Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Whole Damn Thing--STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE #43

Winding like an ancient river, the time is now again. Yes good people, it's time once again for our weekly sojourn through the entirety of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and this week . . .well, like that first taste of fall and the winter that accompanies it, we're at the end of Season 7 ., at least the "random feature episode" portion. We'll talk more about this at the beginning of next week's episode, but in the name of wrapping everything up (or trying to) DS9 had to basically transform itself into a continuing serial for the final ten hours of shows in the name of ratcheting things up to an appropriately epic conclusion. So these are kind of the final "typical" episodes DS9, and so there's a little bit of closure to be had here, and an acknowledgment of time running out.

Yes, the days are getting darker sooner, now . . .

"In the morning I'll be sober--and you'll still be beautiful."

Operation: Get Ezri Over Part Many Of A Lot

If I had to guess, this is pretty much the moment where DS9 gives up on Ezri being a counselor of any description, and in the name of saying "fuck it," in this episode, she starts shooting people while the murderer in her head tells her to kill more people.

You know, everything about this episode makes my head hurt, but not in a stupid "Emperor's New Cloak" way, as much as "this story makes no goddamn sense, but is constantly escalating the stakes in ways that are impossible to take seriously, plus it's fucking Ezri, so let's just enjoy the subtle comedy of dashed expectations."

When Ensign Deadmeat gets his ass killed by being shot despite being alone in a locked room, this is clearly a job for Odo, right? Or maybe Worf, because he actually used to be a cop back on the Enterprise. Both of them would be prime candidates for something like this.

So naturally it falls to Ezri to work it out and everyone plays along to help her because the counseling thing just isn't working out and this means a chance to play with guns. In this case it's the TR-116, perhaps one of the most ridiculous weapons in the history of anything.

Stick with me here: The TR-116 fires bullets at high-velocity (rayguns are for pussies) through walls because it has a transporter located within the barrel. How the bullet is still able to travel at high speed despite pretty much every time we've seen the transporter work the person place or thing is frozen in place I'm not really clear on. With the addition of Konami's Laser Scope, you can see through walls (but not people) this gun I'm pretty sure violates nearly every right afforded to us in the US Constitution to one extent or the other. Yes, even the one granting women suffrage.

Ezri decides to investigate this in a way that is both fun (testing the gun by blowing up funky watermelons) and really stupid ways by summoning Joran (the murder from "Equilibrium") so he can do the whole "Hannibal Lector" deal with her, despite the fact that Joran hadn't been a serial killer in his initial conception but now he's acting like he's an expert on killing people and shit. If this were the sole logical fallacy in this episode, we'd be doing well.

In any event, this is a mystery where the mystery is not really important, is solved in the most daft way possible, and really, so much is attempted here, and yet falls short of the mark. And yet . . .I really like this episode because it tries so hard to be grim and dark and have a shocking conclusion and it just so damn goofy. It's a murder with a gun that shoots through walls for Christ sakes, and . . .man. It just rises to the level of funny more than anything.

Plus, there are a hell of a lot of people who enjoy this episode because Ezri is holding a gun that shoots through walls. I'm not sure if it's Ezri with a gun that fires their blood, or just the idea of a supergun that tells he laws of physics to go fuck themselves, but I just wanted to let you know this is totally a thing.

"I know where I belong"

Odo meets up with a Changeling who isn't a Founder. And yet, he's still a bit of a dickmonster.

"Chimera" is a really good episode, and features a boffo performance from the guy playing Laas (Odo's new Changeling buddy) who is also the kind of guy who plays Martok, and let me tell you, it's like night and day (he was also Sisko's Captain who got blown up at the beginning of "Emissary", beleive it or not) and how Laas perceives Odo's life.

Because to Laas, Odo sold the fuck out. Laas had enough to solids ages ago, but instead raising up an evil anti-Federation that would eventually fighting the other Federation, Laas just went of on his own and and decided to spend his days transforming into animals and smoke, and fog, and fire (yes, this not only stresses credulity but utterly annihilates it, but it's a great episode anyways, and it's never brought up again, so just go with it for now) and whenever he's around solids he can't stop himself from being the DS9 equivalent of a hipster douchebag.

Despite his drastically eroded social skills, Odo links with him first chance he gets. Oh Odo. You goo slut.

However, Laas hits a nerve with Odo, because Laas has found a way that hasn't involved joining the Dominion or passing himself off as a human, and he's found a kind of peace with it, a peace that's eluded Odo all his life. Even though he's with Kira (and frankly, this episode has the best treatment and justification of their relationship for the series thus far) he's never felt like he fully belonged, and even Kira can see that.

In fact, when he and Laas link, the truth comes out: were it not for Kira, Odo would go back to the link and be a Founder (given all he heard in "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River" and the thing about the Changeling virus, you can hardly blame him) which is, itself, something we've heard before from him, but now . . .the call is a little harder for him to make. Kira roots him to his life outside the Founders nearly a strongly as his pull to be back with his people.

The episode is really about that choice--which of the three options does he really want to reach for? And what will Kira have to say and/or do about this? Sure, she loves him, but it's a hell of a lot to ask someone to be willing to give up the person they love because they'd be happier someplace else.

It's a really good episode, even if the changeling stuff will make your head hurt if you think about it too much. Think of it more as just a Kira and Odo story that raises their relationship to a place that doesn't deal with stupid sitcom cliches or needs Vic Fontaine around to mess things up, and give it a chance on those terms. It's highly recommended.

Speaking of Vic . . .

"I see. When are you planning on getting back to work?"

So everyone's hanging out at Vic's one day, wasting everyone's damn time with about eleven episodes left and the mob randomly takes over Vic's lounge and beats the shit out of him and threatens to do worse than that. This is, it turns out a "jack in the box," a feature written into Vic's program to introduce some random element to keep things interesting. There's no resetting the program without losing everything (Vic's lounge is apparently a roguelike. I guess) so the only thing for them to do is for them to resolve the problem of the mob intrusion, which naturally involves some complicated Ocean's 11's shit.

Sisko tells them all to get their asses back to work and stop wasting time. I know how he feels.

I'm gonna go ahead and put my cards on the table here--I really needed to see an Ocean's 11 style cape episode of DS9 like I needed to be hit in the junk with a boulder fired from a trebuchet. However, because this episode couldn't stop at just that we have to lay a message on it, and because that wasn't annoying and misplaced enough, as soon as it's brought up, it's brushed off again.

Sisko's main beef with Vic Fontaine's vision of Las Vegas, is that it's horseshit and ignores the quaint racism of bygone days. That's a fair enough cop, really, and gives me pause as well, but is pretty much incongruous with the fact that ever since it rolled in, Vic's has been portrayed as the height of cool, and it's kind of hard to then make an argument that it's kind of bullshit in-show.

They must have realised this, because Kassidy handwaves it away by saying "that was then, this is now, and we can play in a fake past and whitewash everything because now the only limitations we have are the ones we put on ourselves."

Yeah, uh--bullshit. Just . . .bullshit. If this was the best counter-argument one could come up with, maybe this not something that should ever have been pointed to in the first place.

So from here on in, everything follows the identikit for caper films--elaborate caper, painstaking setup, 11th hour complication, big happy success.

The odd thing about this is that except for the whole racism thing that's picked up and dropped in the same scene, is that I'm not really that pissed off at this episode. I can't decide whether that's because I've just gotten so beaten down by the non-stop onslaught that is Vic Fontaine that I've just quietly swallowed my hatred, gutting out every unpleasant minute of it while swallowing my hatred and feeling its acid touch murdering the parts of myself that had been good and wonderful at one time, maybe I've just run out of ways to articulate my antipathy for Vic Fontaine, or maybe I'm just tired and I want to get to the next episode because it's good and I'd rather talk about that, but . . .look guys. If you like this kind of thing, you will find it the kind of thing that you would like.

"I'll spare you the 'ends justify the means speech and you spare me the 'we must do what's right' speech."

The title means "In times of war, the law falls silent" Section 31 returns, and catches Bashir (who was on his way to a medical conference--frankly, he should stop going to those, because they kidnapping everybody out there) in a rather intricate web of lies and deceit that occasionally threatens to confuse the hell out of the viewer, but really ends up working as one of the strongest statements about what Section 31 and the Federation is willing to do to not only win the war, but win the next one.

Sloan, Section 31's master, wants Bashir to gather intelligence on Koval, a member of the Tal'Shiar, the Romulan intelligence bureau that apparently wasn't completely annihilated back in "Improbable Cause"/"The Die is Cast." Bashir asks why we're spying on our allies in the war and Sloan explains that after the war is over, the Klingons and Cardassians will be decimated, the Dominion pushed back to the Gamma Quadrant, and the only two powers in any shape to vie for control of the Alpha Quadrant will be the Romulans and the Federation and between the two of them, they're probably gonna take the Next Generation movies.

Bashir is alarmed by this, but back in "Inquisition" Sisko told him to cooperate with Sloan as much as possible in the name of getting a chance to expose them. So Bashir toddles on to the medical conference on scenic Romulus and tries his best to seem to cooperate without cooperating, which is made ever so slightly difficult because on the one hand, Sloan is there himself, but maybe not to keep his eye on Bashir (or maybe so?) and also, no matter what Bashir does (and as he becomes more and more motivated by panic, he enlists more and more people he would never have trusted under the circumstances and it has typically catastrophic blowback) I won't spell all that out, since this episode is most effective when the big twist comes in and hits you right between the eyes, so you should totally see this episode, yes please. I will watch it with you right now, in fact.

In any event, the episode is best summed up by a quote from Sloan, who tells Bashir: "The Federation needs men like you, Doctor. Men with conscience, men who can sleep at night. And you're also the reason that Section 31 exists: to protect men like you from a universe which doesn't share your sense of right and wrong."

Not surprisingly, the same guy who wrote this goes on to revamp Battlestar Galactica, a show which was at its best when it played in this grey area between duty and morality and what actions were justified when. It's a really great episode, and my only regret is that the big twist needs to reverberate more than it does, especially given what's coming up . . .

But more on that next week. Join us then as the final trilogy of DS9 reviews begin with (now stripped of spoilers and/or snark) "Penumbra;" "Till Death Do Us Part;" "Strange Bedfellows;" and "The Changing Face of Evil." Join us next week for matrimony, surprising heel/face turns, and pleasure!

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