Monday, July 6, 2020

''Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,'' Season 4

Return with me now to the Bajor system and the threshold of the wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant; return with me to adventure...!
  
Is that the single cheesiest sentence I've ever written?  No.  Not even close, believe it or not.  God help you if you ever had to read one of my love letters.  Let's find out if this blog post will be a love letter or a Dear Jane...
  
  
"The Way of the Warrior"
  
  
(season 4, episodes 1-2)
  
airdate:  October 2, 1995
written by:  Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe
directed by:  James L. Conway
  
The station is overrun by an armada of spring-breaking Klingons, all of whom are eventually revealed to be gearing up to invade and conquer the Cardassian system, which they suspect of having been invaded by Founders.  Paramount calls in the help of Next Generation cast member Michael Dorn to help revive fan interest in this spinoff.  Sisko calls in the help of Lt. Commander Worf to help bridge the cultural gap with the Klingons.  You can tell within five seconds that Worf and Dax are eventually going to fuuuuuuuuuuck.
  
  
  
  
My apologies in advance to anyone who has wandered onto this blog hoping for me to wax the car that is Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  Previous posts in this series (season one, season two, season three) featured very little in the way of car-waxing, and my presumption is that this one won't, either.  This might logically cause one to wonder why I'm bothering to write about the show at all.  Fair question.  Here's what I hope is a fair answer: I need to understand my responses to it, and so I write about it.
  
But I won't lie to you; I'll be upfront about the fact that Deep Space Nine does not work for me.  Perhaps that will change as this rewatch (and blogging project) continues, but I suspect not.  I do occasionally like (or even love) individual episodes, but I rarely manage to like the series as a whole.  I do not respect its approach to Star Trek, and while it has considerable virtues, they never surmount the central problem I have with the series: that it is actively dismissive of the approach of the Treks which came before it.
  
Your mileage may vary, and if you've read those opening remarks and decided I ought to get bent, well, hey, I don't blame you.  I suggest moving along; you're not apt to find much here which will please you. 

"The Way of the Warrior" represents a soft reboot, one which comes midway through the first spinoff to debut after Gene Roddenberry's death.  My assumption -- I've got no research to back this up, mind you -- is that Paramount must have felt the show was floundering, or perhaps merely stagnant, and wanted to do something to shake up the format.  They'd already done versions of this previously by introducing a starship into the famously station-bound show, and then later by promoting Sisko to Captain.  Apparently that hadn't resulted in the required results, so now, with The Next Generation off the air (and freshly a big-screen franchise), a ringer was brought in: Worf, who joined the series for its final four seasons.
  
I was excited by the move at the time; Worf was (and is) one of my favorite Trek characters of all, so I was more than happy to indulge his move from starship to space station.  And I've been looking forward to seeing him again on this rewatch.
  
Unfortunately, on rewatch his arrival has done nothing whatsoever to genuinely increase my approval of the show.  "The Way of the Warrior"?  It's alright.  Spoiler alert: I'm giving it three stars.  Good episode; nothing more.  This ain't Star Trek, yadda yadda yadda.  Decent shoot-'em-up space action; handheld combat that is mostly of the lame-nineties-Trek variety.  Points off for that, and also points off for making me resent that something from my least-favorite Trek movie (The Undiscovered Country) has been undone.  I hate that movie, but it did at least have one big-picture saving grace: it explains how the Federation and the Klingons, in establishing the Khitomer Accords, were set on the road to peace which is an accepted state of affairs in The Next Generation.  But this episode says, "Ah, piss on ya freakin Khitomer Accords, pal!  We want our Klingons to be murderous again!"  Another of Gene Roddenberry's ideas plowed over.  Not that anything in The Undiscovered Country was an idea of Gene's; I'm referring to his TNG-era decision to make the Klingons into allies.

Still, the episode certainly has its selling points.  The cast does strong work, to a person; Michael Dorn, unsurprisingly, fits in right off the bat.  He's got a good chemistry with Avery Brooks, and with Rene Auberjonois, and (naturally) with Colm Meaney, and you can practically smell the coitus rolling off both he and Terry Farrell during Worf's scenes with Dax.  It smells like sweat and honor, in case you were wondering, with hints of jasmine and cinnamon.
  
I'm being gross for no better reason than that it amuses me, but the truth is, Dorn and Farrell do have terrific chemistry as soon as they appear in a scene together, and this relationship will (as I recall) help to guide the series over the course of its remaining seasons.  Fine and good; I'm there for it.  But all this hooraw promising an endless march of war and death and misery...?  How did Star Trek get to that point?  Read my posts about the first three seasons if you want an answer; the short version is, writers who were determined to push it in that direction, and who encountered little resistance from anyone empowered to stop it.
  
It thrills some fans.
  
It does not thrill this one.  Not on Star Trek.  I can get that someplace else; what I want from Trek is something other than what these producers were interested in giving me regularly, and more's the pity.
  
Bryant's rating:  *** / *****
  
But, on the other hand, you can do worse than this; and every so often they gave us an episode such as:


"The Visitor"


(season 4, episode 3) 
  
airdate:  October 9, 1995
written by:  Michael Taylor
directed by:  David Livingston
  
In the future more than half a century from the current timeline of the series, we meet an elderly Jake Sisko, who tells a fan of his writing (who has taken it upon herself to visit his house) the story of how his father died when he was a teenager.  Benjamin was struck by a bolt of technobabble while saving the Defiant's warp core, and became unstuck in time.  He is anchored to Jake, and occasionally reappears from subspace in his son's vicinity for a brief amount of time, only to then be flung back into the void, from which he only emerges farther and farther into the future.  Old Man Jake has a plan to save his father, though; and before the night is over, he will put it into action.




If you were ranking the many episodes of Star Trek(s) by emotional punch, then surely "The Visitor" would rank highly.  I'd wager that for many, it likely sits at the very top of the list.  It wouldn't be at the top of mine -- that's reserved for "The Inner Light," or maybe (if we include movies) The Wrath of Khan -- but it would certainly be in contention for the top ten, and maybe even for the top five.

Much of the episode's success comes via the powerhouse performance by Tony Todd as the future Jake.  Another note for the hypothetical-lists game: if one were ranking the most impactful single-episode performances by Trek guests, there is simply no way Todd wouldn't be in contention for the gold medal.  He is aided tremendously by effective old-age makeup, and by a screenplay which did not shy away from depicting a man who is living a broken and regretful life.  Trek generally avoids that sort of thing, opting for a more optimistic view of the future.  But even in a future capable of warp speed, food replicators, and holo technology, there's little chance of making the distress of losing a loved one go away easily.  Just because we've only seen a bit of it here and there doesn't mean that genuine grief doesn't still exist in the 24th century, and so depicting it via Jake's loss of Benjamin seems to me perfectly in keeping with the ideals of the franchise.
 
That said, at least one thing rings somewhat false to me in this episode.  Jake eventually elects to more or less commit suicide in order to return his father to the proper timeline.  Jake must know that this will effectively erase everything that has happened since the accident onboard the Defiant, which means that he is condemning untold numbers of people to being written right out of existence.  Melanie, the aspiring young writer who seeks Jake out, for example; can it be argued that in saving his father, Jake is murdering Melanie?  And his ex-wife, Korena?  And his friend Nog?  And an entire universe of others?

An argument could -- and perhaps should -- be made that by foregrounding the emotions of Jake's loss, screenwriter Michael Taylor has ignored the broader implications at hand.  This seems even truer to me considering how much of the plot springs from a Macguffin.  Wormhole does this thing only once every half-century or so; it does the thing, and Ben is struck by a sort of electrical discharge which phases him into subspace; he is attached to Jake throughout time; et cetera, et cetera.  All of that is pure gobbledygook designed to facilitate the emotional payoff.  And I'll grant you that the emotional payoff is considerable; but does anything of substance lie at the heart of the Macguffin itself?  Compare this with "The Inner Light," in which Picard's experiences are revealed to be the historical record of a lost civilization; in that episode, the Macguffin is as moving as Picard's experience of it.  The same cannot be said of "The Visitor," in my opinion.

It's unfair to compare the two, and yet I can't help but do so.  "The Inner Light" got to the resolution via a profoundly moving sort of civilization-wide elegy; "The Visitor" got to the resolution via technobabble.  So for me, while the emotional resonance is rich, it is mostly thanks to the performances of Tony Todd, Avery Brooks, and Cirrcoc Lofton; the actual plot is only fitfully resonant.

A few other things worth mentioning:

  • The glimpse at the potential future of Bajoran politics and religion in a post-Emissary reality is interesting.  But would Sisko's death really prompt all that?  It doesn't ring true for me; it seems like a device designed to force Jake into leaving the station.  That said, the scene in which Kira comforts Jake is pretty great.
  • We have another episode in which we get to see Old Man Bashir, and Alexander Siddig plays him well again.  Terry Farrell is also very good as Old Lady Jadzia.
  • Melanie is played by Rachel Robinson, who was the daughter of Garak himself, Andrew Robinson.  I thought she was rather good, but she doesn't have many other credits as an actor.

Bryant's rating:  **** 1/2 / ***** 

Oh, and I forgot to mention in my writeup for "The Way of the Warrior" that they changed the theme music for this season.  It's still the same melody, but a sort of synthy bass line has been added to it to give it a pulsing, actiony feel.  I don't like it at all, and didn't like it back then, either.  The DS9 theme has never worked for me; I've always felt it was boring, motionless, faux-majestic pap.  Adding a bass line doesn't change that, especially since the bass line seems to my ears to be out of tempo with the actual melody.  This doesn't feel like a reworked theme; it feels like a crude mashup of the sort which a third-grader could improve upon in 2020.  In 1995, less so, but that doesn't make it one bit better.


"Hippocratic Oath"
  
  
(season 4, episode 4)
  
airdate:  October 16, 1995
written by:  Nicholas Corea and Lisa Klink (story); Lisa Klink (teleplay)
directed by:  Rene Auberjonois
  
Bashir and O'Brien are fucking around in the Gamma Quadrant for some reason, and get shot down by a group of Jem'Hadar who are trying to liberate themselves from the Vorta.  They put Bashir to work trying to figure out how to get them off Ketracel White, a drug to which they are forcibly addicted as a means of controlling them. 
  
Meanwhile, back at the ranch on the station, Worf has no fucking idea why Quark hasn't been arrested yet.




Honestly, y'all -- I shouldn't even be writing these anymore.  What's the point?  Deep Space Nine isn't for me more often than not, and I can only find so many fresh ways of verbalizing my problems with it.

This week, for example, I've got precious little new to say.  So really, why say anything?  Is there a need for me to complain about how willing Bashir is to simply never think about the Prime Directive?  (I'm assuming it applies; it may not, since the Jem'Hadar are a warp-capable people.)  Is there a need for me to complain about how O'Brien kind of sucks all the way around?  Is there a need for me to fret over the fact that I seem to be incapable of enjoying these characters the way most Trekkies do?  Nope.  Yet here I am.

"Hippocratic Oath" does at least afford me to open a new -- and presumably an about-to-be-ongoing -- avenue of complaint in the form of being distressed over how they treat Worf in this episode.  Or, more specifically, how they use Worf as a tool to enable a good old-fashioned nose-thumbing in the direction of Roddenberrian Trek.  See, this episode opens with Worf asking a question I could not help asking numerous times during the first season: wait, why are we just letting Quark get away with all of this again...?  This makes no sense to Worf.  It made no sense to me, either; I just kind of gave up on the issue, mostly due to how very good Armin Shimerman is in the role of Quark.  But it never magically began making sense; we just all agreed not to worry about it, because Deep Space Nine.

So here Worf is, a walking scream of "WTF" in a red uniform.  He decides to try to do something about it, and is shot down in flames by Odo.  Now, let's be clear: Odo owes Worf no explanations for his methods.  Worf is definitively overstepping his boundaries here, so he's in the wrong.  That doesn't make him wrong, though, you dig?  The point of this subplot is for Worf to be put in a place where the show can point at him and say, "Ohohohoh, look at this Starfleet idiot!  He only knows how things work on a STARSHIP...!  Put him in the REAL world and he's clueless!"  Which is a way of pointing out how clueless Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation can be, as if gritty realism was ever what those shows were about.  This is the equivalent of inviting a chess player over, beating him at arm wrestling, and then shit-posting about it on Facebook.  (Somewhere, somebody is offended that I've seemingly made the assumption that no chess players can be adequate arm wrestlers.  I'll just have to be okay with that, I guess.)

And hey, nobody much remembers that Quark literally got a few people killed in previous episodes, so they?  That blood is on Sisko's hands.  That blood is on Odo's hands.  Worf doesn't want that blood on his own hands if more blood is forthcoming, but apparently that makes him an asshole.

Fuck this show.

This is honestly a pretty decent episode otherwise.  Not really my cup of tea, but it's alright.

Bryant's rating:  *** / *****


"Indiscretion"
  
  
(season 4, episode 5)
  
airdate:  October 23, 1995
written by:  Toni Marberry and Jack Treviño (story); Nicholas Corea (teleplay)
directed by:  LeVar Burton
  
Kira gets a lead on a lost ship she's been looking for for years: the Ravinok, a Cardassian transport which was carrying Bajoran prisoners.  Thanks to political pressure, she is forced to bring along a Cardassian representative: Dukat, who is hoping to find two specific survivors.  Meanwhile, Benjamin freaks out when Kasidy Yates takes a job which will keep her closer to the station.




This episode throws a rather interesting curveball at the audience by revealing that Dukat once upon a time -- during the occupation of Bajor -- had a Bajoran mistress with whom he was in love.  And she, apparently, was in love with him.  At any rate, they had a daughter together: Ziyal, who will go on to be a figure of some moderate importance to this series going forward.

What makes the episode work is the terrific chemistry between Nana Visitor and Marc Alaimo.  They play off each other nicely at every turn, with Kira steadfastly refusing to permit Dukat one bit of respect or kindness but ultimately softening somewhat when she finds a man who is capable of genuine love.  This changes once she learns that his plan is to kill Ziyal, who would probe to be an embarrassment for Dukat and his family should her existence become public knowledge.  Kira vows to stop him by any means necessary.  Hasn't Kira seen The Searchers?  Doesn't she know Dukat will fail to find the resolve to kill this young woman, and will instead tell her he's taking her home?  Well, all's well that ends well, anyways.

You can probably credit director LeVar Burton with at least some of this episode's spark.  It extends not merely to the performances, but also to the location shooting, apparently in the desert; that must have been a real treat for Marc Alaimo under those heavy prosthetics.  He doesn't let it damage his performance one bit, though; that guy must have been a trooper.

The Ben/Kasidy subplot is alright.  Penny Johnson is just as cute as can be here, and while I'm not 100% sure I believe that Ben would have quite as little game as is intimated here, I guess I can live with it.

Bryant's rating:  **** / *****
  

"Rejoined"
  
  
(season 4, episode 6)
  
airdate:  October 30, 1995
written by:  René Echevarria (story); Ronald D. Moore and René Echevarria (teleplay)
directed by:  Avery Brooks
  
One of Dax's former hosts, Torias, was a test pilot who was tragically killed in a shuttle explosion.  His wife's symbiont (Kahn) was devastated, but has long since moved into another host.  Now, thanks to a wormhole experiment, Dax and Kahn are about to meet again within their new hosts.  Thing is, rekindling relationships experienced by former hosts is strictly forbidden by Trill society, so if there's love in the cards, it's a love that dare not speak its name.
  
  
  
  
I can remember watching this episode when it aired and being somewhat put off by it.  It's not that I was opposed to Star Trek injecting lesbian -- bi? pan? queer? (not sure what the proper terminology is here) -- subtext into an episode, it's just that I didn't have the context for appreciating such a thing.  Nor would I begin to have it for many years afterward.  Going my many people's standards, I probably still don't, but I certainly do compared to what I had in 1995.
  
This, of course, is why it's useful for a show like this one to tackle a subject like this one at the time it tackled it.  It was unquestionably a building-block for me in forming my own eventual relative openness to the subject.  In 1995, I was a bit uneasy with it; when I saw it again circa 2007 I thought it was fairly hot; seeing it again in 2020, I still think it's hot, but I also found myself moved by the tragic love story at its core.  If there's anything I'm a sucker for in cinematic language, it's a doomed love story, and so I take it as a bit of a point of pride that one difference between the me of 1995 and the me of now is that I watch this episode and empathize with its characters' plight just as I would if it were a more heteronormative depiction.
  
Ideally, such things just wouldn't matter, right?
  
But as of now, they still do matter, and they certainly mattered in 1995.  With that in mind, it probably has to be admitted that this episode is in some ways very much a piece of propaganda.  I'm not saying that's all it is -- its science-fictiony spin on the topic is too prominent for that to be the case -- but it's certainly part of it.  And for once, I think what we get from Deep Space Nine is an episode Gene Roddenberry might have been proud of.  I suspect he'd have loved to have done this on TNG, and no, not just because he could get a boner from watching dailies.  Probably that, too, but not solely that.  Has the episode been tailored to coerce people like good old 1995 Bryant into contemplating the real-world parallels of the apparently-repressive Trill society?  Absolutely.  I'm not sure it makes a huge amount of sense for the Trills to place strictures of these kind; but so be it, and it HAS been hinted at before in some ways (season 3's "Equilibrium"), so it's fair game.
  
The question is, do I mind that it's all kind of a setup designed to elicit a reaction from me?
  
I don't.  Maybe I should; you can be the judge of that.  But no, I don't.  It's just too damn good an episode for me to get to a cynical standpoint on it.  The acting is terrific, pretty much across the board.  Director Avery Brooks clearly knows how to use his cast, and he puts almost everyone to expert use here:
  
  • Terry Farrell can occasionally seem stiff as Dax.  Not in this episode.  She is subtle, she is heartbreaking, she is exceptional.  And I don't know that she's even been more attractive, which is saying something.
  • Susannah Thompson is a home-run as Lenara Kahn.  Her chemistry with Farrell is immediate and total.  It's strong enough that you feel that these two really might risk their symbionts' lives in order to be with each other.  (Bear in mind, of course, that the symbionts are just as involved in this decision as the hosts are.)
  • Alexander Siddig has some great moments as Julian, especially when he's having dinner with Dax and Kahn.  He's bored to death, and isn't bothering to hide it.  Very funny.  He's also got a few beats where you can see Julian's old crush on Jadzia rearing its head; Siddig doesn't hit those notes hard -- just enough so that if you're a longtime viewer, you know what's up.
  • Armin Shimerman is very, very funny in the scenes where he is trying not to believe in Dax's magic tricks.  It's like he doesn't want to believe what he's seeing and doesn't believe what he's seeing, except he also totally believes it and wishes he actually could believe it for real.  Expertly done, sir.
  • Avery Brooks himself has a few fine moments in which he sympathizes with Dax's plight and tries to advise her.
  • Nana Visitor also has a few good moments as Kira expressing disbelief that anyone would give a crap about peoples' personal lives.  I'm not sure this makes sense from someone who is a member of a religiously-dominated society, but maybe that's my own prejudice rearing its ugly head.  Speaking of ugly, Visitor isn't; she's unspeakably hot in a few moments in this episode, and I'm not sure how or why that is, but I'm glad.
  • Michael Dorn has little to do, but he crushes a scene in which party guests ask him what Klingons' nightmares are like.  Dorn does very well when he's allowed to be playful as Worf.  Dorn does well pretty much no matter what he plays as Worf, granted.  But this scene is especially good.

For me, all of that adds up to make "Rejoined" a classic.  Your mileage may vary.

Bryant's rating:  **** 1/2 / *****


"Starship Down"
  
  
(season 4, episode 7)
  
airdate:  November 6, 1995
written by:  David Mack and John J. Ordover
directed by:  Alexander Singer 
  
While conducting secretive trade negotiations with a race from the Gamma Quadrant, the Defiant is attacked by a pair of Jem'Hadar warships and must battle to survive within the atmosphere of a gas-giant planet.  This prompts a set of more intimate crises for various of the ship's crew.




I'm a little concerned: this is the third straight episode that I've genuinely liked (and one of those, I flat-out loved).  And -- spoiler! -- I know from memory that next week's will make it four straight.  Does this mean I won't be able to keep shitting on Deep Space Nine?!?

Of course not.  It may mean I won't be able to do it as frequently, though, because by this point the series seemed to have finally begun to click, and the result, clearly, was a steady stream of artistically-successful episodes.  More on the way, too; some legit classics, even.  But does this negate the underlying problems that I perceive in the show's very premise(s)?  No ma'am it does not.

Let's not fret about that this week, though, because we once again have a very strong episode on the agenda.

I don't actually have a huge amount to say about it, but let's glance at the key plotlines:

  • Sisko sustains a concession and has internal cranial bleeding, so Kira has to try to keep him conscious while another officer tries to locate medical help.  She tells him stories, natters on about work, and even discusses his role as the Emissary.  The upshot of it all is that she laments the way in which she feels Sisko keeps her at arm's length, and so the episode will end with Benjamin inviting her to go take in a baseball game with him in a holosuite.  She beams from ear to ear, and you feel an important moment has happened between the ostensible leads of the series.
  • Dax and Bashir are trapped with a limited oxygen supply in (more or less) a broom closet.  Julian, in a reversion to his creeper days from season one, reveals that he used to fantasize about being trapped on a runabout with her just so they could spend some time together that she couldn't escape from.  She says he just came on too strong.  Julian is absolutely a Me Too scandal waiting to happen in this episode.  So why am I disappointed that this plotline didn't end with Dax throwing him a hump just to keep him on his toes?  This is wrongthink, I know; but in this particular scenario, I am palpably closer to being Julian than I am to being Jadzia, and I reckon I may as well own it.
  • Quark is stuck in a mess hall with the alien representative from the Gamma Quadrant, played by James Cromwell.  (Cromwell plays the representative, not the actual Gamma Quadrant.  My grammar was lacking there.)  Cromwell accuses Quark of trying to cheat him and his people in the trade negotiations, and he's absolutely correct.  Quark gets blustery about it until he realizes that the other man (Hanok) is shrewd enough to merit actual respect, and so he engages in some impromptu cultural outreach designed to explain the Ferengi lifestyle.  It's relatively plausible, too.  Shimerman and Cromwell are both, predictably, great.
  • Worf, meanwhile, takes command of the ship from Engineering.  He's being pushy and confrontational with O'Brien's team of engineers, so Miles gives him some salient advice on how to get better results with a carrot as opposed to a stick.  Michael Dorn could excel at this sort of thing while in a coma, and as a bonus, Colm Meaney is great playing opposite him, clearly reverting for a time to the Miles O'Brien of the Enterprise-D days.

All of these plotlines are solid individually.  I'd argue that the episode as a whole does not quite add up to a sum of these parts, because it feels like what it almost certainly was: a scenario designed to permit the individual subplots.  But who can get too grumpy about that when you've got a cast this good being put to such strong use?

Bryant's rating:  **** / *****


"Little Green Men"
  
  
(season 4, episode 8)
  
airdate:  November 13, 1995
written by:  Toni Marbury & Jack Treviño (story); Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe (teleplay)
directed by:  James L. Conway
  
Nog is finally shipping out for Starfleet Academy, and Quark decides to put his brand-new shuttle to use ferrying the boy to Earth.  And smuggling some shit.  Rom tags along as engineer and pilot, and Odo stows away as private prick.  Some bullshit happens, the shuttle is thrown back in time to 1947 Earth where it causes the Roswell incident, Quark tries to take over the planet, some more bullshit happens, and they all get back in time safe and sound.  Nog rapes a woman while he's there.




Oh, right.  Now I remember why I sometimes dislike the Ferengi on Deep Space Nine.  This episode!

I actually remembered it as being a highlight, so I'd been looking forward to it.  The rewatch did not prove to be particularly enjoyable, though.  Come with me now as I try to unpack it a bit, and apologies to those of you who are fans.

First of all, it's a very funny idea.  Humor isn't always Trek's thing, but sometimes it kind of is, and in theory this should be one of those times.  I'm hard-pressed to say why the execution is so substandard in comparison to the concept.  Probably it has something to do with all the humor being conceptual, rather than active.  Yes, it's a funny idea for Quark to become stuck centuries in the past on Earth and to immediately decide this is a good thing because he can fleece the entire planet for the suckers they are.  That's ... funny.  Absolutely.  But if it's only an idea, that's all it is; the actual joy would be for it to happen and for it to then somehow have to be undone.  Take the idea to its most extreme logical conclusions: Quark as a Lizard Man or Illuminati type figure, directing the course of human history from a secret location, ferrying his shuttle back and forth to Ferenginar and becoming the director of his home planet's fate.  He becomes the Grand Nagus and perhaps takes over the entire quadrant!  But then, on a technicality of some sort, he's got to go back and undo it all to save his idiot brother's life or whatever.

As is, this is just a collection of amusing asides which go nowhere.  Oh, and Nog rapes a woman.  Rom considers raping her, too, right after his son finishes with her.  You want to stand behind your son in a rape train?!?  Sickening.  (The rape in question is tricking Megan Gallagher -- a year away from her role on Millennium -- into performing oomachs.  Hey, it's a sex act and you're using trickery to make it happen.  That's rape, friends.)

And then there's Odo.  This blank-faced fuckwad sits around doing nothing whatsoever about Quark most of the time.  In fact, his inaction on the subject is used to underline a supposed problem with Worf in one of that character's first DS9 episodes; we're supposed to think Odo's approach to Quark -- and the show's -- is a rational one.  But here he is, arguably exceeding his jurisdiction and then being smug about it.  This asshole can't even accurately portray a Bajoran.  He can accurately create a German Shepherd, though, because that makes sense...

Ridiculous.

Still, the episode does have occasional charming moments, and the farewell scene between Jake and Nog manages to actually be somewhat touching.  But overall, this episode is a big swing and a medium miss for me.

Bryant's rating:  ** 1/2 / *****


"The Sword of Kahless"
  
  
(season 4, episode 9)
  
airdate:  November 20, 1995
written by:  Richard Danus (story); Hans Beimler (teleplay)
directed by:  LeVar Burton
  
Kor has enlisted Dax's help on a quest to find the long-lost Sword of Kahless.  Worf gets roped into the mission as well, and the trio locate the relic on a world in the Gamma Quadrant.  Can they survive the Klingon marauders who are trailing them in the hopes of stealing the sword?  Can they survive each other when bitterness and resentment make their presence known?  Tune in and find out.




I wish I liked this episode.  I don't.  I am closer to hating this episode than liking it.

Truth be told, I think there would only few Klingon-centric episodes which would rank very highly for me among all the TNG-era shows.  "A Matter of Honor" is the first that comes to mind; the two with K'Ehleyr (too lazy to Google the titles) come next.  I like "Barge of the Dead" on Voyager, if that counts.

I am making a distinction between Klingon-centric episodes and Worf-centric episodes which don't delve into Klingon politics.  Again, no title comes to mind, but I dig the Worf episode where he breaks his back and struggles with whether to recover or not; and there's a good one where he allows a Romulan to die rather than help him.  Those, I'm not counting as "Klingon-centric."

"The Sword of Kahless," on the other hand, absolutely is.  And it sucks.  It's well-made; the performances are good (John Colicos and Michael Dorn are expectedly great, but Terry Farrell really shines as Jadzia, too); the setup is interesting.

It falls apart quite badly at some point once Worf and Kor begin arguing over the weapon.  I'd seen the episode before, and as I was rewatching it this time, I misremembered it when I got to the point of Kor deciding to seize the relic for his own uses: I thought I recalled that they found out the weapon had some sort of virus that drove people crazy, thereby explaining why Worf is suddenly a quasi-homicidal maniac.

Nope.  The idea is that the power attached to the sword is a naturally corrupting power; there's no mojo or hex or curse on it, other than the nature of power itself.  And I just cannot buy into the notion of Worf being that easily corrupted.  Maybe Kor; maybe.  But not Worf.  It just doesn't work for me.

And then the episode ends with the trio deciding to just beam the relic out into space, there to float through the nothingness for who knows how long?

Lame.

Bryant's rating:  ** / *****, which seems generous.


"Our Man Bashir"
  
  
(season 4, episode 10)
  
airdate:  November 27, 1995
written by:  Robert Gillan (story); Ronald D. Moore (teleplay)
directed by:  Winrich Kolbe
  
Julian is enjoying a romp in a holosuite when he is interrupted by Garak, who wants to see what it's all about.  What's it all about?  Glad you asked.  It's all about James Bond, except the only J.B. to ever be mentioned is "Julian Bashir."  No 007 here; this is legally-distinct stuff all the way.  Into the midst of this homagery, technobabble results in a number of the remaining cast crew being stored in the holoprogram after a runabout explosion.




Not unlike "Little Green Men," "Our Man Bashir" is a goofy send-up of the conventions of a certain type of genre.  In this case, it's sixties-era spy movies, and if you find yourself wondering why, exactly, that's the sort of thing an episode of Star Trek ought to be doing, you're not alone.

The answer, to the extent there is one, must be that everyone thought Deep Space Nine needed to be more fun.  You will perhaps have noticed that of the opening ten episodes of the fourth season, a decent percentage of them were obviously designed to be romps of one sort or another.  You can't say that of "The Visitor" or or "Rejoined" or "Hippocratic Oath," granted; but you take this episode and "Little Green Men" and then add to them "Indiscretion" (an homage to The Searchers), "Starship Down" (a submarine-style adventure piece), "The Way of the Warrior" (the definition of a would-be blockbuster for series television), and "The Sword of Kahless" (another adventure, this one with high-fantasy tropes), and things do begin to look as if some sort of HAVE MORE FUN studio mandate had been enacted.

On the one hand, mission accomplished.  I'm not a big fan of "Little Green Men," but at worst it's fun; and even "The Sword of Kahless" has its moments.  The rest of them are, bare minimum, pretty good.

But is this Star Trek?  Even more crazily, let me ask this: is this Deep Space Nine?  I ask in the grand scheme of the season to date, not merely in relation to "Our Man Bashir."

I'm on the fence about both of those things.  In the case of the "is this Star Trek" question, I risk being branded a gatekeeper by once again suggesting that in many ways, it isn't.  And then I guess I'm guarding a second, smaller gate within the first one by asking if this season is being true to Deep Space Nine's own self-created approach to Trek.  An odd question to ask, especially in any sort of a negative connotation, given that I disapprove of many aspects of that approach.  And yet, here we are: it seems to me as if the first third or so of the season has made the series more playful, but in a way that edges toward betraying the show's broader goals ... which somehow manages to make it doubly frustrating that those goals were ever in place to begin with.

I think I can sort of make "Our Man Bashir" work for me, though.  I'm a huge James Bond fan -- and stay tuned for more on that -- so in theory, I ought to love this episode simply on those grounds.  Okay, so the cast of Deep Space Nine basically got repurposed for a 007 movie.  Okay, why not?  Good cast; I can respect them wanting to do high-level cosplay.

But the point at which the episode began to actually work for me was the point at which I realized that it had some things to say about Julian as a character.  Let's consider what's going on here: Bashir is running a one-man holosuite program, and Garak intrudes into it.  Then a MASSIVE amount of bullshit happens so as to facilitate the rest of the plot.  So be it; that's the cost of doing business for some episodes like this (see also "Little Green Men").

I don't want to move on from the first stage of the setup, though.  Let's focus on the fact that Bashir is running this Bond-adventure program by himself.  This can't help but remind experienced Trek fans of the sort of thing Reg Barclay might have done on the Enterprise-D; the transporter-accident bullshit here is only a device to get the other characters (Kira, O'Brien, Worf, Sisko, and Dax) into the program in a somewhat organic way -- Barclay would have created versions of them to fill the same roles.  Bashir isn't the hopeless loser Barclay is, granted.  And yet, he's just as isolated.  We can only assume it's on purpose, and I think the reason it's on purpose is because he's embarrassed for anyone else to see whatever it is he's there to do.

The mind immediately leaps to the idea that it's all an elaborate sex-fantasy program.  And that's likely part of it.  Hey, look, let me level with you all: if there were a holodeck, and there were James Bond programs which could be run, you'd better believe I'd use them in that manner.  I apologize for engaging in that level of honesty with you, but that's just how it is.  And in no way do I think I'd be the only person using holodecks in that manner; I think very few people would refrain from using holodecks in that manner.

Maybe that would be less true in the 24th century.  Maybe it would actually be MORE true; the assumption is that the psychological hangups we have today will be mostly gone by the time Star Trek happens, so it might be that people would own right up to the fact that they like to fuck holograms.  I mean, why wouldn't they?

Be all of that as it may -- and there's ample room for debate on the subject -- I think it's clear that Julian is embarrassed by something here.  Otherwise he'd have Miles in on the fun; or maybe Garak would have been invited, rather than having to resort to crashing the party.  Is it strictly the sex aspect?  Bashir certainly seems annoyed for Garak to show up and cockblock him at the beginning; but annoyance and embarrassment are two different things, and to be fair, I'm not sure we ever actually SEE any embarrassment from Julian; I'm seeing it because I'm assuming it to be there.

Is it?  I absolutely think so.  And in wondering what has brought it to that point for Julian, I find myself thinking about why the James Bond character is such a male-wish-fulfillment icon.  Hint: it ain't just the sex.  I'm unconvinced that the sexual aspects are even the most important.  They never have been for me; it's related, but not of primary importance.  So what is?

Confidence.  Plain and simple (just like Garak).  The thing about Bond which appeals to many men is that he's confident in EVERY situation.  Doesn't matter what.  Facing down imminent death?  Not a problem; he's got it under control.  Questioned by an expert on obscure facts about brandy?  Not a problem; he's got it under control.  Under the gun at the card table?  Not a problem; he's got it under control.

I myself have so little confidence that -- and I'm not making this up -- I'll sometimes refrain from visiting a store I've never been to if I'm unfamiliar with how to get into the parking lot.  Sometimes I power through it and figure it out; sometimes I don't.  I'm not saying that when I do I think What Would James Bond Do ... but I'm not NOT saying it, either, you know?  Bottom line: 007 would not have that problem.  And so when I watch a good James Bond movie (or even a bad one), it's like looking into an alternate reality where the point-of-view character knows precisely what to do at all times.

This does inevitably result in getting the girl(s).  And yes, that's a subset of the appeal.  But it's a side effect, not the entirety of the appeal.

I risk further embarrassment of my own by revealing that I remain more drawn to the romantic aspect of the Bond-girl side of things than to the purely carnal aspects.  Do I want to fuck those Bond girls?  In the hypothetical sense of things, I surely do.  But only as a subset of the romantic-chase part of things.  I want to be in an expensive restaurant with them, saying witty things with a gleam in my eye in response to their challenges; I want to go to exotic locations with them and see exotic things; I want to be confident and inspire confidence.  Man, who doesn't?
 
I think that's what Julian is after in running that program.  It's a thing he completely lacks, except in some aspects of his work.  And he recently suffered a major setback in that realm ("Hippocratic Oath") which was arguably followed by two weeks worth of relapse failures in his love for Jadzia ("Rejoined" and "Starship Down").  Ah, now we're getting somewhere!  I've got empathy for Julian's pursuit of Jadzia; that's the sort of thing my life has been all about.  Yes, it's creepy; yes, it's pathetic and hopeless.  Doesn't keep it from happening, and judge all you want; if you don't know the pain of that sort of thing, you're ill-equipped to reach a valid judgment.  Ever been in love with a woman and had her show up dressed up nicer than normal, smelling wonderful, but because she's trying to impress and attract someone who isn't you?  I do not recommend it.  These are moments which haunt one.

My feeling is that that's what's going on with Julian in this episode.  He's playacting to try and get himself over the freshly-reopened yearnings he feels for Jadzia.  It's not working, either, because how could it?  Even a realistic 007 adventure wherein one gets to screw the Bond girls would be ultimately a very hollow experience ("Hollow Pursuits," Reg Barclay, citation made!).  From this point of view, the shallowness and thinness of what we actually see almost works FOR the episode rather than against it; this is kind of shite as a Bond homage, but that sort of amplifies the mirroring of Bashir's mood.

It is pretty shite as a Bond homage, though.  And the level of technobabble-related bullshit we have to endure in order to make the setup plausible is just appalling.  Surely there was a more graceful way to do all of that.  If so, Ronald D. Moore did not find it in his teleplay.  I'm all for tomfoolery and the having of fun, but I'd prefer it to be graceful; this is not that.

Bryant's rating:  *** / *****

And now, we're going to do something (hopefully) fun.  We're going to borrow a system from one of my other blogs and have an impromptu version of:




If you are unfamiliar with You Only Blog Twice (and that's likely), it's a venue where I reviewed all the Bond movies using a quasi-scientific method.  I won't bother to explain that method, because I'm about to deploy it and rank "Our Man Bashir" as I would a James Bond film.

Apologies for how daffy my Double-0 Rating System is; it's in need of heavy revamping, but that shan't happen today.

(1)  Bond ... James Bond




Alexander Siddig is a fundamentally good actor, and of the various cast members of Deep Space Nine, I suppose he was the best-suited to play James Bond simply on the basis of his Britishness.  He's not actually playing James Bond, of course; the character is never named that.  And even so, Siddig is playing Julian Bashir playing James Bond.  But close enough; we're running with it.






I think Siddig acquits himself relatively well.  He doesn't have a strong enough physical presence (nor a deep enough voice, in my opinion) to actually make a serious run at it, but otherwise, he kind of carries it off.  And remember, he's actually playing Bashir in a convincing-himself-he's-a-hero manner.  As that, I think Siddig does nicely. 

Points awarded: I can't honestly go higher than 003/007, but I'd kind of like to.  And hey, you know what just occurred to me?  How utterly unimportant Siddig's race is.  The episode doesn't care about it one bit, and that would probably still be considered forward-thinking in 2020; in 1995, it's damn near revolutionary.  Trek back when it used to occasionally have some subtle swagger; man, I miss those days.


(2)  SPECTRE

Main Villain:  Unless you want to make a claim for this designation going to the unseen Cardassian terrorists who sabotaged the runabout, I think Dr. Hippocrates Noah has to count as the main baddie for this one.  He is played by a transporter pattern of Benjamin Sisko, who is played by Avery Brooks.




Dr. Noah's plan is to flood the Earth using a series of 78 earthquake-inducing lasers which will turn the peak of Mt. Everest into an island.  He's gathered -- not that we see a one of 'em -- dozens of the world's preeminent thinkers at his lair so they can populate the world again in a more orderly manner.

That's a decent enough karaoke of a James Bond plot, I guess, and it must have been fun for Avery Brooks to get to play the baddie.  I think he's awful at it.






I'll be tarred and feathered for suggesting it, but I feel that Avery Brooks is not always the best actor in the world.  When he's on, he's terrific; and he's on relatively frequently, assuming the screenwriters of this series remember to give him anything worth a crap to do.  They don't always.

But sometimes even when they do, Brooks goes into a series of weird tics and gesticulations and odd breathing choices.  When he does this, I tend to dislike him rather intensely.  And there's a lot of that in this episode.

Points awarded (Main Villain):  I'll be more generous than I want to be and go with 002/007.

Henchmen:  Apart from a few stuntmen who have no dialogue (and no screen charisma), the only notable henchmen are Falcon and Duchamp.


Falcon, as played by a transporter pattern of Miles O'Brien


Duchamp, as played by a transporter pattern of Worf, son of Mogh


There's little to be said about either.  Colm Meaney seems to be trying to have some fun, but Falcon sucks kind of hard.  Michael Dorn isn't bad, but he does seem ill at ease; he sounds more like Worf than like a different person.  You might think that's the point, but it isn't; "Worf" is merely a visual overlay of the actual holo-program Bashir has created, so Dorn honestly needed to make some different choices.  Not a big deal; but not nothing, either.  Dorn does look fantastic in a white tux, though, so there's that.

Points awarded (Henchmen):  001/007

Total points awarded (SPECTRE):  001.5/007


(3)  The Bond Girls


Main Bond Girl:  Well, what's a Bond story without some Bond babes, right?  It's open for debate as to who should be considered the main Bond girl for this episode, but I'm going with Colonel Anatasia Komananov, as played by a transporter pattern of Major Kira Nerys, as played by Nana Visitor.








Visitor's Russian accent is atrocious, but hey, it's no worse than Barbara Bach's; quite a bit better, if anything.  And Visitor looks fetching in a negligee, so that's pretty cool.  But Anastasia really doesn't do anything much; she's almost entirely there just to be eye candy, and while that's true of a handful of the major Bond girls, it's not THIS true of ... any of them?

Points awarded (Main Bond Girl): 002/007

Secondary Bond Girls:  We'll start with Dr. Honey Bare, as played by a transporter pattern of Jadzia Dax, as played by Terry Farrell.




In my personal opinion, Terry Farrell at this point in time was absolutely hot enough -- and good enough -- to have played a legit Bond girl.  If you look at the above photo and find yourself thinking "Dr. Christmas Jones" and sighing an ah-if-only sigh, then you, sir, are not alone.  She'd have been both better and sexier in that role than Denise Richards was.

Honey Bare is an awful, awful character name, though.  Worse even than Christmas Jones.  Bashir has to convince her she's hot, which is how he avoids getting killed.





Is it odd that Julian's not-even-vaguely-secret passion for Jadzia doesn't play a larger role in this episode?  The story seems off-balance to me as a result; there was an opportunity here, and it was missed.

Elsewhere, we get these two lovelies:


Melissa Young as Caprice

Marci Brickhouse as Mona Lovesitt


They both look like ladies who could admirably have filled out smaller Bond-girl roles (the one-scene types, like hotel clerks and whatnot) in actual Bond movies.  Brickhouse has an interesting energy as Mona, who is not really a Moneypenny type buts seems to be some type; maybe she's an homage to some other sixties spy-flick character.

By the way, here's Marci Brickhouse as Marci Brickhouse:




Lordy.

Points awarded (Secondary Bond Girls):  003/007

Total points awarded (The Bond Girls): 002.5/007


(4)  "Oh, James..."

Action/Stunts:  Not much, but how could there be on a nineties-television budget?  There's a glass stunt at the beginning, and then Bashir shoots a guy with a wine-bottle cork, and later he shoots Garak.  Oh, and there's a standard-issue fistfight.






Points awarded (Action/Stunts):  The cork gag is actually kind of clever.  I'll be generous and go with 002/007.


Points awarded (Editing): Well, in the true You Only Blog Twice tradition, I paid zero attention to the editing.  We'll just go with 003/007.

Costumes/Makeup:  Nothing special, but the tuxes look legit, and Anastasia has a nice dress.  Dr. Noah's Nehru outfit is kind of lame, though.


Should I count the Cardassian, Klingon, and Ferengi makeup appliances?  Maybe; it hadn't occurred to me until just now.



Points awarded (Costumes/Makeup):  You know what?  I'll be generous here and go with 004/007.

Points awarded (Locations): n/a

Total points awarded ("Oh, James..."):  003/007


(5)  Q Branch

Bond's Allies:  The main one, of course, is Garak.




The Bashir/Garak relationship is an interesting one.  You could almost make a claim that Garak deserved consideration for the Main Villain designation; after all, the story does more or less come down to Bashir having to defeat Garak.  But I think we're meant to feel he's more of an ally; and his cynical attitudes, once adopted by Bashir, do buy them enough time for Rom to complete the repairs and save the day.

Speaking of which:




I rather like Max Grodenchik as Rom in this episode.  He's arguably the Q of the story, and he's got at least one good moment of comedy ("it's behind the spatula").

Also counting as allies: Odo, Quark, and Eddington, all of whom prove to be stalwart enough.

Points awarded (Bond's Allies):  004/007

Direction:  The episode was directed by Trek veteran Winrich Kolbe, and he does a fine job.  There are a few visual touches which indicate that he's seen a Bond movie or two in his time.





Points awarded (Direction):  It's nothing special, but I think it's better than not.  004/007, says I.

Points awarded (Cinematography):  002/007; flat, like most episodes of Trek from this era.

Art Direction:  There are several sets which do a better job of homaging Bond movies than you'd expect.  None of them are special, but they get the job done.







And I rather like the room in Dr. Noah's lair which looks outside:





Reminds me (probaby accidentally) a bit of a room from Hitchock's The 39 Steps:




Points awarded (Art Direction):  004/007


Points awarded (Special Effects):  Tough to know how to assess this one.  There aren't a ton of effects (methinks the sets took most of the budget), so I think we'll go with an n/a and not grade this category.

Points awarded (Gadgets):  I guess Dr. Noah's hidden maproom counts, and Duchamp's trick cigar definitely counts.  Not for a whole lot, though; feels like the episode could have done more here.  001/007

Opening-Title Sequence:  For obvious reasons, it's not Bondian, but there IS a title sequence:











Points awarded (Opening-Title Sequence):  I've never been a big fan of this title sequence, especially compared to those on most of the other Trek series.  But it's not bad.  Am I cheating by even giving a grade here?  If so, guilty; 003/007.

Total points awarded (Q Branch):  003/007


(6)  Mission Briefing

Points off for not knowing (or maybe just not caring) that the 1967 Casino Royale had already done a "Dr. Noah."  That bothered me; you can't steal from another parody when making your own parody, guys.

I'm kind of out of steam on this side project, so we'll skip straight to points awarded, and say 002/007.

But not before I toss in an acknowledgment that this episode's title is a riff on Our Man Flint, which is not a Bond movie.  Hey, I remembered!  I figured I'd forget.


(7)  The Music


Points awarded (Title Song):  There's no title song, so I'm going to grade the DS9 theme, specifically the fourth-season remix.  002/007
 
Points awarded (The Score):  003/007, because Jay Chattaway does a decent job of making his music sound like a loving homage to sixties John Barry.  And toward the end, he even manages to pull off a Barryesque interpolation of Dennis McCarthy's DS9 theme music!  I applaud the effort, and kind of feel bad for not giving a slightly better score.

Total points awarded (The Music):  002.5/007


Double-0 Rating for "Our Man Bashir":  A below-average 002.5/007.  But you know what?  That's respectable, for what this is.  For reference, it places "Our Man Bashir" above both Tomorrow Never Dies AND The World Is Not Enough, and while I know that's ludicrous, I kind of stand by it.  It's also above the aforementioned 1967 Casino Royale, Never Say Never Again, Diamonds Are Forever, and all the Ian Fleming biopics, not to mention James Bond Jr.  It comes in just behind the Climax! episode based on Casino Royale, which is an iffy result.

Bottom line: it's a loving homage to Bond movies.  It's worth remembering that GoldenEye had come out only a couple of weeks prior to this, so everyone was celebrating having a Bond movie for the first time in a long time.  Not sure that's a Trekian thing to do, but I'll confess that it's kind of nice to know that in this version of the future, people still enjoy the exploits of 007.

And if I could play James in a holodeck version of, oh, From Russia With Love, let's say ... I would absolutely do that.

Do yourself a favor and don't interrupt me.


"Homefront"
  
  
(season 4, episode 11)
  
airdate:  January 1, 1996
written by:  Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe
directed by:  David Livingston
  
A conference with the Romulans is bombed on Earth, killing 27 people and prompting major security concerns within Starfleet once it is discovered that a Changeling was involved.  Sisko is recalled to Earth to serve as Acting Head of Starfleet Security, and Odo accompanies him as an advisor.  While on Earth, Ben visits his father, Joseph, who runs a restaurant.




I rewatched this on March 23, 2020, during the second week of the COVID-19 crisis in America.  That's on more or less everyone's mind, including my own prone-to-escapism one, so maybe I'm imposing meanings upon this episode which aren't truly there.  The parallels felt uncanny at times, though; I probably should have made a list of them.  They range from Quark talking with haunted eyes (in what's supposed to be an amusingly ironic scene) about a financial collapse on Ferenginar to discussions of mandatory blood tests to invocations of martial law to pleas with a President to declare a state of emergency to exhortations about refusing to surrender one's civil liberties just because it's allegedly for the good of the herd.  There's a general sense of nothing being the same anymore, and of fear having been the primary tool by which a wedge has been driven into a tender spot.

The next episode, which is part two of this two-parter, is titled "Paradise Lost."  So I guess that's kind of an indication of where things are going, at least on Deep Space Nine.

As I say with aggravating frequency, the concepts of Deep Space Nine are not always to my liking.  And if I remember "Paradise Lost" correctly, that's going to be the case with next week's episode.

Looking at this week's episode on its own, though, I think it works quite well.  It was extra impactful thanks to the real-world circumstances raging around me, which might mean that I'm overvaluing what I found here.  I don't think so, though; I think this is fairly strong stuff, and that the people who made it found a way to bring the darkness of Deep Space Nine home to Earth without completely sacrificing the utopian ideals which form the backbone of the larger body of work which is Star Trek.

The most notable guest star is Brock Peters, who plays Benjamin's father.  Now, that's kind of weird, because Sisko referred to his father being dead at least once -- and I think it's actually twice -- in previous episodes.  I suppose one can reconcile that by saying that the father he was referring to in those scenes was a stepfather or something; or maybe -- hey, 2020 me kind of likes this idea! -- Joseph was bisexual and married another man at some point.  So this sudden appearance of Sisko Sr. doesn't have to be bullshit; but let's face it, it's kind of bullshit.

I do like Peters in the role, though.  When I think of Brock Peters, I think of the role he played as Admiral Cartwright in Star Trek IV and Star Trek VI.  Specifically, I think of The Undiscovered Country; even more specifically, I think of my late friend Hannibal, who loved Admiral Cartwright as a child because he saw a strong, forthright Admiral who looked a bit like he himself looked ... and who then found himself feeling profoundly hurt when Cartwright turned out to be a traitor to Starfleet in The Undiscovered Country.  Yet another reason to dislike that movie.

But that's no reason to dislike this episode.  (THIS episode...)

Bryant's rating:  **** / *****


"Paradise Lost"
  
  
(season 4, episode 12)
  
airdate:  January 8, 1996
written by:  Ronald D. Moore (story); Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe (teleplay)
directed by:  Reza Badiyi
  
Sisko discovers a discrepancy in the records pertaining to Red Squad, the elite team of cadets.  He finds out that they, under the orders of Leighton and Benteen, executed a false-flag operation which disabled the power on Earth.  From here, Sisko learns that Leighton is engineering an effort to place all of Earth under the martial control of Starfleet, so as to better guard against the Dominion.




One can find examples of duplicitous and otherwise untrustworthy Starfleet personnel -- especially Admirals -- going all the way back to TOS.  I am aware of this, and I'm similarly aware that what that means is that an episode like "Paradise Lost" is therefore consistent with Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek.

I concede that point.

However, I don't accept it as a plot point.  I just don't.  I'd hoped to be eloquent -- or at least coherent -- on the subject of why that is, but such is not in the cards for me today, it seems.  So I'll simply settle for saying that this is a relatively entertaining episode; that Avery Brooks' odd, stilted delivery is becoming more worrisome; and that if this many members of Starfleet can be corrupted this fully, Starfleet isn't what I need Starfleet to be.

Maybe that's my problem and not Deep Space Nine's.  Either way,

Bryant's rating:  ** 1/2 / *****


"Crossfire"
  
  
(season 4, episode 13)
  
airdate:  January 29, 1996
written by:  René Echevarria
directed by:  Les Landau
  
A former resistance associate of Kira's shows up on the station in his capacity as Bajoran First Minister.  Odo learns of a credible rumor of a planned assassination attempt by the Cardassian terrorist organization the True Way, and beefs up security.  This gives him plenty of first-hand opportunity to witness a burgeoning romance between Kira and Shakaar, which is unfortunate: Odo himself is in love with Kira.




Confession time: I'm probably as fond of this episode as I am thanks to my own (very much ongoing) struggles with unrequited feelings.  They are powerful enough that they actually make me care about Odo for one of the first times in this episode.  I don't dislike him as a character, exactly; but I've almost never empathized with him.

Well, I empathize with him -- and then some -- here.  Rene Auberjonois plays the hell out of it from all angles: the biting pain of unpleasant surprise, the anger, the giddy anticipation of some treasured moment, the elation of receiving an unexpected (if misinterpreted) compliment, and, most of all, the despairing pain of witnessing your object of affection demonstrate for someone else the feelings you most wish they would demonstrate for you.

Brutal stuff, if you've been there.  And most people have, of course.  There's nothing special about Odo in that regard, and there's damn sure nothing special about me.  It's one of the things I consider to be among the key failures of my own life, though, so seeing it dramatized here in fairly resonant fashion kind of made for 45 minutes of uncomfortable viewing.  Familiar, too.

Apart from that, I still think it's a strong episode of the series.  MOST people who watch the show love Odo, and so I think most people will probably feel a tremendous amount of sympathy for him here, especially since he ultimately chooses the high road in making his decisions.  (I'm more of a middle-road guy, myself; and that's at best.)

Maybe even better than that is the terrific relationship between Odo and Quark, which is played expertly by both Auberjonois and Armin Shimerman.  I'm not sure it really makes all that much sense that the two would end up becoming friends -- albeit unacknowledged ones -- but I'm equally unsure Odo, a liquid, would develop romantic feelings for Kira, a solid.  Strange things happen in life, I guess.  That being the case, can I accept these developments?  Sure!  Why not?

Bryant's rating:  **** / *****


"Return to Grace"
  
  
(season 4, episode 14)
  
airdate:  February 5, 1996
written by:  Tom Benko (story); Hans Beimler (teleplay)
directed by:  Jonathan West
  
Kira is tasked with attending a conference on a planet in the Cardassian system, and is taken there by Gul Dukat aboard his freighter (he having recently been demoted to such a position thanks to the scandal with his illegitimate daughter).  When they arrive they discover the outpost has been utterly destroyed by a cloaked Klingon warship, and the two of them collaborate on a plot to get vengeance for those who were killed.




So Dukat's deal, I guess, is that he's totally hot for Kira and will do anything to impress her.  Sadly, I kind of get that impulse; and guys, I don't think I'm supposed to watch this episode -- or probably any episode -- and find myself empathizing with Dukat.  And I don't, not really.  It's just closer than I'd like for it to be.

This is a pretty good episode, but it's weighed down for me by my continued resentment of the undoing of the alliance with the Klingons.  Not into it, folks.  Not into it one bit.  The Kira/Dukat scenes are good, though, and I like her relationship with Tziyal as well.  Marc Alaimo, as always, is great as Dukat.

Bryant's rating:  *** / *****


"Sons of Mogh"
  
  
(season 4, episode 15)
  
airdate:  February 12, 1996
written by:  Ronald D. Moore
directed by:  David Livingston
  
Worf's brother, Kurn, visits the station with a complaint and a demand: a complaint that Worf, in choosing to turn his back on Gowron, brought dishonor to their family; and a demand that Worf assist him in killing himself so that Kurn's honor may be restored.




This is a pretty good, though unexceptional, moral-dilemma episode of Star Trek in which Kurn asserts his right to die and ropes his brother into helping him make that happen.  Worf's usually a good choice as focal point for a moral-dilemma episode; he's such a hardliner in most aspects of life that his involvement brings a different energy than you often get.

I don't know that "Sons of Mogh" distinguishes itself in that regard, though.  I'll take either of the TNG episodes currently coming to mind (the one where he lets the Romulan die and the one in which he is paralyzed and wants to die himself).  And I can't help but feel that Kurn's essential dilemma here must surely have a better Klingon-centric solution than for him to just be killed in a ritual.  Wouldn't Kurn restore more of his honor if he went out and got killed in some sort of "glorious" battle?  Having your brother kill you while you just stand there and get an o-face over it doesn't seem that honorable to me.

The resolution, in which Kurn's mind is wiped and he effectively becomes a different person, is kind of interesting.  Michael Dorn plays the final scene well.  I mean, duh.  Of course he does.  Side note: Babylon 5 had done a vaguely similar episode a few weeks prior to this -- "Passing Through Gethsemane," in which Brad Dourif is a sweet monk who was a serial killer once upon a time, and who got a new life after being mind-wiped as punishment for his crimes.  "Sons of Mogh" is the better production, but "Passing Through Gethsemane" has better ideas.  They both have superb guest stars, in Tony Todd and Brad Dourif.

[I don't normally do any sort of back-and-forth with the Mission Log podcast in writing these reviews, which I always do before I listen to their analysis.  However, in this case, I feel like I ought to mention that they really took the episode to task for having Worf and Dax decide to mind-wipe Kurn without his approval.  I missed this aspect, somehow; I think I must have fallen asleep for a while.  That does indeed seem like a rather unforgivable plot point, and so I'm deducting a point from the grade I initially gave.]

The best part of "Sons of Mogh" is possibly the opening scene in which Worf and Dax train together.  These two are gonna fuck any second now.  Michael Dorn and Terry Farrell have terrific chemistry; comparatively, the rest of the episode is a bit of a letdown.  But it's not bad.

Bryant's rating:  ** / *****


"Bar Association"
  
  
(season 4, episode 16)
  
airdate:  February 19, 1996
written by:  Barbara J. Lee and Jennifer A. Lee (story); Robert Hewitt Wolfe and Ira Steven Behr (teleplay)
directed by:  LeVar Burton
  
When he passes out due to an ear infection that went untreated for weeks thanks to his not being able to take time off from work, Rom decides enough is enough and follows a casual suggestion Julian makes: he talks his co-workers at Quark's into forming a union, and they go on strike.  This is a deeply problematic move within Ferengi culture, and it brings swift pushback from the Ferengi Commerce Authority, represented by Liquidator Brunt.
  
Meanwhile, Worf is increasingly tired of life on the station, and moves his quarters to the Defiant.


This sarcastic look of horrified surprise cracked me up and is an especially fine moment from Armin Shimerman.


This is a relatively amusing episode, but in the end I think it fails to work, because it fails to make any sort of clear-cut choice as to how serious an issue it is within Ferengi culture for Rom to do what he does.  We're told that such labor actions are unheard of, ostensibly because all Ferengi labor contracts are the same.  If that's so, then I'm not sure I buy the idea that Brunt would allow any of the strikers to get away with what they are doing.  He threatens them with liquidation and ruin, and tells them that if they were on Ferenginar there's a good chance he would have them all killed.  That's pretty serious, and that threat more or less matches with the idea that the FCA simply will not tolerate labor actions.

So ... why does Brunt tolerate this one?  Clearly, it's because if he doesn't, there's no episode.  The screenplay establishes stakes which it immediately backs down from, and then, even worse, it permits Quark to cave in to Rom's demands.  I'm not saying I'm on Quark's side here; I'm not.  But wouldn't the FCA be even more hardline in its response to Quark when it finds out -- which it assuredly would -- that he gave in to their demands?  That he effectively encouraged other disgruntled Ferengi -- who will assuredly hear about this whole thing -- to take similar actions?

If you commit to that idea, there's a story there, one in which Quark and his employees are effectively seceding from Ferengi society in order to run their business as they see fit.  You can go someplace with that.  But the idea here is that Quark gives in so it will all be over, and that he will sweep it all under the rug by hiding it from the FCA.  So many other people are involved, however, that this is simply not plausible.  So none of this works from a storytelling standpoint.  It's kind of fun because Armin Shimerman and Max Grodenchik give pretty good performances, as does the always-great Jeffrey Combs, returning as Brunt; but it's a bunch of inconsistent nonsense, if you ask me.

I actually prefer the subplot, in which Worf decides the station sucks ass and moves to the Defiant.  There's not much there, but it does at least seem consistent with who Worf is.

I guess I'll add a note about how this is essentially the first significant role for Chase Masterson as Leeta.  She's alright.  She's part of the punchline to a gross joke in which it is revealed that Rom's ear infection came from his beating off too often; she says she's sorry to hear about that, and he asks if she's sorry enough to beat him off so he doesn't have to go solo anymore.  Uh, gross, dude.  (It's all coded as oomox, but they ain't fooling nobody.  That's just code for jerking it.)

Bryant's rating:  *** / *****, which is probably a bit generous.


"Accession"
  
  
(season 4, episode 17)
  
airdate:  February 26, 1996
written by:  Jane Espenson
directed by:  Les Landau
  
A Bajoran poet who has been lost inside the wormhole for over two hundred years shows up in his busted ship, and announces that he is the Emissary.  Sisko is more than happy to relinquish the position at first, but when the new guy's proclamations begin causing problems, the two of them visit the Prophets to find out who is the true Emissary.
  
Meanwhile, Keiko returns to the station, disrupting Miles's routines.




This episode was written by Jane Espenson, who would later write quite well on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Battlestar Galactica, among other shows.  She's a talented screenwriter, and she does pretty well with this episode, too.  It's by no means a home run, but it's rarely less than engaging.

Avery Brooks is good here; you can feel how conflicted Sisko is, and then he gets to be conflicted about being conflicted, and then determined to not be any of those things anymore.  If anything, Nana Visitor is even better; you can feel Kira's dismay at following a new path for which she is wholly unsuited, but she never plays things as if Kira is shirking what she sees as her duty -- she accepts it immediately, albeit with a very heavy heart.  These things feel true to the characters, and gives it resonance that it might have lacked if Espenson had written with a heavier hand or from a more melodramatic standpoint.

One thing I'll point out: if you're keeping track in any way of the occasional overlaps between Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5, Sisko hearing Kai Opaka repeatedly ask "Who are you?" is very reminiscent of some stuff from B5.

The best scene of the episode, in my opinion, comes when there is a callback to Worf having delivered Keiko and Miles's baby way back in an episode of The Next Generation.  That was some five years prior to this, and I applaud Espenson for reaching that deep into continuity for a joke.

Keiko, by the way, has told Miles she is pregnant again, so Worf is nervous and decides to be elsewhere in seven months.  Less funny: Miles's reaction to being told Keiko is newly pregnant.  His immediate reaction is one of disappointment at not being able to spend more time fucking Keiko in an attempt to make the pregnancy happen.  I have no idea why these two are together.

Bryant's rating:  *** / *****


"Rules of Engagement"
  
  
(season 4, episode 18)
  
airdate:  April 8, 1996
written by:  David Weddle & Bradley Thompson (story); Ronald D. Moore (teleplay)
directed by:  LeVar Burton
  
Worf is commanding the Defiant when he gives an order that leads to the accidental destruction of a civilian vessel.  Sisko must represent him during a hearing which will determine whether he is remanded to the Klingons to stand trial.




This is a fairly straightforward courtroom-drama episode, and while I don't think it is a home run, exactly, it's a solid hour.  The idea of tension between the Klingon approach to lawyering and the Starfleet approach is interesting.  Ron Canada does a terrific job in a guest-star role as the Klingon advocate against Worf.  Michael Dorn mainly has to sulk in a semi-guilty manner, which he excels at; Avery Brooks is solid, as well.

The most interesting aspect of the episode is probably the fact that while Worf is exonerated -- spoiler alert, it was all a frame job and nobody actually died in the attack -- he is nevertheless guilty after a fashion because he breached protocol in giving the order that caused the problem.  It didn't result in deaths, but the point is that it could have.

This reminds me of a time at work -- back when I had a job -- when I was doing some cash pulls from registers.  I had the cash in a bank bag and got stopped by a customer issue and put the bank bag in an unsecured drawer (a better option than standing there holding it).  All fine, but then I got distracted by something else and walked away, leaving gobs of twenties just kind of sitting around where anyone in the vicinity who happened to open that drawer would have seen the bag and could have taken it.  None of our employees would have done that and there was a security camera right overhead anyways, but still; the fact that it all worked out wasn't the point, the point was that I left a mess of cash unattended for the better part of an hour.

Lesson learned.

I appreciated the fact that Worf took his own lesson very much to heart here without having to be browbeaten into it.

Bryant's rating:  **** / *****


"Hard Time"
  
  
(season 4, episode 19)
  
airdate:  April 15, 1996
written by:  Daniel Keys Moran and Lynn Barker (story); Robert Hewitt Wolfe (teleplay)
directed by:  Alexander Singer
  
O'Brien is found guilty of a crime by an alien species and is sentenced to twenty years of prison time, all of which is served in his own mind within a matter of mere minutes.  When he returns home, he is a broken man and hallucinates visitations from a cellmate who was with him most of his incarceration.




This is a pretty good episode that is a variation on the theme presented in the significantly-better TNG episode "The Inner Light" -- what if technology could realistically simulate living years in a matter of seconds?

Confession: I keep hoping my life is a simulation and that one of these days somebody is going to shut it off and I'll sit up from some table blinking a lot.  I'll be fifteen years old again and some dude will say, "And now you have completed your Adult Training course.  Did you learn anything?"  I'll say, "Boy, did I?" and probably immediately begin forgetting it.

So, yeah.  This episode isn't that, and that's part of my problem with it.  At no point does it feel as if Miles is actually glad to be back to reality.  I'm not the world's biggest O'Brien fan, so that's coloring my feelings, but ... damn, guy, could you not look at least a little glad to see your wife and daughter?  I suspect that if I (in the scenario where I'm married and had a daughter) were flung in prison for twenty years, I'd spend much of that time eating myself alive missing my wife and child and worrying about them and fantasizing about them and making up stories about what they were doing without me.  Behind all of that would be a tremendous sense of loss at being deprived of that life.

Let's say I then got that life back, with the incredible -- literally incredible -- bonus of finding out that no time had actually passed, and I had not actually been deprived of those years at all.  Now, I'm not saying that there wouldn't still be trauma and PTSD to get over, but it doesn't fly for me that O'Brien doesn't absolutely break down with tortured joy to find Keiko and Molly still living as he has almost certainly been dreaming about them for what to him seems like twenty goddamn fucking years.  There's an off-the-charts level of cathartic wish fulfillment there, and this episode is not even vaguely interested in it.  It's more interested in focusing on the bad instead of the good.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Deep Space Nine.

"When we were growing up," says Miles to Julian toward the end of the episode, speaking of a violent action he took while serving his sentence, "they used to tell us humanity had evolved, that mankind had outgrown hate and rage.  When it came down to it -- when I had the chance to show that no matter what anyone did to me, I was still an evolved human being -- I failed.  I repaid kindness with blood.  I was no better than an animal."

Julian corrects him, insisting that an animal would have never had a second thought; would never have shed a tear (as O'Brien has been doing while saying these words).  He's talking Miles out of killing himself, and says that if he pulls the trigger, he's giving his captors a victory; he's allowing them to succeed in stripping him of his humanity.

Bashir's end of this makes sense, and is intended to be the moral at the end of the story.  I guess it works alright, but I don't think it negates any of what O'Brien is saying.  And within the broader context of the series, I think Deep Space Nine leans a lot closer to agreeing with O'Brien than to refuting his words.  After all, despite the fact that the events were only happening in Miles's brain, he did consciously choose to kill the person he killed; he was broken by his captivity, and by hunger, and he lashed out in rage-filled violence.  O'Brien is right: at the bottom of things, stripped of the comforts of his society, he had not outgrown hate and rage at all, he had merely suppressed them.  And afterward, he proves to be able to suppress them again and return to a normal existence, sure.  But we all know the truth now.  Take away the replicators and the soft living and eventually, he'll turn into a savage again.

This is what you choose to do in telling a Star Trek story?  I'm not saying the sentiment is incorrect.  I myself believe that humans are inherently savage, and that we all have the potential for murder within us, and must suppress it on a daily basis; moment by moment, even.  For the vast majority of us, it's not really that much of a struggle; good thing, too!  But yeah, that's what I believe, so can I be hypocritical enough to be offended that a Star Trek screenplay apparently believes the same thing.

You are God damn right I can.  At its best, Star Trek points a way to a better reality.  A better version of this episode would have involved the aliens knowingly trying to force Miles into breaking and turning savage, and him defying their efforts at every turn.  In the end, we'd have found out how close he came to breaking, and how haunted he is by it, but Julian would have pointed out the obvious to him: that he didn't break.  He kept his humanity, because humanity is strong.

Or something like that.  But no, Deep Space Nine was all too often about showing how those vaunted Federation ideals weren't really THAT deeply ingrained.  Shit like that might be fine on a starship, but down here in the muck, where the REAL people live, it doesn't really fly.  And remember, just last week we were shown that Worf acted with hatred in his heart when pushed just a little bit; so that's two weeks in a row that we're being shown how "Starfleet" is really just a bit of a lie, isn't it?

Well, if that's how you write it, then yeah, I guess it is.  And if that's how you think about it, then that's how you write it; sure, that makes sense.  Maybe you should think differently.  If you can't, maybe you should write for a different show.

I'm also annoyed that apart from Julian, nobody here really seems to be doing all that much to help Miles.  I mean, sure, Sisko orders him to begin seeing a counselor again immediately.  How come Sisko isn't bringing in a Vulcan specialist to try to mind-meld with Miles and remove the pain of these false experiences?  How come he isn't flying Miles into the wormhole and asking the aliens there to help him?

And so forth.  I'm dinging the episode for what it isn't at this point, rather than focusing on what it is, though, and that's pointless.  The fact is, it's a pretty good episode despite my problems with it.  It's a compelling scenario, and even though I remain only mildly a fan of Colm Meaney, he's pretty good in this episode.  Craig Wasson is good in a prominent guest-starring role (playing O'Brien's simulated cellmate); Alexander Siddig is very good as Bashir, also.  I can see how fans of the series would absolutely love this episode, and might even be moved by it.

As for myself, I can only find myself thinking that the show needed to look up and see in a better manner than it did.

Bryant's rating:  *** 1/2 / *****


"Shattered Mirror"
  
  
(season 4, episode 20)
  
airdate:  April 22, 1996
written by:  Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler
directed by:  James L. Conway
  
The Jennifer Sisko of the Mirror Universe coerces Jake -- who sees her as a mother figure -- into returning across dimensions with her.  This is really just a ruse to get Benjamin to the other side, so he can assist in building a version of the Defiant which will be used against the Alliance.




Not a bad episode, but not of any particular interest to me.  My biggest criticism would be that it's too frivolous an episode to take seriously, but too serious an episode to be any fun.  The sole bits of fun come from seeing mirror-universe Worf as a Klingon Regent, and Andrew Robinson toadying up to him as Garak.

Bryant's rating:  *** / *****

Oh, did you expect me to have more to say?  You know, I expected me to have more to say, too.  Here we are, though: moving on.


"The Muse"
  
  
(season 4, episode 21)
  
airdate:  April 29, 1996
written by:  René Echevarria and Majel Barrett-Roddenberry (story);  René Echevarria (teleplay)
directed by:  David Livingston
  
Jake falls prey to an art succubus.  Odo gets married to Lwaxana as charity.




That summary I just wrote sounds like it came from the pen of the TNG Season 8 Twitter feed, but nope, this is an actual episode.  And not a bad one; I'm being snarky for no particular reason.

It's an odd episode in that both plots feel like they ought to have been given more attention.  Of the two, I was vastly more interested, believe it or not, in the Lawaxana/Odo one.  The idea here is eyeroll-inducing, but also seems perfectly of a piece with typical Lwaxana stories in that it ends up being deeper and more resonant than it seems like it ought to be able to.  Here, she's gotten pregnant by Michael Ansara, her new husband, whose culture only allows male children to be raised by men; so Lwaxana opts out of that.  Problem is, in order to legally do so, she's got to get remarried, so Odo mans up and volunteers for the job so as to help her out.  In the process, the two become friends; which isn't quite enough for Lwaxana, but she knows better than to push.

I liked all of this.  The episode really misses an opportunity to kill another bird with the same stone, though, by further developing Odo's unrequited love for Kira.  That element almost comes through in the wedding scene.  The ceremony involves Odo having to make a public declaration of love for his intended, and if anyone present at the ceremony finds it to be less than convincing, the marriage can be challenged; so Odo has to convince Lwaxana's current husband (the stern-faced and implacable Michael Ansara) that his love is genuine.  Odo delivers a convincing speech, and I think the idea is that the words Odo is saying apply to his feelings about Kira.  Even if that's not the idea, they DO apply.  They are genuine enough that even Lawaxana -- who is in on the ruse -- is kind of rocked back on her heels by the sentiment, so my take is, Odo was speaking from the heart; and since it's Kira who's in his heart, not Lwaxana, he's really talking about Kira.

I think the episode missed out on not taking a few moments to underline that idea.  Heck, Lwaxana has even asked Odo about the status of his feelings for Kira.  He's said he's happy for her in her current relationship, but I'm here to tell you now, even if you're a shapeshifter in the future living on a space station, that hurt doesn't just go away.  So imagine Odo being in a situation where he's having to -- in front of a woman he genuinely loves in an unrequited (and unstated) manner -- profess his feelings for a woman whom he doesn't love.  Speaking from the heart, there's no way that he's not, in his own mind, speaking directly to Kira; and with her in the room!  He's saying aloud things he has said to Kira in his own mind who knows how many times; but, circumstances being what they are, she has no idea that he's really speaking about and to her.  This would leave Odo an emotional wreck after the ceremony, because he would see it as a cruel glimpse into an alternate universe where he got to stand in front of all of his friends and say those words to Kira herself, and see her smiling rapturously back at him.  Oof.  That makes me wince to even consider being in that situation; that's downright brutal, is what that is.

So it's a little baffling to me that this episode failed to make all it could of the situation.  I don't know if it didn't make it into the screenplay, or if the director failed to get the footage he needed, or if someone decided to edit it out in post, or what; but they kind of blew it.

Even so, all of this stuff is solid as-is.

The rest of the episode -- you know, the a-plot that is what the episode is supposedly about -- is okay, but never really goes anywhere.  Jake is approached by a woman (played by Meg Foster of They Live) who is able to foster creativity by stimulating a person's brain and causing them to go into a state of heightened inspiration, which she in turn feeds off of psychically.  So she's a psychic succubus, I guess.  She and Jake never get naked, presumably because this era of Star Trek was a bit too timid to go to places like that.  Still, succubus is definitely how she reads on-screen.  So she mind-rapes Jake a bit, he scribbles out a bunch of his first novel (the same novel we heard about in "The Visitor," which is kind of cool), Ben stops the evil psychic succubus by firing a phaser at her, and she flies away into space completely unharmed.  It's not a terrible idea, but it's incredibly undeveloped, especially for an a-plot.

All in all, both stories feel like two different somethings which were lying around the writer's room when one day, somebody discovered the season was short by an episode.  So René Echevarria glued the two together and they called it a day.

If so, you could do worse.

Bryant's rating:  *** 1/2 / *****


"For the Cause"
  
  
(season 4, episode 22)
  
airdate:  May 6, 1996
written by:  Mark Gehred-O'Connell (story); Ronald D. Moore (teleplay)
  
Odo approaches Sisko with concerns about Kasidy potentially working with the Maquis.  Garak strikes up a tentative friendship with Ziyal.




I have continually professed throughout these posts that I am not a fan of many of the big-picture aspects of Deep Space Nine, and I stand by that assessment, but I add a caveat that occasionally also fits: there are times when the show's exploration of the boundaries of what constitutes Star Trek results in a fine episode.  Look, here's one now!

The entire idea of the Maquis more or less annoys me.  It annoys me on Deep Space Nine, it annoyed me when it was introduced on The Next Generation, and it ... actually, I kind of like it on Voyager, because the thrust of that aspect of the series, for the most part, is to show that divorced from the immediacy of the conflict in which they were invested, these were mostly very good people.  Still, even there I could have pretty much lived without it.

What I'm saying is that it takes a lot to get me to invest in a Maquis-centric episode.  Or maybe it doesn't take a lot at all: maybe all it takes is for the series to use it as a device to deliver a character-centric story.  That's what happens here, where the result is a strong Sisko episode.  There aren't as many of those in this fourth season as there ought to be; this, by my count, is the seventh.  Guys, this is the lead of your show; give him something to do, please.

Well, here he gets a decent amount to do in the form of being confronted with a very unpleasant moral dilemma: chase down the truth about hir girlfriend's ties to terrorists and risk her life and freedom (not to mention his relationship with her), or ignore his duty to Starfleet and turn a blind eye to her activities?

Trick question; Sisko never even considers the latter option.  He's angry when Odo and Eddington first tell him about their suspicions, but he simmers down almost immediately when he realizes that they have no choice and are going about things the right way.  The evidence almost immediately points in her direction, and after that there's nothing he can do but follow his training and hope for the best.

And that's why the episode works for me.  Sisko is in emotional distress the entire episode, but he never actually considers doing anything other than his duty.  That's who he is; that's his only option.  Sisko is a good character to have in an episode that calls for resolute (if regretful) action, and Avery Brooks handles it well.

I'll also give the episode credit for delivering a quality plot twist near the end when we learn who is really behind all of this.  Here's an area where even though I resent the idea that a Starfleet officer (Eddington) would turn traitor and terrorist, the development does at least work on a plot level and make for good television.

See?  I'm reasonable.

Bryant's rating:  **** / *****


"To the Death"
  
  
(season 4, episode 23)
  
airdate:  May 13, 1996
written by:  Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe
directed by:  LeVar Burton
  
The station is attacked by a group of Jem'Hadar ships who are later discovered to have gone rougue from the Dominion.  The Defiant renders aid to another Jem'Hadar ship that was attempting to subdue the rogues, and joins forces with them in order to prevent them from successfuly completing their plans: to construct gateways that would allow them to instantly appear anywhere in the galaxy.




A peek behind the curtain: generally speaking, I write these little review pieces about the episodes right after watching them.  I rarely (almost never, in fact) take notes, so I just write about whatever thoughts seem to be in my brain afterward.

In this case, I was feeling tired after I finished watching, and went to bed; I'm surprised I didn't doze through the episode, but no, I stayed awake -- just didn't quite have the energy to sit down and compose a few paragraphs.  Then, the next day, I plumb forgot about it.  I didn't remember until two days later, and now I'm sitting here vamping while trying to remember what I felt about the episode while watching it.  Ah, well; perhaps that is in and of itself an indication of what I felt (i.e., nothing much to hold onto for a few days).

It's a notable episode for at least one reason: it's the first of Jeffrey Combs' 24 appearances in the role of Weyoun, the Vorta representative of the Dominion.  That's about a season's worth of episodes; Weyoun is unquestionably a major DS9 character, and here's where he starts.  Combs, of course, is terrific.

The plot of the episode concerns the small band of Jem'Hadar soldiers playing the role of square pegs to the round holes that are our core band of Starfleet officers; can the fragile peace between these two groups last long enough to allow them to complete the mission?  Sure, they have common interests, but what does that matter when the battle-mad egos of the Jem'Hadar are in play?

Odds are that if you love Deep Space Nine, you'll love this episode.  Viewed purely as an action/adventure/sci-fi episode, it's pretty solid.  It's just not Star Trek.  Sure, they feint in that direction.  Our Starfleet officers retain their vaunted ethics.  I mean, except for the fact that their mission involves invading a Jem'Hadar base and killing everyone.  Granted, the stakes are high: with the completion of these Iconian gateways -- nice shoutout to the season two TNG episode "Contagion" there! -- the Jem'Hadar would be able to land a million troops on any Federation planet instantaneously, which is obviously bad, bad news.  So stacked up against that, what's a Captain to do?  Murder away, crew; murder away.

Here's my problem with that.  The only reason those are the stakes is that those are the stakes imposed upon the crew by the writers.  The only reason the writers imposed those stakes upon the crew, presumably, is to further the action and the intrigue and to permit the series to avoid all that tiresome talking that would have resulted if Picard had been in charge of things.  Or if not that specifically, something like that.  Bottom line: the writers didn't want anyone to seek a peaceful resolution to the issue, so they stacked the deck so as to bypass that as an option.

By this point, there's not much point in my whingeing on about that issue, so why bother?  You know my feelings.  This is not Star Trek.  This is not what Star Trek does; this is not what Star Trek is.  Except that because we had seven seasons worth of DS9 writers cramming this type of thing into the world, it became what Star Trek is.  A pity.

Still, this is a reasonably entertaining episode.  In addition to Combs as Weyoun, you get a good Avery Brooks performance.  Plus, the great Brian Thompson plays an especially aggressive Jem'Hadar soldier; he's terrific, and should not have been wasted as quickly as he is here.

Bryant's rating:  *** 1/2 / *****


"The Quickening"
  
  
(season 4, episode 24)

airdate: May 20, 1996
written by:  Naren Shankar
directed by:  Rene Auberjonois
  
While investigating a distress signal during a mission in the Gamma Quadrant, Dr. Bashir tries to help a planet of people who are born with a fatal virus.




Star Trek often does well with medicine-based episodes, which have a tendency to explore ethical issues.  This is (after "Hippocratic Oath") the second such episode of the season, and for my money it is by far the better of the two.

It does something I always enjoy in Trek, which is tell a story without feeling the need to tack on an action/adventure subplot or any sort of thriller aspect.  There are no villains here; the closest thing is a doctor named Kevorkian Trevean who specializes in giving people painless deaths in front of their family and friends.  And he's not villainous; he simply looks at things from a different perspective than Julian does.

Not sure I've got much else to say about this one.  It's a terrific episode; doesn't reinvent the wheel or anything, simply does what it does efficiently and with hearty doses of both emotion and logic.

I do have one question, though.  This planet is described as being very near Dominion territory.  Which implies that there is territory near the wormhole in the Gamma Quadrant that isn't Dominion territory.  Does that make any sense?  If that's the case, would the Dominion be as big a threat to the Federation and the Alpha Quadrant as it is?  And if it is that big a threat, then isn't pretty much any territory in the Gamma Quadrant near the wormhole Dominion territory?

Not sure they thought that through.  Either that or I didn't.  Anyways, it barely matters; just something I noticed.

Bryant's rating:  **** 1/2 / *****


"Body Parts"
  
  
(season 4, episode 25)
  
airdate:  June 10, 1996
written by:  Louis P. DeSantis & Robert J. Bolivar (story); Hans Beimler (teleplay) 
directed by:  Avery Brooks
  
Quark learns that he has a terminal illness and puts his body (in 52 disc-stored pieces) up for sale in order to pay off his debts before passing.  Meanwhile, Kira becomes pregnant with Keiko's baby.




Let's talk briefly about the b-plot for this episode first.  Why not?  It's what the episode begins with, so it makes sense.  It's about an offscreen accident which necessitates Keiko's baby being implanted into Kira's body.  And what it's really about, of course, is finding an excuse to not have to cover up the fact that Nana Visitor was pregnant in real life.  If I'm not mistaken, she was pregnant with Alexander Siddig's child, which means that there's a scene in which Bashir talks to O'Brien about a character played by his real wife in which he pretends that his real baby is the fake baby of Miles that used to be inside Keiko.  Pretty trippy, huh?

It's a decent sci-fi way to go about that sort of thing.  The episode doesn't do much with it, though, and it feels shoehorned in to fill for time.  That's kind of a shame, as the idea probably deserved better; but since I'm not a huge fan of the O'Briens (or of Kira, if I'm being honest), I'm kind of glad they didn't.

Now, onto the rest of the episode, which is much more to my liking.  As I've said before, and will say again (and yes, that in and of itself is a thing I've said before and will say again, as is this), I'm surprised by how amusing I am finding most of the Ferengi stuff to be on this rewatch of the series.  Shocked, even.  Not without caveats (and we'll get to that), but still, the bottom line is that more often than not, when a prominent comedic plotline with Quark or Rom takes place, I'm now inclined to premptively laugh at it.

For example, the pre-credits sequence includes a scene in which an atypically cheerful Quark comes bounding into the bar, sees his brother sitting there, and goes over to him delightedly.  He proceeds to tell him that he is terminally ill, so we understand quickly that Quark is experiencing some forced cheerfulness.  Point is, Rom is sitting there with the absolutely most dumbest look on his face that you've ever seen, and when I saw that I just started guffawing like the simpleton I am.  In fact, I started guffawing just thinking about it and decided to go get a screencap of it, a process which made me switch from guffawing to chortling.  This was the result:










Chortling, I say.

There are other amusement to be found in the episode as well, including Max Grodenchik playing the first Nagus, Gint, in a dream sequence.  Jeffrey Combs is a big part of the plot as Brunt ("Brunt, FCA," also a leading cause of guffawing), by virtue of Brunt hatefully buying every share of Quark's body in order to degrade him.  When it turns out that Quark is not actually ill, Brunt has him in a tight spot; Quark's only choice is to violate the contract of sale, which permits Brunt to do something that makes him even happier, which is to ruin Quark.

Now, here's one of my problems with the episode: I spent the entire time assuming that Brunt had engineered the false diagnosis against Quark for the purpose of making this entire plot happen.  But apparently not?  In which case I'm not entirely sure Brunt's plot makes any sense.  But whatever, I'll let that slide.

It's all designed to bring us to the climax of the episode, in which Quark, who has lost literally everything he owns (even the shirt off his back, which he must send to Brunt at the end of the day), is visited by his friends on the station, who give him enough stock to allow him to begin his business all over again.  It's a surprisingly affecting moment, and it speaks to the level of fondness I must have for Armin Shimerman as Quark.

Does the episode earn it?  Absolutely.

A better question: has the series earned this episode?  I'm less convinced of that.  Quark has, especially early on, too frequently been presented not merely as a charming swindler/crook but as an actual criminal whose activities result in murders and other fatalities.  In many ways, this is a problem with the early seasons of the show that has somewhat faded away by the end of the fourth season, but still, the kindest thing you can say about this in a broad view of the series is that a tonal inconsistency has developed.  The worst is that at some point, the series became deeply hypocritical on the subject of Quark.

In some ways, I'm glad it did.  I wish it had not been necessary; but it was, and the course correction is entertaining more often than not, and by the point of this episode had become capable of wringing actual emotion out of it.  That's hard to see as an entirely negative thing, and I don't.

Bryant's rating:  *** 1/2 / *****


"Broken Link"
  
  
(season 4, episode 26) 
  
airdate:  June 17, 1996
written by:  George A. Brozak (story); Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe (teleplay)
directed by:  Les Landau
  
Odo falls ill and is taken to the Gamma Quadrant for care from the Founders, who put him on trial for the actions he took against one of his own in (I think) "The Adversary."  Garak tags along aboard the Defiant and tries to commit genocide.




I've got feelings about the Garak subplot, more on which in a moment.  First, allow me to cover the Odo plotline.

I'm just repeating myself at this point, but so be it.  I really don't love Odo as a character in the first place, so an Odo-centric episode is not an automatic win with me.  I really don't like the Founders/Changelings as a species, so a Founder-riffic Odo episode is definitely an uphill climb.  I rather dislike -- actively -- the makeup for Odo and the Founders, so an episode focused for much of its runtime on Odo looking runny is something you're practically begging me to roll my eyes at.

So for me, this episode has a lot going against it.  And though it's a logical enough plot point -- Odo put on trial, a first for his people because none have ever harmed another -- and is well-executed throughout, it's not something that much engages me.  Sorry, Odo fans.  This episode is alright in that regard, but it's not for me.

None of that pisses me off, though.  The Garak subplot does.  Here we go again -- for the first time in Trek, perhaps? (I can't remember) -- discussing the pros and cons of genocide.  Hey, psst ... let me clue you in on something.  There are no pros.  Sure, Garak thinks he's doing the right thing.  So did Manson.  Now, if you want to put this subplot into the hands of an established villain like Dukat, then sure, go right ahead.  But doing it with somebody we're expected to like is reprehensible.  Is it plausible for Garak to take a step like this?  Well, yes, sure.  Does this not seem like a problem to anybody else?  Trek should not be holding characters like that up as likable rogues; and that's what this episode does.  "Aw, you...," the episode seems to say while lightly brushing Garak's cheeks with its knuckles.  It shakes a finger at him while failing to repress a smile, and continues, "You tried to murder all the Founders, but doggone it, we sure do like your jokes about being a tailor.  Hey, buddy, we'll see you when you get out in six months!"  It claps him on the shoulder and they walk away beaming at one another.

Somebody -- that purple-goateed weirdo Ira Steven Behr, perhaps -- will probably accuse me of expecting all of life's answers to be easy ones.  They'll say that I blindly think the bad guys can't sometimes be likable, or that one doesn't know one's ideals until they're tested, yadda yadda yadda.  Guys...?  Real fucking life ain't no goddamn television show.  In real life, there's no debate to be had on the subject of genocide.  None whatso-goddamn-ever.  Now, when and if an alien species from Planet Termalfragor or wherever shows up and begins exterminating us and we find a sudden way to fight them that will result in genocide against their species, we can have that conversation.  Spoiler alert: I'll be for it.  The odds of that happening are incredibly remote.  So in the real world, which is something this half-assed iteration of Star Trek supposedly mirrors better than other ones, the only species we can wage genocide against is our own.  And there is no conversation to be had there.  So if you want to open the conversation up on a sci-fi show, you can't leave any room for the answer to "should or shouldn't we?" to be anything except "fuck no we shouldn't."

If you do, you have made that as a choice.  It's a reprehensible choice.  It's a choice that, in this case, has been made for the sole purpose of having THIS Star Trek be distinguishable from those other, high-minded, "unrealistic," bubble-headed Treks that always want to go go go and never want to examine the consequences of having been there.

This aspect of Deep Space Nine can eat shit.

I say that in recognition of how very good Andrew J. Robinson is in this episode.  Viewed with considerations like the one I just ranted about put to the side, Garak is probably one of the most interesting and well-played of all the characters in Star Trek.  What a shame it's in service of such low ideals.

Speaking of low ideals, it kind of grates me that the scenes of the Bajoran woman hitting on Odo are implicitly there so that the audience will realize that Odo might get his dick sucked now that he has one.  Do you suppose the Founders made him hung?  Wopuld the idea of punitively giving him a micropenis have occurred to them?  Or is he instead smooth like a Ken doll down there, so as to make it all even worse?  I feel bad for wondering these things.  But that's what the scenes with the Bajoran lady are there for; do not be deceived as to their purpose.

I'll close by mentioning the cliffhanger, in which Odo reveals that the Gowron running the Klingon Empire is in fact a Changeling.  In theory, this ought to placate my fundamentalist-Trekkie nature.  (And before you object, yes, I know TOS had the Klingons as villains.  That changed by TNG, and in a manner that was consistent with the ideals of TOS.)  Because hey, look, the Klingons weren't bad!  They were being misled by a Changeling!  So when things get back to normal, everyone can feel good about it.

We'll see how that plays out going forward, but for now, I spit on it.

Bryant's rating: ** 1/2 / *****
 
And now, my Worst to Best list for the fourth season:
  
"The Sword of Kahless"  (**)
"Sons of Mogh"  (**)
"Paradise Lost"  (** 1/2)
"Little Green Men"  (** 1/2)
"Broken Link"  (** 1/2)
"Bar Association"  (***)
"Our Man Bashir"  (***)
"Hippocratic Oath"  (***)
"The Way of the Warrior"  (***)
"Return to Grace"  (***)
"Accession"  (***)
"Shattered Mirror"  (***)
"Hard Time"  (*** 1/2)
"The Muse"  (*** 1/2)
"Body Parts"  (*** 1/2)
"To the Death"  (*** 1/2)
"For the Cause"  (****)
"Rules of Engagement"  (****)
"Starship Down"  (****)
"Homefront"  (****)
"Crossfire"  (****)
"Indiscretion"  (****)
"The Quickening"  (**** 1/2)
"The Visitor"  (**** 1/2)
"Rejoined"  (**** 1/2)

So overall, that's honestly not too bad.  Three classics, six episodes that are great, four that are very good, seven that are pretty good, three that are okay, and a mere two that are mediocre, with none being outright bad.  That's an even half of the season that receives a thumbs-up from me, so while it's true that I have fundamental arguments with this series in terms of its philosophies and goals, I do find it to be a strong show on an episode-by-episode basis as often as not.

See you in six months for the next season, if we all make it that long.

67 comments:

  1. How timely! I'm mere minutes from the ending of "Way of the Warrior."

    This puts me in a slight dilemma, though, as far as what to say here for comments... not only have I not seen any of these, I'm taking notes for my own blog on them all. What to put here? I think I'll put some prelim notes / reactions here everything I watch an episode and hopefully not repeat myself too much when I get to my own blog on them.

    To that end: "Way of the Warrior." (1) I have the same reservations/ approach/ rationale you describe here. Like, the exact same: this is precisely my DS9 take. I'm hoping to discover I like it along the way. If I can embrace Neelix, for example, I can probably embrace Odo, I'm thinking. I love the set design. I'm keeping an open mind/ hoping for the best. (2) Worf is pretty fun in this one. All the Klingons are. I love Gowron. Always have. (3) I'm kinda all right with there being some bumps in the Klingon / Federation relationship. I don't necessarily take that as pissing on Gene. Hell, Undiscovered Country pisses on him way worse than anything I see here. (4) This whole war with the Dominion thing is silly because the Dominion themselves are silly. This is another aspect of the show I'm hoping a thorough watch will disabuse my negativity of. (Terrible grammar, I apologize.) (5) I like the idea of thinking of Worf as a ringer. He's a good one, if so. There's a reason I'm skipping over s1-3 and starting with s4, and it rhymes with "Today is a good day for pie!"

    I think what you mean is "sexual assault" re: "Little Green Men." What you describe is not rape, legally or literally. I've no doubt that there are those who would angrily re-define such a thing as literal "rape" but I don't know if that would wash in court. I remember this class in Paralegal School and the examples used for discussion. Now, these can change through use and/or case law, and probably will, but I know there's a school of thought that wants to make any unwelcome touching/ manipulation of a woman rape and not just sexual assault, but I think these people are not arguing from a very sensible or sincere place. But whatever: I'm certainly not trying to excuse anyone's actions or protect some hierarchy of assault or anything.

    There's a "Cheers" episode where a character kisses Diane without her permission and the pissy reviewer at the AV Club kept going on about how she was "sexually assaulted." I thought that was ridiculous. But nope, I was wrong, I learned in Paralegal School; legally that was indeed sexual assault. The pissy reviewer at the AVC was right. It was not, though, rape.

    It brings an interesting thing to bear, though, here: the Ferengi can sexually assault someone for their own amusement/ gratification, and it's somewhat true to their character, but what kind of Trek show is this, then?

    I'll dig into all this and more when I get to that episode, I hope.

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    1. p.s. You know, regarding my assertion that what happened in the episode would fall under the legal banner of sexual assault and not rape: I'm going to kick this over to Federation Legal. Not to evade the issue, only to admit that upon further reflection I haven't the foggiest notion what legal precedent exists in the case law of the twenty-fourth century, nor knowledge enough of Ferengi mating practices and biology to make an adequate diagnosis of where on the scale such a thing falls.

      It's all complicated further by neither the Ferengi nor mid-20th century Earthpeople being Federation members. But the Federation DOES have some kind of Time Cops division as we saw in VOY.

      So! I must rescind my earlier objection to the term you used. It seemed to me there'd be the same sort of distinction between the terms as there are now. But that would not necessarily be the case. To proceed further would be to argue from both a species-ist and temporally-privileged viewpoint.

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    2. "This puts me in a slight dilemma, though, as far as what to say here for comments... not only have I not seen any of these, I'm taking notes for my own blog on them all. What to put here?" -- Don't feel obliged to worry about that sort of thing. I'll look forward to reading your posts and comparing them to my own!

      "If I can embrace Neelix, for example, I can probably embrace Odo, I'm thinking." -- Maybe; I hope so. Maybe you can then manage to turn me onto him. I think there's a key difference, though: Neelix is always begging to be loved, whereas Odo would rather you just go away and leave him alone. So if one or the other is going to break one's defenses down, it's Neelix who stands the better chance.

      "Hell, Undiscovered Country pisses on him way worse than anything I see here." -- Oh, for sure. I'm overly touchy with this, mainly because I see DS9 as being an overt attempt to un-Gene the franchise. Sadly, I think it got pretty close to working, and we're still dealing with the fallout. Or reaping the benefits, depending on one's point of view.

      "What you describe is not rape, legally or literally." -- I might have engaged in some hyperbole there; I leave it to brighter minds than mine to figure out. But I agree with you -- it's the fact that the show considers this to be comedy that is the real problem. Whatever the level of assault in a legal sense, it's definitely assault. That the show considers it to be endearing (no pun intended) is objectionable to me. And it mars what should be a very entertaining romp of an episode.

      "I haven't the foggiest notion what legal precedent exists in the case law of the twenty-fourth century, nor knowledge enough of Ferengi mating practices and biology to make an adequate diagnosis of where on the scale such a thing falls." -- You don't remember that two-parter episode of "Sam Cogley" where they tackled this subject? (shudder)

      "To proceed further would be to argue from both a species-ist and temporally-privileged viewpoint." -- lol

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    3. Would I watch "Sam Cogley: Space SVU"? Absolutely I would. I'd watch any Starfleet legal show, actually. It'd be a crazy extension of the concept, but I'm on board.

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    4. A really good team of writers could probably do something compelling with that concept.

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  2. "The Visitor"

    (1) "Benjamin was struck by a bolt of technobabble" lol - nice. Yeah, you're right on the whole wtf-ness of the plot/ maguffins. It works back from an understandable aim ("I want to have an 'Inner Light' for Jake with lots of crying and warm familial touching") without really building it properly. Ah well. Wonky-Trek-timelining-technobabble is a means to an end, and the end here is pretty good.

    (2) That said, you're right: not much of consequence happen for the lesson-learned. This can't be the emotional catharsis of "All Good Things," "Christmas Carol," "Inner Light," or any other, because it isn't Sisko who lived the lifetime. He spent an indeterminate time in the wormhole Void, with every indication it felt like only minutes had elapsed for the duration of Jake's alternate life. So the ending is nice and all, but glimpsing how his son might look and live for a few brief moments is hardly the same thing as the lifetime-lived conceit.

    (3) I wasn't too enamored with Tony Todd's performance as the Oldest Jake, nor with the visiting-girl character. That was my least favorite part of the episode. Not bad all around, though.

    (4) I looked at it less of condemning all those people to death/ non-existence and more of a rewinding the clock to where it was years and years ago. It's entirely possible, though, that by doing so, worlds might end, people not born that otherwise would have been, etc. Kind of a big decision. There must be some theoretical physics equation that proves in these circumstances when time is unwound for a principal cast member that no one in the universe is harmed, it's just back to the way "things are meant to be."

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    1. (1) They can't all be as inspired as "The Inner Light," that's for sure.

      (2) The more I think about it, the odder it seems that Benjamin wasn't the focal point. This rewatch has made me wonder how much the producers liked Avery Brooks as an actor. I swear, it seems like they avoid giving him big episodes more often than not. Granted, the show forgets that Jake even exists for weeks and weeks at a time, so maybe this was intended more as a redressing of that problem.

      (3) It's a bit mannered, for sure. Works for me, but I can see how it wouldn't be an automatic thing for everyone.

      (4) I wonder what the Temporal Prime Directive has to say about all of this?

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  3. "Hippocratic Oath"

    (1) Just finished this one. I think I prefer your angrier take on it than my own. Which was mostly "meh." Yours is more fun to read.

    (2) I didn't get why someone didn't just hint to Worf (or even why Worf didn't just guess) that a larger sting was in operation. It didn't make Worf look bad so much as the writers.

    (3) Medical replicators are terrible at synthesizing drugs and serums and what not for some unfathomable reason. This always bugs me. Not that Bashir is working with that here, I just mean in general why the Federation can never counter or replicate the various drugs it encounters over a variety of different plots.

    (4) Did O'Brien get demoted or something? He's referred to here as a Chief Petty Officer, but he was a lieutenant on TNG. I think I remember reading about this now that I'm typing it, that his rank on TNG was retconned for DS9. They called him Chief on TNG, but he was chief of the Transporter aream not a Chief Petty Officer, like Chief in BSG or what not. Or here, I guess, post-retcon. Anywho.

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    1. (1) I just reread it and got worked up over it.

      (2) Very much so. The only logical reason is that Odo wanted to alpha-dog Worf a little bit so as to reinforce the notion that this is HIS station, and Worf needs to sit the fuck down. That's consistent with the way Odo is written. But is that any way to conduct an investigation? Obviously not. Jeopardizing the whole sting operation just to suggest to a guy that he needs to fuck off? And that's the problem; it's all engineered by the writers to make Worf look like a chump, which is itself a ploy to make DS9 look better by appearing to be more "realistic." I'm getting fired up all over again!

      (3) I can live with that, because I don't have much of a choice ... but it really doesn't make much sense, does it? Replicators work, I assume, based on some sort of molecular analysis. So wouldn't you be able to put something into a replicator and have it determine what the molecular composition is? Sure, there might theoretically be things in it that the replicator has never encountered. But wouldn't it then just update its database and say, "Alright, here's Unknown Component #9,067,843, which we will call ... jamaktavan"? Or something like that? But that obviously chokes off opportunities for storytelling, which is Trek is sometimes kind of bad about not paying much attention to its own tech. But, hey, as far sins go, that one ain't gonna send you to Hell.

      (4) Good lord, I'm not sure this ever occurred to me. But yes, that must be a retcon. It *might* have been so they could establish a British-style officer/non-com relationship between Julian and Miles. They certainly went in that direction after a while whether it was planned or not.

      Weird.

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    2. (2) I think you're right. And what a stupid way to use Worf! Or to reflect TNG.

      (4) I looked this up now and yep: a retcon, likely so they could explore the dynamic you describe. It's no big deal, I guess, they retcon things in trek often enough and sometimes for less sensible reasons than that. But it is funny: I mean, his rank is so conspicuous in TNG, enough so that I instantly recognized it as off in this DS9 episode. They even refer to him as serving at ops as a Lieutenant on the Ares/ Ajax/ whatever ship he was on fighting the Cardassians. Ah well. If it don't bother O'Brien none, I guess it won't bother me.

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    3. (4) I may just begin pretending the one on DS9 is an accidental transporter clone, like Tom Riker.

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    4. (4) You know, if I ran a Trek show, I'd have at least an entire season devoted to something like that.

      I just have to convince someone to give me a Trek show.

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    5. Not *quite* the same thing, but close: on "Farscape," they had some hooey result in the main character being turned into two different characters, who were basically the same but began diverging afterward thanks to having different experiences. And they DID stick with that for basically an entire season. It was pretty great, especially if you watched it as an exploration of Trek tropes.

      "I just have to convince someone to give me a Trek show." -- I think that by this point, you and I both have clearly demonstrated via our blogs that we have what it takes. CBS, I honestly don't know what you're waiting for. MAKE THOSE CALLS.

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  4. "Indiscretion"

    (1) "Hasn't Kira seen The Searchers? "

    Ahh, thank you, that hadn't occured to me but of course that's what they were after here. And not a bad job of it, all told.

    (2) Agreed on Penny Johnson in this episode, she sparkles. What is Benjamin thinking?

    "Rejoined"

    (1) Another really good one. Susannah Thompson gives a hell of a performance here. Well handled all around; I think you're right that Gene would've been proud of everyone involved.

    (2) The Trill episode of TNG didn't mention anything that I can remember about this taboo on resuming relationships; that was the whole point of the episode with Beverly, that the Trill went into a woman afte Riker's brief hosting. Retcon!

    (3) ""Speaking of ugly, Visitor isn't; she's unspeakably hot in a few moments in this episode, and I'm not sure how or why that is, but I'm glad." I'm not normally on Team Kira for such things, but agreed 100% and even for an episode with all the other well-developed stuff this has that was my main takeaway. Sorry, Planet Earth - so it goes. (Cue Warrant song cranking)

    (4) Yes on Worf's scene, that was funny.

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    1. "Indiscretion"

      (1) Agreed. If you're gonna step up to a classic like that, you'd better have some goods; and they did, here.

      (2) I think what is on his mind most of the time amounts to, "Where's the soup?" and little else.

      "Rejoined"

      (1) I'm always gratified by these older episodes that really do walk the walk and not just talk the talk. For all my problems with DS9, it did manage to put out a handful of those that rank favorably with those of other Treks.

      (2) I didn't think of that. Good point! Granted, the Trills on TNG didn't even have the spots, did they? So not just a retcon, but a major one.

      (3) Okay, so it wasn't just me? Nice. I wonder if that was just something in the direction?

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  5. "Starship Down"

    (1) Agreed this one was pretty good, too. I didn't like it quite as much as you did, but the parts you identified are mostly great.

    (2) Except I didn't much care for Cromwell's alien character. Terrible visual (that's two, now, crummy visuals Cromwell has been stuck with, three if you count the Third-Rock-from-the-Sun-buccaneer persona from "First Contact"). I liked his and Quark's back and forth, although it's funny these early attempts to characterize "the Gamma Quadrant" as having a particular, consistent personality. (Which does not turn out to be the actual case, as far as I know.)

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    1. (2) Like all Trek, goofy alien visuals just come with the territory, so it takes something truly lame to cross my eyes. This one doesn't much. But I don't much like it, either.

      "the Third-Rock-from-the-Sun-buccaneer persona" -- lol

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  6. "Little Green Men"

    (1) Oh boy, this one is a mess. The mess is mostly concept-related, though. The Ferengi just don't work. I am trying, man, really. But Rom and Nog are freaking intolerable. I kind of like the characters, but they're just so ridiculous. When Rom excitedly talks about the ketacite and radiation and how to travel through time, it's like some nerdgasm hitting every 'good lord turn this off' button in my brain. I just can't understand how a concept / visual as ridiculous as the Ferengi was allowed to go on as long and in as many directions as it was. They make no sense either in a Trek-verse sense or in a sci-fi sense. Why would they have such sensitive sex organs on either side of their face, unprotected? A strong breeze would incapacitate them (it takes the merest trace of a finger of oo-mox to turn them into orgasmic goo.) It's just stupid - it's a dumn, unworkable concept that unravels their believability. Also, they sound ridiculous. Also their butt-heads. It's just too much. Too damn much.

    (2) I'd say the above accounts for most of my ongoing resistance to DS9. It's just so tough to suspend disbelief when it comes to the Ferengi. But it's not just the Ferengi. DS9 has too many things I just don't buy. I don't buy Odo as any kind of tough guy. I don't buy Changelings - the concept is more stupid than the Ferengi's sex organs. (More on this in pt. 3 to come). I don't buy Kira as the tough, gruff character they constantly remind the audience she is. I kind of like Kira/ Nana Visitor, but it's just part of the show's general problem: unbelievability. I also don't buy Nog's friendship with Jake. Everytime they talk about their best-friendship I wonder "who buys this crap?"

    (3) Now: plenty of the above is forgivable in a Trek context. Most of this is, too, it's just gaaaa... it's always too much. So any episode that spends as much time with dialogue from Nog and Rom and close-ups of Ferengi and oo-mox is going to grind my damn gears. Add in Odo as some kind of German Shepherd (because sure he knows German Shepherds, makes total sense) is designed to bombard me with mental beta radiation.

    (4) Speaking of Odo, why doesn't he just transform into a working phaser like he does in that one episode? That'd have helped more than a dog. Or (literally insert a thousnad other things, which is the whole effing problem with Changelings). Also: why not just slingshot around the sun? Can they not get the warp velocity needed? Meh - time travel never makes sense, I'll go easy on that aspect of things.

    (5) okay, so: mostly this episode was okay. It was kind of a fun concept. It made little sense. (Why did Quark needs to sell the shuttle to raise capitol to get back to DS9? Surely the Federation sends a regular ship there every so often, and as we know, the Federation doesn't use money. Gaaa! FFS.)

    (6) Your ideas on how the idea could have played out are all better than the one we get.

    (7) Swing and a miss for me, too.

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    1. (8) I can't pin this entirely on this episode, but the whole Ferengi idea of an afterlife is ridiculous, too. While I'm inventorying.

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    2. (1) They were a real sticking point for me too at one point, but I've mostly gotten to a point of enjoying them. Well, sometimes. I generally love Quark, which really just means that I love Armin Shimerman; Quark himself is objectionable as often as not. Nog, I've got zero use for. Rom is a terrible idea for a character, but actually kind of a good character, if that makes any sense. And I like the way he is played, even though I know I shouldn't.

      Even so, they're like Neelix in that if somebody else hates them, I totally get it.

      (2) What do you mean, you don't buy Odo as a tough guy?!? The episodes tell us over and over again how tough he is, so what's not to buy? What more do you need than to simply be told to accept something? (I hope my ability to convey sarcasm has not failed me.)

      It's a good set of points you make here, though, regarding believability. DS9 does a lot of that. I guess if somebody buys into it from the outset, it works; but I never have, and it seems as if I mostly never will.

      (3) The thing with the German Shepherd is galling. I ranted about it in my review, so I won't repeat myself. But I could. Oh yes.

      (5) Good point regarding the need for money. Conceptually, that's a side of Trek that simply doesn't work. LOTS of Trek -- especially the conceits of TOS and TNG -- don't work. And yet, every once in a while some jackass producer feels like the way to leave their mark on the franchise is to go "realistic" with things and show how it doesn't work. Or else they try to show how it DOES work, but do an unconvincing job of it. And then, they tend to smugly talk about how they're breaking new ground (except they hint at it rather than just boast about it like they want to); and then the fans of those particular shows talk about how much more realistic or grounded or humanistic they are. The exact opposite is true, more often than not.

      (6) This is why CBS is insane for continually not hiring me to work on these shows. (I kid, of course. I have no idea how to write. But neither do the shows' current writers, and I bet I'm cheaper than they are.)

      (8) It is, but it goes so far into ridiculousness that it charms me.

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    3. (8) I can see that, actually. They should stay strictly in the cartoonish exaggeration side of the pool with the Ferengi. I don't know if I'm ever going to be able to hang with Nog and Rom, though. I hope they're not in too many episodes.

      (3) If anything, you went easy on them.

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    4. (3) The shape-shifting aspect of the show never worked for me. When watching the series upon its initial airing, I used to get annoyed that they never did much of anything with the idea. And even back then, I knew it was because it was too expensive an idea to do much with on television. Which makes one wonder why anybody thought it was a good idea. It was a TERRIBLE idea. I know I'm (with you) in a minority in disliking Odo, but I do, and this is one of the reasons why.

      And THEN, the problem is occasionally compounded by a lousy idea like this one with him passing himself off flawlessly as a dog. If he can do that, he can do anything. But more often than not, he does nothing.

      Screw you, Odo, you and all your changeling people.

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    5. I also meant to mention: I also don't buy the notion that the universal translator is a little thing you put in your ear and adjust the way you would a watch, with a little pin. And it seems odd that the Ferengi would place this right in their (respective) urethra, or tolerate some relative wiggling around in there without (respectively) blowing a load everywhere. This would at least be described as something Ferengi have to go through. "Adjustment to my universal translator is tricky because oo-mox makes me orgasmic and it's unfortunately common for all this lobe stimulation to produce a mechanical response." Or the opposite, like an AIDS test or something - hardly something you sit there calmly for.

      It's gross but hey, I didn't force myself to think of this: the episode forces me, by presenting us with ill-thought-out crap.

      The universal translator literal-chip thing, though, is dumb. Why was this introduced? To clear things up? It achieves the opposite; it fosters confusion. This is a midichloridans sort of deal.

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    6. The universal translator is one of the great unheralded sticking points of Star Trek. It's a dumb, stupid, terrible idea, and yet, without it there's an enormous plot hole in the form of everyone just magically being able to talk to one another. The best solution is the one Trek has mostly adopted, which is to introduce their solution and then quickly ignore it as vigorously as possible.

      It had not occurred to me (probably through sheer willful ignorance) that the Ferengi were keeping theirs in their erogenous zones. Ew. But all you say is true, and as you say, the episode front-and-centers it. I don't know why a writer would go in that direction, except that in this case they figured it would produce lulz.

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    7. Yes, it's dumb. Although if they do stick with the idea of the Preservers/ those folks who seeded all the humanoid-races of the galaxy, there's enough of an out, there, for me to make it work. So long as they don't do anything stupid like say "No, it's a literal chip we all put in everyone's ear. And guess what! If it gets warbly, you can wiggle it with a safety pin."

      Good lord that's stupid.

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  7. "The Sword of Kahless"

    (1) I like most of the TNG-Klingon episodes, I guess. I can't think of any I don't off the top of my head. The last one, with future-Alexander, is kind of a misstep, but even aspects of that one I like.

    (2) I liked this one right up to the point you mention. As an Elric fan I like the idea of swords having influence over their wielder's state of mind/ sanity, but they failed to excite my interest with any of it here. Plus as you sort of allude to here: I mean, Worf's the hero, he shouldn't be bending to its power, he should be saving Kor/ everyone.

    (3) I also didn't quite like the ending. I actually had to rewind it a few times to see what I missed. Turns out I didn't miss anything.

    (4) I am struggling with this show! But I am determined to get this done. I'm hoping the next one is a home run, having scrolled down enough just to see the Double-O Rating System coming at me... looking fwd to it!

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    1. (1) I don't think I'd say there any many -- perhaps none -- that I actively dislike; it's just that very few are favorites for me.

      (2) Right? I think the setup for this episode is great, but that it falls apart well before the end. It almost feels as if one writer was working on it, died, and then somebody else had to finish the screenplay and went in a wildly different direction.

      (3) No, there's just not much to it, is there?

      (4) I'll be curious to see what you make of that one. I understand the struggle, by the way; it is real. Not for all Trekkies, but for some. We're just lucky enough to be among them.

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  8. "Our Man Bashir"

    (1) Yeah I can see it's the confidence/ expertise that's a great deal of the appeal of Bond. You want the Bond experience more than the Bond specifics.

    (2) A drawback of skipping seasons 1 through 3 is missing out on things like a multi-season arc of pursuit of one character for another (i.e. Jadzia and Julian). I've not gotten a creepy, pathetic, hopeless vibe, but that's the whole thing: I'm missing a sizable portion of the development between them.

    (3) Agreed the whole thing is pretty clumsily set-up and only serviceably explored as Bond pastiche/ character development. But I have to say, I had fun. This isn't quite "Bride of Chaotica", but it's the most fun I've had with the show yet, so that's something. The scene where Garak is yelling at Bashir about what it takes to be a real spy was a glimpse of a lot of the story they could have told, or beats they could have emphasized more. And yet, they kind of made that story work, i.e. Bashir has to overcome something/ self-actualize (this IS Trek, after all) for the plot to resolve. Anyway, wonky as hell (especially everytime Rom opened his damn mouth) but I shrugged it off. You're right, tho, as Bond homage-ing goes, it's not much; the fun is basically in the cosplay. And everyone (except one) does great work.

    (4) How delightful to see the You Only Blog Twice method in operation! I'll take these section by section.

    (4a) Alexander Siddig would not be a great Bond, perhaps, but he does a great job playing Julian Bashir in a Bond program and trying to explain it, even if, like Tom Paris's affection for 20th century stuff years later, his interest is a little circumspect. Then again, no need to call the FCC; all's fair in the Spock "I pride myself on the history of your 'pop culture,' Captain..." Market. I'd sya 3/7 for is right for 007 but not an indicator of Siddig's performance, which I'm comfortable going at least 5/7.

    (4b) Man, I totally hear you on all of these points. I could quote them all, but just for space, ditto on all of them. I especially don't quite get what he was trying to do in this episode, what kind of performance this is, what beats he thought he was hitting. Avery Brooks is definitely the most Shatner-esque as far as the odd line / word emphasis here and there, but yeah, some kind of weird intake of breath/ higher-pitched voice thing he does, it just doesn't land with me.

    (4c) Agreed on both the Falcon and Worf. It'd have been cooler had their characters retained some of themselves or had they been written a little more dynamically. They're just visual props here.

    (4d) Kira was pretty hot. I am discovering the attractiveness of Nana Visitor has been underreported to me over the years. But yeah, not the greatest character. You mentioned Barbara Bach - exactly who I was thinking she was meant to channel, but underdeveloped. Visually a home run.

    (4e) "Is it odd that Julian's not-even-vaguely-secret passion for Jadzia doesn't play a larger role in this episode? The story seems off-balance to me as a result; there was an opportunity here, and it was missed." Agreed.

    (4f) Marci BRICKHOUSE? As in built like a...? Good lord, that sounds like a Bond name. Was it a pseudonym, I wonder?

    (4g) I got a good chuckle out of evaluating the title sequence.

    (4h) "it places "Our Man Bashir" above both Tomorrow Never Dies AND The World Is Not Enough, and while I know that's ludicrous, I kind of stand by it. It's also above the aforementioned 1967 Casino Royale, Never Say Never Again, Diamonds Are Forever, and all the Ian Fleming biopics, not to mention James Bond Jr" Yeah, that all tracks for me. Maybe not "Diamonds Are Forever" or the Charles Dance biopic one, I liked that one.

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    1. (2) If I remember correctly (it all blends together somewhat), it's mostly a thing in the first season.

      (4a) 5/7 sounds about right.

      (4b) Me either. I just don't get it. And some of that goes all the way back to the pilot episode; I guess it's just part of his style. It's not always there, though; I just watched a fifth season episode where there's nary a hint of it.

      (4d) She doesn't light my fire the way some actresses do, but she's got a sort of effortless quality to her that is engaging. She's still got it, too.

      (4f) If it isn't a pseudonym, it's a case of very capably living up to the name she was born with.

      (4h) I like that one, too. I wish it were more readily available so that more people knew about it.

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  9. "Homefront" and "Paradise Lost"

    (1) Oh, that's very interesting re: the timing of watching it. I can see how there'd be a total different sheen to it because of that.

    (2) I like that Brock Peters gets a nobler Trek farewell than he got in TUC. I guess Sisko, Sr. joins the ranks of other resurrected Dads, like the senior Crane on Frasier or (drawing a blank but I know they're out there).

    (3) I generally agree with your assessment of "Paradise Lost" (particularly Avery Brooks' weird-ass delivery. It's Shatner without the Shatner! I just don't get so many aspects of this show, like why would everyone I've ever talked to about DS9 fail to bring up this damn strange line delivery AB does? It's impossible not to notice FFS.

    Anyway, as a Trek two-parter, this is crap, really. The Changelings are dumb, ergo any menace emanating from them can't help but also be dumb. The same goes for hackneyed Academy/ Starfleet/ Federation treason plot-vectors.

    (4) I did kinda enjoy the scene with the Changeling-O-Brien and Sisko. It made me think of how this sort of stuff gestated in Ron Moore's brain to come back more successfully in BSG.

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    1. (1) There's a Trek for just about every occasion, I'd imagine -- just a matter of whether the episode and the times happen to sync up. And though I do have major problems with DS9, it admittedly has plenty of episodes which have remained fresh.

      (3) It's weird, isn't it? But I guess if nothing else it makes Sisko distinctive.

      (4) Ooh, good point. That had not occurred to me!

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  10. "Crossfire"

    (1) "MOST people who watch the show love Odo" This baffles me. But it's true, Ive noticed the same thing. Like you, though, this is pretty much the only time I've ever sympathized with Odo. This is a great and strong and moving episode. For all the reasons you describe in your "Well, I empathize with him" paragraph. Any who've had the unpleasant experience of being in his shoes knows they got it right.

    (2) Brutal ending, too, with his line to Quark. Ouch! Actually, the Quark/ Odo scene was great here, I was pleased to see the "Odo makes too much noise" remark from the beginning utilized in a Chekov's-gun sort of way.

    (3) Why is Odo changing to different beasts, though, in his after-hours time, speaking of Quark's complaint from the beginning? This is how he relaxed, by changing into animals? I'm not knocking the idea - it strikes me as something I'd do to pass the time, were I a Changeling - but Odo? Odo doesn't strike me as having much of a frivolous "oh look I'm a swan!" side.

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    1. (1) Indeed. I wish I could manage to be an Odo fan on a more consistent basis, but it mostly eludes me. It's not like I groan when he walks onscreen or anything, though; I'm mostly just a neutral with him.

      (2) Somebody on TOS should have made an episode in which Chekov's phaser was prominently featured in the cold open, but then never showed up again. That'd've made about forty people snigger. But they'd've sniggered hard.

      (3) I guess the idea is that he's just pent up all around, and can't give himself permission to do things like this around people, and has to pretend it's basically not even a thing. But when nobody's around he can be a little freer? I guess? In other words, he does have a frivolous side but keeps it well hidden. Wait, is Odo a metaphor for being closeted? Hmm. No, I don't think he is; but they probably could have gone that route if they'd chosen to do so.

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    2. (2) Absolutely! Hell it's not too late, they still should.

      (3) I thought he was doing those things specifically to piss off Quark, don't they allude to this? Too frivolous for Odo, either way. The more I think about it, this line is in there solely to set up the "he finally soundproofs his room so he doesn't hear Kira and Shakaar (whatever his name is) have sex." Which is a good, sad ending, but they should've thought about the set-up for another few tries.

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    3. (3) I like your explanation better, i.e., none of this really makes much sense. I wonder if there are Trekkies who worry about some of the stuff in TNG this way. Like, they're constantly exasperated by how Data is supposedly emotionless but nevertheless always seems to want something and be bummed out when he doesn't get it. There's probably room for that to be the case. Don't care; love Data, hate Odo. (I don't actually hate him, of course, I just shrug at him.)

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  11. "Return to Grace"

    (1) This one was mostly okay, but it dragged. At two or three points it felt like they were just having the same endless speech over and over again.

    (2) Dukat's hots for Kira are okay but there's such a thing as too much Gul Dukat. I like Alamo as Dukat fine, but it's like having Henry Kissinger in every episode or something. I don't know why that comparison works for me, but there it is. A little less Henry Kissinger, please.

    (3) Ziyal is okay. It'd have been more interesting had not the tiresome half-breed-outcast trope been pulled out. Likewise, the idea of Dukat going off-grid to become a one-man pirate hit-and-running the Klingon invasion force in a stolen bird of prey is an interesting one; we'll see what they do for it. Does Ziyal become part of the cast? I dn't recall seeing her in later episodes but like I say, ym familiarity with the show is erratic.

    (4) I actually don't mind the Klingon/ Cardassia war. It makes some sense to me. I look at it as a temporary blip in Federation/ Klingon relations.

    (5) I see the next one up is "Sons of Mogh." Not looking forward to this one, as I'm sure they'll squander the good grace K'ern earned with me on TNG.

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    1. (2) I suspect we could all use less Henry Kissinger.

      (3) Ziyal shows up again a few times; I don't think she's ever played by the same actress more than once, but don't hold me to that, I'm not sure. She definitely never gets fully integrated into the cast, which is weird, because that totally seems like where they're headed after this.

      (4) I'm not sure my objections to it make any sense. I guess I just don't much care for the show, and any objection to it gets amplified beyond what it should. But hey, it hits me however it hits me.

      (5) Not one I've got much tolerance for; hopefully you will like it and change my mind.

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  12. "Sons of Mogh"

    (1) I didn't much like this. I thought the set-up made sense, I was kinda shocked that Worf actually agreed to it so readily, I thought Kurn was more or less moping instead of being bad-ass, and he was kind of bad-ass on the TNG episodes, so that's unfortunate.

    (2) The mind wipe was an okay enough solution, I guess, though why they'd want to write Kurn off the show like this - clearly Tony Todd was on board with doing guest appearances, this is his 2nd appearance this season, unless he was like "two more and I'm done." Possible, I guess -is beyond me. This is interesting enough sure, but I'm sure it'd have been more interesting to bring Kurn back a few more times, as foil/ fodder for the Klingon intrigues. Dorn did well with the ending, I agree.

    (3) It'd have been more dramatic had Dr. Bashir suggested the mind-wipe to Kurn in front of Worf, and Kurn just spiraling further into depression, or whatever, and then Worf making the decision on his behalf. Some conflicted drama, there, have Worf make a big decision and an ambivalent one. That'd have been better. But really, after they saved the Klingon Empire (proverbially) by getting the mines coordinates, Kurn could have felt redeemed and that would have been that.

    (4) Speaking of, I enjoyed the detonation of the cloaked mines.

    "Bar Association"

    (1) I had a mild chuckle at the title.

    (2) Oh, a Ferengi union episode - this will definitely be a personal fave! Mirror universe commenter. Like you say, though, it's relatively amusing but it just doesn't make sense. The union speeches and slogans fit uneasily with the entire concept of this being a big idea. And they didn't even hit the right beats: contact with other cultures is changing the Ferengi like it changes any two cultures in contact, and the permeation goes both ways. Instead, it became some other story at times, and too many speeches.

    Like you say, if you commit to the idea, there's a story there. But they fizzled in too many directions.

    (3) Good performances all around, except I really can't stand the way Rom speaks his lines. Oddly enough I think the actor is doing a good job, I just don't like the affectations they gave him. it's got to be hard to enunciate with those teeth, for sure.

    (4) Speaking of, Jeffrey Combs has some weird ability to do that stuff with any mask / make-up given. It's a strange but admirable skill.

    (5) I kind of loved the Worf subplot, too. I bet someone in the writer's room just wanted a new apartment.

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    1. "Sons of Mogh"

      (1) In retrospect, I have no earthly idea why I began this review by saying "this is a pretty good" episode. It's kind of not. It's not trash or anything like that, but it's a letdown at best.

      (2) This is one of the relatively rare DS9 episodes that I can remember my initial feelings about from many years ago when it first aired: specifically, didn't care for it one bit. I felt then what I feel now, which is that they had a perfectly good character and squandered him.

      (3) Good point. Worf being more involved would have helped; that's at least a character-based decision with one of the regulars.

      "Bart Association"

      (1) I'm always on board for a good pun. Or even a bad one. It's the lowest form of comedy, so they say; but I'm so low I ought to be wearing a yellow coat, so it suits me fine.

      (2) Too many cooks in the kitchen, would be my guess.

      (3) I've softened on Rom this go-around with DS9. I used to hate the actor's line delivery so much that it pained me at a near-physical level. But I've come to embrace it as a terrible idea committed to so fully, and with a sufficient degree of talent, that it kind of becomes charming. That said, I do not blame anyone for wanting to puncture their eardrums every time they see his name on an episode.

      (4) You're right, he never seems to struggle with those teeth the way others do. I wonder what his secret is?

      Speaking of the teeth, you've got to wonder why anyone in the production would have thought they would be a good idea on a practical level.

      (5) That's the kind of trifling plot point that I love to see Trek tackle every once in a while.

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  13. "Accession"

    (1) Keiko always seems... something. Worried? Disbelieving? I guess I would be, too, if my fortunes and everything else were married to Miles O'Brien. Aww. Poor Miles. I've nothing against him. Just yeah.

    (2) The great Richard Libertini! Sisko's pretty strong in this one. The conflict seems a little forced in this one, or rushed, perhaps, but it's an interesting topic. Would Bajor just turn on a dime and commit to saying D'jarras en masse as many times as they possibly can in forty-odd minutes? Apparently so. I believe it. This is why Bajorans annoy me. It tracks.

    (3) Why the hell do Bajorans clap the way they clap?

    (4) Jane Espensen! Time has cooled me a little on her, but for a year or two she was my favorite writer in television.

    (5) The d'jarra thing could've gone a lot heavier/ clumsier, and it didn't. Good job all around, I like this one, especially once they go into the Temple. It's kind of wild how much of this stuff was repurposed for BSG! The whole Prophecy/ Temple/ Opera House/ God's (Prophets) plan for you/ linear time, yadda yadda. I suppose it all could be considered Sci-Fi Religious Tropes 101, but they handle it well enough here. I prefer the BSG approach. was Ron Moore held back/ outvoted all these years or did we reap the benefits of soaking up years of working out all these other plots? Both, naturally.

    (6) I wrote the above before reading your remarks. Good to see we're agreed on both Jane and Avery. Babylon 5 and not BSG, eh? Makes sense, though, from the little I've picked up. For what it's worth I didn't quite get the same read on Miles taking in the news, I thought it was more of just bewilderment that it happened so quickly. But now that you say it, maybe that was the joke they were going for. Yeah that's lame.

    (7) Good point about Kira.

    (8) I cannot believe the next episode is name "Rules of Engagement." They'd all pretty much given up on titles before TNG even got off the air.

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    1. (1) It's a baffling relationship to me. They rarely seemed well-suited for another even on TNG, and DS9 makes it only more so.

      (2) I can occasionally be coerced into investing in the Bajoran culture, but it does not come easily. I agree with you: what happens here makes sense, and even so it is kind of annoying, because the Bajorans are annoying. Where's Nero when you need him?

      (3) If you think about it, it is easier on the wrists to clap that way. It makes a less satisfying noise, but the Bajoran culture clearly is more interested in protecting the wrist than in making exuberant crowd noise.

      (4) I didn't know this until just looking her up to see what she's been doing lately, but I guess she worked quite a bit on that "Once Upon a Time" series. I watched a bit of that in its first season and could not get into it.

      (5) I don't mind this episode too much. It's got a virtue that DS9 sometimes lacks, especially when it is doing a check-in on Bajoran religion: it is contained within a single episode. One idea, explored relatively fully, brought to a satisfying conclusion. I'm not sure things actually would have happened as quickly as they happen here, but that's okay; I don't need them to. This is following a more traditional episodic Trek mold, and it is better for it.

      (6) Miles's reaction might have been exactly what you suggest. I didn't take it that way, but then again, that might be my dislike of that relationship talking. The O'Briens bore me to tears. Miles himself is okay at times, but rarely when he is in a room with Keiko.

      (8) I look forward to seeing what you think about that one! I think you'll be into it.

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    2. (1) and (6) I'm more or less indifferent to them, but to tell you the truth it seems much more fun to actively hate them. So I think I'll switch to that mode for the remainder of this watch.

      (4) I lost track of her - she was doing some BBC show, Husbands, for awhile. I never saw it. I never get into Once Upon a Time either.

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  14. "Rules of Engagement"

    (1) I still cannot believe titles like this make it past the placeholder-stage.

    (2) I thought this episode was mostly pretty lame. The little directorial tricks LeVar was doing (direct camera addresses almost NEVER work) accomplished little but calling conspicuous attention to themselves. I didn't particularly care for Ron Canada's performance, though it was tough to tell because the whole thing felt so false to me. From the judge to the objections to the "YOU AIN'T A REAL KLINGON"ness, all of it just got a big shrug. Sound and fury signifying nothing. I feel bad for Worf on this show so far; it's like watching a MVP of another team join a boring team and not bat well, to boot. He just looks sad in that dugout, in these new colors. I hope he amd Jax hook up soon so he has something more fun to do.

    (3) Mainly, I just didn't buy this as a courtroom setting or anything going on as resembling Starfleet Legal. I almost never do, to be fair, in Trek. That's why I want a Starfleet Legal show, so every week I can get mad!

    (4) "I appreciated the fact that Worf took his own lesson very much to heart here without having to be browbeaten into it." Browbeating was the literal word I put in my notes! The whole thing was just an endless browbeating of Worf, it seemed to me, to no avail and elucidating nothing. I guess this one hit us differently.

    (5) I'm cruising through s4. I'll be done way sooner than I thought.

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    1. (1) They do seem to have just given up at a certain point.

      (2) Sadly, you've got to wait until season five for that to happen.

      (3) "Ferenginar: SVU," coming this fall to Peacock!

      (4) It happens. I dug this one, but I might have just been excited to not have to see Keiko this week.

      (5) At least it's not proving to be complete misery!

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  15. "Hard Time"

    (1) Did I get the Ace Frehley-penned Kiss song stuck in my head everytime I resumed watching this episode? Yes. Would I prefer a 4 minute mash-up scenes scored to that than this episode? Yes.

    (2) Your remarks are spot-on. This captures something of a gloom-whisperer mindset. The idea of an anti-"The Inner Light" isn't necessarily a bad one. It could be pretty cool, actually, if done right. Is this done right? Is it that O'Brien isn't enough to pull it off? Miles O'Brien is no Captain Picard. Moreover, O'Brien creates some kind of schizo-guilt projection that is more interesting than himself, which is a development that is itself more interesting than any development we see. That's a problem, no? As far as engaging an audience/ centering a character?

    (3) I think you really hit the nail on the head in your remarks on these things:

    - "At no point does it feel as if Miles is actually glad to be back to reality. " Exactly. Who cares about this character's redemption/ pain? It's unearned.
    - "There's an off-the-charts level of cathartic wish fulfillment there, and this episode is not even vaguely interested in it." Holy moley, this times a thousand. Where were the writers on this one?
    - "A better version of this episode would have involved the aliens knowingly trying to force Miles into breaking and turning savage, and him defying their efforts at every turn. In the end, we'd have found out how close he came to breaking, and how haunted he is by it, but Julian would have pointed out the obvious to him: that he didn't break. He kept his humanity, because humanity is strong." I could keep quoting, but this whole section: I'm so tired of people in Trek being embarrassed by unpopular perhaps but essential Trek ethos. If the episode goes down the way it's presented then it's a tragedy amd A Very Special Episode of Trek. Not this.

    I think you're less than spot-on here:

    "It's a compelling scenario, and even though I remain only mildly a fan of Colm Meaney, he's pretty good in this episode."

    I am disappointed with Colm for this one! The episode hinged on a dynamic performance from Colm (maybe it was the directpr. who knows) and it didn't get one, for my money.

    (4) Shouldn't people in the 24th century shrug off this sort of thing? Is Starfleet okay with this? We never hear. Is Sisko? Is any action taken against these folks who did this to O'Brien? It's not even addressed.

    (5) Given everything we heard O'Brien say about the Cardassian war and PTSD in that one TNG episode and everything he went through on the ship dealing with Keiko getting shrunk to an 11 year old and all else, I don't know: is he whining, here? This isn't the stoic-er O'Brien of established continuity. This is some needs-to-fit-the-anger-alienation-vibe O'Brien.

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    1. (1) I would like to see that as well, please.

      (2) DS9 as gloom-whisperer. Man, you are not wrong about that.

      "Miles O'Brien is no Captain Picard." -- Nobody on this show is. Granted, most shows don't have a character of that stature; those are few and far between.

      (3) My guess with the catharsis is that the writers began with the tone they wanted to convey, and then proceeded to steer things solely in that direction. I doubt it ever occurred to them that Miles might have any reaction other than the pre-ordained one they were writing for him. And I suppose the argument could be made that what this episode does is reveal that really, at the bottom of the truth, Miles just doesn't give a damn about Keiko and Molly. Lord knows nobody who has ever written them does, going back even to TNG.

      Sorry to hear Colm Meaney's performance didn't work for you. I thought he was alright, but I agree, it's definitely undynamic.

      (4) These shows are incredibly inconsistent with stuff like this, aren't they? You'd think all these sorts of things would be covered at Starfleet Academy. You know, courses like Surviving Alien Illusions 101. One of the raisons d'etre for DS9, supposedly, was to show that there are consequences for encounters with alien races; if you're on a starship, you just fly to some new planet, but if you're stuck on a starbase, you've got to deal with the problems you encounter. Fine, but this series frequently ignores such issues just like TNG did. TNG, however, didn't pat itself on the back for how "realistic" it is. Bleh.

      (5) Haha, yeah, I didn't consider that Miles has already had to deal with some really wacky shit during his Starfleet career. He ought to be inured to stuff like this. Then again, he doesn't have weekly appointments with Deanna Troi to keep him grounded. All he's got is Julian Bashir, and obviously that's just not getting the job done.

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  16. "Shattered Mirror"

    (1) I was fully prepared to dislike this one. Just something about the mirror universe concept stretched too far. I'm generally pretty forgiving of such things, but sometimes I can get prickly about it. Anyway I was surprised to actually like and enjoy this one quite a bit.

    (2) Is it me or does Smiley have better chemistry with Sisko than O'Brien does? I was enjoying their scenes together.

    (3) The Intendent was pretty smoking. Got to say that has been an agreeable surprise of this DS9-watching.

    (4) So is Jennifer Sisko, for that matter. I thought she and Jake had some nice scenes. I knew she was gonna get phasered. Poor Jake.

    (5) I think Dorn was a bit too much as the Regent. He was just a more cartoony version of Worf instead of an interesting character to me. I kind of enjoyed the way Mirror Garak carried on, though. Andrew Robinson hits some interesting notes with that character.

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    1. (1) It's very difficult to get me to invest in mirror-universe episodes. This one didn't turn the trick, but it's not bad. Glad you enjoyed it more than I did!

      (2) My theory is that the reason the mirror universe keeps returning is solely for the opportunities it gives the actors to step outside their normal performances. Smiley is one of the ones who, relatively speaking, is closest to our normal O'Brien, but even still, you're right; there's just something a little zippier there.

      (3) Prior to this rewatch of the series, my memory was that Nana Visitor was absolutely awful as the Intendant. But she isn't; she's campy, but lots of fun. And yes, quite the dish. I don't always respond that way to her personally, but in any sort of semi-objective sense, definitely a babe.

      (4) If anything, I feel like they should have prolonged that Jake-finds-replacement-mom aspect of the story a bit. All the materials are there. Mirror Jennifer could want to go to the other universe because our version of Benjamin is more like the version of her husband she was attracted to (as opposed to who he actually was, which is a shit); it's an opportunity for Benjamin to have some really conflicted story material; and ditto Jake. One and done with that is just not sufficient to me.

      (5) Dorn, to me, is playing Mirror Worf in a manner consistent with how the TOS actors mostly played their roles in "Mirror, Mirror," so that works for me. Pretty much everything Andrew Robinson ever does works for me; I'm not always wild about how Garak is written, but Robinson is always great. I say this assuming I haven't written the exact opposite someplace and forgotten about it; if so, apologies! But no instances are springing to mind.

      You're sailing through this season! You'll be past me pretty soon, at this rate. Glad to hear it's proving to be at least somewhat agreeable.

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    2. (4) Yeah you are definitely right. I knew she was doomed, just that spider-sense of "uh-oh, this won't end well" but what a waste. Yes there was a lot of potential there, not just with Jake and with Benjamin, but as a love triangle/rival with Kasidy, too. Would've been good! Actually, a lot of these DS9-mirror guys would've been fun interacting with the our-universe-guys. Like Nog.

      (5) I can see what you're saying, there. I've been wanting more from Dorn so far on DS9, so I might be responding to some of that.

      And yeah it's true - cruising right along. I'll have to start getting my post together soon, actually - this snuck up on me. Most of my comments are here, so it'll mostly just be a list. Thanks for letting me do my notes-taking over here at Where No Blog Has Gone Before. You saved me space in my notebook!

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    3. (4) The love-triangle aspect with Kasidy had not occurred to me. That's an interesting idea. I'd love for them to have done more of that sort of thing and less war-with-everyone stuff.

      (5) My memory is faulty as hell. I kind of remembered that DS9 became "Star Trek: Worf" once Dorn showed up, but it really didn't, at all. If anything, like you suggest, he isn't used as much as he should have been. Maybe that changes in subsequent seasons? I don't know. Present Bryant doesn't much trust Past Bryant, at this point.

      As for the other thing, feel free to use these blogs as notepads. Totally fine by me! I just wish I had seasons five through seven ready to be used in that capacity. But I'm on the Mission Log schedule with those, so it's gonna be a while.

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    4. My current plan, barring tragedy:

      DS9 s4 thru s7: Hopefully this can be accomplished by the end of 2020.
      Jan-Apr 2021: ENT s1-s4
      Apr/June: TAS s1-s2
      July-whenever: DS9 s1-s3

      It's kind of an odd way to do things, granted, with the DS9 season rationale, but I have my ways. I'll be curious if it takes me less or far more time to get through this. I'm trying to watch an episode a day, as time allows, and doubling up every so often. If I don't feel it, I do something else; definitely don't feel any pressure to do this sort of thing. I must be getting old. Well, no "must be" about it.

      Anyway, I look forward to doing this again with the s1-s3 blogs when I get there!

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    5. p.s. Back to Andrew Robinson for a moment: I haven't read too many interviews with that guy or with Mark Alaimo. I wonder if they had how-to-talk-Cardassian conversations or anything; they both do some interesting and almost-identfiable speech patterns or ways of speaking. I'm sure they must have; actors live for that stuff. And thankfully so. I think you're right, though: he's not always written the best, but AR is always great.

      Quark is usually written pretty well, and AS is always great, but he always looks absolutely fucking ridiculous. I still can't get over the Ferengi. I'm amazed I can hang with Quark, but that's 100% on AS. All the kudos in the world to that guy for making the get-up disappear everytime he's speaking. It's only in memory/ visually that I cringe.

      Speaking of, everytime Nog is on screen, Dawn happens to be in the room and I can see a sort of visceral, reflexive hands-waving off/ hiding face to protect the Nog from entering her eyes and ears. The funny thing is, she thinks I'm some kind of Ferengi apologist. Me! That's how far in the Trek weeds this stuff is; to normies, I look like I'm trying to rationalized the Ferengi, rather than having spent so much o my Trek life detailing the whys and wherefores of my (mild enough but fun) distaste for them.

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    6. All of that makes sense to me. Gotta use the carrot and the stick alike at times.

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    7. Above comment was in reference to your proposed schedule.

      Speaking of Andrew Robinson, I just watched a fifth-season episode he directed, and it is quite lively. It's the only one he directed for the series, apparently, and it seems like a shame.

      Nog, to me, is a complete nonstarter. There are some episodes where he is well-written enough that I can see some value in the character, but more often than not he just makes me embarrassed to be a Star Trek fan. Like, when people hear you are a Trekkie and judge you for it, you just know that Nog is what they think it's all like. Go to a convention, nothing but a buncha Nogs wandering around hooting at one another; so they say. And if Nog is all they've got to judge things by, then why would they think anything else?

      You are right, by the way, about Shimerman disappearing in the makeup. I always forget it's makeup when he's onscreen, and that's something that is by no means a given.

      Back to Nog for a second. I've got a theory. I think all DS9 fans know he sucks, but can't bring themselves to admit it. So they double down and talk about how great he is and how awesome his character arc is and lament how Captain Nog should be a thing. Meanwhile, I sit just and blink at them, like that guy in that one famous gif. I'm all like, "NOG?!? Really? REALLY?"

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    8. Are there actual Nog apologists out there?? With my luck, I'll meet one of them when Dawn and I are out somewhere, and that'll be it: she'll just glare at me. "I KNEW IT."

      Like you sketch out, it's only fair. Totally unfair, but only fair.

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    9. I deeply hope that never happens to you.

      If cons ever exist again, I'd kind of like to have a shirt reading NOG IS A garbage made and just see what happens. The back could read something like NEELIX IS MY JAM. Would I get expelled? Beaten? Thanked? All of the above? All bets are off.

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    10. I'm in. Mine will read 'NOG'S AN ASSHOLE.' And I'll get a different one saying 'NEELIX BANGED YOUR MOM (NOG'S AN ASSHOLE)' and my whole goal will be to get someone to fight me, all convention long.

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    11. I think whenever conventions begin happening again, this needs to be an actual thing. (I say that pretending I'm ever going to be able to afford another convention after the ravages of 2020! Well, maybe someday.)

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  17. Oh, it's me again!

    "The Muse"

    (1) Oh, good, a pregnant Lwaxana episode!

    (1.5) Seems Lxawana is always getting mixed up with dudes from cultures that she suddenly discovers are objectionable only after considerable time in their company.

    (2) Not that Meg Foster does a bad job but they should have cast someone closer to Jake's age for Onaya, IMO. The relationship between them has sexual undertones, so the obvious differece in ages adds a dynamic that distracts rather than compels. I don't really know what's up with Jake. The he-and-his-Dad side of his character is sketched out pretty well, I think; their chemistry feels easy enough and I like what they're doing there. But Jake as a writer has yet to feel unforced to me. So this episode needs to have a sort of, I don't know, a River Runs Through It (A Wormhole Runs Through It?) quality to it, I liked the muse aspect but the writer-Jake side of it all isn't landing with me yet. The subtext is all there but the up-text is muddled. There's an honest-to-God "Sub Rosa" vibe here, but this isn't treated at all as entertainingly as "Sub Rosa." Too crudely hewn.

    (3) The cosplay-holodeck scene where Dax says "I'm so depressed" is meant to get laughs, but all I could think of was (to the writers/ the show) yep, we noticed. (Appropos: "Life is a search to find the peace you had inside your mother." Odo: (beat) "I didn't have a mother.")

    (4) I'm not sure why exactly Odo is so tender with Lxwana, but it rings kind of true to me. I didn't mind their scenes together. It's hard not to. This changes, tho, once it gets to the wedding speech. Holy moley. This just goes on way too long and something essential seems overlooked, namely Kira and the whole unrequited love thing. You could be forgiven thinking he's lost himself in the part and actually IS talking about Lwaxana, having fallen for her the night before. (I wrote that before reading your comments. You got it - "I think the episode missed out on not taking a few moments to underline that idea." That's it exactly. They didn't finish this idea, it's set up perfectly but left undeveloped. How I feel about the Jake/ writer subplot, too.)

    (5) Michael Ansara is mostly wasted here, but a nice little nod to TOS, I guess.

    (6) I love the VOY ep "Muse," and it annoys me that it shares title-space with this episode, which is far inferior to the goings-on therein.

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    1. "(1.5) Seems Lxawana is always getting mixed up with dudes from cultures that she suddenly discovers are objectionable only after considerable time in their company."

      Is there something here? A metaphor for her and Gene, perhaps? A tantalizing idea, but probably not really.

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    2. (1) I wonder how many people read that in the TV Guide for the week in 1996 and were like, well, looks like I'm skipping DS9 this week.

      (1.5) I wish she had written an autobiography. Whatever one thinks of Lwaxana (and I don't mind her too much, personally), Barrett herself was present for so much of Trek's history that her thoughts about it all should have been preserved for history.

      (2) Hmm, that "Sub Rosa" comparison is interesting, and kind of compelling. It suggests something which is almost certainly true: at one point, this storyline might have been intended as something way kinkier and more interesting than what we ended up seeing. "This week on Deep Space Nine, Jake falls prey to a succubus!" Except with no fucking, just hardcore novel-writing! Lame. I think Meg Foster is weirdly alluring enough -- emphasis on "weird" -- that it could have made a different version of this way creepier. It just doesn't work. I gather than this is one of the more reviled episodes of the series, but to me it's not bad so much as it is just a missed opportunity. More than one of them actually!

      (4) I'm glad we're on the same page with that. This is the sort of thing that makes you wonder how, exactly, such a blown opportunity could have happened. Was it that there were two camps in the writers' room, one vehemently opposed to Odo/Kira and the other vehemently for it? And the "absolutely not" side of the team just happened to be the ones working on this episode? I just don't know how to make sense of it otherwise. And it's for reasons like this that when people talk about how great the serialized aspects of the series are, I'm all like, now hold up there buckaroos.

      (5) Definitely wasted, but at least the role wasn't cast as blandly as such guest roles tended to be cast on the Treks of this era. The actor deserved better; the role, however, got a big bump.

      (6) I'd forgotten about that. Was there not a producer whose job was to sign off on titles? If so, that producer failed to earn their paycheck for seasons at a time.

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  18. "For the Cause"

    (1) Yeah this one works for me for the reason it does for you: it's a strong Sisko episode. I had the same thought while watching: "Oh, so THAT's what a strong Sisko episode is like."

    (2) I mostly liked the Garak/ Ziyal plot as well as the plot twist, too. All in all, a strong episode.

    (3) Say it ain't so, Kasidy!

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    1. (1) It's shocking how few of those there are through the first four seasons. Avery Brooks has got to be, by far, the most underused of all of the Trek captains. I don't feel like he's always my cup of tea, but I do think he deserved better than what he actually got.

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  19. "To the Death"

    (1) Combs is great as weyoun. The whole Founders/ Jem'hadar/ Vorta arrangement is forced and stupid. I never liked it, don't like it now. The Dominion is lame.

    (2) That makes it somewhat difficult to really get into the spirit of things on episodes such as this, which just impose a military-tropes=grid on the Trek machoinery in play, and somewhat sloppily. One of the many problems of military-stuff in Trek is how they apply 20th century thinking to the world of the future. You see this all the time in the ship battles ("right full rudder!" Hell that's from the 19th century.) But they never really get into things. Why not transport a small bit of anti-matter to (insert x) and blow the place up from orbit? One of a thousnad things I should've scribbled down, but anytime it comes up, I think the same thing: in order to tell military stories, they hobble the Trek stories and produce an underdeveloped military one. I remember, too, when these episodes were on the air and a lot of Trek friends (who never watched war movies, or read any military history, or generally speaking, had nothing but contempt for military stuff, being pacifists almost to a man/woman of the group I was thinking) got so excited about "Trek went to war!" And I think this is my beef with DS9/Dominion War: this is "war movie" stuff for people who don't know or understand war, only war movies. I am not a soldier so I can't lay claim to understanding war, but I do know when I'm being sold something that doesn't add up or fully utilize the concepts in play. ANyway: this whole point is mainly a comment on war-in-Trek in general, not just this episode. Which:

    (3) I kinda liked! Surprising to myself. I still think all of the above hobbles it a bit, but as far as the characters/ performances it was all fine, I thought. Except as you mention: this is a grenade-throwing mission more than anything. An act of revenge which doesn't quite make sense. Didn't these guys see "Arena"? Ai yi yi.

    (4) "The only reason those are the stakes is that those are the stakes imposed upon the crew by the writers. The only reason the writers imposed those stakes upon the crew, presumably, is to further the action and the intrigue and to permit the series to avoid all that tiresome talking that would have resulted if Picard had been in charge of things. Or if not that specifically, something like that. Bottom line: the writers didn't want anyone to seek a peaceful resolution to the issue, so they stacked the deck so as to bypass that as an option." Yep. Contrived. Fun for what it is, but what it is is not-quite-a-war-movie and not-quite-Star-Trek.

    (5) "because we had seven seasons worth of DS9 writers cramming this type of thing into the world, it became what Star Trek is. A pity." I wonder about that. Was it DS9 to do it? Possibly.

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    1. (2) Good analysis there, and I think you're right on the money. Ah, well; it's following a Trek tradition going back to at least "Balance of Terror," so this isn't one of those things where I can fault the followups all that much. But I can fault them for rarely doing anything interesting even within the confines of their own conceits. And do.

      (3) We're on pretty much the same page here. I've got big problems with all of this conceptually, but the execution is strong enough to kind of ease me over that speedbump.

      (5) I'm probably being unfair. A lot of this began on TNG. Some of it even began in the movies. Hell, some of it began on TOS.

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  20. Well, I finished s4 last night. Thank you again for letting me do all my notes-taking in-real-time here in the comments.

    "The Quickening"

    (1) I had the same question re: the Dominion. This is one of the many problems I have with the Gamma Quadrant and with the Dominion and with the Changelings. They're a nebulous-villain-concept where the specifics never match up with things. I just don't understand the logistics of anything involved with the Dominion.

    (2) This was a pretty decent episode, though, Dominion-logistics aside.

    "Body Parts"

    (1) That pregnancy-business is indeed a bit convoluted! Kind of cool, all those abstractions you sketch out here.

    (2) "I'm surprised by how amusing I am finding most of the Ferengi stuff to be on this rewatch of the series. Shocked, even." I hear you, there. Rom's tough to listen to (he reminds me of the aliens from Galaxy Quest, just not played for laughs, except here for the first time I thought, maybe he IS playing this for laughs, I dunno - either way, I'm going to back off Rom now, this episode made me think I was approaching things dumbly). I'm even starting to be amused by the Great Marketplace stuff, which before struck me as tortured metaphor-ing.

    (3) You make a good point re: was the ending earned (yes) vs. has the series earned this episode (no). I agree.

    "Broken Link"

    (1) Oh dear. I just hate the Changelings/ all this nonsense. It makes zero sense. It's not intriguing to me at all.

    (2) Agreed on all-things-Garak. It's astounding how many times in VOY and DS9 they retread this ground. All you have to do is watch "I, Borg." It's settled, people. FFS.

    (3) I hadn't considered Odo's sexual abilities prior to reading this review, but wouldn't he have been able to satisfy any woman/ any species previously? He's human now so he's stuck with one shape whereas before he could mold himself to any shape he or his partner desired. Sounds like the Bajoran ladies have this exactly backwards. Anyway the whole Odo-is-human-now thing is fine; it's like the periodic Ben-Grimm-turns-human stuff. Except: how do the Changelings accomplish this? Serious question. They can turn people human or Changeling? I fucking hate the Changelings and this endlessly-movable-goalpost of what they are and why they do it. They're just a cipher for everything; it's terrible.

    And that's that! I'll hold off on giving you my own rankings so you have something new to look at when I get some version of all the above into a post.

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    1. Looking forward to it!

      I don't have much in the way of reactions to the specific comments. Just imagine an image of a guy nodding in complete agreement, that's me on these.

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