Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Whole Damn Thing: STAR TREK: DS9 #18

Shooting bombs from the arm like Galvatron, it's time again for our weekly look at every single episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Thankfully for me this week it's a short one as we close out Season Three and look to Season 4. So let's get right down to the heart of this thing.


"It just occurred to me--soon as that kid graduates from the Academy, I'm going to have to call him 'sir.'"

Otherwise known as "We're Officially Giving Up On Dax, Part 1 of 2."

I'll explain that more later, but let's knock out the plot--in one of the most daft collisions of religious tolerance and common sense, Dax asks the regular cast plus Leela (who, along with her breasts, has been retconned into being her friend for some reasons) if she can borrow their bodies so she can perform some rite of closure and talk to her other hosts.

I should remind you that one of Dax's hosts was recently revealed to be a serial killer ("Equilibrium") and the whole idea of your friends letting you body-jack them for an hour or so kinda goes way beyond sanity for me. Nevertheless, Dax acts like she's doing everyone a favour because it's a "powerful experience," which is that kind of smug hippie pomposity Trek indulges in that makes me want to punch people.

Mind you, one would imagine this would be possible no matter what, because the whole point of having the slug inside Dax is to provide her with multiple lifetimes of experience and all the personalities kind of blend together, so really this should be happening all the time.

Anyways, basically what this means is Our Heroes get to play other characters in a plot that looks and feels more like an acting exercise than a story with any kind of logic behind it. So Kira acts old and wise, O'Brien acts OCD, Leeta spreads her legs a lot (shut up--she's a gymnast) Quark acts like a woman because it's fun to make Quark look like a schmuck, Bashir gets gluttonous, and Sisko gets to act all quiet and terrifying, because damn it all, we must risk all, even in the face of rationality, common sense, logic, and damn near everything else that governs our actions, by God you have to get closure with the serial killer you just found out was in your head.

Sisko-Killer (quest-ca ce'st?) fakes out Dax and tries to kill her, which is the first smart thing that anyone has done thing entire episode. I should mention, since we'll be seeing this guy one more time in the run of the show that he grows from being ever so slightly mental and pushed to madness in "Equilibrium" to suddenly become Hannibal Lecter, because . . .oh Jesus, I don't know anymore.

I should mention there's a B-plot about Nog getting ready for his Starfleet exams. By virtue of it having nothing to do with the A-Plot, it gets high marks. It doesn't hurt that something's actually at stake--Quark sabotages Nog's chances, and Rom puts the hammer down and gets Nog a second chance.

Nog earning his entry to Starfleet Academy getting a round of applause feels more earned and genuine than anything that happens in the A-plot, which is quite a shock considering it has about one tenth the screen time.

Anyways, the prior Dax to Jadzia, Curzon, merges with Odo, forming one giant ham, and they decide they like being merged and don't want to go back into Jadzia (hard to blame 'em) and there's this whole thing about Curzon actually being in love with Jadzia back when she was doing tryouts for the slug and oh my GOD this is silly.

Anyways, I really don't want to talk about the plot here, because it's far less interesting than talking about Dax. Dax . . .well, Dax really hasn't worked, and Seasons 3 and 4 really show the last gasp of trying to do something interesting with her and help her break out of the pack.

I hope that doesn't sound sexist, but look at the facts--we're now three seasons into this show, and pretty much every character has grown into their role and staked out their own place in the cast. You can tell this because you can recognise an Odo episode, which is different from a Kira episode, which is different from an O'Brien episode, etc. etc.

But Dax episodes? The ones where she acts passively while stuff happens to her as opposed to making things happen herself, you mean? Well the two we've had this season were "Equilibrium," wherein we found out she had a serial killer roaming around her head, which was never mentioned until this episode, and again, you would think this would be cause for concern. And yet it wasn't--even after this shocking revelation, Dax looked and acted pretty much the same way as before, leading one to ask "well then, what was the point?"

And this episode? Well, she basically is there to throw sides to the rest of the cast who are playing different people, and while there are some revelations of consequence . . .they're not really followed up on, either, again leading one to wonder what is the damn point, save to fill 45 minutes?

It's not the actresses' fault, either--Terry Farrel does well with what she's given to do, it's just that what she's given to do isn't all that amazing. What's more, when the role is recast, sorta, in Season 7, there was an opportunity to give her a few new shades and give her a chance to break out . . .

. . .and they did it again.

This is kind of the end of the Dax experiment, more or less. She gets one more headlining episode "Rejoined," next season, which is actually pretty good episode and really gives one hope that the character had a significant role to play, but eventually she just becomes Worf's Girlfriend & The Girl Who Says All The Technobabble--the marginalisation becomes calcified, almost.

But more on that when we get there.


"There's something I've been wanting to say to you for a long time and now that I finally have the chance, I'm going to make it short and simple: congratulations, Captain Sisko."

One of the good things about DS9 is that they never did cliffhangers as such--there was never an attempt to keep people hanging on one plot point for 3 months in the same way as when Picard got turned into a Borg on TNG. What generally would happen is the season ended on such a note as the entire tone of the show stuck a different note and that note was typically "oh, shit."

"The Adversary" is no different. We actually begin with a pretty "fuck yeah" moment when Sisko finally gets promoted to Captain (has anyone ever adequately explained why he wasn't to begin with? There's something that circumstantially unfortunate about the fact that the one head character on the show who wasn't a Captain was the black dude. I'm not saying I subscribe to that--I'm just saying it looks unfortunate) and we celebrate . . .for about five minutes.

But this is all a blind--Ambassador Krajensky, who happened to be at the ceremony in the name of providing exposition, tells Sisko that the Tzenkethi (a never seen race that apparently Starfleet went to war with and everyone forgot about) are undergoing some political turmoil and Starfleet wants to show the flag and so sends the Defiant out to patrol the border.

. . .but there's an uninvited guest: namely, a Changeling, who's busy sabotaging the ship and turning it into a flying kamikaze bomb. It's up to Our Heroes to either regain control of the ship, destroy it before they can attack the Tzenkethi. Both mean stopping the Changeling. For one character it will mean crossing an even more pronounced line.

Putting aside the utter silliness of having the orders come from an Ambassador (where the hell would they be on the chain of command?) and the fact that he's coming along on a combat situation (which sort of puts paid to who the goddamn Changeling is) the meat of the episode--the hunt for the Changeling--works rather well in an "Alien" kind of way. The close quarters of the Defiant and the fact that once aboard the Changeling can be any body or any thing really ramp up the tension, as does the occasional quick scare and the fact that there's several ticking bomb scenarios at work here.

It's not a particularly deep episode in terms of intricate plotting, but what it lacks in complexity, it makes up for in intensity, an intensity which builds and pays off in the climactic scene, wherein (stand by for spoilers, kids) Odo, desperate to stop the Changeling . . .kills him.

Remember, the Changeling's most sacred law is "No Changeling has ever harmed another"--it allowed Odo some leverage to get the crew freed in "The Search," allowed Odo a chance to free Kira in "Heart of Stone," and allowed Odo and Garak to escape in "The Die Is Cast." Now that that line has been crossed . . .well, we'll find out in 22 episodes.

But the Changeling gets one more dig in at Odo before he dies, telling him five words that set up the next season and trowel on the dread, and yes, I'm going to tell you them now:

"You're too late--we're everywhere."

As if we needed any more reason to worry about the Dominion, there's this. We know from "The Die Is Cast" that the Dominion is more than happy to play the long game, to work by proxy and force their enemies to destroy themselves--they did it to the Romulans and Cardassians a few episodes back, and said at the time all they has left to worry about were the Klingons and the Federation . . .and they didn't seem all that worried about either of them, as if their plans were already in motion . . .

And on that portentous note, we're done for this week. Join us next week when we begin Season 4, re-tool the series (yeah, again) get a new regular cast member and go to war in "The Way of the Warrior"; Jake has a recurring problem in "The Visitor" and O'Brien and Bashir get entangled with some Jem'Hadar with a problem in "Hippocratic Oath." If not satisfied with this review, please return unused portion for a full refund.

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