Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Whole Damn Thing--STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE #31

Bloody hell, it's hot outside, so why not stay in and join me on another whistle-stop on my seemingly never-ending journey through the entirety of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This week, we round the corner on Season 5, tie up a few loose ends, and make a few unfortunate missteps as we go, which I will point out to you, like the unfortunate active sores and lesions on an otherwise beautiful woman.


"It is clear to me that none of you are worthy of my blood or my life, but I will stand for you."

OK, so even though Martok's been our designated Klingon Empire guy on the station, we really haven't done that much with him thus far, nor really followed up on the fact that he went from several years in a Dominion gulag right to being the Klingon liaison to DS9, and someone that's bonded with Worf that hasn't died before the episode ended or had some political axe to grind. Combine this with the fact that Ron Moore has been desperate to do an all-Klingon episode of Star Trek for ages, and well, you have this episode, with all the good and bad that entails.

So apparently Martok's been using the downtime he has at his new job to let Worf beat the shit out of him so he has can be hollered at by Bashir for not getting a new eye and pushing himself too hard, which, given what's going on, tells me that both Worf and Martok have way too much time on their hands, but never mind that--a Klingon ship is trapped in Cardassian space and there may be survivors and Martok has been given command of the Rotarran to go and get them.

Oh, and he wants Worf to come along, which leads to a scene I'm kinda always gobsmacked by wherein Worf plays the race and species card to get Sisko to give him detached service so he can be Martok's first officer. So far, so good--that scene was a little "man, I can't believe no one thought about how that might read" but it's a minor niggle.

Things get more interesting when we meet the Rotarran crew and holy shit, they are the Klingon equivalent of the slow class, all depressed and sullen and . . .kinda un Klingon in a way that your drunk uncle was--sullen and withdrawn, yet prone to occasional violence when the booze didn't drown his hate. I should add that Leskit, the biggest asshole in the Rotarran crew, is played by the same guy who was Tackleberry in the Police Academy flicks, and I cannot stress enough what perfect casting that is. Seriously--you're thinking about it right now and even you can't believe how perfect a fit it is, can you?

Things start to get a bit dicey in terms of plot logic and other things when the following scene happens: Because Worf's taking time off, everyone else has to pick up his slack. Oh, except Dax, who just up and decides to take her leave time with Worf on the ship. This despite being shorthanded. I should point out the having a science officer on a Klingon ship is utterly fatuous, (and puts the lie to the scene before it where they were just talking about how shorthanded they were without Worf) and really the only reason she's there is to tell Worf what he should already know about the potential powderkeg situation the Rotarran is sailing under (more on that in a second) and because we are deep into Dax being nothing more than an appendage for Worf. But can't nothing be done about it, so let's get on with things.

As they look for the survivors, it becomes clear that Martok is ducking a potential fight with the Jem'Hadar, which puts the survivors at risk of being killed. You just can't do on a Klingon ship and sure as hell not on this Klingon ship, full of pissed-off and demoralized Klingons. Without a victory---without someone to lead them, things will go from bad to worse. Oh, and there's the small matter of the survivors, who would probably like to be fucking rescued already. So ultimately, it's in everyone's best interest for Martok to get his balls back.

This being a ship full of Klingons, there's nothing for it but for Worf to do what Martok should be doing, piss Martok off, and set off a knife fight, because these are Klingons and you either admire their warrior spirit or you see through all that nonsense and realise just how utterly foolish a race of warriors who behaved like this would be. Seriously--I wonder if everyone who watches Star Trek at some point reaches a kind of mental event horizon and realises that the Klingons, like the Daleks, are utterly silly.

Worf throws the match, and Martok immediately gets his balls back, winning the love and respect of the people in much the same way that Tommy Dreamer did when the Sandman caned him across the back in the ECW Arena. The Klingons chant "He's hardcore! he's hardcore!" in Klingon then realise, "Oh shit, the rescue!" and finally do their fucking jobs.

Oh, and the rescue? The thing we've been building up to the whole goddamned episode almost? Yeah, we don't see it. I'm sure you can spin that as the episode being really about Worf willing to let Martok stabbity stab him so he'll rediscover his testicular fortitude, but damn it, if you're going to talk it up to this extent, you kind of need to pay it the fuck off a little more than they do here.

Anyways, in the Epilogue, Martok is all like "Hey bro, thanks for letting me stab you and get the crew on my side" and gives Worf his Jobber To The Stars Merit Badge and makes him a member of the House of Martok, which . . .well, OK, that is kind of cool. Given that Worf had been on the whole House of Worf is honoured/dishonoured yo-yo and had lost his brother in the most bizarre way possible that really, this allows us a way to rest that well-plowed plot furrow for a bit and give Worf a really hardcore Klingon buddy . . .well, when DS9 remembered Martok anyhow. It sets up Season 7 nicely, that I will say.

I'm torn on this episode, because I like Martok. He's neat, and his arc in Season 7 is one of the most successful bits of closure for any DS9 character. I like the notion of the Rotarran being the Klingon Fuckup Wagon. I like that they follow up with the psychological effect of Martok's imprisonment. But every time I watch this episode, I find something that doesn't sit well with me and get a bit more annoyed with it. Why the hell is Dax even fucking there? She's pretty useless--when Diesel Klingon Chick basically says "Stay by me when the shooting starts, cutie," I keep wondering where the badass Klingon chick who wrecked shit with Kang and company back in "Blood Oath" went.

And also, the logic of the Rotarran's crew makes no sense. If they're all fuckups, why would you want a whole ship-load of them? Oh sure, I can see it from one side--best to get them all in one place so they'll all take each other out, but I can also see it from the side of "so you're going to take several small discipline problems and put them together so they can be one big discipline problem? This is the kind of decision making I can see coming from Klingons, actually."

This episode has major logic problems that I cannot get past, and continuing on from here will only encourage me to take it apart more. So let's move on to the next episode . . .


"So that you wouldn't have to die."

. . .which is a highly regarded episode that nevertheless has major logic problems. Fuck, there goes my fresh start. Anyways, Dax, not acting as Worf's appendage, pouts and demands to investigate some weird life readings on a planet in the Gamma Quadrant, because she wants to do some science stuff and it's not like they're gonna be back in the Gamma Quadrant for two years (it's true--the next time they go is in the final episode of the series, for those of you keeping track of the plot points that were pushed forward in the initial remit of the series) Dax ends up getting them tangled up in something which will maroon them on the planet (kinda) which is probably why letting Dax get her way isn't always for the best, I suppose.

Anyways, they land on Gaia, and are greeted by a bustling agrarian civilisation that tells them that 200 years ago, the Defiant crashed on their planet and couldn't leave thanks to the planet's Bullshit Particle Field, and so they just said "Oh, well" and built a colony there and all interbred which . . .oh my GOD that is kinda icky. Because while the episode tries REALLY hard to get us to care about the Gaians and their hippie commune (in so many ways, I find this episode even more disturbing that Season 2's "Paradise," which painted a Granola colony like this as an unrelentingly sinister proposition. Gaia is too, but for a different reason) by populating it with good people (of the soil!) and cute little moppets who venerate their ancestors and are just so god damned adorable in a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie kind of way, all I can think of is, given the limited crew of the Defiant, minus those that didn't pair up or died of disease before they could, giving you a shallow-ass gene pool, that colony should look like Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel's family on The Simpsons.

But for all I thumb my nose at Gaia, I should point out something here which may be--no lie--the single funniest moment in the entirety of DS9. There are a group of Klingons on the planet. Well, "Klingons" in the same sense as say, Eminem is black. Worf was apparently so badass that he inspired a whole subculture, which is hilarious because for two hundred years, these people have had no idea that Worf may be the most rubbish Klingon in the universe, and based their ideal culture on him anyway.

The fact this moment exists makes me laugh myself silly, y'all.

Anyways, the central tension of the episode is this--theoretically, the Defiant can not make the same mistakes they did when they will/did crash and leave the planet. But Gaia would cease to exist. I'm told this is bad, but I have a hard time seeing why. OK, that's an exaggeration--I'd miss the Klingon wannabees. But the downside is Our Heroes could never return home. I should point out that I don't give a shit about any of this, because it takes more than a bunch of friendly faces everywhere and humble folks without temptations to make me give a crap whether they exist or don't.

Thankfully, the episode seemed to recognise this and self-corrected, because Gaia-Odo, who's lived here these past 200 years (and spent the time working on his face, apparently) shows up and Odo's feelings for Kira are now an open secret. Of all the Gaians, who obviously have a vested interest in continuing to exist, you would think Odo would have the most to lose--all he wanted was to be with Kira.

His decision is really the sole thing that gives the episode the weight it should have, and really, is the only thing that really works. The stuff with the other Gaians rings very false to me--yes, of course if you saw that several generations of your descendants had gone on to be fairly wonderful people, it would be difficult decision, but not so much that you'd abandon all reason to save them. It's only with Gaia-Odo, where something tangible is at stake, and something that's been running through the show for years at this point, that the episode gets any gravitas at all, really.

I'm not as high as other people are on this episode, but the Gaia-Odo and Kira stuff is very powerful, so it's worth sitting through the Planet Kumbaya stuff to get to it. Once. The exponential comedic value of the Klingon Poseur Colony will help it go down a bit easier.


"Attacking two Jem'Hadar soldiers with a pipe? That's a brilliant plan."

So, recently we had "For The Uniform," wherein we finally captured Eddington and proved once and proved that there are serious fucking consequences when you step to The Sisko. We also had the Cardassia joining the Dominion 2-parter, which relates to our story this time kinda like this: Cardassia joined the Dominion at 8 o'clock one morning. They wiped out the Maquis a little after lunchtime.

Eddington took the news about as well as you can expect, namely he's been sitting in his cell mightily depressed, which was a nice break from what he did before, which is sitting in his cell going "What the hell was I thinking? That's Ben Sisko up there." Sisko calls him on his shit and says that he gave the Maquis false hope they could do anything to the Cardassians other than drive them to the Dominion in desperation and as a "hero" he makes an excellent auto mechanic.

However, Sisko needs his help all the same. The Maquis have launched cloaked missiles at Cardassia Prime in a little something they call Operation Fuck You, and Sisko needs Eddington to find and disarm the missiles. Eddington says "Yeah, OK, but I'm going to kill your ass at the first opportunity" and Sisko spends most of the time either punching Eddington in the face or wanting to punch Eddington in the face. As this is a critical mission with a ticking clock and could trigger full-blown war, Starfleet wisely sends just the two of them in a runabout, because Starfleet is really fucking stupid sometimes.

Look, I'll go ahead and say this: This episode is intended solely to write finis to the Maquis, at least insofar as DS9 is concerned. They've said as much, and I'm just parroting that. That should, I hope, explain why this episode feels so perfunctory--for all the jeopardy that Sisko is in from Eddington and they both get into with the Jem'Hadar, it never feels like anything's really on the line, because the whole story is basically an elegy for the Maquis and Eddington.

Not that they couldn't have done something with the Maquis even after the Dominion horned in--the notion of the Federation now having to collude with the people they branded as terrorists and all but abandoned would have made for some good drama and given us a front in a war you don't usually see very much.

But DS9 wasn't willing to go that far just yet. Give 'em another year.

So while this episode is really OK, and there are some good bits, it feels like a foregone conclusion from the first frame and so, it's hard to get into, really. Mind you, if you really like Eddington (well, I'm sure there's one of you) then it's a positively gnarly episode which completes the Eddington trilogy began in "For The Cause." For the rest of us, it feels a little like ticking off boxes, and well, I wish it were the last time I'd feel that way.


"The worst part of it is, this isn't a coil spanner . . .it's a flux coupler."

A little while back, I mentioned that I thought the whole business with Garak being Enabran Tain's son was too neat, but I found the actual scene to be well done. I believe the term I used was "making chicken salad out of chicken shit." Keep that in mind as I try to explain why I like this episode whilst simultaneously hating so much of it.

For those of you who don't waste your life with movie trivia (you lucky, well-adjusted people, you) The actor who plays Garak was the Scorpio Killer in the first Dirty Harry movie. He did a great job of playing a capricious lunatic and probably would have made a pretty decent Joker had a Batman film been mooted at the time. Unfortunately, in such a defining role in such a defining film led to a bit of typecasting.

He would ultimately overcome this and go on to be a respected character actor (respected even though he was in the movie Cobra, but a man's got to eat, for fuck's sake) because he could play shaded characters like Garak really, really, well.

So, given a featured role in this episode, they decided to make him an effective, but pretty one-note slasher villain. It kinda pissed him off, and frankly I can't say as I blame him, as this episode is as dumb as a geometry proof worked out on a short bus driven by an inveterate alcoholic on brown acid.

Shit's breaking on DS9 and with Cardassia and the Federation almost but not quite at war, the odds of getting a replacement from them is very slim. But there's an abandoned Cardassian station, Empok Nor, not far from them where they can strip out all they need and is no way shape or form just the DS9 sets and models shot from ker-razy Batman angles to save money.

MAN, SO FUCKING CONVENIENT! And hey, in a rare burst of common sense, they're sending a whole bunch of people along--O'Brien, Nog, Garak (because he can disarm the boobytraps the Cardassians left behind) Dr. Chambers from Crusade, and a few yellowshirts named Deadmeat, Killmenow, Murderbait, and Futurecorpse, who I have every confidence will make it to the end of the episode.

What could go wrong? Well, for starters, the Cardassians left behind a trio of cryogenically frozen Cardassian soldiers they'd pumped full of hate steroids and murder juice, or as we call it today, Axe body spray. Oh, and they're now awake and stomping around the station looking to do some murdering. Oh, and while Garak is trying to kill them, he gets a piece of the Axe and starts going murder-crazy, too.

This episode is rock stupid and proves that, just like romance and comedy, Star Trek isn't really set up to do a slasher film. Garak makes a pretty impressive killer, of course, but he's much better as plain simple Garak than Michael Myers and while we should occasionally be reminded he's a potential threat . . .I don't know that anyone is well served by it being so blatant.

Not to say Garak doesn't make the most of it, and the central conflict between O'Brien and Garak (and of who O'Brien was--a soldier who killed a shitload of Cardassians--and who he is now) that stuff works. But holy SHIT the rest of it doesn't. Oh, how it does NOT.

To add injury to insult, Empok Nor will hang around for the next two seasons like a barnacle on the hull, complete with weird angle shots and everything, when, given that there's murder-inducing Axe body spray (is there any other kind? I kid, I kid) they ought to have blown the fucking place up on the way out. Oh, and Garak never pays any kind of price for all the killing either, which means that the previous forty minutes or so may as well not have happened. Jupter's balls, people--if you don't have the will to follow through this shit, don't put it on the table in the first place.

I did not like this episode. You might. I couldn't possibly say.

I'm either cranky or punchy today. Possibly both. Thankfully, next week is gonna be easy-peasy, as we finish up Season 5 with Jake and Nog fighting a never-ending battle against Willie Mays in "In The Cards"; and when the shit hits the fan with the Dominion (finally!) it's time to make a "Call To Arms." Join us next week for cellular ennui, open warfare, and pleasure!

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