Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Whole Damn Thing: STAR TREK: DS9 #10

Well folks, here we are again. Another step on the trail of recapping every single episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine continues as we look at four episodes that begin to lay the groundwork for longer-term plot thinking than we've seen and add a few more threads to the tapestry of this show. Oh, and that other spinoff with Mrs. Columbo is briefly discussed.


"Take those phasers off stun, Chief. No more Mr. Nice Guy."

Dax's "Save The Trill" sponsored initiate comes to the station to get her seal of approval on being implanted with a slug. Said initiate is an utter dickhead with a retarded haircut and a smock and manages to run over a universe and nearly doom our universe, because the damn Prime Directive says that if the answer to the question of "is the pocket universe possibly full of life" the answer is, apparently, to let the pocket universe crush yours.

I hate to think how they would have handled the Crisis on Infinite Earths or that episode of the Simpsons where Lisa's tooth has a civilisation growing on it.

Anyways, this episode is kinda . . .well, not good. Arjin is an annoying ass, and we're not really given a reason to care about what he does with his life whether he has a slug or not. Whether he falls out an airlock and dies, however, is another matter. Unfortunately, he lives to the end of the episode.

However, this episode does have one thing going for it, namely we finally have a feature episode for Dax wherein she's actually an active participant, and good damn thing too. The last two she had was "Invasive Procedures," where she was sacked out on a gurney most of the time and "Dax" from season one, wherein she kept her mouth shut lest the plot of the episode be resolved before we padded out 45 minutes with it.

Fortunately, we've got one coming up episode after next.


"So, how well does this woman know you--just enough to dislike you or well enough to really hate you?"

While part of me wants to rip this episode up one side and down the other for being so blatantly a knock-off of Casablanca and Garak acting so very very out of character, rather than do that, allow me to go on a discursive rant about something that starts happening now.

If DS9 can be said to be a critique of the Federation and an examination of Bajor and its struggles to rebuilt, there's an added thread that starts here, because we get an examination of Cardassian society here as well. We had a glimpse of it in "Cardassians" early in this season, but now it starts playing out here for the first time.

Essentially, Isla--I mean, Natima, a former flame of Quark's, shows up on the station, having been attacked by their own people. Natima is carrying two other passengers, who are members of the Caradassian dissident movement, which is a subplot that pulls through Season 3 and sets up the beginning of season 4. Garak notices all this and tries to dime her out to the Cardassians which would make sense if . . .OK, well, it doesn't make any sense and the episode knows this, because it sets up Garak's turning face so blatantly you could see it from a mile down the road.

While all this is going on, Natima's trying to get her letters of transit--er, I mean, a cloaking device, from Quark. Oh, and Garak kills the guy who he was going to snitch for at the end of the episode. He does this because Garak doesn't know the meaning of the word "stun."

There's some good stuff here, but damn near all of it is wholly incidental to the plot, which you've seen before (and for those of you keeping count that's two Bogart movies they've . . .uh, bogarted, this season. We get some stuff about how Cardassians are expected to put their loyalty to the state above everything--we'll see more of Cardassia's rather totalitarian approach to everything before the season's done.

So this isn't a great episode by any means--far too much time spent trying to emulate Casbalanca's crackling dialogue without courting legal action (which didn't work--they got threatened anyway) pretty much everyone except Quark is sidelined from figuring into the plot and, well, it could be better. However, no Garak episode is truly worthless, as Andrew Robinson has the talent to elevate weak stuff up to tolerable and well, it could have been worse, couldn't it? They could have adapted Porky's Revenge.


"The only weight I carry now, my dear comrade, is my own bulbous body. I was, if you'll remember, far less than you see . . .and far more than I've become."

Three OG Klingons--Kang, Koloth, and Kor (not to be confused with Kang and Kodos, of course) show up, fresh from the original series, ready to pay back some asshole in a turtleneck for murdering their children. The fourth member of this reverse tontine was Dax, or well, Curzon Dax, who apparently took hanging out with Klingons so seriously he somehow managed to get his full patch. After some persuading, Dax decides to come along and kick ass with the KKKs (oh dear, that sounds bad) and a battle with all the epic scope a circa 1994 TV budget affords ensues.

Well, hey guys, here's an episode that's everything "Playing God" wasn't. Dax gets center stage, and we get some thought expended on the notion of what debt Trills owe to their former lives (only we get a more immediate issue than a murder or a potential slug-host this time) and we're allowed to have a certain ambivalence about it. Because for all her brio, Dax has never killed anyone before, and while that throughline isn't carried through as much as I'd like, but the ending works perfectly--after the battle, Dax returns to the station, and while hasn't changed, she's not the same.

Part of the reason this theme may not be as strong as it is might be because the OG Klingons are fantastic characters played to the hilt. Kang is the battle-hardened warrior (Michael Ansara can make anything sound good) Koloth is the zen master of blades and Kor (also known as the OG Baltar from the first Battlestar Galactica) approaches his role like pretty much everything I see him in--devouring the scenery like Unicron eating Cybertron's moons. While their vitality downplays the themes of mortality and questions of living beyond one's time that simmer just below the episode's surface, you don't mind it so much.

Nor do you mind that the final battle tries mightily for scope and drama and violence but looks a little too much like some LARPers rampaging around an arboretum one afternoon in May. Fortunately, the next time large-scale ground combat happens in a DS9 episode, they'll do rather a better job next time.

For now though, you can be content that this episode is full of awesome and well worth watching.


"Now do you begin to see, Commander? That without any help from us they've managed to start their own little war out here"

Now we're getting somewhere. But before we start off talking about the ep, being that it's part one of a two-parter and hence what plot we have is on the thin side, we have the luxury of decompressing a bit.

This time, circa 1994-ish, as Next Generation was going off the air, it was time to set up the next installment in the franchise, Voyager. Voyager would generally continue in the Next Generation/Original Series vein and explore strange (yet mostly familiar) new words and seek out new technobabble plot complications in an allegedly new part of the galaxy.

As this is already sounding like old wine in new bottles, it was suggested that another wrinkle be added--namely this crew, like DS9's, would not be all Starfleet. Half (roughly) would be composed of the Maquis, a terrorist organisation made of of Federation citizens who seem to spend an awful lot of time not really doing anything that terroristy, or at least not enough to really upset the folks watching at home.

The notion was this would be an instant drama generator--two crews, stranded far from home, having to work together, not necessarily having to default to the goddamned Prime Directive . . .it certainly had possibilities.

Voyager, in the pattern it would follow for most of its run, let it play out half-heartedly then blatantly killed it in an episode that is notable, as the Agony Booth once said, for explicitly negating their entire storytelling engine and playing it safe.

But that's later. The good news is, even after Voyager shits on the very thing the other two shows did such heavy lifting to build up, the Maquis actually end up functioning superbly as a long-term plot point on DS9.

And why not? DS9 doesn't shrink from issues of terrorism--it was a terrorist campaign that allowed Bajor to finally drive the Cardassians away, and Our Heroes certainly won't shy from taking a harder, less moral option, should the moment present itself.

And so, this is the beginning of all that. When a Cardassian freighter gets blown to bits outside the station, Our Heroes gradually uncover that a group of Federation settlers and those sympathetic to them are stirring up shit, and the Cardassains are arming their settlers to counter the Federations settlers, and if allowed to fester, this kind of thing could touch off a war, easily.

So it's up to Sisko and Cal Hudson (our Special Guest Star You Can Totally See Is Actually Working For The Bad Guys) who, awesomely enough, is played by the Hit Man himself, Bernie Casey:

Even though this has Obvious Plot Twist written on it so big you could see it through clothing from across the street, The relationship between Hudson and Sisko grounds the episode and adds some weight to the proceedings--they're old friends, both have lost their wives and they tend to be more passionate about things, so while it may be the expected thing, at least it feels a bit more natural. Plus, hell, this is the first time we've seen the happy happy Federation people be so openly contemptuous about Federation policy.

What makes this even more awesome (and gets you well past the fact that this two-parter is rather thin in its first part) is that we get Sisko and Gul Dukat teaming up, as Dukat is finally promoted from Recurring Cardassian Heavy to a character in his own right. Sisko and Dukat have some pretty good scenes here and represent clashing ideologies--witness Sisko's regret over a man dying and Dukat's lamentation that his suicide meant they'd gotten one up on them.

It's a good bit of set up . . .mostly. There's still the feeling that not much is happening, but the notion is, I think, to set up a sufficiently burgeoning crisis that has to be nipped in the bud before the worst case scenario comes to pass.

And we're gonna leave it there. Join us next week when Sisko and The Hit Man square off in "The Maquis, Part II"; Bashir and Garak team up to examine the endemic failure of the system in present-day Baltimore and try to keep from being killed by Omar in "The Wire"; Kira develops a thing for overacting and fetish gear in "Crossover"; and Vedek Ratched returns to bedevil Our Heroes in "The Collaborator." I'm looking forward to next week, as we have a quartet of unassailably classic episodes. See you then!


C. Elam said...

Kira already had a thing from overacting, as witness her guest spot on NIGHT COURT prior to DS9. And no, I didn't know it was the same person until I saw reruns down the road.

Anyway, just wanted to chime in to say that I'm reading and enjoying your thoughts on these. I don't really know DS9 well enough to have opinions, but it's still fascinating reading!

Kazekage said...

Man, I don't even remember her being on Night Court, which is weird as I used to be a fiend for that show back in the day.

Thanks man! Glad you're liking these!

C. Elam said...

It took a few years for me to make the connection, but it was this episode from 1988 (click for full summary). She's a mental patient who quotes movies and attempts to seduce Dan Fielding in a motel room.

I seem to recall that this was the last season when Night Court was any damn good.

Kazekage said...

Of course she is. :)

I think I may have seen the last Night Court but even I wasn't watching regularly by then, I don't think.

C. Elam said...

Bwahaha, I know, right? A hot female Night Court guest star who acts weird and wants to bed Dan? THE DEVIL YOU SAY!

The last three seasons of that show are the most personally crushing plummeting in quality I have ever seen. I'd just as soon pretend they never happened.

Kazekage said...

They were really sucking wind those last few seasons, obviously. Even having just caught the final episode, I could see that the train had all but left the station by that point, really.

That said, it ended better than Family Ties. But so did the Pequot War by comparison.