Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Whole Damn Thing: STAR TREK: DS9 #13

Well, here we go again. For those of you who just found this place, beginning this year, I have begun a task to review every single episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. You can see previous installments by clicking on the link. This week, continuing on with Season 3, we have two great episodes, one generally good episode, and one of the wost Deep Space Nine episodes of the entire run.


"Treason, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder."

Oh HELL yes. After investigating some discrepancies in her past history, Kira is kidnapped and wakes up as a Cardassian. As you might imagine, this causes her to totally freak the hell out. However, the Obsidian Order (making the first of several appearances this season) calmly informs her that she's always been Cardassian--her real name is Illiana Ghemor, daughter of one of a highly-placed Cardassian official. Illiana was surgically altered to look like a Bajoran and sent to infiltrate the Resistance, and now she's been brought home.

Naturally, there's a deeper game going on here, and we're very cleverly kept guessing what it might be (after all, Kira's got plenty of secrets that the order might want, being liaison to the Federation and all) until the end game begins.

Meanwhile, Our Heroes, thanks to Garak learn who's abducted Kira and they decide to infiltrate Cardassia and bring them back, and for that they need Garak. This is the first episode where we get to see Garak in the role for which he will be in more or less the rest of the series--the recurring cast member who you're never quite sure about. In a great scene which pretty much spells that out Garak, after decrying the whole mission as a fool's errand he straight up declares that if he has to, he'll sell them all out to save his neck.

Sisko responds that that's probably the first honest thing he's ever heard him say.

I won't spoil the whole mystery of what the Order is after--there's more punch if you watch it happen. Suffice it to say that it ties in with "Profit and Loss" from last season. Oh, and, not that you needed me to tell you this, but Garak still doesn't know the meaning of the word "stun."

This is a great episode, and not just because there's a tinge of "The Prisoner" to it or because Garak's in it. For one thing, it kicks off what could be considered an "Obsidian Order" arc that runs through the season, culminating in "The Die Is Cast" it moves along at breakneck speed (no mean feat, keeping the tension live in a show that's 90% conversations in rooms) and has quite a good finish, which will pay off in the fifth season.

It's one of my favourite DS9 episodes ever. But you could probably tell that, as I'm rubbish at hiding it.


"Admiral Nechayev won't like it, but it has the virtue of being the truth."

Our Heroes find a baby Jem'Hadar, things don't go well. Jake is dating an older woman who works at Quark's . . .the less said about that the better.

Remember when I said "The Search" was about the failure of the Next Generation way of doing things? "The Abandoned" is a lot like that--we watch as Our Heroes try to reach the baby Jem'Hadar, show it the possibilities of life, and urge it to transcend its predestined role as a murderous killer in service to the Dominion, and it totally doesn't work because the Jem'Hadar bloody well doesn't want to do anything but kill.

It's easily the most compelling part of the episode, not least because it gets tied in with Odo's discovery and estrangement from his people, who, this episode tells us, have not only genetically engineered the Jem'Hadar, but ensured their control by two means--by genetically addicting them to a drug that only they have, and for inculcating them with an almost religious reverence for the Changelings.

So the interplay between the two of them--one who thinks the Dominion is cooler than Tastee-Freeze and one who's utterly appalled by what his people have done-that part works fine, and to the writer's credit, we're allowed to see them pretty well fail at being able to change his mind and ultimately have to let him go.

The other stuff, with Jake bringing home his Dabo-girl girlfriend to meet Dad is treacly and a bit hard to take, really. Oh, sure Sisko has his doubts he'll like her but there's not really anything meaningful on the line here--Sisko's not going to throw his son out on his ear or forbid her to see him so really it just seems . . .artificial, somehow. Like the sort of mountains you see built out of molehills in sitcoms.

But there's half a good episode in here at least, and that ain't bad.


"And now your integrity is going to get us both killed. I hope you're happy."

So, I think I mentioned a few times that back when DS9 was a Cardassian station it was a work camp and I confessed to a certain unsettling feeling that Our Heroes were living and working on top of what used to be Space Dachau. Well, after two years, they decided to actually make something of the ore mines where the Cardassians worked the Bajorans to death and, while poking about with stuff, engage a counter-insurgency program written by the former commander of the station Gul Dukat.

And off to the races we go. Because the goddamn program frustrates every attempt to shut it down by raising the stakes until finally every part of the station is either in lockdown, has poison gas flooding through it, or the replicators have turned into something not unlike the Daleks on a bad day.

Every possible solution to the problem brings with it other problems: Garak can move about the station, but he can't do much more. Dukat, having received a transmission from himself saying the station is under revolt, returns, and since he actually wrote the program, he could, in theory, deactivate the program.

Dukat, in a bit of dickishness, decides this is a splendid time to start issuing demands, namely he wants Kira (eww) and he wants to permanently station a garrison of Cardassian troops here. This goes over a little less well than a fart in church, but Dukat, convinced he has them over a barrel, decides to hop back over to his ship and give them time to stew in the bouillabaisse of totally fucked that they're in.

Only he's not going anywhere. A program that he didn't even know about pops up, deletes his access codes, and triggers the station's self-destruct system.

Well, shit.

This episode, for all that relies on technobabble, is actually pretty goddamn awesome. For one thing, the program offers an ever-evolving threat--pretty much everything Our Heroes do to get out of Trap One inevitably leads to a more dangerous Trap Two, and so on. What's more Garak's back and his sniping at Dukat really keeps the episode humming along, as Does Dukat's absolutely glorious downfall--few people do posturing and the immediate deflation of posturing better than Dukat.

It's a great episode, really. It figures in very little of DS9's big arc, or really any arc whatsoever, but it's fun and it gives pretty much everyone something to do. It's a real favourite of mine.


"No. Don't tell me, I don't want to know."

This episode, however, damn sure isn't and I'm not going to waste a lot of time on this one. Here's a summary of the musical Brigadoon. Read it, and while you're reading it, randomly insert the words "space," "Dax," "Deep Space Nine," Gamma Quadrant," and "romance" into the text. Then take out all the music. Then take of your shirt and whip yourself down the back with an extension cord for the next 45 minutes and you will have a far better time than I did just watching this sorry thing.

There's a b plot about Quark trying to acquire a picture of Kira so he can use it as a sex toy in his holosuites and OH I JUST DON'T GIVE A FUCK.

Look, Star Trek has no business doing romance, OK? I suspect it's because being that our heroes typically tend to be from an idealised conceptual Earth where money does not exist and are the best and brightest from Planet Bullshitistan, that lacking a picture of humanity as we might recognise it, when we see them behave in a way that we're supposed to identify with, we get the emotional equivalent of the Uncanny Valley--namely, something unnatural is trying to act natural and it's frankly creepy. The effect is even more pronounced prismed through the hideous looking glass of "classic" romances, which have about as much to do with actual love and affection as monosodium glutamate has to do with auto repair.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: fuck this episode in its ear.

And on that down note, we're done for another week. Join us next time as Riker shows up in "Defiant," an episode for which I am withholding key information from because I don't want to spoil it. Then thing go down hill fairly rapidly as I review the utterly execrable "Fasincation," which is far more annoying than that Human League song, and "Past Tense," a two patter about how terrible homelessness is that I'm Biblically certain is going to engender a really hateful rant from me. So be back here next week for me to spit vitriol like a spitting cobra with Tourette's, I reckon. It sounds like fun already . . .


B Phat said...

Never was a big DS9 fan, but still enjoying your blog, Sir.

Kazekage said...

Thanks, man! I'm glad you're enjoying these!