Deep Space Nine: s07 e12 – The Emperor’s New Cloak

Ezri Tigan. more! more!

Even though my initial reaction to this episode was the usual, “not another bloody Ferengi episode”, I decided I’d try to be as objective (read: fair) as possible about it. Then it turned out to be another Mirror universe story which was one too many trips to the well for me on top: the Mirror Universe is a neat idea but when it’s only being exploited to allow the actors to play against character and for no deeper reason, it’s a shallow concept.

Throw in my new bete noire, Vic Fontaine (albeit for one brief scene and in which he gets killed, not that that lifted my spirits too much), and the recipe was for a wasted forty-five minutes, the only benefit of which being that, with the end sequence getting ever nearer, this would have to be the last of them, yay!

But I’m going to be as fair as I can be, as there were a couple of things of interest to keep me going.

By now, the only cast/recurring characters left who haven’t been through the looking glass are new girl Ezri, and Brunt, FCA. Both were a simple opposite, Ezri a leather clad, spike-haired mercenary (rrrrrrrr!!!) and Brunt a genial nice guy. Brunt got killed off but Ezri bestrode the episode in a manner that had my shallow side gladly singing. Nicole deBoer apparently had a whale of a time and wanted to play this Ezri every week.

On the other hand, my usual appreciation of Nana Visitor in her shiny skintight costume as Intendant Kira was lacking, I think because I was enjoying Ezri so much. Or perhaps that was another case of too many trips to the same well. With one notable exception, when Intendant Kira kissed Ezri Tigan, there was nothing new to bring to the party, and the Intendent felt almost like a parody of herself.

The heavily implied lesbian subtext between this pair (reinforced in the close by a brief appearance from Chase Masterson, cleavage well to the for, spiriting Ezri off into half the audience’s fantasies) was a surprise, but immediately felt completely natural for the Intendent. Nana Visitor didn’t agree and disliked the idea.

The MacGuffin was Grand Negus Zek, seeking to open up new financial frontiers for the Ferengi and being held hostage by Regent Worf in return for a cloaking device, to be stolen by Quark and Rom. This was duly delivered but Rom, whilst installing it in the Regent’s ship, sabotages the whole kit’n’kaboodle so that as soon as it’s used it drains all power from the ship, forcing the Regent to surrender to the Rebels under Smiley O’Brien, implying a tying off of that story.

One quickly irritating aspect of the episode was Rom’s constant attempts to work out some kind of logic and rules behind the Alternate Universe being Alternate. That was apparently intentional, a sort of half-nod, half-raspberry to the fans who wanted the Mirror Universe to make Science Fictional sense as opposed to the big joke it was only ever meant to be.

But it was over and done. No more trips to either of those wells, even if the Intendent was allowed to get away to camp another day. I guess no-one had the heart to shoot her down.

Depending on whether the end sequence has nine or ten episodes (I have seen both quoted), that means there can only be four or five left that tell individual stories unrelated to the all-out Dominion War. I’m expecting at least one more Vic Fontaine because I’m ultimately a pessimist, but at least there’s no more Quark-centrics. I have outlasted them. Thank Heaven for small mercies.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine s1e01&2 – ‘The Emissary’

Commander Sisko

Such a strange experience. Watching Deep Space Nine‘s pilot episode was like a reunion with old friends, except that I was supposed to have never before met them. And yet it was an introduction and an information, telling me many things that I was previously only aware of as events that had been settled in my old friends’ lives.

Not least of this was the basis upon which the Bajorans regard Benjamin Sisko as the Emissary.

I hadn’t previously known that the third Star Trek series had been so firmly spun-off out of The Next Generation, which was extant when this series began. Straight away, we were taken back to the time Jean-Luc Picard had been captured by and converted to the Borg, leading them in battle with the Federation, a battle in which Bridge Officer Sisko, serving under a Vulcan Captain, loses his beloved wife Jennifer, leaving him with his son Jake to bring up.

Three years later, Commander Sisko, with young Jake, is posted to take charge of Deep Space Nine, a space station in orbit around the remote planet of Bajor, a planet that has only recently thrown off the yoke of the Cardassian Empire (that’s Cardassian with a C: there are, thankfully, no Kim’s in this programme). That the Federation has been asked in to aid the badly-crippled Bajorans is a bit of a controversial step, especially for Sisko’s First Officer, Major Kira Nerys.

There’s a reasonable amount of exposition required here, but over ninety minutes it’s distributed pretty painlessly, and show-runners Rick Berman and Michael Piller are canny enough to introduce the main cast in careful stages and not to try to present them in anything more than broad brush-strokes at first.

Patrick Stewart guest-stars to help bridge the gap. Understandably, though not to Picard, relations between him and Sisko are initially very frosty, with Sisko wanting out as soon as he gets there, but demonstrating his capabilities in a reluctant posting.

We already know Chief O’Brien (Colm Meaney) from TNG, and he’s in place a couple of days before Sisko and the as yet barely-sketched Jake (Cirroc Lofton). Major Kira (Nana Visitor, wearing a perfectly deplorable haircut at this early stage) is introduced as an ex-rebel who still hasn’t begun to unloose her anger.

Next, there’s Odo (Rene Auberjonois), the ‘Constable’, chief of Security and apparently a shapeshifter. Odo’s crusty and gruff, but he’s also the only one of his kind, with a deep need to find out more about what and why he is. He arrives more or less alongside the Major, but you can already see the double act coming with the Ferengi wheeler-dealer, Quark (Armin Shimerman). I never knew that Sisko had had to blackmail Quark into staying when so many people were pulling out.

Lastly, Doctor Bashir (Siddig el Fadil), no Julians yet, and Lieutenant Jadzia Dax, the Trill, arrive together. At this stage, neither showed too much by way of personality. The Doctor was all naive thrills and inexperience, wisely not given too much room to play, whilst Dax came over as entirely too calm and unemotional.

And of course, though I like him immensely, Avery Brooks was from the start a rather stilted actor in his way of speaking, as if sentences had to be broken down into small chunks for him to say them. He still seems to be to be an odd choice for leading actor for that reason alone, but he demonstrated his chops in the long scene in the Wormhole, with a strange race of creatures, vastly technologically superior, but who do not and cannot understand linear existence. Sisko has the task of representing not merely humanity, but life in all the forms, real and fictional that we know, to creatures that have no corporeal or chronological existence.

To finally do so, Sisko had himself to understand that he had ceased to exist linearly, that he had imprisoned himself in the moment of recognition of Jennifer’s death, because his past had not prepared him for that specific consequence, and he did not know how to go forward from there.

What solution he found, or perhaps it needed only the defining of the problem rather than any answer to it, we were not shown, perhaps because it’s something that lies beyond the ability of most of us to put in words without cheapening the dilemma. Sisko emerged to save the day, both physically and spiritually, taking on the role the Bajoran Priestess, Kai Opaka, had identified for him: the Emissary.

All told, this aspect of the story was slow, solemn and serious and despite equal time being given to a more traditional Trekkian battle, superimposed its atmosphere on the entire pilot. I can see by just how much it would have upset the expectations of fans accustomed to a certain amount of Boldly Going. I loved it for what it was, and for what I know it’s going to grow into, and that that growing is going to be long, slow and sure.

Two guest stars were worthy of mention. Felecia Bell was excellent as both Sisko’s wife, Jennifer, and as an alien incarnation of her, as the good Commander was put through his memories: with a figure like that, it was no surprise he chose to keep remembering her in her bikini. And Marc Alaimo made the first of what would be may appearances in heavy Cardassian make-up as Gul Dukat, the former chief of Deep Space Nine.

So, a beginning. Be here when we move onto the next episode.