Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Whole Damn Thing: STAR TREK: DS9 #9

This is the official "Let's make Miles O'Brien's life miserable" week apparently, as my disc happens to contain three episode (in a row too--spooky) wherein Miles O'Brien is messed around with to greater or lesser extent. I'm not sure how they all lined up, but we'll play the hand we're dealt.

I should add that over DS9's run, the "Let's Torture O'Brien" (apparently the official name of these episodes) become an annual tradition, and so, on our quest to recap every episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, we're going to be seeing a lot of these from here on in.


"It was hell. You can see for yourself--the man never stops talking."

I used to hate this episode. I think it was because the T'lani and the Kellerun have utterly stupid haircuts and as they are out main adversaries in this episode, it is hellaciously difficult to take them seriously when you're hair looks like goddamn Astro Boy.

I'm also (and I realise this puts me in the minoirty) not very fond of Bashir O'Brien team-ups. Oh sure, they're a fun duo in the odd comedy scene, but their chemistry is difficult to sustain into an entire episode (one such episode, near the end of the series, is utterly torpedoed by this) but if this is something you might like, well, just follow this simple formula. O'Brien=Murtagh Bashir=Riggs.

What I ended up liking about this episode much better this time was how completely it inverts a Next Generation trope I'd gotten sick of--at the end of a successful peace brokerage, Bashir and O'Brien help them destroy their stockpiles of biological a weapon called "Harvesters." To further set the seal on their peace, after the weapons are destroyed, the two races decide to move forward with a joint operation--namely killing anyone who might have any knowledge regarding the Harvesters.

What ensues is a simple chase scenario--the rest of Our Heroes try to work out what's really happened to their crewmen, the two races are trying to finish off they who Know Too Much, and Bashir and O'Brien are trying to stay alive until help can reach them.

It's not the most complex episode ever minted, but but it gets the job done, and I quite liked that this whole "establishing peace" business that the Enterprise seemed to pat itself on the back for actually backfires for once. That, plus a twist in the final battle with the two races (can you tell I've decided to stop typing their names over and over?) keeps things fresh. It's pretty good all in all, but the next episode is better.


"They got to you, didn't they?"

Oh man, this is a good'un. Perhaps the first "let's torture Miles O'Brien" episode of many the series will do over the course of its run, "Whispers" plays out entirely from O'Brien's perspective, succeeds in establishing an unrelenting sense of paranoia and dread without dissolving into confusion, and has an effective twist at the end.

O'Brien wakes up and goes over the course of his day, noticing the people around him, the people that he's worked for for a year and change, are behaving strangely, acting evasive. Even his own wife won't have much to do with him. What's more, it seems to center around some peace negotiations the station will be holding with the Paradans.

I'll keep this short, because the twist is rather effective and I don't want to spoil it by spooling out too much of it, but I do like the way this plays out, entirely from O'Brien's perspective, giving no evidence of the larger plot around him. It's well worth watching, and an example of DS9 taking a darker path than Star Trek usually takes.

I could have lived a long and fruitful life without knowing that O'Brien writes smutty letters to his wife, though. Overshare, y'all. Over. Fucking. Share.


"It's interesting how you happened to to crash on a planet that fits your philosophy so well."

I kept getting this episode and "Sanctary" confused, dammit. Anyways, this is the one where Sisko and O'Brien meet up with the Space Amish. Basically, while searching for a good place for a new colony, Sisko and O'Brien land on a planet where technology of any kind doesn't work, and there's a clan of people who's previous ship crashed and they've built themselves a little hippie commune which is led by Alixus. In the best tradition of hippie communes, Alixus is a pompous asshole who disdains technology, writes manifesto after manifesto about how modern life and its dependency on technology sucks a bag of dicks, and stamps out even the suggestion of Sisko and O'Brien trying to restore their technology.

Oh and she pimps out Jeffrey Sinclair's girlfriend to Sisko to win him over. He's gonna be pissed, I bet.

Anyways, it doesn't take long for Alixus' granola farm to be played up for the concentration camp it is. If you can't treat a sickness with herbs and leaves, you die from it, no argument. If you misbehave even a little, you get locked in the hot box to starve and dehydrate (Sisko ends up spending some time in there) The discipline is brutal and unforgiving and it takes about 18 minutes for me to decide that Alixus is a giant self-righteous asshole.

Which is a good thing, because she's the main villain of this episode. You see, she set up the anti-tech field so she could have a place to live out her hippie commune beliefs and from there, built it into the little crazy-ass Planet Waco it is today.

Despite the fact that it's all pretty obvious how all this will play out, I really like this episode, mainly because it flies in the face of all the earth-happy, hippie-friendly, we're-all-in-this-together, it-takes-a-village crap that was getting shoveled around about the time this episode was new was pretty much everywhere (this was, for instance, about the time that Captain Planet was the only action cartoon one could find) and it was good to have an episode that warned about the dangers of the ultimate extent of that sort of extremism. It also helps that Alixus makes a very creepy and dangerous fanatic, especially in that somewhat disturbing scene where she turns the death of one of the commune into a chance to reinforce her propaganda.

Plus, Sisko has a bit more to do than he has comparatively recently. For a long time the show has struggled with trying to find a role for him and decided to generally have him bark orders or sit in his office or fret about Jake, but this episode foregrounds him and allows Avery Brooks to do what he does best, and that is to look like he's about five seconds away from breaking a foot off in someone's ass. The amount of silent defiance he's able to bring in this episode is just amazing and it just radiates off the bloody screen.


"After seven lifetimes, the impersonal questions aren't much fun anymore."

Talk about your slight episodes. Odo and Dax land on a mysterious planet full of people in caftans and beads (no, this is not Planet Waco from last time) and they're the usual brand of suspicious, mysterious natives, possibly because everyone keeps disappearing.

Oh, and in plots B and C Jake starts his internship with Chief O'Brien, and in the C plot, Kira grapples with her anger at Quark and a visit from Bareil, who immediately lays his butter-snooth "sexy minister" routine on her and, it is assumed, juices her like a cranapple.

Anyways, back on Planet Muumuu, Odo and Dax get to the bottom of the whole mysterious disappearance thing--apparently there's only one real guy on the planet. The rest were destroyed by the mysterious Dominion and, his entire planet gone, he moved away and built a life-size version of The Sims and left it running. Unfortunately, his graphics card isn't up to the task (fuckin EA, I swear to God) and so, it has to be fixed and the one living guy decides to live in his MMORPG for the rest of his life.

While this episode doesn't add up to much there are some good bits. Jake saying he's not sure whether he wants to go to Starfleet Academy is a good bit, and frankly knocks hell out of something that's always bothered me about the underpinnings of Star Trek: It presupposes that science and technological knowledge is so much more highly valued that the only means to have anything like a meaningful life is to enroll in the Space Coast Guard and go off to Space West Point.

Not to say we don't need scientists--obviously, we do. But science isn't the entire warp and weft of the human tapestry. What about artists, what about musicians? Where's their Academy and funky uniforms? I don't know about you, but the notion that in the future we will grind out children who are locked into only one specific career choice in science and technology is antiseptic and deeply unsettling in a kind of "destroy individuality" kind of way. One of the reasons I like DS9 so much is it's the first time anyone actually bothers to explore this notion a little, and because it happens to a member of the main cast, we actually play it out over an extended period of time--this isn't a one-shot guest star who shows up, makes their decision, and then vanishes, never to be considered again.

Oh, and we finally pull the trigger on the Kira/Bariel romance which will run through the next few appearances into next season and Kira gets tries to pin a complicated scam on Quark and . . .yeah. This episode is a bit Frankenstein-y, I think. The people who wrote it claim that the three plots are united by a common theme of "the unreliability of appearances," but that kind of general interrelation doesn't quite gel.

That said, the Starfleet Academy thing is worthwhile and this is our last teaser of the Dominion until they show up in the finale, so . . .it's worth a look for that, I reckon.

And that's it for this week! Join us next time when Dax plays guidance counselor in "Playing God"; The DS9 writing staff skirts dangerously close to full-on plagiarism in Space Casabl--I mean "Profit and Loss"; OG Klingons come to the stations and be awesome in "Blood Oath"; and we set up the premise for Star Trek: Voyager and have our first cliffhanger here on the Prattle in "The Maquis, Part 1." In the meantime, this is Kazekage, reminding you to keep your feet on the ground, and don't fake the funk on a nasty dunk.

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