Friday, April 30, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Accession"

I had completely forgotten about this episode until seeing it again now. It slipped my mind most likely because it feels out of place with the current narrative threads running through the series. It is a more significant episode now considering the parallels between a new emissary appearing to reestablish the more strict religious order on the Bajoran people and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

An ancient ship, similar to the one flown by Sisko in “Explorers,” comes through the wormhole. The pilot is one of Bajor’s most famous poets, Akorem. He was brought into the wormhole by the prophets who healed his mortal wound and then returned him two hundred years later. Akorem is convinced he is the true Emissary. Sisko who has grown weary of serving as a religious icon, readily abdicates as the Emissary.

Unfortunately, Akorem believes it is his job to reestablish D’Jara on Bajor. Think of it as Wahhabism. There is a caste system in which Bajorans can only serve in certain jobs according to their status. Refusal to cooperate results in execution by religious edict. Worse yet, a return to the D’Jara means Bajor does not wish to join the Federation.

The Bajorans originally cast off the D’Jara in order to uite in fighting the Cardassians. They have grown since then. Sisko realizes this and what a step back returnig to the old ways would be. he decides to challenge Akorem’s claim to be the Emissary.

They visit the wormhole to consult the prophets. They confirm they brought Akorem into the future to convince sisko he is the true Emissary ad future of Bajor. They Akorem back into the past fully healed, but with no memory of what happened. Sisko becomes much more comfortable with his Emissary role now that he knows what would happen without his guidance.

The B-story involves o’Brien adjusting to having his family back. The character is somewhat diminished here. He does not seem very happy to learn he is going to be a father again. It appears he would rather hang out with Bashir than his family. He even sees to long for his bachelor days, a point the vehemently denied back in ’Hippocratic Oath.” While o’Brien is not my favorite character by any stretch, I am comfortable with him more as the straitlaced family man than someone who still has wild oats to sow. He was not presented well here at all.

But otherwise, I liked “Accession.” I am betting this is one I like now more than I did when it first aired. Easy to speculate, since I had completely forgotten it.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Bar Association"

My personal bias is going to shine brightly in reviewing “Bar Association.” Fair or not, I have the natural Southern aversion to labor unions. The whole concept is nothing but yankee agitators coming down here ad putting ideas in Sally Fields’ head. There is nothing we Southerners like better than arrogant Yankees advising us on what we are doing wrong. Foe those of you unfortunate enough to be born on the wrong side of the Mason-Dixon, you can despise the episode for its communist themes. When organizing the workers at Quark’s into a union, Rom quotes Karl Marx--”Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!”

Ugh.

Bashir plays the yankee agitator here when Rom collapses in the bar with a massive ear infection he never had time to treat. The doctor insists Rom demand vacation time and better working conditions. Quark dismisses the call, so Rom and the others form a union and eventually go on strike. Neither concept is acceptable in Ferengi culture. Because of this, the Ferengi Commerce Association brings in heavies to break up the situation.

The regular cast members take sides in the dispute when they have to decide whether to respect the union’s boycott of Quark’s. O’Brien, Bashir, and Sisko support the union, though Sisko does so tacitly. Worf has no qualms breaking the boycott. I would almost consider that the usual trek case of aliens doing the ’wrong” thing while humans are always on the side of angels, but here it fits in with the B-story of Worf’s frustration with life on the station. He will move to the Defiant by the end of the episode.

After getting beaten up by some of the FCA’s hired goons, Quark decides to give in to demands, but only if the union dissolves. Rom agrees, resigns as head of the union, and then joins the engineering crew rather than go back to his job as a waiter. All returns to relative normal.
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Rom’s character development is the only bright spot in “Bar Association.” He has never been a favorite character, but but he is being built up and put in position to take on an important role for the Dominion War which would not have been plausible before. So kudos for that. Bemusement, however, for the outlandish idea that he and Leeta will eventual fall in love. The seeds of their romance our sown here as they lead the union.

“Quark episodes are hit and miss. When they hit they are great. When they miss, they are serious duds. “Bar Association” is a serious dud. I am certain many fans with more progressive leanings think differently, but there is too much Marx in it for me. I do enjoy the idea of a bunch of wealthy Hollywood screenwriters urging the oppressed to rebel against management, however. It is all part of that fantasy world wealthy progressives without a hint of irony or rationality live in.

Rating: * (out of 5)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Sons of Mogh"

I do not generally agree with the progressive utopian philosophy of Trek in general, so there is a running agree to disagree element politically between the two of us. As with any opposites attract friendship, conflicts do arise periodically. Less often, I find a moral or spiritual disagreement that irks me far more than any political issue. Such has happened twice so far in DS9. The first was in “Visionary,” because the concept of the soul was dismissed as one O’Brien casually died in order to be replaced by another, nine minutes older version. The second is in “Sons of Mogh.”

Worf’s brother, Kurn, arrives on DS9 in dire straits. Thanks to Worf not supporting the invasion of Cardassia, his family has been dishonored. Kurn has lost everything, not the least of which is his seat on the High Council. He requests Worf kill him in a ritualistic murder so hecan die with honor. Worf accommodates him.

But Kurn survives and recovers. In spite of Worf’s protests it is a matter of Klingon belief, Sisko forbids him fro attempting to kill his brother again. Instead, Kurn must try to find a purpose. He unhappily becomes one of Odo’s deputies, but it is clear after a serious incident with a smuggler he has a death wish. Indeed, Kuen is contemplating suicide even though it would be a dishonorable death.

So Worf decides to have Bashir alter his appearance and DNA structure, as well as erase his memory, so he can assume another identity as the son of a family friend.

There is so much wrong with that, I do not know where to begin.

Forcibly erasing someone’s identity, even in the name of helping them, is grossly unethical. It is a living death which I cannot imagine anyone on Ds9 thinks is better than stabbing Kurn to death again. There are reams of studies discussing the ethics of using thought reform--a kinder, gentler term for brainwashing--in psychology. Completely altering someone is miles beyond that and no one blinked about the morality of it. Klingon beliefs or not, that is cruel.

We also are lead to assume Bashir went along with the idea without question. No doctor would ever do such a thing and keep his license to practice. Again, I do not care what Klingon beliefs say. Bashir’s personal ethics would keep him from performing the procedure. He is acting horribly out of character.

Speaking of acting horribly, Worf denies having any family when asked by Kurn’s newself if he does. Poor Alexander. Worf is one sorry father. He does not een think about his only child, but he is flirting with Dax as of this episode. The guy is a cad.

The -story involves O’Brien and Kira disarming a cloaked minefield near the Cardassian/Bajoran border. The story serves solely to introduce us to the concept of invisible mines and the process of detonating them will play a big part in the series when the wormhole is mined at the start of the Dominion War.

It goes without saying the fate of Kurn ruined the episode for me. It is not that I am a fan of Kurn--I could not care less about him, truth be told--but I cannot get passed the ethics of what happened to him. The solution to Kurn’s dishonor was a crutch at best, horrifying at worst. Deep Space Nie is the edgy Trek. I get that. But it wet too far over the line this time. What was Ronald D. Moore thinking?

Rating: * (out of 5)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Return to Grace"

“Return to Grace” is a direct sequel to “Indiscretion.” it improves on the Dukat/Kira relationship immensely from that episode. Here we see the two of them becoming much more intertwined, much to the delight of Dukat ad chagrin of Kira.

The backdrop of the story is the two of them are forced to track down a Klingon Bird-of-Prey which destroyed a joint Bajoran/Cardassian intelligence sharing conference they were on their way to attending. But that is a MacGuffin. What we really care about is about how Dukat and Kira are affecting one another personally.

Dukat has been demoted to freighter captain because of his illegitimate daughter, Ziyal. His wife has also left him. In his mind, that frees him up to pursue Kira romantically. She will have none of that, of course, but there is a vibe from Ziyal that she really wishes they would get along better. Kira agrees to dinner with Dukat with an almost maternal sigh of resignation. Think The Parent Trap here.

Kira does bond well with Ziyal because she sees much of herself in the young girl. But she cannot offer Duat the forgiveness Ziyal--and Dukat, for the moment--wants desperately. He is Adolf Eichman as far as she is concerned.

Nevertheless, Kira aides Dukat in pursuing the Bird-of-Prey. When the mission is all said and done, Dukat expresses his intention to serve as a resistance fighter against the Kligons as his people lay defeated before them. The history buff in me got a tingle as he said, “What Cardassians? I am the only Cardassian left,” echoing Souix Chief Sitting Bull’s statement at his being the only Indian left to not sign a peace treaty with the United states--”What Indians? There are no other Indians left but me.” Kira refuses to join his one man crusade, but offers to take Ziyal to DS9 with her. A lifeas a figitivwe is no life at all for a young girl.

Appreciate the juxtaposition: dukat has now become Kira--a freedom fighter desperately trying to save his people from overwhelming oppression. This is one of the first times a Cardassian begins to appreciate the concept of reaping what one has sown.. Damar, who makes his first appearance here, will come to a similar realization when the Dominion begin a scorched earth against his people for rebelling against them in the war’s endgame. By offering to watch over Ziyal, Kira has assumed a familial responsibility she has never had before. Family issued be everything to Cardassians, so I a way, she has become Dukat. Her true motivation is keeping Ziyal from becoming like her.

‘Return to grace’ was pitched as the idea of Nazi and Jews having to work together to face a common enemy, but that is not eve important to the story. I do not even care about the Klingons being hunted down. It is all about the growth of characters. You do not see such a thing done in Trek period, much less as well as is done here. The subtlety in which Dukat and kira trade places in life is quite brilliant. Usually, Trek would beat you over the head with such, so savor the stealth while you can.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Crossfire"

We return to the pitiful infatuation Odo has for Kira once again. Like in “Heart of Stone,” Odo can barely hide his love for her. Kira not only never notices, but always says and does whatever would stomp on his heart the hardest. That is the way when you love someone you cannot have. In “Crossfire,” takes it to a new level. She not only falls I love with Shakaar, she celebrates her new happiness with Odo while he isassignedto serve as Shakaar’s bodyguard. Talk about a triple whammy.

“Crossfire” is Shakkar’s second appearance. He was Kira’s resistance cell leader who defied Winn’s breach of contract and refused to return farming equipmet in his first appearance, “Shakaar.” He became a folk hero as aresult and got himself elected head of the government. With power being the ultimate aphrodisiac, Kira has developed the hts for him just as a Cardassian terrorist group called theTrue Way targets him for assignation. Odo is placed in charge of his protection.

This is the second and final appearance of the True Way. They were the ones responsible for the bombing that forced the trasporter patterns of the main cast into the holodeck during ’Our Man Bashir.” Wewill never hear from them again after “Crossfire,” presumably because their goal of eliminating the Federation as an enermy vecomes government policy once theCardassians join the Dominion. Still it is awkward for the group to appear only twice, then disappear completely.

The main emphasis of the episode is on Odo. From the opening scene where he is setting up everything just right for a briefing with Kira to his tantrum when he realizes he cannot compete with Shakaar for her affection to the begrudging acceptance by the end it isall about odo’s pain.

There are a couple nice touches there. One, Quark talks to him in his lowest moment after he has destroyed much of his quarters in anger. The scene is a further revelation that their antagonistic relationship is one that fills a need within each other--they need each other as a challenge in their normal pursuits--but have a certain friendship regardless. It is probably a recognition they need each other. Two, Odo smashes his old bucket, I which he had placed floral arrangement given to him by Kira asa housewarming gift. It symbolized a passing of his old self. Now that has been shattered, figuratively and literally. He is as alienated as he ever was.

It is a tough struggle to watch. I have been I his shoes. In fact, it would only be a few months after “Crossfire” aired when I would realize that for me and my disabilities, harsh reality was always going to stand in the way of romance. Those were tough times. Heck, these are tough times that make those seem like casual growing pains. It never gets any easier, does it?

Odo was originally supposed to take things much harder. There was to be a moment when Shakaar and Kira were caught in an explosion. Odo could only save one. Would he choose the one he loves or the one he has sworn to protect? In this scenario, he chooses Shakaar--not out of uty, but spite for kira’s rejection. She would have survived, but that would have been even more of a downer ending than we got. There is a thin line between love and hate, but that would be taking odo to too dark a place for my tastes.

"Crossfire” is a tough episode for me to watch, but I like it regardless.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Paradise Lost"

“Paradise Lost” is a love song to 9/11 truthers six years early. Not to dismiss the episode by bringing up the fevered fantasy of a 9/11 inside job, because there isa lot going o here of its own merit, but the parallels cannot be denied.

It is revealed much of what we know from ’Homefront” is carefully orchestrated plot by Leyton to remove the soft on security Federation president and militarize Earth as a defense against a Changeling attack. When the attack on Antwerp did not convince the president, Leyton rigged the wormhole t periodically open as though cloaked ships were coming through and then used a corps of upper classmen cadets to sabotage the power array of Earth. With so any Starfleet military officers on the streets of Earth in response, Leyton has the leverage he needs to take over.

What we have is conflicts about what we are willing to sacrifice in order to protect what we have. Leyton does not think he is perpetrating a lie in order to assume power for personal gain. He is being a patriot as far as he is concerned by removing the obstacles to defending his home. Thanks to the fear brought on by his sabotaging the planetary power grid, his actions are popular among the people. Popular even though it means armed soldiers on every street and random blood tests for citizens.

Once again, it has been shown in trek that the allegedly enlightened utopianisms will abandon every one of their ideals at the first disturbance. This will be a recurring theme throughout the rest of DS9 as the Dominion War becomes more desperate. sacrifices are made--maybe too many--in order to preserve a way of life.

At least by the end of “Paradise Lost,” the people of earth have decided they are still terrified of the Changelings--there are still four on Earth--but they love their way of life more than to destroy it in fear. I am wary of drawing further parallels to he post-9/11 world. I am not one of those who believes the Patriot Act stomps too much on civil liberties or that operating Gitmo violates America character. Yet I am confident there is a line somewhere out there that can be crossed. I cannot define, nor can I even guess how near or far it is, but I am confident our national character will know when we have sacrificed too much for security.

“Paradise Lost” is quite the prescient episode. It is also one of the best in spite of famous budget restrictions limiting the writers’ vision. At one point, Odo morphs off screen and does a Vulcan neck pinch because they could not afford the necessary special effects for him to change shape. What the episode lacks in bells and whistles, it makes up for in food for thought.

In an interesting side note, Robert Foxworth, who played Adm. Leyton, was also playing Gen. Hague, a coup plotter on Babylon 5, at this tie. He was supposed to revise his role as Hague, but opted to star in “Homefront/Paradise Lost” instead. They killed off Hague I an offhand comment as aresult. That will show him.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Homefront"

“Homefront” and its conclusion, “Paradise Lost,” mark a drastic chage for Trek, thereby proving DS9 was unlike anything that had come before. I have used the term un-Trek before with the homage to Indiana Jones and James Bond in recent days, but this is different. The attempted coup on Earth storyline is far more elaborate and sinister than the similar Federation conspiracy in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country because at no point did the conspirators seem in the right in TUC, but we are left with a chill at the end of “Homefront” because, at the time, at least, the martial law declaration sounded like a reasonable thing to do.

The episode does take on a whole new meaning post-9/11. At the time “home front” aired in 1995, no one could conceive a handful of nemy infiltrators could bring about a disastrous act of terror in the united states itself. I know it is a touchy subject with complaints the Patriot Act tramples on civil rights as badly as a martial law declaration would, but you have to admit, we as a nation did not panic and give up our way of life as readily as readily as 24th century earth did.

When it unrevealed Changeling has infiltrated Earth and set off a bomb at a federation-Romulan conference in Antwerp, Adm, leyton, an old superior officer of Sisko‘s, calls him to Earth because of his experience with Changelings. Sisko agrees, and brings Odo with him to root out however many Changelings are on earth before they can do any more serious damage

Sisko is appointed Chief of Earth Security. He offers up suggestions o how he has handled the Changeling problem thus far--blood tests and phaser sweeps. The Federation president is not fond of the idea. Blood tests on every citizen? What if one refuses? What about religious objections, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Sweeping every room on Earth would be impossible even if it was not a violation of private property. He changes his mind when the case Sisko is carrying turns out to be Odo.

That wasa reasonable trick to play on the president in order to provea point, but hecomesacross as so weak and indecisive, it almost feels like bullying. I am surprised someone as meek as he appears to be could be president. You would think so recently after the Borg invasion, the people would want someone tougher.

In reality, Sisko is being duped as well. I loathe to call him a useful idiot, as I respect the character, but he is inadvertently paving the way for martial law to be declared. Even a personal touch--his father refuses a blood test demanded by Starfleet personnel, does not discourage him.

Odo encounters a Changeling posing as Leyton and then Earth’s power grid is sabotaged. Why the entire Earth is powered by one grid is beyond me, but the two events combine to convince the president to declare martial law. Other than the Borg attack, Earth is under its first state of emergency since the whale probe attacked the oceans in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

I remember getting a chill at the cliffhanger when Starfleet security begun beaming in, armed, on the streets of Earth. It was such a complete change of pace for Trek. The theme that the supposedly enlightened people of the 24th century will abandoned their principles when their comfort zone is violated as already been touched on in “The Maquis, Part I/II” but it really comes to a head here in a big way. It will not be the last time, either. But the realization even the federation will keep up freedom for security is jarring.

Because of its change I tone for series, “Homefront” earns four stars from me. Some argue that the Battle of Wolf 359 is the 9/11 of Trek because military action quickly took precedent over exploration in the franchise, but I go more with the Changeling terrorist acts instead. I can elaborate more reviewing part two tomorrow when the more comfortable line between eternal vigilance and an eternal police state is more clearly established.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Our Man Bashir"

Before reviewing “Our Man Bashir,” we need to get a few things straight. I still do not care for Bashir. He has not risen above being an over exuberant man-child yet. In fact, ’Our Man Bashir” indulges his man-child demeanor. Two, holodeck malfunction stories are consistently my least favorite Trek episodes. They are right down there with the mirror universe stories. These people are in space, for crying out loud! Why do you need a holodeck in order to create stories? Finally, I am not a particular fan of James Bond.

This episode is not my martini, shaken or stirred.

I do believe I have seen all the Bond movies regardless of my ambivalence for them, so I recognize a umber of homage to the series throughout the episode. I am certain I missed a few. Perhaps I would enjoy the episode if I knew them all. I even sat through Our Man Flint once about a decade ago, so I am aware of the title’s significances. But I just could not get into the humorous spirit of thins. I am not a big Austin Powrrs guy, either, so it is definitely the genre and its parodies I cannot penetrate.

One part I did enjoy is the extension of the logrunner debate between Bashir and Garak over Earth v. Cardassian literature. Neither meet eye to eye on the issue, each feeling his own people’s is far superior. Garak is more interesting in his literature being realistic and straightforward. Here, the debate is taken to another level when garak joins Bashir in his spy game. It is no loger just a matter of taste. Bashir is playing spy with Garak, who really was one. Garak’s irritation with the foolishness of the fiction genre of espionage versus what it is really like is a joy to behold. Maybe I like it because I agree with him on how silly this all is.

Silly it is, too. The episode manages to combine a transporter accident with a holodeck story. How much thought was put into that? The crew’s lost transporter patterns are placed in the holodeck, so they become character’s in Bashir’s spy fantasy. It is not all amusing. I dig Nana Visitor’s awful ’plotting doom of moose and squirrel” Russian accent. Then again, I dig her in general. The adventure is amusing, if not over the top, and Bashir destroying the Earth in order to buy Rom more time to save them was an unsuspected twist.

I appreciate that Rom is becoming moreof a pivotal character, but I have a hard time buying that he is a mechanical genius. Or that Leeta is eventually going to fall for him. Deep Space Nine might be the most realistic Trek, but it does ask us to swallow a lot of implausible stuff just because it says we should.

I have ragged on the episode, but it has a few bright spots. At least it will not become as obnoxious running gag as Dixon Hill for Picard, prune juice for Worf, coffee for Janeway, or darts for O’Brien. Running such things count as character development in Trek.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Sword of Kahless"

“The Sword of Kahless” is Indiana Jones meets Treasure of the Sierra Madre--with Klingons. It is highly un-Trek and more in tune with the sex and guns request Patrick Stewart made which prompted the awful TNG episode “Captain’s Holiday.” After that debacle, it was brave for the powers that be to give it another go. The result is trite, but still enjoyable.

Kor, who previously appeared in TOS’ ’Errand of Mercy” and DS9’s “Blood Oath,” returns to enlist Dax and now Worf in an effort to find the Sword of Kahless, an item which will entitle the owner to rule the Klingon Empire. Kor believes the sword is on a remote planet I the Gamma Quadrant. The three of them are pursued by Toral, the illegitimate son of Duras. He is making a second effort to take over the Empire. In Tng’s “Redemption I/II,” he failed in his first effort to inherit power because he was considered too young, inexperienced, and his birth status was in question. He failed the Obama Gambit, in other words.

The story is mostly a straight adventure homage to Indiana Jones. The small television budget does force an even bigger suspension of disbelief than even the fantastical adventures of the famed archeologist. I am aware some planned booby traps and such had to becut for lack of budget. What we did get…well, we just kind of have to go with it.

The story turns into Treasure of the Sierra Madre when the sword is found. A conflict erupts between Kor and Worf as both become convinced they are destined to possess it, thereby becoming ruler. They eventually decide to jettison the sword I order to keep anyone from possessing it. One of the elements that has disappointed fans is the sword actually possessed no powers. Many fans cannot see why it would affect Kor ad Worf the way it did. I am disappointed they do not appreciate the honest look into human nature. Power corrupts, folks. The sword only has to have the perception of power for it to gain a hold of people.

“The sword of Kahless” is not a bad episode, but it does feel like it is thrown together in order to give the newly added worf something to do. It is certainly logical to have a worf-centric episode. He has been relegated to either the B-story or a few laugh lines since “The Way of the Warrior.” but considering he is on Ds9 because of the deterioration of the Klingon/Federation alliance and that story has yet to advance much beyond some casual comments made by characters in passing, should the episode not have dealt with that? It feels awkward not to.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Little Green Men"

“Little Green Men” is both a fan and personal favorite even though it treads on much of the same ground as “Past Tense, Parts I/II.” I like it because the episode is an homage to B-science fiction movies of the 1950’s and touches on the themes of The X-Files, another favorite that was gaining popularity at the time. There is some criticism the 1947 characters are wooden stereotypes, but that misses the point of an homage. Do not take the episode so seriously. It was meant to be fun.

Quark buys a new ship in order to expand his smuggling opportunities. On a trip to deliver Nog to Earth so he can attend Starfleet Academy, he, Rom, and Nog are transported to 1947 Roswell in an accident. Conveniently, their universal translators are damaged along the way.

When they regain conscious, they find themselves prisoners of the United States military. All the stereotypes are there; a brash, Neanderthal of a general, a younger, heroic guy to temper the general’s obnoxious act, and his naïve, but good hearted girlfriend. The general is played by Charles Napier. He made a career out of playing such brutish characters in a far cry from the good natured hippie he played in TOS’ “The Way to Eden.” His character here reminds me more of his bit part in Austen Powers lecturing the Brits over how the US does not want to bail them out again like in World War II than the corrupt Murdock in Rambo: First Blood, Part Ii. That ought to tell you the overall tone of “Little Green Men.”

Quark being quark, looks to take advantage of the situation for his own profit. After all, these humans buy poison known as nicotine o purpose. They will buy anything! He even speculates about giving warp drive to his people far earlier than they did in reality. As the situation turns more sinister and the military demands secrets from the Ferengi, the three have to work together in order to escape back to the future with the help of said young, heroic foil and his naïve, but good hearted girlfriend.

They use an atomic bomb test and some material quark is smuggling in order to get back home. Amusingly enough, this escape method was devised by Ira Steven Behr after watching True Lies. Behr was bemused that an atomic bomb explosion was used as a backdrop during a kissing scene between the hero of that film and his recently rescued wife. Her felt the true power of the bomb had been lost I the public’s conscious since films like Dr. Strangeloe and more recently, The Day After. So hewrote that scene as a reminder of the power of the bomb. His concern seems quaint in the post 9/1world.

“Little Green men” is a fun romp for fans of old science fiction. If you do not care much for flying saucers carrying bug eyed aliens in an invasion of Earth I suppose it is not your cup of tea. But I have a penchant for retro science fiction. It is probably my only motivation for sticking with Caprica I am also a Quark fan. I appreciate episodes in which he rises above is nature, if reluctantly, in order to save his family. He still gets his just deserts in the end.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Starship Down"

“Starship Down,” like TNG’s “Disaster,” is an homage to the ‘70’s disaster genre of films like Earthquake, The Poseidon Adventure, and The Towering Inferno. Both “Disaster” and “Starship Down” are character driven, but as is the usual case, DS9 does a better job with its more well-rounded characters. Where “Disaster” occasionally played ordeals for laughs, such as Picard trapped in an elevator with children and Riker removing data’s head, and forcing unlikable characters--Troi and Ro--to the forefront, “Starship Down” does a much more serious job, with lasting implications.

The crew defends a Gamma Quadrant alien ship from a devastating Dominion attack and wind up cut off from each other while stuck in perilous situations. Sisko is severely wounded with a head injury. Kira has to keep him awake until help arrives. Worf has to step up and take command for the first time. Quark has to disarm a warhead stuck in the hull before it explodes.

It is the Sisko/Kira dynamic that makes the episode for me. Up until this point, I have never bought into the idea the two are friends. Her saying so at his eulogy in ’The Visitor” was played to have some serious emotional impact, but it did not. Weare told they had a deep friendship and that is it. Frankly, their relationship seemed more strained than anything else. It is because of Sisko’s status as emissary. Kira’s a traditionalist when it comes to her religious beliefs. Maybe she is just too much on her toes trying to please him, yet conflicted when he does not meet her expectations. Whatever her deal was, it was good to see them bond here. Rather odd she is so ecstatic to watch a baseball game, but I will calk that up to her eagerness to please.

Worf’s story continues his transition from security to command just like he did in ‘Hippocratic Oath.” I appreciate the slow going process of building him up from a conflicted, one-dimensional character in TNG--the dumb alien humans are always showing the right way of conducting himself--to someone more like the many Klingons we have met over the years. His development on DS9, excluding the peculiar romance with Dax, makes him a much more appealing, multi-dimensional character than the lunk head who got beaten up y the alien of the week in between destroying everything he did not understand on TNG.

Quark gets his moment to shine as well. Heroically, too, as he disarms the warhead to save them all while engaging in a debate with an alien, played by James Cromwell in his only DS9 appearance, over the wisdom of cheating customers. The debate counts as the B-story. As far as they go, it is the first in a long time to comfortably fit in with the main plot because it proves Quark does have a code of ethics. A twisted code, but a code nevertheless.

As much as I try to just episodes relative to the series, I cannot help but compare “Starship Down” to “Disaster.” It surpasses in every way, particularly in lasting impact on the characters. It is a good episode all around within the context of DS9. Definitely in the upper tier.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Rejoined"

“Rejoined’ is probably the most controversial DS9 episode because it featured a lipstick lesbian kiss…sort of.

The reality of it is the kiss was a cheap stunt in order to attract attention. Neither Dax, nor Khan were lesbians. You would be hard pressed to glean a pro-homosexual rights message out of the episode even though cast ad crew have subsequently inconsistently assured fans there is one. Much like in TNG’s “The Outcast,” either someone got cold feet about pulling the trigger or the message got lost in the collaborative nature of television production.

I am being generous here. The highly controlled nature of the trek office at Paramount was legendary for painting a smiley face on every story while keeping any negatives hidden. Wod has it Rick Berman put the kibosh on an AIDS allegory story written by David Gerrold for TNG years prior and also watered down the homosexual elements of “The Outcast.” I am not goig to accuse him of homophobia. I do not know the guy well enough to say anything about it. Maybe he was just trying to please the studio and/or affiliates. But homosexuality was verboten on Trek when he was attached to it., so can any notion acceptance of sexual orientation was at the heart of “Rejoined.”

Let us face realty. Deep Space Nine’s fourth season stands out awkwardly among the other seasons because there was an order from the powers that be to shake things up. The shows ratings were good, but not great. There was hope it might break out into icon status the way TNG had with the “Best of Both Worlds” cliffhanger. No such luck. As much as I had enjoyed the Cardassia/Bajor dynamic that dominated much of the first three seasons, most fans did not. The Defiant was added to make the series more space faring. The Dominion were introduced as major villains. Finally, it was ecided to go old school and reintroduce the Klingons as Federation enemies.

None of that really worked, so they tried the next best thing--a cheap, attention grabbing stunt. They took two attractive women and made them kiss onscreen for the amusemet of the fourteen year old boys in the audience.

Does it work? Not really. This kiss is not as famous as the Kirk/Uhura smooch from ‘Plato’s Stepchildren” even though some affiliates did edit the scene out before airing. The scene is about as unerotic and devoid of passion as can be. I do not know if that is the result of Berman toning it down or director Avery Brooks socially conscious desire to not cheapen the alleged message of homosexual acceptance, but it was a dud either way. How many fans really even remember this episode, much less consider ita milestone?

The plot itself requires roadmap to understand. The Dax and Kahn symbionts were once hosts to a husband and wife. Now that they meet again in same sex hosts, they are still attracted to each other, but Trill rules forbids past host romances. So after much drama, the two part, presumably neer to see each other again.

The whole story is about forbidden love, but one cannot readily see homosexual overtones in it. Maybe I am a cold fish or I just despise Dax too much, but it did not tug at my heartstrings regardless. Personally, I think the Trill prohibition on continued romance I new hosts is a fantastic and necessary idea, even if it may cause a rare heartache, as it does here. Completely new lives ought to be completely new lives. So “Rejoined” does not resonate with me.

Rating: * (out of 5)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Indiscretion"

“Indiscretion” is an homage to the John Wayne classic The Searchers written by Purple heart winning Vietnam veteran Nicholas Corea. One cannot ask for a better combination than that.

In The Searchers, John Wayne plays an aging civil War veteran who spends years looking for his kidnapped by Indians niece. As the search continues, his motives for trying to find her become more dubious. If you require a Trek connection, Wayne is joined by Christopher Pike himself, Jeffery Hunter. I am certain you have seen it, but if not, it is one of joh ford’s best westerns.

The plot to “Indiscretion” puts Dukat more or less in John Wayne’s role. No pressure there. Dukat invites himself along on a search and rescue mission organized by kira when she discovers the possibility a prison ship carrying Bajorans that went missing six ears ago may have been found. She has a old friend onboard. Gukat claims an interest because, as head of the occupation forces, those were his men.

The reality is quite different. Dukat had a Bajoran woman he loved onboard with whom he was in love. He had planed for her to rendezvous with a freighter to carry her to safety, but the ship disappeared. He and Kira find the wreckage as advertised, as well as a dozen graves. Dukat’s love is in one of them.

I have to talk about the relationship between Kira and Dukat up until this point. She obviously hates him. He is Hitler as far as she is concerned. But she has to go along with their temporary alliance because Bajor and Cardassia areat peace even if she and Dukat are not. What is funny is that Dukat is still carrying on as he did in “Civil Defense”--still hoping he had Kira might be open to romance. Honestly, I do not see it as solely a physical thing, either. He genuinely admires her as a person. Kira hardly warms up to him at all beyond a natural sympathy for his mourning over his dead loves grave.

But when the next scene is a Three Stooges reenactment like this, the mood is totally destroyed: I suppose the over the top, Dukat as Moe Howard comic relief is necessary considering the episode’s twist. Dukat’s love was traveling with a fifteen year old half-Cardassian girl who turns out to be ducat’s illegitimate daughter. He plans to find and kill her in order to protect his reputation and legitiate family. Ironic, considering one of the early Cardassian episodes of DS9 featured Dukat using a war orphan to embarrass a political rival. You reap what you sow, Dukat.

Kira vows she will not let him kill his daughter if they find her, which they do, working as a slave in a Breen mining operation. (This is the first we see of the Breen, unless you caught Princess Leia’s Boush disguise in Return of the JedI. I believe that is a sensitive subject for more partisan Trekkies…) his daughter, Tora Ziyal, is thrilled to see him. He has an unexpected chanre of heart and decides he has to take her home with him and just suffer the consequences of his affair. For the record, kira’s friend died some years prior.

I another case of the B-story being more of a hindrance than a complement, Sisko says the wrong thig to Cassidy when she decides to take a job on Bajor and live on the station. So he winds up in the doghouse until he apologizes. Run of the mill sitcoms require more substance than that.

Regardless of the anemic Sisko subplot, “Indiscretion” is a great episode. Dukat is at his best during the middle seasons when he is in transition from a mustache twirling villain to a more morally ambiguous character before becoming the megalomaniac he will end up as. I like the lament he has at never connecting with Kira, as either friends or lovers. It is one of those cruel twists of fate they can never see eye to eye. The tension between the two is highly amusing.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Hippocratic Oath"

Oh, mercy. Lisa Klink wrote this episode. The screenwriter and five time Jeopardy! champion will not do her worst damage until joining the writing staff of VOY, but her trademark illogic and plot holes are evident even here.

I cannot start a review of “Hippocratic Oath” without addressing the opening sequence between Bashir and O’Brien. It is the famous bit wherein O’Brien explains Keiko is upset because he set up a workshop in the bedroom. She thinks he is yearnig for his bachelor days. Bashir tells him the move actually means he wants to be closer to her. That is exactly what O’Brien intended. He laments that Keiko does not think more like that. Like a man, that is. the sequence is played for laughs, but it got the gay slash fans in a tizzy.

But thankfully, that is not the bulk of the episode’s plot. Bashir and O’Brien’s runabout is brought down on what is supposed to be an uninhabited world. Instead there is a platoon of Jem Ha’Dar are hiding out. Their commander, Goran’Agar, was once marooned there for 35 days, during which time he discovered he was not addicted to tetracil white. He developed a sense of freedom and wants to share that with his men, but their stay on the planet has not cured the of their addiction. Goran’Agar demands Bashir research the planet to find a way to cure them all.

Bashir agrees to do so over O’Brien’s objection. Bashir feels the Hippocratic Oath requires him to help ree the Jem Ha’Dar from their addiction while O’Brien, an old warhorse, appreciates that the Founders keep them on a short leash with their drug addiction. Therein lies the typical Lisa Klink scripted moral dilemma--she can never make both sides of an argument plausible.

Goran’Agar is free of his addiction for no apparent reason. As the episode goes on, Bashir eliminates every sigle possibility regarding the environment food, and water. The only thing he can conclude is that Goran’Agar must be a mutant. If that is true, then there is no way Bashir can find a cure for the teracil white addiction given the limited resources he has on hand. Bear I mind he has already tried to find a cure I “The Abandoned” and failed. There is no way he can duplicate a beneficial genetic mutation 999% of mutations are harmful anyway) so what is the value in his determiation to find acure, especially when he has a three day deadline before they all day from tetracil white withdrawal?

It isan emotional response from Bashir. Goran’Agar expresses a desre tobe more than asoldier bred to die. He questions the godlike status of the Fouders, none of whom he has actually met. Ut here is the problem with that--how does not being addicted to tetracil white cause him to develop free will/ As Bashir discovers, his own body is producing enough of the drug naturally that he does not need regular injections. Si it is not the drug that makes Jem Ha’dar unquestionably loyal and born to fight. It is just a control mechanism. So Goran’Agar’s genetic mutation cannot be that he has broken the drug addiction ,but that he does not want to be soldier anymore.

In simplest terms, if he is still getting the drug naturally, then it is not the drug that makes Jem Ha’Dar perfect killing machines. Even if Bashir cured them all, their homicidal nature would still exist. Which is O’Brien’s argument all along. What leg debater have to stand on? If he succeeds, the Jem Ha’dar go marauding al over the galaxy like Vikings, killing everyone they meet because that is what they do. As proof, none of the other Jem Ha’Dar appear interested in altering their behavior beyond no longer having to follow the Founders’ rules.

See how Klink does not really think her moral arguments through? Wait util yo see some of the stuff she tries to pull off on VOY.

O’Brien finally disobeys orders and destroys Bashir’s makeshift workstation in order to get him to leave rather than continue looking for a way to make the Jem Ha’Dar even more dangerous and unpredictable. Bashir is angry O’Brien has condemned to Jem Ha’Dar to death. They decide to set a date to play darts anyway.

In the B-story, worf has a tough time accepting the way Odo provides security. He learns DS9 is not like federation starship. The story feels like it is thrown in because the episode run short.

Truth be told, it feels like “Hippocratic Oath” is thrown in just to have a Dominion related episode to remind us they are still a threat. It is not a terrible episode, per se, but it does not stand up to much scrutiny. Word is, the original script written by Klink had Bashir and O’Brien taking different sides in an alien conflict. Bashir sided with natives, o’Brien sided with the outsiders. Sounds Avatar-ish. Thescript was rewritten because Bashir’s motivation was not compelling. Apparently, it was not rewritten well enough, because his motivations still are not convincing.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Visitor"

“The Visitor” is DS9’s shot at recreating the feel of TNG’s “The Inner Light.” They came darn close, too. It is one of the best episodes thus far and the best as far as personal stories go in the series. Fans and critics may like it, but “The Visitor” fell short I the awards department. It was nominated for a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, but lost to Babylon 5’s “The Coming of Shadows.” If memory serves, that was a worthy installment of B5. To add insult to injury, ’The Visitor” was also nominated for a Best Make Up in a Series Emmy, but lost to--brace yourselves--VOY‘s ”Threshold,” likely the worst episode in Trek history.

But what ’The Visitor” lacks in awards, it makes up for in heart.

The episode begins I the far future. Elderly Jake is living as a recluse at the Sisko family home in New Orleans. He receives a visitor one rainy night. It is Melanie, his biggest fan and an aspiring writer herself. Melanie is played splendidly by Rachel Robinson, daughter of Andrew “Garek” Robinson. She inherited her father’s acting genes. We would certainly have seen more of her over the years I she had not been more interested I music. She asks Jake why he stopped writing, so he tells her the story of his father’s death.

Sisko takes the Defiant, with Jake along, into the wormhoe in order to iew a phenomenon that occurs once every fifty years. The phenomenon cause a near warp core breach which Sisko prevents, but I a freak accident is pulled into subspace. Everyone assumes he is dead and take a special interest in helping the distraught Jake cope. Even Quark is a sympathetic soul.

When his father begins appearing to him, thendissapearig again, the crew figures out Sisko is trapped I subspace, but they cannot permantly retrieve him. During all this, hostilities with the Klingons escalate to the point the Federation surrenders the Bajoran sector to the Klingons. Jake goes back to Earth to resume life as best hecan, but he never really does.

He is obsessed with rescuing his father. So much so, he abandons hiswriting career to study physics and loses his wifeaong the way. As a middleaged man, he comes up with a plan and convinces Nog, who is now a captain, to let him use the Defiant to recreate the initial accident. It does not work, but he does get to spend a few moments with his father in subspace.

As a much older man, he learns that his fatheris connected to him from subspace as if with an elastic cord. Sometimes, the cord is pulled taut and Jake can bring his father to our universe for a short time. He realizes that if he cuts the cord the next time his father is pulled ito reality, he will return to the actual point of the accident. When his father visits again, Jake commits suicide to break the link. He wars his father what to do differently this time. It works, so the future is erased for all but Sisko’s memories.

I have always liked “The Visitor,” but it means more now than in the past. There does comeatime when you realize people you loved are really gone. You begin to heal from their loss. But having to lose them oer and over again throughout the decades while they stay the same as the last time you saw them must be especially devastating. Considering how long it takes one to heal from a major loss like that of a parent, I can only image how the pain must last.

“The Visitor” is tough to watch, but I appreciate it highly.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Way of the Warrior"

The fourth season starts with a bang, albeit a meandering one, as the Klingons invade Cardassia under the assumption the Dominion has overthrown the government and wind up withdrawing from the Khitomer Accord signed in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

I call it meandering because it is not made clear what, if any, Dominion involvement there is. All we have to go by is the Changeling’s word to Odo and Garak in “The Die is Cast” the Dominion has plans to get rid of both of them. If it was in the works to destroy the Khitomer Accord at that point, one has to wonder why the Dominion tried to spark of another unrelated war in the third season finale.

It is a good idea not to dwell on that. The emphasis of the episode is not so much to further the Dominion Cold War, but to ingratiate Worf into the DS9 cast. I have log since thought Ds9 did a much better job dealing with Klingons than TNG. It brought them back to the Klingons of TOS and the TOS movies series where they were more like shoguns of Japan rather than the Viking marauders of TNG. But that is not quite going to happen yet. Here, they are still wild animals and Worf is still a sullen, lost soul.

Worf does have an unusual demeanor here. The story takes place a short time after the Enterprise was lost in Star Trek: Generations. He is conflicted between his longing for the days of being part of the crew and feeling that being around humans for so long has softened him. Spending time in a Klingon monastery has awakened his warrior sense, but his plan to resign Starfleet and join a merchant marine is not exactly the most logical step to indulge in war. That was always the problem, though. No one could ever decide what to do with Worf.

Sisko requests he be temporarily assigned to DS9 when a fleet of Klingon ships appears around the station. Martok, the head of the fleet, says they are here to join with the Federation against a Dominion attack. They suspect the Dominion have taken over Cardassia and will attack any minute. Things get out of hand with their presence: Garak is attacked, ships are beig stopped and searched, and tensions are riding high everywhere.

Worf comes along to act as an intermediary. Through aan investigation, he discovers the klingons true purpose--they are going to invade Cardassia. He refuses to join the invasion, so he is stripped of all family honor. His brother loses his seat on the High Council, but that will be dealt with later. Worf becomes a man without a country.

His new status complements various relationships with the DS9 crew. His connection with Odo is obvious. They have both made moral choices forcing them to abandon their people. O’Brien offers a connection to the Enterprise. There is even a hint of the future romance between Dax and him. Well, they cannot all be for the best.

The Federation not only chooses to condemn the invasion of Cardassia, but Sisko leads a mission to rescue Dukhat and the new civilian leadership with whom he has thrown in his lot. Dukhat is more of an opportunist than previously thought. His ambitions will come more into play later as the Dominion Cold War becomes a hot one. The act of rescuing the Cardassian government prompts the Klingon withdrawal from the Khitomer accord.

It also sparks off what I am confident is the most extended, violent action sequence in trek up until that point when the Klingons invade DS9. I am impressed with the choreographed hand-to-had combat even though stuntmen standing in for the main cast is painfully obvious in several scenes, most notably for Odo and a bit in which kira getsa bat-leth to her right kidney area, but keeps on going. She is quite a trooper.

Federation reinforcements, which were too far away shortly before the battle to be of any use, suddenly show up like the cavalry of old. The Klingons are convinced taking over Cardassia is not worth riskig full scale war with the Federation and withdraw, although they refuse to give up the colonies they conquered in the invasion.

Sisko convinces Worf he needs to stop running from the pain of his dishonor the same way he stopped running from his wife’s death. Worf takes his advice and joins the crew.

I understand “The Way of the Warrior” is very popular among fans. It is an excitig episode, no doubt, but I do not put it in the higher tier of DS9 episodes. The whle Federation/Klingon conflict is short but pointless. It served only to delay the Dominion story as far as I am concerned. It effectively shakes things up, but I am not certain it goes in the right direction. But I am one of a few fans who liked the Bajoran/Cardassian political dynamic that ran through the series up until now and will largely fade into the background. It will be a while before I appreciate Worf‘s new role, too.

The episode is not bad, in and of itself, but I cannot help being miffed at many of the changes it brought about.

Rating: *** (out of 5).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Adversary"

“The Adversary” has always been one of my personal favorites. Season finales tend to kick it up a notch anyway, but I appreciate how different from usual Trek the episode is more than just the effort to make something to tide fans over for the summer hiatus. The story is full of desperate paranoia within a claustrophobic environment while a clock ticks away, all with a direct mission--find and kill the monster.

It is good enough I can excuse the peculiar set up. Right after a ceremony to celebrate his promotion to captain, an ambassador orders Sisko to take the Defiant to patrol the border of an alien race the Federation has fought a war with sometime I the recent past. They have allegedly had a coup, so the federation wants to scope out the situation. A Changeling saboteur locks them out of the controls and sends the Defiant on a course to attack an outer colony with the hopes of starting a war. Sisko sets theself-destruct sequence for a time before they reach weapons range. The rest is a catand mouse game of finding the Changeling before it is too late.

Okay. How can an ambassador order a military operation? Surely there is a line between the diplomatic corps and Starfleet. There never was a coup. It turns out to be a Changeling plot. The ambassador wasa Changeling the entire time. But no one decided to look into the latest news about the coup first or check with Starfleet at any point? I imagine they had to question Sisko’s promotion when it was all said and done.

Otherwise, I appreciated the darker tone. Everyone suspects everyone else of being the Changeling after it reverts from the ambassador to being an on the run fugitive. The Eddington is the sinister red herring pays off as we think of him as the most likely suspect. It turns out to be Bashir for the longest time, however. Ironic, considering he will eventually be replaced by a Changeling again in a future plotline. Eddington turns out to eventually be a traitor to the Maquis, so there is your double whammy.

Two lines have important implications later. First, Odo reiterates that no Changeling has ever harmed another shortly before he kills the saboteur in order to save the ship. His people will eventually punish him for the murder. Secondly, Eddigton laments that he will never be captain because security officers rarely get to take command. He is complaining about not getting a chance at glory, which reveals his probable motivation for joining the Maquis--he wants to be a hero.

The episode ends on the ominous note that the Changeling’s last words to Odo was they were everywhere. It is going to take a awhile for that revelation to obviously pay off. The Klingon-Federation skirmishes in the early fourth season will not be revealed as a Changeling plot until the end of the season--retroactively continuity, I suspect, too. But the Changelings on earth storyline that hit’s the middle of the next season is worth the wait.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Facets"

I am tempted to say I am of two minds about “Facets,” but considering the plot, I would hate to make such a pun. On the one hand, it is a Dax episode. Very few of those resonate with me. But this one is quite good for a number of reasons. For one, it is arguably an Odo episode too. Those do resonate. For another--and this is a surprise--the acting is unusually good.

Let us face it--Trek regulars are not always master thespians. You are fortunate if all the actors all sway in the same direction when the ship is supposed hit by enemy fire. Deep Space Nine is unusual in its number of classically trained actors. Avery Brooks is a tenured Drama professor at Rutgers, Rene Auberjonois worked with various respected theater companies before teaching at Julliard, and Armin Shimmerman teaches Shakespeare. Their talent and experience shines quite often.

But I am going to give props to all of the main cast. They each take part in a Trill process in which the current symbiont host’s closest friends temporarily take on the personalities of past hosts. Some of the performances are over the top. Quark has a woman inhabit him. The whole sequence is played for cheap laughs. Inexplicably, Leeta is used to host another of Dax’s former female hosts. I cannot imagine why Dax feels close intimate enough with her for this. But when she is possessed, Leeta does a somersault in a tight outfit, so I quickly figured it out. Overall, it was amusing to see the main cast take on different personalities.

The best was Sisko, who volunteered to take on the homicidal Joran. Brooks played the character in such a menacing, demented whisper, it literally gave me a chill. I remember the first time I saw this episode in 1995, I thought it was an homage to the first meeting between Hannibal lector and Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs. I have since grown passed the idea and appreciate the scene as a unique and very memorable sequence all of its own merit.

Odo is my next favorite. Heagrees to take on Curzon’s personality. Curzon’s characterization is the only real drawback to the episode. I expected him to be a fun, boisterous kind of guy, but still one a man like Sisko or those Klingon blood oath friends of his would speak so highly of. Instead, he came across as a drunken, womanizig con artist with no respect for rules. I do not think he measured up to the way he has been described. I do now understand where Dax gets her annoying cattiness from. I just did not expect it to be from Curzon.

Okay, I will give some kudos to Terry Farrell here, too. Particularly when Curzon is no longer a part of her, she visibly loses an aspect of her Daxcharacter. When he flippant Curzon personality is gone, she is meek, almost a terrified little girl full of self-doubt. That is the drama of the episode. She wants to know why Curzon washed her out of the joining program, then let her back in. she has nagging doubts she is good enough and judging by the way sheacts withot Curzon, I have a few myself.

Turns out, Curzon was infatuated with her. He rejected her out of the program with hopes he could romance her, but felt guilty and let her back in. Now he wants to stay in Odo and give it another shot. This appears to be fine with Odo. He has never experienced the joys of wine, women, and song before. Dax convinces him to return to her anyway. He will live on within her.

I the B-story, Nog passes a preliminary test to taking the Starfleet Academy entrance exam even though quark sabotages his first effort. It fits in better than the previous episode’s side story, but I still wonder why DS9 felt the need to do that sort o thing in virtually every single episode. They do not always complement oneaother. It is not so bad here, but there still were no discernable parallels.

I liked “Facets” overall. Outside of the few oddities I mentioned and the realization severe multiple personality disorder is far more detrimental than beneficial, much less exciting for your friends to participate in, it was a solid installment.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Shakaar"

“Shakaar” is something of a sequel to “Life Support,” the episode in which the dying Bareil negotiated peace with the Cardassians. Winn has taken much of the credit for the treaty and has used her new popularity to become the political leader of Bajor as well as the spiritual leader she already was. Kira is not happy about it. Not only is Winn unfit for either position of power because of her shady past, but Kira feels that Bareil’s memory is being sullied by not getting the posthumous credit he deserves.

Kira barely hides her true feelings when Winn recruits her to convince some members of her old resistance cell turned farmers to give up some farm equipment loaned to them by the government. Before the Cardassians left, they salted the farmland. The planting season is upon them, so the government needs the equipment in order to salvage large portions of the soil. Kira’s cell, lead by Shakaar, were promised the equipment for a year to themselves, so they are refusing to give it up.

Shakaar is willing to compromise if Winn will meet with him. She decides that would show too much weakness for a new leader to do, so she takes a more forceful approach--she sends troops in to arrest him. He fights back, joins up with his old cell with Kira joining I like old times.

When they manage to elude troops for two weeks, Shaar develops a folk hero following. In response, Winn declares martial law in certain provinces. She is finay forced to request Sisko send in Federation security in order to capture Shakaar with the threat she will withdraw Bajor’s petition to join the Federation if he refuses. Sisko refuses anyway.

As Bajor teeters on the edge of civil war, Shakaar and Kira realize that even though they have a platoon of soldiers in a certain ambush, they cannot fire on their own people. Fortunately, Shakaar has won over the respect of much of the military as well as the people for defending his rights. He decides to challenge Winn in called elections in order to remove her from political power.

There is a lot packed into Shakaar. So much, it is hard to swallow it all. Winn is certainly a terrible leader, but she has good itentions. The farm equipment will allow Bajor to produce enough crops it can begin exporting again,much less feeding its people. Whether Shakaar had been promised the equipment for a year or not, he ought to be willing to hand it over for the greater good. He cannot just ask the leader of the entire planet to meet with him and discuss a compromise. I cannot say Shakaar here is in the right even if I am an a Jeffersonian individualist.

Winn does blow it by overreacting, first by sending in the military, then by attempting extortion on Sisko. I can see why Shakaar might become a folk hero under the circumstances. Winn made herself into a classic villain. But I think it is incredibly convenient that shakaar suddenly decides he is willing to assume political power over Bajor and the whole population is willing to give it to him. What we essentially have here is mildly famous ex-freedom fighter in an eminent domain dispute with a popular leader who is trying to acquire property for the good of the entire planet. I understand people can be fickle with their support and like the underdog, but that is all terribly convenient.

I have a couple minor issues, too. After two weeks roughing it in the mountains, everyone I the cell has fantastic hair. The Bajoran soil may be ruined,but their hairspray is fantastic. Kira’s mussed hair after all that time amounts to a spit curl. Secondly, why do Bajoran military officers where bright red uniforms in the field while the enlisted wear a more camouflaging rown? I never paid much attention to Kira wearing red since she is usually nice and comfy and DS9. Out I the field, it just makes it easier to pick off the top brass.

Okay, those are nitpicking points. I do not want to pile on. The episode is decent overall. Perhaps a bit too ambitious. Within the span of a commercial break, we go from the cell escaping to martial law being declared because the people are ready to fight with Shakaar. After another commercial break, Shakaar is i line to be the ew leader. Chalk it up to passions running unusually high and enjoy the show.

I have to wonder if the episode would have been better off foregoing to B-story with O’Brien enjoying a winning streak at darts until he tears his rotator cuff. The time could have been better spent developing the main story. Things might not have felt so rushed.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Family Business"

Deep Space Nine likes to push its luck every now and then by airing two slice of life episodes back to back. It works here, probably because quark is such an amusing character. The contrast with the human father/son and friend relationships in “Explorers” complements the Ferengi family dynamics in “Family Business.”

Quark’s bar is shut down by the Ferengi Commerce Authority when it is discovered his mother has been earning profit on the sly. Ferengi law forbids women from conducting business, speaking to males, or even wearing clothing. As head of the household, quark is responsible for his feminist mother’s actions. Poor guy is about as much of an Archie Bunker traditionalist as he can get, so his mother’s liberation ideology has always irked him. Now it is going to cost him everything.

The situation brings up many old family ghosts. Quark always thought his mother ruined his father’s business ventures by being so stubborn. In reality, he just did not have the juice to be in business. Quark could never admit that to himself, but once he does, he realizes he is his mother’s son, not his father’s. After reconciliation, his mother agrees to confess to the FCA--and hand over her prfit--or a third of it, at any rate. Shhh! Do not tell anyone where the other two-thirds is.

In the -story, Sisko finally meets Kassidy Yates after Jake’s urging. They meet for coffee and bond over baseball. Baseball played with wooden bats and no designate hitter rule the way God intended. The game they listen to is being played o Castus III, the same planet the Gornn attacked in TOS’ “Arena.” At some point the Federation ad the Gorn Hegemony settled their territorial dispute, hopefully without the use of a makeshift, bamboo cannon.

As a individualist who nevertheless appreciates the separation of gender roles, I am an enthusiast of both Quark and his mother, contradictory though that may be. I can appreciate Quark upholding tradition, but I like the idea his mother hid most of her money after her confession ad will presumably keep earning profit on the sly. She gave up her feminist crusade in the name of family. You have to appreciate that.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Explorers"

As is usually the case with DS9, the show features a smaller, more personal episode after an intense story arc in order to defuse tension. I am often wary of them. Deep Space Nine has a great track record for character driven stories when said characters are driven up a tree and then have rocks thrown at them, but not so much when the story is a slice of life. Fortunately, “Explorers” is one of the better ones. The episode features the bonding of two relationships: Sisko/Jake and O’Brien/Bashir.

I noted when I started reviewing DS9 that oe of its virtues was the show featured healthy family relationships. Looking back over previous Trek, that is a rare occurrence, particularly concerning father/son relationships. Outside of Sisko and Jake, I am hard pressed to name one. I am not even big on the Worf and Alexander dynamic, as you may recall from the TNG reviews. But Sisko and his son is near perfect.

When Sisko decides to attempt to prove an ancient Bajoran solar powered ship could have made it to Cardassian space log before warp drive was invented, Jake is cajoled into coming along. The trip, despitea setback or two, turns out to be a much better father/son outing than the planetary survey undertaken in “The Jem Ha’Dar.” Jake reveals that he has gotten into a prestigious school back on earth, but will defer for a year because hedoes not want to leave his widowed father aloe. He also hints at wanting to play matchmaker between Sisko and freighter captain Cassidy Yates to fil the void once he does leave.

No hint od teenage rebellion or jealousy over another woman in a possible relationship with his father. How refreshing is that?

On the flip side, we have O’Brien and Bashir. O’Brien tells Bashir at one point there is no middle of the road with him. You either love the doctor or you hate him. He is pretty much expressing the general fan sentient. The two share a bottle of alcohol and a drunken sing-a-long because Bashir is confused over the mixed signals of the latest frivolous female conquest he is pursuing. So what you have is Bashir the shallow skirt chaser deepening his bond with O’Brien. It is difficult to decide if you love or hate him at the same time..

There are no extremes for me with “Explorers.” It is in the good, but not great category. I do not dislike it, but it is not my cup of tea. I do breathe a sigh of relief it is a notch or three above similar episodes in the series, so I give it some kudos for that.

Also for tossing in Dukat. He is a bit wasted here, serving only as a greeter to Sisko’s ship when it arrives in Cardassian space, but it does add to the complexity of the character. Dukat is one of the best villains in Trek because he can credibly go fro uneasy ally to psychopathic villain with each appearance. He is much like Michael Emerson’s Ben Linus from Lost in that regard. Emerson won an Emmy for his role. Too bad Marc Alaimo never got the recognition he deserved.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Die is Cast"

“The Die is Cast,” assuming I continue reviewing Trek all the way through ENT, is the midway point between TOS’ “The Cage” and ENT’s “These Are the Voyages…” that is the least of this episode’s milestones. It marks a turning point in a couple other ways. I also consider it the best of the third season. The season finale nips at its heels, but does not possess the edge.

One of those two milestones is Ira Steven Behr’s new position as executive producer. Behr was promoted with the instructions to shake things up because the powers that be were not thrilled with the alleged limited scope of the series thus far. As a result, Behr will eventually add Worf to the cast and have the peace treaty between the Federation and the Klingons unravel. The move will cut some of the tension of the rising Dominion threat, save for a few episodes, I the fourth season. But Behr will successfully lobby togo back on track for the fifth season. The Dominion War, which the powers that be wanted to last a couple episodes like the Klingon Civil War in TNG, will instead become the overarching story for DS9 for the remainder of the series because of him. So hats off to Behr.

The other of those two milestones is updated technology will allow for more elaborate space battles. I confess I am not one of those who thinks tons of explosions enhances a television show or movie. In fact, I am turned off by the George Lucas notion that ten thousand lasers have to be flying in every direction in order to make a scene tense. Actually, that sort of thing is overwhelming instead. But because of low budgets and technological limitations, even battles on TNG were spoken of, but rarely seen. A sense of epic that ought to be there is lost. With few exceptions, DS9 hit a satisfying middle ground starting with the battle in this episode between the Obsidian Order/Tal Shiar fleet ad the Jem Ha’dar. It was the largest battle filmed for Trek up util this point.

In spite of that--and I am not dismissing it at all--”The Die is Cast” is still made by the interaction between Odo and Garak.

Garak is happy to finally be back in his element, but his contentment is short lived when Tain announces he will probably have to kill his housekeeper when he returns. She knows too much. Garak is quite fod of her and tries to convince Tain to reconsider. Tain senses Garak’s wavering, so he assigns him a test--interrogate Odo in order to find out if the Founders have any secret defenses on their homeworld.

Odo told the Federation everything he knew and they shared the intelligence with the Romulans. Tain knows odo cannot tell the anything more, but he needs to see how deep Garak’s loyalty to him goes.

The torture scene is short, subtle, but horrifyingly gruesome in its simplicity. Garak uses a device to prevent Odo from shape shifting. He is stuck in his humanoid form for far longer than he should. His body deteriorates into a husk that reminds me of the Sloth victim from Se7en. Garak begs Odo to tell him something--anything--so he can stop. Odo expresses his desire to be a part of his people. Grak releases Odo from the device’s control and buries his face in his hands. He does not have the stomach for this sort of thing any longer.

Tain is satisfied regardless. Garak proved he has not gone soft as far as he is concerned. The fleet attacks the Founders’ home world, but learn too late it is really an ambush. A massive Jem Ha’Dar armada wipes them out in an impressive battle for television. Garak decides to escape and rescues Odo The Romulan commander is actually a Changeling in disguise. He facilitates their safe departure because no Changeling has ever harmed another.

No one told that to the Jem Ha’Dar, as they fire on the runabout and are about to destroy it when the Defiat comes like the cavalry to the rescue.

I have not talked about the Defiant aspects of the episode because the federation takes such a backseat to everything else going on. Sisko wants to go into the Gamma Quadrant to rescue Odo. An admiral orders him to stay put because Starfleet wants to take a wait and see approach to the attack on the Founders’ home world. This ain’t Roddenberry’s Federation. I the plan works, the founders are killed and the Jem Ha’Dar will soon die off without their supply of tetracil white. That is double genocide which Starfleet quietly hopes is successful.

Sisko defies orders out of a sense of personal loyalty to someone serving under him, as he is wont to do, and takes off with the main crew who have volunteered in spite of the court martial risk. Midway through the trip, the cloaking device is sabotaged by Eddington, who claims he is acting under orders from the admiral to keep Sisko out of the way.

This is Eddington’s second major appearance and the first one to cast develop the red herring plot he is a Changeling in disguise. There is never any indication Eddington was truly acting under orders from Starfleet. The idea he is a traitor will be played up more in the season finale. Eventually, we will find out he is a traitor, but to the Maquis instead.

The whole court martial thing is irrelevant since none of them get into trouble. Even though the plan failed and the Dominion certainly now know the Alpha Quadrant powers area threat, Starfleet appears happy a devastating blow has bee dealth to the Cardassians and Romulans. Go figure.

But back to the main point of the interaction between Garak and Odo, Garak begs Odo’s forgiveness for torturing him. Odo agrees, not because he condones the action, but because he understands the overwhelming desire to go home--even if home is not idyllic. When Garak omits the confession Odo would like to rejoin his people in his report, Odo takes it as a personal favor. The two decide to strengthen their friendship ties. They are, oddly enough, kindred spirits.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Improbable Cause"

Odo and Garak area natural duo. Odo, with his deep sense of justice, would naturally be suspicious of Garek, the dishonest, amoral former spy who always knows more about the shady goings on than he ever lets on. They would certainly have a distaste for one another in stark contrast to the love/hate relationship Odo shares with quark. It is interesting it has taken until the cusp of the fourth season to deal with it.

Perhaps that is evidence of Odo’s internal conflict. He has always had a certain appreciation for the way Cardassians maintain order. The attitude was part of his mystery earlyt on--you know, the idea he might be a more sinister character than he turned out to be. Yet Cardassian methods do often conflict with his personal moral code. He never exposed Kira as a member of the resistance, even when he had the chance. I suppose with Garak’s fuzzy status--is he a traitor to Cardassia or a spy?--it was best for odo to stay out of it for fear of having to take a stand I the matter. Odo is more an observer of humanoid folly than an active player. In some ways, he relishes his roleas an outsider.

Garak does as well. That is why the two make such cool, yet reluctant partners starting with ’Improbable Cause.” they are so much in tune with each other, Garak knows exactly which buttons to push in order to keep the constable’s interest while odo figures out his game once the first solid clue surfaces.

Someone tries to assassinate Garak by blowing up his tailor shop. Odo investigates, but garak’s obtuse nature makes it mearly impossible. Nevertheless, Odo tracks down a Flaxian suspect who is killed by the Romulans before he can be arrested. Romulan involvement leads Odo to make contact with an asset I the Cardassian government who tells him five other former Obsidian Order operatives died under “natural’ causes the previous day. He is not certain why the Romulans would be behind such a thing, but cloaked Warbirds have been massing in a remote part of the Cardassian Union.

Odo confronts Garak with the list of names and the realization he blewup his own shop. The Flaxian intended to poison him instead. Garak is more concerned that the dead Cardassians wereall part of a small group operating directly under spymaster tain yearsago and he may be next.

Garak undertakes a mission to rescue Tain on which Odo insists upon going along. Odo suspects Tain is Garak’s mentor. Thus brings about the only drawbac to the episode. Why not go ahead and reveal that Tain is Garak’s father? This would have been the perfect story, but it gets dragged out for another two seasons to the point the reveal becomes anticlimactic. The reveal would have made Garak’s attitude--Tain is the only thing Garak ever appears to care about--have more impact ow.

As it stands, I did like that Garak turned Odo’s inquisition back unto himself by questioning how Odo would know anything about love or loyalty since he does not care about anyone else, either. I suspect, Garak being as observant as he is, knows Odo has feelings for Kira. That is probably why she is the first suspect he named to Odo when speculating who might want to kill him.

The two are captured and brought aboard a Romulan Warbird that is serving as the flagship of a joint Tal Shiar/ Obsidian mission to eliminate the Founders. Tain represents the order. He had his former operatives murdered in order to wipe the slate clean for his return to power. He offers Garak the chance to join him in the operation since he had come hopig to save Tain in the first place. Garak accepts, een though the man just tried to have him killed…

Oso and Garak are two of y favorite characters. They play well off each other here. Frankly, it is also about time we got to some action as far as the Dominion is concerned. I think it is inspired the Federation is not even in the picture. Letting others, even the traditional villains, come to the forefront of the action is the most inspired part of DS9.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Through the Looking Glass"

I have to suffer through the annual DS9 mirror universe episode. Ugh.

“Through the Looking Glass’ has the same problems as the previous installments and the future editions, for that matter. The novelty of these stories is seeing familiar characters in different world. Once the newness has worn off the concept, there is not much left beyond placing said characters in situations for shock value, often stretching credulity in the process. This time around, we get Rom hanged, a guest appearance by Tuvok from VOY, and Sisko having sex. Twice.

Someone else may find that sort of stuff thrilling, but I cannot get past how meaningless it all is. The characters from the real universe are going to go back home once their adventure is over and none of what happened in the mirror universe is going to matter in the grand scheme of things to them or us.

With that I mind, there is no heart to the story of our Sisko trying to convince mirror Jennifer to join the human resistance or he will have to watch her die again. We have already seen Sisko dealing with the pain of losing his wife and coming to terms with it for real. Why add a less meaningful alternate universe story to the mix? It cheapens what has gone on in the real universe. It is not like Sisko can get Jennifer back by saving her here. What is the point?

All right. Sisko has a strong sese of justice, so he wats the Terrans to be free. I will give the episode an extra star for character consistency I that regard. But otherwise, these episodes are an awkward roadblock to the growing ension of the Dominion threat. Odder still, they are ow showing an escalating war themselves. Why do that when you are building up to a big, consequential conflict in the real universe? It is distracting and anticlimactic unles, like me, you are in denial these mirror universe episodes exist.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Distant Voices"

“Distant Voices” won one of its handful of Emmy awards for the aging make up job done for Bashir as he deteriorates throughout the episode. Trek has done that sort of process a number of times, but this is the only win for it. On an odd note, about two-thirds of the way through, Alexander Siddig is the spitting image of John McCain. Poor guy.

Joe Menosky, who I have talked about numerous times before as having a hit and miss record of high concept stories, wrote “Distant Voices.” I am not certain how psychologists view the notion of a person associating personality traits with people he knows or saving himself from a deep coma, but as a literary buff, I associated the concept more, in execution, at any rate, with Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Mask of the Red Death.” Whichever way you go, it was an interesting episode. I say that as one who still is not sold on Bashir as a likable character.

Days shy of his thirtieth birthday, Bashir is approached by Quark and a “business” associate named Altovar looking to buy some illegal biomedical materials. Bashir refuses, but finds Altovar later in his lab rummaging for supplies. In the ensuing struggle, Altovar uses a psychic attack on Bashir.

Bashir awakens to find the station damaged and abandoned, save for his closest friends, and himself rapidly aging. Each of his friends has a heightened personality trait that Bashir eventually surmises are his own. He pieces together after a brain scan that he is in a coma, his friends represent aspects of himself, and he must get the station back on line in order to save his own mind.

Each of his friends is picked off by Altovar, one by one. As each goes, so does the aspect of Bashir’s personality represented. Here is where I was reminded of “The Mask of the Red Death,” where each room of Prospero’s castle represented a time period in his life. “Distant Voices” isa heavily rewritten script with the underlying element of Bashir fearing the one set of old age. I suspect there was originally an even deeper homage to Poe’s famous short story.

Bashir eventually saves himself when he realizes he is trapped within his own mind. He can do whatever he wants here. Altovar’s attack is repelled and Bashir recovers.

What is interesting here, in addition to the fascinating and well executed story, is howwell “Distat Voices” serves as retroactive continuity. It has not even been conceived of that Bashir is hiding genetic engineering, but it fits in with the eventual revelation. Bashir once wanted to be a tennis player, but quit for medical school. The excuse presented here is that his parents would not approve. Their motivation is that his enhancement would likely be discovered. Bashir also reveals he purposefully missed an obvious exam question in order to avoid being valedictorian in medical school. He likely did so, not because he could not handle the pressure, but as a further way of covering up his secret.

It al fits in much better than a lot of comics I have seen attempt to pull it off over the years.

I liked “Distant Voices” in spite of my usual ambivalence for Bashir. Menosky sometimes goes too far in his weirdness, but this time out, he hit it right on the mark. The episode has the added advantage of being similar to a number of Brannon Braga episodes like TNG’s “Frame of Mind” and VOY’s “Projections.” Menosky is miles above Braga anyway, but when there areso many similar, mediocre episode to compare with, “Distant Voices” stands out even more.

Rating: *** (out of 5)