connection with Onaya, the connection is beneficial to both parties - without one of them dying.

They are each other's muse. Their connection is not as intense or fast or exotic as Jake and Onaya's. Nobody writes a Great Federation Novel in just a couple of days. But it is, in the end, mature, unselfish, and real.

This ep is never going to be in anyone's list of True Greats. But contrast the relationships in the story, and you'll understand what the ep is about.

It definitely doesn't belong in the pit with Meridian, Move Along Home, and some others. Not even close.
Peter G.
Wed, Jan 9, 2019, 10:04am (UTC -6)
I never loved, but also never hated this one. The guest star (Meg Foster, I guess) is incredible and it's a testament to her contribution that she can make poetry out of the humdrum lines she was given to say.

As for the "muse" angle, I guess the idea is supposed to be that Jake can't write about what he doesn't know, and at this point he doesn't know much. Especially in light of having never 'lost himself completely' to love. So that's what happens here: he gets a sci fi version of having his soul literally sucked out of him by someone using him. The muse in this sense is life experience, which he's just getting at an accelerated rate. Real life artists often engage in questionable situations just to 'have an experience' that can maybe add to their art, so from that perspective this episode shows nothing out of the ordinary. What I don't like in the writing is that we never get a sense of Jake's perspective on the result, and it instead mostly plays as a monster of the week rather than letting us wonder whether he actually did prefer this to hanging around doing not much. It would be a big thing for Ben to argue that Jake has no business giving himself for his art when being in Starfleet often ends with the same result.
Top Hat
Wed, Jan 9, 2019, 11:25am (UTC -6)
I'd be very surprise if this episode weren't inspired by the Celtic legends of the leanan sidhe.
William B
Wed, Jan 9, 2019, 11:55am (UTC -6)
I do like the Odo/Lwaxana material.

The Jake stuff -- well, I can see what Peter is saying (and what Springy is saying about how it ties into the Odo/Lwaxana plot). I tend to read it as being about Jake becoming obsessed with his writing, to the exclusion of all else (his muse is the thrill of the art itself), and certainly it's consistent with The Visitor to suggest that Jake can become extremely, overwhelmingly obsessive when given a cause. It actually may even help explain why he's as directionless as he is much of the time, because maybe Jake even recognizes on some level that he can easily become overwhelmed if actually given a direction.
Wed, Jan 9, 2019, 1:17pm (UTC -6)
Interesting thoughts.

We do hear Jake and Dad talking about how Onaya pulled out of him what was already there, but, due to his insecurities and such, he was having trouble accessing and releasing what was inside him.

And with Llwaxana talking about Kestra, and Odo taking about Kira, we see that pair doing the same thing for each other: releasing what they usually keep inside. But they do it out of love for one another, very different from the cold way Onaya is using Jake.

On the subject of what obsession, that William B mentions, yes, obsession can isolate you and figuratively (or literally) kill you, as Onaya did Jake.

We have Jake's writing, Llawaxana's torch for Odo, and Odo's torch for Kira. These are things you can allow to consume you, isolate you, to make you joyous one moment and miserable the next, if you allow them to become obsessions.

The Jake plot was too thin to understand, as Peter says, how Jake was seeing all this. I wasn't really sure where Jake stood on the whole thing, when it was over.

But because Odo and Llwaxana shared and equal, adult, loving experience (not a possession of one being by another, like Onaya and Jake or Llawaxana and hubby Jayal) they respected each other and helped each other truly feel better.

(Also think about the baby here. The connection between mother and child, the mother's body feeding the baby, another type of connection and one that is necessary wholly selfish on the baby's side, but innocently so, and in its innocence and selfishness, it feels utter contentment, it knows nothing but itself. It is not so different from Onaya in one way, but very different in another. And that pregnancy and scene with Odo is a deliberate addition to "connections" that we see in the ep.)
Peter G.
Wed, Jan 9, 2019, 1:31pm (UTC -6)
To me the most important element that we lack due to not getting Jake's POV is whether, in fact, Onaya is coldly and selfishly using him. I mean, it's selfish in that she gets something out of it, but that doesn't have to mean she's just a parasite using him to spit him out. I would have liked to see at least a tiny bit of exploration of what Jake might have thought he was getting out of it, and whether perhaps we might see it as her giving him a rare gift as she saw it. She does say that, but because of how it's shot we will tend to view her statement as being self-serving. But what if it wasn't and this was actually her way of caring for someone? Maybe receiving that kind of care can cost you. Odo certainly 'loses' his sense of dignity in a way when he has to protest his feelings for Lwaxana. Someone might argue that she's "costing him" something, and he'd probably say he knows, but it's worth it. Likewise, caring for Kira costs him something all the time as it is.

So in Jake's story a case could have been made that her affections, too, cost him something, but in this case the cost is much higher. But if the reward is much higher too (from a certain perspective) then does that square and perhaps mean she had something legitimate to offer? This is the exploration, even if brief, that I would like to have seen. How much is what you most desire worth?
Wed, Jan 9, 2019, 1:47pm (UTC -6)
Peter G

Yes, well said.

This could have been a very good ep had the Jake story been better defined. Onaya is basically portrayed as a parasite, but, yes, there is some suggestion that she's giving as well as getting, but . . . who can tell, really? It's the ep's biggest failure.

I know what you're saying about Odo . . . losing his dignity, in a sense, but what I like best about that wedding scene is that he spares them both utter humiliation by speaking the truth. A very careful version of the truth, yes, but he meant what he said.

The Odo part was nicely done. Had the Jake part been so nicely done, it would have dovetailed beautifully, giving us a nice ep with a coherent theme about the diverse, give and take natures of our various interpersonal connections, add we go through life . . . from the clueless utter selfishness of babyhood to the deliberate, selfless, mature love that can occur later in life.

Jake and Onaya could have nicely represented the sort of in between love we can experience as young adults, which is more (but not completely) selfish, more about infatuation and obsession and getting our "fix" from the loved one, than true love.

But it just wasn't done well enough. Lots of potential, not well realized.
William B
Wed, Jan 9, 2019, 1:59pm (UTC -6)
The episode doesn't give much focus to Ben, but it occurs to me it's also drawing out a parallel between Ben and Lwaxana, in terms of their concern for their child, and their desire not to lose their child to a force they see as malignant, but which apparently also wants what's best for the child, from their perspective -- Lwaxana's husband, who wants to isolate the male child from Lwaxana, and Onaya who wants to take Jake out of the material world and into the storytelling world (at least to an extent). What's interesting is that Ben and Lwaxana both take actions which necessarily shut the "rival" out of their lives, but it's (arguably) more justified than what the rival is doing, because it's a defensive reaction. Lwaxana would, I think we're meant to understand, be fine with her husband having a role in their child's life, provided that it did not also require Lwaxana to be shut out. She might have a problem with it, but it's her husband's absolutism that means she has to act to isolate him. Ben might struggle with it, but I think he'd probably make peace with Jake being...more into his writing (or more obsessed with a particular "real" muse) than Ben himself would think as normal, provided that it still left some room in Jake's life for other people, including Ben. They both act to isolate their child from an influence which threatens *total* isolation, or at least, an isolation which would preclude them (as parents) and also their values.

This is also, on some level, related to Odo's own experience. Odo, like Lwaxana's unborn child, is sort of the result of a custody battle between his adoptive society (Dr. Mora, Bajor, DS9) and his birth family (the Founders). Kira -- who is his biggest connection within the society he's been raised into -- made it clear in The Search that she would not stand in Odo's way of finding his people, but she realized early that Odo's birth people were going to seek to dominate or destroy Odo's adoptive people. Odo ended up choosing Kira et al because they were the less aggressive, less isolating ones, but he did have to cut his people off *entirely* in order to maintain his ability to maintain connections with the others, because Odo doesn't believe that it's possible for him to be in both worlds. Odo is old enough to basically act in the Lwaxana/Ben role here -- to decide for himself who he'll ally with, and to cut himself off from the force that seeks to isolate him from everyone else.

It's sort of tricky here, because Lwaxana's husband, and Onaya, and even the Founders, are maybe not *malicious* in terms of what they want to give the baby, Jake and Odo. I see no reason to believe that Lwaxana's husband doesn't want what he believes is best for his child, and the Founders seem, in their own way, to want what's best for Odo, despite their rather rough abandonment and manipulation. As Peter says, it's hard to evaluate based on the episode itself whether Onaya is for real in what she says, but she might be. I think it's a little hard to stay on the right side of it; Lwaxana and Ben have to act a little like her husband and Onaya, in making the decision for their child (either unborn in the case of Lwaxana's, or not fully in his right mind in Jake's case) to isolate them. But I think I do read them as reacting to a threat of someone trying to isolate them, rather than attempting to create the isolation, itself.
Mon, Apr 8, 2019, 1:33pm (UTC -6)
Teaser : **.5, 5%

We begin AGAIN with alleged main character Jake Sisko keeping watch from his perch on the Promenade. He observes several comers and goers milling about the station, emerging from a transport that just docked. One of the passengers and Jake make eyes at each other, and she's older so we know where this is going. Is it too much to hope that Jake will have more than a few token lines in a story that's supposed to be about him? Probably.

Meanwhile, Lwaxana has holed herself up in Odo's office. He finds her there, weeping like she just let her daughter drown. Too soon? Actually, she's sad because she's extremely pregnant. Yowza.

I thought about doing another trip down memory lane with the Lwaxana episodes, as I did recently for Q and “Death Wish” or Worf and TWotW, but 1. William B has a nice and succinct listing on this thread already which covers the major points and 2. unlike those others, this story doesn't play out like a culmination or turning point for her character. The fact that this is Lwaxana's final Trek appearance is kind of a footnote to this story. At any rate, the set-up so far is...tenuous. It could go either way, into the land of light but probing character study or the nightmare realm of clichéd 90s sitcom bullshit. We shall see.

Act 1 : **, 17%

It turns out that in the year or so since Lwaxana's menopause caused the DS9 crew to go fanfic crazy in (to date) the worst episode of Star Trek I have reviewed, she has gotten married to a man called erm...Jor-El? Is that the problem? Is Krypton about to explode and Lwaxana doesn't want to put the baby in a rocket ship? Nah, actually it turns out her husband is from a culture with Weird Rules that forbid the intermingling of sexes during childhood/adolescence. Lwaxana's male baby is required to be separated from her at birth. Thankfully, Lwaxana's breathless exposition makes it clear that she was under the impression that Jor-El wasn't going to adhere to traditional Kryptonian, I mean Tavnian norms, but the short months since the wedding have proved him unreliable in this promise.

LWAXANA: During our wedding ceremony, he spoke so beautifully about why he wanted to marry me, but afterwards it was as if I had become a piece of property in his eyes.

So here's the first major flaw with the construction of this story: unlike in “Cost of Living,” the social issue under scrutiny isn't given any development or nuance whatsoever. We don't come to understand this cultural perspective in any way beyond Lwaxana's objection to it. She was equally indignant over Timicin's mandatory suicide, but that was made clear *after* we had a chance to get to know Timicin, to empathise with his situation and the complexities of his life and work. Is anyone in this episode going to stand up for the pro-gender-segregationists? I doubt it.

Basically, I get the impression that Echevarria wasn't confident in this story's ability to be compelling. This isn't something I agree with necessarily, but the result is that the important backstory and context is whizzed through in this awkward dialogue scene upfront. While “Hard Time” was perhaps even more interested in getting past the polemics in favour of the character material, it did establish (in the teaser) what the relevant perspectives and arguments were. The Agrathi were given their say, albeit briefly. And throughout the episode, the morality of Miles' punishment was still being considered obliquely through the lens of his psychological break. Is the Agrathi system of simulating imprisonment more ethical than actual imprisonment? “Hard Time” actually spent, ahem, some time examining that question.

We cut back to Jake who is furiously working on story ideas in Quark's when the alien Milf sets herself down nearby and starts reading seductively, like you do. Like Lwaxana, she doesn't waste time and gets to her point rather quickly:

ONAYA: Kell [the architect] was shy, unsure of himself and his talent. Most people would never notice someone like him, but I have a weakness for artists...He accomplished more in the years that he had than most people could in a dozen lifetimes. His name is known throughout the quadrant. His buildings will stand for centuries to come. Isn't that what an artist wants, to be remembered? Isn't that why you write?

Kell died young, but is so famous that even teenaged humans know who he is and admire his legacy. I wonder where this is going. She suggests that Jake doesn't need school to become a great artist, he just needs training. Erm...what does she think school is, exactly? Nah, fuck actual work, there are “exercises” he can try that will make him more prolific or something. She invites him to ***CUM*** to her quarters later to learn them. Yeah.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

Jake is working his story in his own quarters when Sisko pops in wearing one of those god-awful 90s faux-African pyjama get-ups they insist on dressing him in when he's out of uniform. Sisko was under the impression that the three of them (the Siskos and Kassidy) were going on a camping trip to “the Bajoran Outback.” Yeesh. Ben, when are you going to learn that planning vacations with your son always ends in disaster? Knock it off, already. Anyway, whatever the lesson at the end of “The Visitor” was supposed to be, I got the distinct impression that Sisko was determined to stick close by his son, to not let him miss out on experiences (“It's life Jake. You can miss it if you don't open your eyes!”). But this time? Eh, fuck it, you're on your own, Jake-O.

Meanwhile, Lwaxana is finishing up her sob story to Mr Woof, Dax and Kira who were all geared up for a romantic trip to holographic Camelot. Quark suspects that there's some sort of inversion of “Fascination” going on. Oh, not that the episode is sublime instead of a crime against television, but that instead of infecting the crew with horniness, she's making them all sad. That is to say, poor customers. Apparently, in Quark's, being a sad lady is as offensive as being a violent drunk and can get you thrown out, so Odo agrees to try and cheer her up.

They go on stroll together where Troi conveys the backstory from “Dark Page.” Thematically, it does make sense for those events to be at the front of her mind, but it throws into even starker relief what a mistake airing “Fascination” was in between. She invites herself into his quarters to get some tea, using a transparent excuse about her replicator being on the fritz, and perks up substantially examining the curious array of objects Odo has strewn about the place. I really hope Dax has abandoned her juvenile pranking by now.

LWAXANA: Is this for shape-shifting?
ODO: Yes. Actually, most people think it's a sculpture.
LWAXANA: Well, what do most people know?...May I ask you something, Odo? Are you over her? Don't worry, I'm not going to throw myself at you if you say yes.

It's this level of interaction that always endears me to the Lwaxana/Odo relationship, despite the awkward turns we had to take to get here. Like in “The Forsaken,” it's Lwaxana's inability to give a damn over manners and politeness that allow her to break through Odo's shell in a way almost nobody else can (the only other contenders would be Dr Mora, who is borderline abusive, Resusci Anne, who skilfully manipulates him, and Garak, who literally had to torture him first). Odo explains that Shakaar has taken Kira off the table for Odo. Troi confirms that her off-screen marriage to Jor-El was an attempt to mend her broken heart after the events of “Dark Page” (again, WHY “Fascination,” WHY?). As William B noted, we cap this scene with an allusion to that first revelatory moment between the two as they sit together on the floor and she “relaxes her shape” and falls asleep in his arms. We also get an unexpected reference to, of all things, “The Child”:

LWAXANA: Sometimes, with Betazoid babies, you can actually sense their thoughts. Such contentment.
ODO: Yes, I can feel it, too.

Elsewhere, Jake makes his way to Alien Milf's quarters for his exercises. We learn that she and Guinan share a taste in fire-hazard interior design, with flowing tapestries and candles everywhere. I'm sorry to say that I know people who insist on decorating/unpacking in places they're only visiting. The dialogue very clearly draws a parallel between Jake losing his virginity (“You seem nervous...”) and whatever these creative exercises entail. There's another one of those 4th-wall nudging hints we get every so often, but this one has the distinction of displaying an ounce of humility, something lacking in most other cases:

JAKE: I have an idea for a novel. It's sort of autobiographical. The main character's mother dies. It's not about that really. It's about a lot of things.
ONAYA: So many it all seems so big to you right now. You're afraid that you can't do it justice?

She gifts him a special pen and paper which belonged to a famous author and encourages him to use them instead of his PADD. This is something I can attest to personally. As a composer, it is necessary nowadays to be adept at computer engraving—the musical equivalent of word-processing. You have to do this to make your work professional-looking and universally legible. However, too many composers compose *directly* into the computer, letting the synthesised instrumental playback guide their creation. This is a major problem in contemporary art music actually, and thus a practice my teacher strictly forbade when I was a student. To this day, I still do my writing by hand by a piano.

While Jake begins to write, Milf runs her hands over his neck and head, weaving together sci-fi brain chemistry elements with seduction and references to the creative process. None of this should work, but there's a kind of primal honesty about the scene that I find compelling. I don't know if I can explain it better than to simply point out that writers and composers and creators have these kinds of experiences sometimes, of feeling guided by almost supernatural forces. I want to be clear that being a successful artist involves a great deal of work, but there is also an essential element of spontaneous creation that may as well be an act of magic, or of God, or of (indeed) the muses working their power. It's also no secret that many artists make use of drugs to lower their inhibitions and make them more productive. This is essentially what whatever Milf's alien powers are doing to Jake. She's getting him high and this is letting him pour out his energies. As he works, Milf is able to extract some sort of energy from Jake's mind and feed herself (as with everything else she does, this has a highly sensual manner to it).The Gods always demand a sacrifice for their graces.

Act 3 : *.5, 17%

Lwaxana and Odo are playing “Find the Changeling,” a kind of light-hearted version of the opening from TWotW. The two admit that this game is a hell of a lot of fun, but Odo is called away, having been advised that Jor-El's ship has found its way to DS9. He instructs Lwaxana to wait in his quarters while he handles the situation.

In his office, it turns out that Jor-El is actually Kang in disguise! Heh! Once again, the Tavnian cultural perspective is reduced to tired clichés and platitudes:

JEYAL: I am not talking about her. I am talking about my son. I intend to see that he is raised by men, not by the pampering foolishness of women.

Of course, this couldn't be for anything besides your standard patriarchal attitude taken to an extreme. Anyway, as such things go, Odo has found a legal loophole that will solve this whole mess: the Tavnians are *such* assholes, that the child is considered the property of the mother's husband, not necessarily the child's father, so Odo is going to marry Lwaxana and claim ownership over the baby. I have to concur that this is probably the weakest part of the script; there have to be any number of legal options for a member of the Federation to avoid having her baby seized by a foreign government, but we're going for the most audacious spectacle possible because DRAMA.

Oh, did I say forced drama? Because it turns out for no discernible reason that Tavnian law demands the Bridegroom convince all present at the ceremony that his intentions are genuine, which means Odo has to convince Jor-El that he's madly in love with Lwaxana.

Anyway, Jake is still high on sexual muse magic, but he might be overdoing it a bit. His nose is starting to bleed, suggesting his brain is melting or something from the side effects of the experience.

Act 4 : **.5, 17%

So the ceremony ensues; Odo is goaded by Jor-El to explain why Lwaxana in particular is worthy of his eternal affection. I don't know what to say to the haters of this episode, but Odo's confession of why he considers Lwaxana to be a *friend* is quite moving and underscores the sweetness of their relationship. In Lwaxana, who has always been so loud, so forceful, so sexually aggressive and so opinionated, Odo found someone around whom he can utterly BE himself. Here is someone who behaves in a way that makes people dread her presence (audience and characters alike) by *choice*, and yet continues to live her life, continues to be exactly who she chooses to be, and in the rare circumstances she finds someone with whom she connects, is fiercely and uncompromisingly loyal. Why should a Changeling be shy or ashamed around such a friend?

ODO: The day I met her, is the day I stopped being alone. And I want her to be part of my life from this day on.

Despite this, the awkwardness of the plot continues to sabotage this story. Jor-El bids Lwaxana farewell and asks her to speak well of him to their son. I guess his fierce devotion to reclaiming his heir and prized possession is over now. Thanks for stopping by, buddy.

Anyway, Milf and Jake continue their work together, but she insists that he take a break. It seems he's been writing non-stop for as long as his father has been off the station. He emerges from her quarters looking like shit and eventually collapses on the Promenade, exhausted. Bashir later explains to Sisko in the infirmary that he's detected the weird brain stuff that Milf has been doing to his son. Luckily, the plot brings Jake into semi-consciousness just enough to utter Milf's name and give Sisko a clue as to what to look for. But while he rests, she materialises in the infirmary and tells Jake it's time to finish his great work.

Act 5 : **, 17%

The pair have hidden away in a Jeffries Tube.

ONAYA: Keep going, Jake. The moment I saw you, I knew you were worthy of what I could give you. But I can't stay with you forever. This is your chance to create something that will live on, long after you're gone.

Before Jake dies from writing, Sisko is able to track them down and point his phaser on Milf, telling her to back away. She tells him that Jake could have been great like her past conquests, Keats, Catullus and some alien, before doing as so many energy beings before her have done and disappearing into the vastness of space.

After this, erm, climax, Lwaxana pays Odo a visit to let him know she's returning to Betazed to have her baby there. Odo thinks maybe she should stick around a bit longer...

LWAXANA: You've gotten used to having me around, haven't you?...Don't you see? What you want is company, someone to take care of...As I wish that you were in love with me, I know you're not. I could stay, I try to make you fall in love with me, but we both know that won't happen. Then I'd end up resenting you, and our friendship is far too important for me to let that happen. That's why it's better for both of us if I leave now.

We close with the Siskos; Ben is impressed with what his son has created thus far. I think the resolution is sensible—perhaps too sensible, but I'll get back to that. It reminds me of the interaction in “Explorers,” but without being interminably boring. He explains to his son, essentially, that there are longer, less treacherous roads to creative output, and that Jake will eventually find his way down them. The final shot (and musical cue) reveal that Jake's novel is the same that won him fame in “The Visitor.”

Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

I have to laugh at Jammer's review here:

“What exactly are the writers going for here?...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?”

This is precisely how I felt about “The Visitor,” which is the Niners' “The Inner Light,” and left me a little cool. [chuckle] It's no secret that the writing staff was not pleased with how this episode turned out and I do understand why. The myriad changes the script went through show throughout the story and hold back the positives from ever taking off and being great chapters in this series. The construction of the story, the “plot,” is full of weird and uncomfortable contortions, especially in the Lwaxana/Odo material. In this respect, I concur with Jammer that this episode suffers from the A/B plot structure, but I think both of the stories deserved their own stand-alone episodes.

Let's start with Lwaxana. The general premise of her getting married (twice) and becoming pregnant, running away, etc...all of that works, I think, and the character scenes between her and Odo are charming and sometimes quite moving, especially the sleeping bit and Odo's vows. The problem is that the Tavnian culture is so cardboard and haphazard that it's like you can see the seams in the script where the writers cobbled together the backstory and exposition in desperation to save the character material. Jor-El and his customs serve the plot mechanics and nothing else, and this is because a ~22 minute story is insufficient to delve into the moral/cultural themes that demand attention from us. While the link between Lwaxana as Odo's positive muse and Milf as Jake's negative muse kind of sort of not really makes the two plots cohere, I maintain that these stories do not belong in the same episode. Given a “Cost of Living”-eque examination of the Tavnian culture and more effort expended in fleshing out the plot, the final Lwaxana story could have been a fine capstone to her arc. Instead, I think the story, such as it is, serves Odo well moving forward. He still laments the things he cannot have (Kira), but has, through this friendship, come to accept himself for who and what he is. This will play into heavily into the continuation of his story beginning at the end of this season.

The Jake story frustrates me because I think, despite the fact that this plot was kind of thrown together, the writers were really onto something. The general message and theme about art, artists and their lives ring very true. History is littered with examples of miserable people creating beautiful things that make life for the rest of us worth living. It's hard to ignore the very real possibility that accessing that numinous space necessary to produce such insightful beauty, be it poetry, music or great TV, requires sacrificing one's one happiness, or even one's own life to the muses. Doing the work of making art is such a unique process, that it defies our natural needs. You don't get inspired by eating your vegetables, exercising and getting plenty of rest, you get inspired by witnessing horrific wars, by hallucinating on drugs, by starving and suffering. Many artists believe that if they aren't suffering, they are failing to live up to their potential as creators. It's a maddening thought and an eternal question I'm not prepared to answer right now.

Anyway, those themes are present in the Jake/Milf story and I think are expressed honestly, so I appreciate that. However, there isn't time to make a compelling narrative out of this material, again in ~22 minutes. So we kind of glide past it and are left with a nebulous impression of something interesting happening with several awkward scenes gluing the (sometimes intriguing) scenes together. The vampirism and sexual awakening angles are hinted at and then abandoned, because, well, we ran out of time. A shame. All in all, I don't think this is a failure of an episode, but it falls very short of its potential.

Final Score : **
Mon, Apr 8, 2019, 2:16pm (UTC -6)
Considering Lwaxana went from menopause to pregnancy, you'd think we'd have seen more of Dr. Bashir in this episode...
Mon, Apr 8, 2019, 2:56pm (UTC -6)
I don't know, call me cynical, but I can't get over the fact that this is a writers' self-insert episode. Writers are SO great that attractive alien women come out of nowhere to feed on them and use their energy to uhm...wait, what was Onaya using the energy for? Is this "Man of the People" but with writers instead of empaths?

I'm genuinely glad that you could find so much you enjoyed in this episode, Elliott. Maybe it is an episode that strokes the egos of writers and artists. But for the rest of us normies, hard pass.
Mon, Apr 8, 2019, 4:32pm (UTC -6)
Hi Chrome:

I suppose that's fair, but there isn't any difference in general (to me) between the vampiress and Melanie from "The Visitor." If Jake is the creator, then Milf lady is the consumer. There might be some metaphors floating about about consumer culture and the toll this takes on artists, but as I said, I don't think the episode left nearly enough time to explore this topic to the extent that it deserves that credit. Clearly she was enjoying the experience, possibly even having some sort of orgasmic experience from feeding off of Jake. I don't require more of an explanation than that really--I mean, it's not more egregious than the giant talking heads from "The Nth Degree" or the many dozens of strangely motivated aliens from TOS, right?
Mon, Apr 8, 2019, 6:18pm (UTC -6)
A better comparison of Annoya is probably to the Traveler, whose visits pretty much seemed built around stroking Wesley's ego.
Mon, Apr 8, 2019, 6:32pm (UTC -6)

Fair point and just to clarify - my comment was a bit tongue in cheek - I don't really mind much whether the alien's motivation for using Jake is valid or not. I just find it funny how oddly specific the alien is about singling out writers. And of course, the alien in question is a sultry woman whose attachment to Jake has some unquestionable sexual overtones, as you mention. I suppose that in "The Visitor" I found Melanie's visit to Jake to be much more sincere and believable (in fact, I think The Visitor is based off reclusive writer J. D. Salinger's visit from a high school student, which is a pretty cool piece of production trivia). Here on the other hand, Onaya's attraction plays like a piece of self-indulgence for the writers who'd like to depict themselves as chick magnets holding some sort of mysterious ultimate power. While that may indeed be true for a handful of writers, on the whole it seems woefully like wishful thinking to me. But hey, I don't hang out in writers' circles, maybe they all really are fighting off sexually voracious women.
Mon, Apr 8, 2019, 6:48pm (UTC -6)

Couple things:

1. I liked the Traveller in his first 2 appearances
2. The Milf was generally attracted to/needed artists not specifically writers—it’s just that they had established Jake to be a writer, so there it is.
3. Chrome; you’ll be happy (?) to know that your cynicism is fully justified, because that sweet story about Salinger...well it turns out that young woman was actually an under cover reporter trying to get a scoop on the enigmatic recluse!
William B
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 10:28am (UTC -6)
To be fair, the episode has two "milf" characters (haha), and one is Lwaxana, who has a thing for lonely, introverted men, often older (Odo's age is ambiguous but Auberjonois is middle-aged anyway), not always traditionally attractive. We could also say that Odo or Timicin (or even Picard) being so attractive and interesting to a vivacious (albeit annoying) woman is also a kind of fantasy, just for nerdy introverted types instead of artists.

I think the way in which the episode *does* play out as a kind of fantasy is by playing on "tortured artist" tropes whereby creating art is so demanding and such a magical, special calling that artists are just such precious souls, above and beyond the...scientists, doctors, engineers, politicians, military leaders, ex-spies, entrepreneurs, policemen etc. that the show usually focuses on. For the most part, though, this doesn't seem to me to be a problem; everyone on the show is *some* kind of expert at their narrow field and is worthy of, and receives, tremendous acclaim. Even with the Jake stuff, the "sexy lady comes onto him" thing is pretty much framed as partly "she's a metaphor for The Desire to Create" and partly "she's a predatory force who has no interest in him and is going to literally kill him in order to get him to make art she wants," which to me doesn't seem to be that close to the fantasy of the hot sci-fi writer groupie chick that Chrome is maybe implying to a degree. I'm being tongue-in-cheek here, to be clear. Onaya is portrayed as being attractive, certainly. And Echevarria might well have a thing for the vampy older woman who is going to seduce him into writing a great novel and then throw his withered corpse in the trash, but taken as a whole story it seems pretty nightmarish.

I do think another thing that makes this episode not really work for me: Jake's art is so abstracted that we don't really get to see any representation of it. I mean, the show does find ways to represent scientific exploration, medical breakthroughs, the nuts-and-bolts of engineering work, diplomatic and administrative work, battle, intelligence work, business-running, detective work etc. in a way that is, if not that literally useful, indicative of the kinds of skills that it takes to do those things. For the most part the show doesn't actually spend time showing Jadzia poring over the Federation arxiv with some binders of messy notes and repeatedly crossed out back-of-the-envelope calculations and discarded bits of code of simulations as she tries to figure out what to make of the latest anomaly, so the level of abstraction to keep the show not boring (and to allow non-experts to write convincingly about other fields) is always going to be high. In The Visitor, the episode was not explicitly about how great an artist/writer Jake is and also, as Peter pointed out, has Old Jake spinning what happened as a kind of fireside tale, and so does find a way to represent his art, to a degree. That said, ehhh, I'm not really sure if the episode needed to represent Jake's art in order to work. I'm not really sure what changes would make the episode work better.
William B
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 10:37am (UTC -6)
Just to add,

@Elliott, one thing that interested me is your agreement with the episode's point about Jake writing on paper rather than on a padd. I agree too, but IIRC you are usually skeptical or sarcastic when DS9 (and occasionally Voyager) does one of its patented "you should grow your own vegetables" points about the alienating aspects of modernity, for example with the Maquis stuff. To be clear, I think this example makes more sense and seems to come from a place of personal experience from Echevarria than, say, one of the numerous patronizing Chakotay let's-live-on-the-real-land or whatever mysticism stuff, but I'm not sure that it's less reasonable than some of the "home cooking is better than replicator food" stuff.
Peter G.
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 11:24am (UTC -6)
Like Elliott, I see some value in this episode in depicting what trying to be a 'useless artist' can be like. Chrome may be right that this isn't something everyone has experienced and therefore can personally connect to, but ideally an episode about something like this can help to put you in such a person's shoes to see what it might be like. *This* is the respect in which the episode completely fails, and I think where the fix may have resided: it needed to give the audience the experience of being a struggling artist, finding that magic channel to the muses, and then realizing its cost - while still considering going forward with it!

Most of the time when you go into art it's because it's either the only thing you're suited for, or else because you have so many demons or needs to fulfill that it's the way you can work through that. But it usually also means you'll never make much of a living, and at best may struggle gigging or doing 'day jobs' to pay the bills, effectively working two full times jobs at all times. This isn't exactly Jake's case, in the post-scarcity world, but he still does have to live in the shadow of his high-profile dad, and even if Jake isn't weighed down by money troubles, there are still inadequacy troubles and the feeling that he's not contributing or accomplishing anything. And that can be just as bad.

William, the reason your comparison to other expert fields doesn't work - and this is hard to explain unless you try to make it as an artist - is because there is basically no other field other than perhaps prostitution where your job is literally using the expression of your own self and life as the product, whether that be performance of tactile art. When you infuse the work with pain, it's your actual pain, not some technical expertise you learned at school. And when you fail, it's not simply a question of the job market or of looking for different employment, but basically amounts to a rejection of your entire being by 'the world'. Now, The Muse certainly doesn't have an agenda to explore all of those issues, and maybe it should, but the idea that the episode makes artists out to be some kind of special fancy-schmancy breed of person - well, that's not unfair. Not because artists are better, but because they simply are different. No one starves trying to become an office worker or a chemist, and no one goes home feeling like their entire life is a joke because the data from the chemistry experiment didn't come in today. I mean, maybe after years of failure any professional might feel something like that, but I'm talking about every other day of the week, every week of the year.

What we see with Jake is that trying to do this sort of thing requires sacrifice, and that although the type of sacrifice isn't the same as Starfleet calls for - your time, dedication, and possibly dying in the line - it does have some similarities in terms of how much of yourself you have to give up. It sort of ends actually being like risking dying in the line, but in a different way. And I think that maybe the episode was trying to show that Jake really was willing to risk it all like Sisko was, but that it had to be something meaningful to him. The issue isn't made serious enough here: was it wrong to stop Jake sacrificing himself for his art? What merit might there have been in letting Jake go down the hard path to help others?


For all the issues people raise about Sisko going into the Fire Caves in the finale, the issue is much the same: do you have more of an obligation to your family to stay alive even if it means backing down from 'the cause', or is your dedication unto the point of death noble and to be celebrated, even if it means you remove yourself from being there for others afterward? (putting aside the question of whether Sisko is really gone after the finale)

That the vampiress feeds off of Jake's work is IMO an ok way to give jake's scenes dialogue rather than being montages, and that for him to find his talent means 'the muses' draining him is not at all unrealistic. Now, granted, it can be possible to burn out in an unwise way as an artist, and the episode only vaguely touches on whether Jake could have done this on his own, safely, even if more slowly. But is it not possible that the very nature of the art Jake was trying to create - about loss, pain, lonliness - literally required him to be suffering to create it? Some kinds of expression can't really be done from a healthy state of mind. Not that we should encourage people to become sick in order to do this kind of work, but what if Jake really did need to be in a bad place to write Anslem? And what if that work could help others?

Anyhow there's a lot in this episode only briefly alluded to, and indeed I agree with Elliott that each story merited its own episode, as cramming these together made neither one mean very much as an A/B plotting. The Odo story ended up sort of ok but mostly sentimental, and the Jake story ended up not exactly rising above being a weird encounter of the week. Although I love the performance of the actress playing Onaya, which alone sells those scenes to me, and I also like having an episode where Ben intercedes for Jake's own good, something which we rarely see in the series.

I too would give this a middling score, but certainly not a bad one. But it should have been much more, on the level of The Visitor ideally if the writing had been better (ironically).
William B
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 11:37am (UTC -6)
@Peter, I'm sorry if I made it sound like I was disrespectful to what artists go through. However:

"No one starves trying to become an office worker or a chemist, and no one goes home feeling like their entire life is a joke because the data from the chemistry experiment didn't come in today."

That's...not really true though? I mean, it's not chemistry, Einstein was living in a crappy apartment close to the poverty line when he published his theory of relativity. "Publish or perish" is the academic line and lots of theoretical scientists -- let's be specific and say theoretical physicists -- suffer huge setbacks, huge loss of sense of worth, are paralyzed by periodic inability to create, have their lives staked on their professional reputations. Not to be overly dramatic, but it can be pretty hellish.
William B
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 11:43am (UTC -6)
Actually, I'm going to say this more strongly: this

"No one starves trying to become an office worker or a chemist, and no one goes home feeling like their entire life is a joke because the data from the chemistry experiment didn't come in today."

is by far the most I've disagreed with you. I'm going to go further and say that I spent my entire childhood almost starving because my mother had difficulty getting an office job.
William B
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 11:46am (UTC -6)
I've also come close to suicide over a physics group project that went badly.

Again, I'm sorry if I sounded dismissive about artists but seriously.
Peter G.
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 12:14pm (UTC -6)
@ William B,

Sorry if I made it sound like only artists suffer or something. That's not what I was trying to say. What I was trying to say is that artists literally sign up for a life of suffering. Anyone, in any field, can fail and end up jobless, of course. Anyone, in any field, can have major setbacks and failures. During the Great Depression people in finance jumped off of buildings during the crash. But what I'm talking about is *going into your field* knowing that you will inevitably be struggling for much of or all of your life, unless you are very lucky. I'm not talking about a reversal of fortune, or difficulties in the job, which of course any field can result in.

As for office work, you are arguing that people who desperately want to be office workers go through years of not being able to get an office job in the vain hopes that one day they'll work in a real life office and earn a modest wage? Realistically I could see this scenario during (again) the Great Depression, but now? And I have to say that, knowing a fair amount of people in math and science, I don't think it's the norm, and certainly not the basic expectation of day-to-day work, that you go home every day thinking you may be wasting your life and will never achieve anything. When I make this type of statement I cannot of course be saying that this happens to no one (as anyone in any field can go through this), but I'm talking about the knowledge before you even try to enter the field that it will inevitably be like this even if things go well. That is absolutely not normal in scientific fields, or most other professional jobs I know of. Granted, there is probably a sliding scale of jobs that are more stressful than others, with certain ones having a high suicide rate and so forth. But that is still not the same as entering a 'field' (and I put it in quotes on purpose) where there isn't really even infrastructure for it to be a career except for some few people. The rest is either gigging and scraping by, or else doing your art and supporting it with an unrelated job. Can you imagine a person so dedicated to physics that he worked a 40 hour job in order to have the opportunity to volunteer for another 40 hours at the lab and do lab work, hoping to maybe one day be a lab assistant or lab tech?

But I take your point about not dismissing the pain of other career paths, and in fact I tried to incorporate in my post the point that Jake and a Starfleet officer might be making a similar type of sacrifice in a way, but the big difference being that the Starfleet career has a massive infrastructure around it, whereas the artist is typically all alone.

Also, sorry to hear you went through all that. I went through some pretty bad times myself struggling to decide whether I wanted to go into physics (I switched into music instead), and basically had two years of doing what I felt like was pointless and burdensome work that seemed to increasingly prove I was doing the wrong thing and wasting my time. However in my case it was a career path question, which to be fair can be pervasive and last a person's entire life these days. So perhaps it might be fair to say that for an artist one's entire life is a career path crisis, where the 'staying on track' artist track can feel much like a very protracted catastrophic failure state. I never intend to dimish anyone's bad experience, so sorry if it came off that way.
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 1:22pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G:

I don't want to speak for you, but for me the difference between artists and other professions isn't that artists are the only ones who suffer OR that they are doomed to suffer, it's that art (maybe) cannot exist in its sublimest form without the profound suffering of the artist. It's a paradox: I won't be able to write a truly transcendent work unless I am miserable, but if I don't write the transcendent work, then why am I an artist? This is a Romantic view, certainly, but I don't know that it's ever been disproven.

@William B:

I hope my comment to Peter makes it clear what at least I think is *special* about being an artist. I daresay my numerous takes on economics and labour all over this site put you and me roughly in the same camp when it comes to economic justice. I can absolutely relate to your story from childhood myself.

Regarding the pen/paper v. natural food thing. For me, it's about the zealotry. Sisko's father grows his own food and has his own views on the subject, and that's fine, but he doesn't reject food replication outright the way, say, Alixus did. He still presumably recognises that replicators eliminate scarcity which eliminates hunger. In the same way, I don't think computers or word/music processors are evil or useless. I use them all the time. It's just for the specific task of composition, which is an art that developed before computers existed, they create problems. Likewise, I think chef's recognise that for the *art* of cooking, replicators are a problem.
Peter G.
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 1:56pm (UTC -6)
@ Elliott,

I think it's totally fair to divide art as a career versus art as an actual practice, in terms of what sorts of expectations or necessities it has. I don't necessarily agree with you that an artists needs to be actually suffering in order to create worthy material, but there does have to be *something* in the artists clamoring to get out, driving you to do the thing. I don't know that this 'thing' must be suffering, but either way it must drive the creator strongly. I was more addressing art as a career, in terms of the expectation of the "starving artist" as a basic framework that any artist has to be willing to accept. In context of The Muse it may well be closer to the mark to discuss the 'suffering for art' side of it since it's the actual creation that drains Jake's life. But still, I wonder whether that draining effect is very clearly meant to portray the need he had for pain in order to create, or rather to generally show that the creation process is painful for perhaps numerous reasons, which can include personal suffering in order to fuel the work, but also the pain of knowing you'll probably fail, the pain of knowing you'll never be a 'normal' member of society in some sense, and the pain of knowing that what you do isn't even generally respected for the most part, *unless you get famous*, in which case suddenly everyone wants to know your story. J.D. Salinger, just to keep the comparison with Jake, only gets to be a 'mysterious recluse' because of fame; without the fame he's a 'lonely guy who goes unnoticed'.

So I wasn't exactly trying to pinpoint the precise aspect of art that probably means you'll be suffering for it, but I grant you that there's an argument to be made that *perhaps* it takes an atmosphere of suffering to create the greatest art (like the Ancient Greeks). I don't think suffering is what's lacking in many environments today where arts has trouble finding its footing; more often than that I think it's the lack of infrastrucutre, support networks, people who care, and especially lack of a supportive community to feed off of each other and get much better so that the public really enjoys what's being done. The big thing now is very mediocre work (even at high levels), which ends up turning off the public and making it even harder on everyone. I'm getting into the weeds, but my main point was to talk about how I don't think it's like other careers for multiple reasons, which certainly can include (and in some cases can even center on) the one you mention.
William B
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 2:24pm (UTC -6)
Hey all - so I am sorry for getting so melodramatic earlier. I haven't read the responses (if any). I think what I've realized is that I am actually extremely anxious about my career, such as it is, and how severe the consequences will be if things don't work out. And there's some other personal stuff lately. Anyway, I had been trying to ignore it and push it to the back of my mind but it seems to have exploded out, and I think I was possibly more worried than I'd realized, and reacted overly emotionally. I'm sorry. I'm going to take a break from commenting for a bit and concentrate on getting my life, such as it is, back on track. I know that a sudden grand exit is also melodramatic, but, well, so it goes. I'll maybe be back eventually once I've sorted some things out in my life. Peace out.
Peter G.
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 2:31pm (UTC -6)
@ William B,

No apology necessary, to me at least. I had hoped I didn't upset you, but I wasn't personally offended by what you wrote.

I hope you find some peace in your work, and to see you back here sometime. Our conversations here have been among the most enjoyable I've had on any forum. Be well!
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 3:34pm (UTC -6)
Be well, William B. You are one of this board's most respected contributors (by me, at least), but a focus on self-well-being is of course more important, and the board will be here whenever you wish to return.
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 6:43pm (UTC -6)
@William B

Take care of yourself first and foremost.

I will certainly miss you and hope you get to feeling better and return.

I remember you sometimes commenting that my BtVS reviews helped you enjoy it - know that your insights and questions and thoughts added so much to my Trek viewing - to my DS9 experience, in particular.

It was so fun to find you here and reconnect a bit.

Be well!
Wed, Apr 10, 2019, 9:52am (UTC -6)
William B,

Certainly I speak for everyone when I say .... no appologies necessary bud.

90% of us are jealous of your mind.

Hope everything works out and looking forward to your speedy return.
Dave in MN
Wed, Apr 10, 2019, 11:06am (UTC -6)
@William B

I've acted a little foolish on here before so I'm definitely not standing in judgement of you ... although, I am still standing in judgement of myself, so I understand how you feel (I think).

Sometimes we humans can get emotional about an esoteric topic and, in reality, it's a subconscious stand-in for what actually is bothering us. IRL we have dozens of cues to determine if someone is dealing with personal issues: tone, inflection, facial expressions, body language, conversational responsiveness, etc.

Of course, on the internet the only way to separate genuine anger from projection from trolling is if someone admits it ... sp props for doing so. Also, you generally aren't an overemotional person on here, so I wouldn't sweat it too much. I happily present you with Dave in MN's "Thanks For Being Honest & You're Cool In My Book" Award.

Good luck sir and stay positive!
Wed, Apr 10, 2019, 11:11am (UTC -6)
FWIW I see William B's point here; that people struggle in all varieties of careers, and there's nothing *inherently* special about writers or artists in that regard. Indeed many of my friends who were art majors went on to have good careers in offices they enjoy and still work on their art as a private enterprise during their personal time. So, I think the artist who sacrifices everything including livelihood, like Jake is doing metaphorically here, is a wee bit of romanticism. But hey, I could roll with it if the whole story was presented in a better package as Peter suggested.

You know what's great about Far Beyond The Stars? The episode successfully immerses the audience in the life of a struggling black writer. Despite any romanticism, the story itself is so gripping and real, that you feel for Sisko and want him to succeed. I don't know if it's the silliness of the magic at work here in this episode, but for some reason it's really hard to get invested in Jake's "predicament" in the same way.
Peter G.
Wed, Apr 10, 2019, 11:30am (UTC -6)
@ Chrome,

At the risk of bludgeoning a horse that has already trotted out:

"Indeed many of my friends who were art majors went on to have good careers in offices they enjoy and still work on their art as a private enterprise during their personal time."

In the arts there's sort of a few tiers of 'trying' to be an artist, and passing through these is actually one of the major difficulties. Tier 1, if I can call it that, is studying to be an artist, which many (many!) people do. Most don't go any futher than that when they either realize that it's not for them or that they're content with it being a hobby rather than a career. Tier 2 is when you make a go of it in the field, either working for free for a long time while doing a day job, or perhaps struggling with doing the odd gig while sharing a flat roommates or else working part time out of your field. The stereotype thing for those in the performing arts is the waiting/bartending job to pay the bills while you do your art for free or minimal amounts, for many years. Tier 2 can last the rest of your life, or alternatively become tiresome and get you to quit eventually. It's mostly demarcated by the idea that this is a all 'worth it' because it might materialize into a full career enentually. No artist ought to ever assume that there will be a tier 3, if they're being rational. Tier 3, of course, is having either a regular gig, or else at least having enough money coming in from various projects to mostly not have to do an unrelated job.

To connect this back to your anecdote, the tier 1 people are quite numerous, and it's no surprise that they can eventually end up in satisfying work, having finally decided that art shouldn't be a career since they want stability in their lives. Tier 2 is the 'pain zone', which can range anywhere from the starving artist to decently well-paid restaurant or bar work while trying to make it as a performer; and for the other arts (writing, painting, etc) I have less experience knowing numerous artists of this type but I imagine it's much the same in terms of side jobs typically taken.

"So, I think the artist who sacrifices everything including livelihood, like Jake is doing metaphorically here, is a wee bit of romanticism."

It's really not, but only contingent of how dedicated the artist is to being an artists professionally. The more an artist would be content doing something else, the more likely they will go and do that when the money from art isn't happening. The most driven artists will keep it going regardless of consequence, for better or worse. Singers have certain niches, such as choir gigs, the odd recording, singing lessons, and other small pieces to put together to cobble a meagre living, while hoping for a bigger gig. For writers I imagine they do all sorts of freelance work (like Jake with his journalism) trying to eventually get into what they really like. But basically, yes, a lot of the time it means signing on to a life of never knowing if the rent will be paid next month. Getting a full-time paying job takes away the stability issue a bit, but also the ability to have enough time to be good enough at your craft to compete with others (unless you're an amazing genius). Giving with the one hand always means taking away with the other. It's rough, man.
Wed, Apr 10, 2019, 11:57am (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

I don't think we're too far apart so I don't really see a problem continuing the discussion. Indeed, I'm not trying to say that there aren't really artists who work painfully hard to be successful. I live near L.A., and believe me, I've met all kinds of people who have made crazy sacrifices to be here for the small chance of catching a break. To that end, this episode could've been a successful recanting of some of the hardships the writers went through, as I think we can safely assume the writers here are successful ones who beat the odds, fighting poverty and the like. But the issue at hand is (or at least my issue), is that the story meaningfully being conveyed here? If not, what could've made Jake's problems more relatable?
Wed, Apr 10, 2019, 12:58pm (UTC -6)
@ William B — I am writing here for the third time in wish you well!! And I hope to read you soon again! Many greetings from far away! raebia.
Peter G.
Wed, Apr 10, 2019, 3:16pm (UTC -6)
@ Chrome,

Exactly, that's the question. I think the issue of "what's become of the Jake character" was one ripe for the picking. Instead of exploring what becomes of a character defined as being the lead's son, when 'being a kid' ceases to be a plausible storyline, the question becomes - just as it does in a real person's life - who is this person now, and what are they supposed to do? The Trek crews have always been Starfleet, so to have a regular who's human but not Starfleet, nor a wunderkind like Wesley, begs the question of what such a person should be spending his time doing.

Focusing on Jake as a writer/artist could have easily doubled as focusing on him as a character with no arc or story, because in both cases (either artist, or character with no arc) the person in question is lacking any context or set place within the society of the show. He's there, but has no defined role, no end point or clear victory condition on his activities, and basically has to begin to self-define with no social structure to guide his choices. The artist/lost character connection seems to me worthy of at least one entire episode to plumb out. So yeah, it's sad in hindsight that it was minimized into a 20 minute outer limits episode instead of a reach search for who Jake is anymore. Instead he ends up being, alternatively, a foil for Nog who actually found a purpose, or else a foil for those in Starfleet (by being annoying, while they are pursuing noble things). By S7 his presence was long gone and it was probably a 'family matter' that he was even kept in the main credits. It didn't have to be like that!
Thu, Apr 11, 2019, 10:55am (UTC -6)
@William B

Already missing you, buddy. Good luck with your new projects and I'll look forward to your return some day. Won't be the same without you!
William B
Tue, Apr 23, 2019, 1:10pm (UTC -6)
Hey gang -- I haven't read the whole thread since I peaced out but I have seen some kind messages, so I appreciate that. I think I hadn't realized how stressed I was. My life isn't bad but it also just got more complicated (my wife and I are now moving), go figure. Anyway otherwise I'm doing well. Peter, I'm sorry again for snapping at you earlier (disagreement is a normal part of discussion, but I normally don't get so emotional I think). I have a bit of time this afternoon so am going to make a few quick comments.
Peter G.
Tue, Apr 23, 2019, 2:26pm (UTC -6)
@ William B,

Hello! You don't have to apologize, I wasn't offended, just concerned that you were taking my comments as a statement about your personal career. I'm not so disturbed that we should get emotional finding our footing in a discussion, as long as it helps us get to the finish line rather than stopping us! I always try to use our discussions to try to find a common solution to interpreting these shows.
William B
Tue, Apr 23, 2019, 6:48pm (UTC -6)
@Peter, I hear you. I mostly just discovered I was much more worried about my situation than I had realized. In retrospect I didn't really think you were making the point I originally thought you were making.
Bobbington Mc Bob
Sun, Jul 7, 2019, 2:34pm (UTC -6)
Yeah I think I'll skip this one
Sat, Jan 11, 2020, 10:17pm (UTC -6)
I really do have a bad habit of stumbling into Star Trek discussions that mention episodes I haven't yet seen. Here, that meant I knew this'd be a clunker (and that it'd feature a pregnant Lwaxana; I think that's about all I knew in advance). All that did was lower my expectations, though, and that primed me to be pleasantly surprised by what I got.

Getting this out of the way first, though: this doesn't mean I don't find Jake's plot thoroughly ignorable. (And what IS it with Jake and older women?? I'm pretty sure he's 18 here, which provides some slight mitigation, but will the guy *ever* get an age-appropriate love interest?) I'm glad The Visitor exists to prove he could have written -- and *did* write -- his classic novel Anslem under his own steam; I'm glad Sisko's also sure that he'd be capable (hell, he's *seen* Successful Author Jake). Because if DS9 went on to have it become a classic novel, with its success inextricable from that time he got quasi-erotic head massages from a creativity vampire? Heavens no. It'd rob him of the personal achievement, for one thing, and for another: who wants reminding of *this* plot?

But the Lwaxana/Odo plot really does save this, in my eyes. It's a showcase for the calmer and more mature Lwaxana that I've come to love (and that her DS9 appearances have served beautifully) and feels like it rings very true for Odo as well. It's a real breath of fresh air after Crossfire, which... there's really only so much romantic angst I can take, and that exceeded my limit multiple times. I *understand* it, but it's not my favourite thing to see from Odo, let's put it that way. (While there's some element of that in this episode, it stays well within my tolerance.)

I don't think Odo's playfulness is out of character for him. Granted, it's not what he's usually like, but then he's not usually around people he's really unconditionally fond of. Remember him turning into a spinning top for the little girl in 'Shadowplay'? He absolutely has that spirit of fun to him, and I love to see it come out. Between that and Odo making his arm into a blanket for an exhausted Lwaxana, we have some really sweet uses of his shapeshifting this episode.

I also feel it's perfectly in-character for him to have the marriage idea. He's investigated; he's found a loophole; he takes it. Marriage doesn't have inherent meaning to his culture (which, given how solitarily he's grown up, essentially just means "his personality"), and there's the line "it's not as if I was planning to marry someone else" -- tinged with a sad acceptance of defeat, given how things are going with Kira lately. Besides, with the annulment it'd be as if the marriage had never even happened.

I've seen someone else say they wish it was Lwaxana's idea, for the sake of showing her wit and independence. Instead she just runs into the arms of the last man who cared about her, with no plan beyond that. I respect that point of view, but also... she's so damn tired throughout this, emotionally and physically. She's just escaped an abusive relationship and been on the run. I can buy that even a person like her might not have the energy to think beyond basic survival, in this situation -- and in times like that, it really helps to have support from someone who can expend that energy for you.

I'd like to point out the wording of the Tavnian wedding vows:

"In keeping with Tavnian tradition, I stand before you, here in my home, among my worldly possessions and declare my wish to add this woman to that which is mine."
"I say for all to hear that this woman is mine. If anyone challenges my claim to her, let them do so now."

Very misogynistic, very "women as property", yet the irony is that Odo's speaking these words to set Lwaxana free. The legal effect is to add her to his possessions; the real effect is to ensure nobody owns her but herself. There's something beautiful about that.

(Unrelated aside on having read the comments: I'm sure I've even said words to this effect before, but I've always found William B's input to be some of the best/most in-depth on this site. Hoping all is well.)
William B
Mon, Jan 13, 2020, 7:53am (UTC -6)
@Fenn, thanks. I'm doing okay-ish. I was having a bad couple of days upthread.
William B
Mon, Jan 13, 2020, 7:54am (UTC -6)
And I'm enjoying your contributions to the site very much too!
Mon, Jan 13, 2020, 11:19am (UTC -6)
Enjoying Fenn's comments too. Always nice to see some of these great Trek shows from another thoughtful angle.
Mon, Jan 13, 2020, 7:34pm (UTC -6)
@ William B: that's reassuring to hear, and to you and Chrome -- thanks!
Tue, Feb 11, 2020, 2:37pm (UTC -6)

YES!!!!! Jake needs a baby sitter! This boy is always in trouble. AND L'ana (can"t spell it} should be killed. She is so old and just because she is alien does not mean she ought to be pregnant.

New hubby is following the path of the ancient Spartans. Look it up.

Ms. Troi is just using poor, dumb Odo. I have a hard time believing he is so stupid.

Sun, Oct 25, 2020, 9:09am (UTC -6)
A weak episode, "Muse" watches as Jake's creative energies get kindled by an alien vampire. While he gives birth to a novel, Lwaxana Troi visits the station and gives birth to a child. The episode spends most of its running time juxtaposing Jake's relationship with the alien (she inspires him, and his creative energies arouse her), with Odo's relationship with Lwaxana (she brings Odo out of his shell, and she falls in love with him).

Some good scenes here, like one in which Odo plays hide-and-seek with Lwaxana, and scenes of Jake flirting like some kind of bohemian artist (always attracting older women, the kid really is a smooth operator). But as Jammer says, this is one of DS9's worst episodes. The Jake plot is unintentionally funny, and Lwaxana Troi, despite a strong, opinionated character, has a sexist streak about her, her episodes too often revolving around her being pregnant, or needing men, or getting married, or losing kids etc, her character stereotyped around her biology.

IMO the Jake story - a writer inspired by a muse - should also have been played straight, without supernatural overtones and hilarious sexual metaphors ("Oh baby, yeah, use your artist energy to write that novel. Yeah, ohh, work that pen! Baby, you're so creative! Do me Jake! Do me a well edited, 10,000 word novel!).

The technobabble is also particularly cringey, particularly those which attempt to metaphorically describe the process of artistic creation ( "Something has stimulated Jake's brain functioning in a way that I have never seen!" Bashir yells, "The capillaries in his cerebral cortex have dilated twenty percent. Neurotransmitter production is up by at least that amount, and neural activity is off the scale!").
Wed, Apr 14, 2021, 7:59am (UTC -6)
I guess they tried to do a sci fi version of those old french films, cigarette in an artist cafe on a Sunday afternoon.
Wed, Apr 28, 2021, 12:41am (UTC -6)
DS9 was famous for its strong cast of recurring guest actors. You really can't do better than Marc Alaimo and Andrew Robinson.

But the Lwaxana Troi character should have never seen this much airtime. While her character can be warm, caring, and quite funny, the old schtick of the man-crazy cougar had been so overdone that it's charcoal, and it never really worked in the first place. It should never be the plot of an episode. Lwaxana episodes are instant skips for me, as they do not advance the key DS9 story arcs and tell me not to take the episode seriously. Hated them on TNG and I hate them on DS9.

It really is a tragedy that episodes like this were made when we could have seen more of Dukat or Garak.
Fri, Apr 30, 2021, 7:52pm (UTC -6)
Wow, I'm 14 years late, but I seriously agree with Jakob M. Mokoru, that Lwaxana should have been in Nemesis.

Of course, she should have anyway, since Deanna was getting married. But that movie could scarcely have been hurt by her presence and it may well have helped.

I guess it's a lucky dodge for Majel, though, because she would have taken the blame for it being a turd burger.
Mon, Nov 1, 2021, 8:59pm (UTC -6)
Rewatching this, I rather liked the concept of Onaya. It seemed like her power was to feed on writer's block.

I was initially annoyed at how pathologically she was treated. But of course The Sisko saw it that way. Who wouldn't? From his point of view, this woman is harming Jake.
Fri, Nov 12, 2021, 1:25pm (UTC -6)
Jake is really good at writing in cursive for someone in the 24th century where no one writes on paper anymore. It's getting difficult to find anyone who can write in cursive here in 2021.
Fri, Nov 12, 2021, 4:10pm (UTC -6)
I think reports of the death of cursive have been greatly exaggerated. While I myself stopped writing in cursive in the early 1990s because I thought it was unnecessary and looked stupid, my kids are still learning cursive in school today. And even in the 24th century of the Trek universe I doubt writing by hand is something that would totally go away.
Fri, Nov 12, 2021, 5:22pm (UTC -6)
I remember reading in the news about a conspiracy that went viral saying schools in the U.S. were phasing out cursive so that future students would be unable to read the Constitution and Bill of Rights (both written in a type of cursive known as Copperplate).

Of course the conspiracy is wrong in both counts since a) U.S. schools may and do still opt to teach cursive and b) the Constitution and related documents are available in block letters standard in word processing.

Then again, if we really forgot how to understand the Constitution, James Kirk could emphatically explain it to us. :-)
Tue, Mar 1, 2022, 12:02am (UTC -6)
One of the really missed opportunities with Lwaxana was showing her...DOING HER JOB. She's a prominent member of the Federation Council and an Ambassador to Betazed. She obviously achieved that position through some measure of skill, grace, intellect, and canny, very little of which we ever see on-screen (DS9 or TNG, even!)

There's always this impression given that behind her man-izing ways she's got some real diplomatic chops and acumen. That's all it ever is, though. An impression. Because they're just too busy making her an extra who wandered off the set of a comedy skit show.
Top Hat
Wed, Mar 2, 2022, 8:08am (UTC -6)
"Dark Page" is the only I can think of that has Lwaxana actually doing her job. For the record, though, I think a Betazoid ambassador, as opposed to an ambassador to Betazed.
Peter G.
Wed, Mar 2, 2022, 8:35am (UTC -6)
The more I think of it, the more Lwaxana does a good job representing Betezed in the Federation every time we see her. It seems to me that being intrusive, overly personal, reading your thoughts all the time, and lacking any personal boundaries is a very apt representation of a race of telepaths. Not to be overly cynical about it, but I imagine that however Lwaxana makes us (or Picard) feel, it would be exponentially worse to actually meet a group of telepaths who were used to sharing all their thoughts all the time.
Wed, May 4, 2022, 10:07pm (UTC -6)
I saw this as a metaphor for my father’s struggles with alcoholism and cocaine. He was a musician and composer and when he was drunk/high he was at his best artistically but the drugs and drink also made it so that he was totally incompetent and emotionally absent in his duties as a father and husband, and they literally sucked the life out of him until he was found dead from a heart attack war his piano with a coke residue and a straw on the cover of a book in front of him and 5 empty bottles of wine at the age of 52.
Tue, Jun 28, 2022, 12:58pm (UTC -6)
Although I agrea with much of the negative critisisme here, I credit them for the attempt. Both plots where understandable.

I have on later years started to appreciate Lwaxana much more. How anoying she could be, her core was always honest filled with understanding, compassion and love. They could have done more with this.

@Pietro, what an excellent observation and comparision.
Bok R'Mor
Tue, Mar 7, 2023, 3:24pm (UTC -6)
Onaya is disturbingly creepy, even though the succubus idea is not particularly original. The call back to 'The Visitor' was a nice touch. Poor Jake.

I also thought the actor playing Lwaxana's husband had an impressive gravitas in what was otherwise a very weak role.
Bok R'Mor
Tue, Mar 7, 2023, 3:31pm (UTC -6)
'I also thought the actor playing Lwaxana's husband had an impressive gravitas in what was otherwise a very weak role.'

Yes, because he's *the* Michael Ansara... Whose name was even in the opening credits, and who is the epitome of 'impressive gravitas' in voice, glare and body language... This episode had me so stunned I didn't even click.
Sat, Apr 29, 2023, 4:10am (UTC -6)
Wasn't Onaya a UNIQIE and somewhat ORIGINAL alien lifebform and least a little..and didn't anyone else find that alone a memorable sci fi alien storyline?
Sat, Apr 29, 2023, 4:15am (UTC -6)
@Jammer, how was this episode trite?

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