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.

Deep Space Nine: s07 e04 – Take Me Out to the Holosuite


Who da man?

After the heavily intense episodes of the past few weeks, it was obvious that we’d get a lightweight story for a change of pace. There’s usually one quite early in every season of DS9. And ‘Take me out to the Holosuite’, which was all about having a game of baseball, was as lightweight as they come, despite the attempt to back it up with a psychological angle. In fact, it was so lightweight, you practically had to tie an iron onto it to keep it from floating away. I was prepared to be rather bored, but in fact I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The set-up is that the Vulcan-manned Federation ship T’Kundra has docked at DS9 for two weeks of overhaul and upgrade. It’s commanded by Captain Solok who is a hate figure for Benjamin Sisko, and indeed he’s a right snotty superior pain-in-the-arse from the get-go, niggling all the time about not so much Vulcaan superiority as human inadequacy.

Solok’s done this since the pair were cadets and a drunk Sisko challenged him to a wrestling match and got whupped. For a supposedly emotionless Vulcan, Solok is a seriously vindictive shit, endlessly rubbing it in on Sisko, and now he’s brought a baseball holosuite game to challenge the Captain at his own personal sport. Sisko immediately orders the senior staff – which now appears to include Nog (?!) – to form a team and win.

That’s basically it, really. The team is swelled out by Rom, Leeta, Quark and Kasidy Yates. Rom is completely inept, which is a laugh because Max Grodenchik was a semi-professional baseball player and had to play left-handed to look authentically crap. Sisko throws him off the team, which causes the others to threaten a strike unless he’s reinstated. But there’s one of those little scenes that remind us, fourteen carat klutz that he may be, Rom is a truly good bloke: he only wants to be in the team on merit and he recognises he clearly hasn’t got any, so he won’t accept a false position.

Now, you’re all expecting that, on the day, the ‘Niners’ will pull off a victory all the more stunning for being so completely unexpected, and so did I. But this episode is more subtle than that. Basically, the DS9 team get thoroughly and deservedly whupped, 10-1, and Sisko gets thrown out for touching the umpire (Odo). But the episode shapes itself around that one, consolation run, which comes about through Sisko chucking Rom in as a pinch-hitter, his accidentally ‘hitting’ the perfect bunt and Nog stealing home, producing an ecstatic response from his team that carries over into Quark’s.

Solok doesn’t get it. He blames human emotionality (Ezri pipes up with ‘Did I forget to wear my spots today? He doesn’t even know what humans look like!’), suspects an artificial attempt to turn abject defeat into moral victory, but has to exit as everyone taunts him over his emotional investment in getting one over Sisko, but really they’re just celebrating having had fun, lots of fun, and that’s what makes this episode delightful, the copious amount of fun everyone’s clearly and genuinely having.

It still doesn’t turn me into a baseball enthusiast, cricket will always be a far more subtle, complex and involving game for me (and you couldn’t fake that onscreen as easily as DS9 does), but this was fun with its boots off, and I loved it.

Deep Space Nine: s06 e23 – Profit and Lace


This was a Ferengi story, and you know how I feel about Ferengi stories. In this one, Grand Negus Zek and Ishka, aka Moogie, turn up at DS9 because Zek has been deposed for pushing to allow Ferengi females to wear clothes and make profit. The new, Acting Grand Negus, to be confirmed in three days time, is Brunt. Zek plans to fight back. This involves producing Ishka to a leading and influential FCA member to show that letting females become human beings will be profitable. Unfortunately, Quark causes Ishka to have a heart attack, so another financially brilliant female has to be found at short notice. Since there isn’t one available, Quark undergoes a sex-change operation and drags up.

If you thought this was bad up to that point, and it was, from that moment on it was a hideous embarrassment, offensive and cliched at every point, all the way into the ridiculous close. From abut halfway through, I just wanted to switch this episode off and not have to see the rest of it. I wish I had. The absolute nadir. Everyone involved in it should have been put against a wall and shot.

Deep Space Nine: s06 e05/6 – Favors the Bold/Sacrifice of Angels


Battle

So the six-part (seven, if you count the final episode of season 5) Dominion War arc concluded with a two-parter of its own, and with the expected victory for the Federation in the re-taking of Deep Space Nine. This was originally intended to take a single episode, but the sheer profusion of events requiring to be covered forced its expansion, and the sheer volume of guest stars to accommodate.

Both parts were excellent, but I’m not sure if the first part, ‘Favors the Bold’, wasn’t the better of the two. Though the double-episode structure meant that it was all build-up and no resolution, after the relatively innocuous open (the Defiant acting as a decoy to attract Jem’Hadar ships to be destroyed by it and the Rotaran), the episode started on the edge, and remained on the edge throughout.

The Federation are losing the War, and morale is falling at the constantly defensive stance. The Federation needs to go on the attack and Sisko has drawn up a plan: the retaking of DS9, and regaining control of the Wormhole.

Meanwhile, on DS9, Rom is still in the cells. He’s been declared a terrorist against the Dominion and there is only one sentence: execution. Kira can’t get Weyoun to change his mind, Ziya can’t get her father, Gul Dukat, to change his mind either. Leeta and Quark are trying to encourage Rom: Quark promises he will get him out, and that’s before Leeta agrees to run the dabo wheel for two years for free.

But Rom is adamant that he is unimportant. He should not be rescued. The anti-graviton beam must be sabotaged before it can neutralise the minefield on the Wormhole. Billions of lives depend on the War. Quark must take over from him. Though Quark refuses, it’s only because he’s afraid. He’s not being Quark, not being Ferengi, he’s taking everything seriously and it’s strange but I like him better here than I ever have before.

Meanwhile, Odo has been closeted with the Female Changeling for three days, not that he’s been aware of time. They’ve been communing, both via the Great Link – which is slowly beginning to addict Odo – and the way solids do (wipes mind of image thus produced). In every way except actively, he’s gone over to the other side. Kira can’t even get in to see him.

Next, Demar, still knocking back the booze like it’s going out of fashion, lets on to Quark that the mines will be swept within the week, Quark gets this out to Sisko via Morn, and the Federation attack has to go ahead without delay: without half the planned fleets, and without the Klingons. Oh, and with Ensign Nog, who gets a promotion from Cadet!

I hadn’t immediately realised this was going to be a two-parter, though as we got into the last five minutes or so, this became obvious. The Fleet is on its way. Sisko’s back in the Captain’s chair on the Defiant. O’Brien and Bashir are trading lines from The Charge of the Light Brigade, much to Nog’s consternation, and the Dominion fleet comes up ahead: 1254 ships, outnumbering the Federation more than two to one. Let battle commence.

The title of the second episode filled me with foreboding from the outset, a foreboding that was realised, though strictly speaking it related to a different kind of sacrifice.

With the Fleet now engaged in battle, the Cardassian/Dominion War counsel, Dukat, Demar, Weyoun and the Female Changeling, takes the entirely sensible decision to arrest the Resistance: Kira, Jake and Leeta are hauled in for questioning, but once Dukat has achieved the victory he’s so delightedly anticipating, everyone’s going to be for the chop.

Sisko’s battle plan is to concentrate fire on the Cardassian ships, hoping to provoke them into the kid of direct response that will break the formation, leaving a hole the Defiant et al can punch through. Dukat recognises this and orders the necessary ships to break, intending to create a trap: Bashir recognises the tactic. But it’s all they’ve got, they’ve got to go for it.

With the aid of a timely arrival of a Klingon fleet under Martok and Worf, the Defiant breaks through, alone, and barrels towards DS9. But the time until when the mines will be eradicated is getting tight. Quark and Zyal break the Resistance out of the cells. Odo puts the agonising appeal of the Link aside to ensure Kira is not killed. She and Rom feverishly work at dsabling the station’s weapons array and succeed. There’s only a second in it. But it’s not the cliche second that saves the day. It’s a second late. The mines are cleared, a Dominion fleet of 2800 ships starts through the Wormhole and Sisko, knowing it’s suicide for everyone but having no other alternatives, takes the Defiant into the Wormhole to face them. Alone.

And here is the ending that, for many people, was a letdown, and in a way it was, because all deus ex machina endings are, by definition, a cheat upon drama, but this ending was integral to the entire Deep Space Nine arc. Because Sisko is the Emissary. And the Emissary was taken to the place of the Prophets, against his will, and there told that he is not allowed to die, not allowed to end the game. He rants and raves, demands to be returned, challenges the Prophets that, if they are Gods, they owe a duty to their children. We’re a long way from the Emissary’s complete scepticism and discomfort at his role.

And the Prophets return him, and they use their powers to sweep away, without trace, the entire Dominion Fleet. Deus ex machina, and with real deus’s who exist within the overarching storyline. You can see why people thought it weak, thought it a cheat. Is it a cheat to build just the very thing into your five-years-long-so-far story? I don’t have an answer to that. But I didn’t feel cheated on an emotional level.

But there will be a price for intervention. Sisko, who has declared his intention of building a home on Bajor, will not know peace. And before then, there will be another sacrifice.

When the Defiant emerges from the Wormhole alone there is a general consternation on DS9 and an immediate decision to head for the lifeboats, Female Changelings first. Dukat can’t believe it. They’d won. They’d won. How could this have happened?

It’s everybody out, but Dukat won’t leave without Ziyal. He’s already half-crazed, which is worsened when she refuses to leave with him. Here is her home. she is not a true Cardassian. Though she loved him, she has acted against him, freeing Kira and the rest. And Demar, who has heard all this, draws his gun and cuts her down. Dukat goes over the edge.

So Sisko and co return to DS9, to a hero’s welcome. Everyone’s there to meet them, except Kira, who’s in the infirmary with Ziya. When he hears this, Garak heads straight there. Kira informs him that Ziya loved him. Garak’s response is deeply sad: he says that he knew, but he could never understand why. Now, he never will.

Dukat is still in DS9, collapsed into madness. He is sobbing his forgiveness of Ziya, of others. He returns Sisko’s baseball, tells him he forgives him too. It is a sober moment in the middle of victory.

To be honest, I am already wondering about what happens next. I know the subject of the next episode, but it is what the series does from episode eight onwards that concerns me. The Dominion have not been defeated. They have not given up their war or their plan. The Wormhole is still there: are the Prophets going to wipe out every Dominion ship that tries to go through it?

I really hope we don’t go back to the kind of individual stories that have dominated earlier series. Things have changed irreversibly and that would be a total letdown.

However, it’s a case of waiting for future episodes to come round on schedule. I will wait and see.

Deep Space Nine: s05 e26 – Call to Arms


Don’t make yourself too comfortable…

This is the point that’s taken me over two years to reach, the outermost point of those evenings twenty years ago, of sprawling in front of the BBC2 showings of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The end of season 5, the start of the Dominion War. By the time DS9 came back, I had a house full of people, and coming in, throwing off my jacket and tie and sprawling on the couch was no longer an viable option.

I started watching DS9 from the beginning to fill in the beginning and end of a middle that, falsely, I remembered as stretching maybe as much as three seasons. When I finally caught up with my recollections, it turned out to be not even one full season. But the end of season 5 concludes that phase of the rewatch. Ahead of me lies terra incognita, just as much as if things had never gone the way they did and I had remained free to watch TV whenever I felt like it.

‘Call to Arms’ might have begun with the comic note of Rom and Leeta trying to agree a wedding dress for a ceremony in which, under Ferengi culture, she should have been naked (insert your own shallow comment here), but swiftly modulated to the tension that underlies the approach of war. The Dominion are bringing in warfleets every week, via the Wormhole, en route to Cardassia, regular as clockwork. Sisko has to take a decision: do nothing, and allow an irresistible fleet to be assembled, capable of ultimate victory when it chooses to act, or halt the incoming reinforcements, and preciptate war now.

The only choice, if victory is to be possible, is the latter: Sisko orders  the entrance to the Wormhole to be mined.

Weyoun appears, to protest, to suggest a deal by which the mines are removed and the Dominion limits itself to civilian ships, medical and economic assistance for the poor, stricken Cardassian Empire. Sisko will consult the Federation, which isn’t sending its own reinforcements, for reasons we won’t learn until the end (a Federation/Klingon attack that destroys the Dominion shipyards in Cardassian territory). No-one believes anything for a moment.

War is coming. Everyone’s preparing for it. Keiko O’Brien and the children have been evacuated back to Earth, Jake Sisko won’t go because a reporter’s duty is to be where the action is. The Romulan Empire has signed a non-aggression pact with the Dominion, Sisko advises Bajor to do the same, over Major Kira’s protests: five years ago, he was assigned to DS9 to protect Bajor after it gained its independence and that duty still remains, so he will use his position as Emissary to take them out of the firing line.

All Bajorans evacuate. Rom and Leeta get Sisko to marry them, before she is ordered to go: Rom has a duty to stay as a Starfleet member, and a duty to protect his brother, who seems for once to appreciate this. Gul Dukat’s half-Bajoran daughter, Tora Ziyal parts reluctantly from Garak. Quark starts smuggling in yamok sauce. Odo and Kira are still acting awkwardly around each other until Odo officially tells her that he’s locking away his feelings for the duration (some of these scenes are more effective emotionally than others: you can actually hear the writing staff’s cheers of relief underlying this one).

Seeding the wormhole with self-replicating mines (Rom’s suggestion) takes time, and the Defiant   will be a sitting duck until it has finished. And it is not finished when the War steps across the line between coming and arriving. A Dominion/Cardassian fleet under Gul Dukat comes to attack DS9. General Martok’s Klingon Warbird protects the Defiant. The station defends itself steadfastly, destroying 50 ships. But once the seeding is done, it is time to take the inevitable decision. Deep Space Nine is lost: the Federation will evacuate.

Not permanently. Sisko, his staff and Garak depart to join a major fleet approaching DS9. McArthur-like, he promises he will return. Quark’s bar stays open. Rom rejoins him as Assistant Manager and (self-proclaimed?) Federation spy. Jake remains as a journalist, trusting in his ‘status’ as the emissary’s son to protect him.

Major Kira, Odo and Quark officially greet Dukat’s return to Terak Nor. The Major has already initiated a Sisko-developed programme that thoroughly wipes the control room computers of any ability to function.

But although it’s not the final shot, that being the cliched one of Sisko looking defiant, the episode and the series ends with a very effective moment. Gul Dukat commandeers the station commander’s office: his again, after five long years of waiting for revenge. It has been stripped of everything, but one item, Sisko’s baseball. Dukat recognises it as a message. Sisko is coming back.

We move onwards, I move onwards towards the only real step into the future since I began this series back in October 2015. Everything until now has been backing and filling, getting up to speed with the background to that brief period of which I was already aware. Forward I go.

Next week being Christmas week, I haven’t decided yet whether or not to take a week’s break. It is a perfect point to do so, but on the other hand, habit is habit. If you don’t get a DS9 post off me next Tuesday, that’ll be why, and we’ll pick things up again in the New Year.

Deep Space Nine: s05 e20: Ferengi Love Songs


Oh boy, another Quark-episode. That’s two in three weeks. My cup runneth over.

This is going to be short because I plain did not enjoy this week’s episode, in which even the B story – once again a momentary sideshow – was a Ferengi story, about Rom and Leeta. I cannot summon the remotest interest in Quark, the Ferengi way of life, nor the fact that Deep Space Nine‘s most uncomic relief is gradually being softened by being given elements of a conscience.

To summarise: the bar is shut down because of an infestation of voles. Quark is depressed, even more so after Rom and Leeta announce that they’re going to get married. Rom suggests he go visit their mother. When he does, Quark discovers Moogie is having an affair with Grand Negus Zek, which has to be kept secret. However, it’s known to Quark’s old enemy, Brunt, FCA, who bribes him to poison the relationship in exchange for getting back his Business Licence. Quark does so, though why anyone believes him is always a mystery because he’s the most unconvincing liar of all time, since Shimerman puts him into a most artificial and blatant change of voice and demeanour. Sigh.

So Moogie is heartbroken but Quark’s restored. Zek summons him to become his First Clerk, whereupon Quark immediately learns that the Grand Negus’s memory is going (had Altzheimers been named in 1996?). Between them the economy drops 199 points in a day, which was all part of Brunt’s plan: he wants Zek ousted as Grand Negus and to take over himself. Quark, having developed something of a conscience through too much exposure to Hu-mons, helps Zek fight everyone off (totally offscreen and thus totally a cop-out) before revealing that all his helpful suggestions came from Moogie. She’s reinstated, Brunt threatens that he’ll watch Quark, that story’s over after what felt like several hours.

Rom and Leeta? The wedding’s off after Rom, disturbed by gossip about him not being a traditional Ferengi male, tries to get Leeta to sign awaiver of all claims on his profits and she refuses. The two are miserable until Rom gives all his profits away to charity, whereupon they snog on the promenade and I would be envious of Max Grodenchik if he weren’t wearing so much Ferengi make-up that he probably couldn’t feel a thing.

Next week’s episode will be considerably better and more entertaining. By definition.

Deep Space Nine: s05 e16: Dr Bashir, I Presume


Happy Families

When the opening shot of an episode features Chase Masterson’s cleavage framed exactly in the centre of the screen, it immediately gives the episode an uplift. Of course, being in the first part of the open, it also isn’t going to be the A-story. What it is is an amusing, occasionally embarrassing tale of the Love That Dare Not Speak It’s Name, only it’s got nothing to do with Homosexuality in Nineteenth Century London and everything to do with Rom being so bleeding afraid to tell Leeta he loves her, even in the face of her… heartfelt desire for him to do so, that he’s prepared to let her leave DS9 forever rather than risk his fate to a mere 99.9% probability that she’s interested in him. I knew exactly how he felt.

But that was a B story, amusing as it was and pleasing as it always is to see Ms Masterson showing off her… talents (actually, to be serious, she does bring a genuine sweetness and a perfectly judged strand of self-mockery to a role that is practically the definition of one-note and which, in the hands of a less talented performer, could be an utter disaster), and it struck the improbable note of a happy conclusion as Rom finally finds his voice at the last second, though speaking as the unprepossessing dumb-cluck, I can’t quite get over the notion of someone who looks like her falling from someone who looks like me… sorry, him: somebody’s been at the Magic Wish-Fulfillment Juice with a vengeance.

But, as the story title indicates, that’s not the A-story. Nor, originally, was the A-story seen as anything better than a B-story, itself a comic episode. Special Guest Robert Picardo, already firmly fixed in Star Trek lore as the Hologram Doctor in Voyager, turns up in the person of his human avatar, Engineer Dr Lewis Zimmerman. The Emergency Medical Hologram programme which he’s invented is being upgraded to a Long-term Medical Hologram, and our Julian has been chosen as its template.

As a B-story, it would have been the comedic underbelly to a meatier A-story. The producers weren’t interested in the original A-story, but loved the B-story. It wouldn’t go down as a comedic episode so something more dramatic had to be brought in. In retrospect, the fact that Bashir’s background had never previously been featured, and that a host of small asides down the years fell into place as if there had all along been some secret in his past facilitated quite an explosive revelation.

Quite simply, Dr Julian Bashir is the product of childhood genetic enhancement which, in the Star Trek universe, is illegal. If discovered, he will be cashiered from Starfleet and his medical licence withdrawn. Everything he is, does and has accomplished, everything he could do, will be destroyed.

That it may now be exposed is due to the fact that Zimmerman, whilst he’s not trying to get into Leet’a Bajoran knickers, has to build a comprehensive psychological profile of the good Doctor for the LMH, which means interviewing everyone who does or ever has known him. Which includes his parents, who still call him by his birth-name, Jules.

Now, it’s believable that Bashir has been avoiding his parents out of shame over his blowhard father, Richard (played by Brian George, nowadays better known as Raj Koothrapalli’s father on The Big Bang Theory). But the shame goes deeper than that: Jules was, it appears, backwards, as it would once have been called, both physically and mentally, it would appear. So his father took him off-planet to be operated on, creating the brilliant and talented Julian we have always known.

Now that it’s likely to come out – originally the story would have confined the secret to Bashir and O’Brien, secured by a double-blackmail over secrets Zimmerman wanted kept, but Alexander Siddig insisted on things being brought out into the open and thestory is better for it – the secret comes out when the Bashir’s promise complete secrecy, except that it’s to the LMH Julian. And suddenly, the bitterness pours out.

It’s a deep, corrosive bitterness that seems to be couched in shame of his parents, but it goes much too far for that. Alexander Siddig, who only found out about his character’s secret the day before filming started, is on brilliant form. Bashir is angry, angry about everything, seeing the changes wrought on him by a loser father anxious to make some kind of mark on the world, as arising from Richard’s shame at having a son who appeared to be a failure like him. His change of name to Julian was to divorce his past from his present.

But he’s too handy with words like freak, and unnatural for that to come solely from outside. Siddig shows us that Julian is ashamed of himself, of his difference from others, that he has inflated the deliberate creation of his abilities into a full-scale separation from humanity.

He’s too consumed by his own self-hatred to see anything in what his father has done but hatred of the little boy nature produced. Inevitably, given the nature of Deep Space Nine, this mental state is cured by two things: a simple declaration from his mother, as to the fear they felt, the despair at being responsible for what Jules was born as, and that what was done was simply out of love, for their son, and his father sacrificing himself to two years imprisonment as the quid pro quo for Julian’s career, licence and commission being saved.

Siddig was right: it would have been impossible to play Bashir as a man containing a secret whose revelation would have such drastic effects in a weekly series that would basically ignore this development from week to week. So a string story came together basically by accident and its own internal logic impressing itself by fits and starts. Art is crazily wonderful, sometimes.

Incidentally, until we get to the end of the last episode of the season, this set-up is the last memory I have of DS9 in the Nineties. So it’s back to almost-fresh programming for the next nine weeks.

 

Deep Space Nine: s05 e07 – Let he who is without sin…


I make no comment

What an odd episode that was. It’s no surprise to me that, on reading up about it afterwards, I learned that writers, director (Rene Auberjonois) and producers all wanted to go back and have another crack at it, because they felt it didn’t work, which justifies me in feeling that it didn’t work, though I think I come to it from a slightly different standpoint.

The idea behind ‘Let he who is without sin…’ is pretty simple. Dax and Worf’s relationship is now well-established, enough that Sisko and Odo can joke about the number of minor injuries their violent love-making is causing to each other. That in itself fulfills the episode’s self-set brief, to address 24th century sexuality. But it isn’t the shocking thing it’s meant to be, partly because we are twenty years on and attitudes, understanding and acceptance are correspondingly more developed, but also because the open, and the early part of the episode are played so much for laughs, and character-driven laughs at that, that the idea is turned too far into a comedic element  and not as potentially transgressive.

But the differences in culture and personality between Dax and Worf are causing them some difficulties in that both are expecting something the other finds makes them uneasy. Worf’s uptight, Dax is free-spirited, to put this in Sixties’ terms, and each is simultaneously trying to change the other whilst refusing to budge from themselves.

The lovers are off on vacation to the pleasure planet, Risa, Dax to enjoy, Worf to talk about their relationship. Circumstances force on them Bashir and Leeta (another splendid guest appearance by Chase Masterson, here to show those areas of the female body that Terry Farrell can’t), and, more unpleasantly, Quark. He’s there to be a Greek Chorus, they’re here to conduct the Bajoran Rite of Separation, though we don’t learn this until halfway through (after this, Leeta is free to go and shag the brains out of, of all people, Rom.) All of them are really there to confuse and frustrate Worf even more.

And this is where the whole problem lies. Risa is a pleasure planet, supposed to be about sexual and sybaritic indulgence, under an artificial resort climate. It’s supposed to be decadent, it’s supposed to make the viewer think about the acceptability of that kind of lifestyle four centuries hence (after they’ve finished w*nking, of course).

But this is Prime Time American Network TV in the mid-Nineties, and there isn’t a hope in hell of getting to show anything that remotely indicates that kind of hedonistic lifestyle, and without that you have a colossal failure on your hands. People wander round in beach gear, and even then that means swimsuits for the women (I saw one extra in a rather unskimpy bikini in the background), with kaftan-like shirts tied round their waists. Decadent?

Oh sure, it’s implied that everyone’s having sex all the time, nonstop, except when the camera’s on them, which means that the imagination has to do what it can, unstimulated by the rather antiseptic atmosphere of the resort (even Southport is racier). But nobody except the most diehard of puritan is going to be shocked by something that is all Tell and no Show.

And, speaking of puritans, this paradise has to have them. They are the Essentialists, led by Pascal Fullerton (Monte Markham). They wear the guise of a political movement, fundamentalists harking back to the days of blood, toil, sweat and tears, by which the Federation was originally built in a hostile galaxy, and they are determined to return the Federation to that essential basis of fear, paranoia and eternal, rigorous watchfulness against its enemies. To them, Risa is a canker, the ruination of the Federation, an artificial pleasure world, softening, weakening, poisoning America’s… sorry, the Federation’s precious bodily fluids. To prove their point, they insist on dressing up in floor-length, full-body covering clothing in drab and dull colours, on the beach in direct sunlight.

In short, they are what every puritan has been since time immemorial: haters of fun, pleasure and enjoyment. They cannot stand to see people being happy, they insist on destroying it, they are the Daily Mail, and I am immediately and implacably opposed to them wherever they raise their hydra-like heads.

So it really doesn’t matter what clothing their arguments are dressed up in, they are the eternal enemy so far as I am concerned. It leaves me unable to take their arguments remotely seriously, which in turn weakens the drama as I cannot see them as more than straw men. And given that Worf, due to his strongly controlling instincts, not to mention a hefty dose of Klingon chauvinism, even listens to them, let alone goes over to their side, is enough to set a permanent block against him. How can Dax possibly forgive him for this?

We know she will though, and he does repent and return to the side of the angels, but it does him no favours to have this temporary aberration be the result of what is really only a fit of adolescent pique, a tantrum thrown by a teenager who hasn’t yet worked out that you don’t get to tell her what she can and can’t do all the time.

No, Worf’s dereliction is too offensive for me to forgive, and its rationalisation too unbecoming to accept. It’s also accompanied by the cliche of forcing Worf into the corner of having to reveal a deep-rooted childhood trauma that explains everything. It’s also an unfortunately ill-chosen story for a British audience since it involves the thirteen-year-old Worf playing ‘soccer’, going up for a header, scoring the winning goal but in doing so jumping so ferociously he clashed heads with the defender, broke his neck and the kid died the next day, and all the time I’m thinking, with that on his forehead, how the heck can he direct a header anywhere?

It really is a shame, because there were good ideas in this episode, and it did hit the funny-bone more consistently than any previous DS9 episode I’ve seen. Vanessa Williams was a Special Guest Star as Resort Director Arandis, ex-lover of Dax’s previous host, Curzon, and his killer (death by sex), but apart from tormenting Worf further by making him suspect a lesbian affair for which there were neither grounds nor any discernible sexual tension, her presence was wasted.

But no, it didn’t work, it couldn’t have worked and it couldn’t work even now, because we’ve seen too much real, actual transgressive sex onscreen for Risa to shock us with its licenciousness, because long before it got near to a 2017 version of Shock, it would have been wading thigh deep in Disgust.

And no, I didn’t remember a bit of it.

Deep Space Nine: s04 e16 – Bar Association


When in doubt, stick a dabo girl up front

I may or may not have mentioned this before, but I really don’t go for Quark-centric episodes, which makes this week a bit of a problem. ‘Bar Associate’ was more palatable than these things usually are, however, which was because this was more of a Rom-centric episode, ably supported by Leeta the dabo girl (Chase Masterson with her cleavage well to the fore).

In some ways this was a heavily political episode. Like many others, I have the image of America as a land of individualism, the legacy of the Wild West, the man with the gun on his hip, making his own way. That makes America a land where the Union, workers coming together to negotiate collectively, even more of an anathema than it is in this country (more fool us). Most fictional depictions of American Unions paint them as barely one-step above criminal enterprises.

So it was out of the ordinary to see DS9 so firmly in favour of Unionism, at least in so far as it struck against Quark.

It’s the month of the Bajoran Ritual of Cleansing (which meant no Kira until a tiny cameo near the end). Nobody’s coming into the Bar, so Quark cuts the staff’s pay by a third, unilaterally. Rom’s already ill because Quark doesn’t allow him sick-leave to get his ear infection treated, and knows damn well that once profits resume their normal level, the pay won’t. After all, Ferengi is capitalism at its worst extreme.

So, after being prompted by Chief O’Brien, whose ancestors included a prominent Union leader (shot 32 times for his pains), Rom decides to form a Union and go on strike against Quark.

This is a very dangerous thing to do since it strikes directly at the heart of Ferengi culture and tradition, and indeed it leads to the appearance of Ferengi Commercial Authority Liquidator Brunt, with a mandate to stop this by any means necessary, fair or, preferably foul.

Foul includes trying to intimidate Rom by beating to death someone he cares about. No, not Leeta, though Brunt does spend a lot of time with his eyes lingering on her prominent bosom, but rather Quark himself. This prompts Quark to settle the strike: in return for Rom officially dissolving the Union, the staff will get all their demands settled. It’s a deal.

More importantly, Rom has stood up to his grasping, dictatorial, doctrinaire **** of a brother, and held his nerve. So he promptly quits his job as waiter and becomes a junior technician for Starfleet, moving their relationship on towards a more balanced level.

This may well be less irritating than most Quark stories, but it still didn’t engage my interest all that much. I’m afraid I’m just too prejudiced against him and the caricatural Ferengis to ever really get absorbed into one of their episodes. Important as this episode may have been to Rom’s progress, and to the series on a character level, it was just too lightweight for me, after so many good, heavy episodes.

The B story this week was hardly developed enough to be called a B story. It was nothing more than a couple of nudges along the way to developing the relationship between Worf and Dax, and a couple of nudges about how Worf is finding it hard to adjust to life on board DS9 as opposed to the Enterprise. He moves quarters into the Defiant and has a comeback to Dax’s suggestion that he’ll have to adapt to them in time by suggesting that they might have to adapt to him, and that’s about it.

And that’s about it.

Deep Space Nine: s03 e25 – Facets


CurzonOdo
CurzonOdo

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.