Dear Josh,

I am here to send you the following message: Do not play fantasy football again.

Every summer you forget what it’s like and you foolishly re-up. By the time you remember what it’s like, it’s too late to back out. So heed my warning now: Do not play fantasy football again. 

I understand it has been a part of your life for a long time. Your first season playing was back in 1998 on, during your lost and lonely college student days (though thankfully past the full-on depression part). It was a time you needed something in your life and it was there for you. Your first ever draft pick was Terrell Davis, your all-time favorite actual football player, who carried you to a pretty respectable season even though the team was mostly bad because you had no idea what you were doing. After a few years on Sandbox you migrated to Yahoo and have been there ever since. You won a few leagues, were always competitive, and never gave up on a season. You played with your dad and countless friends. Sometimes it was the only thing you could talk about with certain people, so it was an important social bridge, too. It was there throughout the ebbs and flows of your interest in watching the actual games, whether you watched three a week or ten all year. All in all, it provided much enjoyment and entertainment and was, all in all, a very good thing.

But it’s been twenty years. Now it’s time for it to go. Because, as you and I have come to realize, it is a very, very stupid game.

Truthfully, I think we knew this no later than like, year three. We probably suspected it from day one, if we are going to be frank here.

Most fantasy players know this. Anyone who has played any appreciable length of time has stories of the time they lost the week because their opponent’s kicker made six field goals on Monday night. Or how they were projected to win by 60 points against a team whose owner quit two months earlier, but the ghost team eked out a victory anyway when its starting QB had a career game and yours tweaked his knee five minutes before kickoff and sat out. Or how they finished in last place despite leading the league in scoring. Or whatever other cosmically unlikely thing that could only happen, weekly, in a game this stupid.

But it’s low enough commitment, and it does have some positives, so who cares? Well, I have decided I care. Even at ten minutes a week I don’t need the aggravation anymore. In tabletop gaming circles, a game with too many random elements sometimes makes it a bad game. Fantasy football is a game with random outcomes.

That should be plenty. But there’s more. If we truly require more from a game that already assigns wins randomly, let’s also add that not one of the in-game proceedings intended to enliven the experience ever actually work. The reason for this is that, as one might expect from a game with the lowest of low stakes, the commitment of the human participants runs typically somewhere between “negligent” to “literally forgot they agreed to manage a team.”

  • The draft: The commissioner and the smallest cohort of owners want to do a live draft. No one else objects, because they aren’t really paying attention. Most players’ interest began waning right after they agreed to play, but they figure, maybe they’ll show up anyway. They won’t.
  • Lineup management. Fantasy football owners are expected to optimize their starting lineups weekly. The most productive players should generally be assigned responsibility for generating team points, but next-tier players matched up with favorablly bad defenses might be swapped in. Owners must also negotiate team bye weeks. This all requires research. Few, if any, owners with jobs, children, or literally any other life interests will bother. I did bother. I played for 20 years, times 17 weeks, equals 340 individual lineups to set. I am meticulous by nature when it comes to games, and pretty good at remembering stuff, and would wager I made the time to decide on my lineup at least 335 times, with the remaining five being times I was probably traveling and just set it in advance and hoped for the best. I would further wager that my opponents did the same maybe 200 times, an imbalance of effort that would have stopped me years ago, if I was smart. Because it never mattered. I am certain my overall record is within a sliver of 170 wins and 170 losses.Touchdowns are notoriously fickle rewards, meted out unsystematically by the chaotic nature of the sport itself, and you will never, ever feel as though you are getting your fair share of them. Especially if you have invested time into obtaining them. So, I cannot recommend doing that under any circumstances.
  • Trades. What if you would like to fortify your lineup? You can turn to the free agent wire, home of backup tight ends and reserve wide receivers who somehow got a touchdown once. What if you need starting-level talent? To the trading block! Herein, you inform the league about which players you own the rights to that you would be willing to part with. Maybe others will do the same. (They won’t.) So you can offer more directly, contacting another owner directly. You will ask, “How about I give you player A for player B? According to all sources, they are expected to score exactly the same number of points in the future, only I have an abundance of players like player A in that position, and I need a player B who can fill a position of weakness, and you happen to have precisely the opposite situation.” This trade will be ignored by nearly all owners, because they aren’t paying any attention. In a rare case, they are, only the response to every trade ever has been: “No.” With the counteroffer, “Instead I will give you my three most dreadful players–that I shouldn’t even be rostering, really–for your two best players. This is sure to be great for you! Three is more than two.”
  • League communication. Ha-ha, a message board! This will be a delightful way to engage with the group! That no ever posts to, reads, or acknowledges the existence of.

I’m sure there are good leagues. It doesn’t help to look for them, however. A quick trip into the public leagues available reveals thousands of “JOIN MY LEAGUE AWESOME OWNERS ONLY WE ARE THE BEST” only with all those words misspelled and 9 out of 10 teams still available. You can pay money to join more serious leagues. These are the same but now you have less money.

I hope this will serve as a sufficient rant against the foibles of fantasy football as a hobby. DO NOT SIGN UP. YOU HATE IT. IT IS STUPID. YES, THE DRAFT IS STILL FUN EVEN THOUGH NO ONE SHOWS UP BUT THEN YOU’RE STUCK WITH THIS TEAM FOR FOUR MONTHS.






Or at least, the 10 minutes a week you spend playing it.


Fantasy baseball is still OK though.




S3E9, “Defiant” (story: Ronald D. Moore)Sisko and the Grand Nagus' staff (on loan)

This one has a fun surprise that deserves a reminder of my standard spoiler warning–that these shows were made in the strange faraway decade of the ’90s when the dream was still alive, and I don’t really bother withholding twists and spoilers if it requires any effort to do so. Who would read a review of a random Trek episode prior to watching it at this point anyway is beyond me, but I try to be a good citizen. OK? OK.

So, our old TNG pal Will Riker turns up on DS9. Our primary question at first is not so much “What is he doing there?” but “Is he going to make moves on Kira or Dax?” And to be perfectly clear, I mean to say: “Will it be Kira or Dax that he makes moves upon?” …The answer is Kira. Only because he already tried and whiffed with Dax a year ago, per Dax. Kira is still involved with Bareil but who can resist Riker’s harmless charms? She indulges him on a tour of the station and everything’s going great up until the part when he stuns her with a phaser and steals the Defiant. He strips off some beard segments, leaving only the more sinister goatee and the revelation that he’s not Will Riker but Tom Riker! He is further revealed to be a member of the Maquis on a daring mission into Cardassian space to get to a strategic shipyard and blow stuff up.

T. Riker has thus inflamed both the Federation and the Cardassians and things could get really messy. Like, assassination of Archduke Ferdinand messy. So Sisko accompanies Dukat to Cardassia to make sure the response is handled with a delicate touch instead of Dukat’s instinctive reaction to murder everything. The show does an unusual flip here as the response becomes the focus and T. Riker’s Maquis gang’s mission is just the plot driver.

The intricacies of the attack and response are interesting to watch but would be boring to rehash here, so I’ll wrap up by saying: this was a good one. Some random thoughts:

  • I’m not sure if there was a better way to revisit poor ol’ transport clone Tom Riker. We had to see him again at some point, but Memory Alpha tells me that stories about him were verboten among the showrunners. But we also know Jonathan Frakes has been hovering around the show as a director already, and I guess they were seduced by his charm as well. This story gives him some identity other than “bitter jerk” and leaves things slightly open for a return later.
  • Also the detail about him stripping off some fake facial hair patches to convert Will Riker-style-beard into Tom Riker-style-goatee and reveal his identity is wonderful. I love that Tom doesn’t just grow out his beard, but instead risks some trivial costuming malfunction might blow his cover during this extremely dangerous mission. He’s that convinced the full beard look is the domain of the wretched Will Riker, or that he looks just that bad with it.
  • The showrunners continue trying to revise their early vision of Sisko (started in “The Search”). We knew he was a good diplomat at least, and that’s super handy here, but he also demonstrates some solid military tactics. He’s constantly outguessing the Maquis while Dukat (sort of ridiculously) falls for every trick. Dukat looks so bad the Obsidian Order observer lays a sick burn on him about there finally being a good tactician around, with a nod towards Sisko.
  • Speaking of the Obsidian Order, we’d learned about them back in “The Wire” but we get a little more insight here. Namely that they run a super secret sector that even Dukat doesn’t know about.
  • I’m starting to think we may be in store for a major Dukat pivot at some point. More and more he’s getting left out of the Cardassian inner circle, and he always seems to have time to turn up for some DS9 taunting or other petty business. Eventually he’s just not going to leave and he’ll end up opening a rival clothing store on the promenade. Or: that could just be what it’s like to work within the vast Cardassian bureaucracy. You only get a tiny sliver of power, but you’re expected to be running every minute detail of it.
  • Further, he and Sisko are absolutely starting to build a grudging respect for each other. Dukat even laments that he’s missing his son’s birthday and gets some comfort from Sisko.
  • Didn’t mention one of Riker’s ruses to get aboard the Defiant. O’Brien was aboard fixing stuff when he got there, and to get rid of him, Riker snarls some insult about never wanting to talk to him again, so poor O’Brien slinks off wondering what he did. It was effective enough that I was trying to remember what happened too. It’s been years since my TNG watch. Were they making a point about the unreliability of memory? Probably just a clue that all was not as it seemed with Riker. W. Riker would’ve bear-hugged O’Brien.
    • Sub-point: I hear the term “gaslighting” all the time now for obvious political reasons. I’d never heard it before this last election cycle and it took me a while to wrap my head around what it meant beyond just “lying,” but I think this episode helped! O’Brien was told such an effective lie he questioned his memory (as did I).
      • Getting quite afield of the Trek discussion, but just to close the loop on the the meaning of the term, it further strikes me that should stop using it w/r/t the modern GOP. It implies a level of cunning that would almost be a compliment. Rather than what is actually happening, which is repeated, easily-disproved lying so brazen that the only people whose sanity I’m questioning are people who shrug and vote for them anyway.

Overall: Tremendous character episode and a riveting plot. Good job, everyone. 5 out of 5.

S3E10, “Fascination” (story: Ira Stephen Behr and James Crocker)

Like global climate change causing more weather extremes of both hot and cold, DS9 is getting more extreme in both seriousness and silliness. I am a fan. Excepting the horrid “Meridian,” season 3 has been outstanding. I think it’s really finding its groove in both directions. Anyway if episodes were classified on a sort of contrast color scale where the darkest shade indicated the most serious episodes, and pale colors indicated more farcical elements, “Fascination” is the blinding white light of a nuclear blast.

It’d be dizzying to recap much of the plot, suffice to say, everyone starts acting like they’ve been cooped up in a space station without any smooching for too long. Each has their own love interest—based in reality or not—and of course none of them line up. This occurs during the Bajoran Gratitude Festival, so the mood is wily enough anyway that it’s not immediately clear people aren’t just feeling amorous, but are actually enduring some kind of space love sickness. It all gets very silly until they get it together enough to realize something is wrong and get it all sorted.

Naturally a true farce of a Trek episode prominently involves Lwaxana Troi. My take is that this episode is the ultimate tribute to her character. The thing is, it’s an open question whether her character is good. I’d hypothesize that most Trek fans sort of hate her and roll their eyes and sigh at her appearance, the same way I do the first time the computer doesn’t respond properly when a show starts off in the holodeck. I’m not sure I liked her at first either, but, she grew on me. Everyone knows someone just like some facet of her. She can be thoroughly overbearing, driving Troi nuts or spawning a comically fearful element in the otherwise restrained Picard. But she can also be terrifically sweet, connecting with Odo in a way that probably only she could. Similarly, one can see this episode as too silly, as a straight-up farce with no real value, and not in the spirit of the show. But it’s got a warmth that is typically missing from a show that can be overly stiff, and as an occasional treat, I think it’s needed.

Odo’s biology corner: Odo doesn’t dance. Perhaps there is a biological basis for this, or he’s just being his usual reserved self, but it’s a shame because if he could/would dance I’m sure he’d have some boss moves.

Morn watch: Morn is letting Dax review his renewal scroll (something one does at the Gratitude Festival). She says: “”Morn, It’s hard to believe a handsome, fun-loving guy like you could have so many problems! My advice to you is to burn this as quickly as possible and don’t look back.” (He does so.) This quote is some kind of tantalizing tease.

Overall: I mean, yeah, it’s ridiculous. But the good kind of ridiculous. I saw a lot of sheepish embarrassment about it from the cast and crew, definitely a mixed bag among both fans and creators, but I kind of loved it. 4 out of 5.

S3E11/12, “Past Tense” parts 1 & 2 (story: Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe)

I’m much more of a TV watcher than a movie fan. As a rule it’s a medium for story rather than spectacle. Naturally books are even further along the continuum, but TV sits in the middle as a happy compromise. When it’s well-done it can succeed at both. Good shows have room to build characters and settings in a way that movies never can. Especially in SF, too many movies have this formula:

  1. Introduce a fantastic premise that meshes together some interesting new idea with a social issue. Characters trapped in this world are striving to battle evil or oppression.
  2. Everyone runs around fighting and blowing stuff up.

It’s not difficult to understand why this happens so often. In a reasonably long movie, by the time you’ve covered all the bases in step 1, you don’t have time to pragmatically solve the issues. Step 2 can’t be “build an inclusive grassroots movement to remedy society’s problems.” There’s only time for a revolution.

“Past Tense” is a good episode about homelessness and inequality in society, and it paints an interesting, inevitable picture of the west’s economic future. But, same formula. Part I is essentially step 1 of the episode above, and Part II is step 2. Not unexpectedly, I thought Part I was a little more engaging and interesting. Though at least in the context of the show, we benefit from knowing Sisko pretty well by now, so the weight of his character factors into his increased involvement with the revolution (as noted). Though this situation one-ups most action flicks: here the protagonist knows the history, which means he knows the outcome. He just has to find a way to get there and not screw it up.

Perhaps this setup relies on your particular view of time travel. If you prefer Back to the Future style infinite threads where you can go back, change something, and affect the future, then yeah, Sisko needs to not screw it up. But if you prefer more of the pre-destiny style “you cannot change the past, it implies you’d already changed it” version, then Sisko should really be able to just react as he goes and it should work out, somehow. I think you can read the outcome of this one either way, which is a sign they pull it off.

Other stuff:

  • How Sisko and Bashir get treated (immediate relocation to homeless containment area) vs. Dax (taken in by rich sympathizer) is yet another dimension, with the obvious lesson that society tends to treat you better if you’re pretty and white.
  • STILL MORE Sisko shedding the gentle bureaucratic character in favor of some Kirk-style actioning.
  • It’s really a Sisko episode, but Bashir handles himself pretty well. He’s slowly matured from lovesick hotshot doctor into Competent Away Team Guy.
  • Future minor spoiler: Memory Alpha tells me that they planned to cast Iggy Pop into the minor street guy role that Clint Howard played, but Iggy turned out to have another commitment. Of course, Clint Howard was, and continues to be, available for all one’s twitchy lunatic casting needs. But…Iggy will appear in a season six episode! I am very excited for this.

Overall: A really strong script all-around, layered and detailed, with an good plot and some time travel. 5 out of 5.

S3E13, “Life Support” (story: Christian Ford & Roger Soffer/teleplay: Ronald D. Moore)

Within an episode, I suppose you can treat A & B stories either as complements (addressing the same theme, or eventually tying together) or opposites (time for two stories? do two stories). In the latter case, you need to be sure that the two aren’t so different that you’re expecting the audience to essentially manage two separate emotional reactions. Like for instance, don’t have one story where a major secondary character—whom we’ve seen numerous times and is involved in a very serious relationship with one of the leads—endure a serious accident and difficult experimental medical procedures, but then die slowly in front of our eyes, while the B story is about Nog being a sexist teenage idiot.

Both the individual stories work pretty well, actually, but the combo is a weird, weird choice. Maybe the B story got sillier in execution and they didn’t anticipate it. I dunno. I’m keeping track of who’s credited with the story for each of these, but not usually the teleplay. I’ll note who it is here, though, because Memory Alpha tells me that Ronald D. Moore was more or less the one who convinced the showrunners they needed a lighthearted complement to Bareil’s death story. M.A. also says everyone was horrified how it was turning out. (But I guess, production schedules are production schedules.) And not to be too hard on Moore, who wrote dozens of great episodes of TNG and DS9. (Including “Defiant” in this same dang post.)

Well anyway, so, Bareil dies. I never really cared for the character or his stories, so, honestly, oh well. Memory Alpha also clarifies that they killed him off because the showrunners didn’t really like the Kira love story and didn’t know what else to do with him. So it’s not just me. Though I’m sorry for Kira. Goodness, hasn’t she been through enough? The story itself is interesting enough. It carefully tiptoes around “Spock’s Brain” territory but I’d say it comfortably avoids it and stands as a successful medical drama. (Pro tip:  For believability, do not have characters narrate their own brain surgeries.) Further, Kai Winn manages to become a somewhat sympathetic character, although not without outing herself as being in over her head as Kai. Well, sorta sympathetic. She readily admits she needs help and has deep respect for Bareil, but she also subtly pressures him to risk his life for the negotiations. But he also pressures himself. So I don’t know. I don’t like here any more than I did, but she became a little more human Bajoran.

Forgetting all that, let’s turn to the lesson of Nog being a bad date. Wait—a lesson implies we have learned something. We did not. I think we’d all have guessed Nog would make a bad date. He is not part of a more socially progressive younger generation. He blindly carries on the sexist traditions of his elders, and is so embarrassing he ruins Jake’s date with Lisa from Saved by the Bell. But Jake has to accept some blame. Who thinks it’s a good idea to double date with a Ferengi? Eventually they find a compromise wherein they’ll remain friends but not be expected to adopt either’s cultural norms. The logic being: maybe Jake does some disgusting human stuff that offends Nog’s Ferengi sensibilities, for example, openly being nice to a girl. Or maybe, eating with utensils. So, they will just not bring those things up anymore. Uh, good enough.

Wardrobe note: This is the episode I noticed their undershirts have toned back from the neon purple of the first few season 3 episodes into a more subdued lavender/gray. Probably a good choice. I can say that now that the 90s are well behind us and we understand the full scope of mistakes that were made with purple.

Overall: Just OK I guess. Bareil’s story was better, and sends him off honorably. Also, Nog is gross. 2 out of 5.

S3E5, “Second Skin” (story: Robert Hewitt Wolfe)Sisko and the Grand Nagus' staff (on loan)

In my write-up for “The Search” last time out, I talked about stories that gradually pile on disorder until things are so divergent they’d actually change the premise of the show, which jolts you as viewer out of willful suspension of disbelief. “Second Skin” is another premise trick: introducing a radical change immediately, which you know is BS, so the arc of the show is more about untangling the mystery. (Another classic Trek in this vein is, obviously, SPACE LINCOLN.) Here: Kira wakes up…as a Cardassian! This isn’t even the first time they’ve gone to this well: Troi woke up as a Romulan in some TNG episode that, if I was a paid and/or skillful reviewer of Trek episodes, I would go re-watch to compare and contrast here. Since I am neither, I will not do that.

I won’t go into the whole plot thread, suffice to say, I thought it was well-plotted and it’s a good mind twister even though you know everything’s going back to normal around the 40 minute mark. Somehow. And it does! Memory Alpha tells me that Robert Hewitt Wolfe wanted it to feel like a Philip K. Dick story, and I think he succeeds. Just enough details add up to make one occasionally think, well, maybe it’s true? Memory Alpha also says Wolfe originally thought they’d have O’Brien get the Cardassian treatment, but they couldn’t explain how he’d have managed to father a human child if he was a secret Cardassian. (Which exposes the one flaw in this whole premise: certainly Kira has been to a doctor, ever? Bashir never thought to be like, “Hey, uh, did you know you’re a Cardassian?”) But I think it’s a stronger show with Kira anyway. Besides the way more horrifying experience for the thoroughly Bajoran Kira to contemplate being a secret Cardassian, the pseudo-father-daughter relationship she develops with her fake Cardassian Dad works surprisingly well. I can’t imagine the same emotional connection would’ve happened with O’Brien. Plus it would’ve just been another O’Brien Must Suffer episode.

Garak is a super secret reverse double agent: Essentially the wrap-up here hinges on Garak’s continued inscrutability. Again a Cardassian tells someone not to trust him. Such a strange thing. Not sure if I really understand how this can make sense yet. If he has genuinely betrayed Cardassia (as covered in “The Wire”), wouldn’t they have already hunted him down? It’s been established that sufficiently motivated Cardassian bigwigs will arrange a show trial even if they don’t really have solid evidence. Even if there’s a good reason to just exile him (considered a worse punishment, perhaps), what’s in it for Cardassians to warn Federation people? Unless they are hoping that planting doubt will help neutralize any help he might offer the Federation while in exile. Maybe that does make sense, really, but there’s probably more to the story. More than the alternate possibility, that he’s a legit Cardassian agent. He keeps helping the Federation and obviously is no friend to Dukat. Best guess at this point is that is that the betrayal & exile situation is mostly true. I’d guess he’s been caught within competing factions within the Cardassian government, so he has both supporters and detractors. We are also slowly learning Dukat doesn’t have the clout he once did, so there’s more to come here, I’m sure.

Overall: Extremely solid episode. Some holes in the premise but it works really well. 4 out of 5.

S3E6, “The Abandoned” (story: D. Thomas Maio and Steve Warnek)

“The Abandoned” posits the old nature-vs.-nurture question, but for Jem’Hadar, and it turns out that for genetically-engineered creatures designed for killing, the answer is totally nature, and that nature is for killing.

This is really just a character-building episode. Here’s what’s covered:

  • Jem’Hadar kids: they grow fast, implanted with an enzyme to keep them under control, and all they want to do is fight. It reminds me of this bit from Aqua Teen Hunger Force where Frylock puts Carl’s head onto a mass of eyes. Shake says, “Is he going to be able to chase us? Because if I woke up looking like that, I would just run towards the nearing living thing and kill it.” That is pretty much the Jem’Hadar programming.
    • However: this episode comes off as mostly sad. Odo wants to this one to be saved, raised in a helpful environment where he can do something other than violence. Unfortunately, his overwhelming need is to find his people and fight everything else, and nothing Odo can do will stop it.
  • It’s a largely sad one for Odo as well. He takes to the boy and is trusted at least a little as an outsider ally. But it’s not a natural setup and won’t work out. So for the second time in the series, Odo has a new young friend that he loses. I’m not sure if this or the virtual girl from “Shadowplay” is sadder. Probably “Shadowplay”. Harder to form an emotional connection with an ultraviolent Jem’Hadar when even a simple walk around the promenade is like herding a wild animal.
  • Meanwhile, Jake is growing up and dating a dabo girl several years older than him. But she actually charms Sisko at dinner, so it’s all good. Mostly this thread is about Jake growing up and Sisko sensing a natural shift away from the close relationship they had when Jake was a kid.

So in conclusion: the Jem’Hadar are really really scary death machines, and Jake isn’t a kid anymore.

Odo’s Biology Corner: Odo is moving beyond a bucket in the security office to full quarters in order to explore his true nature in private. Knock before entering, probably.

Overall: Not really any story per se but effective and interesting. 3 out of 5.

S3E7, “Civil Defense” (story: Mike Krohn)

As noted, I do not get paid to write reviews of Star Trek episodes for a living, despite the extreme quality and insight which I produce. Instead I develop web sites and manage some back-end systems. In this line of work, there are many opportunities to make very bad errors which can ruin your day. I have sent servers into infinite loops, overwritten database tables (as a colleague and I used to remind each other frequently, like unto an heroic war remembrance, “Remember your WHERE clauses”), and profoundly botched file permission changes to the point where I myself could no longer edit them. Anyone in this line of work has similar stories. “Civil Defense” is the Trek version of this. One would think this would happen like, daily, with these unfathomably complex systems integrated into every conceivable function of the station. But it’s a good thing it doesn’t because when it happens to me, a website goes down for a few minutes while I frantically restore backups. When it happens on DS9 the station actively tries to murder them.

Cardassians, as is well-established at this point, are (1) brutal authoritarians and (2) extreme planners. It’s also been established that the Cardassians left behind plenty of programmatic cruft in DS9’s mainframe. An outcome of this combination, as seen here, is an exhaustively well-thought out contingency-handling subroutine that disables the station in the event of trouble. The DS9ers manage to trip the program, which interprets their actions as some sort of prison riot, and to sum up, their day doesn’t turn out too well.

This episode maybe comes across as a little more funny than really intended. I think it must have been at least somewhat intentional, especially while the program is on a lower defense level and mostly they are just getting locked into or out of stuff. From there, basically everything that can go wrong does—which as a concept has to have some comic intent or it’s just cruel—but beyond the surface laffs the entire station is in pretty serious peril. Every brilliant idea to circumvent the problem is met with even harsher defenses: including but not limited to poison gas, electronic shocks, replicated laser mines. Dukat even gets in on it personally. The system fires off a latent notice about the situation and he eventually turns up personally to enjoy some taunting—and also to try leveraging the mess for Cardassian gain.

I think my favorite thing was how Dukat had a pre-recorded message for every minor infringement. I mean, he really thought through this potential uprising. But this just turns out to be Cardassian SOP I guess, as revealed by his boss’ pre-recorded message in case Dukat himself tried to flee the station during a riot. These people think of everything. Cardassian parties must be amazing.

Special bonus: Some end-of-episode closing comic banter (a classic TOS trope) between Odo and Quark.

Overall: Honestly a pretty delightful character episode all around, if a bit ridiculous. 4 out of 5.

S3E8, “Meridian” (story: Hilary J. Bader and Evan Carlos Somers)

Two threads. One is bad. One is really really bad.

A. This is the bad one. Some of the crew is out on a Gamma Quadrant exploratory mission when a planet materializes out of thin air right in front of them. They meet a small community on the surface. Oh no! They’ll be evil! No. Wait. Actually they are super nice. They explain that something in this system regularly hurtles their planet into an alternate dimension of pure consciousness and like, what can you do? They just enjoy their brief stopovers in the material world as they can. Actually this is a great premise! Only, as a book. One could really dig into the consequences of this, how it affects different people who want to join up or leave. In one part of one TV show, nah.

There’s just no time to get into anything interesting. Instead it hammers in a Dax love story. A Meridian dude takes her tree climbing and she agrees to abandon her entire life up to that point to join their society. (Keep this idea for a date handy, I guess.) So she has prolonged tearful goodbyes with everyone. Then she undergoes some kind of transporter re-phasing which is supposed to prepare her to enter the pure consciousness dimension with him. Only…she doesn’t? It doesn’t work and she’s left behind. She is devastated. There is no explanation. Credits roll.

I know they’re not all going to be winners on a show with 173 episodes. But nothing makes sense here. Obviously the ending doesn’t. The episode doesn’t end so much as stop bothering to try. I’m going to hope this was a bad week of production meetings and not a trend of things to come. Just as bad is having a character do something bizarre and out of character to churn up some drama. Dax has her impulsive side but, I dunno. Characters giving up their Federation lives for a sudden love interest is more of a TOS thing. It’s not believable at all in the scope of like three scenes. The scenes where she says goodbye to everyone are touching, but that’s to the actors’ credit. We all know she’s not going anywhere. Why don’t they work in a long arc next time someone is actually leaving the show, which would 100% make sense?

B. Back on the station, Quark is creepily trying to create a holosuite porn program of Kira by special request of an even creepier stalker. Yup. It is so much worse than the under-developed, improbably silly A story. This is probably the ickiest, least tasteful, pointless story thus far in the series.

The less said about this half, the better. The mysteriously wealthy stalker character is completely abhorrent, but he’s a villain, so he’ll face justice, yes? Nope. Quark just goes along with it. “The things I do for money,” he says. Hey maybe instead Quark could have surprised everyone and tricked the stalker into some legal entanglement, redeeming himself and pocketing his cash in the process. Quark has absolutely seen The Sting, it must be a beloved Ferengi classic. Let’s make this happen. But the DS9 showrunners did not and this is what we got.

Quark being who/what he is, maybe that would be out of character. But Odo and Kira’s responses are thoroughly out of character. They sniff out the scheme right from the start and have a brilliant chance to catch Quark and end his criminal malfeasance once and for all. So they arrest him and restore law and order, fulfilling their personal and professional dreams. Oh wait, no, actually they use the opportunity for an epic prank. Oy. Maybe they felt like Quark is so squirrelly no charges would stick, or he’d just continue being a nuisance from jail. Better to ruin his business instead, but I suspect nothing will really come from it and we’ll all just forget about this sorry episode.

Odo’s Biology Corner: Odo cannot eat and doesn’t have a sense of taste. Kira badgers him to do so anyway, which strikes me as culturally insensitive.

Morn watch: No appearance, but his name is invoked by Quark to lure Kira down to the bar. There wasn’t much to like about this episode at all, but Kira rushing down to Quark’s because she thinks Morn wants to talk to her provided a brief moment of pleasure.

Overall: Two very poor stories by the standard of this show, gerrymandered into one episode. “Meridian” is a bad TV hazardous containment area best avoided. 0 out of 5.

And now, for something of even less interest than Deep Space Nine recaps. What follows is a sampling of my musical interests, in the form of my favorite songs of 2017. I am not qualified to sum up the year in movies, because I watched like five, total. I am not qualified to sum up the year in news, because it was depressing as hell and I avoided what I could. Music, by comparison, is something I both like and feel good about. Should you, the reader, care at all about this? Well obviously no you should not, but consider this:

  • I am an avid music fan of discerning, well-rounded musical taste.
    • Though it is heavy on the shoegaze and electronic genres I frequent.
  • I can confidently declare that none of these songs are objectively bad.

That said,

  • I’m kind of old and absolutely out of touch with new pop music. This is no kind of attempt to capture the international, national, regional, or local zeitgeist. It doesn’t even capture the zietgeist of my house, which also features my wife, who is really good at music and is smart.
  • It is just a list of stuff that:
    • I liked
    • happened to be released in 2017
    • happened to be heard by me, also in 2017.

That is all. Thank you.

Fell behind in my DS9 write-ups (and still about ten episodes ahead in viewing) so the push continues here. Usually I try to alternate DS9 posts with something else, but focused on getting these knocked out.

S3E1/2, “The Search” (story: Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe)Sisko and the Grand Nagus' staff (on loan)

Everyone’s been scrambling since the end of season 2 to prep for possible attack by the Jem’Hadar. The simulations paint a dire picture of doom. New purple undershirts have been issued. Sisko has returned from traveling to talk with the Federation. He’s come back with the Defiant (a prototype attack ship with a cloaking device) and a lot of workplace-related anger. Federation leadership has been devious, unsympathetic, tone-deaf, and corrupt throughout Trek. It’s kind of a running theme that the desk jockeys back on Earth will always come off as hopelessly detached and frustrating to every starship captain, but Sisko has had it with them even before they show up to negotiate a treaty in Part II and really screw things up.

Sisko takes a new turn here. Dax observes a shot of extra emotion in him and he agrees that he’s tired of being the coffee-sipping bureaucrat. It doesn’t really jive with what we’ve seen from him the first two seasons but let’s go with what he says: he wants to get out there and shake things up. Not sure if the showrunners felt they’d hit a wall with the gentle diplomat version of the character or the situation simply dictated a change, but with the Defiant in the mix we’ll presumably be seeing more of Sisko sitting in a command chair barking orders at people.

Odo also gets some major face time here and I’m ready to decide that he’s my favorite character of the series as we lead off season 3. He’s a true outsider—more than say, Worf or Data from TNG—and it’s increasingly interesting to see how he fits into DS9. I really like Rene Auberjonois’ portrayal in a challenging role. He can’t use his face, it’s all eyes and voice inflection. Anyway we find out that one of the reasons Sisko has come back mad is because the Federation bigwigs have decided to demote Odo from security chief just because there have been several breaches, no one trusts him, and he won’t follow regulations. (See! They are totally out of touch!) He’s not sure what will happen next and may resign, but Kira persuades him to join the away mission in the meantime. The relationship between these two has been on the upswing for a while now since the awkward standoff at the end of “Necessary Evil” and I’m curious where it’s ultimately going.

So things get underway, and I don’t really know what anyone thought was going to happen when they sent one measly ship into Dominion space (like, they remember what happened with the Odyssey literally last episode, yes?), but I think dramatically it sets up three things. First, Odo may have been welcomed by Kira but trapped on board a tiny ship, he doesn’t get his usual space and time to himself, and has to bunk with Quark, of all people. So he feels as out of place as ever. Second, also re: Odo, he starts getting wobbly around mention of a special nebula in the Gamma Quadrant, but he doesn’t know why. And third, we establish Sisko in some captain’s chair action, which lasts like maybe 15 minutes of screen time before the Jem’Hadar get wind of them and predictably disable and board the ship. Because this mission is very stupid. Anyway Part I ends with things looking awfully bleak, but Part II starts in a strange place where everything’s fine. Looking back, I should have realized right away how weird the transition was, but the plot got rolling quickly and it slipped my mind.

In any story where things start going off-the-rails terrible for everyone, there’s a point where it crosses over into such radical territory that the willful suspension of disbelief gets, uh, suspended, and it’s like, wait, no way, what’s going on. Sisko & co. somehow find themselves getting back to DS9 with nothing to explain their escape. But everything’s messed up, and it slowly dawned on me that something was off. Federation goons are aboard trying to negotiate a treaty with the Dominion. Jem’Hadar guys are just walking around the station, hurling poor O’Brien around Quark’s with no repercussions. (Scotty knew how to handle himself in a bar fight, is all I will say here.) The treaty is taking on increasingly outrageous terms: namely that the Federation is to give up their position in space, hand over DS9, and split up the crew. Which like, come on, that’s not going to happen. Garak declares that the only way a treaty like that could happen is if “our leaders have gone insane.” So they all commit treason to try to stop the treaty by destroying the wormhole and Garak gets killed in the skirmish. But by then I was ready for something to make sense again. I think this was all done well—it’s fun to go just a little past a point of no return and be forced to entertain a deep change in the show structure…and then have it restored to normalcy in time for the next episode.

Meanwhile Odo and Kira woke up from the attack separately, and head to the nebula Odo was so keyed up about. Kira wants to stop him but what are you gonna do. There they encounter a rogue planet that isn’t part of any system (sure why not–I mean, I’m sure there are rogue planets in the universe but they’d be basically big balls of ice) and—surprise!—it’s filled with shapeshifters. They live as one in a big lake, and if we understood their biology I’m sure it would be considered some sort of porn. They welcome Odo home and invite him to get in on the joining. Odo’s position is interesting here—as much as he’s also exhausted by the “Solids” (namely Quark) it’s a pretty major life decision. They encourage him not just to shapeshift into a rock but to, like, be a rock. Who even are these hippies? The stodgy Odo is not sure he’s ready to find out.

Ultimately the two threads come together in the type of ending that will get you banned from any creative writing workshop: i.e., it was all a dream. For all the DS9ers but Odo and Kira anyway. The rest of them got hooked up to some VR something that is feeding them their half of the story to see how they’d react. They further reveal that the shapeshifters are the Founders, the leaders of the Dominion. Odo can get in on the ground floor so it’s a pretty good deal for him. But he rejects them. He’s appalled to find his friends treated like this. He doesn’t like their methods and cares too much about his friends and justice.

Yeah, it was all a dream, but I think the ending is solid. (Har, “solid”. Didn’t intend that, but Zing!) It’s entirely consistent with the justice-loving Odo we have gotten to know. We’ll know the Founders are out there going forward, and it’s bound to put Odo into some complicated situations. We’ll see.

Quark is not your friend: Quark is included in the simulation purely to convey the information that the Jem’Hadar actively enjoy gambling. Quark, for one, welcomes his new Dominion overlords.

Odo’s biology corner: He gets very grouchy before bedtime. Which is one thing he has in common with the Solids, although we don’t collapse into a puddle of liquid organic stew if we wait too long. YMMV.

Overall: A very important episode for the series, continuing directly from the end of season 2. Sets up a lot and accomplishes a lot. 5 out of 5.

S3E3, “The House of Quark” (story: Tom Benko)

A lot of my favorite TNG episodes were about Klingons. Many of my favorite DS9ers so far are about Quark. “The House of Quark” is both, and I was not disappointed.

It’s a quiet night in the bar, spurring the cash-desperate Quark to confront a drunken Klingon about his tab. This is, of course, a guaranteed brawl. But the Klingon is drunk enough to be roughly as bad a fighter as Quark, and rather than epic battling they end up tripping down some stairs, which results in the Klingon’s knife in his own chest. After weighing the various ethical questions of whether to claim it was the result of valiant self-defense or a terribly unfortunate accident, Quark does the thing that will make him some money. He thinks that will be the self-defense story, which he believes gawkers will pay to hear. Instead it gets him completely entangled in Klingon politics and house rivalries. At one point he ends up married. But never mind that, the real story here is the power of bookkeeping.

After a serious stretch, we were due for a lighter episode about how Ferengi and Klingons work together (we covered Vulcan/Ferengi a few episodes ago, so continuing to check off some inter-species boxes here, one surmises). Klingon culture may be on the decline amongst the Federation but it’s alive and well on the Klingon homeworld, replete with Byzantine rules of order and heredity law. Quark’s profit motivation is a ridiculous mix-in, and makes for an extremely delightful episode. Literally any Klingon could crush Quark physically so he goes Moneyball literally and metaphorically, seeking out an under-the-radar strategy that he can succeed with. As mentioned, that is bookkeeping. Klingons are evidently terrible at it, and Quark easily exploits leaky records to turn the tables and extricate himself from trouble. It’s silly but the plot is fun and internally consistent with both cultures.

Morn watch: Rather than close down the bar, Morn actually leaves early, inexplicably accompanied by another sentient lifeform, and giving Quark the thumbs-up. Quark makes up a new Rule of Acquisition on the spot to describe how desperately bad business is when even Morn has better things to do.

Overall: Klingon accounting practices are an intrinsically funny concept and they made a whole show about it. I liked it. 5 out of 5.

S3E4, “Equilibrium” (story: Christopher Teague)

Getting into the third season, I think there’s a lot we still don’t really understand about Dax. I’m not sure they’ve found great ways to introduce Trill stuff gently into the thread of other stories, they seem to be leaning more on deep-dive episodes about them. Which is fine but it feels like we forget about her for weeks at a time. Though it does require a light touch, which they do well. The concept has some danger of getting out of control: it’d be easy to make Dax into a sort of superhero, where there was a past life skillset that surfaced to save the day any time there was a problem. “Equilibrium” gets more into the flipside of things, where Dax has a fuzzy memory of a past life that she can’t shake. It’s maddening enough when an old song gets into your head and you can’t remember where it’s from, imagine if it happened several lifetimes ago.

As a single story, “Equilibrium” is fine. It’s basically a medical drama, which walks a fine line between interesting and artificial. It’s not that different from a standard Trek Trope where some technical issue arises whenever they need some drama.

Doctor: “Your isoboramine levels are up!”

Patient: “Oh no!” [Dramatic scene commences]

Doctor: “Now they are down again.”

Patient: “OK good! Whew!” [Let’s re-examine our lives now.]

But it’s done well enough here, the show remains engaging. It ends up being less about Dax than Bashir and Sisko trying to figure out the larger mystery, but that’s more Trek’s style. Julian has scaled back from a wannabe ladies’ man into a competent medical professional with understated charm. More relevant long term is the a major Trill reveal at the end—that the exclusivity of symbiont pairing is largely artificial and a secret, to avoid them becoming commodities. I can envision a story down the road where this information falls into the wrong hands (his name rhymes with Smork).

Overall: Some important Trill stuff and filling out some Dax history but not super memorable. 3 out of 5.