Saturday, July 31, 2010

Wild Wild West--"The Night of a Thousand Eyes"

Our heroes face a blinded former riverboat captain named Ansel Coffin who has been sinking cargo ships o the Mississippi River. Four federal agents have been killed in the ship attacks over the previous month. Coffin plans to blackmail the federal government into offering tribute for the safe passage of cargo.

Coffin is played by Jeff Corey, a veteran of science fiction and adventure shows from Star Trek to A-Tean to Babylon 5 and pretty much everything in between. He plays Coffin as a total loon who refuses as much as possible to give into his blindness. He has surrounded himself with items that will appeal to his other senses, including things like children’s toys, which gives him an even creepier vibe.

Coffin is still not one of the more memorable villains of the series. The climax in which Jim is temporarily blinded and ha to fight Coffin on his terms is predictable. What is not so predictable is that Jim’s sight returns, so he finally gets Coffin dead to rights. I suppose it would have been corny if he had bested Coffin in a blind duel, but what really happened does not seem all that sporting.

The episode has a few contrivances that are annoying. One of the killed federal agents’ daughter shows up, offers clue to Artie, then is never seen or heard from again in spite of her wanting to kill Coffin personally. Coffin’s girlfriend does not speak until midweek through the episode because there is something wrong with her voice, but then she will not hush through the remainder. Both Jim and Artie are going to let an assassin who tried numerous times to kill them both off the hook because she is a pretty girl. Never mind how angry they were originally she was part of the cadre who killed their fellow agents.

The episode does not work too well. It is not horrible, but it feels the first half and these cod wherewith by different writers who never had a meeting of the minds. Emotion run high for the main characters early on, then completely evaporates as the episode winds down. Very disappointing.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Wild Wild West--"The Night of the Casual Killer"

“The Night of the Casual Killer” follows yesterday’s theme of giving Artie a more proactive role in the adventure. As a bonus, he and Jim are undercover as a traveling minstrel show, so Jim even has to take a beating from some roughnecks and be saved by arte I order to main the ruse. It is definitely an Artie show. Ross Martin not only show off his hammy acting chops, but plays the violin twice.

Our heroes are assigned to find a former corrupt associate of Ulysses S. Grant named John Avery who has enough dirt on the president’s administration to warrant his capture. Fortunately, he has killed 22 cavalrymen who first tried to bring him back to Washington, so there actually is a good reason to arrest him other than political embarrassment. Considering how corrupt the Grant administration was in the first place, Avery must have been associated with some seriously nasty stuff.

Avery is played by John Dehner. He was a character actor who played either a cowboy, criminal, cop, military officer, doctor, lawyer, or politician in just about every sitcom or drama series you would care to name from the late ’50’s until his death in 1992. He plays Avery as a formidable villain who is cunning enough to be one step ahead o Jim and Artie at every turn, including durig the climactic escape from the mining town he has taken over.

The prerequisite pretty girl Avery has control over is played by Ruta Lee. She is probably most famous for her role on Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, but she is still active in movies and television today at the age of 74. She has maintained a certain Eartha Kitt charm in her golden years.

Lee plays Laurie Morgan, an ex-singer who apparently was not all that great since there are deliberate attempts to keep her from doing so. Within my young frame of reference, she reminds me of Jessica Simpson. There is not only a slight resemblance, but lee plays her with that English as a second language mall speak enthusiastic clueless demeanor that you really hope Simpson is faking, but in your heart fear she is not.The climactic escape from town involves a mining car chase that is not exactly Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but is cleverly done for a low budget, ’60’s show. Avery makes for a good villain and an enjoyable show. It is also good to see Artie take the spotlight for once, even though he does not get the girl.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wild Wild West--"The Night of Sudden Death"

A group of lack clad acrobats break into the US mint in Carson City, Nevada to steal currency plates and replace them with forgeries while trying to make their caper look like an accident. The ruse does not fool anyone, so too ad for them.

Jim follows a lead from a pretty girl--did not see that coming, did you?--to a traveling circus run y big game hunter Warren Trevor, played by a young Robert Loggia. Trevor has stolen the plates so her can print up enough legitimate cash to buy his own country in Africa.

“The Night of Sudden Death,” so called because none of the mint workers were supposed to survive the “accident,” is a mixed bag. It is typical Wild Wild West fun, but did not quite utilized Travor’s big game hunting obsession in any logical way. I expected to see an homage to The Most Dangerous Game wherein Trevor wants to hut the famed Secret Service agent as the ultimate challenge. Instead, Trevor is your typical power hungry villain who wants to be a fly by night dictator.

He only uses his hunting skills in the end after Jim and Artie have foiled his plan by recovering the plates. There is only a brief struggle I which Trevor is thrown into a lake and eaten y an alligator. Considering one of the early action sequences was the same thing happening to Jim with the exception Jim’s alligator assailant did not survive the encounter, Trevor’s end does not speak well of his alleged mad big game hunting skills.

His fate does remind me of how much I expected Steve Irwin to eventually get eaten by a crocodile and found it deflating he met his fate by in a freak accident by a sting ray. Krikey, the indignity!.

It should not surprise you there is plenty of philosophizing that man is the only animal who kills for sport and is somehow lesser in the natural world for it. Well, we have opposable thumbs and can alter our environment, so there to suit our needs. Plus, we are the only creatures on Earth aware of our own mortality, so we have foresight. Take that, animal kingdom!

This is the first episode in which Artie acts like a full partner to Jim rather than just serving as the gadget man who shows up in a goofy disguise at the climax. Although he does the latter here and makes one very disturbing clown. Artie is the one who recovers the plates and torches the money while Jim turns Trevor into gator vittles.

“The Night of Sudden Death” is worth watching, but not a classic. Trevor does not live up to the promise of villainy he is supposed to be. Oh, and in spite of Robert Conrad’s claim he did all his own stunts, it is pretty obvious that is not him being ambushed from above by an acrobat in the first act. Our little secret, I guess.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wild Wild West--"The Night the Wizard Shook the Earth"

Here we have a true classic in only the third episode. “The Night the Wizard Shook the Earth” marks the first of ten appearances of Michael Dunn as the demented genius Miguelito Loveless. He is, of course, my favorite villain in the series.

The episode also marks the first appearance of Richard Kiel as Voltaire. Kiel is better known for appearances as Jaws in the James bond films The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. It is quite clear his role as Voltaire was a big influence I being cast as Jaws. Wild Wild West has been dubbed James Bond in the old west for good reason.

Jim and Artie are assigned to escort a professor who has invented powerful new explosive to Washington. The professor is killed is killed by the mysterious dwarf, Dr. Miguelito Loveless, who claims he invented the explosive first and has no intention of allowing it to be placed in the hands of politicians and generals or of some two bit professor taking credit for its creation, depending on which of Loveless’ expressed rationales you find more convincing. The fact he accepts both with equal veracity is one of the elements that make him such a great villain.

Loveless claims his grandmother used to own Southern California. It was stolen by the Spanish an later the Americans. He wants it back or he is going to use the explosive to kill 5,000 a week until it is his again.

Jim escapes a bird cage--yes, a bird cage--after convincing Loveless’ beautiful assistant to tell him where the explosive is set. He has a more difficult time suduig loveless in a church bell tower than he does the 7’ 1” Voltaire below. Go figure.

“The Night the Wizard Shook the Earth” is the only episode in which Loveless’ motivation is something as small as the return of Southern California. Later, he will be a world conquering type, at least expressly. But his real motivation will be besting Jim and Artie. An arch rivalry is born!

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wild Wild West--"The Night of the Deadly Bed"

Now here is a unique animal--”The Night of the Deadly Bed” is named after an elaborate trap to kill Jim in the early part of the episode. It has nothing to do with the overall plot. The deadly bed in question has a spied canopy that falls just slowly enough to not only effectively take us to commercial, but give Jim enough time to emerge from a drag induced haze to escape. Convenient.

Did I mention he falls for the Mexican beauty that drugs and puts him there? She is a big part of the defeat of the villain’s master plan, too. Bet you did not see that coming, either.

Jim travels to a border town in order to meet with an informant. Unfortunately, the informant is killed in an explosion before he can tal to Jim. He only gets out one word--”Rosebud.”

No, wait. It is “Flory.” Sorry.

Jim follows his sole clue to a mission on the Mexican side of the border. Flory turns out to be the name of a French general wo has enslaved the local population into building a steam powered battering ram which will run along American railroad tracks, destroying the United States’ ability to move war material. Flory believes hecan take over Mexico with the United States stymied in such a way.

This is, perhaps surprisingly, historically accurate. The United States supported the fight of President Benito Juarez to repel French forces from Mexico, but could not do much to actively aid the effort because of the Civil War. Postwar, however, Andrew Johnson sent 50,000 American troops to the border to facilitate the free flow of war material to the Mexican army. It is no stretch to claim the American superior railroad system wasa bi factor I Mexico defeating the French by boosting Mexican supply lines.

Was is a stretch is that Flory is played by J. D. Cannon, an actor from Idaho whose sole French-ness is to end every sentence with mon ami. It could be worse, I guess.

“I keel yoo slowly weeth zees gun, Meester West.” you know what I mean?

Fun episode? Yes. It is patented Wild Wild West goofiness with a maniacal villain, elaborate death traps, and a high concept Age of Innovation device set to alter the course of history. Flory is not one of the more memorable villains, but he is a formidable foil for our heroes.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Wild Wild West--"The Night of the Inferno"

As promised or threatened, depending on your perspective, we begin covering Wild Wild West for the next several months. The series isa childhood favorite. Let us see if it stands up as well when I am 33 as it did when I was ten.

The first thing I note about the ilot is the tone of the show, from over the top villains with high concept schemes, elaborate gadgetry, and James West, suave Secret Service agent, always getting the femme fatale I the ed no matter how many times she has attempted to kill him are all present right off the bat.

The lovely lady in “The Night of the Inferno” is Suzanne Pleshette, better known for her role in The Bob Newhart Show:While it is clear Jim and Artemus Gordon have been partners for a time before, this episode is when they are first given the high tech train in order to make it to the western territories in a hurry. A Mexican revolutionary named Juan Manolo has been taking advantage of post-Civil War conditions to launch raids against American settlements out west with the hopes of reclaiming territory lost in the Mexican War. Our heroes are to find Manolo and his cache of weapons, supposedly enough to wage full scale war.

Jim finds his way with the help of a fat Chinese who leads him to Lydia, one of many old flames Jim will run into over the course of the series. The arsenal is hidden in her wine cellar. It does not look all that impressive, honestly. I guess it did not take much to run off American settlers. Frazzled from the Civil War, perhaps?

Jim is captured by whom he suspects is Manolo, but escapes the jail cell in the wine cellar--does not everyone have one of those?--through the use of lock picks and a smoke bomb that miraculously was not discovered when he was searched even though two knives and a wrist gun were. Lots of gadgets right off the bat.

The Mexican general turns out to not be the big man. Instead, Manolo is Wing Fat, the Chinese informant from the beginning of the episode, in disguise. Manolo disguised himself as a Chinese merchant because no one would suspect him o being a Mexican revolutionary. Except Jim, of course, who knew all along because Wing Fat was too tall and fat to be a Chinese.

Do I really need to elaborate on how uncomfortable that whole plot twist sounds these days? The great Victor Buono, who will later play the recurring villain Count Manzeppi, portrays Wing Fat with less than subtle hints of Charlie Chan. The mid-60’s were a whole other world, no?

“The Night of the Inferno” is not one of the more popular episodes in the series, but it does a good job of setting the tone. Far better episodes will come along down the line. But it is a good start.

Rating: *** (ut of 5)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"What You Leave Behind"

Six months of viewing ad reviewing all comes down to this--the final episode of my favorite Trek series. The series goes out the same way it came in. By and large, the emphasis is on the non-Federation characters and their skepticism with the Federation in general. The running theme is one of the reasons I liked the series so much. Deep Space Nine was the most alien, yet the most human of the Trek series simultaneously.

The DS9 crew, sans the absent Kira, prepare to take part I the invasion of the Cardassian Union. As with virtually every preplanned finale, the characters have major changes lined up once their mission is complete. Bashir and Exri have hooked up after deciding they would just befriends. O’Brien will head off to Starfleet Academy as a professor of engineering. The rest have to wait for fate to catch up.

As the Alliance heads for the border, I cannot help but feel the tension there is not as great as with Damar’s revolution o Cardassia. Citizens have begun rising up as Kira anticipated. The uprising has the Dominion o the defensive as they have to pull back their forces to handle the ensuing chaos. I have never been one who gets excited at the huge space battles anyway. Ot that the invasion of Cardassia is not a magnificent CGI presentation for the time period.

The Female Changeling realizes all is lost fairly early in the battle, so she decides to order the extermination of all Cardassians as punishment. Then Weyoun broadcasts the genocidal orders o a general frequency to all Jem’Hadar forces, but where everyone can hear the orders--including the Cardassian military. Naturally, they turn o the Dominion at that point and begin attacking the Jem’Hadar ad Breen along with the Alliance. I understand the Female Chagelinng decided o a scorched Earth strategy that even in defeat would mean high casualties for the Alliance, but what is the wisdom in announcing the plan to ill every civilian while the military is still fighting on her side? It is amazing the Dominion has stood for 2,000 with geniuses like her in charge.

Although Damar is sadly killed in the attempt, Kira, Garak, and the rest of his rebellion break into Dominion headquarters ad take the Female Changeling hostage. Garak kills Weyoun. It is about darn time. But the Female Changeling refuses to kill off her forces, either fighting the Alliance or committing genocide of Cardassians. Odo beams down from the Sao Paulo to convince her otherwise.

Remember in yesterday’s review I said the Federation’s refusal to give the cure for the virus to the Founders would end far less cynically than it sounded? Odo opts to give the Female Changeling the cure in exchange for an armistice. She agrees. She will also surrender herself to the Federation if he agrees to take over her role as leader of the Dominion. He agrees.

Odo and the Female Changeling come to terms by reaching the same conclusion the series itself has bee headed towards--the Federation has flaws, but it tries to do the right thing. Note the Federation is saved by saved by non-members Odo, Kira, and Garak in spite of itself.
Events unfold quickly as the military pullback, peace treaty signing, and victory party all appear to take place on the same afternoon as the invasion in the first place. No one wants to waste any time, I suppose. Add to this peculiar sense of time passage the final journey of Dukat ad Kai Win into the fire caves to reawaken the Pah’Wraiths. I suppose it is not all happening simultaneously, but that is what the episode leaves you to believe.

It assistor’s final destiny to defeat Dukat and the Pah’Wraith He is called upon to o so by the Prophets. The battle is so quick and Sisko commits to it unquestioningly that it almost feels anti-climactic rather than the culmination of the Emissary begun way back in the pilot. For that matter, Bajor never joins the Federation, either. Too much ambition in storytelling, not enough time to cram it all in. The problem did not start with Lost, no?

Sisko’s fate is left ambiguous as to all long he will have to stay with the Prophets. He is not dead, one assumes. Worf becomes ambassador to the Klingon Empire until he is inexplicably back in Starfleet and on the Enterprise in Nemesis. Garak slip off to ‘enjoy” the end of his exile among the 900 million dead Cardassians. Odo breaks off his implausible to begin with romance with Kira to take his place among his people. Kira rejects her Starfleet commission--another sign Bajoris not keen on joining the Federation and assumes command of DS9.

I am bit misty eyed, because I do love this show.

All told, the finale wraps up the series quite well. As I said, the aliens have always been the most interesting characters and they take front and center I the resolution. The rivalry between Sisko and Dukat, though feeling a bit rushed here, is resolved satisfactorily. Cardassia reaps what it has sown over the years. The Bajorans are just as disagreeable ad uncooperative as the French.

I am going to surprise everyone ad give “What You Leave Behind” only four stars. It is a emotional finale to my favorite Trek, but it has flaws. Some things are left hanging, such as Bajor’sadmission to the Federation or why the Breen wear refrigeration suits,, while some things are resolved way to quickly, like the Sisko/Dukat brawl. But overall I am happy. Nothing else I trek since has quite topped DS9.

Rating; **** (out of 5)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Dogs of War"

The penultimate episode of DS9 sets the stage for tomorrow’s series finale while wrapping up the fate of the too long absent Ferengi. It is too bad Quark and Rom got lost I the shuffle during the last few episodes. Doubly bad their last hurrah was one of those awful mirror universe stories.

Odo is recovering from his virus when he is informed by Sisko that he had been infected by the virus and spread it to the Founders, not the other way around. Although Starfleet does not officially condone Section 31’s actions, they have opted to not give them the cure since it would strengthen their hand in the war. Odo muses this is not a military operation, but genocide. Nevertheless, he realizes that the Federation is more than happy to look the other way when a less than savory action they would normally be appalled by is to their advantage.

Hey, it is us or them, right? Arguably, yes. We will see tomorrow how that does not necessarily play out so cynically.

Damar, Garak, and Kira had to Cardassia Prime in order to meet up with military leaders who want to join their rebellion. Unfortunately, it is a Jem’Hadar ambush which the three narrowly survive. The Dominion crushes eighteen rebel bases I one swoop in order to end the revolt. As the three hide out in the basement of Garak’s boyhood home, Kira and Garak pump up the dejected Damar into stirring up a citizen’s revolt.

That one will end cynically.

Fially, the Grand Nagus decides Rom should replace him. The comedy here is that Quark misunderstands the message and thinks it is going to be him instead. No such luck. The writers are being a little too cute by promoting a lunk head like Rom. The guy may be an idiot savant when it comes to technology, but he is Alvin Greene when it comes to politics. (There isa Rom action figure out there, is there not?) He is supposed to be a progressive reformer and that is all that counts, I suppose.

The Alliance decides to take advantage of the Dominion’s increasingly defensive posture to launch what will be a very bloody invasion of the Cardassian Union just as sisko learns Kassidy is pregnant. The Prophet’s dire warning Sisko must walk his path alone casts an ominous shadow over the joy.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Extreme Measures"

Wherein Bashir lies to Starfleet, kidnaps Sloan, uses an illegal device to interrogate him, and inadvertently leads to his suicide, all while ignoring the irony he is using Section 31’s dirty tactics in order to eliminate Section 31’sdirty tactics. The episode isa heavy-handed attempt to muss Bashir’s hair a bit, but lacks the self-awareness to effectively pull it off.

Time is running out for Odo, so Bashir decides to go with O’Brien’s plan of lying to Starfleet about finding a cure for the Changeling virus with the assumption someone from Section 31 will show up to destroy it. When that happens, Bashir can get thecure from him.

The plan involves a few implausible assumptions:

1. There is a cure.
2. The operative who shows up knows the formula.
3. Failing that, knows someone who does.
4. Said operative will not just destroy the lab to eliminate the cure.
5. There is enough time to fid and administer the cure even under the best of circumstances.

Since I m not a genetically enhanced super genius, I will just go ahead and assume I am too dense to see how beautifully effective this plan is.

Sloan does show up. Bashir shoots him, then opts to use the illegal Romulan mind probes to find the formula in Sloan’s mind, because field agents always know such things. Sloan triggers the 24th ceturyersion of a Cyanide pill. Bashir caot revive him. He can only put him on unconscious life support for a short period of time. He and Bashir literally go traveling inside Sloan’s mind to find the formula.

Sloan’s mind is a surreal, complex trap designed specifically to stall Bashir by at various times appealing to his idealism, his friendship with O’Brien, and his overwhelming compulsion to be a hero. The sequence is the best part of the episode. Even near death and trapped inside his ow mind, Sloan plays Bashir like a fiddle. It is only the unplanned influence of O’Brien that allows the mission to be successful.

For those of you attached to the O’Brien/Bashir friendship, there is scene made especially for you. When the two believe they are dying at one point, O’Brien finally admits an agape love for Bashir. Well, there you go.

Odo is successfully cured. I thought what might have bee his last moments with Kira were not as moving as they could have been since they were such a small part of the episode, but I have been skeptical of their romance period.

The abrupt end to Section 31’s involvement in the series is a bit jarring, too. I am more forgiving about that since I am not as adverse to the organization’s existence as the show wants meto be. I agree with Sloan I one sense--idealists like Bashir just as surely as pacifists are the enablers of tyranny. The big drawback is Bashir comes around to Sloan’s way of thinking when he is desperate to save Odo, yet not only pretends he does not, but still loathes others wo take extreme measures for the greater good. Bashir’s blinders a big reason I ave never cared much for the character.

I have been brutal I my critique, but I actually like “Extreme Measures,” although I will concede it is the weakest of the final nine episodes of The Final Chapter. My fondness for it largely comes from William Sadler’s portrayal of Sloan. They should have utilized him more than just in a handful of appearances. He makes a good villain because he hasa compelling argument to justify his actions.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Tracking Into the Wind"

“Tracking into the Wind” is a nautical term meaning having to constantly alter course in order for the wind to catch the sails. It is highly appropriate for the three main stories running through the episode. Several main characters are forced to make big changes within themselves for the greater good.

First, Kira and the Cardassian rebellion she is training have to learn to work together. The difficulty is in how Kira is going back to her terrorist roots in order to effectively sabotage the Dominion War effort. The effort opens old wounds for the Cardassians with her, particularly Rucot, who vows to kill the Bajoran once the war is over because he believes her motivation for helping the rebellion is to kill as many Cardassians as she did during the occupation.

Their continued tensions weighs heavily on Damar, whose romanticized view of the occupation is shattered when he learns the Dominion have killed his family. Damar realizes what his people have done in the past, that Cardassia deserves to die, and kills Rucot himself beore he can eliminate Kira.

In spite of the animosity, Kira’s resistance cell successfully steals a Jem’Hadar ship with a Breen energy weapon installed for Starfleet to study.

Second, Worf is forced to make a fateful decision when he realizes Gowron has been forcing Martok into hopeless battles in order to diminish his status in the Empire. Gowron considers Martok a political rival. And a threat to his power. Worf tries to convince Martok to challenge Gowron, but he refuses out of misguided loyalty to is uniform. Finally, Worf does so himself and kills Gowron in an exciting round of personal combat. He abdicates his right to rule the Empire in favor of Martok.

As usual, we gloss over that whole Prime Directive thing, presumably because we are I a time of war, but it pays to note Worf also killed Duras, which indirectly allowed Gowron to assume power. So this is the second time Worf has brought about political change in the Chancellory by cold blooded murder.

Sisko does not freak out like Picard did, either. Just to note.

Finally, Bashir, desperate to cure Odo’s lethal virus, concocts a plan to lure Sloan to DS9 by claiming he has found a cure. So after all that rot about Federation ideals, he resorts to Section 31 tactics to get the job done. Big surprise, no?

Ratig: *** (out of 5)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"When It Rains..."

“When It Rains…” is the first half of the old saying, “When it rains, it pours,” meaning when bad things happen, they are terrible. The phrase is apt, considering all that happens to the characters involved.

O’Brien determines only Klionn ships have the capacity to withstand the Breen energy draining weapon that lead to the destruction of the Defiat. That means the Klingons are going to have to take on the bulk of fighting against the new and very powerful Dominion ally. As if that was not bad enough, Gowron shows up on DS9 to take command of the fleet away from Martok. He then proceeds to make very poor battle plans in the name of glory, but which will lead to obscene amounts of Klingon casualties.

Kai Winn is still uneasily allied with Dukat even after she learns his true identity. Their partnership dissolves when he is blinded in an attempt to read the book on the Pah’Wraith. Winn takes his affliction as a sign he has lost favor with the Pah’Wraith and boots him to the streets as a beggar.

In terms of narrative, Dukat’s blinding comes out of left field. It serves only to get him out of the picture. At least Winn has an excuse to disappear for a few episodes. Watching her study the book would be boring. In Dukat’s case, his disappearance is a matter of convenience. At least now he will discover whether Bajorans have the capacity to feel charity towards him.

Odo discovers the early signs of being infected with the Founder’s virus. Because of Starfleet medical’s stonewalling and the eventual arrival of fake medical records, Bashir figures out that Section 31 infected Odo during “Homefront/Paradise Lost” so that he would infect thereto the Founders. Now they are attempting to stall until the virus does its genocidal work.

The most interesting part of the episode is the story of Damar’s rising rebellion. Starfleet grants Kira a battlefield commission in order to covertly head to Cardassia to train Damar in guerilla warfare. Her commission is an unintended demotion. She is a colonel, so she ought to become the naval equivalent of captain. But she is made a commander instead. The factual error bugs me.

As does the lack of any mention of Ziyal. Damar killed her in cold blood. She was close to both Kira and Garak, who Obsidian Order experience makes him a lock to join in the rebellion, so there ought to have been a confrontation of sorts between them and Damar. Alas, there was much of nothing. One could argue circumstances warranted casting such feelings aside to handle the matter at hand, but I still feel cheated.

The role reversal of a Bajoran aiding a Cardassian rebellion as the latter get a taste of cosmic karma for all their similar misdeeds more than makes up for it. This aspect of the story harkens back to the early days of the series when the focus was heavily on the lingering animosity between Bajor and Cardassia. As much as I enjoy the Domiion War arc, I miss those days.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Changing Face of Evil"

“The Changing Face of Evil,” plays the double entendre of the replacement of the Cardassians by the Breen as the primary military force I the Dominion and the exposure of Dukat as the dark influence behind Kai Winn’s quest to reawaken the Pah’Wraiths.

The Breen begin their tenure as a Dominion power in earnest by attacking Starfleet headquarters on Earth. Even the Klingons are impressed with the audacity. They never tried anything so bold.

I have to confess seeing San Francisco burning back in 1999 when the episode originally aired was had far more of an emotional impact than any other time Earth has been threatened in Trek. Thee were serious consequences this time. In the post-9/11 world, it strikes me as terribly prescient, particularly in Starfleet’s reaction.

The Federation now has a new enemy it does not know how to fight. It has to rely on Damar, who has finally grown fed up enough with the Dominion treating his people like second class citizens, to organize a rebellion against the Dominion, which like the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.

Fortunately, the United states did not lose a subsequent battle comparable to the Dominion retaking the Chimtaka system and destroying the Defiant in the process. Nevertheless, the story seemed a lot more innocent back then tha it does now under our new reality.

In terms of the series narrative, the Cardassians are about to become full circle. The Dominion will brutally stamp down on Damar’s resistance fighters thesame way they had the Bajoran resistance cells years before. Consider it the ultimate case of reaping what they have sown.

“The Changing Face of Evil” tightens the screws at just the right moment to make The Final Chapter even more compelling. It isa lot of set up of the big picture before we see the personal impact on various characters which is, in many ways, far more compelling.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Strange Bedfellows"

While part three of The Final Chapter is another allusion to multiple relationships, it is really a Damar episode for me. He is that rare bird I trek--a minor alien character who grows into prominence to be one of the most fascinating. Tragic, too. We will get to him in a moment.

I suspect the process towards a truce between Worf and Ezri is supposed to be the highlight of the episode, but as one who is not a Worf or Jadzia guy--he is still grinding hiax about Ezri spoiling her memory--it does ot sing or dace for me. It is doe well, mind you. The two are in a cell on Cardassia facing imminent execution. Virtually all their scenes are carried exclusively by dialogue. The relationship just does not work for me.

I was a big fan of Worf breaking Weyoun’s neck after the Vorta mentioned he now knows Ezri is in love with Bashir thanks to the Breen min probe. That was an inspired scene.

Kai Winn and the altered Dukat continue their icky romance. Winn quickly loses her faith in the prophets ad turns towards the Pah’Wraiths as per Dukat’s manipulations. Their story is going to go on hiatus in short order, which is kind of strange, but I cannot help but think the writers moved too quickly I getting the two together there is that odd combination of feeling rushed and then abandoned until near the end.

I can forgive the slow, anemic plodding through the rest of the episode suffers because of how much I ejoy the Damar character study. The patriotic Damar is in way over his head here as he realizes the Breen are replacing his people as the favored Alpha Quadrant ally. The Dominion are forcing Cardassian territorial concessions without his advisement, using his soldiers as cannon fodder, and he is finally demoted himself.

A big emphasis has been placed on Damar’s excessive drinking. He is not an epicurean, he is trying to bury feelings of self-loathing because of the Dominion lackey he has become. He even reveals a death wish in his comment that Worf should have killed him instead of Weyoun if he wanted to make any real difference in his and Ezri’s dire situation.

The episode ends with Damar helped the two escape with the message the Federation now has an ally on Cardassia.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"'Til Death Do Us Part"

“’Til Death Do Us Part,” aside from being grammatically incorrect, serves the quadruple function of alluding to four different relationships. All appear doomed to end badly. Giving the audience four different stories to keep track of in such a small amount of space is a George Lucas-type mistake which is inadvisable, but the stories are not as difficult to follow as you might think.

First, Sisko tells Kassidy about his vision from the Prophets regarding their impending marriage. He calls the whole thing off out of fear over his destiny. Eventually, his skeptical nature resurfaces. He may the Emissary, but he is also a man with his own desires. He decides to marry Kassidy anyway, even ignoring another Prophetic vision at the alter.

Second, Dukat disguises himself as a Bajotran farmer. He uses his personal knowledge as former military governor of Occupied Bajor and influence of the Pah’Wraith to woo Kai Win, who is on DS9 for Sisko’s original wedding. Watchin her fall for him is kid of gross, but seeing her beig seduced by the dark side of the Bajora pantheon is rather fun. The smarmy woman is getting her just desserts. Too bad she may take Bajor down with her.

Third, Ezri and Worf. Uder interrogation, Ezri reveals she has a thing for Bashir. Worf still has a love/hate thing for Ezri, the revelation sends him completely over the edge because he believes Jadzia is being dishonored. I am trying to be sympathetic to Worf. There is no real human equivalent to the Trill phenomenon, so I cannot comprehend a healthy way of reacting. But Worf is still being a real douche by not letting jadzia go so Ezri can live her life.

Finally, the Breen join the Dominion. The Breen are being presented as the Dominion’s salvation, but they have also serve as the wedge that will send Cardassia ito rebellion. So the apparent salvation actually spells the beginning of the end.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Penumbra"

“Penumbra” serves as the first of the nine part concluding story arc for DS9. It has been dubbed The Final Chapter by the creators, which is rather amusing since no other parts of the series have been delineated into chapters. This first episode introduces the major arcs which will be rolling through until the end.

Sisko buys the land on Bajor he previously announced he would in order to build a retirement home. While making plans for the future, he realizes Kassidy must be in it, so he proposes. Se accepts, but is wary of this whole married to the Emissary thing, particularly when the Bajorans appear to be even more excited about the nuptials than Sisko is.

Kassidy quips that her mother would be upset she is not going to be married by a minister. Aside from Sisko’s exhortation to God I “The Siege of AR558,” Kassidy’s comment is only the second indication Christianity still exists I the 24th century as far as DS9 is concerned. The two references still make DS9 less secular than the completely humanistic TNG, so take that, Gene Roddeberry.

The Prophets send Sisko a dire warning the worst is yet to come. He must walk his path alone.

The Dominion War rages on even though the Founders are ailing with Section 31’s manufactured virus. Worf’s ship was destroyed. He allegedly made it to an escape pod, but there has been no sign of him for days. Once the search is called off, Ezri’s Jadzia memories bubble to the surface. She feels obligated to cotinue searching. She eventually finds him. It is not a happy reunion. But thi beig television, the tension is broken by sex and then an abduction by the Dominion’s new alien ally, the Breen.

Dukat returns to surprise an alcoholic Damar who is beginning to seriously question the Cardassian alliance with the Dominion. Dukat has transformed himself surgically ito a Bajor to fully embrace the love of the Pah’Wraith.

I am more interested in the Dominion War arc than I am the romantic designs of Sisko/Kassidy and Worf/Ezri, so I cannot consider “Penumbra” particularly resonating, but introductory episodes are meant mostly to set up for big pay offs later. That “Penumbra” does well.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges"

"Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges" (Latin for "In times of war, laws fall silent") continues the theme introduced in “In the Pale Moonlight” of questioning exactly how far would you be willing to violate your general principles in order for those principles to survive? Would their survival matter anymore at that point, anyway?

Like “In the Pale Moonlight,” the story centers on the Federation’s shaky alliance with the Romulans, which it must maintain in order to survive. That is not obvious from the beginning, however. At first, Sloan approaches Bashir yet again to serve as a spy during a conference on Romulus. Sloan want Bashir to get a first hand diagnosis of the secret police (Tal Shiar) head named Koval. He is suspected of having a degenerative condition Sloan hints they would like to speed up real accidental-lie.

Bashir conspires with Adm. Ross to contain Sloan, but when ross takes ill, Bashir is all alone. He opts to contact Cretak, the senator who was posted on DS9 earlier and a friend to the alliance with the Federation for help. Bashir has jumped to the conclusion Sloan has a Romulan accomplice since he has so much inside intelligence. He requests she steal a ist of Koval’s close associates to see if he can guess who the potential assassin might be.

Unfortunately, Bashir, Cretak, and Sloan are all captured by Koval. Sloan is killed, Cretak is arrested as a traitor, and Bashir is set free.

The resolution bugs him, probably because he has read the novel The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. In that film, a disgraced British spy used to prop up the sadistic head of the east German secret police at the expense of many iocent lives because he is a valuable double agent. Because that is exactly what happened here.

Bashir confronts the now ‘healed” Ross who reveals the plot: Koval is a Section 31 operative. They used a plot to kill him in order to set up Cretak, who is feared to know be pushing a separate peace with the Dominion. They needed to get her out of the way to preserve the alliance and knew Bashir’s high moral sense would bring her into the conspiracy rather than let the ’assassination” of Koval go forward. Sloan’s death was faked to make things all the more convincing.

The story is interesting, though contrived. Just how likely is such a convoluted plan to work? But I can accept that aspect. What bugs me and puts this episode a few notches below “In the Pale Moonlight,’ is that Bashir never gets his hands dirty.

He never once sees the value of sacrificing Cretak in order to save the Federation. Bashir keeps his high and mighty principles, even ranting towards Ross about them in the end. The episode is diminished because he never considers that the moral action to take might not be the right action. He is just a pawn in a game played by nasty men.

You have to be a big Trek nut to care about this point, but a umber of Romulan characters featured in the episode have been seen before as TNG’s ’The Mind’s Eye” and “Unification I/II,” but every last one of them is played by a new actor. That includes Cetak, who had appeared as late as thirteen episodes ago. It takes some of the fan boy coolness out of it because there is hardly any familiarity with the characters when the only connection with their previous appearances is their name. It is a bit of a gyp.

In spite of its flaws, I like the episode overall. It continues the theme that Gene Roddenerry’s idealistic vision of the future cannot be realistically maintained under certain types of threat. It even goes so far as to admit the Romulans assassinated a Starfleet admiral last year in order to plant the seed the Federation may be creeping towards becoming like the Romulans themselves with Section 31’s covert acts.

Plus, I am a big fan of William Sadler. His portrayal of Sloan is one of the highlights of DS9.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Badda Bing, Badda Bing"

Deep Space Nine definitely did some odd stand alone episodes in which the characters were in little to no peril. Oftentimes, they fell flat. Add in the occasional holdout story, and the situation gets far worse. “Badda Bing, Badda Bing’ is both a frivolous story and a holdout show, so ought to be nearly unbearable. But you know what? It is so weird, it is too fun to dismiss.

The program designer for Vic Fontaine’s lounge added a buried element that as designed to eventually pop up to keep things from getting boring--Vic’s place gets taken over by the mob. The DS9 staff is not happy about the change, so they plan to rob the casino, thereby cutting off the mob boss’ cut, and running the new owner out of town.

No, seriously.

All of the senior staff, sans Worf, but plus Kassidy Yates, take part in the Ocean’s Eleven homage. It does not go as smoothly as planned, but it does all work out in the end. Because this is all a holdout program, the entertainment value has to come from fun character moments rather than any danger. Some stuff is definitely corny--Odo obsessed with the dancing girls, O’Brien taken of to be strip searched, Bashir obviously pretending to be James Bond, and Sisko singing a duet with Vic to close out the show are true stand outs.

So is that outfit Nicole DeBoer is wearing. I do not know what is wrong with those of you hating on her. She was hot stuff back then.

The only peculiar part of the story is Sisko’s initial objection to joining in the program. It is set in 1962 before the civil rights movement was really underway. He resents that Kassidy is playing along in a world she would not have been welcomed in. Her response is to the gist of it being all right to play along because there is total equality in the 24th century. With that, she convinces him to play along. The only reason I can think of for that sequence to be in the episode was asa trade off to Avery Brooks, who is big on civil rights history, in order to cajole him into singing.

Normally, I would dismiss such an episode, but for whatever reason, I liked it. It is not one of the best episodes of the series, but it is worth seeing after you have known most of these characters for years. “Badda Bing, Badda Bing" serves as a nice breather before the final arc begins. There will not be a quiet moment left until the clock runs out.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Chimera"

“Chimera” I the likeliest reason Ezri took center stage in “Field of Fire”’s criminal investigation. Odo shares the spotlight with Laas, another of the one hundred Changelings sent out to explore the galaxy. He does not approve of the Founders’’ war, but is not a big fan of “monoforms,” either. Odo’s bonding with lass reveals an uncomfortable secret about himself.

Odo and O’Brien are traveling back to DS9 I a runabout when a Changeling, sensing Odo’s presence, sneaks on board and presents himself. O’Brien is naturally suspicious, but Laas agrees to go back to DS9 to have a medical tests prove he is not s Founder. They do, so he begins adjusting to life on the station.

Which is not easy. Laas grew up in much the same way as Odo, but he has become completely disgusted with monoforms and wants nothing to do with them. Whe he links with Odo, he learns he too, is not completely enamored with monoforms, either. If it were not for Kira, he would have gone back to the Great Lake and become a Founder.

This revelation is yet another point that helped ruin Odo for me in the latter bits of DS9. Starting with his traitorous actions with the Female Changeling in the first arc of the sixth season on up to his silly, implausible romance with Kira, Odo shifts away from the sympathetic, alienated character he was to the high school kid who becomes a jerk once he gets invited to the in crowd’s lunch table and starts banging the head cheerleader. All the interesting things about his character have been erased.

Odo was a fascinating character early on when he did not know in place in the grand scheme of things, when he carried a torch for Kira, but knew it could never amount to anything, when he was found his people, but could not be with them for his moral objections, when he developed a friendship with Garak even after he was tortured by him because it was more important they were kindred spirits…the list goes on. Odo definitely lost something in the final seasons. Lord, I miss the old him.

Lass takes jabs at Odo over his reluctance to shape shift in front of monoforms. He claims Odo is trying to win them over by pretending to not be a shape shifter as much as possible. If only Laas knew Odo’s lack of shape shifting was due to budget restrictions, we could have been spared the psychoanalysis.

Laas obviously touches a nerve, because Odo makes nothing but excuses for him as his shape shifting disrupts the normal flow of life on DS9. One incident leads to Laas killing a Klingon. He is arrested and held in custody while the Klingon Empire attempts his extradition.

Kira secretly frees him and sends him on his way with the idea Odo will join him later. The two can then happily frolic through space like Brokeback Galaxy or whatever she had in mind. Odo does meet with Lass at the rendevous point, but opts to go back to Kira. Awwww. Who can blame him?

“Chimera” brings up a couple continuity problems. One, when we first meet Lass, he ha changed shape into something that can comfortably survive in space. Why is it Odo was not able to do that when he and Weyoun were freezing to death in “Treachery, Faith, and the Great River?” Two, Odo has been infected by the same virus that the Founders were introduced to. When he linked with lass, he infected him with it, too. Presumably, lass died sometime after “Chimera’ because there is no way he could have gotten the antidote or even knew it existed. What a downer.

Lass was played by J. G. Herttzler, who normally plays the recurring Klingon Gen. Martok.

“Chimera” is not a bad episode, but it does add to my personal disappointment with the direction of Odo’s character. It might have been more interesting if Odo had met another of the one hundred earlier I the series before he got bogged down with conflicting loyalties and romance with Kira. Their relationship would have been more interesting because Odo’s conflict would have been his loneliness versus his loyalty to friends rather than attachment to the Founders trying to kill everyone he knows and his unlikely romance with Kira.

Rating; *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Field of Fire"

Yet another Ezri-cetric story in only a handful of episodes. The writers are certainly trying to map out her character before she gets lost in the ensemble cast of the final story arc. In hindsight, there is not much need. It is in the final arc where her character shines the brightest. But before then, we haveto sit trough pdestrian offerings like “Prodigal Daughter” and ’Field of Fire.”

The story is straightforward. A murderer has killed three young officers on DS9. Ezri calls upon the memories of Joran, the past host who killed three people himself, to solve the crimes.

The first thing that struck me about the episode ishow awkwardly Ezri fits I the role of ivestigator. The notion ezri, the counelor, would take center stageas opposed to Odo, the constable, is ludicrous even wih her special insight due to Joran. The story remids me way too much of Tng’s “Eye of the Beholder,” an episde in which counselor Troi solves a ystery of acrewmember’s suicide. “Field of fire” hasa better eding, but still…flashbacks to “Eye of the Beholder” are unadvisable for those with good taste.

I do not find the psychological games Joran plays with Ezri as compelling as they were surely meant to be. For someone who has had so much trouble adjusting to the memories of eight lifetimes of mostly good past host, Ezri does ot seem sufficiently spooked or manipulated by Joran. Her character has not progressed in strtength that obviously, so it is just plopped on us abruptly she can handle him.

The surprising plot twist I the murder’s identity--he is a traumatized Vulcan who resented his victims ecause they had photo of themselves laughing. He winds up being more of a creepy psycho than does Joran. I am curious how may ans were upset a Vulcan was portrayed as psychotic. Deep Space Nier slaughtered all sorts of Trek’s sacre cows, but considering how Vulcans are goig to be portrayed from here on out on ENT, fans ought to be nostalgic or when they had it good with a murderous loon Vulcan.

“Field of Fire” is a entertaining episode, but nothing special. At this point, the seventh season feels like it is meandering as badly as did the final season of TNG. That will change, but not for a coule more episodes. Until then, I am kind of twiddling my thumbs.

Fun fact: “Field of Fire” is directed by Tony Dow, Wally Cleaver himself.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Emperor's New Cloak"

Let us take a moment to engage in a happy dance, because this is the last mirror universe episode I will have to suffer through. Rejoice, loyal Trekkies! Rejoice!

Even being a Quark/Rom-centric episode cannot save “The Emperor’s New Cloak’ from mediocrity. He two have to hand over a cloaking device to the alien alliance of the mirror universe as ransom for the kidnapped Grand Nagus. The two succeed in rescuing the Grand Nagus while also helping the Terrans overthrow the Regent.

I found it odd Vic Fontaine and Ezri Tegan would just so happen to be characters in the mirror universe at this time. I suppose it should not, since it has be demonstrated in the past new characters pop up in both universes at relatively the same time. I think I am just more inclined to find fault since I despise these mirror universe stories.

By the way, did the empire not already get cloaking technology in ’Through the Looking Glass?” Was that not the whole plot of that episode?

Bah. I do not care. I will never, ever have to sit through another oe of these travesties again! Whoo hoo!

Rating: * (out of 5)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Prodigal Daughter"

I had completely forgotten about this episode. It only took about ten minutes of watching before I realized I had been blocking it out all these years to preserve my high opinion of DS9. the show took risks with stories that would not fit in well with other trek series. It often worked. Occasionally, it did not. Guess which category ’prodigal Daughter” falls into?

The big question is whether this was supposed to be two separate episodes that got crammed together because of the big Dominion War finale coming up. I cannot say for certain, but that is the only excuse I can think o for how contrived the two plot points collide.

O’Brien goes AWOL on a non-Federation planet in order to search for the widow of Bixby, the guy he befriended while trying to expose the Orion Syndicate. He does not return to DS9 as scheduled, so Bashir spills the beans to Sisko where O’Brien is.

The planet just happens to be where Ezri’s overbearing other owns a mining company. Ezri is estranged from her mother, but agrees to ask her for help in tracking down O’Brien in exchange for a visit. Ezri reluctantly agrees.

Ezri’s family puts the “fun” in dysfunctional. Her mother is a bullying ice queen who ran her off years ago. Both her brothers have been forced into helping ruu the company, including her free-spirited artist brother, whom mommy dearest thinks is a pussy. We go on wit this charming portrait for awhile until the police show up with O’Brien.

He has found Bilby’s widow, but she has been killed, presumably by the Orion Syndicate. Fortunately for plot convenience, the Orion Syndicate has been doing business with the mining company because of Ezri’s older brother. Her mother did not know anything about it.

Here is the kicker: he has been making payments to Bilby’s widow for a no responsibility job. She was arguing for more money, so the artist brother whacked her in order to both solve the problem and prove to his mother he has a pair.

An Ezri-centric episode is a good idea. She has been around for nearly half a season and we still know nothing about her. We do learn wy she is so insecure. She has all those mommy issues haunting her. While I did not find her family drama all that compelling, it is made far worse by tying in the annual O’Brien Must Suffer story with it in such an outlandish way. What were the writers thinking?

Rating: * (out of 5)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Thirty Days of Doctor Who # 18--Favorite Multi-Doctor Episode

My favorite multi-Doctor episode is “The Three Doctors” from 1972. The story featured the first three Doctors banding together in order to stop Omega, a renegade time Lord, from taking revenge on the other Time Lords for their abandonment of him.

The serial is bittersweet because it is the last acting performance of William Hartnell, the First Doctor. He was very ill during filming, so he could only appear as a video screen image. Hartnell diedsortly after the serial aired.

The banter between the three Doctors makes the episode for me. The first Doctor is unimpressed with the dandy the clown (Second Doctor) ad dandy (Third Doctor) who succeeded him. The Second and Third Doctors try to one up one another while taking personal jabs. Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee enjoyed it so much, they kept up the banter in personal appearances long after quitting Dotor Who.

There are rumors Omega will be revealed in 2011 as the mastermind behind the TARDIS explosion that was the running plot thread of the last season. Rumors of returning villains float about all the time without ever materializing, so do not hold your breath. It would be neat to see him updated with better production vales than they have managed in the past.

Deep Space Nine--"It's Only a Paper Moon"

I have expressed bemusement at the addition of holographic lounge siner Vic Fontaine to the series. Episodes focusing on his character feel awkward amid the Dominion War story arc. That is with the exception of “It’s Only a Paper Moon.” In this case, Vic fits in very well as Nog’s unofficial therapist.

Nog returns from months of rehab with an artificial leg after losing his real leg in “The Siege of AR558.” Sisko would like to welcome him back as a hero, but Nog declines. He is stumbling along with a cane, claims his leg hurts even though there is nothing physically wrong with his prosthesis, and prefers to sulk in his quarters. Sisko relieves him of duty so he can.

Nog sits in his quarters all day listening to Vic’s recording of “I’ll Be Seeing You,” a world War Ii era classic that Bashir played for him I the makeshift infirmary on AR558 right after his leg had been amputated. It drives Jake crazy, so Nog goes to Vic’s lounge I order to hear him sing the song I person. He asks Vic to sing twelve diferent arrangements.

Nog decides to stay in Vic’s holographic world. Ezri, Nog’s counselor, is wary, but goes along with it. Nog still is not adjusting well and after an altercation with Jake, Vic kicks him out. He apologizes later, and Vic gives him something constructive to do--examine his finances. As Nog starts feeling more useful, he relies less on his cane until Vic shuts his program off altogether in order to force him back into the real world. It works.

As one who has had to adjust to major life changes due to health issues, I can empathize with Nog. His grieving process is done accurately and well. This is what a bottle show is supposed to be. It is an emotionally engaging character study so involving, you do not notice the minimalist setting. Deep Space Nine rarely does that well, but here, it hits all the marks.

Fun noe: Vic describes himself as smarter than the average bear to Nog when he figures out how to keep the Ferengi from activating his program. That is Yogi bear’s signature line. James Darren voiced Yogi in the Hey There, it’s Yogi Bear.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Covenant"

“Covenant” is a fascinating effort to bring Dukat back to the forefront as a major villain He had gotten lost in the Dominion War storyline over the last season and a third. I am a big Dukat fan and he makes the episode for me, it is not without its flaws. The episode feels…disjointed.

The first half involves Dukat arranging for Kira to be kidnapped and brought to Empok Nor where he has established a cult worshiping the Pah’Wraith. Kira is appalled Dukat has convinced a large group of Bajorans to join with him as their spiritual leader uder the guise the Pah’Wraiths are the true prophets of Bajor because the Prophets abandoned them during the Occupation.

Never mind that Dukat was in charge of Bajor during the Occupation. The cult stresses forgiveness and redemption, even though the situation is the Equivalent of Adolph Eichmann eing accepted as leader of a colony of Holocaust survivors.

All this is what Dukat always wanted--to rule Bajorans with a firm hand and have him love him for it. As a sign he has gathered the cult together as a slap against Sisko, he even refers to himself as the true Emissary. In that sense, “Covenant” edges us even closer to the final battle between Sisko ad Dukat as representatives of good and evil.

Kira cannot bring herself to accept Dukat’s good intentions. Neither can we, of course. Eevnts fall apart when it is revealed Dukat got a woman pregnant, claimed it was a miracle the kid is half Cardassian, and then tried to kil her to keep the truth from being revealed.

Here is where the episode completely shifts from dealing with the issues of blind faith, forgiveness, and redemption--all compelling--and instead becomes an homage to the Heaven’s Gate cult.

You remember them. The cult of androgynous eunuchs lead by Marshall Applewhite who committed mass suicide in order to join aliens when the Hale-Bopp comet was burning brightest? The Heaven’s Gate cult suicide happened about a year and a half prior to “Covenant.” Nichelle Nichols’ brother was among the dead. There is your obligatory trek connection.

Dukat has no intentions of killing himself along with the rest. Kira exposes him for a fraud. The cult rebels, but he escapes to further his plan to be empowered by the Pah’Wraith.

I like "Covenant.” I would have preferred if it had kept on its original track instead of heading off into a direct rift of an event most people think is a sad tragedy only in the sense people were misguided ito believing something crazy. I thought the episode really had something with its exploration of faith and character study of Dukat. The episode turned out fine, but it could have been more to my liking had it remained on its original path.

The Heaven's Gate web site is still up. Web Design certainly has come a long way since then. The page remembers me of theearly days of Geocities.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"The Siege of AR558"

If not for ’In the Pale Moonlight,” “The Siege of AR558” would be my favorite episode of DS9. It has a double impact for me. I have made no secret I do not buy into Gene Roddeberry’s idealistic vision of future humans as having evolved into socialist utopianss “The Siege of AR 5588’ is further confirmation of how ridiculous Roddenberry’s vision is.

For another, the episode is loosely based on the Battle of Guadalcanal. Not only am I a World War Ii history buff, but a couple weeks after this episode aired, The Thin Red Line was released. The movie was based on the James Jones novel about Guadalcanal and is, in my evidently unpopular opinion, a far and away better war movie than Saving Private Ryan, the movie which eclipsed it critically and commercially.

The Defiant is assigned to resupply an outpost so remote, it does not even have a name. Just the designation of AR 558. A small group of Starfleet soldiers have been ordered to defend a Dominion communications relay which might--might--be of some use in what is looking increasingly like a hopeless war or the Federation. They have been under siege for five moths now ad are suffering severe shell shock. On top of constant Jem’Hadar attacks, they have run ito invisible mines nicknamed Houdinis that randomly appear and explode in places you may have walked across a thousand time before safely.

Sisko beams down with Bashir, Ezri, Nog, and Quark, who is doing recon for the Grand Nagus in order to inspect the status of the troops. He realizes he cannot leave these people in the shape they are in, so when the Jem’Hadar attack again, he orders the Defiant to retreat while the five of them help hold the line.

All but Sisko are novice combatants, so we see the horror of war through their fresh eyes. The troops that have been there for five months are battle scarred and o edge. Nog has a certain admiration for some of them, but Quark warns him off. These are not the Federation people he knows. Take away their creature comforts and they become something savage.

Here is where Roddenberry’s idealism takes a major hit. Quark is right. Humans have not evolved by the 24th century into perfection. Whatever advancement they have achieved is environmental. Make them cold, hugry, and scared, and humans will become the brutes they always have been under those circumstances.

As if to bring the point brutally home, Nog loses his leg in the next Jem’Hadar attack. He handles the subsequent amputation well, solely because he has Sisko’s admiration. He asks sisko if their losses are worth it in order to keep the relay safe. Sisko remarks, “God, I hope so.” If I am not mistaken, that is the first time any character in Trek to implore God for a positive outcome. I am surely reading too much into that, but with such obnoxiously secular offerings as trek usually is, one takes what one can get.

Quark stands vigil over Nog. During the next Jem’Hadar attack, he is forced to kill one in order to save his nephew. After spending the episode explaining to Nog the wisdom of avoiding conflict at all costs, he is forced into committing as violet an act as the Starfleet troops he was urging Nog to not idolize. It is sadly poignant moment when the realization hits him.

The troops repel the attack as the Defiant returns with more young reinforcements. They will have to suffer through the same hell indefinitely into the future.

“The Siege of AR558” is a dark, depressing look at war unlike just about every other case of combat in Trek. This is not luxurious ships with all the comforts of home engaged in bloodless space battles. This is raw, man-to-man combat with casualties piling up before our eyes. The kind of story told realistically that elevates DS9 about all other trek.

I cannot end without mentioning Bill Mumy’s guest appearance. Mumy is a science fiction legend from his young days on Lost in Space and The Twilight Zone to his role of Lennier on Babylon 5, another favorite which was wrapping up its five year run around about this time.

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

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Once More into the Breach"

One of the things I like most about DS9 is its sense of trek history. the show was often better linked with Tos than either TNG or ENT, the two series you would think would do a better job. In this episode, Kor returns. Kor, played both here and in TOS by the original Count Baltar, John Colicos, was the first LKlingon we ever met way back in “Errand of Mercy.” In ’Once More into the Breach,” wesee his final act as a hero.

Kor comes to DS9 a bored old man, feeling down because his services as a warrior are not longer needed. Old age is a curse to Klingons. They lose their sense of self-worth in it. Worf sympathizes and allows Kor to serve as second officer on a dangerous raid into Dominion territory.

The problem is Martok has a beef with Kor. Long ago, Kor was a prominent captain who refused to allow Martok, then a lowly foot soldier, an officer appointment. Later, Martok was grated battlefield commission, but his original rejection still stings.

The conflict between the two is a classic case of class warfare. Or was a aristocratic warrior, born to be part of the leadership. Martok was a everyman who started at the bottom, worked his way up, and finally caught a lucky break. Their roles have reversed now, with neither one acting without wounded feelings.

Nevertheless, as a favor to Worf, Martok agrees. His battle plan sounds very similar to oe Kor used years ago against the Federation, so when a Jem’Hadar attack incapacitates Martok and Worf, kor takes over, but in his senility, forgets which war he is fighting.

They survive, but the crew who had been honored to serve with the legendary Kor become wary of him. He redeems himself in the end when he takes Worf’s place on a suicide mission. He manages to destroy the Jem’Hadar, dying a useful hero.

Meanwhile on DS9, Quark pours his heart out to Ezri, who gently rejects him. Quark spends most of the season alternating between mourning Jadzia, which I do not understand, and trying to get in Ezri’s pants, which I understand crystal clear. Have I mentioned she is really cute? ’Cause she is. I am not terribly fond of his character turn, but Armin Shimmerman plays quark so well, just about anything he does is entertaining.

Klingon-centric episodes are hit and miss, but I like this one a lot. It is great to see or again. It is even better to see him go out as a hero. The story is exciting and adds some more complexity to Kligons. We learn a little more about how they feel once they are too old to fight and how they deal with class divisions. I dig it.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Treachery, Faith, and the Great River"

It has been a long time since we have had a positive Odo-centric episode. For quite a while now, he has either been conflicted in a traitorous manner about whether he belongs with his fellow Changelings or I this nauseatingly bad romance with Kira. “Treachery, Faith, and the Great River” shows Odo in action like he used to be.

Odo is contacted by one of his Cardassian informants whom he suspected was executed when the Cardassian Union joined the Dominion. In fact, he has. Odo was actually contacted by Wetoun, who wants to defect to the Federation. Odo agrees to help because he is convinced Weyoun would be an intelligence asset.

The two are pursued by Jem’Hadar forces in a space chase into an asteroid belt that is not only reminiscent of The Empire Strikes Back, but a marvelous turn of CGI for DS9. We have had big space battles before, which are impressive in their own right, but nothing quite as neat as this. I am biased about such things. Oftentimes in those huge CGI battle royales, artists throw in everything but the kitchen sink. Said battles are many times so overwhelming it is difficult to uild up any sense of excitement because it is hard to focus. Less is more, I my opinion.

I do not watch DS9 for the battle scenes, anyway.

When they are on the verge of capture, Weyoun sacrifices himself in order to save Odo. The Jem’Hadar were only using deadly force because they wanted to eliminate Weyoun before he had a chance to talk to Starfleet. Now that it is just Odo, the no harming of Changelings rule kicks in. The Jem’Hadar retreat.

The B-story reveals the Ferengi attitude about the afterlife. Nog makes intricate trades among numerous people for parts O’Brien needs to make Defiant repairs. In doing so, he “borrows” items from Ds9 crew with the expectation greater rewards will comefor all of them. Strangely enough, they do. Everyone either gets their property back in better condition or a better quality version altogether.

The Ferengi religion property acquisition is a strange combination of Ayn Rand’s virtue of selfishness and karma. Taking property for your own benefit has a way of spreading the wealth and ultimately benefiting whomever the property was taken from. Color me skeptical, but it is an intriguing concept.

It is also the only deep part of the episode, but the action that takes up the bulk of the story is exciting to follow.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Chrysalis"

Was anyone clamoring for the failed augments from ’Statistical Probabilities?” I was not, mainly because of the issues that arose the first time around. Namely, would these augments not be such misfits if they were not locked up for so long and it is rather bad they are being taken advantage of by Starfleet for intelligence purposes regardless.

the writers quickly dispose of these two concerns by having the augments escape to DS9 posing as Starfleet top brass. It is another unnecessary character assassination like their effort to give critical information to the Dominion in order to quickly end the war the last time around. At least this time their actions, though misguided, are more noble.

They have heard Bashir is working on a treatment that may pull their friend, Sarina, out of her catatonic state.

The treatment does work. Sarina subsequently becomes mentally and emotionally healthy like Bashir, so she no longer has to be institutionalized. Naturally, Bashir, in violation of every ethic involved in the doctor/patient relationship, falls for her. She isa pretty woman close to his age. What should I expect?

Bashir lets her spend the night in his quarters, then ures her to stay away from the augments in order to adjust from being away from them. That equals preying on Salia’s emotionally fragile and alienating her from her only friends. Yes, Bashir isa predator.

The relationship does not work out, so Salina goes off to live with a family that will help her adjust to life without playing frequent games of naked Crisco Twister as part of her therapy like you just know Bashir would prescribe.

“Chrysalis” is an average episode involving characters I do not much care for. Not bad technically, but nothing special.

Ratin: *** (out of )

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Take Me Out to the Holosuite"

It is a complete stroke of good fortune the episode featuring America’s pastime fell on the fourth of July. Amazing how appropriately some things work out, no?

I am a big baseball fan--have I mention my beloved University of South Carolina Gamecocks are national champions?--so “Take Me Out to the Holosuite” holds a special significance. Enough of one for me to overlook its glaring shortcomings.

But let me start off with what is good, which is the whole concept. A Vulcan named Solok has been a rial of Sisko’s since the academy days. Solok has a particularly bad case of bigotry regarding the perceived inferiority of humans to Vulcans. His attitude prompted abar fight when they were younger, which Sisko soundly lost. There has been animosity between the two since which culminates in this hopeless baseball game between the DS9 crew and Solok’s Vulcan crew.

The episode is played as lighthearted fun and winds up better than most filler episodes. It is amusing to watch theDS9 gang trying to play a game they have no familiarity with whatsoever because they want to defend Sisko’s honor. Personally, I think Worf’s, ’Death to the opposition!” batting chatter is funnier than his more famous, ’I am not a merry man” from TNG’s “Qpid,” but I appear to be in a minority there.

The big flaw of the episode is its story structure. It starts out with the rivalry between Sisko ad Solok in which Sisko takes the game way to seriously. Then Solok disappears for two acts. Oncee he is back in the picture, the episode becomes centered around Rom rather than either Sisko or Solok.

Rom is a terrible player and in Sisko’s obsession about winning, he forbids Rom to play. Hechages his mind after being thrown out of the game for making physical contact with the umpire, Odo, and realizes what a jerk he has been. In spite of Rom’s ineptitude, he manages to score the only run for DS9 in a lopsided loss. Normally, my cynical heart would say that is cheesy, but Rom is played so sympathetic, I want him to d well, so I am happy when he does.

No one else seems particularly bugged by Nog’s inability to discover which Vulcan on the bench did not touch home plate and is therefore still eligible to be tagged out because they all look alike to him. Maybe I am reading racial overtones into that which are not really there, but I cannot see a gag like that working for an ethicitygroup rather than fictional aliens without someone becoming offended.

“Take Me Outto the Holosuite” is a fun, frivolous episode. Your feelings about it will likely hinge on how you feel about baseball. I probably would like it far less if they were playing basketball, soccer or some other sport I do not care about. Mileage may vary, particularly considering the disjointed story.

Fun fact: Cirroc Lofton, who plays Jake, is the nephew of retired MLB outfielder Kenny Lofton. Lofton had been centerfielder for my favorite team, the Atlanta Braves, the season prior to this episode’s filming.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Afterimage"

“Afterimage” is the obligatory Everyone Must Adjust to Ezri episode.

It is amusing to watch because there are only two extreme views--either someone misses Dax so much they want little to nothing to do with her or they want to make made, passionate love to her because she is just so darn cute. Or Bashir and Quark are horn dogs. Whichever you think sounds more rational.

Ezri definitely is a mess. She has zero confidence in herself whatsoever. You would think her condition would be the exact opposite. Recall way back in “Invasion Procedures,’ Verad was a nebbish wimp who became strong and confident only after joining with Dax. Either the writers are overlooking continuity or Ezri was a horribly spineless pile of goo afraid of her own shadow before her joining. Again, whichever you think is more rational.

I do think it is a stroke of genius to have Ezri come into her own by cracking the toughest walnut around. She gets Garak to finally be honest about his feelings of being a traitor to is people not that he truly is one. Garak even goes to far as to apologize for his abusive behavior to her earlier.

So does Worf, who has been the jackass he usually is even on the best of days. While I have always preferred the DS9 handling of the character, he is still my least favorite on the show. It does not make sense that worf does not give the first crap about his son, but acts like an animal over someone who is no longer his wife. Regardless of his motivation about sullying her memory or whatever his problem is.

In the end, Ezri decides to stay on DS9 and even winds up with a celebration over her promotion. I assume Bashir and Quark are happy in the thought she might be in a festive enough mood to boff both of them.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Shadows and Symbols"

The title of today’s episode in another Biblical reference. More specifically, it comes from the concept in exegesis of "types, shadows, and symbols” in which a less literal meaning is searched for in prophecy rather than looking for accurate predictions of the future. Such would certainly apply to Sisko’s experience upon finding the orb of the Prophets. Not to mention the planet Tyree, which it was buried on, sounds like a reference to Tyree, a city prominent in both Biblical and early Christian history.

Sisko’s journey of discovery does not actually take up the bulk of the episode as you might expect, now does the introduction of Ezri. In fact, there are three stories running at the same time with a brief interlude into Damar’s continuing breakdown. Each of the stories could have made for an episode in itself. Perhaps they should have been. Thigs feel incredibly rushed as the writers try to et it all in.

Take a deep breath. There is a lot to absorb.

Ezri was never meant to have the Dax symbiont. The little guy took a turn for the worst on the trip back to Trill. She happened to be the only Trill onboard the ship, so it had to be implanted in her. Ezri is overwhelmed by the flood of memories from eight lifetimes, so she seeks out Sisko, a source of strength for two of Dax’s past hosts, for help. Sisko loosens up himself when he discovers the Dax legacy will continue.

It is because of her Kurzon and Jadzia memories she is able to convince Sisko to open up the Orb of the Prophets when he discovers it. He needs the extra boost to resist the Pah’Wraith’s influence urging him not to. When he finally opens the Orb, the wormhole is restored.

I had forgotten just how annoying Ezri’s insecurities were at first. She grows into a much better character, particularly compared to Jadzia, but getting passed this notion that she is unworthy on being joined and everyone around her agrees is painfully irritating to watch. I had also forgotten that Jake had a puppy love crush o her, too.

I am also bemused they hauled out Brock Peters, who was 72 at the time, to march through the desert with his son, grandson, and Ezri. Peters was a highly professional, dedicated actor who probably insisted on going all the way, but someone in production should have put the brakes on the idea. It feels cruel.

In the second story, Worf is not happy that O’Brien, Bashir, and Quark have tagged along on the dangerous mission to destroy a Dominion shipyard in order to ensure Jadzia gains entry into Sto Va Kor, the Klingon version of heaven. He snaps at them that they are unworthy of even knowing her. His real problem is his resentment at not ensuring her entry into Sto Va Kor himself, but comes to appreciate what the three meant to Jadzia and apologizes. They destroy the shipyard, so presumably Jadzia makes it to Sto Va Kor.

The final story is a Cuban missile crisis allegory between Bajoran and Romulus over the missiles housed at a hospital on a Bajoran moon. Kirasets up a blockade and dares the Romulans to break it. She is bluffing. The Bajoran ships will be slaughtered in a battle with the Romulans. They know it, so they are not going to back down. The stalemate is broken up by Adm. Ross in order to preserve the Federation-Romulan alliance.

The only real flaw with the episode is that it is too crowded. One of the stories should have been cut out to give the other two room to breathe. I would have voted to move the Worf story to another episode and have Kira’s stand off as the B-story. But I hae to review what is there and not what I wish was. Nothing in the episode is bad, but it probably could have been more memorable had it not crammed so much in.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Deep Space Nine--"Image in the Sand"

We have reached the seventh and final season of DS9. I think this is my favorite season as whole. It is not just because Jadzia has joined the choir invisible, although that is a change for the better, but because it is the most intense, engaging season of Trek in general and DS9 specifically. The series went out on a high note.

Just to get it out of the way, yes, I do like Ezri Dax. She is a far more interesting character than Jadzia ever was. Nicole de Boer is also cute as a bug’s ear. Seriously, she has those chubby little cheeks that make her look like a chipmunk. As it is in real life, she winds up sleeping with the two biggest jerks she can find. Is that not just the way?She does not show up until the end of the episode when she shows up at the Sisko’s restaurant in New Orleans. Before that, we catch up on what everyone else is up to.

Kira is now in charge of DS9 and is having trouble with the Romulan military delegation that has taken up residence as part of the new alliance. Just when Kira begin warming up to the female Romulan in charge, she discovers the hospital she pulled strings in order to get established on a Bajoran moon is loaded with more missiles tha could possibly be necessary for defense. Kira promises Bajorr will remove them if the Romulans do not.

Worf is even more irritable than usual. He is not just mourning Jadzia’s death, but is fearful she is not in Sto Va Kor, the Klingon version of heaven. He only admits his belief after O’Brien has gotten him drunk. The only way he can be certain Jadzia makes it ito Sto Va Kor is if he wins a great battle in her name. O’Brien and Bashir plot to get him assigned to Martok’s ship I time for an assault o theDominion, then decide they will go, too, in order to ensure Jadzia arrives in the land of milk an honey. Or blood wine and targ. Whatever Klingon’s enjoy in paradise.

But the bulk of the episode is about Sisko brooding in New Orleans. Dukat was right I the sixth season finale when he claimed destroying the wormhole would knock Sisko out of the war. The Prophets have not spoken to him for months until they give him a vision of a woman’s face buried in the sand. The woman turns out to be his real mother whom he never knew existed. Somehow, she is associated with Bajor and an Orb of the Emissary, which he has to find. He is attacked by a cult member who worships the Pah’Wraiths, so we have established it will not be easy.

Ezri shows up before the Siskos take off for the planet identified in some ancient writings.

For a season premiere, “Image in the Sand” is very subdued. I suppose it is supposed to be a shock on a personal level that the Sisko family dynamic has been shattered, but the revelation of family secrets does not resonate with me. I recall originally watching the episode twelve years ago and being afraid Sisko really was ’special” and “of Baor.” the other two stories were set up for payoffs later, so there is not much to say about them yet.

“Image in the Sand” is good, but I expected more.

Rating: *** (out of 5)