Sunday, February 28, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Second Sight"

When it comes down to it, I find Sisko’s tragic love life the least compelling aspect of his character. He cannot be a character constantly brooding over his wife’s death, particularly since she has been gone four years. I understand that. Stay depressed too long and life completely passes you by. There is o way he could effectively run DS9, inspiring the necessary loyalty, while dwelling on past losses. So the resolution to his pain offered by the wormhole aliens in “Emissary” was a necessary step for the sake of the series.

It does logically follow that, since he has largely accepted his wife’s death, he would eventually begin another romance. Here is where Ds9 fumbled the ball and never recovered. His romantic life never improved. Yes, there was Cassidy Yates. It looked like they were going to end up happily ever after, but they did not. Sisko wound up being the tragic hero from beginning until the end. The resul seemed to be kicking Sisko down just for the sake of it. I am not impressed.

“Second Sight” begins the tradition of introducing a happy romantic relationship for Sisko and then yanking it away. Near the fourth adversary of Jennifer’s death at Wolf 359, Sisko cannot sleep, so here wanders the promenade. There he finds a mysterious woman named Fenna. He chats with her about the stars. Clearly, he is already falling in love.

Sisko becomes so obsessed with her, he is completely distracted from his fatherly and professional duties. He finally asks Odo to find Fenna in what I felt was a degrading move. Sisko has many flaws, but being a stalker is not one of them.

Fenna turns out to be a telepathic projection of a miserable wife stuck with an overbearingly arrogant scientist for whom she has mated for life. He knows she hates him, and plots to sacrifice himself in his big terraforming experiment so she ca be free. The whole matter is just thrown out there awkwardly. The scientist dies, his experiment is a successful legacy to him, and his widow trots back home after telling Siskoshe has no memories of Fenna. Ouch.

Maybe I am too much of a cold fish these days, but ’Second Sight” did not do resonate with me. Many fans see more in this episode than I do, so I cannot consider it a complete dud. The story was trying to be touchingly bittersweet, but heart of stone was unmoved.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Necessary Evil"

“Necessary Evil” is one of my favorite episodes for several reasons. The story centers around Odo and Kira. You cannot go wrong with that. It serves as an origin story, with its flashbacks to Odo becoming constable thanks to Dukat and his first encounters with Kira and Quark. I also like the mood set. The flashback sequences are dark and brooding. Odo is the hardboiled detective solving a murder for the damsel in distress within the backdrop of war. The detective noir homage is very well done.

A Bajoran woman named Vaatrik asks quark to retrieve a box from a hidden compartment in what used to be a chemical shop where she worked during the occupation. Quark does so, but cannot resist opening it. Inside is a list of eight Bajoran names. One of the woman’s cohorts tries to murder Quark to keep the names secret, but thanks to Bashir, Quark survives, albeit in a coma.

Odo investigates the crime. It brings back memories of years ago when he was assigned by Dukat to investigate the murder of Vaatrik’s husband years before. According to the not so grieving widow, he had been having an affair with a new girl who just arrived on Terok Nor--Kira. Odo has his first run I with Kira. He catches her in several lies, including one when Quark fails to corroborate her alibi under the threat of being turned over to Dukat. She admits to being part of the underground and a saboteur, but denies committing the murder. Odo eventually accepts she is innocent of the murder. He also keeps her status asa rebel secret.

The mystery remained unsolved for five years until the end of ’Necessary Evil.” Kira lied to him yearsago. She had not committed the act of sabotage that was her true alibi. That was done by one of her cohorts. Her job was to find the list of eight names. They were collaborators with the Cardassians. She never found it, but she did have to kill him in the process. Vaatrik has been blackmailing the people o the list and arranged for the attempted murder of Quark to cover it up.

It is an interesting story, plays second fiddle to explaining the bond odo and Kira have. This is the early days before any romantic notions emerged between the two. I am inclined to appreciate the bond they shared prior to odo confessing love. He protected her from Dukat knowing full well her activities might kill many Cardassians. He did so perhaps out of a sense of justice. He never cared much for the Cardassians’ brutality against the Bajorans. Actually, Odo’s contempt for everyone is in clear evidence. He has a resentment of most everyone for the spectacle they like to make of his shape shifting abilities. But still, takes appears to take Kira’s advice that everyone has to choose sides eventually.

He is reluctant, obviously. His narration of the investigation suggests a sense of justice supercedes all relationships to him, from friendship to love. The notion comes naturally to him. He thinks that is his only connection to his people since the idea is inherent in him. When we finally meet his people, we will learn that is not true. Odo does not now it--or maybe he is in denial- but he holds onto a sense of justice over friendship and love because he is so alienated from people, he needs justice to fil the void. It is sad, but compelling, to watch that truth play out.

The one glimmer of hope there is at the end when kira finally confesses she was the murderer. She waned to tell Odo the truth, but was afraid she would lose his respect. In an almost embarrassed tone, Odo assures her his opinion of her could never chage. So maybe there is room for others in his life after all.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Rules of Acquisition"

Ferengi-centric episodes are hit and miss. Sometimes even the equivalent of missing the target and instead causing an ignited bus full of nuns to careen into an orphanage. I am looking at you, “Profit and Lace.” but when they hit the mark dead on, they are entertaining and humorous. “Rules of Acquisition” hits the marks for the most part.

The Grand Nagus is ready to expand Ferengi business into the Gamma Quadrant. I am pretty certain he had already done that after “The Nagus,” but I will go along with it. He chooses Quark to serve as his chief negotiator in a deal for ten thousand vats of tuleberry wine. He does not much care about the wine itself. He just wants to get a foothold in the Gamma Quadrant.

Quark is excited at the prospect of his lofty position until one of his new waiters, Pel, puts it I his mind that the Nagus is using him as a scapegoat if negotiations go poorly. To ensure they do not, quark appoints Pel to be his assistant. Rom is not happy someone is coming between him and his brother, so he starts snooping around for any dirt on Pel that might break up their association.

Quark and Pel begin negotiations with the Doci, a Gamma Quadrant race allied with the Dominion. This is the first we hear of the Dominion. Virtually nothing about them has been firmly established. As far as we know yet, it is a business consortium. One cannot help but be somewhat dismissive of the Dominion’s ominous presence since the Doci are played for laughs. They are such aggressive negotiators, murdering their opponents is not uncommon. It is hard to swallow.

The Nagus’ intention was to discover who is really pulling the strings of commerce in the Gamma Quadrant. Quark would have failed miserably at it if not for Pel, who gets the job done. The problem is--as Rom uncovers while snooping about--Pel is a woman in disguise. Ferengi women are normally naked and non-participants in profit making. Pel wanted to prove she could hack it. But she broke the law doing so, putting both herself and Quark in serious trouble. Since she fooled the Nagus, too, they all agree to keep things quiet in order to protect everyone’s reputation.

“rules of Acquisition’ is a fun, light hearted episode. It is based on a Hillary J. Bader proposal for TNG story, so I imagine it had a lot more feminist overtones before being made into a comedy for DS9. She was not happy about that, I imagine. There are quite afew illogical eementsadded for the sole purpose of setting up jokes. Why would the Nagus stay on DS9 during the negotiations with the Doci, but not participate I them? Apparently, he is just there to pat Kira’s tush every time she turns around. Pel falls for Quark for apparently no other reason than to set up what looks like a gay kiss. Both were genuinely funny, so I can excuse the cheap set ups. It was also neat to see Brain Thompson, the alien shape shifter from The X-Files, playing a Doci.

On a more serious foreshadowing note, Rom is prompted to dig for dirt on Pel after talking to Odo. He asks Odo if he would be offended if someone came between him and his brother. Odo says hedoes not have a brother that he knows of, but muses that he would not let anything come between them if he did. Since the Dominion is controlled by the Founders, who are Changelings like Odo, the episode features subtle reference to odo future conflicts of loyalty when he discovers his real “brothers.”

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Melora"

I have dreaded the inevitable review of this episode. I am perfectly willing to admit I have lifelong disabilities which affected me long before my other health issues struck six years ago. They are not entirely unrelated, but that is not a story for here. The writer of “Melora,” Evan Carlos Somers, is a paraplegic. I have never been completely confined to a wheelchair, but before my hip replacement surgery in 1992, I did use one in certain cases much like the character of Melora. So here is my beef--Melora is more like me than Somers, yet he is trying to speak on my behalf through her. It is not working.

It pays to note that in every script Somers wrote for Ds9 and VOY, there is always a character like Melora who has some physical issue which keeps him or her from doing exactly what they want. Kai Opaka is stuck on the moon in “Battle Lines,” Melora’s low gravity conditioning keeps her either in a wheelchair or on crutches, Dax cannot travel with her lover to “Meridian,” and Paris suffers with injected memories in “Ex Post Facto.“ None of these episodes are particularly good. I have already noted “Battle Lines” is bad because it has all the worst elements of TOS. The other episodes will have to wait their turn. For now, I do not like “Melora” because it is so heavy-handed.

Understand I am a realist. I never deliberately grind my axe over my limitations. For one thing, we all have them, so why feel shortchanged over my specifics? I never cared about playing sports as a kid, for instance. I hung out with the nerdy kids who liked who did well in school in spite of their obsessions with comic books and science fiction. I had a void left by my limitations, so I filled it with something else. What I did not do was insist on jumping in the middle of things I knew I could not handle just to prove something all the while caustically smacking around everyone else to cover the inevitable failure. But that is what Melora does.

Starfleet is the perfect politically correct organization that lets in anyone with disabilities. That is great. They have never heard of the public policy exception and why it is there--because a blind fireman, for instance, cannot effectively save lives. There is a higher principle involved than just a spirit of full inclusion. Some people really do not need to be doing certain things. Starfleet is complicit in Melora’s troubles right off the bat.

Melora has not embraced reality. Either she needs to stay on her low gravity world where she is normal or, if she wants to be part of Starfleet regardless, willingly accept the assistance she requires. But she cannot be normal in Starfleet. Trying to do so causes problems both for her and others which puts herself in a bad emotional state. Being frustrated all the time puts an unhealthy strain on both her and her relationships.

Melora is finally faced with a pivotal choice--here aremedical treatments that can get her outt of the wheelchair, but her new conditionig with prevent her from ever going home. She decides to start the treatment, then opts to stop. She likes her low gravity home too much to never be able to return. Fair enough. I can underastand that.

But here is what I do not undrrstand. She has to accept the consequences of her decision, but she just barely does so. She jokes that independence is not all it iscraced up to be, implying she will be fine fitting in with other Starfleet personnel now. I have already expressed skepticism about whether her now good natured attitude about the situation is enough. Melora still has the John Locke from Lost vibe that reality is just too harsh to accept.

Then comes the worst part. The B-story involves Quark and a smuggler. When the two stories intersect, Melora saves the day. But it is not an affirmation of her capabilities in spite of her disabilities. She is able to play hero because the treatments she has already undergone help her recover faster from a phaser blast. Her effort to get rid of her disabilities were the only thing that helped resolve the conflict.

Keeping all that in mind, if you can tell me what the message of “Melora” is, I would appreciate it. Is it a politically corwct parable about respecting people with disabilities? No, because Melora only succeeded because she was far enough along in the process of eliminating them to be successful. Is it the idea we ought to accept our limitations/ No, because Melora stays in Starfleet even though it is obvious she is going to run into problems caused by her disabilities which will adversely affect others. So what is the deal? I cannot figure it out, so I have to consider “Melora” a dud.

Rating: * (out of 5)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Cardassians"

The most important factor in making the aftermath of the Bajoran Occupation intriguing is putting a personal face on it. Up until now, DS9 has not done a very good job of personalizing the Cardassians outside of “Duet,” an episode I raved about last week. We never even learned the name of the Gul who was arming The Circle in the opening trilogy of the second season. But with “Cardassians,” that changes when the focus shifts to Garak, Dukat, and the Cardassian side of the occupation and its aftermath.

The Cardassians have been one dimensional, villains on both TNG and DS9 thus far. You could describe them in one of two ways; either mustache twirling villains or sadistic monsters. The former is often laughable. Gene Roddenberry himself was not happy with how one dimensional they were presented in their TNG premiere and Roddenberry was not exactly keen on character development period. The lattter-their sadism--is something more problematic.

For one, it is not going to end just yet. In at least one more episode this season, the torture of a captive solely for the sake of torture will be presented on O‘Brien. Thankfully, it will fade off to any future instances serving as a necessary plot point or, in the case of Garek interrogating Odo at one point, Garek will feel remorse for his actions. Similar instances have a lot to make up for.

The brutalizing that Cardassians takeso much thrill in a reflection on some of the worst aspects of human nature. There is a prurient thrill for damaged people to inflict pain on others. It is sexual. There really is no difference between Jeffery Dahmer committing his weird crimes and the repressed Islamic jihadists who enjoy stoning woman. They get the same high from it. To have to relate that to recurring villains on what should not be a perverted show, but still views sex in immature ways, is disturbing.

So I am glad the focus is shifting away from the primal portrait of Cardassians into more multidimensional, palace intrigue type fare.

“Cardassians” gives it a good shot. I do find the plot a bit implausible in places. The idea of war orphans being left behind on Bajor by the fleeing Cardassians is a good idea in dramatic terms. That many have been adopted by Bajorans, many of whom so far have had an understandable, but damaging hatred for Cardassians as a race, shows some growth. There are rough edges that will never be smoothed in the real world, but for a series with an optimistic view of the future, there has to be some sense the baorans can have some healing.

I like how the war orphans serve as a catalyst to explore how all the different races feel about one another. In “Cardassians,” we explore the self-loathing of the Cardassian children left behind, O’Brien’s lingering animosity from fighting them in the war, and even how Pa’Dar is grateful to the adoptive Bajoan father to his long lost son, Rugal. The resolution presents the Cardassians as sympathetic characters, which is not easy to do considering all I laid out above.

All that makes up for the implausibly complicated plot of Dukat kidnapping Pa’Dar’s believed to be dead son eight years ago. How exactly could that remain covered up/ if the Cardassians are so devoted to family, surely the war orphans would be a huge issue. It would not take too long before someone demanded action. Rugal would have been found. Dukat did not want that. He wanted to hurt Pa’Dar by making him believe his son as dead, not embarrass him by having the plot see the light of day. It was all covered up by the end, so both Pa’Dar and Dukat get off scott free. The only one who lose out are Rugal’s adopted parents and, of course, all the other war orphans left behind.

I liked “Cardassians” anyway for the groundwork it lays. The Cardassians become better villains. The animosity between Garak and Dukat will be fun to watch play out. I enjoy the friendship between Garak and Bashir, too. It will be quite a while before Bashir comes ito his own, but his friendships with Garak and O’Brien are the most entertaining aspects of his overall story arc.

Rating; *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Invasive Procedures"

I promised to lay off the Dax bashing for two episode in particular this season. Here is the first.

“Invasive Procedures” is not very original. It involves a typical hostage situation in which a villain is after something only he cares about. He has a ragtag bunch of cronies with no real loyalty, but he also brinsalong his girlfriend. She is, of course, a low class woman who had no future until he took her away from her old life. Now she is completely loyal to him until she is convinced by the hostages he will totally dump her once he has what he wants. If you watched any television at all in the 80’s, you know the drill.

To fill in the blanks: Verad is an Trill who was rejected for joining. After researching, he decides Dax is the best trill for him, so he plots to take the symbiont from her. When DS9 is evacuated because of a storm, he and his merry band of mercenaries--two Klingons and a former hooker--sneak onto the station with the help of Quark, who believes they actually want to buy some black market merchandise from him. Instead, they take the crew hostage and force Bashir to transplant the symbiont from dax to Verad.

As Jadzia lay dying, Sisko tries to appeal to the now joined Verad’s sense of decency. When that does not work, he plays up the differences between the joined Verad and the old for the hooker’s benefit. He is not the man she fell in love with anymore.

I will give the episode credit here. They do not take the easy way out by having either of Sisko’s plans work. That would have been trite and stereotypical. Instead, the matter is resolved by force. Sisko shoots Verad before he can escape. The symbiotic is then taken by force and put back into Jadzia. Other than the plot set up, the only predictable bit is Quark feigning an injury as the catalyst for the resolution. That had to bedone in order to redeem the character for starting the mess in the first place.

“Invasive Procedures” certainly is not particularly compelling, but it does serve as elaboration on how Trills work. Not every trill gets joined, so there is a class conflict there which only gets attention in passing in future episodes, but it is there. If you will pardon one ityy, bittty bit of Dax bashing here, how the heck did someone as immature and catty as Jadzia qualify? I have to assume she appeared before the joining committee in a short skirt with a low cut top and giggled a lot. Men had the majority vote, of course.

John Glover did a fine job as Verad. He had to play essentially two different characters, Verad and then Verad Dax, while demonstrating why he would be so desperate to not be just plain, old Verad. Ican see why--Verad is an unassertive wimp. One suspects he frequented the hooker because he was too intimidated by women to date. How he ever approached Klingon mercenaries is a mystery to me. Verad Dax is like night to his day. Strong, confident, and assertive. It is not easy for an actor to go from Emo Phillips to George Clooney in less than a minute, but Glover pulled it off splendidly.

Tim Russ makes his second trek appearance as a Klingon. Considering the time period, it may have been what landed him the role of Tuvok on VOY.

Well, there you go--a Dax episode I liked. Chalk it up to nostalgia for the 80’s action shows I remember fondly from my childhood. The happy stroll down memory lane probably has a lot to do with why I am not tougher on the episode. In order to enjoy it, once has to overlook some major issues, such as quark not getting punished for his actions or how the symbiotic survived two surgeries within a few hours of each other when it was made a plot point it probably would not, but I can handler that. The episode was enjoyable enough.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Siege"

Before becoming The Huffington Post's resident unreasoned, whiny socialist, Steven Weber was a xenophobic Bajoran colonel. What do you think--step up, down, or sideways career wise?

There is a feeling among the DS9 powers that be the Bajoran trilogy fizzled out in the conclusion. The rationale is there was not enough story to merit three parts. I am sympathetic to that view. I have already noted the first part was not very well split between the Li Nalas rescue and the introduction of The Circle. Part two picked up the pace well, but “The Siege’ is in places dragged out too long to be as intense as they were going for. The fate of Li Nalas is not as monumental as one would hope, either.

The episode begins right where we left off. Federation members have a little over five hours to evacuate Ds9 before an assault team arrives. Sisko refuses to go. He insists they need to buy time for proof of the Cardassian subterfuge is exposed to the government. Once the people discover The Circle is being supplied weapons by their greatest enemy, the Bajoans will abandon them.

The station is evacuated of all Starfleet families. I appreciate some of the paiful moments of families being split up with the possibility those left behind will be killed in battle, but I can also seethe complaints that it is dragged out too long, hence the complaint a two part story was stretched uncomfortably into three. The goodbyes take up the entire fist act.

Thing pick up with the Bajorans arrive. The story is split between a Die Hard-esque cat and mouse gae between the Federation left behind and the Bajorans and Kira and Dax trying to make their way to the government ministers in order to hand them the evidence of Cardassian involvement odo discovered last episode.

Kira and Dax’s timing is perfect, as they succeed just as Sisko captures the Bajoran task force leader. All gets cleared up immediately, though oddly off screen. Li Nalas is killed jumping in front of a phasor blast meant for Sisko when Weber up there is the loe hold out in believing the Cardassians were behind it all.

The resolution does make for a weak ending. Li Nalas’ death had no meaning. Perhaps it could be said that his greatest Bajoran war hero’s sacrifice for a Starfleet officer seals the alliance between Bajor and the Federation, but that is not made clear. For that matter, nothing else is, either. Jaro escapes and is never seen or heard from again. Even thogh the Cardassians are behind the whole lot, we only get to see one nameless gul from behind in the previous episode and that is it. A wee bit on the anti-climactic side.

Still I have to give it to “The Siege.” in spite of its weaknesses, it is nota bad episode overall. If nothing else, it helps establish kira’s welcome place among the crew. She has been an awkward fit up until now. But her friends have proven their support for her. She belongs there. She becomes much more integrated into the crew from here on out. Her bond with Dax is especially strengthened. Lord knows what Kira sees I her….

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Circle"

“The Circle” is much more exciting and faster paced than “The Homecoming.” as the title suggests, it fixes the shortcomings of the previous episode but dealing almost exclusively with the Bajoran xenophobic group.

Like any good middle part of a trilogy, “The Circle” serves effectively as a bridge between the introduction and conclusion without getting bogged down in too much exposition. We learn The Circle wants Bajor for the Bajorans, is concerned what the Federation will do after a coup has taken place, and are, unbeknownst to them, being supplied war materiel by the Cardassians through a benign race of botanists known as the Kressari.

On a more personal level, the episode explores Kira. After she is forced off DS9, she tays for a while at batril’s monastery. When taken out of her normal element, we finally see how much she has grown. Ds9 was become her home and the crew her friends. Sisko spends much time attempting to get her as XO, even going so far as to launch an unauthorized rescue missio when she is kidnapped by The Circle. I have to admit the bond between Sisko and kira is implied to be stronger than their past relationship would merit, but I can live with it.

The Bajoran military sympathizes with the Circle against the provisional government, so a relatively bloodless coup does occur. The Federation is given seven hours to clear out of DS9. Starfleet command orders Sisko to leave. They will face the political consequences of the Cardassians controlling Bajor and the wormhole later. Sisko decides to creativey interpret his orders and drags out the evacuation as long as possible, thereby setting up a confrontation with the Circle. That is our Sisko no?

I liked this episode overall. I did not mention it yesterday because his role was more subdued then, but Frank Langella plays The Circle leader Jaro to the hilt. He always does a good job playing playing villains, though. He took this role for his grandchildren, who are Trek fans. On top of appreciating the malevolence of Jaro, my Marxism 9of the Groucho variety) was tickled by The Night at the Opera homage as all of Kira’s friends constantly interrupted her packing in order to say goodbye. Noted as well is the new warmth she feels for O’Brien because of his help in savig Li Nalas.

Speaking of whom, he slides into the background here. In a way, he is supposed to. Jaro assigned him to DS9 so he would be away rom Bajor and therefore could not untie the people against The Circle. Yet I expect him to be more assertive. He was a soldier for years, after all. Perhaps ten years in prison have done an unfortunate number on him. It is only a minor quibble in an otherwise fine episode.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Homecoming"

“The Homecoming;” is these cod season premiere. With a couple exceptions, notably the appearance of TOS era elderly Klingons and Adm. Nechaye from TNG, the series spent the season playing towards its uniqueness. The bulk of the episodes dealt with the aftermath of the Cardassian Occupation while laying the groundwork for the introduction of Ds9’s main villains, the Dominion. Along the way, the main characters become much more three dimensional. I even start to like Bashir.

The episode also marks the first three part episode in Trek history. There will not be another until Ent some eleven years later.

“The Homecoming” plays off two themes that ran through the first season, one big and the other personal. The big theme involves Bajor’s reluctance to the Federation presence. It is a psychological issue. They have just gotten rid of an occupying alien force through no real effort of their own. It was all due to a peace treaty negotiated and signed without them. They are free, but powerless and therefore ready to bite the hand that feeds them in order to assert themselves. The fact they need the federation to protect the wormhole is insult to injury.

On a personal level, we experience the above conflict through Kira. Throughout the last season, there was always the underlying feeling hers was a marriage of convenience with the Federation. As soon as Bajor is strong enough to protect itself, she wants them gone. At various times, such as the traditional religious teaching versus science fact conflict in the first season finale, sometimes she could not help her animosity from flaring up.

There were some definite sign kira was changing by the end of the season finale. Sisko had saved the next kai from an assassination attempt orchestrated by Wynn, a woman she had believed in wholeheartedly. Kira‘s political allegiance and religious faith were put to the test. Yet when the running theme of the upcoming trilogy regarding asepartist group plays out, you have to wonder if kira does not have some Bajor for the Bajorans sympathies. Months ago, she definitely would have.

The episode begins Quark is given a Bajoran earring by a visiting captain who got it rom a Cardassian on a remote world. Quark decides to offer it to Kira who instead realizes it belongs to a resistance hero believed to be long since dead. He isstill a prisoner of war out there. She determines to rescue him.

She needs a Federation runabout to do so since--to reinforce the previous conflict--Bajoran ships just are not that capable. Sisko is torn. On the one hand, Bajor is tearing itself apart with issues from religious conflict to xenophobia. This hero could unite them as one. On the other, he would be risking war with the Cardassians. With some cajoling, he decides to give her the runabout with the condition she take O’Brien with him.

After a slam bang rescue, Li Nalas arrives on DS9. He is greeted as a returning hero, but he has a secret. He confesses to Sisko after a failed attempt to run off that the legend surrounding him is bunk. He did kill a Cardassian butcher of thousands, but he didso as the guy was bathing in a river. The story of his heroics grew over time, but he wants no part of it any longer. Sisko convinces him the people can rally around a legend as much as any truth, so he acquiesces. He also replaces Kira as Ds9’s first officer.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"In the Hands of the Prophets""

“In the Hands of the Prophets” serves as both the first season finale and the beginning of the exploration of Bajor’s political/religious structure. It is also the first episode in which Sisko’s status as Emissary is played up. It is a taut situation, as Sisko reluctantly accepts his role even as he is a skeptic himself.

One of the themes that has run through every Trek series I have covered so far is a general animosity towards religion. Sometimes it is more heavy-handed than others, but it is ever present. As a general rule, Federation members have outgrown the need for religious belief while many alien species have not advanced that far yet, but the federation begrudgingly accepts the childish notion. The Bajorans are no exception.

The central theme of the episode is the conflict between religion and science. Keiko’s school is teaching kids, Federation and Bajoran, facts about the wormhole. It is a stable phenomenon maintained by aliens. But the Bajorans believe the aliens are prophets. The wormhole is nothing short of a miracle. Vedek Wynn objects to Bajoran children being taught anything else. Tensions mount as Bajorans on the station take Wynn’s side, pulling their children out of the school and eventually suspending cooperation with Starfleet.

Wynn proposes a compromise: create a school solely or the Bajoran children so they can be taught the spiritual ways. Both keiko and Sisko refuse to allow it. For what reason? Your guess is as good as mine. Why there is not already a separate, parochial school for Bajoran children is beyond me, but for Sisko to intentionally forbid one from forming is ridiculous. He tells Wynn it is his belief every belief ought to be respected, yet condones the silencing of the Bajoran religious beliefs as Keiko refuses to even mentio it in class.

It pays to note at this point Ira Steven Behr, the episode’s writer, said in an interview he wrote the story because he hates anyone forcing their views on another and wanted to show the negative consequences of such a thing happening. He does so by promoting the philosophy that you can have your religious beliefs and that is cute and all, but keep it to yourself while we force our secular beliefs on you. So when Behr agrees with your beliefs, it’s teaching. When he does not, it is forcing them. Gotcha.

For the record, I went to a Christian school largely because I think sending your kids to public school is a form of child abuse. I am big on vouchers as a way of enabling parents to send their kids to any school they want--yes, even to those with non-Christian beliefs. Otherwise, home school them. So I agree with Behr’s sentiment. I am just being being a hypocrite like him.

The plot soon shifts away from the religious conflict to a political one. Wynn planned the school bruhaha, and the subsequent bombing of the school in order to lure the most likely candidate for kai (think Pope) to the station to calm thing down, but really so she could have an acolyte assassinate him. Sisko stops the assassin, Neela, a Bajoran technician, before she can do the deed. Sisko’s actions go a long way towards healing the Bajoran-Federation rift.

At least it is supposed to. The powers that be wanted to end the season on a positive note. But the first arc of the second season is going to show an even wider rift beyond the religious versus secular conflict of “In the Hands of the Prophets.” The tesion will have its own narrative merit, but I am pleased there was at least some attempt to ease the friction between Kira and Sisko. Their relationship, supposedly a microcosm of the Bajoran/Federation relationship as a whole, often got so harsh, one believes Bajor could never be assimilated into the federation. Indeed, there was a constant notion the Bajorans would kick them out as soon as possible. All that comes to a head in the next three episodes, so I will save further comment until then.

Aside from Behr’s obvious animosity towards religion and his hypocrisy in dealing with the subject, ‘I the Hands of the prophets” is not a bad episode. I wuld have expected more out of a season finale, but I suppose given the rushed nature of putting out twety episode in half the normal time while only having the typical summer hiatus before working on a regular, full season meant not everything could soar in the inaugural season.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Duet"

You may consider this anticlimactic for the declaration to come so early in my DS9 reviews, but “Duet” competes heavily with only one installment as my favorite episode of the series. Chalk it up to my being a history. “Duet’ is the first Ds9 episode to strongly establish the parallels between the Nazi/Jew status quo post-World War Ii and the Cardassian/Bajor relationship post-Occupation. The episode isdone so well, it can be nothing but tops in my book.

The episode begins with a ship docking at DS9 and requesting medical assistance for a passenger suffering from Kalla-Nohra Syndrome. The mention of the disease piques Kira’s attention. The only way anyone could have contracted it is from being ata particular slave labor camp run by Cardassians during the occupation. Kir’as resistance group liberated the camp, so she takes a special interest in the passenger, whom she assumes isa former Bajoran inmate. It is, in fact, A Cardassian whom she has held in custody as a suspected war criminal.

The Cardassian claims to be Marritza, a military file clerk and instructor at a military academy who is being persecuted by Kira solely because she hates Cardassians. The story switches back and forth between the investigation into the Cardassian’s true identity and a dialogue between he and Kira. The dialogue gets more heatedas it becomes clear Kira is correct--Marritza is actually Darhe’el, the commandant of the camp and the man responsible for the deaths of thousands of men, women, and children.

Darhe’el is so over the top in his zealous desire to wipe out what he considered Bajora vermin, Kira swears he is insane. He demonstrates exactly how to push her buttons by describing the labor camp and the atrocities that went on their in the same terms I have heard descriptions of Nazi death camps. Worse yet, he jabs her with a harsh dose of reality. He is not a war criminal because there was no war. The Bajorans were helpless lambs to the slaughter. Te Cardassians only left Bajor to honor a peace treaty with the Federation. The Federation had no vested interest in Bajor aside from pushing the Cardassians back from conquered territories. The Bajorans were just lucky.

The Bajoran government is eager to play judge, jury, and executioner as Darhe’el stands his ground over his actions. It does not matter what happens to him his work is done. The dead will never return.

Then in the climax we learn Darhe’el is not Darhe’el, who died six years previously in bed of old age. He was telling the truth originally. He is Marritza. He served as Darhe’el’s filing clerk. While not directly responsible for any of the atrocities committed, he had to serve as a meticulous record keeper for the camp. He had to keep track of every torture and execution. He heard the s creams and cries for mercy. They have haunted him to the point the assumed Dishe’el’s identity and purposefully got himself captured so he could be executed just to make the guilt go away.

now aware of his true identity, Kira lets him ago with the assurance she understands he was one man in a situation he could do nothing about. It is the first timeshe has ever had sympathy for a Cardassian. She now realizes they are not all the epitome of evil. There were some sympathizers caught up helplessly in the madness.

So it is highly poignant when Maritza is killed by a Bajoran while walking out of the security office. Kira tearfully informs the murderer he has killed an innocent man. He does not care. Marritza was a Cardassian. That is enough to justify his death. To Kira, it no longer is.

“Duet” solidified my fondness for DS9when it first aired. It was a cut above just about any other Trek I had seen by that point and definitely put DS9 ahead of TNG in mind. I could never see TNG or TOS, for that matter, doing an episode quite so intense. I guess it is really special because, in spite of additional efforts, the atmospherte was never quite repeated again.

Many ans think highly of “Duet,” but do notsing its praises as highly as I do. Let me address that a bit. I have actually grown in appreciation of the episode because of subsequent experience. This is one of the few episodes I have reviewed so far where that has happened. They often diminish as I have gotten older and more discerning.

Back in 2002, I was standing on the lowest rung of the Regent Journal of International Law. I did whatever I was told to do, without question, because I did not want to blow my chance at having an article published. In the world of job seeking law students, having a published article puts you ahead of 98% of your classmates. It does not matter what the article is about or where it is published. It only matters that t is. The RJIL had a different theme every issue. This time around, it washman rights. I was assigned to write about the the continuing legal plight of former “comfort women.”

“Comfort woman” were Chinese, Korean, Philippino, Indonesian, Malaysian, and Thai women who had been forced into a traveling brothel system for the Advancing Japanese military. The “comfort women” system had been set up after the rape of Nanking, a time when the Japanese military raped and pillaged the defeated Chinese. The Japanese government feared further such atrocities and offered the enslaved women as a way of releasing post battle tension. What wound up happening was further brutalizing.

After the Japanese surrender, the women were released and given an official apology, but no compensation. Probably because of the racism of the era, no one pushed the issue any further. Some 200,000 women had been part of the brothel system. Many died from the living conditions, other from venereal diseases that went untreated. Thosewho survived intact physically suffered a societal stigma. quite few were unable to go back to their families, marry, or have children.

My article, which I confess I was not thrilled to be assigned, as I had no prior knowledge of ’comfort women,’ traced their legal attempts to get compensation over the decades. The efforts spans nearly sixty years, from from pressure from the United Nations Human Rights Commission in the early years to the United States quashing an Alien Tort Claims Act filed in federal court in order to preserve relation with Japan as late as2001, the survivors have been stymied at every turn. As faras apan is concerned the official apology was the end of the matter.

Apparently, that is good enough for the rest of the world, too. Even as one who has been fascinated by world War Ii history in both the European and Pacific theaters, I was completely unaware the “comfort women” system existed. I would guess the motivation for hiding history (so to speak) is a combination of chauvinism and a desire to cover up past shame. Either way, there is a vibe among scholarly work about the issue that o one seems to think it is a big deal. There are no memorials or museums to document the suffering. There were no war crimes trials save for some who had imprisoned some female European colonists on various occupied lands.

The dialogue between Marritza as Barhe’el and Kira held the same vibe I got from researching the interactions between Japan and the international community. There is a notion Japan developed the system to serve its soldiers’ needs while preventing any further atrocities. Who cares what happens to a bunch of old, non-Japanese women anyway? There is a peace now. Why sacrifice it for victims of forgotten crimes? The international community agrees.

I had very little to offer in terms of solutions to conclude my article. All I could do was call on the conscience of the international community--a foolhardy thing to hope works under any circumstances, much less on a piddling student written article for a small circulation academic journal.

I am certain there are Japanese who feel a sense of responsibility for the suffering of the comfort women. It has not been enough. But there is something hopeful about individuals realizing the horrible mistakes of the past . It allows forsome promise it will be that much difficult for history to repeat itself.

I have just viewed “Duet” with that perspective--one I did not possess back in 1993 when it first aired. It has enhanced the experience. Perhaps making it more poignat rather than more entertaining. Form time to time, one needs to see such things.

The only drawback of ’Duet” is a highly out of place shot of comic relief I could have done without. When word gets around dishevel is imprisoned, someurvivors of the labor camp gather outside the security office where he is being held. They are clearly sick from the syndrome, as well as gaunt with sunken in eyes. It is all a clear sign they have been long starved. Quark is standing nearby with Odo. He remarks how horrible it must have been to live through so much suffering, then wonders if they would like to gamble. Odo glares at him in response.

I understand the need for relief in a intense story, but that was done very badly, all things considered. It would be like saying, “Wow, you survived the Holocaust? Would you like to go to Disney World? It will make you feel better!” I did not go for it. Everything else was done perfectly.

Rating: ***** (out of 5)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Dramatis Personae"

“Dramatis Personae” is one of four DS9 entries by Joe Menosky. You may recall me talking about his style back when I covered TNG. Menosky is normally a science journalist whose forays into television writing run towards the high concept. That makes them hit and miss. His TNG efforts ran across the board from the quite good episode explaining why so many alien species look humanoid in “The Chase” to the what were they smoking when they greenlit this one existential mess that is “Masks.” Menosky will go on to be the brightest spot I a relatively dim VOY writing staff, but now we are concerned with his less tumultuous DS9 efforts.

As far as his usual plots go, this one is pretty tame. A Klingon ship coming back from the Gamma Quandrant explodes as it leaves the wormhole. The first officer is able to beam aboard before the explosion. He has been mortally wounded, apparently by a member of his own crew. Sisko orders asearch of the ship’s wreckage in order to find data logs to determine what happened.

Turns out the Klingons had been investigating a telepathic library and became infected with the memories of a long ago power struggle. Their ship was destroyed in a mutiny as the memories were played out to their conclusion. The DS9 crew is now ifected, save for Odo, whose unique brain structure makes him immune.

The power struggle breaks out between Sisko and Kira with crewmembers taking sides. The catalyst is a Valarian ship Kira believes is smuggling weapons. Sisko is inclined to cautiously let it go in order to maintain the Federation-Valarian alliance. Suspicions run high the Bajorans want to retake the station. Loyalties are questioned.

Odo masterfully manipulates crewmembers in order to unravel the mystery and find a cure. One suspects his skill comes from being naturally paranoid and suspicious himself.

The powers that be ran a great risk making this a first season episode. I think back to “The Naked Now” in which the cast were infected by a disease causing them to act out of character in the second episode when we had no grip on their true personalities to begin with. What we wound up with because of our lack of knowledge was drunken android sex and a fifteen year old kid saving the ship. Comedy gold, allegedly.

We fared much better here. At this point, we know enough about the characters to understand how a heightened sense of paranoia might cause them to act. Fortunately, it is not until the climax they fully take on the memories of the original conspiracy players. It makes for a engaging episode even though it becomes obvious thecrew is playing out a scenario with no lasting consequences.

At least they are save for one instance. I had forgotten about the tension between Sisko and Kira throughout the early seasons. Kira was downright two faced in using the federation for protection with the aim of botting them out later and Sisko knew it. The final scene here is indicative: kira come ito Sisko’s office apologetic overwhat she has doe, even though she had no control over it. Sisko tells her to not worry about it…this time. There is a tick, palpable level of mistrust between the two that will not even begin to dissipate until Sisko becomes the Emissary.

“Dramatis Personae” is an entertaining episode. I am not a big fan of stories in which characters are taken over. Actors often overcompensate for personality changes by chewing up way too much scenery. I have already critiquedAlexanderSiddig for doing so under similar circumstances in “The Passenger.” He is much more subdued here and, with few exceptions, so is the rest f the cast.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Forsaken"

Mark the occasion, folks. “The Forsaken“ is an episode of trek in which Lwaxana Troi features heavily--and I still like it. If memory serves, this will be the first Lwaxana appearance I do not completely pan with the veracity of a starved tiger.

Not that Lwaxana is presented as a good character for once. No, she is still a shallow, manipulative man hunter who never knows when to stop. Even more so, it is implausible to think she currently wants to sink her fangs into Odo. But the interaction between the two reveals much about Odo that no other character has been able to do. So Lwaxana has found a purpose--shedding some light on my favorite DS9 character.

(Because kira has been relegated to operations dialogue yet again this episode. the writers still have not struck a balance with the ensemble yet. It is best to leave characters out entirely if they only get a line or two of pointless dialogue while everyone else gets at least one pivotal scene to themselves.)

The general plot is a MacGuffin for personal moments, more so for Odo, but Bashir is in there, too. A proe appears from the Gamma Quadrant. It begins to interfere with station operations, including disabling the elevator carrying odo and Lwaxana and causing an accident in which Bashir has to hide several ambassadors in a Jefferies tube. The probe has the mind of a puppy--it needs constant attention. With that in mind, O’Brien creates a program to entertain it which solves the problem of the station’s malfunctions. Problem solved.

Like with the previous episode, DS9 was not in any real danger. The fire subplot lasts a scant few minutes and serves only as a convenient resolution to Bashir’s struggle to please the overly demanding ambassadors he has been assigned to escort. The entire situation feels almost tacked on.

But no matter. The episode is made by the revelations of Odo’s psyche. We learn his alienation comes fro more than just being the only one of his kind. He had to perform for the Bajorans who foud him. Using his shape shifting abilities to ause them made him feel like aspectacle. There was no way for him to make any real emotional connections with people. No wonder he developed acynicism about them.

Lwaxana appears to be the first person to ever show a level of intimacy with him. I could do without the over the top flirting--dry humping, really--she does early on, but when shetriesto make Odo feel comfortable revealing his vulnerabilities and protects him when he reverts to his liquid form is gold. Her actions are the first time in memory she commits an unselfish act out of genuine caring. If she had been written that way mote often, I might even find her appealing.

“The Forsaken” isa good episode built around another dumb premise. I mean, an alien probe misbehaving like a lonely puppy for attention? The catalyst could have been done better, but I cannot argue with the result. Here is another point in a log, slow journey towards Odo’s growth as a personable character.

Rating; *** (out of 5)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"If Wishes Were Horses"

Here is yet another episode that feels like it could have fit in comfortably with the worst of TOS.

The station’s denizens let their imaginations run away with them--literally. Their fantasies begin becoming reality as a anomaly threatens to engulf DS9. Here is the odd part--thirteen year old Jake dreams of baseball great Buck Bukai while quark and Bashir, grown men, dream of insatiable sexual partners. Were these writers ever teenage boys?

A few bits are more reasonable. Molly O’Brien conjures up Rumpelstilskin. Originally, it was supposed to be a leprechaun, but Colm Meaney objected to the Irish stereotype. I guess he does not pull for Notre Dame. Quark customers nearly run him ito the poor house by winning every turn of every gambling game. Odo fially gets his wish of Quark behind bars, albeit temporarily.

The anomaly threatening the station winds up being part of the wish fulfillment, too. The more people believe in it, the bigger it gets. They all have to get together and not hit it wit them negative waves so early I the morning, ’cause with them positive vibes, they can’t lose, baby. Or something oddball like that. The whole shebang is a set up by a group of Gamma Quadrant aliens who are studying humans. There was never any real danger, much like “Move Along Home,’ and the end result is as mediocre as that effort.

There are some highlights to keep "If Wishes Were Horses" from being terrible, but nothing to elevate it much, either. The resolution is too hokey to justify much of the silly tone the bulk of the plot takes on.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Progress"

I have a tough time reviewing progress. The writer, Peter Alan Fields, has gone on record stating the character of Mulibok, an old, stubborn farmer who refuses to vacate on area that is about to be destroyed in order to tap into a new energy source, was supposed to be a manipulative con man type playing Kira’s emotions to buy time for himself. Instead, actor Brian Keith played him as very sympathetic--an old man genuinely bonding with Kira. So in the end, when Kira burns his farm down in order to force him to leave, she look like a royal ice queen even if she is saving his life.

Not that the end result does not appeal to my sense of cynicism. Sometimes there are no good solutions to a problem. There was no other way to get Mulibok off his farm that would not involve injuring or killing him. Since he is certain to die if he stays, Kira’s solution is the most humane. Trek has famously worked the theme of the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few with far more tragic consequences.

Does it work here, though? Not for me. I have said before Kira and odo swap places as my favorite character depending on which one was the central focus of the episode I have most recently seen. I have enjoyed the rare times she has gotten the spotlight in the first season, but she has mostly been relegated to bit parts with dialogue that could have been spoken by anyone. I expect a better episode when the focus is fully on her. It does not happen for me here. Maybe it is because of the disconnect between the scripted Mulibok and Keith’s interpretation that does the story in. I do not know, but the thing neither sings nor dances for me.

I am disappointed by the “B” story as well. It is another Jake and Nog scam. This time, they are trying to turn a profit off a shipment of a practically worthless Cardassian condiment. Because it is a Jake/Nog match up right after another, far better oe in “The Storyteller,” it falls flat. perhaps if the two stories had been spaced out further, it ight have fared better since the two could not be readily compared.

To sum up, the episode does not fly because of missed opportunities. But the final product cannot be excused just because the mistakes made as clear as day.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Storyteller"

“The Storyteller” is another unused script from a past series. It was originally intended for TNG’s first season, but wound up rejected in favor of some other gem that made it on screen. I think that was a bad choice. While the episode is not in the top tier of DS9, it is a decent episode. It certainly would have been an improvement over just about anything else in TNG’s inaugural season.

The main story is loosely based on Rudyard Kipling’s ’The Man who Would Be King.” O’Brien is assigned to escort Bashir to a remote Bajoran village to treat their sirah, a spiritual leader. O’Brien is not thrilled at the prospect. He has not warmed up to Bashir yet, but the episode marks the beginning of their friendship. O’Brien’s unease turns out to be justified, however, when he winds up being named sirah’s successor after it appears he defeated a mysterious creature called the Dal’Rok’s threat to the village.

The Dal’Rok appears five nights in a row once a year to threaten the village. Only the sirah can stop it by telling a story that makes it lose its power ad eventually fade away.

The sirah’s most likely successor, Howan, is jealous over O’Brien’s taking his job--not that O’Brien wants it. It is all a scam. The sirah, long ago fearing the village would tear itself apart, used a device to create the Dal’Rok by channeling the negative emotions of the villagers. It shrinks in size as the villagers feel more positive emotions, such as those brought on by the inspiring story used to ’defeat’ it.

On the final night of the Dal’Rok’s attack, O’Brien is failing miserably to inspire the people until Howan steps in to save theday. The village embraces him as the news rah, so Benny Hinn keeps his ministry going and everyone is happy.

Interestingly enough, the ’B’ story is more compelling this time around. Sisko has to mediate a land dispute between two villages. They are fighting over the use of a river that as redirected by the Cardassians during the occupation. The side which currently controls the river is lead by a thirteen year old girl, Vanis, who inherited the role from her dead father. She has a chip on her shoulder about filling his big shoes to the point she will not compromise until she is convinced to do so after befriending Jake and a smitten Nog. So it is another episode in which the resolution is offered by an alien not attached to Starfleet.

“The Storyteller” has some problems, such as why Sisko was unaware he would be mediating a dispute with a teenage girl, but I can let most of them slide as rationalized for the sake of drama. It was not a bad episode and it did introduce the friendship between O’Brien and Bashir which will blossom into some good storytelling fodder itself in the near future. TNG’s script loss is Ds9’s gain.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Battle Lines"

I am going to have to violate the maxim de mortis nil nisi bonum, but Hillary J. Bader wrote some of the worst episodes of TNG like “The Loss” and “Dark Page.” Her track record does not improve much for DS9. Or VOY, for that matter, but she only contributed one script for that series. “Battle Lines” is the first of her two DS9 efforts. All I can say for it is we are getting the worse of the pair out of the way now. We get a fairly significant breather before arriving at the second.

The main problem is the same one I discussed with “Move Along Home.” “Battle Lines” tries to be a TOS episode in a DS9 world. While I killed “Move Along home” with faint praise for possessing some absurd elements that were fun to watch, “Battle Lines” will not be so lucky.

The plot revolves around the command staff, sans Dax and O’Brien, traveling in the Gamma Quadrant with Kai Opkaka. They crash on a moon where two sides, the Emmis and the Not-Emmis, are fighting a war no one can quite define. Opaka is killed in the crash, but soon resurrects. Everyone then realizes no one can die on this moon, so the war continues on into perpetuity because of a clannish, eye for an eye principle. Worse yet, once you die, you cannot leave the moon, so Opaka is stuck there even when Dax and O’Brien come rescue the others. Opaka is happy to stay behind anyway, much to the excessively distraught Kira, because she believes shecan broker a lasting peace.

I cannot do justice to how you get beat over the head with the ’all war is pointless” message during “Battle Lines.” Not only do I not buy that as a general principle in reality--war has solved a lot of problems over the millennia--but it does not jibe with the overall theme of Ds9. This is most likely the one episode of the series that does not have Gene Roddenberry’s ashes smoldering across the Pacific Ocean. Although the idea that a kai, a person with a religious title based loosely on Catholic Church officials, is brokering a peace might be enough to burn his atheist biscuits. I do not know.

But everything else could have fit right in on TOS. A shittlecraft carrying Kirk, Spock, mcCoy, Chekov, and a Vulcan ambassador for whom Spock has much respect crashes on a moon. The ambassador dies. Before anyone can morn, the crew is attacked by Ughhs and Not-Ughs, two races who are fighting each other because one of them is navy and the other is baby blue. The Vulcan ambassador revives ad everyone realizes no one can die here or leave once they have been killed, so the war will continue into perpetuity. Scotty comes to the rescue, the Vulcan ambassador decides he is content to stay and negotiatea lasting peace. The emotionless Spock still seems sad at the prospect. Kirk gets his shirt ripped somewhere along the line.

So what I mean? it is almost like someone took an un-produced TOS script and changed the names. It does not work here. Deep Space Nine is too different a series. Unless you are an absolute completes or have a bigger attachment to TOS than I do , I would skip it, if for no other reason than the absurd notion the main characters keep getting into life and death scuffles, but only the only recurring character who dies is the most expendable. How terribly predictable.

Rating: * (out of 5)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Vortex"

“Vortex” is an homage to the 1953 Jimmy Stewart movie The Naked Spur. That being the case, the powers that be hired the movie’s screenwriter, Sam Rolfe, to pen the script. This was not Rolfe’s first foray into Trek--he wrote ’The Vengeance Factor’ for TNG-- but it was his last. He died four months after the episode aired. It is Odo-centric, so I am going to go easy on it in spite of some serious lapses in logic. All because I really like Odo.

Twin smugglers from the Gamma Quadrant arouse Odo’s suspicion, so he sneaks into a meeting between them and Quark disguised as a champagne glass. They are looking for a buyer for an artifact Quark fears is stolen. As they argue over whether the item’s legal status of ownership matters, an alien named Croden breaks in, brandishing a gun. And demanding the item. I the ensuing scuffle, Croden kills one of the twins as odo reveals himself and breaks up the proceedings.

The robbery was a scam set up by quark, although Odo cannot prove it. Too bad he did not have the Las Vegas police who caught OJ pulling the same stunt a few years ago with his sports memorabilia. He could have finally nailed quark for his past crimes like OJ would.

Croden turns out to be a skilled con man. He begins messing with Odo’s mind with his alleged knowledge of the Changelings’ home world. He even offers Odo an organic key which Bashir confirms is of similar biological material to him. Odo is turn between his natural skepticism and the desire to know his roots.

Meanwhile, Sisko and dax head to Croden’s home world in the Gamma Quadrant with hopes they will take Croden off their hands. Civil administrators there not only know him by his first name only-- just say “Jamie” at the FBI and they will know me, too-- but he is a enemy of the state they are eager to execute. The tone clearly bothers Sisko, but Bajor agrees to release Croden, so he gets marched off to his execution.

Solely for the sake of the plot and against all logic, Odo is sent alone to escort Croden back to his home world in a Federation runabout. This even though Odo is not Starfleet, is not an experienced pilot, is transporting a murderer whom the remaining twin has vowed to kill once Croden leaves the station. It is almost like the command staff placed wagers on how fast odo could get killed.

Croden continues trying to pique odo’s curiosity enough to head to a nebula beyond a vortex where he claims the changelings live. Odo is not buying it, nor does he buy the sob story Croden’s family was killed by the fascist government because he was a political activist.

The runabout is attacked by the twin. Croden has to take the controls because, as has been pointed out, Odo does not know how to handle a runabout well, much less how to defend it from the certain revenge attack. Croden goes through the vortex and lands on a planetoid near the nebulaSo he finally does get to the place he has been conning Odo to take him to all along.

But there are no Changelings there. He admits he was not telling the truth, but he has stashed his daughter here. She is in stasis and the last living relative he has. Odo helps he rescue her, but is wounded by falling rocks in the process caused by laser fire from the twin’s ship. Croden contemplates leaving the unconscious Odo behind, but relents and carries him back to the ship.

Through trickery, Odo gets the twin to blow his own ship up in the volatile nebula after he regains consciousness. Croden, knowing he is doomed when he gets back home, asks Odo to take care of his little girl. In the midst of his stuttering reply, a passing Vulcan ship hails. Odo lies that he rescued Croden and his daughter from the ship that just exploded. He requests the Vulcan ship take them to vulcan with them. The captain agrees without question. He tells Croden he will say he died in the attack on the planetoid.

You are free to speculate ether Odo felt obligated to let Croden go because saving him proved he was a good egg against the fascist government or becausehedid not want to be stuck with a young one. Either is plausible, when you think about it.

Croden gives Odo the changeling key before beaming over to the Vulcan ship. Odo speaks longingly to it about wanting to find home. I got a twinge of sadness with that. Bearing in mind how the etire series plays out, it is painful to know that Odo is going to get his wish and it will turn out to be the worst thing that ever happened to him.

Aside fro the lapses in logic I mentioned above, this is not a bad episode. Given the general tone, it does not sound like the concept of the Founders running the Dominion had been hammered out yet, so I maybe giving too much credit for foreshadowing. Nevertheless, “Vortex” fits in the overall story arc even if retroactively. I enjoyed histories dealing with Odo’s early sense of alienation as well as his later divided loyalties when he reunites with his people.

In spite of my joke, “Vortex’ also demonstrates that Odo’s sense of justice. He believes the right thing to do is not necessarily the legal one. Letting Croden go for the sake of his daughter, avoiding execution for what he probably would not consider a crime, is worth allowing the murder of a smuggler to go unpunished. It is a questionable decision based on higher principles. It will not be the last one Odo makes.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Nagus"

One of the minor virtues of DS9, but a virtue nevertheless, is the change in the Ferengi from their less than stellar villainy in TNG to a more complex, often comic relief role in DS9. It will not always work. In fact, I count the worst episode of DS9 among them. But when they do work, they are great. “The Nagus” is one of the gems.

The Grand Nagus, the Ferengi head of state, visits DS9 with the express purpose of exploring new business opportunities in the Gamma Quadrant. There is a catch--he is retiring ad wants Quark to take his place. There is not a soul who believes that is a good idea. Except Quark, of course.

The Grand Nagus suddenly dies, so Quark immediately takes over. He relishes his new role, particularly in a scene directly lifted from The Godfather. All is not well, however. There is an attempt on his life which Quark only narrowly avoids because his greed compels him to bend down to pick up a loose coin. Odo becomes suspicious, not so much of Quark’s rivals, but about the circumstances of the grand Nagus’ death.

He discovers the grand naturalize just in time to save Quark from being thrown out an airlock by the Grand Nagus’ jealous son and a bitter Rom, who is upset quark will not share profitable opportunities with him. The Grand Nagus staged his death in order totest his son’s worthiness to succeed him. The boy failed. The Grand Nagus decides to stay in power in order to explore business opportunities in the Gamma Quadrant himself.

The side story dovetails quite well. It dwells on the friendship between Jake and Nog. Sisko still is not fond of their friendship and, on the Grand Nagus’ urging, Rom breaks off Nog’s involvement in school which results in an alienation with Jake. Sisko is happy with that. He believes human and Ferengi values are too different to happily coexist He changes his mind when he secretly catches Jake teaching Nog how to read. Thus marks the beginning of Sisko’s slow acceptance of hisson’sfriendship with Nog.

One has to wonder how Ferengi can dominate in business without learning how to read, do with, or even familiarize themselves with other customs and cultures, but apparently, they do. Perhaps their lack of couth is why a visit from the head of state was not considered a big deal.

This is the first light hearted episode of DS9. It ran the risk of becoming a farce, but I think it came off well, especially compared to a couple others. I am going to take what I can get while the getting is good.

How Ferengi is that?

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Move Along Home"

“Move Along Home” has a reputation for being one of the worst episodes of DS9. I will agree it has some serious issues, but like “Spock’s Brain,” some absurd moments make it a spectacle to watch. It reminds me a lot of some o the more high concept installments of TOS. Sometimes those worked (“Shore Leave,” “The Squire of Gothos”) and sometimes they did not (“Catspaw,” “The Savage Curtain.”) Early on, TNG attempted to copy the feel of TOS’ episodes like those, but with the poor character development, the charm just was not there. With DS9, the characters have more personality at this point than did their TNG counterparts. It almost saves them from the strange concept.

The episode was intended to bean homage to The Prisoner with its weird plots and even weirder settings. I have never been augean of The Prisoner, but I can see the resemblance. Perhaps part of the problem with “Move Along Home” is that not enough DS9 got the perils of Number Six.

The episode begins with afirst contact situation with the Wadi. They are the first official contact with a species from the Gamma Quadrant other than Tosk and his hunters. The Wadi have n patience for any of the formal trappings of first contact. Somehow, they have heard about Quark’s. all they want to do is play games in his bar.

They do so all night long until they catch Quark trying to cheat them. In response, they force him to play one of their games involving game pieces in a multi-leveled board. Each one of the pieces represents a member of the command staff: Sisko, Kira, Dax, and Bashir. They are kidnapped and trapped in a giant maze. Unbeknownst to Quark, he is determining their fate by his moves.

Or something like that. There is a logical disconnect between what is being said during the game and what is happening in the maze. The command staff work their way through the maze, overcoming number of obstacles, that do not relate to anything Quark has done. They might as well be going through the maze, figuring out things as they go along, without Quark. The only time he seems to have control is when a roll of the dice forces him to sacrifice Bashir.

The obstacles involve a a locked room filling with poison gas, floating energy balls which remided me of Phantasm, falling rocks striking a narrow walkway of a cliff, and, in a scene that must be seen to be believed, a game of hopscotch in order to pass an invisible barrier. Thankfully, a YouTube user agreed the scene is too surreal not to share with the world:Note Nana Visitor looksat the camera as she is hopping along as if to say, “I cannot believe I am doing this, either.”

Absurd moments, no doubt, ut it is the characterizations that really get me. From Bashir shrieking like scream queen when he first arrives in the maze to dax, with an injured ankle claiming she would leave Sisko behind if he was injured, so he needs to go on without her, to Odo reluctantly blowing on the dice for luck, and Quark literally groveling so he does not have to choose another to sacrifice, the characters are so out of their normal ways, it is laughable.

I will concede one point--Quark takes a heroic turn here. Once he realizes he controls the fate of the command staff, he does all he can to save them. It is great how he can believably be a hardened criminal in one episode and a heroic guy you are heroic for in the next. He is the only redeeming feature of “Move Alog Home.”

In the end, we learn it really is just a game. No one was in danger, so all the drama and over the top dialogue meant nothing. It is a big letdown. The final nail is this lackluster episode’s coffin. It is fun to watch once, but that is about all you can stand.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Passenger"

I have already mentioned several times Bashir is, for the first season, the most annoying character on DS9, mostly because of his huge ego and unrestrained idealism. Slowly but surely, events will occur that will cause him to grow up. “The Passenger” is one of the first. It starts with him arrogantly claiming he has a destiny as a healer because he can do the nearly impossible, but eds with him humbled because he has been used to commit acts far outside his moral code.

He and Kira are returning I a runabout from a medical emergency. Kira is saved from Bashir’s aforementioned ego stroking by a distress call. The two rescue a security officer, Ty Katada, and her prisoner, Rao Vantika, from the ship in the nick of time. Vantika is mortally wound, by he uses his last bit of strength to grasp Bashir’s throat and beg, ‘Make me live!” thus begins what is probably the weakest mystery story in the series.

Vantika is obsessed with prolonging his life. He has perfecting the art of storing his brain pattern in someone else’s mind without the recipient knowing it. Vantika is hiding in someone so he can steal a shipment of something called deuridium, a substance needed to save a dying planet’s population, but would also extend his life.

Throughout most of the episode, everyone is suspicious of Kajada. But why? The audience has already been given blatant clues that Vantika is hiding in Bashir. Not only was there the throat grab at the beginning, but later, Quark is attacked from behind by a shadowy figure that is clearly a man. There is a blink and you will miss it attempt to cast suspicion on a new security officer who is butting heads with Odo, but by the time that comes up, we already have no doubts it is Bashir.

Bashir attempts to steal the deuridium shipment, but is rescued and restored to his old self by Dax, but not before seriously hamming it up as an over the top villain. As Vantika, Alexander Siddig chews more scenery than a goat with a tapeworm.

There were five different writers credited with this script, which is always a bad sign. That is not an excuse for the mystery aspect of the story being so anemic, but it likely is the explanation. Too many cooks spoil the stew.

However, there are quite a few good character moments which redeem the episode. I have already mentioned it forces Bashir to walk down the road towards maturity as he has to deal with his loss of control, resulting in one attempted murder and another actual. So much for facing hero-making adventure with doe eyed optimism. It is also firmly established Odo has Sisko’s complete confidence when he dresses down a new Starfleet security office in favor of Odo. That will come back later when another Starflet officer becomes head of security only to turn traitor. Finally, Quark strikes a balance between amoral black market criminal and his occasional turn as aconcerned friend. It always neat to see that plausibly pulled off.

I cannot end without mentioning Caitlin Brown played Ty Katada. Brown also played G’Kar’s assistant Na’Toth for a season on Babylon 5. I do not want to get into the controversy surrounding the similarities between the two shows, but it is interesting to note they have the Brown connection in common. I like both shows. They are distinct entities with each having its good points. Yes they do have similarities, but I think fans are just being partisan about them. No one ripped off anyone else. We are talking about Warner Brothers v. Paramount here. Any intellectual property lawsuit would have been monumental. No one at either company would have risked it.

“The Passenger” is not a particularly good episode, but we do get hints of better things to come I regards to future character development. That is something, at least.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Dax"

Thus far, I have bee ripping on Bashir as the most annoying character on DS9. It is justified right now, but his annoying idealism will soon be tempered by reality, causing hi to grow into a character who struggles to maintain his idealism I the face of reality rather than ignoring reality altogether as he does now. Consider it me getting all my shots I before I turn full blast towards Dax.

She is the most undeveloped character at this point, having been reduced to nothing more than an old friend of Sisko’s who tosses out lines of generic station operations dialogue in between musing over how pretty she is. “Dax” is an effort to make her more interesting, but cannot quite swing it.

I am reasonably certain Dax is intended to serve as the sex symbol of the show. Her catty personality should contrast with the realization she has had numerous lifetimes of experience so that you know sexiness supercedes ay wisdom she ay have gained over all that time.

I do not buy it for two reasons. One, she is a poorly developed character and never advances in her six seasons beyond being that shallow cheerleader in high school who inexplicably kicked everyone’s butt I math class. It isso unnatural, you canot help but be angry. Two, I think Kira is sexier. She has a natural attractiveness without a hint of arrogance. I appreciate that a heck of a lot more tha the “I am pretty and I know it” attitude from Dax.

All that to say I am going to pick on her a lot. Nothing about her works for me. Heck, I even think marrying worf was a mistake. Troi made a better fit in comparison and I showed her no mercy back in my TNG reviews. Just a fair warning to any Dax fans out there. I do not have much complimentary to say. About Jadzia, at any rate. Ezri had a few good points, but it will be a while before we get to her.

But on to the episode. Ilon, the son of a war hero, accuses Curzon Dax of having betrayed his father to his enemies. The betrayal inspired forces to victory in his father’s name, thereby making him a legend. Ilon is obsessed with protecting his father’s reputation and wants Dax’s head for the betrayal. Considering Dax has no alibi, the hearing held on the matter hinges on the question of whether a current host of a symbiant can be held accountable for the crimes of a past host.

Resolving the question is where the episode fails. For one, I find it difficult to believe the issue has never come up before. Surely the screening process for joining symbiants and Trill is not so foolproof some bad apples have not gotten through. Indeed, the resolution to the problem here reveals Curzon was having an affair with Ilon’s mother, Emma, at the time and was in bed with her at the time of the alleged betrayal. Hence, his alibi was kept secret to protect Emma. The point being Curzon was a home wrecking cad. If someone like him passes muster for a joining with a symbiant, why cannot a serious criminal? You mean it has ever happened before now?

Thanks to Emma’s confession, the legal question is left in the air even now. It isa cop out to leave the key dramatic point of the episode hanging like that with such a pat ending. It served as nothing more than giving Daxan edge that, as I wrote above it, does not resonate with me. It just makes her look ever more shallow.

I am doubly disappointed “Dax” is D. C. Fontana’s Trek swan song. For a career that includes “This side of paradise” and “Journey to Babel,” this is a less than stellar send off.

It may sound odd considering all I have just written, but I am still giving “Dax” a decent rating because of Odo. While I think the episode failed to make Dax a more interesting and did not even resolve the main question posed, it did prove Odo’s dedication to justice. Keep in mind he took it upon himself to investigate Curzon’s alibi solely because he thought it was the right thing to do. His personal moral code will come into play a little later in another past murder mystery involving Kira that will prove his sense of right and wrong was afar more vital part of this episode than done by who it was named after.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Q-Less"

Deep Space Nine made several attempts to attract viewers of The Next Generation For my money, the only worthwhile effort was featuring Picard in the pilot. It made dramatic sense because having Picard’s assimilation into Locutus be the catalyst for Sisko’s life falling apart made sense. Plus it was the first time there was any realistic view given of the consequences of Picard’s knowledge having been added to the Borg Collective. Up until that point, we were supposed to be sympathetic to him while paying no mind to the 11,000 people he killed.

I already wrote about Lursa and B’Etor’s useless appearance in “Past Prologue.” “Q-Less’ has much the same problem of adding two TNG characters we do not really care about seeing, but with the worst twist of giving them center stage. He rest of the DS9 cast are almost guest stars for The Q and Vash Show. That is not a good thing.

If you were around for my TNG reviews, then you already know I am not a fan of Q. his personality changed so often, from omnipotent god to imp to Q Continuum errand boy and back again, that I felt the qriters never quite knew what to do with him. if they cannot decide on who he is, why should I care?

I have a different rationale for Vash, but reaching the same conclusion. She is just annoying. She was supposed to be part of a “sex and guns” story for picard, but in “Captain’s Holiday,” she was acatty mercenary with nowhere near the sex appeal she supposedly had. Her second appearance in “Q-Pid” was not an improvement. In fact, the attention paid to her by the skirt chasing Riker then and Bashir in "Q-Less” serves only to demean the characters. They will go after anything.

Bashir is still an incredibly annoying character here. Now that I think about it, he is not going to improve much at all until the middle of thesecondseason.

Vash shows up on Ds9 trapped in a shuttle arriving from the Gamma Quadrant. For whatever reason, o’Brien has to jury rig a way out of the locked ship for the passengers instead of just beamed them out. Do not ask me why. Whileshedoes not tell anyone, sheand q had been roaming the quadrant when she ditched him to head home with an stolen artifact she plas tosell.

Q comes looking for her. They bicker a bit hereand there. Q acts likea jealous boyfriend the entire time, which is his worst incarnation. It is doubly worse when he becomes jealous of bashir. Q pops in to aggrevate the main characters briefy, but it adds nothing to the story. He I there to convince Vash to return with him, nothing more. Evidently, he just toys with thecrew because that is what fans expect.

There is a runnigproblem that Ds0 is being pulled into the wormhole where itwill be broken apart. Q is blamed for that throughout, but it is not even remotely convincing. Everyne watching has already figured out the artifact is the culprit since it has been the key plot point from the beginning.

Quark and vash enter into a business relationship after vash rubs hisears, which appears to be the Ferengi equivalent of hand job. I am just sayin’. the command staff discovers the artifact is causing the station to hurtle to its doom and, even though no one else on DS9 seems too alarmed, beam it into space in the nick of time. The artifact turns into a Cqi manta ray which is not much of an improvement over the giant jellyfish from “Encounter at Farpoint” six years earlier. the station is aaved and q andvash go their separate ways.

This is the weakest episode of the first season. It is not just because I dislike Q and Vash. The main characters got little screentimeand came across asflat when they did appear. Bashir was nothing but a skirt chaser, Odo growls at Quark, Kira and Dax have twenty lines between them and all are about station operations, O;Brien is the grumpy mechanic--only Sisko and quark geta few good moents. Sisko establishes himself as more in the kirk vein ofleader by socking q in the jaw. Considering the quality of the Q episodes, he deserved it. Quark’s con man ways are fun to watch. Thereare not may episodes he does not enhance by appearing in them.

Because of Sisko and Quark--and that I have already decided which is the qorst episode of the series--I am goig to give this one two stars. A couple of fun moments highlight, but overall, it is a dud. If they were trying to introduce TNG fans to Ds9, this was not the way to go. Featuring two irregular TNG characters so much the main cast of DS9 have no room to shine is unwise. A crossover evnt, perhaps part one and Tng and part two on DS9, was a terribly obvious idea. Why did that never happen in favor of fluff like “Q-Less?”

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Captive Pursuit"

If any adventure oriented television show goes on long enough, t is bound to feature an homage to the 1932 classic The Most Dangerous Game, a movie in which a bored hunter decides to hunt the ultimate prey--man-- on his private island. “Captive Pursuit” is the most direct homage to the film Trek has ever done. With typical moralizing, of course.

The first alien visitor from the Gamma Quadrant arrives through the wormhole with a damaged ship. The alien identifies himself only as Tosk. O’Brien takes shine to him, which is unusual. O’Brien never seemed to get too attached to anyone on the .Enterprise. Yet the two bond here. Much of O’Brien’s attachment appears to be out of sympathy.

Tosk is the jumpy, nervous sort who is constantly looking over his shoulder for trouble. The rest of the command staff suspects Tosk might be a criminal on the run, but O’Brien cannot bring himself to believe that, even when odo catches him breaking into the armory.

Other aliens arrive on the promenade and open fire. After a short battle which leads to Tosk’s holding cell, we learn this is a hunt with Tosk as the living quarry.

Sisko is indignant at the idea of hunting a sentient being. The aliens equate their hunt with the typical duck/fox/deer/etc hunting humans did. Of course, humans have outgrown that. Only filthy alies like the Klingons still do. So we now know hunting animals for sport is a bad, inhumane thing. Gotcha. Spoken like a true, sheltered Hollywood writer whose only experience with nature was a trip to the zoo onceas a kid.

Ironically, the analogy shifts as Sisko learns it is in the aliens’ culture to bring Tosk exclusively for the hut. Tosk revel at this sort of thing. It is the only thing they ever know, so they demand to participate. Tosk even refuses asylum. He would rather go back as a captured prey in disgrace than deny his nature. Citing the Prime Directive of non-interference, Sisko has no choice but to go along with it. Essentially, the analogy shifts from hunting for sport being bad, but breeding animals exclusively for hunting ot medical research, let us say, is fine. How many Hollywood types believe that?

O’Brien goes rogue, freeing Tosk in order for him to continue the hunt. He is pretty brutal, apparently killing the entire hunting party that had been chasing him. Once sisko figures out what O’Brien has done, he passively aids him along. It is yet another move I cannot picture Picard doing. Tosk escapes, presumably making everyone happy except O/Brien, who is going to miss his new buddy.

“Captive Pursuit” is a good episode for a couple reasons. First, it finally gives O’Brien some character development. He has been around as a Trek character for nearly seven yearsat this point with hardly any attention having been paid. He will becomea much more fleshed out character on DS9. This is the start of it. Second, there wasa lot more action than usual here. The show has been quite talky up until this point. Nothing like a couple good gunfights to break that up. I can even excuse the weird moralizing over hunting because of those two factors.

Rating: *** (out of 5)