Viewing posts tagged Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

“Morphology of the amorphous”: Vortex

Odo is a shapeshifter. I know that sounds obvious to any fan of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but I'm not just talking about his plot superpowers here. Rather Odo being a shapeshifter is a diegetic allegory for the role he plays on the series, and clue as to his character's true nature.

Odo got the first spotlight on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine following “Emissary”, and while it was excellent it was more about the setting of the titular space station itself and inviting comparison with Westerns than Odo himself; it's that “Fort Laramie in Space” again (Star Trek certainly does seem fixated on its precious Hollywood Westerns and seems to want to invoke them whenever and wherever possible). While “Vortex” draws upon Westerns to a significant degree as well: The script took its inspiration from the movie The Naked Spur such that Peter Allan Fields hired Sam Rolfe, the writer of that movie and an old mentor of Fields', to handle the teleplay for “Vortex” (Rolfe had previously written “The Vengeance Factor”, which is probably my favourite episode of the third season, and the script even specifies ...

“A person who trusts no one cannot be trusted”: The Nagus

There's always been an aspect of duality to the Ferengi. On the one hand, they're meant to be dangerous and threatening capitalists, working as pirates and marauders who use intimidation and strongarming tactics to turn profit at all costs. On the other hand, thanks to their infamous “crazed gerbil” depiction in “The Last Outpost”, there's an undeniable and irreducible silliness to them that at once seems at odds with this intended narrative function.

However as I have previously argued, I feel these two interpretations are not necessarily mutually exclusive; there's a great deal to be said, after all, about a group of antagonists who at once embody ruthless capitalist values and blatantly misogynistic attitudes (many of which are at least taken for granted and accepted as “the way things are” in modernity, thus becoming hegemonic, or, in the absolute worst case scenarios, idealized and triumphed) and are also seen as a completely harmless laughingstock by the Star Trek universe. I still believe “The Last Outpost” walks this line fairly well, gerbils notwithstanding, but subsequent Ferengi stories have had a rougher time trying to maintain that careful balance. Too ...

“Jam, elephants, peanuts, elephants and dung...”: Move Along Home

Allamaraine, if you can see/Then Allamaraine...Oh fuck me.
“Move Along Home” is astoundingly terrible.

I'm tempted to just leave the essay there-The production woes of this story are all well documented and self-explanatory (the team could not budget, ran out of money, and were working with a questionable brief to begin with) and almost nobody is going to leap to defend it. Ranting about how dumb and silly everything is here feels like a waste of time and preaching to the choir. One thing I will go on a bit of a tirade about is how Terry Farrell's obligation to have Jadzia Dax play alien hopscotch precluded her from guest starring in “Birthright, Part I” as both episodes were filmed the same week. Aside from the fact Dax is and always was obviously the correct character for that subplot, there's also the tragic fact that Farrell was the biggest Star Trek fan of the entire cast, was yearning for a chance to walk the Enterprise sets and was currently rooming with Marina Sirtis at the time.

Farrell begged and pleaded and even broke into tears, but the ...

“The city's ripped backside”: The Passenger

So I quite like “The Passenger”. It's one of those sixth/first season episodes that tends to get criticized for “not being Deep Space Nine enough”, meaning its a tech mystery, doesn't involve gratuitous action scenes and people are reasonably personable to each other. But to me, this is perfectly recognisable as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and features much of what I love about this show in abundance.

One interesting thing to note about this episode, or at least where this episode falls in my coverage of the series, is that it's a Morgan Grendel pitch with help from Michael Piller coming immediately after another episode with the exact same credit (though the teleplay for “The Passenger” also had help from Robert Hewitt Wolfe, who's not on staff for Star Trek: The Next Generation). If Grendel is brought up in the discussion here though, it's typically to compare “The Passenger” with his most famous work, “The Inner Light”. Both stories do, after all, deal with a person living on in some form after death within the mind of another person, and some people like to read ...

“She most lives”: Dax

So I need to get something off my chest right off the bat. The entire teaser and first act of this episode manifestly do not need to exist. They're nothing more than horrid, stock Male gaze-y Damsel in Distress capture/escape/chase science fiction bullshit. Obviously, the writers wanted that precious “conflict and drama” and, because they're science fiction writers, they think the best way to do that is to abduct a pretty, doe-eyed young woman who pleads for mercy while helplessly immobilized by the Standard Female Grab Area and then lead the macho military men on a chase through corridors on a starbase as they spout protocol at one another.

I'll bet you can guess how I feel that Jadzia Dax is the character who gets the treatment in question. But what makes it even worse is that this actually doesn't make any real dramatic sense! Think about it: How much more dramatic would it had been if, rather than deciding to indulge their Buck Rogers fantasies, the writers actually let us know this was going to be a courtroom drama from the start. Imagine if in ...

“As If”: Q-Less

Remind me again why I'm wasting my time here.
OK, at no point was this ever going to be a good idea.

The critique effectively writes itself. Neither Q nor Vash belong on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Vash was a bad idea to begin with and has never appeared in a good story. It's silly in an incredibly awkward and forced way (granting as I do a lot of the comic dialog is good, so long as you divorce it from literally all of the rest of the context). More seriously and worryingly though, it gets extremely up in the audience's face about forcing contrast to Star Trek: The Next Generation where contrast doesn't need to be drawn. “I'm not Picard” says it all, frankly.

And it really does. “Q-Less”, like “Captive Pursuit” before it, is trying way, way too hard to prove to us it's something that couldn't be done on Star Trek: The Next Generation, which is something of a problem for an episode explicitly conceived of as a crossover. When I see work like this, I can't help but get ...

“But do I have the right?”: Captive Pursuit

One of the common criticisms leveled against Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in its early years is that its episodes had a tendency to be “too much like The Next Generation”, with the typical argument generally going that these episodes either had technobabble or plots that weren't uniquely Deep Space Nine centric. I personally don't think this is the case at all; in fact, of the episodes we've looked at so far, by my estimation that only one that could conceivably have also been done on Star Trek: The Next Generation was “Babel”-the one that was actually originally written for Star Trek: The Next Generation. And even “Babel” was worked over really well to fit the setting and character dynamics of the new show.

This makes it terribly interesting for me to see “Captive Pursuit” held up by pretty much the entire creative team as a great early example of a show that could never have been done on Star Trek: The Next Generation, because as far as I can tell the big problem ...

“You hear, but you do not understand”: Babel

Realistically speaking, I don't think this is an episode anyone is particularly excited or enthusiastic about. I do think it's a grave misconception and the deepest of follies to dismiss this first half-season outright, as much of mainline fandom is wont to do: In fact I'd argue this crop of episodes is part of the single greatest season in all of Star Trek, counting Star Trek: The Next Generation alongside it, of course. On the other hand this is not to say that each and every story this year is a triumph, and, on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine at least, we're about to enter a run of episodes where the new show, so imperious and strong right out of the gate, is...less than successful.

Not unrelentingly terrible, it must be said. I don't think there's an episode in this run that is unwatchably or offensively bad, and there's at least one interesting and/or memorable scene in all of them. And each and every one does contribute something to the show's rapid and astonishing rate of development and maturation, even if it ...

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