Deep Space Nine: s03 e26 – The Adversary


No Changeling has ever harmed another...
No Changeling has ever harmed another…

Now that is how to end a season!

I’ve enjoyed season 3 of Deep Space Nine, despite the odd stumer here and there, precisely because of the introduction of the Dominion as a background threat, one that gave the series an underlying spine and an overarching purpose. It’s been approached carefully, slowly, a shadow cast rather than an overt, ever-present danger that might have begun to bore its audience.

But the stakes do have to be raised at some point, and in the final seven words of season 3, they went up exponentially, a perfect moment of destabilisation to beguile the viewers’ thoughts over the break between seasons (which, in the case of this re-watch, is between now and next Tuesday).

‘The Adversary’ began with a bit of misdirection, Sisko’s final Commander’s Log entry. Good old Ben has finally been promoted to match up with the two leading figures of our predecessor series: he is now Captain Sisko, to everyone’s delight. But the hinted-at development, that this elevation may mean transfer, command of a Starship, that this episode will be about contriving a reason for Sisko to stay at DS9, is a red herring.

What happens is that Ambassador Krejinsky comes not merely bearing congratulations but news. The Tzenkethi have overthrown their Autarch in a Civil War, a revival of hostilities towards the Federation may ensue, and the Defiant is needed to fly the flag at the border. A full crew sets out.

That trouble is ahead is signaled by Chief O’Brien continually hearing noises off. Then, in warp, the Defiant is suddenly taken out of the Bridge’s control: it cloaks, raises its force-fields, warms up its photon torpedoes and makes ready to attack the Tzenkethi, to precipitate war.

It is a Dominion move: the Ambassador is really a Changeling: there was no Tzenkethi civil war.

Captain Sisko has no choice: if the Changeling cannot be found, if control of the ship cannot be regained, the Auto-Destruct sequence must be initiated. And as the episode moves on, as the increasingly tense and suspicious hunt proves fruitless, a ten minute countdown is initiated.

Naturally, there still being four seasons left, disaster is averted, but not without cost, and the set-up,coming in a season climax, would have made for one spectacular final episode if DS9 hadn’t been quite so popular. The Chief is committed to one of his usual mechanical miracle rescues when the Changeling, having duplicated Odo, appears, closely followed by the real Odo, or is it?

The Adversary snaps,attacks O’Brien. Odo grapples with him, forces him against the unshielded warp core, and kills him. He has become the first Changeling to ever harm another. His fellow Changeling whispers words to him that we cannot hear, as O’Brien restores control, the Auto-Destruct is cancelled with seconds to spare, and the Defiant heads for home.

A final senior staff meeting closes out both episode and season. Security Commander Eddington, Peter Lauritson enjoying a rare, full-length guest appearance, confirms the real Ambassador Krejinsky to be missing, feared kidnapped or dead. And Odo arrives, to pass on those final words, that light the match for season 4.

“You are too late. We are everywhere.”

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 e18 – Distant Voices


Ages well, doesn't he?
Ages well, doesn’t he?

I’m a tough audience at the moment. I might be bingeing certain series on DVD  to avoid being caught with my thoughts, but we’re not talking about mindless rubbish here. I have not had a television set for seven years now, and I have broken the habit of TV, the habit of switching on and watching what happens to be there instead of choosing only to watch what is of interest.

Though I’m a long way into this Deep Space Nine watch-through, it’s still the nearest I let myself come to dull, predictable, lazy episodes, or ones that are flat and banal, as the Quark-centric ‘Prophet Motives’ of a fortnight ago demonstrates. But last week’s O’Brien-centric ‘Visionary’ was one of the strongest episodes I’ve seen, and the standard was kept up by this week’s Bashir-centric ‘Distant Voices’.

I was a little bit suspicious of the quasi-comic open, which featured the Doctor and Garak lunching. It’s a couple of days to Bashir’s birthday and he’s being grumpy about it because it’s his thirtieth and, well, you know. Their conversation is interrupted by an unusually subdued Quark, introducing a Lethian who wants to buy some biometic gel, for purposes of a McGuffin nature.

Bashir refuses. The substance is both dangerously unstable and highly Restricted. But when he returns to his Infirmary, he finds the Lethian ransacking it. He tries to fight him, but is incapacitated by some form of electrical discharge through his head, emanating from the Lethian’s hands. Cue theme music.

The Doctor awakes to a strange situation. Lights are flickering, comms are down, all electrics are non-functional and no-one is around. What’s more, Julian has suddenly started to silver at the temples. That it’s some form of hallucination or fugue is obvious, with the Doctor’s concern about aging somewhere at its root, but the situation is unusual, with no immediately obvious pattern.

DS9 appears to be deserted, but there’s noises in Quark’s. He’s cowering behind the bar, terrified, whilst something out of sight is wrecking the joint, bit by bit. Quark is pure fear, to the slightly annoying point that, whilst he clearly knows who is doing all this, it’s all ‘he’ and not the name.

Nevertheless, that’s the last weak moment. ‘He’ is the Lethian, and he is destroying DS9. It’s a crisis situation, made worse by Bashir periodically hearing whispering voices that no-one else can hear. Only when he runs into a bunch of the others – The Chief, Odo, the Major, Dax – does it begin to start making sense.

Not at first, because they’re all shouting and suspicious of one another. The Chief’s turned into a cowardly pessimist, Odo into a paranoid, the Major is all shouty and Dax just wants to blaze away with a phaser. But the Chief manages to repair a comms panel, and Bashir’s voices come through loud and clear.

It is an hallucination, brought on by the Lethian’s telepathic attack. Julian’s body is dying – represented in the hallucination by his ongoing aging – and the others aren’t real. They are aspects of his personality, clothed in the bodies of those close to him, representations. Some are negative, others positive. Dax is his confidence, Sisko his professionalism. But the Lethian is taking and destroying these manifestations, slowly stripping his mind. And the Doctor is aging ever more rapidly.

I have got to say that, once past the superficial and unconvincing graying temples, the make-up showing the successive stages of Bashir’s aging was superb and completely convincing, aided by a magnificent performance by Siddig el Fadil, who brought an increasing frailty to his part that echoed every chronological shift with exactitude, and ensured that at no time were we dragged out of the story by any discernible artificiality.

The whole hallucination echoed Powell & Pressburger’s legendary A Matter of Life and Death, in that to survive his real life organic degradation, Bashir had to win his hallucination, by restoring the station. By the time he reached Ops, there was only one personality left, Garak, physically helping him after a fall and a broken hip. And Garak was being intensely negative, undermining and denigrating all Bashir’s efforts as impossible.

Because ‘Garak’ was the Lethian: in Bashir’s brain, accessing all his memories, reminding him of all the times he’s given up, not fought for what he wanted, settled for less. He can’t succeed now.

But he still can. As Bashir’s physical prowess has grown increasingly limited, his will has only strengthened, until its something unbreakable. He gets to the Infirmary: Ops is the centre of the station but this is his centre. His defiance is unbreakable. The things he could have done but didn’t have only led to his being where he is, and that is where he belongs and won’t exchange. He restores the lights, quarantines and sterilises the Lethian in his mind. And wakes up in his body.

The episode ends with Bashir and Garak once again enjoying lunch, but with Bashir considerably more sunny than at the start of the episode. What pint being grumpy about being 30 when you’ve discovered what it’s like to be 100+? Garak, however, is concerned, as any friend would be, that Bashir’s mind picked him out to be the Lethian: the traitor, the underminer, the destroyer. The Doctor attempts to reassure him that the Garak of his hallucination was not the real-life Garak, but the tailor remains unconvinced. Which lead to the best closing line of the entire DS9 to date and an out-loud belly-laugh. Bashir sees Garak as untrustworthy.

“There’s hope for you yet.”

Deep Space Nine: s03 e17 – Visionary


(I can see for) Miles and Miles

Before watching this latest episode, I was considering whether or not I needed a break: I’m personally not in a good space and last week’s Quark-centred episode was a serious trial. Deep Space Nine to date has not been the experience my recollections of twenty years gone led me to anticipate, and perhaps it might serve a purpose to suspend this series of posts after season 3 is completed. Let me refresh myself, regain a bit of enthusiasm.

Needless to say, at that point the series delivered up a stone cold winner that absorbed me from start to finish, that was superbly written and acted brilliantly by its principals, and which did not once allow me to second guess its course or outcome.

An unusually lengthy open started in media res, with Chief O’Brien having just taken a mild radiation jolt and being confined to light duties. It’s a busy time, with a Romulan delegation just arriving to collect every scrap of Federation intelligence there was about the Dominion (and being very Romulan about it, of course), whilst a damaged Klingon ship fetches up at DS9 for repairs.

Enough meat in there for a story in itself, but that wasn’t what ‘Visionary’ was going to be about. With everything thus set up, we wound up back at the Chief, trying to get darts established at Quark’s before slipping into a fugal vision, of himself in the future, arguing with Quark on the promenade. That this wasn’t just an hallucination was evidenced by the fact that Future Miles could see Current Miles…

This was only the first time-shift. Bashir and Dax, between them, determined that the Chief was suffering from a minor degree of radiation poisoning that was being activated by temporal surges emanating from an invisible quantum singularity in orbit about DS9. As science goes, it was plausible and authentic sounding (a nice change) so let’s ignore the mechanics and follow the timeshifts, because these started to multiply.

Each jumped Current Miles five hours forward, to wherever Future Miles was, and each time Current Miles was physically transferred temporally, in fugues that lasted only seconds in Current time. Each one grew increasingly dangerous for Future Miles: badly beaten and threatened with a knife in a bar brawl at Quark’s, killed by a laser concealed behind a seemingly innocuous panel, dead and autopsied after an unexpected radioactive isotope raddled him, and evacuating DS9 in a runabout whilst witnessing the station exploding into smithereens.

And each jump caught up with itself five hours later, with the effects of each jump either avoided or eradicated by Current Miles’ enhanced knowledge.

Meanwhile, what might have been used as an A plot continued. The Romulans treat everything and everybody with suspicion, appearing to suspect that all manner of collaboration with the Dominion is going on. The Klingons bullock about drunkenly. The Romulans, purely without evidence, suggest Odo fancies Kira, the very idea of which sends the Major into an undiplomatic fury, expostulating to the Constable about how ridiculous the accusation is: fortunately, Odo is spared answering by a security crisis.

But this is no A plot. Everything is woven skillfully together. The Klingons are an intelligence squad, sent to spy on the Romulans, and are neutralised by Odo. The Romulans…

Ah yes. O’Brien returns from the fugue that reveals to him DS9’s imminent destruction. He has no information as to how, why or who, but with Bashir’s assistance in preparing a precisely calculated radiation dosage – a much higher, pain-inducing and potentially fatal dosage – O’Brien makes a calculated, sacrificial shift of only three hours.

In ever increasing pain, he and Future O’Brien get to the bridge, just in time for it all to be revealed: a Romulan Warbird uncloaking, attacking the station. The desperate throw has succeeded, but there is a fatal flaw. The radiation has proved fatal. Current Miles is dying, too weak for the reverse trip. In a beautifully executed twist, a wonderfully ironic step, Current Miles saves Future Miles a final time, by forcing on him the device. It is Future Miles who returns to the Current moment, to save the station, and to take over Current Miles’ life.

The Romulans are escorted off the station, under threat of a 50 photon torpedo assault on their cloaked Warbird. Their motive was entirely rational: if the Dominion are the greatest threat to the Alpha Quadrant in centuries, then that threat can be eradicated by removing their access to that Quadrant. Attack and collapse the Wormhole, destroy DS9,  which can be painted as a victim of accidental collapse, end of threat.

If there was a flaw in this episode it was, paradoxically, not in this episode. Future O’Brien feels out of place, as if he is living a life different from the one he should be doing. Bashir, common-sensically, points out that he is Current Miles, only with a few extra memories, memories that he doesn’t bother pointing out extend less than five hours hence.

It’s a moment of strangeness that draws us into contemplation of what O’Brien has gone through, with his strangely convoluted timepath, with its succession of false starts, each witnessed but then overturned. No wonder Future Miles feels out of place, and ever so slightly unreal: after all, since he went through being Current Miles, he has seen himself die three times, and even though it belongs to a fractal timeline now removed, he knows that the third time was real. Who couldn’t help but be disoriented?

But the closing credits run, and we know that that utterly fascinating state runs away with them, never to be referenced again. Such a shame.

However, that’s next week’s episode. I have a week’s reassurance that this is all worthwhile, still, and thoughts of a sabbatical go onto the back-burner. Excellent all round.

Deep Space Nine: s03 e13 – ‘Life Support’


As it must...
As it must…

One day, I’d like to unreservedly praise an episode of DS9, without caveat or disappointment. That could have been today, because two-thirds of this latest episode was good, very good indeed: strong of purpose, important of theme and wonderfully acted.

Unfortunately, the producers and writers of this episode chose to include an unrelated B-story, to spin out the time, to counteract the atmosphere created by the A-story. A change of pace and style can often be very effective, but I question the mindset of anyone who thought that these stories belonged within a million miles of each other.

Let’s dispense with the shitty and unworthy comic relief B-story. Jake Sisko is approached by a young, attractive (and short) girl named Leanna, who basically asks him out of a date. It clashes with a domjock game with Nog, who happily gives that up, assuming Jake has organised a double-date. Leanne brings a friend but the whole thing is an utter disaster because Nog acts like a Ferenghi towards women. The pair fall out, but by getting Odo to throw them into the same cell on a specious charge, Jake gets to repair their friendship. It’s as trivial as it is unfunny. Forget it.

Of a much greater order is the main story. A Bajoran ship is damaged by an accident and brings casualties to DS9. It is carrying Kai Wynn and Vedek Bariel to secret peace negotiations with Cardassia. These are primarily of Bariel’s doing: he has devoted the last five months towards setting up an accord. Unfortunately, he has sustained the worst injuries, crippled by radiation. So much so that he dies.

It’s a tremendous loss to both Major Kira and the the Kai. Nerys has lost her love and her lover. Kai Wynn has lost the hope of peace, for the benefit of all Bajor, and her own place in history.

And then it happens. Doctor Bashir is about to perform an autopsy on Bariel when electrical activity is seen in the brain. Using an experimental combination of drugs and electrostimulation (for once explained with clarity and plausibility, without gubbins), Bashir brings Bariel back to life. It is amazing.

It is not the end of the story though. Bariel’s body has been badly damaged and a side-effect of the treatment that has restored him is to constrict the blood-flow through his body. He is still dying, and Bashir wants to put him into stasis so that there may be a chance that his condition can be treated.

But the Kai desperately wants  Bariel for his advice during the Peace Talks. He is, literally, irreplaceable, the one man who knows everything. Bashir is angry, accusing her of coldness, of being prepared to sacrifice Bariel in order to preserve her place in history.It’s all very plausible, though Louise Fletcher played Wynn utterly straight, to the extent that I thought throughout that she was sacrificing Bariel not for herself, but for Bajor.

The thing was, Bariel wanted to do this. He had placed the Peace Talks above himself, thinking only of the role the Prophets had called upon him to play. Against his wishes, Bashir strove to keep Bariel alive for long enough.

It was difficult. An experimental drug helped Bariel focus, but it began to attack his internal organs. These were replaced by artificial devices, but the radiation effects reached Bariel’s brain. He demanded Bashir replace the damaged part with a positronic mesh, which kept him going but at the expense of almost all human feeling.

In the end, the Talks worked and an Accord was signed. Everybody, but Bashir, celebrated. And then it came: the rest of Bariel’s brain was affected. The Kai, who of course no longer needed him, accepted the inevitable. Kira, losing her man, raged against it, pleaded with Bashir to fit another positronic mesh. This he would not do. Bariel’s body might live, but he would no longer be Bariel.

So it came to an end. Kira spent the final few hours with her love, saying the things that had never been said, the things that there would have been time for in another world, simple, almost banal, but the words that come to a heart in times like this, when words can no longer matter even if they could have been heard.

Once again, Philip Anglim and Louise Fletcher were superb in their guest roles. It was a moving and serious story, one that deserved to be watched in isolation without the stupid, ill-chosen B-story to keep taking you away from what really mattered.

Maybe next time.

 

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.

Deep Space Nine: s03 e08 – Meridian


True Love... this week
True Love… this week

Though I initially found myself enjoying this latest episode of DS9, long before the end I had come to find it tiresome, and well below the standards of season 3 thus far.

For this episode, the team reverted to the old trick of parallel plots, completely unrelated to each other, which immediately suggests that neither is really strong enough to stand up on their own. Unfortunately, the two tales were so far apart in tone, approach and physical space, they were unable to lean on each other. It was a bit like that old sketch on the BBC Radio comedy Hallo Cheeky, where the gag was that due to timing running late, three completely disparate programmes would be broadcast simultaneously, the mike cutting between the three performers to create wonderfully idiotic double entendres.

This one wasn’t funny, though.

The sub-plot certainly wasn’t, although that was supposed to be the comic story, and was led-off in the open. Tiron (the first of multiple appearances in differing roles by Jeffrey Cmbs), an alien ‘colleague’ of Quark’s, fancies himself a great deal, but he also fancies Major Kira more than somewhat, so she resorts to pretending Odo is her lover to throw him off. Thwarted, Tiron – a study in self-regarding petulance from his alien make-up onwards – demands a custom holosuite programme from Quark, starring the Major.

Much hilarity (hem-hem) ensues as Quark tries to get a holo-profile of our favourite redhead, but by the time he succeeds, Odo and Kira know enough of what’s going on to blow the deal by tinkering with the programme to give Tiron the legs of the Major (at least, I hope that was Nana Visitor) but the head of… Quark. Boom boom.

In the main, and serio-tragic part of the story, the rest of the cast is in the Defiant, exploring the Gamma Quadrant when a planet, Meridian, literally pops into existence before their very eyes. Meridian alternates between dimensions, one the corporeal universe of the Gamma Quadrant, the other a non-corporeal dimension where the diminished population, even the planet, exists as purely consciousness.

Unfortunately, something is out of balance. Meridian has been incorporeal for sixty years, but its physical state will last only twelve days before it shifts back for another sixty years. Needless to say, if you’ve only got a body for twelve days every half century, it makes things like conception, pregnancy and birth a bit dodgy, which is why the Meridianites are down to only 30, and not much of a gene pool.

One of those thirty is Teril, a widower. Teril is strong, handsome, virile and played by a young Brett Cullen, with whom I’m much more familiar for his recurring role as Nathan in Person of Interest. Teril quite clearly fancies the knickers off Jardzia, and she’s not entirely disinterested in his underthings either. But, wait, this is not merely lust at first sight (how could it be in a prime-time series from 1994?), it’s real, genuine, actual love.

Teril decides to leave to be with Jardzia, but his conscience troubles him over his people, his home, his friends. So she decides to stay with him, take leave of absence from Starfleet for sixty years. It’s a tremendous, loving sacrifice, but the problem with this story, with all such stories, is that this is part of an ongoing, prime-time TV series and it’s impossible to vest a moment’s emotion in the course of the story, because you know she’s never going to leave with him, and what’s more, this love-of-eight-lifetimes will be forgotten by as early as the next episode.

The dramatic tension is negligible.

In the end, Meridian starts to shift into phase but Jardzia doesn’t. Indeed, she’s acting like an anchor, holding the planet back and threatening to destroy it until she’s teleported out. End of story, except for Jardzia’s heartbreak. I just need time, she tells Sisko, adding sotto voce ‘sixty years’, which would be moving if it even got as much as sixty seconds before the credit roles.

This half of the story was well-made and well-formed and could have been good if it had been possible to develop any kind of investment in the possibility of Dax going with Teril. Since that was zilch, so too was the episode. There’s always next week.

 

Deep Space Nine: s03 e07 – Civil Defence


Portrait of a smug Cardassian
Portrait of a smug Cardassian

There was nothing in the least bit significant about this week’s episode of DS9, either in terms of the larger background of the Dominion threat, any sociological or political attitude, or even the standalone storyline itself. It was purely and simply a ‘bottle episode’, confined to the station itself, with no guests beyond two recurring Cardassians, Gul Dukat and Garak. Which made it an entertaining, unpretentious little delight.

The story began with Chief O’Brien and Jake Sisko working in one of the lower level processing units, attempting to reclaim it, and in the meantime wiping all the now-redundant Cardassian programmes from its computer. One programme refused to be deleted: in fact, the attempt to remove it triggered it, and it was a doozy.

Because this programme was an automated defence programme, complete with pre-recorded messages from the then-Commander, Gul Dukat, warning the ‘Bajoran workers’ who have attempted to seize control that their revolt will not be allowed to succeed.

And it escalated from there. The Chief, Jake and Sisko himself found themselves trapped down there, and having to bust out to avoid a fatal dose of neurosene gas, which triggers further fail-safes affecting the Bridge, and trapping Major Kira, Jardzia and Doctor Bashir behind similar force-fields.

Not to mention trapping Odo in his office, along with his suspicious and most unwelcome visitor, Quark.

That gave us three groups operating in isolation from one another, with the tension ratchetting up every few minutes as yet another attempt to beat the system being interpreted as further success by the mythical Bajoran workers (the Major must have been so proud) requiring yet more escalated response. All the way up initiating the self-destruct of DS9 itself.

No-one’s going anywhere, no-one’s getting anywhere, and the odds are getting slimmer all the time. Garak’s personal codes let him wander through the force-fields at will, but his attempts to beat a system keyed to Dukat’s personal codes and no other’s only accelerate the process.

Then, look what happens! A cocksure Gul Dukat teleports onto a phaser-strewn Bridge in response to a distress signal from himself, near to laughing his head off with delight at just how fucked up everything is for the Federation (and Garak). Sure, he’ll use his codes to shut everything down, in return for a minor concession or two, like official permission to instal a garrison of 2,000 Cardassian troops on board.

Of course, that’s an utter no-no. Dukat thinks he has the upper hand even though Kira is fully-prepared to let everyone on board be killed by the Defence programme rather than let the Cardassians back. He’ll just teleport back to his ship, put his feet up, wait for her to change her mind when there’s, say, five minutes to go. Except that, in a gloriously and hilariously ingenious twist, the programme interprets the attempted teleportation as an act of inglorious cowardice by Station Commander Dukat, trying to flee his post, and blocks not only the teleport but all Dukat’s codes, rendering him as helpless – and doomed – as everyone else.

In the end, it’s Sisko who saves the day (you mean, you really thought the station would buy it? There’s another nineteen episodes left in this series alone) restoring everything to normal, after forty-five minutes of harmless, inconsequential fun.

It’s a text book example on how to bring in an entertaining episode of a series at absolutely minimal cost, which is what ‘bottle episodes’ are about. A splendid time was had by all. I enjoyed it.

Deep Space Nine: s03 e04 – Equilibrium


In a pool…

I’ve not really that much to say about this episode. It was well-made, and thought-provoking but, at the same time curiously static and uninvolving. Some of this has to be attributed to it centring upon Jardzia Dax and thus requiring Terry Farrell to hold it together.

I don’t want to be unfair on the lady, especially given that the episode called upon her to show aggression, which is outside the usual emotional range, and Farrell wasn’t too bad at that. But none of it ever felt completely convincing: unlike the rest of the cast, Ms Farrell doesn’t have the range to command an entire episode, and it was no surprise to find that the crucial scenes took place around her unconscious body.

To  summarise: at a party in Sisko’s quarters, Dax picks up a Twenty-Fifth century electric piano and finds herself doodling out a nice melody that she can’t properly remember. It starts to obsess her. She starts flying into uncharacteristic rages, accuses Sisko of cheating at chess, then has hallucinations of dark corridors and a dark-robed figure with a blank face-mask.

Bashir checks her out and discovers that Dax’s isoboramene levels are low, isoboramene being crucial to the communication between host and symbiont. He and Sisko accompany her to the Trill homeworld and the Symbiosis Commission where these levels are successfully treated, that is, until Dax has another hallucination, this time of witnessing a murder and being attacked by Commission staff.

The music is key to this. It’s tracked down as being by a Trill composer called Joran Belar, at which name Jardzia collapses in neuroshock. Her isoboramene levels have dipped sharply, to the point where, if they continue to fall, the symbiont  will have to be removed and Jardzia will die.

Sisko and Bashir try to find out more about Joran, but his records have been completely wiped. He has a surviving brother, who confirms that Joran was aggressive, even paranoid and violent – and also a Trill Initiate. What’s more, he was supposedly rejected, which led him to kill the doctor and be killed trying to escape, but his brother is convinced that Joran had been Joined, at least six months prior to his death.

Adding this to the information that Joran supposedly died the same day as Dax’s fifth host, the one immediately prior to Curzon, and Sisko susses it out. The Commission exists to govern the joining of Trill and symbionts. It tests extensively to ensure there are suitable hosts – approximately one in one thousand – so that the symbionts are preserved: an unsuitable host would kill itself and its symbiont within three to four days.

But Joran was an unsuitable host, yet he was joined to Dax and stabilised for six months. The omission has suppressed all records of this, proof that at least fifty percent of Trills can host, far far more than there are symbionts. The Doctor has to admit Sisko’s theory as correct, but pleads the greater good. Sisko will keep the secret, provided that Jardzia is cured. Which is resolved simply by her entering one of the symbionts’ birthing pools (in a long, flowing white robe that gets wet through, that Farrell does not provide us with any wet t-shirt moments). Joran Dax surfaces, symbolically, Jardzia embraces him and there it is: equilibrium is restored by the return of blocked memories.

It’s an interesting rather than an absorbing episode, with its revelations about Trills and symbionts (which, in their unjoined state, live mainly under ‘water’ and look a little like otters when they semi-surface), but as I said, a stronger actress than Farrell could have made this a lot more personal.