Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Past Tense, Part II"

I claimed yesterday the conclusion to “Past Tense” would get even more obnoxiously liberal and so it has. What is doubly worse is there is a pretentious sense the story is so tense and meaningful the brief comic relief elements have to be particularly absurd in order to make the audience feel better. Thoughtful of them, no?

What strikes me is the parallels to the Attica prison riot of 1971. the correlation goes right down to the governor giving into every demand except amnesty, but deciding to send in the National Guard anyway. The national Guard chose to attack without much consideration who was a rioting inmate and who was a hostage. Twenty inmates and nine hostages were killed. Fictitious news reports, lawsuits, and a pardon of one inmate falsely accused of murdering a police officer have clouded the truth about what really happened.

The riot has not been a particular interest of mine, but it does appear to have captured the progressive imagination. It had all the ingredients; prisoners given one shower a week and one roll of toilet paper a month, racial overtones, and Nelson Rockefeller, a liberal Republican, as governor. When the left has to criticize a left leaning Republican, they have to go after his character rather than his policies. They do so brutally. Older readers may correct me if I am wrong, but I assume Attica wasthe key reason Rockefeller’s presidential prospects fizzled.

The processing center is where the bulk of action takes place. Sisko, posing as Gabriel Bell, Bashir, a Kid Rock impersonator, and Corky’s dad take charge of the hostages. Bashir fears that Sisko is going to martyr himself like the real Bell was supposed to in orderto preserve the timeline. For now, his priority is to see the sanctuary district’s demands get heard and the hostages remain alive.

The sanctuary citizens want the place shut down and the Federal Employment Act reestablished. The act is never explained, but one assumes it is a New Deal type law requiring the government to give everyone a job who wants one. That is about the only logical conclusion I can draw.

It turns out one of the hostages is diabetic. I expected the revelation to producea ticking clock element, but Bashir easily gets her insulin. Did they throw that in because the episode was running short?

Dax eventually discovers their location through Chris, the Bill Gates type. She sneaks in through the sewers, begging the question why did that never occur to any of the ten thousands residents who want to escape? Have these people never seen The Shawshank Redemption?

The government agrees to hold hearings on the matter, but will not offer amnesty. Neither suits Sisko. The governor decides to raid the place. Before that can happen, Dax convinces Chris to broadcast many of the residents personal stories across the web to gain public sympathy. It does not work fast enough. Many are killed in the raid. The now sympathetic guards allow isko and Bashir to escape, but promise to tell the story in order to effect the proper social change.

I noted the comic relief was absurd. The image of Dax, dressed to the nines, popping out of a manhole was too absurd for words. Seeing her sneaking along with Clint Howard happily trotting along behind her took it to a whole new level of weirdness. The other bit was Kira and O’Brien beaming it different eras interspersed throughout the episode, with predictable results. I do note one interesting bit: the boxig poster on a wall behind them in 1930 was the same one on a wall behind Kirk and Spock in “City on the Edge of Forever.” The implication being they are all on Earth at the same time. Nice touch, but implausible.

For all its excessive preaching and obnoxious progressivism, I cannot say I did not like the episode. It amuses me so much logic was sacrificed to get the message across. The timeline never should have changed in 2371 no matter what was going on in 2024. Even if it did, the Defiant should have disappeared, too. No one ever thought about escaping through the sewers? What, did it smell too bad? Kira and O’Brien had only a one in three chance of finding their missing comrades on their last trip, but they chose correctly. No one is ever concerned Sisko ad Bashir’s communicators are missing. Whole episodes are centered around avoiding such contamination, but not here.

But the point was made--socialism rocks! So I guess the logical flaws are okay. take it away, Buffalo Springfield:Rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Past Tense, Part I"

I remember watching the two part story “Past Tense” when it first aired in 1995 and thinking it must have come about because of the writers’ dejection over republicans taking over Congress in the recent election. Recall at the time progressives were horribly upset Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America has resonated with the voters that they feared we were on the road to a fascist state run by angry, white men who cared nothing for social justice.

The powers that be at DS9 drew the most logical conclusion they could from the election: by 2024, the poor are being rounded up and sent to sanctuary districts in order to keep them away from polite society. Gee thanks, Newt.

That is not the only logical problem we encounter. The episode is littered with quitea few convenient contrivances. The Ds9crew takes the Defiant to Earth in order to brief Starfleet on Dominion activity in the Gamma Quadrant. Quark uses an emergency channel from the station to request Sisko look into a legal matter regarding the Grand Nagus’ nephew having been arrested by Starfleet security. The scene is awkwardly thrown in there solely so quark can make an appearance.

Sisko, Bashir, and Dax beam down, but disappear because of a fluctuation in the chromaton particles (yes, time particles) because of some combination of a natural phenomenon combined with some side effect of the cloaking device. Just go with it. I did…barely. O’Brien figures out they have beamed down into San Francisco the place, but not at the right time.

He is correct. The three wind up in 2024. Sisko and Bashir are unconscious above ground, but Dax is passed out As if you needed to be bashed over the head with the commentary on social class structure, the black and Arab guys are arrested and thrown in a sanctuary district while the pretty white girl is picked up by a Bill Gates-type (what is he doing riding the subway?) even though all three are strangely dressed vagrants with no identification.

So here we go with a preachy scribe about the haves and the have nots. Sisko and Bashir are throw into a walled, guarded by armed security, twenty block slum in which sisko, being a history buff, dutifully explains is the result of Americans forgetting how to care. But they will soon learn to care again because there will be a riot I a few days during which some guards will betaken hostage. A man named Gabriel Bell will sacrifice his life to protect them. His death will make him a national hero and prompy reform, social change, and eventually, Starfleet.

Meanwhile, Dax is living it up in high society while she uses her benefactor’s resources to find Sisko and Bashir. They are not in any hospitals, jails, or morgues, but it is not until the fifth act that it is suggested they might be in the sanctuary district. You know, because we have forgotten how to care to the point the sanctuary districts, an obvious place to look for missing friends who do not have identification, is a distant afterthought.

Things go frombadto worse when some thugs attack Bashir and he is rescued, at the cost of his life, by a stranger who turns out to be--you guessed it--Gabriel Bell. illogically enough, all traces of Starfleet, sans the Defiant, immediately disappear from 2371. Illogical because events in 2024 and 2371 are not happening concurrently. Sisko will take action to repair the timeline. Since he will ultimately be successful, there should never have been a noticeable change in the future. For theake of drama, we will just have to go along with that one, too.

The riots begin as inmates of the sanctuary district take hostages. Sisko decides he has to take Gabriel Bell’s place in order to preserve the timeline, even though it means sacrificing his own life.

Trek does time travel stories well, even when how the characters get to the past is often contrived beyond belief. I cannot say “Past Tense” is an exception. It is awfully preachy, but still compelling. Or maybe just amusing in consideration of the commentary.

Perhaps I am biased these days because of our current political climate. The reason sanctuary districts were formed is because of rampant unemployment and a lack of healthcare resources. Considering the impending economic collapse thanks to Barack Oama’s spending plans and the inevitable healthcare rationing bound to hit I the near future, the idea of lumping together the unemployed and the lower class sick people sounds much more plausible now with progressives in charge than it did with conservatives in power.

The gospel of progressivism gets much more obnoxious in part two. I will et to that tomorrow.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Fascination"

“Fascination” is a light-hearted, Lwaxana-centric episode that badly mangles Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. You would think that spells disaster and it almost does. But there is enough humorous moments to keep the episode from dwelling in the cellar.

Lwaxana returns for the Bajoran Gratitude Festival at which everyone is supposed to reveal their true feelings for one another. Unless you think someone is a complete douche. Presumably, you are supposed to keep that to yourself. Think positively.

Unbeknownst to Lwaxana, she is suffering from Zanthi fever, an illness which causes older Betazoids to project their feelings onto others. Since her motivation for visiting DS9 is to manhunt (Changelingunt?) Odo, she projects her affection for him unto everyone else.

In the spirit of revealing true feelings, people begin expressing odd affections for each other. Jake confesses a crush on Kira, for which I do not blame him. Bashir takes a turn with her as well. It is no surprise. Alexander Siddig and Nana Visitor became an item during the series run. This is the first time Odo expresses his feelings for Kira, too, albeit not to her directly. I see a pattern developing here.

Bareil shows an interest in Dax, Dax shows one in Morn, o’Brien threatens to quit Starfleet so he can spendall his time with Keiko, whom Quark begins showing an affection towards. The episode winds up dangerously close to slapstick farce, but it does not quite hit that point. That said, there is no point to it and “Fascination” is one of the most forgettable of episodes. Consider it a beather before a series of dark episodes to come soon after.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Defiant"

Out of all the TNG episodes that merit a sequel, how far down the list would you have to go to reach “Second Chances?” Quite a ways, I would think. But here we are. Ironically enough, “Defiant” sets up an obvious sequel in itself which never comes. Whether that is good or bad is up I the air.

If you have forgotten “Second Chances,” good for you. Er…I mean, it is the one where the Enterprise discovers a transporter accident eight years ago created a duplicate Riker who is still I love with Troi. Dude, you have got to be hard up to dream about that woman for eight years. The duplicate calls himself Thomas Riker, using his middle name, and joins the crew of the Gandhi which I can only guess is the baddest warship in the fleet outside of the Defiant.

He returns here, but we do not realize he is not the real Riker until the end of the first act when he pulls off the sides of his fake beard to reveal a goatee. Remember, in Star Trek, goatees are evil.

Thomas comes to DS9 posing as Riker on his way to Risa for vacation. In reality, he plans to steal the Defiant and use it to expose a hidden military build up by the Cardassian Obsidian Order in the DMZ. He snuggles up to Kira in order to do so and has to take her along with him after he has stolen the ship. We are supposed to take it asa given Kira would fall for Riker since sice everything female is supposed to, so I will buy it, I guess.

The episode quickly becomes an homage to Failsafe, the Henry Fonda film in which the president has to help the Soviets stop an American plane from attacking the Soviet Union. It is classic, but I am more partial to the similarly plotted Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. In the case of “Defiant,” Sisko heads to Cardassia Prime to help Dukat stop Thomas.

There is an interesting exchange between the two about Dukat missing taking his son to an amusement park for his birtday because of this incident. Sisko tries to bond with him as a father with heavy duties. Jake has had to sacrifice because of his father’s oath to Starfleet and has done so well. Dukat responds that his son will grow up remembering that his birthday was ruined by a Federation attack on his home and be forever angry. The scene shows the difference between a freedom loving people and those who teach their children devotion to the state. Dukat’s son is not going to think about his ruined birthday first, but of Cardassia’s enemy attacking his home.

Thomas attacks various Cardassian targets on his way to his primary, Obsidian order target. Kira buys some time by disabling the cloaking device. She tries to talk Thomas out of his plans by convincing him he does not really care about the Maquis cause. He just wants to separate himself from the main riker by becoming a hero. Except terrorists do not get to become heroes.

I have always questioned whether Thomas, who is still Riker at heart, would do something like this. Being marooned for eight years is bound to change someone, particularly when he learns his other self became a hero who helped defeat the Borg invasion of Earth. When I first saw this episode fifteen years ago, I did not buy it. Now that I have gotten older and (relatively) wiser, I do. Riker was the one who was going to kidnap his androgynous lover from a lobotomy in ’The Outcast.” he is willing to let high emotions motivate him to do immoral acts to satisfy his own needs.

Sisko and Dukat arrange a trade. The Cardassians get Thomas as long as they do not execute him for his attack and they can have the Defiant logs that reveal the Obsidian Order’s build up in the DMZ. It is the best compromise to avoid awar. Much better than nuking New York, at any rate.

Kira promise to rescue Riker from prison at some point, but she never does even though that would make for a logical sequel. The addition of Worf to the cast makes it even odder. Certainly, his loyalty is more to the main Riker , but you would think he would feel some loyalty to Thomas as well. I suppose Thomas’ violation of Starfleet ideals offends his fellow officers enough they think he got what he deserved.

I appreciate “Defiant” more these days than I did years ago. I understand Thomas’ motivations more than I did then, at any rate. They seem more plausible now that I understand he is not a carbon copy of Riker, but a an whose different experiences have given him a different attitude. While I still find it strange “Second Chances” earned a sequel, “Defiant” improves upon the original

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Meridian"

You knew my truce with Dax could not last long. “Meridian” is by far the worst episode of the season.

But to be fair, it is not all Dax’s fault. The story is based on a musical called Brigadoon. The musical is about a Scottish town that reappears every one hundred years. In this episode, a planet called meridian appears every sixty years, then turns into pure energy. Dax falls in love with a scientist named Deral and decides to stay with him forever. It turns out she cannot travel along with the planet when it converts to energy, so the love affair is abruptly ended.

They got my hopes up thinking I would be rid of Dax for the next sixty years. Darn you! Darn you all!

The B-story is actually worse. Quark has to create a holographic copy of Kira for a customer who wants to…you know…with her. Incredibly lowbrow, even for Quark.

“Meridian” makes me embarrassed to be a trek fan. That is saying a lot considering the stigma one already suffers. The main story assume and the Quark/Kira bit is like something that would have aired on the USA Network after midnight on weekends. Skip it at all costs.

Rating: * (out of 5)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Civil Defense"

“Civil Defense” is like a first season episode awkwardly transferred to the third. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with it. It is just the plot of a Cardassian failsafe program to prevent a revolt of Bajoran slave workers being accidentally activated serves mostly to define what the station used to be and the strained relations between theFederation and the Cardassians--all of which we already knew, but could have bee illuminated much more clearly if this one had aired far sooner.

There were some serious duds I the first season--”Q-Less” and “Move Along Home,” for instance--”Civil Defense” could have handily replaced.

Two bits I did like that went beyond the stereotypical escape the overly elaborate doomsday plot device; one, the animosity between Garak and Dukat is in full swing. I find both of them to be fascinating characters, so the fact they have an ongoing danse macabre is right up my alley. Two, Dukat expresses a certain sexual desire for kira for the first time. It is played off with a laugh, which is a point I did not think was a good idea since ira does and should hate Dukat with a passion because of the atrocities he has committed to her people, but the plot point will reappear more prominently I later episodes.

Who can blame him, either? Kira might be an emotionally damaged soul, but she has her exciting moments.

So does ”Civil Defense>’ it is a predictable romp. What writer worth is sat would ot come up with the plot of the Cardassians booby trapping DS9? So there are no real surprises. Consider it a fun, but obvious episode--and oe that should have come far sooner in the series.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Abandoned"

Avery Brooks made his DS9 directorial debut with “The Abandoned.” He intended the story of an abandoned Jem’Hadar child to serve as an allegory for racial tension and gang violence. I can see hints of that, but I got much more about free will versus fate out of it. Calvinism strikes hard yet again, no?

Quark buys a wrecked ship from one of his contacts and discovers an infant inside an incubator-like compartment. The infant grows rapidly and within a short period of time is roughly the equivalent of a sixteen year old human. It is at this point the crew realizes he is a Jem’Hadar. Fortunately, he recognizes Odo as a Founder. But even odo can barely keep the boy’s violent instincts under control.

Starfleet wants to take the boy for study, but Odo protests. He knows what it is like to be a sentient being, but studied as any old lab sample. Sisko agrees to delay handing him over so Odo can try to alter his nature. Not easy to do, of course. His violent tendencies are not only becoming more overt, but the withdrawal symptoms of Ketracel-white, a drug he has been genetically engineered to be dependent upon, are causing further irritation.

The Ketracel-white situation is conveniently alleviated when some is discovered among the ship’s wreckage. Chalk that up to the dramatic need to establish the Jem’Hadar addiction as a long running story element. The key conflict is odo attempting to broaden the kid’s horizons by first discovering if he has any other interests besides killing and then, in frustration, finding a way to get the indulge that urge in a holosuite. Kira tries to convince Odo this will not work. It is in the Jem’Hadar nature to kill.

Odo responds that it was in her nature to be a terrorist and within his to be a xenophobic Changeling. His mistake is in not drawing the distinction that his an Kira’s were learned behavior due to their circumstances. Kira had to fight for her freedom. Odo was influenced by the people around him, not by other Changelings. The Jem’Hadar are genetically bred to do what they do. No amount of nurture will change their nature. It is fate.

When he reaches this conclusion, he opts to take the kid back to the Gamma Quadrant. Sisko lets him go, realizing the situation was quickly going to evolve into kill or be killed if things carried on any further.

A couple interesting personal moments are slid in. First, Sisko meets and surprisingly likes Jake’s Dabo girl girlfriend. She brings out the artistic side in him. But more importantly, the subplot is a solid, healthy father-son interaction rather than the typical strained daddy issues that often plague television.

The second is growth in the Odo/Kira relationship--such that it is. Odo now has personal quarters instead of remaining in his bucket in the back of his office. With it, he is both exploring his Changeling self by becoming more comfortable with his malleable liquid ste and attempting to become more humanoid by living more like they do. It demonstrates his internal conflict. Now that he knows what his people are like, he has to side more with those the humanoids hate even though he does not feel a sense of belonging with them, either.

But the most poignant part is that odo takes a housewarming gift of flowers from Kira and plants them in his old bucket to symbolize their connection. Or at least what he perceives as their connection. He a few episodes, he will realize his love in unrequited and smash the bucket with the flowers inside.

Very poignant episode, even if I did not get the racial/gang violence message as was apparently intended.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Second Skin"

I am generally a fan of Kira-centric episodes even if, as she does here, wind up acting out of character. No pun intended, considering the plot of the episode. What I mean is how she goes back and forth from a bitter, but understandable hatred of Cardassians, to an almost weepy appreciation for some and then back again. She is a emotionally damaged person due to living such a violent life, but it is still unnerving to see her seesaw with every new Cardassian encounter.

That said, I often enjoy Trek’s brand of mind game episodes when they are done well and this one is. The plot of Kira beig kidnapped and genetically altered by the Cardassians to convince her she is one for the purpose of extracting intelligence is reminiscent of TNG’s “Frame of Mind.” “Frame of Mind’ was one of Brannon Braga’s few success on TNG and it encouraged him to use the method of illogical happenings to convince a character he or she is going mad ad nauseum on VOY. Thankfully, he was allowed nowhere near “Second Skin,” so the emphasis is more on family and identity. It is a for the better.

Kira is kidnapped, altered, and given to a member of the Central Command, Ghenor, who is told she is his daughter, long lost in deep cover on Bajor. They tell Kira all her memories of being a Bajoran are implants that will go away with medication. They will be replaced with her real memories as an Obsidian order spy. Kira does not buy it even though Ghenor dotes on her as any heartbroken father who misses his daughter would. Kira is completely incredulous. Her father was killed directly by Cardassians. Her mother starved to death in a refugee camp. There is no way she could be one of them.

Her Obsidian order interrogator, Entek, grows more hostile ad determined to extract information from Kira. As it becomes more obvious he will use torture because her ’memories’ are not returning, Ghenor decides he must use his contacts to help her escape. Ghenor, though a powerful ruler on Cardassian Prime, isa member of the dissident movement who believes militarism has ruined the Cardassian soul.

By this point, kira has broken down to the point she is beginning to believe she may really be a Cardassian. But she snaps out of it when she learns Ghenor is a dissident. She knows this is all an elaborate ruse. Kira happened to look enough like Ghenor’s daughter--convenient, I know--to pass for her and, because of her hatred for Cardassians, would resist interrogation. Ghenor would be forced to expose his treasonous activities in order to save her.

Fortunately, Garek has lead Sisko and Odo to Cardassia Prime to save them both just in the nick of time. Ghenor flees with them. He finds asylum on one of the few planets who seem open to Cardassians. Before leaving, he has an almost fatherly exchange with Kira. Maybe iam being too harsh about her reaction, but she comes across as frighteningly emotionally unstable in going from irrational bigot to near family in just a few minutes. I am no psychologist.

Nevertheless, ’Second Skin” is one of the bet character exploration episodes which dominate the third season. It was apparently tougher than usual for Nana Visitor. She suffers from claustrophobia and at one point ripped off her make up during filming because she could no longer tolerate. Another interesting point is guest star Lawrence Pressman, who played Ghenor, is a Jew of Russian descent whose entire family, save for an aunt, was murdered by the Nazis. Considering the obvious parallels between Bajorans/Cardassians and Jews/Nazis, it must have felt unusual to play a Cardassian.

Garak plays a pivotal role here, too. He takesa step back in the likeability department for me, but we learn more about his role as a former spy, so it is atrade off.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Equilibrium"

Mark the occasion: “Equilibrium” is a Dax-centric episode I enjoyed. I had nearly forgotten about it until watching it again earlier this morning.

The neat part is how the episode came about. It is based on the act of magician Jeff Magnus McBride. Michael Piller is a big fan of McBride’s, whose act consists of removing one mask only to reveal another. This sequence happens several times in the episode to chilling effect. The writing staff felt masks served as a fine metaphor for the Trill’s passing of a symbiotic to a new host. As a bonus, mcBride himself was cast in the role of Joran Beral.

I must say Dax was at her least annoying here--aside from the early scenes in which Joran’s memories come rising to the surface, causing Dax’s temper to flare. When
Dax begins hallucinating visions of a man in a mask threatening her, she has Bashir examine her. He finds evidence the symbiotic is rejecting her. Sisko, Bashir, and Dax head to Trill to seek expert help.

Even though Dax is something of a celebrity for being the only rejected applicant to ever eventually be joined, the staff places its highest priority on saving the symbiont. While they make minimal efforts to save Jadzia, the medical staff seems eager to place the symbiont in another host as soon as Jadzia is too weak to maintain the connection.

What is really happening is a cover up. Over eighty years ago, the Dax symbiont was mistakenly given to an “unfit" candidate, Joran Beral. Joran had murdered the doctor who originally rejected him. He was joined for six months before the symbiotic was removed and given to a proper host--Kurzon.

But the damage was done. It was known known over half the population could serve as a suitable host. The joining commission purged records and suppressed Dax’s memories of Joran’s existence in order to cover it up out of fear the symbionts would become a commodity people would sell and fight over to possess.

Sisko agrees to continue the cover up if Dax is spared. The only way she can do so is to embrace the violet memories of Joran instead of suppressing them. In a scene reminiscent of Equus, Dax embraces the murderous memories in order to find peace.

“Equilibrium” is a fascinating episode for several reasons. One, it makes Dax into a more appealing character for me. No small feat, that. I cannot stand Barbie Dax. Two, it demonstrates further that Sisko will go to unethical lengths to serve what he considers the greater good. In this case, he is willing to cover up what could be a major change to trill for the better, with more joined trill working to improve society, in order to save his friend. I suspect Picard, for instance, would have had a tough time taking part in the cover up while demanding his crewmember be saved. But then again, Janeway probably would have left one of her crew die in order to maintain the cover up, so it balances out. Finally, there is a comradelier revealed among the main cast, sans Quark and conspicuously O’Brien, as they all meet at Sisko’s for dinner. It is something that has been missing up until this point. They never particularly seemed to like each other up until now.

Do not get used to me enjoying Dax episodes, but I like this one a lot.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The House of Quark"

“The House of Quark” is a personal favorite because Quark is handled the way I like him best--comedic, yet heroic when the situation calls for it. Not farcical, mind you. Such happens way too much-- *cough* ”Profit and Lace” *cough* --but hitting all the right notes.

A drunk Klingon named Kozak becomes enraged when he thinks quark will not start a bar tab for him and lunges at the Ferengi with his knife. Kozak trips and falls on the blade accidentally, killing himself. Quark decides to pull a “Seven in One Blow” con in order to drum up business and claim he killed Kozak in self-defense.

It works until Kozak’s family shows up. First, his estranged brother D’Ghor wants quark to confirm his brother died in battle because if Kozak had truly died in battle, the Klingon High Council will allow him to take over, but if it was an accident, special circumstance would allow Kozak’s widow, Grika, to take over without a hitch. D’Ghor frightens quark into perpetuating the lie.

Grika then shows up, kidnaps Quark, and forces him into a shotgun wedding to iherit Kozak’s house. Quark uncovers that d’Ghor has been assaulting Kovac’s finances for years in order to take over. Now that Quark is head of the house, he has theadded obstacle of killing him.

Face with dueling with D’Ghor or heading for the hills, Quark chooses the hills.

But he has a change of heart when he considers Grika will be ruined. He meets D’Ghor for the duel, but refuses to fight. D’Ghor will just have to kill an unarmed Ferengi to get the house. D’Ghor is more than happy to do so, but he is stopped by Gowron, who thinks there is no honor in killing a Ferengi who will not fight back. D’Ghor is shunned and thrown out of the Great hall. Grika is grated control of house and divorces Quark.

The B story involves Keiko’s school closing down because families are moving off DS9 because of the Dominion threat. O’Brien arranges for her to o on a botany expedition for six months to get her our of the way in order to explore the O’Brien/Bashir friendship more. Meh. Okay.

“The House of Quark” strikes a humorous, fun stand alone story. It is something DS9 does not always do very well. It serves as the beginning of something else DS9 will do well--Klingons. All throughout TNG, Klingons were more like Viking barbarians with no culture or soul to them. Even Worf was there to do little more than smash things he did not understand. Deep Space Nine converted Klingons from Viings to shoguns. A much improved change that will really start to fly when worf joins the cast next season.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Search, Part II"

“The Search, Part II” is a definite letdown for the set up of “Part I.” It falls into the frequent Trek trap of revealing in the final moments what we think we have been watching is not what we have actually been watching. When it works, which is not often, it is a cool mind frak. But when it does not, it isa cop out deus ex machina. I call this one more of the latter, but one saved by the prospect of future stories with the Dominion which will prove vastly better.

The mind frak is that the A and B stories are not both real. Odo’s learning about his people and their animosity for the solids from the Female Changeling is real, but the interspersed story of the Defiant crew limping back to DS9 only to find the federation is eady to give up the wormhole and the entire Bajoran system in exchange for peace with the Dominion is all revealed to be a simulation run on the captured crew to determine whether the Alpha Quadrant will have to be taken by force. When the DS9 crew goes rogue and destroys the wormhole rather than allow the dominion through, the simulation ends abruptly and the Founders have their answer--it has to eventually come to war.

I questioned the wisdom of sending a ship completely devoted to war on a mission of peace, but we see here the rationale of doing so was effective. The Dominion wanted to know if the Federation would fight rather than accept their way of life being encroached upon. The Defiant, alone did not do the convincing, but if it had, it would have ruined the suspense of the Dominion evidently possessing more power than the Federation. I that regard, I can appreciate how “The Search, Part II” played out. I am still not a fan of the last minute reveal it is all a dream method of storytelling.

One thing I do like is the simple motivations of the Founders--they distrust non-Changelings, so they want to control them. No fancy philosophical conflict. Just a desire to conquer out of xenophobia. I like it because it is a direct contrast to the Federation ideal of mutual understanding and cooperation even if the Dominion do not exactly serve as a counter-Federation as was originally intended.

It is disappointing compared to part one, but still serves its purpose in the long run., even down to adding to odo’s alienation. Now that he has found his people, he feels even more alone considering what they are. His alienation adds a personal touch to the coming conflict.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Search, Part I"

“The Search, Part I” marks the beginning of the third season with quite few changes, most all for the better. The Dominion story begins in earnest as the episode serves as the starting point for the Cold War period between them and the Federation. The Defiant makes it first appearance, thereby expanding the scope and power of the series. Michael Eddington is also introduced. But most importantly, several alumni from the recently ended TNG join the writing staff. Most notable for me is Ronald D. Moore of Battlestar Galactica fame. He penned this episode.

“The Search, Part I” begins with the main staff, sans Sisko, running through scenarios of a Jem’Hadar invasion. All of them have the Jem’Hadar overrunning DS9 within two hours and that is being optimistic. In the mist of their frustration, a ship decloaks well within their shield range. Fortunately for them, it is the Defiant, a prototype Sisko has brought back with him from Earth.

The Defiat marks a change for Starfleet. For one, it has a cloaking device. Gene Roddenberry never wanted the good guys to use such a thing because he felt it was a sneaky thing to do. That idea is too dumb to even think about, so I am grateful DS9 decided to ignore the concern. The Defiant is exclusively awarship with few amenities and no science lb or the like. It is overbuilt with weapons designed exclusively to fight the Borg. So much so, it is an unstable ship. I like the idea Federation technology is not so squeaky clean for once--another reason I give DS9 high marks. It is not afraid to buck Trek tradition.

The oddest part about the Defiant is that its first mission is to find the Founders and assure them the Federation means them no harm. I suppose there is a definite logic I sending in a powerful warship to do so. It worked for the United States in opening relations with Japan in 1868. But it does seem odd to not preset the peaceful exploration aspects of the federation, too. I am going to excuse the point as done for the sake of drama. The Defiant is built up all episode as a tough battle ready ship only to be defeated effortlessly by the Jem’Hadar.

This story is one of only a couple times the cloaking device is used. The Romulans sent along an officer, T’Rul, in order to guard its secrets. She was to become recurring character, but the idea was nixed for lack of anything for her to do. It is just as well. The actress, Martha Hackett, would go on the play the more memorable role of the Cardassian spy Seska on VOY.

Sisko also brought along Michael Eddington as the new Starfleet chief of security. Odo automatically hands in his resignation rather than cooperate with Starfleet. Eddington already has a certain shadowiness to him. At first, I think it is because we are supposed to sympathize with Odo, even though he is acting childishly about Eddington’s arrival. As the season wears on, the suspicion Eddigton isa Dominion plant becomes stronger until next season when his true nature is revealed.

Speaking of sympathy for aliens over Starfleet personnel, I disliked the method Sisko used to convince Quark to come along to the Gamma Quadrant. Utilizing the Grand Nagus was one thing, but forcing quark to kiss the scepter is something else. Sisko’s snaky attitude about the tradition smells of the contempt the human side of Starfleet has for the traditions of alien cultures. I thought it was degrading to Quark, particularly after the way Sisko treated him all throughout the previous episode.

But to get to the story, the episode is largely a submarine warfare movie homage as the Defiant tests out its cloaking device against Jem’Hadar ships while seeking out the founders’ home world. Odo is feeling jittery the entire time. One, because he no longer feels he is appreciated with Eddigton around and two, kira’s attempts to help him as a friend are a ew, awkward experience for him. ever since entering the gamma Quadrant, he has felt an urge to travel to a place called the Omarion Nebula.

He gets his chance when the Jem’Hadar finally attack and disable the Defiat. Whether they have discovered away around the cloaking device or have gotten the needed intelligence from the earlier captured O’Brien and Dax is not clear, but they overwhelm the crew except for Odo and Kira. He takes her and escapes in a shuttle for the Omarion Nebula. When she awakens, she is livid he did not not seta course for the wormhole, but all is forgotten when they encounter the great lake of Changelings in the Nebula. The Female Changeling welcomes Odo home.

The change in the show’s tone is palpable here. There is nowa definite shift away from the Cardassian/Bajoran drama towardsa more Federation-centric story. This isall right with me, even though I generally like the Cardassian/Bajoran intrigue, because it has already been established the way the federation normally conducts business is about to be turned on its ear. It is clear we have graduated beyond Picard visiting planet after planet lecturing aliens on the proper way of doing things. The situation is now becoming a matter of survival for the Federation instead.

Even Sisko is becoming torn between loyalty to Starfleet anda kinship with Bajor. He explains to Dax here his primary concern is making certain Bajor does not fall to the Dominion. It isacocer he will take great measures to alleviate right up until the series finale.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Jem'Hadar"

We have reached the end of the second season and the beginning of two major points which will carry out through the remainder of the series. For one, we are introduced to the Dominion. more specifically, the Jem’Hadar foot soldiers and the administrator Vorta. For another, this is the beginning of the serialization aspect of DS9 in which the plot is advanced from episode to episode without necessarily using a cliffhanger. Both these changes will be an improvement on what was already a solid show.

Sisko offers to help Jake with the most definite A graded science project ever--to do a planetary survey in the Gamma Quadrant. Having your father serve as the commander of the station has its privileges. Sisko intends the expedition to be a father/son bonding experience, but jake invites Nog along because he has been struggling in school. Sisko reluctantly agrees. Quark gets wind of the trip and invites himself for the stated purpose of watching over Nog, but really to win Sisko over to the idea of letting him put advertisements on the station’s intercom system. Sisko reluctantly agree to everyone going on the trip.

The trip has generic sitcom quality laughs over creatures of comfort being outdoors and such until a woman stumbles across the camp with the Jem’Hadar in hot pursuit. She, Sisko, and Quark are captured. Jake and Nog remain free because Nog ran off in embarrassment over Quark’s obnoxious behavior and Jake went after him.

Sisko, Quark, and the woman, who we learn is named Eris, are held inside a containment field inside a cave. Eris is wearing a collar which prevents her from using telekinetic powers that could free them, so Sisko gets to work on removing it. Sometime into the effort, we are introduced to a Jem’Hadar who finally explains things to Sisko. The Dominion knows all about the Alpha Quadrant powers and is dead set against the violation of Dominion space. Conveniently, another Jem’Hadar appears on DS9 to deliver the same message with the addition they have attacked numerous ships coming through the wormhole in recent weeks.

The Galaxy class Odyssey will lead a mission into the alpha Quadrant in order to find Sisko and the others. The captain establishes a point that has only been hinted at since the pilot--DS9 is not that formidable. He does not want the command staff joining him on the mission because they just do not have the juice. Bashir protests they have fought the Maquis, which is immediately dismissed. The command staff eventually accompanies the Odyssey anyway thanks to Dax’s urging, but the entire sequence sets up the appearance in the next episode of the Defiant It is a tough little ship.

We have more comic relief as Jake and Nog try to pilot the runabout back to the wormhole after escaping the planet. Luckily, they encounter the Starfleet expedition force before getting themselves killed in a warp core breach or something. The ships engage in a quick battle with Jem’Hadar forces.

Back in the cave, Sisko gives up o trying to get the collar off and asks Quark to give it a try. Up until this point, sisko has been a complete jerk to quark. It is because quark invited himself along on a trip he was not suited for, but quark still takes it as typical Federation bigotry of aliens who do not share their values. If you have been reading my reviews long enough, you will note I have had the same running complaint. Quark is echoing much of my own sentiment, but he goes a little over the top when he says the Ferengi have nothing I their history to compare to slavery, concentration camps, or gov. Kodos’ massacre. Just mocking the 24th century arrogance would have sufficed, but I think this was supposed to be an effort to turn quark into a character to be taken more seriously.

Quark succeeds in removing the collar. Eris uses her powers and they escape to be beamed up by O’Brien, who is now piloting the runabout with Jake and Nog. How he new to beam up Eris along with them is anyone’s guess. He never communicated with Sisko, so I guess it was just a lucky assumption.

The Jem’Hadar destroy the Odyssey in a suicide run just to demonstrate they mean business. I remember the scene being put I the previews for the episode just to freak out fans who thought it might be the Enterprise which was destroyed. “The Jem’Hadar’ was the second episode aired after the TNG finale, “All Good Things…”

The entire plot turns out to all be a ruse. Eris is not a fugitive, but a Vorta and a vital part of the mission. They were supposed to escape and bring her back to DS9 as a spy, but thanks to quark investigating the collar, they discover it was nothing but a locking system. She beams away with the warning they have no idea what has begun here.

Neither did the writers, apparently. Much about the Dominion has not been settled at this point. To hear it described here, the Dominion is a counter-Federation, but it eventually looks more like three major alien races working in a hierarchy instead. The Vorta never demonstrate telekinetic powers again and no one recognizes odo as a Founder. I excuse it all, since it is early in the game and TNG alumni are about to take the reins from Michael Piller, so changes are inevitable.

I have always liked this episode because of the sense of anticipation it gave me. The potential of the Dominion is not quite as thrilling as the introduction of the Borg, but it is suspenseful nonetheless. Quark is an awkward fit at times, but I am not big on him serving as slapstick comic relief with him catching his jacket on fire while eating and taking a pratfall because of a Jem‘Hadar. . He heads too much into Neelix territory for my taste here, but it is the only real complaint I have in an otherwise good episode.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Tribunal"

Each of the Trek spin offs has its own punching bag. It is La Forge in TNG, Harry Kim in VOY, and Tucker in ENT. For DS9, it was O’Brien, the longsuffering enlisted man who never caught a break. “Tribunal” puts him through the wringer of a cardassian show trial in which he is accused of being part of the Maquis.

There had been much build up to this plot. Garak and Dukat had both mentioned on a number of occasions how swift and definite Cardassian justice is because the guilty verdict has already been decided. The game is to prepare the condemned to bow to the wisdom of the state with no exceptions.

But that is the problem of the episode. There has to bean exception because o’Brien cannot be executed. So the resolution winds up a deus ex machina in which O’Brien was framed because of Boone, a genetically altered Cardassian posing as a Maquis. He is exposed thanks to dental records. The Cardassians wanted an excuse to wipe out the Federation colonies on the Cardassian side of the DMZ, so they set O’Brien up as the fal guy. They have to let him go to keep their treachery a secret. It is a pat ending that is not very satisfying.

However, the look into Cardassian is quite intriguing. I think it is a bit of a step back, mind you. For the most part, Cardassians have been one dimensional villains thus far. They are deceptive, warlike, and exhibit a sadism that borders on the perverse. These days, I would bring up parallels to the chopping off of hands, stonings, and whippings committed by radical Islam in the name of justice for which is said to bring a twisted sexual pleasure to overly repressed Muslims. An uncomfortable notion that Ds9 had been sliding away from slowly but surely by making Garak sympathetic and Dukat cooperative in stopping the Maquis among other instances.

“Tribunal’ does not feature the gratuitous brutality of “Chain of Command, Part I/II, ” so it is not a prurient shocker. But it does not hit the high emotional marks of those episodes, either. It is an anthropological syudy in Cardassian society. It does provide interesting insight, but the ending is a serious letdown.

On a personal level, I would have liked to have had the job of public defender in Cardassian court. You lose every case no mater what, but that is exactly what you are supposed to do. No job pressure whatsoever. Where do I sign up for that?

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Collaborator"

Deep Space Nine finally gets back to Bajoran religious intrigue. Such episodesare not generally popular, but I find the parallels to Christian church history fascinating.

Bajor is going to elect a new Kai, the religious leader of the planet. Vedek Winn runs against the clear favorite Vedek Bareil. But then a Cardassian collaborator named Kubus is offered amnesty by Winn in exchange for information about the Kendra Valley massacre in which the Cardassians murdered 43 members of the Bajoran Resistance, including Kai Opaka's son. The monk Prylar Bek revealed their whereabouts to the Cardassians and then committed suicide. The communication records seem to indicate that it was Bareil who ordered the monk to do so, in order to avert a worse disaster, because the Cardassians would have killed thousands of village inhabitants searching for the resistance cell. Bareil withdraws from the election. After Winn has been declared the new Kai, Kira discovers that Bareil is not the true collaborator. He covers up the decision of Kai Opaka who sacrificed her own son for the benefit of her people.

Winn’s election to kai has far reaching consequences leading right on up to the finale, so this is a deceptively important episode within DS9’s mythology. There is also a point at which Odo reacts strangely to Kira revealing she is in love with Bareil. It is the first hint Odo has feelings for her. He will hold his peace for quite a while.

The only complaint I have about the episode (Aside from some obvious Watergate references. Why are baby boomers so obsessed with Nixon’s downfall?) is the same problem I have had with Bareil all along--he is played like he has overdosed on Valium. How does a guy that subdued not only manage to come one step away from becoming the most powerful religious leader on Baor, but win over the heart of someone with as many rough edges as Kira/ She is the type who would chew him up and spit him out without ever meaning to. opposites attract, I guess.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Crossover"

I am going to have to go against conventional trek wisdom here--I generally do not like the mirror universe stories because they are of no consequence to reality. In general, they area notch below other similar efforts like TNG‘s “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” and “Parallels,” or even VOY’s ’Year of Hell, Part I/II,” which loosely has an alternate reality concept. In a really weird twist considering my animosity for ENT, “In a Mirror Darkly, Part I/II” is the only mirror universe story I enjoy. Probably it is because that is the only time the characters are ever truly compeling.

There are a couple added problems with DS9. One, one shot episodes are often really, really bad. (Vulcans playing baseball? A labor union being formed at Quark’s? Let usall help the holodeck lounge lizard!) One of DS9’s weakest points is that it never did well straying much passed its Bajor/Cardassia/Dominion/wormhole roots. Second, thereare too many twists made to make DS9 relevant. This is the only time the wormhole is used to get to the mirror universe. The Bajorans overthrew the Terran Empire and now humans are their slaves? I cannot see it.

Kira and Bashir wind up in the mirror universe where they help convince the human slaves to rise up against their maters, which they promise to do. That is pretty much it. The bulk of the episode is the wow factor of what the status of the main character counterparts is. I do not really care because it isof no real consequence. Mirror Kira looks hot in her outfit, though. I assume she is meant to distract us from the general pointlessness of the mirror universe stories.

There will be--inexplicably--five more before it is all said and done. One will even show up in the middle of the Dominion War story. None float my boat.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Wire"

I have always found the friendship between Bashir and Garak more believable than the relationship Bashir shares with O’Brien. It makes more sense to me because Bashir’s overenthusiastic attitude about adventure is exactly the sort of thing a notorious liar like Garak would want to play with. He has already hooked Bashir with two past adventures while still maintaining an obtuse demeanor. In “The Wire,” We start seeing a true bond form--at least a true a bond as a disgraced Cardassian spy can manage.

The story essentially Bashir helping Garak overcome a drug addiction, but with an obligatory science fiction twist. When he joined the spy agency the Obsidian Order, Garak had an implant placed in his head which would stimulate his endorphins as a defense against torture should he ever be captured. Garak so despises his exile, he has been operating the device continuously for two years in spite of its intended brief, sporadic use. The device is now breaking down and rewriting his brain chemistry. He will die I justa few days.

(One wonders why a race as brutal as the Cardassians, with their complete devotion to the state, would not just want their spies to commit suicide, but we would not have a story here if they did, would we?)

Bashir struggles to convince Garak to let him help, but he feels he is getting what he deserves by a horrible death. Eventually, Garak acquiesces. Bashir turns off the device, but canot repair the damage because of his lack of familiarity with Cardassian biochemistry.

Garak suffers through stages of withdrawal, from manic babbling about his past deeds to a reflective period in which he pitifully seeks forgiveness from anyone who will offer it. It is left ambiguous as to what was truth and what was lie. Once, Garak claims he destroyed a shuttle full of Cardassians in order to kill fifteen Bajoran terrorists. Another time, he says he let them go instead and that iswhy he was exiled. Then he weeps over betraying his friend Elim, who we learn is actually himself. The common element in all is betrayal, apparently more to himself than any other.

Bashir takes it upon himself to visit the retired head of the Obsidian Order, Tain, so he can obtain the medical records he needs. Tain gives them up because he wants Garak to suffer through a long, torturous exile. Weare going to learn near the end of the series Tain is really Garak’s father. I am curious what emotional impact the revelation would have had if it had occurred here instead.

“The Wire” is a budget saving bottle show. As those things go, it is one of the best DS9 has to offer. The big problem is we do not learn more about Garak. We see his weakest moments where he essentially is inconsolable over never being able to go home. We know he suppresses those feelings deeply, but we do not learn more about him. It is a highly intriguing episode otherwise, so I am not going to knock it much for the shortcoming.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Maquis, Part II"

“The Maquis, Part II” is a cut above the really good first part. The juxtaposition of expectations is in full swing, with not only the Federation coming across as either naïve or incompetent, but Dukat playing a heroic role first the first time, albeit with Cardassian values which are not always palatable to the good guys.

The Maquis were not holding Dukat on the moon in the Badlands. It was a ruse to allow Hudson to convince Sisko to help. He refuses, so he and the rescue team are stunned and left there. Upon returning to DS9, Sisko is lectured by Adm. Nechatev to open a dialogue with the Maquis since they are still Federation citizens. She makes no indicatio military force is acceptable.

The conversation prompts an angry rant Sisko lays on Kira which is highly relevant today. Most of the federation is in a cushy position in which utpoia has been achieved. Casting aside how implausible that is, it is easy to conceive how such cushiess can skewer one’s viewpoint. The Federation has left their colonies completely defenseless eve though they are surrounded by a ruthless enemy, yet expect them to maintain normal ideals. In other words, the guys sitting I the trenches getting shot at ought to have the same mindset as the political leadership, sipping tea in polite society, who put them in harm’s way to begin with.

For whatever reason, the former’s attitude is bewildering to the latter. It reminds me of the progressive idea that opening up a dialogue with Muslim terrorists is the way to prevent further terrorist acts. Surely it is simply a matter of working out emotional grievances, right? Or could it be there is a bigger issue, like the love affair being extremely one sided? Sometimes a cultural difference means they want to kill you. Forget cultural equivalency at that point and start shooting!

A member of the Cardassian High Command, Parn, comes to DS9 to announce Dukat is part of a renegade group who has been arming Cardassians in the DMZ. They had just as soon leave him to the Maquis. They will save the Cardassians the trouble of executing him. Sisko opts to rescue Dukat anyway, thinking the Central Command is using him as a fall guy to cover up the real arms operation. He is right, so Sisko and Dukat team up to prevent the Maquis from escalating the war which Cardassian would be forced to respond in kind.

I am going to give Sisko some credit here. He has been hiding the fact Hudson is involved with the Maquis and grants him two chances to call off a proposed attack on a secret Cardassian ammunitions dump. He refuses, so Sisko decides to do thing Dukat’s way and stop the assault by force. He doesso I the name of the greater good of preveting a larger war, but refuses to kill Hudson out of a cocern for friendship and how he cannot bring himself to kill a man for defending his home.

“The Maquis, Part II” is an incredibly engaging episode that does not disappoint, as the conclusion of two part episodes often do in Trek. I swear, sometimes I think the writers have no idea how they are going to get themselves out of the corner they backed themselves into in first parts of a two part story. The only disappointment I have is that Hudson is never seen again. It is revealed in an offside manner by Eddington in “Blaze os Glory” he was killed and that is it. Much of the tension that should have been played out between Sisko and Hudson is eventually transferred to Sisko and Eddington, but I think the former would have had more of an emotional punch.

Still, the Maquis story is a highly compelling part of DS9 lore, much more so than in VOY where it is supposed to be central. This is the beginning of their saga. It is a very exciting start.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Maquis, Part I"

Chronologically speaking, this is the first appearance of the Maquis even though I reviewed their second appearance in TNG’s “Preemptive Strike” months. The Maquis was supposed to be only a minor part of TNG and DS9. Its introduction in the two series was meant to allow VOY, for whom the Maquis/Federation animosity was supposed to be a major plot, to hit the ground running. That would have been a good plan if VOY had spent more than twenty minutes dealing with the issue instead of making the maquis members indistinguishable from regular Starfleet. But that is just another of the many failures that is VOY.

I did not care much for TNG’s Maquis stories--of which I am including ’Journey’s end,’ even though the episode only established the Demilitarized zone which will prompt their origin and the Native American colony from which a background player in “The Maquis, Part I” and Chacotay from VOY will originate. The DS9 stories are a different matter. The storyline--heck, the show I general--deals far better with the grim realities of warand diplomacy versus Federation idealism. Said idealism takes a big hit here. Far bigger than anything TNG ever tolerated. I could not be more pleased.

The episode begins when a Cardassian ship is destroyed in a terrorist act, killing 78 Cardassians. The bomb was planted by someone in a Starfleet uniform, but nly the audience is aware of that. Tensions run high as Starfleet tries to uncover the truth before Cardassia and Bajor come to blows over the matter. Before matters escalate on that front, the bomb is discovered to be a Federation explosive device.

In the midst of the investigation, Sisko’s old friend Cal Hudson arrives on DS9. Hudson is played by Bernie Casey. Every time he appears on screen, I wonder where the band playing his hero theme is. Are they not supposed to follow him everywhere? Hudson is the Federation attache to the newly Demilitarized colonies. Hudson expresses both frustration at his inability to do his job without weapons and his distrust for the Cardassians. He does not approve of the Federation abandoning the colonies to Cardassian rule.

Later, when sisko enters his quarters, he finds Dukat there. The pair have a tense moment when sisko suspects Dukat has done something with Jake. the sequence is solely there just to establish the contemptuous mistrust Sisko has for Dukat. He assures Sisko the only thing he wants is to preserve the peace treaty ad urges him to accompany him to the Demilitarized Zone I order to get to the bottom of things.

Along the way, they encounter two Cardassian vessels attacking a Federation ship. Dukat makes an effort to halt the attack, but is ignored. Two more Federation vessels attack and destroy the Cardassian ships. There is a private, little war going on I the Demilitarized Zone. Sisko accuses Dukat of arming Cardassian citizens in Federatio territory, sice they have already been caught arming the Circle earlier in the season. Dukat denies it.

It is soon revealed the perpetrator of the ship bombing was captured and tortured into confessing. His fatesend Hudson over theedge. In a private conversation with Sisko, he says Cardassians have been terrorizing the abandoned, helpless colonists. He understands fully why they want to fight back. So does Kira, who expresses yet again her contempt for Federation naivete. There is no place for it in reality.

Dukat is suddenly kidnapped from guest quarters on DS9 by the Maquis and taken to a small moon in the Badlads. Sisko Bashir, and Kira track them down, all the while debating how they are going to handle federation citizens having committed the crime. Things get tougher when they beam down and learn Hudson is a Maquis leader.

One thing I have yet to mention is the running comic relief. Quark is approached by a Vulcan woman who wants him to arrange a steady stream of weapons. He is more interested in putting the moves on her, but the underlig point is that she is Maquis and they are preparing for a long war. It is amusing nonetheless. Not to mention much needed tension release. In all other episode points, the screws are tightened right up until the cliffhanger ending.

What is intriguing about this episode is the Federation comes off worse than the Cardassians. Yes, they tortured a man to death, but one that we know was guilty anyway. Not that his guilt excuses anything, but the federation has abandoned tens of millions of its citizens to the Cardassians including this fellow. In a way, Hudson is right. The Federation is at fault. It is refreshing view that only gets more morally mury I the next episode.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Blood Oath"

I promised a commenter a few weeks ago I would lay off the Jadzia Dax hate for at least two episodes. I kept the first half of my promise on “Invasive Procedures.” I will keep the second half with “Blood Oath.” It is one of my favorite DS9 episodes for many reasons. I even appreciate the maturing of Jadzia Dax, if for no other reason than the change is prompted by Curzo dax’s oldest Klingon friend scolding her for the same attitude I fid annoying.

Three old Klingons reunite on DS9 in order to carry out an old blood oath of vengeance. The three are Kang, Kor, and Koloth, each of whom is from TOS and played by the same actor. I will comment on that a little later. Kang has summoned them all there because he has tracked down their sworn enemy, the Albino, after eighty years. The Albino was a fugitive whose army had been defeated by an armada of Klingon ships, but had escaped himself. In revenge, he promised to kill the firstborn sons of the captains he opposed him. Somehow, he successfully infected the children with a fatal genetic disorder. One of the boys, Kang’s son, was Curzon’s godson. The four swore to hut down the Albino and eat his still beating heart as he drew his last breath.

Trill do not pass down obligations from one host to another, but Jadzia feels compelled to honor hers because of its importance to Curzon. Kang says no. At first, he releases her because he understands Trill do not pass down obligations. In truth, he does not think she has the stomach for it. Neither does Koloth.

They are right in some sense. Jadzia is torn between her oath to avage her godson--even if it is not really her godson--and a moral code that says killing in cold blood is wrong. At one point, she confides I kira, who has had a very bloody past herself, her conflict of obligation over what killing the Albino will do to her personally. Kira responds that she died a little herself every time she took a life. Jadzia decides it is still something she has to do regardless of the consequences. One of those consequences is a diminishing of respect in Sisko’s eyes. It is something I find odd considering some of the immoral acts he will commit for the in the future for no other reason than personal vengeance 9i.e. Michael Eddington), but I imagine it is a matter of not knowing what line one is willing to cross until it is reached.

Jadzia is forces herself iota Bat’leth battle with Koloth in order to prove her worthiness to honor the blood oath. She loses badly, but proves herself even to Kang Which leads to the only real flaw of the episode: kang has been lying. He did find the Albino. When he did, he learned it would be impossible for he and his comrades to infiltrate his fortress and kill him. The Albino discovered and tauted him over the realization. Kang has turned this into a suicide mission because he would rather die at least trying to get to the albino than dying a weak old man with his so unavenged.

I wih the story had not taken such a turn. The rationale was to make jadzia more important because she could use her scientific know how Curzon did not possess in order to even the odds. But that could have been done anyway. There is enough compelling personal conflict with Jadzia wrestling with her conscience and the ‘Ulyssess” theme of one last, great adventure for old heroes, not to mention the exciting action of a straightforward men on a mission adventure, to make the episode good. I do not like how the Klingons are made to seem pathetic here without Jadzia’s help. In may ways, DS9 presented Klingons better than any other Trek, but it dropped the ball on this point.

But it is a minor point in the grand scheme of it all. The assault on the Albino’s stronghold--a blatant reuse of the temple from TNG‘s “Masks”--is enough to make me overlook it. Trek rarely does person to person cobat well, but it did so here, with Coloth dying in battle rather than as a sick, old man and Kang killing the Albino as Jadzia wavers on whether she can go through with it. I must note he did stab the Albino in the back. It can be rationalized he was saving Jadzia, but it would be a stretch to do so. I am going to accept that answer regardless.

I have always enjoyed this episode. For several reasons. One, I do like the occasional men on a mission story without any deeper meaning than action. “Blood oath’ manages to feature such a story, yet give it a lot of heart. So it isa notch above most in that regard. Second, I liked that established characters were used. Many note with much accuracy DS9 is the most un-Trek of Trek, but in a lot of ways, it was a more faithful successor to TOS when it wanted to be than TNG . I rank “Blood oath” right up there with “Sarek” and ahead of “Unification” in that regard. Finally, as a history buff with an eye o the culture, I can appreciate the sad lament of how the values of one generation are forgotten by the next. It is why we have to keep learnig the same lessons over again as a species.

Getting back to casting like I promised, it is great to see Michael Ansara and John Colicos still kicking in science fiction in the seventies. Ansara always plays such a cool villain with that menacing, gravelly voice of his. Kang is not my favorite of his characters--that honor goes to Elric in Babylon 5--but he is the most multidimensional of Klingons. Ansara married Barbara Eden, too. Who would not admire that? As for Colicos, he is the original Baltar. ’Nuff said.

Lastly, to throw my two cents into the debate, I do not think the Albino was a Klingon. He looks a lot lie one, but he has too much contempt for them. I think he is just a pirate who ticked off the Empire with his thieving ways.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Profit and Loss"

One of the best episodes we have had this season was “Necessary Evil,” an homage to detective noir featuring Odo. Odo, as has been previously noted, is my favorite DS9character. I usually like Quark, too, although he works best as part of the regular ensemble. He is hit and miss in completely Ferengi centered episodes. Fortunately, “Profit and Loss” is more in the category of the former. It also serves as a good homage to classic wartime romance, a la Casablanca. So much so, the script had to be changed to avoid legal action. Still, it is there.

A heavily damaged Cardassian ship docks at DS9 for repairs. A professor, Natima, and two of her students are onboard. Natimaclaims their ship was damaged in a meteor shower. Quark suddenly spots Natima and rushes over to her with stars in his eyes. They are old lovers. Natima is not thrilled to see him. She slaps him and orders him to stay away. Quark isstill on cloud nine.

As the episode progresses, Natima softens to Quark and they toy with rekindling their romance. Natima iscarrying a secret which will keep them apart. It is exposed when O’Brien discovers theship’sdamage is actually from Cardassian laser fire and a ship threatens the station turn them over. Natima and her students are part of the underground of dissidents (presumably the same one the Enterprise was working with in TNG’s “Lower Decks.”) and are considered terrorists.

In a rare heroic gesture, quark offers Natima’s students a cloaking device so theycan escape, but she will have to stay with hi in order for them toget it. Meanwhile, the Cardassians offer Garak adeal--kill the three terrorists and his exile will be at an end. Garak agrees. All plotlines come to a head when all parties meet at what should be a bittersweet moment for Quark, but is actually where garak plans to make his move. Garak has been double crossed and in the ensuing brief firefight, opts to kill the Gul who made him the deal, thereby saving the dissidents.

Natima departs after telling Quark her goal to change Cardassia is too urgent for her to stay withhim now, but in the future…it will be worthhis while. We are all just a little bit more confused about Garak’s intentions.

I enoyed ’Profit and Loss.” It is one of those necessary redeeming episodes for quark that keep him from becoming too despicable. In spite of the changes made to avoid a copyright dispute, the Casablanca feel is definitely there and done earnestly rather than a parody, much in the way odo was Sam Spade “Necessary Evil” without resorting to a stereotypical Bogart impression. I dig those old movies, so this is right up my alley.

In an amusing side note, the 1994 California earthquake occurred during filming of “Profit and Loss.” Armin Shimmerman did not have time to remove his make up, so he hurried home to check on his family still made up as Quark. He caused a minor panic among the already frazzled population. Notice I did not say shaken population. I was about to do so.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Playing God"

“Playing God’ is the perfect example of why I d not liked Dax. She is supposed to test a symbiont initiate in the episode’s main story. Arjin, the initiate, is intimidated because Dax has eliminated 57 candidates over the decades. So you figure she is going to run this guy through the ringer, right? She has all her past lives still intact. Jadzia should be just as tough.

Nope. Arjin first meets her when she is gambling with a bunch of Ferengi down at Quark’s. The next morning, he knocks on her quarters door. A fierce looking alien answers. Dax is standing behind him dressed in a towel. The first real test he gets is hunting Cardassian voles, a creature similar to a large rodent. Later, she takes Arjin to a Klingon restaurant in order to eat “adventurous” food he does not care for. In other words, her test for Arjin’s worthiness is a weekend at Mardi Gras. But that is not the best part--she tells him hedoes not have what it takes. I guess because he cannot party hard like Lohan Dax.

Terry Farrell has since told fans Dax’s behavior was a put on as a test to Arin to see if he would respond maturely to her sorority girl behavior. Does she know we have seen this show before?

In fairness, Arjin is motivated to be joined because it was his father’s dying wish. He does not have any vision fr his future. I can cut Dax some slack for not taking the guy completely seriously. But still, honoring your dead father’s wishes is an important motivation and arjin saves the day with his piloting skills when they have to return an unstable element back to the Gamma Quadrant. So he proves he is dedicated enough to fulfill a dying man’s wish and saves the day with skills Dax does not have. She still tells him better luck next time.

It is not a bad episode, honestly. I just cannot stand Dax. Her behavior does not measure up to the reputation she is supposed to have, so I just cannot buy into her. I do not believe Arjin was treated fairly here, nor do I imagine many of Dax’s past selves would have tested him in the same manner. At least I would hope they would have more sense than that.

Some humorous elements save the episode from a bad rating. The pest control subplot was amusing. I have to give some marks for perfectly demonstrating why Dax is such a poorly executed version of what could have been a fantastic idea.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Shadowplay"

I will say one thing for this jumbled, weird episode--it maintains a common theme throughout its three stories. Nothing is exactly what it appears to be. Jake does not want to go to Starfleet, even though you think he would. Bareil looks like he wanted to pt the moves on Kira, but he is really there as a favor to Quark in order to cause a distraction for her. The villagers Odo and Dax encounter appear to be real, but wind up being holograms.

The biggest flaw is that three running stories in 44 minutes is too much. Corners were conspicuously cut. Jake’s soul shoring up courage to tell his father he does not want to join Starfleet should have been a B-story itself, but it winds up being done in a flash. Quark arranges for Bareil to visit because he needs Kira off his back to he can move some stolen Cardassian museum pieces his cousin stole. We see none of the quark story, but Bareil and Kira getting all steamy. Finally, we are just told the villagers reactions upon discovering they cannot exist beyond a certain boundary. We have to settle for a little girl’s arm disappearing, then reappearing as she reaches across the boundary and back. Some glaring redactions there.

I have no complaints other than having to fill in gaps myself. Surprisingly, I can even forgive the fact obnoxious Dax is a main character as well as the same actress who played a little girl in the TNG abomination known as “Imaginary Friend.” I am in a strangely generous mood, I guess.

The main plot is a continuation of the TNG theme of holograms possessing the right to exist. It was never dealt with as a moral issue in the case of Moriarty in TNG, nor will it be one in regards to the Clown in VOY’s “The Thaw” because there was is no question his death will have no ethical implications I am going to continue my generous mood and call it a concession under the circumstances.

The problem is that a number of villagers have disappeared because the hologram projector is breaking down. After Dax and Odo discover what these people really are and prove it to them, they agree to have Dax shut it down in order to repair and restart it. Once she shuts it down, they discover the village elder, Colyus, is real.

He is a lonely old man who escaped from the Dominion--in their third and final mention until the season finale--and established this colony of holograms to keep himself company. It is rather puzzling why, if he developed the program, he could not fix it himself, but generous mood, generous mood. He wants to keep the holograms offline because she should not live in a fantasy world. Odo and Dax argue they have aright to exist because they had a sentience. Basically, they are making the argument that indulging in fantasy to keep an old man happy is fine as long as he is happy. Strange, but okay. I will buy it. Generous mood, and all.

Odo reveals a soft spot for kids as he bonds with a little girl whose mother is one of the missing. He also reinforces the idea already mentioned that he does not shape shift much because it hasa stigma attached from all the people he spent time around using his ability solely for entertainment value. In the end, he becomes a spinning top for her out of friendship. It is a nice tough.

“Shadowplay” is not bad. It would have been much better to chop out the Quark/Kira/Bareil subplot and use the time to flesh out the other two stories. But I have to review what is there, not what I think should be. In that regard, it is a watchable, but not special, episode.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Paradise"

Five writers are credited for “Paradise,” which usually means the kiss of death of numerous rewrites. Couple that with the main writer, Jim Trombetta’s declaration he based the society featured in it on the anti-technology philosophy of the Khmer Rouge and probably have a mess.

Sisko and O’Brien are scouting out planets for a potential colony when they come across one they previously believed uninhabited, but discover a group of Federation citizens who were stranded there a decade ago with something about the planet preveted their technology from functioning. The colony is run by Alixus, an anti-technology zealot who rules them with an iron fist, with swift punishments and allowing the sick to die without proper medical care. Unknown to the people, Alixus is purposefully keeping the technology from working hypocritically through technological means.

Chalk it up to the aforementioned numerous rewrites, but the story is quite uneven as to whether a society based on both an eschewing of technology and an unspoken, but obvious communist philosophy is good a bad. Even in the end, no decision is fully made as two members of the society opt to escape while the vast majority remain. The last scene is the clincher: two small children, helpless to their own fate, stare at the now empty area where Sisko, O’Brien, and the two escapees once stood a moment before.

Are they saddened or just fascinated by what they have seen? It is hard to tell, but considered Alixus, the founder of the colony, who has just been exposed as having trapped them there a decade prior, just finished a speech in which she admitted she would let her own son die rather than utilize technology, they are royally screwed even if they do not know it yet.

I had no problem deciding Alixus’ society was hellish. I do not buy into the progressive notion of a communist utopia, nor do I share the silly and ignorant idea that primitive societies are far superior to our own because we have lost our identity because of dependence on technology. Yeah, I did not like Avatar, Pocahontas, or Dances with Wolves. The Last Samurai had its moments. The modern world brutally won out in the end. Though I would have preferred Russell Crowe to tom Cruise.

Obviously, one who does not feel as strongly about the superiority of the noble savage--assuming said noble savage was read Karl Marx--may feel differently since it is presented as reasonable most of the colonists stayed even after Alixus’ treachery was revealed, her brutal punishment methods were on display, and she said she would let any one of them die for the good of the colony. I have to give the episode some props if there are trek fans out there who thought Alixus, though heavy handed, has her heart in the right place. Lord help you if you do. You are the reason I espouse conservative ideals as much as possible. You are going to kill us all for our own “good” and call it beautiful.

“Paradise” is a mediocre episode. I do not care for the sense that Alixus had enough of a point that people are still willing to follow her. If you believe that, too, I probably do not like you. I cannot imagine ever watching the episode again.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Whispers"

Way back when I reviewed “Frame of Mind” for TNG, I mentioned it was the start of a trend that would continue throughout the rest of televised Trek of an entire episode appearing to be one story, then completely being turned on its ear in the final few minutes. Sometimes it works well. Other times, the twist is disappointing, so you feel cheated regarding the entire episode. ’Whispers” is not perfect, but it is more of the former than latter.

O’Brien returns from a week long mission in the Gamma Quadrant gathering details from the Parada on security details for their upcoming peace conference on DS9. The Paradan government has been at war with rebels for twelve years. Upon his return, everyone acts very strangely, as though they have all turned against him, including his family.

O’Brien is taken off the peace conference security detail and given busy work to do instead. He even suspects systems were sabotaged in order to keep him distracted. Keiko and Molly avoid him like the plague. When his security access is denied for all logs after his return from the Gamma Quadrant, he suspects an alien influence has taken over everyone. He forcibly escapes the station in order to expose the conspiracy.

In reality, he finds himself on Parada II--literally. He goes there believing the Paradans are attempting to take over Starfleet when he discovers he is a replicant created by the government to use as an assassin for the rival delegation.

“Whispers” is a weird, surreal episode that you have to take with a grain of salt. Everyone knew the O’Brien who returned not the real one, but let him roam around freely anyway, including around his wife and young child, even though they had to know his only purpose was to kill the rebel delegation? The motivation appears to be wanting to discover his mission and find the real O’Brien without harming the replicat, but they take way too many implausible risks in doing so. Still, it is a fun episode, even if illogical behavior has to be overlooked for the sake of drama.

Rating; *** (out of 5)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Armageddon Game"

“Armageddon Game” is one of the early Bashir/O’Brien buddy cop episodes.. It is much better than the fierce racquetball competition between the two in “Rivals,” but there is not much new ground broken.

The two are sent to a planet where a peace treaty has just been signed. As a result, the warring factions have asked the Federation to help rid them of their biological weapons stockpiles. The thing is they want all evidence they ever had any erased, too, which means they have to kill Bashir and O’Brien.

The plot sounds like it should be a typical chase story like North by Northwest and a ton of knock offs, but the story winds up being the two protagonists holed up inside a hideout while trying to communicate with DS9 to let them know they are still alive. In that sense, it does not fill expectations, but still seems subdued in many ways. The ticking clock element comes not so much from anticipation of their capture, but that O’Brien has been infected and has a limited timeframe in which he can be treated.

The episode is entertaining, if for no reason the chemistry between Bashir and O’Brien works so well. They are a more believable duo than Data ad La Forge from TNG, the previous unlikely friendship I trek. Bashir isstill annoying in his immature thirst for adventure, but he is coming around to being a character who better appreciates the gravity of situations. O’brien is still the tough old warhorse whose sense of duty forces him to keep on going even as he is dying.

“Armageddon Game” is a enjoyable episode in spite of its many clichés of the genre. I cannot help but think it would have been more exciting if the story had been ore a bonding while on the run story, but I think the episode came out somewhere near TNG’s “Attached” wherein that occurred between Picard and Crusher. If that is true, I feel cheated. I more interested in Bashir/O’Brien than Picard/Crusher.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Alternate"

“The Alternate” is an interesting episode that tries to do a little too much. But it is an Odo-centric installment, so as usual, I am more forgiving tha my heart of stone usually allows.

Mora Pol, the Bajoran scientist who was assigned to study Odo upon his discovery, returns with the news he may have discovered more life forms like odo on a planet in the Gamma Quadrant. Odo secures a runabout for Mora, so he, Mora, his assistant, and Dax go off to investigate. The planet appears to have been inhabited long ago, but has now been deserted. Among the ruins is a monolith with strange hieroglyphs. Mora postulates it was a important part of the civilization’s culture because of it central location. He is correct. There will be another identical monolith on the Changeling’s world I “The Search, Part II.”

They discover a puddle which has similar readings as Odo, so they assume it is a Changeling, too, and take it with them. When they beam up the monolith as well it causes an earthquake with volcano ash gushing from fissures in the ground. The fumes seem to effect everyone but Odo.

That turns out to not be true, as Odo displays multiple personality disorder during his regeneration cycle because of the ash inhalation. In three incidents, he frees the alien specimen, which subsequently dies in the s unsuitable environment, and tries to kill Mora twice. The final time isa set up in which the crew captures odo ina force field. He is perfectly recovered. Convenient, no?

The problem is the story cannot quite decide what it is. It crams in Odo’s daddy issues, an homage to the claustrophobic alien hunting victims in The Thing, and subtle foreshadowing about the Dominion, although that will not be obvious until much later. None of these elements is done badly, but each one could have been an episode in itself. Instead, they are all crammed in with little time for the audience to appreciate each.

The daddy issues between Odo and Mora are the heart of the episode. Mora is so overbearing about how much Odo owes him for his life, he cannot even allow Odo to finish sentences. When talking about their experiences together. Mora is oblivious to Odo’s resentment about the past. Mora’s attitude does notching in the slightest until he sees Odo as the monster, thrashing violently against the force field in a homicidal rage. Before that, he could never comprehend why odo left, insisted he would return because he was not ready to e on his own, and even tried to con him to come back by telling him his friends will betray him when they discover he is the monster they are hunting.

It all hits close to whom. As one with disabilities, I had overbearing family members who treated me the same way. I had to literally escape in order to accomplish anything in life. No matter what I did accomplish, one or more of them was always shadowing me ready to pounce on any setback as evidence of a total failure which meant I needed to comeback to the velvet cage. I did say I related to Odo best of all DS9 characters, did I not?

The Thing homage was in effect all of one act, but it was a good effort while it lasted.

As for the Dominion foreshadowing, it came and went much more dismissively than one would hope. The monolith is taken to DS9 for deciphering of the hieroglyphs, but then dropped. Permanently, if I am remembering correctly. It also is remarkably cold of everyone that a shape shifting life form dies because they have taken it out of its proper environment--and no one cares. You think there would be some sense of remorse at the act eve if it was an accident. But no, they say “oops” and move on. No wonder the Changelings will think these dopes are inferior species.

I still like “The Alternate” even if it was unfocused. Do I really need to elaborate further why?

Rating: *** (out of 5)