Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Whole Damn Thing--STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE #40

Well, well--never thought we'd make it this far. It's time once again for us to begin the final lap of our run-through of the entirety of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This week, we begin the final season of the show, a season which will do a lot of things write, and all too many things wrong.

I was on another review site recently and someone articulated the big problem I'm having with DS9 here lately--they're working diligently to color in all the shades of gray which previously set this show apart and to a large extent made it good. This wouldn't be a bad thing, except the colours their using seem to consist of black and white. Characters that typically thrived on ambiguity become one-note mustache twirling baddies, of all the various paths to a resolution of a plot point, typically the most obvious and least interesting path is the one chosen.

And unfortunately, it's not going to be long until we run into this. So let's get to it, shall we?


"So, what'd you find out?"
"That you should never try to match drinks with a Klingon."

After last episode's offensive which saw the Federation getting a foothold in Dominion space, but everything else going to shit, we skip ahead three months. Kira has been promoted to Colonel, and been left in charge of the station and is chafing ever so slightly under the new Admiral Ross brings over--the Romulans want a liaison officer posted to DS9 a la Martok, and Kira is none too pleased about this.

The Dominion has managed to keep the Federation bottled up on their foothold, which is bringing Bashir and O'Brien down, as they've been on convoy duty and are bored out of their minds. Worf is dealing with the death of Jadzia by smashing up Vic Fontaine's holosuite, which I can't really find a lot of fault with. But generally he's being a real dickhead, and as I rack my brain and go over the breadth of the season, I'm not sure he ever really stops being one, bar once.

Sisko is completely out to lunch, working in his dad's restaurant to get over the funk he has about Jadzia's death and the wormhole closing and all that stuff. He soon finds out that his father's been lying to him about something when he gets a pretty vague vision involving a woman he's never seen before and he confronts his father, who tells him that the woman he thought was his mother . . .really isn't. I would call bullshit on this whole plotline right now, but it has one more turn to go through and I'm saving my ire for that.

"That's an awful lot of setup," I hear you saying. Yeah, it is. The two-parter that opens the season is willing to try and juggle an A, B, and C-plot, and unfortunately, there's only one of those that's any good. See if you can guess which one.

Kira's plot comes to a head when Cretak, the Romulan liaison, asks if the Romulans can set up a field hospital an a Bajoran moon, only to fortify it with weapons. Kira says words to the effect of "bitch, you crazy" and blockades the moon. Obviously, this is a suicide mission--the Bajorans don't even have warp drive, remember?--but Kira is determined to force the Romulans to withdraw, whether it torpedoes the alliance or not. I should mention, given how fiery and defiant she was in "Emissary" it's great to see her draw the line line this once again. It's not her only finest hour this season, but it's a hell of a good one to start on.

Worf, Bashir, O'Brien, Martok, and Quark all pile up and go off to win a glorious battle in Jadzia's name and ensure her a place in Sto'Vo'Kor, but I think it's really just to shut Worf the fuck up because no one really believed they were at all romantic because they had them chemistry of used dishwater, really. You may also wonder why it is that Bashir and O'Brien, who are rather critical Federation servicemen, can just fuck off on a Klingon ship on some nonsense mission where no one else on the ship can talk about anything but "honor" and junk, and yes, it's kind of bullshit, but DS9's relationship with the war they say is going on rather atrophies in moments like this, and really it's best not to think about it and just hope that it's over quickly.

Sisko is all freaked out about his biological mom, not least because she seemed to have a locket with ancient Bajoran writing, which speaks of an Orb no one knew about--the Orb of the Emissary--and soon after being stabbed by a member of the Cult of the Pah-Wraiths (who have been growing in numbers since the wormhole closed--sadly, this plot thread doesn't go far) Sisko and Jake, and Sisko's dad pack up and head off for Tyree, or they would, only Dax shows up.

Ezri Dax, that is. Guys, Nicole DeBoer was really awesome in the movie Cube, and she is indisputably cute as a button, but sweet Jesus in a smoking birchbark canoe, Ezri is one of the most problematic characters ever, and I may not be kind to her as we make our way through that season. I am warning you now.

I am also warning you that she will, in fact, have one scene where the character works out like gangbusters, and when Ezri Dax's Finest Hour happens, you can trust that I will point it out, because for all my snark and impatience, dammit, I like to think I'm fair at the end of the day. Hop on over to the next episode and let's get this over with.


"Because it could be no one else."

In the A plot, Sisko goes to Tyree, and we catch up with Ezri's backstory. Ezri was a counselor on the ship carrying the Dax symbiont back to Trill when they had to put the slug in her as an emergency measure. This is a little bit of bullshit, as several times (most notably in "Equilibirum" and "Invasive Procedures") we've seeing that being a joined Trill takes years of training and vetting and you can't just plug them in and out like flash drives, only apparently now you can. This has given her the equivalent of Trill multiple personalities, which is played for laughs, even though one of them is a murder (remember?)

I understand what the point was intended to be, I suppose--they wanted to experiment with a character that wasn't a composed, complete Trill. Well, OK, but it didn't really ever succeed: Ezri tries had to be winning and ends up just being an ear head who upchucks all over the controls the first time she's in space and does very little else. It's sort of like if someone but Twist from Spaced in a Star Trek show.

In any event, Sisko is searching for the Orb in the only way he knows how--by wearing a bathrobe, wandering around the desert, and bugging the fuck out. He keeps hearing an intercom announcement that a Doctor Wykoff needs to report to the isolation ward, and Sisko really wishes he'd get his ass there already, and if I had to hear it nine dozen times, I really would too. Sisko finds the Orb, digs it up and before he can open it . . .

. . .oh shit it's Benny Russell. Benny Russell has not been doing too well since "Far Beyond The Stars," namely he's gone all Syd Barrett and is in a mental ward, and has apparently been spending his time writing the entire saga of DS9 on the walls of his cell, a fact which Dr. Wykoff (who may or may not look like Damar without his makeup) is dismayed by.

The stories are what drove him there in the first place, Wykoff says. He offers him a roll of paint and says he's giving him a chance to wipe away the past, paint over the stories, and get well. Benny's actually considering it.

Things look bad. . .

In the B Plot, Kira has drawn a line against the Romulans, and the Romulans are threatening to step over it by sending a fleet of warships to ensure their supplied get through. Ross begs Kira to back down and seek a negotiated settlement, but Kira isn't having that shit--even if she is outgunned and outmatched, she will not go down without a fight.

I will put my cards on the table right now--of the three plots, I really love this one the most, as it has so much of DS9's DNA running through it and feels more true to the characters. Kira fought the Cardassians because they invaded her home, remember, and so it stands to reason she'd fight to stop anyone else from trying to stage an incursion on their territory, and the notion that she will risk everything for that is so very true to her character. Nana Visitor plays this perfectly, as he outward bravado to Cretak and Ross is tempered by her genuine fear that in making a stand she's more than likely not going to walk away from.

Let's flip quickly back to the Benny Russell scene for a moment, because it sets up the best scene in this two parter (the Benny Russell scene is great, but falters because of how it's woven in to the overall story) as Benny, completely out of his damn mind and so close to wiping the words he's basically sacrificed his life for drops the paint roller, punches Wykoff the fuck out, and writes on the wall that Sisko opens the box.

Sisko follows the plot, and the wormhole opens up and blasts the Pah-Wraith out. The scene that follows is one of my all-time favourites because it is so quiet and so understated but incredibly effective: Kira sees the wormhole open, and all of a sudden, with the reappearance of her gods on the scene, she feels no longer hopeless and is more determined than ever to stand her ground.

But she doesn't have to. The Romulan ships withdraw. Not because they were scared off by Kira's blockade, but because her defiance convinced Ross that just because Bajor doesn't do as much for the cause as the Romulans can doesn't mean we can throw one under the bus for the other in the name of expediency.

I do really love this scene, as it has so much paralleling with "Emissary" (Sisko coming to Kira's rescue, the wormhole returning, Kira facing down overwhelming odds with nothing but her gigantic metaphorical balls) and I really wish the rest of the episode was as good as this.

Over in Plot C (I demoted it, because I hate it) Worf and Co. blow up a shipyard with technobabble, because of course that's what Klingons would do in that situation. Before that happens Worf runs down Bashir, O'Brien, and Quark for horning in on feeling sorry for Jadzia and Martok is like "are you serious bro? Maybe if you turned down trying to be a shit-cock for five fucking minutes, you'd see these people are trying to help you honour her and you are not sole custodian of her memory."

Oh, if only he'd listened. The next episode might not be necessary.

Anyways, they succeed in getting closure, only Worf is still sulking about this as the season reached endgame, which makes me wonder what the point was, and . . .y'know, I'm kind of tired of Worf being an asshole dickmonster and yet everyone thinks of him as this honourable warrior type. Frankly, he's a big fat poseur who utterly fails to pull his own weight and just because he's not the designated "strong guy who gets smacked around so we know the threat of the week is Serious Fucken Business" anymore go to his head.

That said, Worf too will have a few good scenes this season. And a whole lot more awful ones, too.

Oh, and . . .uhm . . .-deep breath- the Prophets appear to Sisko and tell him his previously unrevealed biological mother was taken over by the Prophets so she would conceive him.

I thought this then and now: Bull. SHIT.

I know what they were going for here: Of all the Trek Captains, who are typically considered almost godlike, why not make one an actual demigod? Plus, think of all the story avenues this opens up, as it makes the Prophets kinda sinister, as they kinda bodyjacked this women to ensure the creation of their Emissary and doesn't that mean we can't completely consider them the good guys?

Well, all of this would be very interesting, except for a few things: One, the Prophets gimmick was that they really didn't understand corporeal humans. Two, they didn't perceive time as linear. I don't think that meant they could travel in time, they just saw it all happening at once, which means the Prophets are now just the generic godlike aliens down the street.

And three, none of this is followed up on in any meaningful way, really. Sisko's Mom just becomes our designated Prophet, robbing the Prophets of that whole "speaking through people you knew" thing they did and . . .it's kind of disappointing just how rote and mystery-killing this whole twist is. I didn't like it then, and I don't now. It feels too pat, too . . .easy. I like DS9 a whole lot better when they're willing to give me messy resolutions and let me make up my own mind, and I don't really know what happened to them here.

You had a good mythic thing going already: Sisko came to Bajor not wanting to be there. Then he didn't want to be the Emissary. By the beginning of the sixth season he's embraced being the Emissary, talks about building a house on Bajor, and has pretty well gone native. That's good enough (even if it's a bit unsettling in that "identifiable protagonist goes native so we're more comfortable with them being noble savages" trope that's in far too much SF anyways) right there, as we've followed him grappling with and embracing it over six years now.

But sometimes people keep fixing things until they break.

In any event, everyone comes back to the station and everyone's happy again, and oh look here's Dax everyone! She's totally not dead--sorta--and now we'll have to try very hard to find her something to do!


"You dreamt about what? You're crazy. Now get out of my office."

Sorry--the chance to drop in that Rush song was too good not to take. It's not really cool among Rush fans to find any value in their snyth period, but dammit, I do.

Operation: Get Ezri Over, Part 2 of Too Many This Season.

Ezri is a counselor, which means she's kind of a shrink. Deanna Troi was a counselor over on Next Generation, and set new standards for being crappy at her job, as all she really ever seemed to do was get her brain raped and had the uncanny ability to sense what everyone else on the goddamn bridge could figure out anyway.

All Ezri would have to do is be sightly better at her job than Troi. Given Troi's record, that wouldn't require much more than not drooling like an imbecile at the dinner table.

You know where this is going, right?

As Ezri grapples with the fact that being a counselor more mentally ill than the people she's treating is about as useful as mag wheels on a dump truck (as Arn Anderson once said) Garak is bugging the fuck out as his claustrophobia is now to the degree that he's trying to walk out of an airlock because the entire station is too confining for him. Worf is being an absolute shitheel to her because he can't deal with a person who has Jadzia's memories in her head but isn't Jadzia walking around--it's really unsettling and creepy.

However, Worf can't just leave it at that, he has to actively sabotage Ezri's attempts to fit in, and nearly beats the shit out of Bashir when he talks to her, and really, it's stuff like that that makes you wish Worf had gotten whacked rather than Jadzia, because that one extra step really eradicates any sympathy you might have for his plight. That's not a man grieving--that is a fucking psycho.

I should also mention that I'm certain this is technically against the Trill "re association" taboo they have--remember the episode "Rejoined," aka The Last Good Dax Episode?--but if the people who write the show can't be bothered to keep it straight, then why should I care?

In any event, the point of the story is Ezri trying to help Garak so he can get back to work breaking Cardassian codes without trying to step out of an airlock and get some fresh vacuum. To be blunt, Ezri does as well at this as the doctor in Revenge of the Sith. Garak can see through this immediately and lets her have it in one of the great bits in this episode, which is worth quoting in full:

"I want someone to help me get back to work. And you, my dear, are not up to this task. I mean, look at you. You're pathetic – a confused child trying to live up to a legacy left by her predecessors. You're not worthy of the name "Dax." I knew Jadzia. She was vital, alive. She owned herself, and you... you don't even know who you are. How dare you presume to help me? You can't even help yourself."

"Now, get out of here before I say something unkind.

Ezri (who, remember, we are supposed to be rooting for in this episode) breaks down and cries and quits Starfleet. Sisko yells at her and that makes her even more upset and more determined to quit and finally she goes back to Garak, who finally tells her what's bothering him (less because of anything she says and more because there's like, five minutes left in the episode and we really need to get on with it) Gark is wracked with guilt because he knows that with every code he breaks, it means more Cardassians die. He knows his people will fight to the bitter end, and he--who only every wanted to go home--is assisting in the murder of his countrymen, and the guilt is is literally killing him.

It's a great scene, and most of that is down to the fact that it's, well, Garak. However, there is one problem I can't let go of: NONE OF THIS IS BECAUSE OF ANYTHING EZRI DID. This is kind of a problem because the whole point of the episode is to show that she has a reason to be on the station and she fucking has failed at every opportunity, up to and including the problem set before in this episode which she was supposed to fix and we were gonna all fall in love with her because she was cute and competent.

Naturally, they promote her to lieutenant, because god dammit, we've evolved past the need for money, but you can't get rid of the Peter Principle, I guess.

She can't do her job, everyone reacts to her as though she's Jadzia's ghost or something (which in a way she is) and in the three episode she's been in she's either been acting ditzy or crying or failing to accomplish the one task she was given in an episode designed to showcase her.

How do you fail that hard? I really hate to keep harping on this, but the real reason Ezri is here is because there was a Dax on the show before and for no other reason than that, dammit, we have to have another one whether it makes any more sense to do so or not.

I'm kind of glad the last episode this week ends on a high note. I'm complaining even more than usual for me . . .


"I know that look. It's the I'd-really-like-to-smash-something-but-she'll-think-I'm-crazy look."

From the moment that Sisko explained the game of Baseball to the Prophets, by hook or by crook we were going to get a goddamned baseball episode, and here we are. Sisko longtime rival (who we've never heard of before or since) Solok comes to the station and in his own irritatingly passive-aggressive way challenges Sisko to a game of baseball. In practical terms, this means we go through every baseball movie cliche you've ever seen in the name of getting the game going.

I should mention, in the name of historical curiosity, that some Trek fans consider this part of an overall trend with the franchise of making the Vulcans smug, superior assholes, which is, according to them, a betrayal of one of the noblest fictional races ever. I don't really give a shit about this and neither should you.

In any event, Sisko assembles his rag-tag team (I do love that Odo is the umpire. It's so perfect) and they are utterly fucking hopeless. Oh, they've got some good people, but it's not enough and Sisko gets all pissy because he really wants to beat Solok, and this is a way for Sisko to Learn A Valuable Lesson About What's Really Important and . . .yeah, you've seen this shit a dozen times.

But there's enough good bits in there to make it worthwhile--Worf advising Nog to find and kill a runner instead of tagging him out, Odo tossing Sisko out of the game, Ezri's totally kickass wall-flip catch (see? It's not all negative) and Kira coming this close to fucking up one of the Vulcans keeps the cliches grounded in the characters we've come to know and love, which keeps it from being an empty stylistic exercise.

Except (SPOILER) there's no come-from-behind victory for Sisko's team. They get one run entirely by accident, but that's enough of a moral victory for the whole thing to have been worth it, and it's a very DS9 ending. Plus, there's something really damn sweet about Sisko's reaction when his team gives him a baseball they all signed.

I know some people hate this episode, and wonder why this is being done when there's not much season left and a war going on in the show, but that ship sailed long ago, and that's all there is to it. It's nothing original, but it works very well making the cliches work in the DS9 milieu.

Plus there were no major long-term plot developments I didn't like that I felt compelled to rail on at length. I'm just as tired of it as you are, y'all.

And that's it for this week.. Join us next week, as the Jack Pack returns and we all but re-do a previous episode in "Chrysalis"; Odo has to protect a defector from the Dominion from the Dominion in "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River"; Kor returns in "Once More Unto The Breach"; and we get on the front lines of the war with the Dominion in the excellent "The Siege of AR-558" Man, I wish we'd led with these episodes. Join us next week for long-term plot revelations, maiming, and pleasure!

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