Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Air date: 11/25/1996
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by Allan Kroeker
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"Well, I guess you're not as successful a businessman as you think you are."
"Which means you spent the last ten years of your life trying to catch a nobody—with little success, I might add. So you tell me, which one of us is the bigger failure?"
— Odo and Quark
Nutshell: A bit repetitive and obvious at times, but the dialog works wonders with the characters.
"The Ascent" is a premise based on a bit of a cliché—the idea that two adversaries must put aside their differences in an effort to work together to survive. It hardly matters. A show like this is not about whether or not the characters will succeed; it's about what the two characters learn about one other and themselves in the process.
Like many Trek episodes, "The Ascent" is divided into two stories: an A-story that proves somewhat urgent crosscut with a B-story that is little more than entertaining fluff. Behr and Wolfe have successfully balanced these two stories together. While a silly B-story can often sabotage the efforts of an A-story, this doesn't happen here. Instead, the crosscutting between the story lines actually helps draw the situation into something that seems like the many days it's supposed to be rather than the much shorter period that the constraints of a one-hour time slot tends to make it feel like.
It's hard to believe "Let He Who Is Without Sin..." and "The Ascent" were both written by the same two people. The two are virtually antitheses of one other based on a similar structure. Both are situations based on dialog and relationships, but where the former episode failed miserably, here it works extremely well. Part of it, I think, is in the nature of the relationship. Trek tends to drop the ball when it comes to exploring relationships between men and women. There is too much emphasis on standard clichés and sophomoric sex jokes. And usually things feel forced, not genuine.
On the other hand, the relationship here—between Quark and Odo—represents character interaction at its finest. The dialog is sharp, acerbic, and genuine. It's sensible and credible, because it's based on a relationship built during the past four years of DS9's run. (The relationship between Dax and Worf, on the other hand, was built in four minutes.) Most importantly, it adds up to something, because in the end both Odo and Quark come to realize some new things about themselves and one other.
The episode opens as Odo arrests Quark, announcing that it's the day he has been waiting for the past ten years. Quark has been summoned to appear in Federation court in connection with a shady, subversive group known as the Orion Syndicate. (It's of great irony that Quark, much to Odo's surprise, later turns out to be a witness, not a suspect, in the Orion proceedings.) While in a Runabout en route to Federation court, a bomb on board set by the Orions to assassinate Quark explodes, forcing Quark and Odo to crash-land their shuttle on a frigid, rocky planet. (Scratch yet another Runabout—do these things even survive long enough to get names any more?)
They have minimal rations, no supplies, and the damaged communications system can't permeate the atmosphere. The only option is to begin the ascent—to carry the comm panel up a nearby mountain such that they might be high enough to get a signal out, before they either freeze or starve to death. In the meantime, they must rely on one other, and have little to do but talk and climb.
Since its genesis, the relationship between Quark and Odo has been something that requires a decoder ring, and that's perhaps why it's always been so interesting and entertaining. These two guys obviously don't hate one other; in fact, they probably wouldn't be complete without one other. It makes me wonder if Odo would truly be happy to catch Quark and send him away after ten years of pursuit. What would he do without Quark to keep him on his toes? At the same time, what fun would Quark's silly scheming plots be without Odo looking over his shoulder?
No, these two aren't enemies, they're merely rivals. Still, calling their rivalry "friendly" would probably not be accurate. Each gets genuinely annoyed when the other's actions disturbs his work schedule. But underneath the constant insult-trading, posturing, and threatening lies two people who know they're friends of sorts, but also know that their friendship is something that can never be voiced verbally. They must talk in code and never spell out their true feelings—because that's just the way their relationship is. The closing scene of the episode is great because it highlights this: The two characters verbally "confirm" their hatred of one other... but then break into a chuckle that reveals all.
And that's what "The Ascent" is all about. It's about these two friends and the way they never have, and probably never will, admit to their friendship. When mixed with sharp dialog, highly commendable performances and believable characterizations, these two personalities highlight what an asset to DS9 as a series these types of relationships are—it's the type of thing that defines the show. Plot lines come and go, but the characters are the real permanence, and the way "The Ascent" reminds of this is priceless—it's the reason fans tune into Star Trek week after week.
So as tensions mount and the situation looks bleak, a physical fight between Odo and Quark ultimately ensues. While this is perhaps an overly obvious result and it conveniently allows the added plot twist of Odo breaking his leg after an accidental roll down the slope, it's one of those things that just had to happen sooner or later for the sake of completeness.
What the rest of this story line is about is survival. The climb is a towering task entailing more than a week of walking, and after Odo breaks his leg, Quark has to build a stretcher and carry him up the mountain the rest of the way. Without food, heat, or supplies, this is nearly impossible. After briefly giving up several times, Quark somehow makes it high enough to get the signal out. That's perhaps a given, but the way the episode conveys the trip is respectable, despite the repetitive nature of the plot. Thanks to some strong performances and decent technical work, there wasn't a moment I didn't believe the two characters weren't really on a mountain, freezing, tired, and starving.
The light but identifiable B-story centers around Nog's return to the station, now a sophomore cadet assigned to field study. Jake moves out of his quarters with his father and into new quarters with Nog. Nog, however, has been changed by the academy. He is now very disciplined but also extremely (for lack of a better expression) anal-retentive. Jake is a laid-back slob. Can you say roommate problems? This is something I can understand based on personal experience and the testimony of many acquaintances.
Sisko gets some amusing little moments in the plot, as his talk with Rom about their respective sons proves enlightening (although Rom's admittedly amusing gag of thinking his son's behavior change is because he has been replaced by a Changeling impostor does little to alter my recently-voiced opinion that he's a dimwit). My favorite line, however, comes near the end, when Sisko lays down the law concerning the two's rooming squabbles: "I know you can make it work, because I'm your captain [to Nog] and I'm your father [to Jake], and what I say goes [to both]. Good day, gentleman." The notion is very amusing... and is extremely Sisko.
"The Ascent" is a character episode all the way—classic DS9.
Previous episode: Things Past
Next episode: Rapture
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71 comments on this post
Tue, Mar 17, 2009, 6:02pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Feb 28, 2010, 10:06pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Nov 21, 2010, 3:13pm (UTC -5)
This episode came to my mind when I saw the later VOY episode where DOc's mobile emmitter was this huge backpack.
Sun, Dec 5, 2010, 9:25am (UTC -5)
Sat, Sep 24, 2011, 12:29pm (UTC -5)
Same thing for every episode where someone working alone hears or sees something weird. They could take 5 seconds to say "computer, alert security in 30 seconds unless I cancel this request". Don't even need to waste any other people's time if it was a false alarm, but no, much better to leave the bridge unaware of the body snatcher that's going to try to take over the ship.
Sat, Oct 15, 2011, 5:52pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Oct 15, 2011, 5:58pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Nov 24, 2011, 7:05pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Mar 4, 2012, 2:08pm (UTC -5)
It was rather ridiculous how selective the explosion was...similar to the intelligent phenomenon in disaster movies that always strike right in the middle of the most urban area they can find.
Tue, May 1, 2012, 11:31pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jun 29, 2012, 5:44am (UTC -5)
Mon, Sep 17, 2012, 1:38pm (UTC -5)
You've got to love that nod to TOS
Mon, Jan 7, 2013, 4:48pm (UTC -5)
I found Nog's pronounced bulge in his new uniform quite disturbing, though.
Sat, May 25, 2013, 10:55pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Sep 28, 2013, 9:46am (UTC -5)
Thu, Oct 24, 2013, 9:27pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Feb 4, 2014, 9:35pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Feb 19, 2014, 2:28pm (UTC -5)
......I thought switching back and forth from the "A" story to the "B" story lacked balance......the Nog/Jake bickering tended to trivialize the Quark/Odo life and death struggle we're supposedly invested in....
......nice location shooting tho.....
.....There are quite a few complaints in these threads re: Quark and the Ferengi.....I agree to some extent.... the Ferengi episodes are among my least favorite.....I attribute that to weak writing......
......that said, Armin Shimerman deserves a shout out, not only for this episode but for his work throughout the series....he consistently makes hay out of thin material....I put him up there with Rene Aberjonois and Colm Meaney as best of cast.....
......This episode didn't hold my attention.....
Wed, Feb 26, 2014, 3:19pm (UTC -5)
Worth watching mainly for the camaraderie-in-code of the A-plot and is enough for a guarded 3 stars.
Thu, May 8, 2014, 12:30pm (UTC -5)
It's also interesting because this episode is much more like the first three seasons -- pre-Worf, pre-Dominion war and buildup -- where a couple of the DS9 characters just have an adventure. That doesn't make it better or worse. But it is different.
Thu, May 8, 2014, 2:57pm (UTC -5)
I think this episode and the one preceding it are very heavy on showing that Odo, while a fantastic constable, is not without his faults. It feels as if the writers came to this decision to give more 'humanity' to his character, even before he lost his ability as Things Past made clear.
Also, I like the little nod in the B-plot where Jake's writing is named "Past Prologue", the title to S1E2. I have suspicions that the writers of the show view Jake as symbolic of their positions, which in my mind makes me think that "The Muse" and "The Visitor" could both have some abstracted autobiographical motivation to them (The Muse in a writer's dealings with damaging substances, and The Visitor in a writer dealing with loss). I can't say for certain, but I wouldn't put it past them.
Thu, May 8, 2014, 3:56pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jun 22, 2014, 4:56am (UTC -5)
Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 9:01am (UTC -5)
Love the banter back and forth between these two and we get plenty of it here.
"ODO: Stop trying to be a hero. You'll get to the top faster if you leave me behind.
QUARK: Don't you get it? I'm not trying to rescue you. I'm taking you along as emergency rations. If you die, I'm going to eat you.
ODO: You're joking.
QUARK: Waste not, want not. Comfortable?"
Nog comes back and is all "bootcamp". Even if you don't like the character (and I like him) you have to admire his dedication and determination to become a Star Fleet Officer. Whether or not he's a good leader in the future is really irrelevant, he's trying his best and I have to respect him for that.
3.0 for me.
Mon, Sep 8, 2014, 9:40pm (UTC -5)
Odo and Quark are good together, but in this case I'm not sure just sticking two actors in a scene together to let them play off each other is enough. There's a lot of climbing, fighting, helping, but it all feels very cliche and both characters surviving is almost a foregone conclusion. That the B-story exists and Odo and Quark's plot STILL feels drawn out (to me at least) shows there isn't much more to add to the "these characters are rivals but still kind of like each other" idea. Honestly, it was already expressed well enough throughout the series, most recently in "Broken Link" before sick Odo leaves the station to visit the Great Link. That 30-second exchange said as much as all the scenes this episode gives the two characters.
It all just feels redundant and forced to me, though it's kind of neat to see the fragility of Odo's new body.
I'd give it a low 2 1/2 on Jammer's scale. Watchable, I guess, but absolutely skippable.
Tue, Nov 11, 2014, 5:48am (UTC -5)
Wed, Jul 29, 2015, 1:19pm (UTC -5)
Music-wise this has some of my favorite short pieces in the series.
Sun, Dec 27, 2015, 7:51pm (UTC -5)
Watching this episode reminded me how much Nog evolves as a character over the series. When you think of things that made DS9 memorable, Nog isn't what you're likely to mention. But his transformation over the course of the series is both significant & believable. One of the many little things that make this a strong series.
Wed, Jan 6, 2016, 11:04am (UTC -5)
In any case, the sense that things suddenly got *real* with Odo's delight at sending Quark away sets the tone for the episode, and there is a slightly different charge to the two-dudes-annoy-each-other material on the Runabout, in which Odo is mostly the more deliberately annoying (I love the self-satisfied laugh Odo has after smacking his lips extra loud), and then they are trapped on the planet together and things get really, really real -- wherein they have to rely on each other as allies rather than enemies. Eventually, rather than getting along, they explode, including in the exchange Jammer quotes above -- in which it's stated explicitly that Quark is a middling failure, and so Odo's defining himself in opposition to Quark just makes him a middling failure too. The reality is that they aren't enemies, but they also can't *actually* be friends that easily, because to be friends would mean genuinely dropping the pretense that the roles they have chosen -- lawman, petty crook -- are not totally satisfying. Most of the character analysis here is of Odo, where Quark also opines that Odo really wanted to be a solid all this time, and the overall picture painted here is that Quark and Odo are both putting on pretense, but Quark is mostly aware of it (to hide his shame at his economic failures), whereas Odo is still unaware exactly what it is he wants, and has held onto the lawman identity, and lawman-after-Quark identity in particular, for a long time. While much of it is because Odo's leg is broken after their fight, I have always thought it appropriate that Quark is the one who makes it to the top, because ultimately, Quark is the one who really genuinely knows he wants to live (and recently re-learned how much he values living in "Body Parts"), and Odo is constantly searching for reasons to go on, most of which are absent on this mountain. It is weird/pathetic to think that Odo really was enthusiastic about catching Quark for some bigtime offense not so much because he *actually* wants Quark to go to jail, but because he has expended so much energy into convincing himself that pursuing Quark is an existentially satisfying life goal, and his adversarial relationship with Quark is an adequate substitute for intimacy. The scene at the end of the two laughing together suggests growth in the sense that Odo now acknowledges that they are actually frenemies rather than pretending otherwise, which...I mean, I sort of thought that had already happened years ago, but I guess Odo can be slow on the uptake with emotional matters. I guess I don't have big complaints about the main story except that the character development seems to mostly be something that I thought had already happened (Odo, at least, recognizing that he values Quark), and the plot thins out with the air as Odo and Quark continue climbing.
The Nog and Jake subplot is okay. That Jake is a slob doesn't bother me -- the point is largely that he feels he shouldn't have to clean up after himself for someone else's benefit anymore now that he's an independent gentleman. Nog coming back all Starfleet discipline makes sense in that he must have tried very hard to prove (to himself as well as others) that he is not the juvenile delinquent he used to be. Nog rifling through Jake's stuff and correcting it for spelling grammar is silly and annoying, but believable-ish from Old Friends. The thing is, Jake and Nog take big liberties with each other at the start because they assume that they are friends and thus can count on the other to accept whatever they do; Jake and Nog would behave much more reasonably, I think, if they were paired up as roommates with a total stranger. The contrast with the A-plot comes in here -- Jake and Nog, like Quark and Odo, have an assumption about what their relationship is, and fail to make the adjustments when their situation changes and so get on each others' nerves to the point of sabotaging themselves. I do somewhat have to wonder at what point Jake would be old enough that Sisko couldn't give him "orders" about where to live -- maybe he would just have to leave the station before that happens -- but anyway.
So I enjoyed this one, but I think it is comfortably average -- 2.5 stars, say, though maybe a high 2.5.
Wed, Jan 20, 2016, 2:11pm (UTC -5)
As to the B-story, Nog comes back as an uptight neat freak. Not entirely compelling, although Rom's concern that he might be a changeling is amusing enough. However, the high comedy moment is the look of Odo's broken leg - almost worth the price of admission alone. 2 stars.
Mon, May 2, 2016, 12:57am (UTC -5)
Oh sure, the story is kind of repetitive and nothing really unexpected happens. The idea that one of the characters has to single-handedly save the day after the other is injured literally comes from Writing 101. But so what? These two actors (and the characters and relationship they've created) more than adequately carry the story. And while "The Ascent" is largely a filler (or maybe a bottle) show, the writers still managed to offer some good character insights. For example, we're shown that Quark is, in fact, a fairly decent guy. He may be a petty thief and a scoundrel, but he certainly isn't villainous enough to achieve admittance into the Orion Syndicate - Trek's rather thinly veiled version of the mafia. And, despite his statements to the contrary, he's not willing to leave Odo to die alone until he absolutely has to. It's always nice to see Quark actually treated with respect by the writers.
Meanwhile, over in the B-plot, we get another relationship story, though a less effective one. Probably the best part of this plot was its use of Rom. You know, maybe having him leave Quark's employment in "Bar Association" was a really good idea after all. Because he sure has been used better, as a character, since his abysmal use back then. The scene of him telling Sisko that he fears that Nog is really a Changeling is comedy gold. "Nog's moved back in with me, you know. It's horrible. He put me on report the other day. Said my tool kit was untidy. That's the exact word he used. Untidy. *shakes the vile of Nog's blood again*" That literally had me laughing out loud. The problem with the B-plot is that, while it mirrors the A-plot's focus on Odo and Quark quite well, it is resolved far, far too quickly. Jake and Nog have grown so different and far apart that they literally can't stand each other any more. However, one quick little scene together and everything is just fine and dandy again between them. The dreaded Trek Reset Button reared its ugly head rather noticeably here.
Mon, May 2, 2016, 1:01am (UTC -5)
Another wonderful plus to "The Ascent" is that it actually focuses on Odo's new status as a Solid. Given that he'll be returned to a Changeling just three episodes from now, that's definitely a welcome addition. Actually, the show hasn't really focused all that much on Odo's new solidity since "Apocalypse Rising", has it? Episodes either skim over it with a few quick lines of dialogue or just outright ignore it. However, here Odo actually has to deal with the fact that he's Human when he breaks his leg.
For that I'll be generous and up my score.
Mon, May 2, 2016, 11:01am (UTC -5)
Looking back over what I wrote, I think I missed something (I don't know why this occurs to me now) -- Odo obviously played up that he was happy Quark was going to jail forever because he wanted Quark to talk about what he knew about the Orion Syndicate. I mean, I know that Odo *said* that he pretended he knew that Quark was going away for good but had no proof, but I guess I didn't fully register that this meant that his previous behaviour is also called into question. As long as he still has a goal in mind -- here, trying to trick Quark into revealing the information -- of course Odo being Odo he won't actually consider whether he actually wants Quark to go away to jail; it's more important that he play the hardass lawman role when that role might pay off with an arrest. In other words, Odo pretends the game is over so he can gloat, but the reason he is gloating is that the game is still going on. We don't really know *how* Odo would react if he thought he had finally caught Quark at this point in the series, where he and Quark have somewhat made progress on admitting to their relationship ("Crossfire," e.g.); by late season six Odo is willing to look the other way in "The Sound of Her Voice," but I think that is a consequence of things like their getting some of their issues out here as well as other events in season six. It is a good character piece.
Thu, Aug 4, 2016, 10:22pm (UTC -5)
If there are trees there have to be bugs. That's called an ecosystem.
As with the previous episode, this episode felt like it came too late in the series. By Season 5 Odo would not take glee in arresting Quark and sending him to jail for life. Nor would Sisko allow it. Sisko, recall, blackmailed Quark into staying on the station in the first place. Very early in Season I Quark said to Odo that he may be the closest thing to a friend Odo has -- which I think has defined their whole relationship.
Then, the entire station, including Odo, pitched in to save his bar when he lost everything just a few episodes. ago Odo may tell himself that he hates Quark, but even he can't actually believe that at this point.
Also, even Odo has to acknowledge that although Quark's big criminal schemes have not worked out, he is actually a good businessman. His bar is well run and very popular.
At some point in the last ten years Odo would also have had to have acknowledged to himself that Quark is pretty small time as far as being a crook. The idea that he's part of the Orion syndicate just does not add up with all his petty schemes gone awry.
Why doesn't Quark make Odo crutches?
Wouldn't it make more sense for Quark to leave Odo behind? If Quark can't get to the mountaintop, they'll both die. If he does, they'll both live. He's a lot more likely to make it if he's not dragging an extra 170 pounds of dead weight around.
Do they have any water? If not, they've been dead for days.
Does Jake pay rent? Or does he just get to live wherever he wants because his dad's the captain? Or can anyone move onto DS9 and not pay rent?
Wed, Nov 9, 2016, 9:14am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jan 5, 2017, 6:22am (UTC -5)
Tue, May 16, 2017, 12:20am (UTC -5)
Mon, Jun 19, 2017, 11:05am (UTC -5)
Thu, Sep 7, 2017, 5:07pm (UTC -5)
The ascent of the mountain just kept going and going. Sure they both realize they have stuff in common (failure as an investigator, failure as a thief). Lots of Odo going "Aaargh!" When you see the mountain Quark and Odo have to scale, there's no way they should be able to do it given they have like 2 food rations and multiple days of journey on foot to go. The payoff of learning more about Quark and Odo's friendship/hatred/needing each other relationship is not enough of a payoff for what the viewer has to go through to get there.
Nog's arrival and new personality is perfectly annoying (the character's always been annoying for me) -- the interaction with Jake as they room together was fairly typical of a neat freak and an artsy type. Of course, the 2 make up...
Nearly 2 stars for this episode but 1.5 stars is what this pretty basic cliche'd episode deserves. Trek has had better "survival" episodes -- even from ENT. Nice ending though when they share a chuckle while lying in sickbay.
Sat, Dec 23, 2017, 7:52pm (UTC -5)
Stock odd couple sitcom stuff meh
Fri, Feb 23, 2018, 5:32pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Feb 23, 2018, 5:51pm (UTC -5)
At least Quark came out on top in the end!
...I'll show myself out.
Wed, May 23, 2018, 5:12pm (UTC -5)
This was one of my favourite episodes of this season originally, but I only found it average this time 'round.
Mon, Aug 20, 2018, 12:47pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Dec 19, 2018, 9:41am (UTC -5)
Wed, Dec 19, 2018, 9:44am (UTC -5)
Fri, Dec 21, 2018, 6:45pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Jan 15, 2019, 10:43am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jan 17, 2019, 9:27am (UTC -5)
Very contrived crash and runabout damage, but I'm always happy to overlook that stuff.
I think the ep sets up a bit of a parallel between Nog & Jake and Odo & Quark, and I think it's about the nature of friendships and what makes a friendship, and what makes a friendship enduring . . . or not.
I enjoyed it.
Fri, Apr 12, 2019, 12:23am (UTC -5)
Like $G said, there’s something dull about the episodes where 1-2 people are trapped or lost for 40 minutes of the episode, whether it’s TNG or DS9. Extra bonus points if they are stuck in the same cave set that they use for everything (“The Sword of Kahless”, “Nor the Battle to the Strong”).
I’ll get over my short-sightedness and watch this when the mood is right...
Mon, Apr 15, 2019, 10:27am (UTC -5)
Tue, Sep 17, 2019, 10:16pm (UTC -5)
"Show me, don't tell me." But the dialog is mostly the characters in the adversarial/bosom buddies pairs TELLING what they are and how they see each other. Despite the painfully high stakes for Odo and Quark, there really isn't much of a plot, and what little there is has holes in it like Swiss cheese. (Not only, as Quarkissnyder said above, is there no way they'd survive without water, but they should be suffering from altitude sickness, which makes dehydration even worse. The whole point in climbing the mountain is to get to thinner air.)
And yes, after Odo is injured, it should be perfectly obvious to them both (and to the writer, and to us) that Quark should continue the ascent alone. If their plan works, a rescue ship will come and can use its scanners to locate Odo, apparently the only other humanoid on the planet. If it doesn't, their mutual problem will soon reach its dire resolution.
I have nothing against a good bromance. Heck, they could have thrown in a C plot with Bashir and O'Brien. But even a character story needs a story.
Thu, Oct 17, 2019, 1:40pm (UTC -5)
Quark for the win!!
Sat, Jan 25, 2020, 6:47pm (UTC -5)
As other people have noted, it's an episode which could have worked a season or two earlier, but at this point, the relationship between Odo and Quark has already been explored, and there's little new here, and a load of bickering which could pretty much have been lifted wholesale from the aforementioned earlier episodes.
It would have been more interesting to have more of a focus on Odo's struggles with being a Solid - while it does factor into the storyline, especially with the broken leg, this would have been a prime opportunity to explore the implications of his situation. In fact, it would have worked better if he'd been injured in the crash and then had to depend on Quark for survival...
Tue, May 12, 2020, 6:27am (UTC -5)
Wed, Jun 10, 2020, 2:56pm (UTC -5)
Jake is packing, preparing to move out from his quarters to a new set with Nog, who's returning from the Academy. He and Sisko are engaging in their typical father/son DBI that I can't be bothered to care much about.
Actually, pause that—it's worth going on a minor tangent now, because throughout my DS9 reviews, I've struggled to put into words exactly what I find so tedious about these kinds of scenes. I'll probably still fail, but I think what it boils down to is a lack of extraordinariness. What do I mean by that? Well, the function of this scene is to 1. ease us into the plot (in this case the B plot) with exposition carried by dialogue, 2. highlight a character dynamic, and 3. set a tone that can be contrasted with meatier material later in the episode. Many hundreds of Star Trek episodes do this with varying success. And this scene is not actually *bad* at any of it. In fact, I'd say it's totally successful at all three points, with Brooks and Lofton delivering natural enough performances to boot. However, what's missing is the commentary. What aspect of this scene, other than the fact that the window in their quarters shows a star field, would be different if DS9 were a show set in the 20th century? As I wrack my brain for examples in the other series that are like this, I'm realising that part of the reason it happens so less often on the other shows is that these scenes aren't usually populated exclusively by humans. On TNG, Data or Worf would very usually be present to provide the commentary. By their presence, the audience is almost never allowed to take for granted that certain dynamics or rituals should or shouldn't be. On TOS, it would be Spock of course, on Voyager it's Tuvok or the Doctor or Torres. DS9 scenes like this with Garak or Odo or Quark tend to work much better for me, too.
So what is my point? The conceit of Star Trek is that we are witnessing an imagined anthropology of the future. We are witnessing the way social and/or political and/or whatever else dynamics are different from the way they are today—or whenever the episodes are written. We are being asked to question whether our dynamics could be better, or at least different. It's the same conceit found in historical dramas or fantasy. A story set in 1950 or 1100 that had relationship dynamics identical to what we might find today would read as false. That's why farcical comedies like “Monty Python” or “Space Balls” are so amusing. Some or all of the characters are anachronistic to their setting, bringing with them the perspective of contemporary people. Jake and Ben aren't meant to be anachronistic or to be funny. We are meant to engage with their dynamic sincerely. But I fail to glean anything from it (in this scene) that sheds light on how relationships or people in the 24th century are different from the way they are today. Without that element, this isn't really Star Trek—it's just a soap. That doesn't make it *bad*, it makes it, well, banal. I wouldn't watch “Mad Men” to see Betty Draper behave like Claire Underwood. I don't appreciate watching Star Trek to see the Siskos behave like the Tanners.
Anyway, we see the other side of this setup as Rom and Quark are preparing to greet Nog. Rom is proud and excited, while Quark is bitter and judgemental, echoing what we saw of this dynamic in “Facets.” Before we're subjected to too much of Rom's “duuhhhs,” Odo arrives to kick off the A plot. He's going to escort Quark to a summons by a Federation grand jury.
QUARK: Odo, I have no idea what this is all about.
ODO: Well then, you'll have eight days to try to guess. We leave immediately.
ODO: I've been waiting ten years for you to get what you deserve. Now that the big moment is finally here, I wouldn't miss it for anything.
Act 1 : **.5, 17%
Our primary odd couple are engaging in bitter sniping aboard a runabout, per their idiom. Quark accuses Odo of being a “a miserable self-hating misanthrope,” noting that his disposition hasn't changed since Odo was transformed into a solid. He also learns that Odo is reading some paperback romance on his PADD, which is almost as amusing as the idea that someone wrote a work called “Vulcan Love Slave.” Ain't nothing spoiling Odo's good mood however, as he simply gloats that the charges against Quark (which he refuses to reveal) mean that after their week together on the runabout, Quark's going to end up in a penal colony.
Back on DS9, Nog has finally arrived and reports in to Sisko in his office. The conceit here is that Nog is doing “field study,” so Sisko is officially his commanding officer, god help him. Nog seems to have had the world's smallest stick surgically implanted up his butt, as every other word out of his mouth is “sir.” On the one hand, the characterisation part of this sort of works. Nog has a lot to prove considering it's been only four years since he learned to read. On the other, (try not to be surprised) I fucking hate it when Starfleet is portrayed like an uptight military. I hated it in “The Wrath of Kahn.” I hated it in “Journey's End.” I hated it in “Learning Curve.” I mean, Nog mentions having lived in “cadet barracks,” but we've seen those “barracks” in “The First Duty.” The only difference between those and normal crew quarters are that they have to use door knobs.
The boys meet up and greet their new digs and stupid shit ensues. For hackneyed narrative convenience, the station doesn't clean itself like every other ship and station, so they're going to have to clean their quarters themselves. Are you telling me that Sisko and Bashir and Kira clean their own quarters? Or do they all have maids? Oh...oh the *maintenance* crew cleans the quarters. Mhm. Anyway, we quickly and bluntly establish that Nog has turned into a little Mussolini, insisting on daily cleanings, early morning visits to the gym, etc. Oh boy, I hope this doesn't result in any wacky hijinks! So WACKY!
Back in the A plot, four days have passed and the other odd couple are starting to really get on each other's nerves. Quark complains about a buzzing noise, but this turns out to actually be a problem, specifically, a bomb under the deck plate. Uh oh.
Act 2 : **.5, 17%
Odo transports the bomb off the ship, but before it dematerialises, there's a little boom that knocks the two on their butts...oh and completely fucks the runabout in just about every conceivable way. Of course. They are forced to crash land on a class L planet.
ODO: If we live through this, whoever planted that bomb is going to regret it.
QUARK: Believe me, you don't want to get anywhere near the Orion Syndicate.
ODO: The Orion Syndicate? Is that who the Grand Jury's investigating?
QUARK: I thought you knew.
ODO: If I knew you were involved with the Orion Syndicate, you'd be on the Defiant right now, surrounded by half my deputies.
Whoops. The two continue to bicker as the runabout breaks through the treeline until a camera dissolve shuts them up. They awaken, battered and with the communication and replicator systems damaged beyond repair.
On DS9, Nog continues to be insufferable going so far as to make corrections to Jake's manuscript of a story called “Past Prologue.” Where've I heard that title...?
Enough of that. Quark has discovered that while the communicator is salvageable, the signal booster is not. He has thus torn it out of the wall with the idea that the pair of them will simply drag it to higher ground and send a distress call. For yet more narrative convenience, this device is the size of a filing cabinet. Remember that in Star Trek, you can call a ship in orbit with your combadge, but whatever, the two of them will scale Plot Mountain together.
Act 3 : **.5, 17%
The two begin their journey, having found a single “survival suit” that survived the crash. Ironic that. The deal seems to be that you get to wear the suit or carry the transmitter before trading off. En route, we get more character stuff. Quark accuses Odo of always having wanted to be a solid, based on his endless observations of humanoids and pining for Kira. Any more irony and they'll be able to weld themselves a new transmitter.
On DS9, O'Brien makes a cameo and Nog returns to his new quarters only to find Jake swimming in his own filth playing video games. Their argument escalates to a bit of shouting and an angry decision to part ways in the morning. We'll have more of “No, You're the Asshole” in Act 4.
Starving and freezing, the planetside odd couple make a gut-wrenching discovery as they realise they've mistakenly climbed the wrong (not-high-enough) mountain. Whoops.
Act 4 : ***, 17%
Quark is being helpful by counting the tens of thousands of steps down the wrong mountain out loud, pushing Odo (not that he needs much encouragement) to remind him that escape means a prison sentence. But Quark is way ahead of him. The Orion Syndicate tried to murder Quark, something they would do to a material witness, not a member (c.f. “The Pirates of Orion”). Odo is momentarily defeated, but he works out that this would indicate that Quark tried and failed to join the Syndicate. He failed because Blunt and that asset seizure in “Body Parts” left Quark without enough disposable income for the membership fee.
ODO: Oh it's even worse than that, isn't it? You never could afford to join, could you? All those years of scheming and lying and cheating and you're still too small-time for the Orions. Well, I guess you're not as successful a businessman as you think you are.
QUARK: Which means you've spent the last ten years of your life trying to catch a nobody. Without little success, I might add. So you tell me, which one of us is the bigger failure.
What I enjoy about this is that the barbs reveal...genuine concern for each other. It doesn't seem like it on the surface, as others of have noted. It takes the form of posturing threats and insults, but why should Quark care that Odo doesn't seem to have a zeal for living? And why should Odo care that Quark hasn't realised his aspirations? Each one *wants* for the other even if they don't actually *like* each other. That makes for a profound relationship, because the mutual concern isn't based on self-interest, like Odo's concern for Kira or Quark's for Nog. There's no benefit to themselves. Good stuff.
On DS9, it turns out Rom has noticed Nog's changed behaviour and reports his concerns to Sisko...that his son has been replaced by a Changeling. Can you say, “duuuhhhh”? Since the boys split, Nog has moved back in with his father and is starting to drive him nuts in much the same way as Jake. Yadda yadda...the two dads realise their sons need a little chocolate/peanut butter relationship grease and so Sisko resolves to mend the rift. Oh boy. So WACKY!
Meanwhile, Quark has died. Again. Ah never mind. Odo manages to awaken him on the side of what we all hope is the correct mountain, despite his having gone deaf in one ear. The two resume their struggle up the mountain and to waste their waning energy on their back and forth. This finally gets us to the point of the two admitting mutual hatred for the other. But of course, this is a façade. There's a brief altercation and Odo manages to break his leg, news which he delivers is as calm and acerbic a tone as ever. Whoops!
Act 5 : ***, 17%
ODO: Quark, there's no way you're going to be able to drag me up that mountain.
QUARK: Just watch me.
ODO: Stop trying to be a hero. You'll get to the top faster if you leave me behind.
QUARK: Don't you get it? I'm not trying to rescue you. I'm taking you along as emergency rations. If you die, I'm going to eat you.
What follows is a visual representation of what their dialogue has revealed thus far. They may claim to hate each other, but Quark at least is going to a tremendous effort to keep Odo alive and rescue the both of them, dragging himself, the transmitter and Odo up the mountainside. And when Quark finally collapses from exhaustion, Odo shames him by comparing him to their Federation friends, noting that Sisko, Worf and Dax wouldn't give up. Of course, this reminds him that his nephew is now in Starfleet.
QUARK: My brother will get the bar. My nephew will be completely corrupted by the Federation and become a Starfleet captain. And my bones will lie here and freeze unsold and unmourned.
It's this pride that pushes the Ferengi back to his feet and further up the mountain.
But enough drama, we have to get back to the “drama” on DS9. Sisko pops by Jake's to inform him that he and Nog are going to have to work their shit out. Huh. And I was expecting a wacky plan. Thank the Prophets for small miracles.
On Planet Frostbite, it looks like Quark has failed. So Odo records a log, something he's apparently taking to doing despite his protests in “Necessary Evil.” He asks whoever finds their corpses to dispose of them in the manner which he thinks they deserve, Quark to have his parts auctioned off (“not that they're worth much”) and himself cremated and tossed through the wormhole. Misanthrope, you say? Nah. But before Odo can finish his nihilistic request, he (and Quark) are beamed to safety aboard the Defiant, thanks to Quark. Whoops.
Episode as Functionary : ***, 10%
I don't have a lot more to say about this episode except that I really wish there hadn't been a B plot. The bones of the main story are solid, the character work quite fine, though hardly groundbreaking, and the acting superb as always from Auberjonois and Shimmerman. I do think the dialogue is stretched a little thin, which is obviously why the B plot is here, and that's the main fault I can find.
The B plot is not terrible, it's just really trite. I suppose Nog's return is important to highlight Quark's final motivation, and it's not like I object to the premise of him and Jake becoming roommates, I just have little patience for clichéd sitcom plots.
The most tantalising bit for me is Odo's final log entry. After suggesting to whatever scavenger finds his corpse that he be thrown back into the Gamma Quadrant, he says, “or better yet...” then the transporter cuts him off. Just what level of self-loathing are we dealing with here that Odo would spend his dying breaths self-deprecating to no one? It seems to me that “Things Past” must have opened an even deeper well of sadness within him. We know now that the whole Constable thing is a façade masking Odo's loneliness. It's telling that, despite his keen mind, Odo failed to piece together what should have been obvious about this business between Quark and the Orions. Speaking of Quark, I think turning his naturally exaggerated Ferengi-ness into an ironic character facet is inspired. He has all but given up on making himself into a success by his society's standards, but he *can* live for others, after a fashion. He can save Ferengi society from itself, transcend his own failures. It's a very relatable motivation and a good twist for him moving forward.
Final Score : **.5 (almost 3)
Wed, Jun 10, 2020, 3:33pm (UTC -5)
Perhaps. In that episode, Kira forgives him (kinda) but with the caveat that this was a one time deal. His "I hope so" answer is a sheepish cop-out, because if he worked for the Cardassians for the better part of a decade, he knows it wasn't.
And so do we, the audience....we've seen Chain Of Command and Tribunal.
It plays as somewhat of a flip from "Necessary Evil", but Kira's treachery in that episode was not from a position of power, so it's hardly the same, and Odo knows it.
Wed, Jun 10, 2020, 7:38pm (UTC -5)
Re your DBI, I randomly flashed back to Beverly trying to bring Geordi into her Gilbert and Sullivan production at the opening of Disaster. This is a tiny moment, but it does suggest something about the cultural and social environment on the ship, and TNG especially goes out of its way to show how creative art, both individual and communal, is a part of everyday life more so for the crew than is true at many workplaces. Similar with Picard's anachronistic statement about Fermat's Last Theorem, where the point is that explorer diplomats are interested in mathematical history. Neither couldn't happen in a modern show in principle (well, okay the Fermat one) in that they don't have any aliens or whatever but they are still underscoring what's different about the TNG world from our own. To avoid overly TNG boosting, I'm sure there are a number of other scenes that don't do much of this kind of work.
In general it interests me what it is that makes an episode of a serial belong to it. I've been watching old Twilight Zone and it's not just the framing narration that tends to make the episodes belong to the TZ, including the bad ones, even though episodes differ in tone, theme, message, cinematography, etc. Partly the show's conception is that the TZ means that it can do a grab bag of sf/F/horror elements, and yet with few exceptions the show is reliably in "the middle ground between light and shadow," genre stories intended to put ordinary people in extraordinary situations, or to present an extraordinary situation and then reveal its ordinariness, or some such.
With TNG, I felt like Too Short A Season didn't really feel like a TNG episode, because the main cast had so little to do and the show is not structured as an anthology, and Jameson (possibly named after a Twilight Zone character IIRC) arguably didn't do enough to earn our interest. This is essentially a complaint about form rather than content, but it still felt jarring even in a season where nothing made sense. That is neither here nor there.
I do appreciate here that Quark has a specific kind of strength of will Odo doesn't. The bottom line is, Quark wants to live. He knows he wants to live. And it's not actually acquisition but his family and friends that drive him on. Odo is not there yet.
I agree with the rating. I think the episode A plot is good, but very thin. The B plot is weaker but not bad.
Wed, Jun 10, 2020, 10:43pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jun 10, 2020, 10:48pm (UTC -5)
I need to do a watch of TTZ. I have such specific memories of iconic scenes from catching reruns as a child, but I don’t have a strong grasp of the series as a whole.
So many bizarre choices in TNG S1...
Wed, Jul 29, 2020, 5:22pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Aug 2, 2020, 8:52pm (UTC -5)
Quark could probably sue the Bajorans over it ;)
Sun, Nov 1, 2020, 3:33pm (UTC -5)
And so here we have the strict and orderly Nog struggling to share a quarters with the shifty and unreliable Jake Sisko. They fight, they argue, and then they put their differences aside and learn to live together.
Echoing this is a plot in which the strict and orderly Odo struggles to survive on an alien planet with the shifty and unreliable Quark. They fight, they argue, and then they put their differences aside after hiking up a mountain.
While it's fun seeing Nog back, and in a Starfleet uniform, Jake's reaction to his friend's return is unbelievable and over-the-top. Jack's a jerk from the get go, and plainly messy and inhospitable only for the sake of the episode's plot.
The episode also fails to milk its best gag: Nog, a model Starfleet cadet, is now the son Sisko would have preferred in Season 1, whilst Jake, who hangs out in bars and likes the ladies, has essentially become a shifty Ferengi.
People praise the Quark/Odo stuff in this episode, but outside of a few great insults and one-liners, I found it poorly written. We get the shuttle crash cliche, we get the contrivance of Odo failing to send a emergency signal before beaming out the bomb, we get the contrivance of only one emergency suit surviving, and the contrivance of the "communications panel" being a giant block to be lifted up a hill.
Then we get the "See No Evil, Hear No Evil!"/"The Defiant Ones" cliche, in which two opposite guys - injured in different ways - are tied together and forced to rely upon each other to survive.
Then there's the "people bickering then falling in love" cliche, which both plots hinge upon. Better to have Jake surprised by Nog's changes and, instead of arguing with the guy, slowly adopting some of them for himself. I'd rather watch Jake lift weights, asking about Earth, the duo catching up on the promenade - you know, being actual friends - rather than at each other's throats. The former is breezy and interesting, the latter is a bad gag.
And why not flip the convention for the Odo/Quark subplot as well? After all, we've seen them bickering a hundred times before.
Mon, Jun 21, 2021, 9:10pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Oct 23, 2021, 5:08am (UTC -5)
Wed, Dec 15, 2021, 9:49pm (UTC -5)
If you're traveling through interstellar space, how do you just conveniently find planets fo crash land on? Interstellar space is huge! The chances of being near a convenient solar system is infinitismal. Is warp drive still working after a bomb goes off?
Wed, Dec 15, 2021, 10:17pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 1:42pm (UTC -5)
Thu, May 26, 2022, 1:14am (UTC -5)
It destroyed exactly what it wanted to destroy, and nothing else.
Mon, Jul 25, 2022, 1:25pm (UTC -5)
DS9 dug deep into the complexities of its characters. They all evolved and gained depth from one season to the next (although Terry Farrell/Jadzia Dax was short-changed in this process). Odo & Quark's symbiotic relationship adds another chapter. Same goes for the friendship between Cadet Nog and Jake Sisko.
Thu, Sep 8, 2022, 2:42pm (UTC -5)
Speaking of assholes, Dodo sure is a major-league one. He done screwed up with Quark: He had failed to conduct some basic investigations before taking him into custody and transporting him to the hearing. Yet, he couldn't be man enough to admit it and instead kept insisting Quark was somehow at fault for the entire ordeal. I know their--often exaggerated--antinomy is a mainstay of D.S.9, but that kind of behavior is weak and pathetic. Quark would've been within his rights to just leave him there with his broken leg or pushed him over a cliff and made it look like an accident. That he didn't shows him to have the moral scruples Dodo can only dream of. Since the previous episode didn't chasten him and clip his wings, I wonder if this experience will bring Dodo down to earth somewhat. I'm guessing not. Sad.
I know he's a favorite character to many but, "sorry," I don't take to gratuitous jerks kindly.
I don't understand how hiking up a 3,000-foot mountain could ever possibly thin out the atmosphere(!) to the point where it doesn't interfere with subspace signals(!).
All that said, it was watchable enough an ep. but it's not 3 stars. I'd say two, more like.
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