Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Whole Damn Thing--STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE #34

In between all the craziness, you can count on three things--death, taxes, and the fact that every Saturday I will write another installment of my seemingly never-ending recaps of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Episodes. And then fall asleep two episodes in and the whole things doesn't go up until Sunday sometimes, and really, my work ethic is terrible. I have tried digging around in my head with a screwdriver to knock out my sleep center so I have more time for this sorta thing and hopefully haven't brain my damage.

Strained comedy aside, this is a pretty big week. We have the last two episodes of the big "Take back the station arc" and then we begin our stretch of mediocrity as we have a few episodes jammed in to leaven the mood, because . . .well, I'll try to explain as we go. There's a bit of rot that starts to seep in as well. Some good things to, but not near enough. Let's get down to it, shall we?


"Did you kill him?"

"No, but I thought about it"

We left off last week with things looking really bad for our heroes. The Dominion has figured out how to take down the minefield, paving the way for their reinforcements to sweep in and finish kicking the shit out of the Federation and the Klingons, Dax had been made captain of the Defiant so they could cruelly yank it away from her this episode in a way that says "ha ha, just kidding Dax--we know no one gives a shit about you," and Kira was an island unto herself because Odo's hanging out with Big Momma all linking all the time and shit. Odo not giving much a crap about what happens now has isolated Kira and made her one bad word away from losing her shit and beating ass.

She finally does lose her shit, by the way, and beats the holy fuck out of Damar for being . . .well, Damar, who was walking around like he was begging for an ass-kicking every day he drew breath anyways.

On the plus side of things, they're going to execute Rom. I don't know why everyone on the show acts like that's such a bad thing.

In any event, things are humming along. Kira tries to get Ziyal to get Rom spared--being that this is Rom they're trying to get clemency for and Ziyal is the cipher that walks like a character, this ends up about as well as you might think. Jake manages to get a message to his father about the minefield coming down.

Just as well, then, that his father is working on a plan to take the station back in the name of boosting morale. The destruction of the minefield gives everyone a perfect ticking clock to get them doing something (Just think--had this come earlier, we wouldn't have had to deal with "Sons and Daughters") and we have our forces set in place for the finale.


"Chief, how does that poem end?"
"You don't want to know."

It's saying something that Sisko has the biggest fucking space fleet ever shown on-screen in Star Trek's history and he still wanted more. But then, when you look at the Dominion fleet opposing him, you can hardly blame him for wanting more ships, can you?

Sisko's plan is to punch through the Dominion fleet and make a run for the station and hopefully stop them in time. Dukat, having figured out Sisko's plan (not like it was a Grand Admiral Thrawn-level plan to begin with) Dukat plans to open a hole in his own lines and crunch Sisko inside, which I will say, at least involves some sort of strategy.

Meanwhile, back on the station, Damar gets Kira, Jake, Leeta, and the rest rounded up and taken into custody (even pausing to note Leeta's boobs are just thrust into every damn thing--yes, her cleavage is so omnipresent as to be metatextual) to prevent any more sabotage which leaves only Quark and Ziyal to buy them some time.

Meanwhile, Odo has a dose of cold water thrown on him, as Big Momma isn't even pretending with him anymore, and says, yeah, Kira and the rest are as good as dead, and really it's the best thing possible for them. Odo has the nerve to look surprised by this.

Ultimately, even as Our Heroes get closer to stopping the plan, all it seems to do is move the hands of the clock closer to the flashpoint. Quark frees Rom and company, and Rom tries to take the minefield down, but he's too late. The Defiant arrives just in time for the minefield to come down, and, having no other option, flies into the wormhole to fight the Dominion reinforcements.

And here is about the time where the episode, the arc, and the whole damn series badly fumble the ball. Because the Prophets intervene, saying Sisko can't be allowed to die. Sisko says "OK, well, I don't have to if you'll just wish them into the cornfield"

And they do. Now, I've read plenty from the people who created the show and they complain that this shouldn't be thought of as a deus ex machina, but dammit, it is exactly that, and for all the damage control they try to do ("a penance" is exacted from Sisko. It will be a very stupid one) it doesn't change the fact that they just wrote themselves into a place where they could not get out of it without the Prophets taking a hand.

Ultimately, this does no one any favours, as the Prophets will appear more in the final two seasons than they did in the previous 5 total, and every single time they drift further and further from being unknowable, enigmatic aliens and just become plot pointers who say "do this" to Sisko, who then doesn't, and then bad stuff happens. And yes, this is where the "rot" I spoke of comes in.

Oh, yeah, Damar shot Ziyal. This is supposed to be a Big Tragedy, but it's fucking Ziyal for God's sake, and she never really had enough character for this to have the weight it's supposed to.

So . .on balance, how did DS9's first arc go? Well . . .better than you'd expect for a first attempt, but with some glaring problems. We didn't really need "Sons and Daughters" at all, did we? I mean, the amount of fuck I give about Alexander and Ziyal together couldn't be measured with an electron microscope, and that ending with bother me until the day I die.

Never mind, the follow-up to all this is horribly botched (I'll explain a little about that in a sec) Did the Dominion just quit trying to send ships through the wormhole? Did the Prophets just continuously wish them into the cornfield? DID IT OCCUR TO ANYONE IT MIGHT BE A GOOD IDEA TO ANSWER THAT FUCKING QUESTION SOMETIME?!

P.S.: That battle footage was pretty awesome, huh? I hope you liked it, because you're gonna see it a LOT from here on in DS9 and the original Battlestar Galactica could have a contest about who recycled footage the most.

However, on balance, the idea that the Federation is always on the verge of losing the war is a good hook, and the idea that they're just barely hanging on is very compelling stuff. "Rocks and Shoals" is a terrific episode, and it feels like the one episode which is strong from start to finish and doesn't have any obvious padding in it. The rest of the episodes have strong bits, which always seem in conflict with the weaker bits which have the curious effect of the stronger bits being much less strong and the weak bits being even more excruciating than usual.

The good news is, when we do this arc thing again in the final season, the results will be much, much stronger.

But first, here's a wedding and some stupid-ass comedy.


"I'm going to kill Worf."

I rather liked that the late, lamented Cynics Corner referred to this episode as "You Are Hopefully Inebriated."

The idea of this episode, featuring Worf and Dax getting married, more and more Klingon rituals of ever-ascending stupidity, and most every character acting utterly imbecilic, this episode should be in that rarefied strata of unbearably terrible episodes like "Fascination" or "Move Along Home" that are so diabolical, they cause me to be physically ill when I think about them.

"Invited" comes perilously close to this, falls off the edge a few time, and isn't a great episode by any means. I hate this episode--Worf and Dax really have no chemistry and no pressing reason to be together apart from the fact that the people writing the show really don't have anything else for them to do, and every scene they're in is played with that failure glaringly apparent.

Fortunately for me, there is Sirella. Is there a word for a character who's put in to a story who's there just to hate on everything? Because if that's the case, Sirella is it. Sirella is one of the few one-shot characters I would have loved to see return, and her presence is the only thing that makes this bearable.

Because in this episode, Sirella calls Worf a dumbass (and it has been implied she's done so for ages) call Dax a slut and generally treats her like shit, pulls a knife on her, and breaks Martok's balls at every opportunity (a fact that Martok seems to love, which makes their relationship at least as dysfunctional as Gomez & Morticia Addams, I guess) and generally feels about the wedding the way I do.

Not that Sirella is perfect--she's not, mostly because she's racist as fuck. She doesn't really like the idea of bringing non-Klingons into the house. Then again, the two latest additions are Worf and Dax, neither of whom make the best impression. If you just think of how Archie Bunker handled Mike and Gloria, you have an idea of how this is going to go.

I'm really not going to go into this in any great detail because it's a by the numbers wedding episode--there's lots of zany wedding preparations, then the wedding's back on, and then they get married. It's nothing you haven't seen dozens of times, only now it's made stupider because Klingons can make everything stupider. Because there's something else better worth complaining about:

Remember how in the arc that just finished that Odo basically betrayed Kira and the rest by hanging out with Big Momma and not doing anything until the last episode? Well, that plot thread gets resolved this week. With a long discussion between Kira and Odo. In a closet. Which we don't get to see.

Again, I've read what the people who made the show wrote about this and how they felt like they had to get this settled but didn't want to disrupt the wedding shennanigans (oh yes, wouldn't want to fuck THAT up) so they came up with this as a compromise. However, like all compromises, it ultimately pleases no one because all you've done with this resolution is remind everyone that you didn't resolve it in any great detail.

Then again, one of the people who wrote this would forgive the trespasses of an entire TV series by waving his hand and saying "God did it" about twelve years after this, so I guess I really shouldn't be surprised.

This pisses me off very much, so I'm going to stop talking about this episode now. NEXT!


"And sometimes your taste in men frightens me."

Oh lord, is this episode ever flaccid. The Intendant and Bariel hop over from the Mirror Universe and try to steal and Orb, for . . .well, the episode's not really concerned about what the reasoning might be for this, and I'm in no mood to cut them a break about it.

We're past the law of diminishing returns for Mirror Universe episodes and somehow they will get even worse from here on in as I present to you a near Platonic form of medicore DS9 episode. Action confined to the station due to blowing their budget on other shit? Check. Threadbare plot that uses the "OMG, how will I react to seeing the dead person I love alive but different in the Mirror Universe" that we used in the last two Mirror episodes? Check. Bunch of nonsense about the Orbs that contradicts earlier stuff from the Mirror episodes? Check. Ending that doesn't resolve one damn thing? Big check.

There is some effort made to make this work insofar as Bariel's concerned--in the MU he's a thief, and the notion of him as a holy man is amusing and a little worrying for him and . . .yeah, it's 45 minutes that feels like 90 and I don't give enough of a shit about Bareil to really endure this episode again.

The only nice thing I can say about this episode is that the final one in the seventh season is so very very much worse, and I hope that I drink myself to death before I get to it. For now though, fuck this episode.

That's it for this week. Join us next week when my disposition does not improve as the Jack Pack goes on the attack in "Statistical Probabilities"; DS9 contravenes the Truth In Advertising Act in "The Magnificent Ferengi"; Dukat gets all his character shading scrubbed away in "Waltz"; and Quark has to deal with a ridiculous conspiracy and two aliens who sound like Jack Nicholson in "Who Mourns For Morn?" Join us next week for mediocrity, crankiness, and displeasure!


Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

I think we've talked about this before, but let me just say I absolutely agree with you re: the Prophets. Once you introduce an omnipotent entity into an ongoing series - one that supposedly works in your best interests - the rest of the story becomes overshadowed by two questions: 1) Are they responsible for the Crisis of the Week? 2) If they're not, why aren't they doing anything about it?

It's not a new problem with "Star Trek" - if I recall, Q was introduced in the very first episode of the Picard era. But at least Q wasn't factored into the events of a major story arc; what's even more outrageous is that DS9 already established that the Prophets don't understand linear time, that's their Big Thing - so wouldn't they already know they'd have this conversation with Sisko? And if they'd already made the decision to help him, why let the Dominion come through in the first place?

It is indeed just another variation on "God did it" - which just goes to show you some writers never evolve no matter how much time passes in the interrim. Which, on a somewhat related note, doesn't bode well for the new DCU, does it? ;)

(PS: Haven't forgotten about GMB2, I promise - progress is slow, but steady. :))

Kazekage said...

And it only gets worse from here, because the Prophets completely scrap the whole "no concept of linear time" business from here on in and pull an egregious ass-pull that I will curse and bitch about when the time comes when we get to Season 7.

Well, the Q problem is circumvented because Q pretty much from the beginning is all about causing trouble, and the only time he stopped the crisis of the week was when he was begged to, so there wasn't quite the problem built-in with the Prophets.

Then again, we're not too far from when the Prophets and the Pah-wraiths are going to be possessing people and throwing Force Lighting around the place so . . .oh geez, I don't even want to think about that.

Not much bodes well for the new DCU, really. I watched with dark amusement how they managed to take a ball that everyone thought they would probably fumble (and couldn't afford to) and apparently fumbled it more than anyone imagined

S'OK--take your time. :) I'm looking forward to hearing what you thought of it.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

The issue I had with Q was more that you never actually knew when he was around until he showed his face. And since he was supposedly omnipotent, you're left wondering how many crises the Enterprise faced over the years that he might've arranged and just never bothered to turn up? It didn't help that the crew had no real defense against him - he turns up, does whatever he wants and leaves, and there's nothing anyone can do to stop him. As villains go, that's a bit much.

What really amuses me about DC is that the writing's so plainly on the wall that everyone except DiDio and Friends can see it. So sure, the first issue of "Justice League" broke a record - any bets on where it'll be six months down the line? A year? Because I'll take the Vegas odds on "Utter Calamity". And... I know I've said this before, but really, it comes down to the mindset. If you really want a fresh start, if you really want to pull in lapsed readers and maybe appeal to someone who's never read a comic before, the last thing you should do is give creative control to the exact same people who've been running things for the past few years. Realistically speaking, Geoff Johns isn't going to do anything here that we haven't seen in his repetoire here, and if DC's position has eroded to the point where they felt they needed this reboot in the first place, then clearly whatever he's got isn't working for that theoretical "broader audience".

Well, I can tell you that I liked the way you introduced the initial bits of mythology regarding Earth and Rigel in the midst of an action scene: smart way to provide exposition without slowing the pace. :) One thing I'm curious about, though: chronologically, is this Silhouette's first major appearance after she and Kienan split up?

Kazekage said...

I never much thought about it, but being that he was omnipotent, I would imagine that yeah, if you read it that way, then he was directing things from the start (the finale certainly seems to indicate he's at least been watching them all 7 years) And yeah, the Enterprise had very little they could do about Q so long as it was a level playing field. But probably Q's need to be a jackassed blowhard probably leveled the playing field some.

Yeah, and it's a shame. Advertising on TV and movies--great idea. Using it to advertise the same old muddled dosh from the same old people? Not so good, and ultimately it'll pop the numbers for a little while and things will slip back down to where they were before . . .just like every other relaunch within recent memory.

Oooh, very glad you liked that bit--it's really the first peek at the larger non-Kienan story. :) This was my first experiment with an action scene in the prologue that kinda got you "up" and helped the exposition that had to ramp up for the main story go down a bit. :)

As to Silhouette's appearances post split up they are "Eyes of the Girl," (just after her and Kienan split) "The Gentle art of Making Enemies" (some time after when Kienan meets her new beau and finds out she;s not dead) and "Etude" (a "zero issue" for Kienan and Silhouette both) There's also a solo story with her called "Lament in Starlight" in there also, wherein she . . .well, meets Bachelor #3. Can't say more than that just yet. :)

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Undoubtedly so - but sometimes the simpler solution's preferable: don't put omnipotent pseudo-mystical god-beings in your human-oriented SF in the first place. ;)

If it does fail, I'm hoping the blowback will be more severe this time: for a project of this magnitude to crash and burn takes a special kind of ineptitude, and if it results in DiDio, Johns and the rest of the Silver Age Retro Squad getting tossed out? Well, I won't be shedding any tears for them.

Solid technique - nicely done!

Interesting... :)

Kazekage said...

Very true. That's why I try to avoid it. Too tempting to pull it out during a moment when you're blocked. :)

I think it'll probably be the end of the line, which is pretty sad, but then again, at this point, I begin to wonder if it might be worth giving the comics and what not a rest for awhile so people can learn to miss them all over again.

It's kinda gauche to admit you janked it from Bond movies, but when it works, it works. :)

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Finished "Gunmetal Blues" a few nights ago! :)

First off, I've said this before, but well done on stepping up your game re: the worldbuilding. This was absolutely the right place to start seeding exposition on the larger world of GMB. Interesting array of major powers in addition to the Blue Dragons in the previous book (am I correct in assuming that the White Dragons are a splinter group or a rival faction?). Also quite curious about the Rigellian Empress - does she play a larger role in future stories?

After being a somewhat ambiguous presence in the first story, it was fun to see the dynamic between present-day Silhouette and Kienan, especially with Vain and Mirage in the mix. You really managed to convey a feeling of this huge, roiling mass of emotional turmoil lurking just beneath the surface that could explode at any moment.

Also? What a surprise to learn that the clone in Kienan's possession was Jayla and not Silhouette herself - nice twist! :)

Given our mutual dislike for the Prophets, I'm not at all concerned that the owners of the mystery ship are omnipotent cosmic beings from outside time...

There is one suggestion I'd make, on a purely stylistic level: you might want to develop a technique or style shift for the flashbacks and dreams, if only because they're currently using the same font and tense as the framing sequences and it can get a bit confusing. For example, Silhouette's dream in chapter 4, her earlier flashback of Sinclaire and Kienan's remembrance of Caldera's destruction are visually indistinguishable from the text set in the "present". Since you use italics to represent thoughts, perhaps bold text would suffice? Or use of the present tense?

And did that last image of Kienan smoking bring Spike Spiegel to mind? Why yes it did. ;)

All in all, it's a notably different creature from the first book, not just stylistically but also in terms of the kind of story being told. Well done! :)

Kazekage said...

All right! Always eager to see what you thought!

Yeah, by the time I sat down to write GMB2 I was well into the fun of creating my own little sandbox to play in. From here on in, every time I had a little room, I always moved to put in some little moment where we pull back a little: This book you meet the Rigellians, the next book you meet another alien race and another still that actually links the Rigellians et al together.

The White Dragons are (and I can tell you this because the short story I'm working on now, "Snakes and Arrows" addresses this head-on) are essentially an underground railroad to get people out of the Syndicates. Silhouette has sort of taken it upon herself to stand up for the "third side"--that is, the poor folks who inevitable get squished in-between when two forces collide.

I think the Empress might be showing up in GMB6, which has a lot more Rigellian stuff. In the meantime, in the interests of filling out the picture . . .perhaps I should send you the short stories with Silhouette that fill in some of this (like her new b/f) I think I should! :)

Yeah, I really wanted to have Silhouette show up and kick things into high gear in terms of the larger story . . .plus given her past history she generated drama pretty much just standing there. I've also grown to like how she functions as ally and enemy at times without needing to bend her character to the whim of the plot. There's a good bit in a later book when Silhouette tries to explain to someone about her relationship with Kienan and the best she can do is one word: "Complicated." :)

Just wait--the clone figures quite prominently into the third book, and we go in a rather interesting direction there.

Well, they're not godlike, per se. They're just . . .alien. Not to spoil GMB6, but Straeger learns that they are a race that communicates via race-memory and they have very advanced technology . . .but they're pretty much extinct. One of the themes of GMB is that history is full of revolutions and counterrevolutions--there's some of that in book 2.

That's some good advice, actually. I've tried to do some stylistic cues or textual clues to indicate when a flashback is taking place, and I rarely do them in the story like this without an adequate breakpoint between past and present.

It was probably intentional. GMB owes a lot to Bebop, though it's a much darker story. :)

Well, I actually know what 'm doing in this one. In a sense, it's kind of the real first book in the series, as when I re-read it, it feels more like the GMB that I recognise more than book 1, which is sound, but not quite . . .there yet.

Just wait until 3. Oh, I get so ambitious :) I'm so glad you liked it, and I'll send you some more soonish!