Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Whole Damn Thing--STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE #42

I could be out getting drunk as a skunk at several Halloween parties, but something in me said "No, let's get one step closer to the goal of recapping every single episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." That, plus I wasn't invited to any of them. In any event, join me as I endure three hatefully shitty episodes and one great one with my typical lack of patience for how far things have gotten out of whack in the seventh season. Let's just get it over with.

"I've always found that when people try to convince others of their beliefs it's because they're really just trying to convince themselves."

Oh God, I fucking hate this episode so much. Kira gets hijacked over to Empok Nor (THIS SHIT AGAIN ARGH) and find out the cult of the Pah-Wraith (yeah, you remember--the cult that's all over Bajor that we've seen like, twice) and, in a plot twist you could see from the next state over it's led by Gul Dukat. We run through all the expected Jim Jones /David Koresh comparisons and Kira escapes in time so we can close the episode with her saying Dukat is "more dangerous than ever." How this is possible when all he has is an under-motivated hippie commune when he once had the Dominion on his side, I am not exactly clear on.

This episode is so problematic, I don't really know where to begin, except to say just in general, that this is where many of Season Six's sins come home to roost. We have Dukat being Ker-AZY and really uninteresting as he tries to do the cult leader thing, even though he's still up to his usual tricks like banging Bajoran women (married Bajoran women) and spawning Bajoran/Cardassian love children (which he then spins in to a miracle, which takes balls bigger than all outdoors)

There's an attempt at nuance here, however--Dukat is seen praying alone to the Pah-Wraiths, which would undercut Kira's assertion that he's only joined a Bajoran cult to win the love of the Bajorans, but it never really goes anywhere because this would imply nuance in Dukat, and that's not what we do anymore.

Because it's not enough to revisit one misstep, it's time to plunder over the Prophets/Pah-Wraith conflict, although unlike "The Reckoning" no one busts out goofy contacts or Force Lightning. The shape of the Prophets/Pah-Wraiths tiff is explained thus: The Pah-Wraiths wanted to take more of an active role in Bajoran like, the Prophets told them "uh-uh" and they kicked the Pah-Wraiths out of the wormhole.

The sad thing is, this is actually sort of interesting. Over on Babylon 5, they managed to frame the extended conflict between the two major powers, articulated their philosophies, and made them credible and interesting in that they were both right, and both wrong, and at the conclusion of Babylon 5's war, the actual conflict was about finding an option outside of their two philosophies.

DS9 rolls this out, then ignores it for the rest of the episode and the rest of the series. They were just shitting you about making this a somewhat even contest, all you need to know is Pah-Wraiths=bad, Prophets=Good*

*(That's "good" despite their opening and closing the wormhole whenever they get in a snit. And brain-raping Sisko's biological Mom. Oh, and jerking Sisko around like, every season. Other than that they're fucking saints, I guess)

Did I mention that I hate this episode? Yeah, I do. The whole "evil cult is evil" bullshit is bad enough, but the thing that really honks me off is how we have a whole bunch of interesting ideas get rolled out, and are immediately buried so we can go for the safer choice. The idea of a clash of philosophies forming a structure for the finale is one thing, the notion of dueling Emissaries is also very interesting. Without spoiling it, we're not going getting that. Sorry.

"He's a one legged crazy man!"

It's somehow fitting that Ezri's second big attempt at helping someone fails as miserably as the first. For all they try to get her over as a Worthwhile Addition, her inability to do her fucking job really undercuts it.

I just wanted to get that out of the way before I sank my teeth into the meat of this episode, which is one of DS9's best episodes, which is no surprise. The true surprise here is that: This is an amazing episode that features Vic Fontaine, and until I saw this, I just assumed that was like dividing by zero or some shit--you couldn't do it.

But you can, apparently.

Nog returns after getting an artificial leg to replace the one he lost last week (our time) in "The Siege of AR-558" but he's having a little trouble. His leg hurts and makes him limp, and he requires a cane to get around. He's not interested in anything anymore, and rebuffs his friends and family when they try to help him. The only thing that seems to make any difference is when he goes to Vic's and asks him to sing the song that was playing when he lost his leg ("I'll Be Seeing You")

This leads Nog to basically move in to the holosuite and hang out with Vic all the time. Vic does his best to help--giving Nog a cane to replace the other cane to subtly wean him from the need for it, and Nog helps him expand the parameters of Vic's program. Things seem to be going well.

Until Nog beats the crap out of Jake when his girlfriend keeps calling him a hero. Then it becomes plain this is a way that Nog is trying to escape from a life he's become to terrified to try to live, as he articulates in the following speech, worth quoting in full:

"When the war began... I wasn't happy or anything, but I was eager. I wanted to test myself. I wanted to prove I had what it took to be a soldier and I saw a lot of combat. I saw a lot of people get hurt. I saw a lot of people die. But I didn't think anything was going to happen to me. And then, suddenly Dr. Bashir is telling me he has to cut my leg off. I couldn't believe it. I still can't believe it. If I could get shot, if I could lose my leg, anything can happen to me, Vic. I could die tomorrow. I don't know if I'm ready to face that. If I stay here, at least I know what the future is going to be like."

Vic responds by telling him that running away to a holosuite will kill him little by little until he's as hollow as Vic himself is and shuts down his program. It's only when Nog finally agrees to try to live in the real world that Vic re-activates, and in gratitude, Nog gets Quark to leave Vic on all the time (which depending on how you feel about Vic may be a rather unpleasant prospect) which, well . . .I'll complain about it when I get there. This is my only moment to be positive, and damn it, let's ride that train as long as we can.

This is one hell of an episode. The Nog story is continued (as it should have been, as blowing the poor guy's leg off and just shrugging your shoulders and saying everything's fine would have been rather disingenuous) and we're allowed to follow along and identify with Nog's need to escape from a world that has far more drastic and terrible consequences than he thought he was ready for and his anger at his inability to control himself and his withdrawal from things. Typically that sort of thing usually gets sacrificed at the altar of your heroes being "heroic," forgetting than a story like this--of someone triumphing over a less tangible but no less lethal foe is also very heroic, even if it's not a conflict that ends in punching.

I can't really do this episode justice in a review--it's too damn much a character piece and really the kind of thing you need to see for yourself. In fact, g'head and do it now, because you ain't missing anything if you skip the next two episodes, lemme tell ya.

"I hate your hair."

Operation: Get Ezri Over Part . . .shit, even I've forgotten.

This episode is regarded by most of the people who worked on the show as the worst episode of the season, and while it is dull, ultimately pointless, boring, and fails to tell us anything interesting about Ezri, they are absolutely wrong, as the next episode is easily the worst of the season and in contention for worst things ever.

Someone had the bright idea to use Ezri trying to reconnect with her amazingly dysfunctional family to follow up a thread from lasts season's "Honor Among Thieves." These were two bad ideas that never should have been stuck together.

Ezri has a dysfunctional family because this show was made in the 90's, when we all found out our families were totally fucked up in the head places. Her mother is a queen bee who runs her own mining company the same way she runs her family, with an iron fist. Ezri's older brother is the dutiful son, the younger one is weak-willed and a sensitive artist guy, and why yes, they are pretty stock character types. The problem with this bit is that we barely give a shit about Ezri at this point (admittedly, not for lack of trying) so a cipher coming from a family of ciphers really is hard to get all that het up for, despite the whole murder mystery thing that comes up.

The O'Brien thing follows up on a character who died at the end of "Thieves," and the whole reason that the episode was in any way memorable was their interplay. With that gone, there's little reason to give a crap about O'Brien rummaging through the dead guy's backstory, and that's without the fact that it takes places pretty much entirely off-screen. This episode has some fundamental and downright mystifying plot problems that I cannoy believe no one saw before it filmed.

They're so bad they really seem to negate the point of the episode at all, and it thus becomes, as Homer Simspon said, "Just a bunch of stuff that happened." But beleive you me when I tell you that it is like goddamn art when compared to . . .

"Do we look smart to you?"

The only good thing about this episode: Vic Fontaine gets shot dead.

This is DS9 at its most emetic. Someone had the brilliant idea to combine a Mirror Universe episode with a Ferengi episode, and already I can feel my dinner fighting it's way up through my esophagus.

I'm going to make this as quick as I can: The Nagus gets captured because he went over to the Mirror Universe to look for new business opportunities. This is shrugged off in show as a "well, it seemed like a good idea at the time" and you know, if you have the characters in the episode complaining about the plot . . .

The Alliance holds him for ransom in exchange for a cloaking device. Mind you--we saw they have cloaking devices back in "Through the Looking Glass." This touches off some Klassic Ferengi Komedy as Quark and Rom steal a cloaking device from Martok's ship while it's still cloaked and . . .and. . .

Fuck, this is so fucking stupid, and I can feel my brain cells dying just writing all this shit down. It was clear as far back as "Shattered Mirror" the Mirror Universe shit was running on fumes--it's the place where everyone's a bit camp, and that's pretty much all there is to it. When you layer Ferengi style broad farce on top of more broad farce, you get something rather unbearable, and if you've been following this blog, you know good and hell well what's coming:

That's it for this week. Join us next week when Ezri confronts the killer within because that's so much easier than doing her job in "Field of Fire"; Odo encounters another Changeling who isn't a Founder in "Chimera"; Vic Fontaine convinces everyone to rip off "Ocean's 11" before ripping off "Ocean's 11" was a thing in "Badda-Bing Badda-Bang"; and Section 31 returns whole Bashir's on a road trip to Romulus in "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges." Join us next time for exploding watermelons, espionage, and pleasure!

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