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)

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