Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Tears of the Prophets"

Now, the moment we have all been waiting for…

The six season finale begins with Sisko being appointed by Starfleet to lead an invasion of Cardassia in order to destroy the Dominion shipyards and Jem’Hadar breeding factories. The plan runs into two complications. One, the Romulans are not keen on the idea because of the massive casualties expected for such a campaign ad two, the prophets warn Sisko he is not to go.

The first problem is wrapped up so easily, I assume the episode was running short, so they just threw it in to demonstrate the strained alliance the allies are working under. The second is ’resolved’ when Ross demands Sisko either serve as Emissary or captain. He fatefully chooses captain and commits to leading forces to attack the Cardassian Chimtaka system.

Meanwhile, Dukat returns to Cardassia as a religious nut who believes he can win the war for the Dominion by attacking the prophets themselves. In his effort, he becomes possessed by a Pah’Wraith. His plan is to destroy the Orb of the Prophets on DS9.

Prior to leaving for the invasion of Chimtaka, Worf and Dax decide they want to start a family. Declaring such a thing before a battle is the cinematic equivalent of showing your girlfriend’s picture to your army buddy before going into battle. You are definitely going to die in the next reel.

Just to make sure that happens, Dax is placed I command of DS9 instead of kira, who is taking part in the invasion even though she is not Starfleet and DS9 is technically Bajoran. You see, they all want Dax tobite the big one.

She happens to be offering a prayer to the Prophets at the Orb when Dukat attacks. She is mortally wounded. Dukat manages to make the wormhole disappear y destroying the orb ad angering the prophets.

The Orb’s destruction occurs in the middle of the Chimtaka invasion. Sisko is incapacitated because he has been cut off from the Prophets. Kira takes over and successfully destroys the system’s new defenses, but the real damage has been done.

The symbiotnt survives, but Jadzia dies. Bajor is in a panic over losing contact with the prophets. Sisko blames himself for both incidents. He failed Dax as a Starfleet officer. He failed Bajor as the Emissary. He decides he needs time to sort thigs out, so he leaves his command post and heads home to New Orleans. The cliffhanger harkens back to the fifth season version where he left his baseball as a message to Dukat that even though he had lot DS9, he would be back. This time, he took it with him.

It is an exciting episode that lays the groundwork for the alliance going on the offensive in the seventh and final season. It also sets up the final confrontation with Sisko and Dukat. Dukat had considered his vendetta with Sisko personal since he blamed him for his daughter’s death, but now he has offended Sisko both in his role as a Starfleet officer by murdering Dax and as the Emissary by destroying the wormhole. The gautlet has been thrown.

But let us not forget the best part--Jadzia is kaput. Good luck on Becker until you get fired for being a terrible actress, Ms. Ferrell. Rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Sound of Her Voice"

If you have not yet been beaten over the head yet with the foreshadowing one of the crew is going to die in the season finale, this episode should more than compensate.

The bone weary crew of the Defiant, who have been on convoy duty for days, receive a distress signal from a Lisa Cusak, a Starfleet captain who is the lone survivor of a deep space mission. Her ship hit some sort of energy whatsis and was destroyed. She got to an escape pod, but is now stranded alone on a hostile planet. Since the Defiant is the only ship close enough to make the six day journey, they have to take the mission to rescue her.

Along the way, he command staff takes turns taking to her in order to keep her conscious. Conveniently, she is taking injections to prevent the atmosphere from poisoning her, but they keep her awake constantly. She discusses Sisko’s complicated relation with Kasidy, Bashir’s workaholism, ad o’Breien’s pushin away of friends because he ears they might die during the war with the Dominion.

Her advice: Relationships are everything. Drop whatever you aredoing and tell everyone you love and tel them so, because tomorrow may be too late.

Oh, yeah--Dax is sooo dead tomorrow.

The trick is they discover Cusak’s communications were caught in a time warp due to the energy thingamajig that destroyed her sip. She has actually been dead for years, but the communications were being transmitted as though in real time. They give her a funeral with full honorsand Sisko gives aspeechabout how they may be standing there again with one of them missing one day soon.

He means you, Dax.

The B-story involves Quark taking advantage of Odo’s lovebird status with Kira to complete a smuggling job, but both Odo and Kira are up to him and stop it. Nothing but filler made more annoying by the irritating romance between the two. I will never get accustomed to that.

Not bad for a bottle episode, but not as poignant as intended. I will have liked for Cusak’s conversations with the crew to have been more psychoanalytic as opposed to bracing us for the loss of Dax. It is entertaining, but I feel like it could have been far more.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Time's Orphan"

“Time’s Orphan” is potentially a triple whammy: it is a bottle show, an O’Brien Must Suffer episode, and it deals with children. Remember our theory that trek never does children well. Even with those three strikes, it is not a bad episode. Forgettable, but not bad.

The O’Briens visit a planet for a mini-vacation when Molly gets caught in one of those pesky time portals that always seem to be around at inconvenient times. She is sent far ito the past and quickly rescued but not quickly enough. She is returned as a feral 18 year old with no memory of her past beyond a slight recognition of her parents.

They try to rehabilitate her with little success. Molly is homesick. They decide to indulge her by letting her spend time in a holdout recreation. When she has to leave fr the next group of customers to use the holdout, she goes berserk in quark’s bar attackin customers. She is arrested by Odo. Once caged, she exhibits capture anxiety, a real phenomenon some animals suffer when held captive--they literally die from the shock of losing their freedom.

Starfleet decides it is best to institutionalize Molly. Here is more of that wonderful trek idealism at work. A socialized government intervenes within the family unit in order to take a child away. It is a pattern, too. Starfleet wanted to tae Lal from Data because they determined he could not raise her properly. Do the myriads of progressive trek fans see anything wrong with this or is it generally accepted in the worldview the state has the best of intentions at all times and therefore ought not be questioned?

The O’Briens defy Starfleet and send molly back through the portal so she can live in her ’real’ home. She is conveniently sent back at roughly the same time he was as a toddler. She sends her oneself through the ortal and then disappear, never having existed. All is back to normal.

There is a short B-story involving Worf and Dax babysitting Yoshi. Taking care of him has them thinking about the future. I do not recall how soon it was popular knowledge Terry Ferrell was leaving the show, so I am not certain how much the writers were trying to tug viewers’ heartstrings. I guess it was already fairly well known, since “Change of Heart” a few episodes back was supposed to be a fake out in which we were to think Dax might actually die. I suppose the tightening of the screws as we know something is going to happen to her soon is an emotional experience forall three Dax fans out there, but I am not among the trio. I will give it an “A” for effort, though.

The same with the episode as a whole. I do not really care about Molly, so I am not emotionally invested in her fate. Dax’s, either. But I cannot complain about the episode as a whole. There is nothing wrong with it other than my disinterest in the main characters. I do note that DS9 relies heavily on variations of time travel whenever it needs to do a science fiction plot, so in that sense, “Time’s orphan” is not very original. Still, it is a bottle show and the powers that be did what they could with it.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Profit and Lace"

The Grand Nagus is deposed after instituting feminist reforms in the Ferengi Alliance, so quark changes gender in order to prevent Brut from replacing him.

If you enjoy this episode, I probably do not like you as a person.

Rating: * (out of 5)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Valiant"

“Valiant” is DS9’s effort to combine the popular TNG episodes “The First Duty,” which I did not like, and “Lower Decks,” which I did. The result is somewhere in the middle. The story does not resonate with me because at no point does it look like these kids are going to pull off the impossible. I know the episode is going to end in tragedy, so when it does, there is no emotional impact. I am more relieved they got it over with.

Jake and Nog are escaping from a Dominion attack when their runabout is picked up by the Valiat. The Valiant is manned by Red Squad, the group of elite cadets Nog was eager to join back in the fourth season. They have been behind the lines for months now. Nog is still enamored with them, particularly now that they have survived in the war zone this long.

Nog is especially in awe of Walters, the 22 year old cadet who serves as captain. He is a charismatic guy who eventually convinces the rest of the crew and Nog to attack a Dominion warship in the name of glory. Jake tries to appeal to the crew’s common sense--it is a suicide mission--but it is no use. They are all star struck by the idea of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

Needless to say, the Valiat is destroyed with all hands but Jake, Nog, and a loe cadet. The pretty girl makes it this time, unlike in “Lower Decks.” They are rescued from escape pods by the Defiant.

The whole affair sieved of any emotion . There are no surprises. We already know Red Squad is full of impetuous, gung ho cadets who believe they are invincible and above the rules. We know Nog will do anything to be apart of them. We know Jake definitely is not. We also know the Dominion is going to annihilate them. Watching ’Valiant” is like waiting for a time bomb to tick down. It is not exciting, just tragic.

Maybe if I cared more about the characters, even Jake and og, but I just d not.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Reckoning"

It is no secret one of the main reasons I like DS9 over the other Trek offerings is because it is willing to take radically different turns. Most of trek has a vampire to garlic relationship with any concept of religion. But in Ds9, the conflict between secular and religious interpretation is done without judging either side. It is a refreshing change for television in general.

With so much of Trek pursuing an anti-religion bent, it is not a surprise many fans prefer it that way. The DS9 episode dealing with the Baoran religion and Sisko’s status as a religious icon are not generally popular. I suspect that is why “The Reckoning” takes a more horror movie turn in dealing with the subject by dealing with a doomsday prophecy predicting a ’final” duel between good and evil.

I would not dismiss such a conflict out of hand. The final conflict between Jack and DarkLocke on Lost, for instance, made sense because the division between Jack’s skepticism and Locke’s faith had not only been at odds from nearly the beginning, but a dramatic twist in jack’s philosophy made the final battle more interesting. I can appreciate that. Turning the good v. evil conflict in DS9 into the climax of a Warlock film is something of which I am not fond.

When an archeological expedition finds an ancient tablet which refers to the Emissary, Sisko takes possession of it for further translation. This sets off diplomatic tensions and Winn arrives on DS9 in order to have the tablet sent back. Sisko drags his feet because a vision from the Prophets has convinced him they are ready to call in the favor he owes them for destroying the Dominion fleet in ’Sacrifice of Angels.” The favor appears ominous, as the tablet translation foretells something called The Reckoning. It isan event which will destroy the Gateway to the Prophets--DS9.

The tablet sets up a confrontation between a prophet possessing Kira and a Pah‘Wraith --think demon--possessing Jake. The two square off, but the battle ends with the Pah‘Wraith destroyed by Winn with some back up plan to flood DS9 with radiation. It is a plan that had been suggested by Dax, who insists on considering the Prophets as aliens, but nixed by Sisko, who maintains the integrity of the religious belief.

Winn is motivated by jealousy for Sisko’s connection with the Prophets. Mark this as the beginning of the dark path she is goin to take during the final season when she becomes less interested in the political aspects of her job and instead is consumed with the idea of real, spiritual power.

I find Winn too annoyin to bean enjoyable villain. She lacks the charm of Dukat or the interesting inner conflict of Damar. She is a lot like Weyoun, with a thin veiled contempt being passed off as graciousness, but I still prefer him over her. Nevertheless, I appreciate the effort to turn her into a major villain by having her side, regardless of her rationale, with the skeptics rather than the religious.

I also appreciated the Abraham and Isaac allegory of Sisko’s willingness to sacrifice hisson if need be in order to destroy the Pah’Wraith. It was not doneas ham fisted as one might have suspected. Indeed, without some familiarity with Christian theology, one might have missed the allegory entirely. Many do not see the parallels between the sacrifices Abraham/Isaac in the Old Testament and God/Jesus in the New. Just sayin’.

Those elements are enough to earn “The Reckoning” a decent rating in spite of some silly horror film elements in the final battle between Kira and Jake. Why ayone thought that was necessary was beyond me, but the melodrama seems terribly out of place for DS9. Leave it to Julian Sands and a load of folks from central casting next time.

I cannot ed the review without noting the romantic relationship between Odo and kira is every bit as bad as hinted at in “His Way.” Literally, it is:

“I et I love you more than you love me!”

“No way! I ove you more than you could possibly love me!”

“I love you acazillion times more!”

‘I love you a gazillion and one!”

You can tell how pained the actors are at having to play out the romance they both think is a bad idea.

I do like how Odo rbs some salt in Worf’s wounds about compromising his mission by saving Dax in “Change of Heart” by saying he loves Kira enough to honor her wish to be used as a vessel for the Prophets even though it may cost her life. Then Sisko is willing to sacrifice his son to kill the Pah’Wraith. Trek just cannot resist doging worf for his decisions.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"His Way"

Is that not the most awkward smooch you have ever seen? It is easy to tell the actors did not like the idea of Odo and Kira hooking up. Neither do I. I have always found the dynamic of Odo’s distant longing for Kira, whom he cannot have, and Kira being way too broken a soul for a happy romance with anyone more compelling. Alas, this is television. The boy always gets the girl eventually.

The wet plop of a public kiss above would be bad enough, but “His Way” introduces the abomination know as Vic Fontaine, lounge lizard extraordinaire.

Before I get mean here, I have absolutely nothing against actor/singer James Darren, who plays Vic. While I am not big into the whole Rat Pack style of music, I recognize Darren’s talent for it. He is not a bad actor, either. So I do not hold any blame for Darren for my animosity for his character. I just think it is a bad idea to have a recurring louge singer character on the show, particularly one who is self aware enough to manipulate the characters.

Manipulate he does. “His Way” refers to how he convinces Odo and kira to fall for each other. At first, he offers tips to Odo on how to woo Kira. Later, he coninces odo to have dinner with what he thinks is a hologram of Kira, but is actually thereal deal. Implausibly, the great, intuitive detective never catches on. But he is charming enough to effectively win ira over.

Odo is angry when he discovers he has been tricked, but his angers subsides and eventually decides to finally plant one on Kira. After getting all up I her face like an airbag, he does eventually let her come up for oxygen. She reciprocates his affection. Thus ends one of the best dynamics of DS9 and turns it into a romance that stretches credibility to the breaking point.

All we needed was for Odo to nudge a meatball over to Kira with his nose for this to turn into a lonely fourteen year old virgin’s notion of what relationships are all about.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"In the Pale Moonlight"

“In the Pale Moonlight” is my favorite episode of DS9. Depending on what day you ask, it will often top TOS’ “City on the Edge of Forever” as my all time trek episode period.

The two episodes feature the same theme; the main character has to commit an immoral act, sacrificing of themselves, for the greater good. In “City o the Edge of Forever,” Kirk has to allow Edith Keeler’s otherwise preventable death in order to ensure United States entry into World War II. Otherwise, all he knows I the future will be lost. For ’In the Pale Moonlight,” Sisko needs to brig the Romylans into the war with the Dominion or al he holds dear will be destroyed.

Kirk’s immoral act of allowing Keeler to be struck by a hit and run driver leads to World War II and 65 million deaths. Necessary deaths as far as history is concerned, but deaths he is inadvertently responsible for. There is no way to know how may deaths Sisko’s actions will cause, but he, like Kirk, has convinced himself their actions are necessary evils.

The moral conflict of “In the Pale Moonlight” is the most divisive among Trek fans. It features a dark morality not often seen in Trek, but is fairly common to DS9. It is episodes like this that cause fans to either elevate DS9 as the best of Trek as I do or curse it for perverting Gene Roddenberry’s vision of enlightened future mankind having built a utopia without personal conflicts.

I have never bought into Roddenerry’s idealism. Man is too flawed because of his sinful nature. So you know where I am coming from when I praise the episode for portraying Sisko’s shady actions honestly. They are not condoned or condemned directly. Sisko is seen as a man who makes a choice he thinks was necessary and gets caught up in events beyond his control.

The episode begins with Sisko reading posted casualty reports from the frontlines. The war is going badly. There is a palpable sense of dread these people will have ultimately died in vain. When new reports come in that Betazed, deep in the heart of Federation territory, has fallen to the Dominion, Sisko decides bringing the Romulans into the war is the only way the Federation will survive.

The Romulans have been neutral since their failed attack on the Founders’ home world in ’The Die is Cast.” Sisko believes if he can prove the Dominion plans to attack the Romulan Empire, which they most certainly will eventually, he can convince them to join with the Federation and Klingons in battle. Siso goes to Garak, who no loner has tangible proof of the Dominion’s intentions to attack the Romulans, but suggests heand Sisko manufacture proof instead.

Here is where Sisko gets caught up in the storm. As far as he knows, he is just going to have to lie in order to convince the Romulans. But the situation quickly snowballs. He arranges for an expert forger to be released from prison in order to make a fake data rod, then has to cover up a subsequent assault on Quark by the forger through bribery. He also has to acquire a biomedical substance for Garak which cold be used to make biological weapons without knowing what Garak will do with it. Sisko wats to back out at this point, but is too caught up in the plot. He rationalizes sticking with it because of the latest casualty report.

The plan is for Siso ti give the fake data rod to Vrenak, a Romlan senator who is sympathetic to the Dominion. If he can be convinced the Dominion plans to attack, then the Romulans will have no choice but to join the war. However, the data rod does not pass Vrenak’s inspection.

Let us go ahead and get this out of the way:Vrenak’s oer the top response to the forgery is not quite as famous as Adm. Ackbar’s, “It’s a trap!” but it is close.

Afterwards, weget the big reveal. Garak has been playing Sisko all along. He knew the ata rod would not pass inspection, so he planted a bomb on Vrenek’s ship. The data rod would miraculously survive. Any imperfections would be blamed n damage from the explosion. Garak also killed the forger to cover it all up. So with a dead Romulan senator and a data rod showing the plans for an invasion of Romulus, the Romulans are bound to blame the Dominion and declare war.

They do.

Sisko ends the episode with a confession that he is now a liar, cheater, briber, and an accessory to murder, but declares he can live with it because he has probably saved the Alpha Quadrant by his actions.

I think what puts my cynical little heart aflutter is that an alien, whose value system has been soundly trashed by Trek up until this point in comparison to the Federation’s moral superiority, is the catalyst for the Federation’s salvation. The most damning part is Sisko knew that and deliberately lied to himself about what arak would really do in order to accomplish the goal.

We definitely head into uncomfortable territory with “In the Pale Moonlight.” Everyone would like to bean idealist, but will not always let you. Sometimes it comes down to making such nasty choices that go against what we would normally think is right.

To be completely honest, Sisko took it upon himself to initiate an immoral act because he thought the results would be worth it. That is an ends justifies the means argument has to give one pause. I certainly do not advocate that philosophy. But considering the stakes, did Sisko make the right choice, even if it was not the moral one? It is an issue that is left up to the viewer to decide. It isa rare turn in Trek that we are not beat over the head with what trek’s viewpoint considers the only proper course of action.

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

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Inquisition"

“Inquisition” and tomorrow’s episode, “In the Pale Moonlight,” are two episodes which, more than ay other, exemplify the philosophical differences between DS9 and the rest of Trek. The two episodes explore the question that has more or less been ignored up util now--are you willing to sacrifice your principles in order to survive?

One of the reasons DS9 is my favorite of the Trek series is because the answer to that question as far as the series is concerned is, “Yes.” The characters will not admit it, of course, but when faced with the choice, they are willingly to sacrifice their moral codes for the greater good. A further discussion of that will be more relevant in tomorrow’s review.

It is pretty clear that I do not advocate the general idealistic philosophy of Trek. I do not believe utopia can be achieved period, much less with a combination of socialism, pacifism, and secularism. I blame it on man’s sinful nature, but if the thought of Christian theology makes your eyes burn, call it man’s moral flaws which make utopia impossible. Natural man can never been perfect.

But for the sake of argument, let us concede that Gene Roddenberry’s vision is true. Man has achieve perfection by the 24th century and lives in a nice, comfy utopia. There is no possible way it can be anything other than an illusion because such comforts have to be defended by dirty means that most everyone would rather not think about.

It does not have to be anything big, either. Have you ever really conceived of what a life sentence without parole is like? It is completely taking away someone’s life, perhaps deservedly so, but done in yours and my name. My conscience is clear over it and I will bet yours is, too.

But what about shadier things, such as actions in war? We were dragged into a national debate on the morning of September 11, 2001 into how far we will go to protect ourselves. The question still has not been resolved. Our country has overthrown governments, killed individual terrorists around the globe, imprisoned more, arguably tortured some, and inarguably handed others over to countries for definite torture. All this in the name of preserving our way of life.

I am a realist. I think I can only be as moral as someone else allows me to be. Would I lie to save someone’s life? Yes. Would I steal/ Yes. Would I kill? Maybe. I would rather not think about it. Would any of these actions make me less moral for taking them? Considering the consequences that would occur if I did not, I doubt I would necessarily forfeit my claim to moral superiority. Again, it is circumstantial.

Let us pull back and apply the standard to governments. Would the world be better off I the Nazis and Imperial Japan had not been defeated? Of course not. Would the US have been better off leaving the Taliban in power to give aid and comfort to Al Qaeda? No. So war is sometimes the only right choice. Perhaps one thinks fighting such wars sacrifices too many core principles, but I do not want to be wiped off the face of the Earth just so future generations will speak well of me. But in order to survive, a lot of immoral things have to be done.

That is the concept that has been introduced to the Trek universe here with the introduction of Section 31. They area clandestine organization that does anything necessary to neutralize threats to the Federation. In subsequent episodes they will be a party to sacrificing double agents and genocide.

In the expanded novel universe, Section 31 has been part of stealing the Romulan cloaking device in “The Enterprise Incident,” the Khyomir conspiracy, the creation of the Omega particle, Adm. Pressman’s recovery of the Pegasus, and a number of other incidents told only I the novels.

Most are exaggerated for the sake of drama, but not all of it sounds morally unjustifiable to me.

The DS9 characters are going to have to work through their own feelings about the morality of what they are going to be called upon to do in order to win the war against the Dominion. Bashir will specifically grapple with Section 31 because of ‘Inquisition,’ where he is sized up as a potential agent by accusations of being a Dominion spy. Bashir remains an idealist appalled by their actions. But it is arguable he and the Federation would never have survived without them. Much of the Federation’s top people agree.

Interesting times ahead, folks.

“Inquisition” introduces William Sadler as Luther Sloan, the key Section 31 operative. Sadler is one of my favorite character actors. I have enjoyed him in everything from Die Hard 2 To The Shawshank Redemption and the first Tales from the Crypt episode, “The Man Who Was Death.” He is perfectly cast as Sloan--dark, hardened, and cold, yet with asense of moral purpose. It isa great character.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night"

Deep Space Nine continues exploring its frequent and often strange means of time travel in “Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night.” As an added bonus, the story adds a uncomfortable twist to the already odd physical attraction Dukat has for Kira. Kira’s mother, Meru, was Dukat’s mistress during the occupation.

Kira is depressed on what would be her mother’s sixtieth birthday. She never knew her mother, who died in a slave labor camp, but still feels the longing every child has for maternal comfort. She receives a message from dukat informing her that he is nostalgic for her other, too. He was in love with her.

Kira does not want to believe that, so she convinces Sisko to let her use the Orb of Time to go into the past and find out for certain.

What she discovers is that her mother is a collaborator. Dukat offered her special treatment, which she readily accepted. Dukat was motivated by sexual attraction and she was willing to accommodate. Worse yet, she rows to enjoy his company. Seeing her mother act this way sends Kira over the edge. She sets a bomb to kill them both.

But before the bomb lows, she watches her mother listening to a transmission from her father. It becomes clear Kira and the rest of her family are also getting special treatment because she is staying with Dukat. Kira realizes her mother is not a collaborator, so she rescues them both before the bomb goes off.

Kira return to the present confused as ever. She loves her mother in spite of what she has learned about her, but is still appalled to learn she really did fall in love with Dukat.

The episode, unlike much of Trek, leaves it up to the audience to make up its own mind about Meru’s actions. I am at a loss myself. Being a cynical soul, I am confident most anyone would collaborate if the choice was between a life of luxury doing so for you and your family versus living and dying as a slave. Anyone who claims otherwise lacks the ability to look at the scenario realistically. At the same time, it is still traitorous. Doubly so if you come to enjoy it.

I have mixed feelings, but the episode made me work through the issue. Anything that makes you think is good, no? Just try not to think about the whole mother/daughter fetish Dukat obviously has…

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Change of Heart"

“Change of Heart’ is the most ill conceived episode in terms of dealing with Starfleet procedure in all of Trek. The policy of allowing Starfleet personnel to have their families with them while o assignment has been a part of the franchise since TNG. It sounds like a startlingly dumb idea to begin with and the writers new it. The fact wives and children are aboard when the Enterprise was going to ram the Borg Cube in “Best of Both Worlds, Part II” was completely ignored, as a for instance. You just cannot justify bringing family along while exploring dangerous space.

As an extension, you cannot send a husband and wife on an important mission because something like “Change of Heart” boud to happen.

Worf and Dax are assigned a clandestine mission to recover a Cardassian informant from a Dominion held world. When they reach their destination, they are ambushed by Jem’Hadar. They kill the Jem’Hadar, but not before Dax is severely wounded. She cannot go on, but urges Worf to complete the mission. Dax is not likely to survive in his absence. Worf considers completing the mission, but cannot bring himself to abandon his wife. He chooses to help her instead and the Cardassian informant undiscovered and killed.

The emotional connection between spouses was too much to overcome. Therefore, intelligence which may have saved millions of lives was lost. All this is because of Starfleet’s idiotic policy of keeping families together. No real military would have allowed spouses to o on a mission together alone. The worst part is that, after reprimanding worf for his actions, Sisko agrees he would have done the same thing for Jennifer.

At least Sisko reaffirms why “Change of Heart” is such a bad ie a for an episode. Why call attention to such a dumb policy that has certainly caused numerous difficulties in the past?

I am also a bit fuzzy on why the writers would put Dax in mortal danger here when they are going to kill her off for real in a few episodes. Perhaps it is supposed to tug at the heartstrings, but since I do not particularly care for Worf or Dax, the emotional impact is lost on me.

Meh. The whole episode is lost on me.

Rating: * (out of 5)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Honor Among Thieves"

I remembered absolutely nothing about "Honor Among Thieves” before watching it for this review. Now I know why I had forgotten it. There is nothing memorable about it. It is not even a particularly good O’Brien Must Suffer episode because it retreads old story lines as far as the character is concerned.

O’Brien goes undercover in order to discover the Dominion’s associatio with the Orion Syndicate, which is the trek equivalent of the Mafia. He passes himself off as a tech guy to Bilby, a thief/killer/mob guy who is working for the Syndicate. Alon the way, O’Brien befriends Bilby. He has a difficult time fulfilling his mission o destroying Bilby’s plan because of the respect he has for him.

O’Brien blows his cover and tries to convince Bilby not to go through with it, but he knows the Syndicate will go after his family if he does not. Bilby is killed in the process. O’Brien winds up caring for Bilby’s cat, Chester, as per his last request.

It is not a bad episode, but you have seen stories like it on every crime show that has ever aired. The Burn Notice episode I reviewed Thursday night was a variation on the theme. Even the twist that O’Brien befriended the shady Bilby is not new. O’Brien-centric episodes have had him forming friendships with the hunted prey Tosk and the cell mate he eventually "killed” in “Hard Time,” so we have already seen he will make edgy friends.

I do not see the point in this one other than throwing in a mediocre O’Brien episode to meet the character variety quota for the season.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"One Little Ship"

Deep Space Nine has done a number of episodes with plots that seemed more suited for TNG. “One Little Ship” was originally pitched by writer Rene Echevarria for Tng years before, but never sold. Now that he was a staff member on DS9, they went for one. For me, that idea of an anomaly shrinking a runabout to micro size and forcing its crew to repel a enemy invasion at that seems even more suited to TOS.

But does it work? For the most part, yes. I imagine “One Little Ship” is great for anyone who loved Land of the Giants.. It is difficult to count me among those, bt ’One Little Ship” had its moments.

After an anomaly shrinks the runabout Rubicon with Dax, Bashir, and O’Brien aboard, the Jem’Hadar capture the Defiant. The Rubicon, now at its tiny size, is well suited to sneak around, aiding the captured Defiant crew in retaking the ship.

They are helped further along the way by a story element that appears for the first time, hits at playing a role in the Dominion’s eventual defeat, yet is never mentioned again. The dominion have been breeding Jem’Hadar in the Alpha Quadrant which are supposedly better suited for fighting there. But there is tension between the Alphas and the Gammas. It is a class struggle. The Gammas think of themselves as real Jem’Hadar. The Alphas are inferior, suited only to fight aliens for which the Dominion has nothing but xenophobic contempt.

You might think the revelation of tension could lead to an eventual insurrection, but the whole idea of animosity between Alphas and Gammas is dropped altogether after this episode. Perhaps that is because it would have been overkill to have the Alphas rebel, too, considering the actions Damar will take towards the end of the series.

Draw whatever conclusion you see fit over the disappearance of tension. Think about this one: sice the Alphas failed to hold the Defiant here, perhaps they were proven inferior like the Gammas assume and their breeding was stopped. There is an enlightened idea for the utopian Trek universe, no?

“One Little Ship” has some nifty special effects that make it an entertaining episode. I cannot help but feel the lighthearted tone of the Rubicon mission would have been better suited against a less serious enemy than the Jem’Hadar, but with the Dominion War falling to the wayside in recent episodes, I see the logic in using them anyway. So soon after the Dominion were comic fodder in “The Magnificent Ferengi” is strange, though.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Far Beyond the Stars"

“Far Beyond the Stars” is one of those stories you cannot imagine how it ever got made, but are infinitely glad it found a way. It is a masterpiece of creativity. Highly original and loaded with trek idealism, yet has no pretension or preachiness about it. Far more stories should have been done with such heart.

Sisko is given a vision by the prophets of Benny Russell, a black science fiction writer in 1953. He is part of the staff for pulp magazine Incredible Tales, which consists of his crewmates from DS9 as homage to various real science fiction writers of the day. There are subtle hits of Harlan Ellison, Isaac Asimov, and Robert Block which I notice immediately. There are probably others.

Benny is the star writer, but his identity has to remain a secret because of his skin color. Trouble begins for him when he begins writing down visions he sees of a black man named Sisko in charge of a space station in the far future. Obviously, the story cannot be published.

Benny begins losing his mind as he has trouble discerning whether his life as Benny Russell is real or his vision of the future. One thing is for certain--the idea of Sisko’s acceptance as an equal in the future emphasizes the racism Benny has to face in his life, including being mistaken for janitor and being beaten by police who just shot his young friend, Jimmy. (Cirroc Lofton/Jake)

Benny has an emotional breakdown at the end of it all. They can bury history out of racism, but they cannot stop the idea that a black man can eventually make it into space for other reasons than shining a white man’s shoes.

The episode really has to be seen to appreciate it. It is far less pedestrian than this review lets on because Avery Brooks’ heart is solidly behind it. Some people complain that he is a ham actor. I disagree it. It is passion, especially when he believes the message the story is attempting to tell. This is his episode and it shows.

It should be noted “Far Beyond the Stars” features the only time the n-word is ever used in trek. The wod is used by Jimmy to describe the status blacks will always have, no matter what time period. When he says it, you are caught off guard, then become depressed at the cynicism of his attitude. Considering his fate, he obviously has a short, sad life.

“Far Beyond the Stars” stands out among the rest of the series for certain. Its Twilight Zone atmosphere allows you to enjoy the episode even if you have never seen DS9 before. Truly imaginative ad haunting.

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

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Who Mourns for Morn?"

It is rather odd that in the midst of the series major story arc, the writers would do an episode featuring the character we know the least about. Still it is an amusing episode since it turns into a quark adventure very quickly.

Morn dies and eaves everything he owns to Quark. Several criminal associate’s of Morn’s show up to tangle with Quark over a hidden fortune Morn left behind. Quark busts his lobes to recover the money. After he does, he discovers Morn faked his death and enlisted quark to finding the money because he knew the Ferengi would not rest util he did so.

“Who Mourns for Morn?” is a light-hearted, fun episode. It is strange to see another Quark episode so soon after the far superior “The Magnificent Ferengi,” but I cannot complain too much. There is no new ground broken--seriously, how often has Quark gotten involved with shady crooks and come out the good guy?--but there is nothing bad about the episode, either.

A couple points of interest. One, at Morn’s wake, Quark makes a speech that morn’s barstool should never turn cold in his honor and pulls a Bajoran over to sit on it. That Bajoran is played by Mark Allan Shepard, who also plays Morn. Second, Morn makes 92 appearances over seven seasons of DS9, yet never speaks in any episode, including this one.

He dos barf here, though, and that is kind of gross.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Waltz"

I love "Waltz.”

There is no other way to describe how I feel about this episode that would even flirt with honesty other than pure unfiltered, hot monkey lovin’. “Waltz’ is the episode in which the writers finally got the message Dukat is the ultimate villain of DS9. He is not just Sisko’s frequent foil, but his antithesis. Sisko has everything Dukat wants. He finally come to that realization here and vows to destroy it all.

“Waltz’ is very similar, not just in title, but style and theme to the first season’s “Duet.” That episode featured Kira sparring with Marritza, an alleged Cardassian war criminal, over the morality of the Bajoran Occupation. Kira ultimately learns not all Cardassians are hate filled murderers. Some were caught up in circumstances beyond their control.

In “Waltz,” Dukat reveals his honest views about the occupation. He wanted to have to Bajoran’s adulation even as he crushed them under his boot. He believed they wee inferior, so they should have recognized him as their better. Instead, they resisted. Sisko, on the other hand, has inadvertently taken over Dukat’s position. Though he does not rule over Bajor at all, he has their adulation as the Emissary. They will do anything he wants. Therefore, sisko has both the love of Bajorans and the power over them Dukat craves.

He hates Sisko and the Bajoran for it. I the end, Dukat vows to destroy Bajor for their rejection of him. Dukat’s vow sets up the final arc of ths duel between he and Sisko. The interesting part is the two will not meet face to face again until the series finale when they finally settle all matters, even though Dukat’s actions in the interim will cost Sisko dearly. Notably, he will kill Dax and damage his status as the Emissary.

The most intriguing part about “Waltz” is its simplistic, visually unexciting setting. Sisko and Dukat are on their way to a grand jury hearing to decide whether Dukat will stand for war crimes. Their ship is destroyed by the Dominion and they two wind up marooned on a nearby planet waiting for a rescue ship to pick up their homing beacon. The remainder of the episode is a conversation between the two which demonstrates Dukat’s fading grip on what is left of his sanity.

Aside from hallucinations of Weyoun, Kira, and Damar haunting Dukat, it is just the two of them talking about the morality of their respective relationships with the Bajorans. Despite the minimalism, it is fascinating to watch.

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

Monday, June 14, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Magnificent Ferengi"

Ferengi-centric episodes are hit and miss. “The Magnificent Ferengi” is definitely a hit. The episode competes with ’The House of Quark” as my favorite Ferengi themed installment.

There are two points I quibble with. One, as a movie buff, it irks me the title is a play on the classic film The Magnificent Seven, an Americanized version of Seven Samurai. The story has more in common with Ocean’s 11 than either The magnificent Seven or Seven Samurai. Two, Quark decides he and his fellow Ferengi are going to take on Dominion kidnappers themselves rather than hire mercenaries. The decision is necessary to set up the comedy, but terribly hard to believe.

Nevertheless, I enjoy the episode so much, I overlook both problems.

Quark an Rom’s mother, Moogie, is kidnapped by the Dominion as she is returning from surgery on Vulcan. She is still the grand Nagus’ main squeeze, so he offers a big reward for her rescue. Rom wants to hire the biggest, baddest aliens they can find to take the mission, but quark says no. they will recruit fellow Ferengi seen throughout the series thus far for the mission--and cheat them out of the bulk of the reward, of course.

Nog is cajoled into joining in even though he is now a Starfleet officer. He arranges for their training in a holdout, but it goes badly. Quark comes to realize is idea is not going to work, so he comes up with a better plan.

He calls in a favor from Kira, who owes him for the rescue in “Sacrifice of Angels,” to give him Keevan, the Vorta captured in “Rocks an Shoals,” to use in a prisoner exchange.

Unfortunately, the alternate plan goes south when Keevan is accidentally killed shortly before the prisoner exchange is to take place on Terok Nor. Through some morbid ingenuity, the corpse is reanimated and used anyway. It does not completely work, so a firefight breaks out. It is silly, but light years ahead of the Gungans versus the druids in The Phantom Menace. the Ferengi rescue Moogie, kill the Jem’Hadar, and capture Yelgrun, the Vorta played by none other than Iggy Pop.

Yes, that Iggy Pop.

Out of all the relatively frivolous episodes that have occurred right after the opening six episode arc, “The Magnificent Ferengi” is far and away my favorite, even with its flaws. The novelty of Iggy Pop playing the villain does not mean anything to me, by the way. I just the episode based on all aspects but his appearance.

Ratig: **** (out of 5)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Statistical Probabilities"

I have mixed feelings about “Statistical Probabilities.” I think its heart is in the right place, but there are an awful lot of disturbing elements to it.

Starfleet Medical sends a group of failed augments to DS9 so Bashir, a successful productive Augment, can offer some counseling. The Augments have some severe mental and emotional disorders, ranging from advanced bi-polar to near catatonic. Nevertheless, they are incredibly brilliant.

Here are a couple problems. First, hy send them to a medical doctor for counseling? Even f he is a successful Augment, psychiatry is not his thing. What sort of breakthrough can Starfleet be expecting? Second, not only is there a war going on, but DS9 is right on the front lines. The station was occupied territory just a few weeks prior. Is there not a better place and time to try something like this?

You have to overlook the absurdity of both those issues in order to appreciate the plot--Bashir encourages the Augments to analyzes peace treaty negotiation data and eventually classified intelligence in order to chart Federation strategy. That is all well an good at first. The Augments uncover an underhanded demand for territory in which they can create tetracil-white. But eventually, the Augments decide the Federation should surrender in order to preserve 9 billion lives--and Bashir initially goes for it.

Maybe it is because I do not particularly like Bashir, but I felt his flirtation with the idea of surrender was treasonous even if he did accept the Augments are always right in their final conclusions. He soon snaps out of it after Sisko gives him a better to die on your feet than live on your knees speech and Quark explains that even when the oddsareagainst you in gambling, sometimes it is still possible to win.

In this case, the x-factor is Serina, the catatonic Augment who stops the rest of her companions from surrendering on the Federation’s behalf.

Or something like that. Frankly, the resolution does not make it clear whether the point of preventing the Augments from reaching the Dominion was to prevent the actual surrender of the Federation or save them from being killed by the dominion. The former is a ridiculous notion, but the episode seems to take the possibility seriously. The Federation has some peculiar rules about who can negotiate treaties on its behalf, no?

There is a subtle, but still preachy theme running through the episode that Bashir does not believe the Augments ought to be locked up. Perhaps they would not be so odd if they had been accepted in society. It was easy to become sympathetic right up until their extremely irrational decision at the end which screwed it all up. Bashir had spent the entire episode up until that point trying to prove their usefulness, then they blow it. So what is the message/ ignore anyone who wants to mainstream the mentally handicapped because it is a bad idea? That is what it looks like.

A couple geek notes; Damar becomes head of the Cardassian Union after Dukat loses hi mind over Ziyal’s death in “Sacrifice of Angels.” He will start drinking more heavily as his association with the Dominion weighs more heavily on him. Two more of the Augments predictions--the Romulans siding with the Federation and the Cardassian rebellion-- come true, making the moral of the episode even stranger. Finally, Anson Williams directed ’”Statistical Probabilities.” Yes, Potsy from Happy Days. He made a decent career for himself directing television shows ater he left acting.

I do not consider ‘Statistical probabilities’ a bad episode, but I think it went through so many rewrites all logic flew out the window. Nothing about it really makes sense unless you have the Augments officially serving on the behalf of Starfleet Intelligence. Havig them as metal patients privy to classified war intelligence right on the front lines is just dumb. Instead, they were made out to be characters to sympathize with, then took away any reason for us to do so. Very poor execution of the idea.

Rating; *** (out of 5)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Resurrection"

Mercy, no…not a mirror universe episode right after a Dax-centric story! Are the trek people trying to kill me?

At least “Resurrection” does try to shake things up a bit. The shoe is on the other foot as a visitor from the mirror universe visit’s the regular universe as opposed to the reverse. Unfortunately, it is Bariel who does the universe crossing.

I am not a big fan of Bariel. He is always played as being way too subdued to be believable as an ambitious political leader and a guy who can capture the edgy heart of Kira. Bariel is perpetually OD’d on Valium. Kira would chew him up and spit him out I such a brutal manner, I cannot even conceive of an opposites attract rationale for their relationship.

My viewpoint appeared to be the consensus prior to “Resurrection.” kira appeared to be long since over his death as though he never really was her soul mate. Yet his mirror universe counterpart pops up here allegedly seeking asylum and she is in bed with him lickety split. I do ot buy it.

Bariel is secretly on a mission from the attendant to steal an Orb, but as the episode goes along, he chages his mind about stealing it. There has been some sort of profound change in him thanks to his relationship with Kira. It is significant enough he will not take the Orb, but not enough that he will stay with her. He returns to the mirror universe empty handed.

Well, there you go.

I do not see the point to the story other than offering up asense of finale on the relationship between kira and bariel that wealready received when he was buried. Or, at thevery least, when she blew out the flame she had bee burning in his honor in “Shakaar.” Maybe this isan effort to make him a more thrilling character. If so, it did not work. More than likely, “Resurrection” was about getting rid of kira’s romantic interests to pave the way for she and odo to hook up. I am not big on the idea, so there is an added stigma to this dud.

They have done worse, but not too often.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"You Are Cordially Invited"

But I so wanted to decline the invitation.

After the emotional roller coaster of the last six episodes, I understand the powers that be would want to give the audience a light hearted breather that has nothing to do with the ongoing Dominion War. But why did it have to be an episode focused on the wedding of Worf and Dax? Worf is not a favorite character, but I can handle him. But Dax, uggh. I loathe Dax.

“You Are Cordially Invited” has the same problem DS9 frequently has when it tries to do slice of life episodes--it comes across as a bad sitcom. If you had never seen this episode before and I asked you what comic fodder would be present, what would you guess? Family squabbles nearly canceling the ceremony, but all working out in the end, right? You would have hit the nail right o the head. Stop watching so many silly sitcoms.

I think there was supposed to be a lesson about accepting interracial marriages in Martok’s wife, Sirella’s, initial attitude about letting a Trill into the family and eventual acceptance, but you have to dig for it, so what is the point?

I understand scheduling conflicts and money are an issue, especially with a syndicated show, but worf having a wedding without the Enterprise is strage indeed.

Another point that irritates me about the episode is the continued tension between Odo and Kira over his actions during the occupation are resolved--off camera. While I disliked the changes in Odo over the course of the last few episodes because of my skepticism he would go so over the line just to be with the Female Changeling, the resolution of it needs to be more significant. I wanted Odo’s new attitude to go away, yes, but not swept under the rug an hereafter ignored just so he and Kira can pursue a relationship.

I would sip this one. It might be more poignant if I cared about Worf and Dax, particularly considering how short lived their happiness is going to be, but it does not do a thing for me.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

SC Democrats Fantasize Alvin Greene is a GOP Plant

The South Carolina Democratic Party is now fantasizing that unknown, unemployed Army veteran, and pending felon Alvin Greene, who surprisingly won Tuesday’s Senatorial primary is a GOP plant. The standard bearer for this theory? US House Majority Whip Jim Clyborn, whose dedicated habit of finding racist conspirators to blame for anything he does not like makes Sheila Jackson Lee look like the poster girl for MENSA.

What is Clyburn’s proof of Greene status as a plant? He paid his registration fee in cash, therefore someone in the GOP must have given it to him. I assume Republican plants also gave him the 100,000 votes it took for Greene to win the nomination to face Jim DeMint in November.

Those sneaky, 100,000 Republicans who avoided their own hotly contested primary in order to prop up the terribly unpopular DeMint with a dud opponent. Why, DeMint was not going to win reelection by more than twenty, twenty-five percentage points if an established Democrat ran against him. What else could they do, I beseech you?

Seriously, folks. That is how Democrats in South Carolina think. It is so bad, Gov. Mark Sanford can abandon the state entirely to frolic with his mistress in Argentina and we still will not elect one of these Democrat bozos to replace him.

Why should we? Even if the minuscule possibility that Greene is a plant is true--what rationale person believes that?--these doofuses still voted him in droves! If you have ever wondered if just anyone can walk into the convention from the street and become a candidate for statewide office in the South Carolina Democratic Party, the answer is yes.

Deep Space Nine--"Sacrifice of Angels"

“Sacrifice of Angels” is the sixth an final part of the occupation of DS9 story arc. It is also the best of the sextet. Sisko leads the Federation into what looks to be a hopeless battle to retake DS9 or at least keep Dominion reinforcements from coming through the wormhole. It is an exciting story on both an action and personal level.

You cannot go wrong with an episode that features characters reciting The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Lord Tennyson when the enemy fleet appears:

Cannon to the right of them,
Cannon to the left of them,
Cannon in front of them,
Volley'd and thunder'd.
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the Jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell...
Rode the six hundred."

Much of the episode involves the battle between the massive armadas. I am not big on such things. I like the more personal touches in science fiction as opposed to showing off the latest technology. That is why the Star Wars prequels failed--too many bells and whistles, not enough humanity. But I will admit, the artistry of what was then relatively new CGI work is still impressive to see thirteen years later. For one thing, it is minimalist. You can follow all the action rather than being overwhelmed by battles and explosions covering every inch of the screen. Take note, George Lucas.

I do prefer the personal moments involved, particularly regarding Dukat. He is a man who is about to be torn apart by two major losses. First, he is going to be beaten by Sisko. Dukat has a conversation with Weyoun early I the episode about what to do with a conquered people. Weyoun says kill as many as are necessary to pacify the entire population. Dukat dissents. When he was the military governor of Bajor, he always saw himself as their protector, not their dictator. He wanted them to love him as astern parent, but they never did. The Bajorans do, however, love Sisko as their Emissary. Sisko has what Dukat never could or will get. He needs to beat Sisko to compensate, but it will not happen.

Second, Dukat loses his daughter, Ziyal, who is killed by Damar because she is a traitor. Perhaps her death reinforces the notion Dukat could never get the love for a stern parent from either Bajor or Ziyal. While the loss of Ziyal sends Dukat over the edge, his subsequent behavior indicates it is the defeat by Sisko that truly burns him.

For the first time, I see them as two sides of the same coin whereas Dukat has previously just a good villain I his own right. His conflict with Kira had been far more interesting. That shifts to the Dukat/Sisko dynamic with this episode.

Ziyal loses her life because she assists Quark in freeing Rom an the other resistance fighters from the brig. Quark takes his first life in the rescue. It is an action that clearly shakes him up. He has neer had to do anything quite like that before. It is a big step in his personal development. He has always had a moral code, albeit a warped one. This is the first time he has madea tough moral choice that did not come across as alien.

Yes, I know I have complained a lot about how Trek applauds aliens only when they adopt human values and now I am praising the attitude. I am just full of contradictions, am I not?

The only controversial element of “Sacrifice of Angels” is the destruction o the Dominion fleet at the hands of the wormhole elements. Many fans felt like it was a deus ex machina to have Sisko convince the wormhole aliens to wipe out what would have been certain destruction for the Alpha Quadrant. I would be more sympathetic to that view if, as I explained above, I were more interested in the shoot ’em up aspects of the show. But I am not. Sisko’s success and the revelation he will ultimately have to sacrifice his life for the cause are key elements of his personal story arc. They make the entire series richer.

Also forever enflame the debate between DS9 and Babylon 5 fans of who ripped off whom first. *Sigh*

“Sacrifice of Angels” feels like season finale, but the sixth season is only a quarter over. All the stops are pulled out. It is going to difficult for the est of the season to hold up in comparison, but for the most part, it does. Fantastic!

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Favor the Bold"

“Favor the Bold”is the penultimate chapter of the six part Dominion occupation of DS9 story. Personally, it is about the best tightening of the screws a Trek story has done since ’The Best of Both Worlds, Part I.” like that famous TNG episode, the tactical aspects of impending doom at the hands of a superior alien force take a backseat to character development. At least this time around, nothing drags the episode down like Riker’s reluctance to be promoted while everyone else is fearful of the coming Borg apocalypse.

Let me go ahead and get the big one out of the way.--I hate, hate, hate Odo here. The writers are spoiling my favorite character in such horrible, mind-boggling ways. When we first see him, he and the Female Changeling are in bed, basking in the afterglow of having sex the solid way. They have locked themselves in Odo’s room for three days with guards posted outside. Lord only knows the things those poor guys have heard coming from that room over the long weekend.

The Female Changeling expresses disappointment in the tab A into slot B sex the solids have. Now, this is a family friendly blog for the most part, but I have to say--these two are shape shifters. They can alter the size and shape of their bodies at will. Obviously, if the sex is boring, it is a lack of imagination, not friction, that is the problem. I am just saying.

She also needles Odo a bit when she thinks he regrets never having slept with Kira. The first thought as who would not regret missing out on sleeping with Kira? It occurs to me I should get off this subject immediately.

Another interesting development is the change in Quark. Over the last five episodes, he has gone from tolerating the occupation, to frustration with it, and no, because his condemned brother asks him to sabotage the effort to bring down the minefield, a willing collaborator. Quark is compelled to become the reluctant hero of the Alpha Quadrant because he thinks it is his brother’s dying request.

Kira and Ziyal appeal to the powrrs that be to spare Rom’s life. Both wind up losing intimate relationships as result of what happened to Rom. Kira says she will never forgive Odo and Ziyal turns against Dukat because his refusal to save Rom is motivated by the idea he will become a hero for being the one to bring in the troops from the gamma Quadrant. The latter’s relationship will never recover. The former…well, we will talk about that later.

The catalyst propelling the entire story arc along is Sisko’s plan to retake DS0, which gets a boost when Kira and the resistance cell get the word out Damar will have the minefield down in a week. Whether the Federation can retake Ds9 or not, they have to destroy the deflector array exposing the mines or all will be lost.

Nog is promoted to ensign. The promotion is designed to show how desperate Starfleet now is because of heavy losses, but Nog’s status as an officer will play in big when it puts him in a tragic situation long before he is truly able to cope with it during the final season.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Behind the Lines"

I have always liked this episode because it helped build tension towards the inevitable liberation of DS9. But I have always hated the ark turn Odo makes in it. With his inherent sense of justice versus the trouble the Changelings have caused him, I do not buy he would turn at all, much less so quickly, just because of an intimate encouter with the Female Changeling.

Worse yet, some fans have laid the blame on Kira for breaking his heart, since the added loneliness might have drove him to the Female Changeling. I do not buy the idea and it has been my experience no one ever blames the girl for going for a handsome, powerful guy like Shakaar over someone as wounded in spirit as Odo, so case closed. Odo’s actions in “Behind the Lines’ are the result of him being manipulated by the Female Changeling into dropping his sense of justice. I did not care for the idea.

It may surprise you to learn I am not adverse to the other big development--Sisko is assigned a desk job, leaving Dax to command the Defiant. We are on the countdown to when we are going to get rid of Trill Barbie. There will likely be a huge celebration then. But for now, I just marvel at how the federation assigns her such an important task. With Dax in the driver’s seat of the Defiant and wussy Alexander fighting for the Klingons, the Alpha Quadrant is royally screwed.

In all seriousness, it is. The Female Changeling appears on DS9. She has been trapped there since the minefield became operational and sees removing it as the top priority. She wants reinforcements from the Gamma Quadrant even though what they already have are routing the Federation and Klingon forces.

Quark, who has finally gotten fed up with the Dominion occupation, learns while drinking with Damar he has a plan to de-cloak, then disarm the mines. Kira’s resistance cell plans to disrupt dammar’s operation, but it will involve odo switching off security alarms long enough for rom to sabotage the deflector array tDamar is goig to use to expose the mines.

Unfortunately, Odo gets caught up in “linking” with the Female Changeling when he was supposed to to shut off the security alarm. Rom is captured as aresult. Kira storm into Odo’s quarters angry at his betrayal. Odo does not care that he may have just handed the alpha Quadrant oer to the Dominion since he just got laid.

Yes, I am aware the DS9 writers have vehemently denied the Changeling encounter was sex, but come on--it was. The female Changeling admitted she finally revealed herself to Odo because she needed to see oe of her own kind. She offered him an all is forgiven chance to join with her to alleviate their mutual loneliness. Afterwards, Odo expressed no regard for the harm he had caused his no-Changeling friends. Shooting your wad will make you forget that whole bros before hos deal in a hurry.

Not that I forgive him for it. I just understand it.

In a final point regarding Damar we get some of the first hints that he is an alcoholic. It is not yet clear that he has a rationale for it rather than his drinking being a convenient plot device. Damar is a patriot who in torn between following orders from the Dominion and regretting what they are doing to his beloved Cardassia. He is not asympathetic character and he never will be, but he is one with an inner conflict the writers slowly reveal rather than beating you over the head with his personal turmoil. That is a welcome rarity in Trek in general, much less for villains.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Sons and Daughters"

How long has it been since I have been able to reiterate my belief that trek never does children well? We might have to go back as far as “Dark Page” for TNG. That was…when? January? We have had quite the respite.

“Sons and Daughters” is only half a whammy as far as I am concerned. While it does bring back the much despised Worf/Alexander drama for which I have always cringed, half the episode deals with the Dukat/Ziyal/Kira dynamic I have grown fond of, sappy though it may be. Perhaps I feel that way because I know how it ends--in a much more emotionally satisfying way then with Worf and Alexander.

As a continuity note, it is Martok and Worf’s ship that rescues the downed former Defiant crew. They make the briefest of cameos here as Sisko bets Martok a barrel of blood wine he will set foot on DS9 before Martok. There is our first hint the Dominion occupation of DS9 will not last long.

Once Sisko and the bunch have been dropped off at a starbase, Martok’s ship is assigned to escort a supply convoy that has had three ships destroyed by Jem’Hadar in the last few days. They expect to see battle very soon. Martok asks for replacement crew and winds up with Alexander as one of them. Worf is not happy and neither am I. Uggh. Somebody kill this kid off.

I appreciate the powers that be at DS9 try to address the animosity between Worf and Alexander--face it, Worf was a lousy father on TNG--but it does not work for me because Alexander is still such a wuss. I cannot entirely blame Worf for being embarrassed. It is not that I think Alexander needs to be a great warrior. It is just that he needs to be good at something..

At the risk of getting too personal, I had similar issues with my father long before he let my mother and me. He had been an athlete. Obviously with my disabilities, it was impossible for me to beas well. But I was an excellent academic. He never much cared for that, but I never broke my neck trying to be an athlete anyway to try to make him happy. He crawled ito a bottle, we both said screw you, and that has been the end of it.

So I am coming from the position that is the best thing for Worf and Alexander to do for both their sakes Yes, it looks bad on paper, but real life has rough edges. I do not buy, with all the incompetence Alexander shows as a warrior and the irritation it causes Worf that he eventually proves his worth. The happy ending was ot sold on me.

I am more pleased with the Ziyal story. She returns from Bajor because she could not start any real friendships there and she misses her “family” of Dukat and Kira. She forces the two of them together about as much as she possibly can. At one point, they should a genuine, almost parental pride at her artwork. Kira even agrees to go to a showing of her works on Cardassia, though she draws the lie at attending in a dress given to her by Dukat.

The thing is, Ziyal is being made out to be the epitome of innocence. So naïve and doe eyed. Youcan jut feel in your gut what is going to happen to her.

‘Sonsand Daughters” is the weakest of the unofficial six part occupation of DS9 story, but it bats .500, so I cannot complain a whole lot. Alexander is a much despised character. Even the better written Worf of DS9 cannot salvage their atrocious relationship. I have to tolerate it until the bits in which we revisit Ziyal.

Dear, sweet, doomed Ziyal.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Rocks and Shoals"

“Rocks and Shoals” takes place shortly after “A Time to Stand’ as the stolen Jem ’Hadar ship crash lands on a Cardassian planet with scenes that are an obvious homage to the opening of the original Planet of the Apes. Perhaps a little too coincidentally, another Jem’Hadar ship crashed sometime before carrying a platoon and the Vorta master, Keevan.

Keevan is wounded, so the Jem’Hadar capture Garak and Nog to use as bargaining chips in order to get him medical attention. Garak tries to betray Nog ad the rest of the Starfleet crew by claiming he is a captured Cardassian loyal to the Dominion. The Jem’Hadar do not buy it. I do not buy it, either. While self-interest is in Garak’s character, the whole point of him joining the Defiant crew was to keep him from the certain death awaiting for him among the Cardassians. He should not have been so quick to try switching sides.

The exchange works. Bashir performs emergency surgery and saves Keevan’s life. Keevan reveals he only has two vials of tetracil-white left. When it is gone, the Jem’Hadar will gang up and kill him before they die of withdrawal. He tells Sisko they are going to attack the Defiant crew, but he will reveal the battle plan beforehand to make defeating them easy. Keevan will be taken as a prisoner of war then since he believes he will have a better chance of survival that way.

Sisko desperately tries to talk the Jem’Hadar into surrendering rather than facing certain death in battle because Keevan is not worth dying for. But their genetic engineering compels them to fight anyway. Keevan is true to his word. The intelligence he gave on their battle plan was accurate and all the Jem’hadar are slaughtered. Keevan strolls comfortably into the crew’s camp as a POW, assuring them they would all be dead if he only had two more vials o tetracil-white, while O’Brien repairs a communicator to send out a distress call.

The lesson here is a grim one on the absurdity of war. The Jem’hadar were condemned either way, but decided to go down fighting because that was the only thing they knew. Keevan did not bat an eye at any point. His attitude reminded me of the passage in All Quiet on the Western Front in wich the soldiers remark with biter humor that they are being used to settle the petty disputes of political leaders who will never taste combat at all, much less death in war. They ought to fight it out instead of sending young men with no quarrel with one another to die.

Meanwhile, Kira is struggling with self-loathing for cooperating with the Dominion. Back during the Cardassian Occupation, she would have marked for death someone like what she has become. When a vedek commits public suicide to protest Bajor’s cooperation with the Dominion, Kira decides she has had enough. She, odo, Jake, and rom decide to form a resistance cell to fight back.

Rating; *** (out of 5)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"A Time to Stand"

The sixth season begins three months after DS9 was lost to the Dominion. The war is not going well for the Federation. Out of a 112 ship attack fleet sent to engage the advancing enemy, only 14 survived. The Defiant, with the escaped command staff of Ds9, has been under attack and pursuit for nearly four days straight.

On DS9, things are better, but still tense. Quark seems comfortable with life during wartime because, unlike the original Cardassian occupation, there are no starving children or Bajorans lying about dying from overwork. Odo agrees that as far as occupations go, this one is not so bad.

Kira has different ideas. Dukat has been trying hard to warm up to her. The time when she tolerated him for the sake of his daughter, Ziyal, has come to an end. She does not much trust the Dominion’s non-aggression treaty with the Bajorans, either. No Bajorans have been allowed as part of the security force sice the Federation left.

Jake too, is upset because his news reports are being jammed by Weyoun because he feels they are biased against the Dominion. If Jake agrees to be more eve-handed--prit propaganda--perhaps the newscan flow again.

Amidst the numerous defeats, Adm. Ross appears to relieve Sisko of command of the Defiant. Before I go any further, I want to say something about Ross--really the actor playing him. Ross is a character who will be a semi-regular throughout the rest of the series. He is played by Barry Jenner as a straight laced, non nonsense professional type who becomes more willing to tolerate underhanded tactics that would normally violate his moral code under less desperate times.

At the risk of revealing some of my juvenile tastes I the early ’90’s, Jenner also played Carl Winslow’s cop boss on Family Matters for two seasons. On that show, he was also astraightlaced, non nonsense guy who was obsessed with his job and would do anything for advancement. He even changed his name to Lieu once he was promoted to lieutenant

The point is he essentially played the same character on both shows. He exaggerated the character towards absurdity for laughs on Family Matters while exaggerating the character as a dead serious military man for DS9. I am not going to tell you Jenner is some fantastic actor by ay stretch, but he deserves credit for believably playing the same character in a silly comedy and then in a drama.

Sisko and his crew are reassigned to take the stolen Jem Ha’Dar vessel from “The Ship” and attack a tetracil-white production facility. They do so I an intense encounter that cripples their warp drive to the point it will take seventeen years to get to the nearest starbase. We end the first of a six part story on that note.

“A Time to Stand” is a fine start to one of my favorite seasons in all of Trek. The Dominion War story is where Ds9 really made its name in fan circls. It is the first time it truly feels like the Federation may be doomed. After a number of running themes which have bashed Federation ideals, such as the Maquis storyline and the general skepticism of theBajorans, we get the sense that even with its flaws, the Federation is still worth saving from destruction.

There is a lesson there about some of the things the United states has had to do during the war on terror, but there will be plwty of opportunities to draw parallels in subsequent episodes.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Call to Arms"

“Call to Arms” serves as the fifth season finale and marks the beginning of the Dominion War. Save for some generally weak one off episodes, the Dominion War will become the primary focus for the remainder of the series. There was some resistance by the higher ups at Trek because they were not certain fans would follow a two season story arc. But, as the Borg say, resistance is futile. Thus, my favorite story arc in all of Trek was born.

Much of the episode builds up tension. Even the quickie wedding plans for Rom and Leeta have a sense of now or never because of rising tensions between the Dominion and the Federation. The Dominion has been continually sending soldiers and materiel to Cardassia. It has gone well beyond anything necessary for defense. Clearly, the Dominion is prepping for war with the Alpha Quadrant powers.

Starfleet decides they are losing the peace as the Dominion arms for war and makes treaties with powers like the Romulans. The only course of action is to mine the wormhole to prevent any further shipments from the Gamma Quadrant. Thanks to Rom, they devise away to make cloaked, self-replicating mines in order to do so.

The Dominion gets wind of the plan and sends Weyoun to negotiate a compromise on humanitarian grounds. It falls through because neither side trusts the other--and with good reason. The Dominion forces decide to take DS9 by force to stop the mines from being activated.

For the second time in the series, we get a major evacuation sequence with tearful good byes and a dreadful sense certain people will never reunite. The first time this happened was in the second season’s ’The Siege” when a Bajoran coup prompted the Federation to leave. That time around, the writers were trying to stretch a two part episode into a trilogy, so it felt like a lot of filler. Too much sound and fury for an anticlimactic ending. It is done much better here considering the end result of the coming battle.

The plan is for DS9 to hold off the Dominion fleet until the minefield is set for an as yet unrevealed reason, Starfleet will ot send reinforcements. The Dominion begins attacking Ds9 in the biggest battle since the Klingon invasion I the fourth season.

Interesting that DS9 is successful in activating the minefield in the nick of time because Martok and a Klingon fleet serve as the cavalry. With that done, Sisko surprisingly orders the evacuation of all Starfleet personnel. In a Douglas McArthur “I shall return” moment, he explains to the Bajorans and other aliens left behind their mission was not only to establish the wormhole minefield, but act as a distraction while the Federation and Klingons destroyed a Dominion shipyard. The battle has been joined.

As Sisko departs, Kira, Odo, and Quark welcome their new Dominion masters. Thanks to Sisko’s urging, the Bajorans signed the non-aggression pact from the previous episode, but relations are tense nonetheless. The Dominion want the whole quadrant even though they intend to honor the pact for now. Dukat has all intentions of taking his old job back as military governor of Bajor.

“Call to Arms” sets up the dynamics specifically for the first six episodes of the next season. Kria, Odo, and Jake, who stayed behind to serve as a war correspondent, will form a resistance cell to aid the sagging fortunes of the Federation early in the war, particularly when the Cardassians figure out a way to lower the minefield. Some surprising character personality changes will come that will affect the series until the end.

Good stuff.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"In the Cards"

“In the Cards” is another turn at sitcom fodder with Jake and Nog up to their old schemes. By this point, Jake is 18 and Nog is a Starfleet Academy cadet, so you would hope they would be more mature than to go off o some silly venture, but there you go. At least it counts as frivolous fun before the Dominion War begins in the next episode.

There is a dark mood over DS9 as the Dominion continue delivering Jem Ha’dar and weapons to Cardassia. The war materiel is far beyond anything Cardassia would need for defensive purposes. War seems inevitable. In order to cheer Sisko up, Jake and Nog decide to buy a Willie Mays rookie card for him as a gift. Unfortunately, it is purchased at auction by a Dr. Giger. Fortunately, Giger knows the boys want the card and offers to give it to them in trade for certain scientific material. The boys reluctantly agree.

So they wind up doing odd tasks for various crewmembers in exchange for the items. Here is where we hit Laverne and Shirley territory. Bashir wants his teddy bear and will trade medical supplies for it, for heaven’s sake! It amusing, but absurd.

The main reason I am willing to accept the absurdity is because of Giger’s plan. He is building a device which keeps cells happy. That is right. his theory is that one can be literally bored to death if not careful. He seems quite loony, but he has the Willie Mays card, so Jake and Nog have to deal with him. So do we.

The story intersects with the more serious B-story--a first, with the A-story usually being the more tense--a Wweyoun comes to Ds9 to negotiate a non-aggression pact with Bajor and runs into Giger.

Jake and Nog eventually get the card. Everyone seems happy as a result of their efforts. So the episode ends on a high note before it all hit’s the fan in tomorrow’s fifth season finale.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Empok Nor"

“Empok Nor” is the most intense, claustrophobic episode of DS9 yet. I have always enjoyed its creepy feel, but it is actually more famous for two reasos, both considered strikes against it. I will address them momentarily.

O’Brien needs spare parts to repair DS9. He has nothing on hand to use as spare parts because the station is of Cardassian design. Why this problem has not arisen before now is a mystery. He decides to take a team to an abandoned Cardassian space station identical to DS9, Empok Nor, as a guide, his team takes along Garak.

Empok Nor is not abandoned, however. Some soldiers have been left there. They are the result of an experiment to use drugs to enhance the xenophobic tendencies of soldiers in order to make them more vicious fighters. O’Brien’s team gets picked off y the soldiers. Garak is also affected by traces of the drug. He kills a couple team members before being subdued by O’Brien. All is wrapped up with no lasting consequences.

But that is not one of the bad reactios to the episode.

The first is from Andrew Robinson, who plays Garak. Robinson is an avowed pacifist who had spent over two decades at this pint trying to live down his break out role as the psychotic killer in 1971’s Dirty Harry. He was not happy to see Garak turned ito a maniacal murderer. In a sense, neither was I. Garak had been a killer, no doubt, but there was a complexity to him normally that is missing here. He is nothing but a murderous machine in ’Empok Nor.”

The second is the use of a Trek racial slur. When the team is being stalked in the dark after a couple members have been killed, one refers to the Cardassian soldiers as ’spoon heads.” For whatever reason, some of the more idealistic Trek fans got upset that Starfleet personnel would use a racial slur, even if it only has negative meaning to fictional characters.

I think it is a dumb complaint on the surface, but it gets even worse when you think back to how many times O’Brien has used the term Cardies to refer to Cardassians. To me, that sounds a heck of a lot like Japs or Krauts. I have never heard a Trek fan complain about that ever. What gives? Given a real world allusion, Cardiessounds far more offensive than spoon heads. perhaps that is just me.

Regardless of the strikes against ’Empok Nor,” I like it. I am disappointed with Garak’s treatment because it isa stepback for his character, but the incident is hereafter ignored. I can personally ignore it because of how much I ejoy the dark, paranoid tone of the episode.

Ratig: *** (out of 5)