Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Whole Damn Thing: STAR TREK: DS9 #29

OK, here we go again! Once again it's time to stop by the side of the road and admire the grandeur of the entirety of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, as we might contemplate the majesty of the Grand Canyon, or even the world's largest ball of twine. This week we've got oodles, nay bundles of interesting stuff to consider, as we have a controversial Sisko bit and perhaps the most major status quo shift in the entire series . . .well, I was gonna say "To this point," but really, the two-parter that anchors the happy middle of this quartet is really major. The rest we'll fill in as we go.

Needless to say, there will be spoilers. Sorry guys--there's just no way to talk about the plot without it becoming "the thing that happened that one time"--DS9 is a plot heavy show, and that's just how it is. God knows, if I review Babylon 5 ever, that show's even more plot-heavy--I might as well just type out the damn scripts.


"The secret life of Michael Eddington."

In case you missed it last year, recurring cast member Michael Eddington (or that dude from Krull, if you like your obscure references) defected to the Maquis in last year's "For The Cause." He's been on the loose since then, tear-assing his way through the Demilitarised Zone and hurting Cardassians. In all that time, even though we haven't heard about any of this, Sisko's been hunting him, because if "The Maquis" taught us anything, if you personally betray The Sisko, he will hunt your ass down to the ends of the . . .well, seeing as how we're not on Earth, not the ends of the Earth, but the end of something else.

This episode concerns itself with how Eddington uses Sisko's obsession to get the drop on him a couple times. In the first, he points a gun at him, takes him through a Maquis colony, tries to explain their position, asks Sisko to leave them alone, as their quarrel isn't with them, it's with the Cardassians.

Well, Sisko says no. And then Eddington locates a trojan on the Defiant and wipes out their entire computer system. This leads to something the makers of the show really wanted to do--have the Defiant controlled a lot like a submarine--but it doesn't really functionally handicap the story all that much and seems like a transparent gimmick.

. . .as does the holo-communicator, which is rolled out with great ballyhoo and I think it ends up being used twice. It's a fix to a problem that I never really found apparent--To them, viewscreen conversations are storytelling death (Kinda--witness Star Trek: The Slow Motion Picture, wherein 95% of that movie is middle-aged dentists staring at TV screens) so instead we have this: Person stands in the middle of a ridiculous litter box and has a face to face conversation. It looks really, really stupid.

Anyways, those blemishes aside, the episode is about Sisko's obsession. Eddington compares him to Inpector Javert from Les Miserables, and cautions that his obsession will blind him to the cost of pursuing it--hell, in the course of the episode, the Defiant is crippled and another ship is critcally damaged trying to chase him down.

But this episode is not about Sisko's obsession making him screw up, no way. This episode is about how he uses Eddington's perception of his obsession to win. Allow me to explain--is Sisko is Javert, the baddie, that makes Eddington the hero of the story, Valjean, by default. Sisko's able to use to this knowledge to maneuver Eddington into forcing him to give up.

He does this by doing something which, for people who don't like DS9 is one of the things they point to as proof that it's "Not Star Trek" (whatever that can be said to mean) as the Maquis is poisoning the atmosphere of Cardassian colonies in the Zone, Sisko starts poisoning Maquis colonies in retaliation. Eddington tries to call his bluff, saying that there's no way Sisko would do that . . .and Sisko fucking well does it, and threatens to do it again.

Okay, even I will admit that using biological warfare to catch one dude is a little much (and this is coming from Mr. "No kill like overkill" here), and some of that is mitigated in the wrap-up (the displaced peoples decide to swap colonies essentially, which is pretty benign considering we're talking biological fucking warfare here) and Eddington does give himself up. However, even I will admit there's a bit of "holy shit, did he really do that?"

This isn't a bad episode, really. It's got a rep all out of proportion with what the episode actually contains, but it's a good episode that turns on an interesting bit of psychology and shows us there's quite a bit of grist in the Sisko/Eddington conflict for the storytelling mills. We'll have one more of these before the season's done, and and it's not bad either.


"At the first sign of betrayal, I will kill him. But, I promise to return the body intact."
"I assume that's a joke."
"We will see."

And here we go. The station gets an oddly coded message from the Gamma Quadrant on an old Cardassian frequency. Garak decodes it, and says it's just some old planetary survey report, but makes preparations to leave at once, because it's actually a message from his mentor Enabran Tain, specifically, some coordinates and the word "Alive." You may remember that Tain led the Romulan/Cardassian fleet to a teeth-bleeding curb-stomping by the Dominion.

This is the least of Garak's problems, as Dukat shows up and tries to beat the shit out of him for making goo-goo eyes at Ziyal, something which I frankly have no problem with--that whole thing is seriously icky and even moreso considering how half-hearted they pursued it.

Anyways, Garak and Worf are sent to the Gamma Quadrant to see what they can find. Garak uses the time to complain that Earl Grey tea sucks and mess with Worf's head. This amusing bit of banter is cut short when, while hiding in a nebula, they discover a Dominion fleet. A fucking huge one, actually, and they're heading through the wormhole.

Shit just got real. Gark and Worf are kidnapped and taken to Stalag Asteroid 13, wherein they meet up with Martok (the real one, this time--the Martok from "Way of the Warrior" and the beginning of this season was a Changeling) Tain and . . .Doctor Bashir, wearing the older uniform. But then, we've seen Bashir on the station, haven't we?

Which means . . .bad things.

In any event, with a fleet coming, there's only one thing to do--collapse the entrance to the wormhole, a notion Kira balks at, but Sisko says they have no option--between everything that's happened, a protracted battle afterwards is out of the question. Given that 1) we have two more seasons to go in this show and 2) they're explaining all this in front of a Changeling sabtoeur . . .well, how do you think this is gonna go?

Back at Stalag 13, there's a bunch of character stuff going on as Bashir compares notes with the new arrivals. Oh, and Tain dies, and let's go ahead and get this out of the way, because we're going to use this as an example of Garak making chicken salad out of a frankly chicken shit plot point.

Tain, you see, is Garak's father, in a story beat you could probably see from orbit. I hate this plot point, but the scene with Tain and Garak actually manages to make this work well--With his last few breaths Tain relates a story of when Garak demonstrated his perseverance and his father's pride in his son, and Garak resolves to escape.

And now, it's cliffhanger time. The Dominion are on the way, destroying listening posts along the way. The station tries to seal the wormhole, but it backfires--the opening is now greatly reinforced and a horde of Dominion ships have come.

Oh. Shit.


"You and I on the same side. It never seemed quite . . .right, did it?"

The Dominion fleet pauses as DS9 mobilises and prepares to fight, working in concert with Dukat and his Bird of Prey. But as the fleet turns and heads for Cardassia, Dukat flies off to engage the fleet . . .only not.

Because the fleet is here at Dukat's invitation. He's been dealing with them secretly for the past few months and now Cardassia has joined the Dominion as a full partner.

Oh my, so much to unpack there. In Season 4 and up to now we've seen the Cardassians on the run. With the collapse of the Central Command, the continuing Maquis raids, and the Klingon attacks, the Cardassians had become a pretty feeble power. We saw in "Return to Grace" that they had become so cowed, in fact, they were unwilling to fight when presented with a tactical advantage.

This paralleled Dukat' fall from glory in "Indiscretion" and "Return to Grace." Humiliated and drummed out of the higher echelons of power, Dukat had been humbled, but was determined to regain what he had lost. We thought some of that had been regained when he decided to go all space pirate, but no, now he has everything. Now Dukat is Cardassia and . . .well, he has everything he's wanted for awhile and is going to go about the business of settling scores. The Dominon will kick the the crap out of the Klingons. The Dominion will eradicate the Maquis. And the Dominion will probably be wanting their space station back, so . . .

. . .while all that's going on, back in Stalag 13, Garak is trying to rewire the transmitter Tain used to send the message while his claustrophobia goes into overdrive to contact their runabout, which the Dominion have stupidly left in orbit, Worf is helping in his usual way--by punching lots of things, and Martok is there providing moral support. We actually get a badass Worf moment when he refuses to stay down in the face of the Jem'Hadar commander wrecking his shit in a display of toughness not seen since the classic Magnum TA/Tully Blanchard "I Quit" match at Starrcade. The Jem'Hadar commander finally gives up, because he can't defeat Worf--he can only kill him. For all I give Worf shit, I must say--that's pretty damn hardcore.

Oh, and back on the station, the Bashir Changeling has wired up a bomb to blow up the Bajoran sun, wiping out the station, Bajor, and the Klingons and Romulans, who've decided to join back up with the good guys as the Dominion is ready to pounce. This is all a big dodge however, as the "fleet" is just an illusion necessary to keep everyone off-balance until the Bashir-Changeling can blow up the sun.

You can guess how that goes.

Well, the immediate crises all get tied up in a bow, but this really shakes things up--with the Dominion in Cardassia, relentlessly building up their military, war is even more inevitable than before. In fact, now it's just a matter of time.

I said this two-parter was a major shift, and I meant it. It really shakes things up and defines where we're going forward. As you see, there's a hell of a lot going on, most of it very interesting--Cardassia and Dukat getting back to being bad guys (Dukat will do another heel turn next season to much lesser effect) and some stuff I absolutely hate (Garak and Ziyal and Tain being Garak's father) but mostly it's all to the good.

Mind you, to get the full effect it virtually demands that you've seen every single episode up until now, but . . .well, if you've come this far, I reckon you're already in that club.


"If this works you'll be able to irritate people you've never even met"

Half this episode is absolutely great. The other half of it makes me want to punch someone in the neck. I will try to favour the part I like over the bit I don't.

I really like this episode as it manages to retcon in something for Bashir that explains everything about the character with such ease that it almost seems like the plan all along. It's also got a real emotional core that, while sad, is very honest, very of the moment, and flies in the face of all the usual Star Trek nonsense about how humanity has evolved into just plain better folks.

Doctor Zimmerman, he who created Voyager's Doctor has come up with the next step in medical holograms--a surrogate doctor able to work for longer periods of time than the original, who was only meant to be an emergency supplement (which only lasts, it seems, seven years and a run in syndication afterwards) and Bashir has been elected to be the face of the newer, friendlier, hologram.

This means Zimmerman has to interview his friends and family. Bashir says "OK, yeah, my friends," but not his family. They're not close, and haven't been for some time. This being what it is, Zimmerman immediately invites his family to DS9. That was, once again, something you could see coming from orbit, however, to the episode's credit, they don't do the usual "family shows up, does wacky things and embarrasses the child," thing.

If anything, just the opposite--Bashir and his parents can't be in the same room for five seconds without an argument breaking out and Bashir leaving looking hurt. What's more, they're showing some strain, because there's a shared secret they're trying very hard to kept under wraps.

That secret is this: When Bashir was a child, he had a mild learning disability. His parents took him and has his DNA re sequenced, and the Bashir we know was born. Better, stronger, faster, smarter, but forever marked by the belief that he wasn't good enough as he was.

Hell of a trip to lay on a kid, huh?

This is actually a pretty major thing, and not just because in Star Trek Land it's against the law to do weird things to your DNA (unless the transporter or holodecks fuck up) because you might end up with Ricardo Montalban's frankly amazing pecs. No, this has some resonance to most parent's determination to make sure their kids do well and what that sort of pressure exerts on the kid. How many times do you hear about lining up good schools while the kid's in diapers, or putting them on some drug to calm them down or make them not sad, or . . .anything? And what's more, when you look at it from the somewhat more black and white of a child, it's like the ultimate version of what every kid fears their parents will say--"You're such a disappointment."

So naturally, on an episode with such a heavy plot must be leavened by a comedy B-plot, right? And as this is the season of Operation: Get Rom Over, that means Rom has to finally confess his feelings to Leeta and her frighteningly rocksteady breasts (seriously, I don't want to sound pervy, but they either had one hell of a costume design on DS9 or Chase Masterson's bust is . . .well, unbustable) She's also being courted by Doctor Zimmerman, and that's all the effort I feel like putting into this, as it's stupid, stereotypical, and a little misogynist, really. Plus . . .and I don't mean to sound like I'm overreacting but, uh, I really fucking hate Rom and I will have some more fuel for that fire as we go along.

And that's it for this week. Join us next week (and yes, I'll try to have some other content during the week) as Odo gets lucky and then not in the quasi-noir "A Simple Investigation"; Quark goes to work for Victor Maitland in "Business as Usual"; We have two surprise returns and more about Cardassia, the newest Dominion member in "Ties of Blood and Water"; and DS9 punches my joy and love of life in the face with "Ferengi Love Songs." Join us next week for callbacks, Ferengi Komedy, and . . .pleasure?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

And now, a sad announcement

It is with great . . .well, not sadness, but embarrassment that I have to announce that the somewhat beloved feature "Didjutal Comiks" is going on hiatus for the foreseeable future, because Itunes crashed whilst updating my iPad driver and, well . . .I had to roll it back to its starting point and I got a tantalizing glimpse of all the digital Iron Man issues I had for a split second, and then--poof!--gone.

That's just been my luck this week, it seems. It's a really labour-intensive process to get them back on the computer, and I really don't have the time to do it right now, so the best thing that I can see to do is to put it on hold and come up with something else.

Hopefully I can come up with another feature to replace it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Didjutal Comiks: IRON MAN #315

Digital comics are the future of comics, so says everyone on the Internet and everyone trying to justify their purchase of an iPad and leveraging that into a desperate attempt to generate content for their blogs and stuff. It is in this spirit that the management at Witless Prattle continues the following, exciting, weirdly specific and slightly iconoclastic feature.

Iron Man #248
April 1995

"Old Soldiers"

Writer: Len Kaminski
Artists: Tom Morgan (Pencils & Inks)

We begin with Iron Man tearing through into a reactor core which is melting down and which seems to be alive, like living slag (Foreshadowing--your key to quality literature!) This is all the fault of Ted Slaught, whose Alzheimer's one would think would preclude him from operating a major science experiment, but everyone's in some kind of collective denial about it, so Stark exposits about how important Slaught was to him when he was a kid. Slaught returns the favour by running in and screaming at him for being ungrateful and stabbing him in the back with trying to get him dismissed from the project.

But that's a problem for three issues or so from now. For now, Stark's jetting off to Russia with his new pilot (do we ever see her again? I doubt it) and the Black Widow, resplendent in a dress which positively thunders "Look! I'm wearing now underwear" from every rooftop. Innuendo is slathered on with a trowel for a bit and we're off to Russia . . .

. . .where the Titanium Man is in Lenin's Tomb, and lamenting the state of post-Communist Russia. He decides to do something about it (what that something is, isn't quite clear, but then again, dude is barking mad) and he flies off while the generals in Russia decide to call Valentin Shatalov, lately the Crimson Dynamo, to deal with him. There's a whole TON of backstory here (most of it from Fabian Nicieza's wonderfully insane Soviet Super-Soldiers one-shot) that involves Titanium Man and Shatalov being teammates, but all you need to know is that . . .well, they were teammates. Also: track down that one-shot some time. It's hilariously daft.

Anyways, cut back to Stark kibitzing with Gorbachev and other Russian dignitaries, when the Titanium Man storms in (Man, no one noticed the nine-foot tall guy in powered armour with the glowing eyes? Shit--Russia is in bad shape) Stark suits up as Iron Man, and a throwdown ensues. Iron Man and Titanium Man debate current events while they zap each other and Iron Man calls Titanium Man's armour is obsolete.

And Iron Man pretty much gets his ass kicked for mouthing off. We end with Titanium Man about to give Iron Man the Bane/Batman thing and then it's continued next issue!

We're close to the end of Kaminski's run on the book, and the he closes out with a three-part story and a issue that ties up the stuff with Slaught before he leaves and the Crossing stuff starts (less said about that the better) and it's serviceable enough. It's only natural that given the no. 1 supplier of bad guys for Iron Man back in the early days was the Soviet Union, that he should go back and see how things have changed and positioning Titanium Man as a relic of the Cold War works as well. I don't know that it needed to be three issues, really--not much happens in this first part when you get down to it. But even if it would work better as a two-parter, it's sound enough in concept that you don't mind so much.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


I'm kind of amazed that in this Whedonesque age of irony and being too cool for the material that you can have a movie this old-school, sentimental, and idealised, but I'm damn glad they went in this direction with it. Hard to believe Chris Evans was the same jackass who played Johnny Storm in those two Fantastic Four movies everyone collectively forgot about (seriously, no one talks about them) because he's really damn great as Steve Rogers here.

There's also tons of fan service if you know your 40's era Marvel (seriously, Roy Thomas' head would explode upon seeing it)--they even pay homage to that stupid TV movie in one bit. There's also a lot of crackling dialogue, tons of cool fights (let down a bit by the CGI in places--it was somewhat glaring in 3D, maybe less so in 2D) tons of gonzo Nazi/HYDRA tech, and and honest-to-god musical score as well (Told you it was old-school) The wartime poster credits were awesome as well.

I have to say, that while I liked Thor and liked how it really sold Asgard as a real world, but I think Captain America edges it out a little more in terms of being a more completely entertaining movie. Then again, I'm biased, as I really liked The Rocketeer (directed by the same guy) and this works in that same quasi-retro vein.

The trailer for Avengers at the end? Well . . .it made me plan to see it, so I guess it worked.

The Whole Damn Thing: STAR TREK: DS9 #28

Man, weeks just blow by here with unrelenting force, because it feels like I just did last week's. Anyways, I'm Kazekage and this is my comprehensive review of every episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This week, we dive in again with another quartet of Season 5 episodes. We're coming close to a major shift in the show's status quo, that's . . .next week, I think. This week, everyone gets the First Contact uniforms, for those of you who care about such things or are trying to place this in some time frame.


"Don't you get it? I'm not trying to save you. I'm taking you along as emergency rations. If you die, I'm gonna eat you."

From the very instant Odo and Quark's enmity was introduced, the natural move has been to pair the two of them together in dire straits. This is a typical storytelling device--pair two characters who hate each other off with them and hopefully good character beats will ensue, typically those of the "we're not so different/grudging respect" variety) We've seen this a couple times, though the only one that's springing to mind for me right now is "Civil Defense" where they were trapped in Odo's office while the station was busy blowing itself up.

Here, things are more literalized. Carrying Quark to a grand jury inquest, their runabout crashes on an inhospitable planet known as "California," (which, from all accounts is pretty intolerable), all their emergency supplies are fucked up and they have to Work Together Or Die. Why yes, you have seen this plot many many times before, and it pretty much ends the same way every time--the principals bicker amongst themselves, argue to the point of splitting up but eventually one or both come through and their saved because if their names are in the main credits, they ain't dying.

But wait--there's more. In the B-plot, Nog has returned from Starfleet Academy and an attempt to room with Jake goes predictably awry as Nog has gotten super tight-ass in a kind of Junior ROTC way and Jake plays the roll of his slack-ass bong-hitting roommate who just wants to eat Cheetos and watch Dragon Ball Z all day. Predictably, they bicker a lot.

And therein lies the problem with this episode--it's two plots full of characters bickering with no let-up and after awhile it just . . .gets . . .too . . .damn . . .shrill. Typically your B-plot is supposed to complement or contrast your A-plot not dial up the volume to 90, and rip the knob off. I'm sure there were good reasons why they wanted to do this--to show Odo's frailty, to advance Nog's character development, and, apparently to pay homage to Waiting for Godot, but holy shit, this episode is god damned excruciating. It's not "Let He Who Is Without Sin" level bad (that comes later) but it's really not a good idea at all and just drags on so painfully.

Thankfully, the next episode is really a lot better than this, so let's talk about it right now!


I was in a Cardassian prison camp for five years, and I can remember each and every beating I suffered. And while you had your weapons to protect you, all I had was my faith... and my courage. Walk with the Prophets child... I know I will"

I'm sure I've done this joke before, but it was last year, so it's probably time again. It's new to someone, I bet.

Sisko gets electrocuted while researching a fabled lost Bajoran city, gets electrocuted and goes native. This happens just as Bajor is about to be folded into the Federation, which is just about the last time that this particular plot point--which, let's remember, was the whole reason for them being here.--is considered in any meaningful way.

This episode, is, in a sense, a continuation off last season's "Accession," where we saw Sisko make some peace with being the Emissary. This episode has him completely embracing the concept, willing to risk his life to make sense of the visions put in his head (one of which involves "The coming war with the Dominion." Hmmm . . .) and--and here we spoil--scrap Bajor's entry into the Federation with an ill-timed freakout involving locusts.

It's a great episode, in one sense, because it ties in a lot of things--Kassidy Yates returns from prison after last season, Kai Ratched returns and gets a more nuanced characterisation than her usual pious, evil, self (the quote for this episode is taken from her remark to Kira) Jake's obsessive need for his father to be in his life (from "The Visitor") along with the other stuff we've talked about earlier in the review. Thematically, it pulls in a lot, and about 98% I like.

But dammit, I think the ending sticks the landing quite a bit, as the lever that takes Sisko's visions away (Jake's desire to save his life) and Sisko's forgiveness isn't really adequately played through and we're left with Kassidy really hamfistedly saying "Yes, you lost so much but look at all you have, George Bailey" and . . .man, it really does hurt the episode.

What else hurts this episode is, sadly, the stuff that comes after. From here on in, the Prophets, like the Pah-Wraiths last week, are going to take a more active role in the series and unfortunately, the more that we see them, the less sense they make, and the more sense of wonder is lost from them. From here on in "The will of the Prophets" might as well be the new "a wizard did it." And won't we have enough of those soon . . .

But for now, let's focus on the 98% of this episode that actually works and not pillory it for the crimes of its subsequent episodes (no, we'll save that for next season) It's a great story that really ties in a lot of plot elements and does so in a way that feels consistent with the show and points the way forward for the remainder of the run.

For good and for worse. Oh damn--I said I wasn't going to do that.


"For fifty years you raped our planet, and you killed our people. You lived on our land and you took the food out of our mouths, and I don't care whether you held a phaser in your hand or you ironed shirts for a living. You were all guilty and you were all legitimate targets!"

Is it a new thing, the whole "pregnant yet badass" cliche, or has it always been and I just haven't remembered it being so prevalent until recently? I say this because this episode is basically Kira being a ready to pop badass--Amy Pond, take note. It also has quite an amazing moral, but we'll get to that when we get to it.

Someone's killing off Kira's old associates in the Shakaar resistance cell, and they're being damn cagey about it--using remotes to selectively pick them off. Worse yet, they're using Kira's voice to taunt her with every kill and lord knows, if there's anything stupider than fucking with the Sisko, it's fucking with the Sisko's right hand woman, who frankly wakes up ever morning wishing someone would step to her so she can beat some ass, pregnant or not.

This gives us a chance to meet Furel and Lupaza again, that adorable bickering couple who nevertheless love each other that we saw a bit of in "Shakaar." Unfortunately, this is the last time we'll see them, as they die in another bombing. Kira takes up their mission--they'd arrived on the station to protect her and find the person killing the Shakaar members (keeping it in the family, as it were) and with no one left (except Shakaar, obviously, which . . .well, I'll save that for next episode) she starts looking for answers.

She finds them at the home of one Silaran Prin, a Cardassian who looks like he just stepped out of a hot grease safety video. Prin was the dogsbody of a Cardassian Gul during the Occupation--he folded shirts for the guy. Then he was caught in a bombing committed by the Shakaar. Considering himself an innocent unjustly punished, he decided to kill off the guilty, the Shakaar. He explains this to Kira as though it's the simplest thing in the world to grasp.

And Kira tells him the Cardassians didn't belong there. They invaded Bajor, plundered it, committed unbelievable atrocities, and kept their boot on Bajor's neck for 60 years. In Kira's mind, the very act of them being where they weren't supposed to justifies them blowing up Cardassians.

Yes, years before Battlestar Galactica debated the morality of terrorism and everyone patted that show on the back for being so "edgy," one of the main characters on a show justified blowing the hell up out of people. . . to one of the people she'd blown the hell up. There are, at present, no metric ranges that give us a proper way to describe just how big a set of balls that takes, but I just write reviews for these things, I don't makes em.

This is a pretty good episode, and like "Rapture," it foregrounds something we really hadn't considered in a lot of detail--that for all we sympathise with them, the Bajorans were terrorists, and not at all above doing anything that needed to be done to force the Cardassians to leave their world. But we don't think of them as terrorists, because "terrorism" is such a loaded word. This episode kinda throws it back at us and makes us consider it.

It also leaves us with a bit of a sticky wicket in terms of Kira's character. It's hard to reconcile the Kira who declares to Prin that every Cardassian was guilty and what she did was justified in light of how she dealt with Marritza in "Duet" and Ghemor in "Second Skin." It doesn't derail the episode (lord knows, history is replete with people who like a person, but can't stand people in any and all ways) but it does bring up the very binary and absolute way she sees the Cardassians, a fact which will be played to great effect in "Ties of Blood and Water" later on this season, but here, well . . .it's nothing that ruins the episode, but . . .it really makes you think.


"If you're happy, there's something very wrong in the world. The center cannot hold."

The last time we saw Odo's "father," Dr. Mora, was in the frankly awful "The Alternate," an episode that tried to do a lot, but did terrifyingly little of it well. It pleases (and relieves) me to say that this episode--his final appearance on the show--is a much stronger episode.

Well, half of it, anyways. The good news first--Odo finds a sick baby Changeling and nurses it back to health. Dr. Mora is called in to help him, but at first they're so busy fighting old battles and using competing methodologies (Odo wants to nurture and encourage the Changeling to reach its potential, Mora wants to use electric shocks to force it to change form) that all they can do is bicker at first.

Ultimately, they bond over the Changeling--when it changes form, Mora speaks about his glee at seeing Odo transform for the first time . . .and his regret that Odo would come to hate him for the methods he used. Odo comes to understand that he is not and never has been Mora's science experiment, he is, for all intents and purposes, his son, and thanks to this baby Changeling, they find common ground and build some bridges.

And then (spoilers ahead) the baby Changeling dies. I will say this for the episode--it manages what I considered to be utterly impossible--to move you so much over what is actually a petri dish full of Murphy's Oil Soap. Part of this owes to the conviction the principals bring to it--Odo and Mora's arguments really feel like how bickering between children and their parents go, with both sides saying things they immediately regret just for the cheap thrill of hurting the person you say them to, to their shared joy at the "child" they're guiding, to their shared sense of loss when the Changeling dies.

Lest you think this episode is a complete downer, however, I should point out the baby Changeling has one more gift left for Odo--he merges with him and Odo is suddenly able to shapeshift again. Yes, the permanent irrevocable judgment of the Great Link is undone by Odo's goo baby, after half a season was spent not doing too much with Odo as a solid (I think he actually gets more feature episodes now that he can shapeshift again than he did when he was a solid) While this is a bit of a missed opportunity, like comic book death, the notion that Odo would be a solid forever probably wasn't credible (and they HAD telegraphed a bit in "Things Past" that Odo's solid state wasn't as fixed as it seemed so it's not totally out of left field) and, well, with the Dominion about to make their move here as the season ticks down, Odo might as well be at full force for it, right?

Okay, so that's the episo--oh, wait. The B-plot. Sigh.

Kira finally has Cheif O'Brien's baby after several false alarms and an alpha struggle between O'Brien and Shakaar (who is also making his last appearance) This is one of those times I wish they'd thought a bit more about the idea of connecting the two stories (yes they work thematically, but there's no conviction behind Kira's bit until the very end, when they share a cup of sadness about their lost "children") because this is yet another plot that does no one any favours, as both "dads" act like utter shitheads until Kira sets them straight, and yes, it is just as sitcom-y as it sounds.

I think this probably finished off Shakaar as a love interest for Kira, as he comes off as so much less of worthy one here (shame, too--as he was very strong in "Shakaar" and "Crossfire.") being very petulant and whiny and . . .yeah, it's no wonder they break up off-screen. Also: Bajoran birth rites are astoundingly asinine. Really, this plot mars what is otherwise a very effective episode and you're better off taking a bathroom break or running to the kitchen instead of watching this.

Again, but for a weak b-plot, this would be an essential episode, and it's such a shame it hurts the episode so much.

That's it for this week. Join us next week when Eddington returns and we have our first Controversial Sisko Moment in "For The Uniform"; Something major happens in "In Purgatory's Shadow"; Part 2 of something major happening continues in "By Inferno's Light"; and we have a (sorta) crossover with Voyager and get some major revelations about Bashir in "Doctor Bashir, I Presume." Join us next time for major series-status-quo-shaking stuff, spoilers, and pleasurrre.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Didjutal Comiks: IRON MAN ANNUAL #14

Digital comics are the future of comics, so says everyone on the Internet and everyone trying to justify their purchase of an iPad and leveraging that into a desperate attempt to generate content for their blogs and stuff. It is in this spirit that the management at Witless Prattle continues the following, exciting, weirdly specific and slightly iconoclastic feature.

Iron Man ANNUAL #14

"Unfamiliar Faces"

Writers: Len Kaminski
Artists: Tom Morgan (Pencils) Fred Fredricks (inks)

We open with Stereotypical Business Man Creighton McCall (No relation to Robert Call, the Equalizer) opening up his latest eBay purchase, a rather ugly mask which cuts his hand and releases a demon which soon kills him and starts eating the body. I knew that "buyer protection" stuff was bullshit Naturally, someone walks in on this and also gets eaten, because if there's one thing that demons released from ancient masks hate it's being walked in on while eating someone by some asshole who won't knock.

Back in Japan, "where a mystic warrior attuned to the unseen worlds experience a prescience of events half a world a way and feels a chill in the marrow of his bones." Because it just couldn't be gas, of course. Immediately, he tells everyone else in the building that "it's time," though not the usual "Vader Time," "Island Time," or even "Miller Time." These are the Masters of Silence, recently seen getting their asses kicked in the first War Machine issue a bit back. The mask-monster is their blood enemy, as is modesty, as one of the Masters is using a gym in a loincloth, which, thankfully, is never a trend that was picked up in other gyms.

Back at Stark Enterprises (why yes! The main character shows up ten pages in.) Iron Man, using his remote control armour that he pilots with his Skype headset, confronts the Masters, who are all like "what's up dude-san?" and Iron Man says "Never mind that shit, where's Mongo?" Oh, no wait . . .not that. They exposit at length about the Masters, their enemy, the Face-Thief (who, as you can tell from the name, steals people's car keys. God I'm punchy today. Must be the heat) and Stark types on his computer and finds out Creighton McCall, and suddenly it's his turn to exposit.

Creighton's daughter, Meredith, and he were lovers, only her father and his father were business competitors and forbid the relationship going forward, and this was before he had all the Iron Man stuff going on. The man who got eaten (the second one) was Meredith's husband Stevenson, and he's having a funeral soonish and Stark decides to investigate via a LMD (the Marvel Universe equivalent of the RealDoll, I reckon) at the Funeral, Creighton (who is actually the Face-Thief) acts all weird, Meredith gets all hysterical and RoboStark comes to comfort Meredith.

Stark decides from here on in to get to the bottom of it (hell, it's nearly page twenty) and sends in Iron Man to get to the bottom of it. Creighton sends out an army of mooks with guns, but they're so lame that Iron Man zaps them all off-screen and we cut to Creighton about to do god knows what to Meredith. Meredith rakes his face and he goes all Face-Thief again, but before he can do anything to her, the Masters of Silence show up and business, as they say, is about to pick up. The Masters call the Face-Thief a "foul excrescence," which is just damn harsh, really.

Iron Man finally gets to the house, and Meredith runs in to him (literally) and the Masters (figuratively) and they decide to go after the Face-Thief, telling Meredith to stay behind. Meredith calls them all chauvinists, takes the clothes and gun of a guard (which, in the best tradition of the Bad Girl era, is completely form-fitting and causes her bust size to shoot up to like, GG, or something. Oh 1993. You so crazy.) and runs off to get a piece of the ass-kicking before the boys get it all.

Back to the fight, and it's not going well. One of the Masters has been killed, the Face-Thief melts Iron Man's armor and things are generally sucking out loud until Meredith breaks in and shoots him with a gun. The Masters bail her out and compliment her on her spirit (you see where this is going, don't you?) Iron Man works out what to do and hurts the Face-Thief enough to cause him to leave, vowing revenge (he has, to date, not returned, which is just fine) and Meredith replaces the fallen master, and again, in the best tradition of the Bad Girl era, her outfit gets all rippy so we can get a good look at her cleavage (oh 1993, you so--oh, wait, I did that one, already) and she and the Masters vanish. Iron Man makes this seem like a Bad Thing, but as Meredith had been seen for nearly 20 years before this and we haven't got the greatest picture of her as a character in this issue, so the tragedy is sorta lost.

Tony Stark feels a bit bummed out, and the story ends. I have more to say about this, but let's deal with the backmatter before we get there: "While The Band Plays On" is a short story featuring War Machine breaking up a hostage situation and argues with Hawkeye about being compared to Iron Man and all this is generally trailing the direction of War Machine's own title. It's . . .wow. The story's sound, but Jim Rhodes' new "angry guy" persona never really worked that well for me, as it felt so tacked on. The art tries to be a bit too stylised and exaggerated for the needs of the story and doesn't work so well.

"Heritage of Vengeance" is the Masters of Silence origin story, as now that they've added Meredith McBoobs to the group, this is a perfect time to put on the Druid robes, wander out in the woods and indulge in some good old-fashioned exposition. We learn a lot about the Masters' past history and their mission of vengeance (Ghost Rider was big during this time, y'all. Vengeance was a growth industry back them) John Czop gives everything a misty sort of Gene Colan look to it, but the story's pretty thin, as are the characters of the Masters, so it's not altogether surprising that this is . . .well, a typical "back of the Annual" story in that it's rushed, thin, and more than a bit inconsequential.

Okay, let's tie this up in a bow: 1993 was an odd year. Marvel and DC both had this burning need to make new characters, and apart from a few, my God, they were all so very very forgettable. The Face-Thief is firmly on the "forgettable" side of things--he makes a poor Iron Man villain (except in terms of Stock Iron Man Plot #3--Iron Man fights magic guy, says he hates magic, triumphs anyway) he's the arch-villain to a group of character who are, themselves, not terribly interesting (The Masters of Silence) and given this is primarily a Masters story and not an Iron Man story, that's a problem.

I think Kaminski had big hopes that the Masters would be spin-off characters, but it never happened. If they or this annual had any legacy at all, it's this--two years after it's published, Marvel decided that Iron Man needed to be shaken up and decided the best way to do it was "The Crossing," or if you're an Iron Man fan, "a hard kick to the nuts." In the wake of the frankly awful "Crossing" issues, the role of Iron Man was played by a teenage Tony Stark, who went back to college in New York and had, as a professor . . .Meredith McCall, who was not, in fact, a boobalicious ninja, or even the redhead she was portrayed as here (these little niggles being the least of issues with her character back then) she was also married to a different guy who also died. I won't tell you where this happened specifically--I am not going anywhere near those goddamned issues ever again.

Needless to say, this proved one immutable fact: No one reads Annuals (well, except us anoraks) not even the people who make the comics.

Much as like Kaminski, he's not really at his best here, though he gamely tries to make it work and make Meredith's committing her life to other people's vengeance tragic, but there is nowhere near enough in-story justification for it, and never really feels earned. He's not the only person at less than full force, however, as Tom Morgan's art feels a bit rushed and doesn't help the story overcome its limitations. Annuals, by this time, had become something of a bad word, and were seen as cheap cash-ins meant to wring some more money out of the punters with rushed/bad art, inconsequential stories, and a general sense mediocrity about them. This Annual will probably justify that feeling.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Just Sayin--Fun With Cognitive Dissonance

Courtesy of the fine folks at Robot 6:

"In comic books, it’s all about story. People don’t come to a Spider-Man comic book to see Spider-Man punch the Green Goblin — they go to see the journey that brought him there.”"

-Axel Alonso, EIC of Marvel Comics.

Uhm, no. I think they kind of do buy a Spider-Man comic to see him punch the Green Goblin. Or would, if such was available to them.

Didjutal Comiks: IRON MAN #248

Digital comics are the future of comics, so says everyone on the Internet and everyone trying to justify their purchase of an iPad and leveraging that into a desperate attempt to generate content for their blogs and stuff. It is in this spirit that the management at Witless Prattle continues the following, exciting, weirdly specific and slightly iconoclastic feature.

Iron Man #248
November 1989


Writers: David Michelenie & Bob Layton
Artists: Bob Layton (Pencils) Bob Layton (inks)

Sorry for a lack of Iron Man goodness yesterday--had some entertaining to do.

We begin with Iron Man losing his shit and about to smash the wheelchair he's been trapped in ever since Kathy Dare shot him until Rhodes whacks him in the head with a crowbar, which is the way I usually deal with hysterical people. Rhodes fills us in on what's happening--Stark is handing over control of Stark Enterprises to Marcy Pearson and stepping away from public life, have decided that since he can walk and stuff as Iron Man, he's willing to give up being Tony Stark.

Of course, before he can hand it over to Pearson, Abe Zimmer pages him and let him know that his "Tapeworm" (what we call a "search bot" in this day and age) has found something that might help to repair the damage--a bio-chip that instructs the cells to repair themselves. Stark gets about the business of securing the chip, but is resigned to the fact that it probably won't help.

On the way to meeting with the people who have it, Iron Man stops an Arab terrorist hijacking (we know they're Arabs because they're a sickly gray colour, meaning the Hulk was once Arab, apparently) and steals their guns with reverse magnetism. The passengers then jump on and beat the shit out of the terrorists as Iron Man salutes them because it's not like the terrorists would have had knives or suicide vests on or whatever and flies off. I can't help thinking this is terribly irresponsible, you know.

Anyways, Stark gallivants over to New York, and meets with the biochip people, then, when they refuse, buys their company. But while he owns the biochips, the people who can put them in him still refuse and, tries to work out what to do next. IF he could find a surgeon who owes him a solid, maybe he could get the biochip put in, he could get around it, but as it's not likely, his plans for Tony Stark to disappear are back on.

But first, he has to go to a court date--Kathy Dare (with former SE lawyer Bert Hindel in tow) is in court to determine if she should stand trial for attempted murder. Upon taking the stand, Dare immediately loses her shit and claims that Stark was drunk, constantly threatened her life, beat her up, and she finally shot him in self-defence.

Stark is understandably dismayed--true or not, it's a blow to his case and to him personally. When his lawyer comes up he calls a number of character witnesses to the stand to testify to Stark's character (including Sunturion, who recounts the story from the recent annual) and Stark starts feeling better--it's always good to have people puncture your negative self-image on a bad day, yeah?

In any event, a psychiatrist is called to testify who's overseen Dare's case for thirteen years, and recommended permanent institutionalization for her. This lead the judge to rule that Dare be held in the custody of the mental health board until she's not-crazy enough to stand trial. Stark, buoyed by the testimony of friends and acquaintances (none of whom mentioned his Permed Mullet of DOOM, bless them) decides not to back away and so Pearson's plans to take over are sidelined (this will ultimately comes back to bite everyone in the ass, but there you go) and decides that Tony Stark is the important person, Iron Man is just a toll to be used to get things done.

The hits keep coming, though--Rhodes has apparently been digging through back issues of Iron Man, and found Dr. Erica Sondheim, who owed him a favour and performs the operation and three pages later, Stark's up and about with the aid of a zimmer frame.

Portrait of an aborted plotline: We get the merest sketch of where things were going with the "Tony Stark shot" thing this issue, the issue, incidentally, where it all gets wrapped up more or less. Of course, it actually wasn't, because the biochip would have, at least theoretically, formed the spine (ha ha) of "Armor Wars II," until Layton skipped off to Valiant and John Byrne took over to the dismay of several. As such, this issue is a bit of a rush-job to slam the door on that plotline, clear the decks for Doctor Doom's return in #249-250, and, well, that's that.

It's not a bad issue, I guess, but it makes no effort to hide the brisk nature of its function.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Didjutal Comiks: IRON MAN #149

Digital comics are the future of comics, so says everyone on the Internet and everyone trying to justify their purchase of an iPad and leveraging that into a desperate attempt to generate content for their blogs and stuff. It is in this spirit that the management at Witless Prattle continues the following, exciting, weirdly specific and slightly iconoclastic feature.

Iron Man #149
August 1981


Writers: David Michelenie & Bob Layton
Artists: John Romita Jr. (Pencils) Bob Layton (inks)

Oh wow, I just heard on the radio that Blue Oyster Cult is headlining a baby food festival. Helpless babies on picnic blankets scream bug-eyed as they wait for "Burnin' For You," I guess.

Oh wait, this thing--sorry, was distracted. This is, as you might have guessed, tied in to our recent wanderings with Iron Man and Dr. Doom that tend to come with these sorts of anniversary issues. We open with a big fight between ships and a helicopter and a lot of narration to get us up to speed. Apparently a ship is being hijacked, or was until Iron Man shows up to throw down on some fools. It takes a page and change, and Iron Man, acting on behalf of Tony Stark, orders the ship to turn around and return to port.

Iron Man flies off to change back to Tony Stark, which gives us some time to catch up on the various subplots working their way through the book--Blacklash setting fire to Stark International, Bethany Cabe off in East Germany (back when that was a thing) and we hop to the point of the thing with the ship--apparently it was full of electronic components being shipped to Latveria, a non-existent but real-sounding country that as we all know is the home to one Dr. Doom. Of course, at the present time Doom is deposed and replaced with an apparently benevolent ruler, but Stark sees through that shit right away.

Speaking of the good doctor, he's busily kibitzing with a sorcerer and they do some business that, once concluded, allows Doom to hop on the time cube and return to the present for some exposition. Doom's assistant, Hauptmann, is the brother of a character killed pre-Fantastic Four #100 who works for Doom out of fear and a desire to bide his time for vengeance. He explains to Doom that the shipment of electronics from SI is delayed and Doom handles it with the equanimity we've come to expect from him--by threatening Hauptmann and going after Iron Man with a ridiculous submarine tank. This is what they call in the psychiatric line "projection."

Ridiculous though it may be, it manages to kick Iron Man's ass and give them time to steal some of the stuff . . .and drag it through the ocean? Oh, wait, no, it can fly too. Yeah, dumping electronics in seawater would be stupid. Iron Man flies after them, but they get away and Iron Man vows to chase after them.

Stark flies over to Latveria because the book's halfway over and we gotta get a move on. The government in power gives him all the info needed to find Doom and move about the country because they figure he's going to try something and really, it would be better for everyone if Iron Man would take him down.

And take him down Iron Man shall . . er, try to. Iron Man meets with Doom, who tells him he doesn't talk to errand boys, but luckily, he will damn sure fight with one. He busts out the molecular expander (man, that move was so useful in Marvel vs Capcom 2, wasn't it?) and Iron Man returns fire and they fight and fight and fight and fight and fight, when just on the last page they end up on the time cube, which Hauptmann activates, then smashes, declaring he got his revenge because they're trapped in the past forever.

"Forever," of course, meaning "One double-sized issue."

As happened a hundred issues later, the Doom/Iron Man fight is teased in the issue leading up to the big anniversary, and paid off in the next. It ain't half bad, featuring as it does a hell of a lot of action, the beginning of Dr. Doom constantly punching holes in Iron Man's boat by calling him "errand boy," and a subplot with Brother of Background Character Who Died That One Time which, if you care about such things, probably provides you some sort of thematic closure. It's pure set-up, but good set-up, and so, why not?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Didjutal Comiks: IRON MAN #206

Digital comics are the future of comics, so says everyone on the Internet and everyone trying to justify their purchase of an iPad and leveraging that into a desperate attempt to generate content for their blogs and stuff. It is in this spirit that the management at Witless Prattle continues the following, exciting, weirdly specific and slightly iconoclastic feature.

Iron Man #206
May 1986


Writer: Denny O'Neil
Artists: Mark Bright (Pencils) Akin & Garvey (inks)

We begin with Goliath (now Atlas of the Thunderbolts . . .or he was last I saw him) straining against the prison he was put in by the West Coast Avengers. Or maybe he's busting a massive grump. Who knows, really? Hawkeye and Mockingbird come by with gigantic plates of hamburgers (flown in by White Castle, one assumes) to feed him when Goliath's lawyer drops by to get him released from their custody.

Meanwhile, in case you forgot whose book this was, someone's sabotaging Tony Stark's space shuttle. Stark is making sure Jim Rhodes is ready to fly the space shuttle. Stark will, ideally, be tagging along as Iron Man, but as Al Swearengen says, announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh.

We ping around Subplots Corner for a bit as the AIM Scientist Supreme with his brother, Yorgon Tykkio (Man, Denny O'Neil and names) and explains his plan for all of us and to show what a badass he is and really this totally goes nowhere. Meanwhile Cly Erwin stops in to remind us that her brother's dead and she's very upset about it and she's thinking of taking a job looking for Halley's Comet (oh, 1986) and Stark looks appropriately bummed about it.

Stark suits up and Rhodes decides not to take his suit of Iron Man armour with him and the shuttle zooms off to blow up at a moment most convenient to the plot. While that transpires, Goliath's lawyer shows up with a court order and it takes Goliath like, three whole pages to escape. Hawkeye and Mockingbird decide to fight Goliath, because the two best things you can have when fighting giants are a bow and arrow and a pogo stick. This goes about as well as you'd expect, until Iron Man shows up and slaps Goliath around for generally being a chump-ass.

Because you can't sabotage a space shuttle in act one without having something go wrong in act two, just about this time, the space shuttle goes blooey and Iron Man is faced with a dilemma--save Rhodes or let Goliath kill Hawkeye and Mockingbird. Thankfully for Hawk and Mock, Iron Man doesn't do a cost-benefit analysis because they'd be fucking dead.

Iron Man puts Hawkeye and Mockingbird in the cage formerly housing Goliath, and flies off to save Rhodes. The theory goes something like this: The cage with prove a tempting, if indestructible target for Goliath, and draw him there while Iron Man saves the shuttle, so when he gets back Goliath will be right there. Because this is now act three, dammit, we gotta wrap this up, so Iron Man defeats Goliath in short order by blasting pulse bolts down his throat which knocks him out using the powers of "this is page 21 of a 22 page book." We then cut to Yorgon Tykkio brooding and planning (the narration says so) I think he's brooding and planning about how to be such an unengaging lame-ass villain that this entire plot line will drag, then stall, then finally be put out of its mercy by Layton and Michelenie.

Man, what an odd issue this is. Goliath had recently debuted (again, this is his third or fourth identity) in an Iron Man Annual and so, it was decided to roll him back out and do something with him and also give Iron Man a chance to cross over with West Coast Avengers while Iron Man's own subplots tick over in the background. As such, it's kind of a throwaway issue, and is just sort of there. Although it does feature Iron Man kicking the shit out of a giant, and that's not a bad thing to have in an issue, really. The AIM stuff continues to bore the hell out of me, but that's to be expected by now.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Hopefully all the outages and chaos is over with with. Well, for the websites, at least.

Just wanted to let y'all know about a quick update we've done over at GUNMETAL BLACK

I recently finished a new story that introduces a character I debuted at my Devianart site and we just put it up.

It's called "Ripples in the Pool" and I'm rather proud of it--check it out! :)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Whole Damn Thing: STAR TREK: DS9 #27

Once again with feeling, we sojourn on and on into the dawn with another stop along the way to recap every single episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This week . . .well, this week will take some effort to get through as it is easily the most manic-depressive quartet of episodes yet, as we go from one of DS9's best episodes to its worst lickety-split. I'll try to explain as we go, but for now, let's dive right in.


"For the first 40 minutes it was like pulling teeth even getting him to admit his name."

O'Brien's happy--his wife's returning from an extended layover in Bajor where she studied the fire caves, and you know, so far so good. Except for one teeny tiny little thing: Keiko's apparently a little bit possessed. The ironic thing about this is that given the way she's typically written, this actually makes her a bit more interesting.

It transpired that Keiko picked up a dose of Pah-Wraith (who are, basically, evil spirits that were wormhole aliens, but got dumped out by the Prophets) while in the Fire Caves (which is where the Pah-Wraiths live, for . . .some reason) and the Pah-Wraith has essentially body-jacked Keiko to force O'Brien to use some Whatever Science to kill the Prophets and get back in.

This is, you may have guessed, the "Let's Torture O'Brien" episode for this season, and it's . . .well, kinda sound enough. The idea of his wife being possessed by something that will use her knowledge of him to make him do what she says, forcing O'Brien to frame Rom for everything is frankly, pretty good.

The problem is, in the short term, we see O'Brien's wife so little we kinda forget he's married for long stretches of time, so it doesn't quite have the weight it maybe should have. What's more, despite the fact that Season 5 is the "Let's Push Rom Down People's Throats Until They Gag" season, I really would have liked to see him get blamed and fired out an airlock because we're well into diminishing returns with him as a character now and I find him to be an irritating goddamn creep.

The longer-term issue, is, that the Pah-Wraiths were a bad idea that stuck around long enough to become a really bad idea. The idea of evil Prophets isn't a bad one. There's a lot you can do with it. Not all of that is good. Keeping it to the generally good side of the ledger is best done by having an idea of what the endgame for them will be in your mind. If you try to stretch it out on the fly, you run a high risk of piling on stupid/silly idea and by the time you finally decide to draw a line under them, they're part of so much attendant silliness, that people generally just want them to go the hell away. It's the storytelling equivalent of X-Pac Heat.

So, while the O'Brien being paranoid stuff works OK, the attendant stuff this episode brings along with it doesn't work quite as well, I'm afraid, so really, it's not an episode that can overcome its ropey bits, it's sad to say.


"I can't wait to get back to Deep Space 9 and see your face when you find out that I never existed!"

Oh, now, this is more like it. In a nutshell, Orb-related time travel chicanery allows Our Heroes to go back in time, visit a classic Star Trek episode, and lay the fanservice on as though they were dumping it out of buckets. It's really impossible to review this episode without it boiling down to "Hey, wasn't that bit funny?" or essentially just recapping the original Star Trek episode, so really, this one will be a bit light.

This is done by fans for fans, and so all sorts of bits that only hardcore obsessive Star Trek anoraks would care about: Why do the Klingons look different? Why did Kirk keep getting hit in the head with Tribbles? How come we never saw them again--the tribbles, I mean. It's wrapped around a story that exists just to have moments like that, really, and it aspires to nothing else.

The funny thing is, for a franchise who's typical attempts at comedy are usually awful and depressing (see the very next episode) this one's actually funny. Maybe it's because it's not trying too hard, maybe it's because with nothing at "stake" beyond sending the show that started it all a love letter takes the pressure off, maybe these are all reasons it succeeds when so many other comedy episode fail.

All I know is that even people who hate DS9 usually love this episode. Funny that.


"Do not hug me."


I said no, I'm not doing it.

Look, it's the most godawful episode of the entire run. Even thinking about it pisses me off, and dammit, haven't I suffered enough? "Fascination?" "The Muse?" "Past Tense?" Honestly, what more do you want from me?

. . .

All right, fine. Dax and Worf (and Leeta and Bashir and Quark) head off to Risa, The Sex Planet, to research waterfowl. No, not really-- what he hell do you think they're going for, the Lionel Ritchie concert? Along the way, Dax acts like a bitch, Worf acts like a wet blanket, commits an act of sabotage that has no repercussions for him and believe it or not, this episode was really supposed to sell them as a couple instead of two insufferable assholes who need to be beaten with hammers. Oh, and Risa is under siege from a geriatric telling people to stop having sex on the Sex Planet and to get the hell off his lawn already.

The end. Let us never speak of it again.

What, more? Geez, get off my back: I gave you all you need to know about the plot, and I really don't feel like saying any more about it, but if you need more or just want me to beat up on it some more, here's five reasons why this episode pisses me off.

1. This episode cannot deliver on what it promises. Being that this is a show aired around the dinner hour, it can't really show anything too sexy, hence a trip to the Sex Planet is lathered with a bunch of innuendo with no payoff that borders on the surreal: for example, people on the Sex Planet wave stupid Tiki statues at one another to let them know they would, in fact, like to have some sex. I'm not making that up.

This is not a handicap, really--if you can't do it justice, then don't make a show about going to fucking Sex Planet, then. Find something else to write about. It isn't as though DS9 didn't have avenues worth exploring that didn't involve something they could very plainly Not Do Well. Was there nothing else available, and if this actually made it to air, it begs the question: what did they reject?!?

2. It's terribly hard to care about whether or not you want to see characters having fun and getting laid when all you want them to do is shut up and/or beat them with an iron pipe. Worf acts like an asshole and refuses to do anything. Dax insists he comes along because there's nothing better for a budding relationship than insisting the other person do something they've explicitly said they don't want to do and making them miserable. Dax then gets pissed off that Worf still deep into his asshole thing, and Worf is still pissed off that Dax is going to have fun regardless and we're supposed to like these people and holy shit, I have a fucking headache you would not BELIEVE trying to chase the alleged logic of this.

3. Don't try to justify your character's assholishness with some trauma pulled out of thin air that will never be referenced again just because it's the only way out of this mess. Worf killed someone playing soccer when he was very young, possibly because he was playing soccer at the time, and I can tell you from experience, playing soccer in your middle school years will fill your heart full of sweet, sweet murder. This particular revelation is supposed to explain why he refused to have any fun with Dax, why he joined up with the Fuddy-Duddies to sabotage Risa's weather net, and why he looks less like he loves Dax and more like he'd like to knock her across the room. We are supposed to empathise with and have compassion for Worf, because, like Cyclops, he must keep a tight rein on himself all the time.

I submit that it does none of these things. You don't take someone in that state and expose him to very thing he denies himself. It's like taking a recovering crackhead to Mount Crackenstein, where the slopes are practically shimmering with tons of free crack--you're just fucking torturing them.

4. It helps when doing romance in your story that the viewer's first reaction is not to projectile vomit. See above. Dax and Worf are together because they have absolutely nothing else to do, and boy do they act like it. In the two seasons that Dax and Worf are a capital-C couple, we are frequently presented with stories that are supposed to demonstrate, incontrovertibly, that they love each other. SPOILER--it never works. How this was supposed to happen here, in the early says of Our Long National Nightmare, when all they do this episode is bicker . . .I am not certain. I have had to watch this episode twice now for this review. All I want to do is kill myself.

5. The fucking Tiki statues thing. It pisses me off. Typically, in a place like, say, Hedonism II or something, I would imagine the surest way you would indicate a desire to have sex is . . .well, the usual way--humans biologically have dead giveaways indicating they're hot to trot, and I don't mean waving a six-pack of Heineken from the party deck of your boat at the yacht that just sped by with the women flashing their tits at you. Please notice that nowhere in the previous example did the phrase "novelty Polneisian woodcraft" occur.

I really don't think waving Tiki statues should get you anything except butt-fucked by a scarecrow.

This episode can go to hell and die. I want to throw it in the bin with Manimal, Phantom Menace, The Final Cut, Mae Young giving birth to a hand, Katie Vick, Hanson, and the Yapapi Strap Match featuring Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan on the pile of Things I Never Want To Think About Ever Again.


"Giving me a name tag that read, 'Elim Garak - Former Cardassian Oppressor' was hardly polite."

Did I just insist I was not going to write about that episode above and write more about it than anything else? Oy. Fucking hypocrite, I am.

Never mind that shit, here's a good episode! On their way back from a Bajoran conference, Garak, Odo, Dax and Sisko get shifted in time back to DS9 during the Occupation. Only they seem to be Bajoran slaves, all except Dax, who gets spirited upstairs to be one of Dukat's comfort women.

Except this isn't exactly happening, because Our Heroes are still in the present day, unconscious and in the infirmary, and since Bashir can't find any way to wipe their memories or reanimate the dead, he's stumped as to what's going on, so the only thing to do is for him to watch over them while it plays out.

Meanwhile, back in the Terok Nor of bygone days, Our Heroes are working as Bajoran laborers with varying degrees of success and trying to stay out of the way of Thrax, the Cardassian head of security (played by Clarence Boddiker himself, surely to be calling someone a dumbass any minute now) this goes somewhat pear-shaped when Dukat is nearly killed in an explosion, and Our Heroes are rounded up. Cardassian jurisprudence being what it is, they are told they will be executed pretty soon, this despite the fact that for all intents and purposes they haven't done anything.

This has something to do with Odo, but what that might be, or why he knows who Our Heroes have been cast as, he's not very forthcoming about. But he's having dizzy spells, and at one point even sees blood on his hands. The most damning thing of all, however, is that Thrax wasn't head of security when this happened--he was.

I'm going to spoil the twist, because there's really no talking about the episode without doing so: Odo was on the one who had these prisoners executed. This despite the fact they were plainly innocent, this despite the fact that he could easily have found this out had he not been overworked, this despite the fact that one of the bits that makes Odo Odo--the only thing, now that he's a solid--is his dedication to justice.

And here, he failed. Because he confused order with justice, and sent innocent men to their deaths. For someone like Odo, this is too painful to bear, too shameful to admit.

This episode is pretty damn good, and not least because it's willing to deconstruct Odo to a high degree. It was never entirely realistic, when you get down to it, that Odo's moral absolutism would be compromised by his past associations--you can't really work for a brutal occupying force, enforcing a code of justice that results in very little justice, on a people that have no means or power to challenge the diktat of the occupying force without being compromised in some fashion.

It's to the episode's credit that they're willing to play this to the hilt--the only way out of the flashback (caused by some whatever science involving the Great Link) is for Odo to admit his guilt, and then, he has to stand in front of Kira, the woman he loves, and his first real friend, and when she asks him if this was the only time he dropped the ball, all he can say is that he hopes so. That's a hell of a thing to have one of your heroes do, innit?

The episode, naturally, shares a look with "Necessary Evil," which is to it's credit--"Necessary Evil" was a great episode (and featured and inversion of this episode, with Kira having to fess up to something Odo should have tried her for) but "Things Past" is much more concerned with actually portraying the Occupation as a season in hell that degraded and compromised everyone, really, and as such, it's really tied in to the central themes of DS9 stretching all the way back to the beginning.

There is, also, our first indications of Dukat's gradual demotion from "tweener" back to "full heel" mode, as we see him here as the worst kind of narcissist--the kind running a labor camp, and worse yet, the kind who runs a labor camp and cruises said labor camp for tail. This will become more of an issue as we go along, but for now it's just an interesting reminder that Dukat was and maybe still is, a real shitheel.

This is a great episode, and it's well worth watching.

Thank God we ended on a high note, huh? Join us next week when Quark and Odo wring all the comedy you possibly can out of being stranded on a mountain freezing to death in "The Ascent"; Everyone gets new threads, then Sisko gets religion and tells us what his favourite song by Blondie is in "Rapture"; Kira asks why an episode featuring her has a title more suited to Babylon 5 in "The Darkness and The Light"; and we close out the mirth with Odo's "dad" returning to the station (to much better effect than last time) in "The Begotten." Join us next time for locusts, serial killings, and pleasurrrre . . .