Deep Space Nine: s03 e25 – Facets


With the season’s end almost upon us, a lightweight, character-oriented episode prior to the big finish, and any potential cliffhanger, was to be expected, and we got this in a Jardzia-centric episode in which everyone’s favourite Trill goes through a ritual that enables her to meet and talk with, in chronological succession, each of the previous hosts of the symbiont, Dax.

It was an interesting notion but one that, for me personally, never quite came together.

There were several reasons for this, but the primary one is the same old reason, that Terry Farrell simply isn’t a good enough actress. Her range is not wide enough, her emotional depth is not deep enough. This is all but three full seasons in and she hasn’t developed enough to play roles that require more that competent functioning.

If that wasn’t enough, there was the imbalance of parts. Dax has had seven previous hosts. The technical process by which Jardzia ‘meets’ them is by having a Guardian extract each host’s memories and superimpose them on a willing host, for which Jardzia chose the seven people closest to her, i.e., the main cast, except for Jake Sisko, in whose place we got, improbably, the dabo girl, Leeta.

She got to contribute a pretty face and a supple body to the unnamed host who was a gymnist (that’s what she said, people not gymnast). The rest – the Major, the Chief, the Doctor, Quark – just did quick pantomime turns, enjoying the Mirror-Universe-esque chance to play against type for the sake of it.

But also these turns went by so fast and so briefly that it rather undermined the point, so that by the time we got to the heavier stuff, for which the episode had really been written, the active mind was detached from the storyline, and wasn’t being tempted back.

The first to get anything more than a sideshow was Juran Dax, accepted by Commander Sisko: Juran was a deranged murderer who tries to kill Jardzia. But this is just a prelude to the one Jardzia really is afraid of meeting, her immediate predecessor, Curzon, Sisko’s old buddy.

With good reason. Curzon originally failed the young Jardzia as a potential host but, when she determinedly reapplied, did not oppose her, making her the only Trill ever to be readmitted to the joining programme. Jardzia doesn’t know why, and is afraid of finding out the reason. Supposedly, she feels inferior to her predecessors (though the underwritten previous scenes make you wonder what she’s got to feel inferior to about the gymnist and the mother, not to meention the psycho!)

Really, it’s Curzon who’s the problem, and we can see a little of why that is when he ‘joins’ with Odo, who promptly turns Trill, with spots, and discernible features, and goes all roguish and rakish, eating, drinking, gambling, avoiding Jardzia’s questions, and ultimately deciding (with Odo’s agreement) to stay where he is.

This forces Jardzia to confront CurzonOdo and demand her memories back, at which point the air is cleared and the secret is out: Curzon fell in love with the young and beautiful Jardzia, still is in love. He chucked her out because it was inappropriate, allowed her back because he felt guilty, tells her she’s remarkable (not that she is, shes just a pretty woman with limited acting skills). The explanation did not convince at all.

I’ll pass over the close, with a deeply embarrassed Odo talking to a serene Jardzia and just mention the understory, which was once again slight, especially in terms of the time it was given, but which was more substantial in concept. This was about Nog taking, and failing, his preliminary exams for acceptance into Spacefleet Academy, except he only failed because Quark gimmicked the programme against him, leading to a long overdue furious confrontation with Rom, threatening to burn the bar down if Quark ever screwed around with Nog’s future like that again. Nog passed with the proper programme, of course.

So to the season climax, next week. I know nothing of it thus far except it’s title, ‘The Adversary’, from which I am expecting something very strong. Don’t correct me if I’m wrong.

Deep Space Nine: s03 e24 – Shakaar

Bajorans three
Bajorans three

After last week’s shenanigans, it was good to get back to a serious story, and one that looked to have a bit of meat on it, as it should, given that the end of season 3 is now very close. Also, it starred everybody’s favourite red-haired Major, always a plus point in this sector of the galaxy.

There was an understory as well, just to give other members of the cast some screen-time, about Chief O’Brien being ‘in the zone’ on the dartboard, but since it was entirely perfunctory, it needed no more mention than that, save that it was a particularly obvious contrivance to get everybody else into the episode when they had no place in the overstory. Twenty-odd years later, everybody, the programme especially, would be entirely comfortable with going solo, which would have made for a stronger experience overall.

Not that I initially, and for some time, was convinced of that. This was a purely personal response, based on the story originally coming over as a retread of that bloody awful season 1 episode, ‘Progress’, the one with Brian Keith hamming it up all over the shop.

The open, at least, was excellent. Though it’s three months on, Kira is still mourning the death of Bariel, praying before the rather more ornate Bajoran version of a candle, when Sisko interrupts to advise her that the First Minister has died. A new First Minister, in anticipation of elections, has already been appointed: it is Kai Winn.

Kira is horrified, as is Odo but, apparently no-one else. There was an ironically contemporary twist to things, given the very recent Electoral College confirmation of another gross election mistake, but it very much looked like the Kai would be adding temporal power to her spiritual domain. The story would be about undoing that prospect as a consequence of Winn’s own fanatical, and potentially fascistic, ambitions.

Kira is back at her devotions when she’s interrupted again, this time by the Kai herself, asking her to undertake a personal mission. Louise Fletcher is, as always, the perfectly cloying, creeping figure, steadfastly denying her own personal gain but never quite approaching conviction, secure in knowing that her power insulates her from having to really justify herself.

The set-up is that one of Bajor’s previously most agriculturally productive provinces, soil-poisoned by the retreating Cardassians, needs specially developed reclamators urgently. With these, the forthcoming planting season could be transformed, food for export be granted, Bajor commercially uplifted and its application to join the Federation advanced by years.

The fly in the appointment is that those reclamators have been ‘stolen’ by another, less significant province, and a selfish, arrogant leader who is holding Bajor back by refusing to give them up. The Kai wants the Major to go in and persuade these miserable bastards to give ’em back. She’s perfect for the mission because its her home province, and the leader is Shakaar, her former leader in the Resistance.

Shades of bloody Brian Keith methinks, especially when Kira beams down into a typically Bajoran farming community, and finds that the soil is dry, barren, arid. I mean, we knew Kai Winn’s tale of stolen equipment wouldn’t stand up even if you stapled it to a wall, but thankfully Shakaar was no old, stubborn and stupid old fart but rather an intelligent, thoughtful and clever man, kudos to Duncan Regehr in the role.

The real truth is that Shakaar’s community, who are farming to feed their people rather than exporting for profit, have legitimately received their reclamators only two months previously, after a three year wait, and been promised their use for a year. It is the Kai who is intending to ‘steal’ them.

There’s a genuine sense of camaraderie here, as others from the Resistance are also farming, and Kira’s old sympathies are easily invoked. But she’s learned from past mistakes, at least initially, and mindful of her duties, and the genuine value of the Kai’s project, sets up a face-to-face meeting between Shakaar and the Kai. Until, that is, the Kai sends the militia to arrest Shakaar.

After that, it’s back to old habits, as Shakaar gathers his old buddies and heads for the hills, Kira among them. The Kai is outraged, not least because Shakaar’s rebellion against her Prophet-inspired vision is gaining an awful lot of public sympathy. And Sisko isn’t disapproving this time: he takes great,polite pleasure in informing the Kai that Federation regulations forbid him from acceding to her request that he get his security in there and blast the bastards to buggery.

He even gets to tell Winn that her immediate threat to withdraw Bajor’s application to join the Federation is the little kid threatening to take his ball home that it is, although the actual word he uses in ‘overreaction’.

Meanwhile, the erstwhile Resistance is running round the hills like the old days, giving the Militia the gleeful slip just like the old days, although old habits are gaining ground: more than a few want to stop running and start fighting back. An ambush is laid, but both Kira and Shakaar find out that it is one thing to kill Cardassians and another to fire on Bajorans, especially Bajorans like the Militia leader, Colonel Lenaris (a carefully measured performance by a young-ish John Doman), who are themselves ex-Resistance.

This time a parley works. Lenaris, despite his record and his duty, is no more willing to kill former Bajoran Resistance folk than Shakaar. Rather than capture Shakaar’s band, they return to their farms, with the reclamators, and Lenaris conducts Shakaar and Kira to the office of the suddenly temporary First Minister. With the backing of the Army, Shakaar will stand for Election as First Minister, and he will win. Especially because, if the Kai doesn’t withdraw, the details of this episode will be made public. A lovely mix of democracy and blackmail.

As you know, I don’t read ahead unless I can’t help it, so I don’t know the longer-term implications of this move and what part Shakaar may have to play in future seasons. But he’s clearly that most dangerous of leaders, a clear-headed, thoughtful, rational, intelligent and principled man (thank heaven we don’t have any of them in real life, eh?) so I’m assuming he’ll be back.

And given that, once Kira returned to DS9, without a word of reproach, her first act was to blow out Bariel’s flame, I’m definitely expecting him to be back…

Deep Space Nine: s03 e23 – Family Business

Three Ferengi
Three Ferengi

I was tempted this week to just say, it was about Quark, and leave it at that, especially after the last few weeks of strong stories. And I’m certainly not going to say much about it because I can’t pretend to be interested in the story, or its entirely predictable dynamics.

Basically, a Liquidator from the Ferengi Commercial Authority (FCA) walks into Quark’s and shuts the bar. Quark’s mother, Ishka (played under appallingly bad make-up by Andrea Martin) has broken Ferengi law by earning profit. She’s also taken to wearing clothes, speaking to men and never chewed her sons’ food for them. If Quark can’t get her to confess, she’ll be sold into indentured servitude and he will have to repay her profit.

At first, this is supposed to be a mere three bars of latinum – it’s the principle of the thing – but in reality, Ishka (or ‘Moogie’ as Rom insists on calling her, the Ferengi version of Mummy) has crated a massive business fortune, far greater than Quark’s.

He’s prepared to shop her until Rom defuses the situation by lying and claiming Ishka will split her profit with him 50/50, which changes everything. Rom bags heads together, Quark accepts that his business acumen comes from his mother, female though she might be, and the thing is wrapped up by Ishka agreeing to confess and relinquish a third of her profits, though the FCA believe it to be the lot.

Ho hum.

In another setting, I might have been able to pay attention to the story, which could have come over as a witty undermining of an horrendously repressive society that makes Saudi Arabia’s attitude to its women look open and welcoming but, to adapt the famous team talk given by Alex Ferguson prior to a visit from Spurs, ‘Lads, it’s Quark.’ I simply cannot take Ferengi stories seriously, and especially not Quark so this was a bust of a week for me, as will practically every other week where he is the focus.

Given that the rest of the cast have to be given something else to do, no matter how irrelevant they are to the main story, there was a brief and equally unimpressive understory carrying directly on from last week’s gesture at match-making by Jake. Captain Kasidy Yeats is on the station and Jake wants his dad to meet her. The entire station staff know this and are waiting for it to happen.

At least it wasn’t strung out unnecessarily long by Sisko digging his heels on. He does go to meet Kasidy, aka  Penny Johnson, whom I know better as Penny Johnson Gerrald, for her role as Sherry Palmer in the early, good, 24. They agree to meet for raktageno, but things aren’t going that well. Sisko clearly fancies her but she’s bored, until they seriously bond over, get this, baseball! Her younger brother plays it, on the opposite side of the Federation , and has sent her an audio-commentary of his team’s latest game, so she and Sisko go off to listen to it.

It’s really not much, is it? Then again, you’d have probably needed an understory of War and Peace dimensions to make this episode work for me, so why don’t we just give up on this one and let Xmas play through?

Deep Space Nine: s03 e22 – Explorers

A solar spaceship
A solar spaceship

From the unusually extended open, it was clear that this was going to be an episode of two stories, unlinked, and from the way it came last, it was also clear that the one with Commander Sisko – returning from Bajor freshly-adorned with the goatee beard he’ll bear for the rest of the series – would be the primary strand.What wasn’t so apparent upfront was just how perfunctory Doctor Bashir’s part of the episode was going to be.

So let’s dispose of that immediately. It began with the good Doctor in Quark’s, being hit on in most transparent fashion by a wide-eyed and pneumatic Bajoran dabo girl. That is, until Dax punctured Bashir’s balloon by telling him that the Lexington is coming to the station.

The significance of this was that the Lexington‘s Doctor is Elizabeth Lens, that she and Julian were at Medical Collage together and that she was the Valetudinarian to his Secondetudinarian, or whatever the word is, I couldn’t catch it. Basically, it means she was top and he was second,though the dictionary definition of Valetudinarian equates basically to hypochondriac, which makes for a little gentle irony. Julian’s still not got over it.

Anyway, once Doctor Elizabeth gets to DS9, she actually walks past Bashir, ignoring him completely. Julian goes off and gets bladdered with Miles O’Brien who, in a genuinely funny moment, tells the Doctor that, from the bottom of his heart,he doesn’t hate him like he used to!

And the story ends with Bashir ‘confronting’ Dr Lens in the bar, discovering that she didn’t know he was Bashir (who she mistakenly believed to be an Endorian) and going back to the Infirmary to study his latest cultures.

Actually, the point was that Doctor Elizabeth finds her Starship job boring and transitory and envies Julian the DS9 job for its interest and long-term effects, so Julian actually beat her, so there! It’s not that edifying an ending, an effect not helped by the awkward concealed contrivance of revealing that the pair of rivals have never seen each other before, nor that Doctor Elizabeth gets so little screentime that she can’t even begin to develop as a cut-out, let alone a character. It’s not a great strand and even if extended would be hard pushed to bear the weight of much complexity, but the time it’s allotted is so limited that it wasn’t worth doing at all. It’s filler, nothing more.

So what’s the main story? It’s both a bonding exercise between Sisko and Jake and an enjoyable excursion into space history. Sisko returns from Bajor not only full of face-fuzz but with blueprints of an ancient Bajoran spaceship, based on the oft-discussed theory of solar sails, directing a craft via solar pressure.

Apparently, there’s an ancient Bajoran legend (or fairy-tale, as Gul Dukat, making his first of two appearances at the other end of a viewscreen, terms it) that one of these ships sailed from Bajor to Cardassia, thus discovering it first. Sisko’s fascinated by this and is determined to, firstly, build an exact replica and, secondly, fly it to Cardassia with Jake as his crew.

It’s all very Thor Heyerdal, but the appeal of the craft, with its insect body and its wide-trailing solar wings is undeniable. It’s the atavistic reversion to the closest equivalent to sailing: the sense of passage, the absence of speed, the lack of insulation from the atmosphere.

It makes for a lack of drama, the closest being when the Sisko’s run into disturbances, including a tachyon eddy, that rob them of three of their four sails, drive them above warp speed and dump them way off course. But that proves to be the root of their success: the warp jump actually takes them to Cardassia, proving the historical possibility of the Bajoran journey. And, my goodness, here’s Dukat, popping up for his second appearance at the other end of a viewscreen, to announce that by a lucky coincidence (hah!), Cardassian archaeologists have just discovered the remains of a very old crash site… Huzzah and spatial fireworks!

In between, Jake reveals to his father that he has aspirations towards writing, that he has written a story that Sisko thinks has promise but which has already brought him the offer of a writing fellowship at a prestigious school. At Wellington, New Zealand. On Earth.

But he’s not going to go yet, he will defer his admission for at least a year. Partly because he’s not ready, but more because he doesn’t want to leave the old man on his lonesome (aww!). On the other hand, he’s setting his old dad up on a date with a freight captain he happens to know (I think I can safely suggest the name Kasidy here, can’t I?).

Overall, a pleasant, if not unflawed episode. I believe that the dabo girl, Leeta (played by Chase Masterson) will reappear regularly. My eyes will not be offended by that.

Deep Space Nine: s03 e 20/21 – Improbable Cause/The Die is Cast


People have been telling me that the last few episodes of season 3 are where Deep Space Nine really gets good, and this two parter, and especially the latter half thereof, is ample evidence that they were right. The last few weeks have been strong episodes, focusing on individuals, though I still feel that last week’s missed a trick, and for a large part of ‘Improbable Cause’, this run looked to be being maintained.

This time, the central role looked to be the enigma that is Elim Garak (Andrew Robinson appearing several weeks in a row in his guest spot). At first, everything seemed to be an elaboration on his self-sustaining mystery (I couldn’t help but think last week that the Mirror Universe Garak was considerably dull as an out-and-out Cardassian bastard). You had Bashir and Garak debating Shakespeare at lunch, you had Bashir’s ongoing suspicion our favourite Cardassian is more than just a tailor in exile, and then you had an explosion: Garak’s shop. With Garak in it.

This brought Odo into the spotlight, in his investigative capacity. There’s a professional assassin who arrived on DS9 about 45 minutes ahead of the bomb, and evidence of Romulan culpability. But the assassin is a professional poisoner, and the Romulans blow his ship to buggery the moment it leaves the station, so what the hell is going on?

And why won’t Garak admit that he blew his own shop up?

Garak is being typically ingenuous, keeping everything under his hat, but convincing no-one (there’s a glorious little moment of insight into his character when the exasperated Bashir tells him the story of the Boy who cried Wolf, to illustrate why people end up not believing liars even when they tell the truth, and Garak extracts a completely different moral: don’t keep telling the same lie).

But even his sang-froid is challenged when he learns that several other members of the Obsidian Order have died that past week – and he knows them all.

So Garak takes a trip to visit his old mentor and boss, Enabran Tain, the only Obsidian Order head to ever retire alive, who may also be in danger. This is despite Tain being the one who secured Garak’s exile. Odo insists on accompanying him. So far, very intriguing, and impossible to see where this might be leading.

Until a Romulan Warbird decloaks above the runabout, locks it with a tractor beam, and takes Garak on board. To meet Tain. There is a combined Romulan/Cardassian war fleet, an unofficial alliance assembled by Tain. They’re going to go through the wormhole, into the Gamma Quadrant, and attack and destroy the Founders’ planet, ending forever the menace of the Dominion. Odo, being a Changeling, will be a useful captive.

And Garak,since he’s escaped being killed, can become Tain’s second-in-command. he can return from exile, he can serve Cardassia again.

To Odo’s surprise, Garak accepts, eagerly.

But suddenly, the stakes have been multiplied out of all proportion, and the story has been catapulted onto a very large stage indeed, and Deep Space Nine is swimming into waters of astonishing significance.

This makes the second part, ‘The Die is Cast’ a story of an entirely different magnitude, in which large things happen. Bashir is trying to turn O’Brien into a very inadequate Garak-substitute as a lunch companion when suddenly the Romulan/Cardassian fleet starts decloaking all around them and heading down the wormhole. It’s red alert and priority comms with Starfleet Command, who, once Tain makes an announcement of his plans, sets DS9 on a defensive war footing: a fleet warping in, the ‘Defiant’ on defensive duties for the station.

But Odo’s out there, and Sisko seeks permission to go rescue him. This is formally, and very directly denied, in terms that make Sisko’s immediate defiance of them a potential court martial issue for the entire senior staff, who volunteer as one.

This includes Odo’s number two, Starfleet Security Chief Commander Eddington, although he’s only going because he’s under direct orders from Admiral Todman to stop Sisko, which he does by sabotaging the Defiant’s cloak once in the Gamma Quadrant. All in a very gentlemanly fashion, with his word of honour not to interfere further.

This side-trip serves to delay the Defiant’s arrival until it can become a deus ex machina, but the larger story seres to more than occupy our time. Garak’s being very relaxed and cheerful, almost nostalgic, about his restoration to grace, though he’s less than whole-hearted about having to interrogate Odo for something withheld about the Founders. It would appear that Garak’s carefully constructed persona as an innocuous small businessman is becoming somewhat real.

But in order to gain Tain’s trust, Garak has to get something. Using an experimental device that prevents Odo shapeshifting – shortly before he needs to transform into his liquid self – Garak successfully tortures Odo, whose form becomes increasingly – and horrifyingly – more raddled, ragged and deformed. Garak pleads for something, a lie even, to justify him ending the torture, but gets something true: that Odo longs to return to his people, to join in the Great Link. Garak releases him from the locking device.

Now the attack begins. Firepower is poured down on the planet, but the readings of lifeforms are unchanged. Too late, with a bloody massive fleet of Jem’Hadar ships decloaking all around them, Tain realises it was all a trap. Garak realises it too, and decides to get himself and Odo out. But he can only do so with the aid of Romulan captain Lovok, who is not a Romulan at all, but a Founder. The Dominion has encouraged and aided Tain’s plan so as to draw in and deciimate Cardassia and the Romulan Empire. That only leaves the Federation and the Klingon Empire, and they don’t consider them enemies who will last much longer.

Odo is again offered the chance to join the Founders. Despite his words to Garak, he again refuses. Garak, meanwhile, considers it his duty to try to get Tain out, no matter than Tain’s mind has snapped, so Odo has to knock him out to get him out, just in time for the Defiant to beam the pair out of the battle and shoot for safety.

Phew. But the status quo has been shifted, massively, and twenty-odd years on, one belated part of the audience is thinking what a bloody good episode that was, and if they really can keep up that standard…

But, soft. Sisko gets away with it, this time, with a warning from Todman that if he does anything like that again, he’s either going to get court-martialed, or promoted! And as for Garak, in a beautifully directed scene, he surveys the wreckage of his shop, picks up ruined fabric, polishes a blackened mirror, and beholds a distorted reflect of Odo, offscreen. Beautifully, Odo stays at that distance, as the two converse. It appears Garak has left a certain detail out of his report, for which Odo is grateful. As for his future, it appears Quark wants to take over the unit and open a massage parlour. But Odo thinks Sisko would be much more amenable to a tailor’s shop…

A beautifully poised ending. And if it recreates the status quo, for once that’s no bad thing. We now know rather more about Garak than we’d ideally wish to if his enigma is to be perpetrated, but his enigma, and his air of innocence, is entirely too delightful for us to want to lose it.

And the Dominion threat starts to loom ever nearer.

Deep Space Nine: s03 e19 – Through the Looking Glass

A missed opportunity
A missed opportunity

I was all set to declare this a third successive strong episode, and to query if I’d had that experience before in this re-watch, but despite its overall quality, I ended up disappointed in ‘Through the Looking Glass’, for its end and what it did not do and where it didn’t sufficiently go, and what it didn’t ask its two most important actors to approach.

The episode was quick to set itself up. A very brief opening sequence with Quark and Odo was interrupted by the appearance of Miles O’Brien, out of uniform, bearing a gun and kidnapping Commander Sisko. The latter is very quick to realise it isn’t our O’Brien, but rather ‘Smiley’ O’Brien, from the Mirror Universe.

The plot is simple, but its underpinnings aren’t. Terran rebels have risen against the brutal, decadent Klingon/Cardassian Alliance but things have gone badly. A Terran scientist is on Terak Nor (i.e., DS9) developing a new sensor array that will reveal the whereabouts of the Rebel bases in the Badlands, ensuring they will be wiped out. Captain Sisko has been killed trying to get to the scientist and persuade her to change allegiance. Hence Smiley has snatched our Benjamin to complete the mission.

It’s not just Sisko’s leadership qualities that are required, but something more. The scientist is Professor Jennifer Sisko, the Mirror Universe version of Benjamin’s dead wife.

I might as well say this now. This was the most significant part of the scenario as far as I was concerned, bringing Sisko into contact with the wife he still loves, five years after her death, albeit a version of her that has been estranged from, and hates him, for the past five years, and who is actively aiding the opposition. It’s a tangled situation, fraught with deep emotion, and by far the most interesting element. I mean, the rest of the story, entertaining as it was, was largely rooted in the fun of seeing most of the cast playing against type: Bashir the bloodthirsty, wild-haired rebel, Dax as Sisko’s mistress, with a radically different and far more flattering haircut and Nana Visitor having a whale of a time camping it up and slinking around as the super-sexy Intendant, wiggling her hips as far as they could wiggle.

Andrew Robinson, in contrast, demonstrated that the Mirror Universe Garak is light years less interesting than the enigmatic version we have at home.

In the end, Sisko and the rebels persuaded Jennifer to their cause and got away to fight another day, as we knew they would.

But the episode fudged the most important part, that of Sisko’s reunion with the woman he loves, returned from the dead. Sisko is far too in control of himself: unthrown by her hostility towards his alternate version, unmoved by the sight of the woman he loves, brought back from the dead, concerned only with his mission, and far too smooth about leaving her without explaining himself, even after she recognises that he’s not the Sisko she married.

Every emotional beat is downplayed or, worse still, avoided. Felecia Bell is excellent in her part as Jennifer, but she is asked to do too little in the role, not even to display anger or loathing towards ‘Captain Sisko’.

Part of it comes from Avery Brookes’ theatrical, often stilted delivery. His low-key approach to Sisko is antithetical to the role as it should have been written. The part should have involved hidden emotions, tortuous ones, but Brookes his them beyond sight. And the writing abdicated the scenario it had set-up by preferring the easy route of quasi-campish parody and basic thriller routines.

Writing Benjamin and Jennifer would have been hard work. As so many times already, the writers decided not to work their socks off.

In analysing the flaws, I’ve made the episode sound worse than it was. It was still very enjoyable, and a dimension above ‘Prophet Motive’, but it was unambitious. If it couldn’t properly handle the scenario of Sisko and the exact equivalent of his dead wife, it shouldn’t have introduced it at all. It made promises it had no intention of keeping and lets its audience down. Better was offered, then skated round. A solid B+ was delivered when an A multiple plus was dangled, teasingly.

Deep Space Nine – s03 e15 – Destiny

Cardassian scientists
Cardassian scientists

Another good, indeed very good episode, the more so for maintaining a clear, distinct, single story throughout the full episode (with the exception of an extended open that set up the situation whilst doing its best to ruin it with Quarkian comic relief).

What made ‘Destiny’ so good was its careful combination of elements, based on a strikingly simple story. Two Cardassian scientists, both female (guest appearances from Wendy Robie, of Twin Peaks and Tracey Scoggins, of Lois and Clark) are coming to the station for a joint Bajoran/Cardassian attempt to establish a sub-space relay through the Wormhole,  allowing communication with the Gamma Quadrant.

But, as delivered in melodramatic fashion at the end of the open, an obscure Vedek, Yarka, demands the Cardassians be barred from DS9, by reference to Trakor’s Third Prophecy, delivered three thousand years ago.

The Prophecy is couched in splendidly metaphorical terms – peering through the Temple Gates, Three Vipers. A Sword of Stars, What’s more, it also centres upon the Emissary, who of course is Sisko.

Sisko’s status as the Emissary was established in the pilot episode, but very little has been done with or about it since, and the episode took the opportunity to examine how Sisko’s unwanted status plays with both him and his First Officer, Major Kira.

In essence, the Prophecy claims that the attempt to look through the Wormhole will drawn down this ‘Sword of Stars’ to close it forever, destroying the aliens who live within it, outside of linear time, who are the Prophets of Bajor’s religion, the appointers of the long-foreseen Emissary.

Sisko automatically rejects Yarka’s concerns, and the Prophecy. He believes it to be based in Starfleet rationality, and it primarily is. But Odo introduces him to an aspect he is deliberately self-blind towards: Sisko does not want to be the Emissary, it makes him incredibly uncomfortable. It leads to his rejecting the Prophecy because he does not want it to be true: it will overturn too much of his thinking.

In contrast, there is the Major. She is second in command to Sisko, she has to deal with him as her Commanding Officer, not as the Emissary, and she is aware of his discomfort. But when pressed upon her faith by Vedek Yarka, Kira has to admit that she does believe, and that she does believe Sisko is the Emissary.

The experiment progresses. Chief O’Brien and the younger scientist, Gilora (Scoggins) clash over upgrades the Chief has made to the station, which her calculations haven’t taken into account. They even clash over her belief that (Cardassian) men can’t do Engineering, all of which leads to a modestly amusing and tangentially relevant micro-sub-plot in which she interprets his defensive irascibility as Cardassian mating ritual (and she’s interested).

Once the Defiant is piloted through the Wormhole to set up the Receiver, the elements of the Prophecy fall into place with startling (but predictable) rapidity. A comet with a silithium core is passing nearby: one of the wavelengths used produced an unexpected, inexplicable, MacGuffinesque gravity surge that draws the comet towards the Wormhole: the silithium will collapse it,fulfilling the terms of Trakor’s Third Prophecy.

All hands on deck to avert this. The Chief and Gilora clash over his proposal to modify the Defiant’s phaser banks to produce a beam wide enough to vapourise the comet, but it fails, merely splitting the comet into three pieces. It seems to be a schoolboy error from O’Brien, but Gilora, having understood his pride and wishing to repay the embarrassment caused, reveals that the third scientist, Dejar, is a saboteur, of the Obsidian Order, who are opposed to peace.

The last desperate attempt to rescue the situation works. By using a space pod to get in between the comet fragments, Sisko and Kira are able to create a subspace field holding everything in. A trail of silithium escapes, but instead of destroying the Wormhole, it creates a filament, keeping the Wormhole fractionally open permanently and enabling communications.

To their joint amazement, and in different degrees of awe, Sisko and Kira realise that the Prophecy had been misinterpreted, and that their actions have actually fulfilled it.

So all is well, and the episode is even bold enough to close on a note of fore-shadowing, the first such since the series began. Yarka is glad to admit that his distrust of the Cardassians had coloured his interpretation of Trakor’s Third Prophecy. Oh, and incidentally, the Fourth Prophecy also concerns the Emissary: that in only a very short time, he will face a great and fiery trial…

Yes, a very good episode, and would that there had been more of this standard, and this seriousness, before now. I wonder how long it swill be before we see the terms of that Fourth Prophecy: it sounds like it would make a glorious season-closer.

Deep Space Nine: s03 e14 – Heart of Stone

Ferengees bearing gifts
Ferengees bearing gifts

This is likely to end up being a perfunctory review, not out of any failings on the episode’s part but rather because I am going through some stuff at present, and I found one of the two stories in this latest episode hard to warm to. Unfortunately, it was the A-story.

‘Heart of Stone’ was another of those slightly formulaic twin-story episodes, where two different situations alternate for screen-time. The A-story featured Major Kira and Odo, returning from inspecting a far-flung Bajoran colony and distracted into chasing an apparent Maquis ship that had unsuccessfully attacked a freighter.

This led them to an unstable, seismic moon off a gas giant, whose over-ionised atmosphere basically buggered up all the Starfleet kit: tricorders, communicators, teleporter, the works. Major Kira falls into a trap where she steps into some kind of indestructible expanding crystal which, progressively, surrounds more and more of her body, whilst Odo desperately works to try to free her.

I was concerned about the Major’s attitude to begin with, given the loss of her love, Vedek Bariel, only last week. Sure, there was a fleeting reference to the Cardassians and the new treaty, but Kira hadn’t turned a hair over her lover’s death.

The story had Kira and Odo in a prolonged conversation. We already knew, from the recent Lwaxana Troi episode, that the Constable harbours an unrequited passion for the Major, and the escalating danger to the latter’s life forced a confession of this when Odo refused a direct order to abandon her and save herself.

Which drew, in return, a confession of love from the Major. After last week, I was all set to start breathing fire and brimstone, but the episode was a million times better than that. This reciprocal claim was the key to Odo working the whole thing out, the revelation that the Major, and the crystal that had by now all but swallowed her, was a lie from start to finish. It was the Changeling woman, the Founder from the Dominion, testing Odo over his ties to the ‘solids’, still confident that he will eventually break with them and return to his people.

What broke the spell for Odo was that he knew incontrovertibly that, despite her friendship, her concern and her affection for him being very real, Kira Nerys does not love him and never will.

It was used as the closing line. Kira was quizzing Odo as to what gave it away and he told her that the Founder had said something she never would. When Kira pressed him for details, Odo said it wasn’t important. Just a slip of the tongue.

Nothing wrong with the story. Probably well-made, written acted. Just not something my head could get into.

I had better luck with the B-story, the supposed comic relief with a heart of gold element. It was all very simple: Nog wants to join Starfleet, to be the first Feringee in Starfleet, and chose Sisko as his apprentice-master. All Sisko needed to do was write a letter of recommendation for Nog to join Starfleet Acadeny. Nobody took Nog seriously, despite his putting the hard lines in. Even Jake thought it was a trick being played on his Dad.

But Nog was deadly  serious. His father, Rom, is a mechanical genius but he is not a good Ferengee: he has no instinct for prophet. Neither does Nog. But he has his father’s aptitude, he is determined to work hard, if he is given the chance he can make for himself a life that won’t lead him to where his father stands, in thrall to his overbearing brother. Sisko agrees to write the letter.

Overall, I can’t really rate this episode on any kind of scale, it would be unfair to the series, let alone the episode if I were to try. We’ll see where I am a week from now: I may need to take a sabbatical.

Deep Space Nine: s03 e11/12 ‘Past Tense’

Don't ask where this scene fits in, just don't.
Don’t ask where this scene fits in, just don’t.

I had hoped for an excellent two-part story in ‘Past Tense’, and maybe a one-episode telling would have tightened things up and enabled the story to do more with the sense of tension that was for the most part missing. Instead, I thought the story was loose and baggy, and entirely too predictable in its beats and conclusion.

Putting it very simply (though the first part made time to explain in a very scientific bit of gubbins how it happened), Sisko, Dax and Bashir beam down to Earth for a conference at Spacefleet HQ in San Francisco but arrive in the City in 2024 instead.

The trio are quickly separated, Sisko and Bashir hauled off by the Police into a ghetto-like Sanctuary District, where the poor, jobless, homeless and mentally ill are kept out of the way. Dax, on the other hand, is taken in hand by a suspiciously friendly and helpful tech billionaire who, for no reason whatsoever (I mean, he dresses Dax up in a very short mini-skirt and doesn’t even make the least move towards lifting it any further) who aids here to find her friends.

Sisko and Bashir are in a version of Hell, a useless, wasteful existence of subsistence, rivalry and near-fascist rule. But Sisko, who has conveniently studied every era of human history, recognises the period as being mere days before the highly-significant Bell Riots. These were named after Gabriel Bell, who led a rising in Sanctuary District A, who saved hostages’ lives at the cost of his own, and started the historical movement towards a better, fairer society that led to the Federation.

Interesting times, eh? And all Sisko and Bashir have to do is lay low, not get involved and not, repeat NOT change the future.

Of course, you know what’s coming. There’s no need even to have read Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch, there isn’t a story without this happening, and didn’t Kirk and Spock go through something similar over Joan Collins getting run down by a car in Harlan Ellison’s justly (in)famous ‘City on the Edge of Forever’ in TOS? (Which is apparently referenced in part 1 via a poster for a boxing match also seen in 1967).

So: Sisko and Bashir get attacked by thugs, a guy wades in to help them but is stabbed to death. He’s Gabriel Bell so Sisko takes over his name, his place in history and his eventual fate (oo-er).

Meanwhile, back in the correct century, Kira, O’Brien and Odo, who are trying to a) find out where their colleagues have gone and b) how to get them back, suddenly lose the Federation, thanks to the change in history. Which doesn’t affect them because of the same scientific gubbins that started this whole thing off.

Needless to say, they have x number of options and y number of time jumps (y being a smaller number than x) and hit the right time on the last shot of course. Not that they have anything to do with the finale: the National Guard storms the Sanctuary, freeing the hostages and killing all the leaders, except ‘Bell’, who is improbably spared by the polieman Vin, a deeply bitter and cynical guy, contemptuous of everyone lower than him, stubborn in his beliefs, who undergoes a Damascene conversion when the story most needs a deus ex machina.

And Vin swaps ‘Bell’s tags for a dead man, so that everybody will think he died, and history can snap back into place with no change except for ‘Bell’s face in historical records.

The show ends with Bashir asking the honest question of how the US Government allowed this situation to develop in the first place, and Sisko, with his best despairing/philosophical voice on, fudging the story in the best fudging style by saying, ‘I wish I knew’.

What I found interesting, when the pattern of US society in 2024 was first demonstrated, was that when this episode was first broadcast, the setting was thirty years into the future. Now, September 2024 is only eight years away. If Donald Trump were to be elected next month as President, the events of this story would take place in the final year of his second term. I, for one, would look no further.

But no, an interesting premise awkwardly handled and unable to come up with anything but the easy route down Cliche Boulevard. A shame.

Deep Space Nine: s03 e10 – Fascination

The Red Dress
The Red Dress

After last week’s dramatic and dynamic episode, this week we got a silly, inconsequential story that probably needed to be anchored to concrete pilings to keep from being wafted away by the breezes. Though it overused the silly brush a bit too much, the whole thing was generally good fun to watch, without ever pretending to a dramatic element.

It was all there in in the open, which was a round robin slice of life giving no clues as to the direction of the eventual story and relying upon a sting ending when Ambassador Lwaxana Troi (Majel Barratt, gleefully chewing the scenery as ever) arrived on the station.

It’s the day of the Bajoran Festival of Gratitude on DS9, Major Kira presiding. Jake’s miserable because his dabo-girl girlfriend, Marta, has gone off to college 300 light years away. Kira is eagerly awaiting the arrival of Vedek Bariel, who she plans to spend every minute she’s not presiding by shagging him into a husk. Chief O’Brien has similar plans for the two day break that Keiko is back from her botanical project on Bajor (his unexpended energy is being displaced into so many racketball games that Doctor Bashir’s arm is practically falling off, and you can keep that lewd thought in your head, please). Odo is starting to get all wistful over the Major. Oh yes, love – or certainly lust – is in the air. Enter Mrs Troi.

The Ambassador is here to see Odo, ostensibly to help him through the discovery that his people are the Dominion, but in reality because she has feelings for him. Unfortunately, she also has Xanthi fever, a disease that affects mature Betazoids and causes them to project their emotions onto others, overriding their true feelings.

Thus, every time Mrs Troi winces at a headache pain, the nearest person to her gets a brief jabbing pain above the eye and immediately sets off in hot pursuit of the nearest love object.

So the 16 year old Jake decides that the problem with Marta was that she was too young and gets the hots for Kira Nerys (this need not have had anything to do with Xanthi fever, especially as Nana Visitor spent most of the episode out of uniform), Bariel starts panting after Jardzia Dax (who gets to deck him with a single punch), whilst the Trill (with leopard spots going all the way down to her neckline) starts making google-eyes at a clearly embarrassed Sisko.

As for Nerys and Julian, played by a future married pair of actors, they get a mutual dose and get to snog and grope each other something rotten. No tongues, though.

Even Quark gets in on the act, flapping his ears at Keiko O’Brien, who was wearing the red dress Miles wanted her to wear and demonstrating clearly why he wanted her to wear it, though that only serves to give the game away.

Yes, the O’Briens were an interesting component of this episode. As I said, they were reunited after two months apart, for only two days before another four months separation and the reunion did not start at all as the eager Chief wanted to. Keiko was tired, and also troubled about how to break it to her hubby that the dig might be extended by another two to three months. Miles, thrown off balance by the way Keiko was nothing like as pleased to see him as he was her, didn’t know how to handle this and pretty much flew off the handle.

I could sympathize with him: I went through something similar pretty much thirty years ago, and the bafflement and heartbreak weren’t hard to empathize with. With all the lust sloshing round, the prospect of the episode’s one genuine couple going down the tubes was a necessary corrective. Eventually, O’Brien resolved it the only way you can resolve it, by putting the other one first and trusting in their love. Which is why Keiko wore the red dress, leading many of us to regret that she doesn’t do that more often.

Like I said, inconsequential. The episode is said to be based very loosely on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I can see the point of contact once it’s pointed out to me, but it’s a far looser fit than anything Happy Mondays ever sang about. Typically, it ended on a serious note that managed to be poignant. Mrs Troi’s projected amours were directed at Odo, who was unable and, giving his hidden feelings for Kira, unwilling to respond. Majel Barratt dialled it down beautifully in recognising that her feelings were not reciprocated, like those of Odo, and admitted that she would wait and hope for second best. She surprised him with a kiss, which Odo received awkwardly, but afterwards found surprisingly tender, one more moment that resonated with me.

Reset and resume next week.