Viewing posts tagged Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

“Maya”: Shadowplay

A holographic little girl discusses the nature of imaginal reality with a formless being and a goddess. This is an interesting one.

We should begin with the personal identity theory and problem of self themes which naturally always crop up in any story like this. As one might expect from this show, particularly this show this season, the problem is addressed and dealt with rather easily. As a direct thematic follow-up to both “Inheritance” and “Whispers”, it's never portrayed as ambiguous whether or not the colonists really are sentient beings. That is, if you discount Odo. Odo's apparent uncertainty over this fact is a reflection of his own inner nature, not necessarily a statement of judgment: He's accompanied Dax to the Gamma Quadrant to look for clues about his history and identity, and he wants hard and clear answers. Of course, Dax has helped him in this regard before, earlier in the season in “The Alternate”. But seeing “The Alternate” is not a necessary prerequisite for enjoying this episode.

Odo is a neoplatonist here, out searching for an objective reality he can define himself in accordance with. He's ...

“Two Cheeseburgers”: Paradise

OK, this one's absolute rubbish.

I've had my philosophical disagreements with this show this season, but at least those were on episodes that were basically well-constructed and where there was room for a nuanced discussion about different interpretations. “Paradise” is just hot garbage and the first Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode since “Invasive Procedures” I simply can't defend or come up with any interesting tangential topics to venture forth into. It's a directionless parable about cultism and the relationship the Star Trek universe has with its technology that can't make its mind up about what it wants its actual point to be and plays out as a hideously boring rehash of “The Apple” from the Original Series and “The Masterpiece Society” from the fifth season. No amount of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine's lovely purple prose or Block and Erdmann's praise for how how Commander Sisko “radiates” defiance in their Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion is ever going to upsell me on this story or convince me it's anything other than some alien looking crap-on-a-stick.

I said I didn't have ...

“Entangled freedom”: Whispers

Colm Meaney is an immense acting talent. We all know this. Chief O'Brien was elevated from a nameless bit part who was little more than an extra to become debatably the most lasting and memorable character in the entire series because it was evident to everyone from Day 1 on “Encounter at Farpoint” that this was a guy who had some serious chops, even before bringing in quite extensive and illustrious motion picture career outside of Star Trek.

How you respond to a talent like that probably says more about you than it does them. When you write material for a specific actor, you're more than likely envisioning a specific subset of their range you'd like to see them give when they perform your script. On Star Trek: The Next Generation, the creative team responded by giving Colm increasingly larger and larger parts until they could hang an entire story off of him, usually emphasizing his everyman characteristics by giving him a unique insight on or offhand reaction to the topic at hand. On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, they invented an entire new hyperlocalized genre of story entitled ...

“Ragnarok”: Armageddon Game

I can't help but read “Armageddon Game” in the context of the Cold War, or rather, in the context of the perceived end of the Cold War that would have permeated the zeitgeist of the early 1990s. I say “perceived”, because a lot of the geopolitical climate we currently live in as of this writing stems directly from the Cold War, or from multinational powers operating like the Cold War is still on. Which, by definition, means that it is.

Perhaps some of this is due to the title's similarity to that of the Original Series episode “A Taste of Armageddon”, which was likewise about apocalyptic wargaming with thinly-veiled stand-ins for nuclear weapons. But “Armageddon Game” goes well above and beyond the average Cold War fears over Mutually Assured Destruction: In this story, the analogs for the United States and the Soviet Union are entering their process of disarmament, a certainly timely topic in early 1994, yet are still engaged in heinous acts related to their earlier displays of diplomatic aggression. In order to ensure such ...

“We are only us when we are here”: The Alternate

“The Alternate” is a study of Odo's past. There is a clever fake-out during the first few acts, with the tease of an archaeological site in the Gamma Quadrant yielding clues about Odo's people, and which actually doesn't amount to much aside from the plot device needed to get the episode's central...conflict in motion. Because while “The Alternate” is about Odo's backstory, it's not stupid enough to explain away an origin story for him outright, or even give too many hints that would tempt the audience to get distracted trying to solve a mystery instead of paying attention to the story. Rather, the past we learn about Odo is his relationship with Doctor Mora Pol, who becomes the Bajoran scientist who found and raised him Odo mentioned to Lwaxana Troi in “The Forsaken”.

As much as I enjoy the fake-out science fiction mystery worldbuilding that baits us away so we don't notice the naturally more important exploration of characters an their relationship with one another until we're already in it, something about this plot has never sat entirely well with me. Odo is ...

“The Butterfly Effect”: Rivals

Chaos theory is the principle of mathematics that states dynamical systems which are subject to any number of individual initial conditions, such as the commonly cited example of a butterfly flapping its wings ultimately leading to a dramatic shift in weather at the opposite end of the planet, behave in such a way that defies prediction in the long-term. These systems are called chaotic, where by this definition chaos is not random, but is so impossible to predict by any meaningful system of measurement that it might as well be random.

This is ostensibly the premise “Rivals” was pitched under. But the neutrino-spinning gambling machine Martus Mazur brings to Deep Space 9 hardly constitutes an example of chaos theory. Instead, it operates by altering the laws of probability, as numerous characters state at various points in the episode. Far from large-scale effects being generated seemingly at random by an otherwise inconsequential initial event, the device arbitrarily dispenses good luck and bad luck across the station, which is a very different sort of phenomenon. Perhaps it's small wonder than that the “chaos theory” pitch languished around in production hell for over a ...

“Need not apply”: Sanctuary

Here's an episode I always remember being ambivalent about. It's one of those situations where it always seemed like it was something I should like, but somehow it never quite clicked with me for one reason or another. Each time I would rewatch this episode (or, given where it falls in the year and the fact it's a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode more generally, re-read) I would expect it to be good given my mental sorting algorithm filed it away as part of a stretch of episodes I'd just accepted as classic outright, and then I would always leave it feeling vaguely unsatisfied for reasons I couldn't quite put my finger on. Well, the same thing happened this time, except now I know exactly why this episode has never struck a chord with me.

“Sanctuary” is ostensibly trying to Say Something Important about the plight of refugees, a humanitarian crisis that's sadly just as pressing as I write these words now as it was in 1993, if not more so. This means of course it's an “Issues” story, and we've just come ...

“What is it that does not cease when the vision ends?”: Second Sight

This is the moment where I finally break with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine establishment. I mean, not that it hasn't been obvious over the past year and a half that I have serious disagreements with this creative team about what this show is fundamentally about and even what constitutes good basic storytelling, but “Second Sight” is where whatever bridges span the rift between us vanish forever and it becomes obvious we have two irreconcilable conceptions of what this show is about and something is going to have to give: I think this episode is a defining classic, but the creative team hates it and I have a feeling the majority of fandom agrees with them.

Just like “Necessary Evil”, “Second Sight” is about elements from the past returning to have an impact on events in the present and, also just like “Necessary Evil”, it's about finding positive, constructive ways to make peace with them and continue our lives. It's the four year anniversary of the Battle of Wolf 359, and thus of Jennifer's death, and Commander Sisko almost forgot. The guilt he feels upon this realisation is ...

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