Deep Space Nine: s2e11 – ‘Rivals’

A brilliantly cheesy guest star

The latest Deep Space Nine was not a candidate for episode of the season, but then again it wasn’t actually aiming for anything like that. It set out to be forty-five minutes of light entertainment, letting the episode’s principal characters – Chief O’Brien, Doctor Bashir and Quark – have a bit of fun without the need of any plot, character or series development at all.

To be honest, this was such a slight episode that I found it difficult to maintain my concentration, and given the list of significant guests stars, I was continually stopping the playback to enable me to Wikipedia to remind myself of where I knew them from before.

In this manner, I was able to identify K Callan (Alsia, the widow with an asteroid mine) as Martha Kent from Lois and Clark (which we knew over here are The New Adventures of Superman), Barbara Bosson (Roana, the widow with a unit on the Promenade) as Fay Furillo in Hill Street Blues (loved that series) and Chris Sarandon (conman and ‘listener’, Martus Mazur) as the baddie in The Princess Bride (one of the best films ever made).

Basically, the set-up was that Mazur was angling to con Alsia when Odo arrested him for fraud. Whilst in the cells, Mazur took over a weird little gambling machine from a dead alien, which brought him good luck. Charges were dropped, Mazur conned Roana into letting him set up a gambling hall directly opposite Quarks, and everybody on the station starts suffering from excesses of good or bad luck.

Meanwhile, O’Brien’s built a racquetball court (very futuristic design, unlike any one that I ever played on: mind you, squash was more my game, not that you’d think it to look at me, even then… Oh. Sorry. Got a bit distracted there, where was I?) only for Bashir to turn out to be not only younger and fitter and more talented than him. Miles gets obsessed with beating Julian, Julian gets worried about Miles having a heart attack and Quark counters Mazur’s gambling den by conning the pair into a match on which serious bets may be laid.

By this time, Dax has spotted that something’s not kosher and that probabilities are being effective, so she and Sisko turn up at Mazur’s and blast his full-sized devices, which returns everything to normal.

Like I said, pretty slight. What was worse was that every single beat was so predictable, even down to Alsia turning out to be a conwoman, which I’d sussed out from the open. When you’re so far ahead of the cast, you lose respect over their inability to spot the bleedin’ obvious, even though you’re being a bit unfair to them at times. It’s not all stringing it out to make sure that the closing credits don’t hit your screen after fifteen minutes: it just feels like it.

So, a perfunctory review for a perfunctory episode. My only regret was that the guest cast included a willowy, attractive redhead in a curiously designed costume of swirling opaque and transparent questions, whom I could have looked at for a little longer, but as she didn’t have any dialogue, her name doesn’t appear in any of the standard sources I refer to. It’s not the best situation when you come out of an episode with that as your main thought*.

However, I am led to believe that next week’s episode is a bit of a doozy. Can’t wait!

*Sandra Wild

Deep Space Nine: s02e06 – ‘Melora’

‘Melora’ was a complete change of pace from everything that had come before on Deep Space Nine, a genuinely sweet and personal story that was almost completely successful. Where it felt short was primarily in the need to provide action, drama, a crisis, when no such thing was needed, and which took up time that would have been better devoted to the primary story.

For the first time in season 2, we were back to parallel plots, an overstory and an understory that didn’t meet until the closing stages and which would have been better kept apart entirely.

The overstory began in the open, which was, unusually but effectively, begun by Doctor Bashir’s Medical Log, giving us an unobtrusive exposition dump on Ensign Melora Pazlar, the first Elaysian Spacefleet Officer, assigned to DS9 to carry out a Gamma  Quadrant survey. Melora (an attractive blonde splendidly played by Daphne Ashbrook, Paul McGann’s companion in the Doctor Who telemovie) comes from a low-gravity planet: the Doctor and the Chief are making modifications to enable her to exist comfortably, or as comfortably as possible, at human-level gravity.

Melora, we are impressed in advance, is a very determined young woman who, beyond the obvious necessities to adapt to her circumstances, refuses any ‘special consideration’. The obvious necessities, when we meet her, are a cane and metal exo-skeleton, an electric wheelchair, ramps, a gravity-manipulator in her quarters, and a very prickly, highly-defensive attitude towards everyone who so much as looks like they’re going to offer help.

I was in too minds about what to expect at this point. Melora was clearly very competent, but the use of the wheelchair planted her firmly in the disabled category, a point she herself made quite fiercely, if not in so many words. She was only speaking a truism when stating that people see the chair.

That led me to anticipate what, on reflection, might have been a fairly cliched and patronising disabled-character-proves-themselves-as-good-as-the-next-hot blonde. Instead, given that this is five centuries ahead and that attitudes towards disability have hopefully been eradicated in the future (notwithstanding the current bastard Tory right wing scum attempt to try to demonise and destroy them), this aspect didn’t feature.

What we got was a much-needed highlighting of Julian Bashir, who refused to allow Melora to employ her pro-active, hyper-defensive barriers against everyone. With calm graciousness, and a degree of reserved amusement entirely appropriate to what he was doing, Julian analysed Melora’s pre-emptive attitudes, opening her up to a willingness to accept that she did not have to fear being under-estimated.

Though she had worked long and hard at being independent, Julian was able to show her that in space everyone is dependent upon one another, and that it is that  essential atmosphere of trust and inter-reliance that made it safe for her to lower her barriers and depend.

And the beauty of it was that, whilst it wasn’t too long before the pair were snogging each other’s faces off in zero gravity, there was no creepiness in it, no sense that the Doctor was doing this to get into her exo-skeletoned knickers rather than assisting someone to become more accepting.

The episode did rather gloss over the discrepancy between the pair’s ranks, which I’m sure would have been an issue in any military organisation. Indeed, Melora immediately started girl-talk with Dax about Spacefleet Romance and whether it ever works (there was a case, 150 years ago, Dax replied) and there was no hint that removal of exo-skeletoned knickers might be frowned upon in quarters not belonging to the good Doctor.

Who then went on to research possibilities of rearranging Melora’s physiology to enable her to walk, and fully-function in human gravity. Adapting a forgotten thirty-year old theory to modern techniques, Julian succeeded in pioneering treatments that strengthened the brain’s control of the body and enabling Melora to start to walk freely.

It would make medical history, but when Melora began to show doubts about the prospects, given that it would, when completed, be permanent and debar her from ever returning to her home planet and family, Julian demonstrated the depths of his sensitivity and sincerity by instantly deferring to her wishes, without the slightest hint of disappointment at the effects on his medical innovations.

This really was a good episode for the much-neglected Bashir.

Unfortunately, we still have the understory to deal with, even though it was being given considerably less airtime. Indeed, it was introduced out of nowhere, immediately after the credits, in a disorienting manner. It was stupidly crude. Eight years ago, Quark ratted on a fellow crook, Fallit Kot. Now he’s out of prison and has come to DS9 to kill Quark.

That it was a dumb idea was made manifest in the villain. Fallit Kot (even the name is stupid) was made-up as an alien whose nose curved down to plug into his chin, creating a pier of flesh crossing the mouth, into which food could be inserted by awkward pushing in from the side but to which drink could only be supplied by a straw or a very thin bottleneck. Sensibly, no such scene was written.

Where this plugged into the overstory was that Quark tried to bribe Fallit Kot to save his life, the plonker betrayed him and kidnapped Dax and Melora as hostages in a runabout, running off to the Gamma quadrant with Sisko, Julian and the Chief in hot pursuit. To show he’s serious, he shoots Melora with a phaser, set to kill.

But, for no adequately explained reason (save some vague musing that it might be a side-effect of Julian’s treatments), Melora survives, wakes up unnoticed, by all except Dax, struggles and strains and shuts off the runabout gravity, whereupon she absolutely ‘taters Kot.

All of which, in a very unsatisfactory and underexplored manner, fuels her decision to abandon the treatment and stay Elaysian. The episode ended somewhat weakly with Melora about to move on to her next assignment, leaving behind a Julian that seemed far less romantically inclined towards the fair Ensign than he’d been when she’d been an interesting patient.

It was an ending that cast a shadow over his previous sensitivity and which re-awoke the moral question of the Doctor snogging his patient.

Nevertheless, if the demands of serial adventure fiction can be successfully ignore, this was an overall excellent episode, giving some much-needed time to the underused Doctor Bashir. Twenty years later, I think it would have ended up being an even better story, because network TV in America has grown to a point where it has far more confidence about playing change-of-pace stories, enough to let Melora’s tale stand alone.

And there is a greater willingness to go into greater depth, confident that the viewer will understand and follow, that would have made this episode broader and more full. I’ve already detected a tendency in DS9, which I hope the series grows out of, to base episodes on serious and complex issues and then fudge their way out of the ending.

As they did with this otherwise lovely story.

Deep Space Nine: s02e05 – ‘Cardassians’

I was intrigued by the title of this episode, and found myself reflecting that in the first season, we didn’t really get to know much about the Cardassians, other than their role as all-purpose baddies, pop-up villains. That they had their subtleties was obvious from Gul Dukat and, to a lesser extent, the mysterious Garak (an ongoingly excellent portrayal by Andrew Robinson, all avuncular twinkles and self-depracation unless pursuing his indecipherable aims), was clear. But as a people, they were opaque, beyond their military reputation.

I was hoping for something that gave a greater insight into the Cardassians as a race, and I suppose that I got it, though it was almost incidental to a story that started out thought-provoking, but which didn’t have a real answer to its own dilemma and ended up fudging its ending by making an almost arbitrary decision.

The episode centred on Rugal, a twelve-year old Cardassian war orphan adopted by a Bajoran couple, who claimed to love him dearly, as mush as if he were their own flesh and blood, but who had raised him to hate, fear and despise his own race (and by extension himself).

There was a clear race symbol there: it was altogether too easy to see Rugel as a black child brought up by white Ku Klux Klan members, or a Jew raised by Nazis. And though Rugal seemed to love his ‘father’ as much as the man claimed to love him, there were accusations from a businessman who had seen the family together on Bajor of brutal brainwashing.

No sooner had Rugal announced himself as a problem by biting Garak’s hand in the open than Gul Dukat himself was on the sub-space blower to Sisko, dripping with insincerity about those poor war orphans and how they had to be brought home, especially Rugal. Of course there was an ulterior motive, simply from the fact of it being Gul Dukat, and that meant kindly old uncle Garak leading the suspicious but outmatched Doctor Bashir by the nose to uncover, and foil that plan.

It turned out that Rugal – the son of a prominent Cardassian civil leader and political opponent of Dukat – was not an orphan at all. His father, Kotan Pad’har, thought him dead, killed in a Bajoran resistance raid that had killed the boys mother. Kotan was overjoyed to find his son alive, though it would finish him as a politician once it got out: the strength and value Cardassians put on the family and all its generations meant that his failure to find his son then, his effective abandonment of him, would ruin him.

Bashir and Garak’s investigations uncovered the fact that Rugal had been deliberately left by a Cardassian officer under Dukat’s command, to be used if just such an eventuality pertained. Sisko, who had been asked to arbitrate, Solomon-like, on Rugal’s fate, opted to restore the lad to his natural father, and his race, despite the overwhelming loathing Rugal felt for them.

It was never going to be an easy answer, and the episode did very little to argue the central, moral point of what was best for Rugal: Sisko signed off with the hope that his ‘healing’ could begin. It was obvious that he had been brainwashed, that his Bajoran ‘parents’ had poured all their hatred and loathing into Rugal, though there was never any follow up on whether or not it had been done brutally or lovingly. Either way, it was a wrong that deserved to be rectified, but it paid little heed to Rugal himself: a lifetime of trauma looked to be ahead.

Besides, Kotan was at least as happy about saving his career and couldn’t really give a damn about the other, genuine Cardassian orphans still in misery on Bajor.

By refusing to tackle the subject on any level other than an acute hook for a dramatic episode, DS9 fudged the issue and I was quite disappointed. Nevertheless, the episode did function on the same higher level season 2 had established, which points to better things ahead.

Deep Space Nine: s02e04 – Invasive Procedures

                                                  The Villains

After the three-episode extravaganza used to open season 2, I’m hardly surprised to see DS9 continue with a bottle-episode, confined to the staff and the cast. On the one hand, this led to a well-realised personal story, but on the other the programme was not best served by the unfortunate contrivances required to set it up, which rocked credibility.

The story was simple: Verad, an unjoined Trill, took over the station during a plasma storm in order to fulfil his lifelong ambition of being joined with a symbiont. He had been rejected as unsuitable, but evidently regarded it as being his right to have one: he deserved it, you see, the pathetic little heap of self-entitlement.

So he’d decided to take on, to take Dax from Jardzia, and never mind the consequences, i.e., Jardzia’s subsequent death. Nor was fleeing through the wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant really running from his crime: Verad Dax would do so much good out there, after he’d realised his potential.

Under threat to the Command team, and with Jardzia’s acquiescence, to spare her friends, Doctor Bashir performed the transplant. And Verad Dax bloomed, inarguably. He also lost Sisko’s friendship for his refusal to hand Dax back.

So Sisko worked on Verad’s girlfriend, Mareel, pointing out that he was no longer the Verad she loved, and that she wasn’t going to form any part of his life in future, a fact she stubbornly resisted until it became too bloody obvious, whereupon she shopped him for his own good. That was one relationship that you couldn’t see lasting until the next Prom Night.

So all ended well, especially for Avery Brooks, who got to hug a near-naked Terry Farrell.

In that aspect, it was a tightly-knit episode that made good use of the commitedness of the central cast to the firm relationship they have as comrades and friends (does the Chief not still dislike the Doctor, then?) and it was a particularly string episode for Sisko. Which, in a way, was part of the problem in general for the episode.

I’ll return to that in a moment. First, let us consider the set-up. Deep Space Nine spends the episode in the middle of a plasma-storm which sees everyone evacuated, barring a skeleton staff. Which consists of the cast, naturally, and no others. How plausible is it that, in such circumstances, only the Senior Command, and all of them should remain. I have never been in any kind of military organisation, but that doesn’t strike me as to how it works.

The plasma-storm, and the near total evacuation of DS9, is essential for Verad’s plan to take over the station with his girlfriend and two Klingon mercenaries, and they gain entry to the station thanks to Quark bypassing security for them. Yet there’s nothing to indicate that this plasma-storm was foreseen by the station far enough in advance for that arrangement to be organised.

Then there’s Quark himself, who opened the door. Major Kira promises that that’s it, he’s finished, and in any realistic setting, he would be. But Quark will be back next week, unchanged, without interference. Granted, he seems to have been conned into thinking this was a smuggling exercise, rather than the truth, and his fakery of injury enables Bashir to start  the fightback by sedating the distracted Klingon mercenary no. 2, but his actions before that have gone beyond redemption. Knowing they will suffer no consequence demeans and diminishes the story if more than just Jardzia goes back to where it started.

And we come again to the elephant in the space-station. This episode is about Jardzia Dax, about her being the Trill. She’s the centre of everything, and yet she spends most of the episode lying on an infirmary table, partially covered by a surgical sheet.

The reason for this once again comes down to Terry Farrell being a pretty face, and insufficient as an actor to take on parts that involve a substantial range. Just as in the first season episode, ‘Dax’, though the episode centres upon her, she cannot be trusted to play an active role in it. Though the story wouldn’t exist without Jardzia, it is instead Sisko’s performance that is at its centre.

I hope I’m correct in recalling larger roles for Lieutenant Dax in the seasons I saw at the time, but for now she’s merely a deadweight, holding the show back, and it deserves better.

Finally, I’d just like to mention Klingon mercenary no. 1, played by Tim Russ, who would go on to play the Vulcan officer, Tuvok, in the next Star Trek franchise, Voyager.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine s2 e01-03: The Homecoming/The Circle/The Seige

Frankly, the majority of Deep Space Nine season 1 was underwhelming, the odd episode here and there, though it challenged itself to do better in the last two episodes. I was curious to see to what extent that would carry on into the second season, when DS9 was still the junior partner to Next Generation, then going into its final season.

I did wonder if we would once again get a season-opening two partner, but instead the series went for broke with a three-parter – this first ever in Star Trek history, I understand – which took the show to an altogether new level, in which I begin to see the show I so thoroughly enjoyed.

The triple-episode was heavily Kira-centric, which always suits me down to the ground, especially if it gets Nana Visitor out of that heavily-Eighties super-shoulder padded uniform top, so I was highly satisfied here.

At first, the opening episode concealed its scope. Quark acquires a Bajoran ear-ring, smuggled off Cardassia 4, which Major Kira recognises as belonging to the great Resistance Leader and hero, Li Nalis (an excellent guest role played by Richard Beymer, not that long since of Twin Peaks), long believed dead. Kira asks for a runabout to go to Cardassia 4 and rescue him.

Sisko is initially concerned about the effect of a virtual Federation invasion of the Cardassian Empire but after discovering graffitti supporting the Circle – a fringe group of Bajor-for-the-Bajoran  extremists – sends O’Brien with the Major. The Provisional Government on Bajor, with whom the Federation is allied, is not doing well. It is split by factions, and is ignoring the problems of Bajoran citizens. Planet-wide, the Bajorans are slowly disintegrating: Sisko sees the value of a charismatic leader with broad-based support.

Kira and O’Brien’s mission is a complete success, greater than they anticipated, since there are over a dozen Bajoran prisoners in a work camp. They have to land to rescue almost all of them: four stay behind to cover Nalis’s retreat. But back on DS9, Kira and Sisko receive a great shock: Gul Dukat himself presenting an apology for the unknown Bajoran prisoners, who should have been handed back ages ago: those who stayed back are also being repatriated to Bajor.

But things are not destined to be so simple. In its first season, DS9 a couple of times featured legendary heroes whose repute was based upon fiction, and Nalis is another. Not that he is guilty of exaggeration: from the very beginning he tried to tell the comic circumstances of the great exploit on which his reputation was built, only to find himself trapped by the epic story his fellow rebels made of it (cf. The Man who shot Liberty Valance: when the legend becomes fact, print the legend!).

Nalis feels trapped by his own reputation, unworthy of the awe in which he is held, uncomfortable at the hopes placed in him. It’s an intriguing situation,though unfortunately, even in a three-parter,  there isn’t room to explore this sensation beyond Nalis’s initial, embarrassed admissions.

Because the rescue of Li Nalis is a big thing, and Bajor wants to celebrate. Minister Jaro Essa arrives at the station with an official admonition for Kira for declaring war on the Cardassians, even though Cardassia hasn’t taken up the gauntlet, and personal congratulations. Nalis accepts his fate and returns to Bajor to shoulder his burdens. Meanwhile, the threat of the Circle grows: Sisko’s quarters are grafittied as well.

But Nalis doesn’t stay on Bajor long. He is returned by Minister Jaro, newly-entitled Navark – a rank invented for him and him alone. The very qualities that Sisko saw in him make him a menace to the Provisional Government so in order to neuter him, Nalis has been appointed the Bajoran Liaison to the Federation on Deep Space Nine: Major Kira is being ‘promoted’ back to Bajor.

End of Part 1.

I know that, strictly speaking, I should leave it at that, but I was too enthused by the opening part to be willing to wait two weeks to see the story, so, as I didn’t have to, I ploughed on immediately.

‘The Circle’ goes on to expand the scope of the story immensely, but first it treats us to a scene of both comedy and affection. Kira in her quarters (jacket off!) is packing, and being interrupted by all the rest of the cast, Sisko excepted, turning up at even shorter intervals than the dwarves at Bilbo’s door, each with their own variation on goodbye. She’s driven almost to distraction until the last visitor turns out to be Vedek Bariel, inviting her to a contemplative break at his monastery.

But that’s the last of the comedy. The Circle it seems are considerably more than experts with a yellow aerosol can. Quark’s connections reveal to him that they are smuggling enough artillery onto Bajor to equip an army, whilst Sisko’s visit to General Krim arouses his suspicions that the Army aren’t going to lift a finger to defend the Provisional Government when the crunch comes.

Quark has no intention of being anywhere within earshot of any crunches, and is planning to have it away on his toes from DS9 after cluing Odo in, and he only does that because he’d been assaulted and branded with the Circle symbol in part 1. Unfortunately, Odo maliciously deputizes the Ferenghi, forcing him to stay, which proves to be of extreme use later on.

At the Monastery, Kira is having trouble adjusting to doing nothing. She’s very much aware that she’s undergoing punishment, and despite hating her job when she started it, she really does miss DS9. Bariel seems to be taking an unpriestly interest in her, providing the devout Kira with an experience with the Third Orb: Kira has a strange vision which culminates with her finding herself naked with Bariel and about to become lovers…

Even after Bariel admits to an Orb-vision involving Kira, she conceals this aspect from him.

Unfortunately the vision also included Vedek Winn, and here she appears in real life, sweetly but poisonously berating Bariel for letting the Major anywhere near the Orb, and unsubtly suggesting Kira hightail it out of here pretty damned sharpish.

This quickly comes to pass, although not voluntarily: Kira is kidnapped by three men in monk’s robes. They are of the Circle, and she is taken to their underground headquarters where she meets the man behind the Circle: Minister Jaro.

Of course he’s the villain in all this: he’s being played by a strangely-uncredited Frank Langella which is tantamount to waving a great big flag with ‘I am a miserable, rotten, sneaky, treacherous bastard’ on it. Jaro intends to bring down the Provisional Government and take power for himself. He also wants – and gets – the support of Wnn’s faction: after all, they share the same goals and she’ll make one hell of a Kai.

What Jaro wants from Kira is what the Federation, and Sisko in particular, will do when they topple the Provisional Government. Kira refuses to answer, even after torture, from which she is rescued by Sisko and co, after Deputy Quark comes up with a location for Circle Headquarters.

To add to this increasing turmoil, Odo has discovered that, unbeknownst to them, the Circle are being equipped by the Cardassians. And why not? Once the Bajoran extremists eject the Federation, they’ll be wide open for the Cardassians to march back in again. And it’s all starting to kick off. DS9 is jammed electronically, two battle cruisers are en route to the station and, despite the long-term political implications, Sisko is ordered to evacuate from DS9: it is the Prime Directive: they cannot and must not interfere with local disputes.

So Sisko plans a retreat. The battle cruisers are due in seven hours, but all Federation personnel could be off-station in three. However, Sisko has other plans. If he’s got to evacuate then he’s damned well going to evacuate everything: every last nut and bolt of every piece of Federation equipment is going with them. O’Brien reckons it will take a week. Very well then: they’ll just have to dig in and stay until they’re good and ready.

End of Part 2.

‘The Seige’ began almost immediately afterwards. Sisko gathered together all the Federation officers to put to them the situation. To stay would be difficult, demanding and dangerous: not all of them are full-time DS9 staff: no-one who wished to leave would be blamed. And all stayed.

But an evacuation was still necessary, for families and other non-Bajorans, which led to a variety of short but neatly judged scenes: Keiko O’Brien’s resentment that the Chief put Sisko and his duty ahead of her, Jake’s petulance at moving on yet again and losing another friend countered by Nog’s refusal to accept that their friendship would, or even could break, and Quark’s plan to profit by selling seats, only to find in the end that his browbeaten brother Rom had sold his!

So the seige began. Dax left with Kira, to locate an old resistance ship that would get them to Bajor and get the proof of the Cardassian involvement to the Council of Ministers. Dax had changed into civilian clothes: everyone had bar the Major (shame) since Starfleet itself have withdrawn.

And it was a most unusual seige, consisting of allowing the  Bajoran forces, under General Krim – who was too smart not to realise there was something going on – and Colonel Day – who was all gung-ho cowardly lying Federation have fled us and too stuffed with the Circle’s principles to see that the sheer emptiness of DS9 was a trap.

Guerilla tactics effect a bloodless coup and hold the Bajoran military long enough for Kira, with Vedek Barial’s aid, to get the vital evidence to the Council of Ministers, just as Minister Jaro is assuming how. He blusters and bluffs smoothly enough, but Vedek Winn is too wiley not to understand that this is not going any further. She insists on the evidence being examined: it is the end.

So finally the order goes out to return to Bajor. The Provisional Government holds, the Federation remain its allies and DS9 is ceded back to Sisko. The frustated Day attempts to gain revenge by assassinating Sisko, but Li Nalas intercepts the shot, dying for his people, as we who understand the mechanics of televison series in this era knew he always would.

He remained a legend though, and in more than just the Bajoran’s eyes. Sisko will always see him as such.

So: a superb, effectively sustained three-parter that set Deep Space Nine it’s own challenge for season 2: keep up that standard. The kind of stories that had been writen in the first season would no longer do. The series came of age here, and I at least will be expecting more and better from it from now on.

Deep Space Nine: s01 e11 – ‘The Nagus’

It’s Ferenghi time!

Last week and this make two good episodes in succession, offering very little reason for nitpicking.

One of the things I’ve been interested in is the way in which the central cast have been developed across the first half of the season. We had very strong initial ideas of Sisko and Kira at the outset, though nothing further has been done about Sisko’s role at The Prophet, and little more as to the Major’s status as former Bajoran rebel and representative of a world picking itself up.

There’s been a little bit about Dax that I, personally, thought fudged the Trill issue more than somewhat and very little about anyone else. So this Quark and Ferenghi oriented episode was both very welcome and a bit overdue.

There was a subplot about the friendship between Jake Sisko and Nog, concerning the question of whether the latter was a good influence on the former, which, since Nog got Jake to tell a direct lie to the returning Chief O’Brien, seemed to indicate no, but no-one seemed to take into the account that the influence might work the other way and Jake be a good influence on his Ferenghi friend. Jake got off his misdemeanours when the Commander discovered his son was staying out late to teach Nog how to read.

This was a relatively minor but still neatly handled sideline, playing off the main story, which was the arrival of the Grand Nagus (i.e., the numero uno Ferenghi of them all) at DS9, putting the wind up Quark, who could see the Nagus buying out the bar from underneath him, and at a pittance.

Instead, Grand Nagus Zek – played to the wonderful hilt by the shrill-voiced Wallace Shawn, with the odd echo of Vizzini in there from time to time – was there to do two things: appoint Quark his successor as Grand Nagus and promptly die, leaving Quark at the mercy of the Ferenghis.

It was a great introduction to such things as the Laws of Acquisition, and the generally rapacious Ferenghi attitude to money, and there was a neat arc through the episode for Quark’s brother, Nog’s father Rom: identified as family for the first time. Quark started by berating Rom for handing back – intact! – a fat purse of money he’d found and ended by promoting him to Assistant Manager and treating him to drinks. And for why? Rom had only tried to kill Quark in between, in cahoots with the Nagus’s son, Krax.

But the Nagus was not dead, only pretending, to test whether Krax was fit to succeed him by slowly getting Quark under his thumb, only for Krax to be an utter disaster. Quark, on the other hand, was delighted to learn that his useless brother could act like a true Ferenghi!

So, an entertaining and enlightening episode, also notable for the first substantial appearance of the barfly Morn. I hope there’ll be a few more like that back half of the season, as there are still some cast members who are not much more than ciphers, yet. I’m looking at you, Doctor Bashir.