Friday, January 14, 2011

The Whole Damn Thing: STAR TREK: DS9 #2

OK, well, being busy at work kept me from revisiting this as soon as I'd have liked to, but I'm back once again and continuing my recap/review/endurance test to review every episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Let's blast on through one more disc, shall we?


"Rom is an idiot. He couldn't fix a straw if it was bent."

I don't have a lot to say about "Babel" because this is really nothing we haven't seen a dozen or so times before--technobabble problem affects the ship/station, everything looks bad for 40 of our our 45 minutes plus commercials, technobabble solution presents itself with five minutes to go, and everything's fine.

The nut of the plot is this--during the occupation, a Bajoran terrorist created a virus spread through the replicators that makes everyone talk in word salads (I should add, the plot of a sleeper program causing problems in the present is used to much better effect in the third season) and slowly but surely the entire station is full of blithering idiots as Our Heroes race against time to . . .uh, to . . .

Germinate antipode frog piston. Fruitful ham lugnut transformer beer can. Ham cupola broadside the funky sponge, wheedling lettuce beetle burlesque. NASCAR amorphous tousle whiplash scrubbing bubble! Humble protractor sibilance motorcycle chili ridiculous noisemaker! FIRE ANTS! FIIIIIRE ANTS!


"I am Tosk. The hunted. I live to outwit the Hunters for another day. To survive, until I die with honour. But that will not be my fate. But I will not deny my existence as Tosk."

Now we're getting somewhere. I remember this being the episode that really clicked with me. Partly because the Hunters are really cool, and partly because this is the first time we get a story you couldn't do on any Star Trek show except DS9. Oh, and depending on how nitpicky you wanna be about Canon, this is or is not the first time you see anyone from the Dominion. But we won't swim in that shit here.

A new alien comes through the wormhole--the first from the Gamma Quadrant and we are introduced to Tosk. We know this because he keeps saying "I am Tosk," as though that were supposed to explain everything. His ship's shot up and he seems to be running from something, but he's awfully tight-lipped about it. Oh, and he can turn invisible and seems to be really interested in getting his hands on some weapons.

So it's up to O'Brien not only fix his ship but figure out just what the deal is with Tosk. It doesn't take too much, because soon enough Tosk (and the station) soon get visited by the Hunters, who show up and kick a little ass and break stuff. Tosk, it seems, is the fox in a hunt for sport, and at the prospect of catching him alive, they're utterly pissed off. Not that they don't have company--the Federation are pissed off at the notion that a species would hunt another for sport, and invoke the Prime Directive (that hoariest of "let's create instant plot jeopardy by introducing a rule that no one ever follows but we fret about for a few minutes" cliches) hand over Tosk to the Hunters, who will put him on public display for ridicule.

Because it's a grave dishonor for a Tosk to be taken alive. Tosk, it seems, is an ideal in their society--his ability to elude the Hunters, to survive, is the height of heroism to them. It's hard to be an ideal when they drag you back home on a leash. Tosk is OK with this--after all, his reason for living is to elude captors: it's the whole reason he was created. It's an interesting wrinkle to what might otherwise have become Star Trek vs. Predator.

So, the Hunter ain't happy at having Tosk alive; Tosk isn't happy to be caught; the Federation ain't happy but can't interfere with the rules of the hunt; and O'Brien is least happiest of all, as he and Tosk have become friends in the interim. But he suddenly has an inspiration--why not change the rules? So he breaks Tosk out, gives him his ship, and sends him on his way and the hunt continues, and Sisko, for his part, tacitly lets him do it.

Quite a big deal as usually on Next Generation, we either hew to the Prime Directive, or the plot convulses in some improbable way that saves our characters from having to make a choice that might be less than heroic or complicated or, y'know, interesting. That DS9 allows itself to flex these rules and explicitly declare intent to do so (an example of metatextuality if ever there was one) is what makes it an interesting enough show to follow and breaks it out of the hidebound black and white morality that Star Trek usually goes for, and is the first example of changing the rules which will ultimately come to define DS9.


"Picard and his lackeys would have solved all this technobabble hours ago."

Q and Picard's girlfriend show up on the station, Q gets punched in the face, and we learn a valuable lesson about not putting space mantas up for sale on eBay.

Much as I like the notion of omnipotent beings getting punched in the face by Avery Brooks, this episode ultimately doesn't really work. For one thing, we're dealing with the girlfriend of a character who's not only not on the show, but has no real connection to this show and using it to tie up plot business best handled elsewhere. And the whole shit with the space manta is the same crap we covered elsewhere.

I did like the following lines, tho:

"What was it they called you on Brax? The God of Lies?"

"They meant it affectionately."

That said, Q has some decent interactions with the cast and it's obvious the the actor playing Q's having fun, and you almost wish those bits had happened in a better episode. It's not the worst DS9 episode, but it feels like it could have been a Next Generation episode and they just filed the serial numbers off.


"I intend to be in here until supper, not senility"

Dax nearly gets subjected to extraordinary rendition, and is put on trial for something she did in a past life.

Man, that Bajoran judge in this episode is a great one-shot character. And Bashir gets his ass kicked.

That concludes the nice things I have to say about this episode. Now, here's what I don't like: This is that most god damned annoying of all trail/murder mystery episodes, wherein the whole thing would have been wrapped up in ten minutes if someone had just FUCKING SAID SOMETHING. God damn it, I hate it when one phone call or one sentence would have solved the whole fucking problem, because it's so obvious that's all that was needed. But instead of this, Dax stoically keeps schtum and the other witness in this mess won't say anything either and the whole damn thing feels so padded because there's one revelation that makes everything make sense and did this need to take a fucking hour, really?

Never mind that this brings up once again the extraordinary problem with the Trills--yes it's great you have a slug inside you that has lifetimes of memories you can draw on, but what responsibilities do succeeding hosts have to the lives of previous hosts? And I'd be fine with exploring these questions if the answer wasn't obviously "no," (because you'd never get out of the fucking witness chair for the last life and live the new one) and "none of this is fucking interesting."

Thankfully, when we do ask this question again in Season 4, it's a little more nuanced and more thought has been put into it than just plugging Our Heroes into Stock Courtroom Murder Mystery Plot #29. In the meantime, the creators of the show decided that the best thing to do was to soft-pedal the notion of the Trill part of Dax and just make her the Smart Hot Chick, rather than the robotic exposition delivery system she is in this part of the first season.

Needless to say, this episode is pretty feeble, and while the cast does it's best with what they have, the beats feel so well-worn and familiar that you feel like you've seen the episode a dozen times even if you just saw it once.

But the judge is really fucking funny in it ("Split her down the middle!") Doesn't make all the pain go away, but it certainly leavens it a little.

That's it for this time. Join us for our next thrilling installment. In "The Passenger," Bashir tries to be a villain, fails hilariously. One of DS9's earliest contenders for Worst Episode Of All Time happens when Ron Jeremy visits the station in "Move Along Home," Wallace Shawn tries not to get the goblet with the iocaine power again in "The Nagus," and Odo has to protect the world's worst fugitive in "Vortex." It'll be a stone gas!

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