QuarkOK, back to the usual more lengthy recaps. Also: your regular reminder that these are not spoiler-free discussions of 25-year-old television shows.

S1E11, “The Nagus” (writer: David Livingston)

A low-stakes, highly enjoyable pure character-building episode, and a good break from the recent string of rehashed Trek Standards. There’s a hint of a plot but it’s mostly about establishing some Ferengi stuff and developing a few relationships. As such, I’ll discuss in terms of characters rather than story:

  • Grand Nagus Zek – In a bit of inspired casting, played by Wallace Shawn. The Grand Nagus is the economic, and therefore political, leader of the Ferengi. As such, he is their shrewdest, greediest, surliest, and feistiest. Naturally, Quark idolizes him.
  • Quark & Rom – Usually Quark gets to be the Alpha Ferengi around the station, lording over the hapless Rom. But with the Nagus around, Quark has to fall in line, appeasing the Nagus in any way he demands.
    • The Ferengi are basically played for laughs in the Trek universe and it 100% works. They maintain a snarling facade, but saddled with a short stature and troll-like ugliness, they hardly seem dangerous. More like a neighborhood chihuahua yapping violently at passers-by from the safety of its sturdily-fenced backyard fortress. Their unrestrained avarice and selfishness makes them single-minded in their pursuit of petty schemes, but in practice it’s usually the other way around, in that they are easily lured into traps under the haziest promise of a sweet deal.
    • Since we usually only see Quark and Rom, we haven’t gotten much of a sense of the crushingly patriarchal and rigidly ranked greater Ferengi society we see in “The Nagus”. If Zek decides he wants to buy Quark’s bar, even on the slightest pretext of scent of a potential profit-generator, Quark just has to let him have it at whatever pittance Zek allows. Worse, Quark isn’t permitted to sit at the table with the Ferengi bigwigs, and spends most of the episode lamenting his sorry position, rather than stewing in his usual boastful confidence.
    • On the flip side, when Zek controversially names the low-status Quark his successor (beautifully reasoned: “I’m just not as greedy as I used to be”), Quark’s naturally inflated ego is instantly back, and we enjoy some fantastic scenes of Quark awash in his own importance.
    • Have we ever seen a Ferengi woman? Not on DS9 as yet. Maybe on TNG but I don’t remember specifics, though I have the impression that Ferengi males esteem women somewhere below household replicators. Seems ripe ground to cover as the series progresses.
  • Jake & Nog – Nog’s bad influence continues to corrupt the characteristically responsible Jake. Nog can’t deal with the boring structure of a human school and mostly just wants to loiter around the promenade and hatch schemes. I can imagine that young Ferengi tend to educate themselves not through formal means (other than memorizing the Rules of Acquisition) but through numerous failed teenage hustles until they grow shrewd enough to get a foothold in some fledgling entrepreneurship. Basically they’re a race of C-minus MBAs. Interesting to see Nog’s awkward maturation in contrast to the high-level Ferengi maneuvering taking place above him.
  • Good Sisko & Jake bits squeezed in. So far I’m really impressed with how the show builds in some plot-related character moments, it’s a worthy heir to TNG.
  • and, not to be forgotten: Morn! We are starting to love that there is a mute barfly at Quark’s appearing in one scene every single episode. Why is he even there? He must work on DS9 but spends all his leisure time at Quark’s. I’m not sure if I’d be happier to know that one particular person plays Morn, or that there is a “Morn of the Week” and a different person gets to don the Morn suit for each episode. Today, it’s the set electrician. Next week, it’s the caterer. I’m also not looking up anything about Morn in Memory Alpha, I really do not want spoilers in case he takes a turn for the relevant.

Overall: Peak DS9. 5 out of 5.

S1E12, “Vortex” (writer: Sam Rolfe)

In the early going, Quark has cruised into position as the most fun character, but Odo is probably the most interesting. The other regulars have a clear motivation and background, but Odo has been established as a mystery. He’s never met another shapeshifter and has no idea where he comes from. He sleeps in a bucket and can transform into anything, on sight, instantly and seamlessly. Since this essentially makes him a superhero–it’s basically invisibility without the need to be naked all the time*–he could probably do anything in the universe, but instead is the security officer on a distant space outpost, transmogrifying into drinking glasses or wallpaper or whatever else it takes to mete out justice. So, one might assume that whatever greater life mission he’s on, he is absolutely dedicated to fairness and adherence to the law.

* I also started wondering–and maybe this was established and I missed it–whether Odo is wearing clothes. I don’t see how he can be. Whenever he transformed he’d sort of slip out of them, right? So that means the clothes are part of his humanoid illusion…and he *is* naked all the time. It seems like you really can’t get around this inherent invisibility problem. So, dude is walking around naked all the time. Maybe that’s why they don’t want to get into it on the show.

So Odo gets tangled up in an interplanetary feud when Croden, a guy who appears to be quietly getting trashed at Quark’s bar, interferes in Quark’s transparent fencing operation with a pair of Miradorn twins. Croden is bad at being a thief but good at accidentally killing people, so he ends up botching the robbery and shooting one of the twins. He’s also really good at lying, so even though Quark isn’t, Odo can’t really get anywhere in his investigation, even though Quark probably put him up to the theft in the first place. Croden’s smooth talking about knowing stuff about shapeshifters also starts to influence Odo, aided by a tantalizing pendant made of an organic transforming material. Odo, being entirely made of organic transforming material, can’t help but be intrigued, but also is getting this information from a con artist murderer in a jail cell so like, there could be more reliable sources. Odo also has bigger problems than Quark’s endless petty crimes, as Croden’s homeworld is already after him and wants him back, and the Miradorn is ready to revenge-murder him at the first opportunity. Odo has to sneak Croden off DS9 to take him home, which sets up a longer opportunity for Croden to keep working on Odo, and it’s eventually revealed that, even though Croden doesn’t actually know anything about the shapeshifter race, he has some noble motivations. He even somehow emerges as a sympathetic figure and Odo is put in a tight situation trying to figure out how to deal with him.

In the end, this ends up being a terrific, complex episode, as long as you maybe don’t dig too deeply into what Odo actually decides. The show was conceived as something like an old west-style remote setting, and here’s a natural extension of that, where a sort of semi-lawless moral frontier justice prevails over coded, enforceable law. So Odo, as an officer of the law, who will mention such at any opportunity, and who is, I remind you, giving up being a badass invisible superhero to perform this task, just lets Croden go despite his extensive criminal history and recent murder. Well, to be fair, the murder was more or less in self-defense and that Miradorn guy was a criminal and a jerk.

Endnotes:

  • Speaking of the Miradorns, interesting concept of a race of twins. What would be the implications of one dying? I guess if was your symbiotic twin, you’d be as mad as that guy was. I wonder if we’ll see more Miradorns later in the series.
  • The Chamra Vortex felt like an homage back to Kirk et al escaping into the Mutara Nebula in Wrath of Khan. Lots of convenient nebulae in space to evade pursuit, it seems.

Overall: DS9 is bringing it early and often so far, with some deep, complex plots and characters. 5 out of 5.

S1E13, “Battle Lines” (writer: Hilary J. Bader)

Let’s say you are an important commander of a deep space starbase, maintaining a position of significant importance near a newly discovered wormhole that leads to an entirely different part of the galaxy. And, being in a very important place, and being a very important person, other important people may show up from time to time for important business (important SPACE BUSINESS). They might ask to see some local attractions. You might indulge them. Should you, in this situation, venture with the important visitor through the wormhole to the far side of the galaxy, rendering yourself immediately untethered to your station, in potentially hostile space, and incommunicado?

Well if you are Commander Sisko, yes you do.

And also:

  • Not just any important visitor, Kai Opaka, the spiritual leader of the Bajoran people, who own the very station in which you are in charge.
  • Who has never even left Bajor before. Her appearance is literally unprecedented.
  • In a runabout, the spaceship equivalent of a golf cart.
  • And then they investigate a mysterious subspace signal. Instead of, say, making a note of it.
  • And then they promptly get shot down.
  • And find themselves in an fantastically dangerous nonstop war.

I just–listen, this wasn’t a great plan.

Of course the DS9 crew eventually track them down and everything gets straightened out. In Sisko’s defense he was perhaps being manipulated a bit by Opaka, who had a persistent eerie feeling that she was going…somewhere…to do…something. She was right! She also obeyed an important TV rule, which is, if you have a really weird feeling about things, tell no one and just let stuff happen and hope it will work out OK.

Endnotes:

  • Intriguing SF idea about the endless, regenerative war. It’d be horrifying if it this wasn’t a TV-PG universe. Despite ongoing commentary about the hopeless, endless terror, recovering from each grim death appears to be about as unpleasant as rousing oneself out of a recliner. It could have been “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” nightmare territory.
  • Reverse the polarity! O’Brien invents a differential magnanometer to foil some deadly probes.
  • This is the second leader of an entire race on DS9 in three episodes. Maybe Odo should go ahead and allow for the one additional Federation guy to help out with security.

Overall: Some fun ideas here but a lot of plot holes, leaning on some tropes, and some needless technobabble. 2 out of 5.

S1E14, “The Storyteller” (writer: Kurt Michael Bensmiller)

Episodes 14 and 15 (I’ll get to the latter next post) both go with a clear A & B story format, and in both cases the B story is Jake and Nog hatching ridiculous schemes. K and I were both delighted by this development.

The A story in “The Storyteller” has another new and fun character thing: we learn that O’Brien is super annoyed by the over-chatty Bashir. For his part, Sisko is establishing a pattern of pushing his charges’ limits, in that he smirkingly makes O’Brien go on a mission with Bashir anyway. Even though we’ve also established that O’Brien is the only guy who can fix anything on DS9. Maybe nothing will break this time? Anyway perhaps Sisko is being a clever manager of people, knowing they just need some time to bond. Or perhaps he is an obnoxious boss abusing his power and demonstrating his ignorance of the value of his charges.

“The Storyteller” is a nephew of a the familiar “Trek Visits a Village” setup (“The Apple” comes to mind first, but both TOS and TNG have loads of variations on this) where they are drawn into a local crisis and need to weasel their way out. In this case, O’Brien mysteriously and quite unwillingly gains the favor of the village elder, called the Sirah, who appoints O’Brien the new Sirah as he is dying. The Sirah’s job is to tell a really good story that unites the village and wards off a monster…that turns out to be an angry cloud. O’Brien would mostly rather go back to DS9 to be with his family and fix replicators, and as he’s trying to figure out how to make that happen one of the villagers tries to murder him. It turns out the would-be murderer is the rightful successor to the old Sirah, but lost favor with the village after it turned out he was really bad at being a Sirah and everyone hates him. Well, this is the same as O’Brien, but this guy wants to fight angry clouds at least, and at least ostensibly knows how. Naturally the thoroughly unqualified O’Brien fails pitifully at Sirahmanship, and the new guy is forced to take over, but with renewed vigor and focus, and brings the village together to repel the angry cloud monster. Bashir sees the subtext: that the old Sirah knew exactly what would happen, and in making the new guy fight for the position and focus, he’d move past his previous failures. Also O’Brien and Bashir share a fun bonding moment when they both almost died.

While all this is going down on Bajor, back on DS9 Sisko is arbitrating a land dispute between two Bajoran factions. One of the factions is represented by Varis, a teenage girl, assuming leadership responsibilities after her father was killed. Like O’Brien, she is obviously not at all qualified to fulfill her expectations, though for some reason has been sent anyway, with no advisors or staff at all (?), and is immediately in over her head. However, as ostensibly the only teenage girl on DS9, Jake and Nog latch on to her, and with her negotiations failing, it isn’t long before she’s loitering around the promenade with them being all moody and teen-agery. But they actually manage to steer her in the right direction by relating their fathers’ wisdom, which for Jake is various nuggets from Sisko, and for Rom is mostly Ferengi Rules of Acquisition, because what don’t they know?

Ultimately this episode is a mini leadership and management academy lesson. Sisko and the old Sirah both push their people a bit beyond their comfort zones, being confident that they’ll succeed and grow. Well, it worked out that way, anyway–if you ignore the attempted murder and near-death by cloud monster. (There’s an alternate universe where both misread the situation and Bashir and O’Brien can’t effectively work together while the new Sirah actually really is lousy at his job and the village is destroyed. Then Sisko has to explain to Starfleet Command why he sent his Chief Engineer to his doom merely to score a managerial win.) Meanwhile the Bajor faction that stubbornly stuck with the flaws of its hereditary leadership culture, like an organization mired in routine, breaks out of its rut when Varis brings in some helpful outside consultants and things work out.

Endnotes:

  • Honestly this whole setup in the village with the predictable but inscrutable and incredibly dangerous cloud monster was pretty unsatisfying and arbitrary to me. Why hasn’t the village ever reported this phenomenon to Bajoran authorities? Maybe you’ve learned to live with it, but dang, at least mention it to Starfleet when you ask them to send you some medical help.
    • Village: “Help! We need a Doctor!”
    • Starfleet: “OK, help is on the way! Any other specialized personnel needed? Anything we should know about your village?”
    • Village: “Hmmm… nope, can’t think of anything. Thanks! See you soon!”
  • How can the tricorder not pick up a single thing about the monster? Not that we should believe tricorders are capable of analyzing literally all known and unknown universal phenomena, but that’s *even more reason to get some help with it*.
  • O’Brien’s lousy attempt at being the Sirah is actually pretty funny. Everyone in the village is just so baffled and horrified at his sorry performance. Poor O’Brien is going to have flashbacks to this every time he’s asked to give a toast.
  • Love the bit where Varis asks Jake and Nog if their fathers are good with advice. Jake: “Yes!” Nog, son of the hapless Rom: “Uh, no.”
  • Odo’s only role in this episode is to repeatedly chase loitering teens off the promenade. He appears to enjoy it.
  • It’s of dubious value to the plot, but Nog’s killer prank on Jake is the best moment of the episode. They break into Odo’s office, and Nog makes like he’s going to steal Odo’s sleeping bucket, but instead hurls some disgusting glop out of it onto Jake. Jake and Varis think it’s the sleeping, inert form of Odo, which is now splattered all over his office. But it’s just gross oatmeal.

Overall: A lot going on here and a bit contrived if you look at it too closely but it all ties together in an interesting way, and lots of good character stuff. 4 out of 5.

QuarkOne more batch of DS9 quick early recaps. I’ll add some ratings this time.

S1E7, “Q-Less”, writer: Hannah Louise Shearer. 3 out of 5.

Couple of fanservice TNG cameos from Vash (the archaeologist who once had a little something going on with Picard), and more troublesome, Q. Vash is trying to rid herself of Q after a few years roaming the galaxy with him for fun and profit. (I forgot that’s what ended up happening to her after her TNG episode but the internet reminded me.) He still wants to keep the partnership going but she’s got Quark auctioning off a bunch of alien artifacts, and just wants to get some fresh cash and get back to Earth.

This one was fine. Quark’s unreserved greed is already fun. And I can get behind a few cameos since Trek watching is a long-term thing and it’s a big universe out there, so a familiar face can be welcome. There’s some tacked-on arbitrary drama when one of the artifacts ends up being a toxic explosive, but at least that keeps the crew busy.

As for Q, my reaction to him has settled into a pattern:

First scene: Aha! Q! Hijinks are bound to ensue!

Second scene: Oh yeah, Q is an obnoxious bully.

But it’s a 45 minute show so while he’s sorta funny, you mark off the time you’ll have to put up with him, and you do for a while, then he inevitably gets bored toying with everyone and goes away.

S1E8, “Dax”, Writer: Peter Allan Fields. 4 out of 5.

We haven’t done a Dax episode yet, better get on that. Title suggestion: “Dax”. Perfect! Let’s go with it! Let’s also introduce the creepy “Dr. Bashir is going to be harassing her” angle and hope it doesn’t continue. (It will.)

How else to intro the Trill concept but a good old fashioned murder? Turns out Dax might have killed someone in her previous life and the theme of the episode is a debate about whether a Trill in a new host is a different person (and, therefore, whether the new host is responsible for what the last one did). It’s an interesting question, and the short answer is “sorta”, which I found satisfyingly complex, like messy reality. The eventual innocent verdict is also satisfying, it’s a solidly well-done courtroom drama of an episode.

Fun bit–and my cue to make a note of episode writers now that I’m getting a feel for the show–D.C. Fontana, story editor for TOS (until its lousy third season), co-wrote the teleplay.

S1E9, “The Passenger”, Writer: Morgan Gendel. 4 out of 5.

Morgan Gendel wrote the best episode of TNG, according to me. He also wrote one of the worst. So, uh, here we go.

Lets do more murders! Kira and Bashir are returning from a medical mission (in which she’s praising his fine work, but he accepts so arrogantly she is about to lay into him–so does *anyone* like Julian at this point?) when they get a distress call and from a disabled transport ship that is on fire. They pick up a passenger, Kajada, who says there’s no one else aboard, but actually there is, she just wanted to leave him behind, explaining he’s a serial murderer who started the fire and is probably mostly dead anyway. He does die, but only after giving Bashir a quick choke to establish that he’s a bad guy. Back on DS9 he’s officially deceased but only maybe he didn’t die because while they are really super sure he’s dead, Kajada insists this is a 1980s horror movie and he’s somehow actually not dead. But he is, says Bashir. But what if he isn’t, she retorts. And so it goes.

Because it’s TV, a bunch of stuff happens that makes it seem like he’s alive, and the episode gets filed under Trek crime mystery as the crew pieces things together. Pretty good one, too, lots of red herrings, and leans on some fun sci-fi elements to make it work.

This episode also introduces Lieutenant Primmin, a security officer assigned to by Starfleet to work DS9 with Odo. He seems like he’s only there to annoy Odo, though one could argue his character is not unlike a standard crime TV trope of an FBI agent getting in the way of a local investigation. Especially since I’m viewing a few episodes ahead of my writing, and know that he’ll disappear as suddenly as he showed up. But the disappointingly practical answer is: Colm Meaney was away from the show for a bit to film a TNG movie and they just needed a fill-in.

S1E10, “Move Along Home”, Writer: Michael Piller. 2 out of 5.

DS9 hosts a first contact meeting with the Wadi, who just want to go to the local saloon and gamble. Enter: Quark. He assumes they’re easy marks so immediately sets about cheating them, but they aren’t, so they immediately figure out what he’s doing. In retaliation, they set up their own game, which somehow tricks several crew into thinking they are trapped in a weird sci-fi maze they have to escape from.

I dunno, sure. Effective if not terribly memorable. It reminded me of a million TOS episodes where Kirk et al get trapped in some bizarre alien arena and have to fight/logic/whatever Scotty does/etc. their way out. Good chance for the show to get creative or have puzzles or creatures or effects I guess but they tend to be a little boring to me. Maybe they just don’t have much in the way of stakes, like, what’s going to happen really? The rules are sorta arbitrary, then after the designated 40 minutes or so they get out. Memory Alpha has a quote from Piller saying he was inspired by an episode of The Prisoner, which sounds about right. Although “Move Along Home” is missing that element of pure “what the hell?” kinda moments where you don’t know if he’s escaped, still trapped, will ever escape, or what.

I did like Quark’s perspective from the outside. He believes the crew might be in real danger, and it’s his fault for getting them into the game, so at one point he’s reduced to truly pathetic begging for their lives. The show seems to enjoy forcing Quark into admitting he actually likes anyone else, and I’m for it.

Review of Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer

Ada Palmer knows a lot more than me about language, history, and philosophy, and she interweaves them all into some seriously skillful social/political sci fi. She’s created a fully-realized future society that seems inevitable, yet fantastically different. It’s complex and ambitious. Most novels are doing well if they tell some truth about one or two social concepts–Palmer is after them all. Just a sample: Binary gender constructs on the 21st century are largely a historical relic (but just as incomplete and rife with unfair norms and taboos). Numerous cultures live together and everyone speaks a mishmash of languages. Religion is carefully regulated. And people aren’t loyal to the arbitrary geography of their birthplace (easy when you have rapid worldwide travel), but to a global “Hive” of similar philosophies.

While this is all incredibly intricate and well-done, and is legitimately comparable to Dune in scope, it doesn’t always make for breezy reading. I struggled to follow some parts or keep track of the heaps of characters with names that are as fantastic as they are difficult to remember. It’s not just unusual spellings or widely diverse language origins (but it is that)—their names, Hives, and relationships tell you something about their motives, and you may not understand how as you’re reading, but have to wait for an explanation to come later. They frequently appear on the scene in an instant, with no clue as to who they are or what they represent, only to evolve into major figures as they are discussed by other newly-introduced characters in later chapters. The thread of plot itself is a bit thin and somewhat baffling at times, Palmer rarely gives in and explains what’s happening, preferring to gradually introduce context and mete out revealing nuggets over its entire length. Much of the novel proceeds as carefully nuanced philosophical or political conversations to fill in societal details or historical backstory, which may effectively build on her world but doesn’t always keep things moving. It doesn’t help that this is a planned Part 1 of 2, and more focused on establishment than resolution.

While at times I thought I might not even finish Book 1, in the end I’m looking forward to Book 2. Especially since I feel like I’ve done the hard work of catching up with Palmer’s world, and some potential payoff is still ahead.

Also I dug this passage about the trope of the mad genius:

 

Heartless reality does not grant humans the lifespan necessary to master every specialty of science, so no one genius in his secret lab can really bring robots, mutants, and clones into the world at his mad whim–it takes a team, masses of funds, and decades. But one man can love all sciences, even if he cannot wield them, and he can inspire children with the model of the mad genius, even if he cannot live it.

Cross-posted from Goodreads

I like poking around Google Street Views in arctic places I am unlikely to ever go. People can add 360 photos in super remote areas. I came across this in remote western Alaska, north of Nome (zoom in a bit…):

You have to appreciate Stephen H’s commitment to this gag.

QuarkDS9 quick early recaps, continued:

S1E3, “Past Prologue”

The pilot sets up an open question about Kira’s loyalties but turns out we don’t have to wait at all for some Bajoran-style trouble. Immediately there’s temptation for her to shift her loyalty back to full-on Bajor instead of the Federation’s more egalitarian vision. Of course she doesn’t do it. I mean, she’s not going to betray Sisko and disappear in literal episode two. She’s in the credits and promotional photos! The episode is well done and interesting and all, but the show runners maybe should have waited to play this card, right? Perhaps some building tension about her role throughout the first season, not always agreeing with Sisko, capped by this episode. Having it come up in the second show is sort of pointless, there’s no real question about what’s going to happen. Also they already did the “Bajoran turns on the Federation” thing with Ro in TNG.

S1E4, “A Man Alone”

The Loyalty Tests continue, this time for Odo. A known sleazebag turns up on DS9 that Odo wants off the station, but Sisko can’t justify a removal without cause, so Odo has to put up with it. Then the sleazebag is murdered as an obvious frame-up of Odo (he even leaves behind a calendar entry that says “Get Murdered By Odo” “Appointment with Odo”). A classic-style Trek medical techno-mystery follows and of course, Odo is absolved. (Again, only episode three, credits, promo photos, etc.)

More importantly, this episode really establishes the interesting Quark-Odo relationship. Neither trusts each other and they are adversaries on the surface, but actually their mutual annoyance with each other kinda weirdly makes them friends. I think they both enjoy some empty threats and low-key snarling.

S1E5, “Babel”

It’s not clear how big the crew is on DS9. There are hints that it’s a bare-bones operation, but even the crushingly exhaustive Memory Alpha* says the minimum crew is 300 (without me reading exhaustive details, because even though I am happy to spoil anything I’ve already seen here, I certainly don’t want anything spoiled for me). Well, it’s a little unclear what all the jobs are but it’s not fixing stuff. That’s O’Brien’s burden, from antimatter flow converters to replicators. Engines I get–you probably have someone on staff, but you’d think, if anything, they’d just call a replicator guy when that breaks. Anyway, O’Brien’s grim, endless toil is just a setup for the spread of a weird infliction that scrambles everyone’s brains and renders them unable to process language. They can talk, but it comes out as unintelligible babbling (not unlike my blog). They figure out it’s caused by a sleeper virus left by the Bajoran Resistance. It’s OK though because they compel a scientist to come discover and synthesize a cure, which he does, in like 10 minutes. Which is believable because he probably sorta knew the guy that created it. This episode is silly.

* By way of example, someone has taken the time to document all uncredited roles:

A Human man

S1E6, “Captive Pursuit”

Just when we were starting to really like Quark, this episode opens with an inexplicable, and never revisited, scene about a sexual harassment complaint from one of his staff being registered with Sisko. Nothing for it though, Quark had snuck a clause into her contract that said such advances were part of the gig. Sisko tsk-tsks him and invalidates the clause, which is good enough for her. Or at least, she knows no one on this clown station is really going to do anything about it. I really don’t know what the heck this bit was supposed to accomplish character-wise. [Scowls.]

Anyway, if we pretend that scene never happened (I’m going to guess the remainder of the series does) we get a pretty good episode. Some of the best Treks are these types of cultural mysteries, where some seemingly bizarre alien behavior slowly comes into focus. In this case, the aliens have a caste system that isn’t fucking around: there are Hunters–who, uh, hunt–and there are Tosk–who they are hunting. Like typical Good Trek, it’s not altogether clear how to react. Pretty easy to argue their culture is barbaric, but then, the Prime Directive doesn’t let you do anything about it. (Unless you are Kirk and you just really really want to.) Apparently O’Brien took Replicator Repair instead of The Prime Directive And You class in the Academy, though, so he helps Tosk escape, with a wink and a nudge from Sisko. Frontier justice is served.

QuarkTime to get rolling on some DS9 write-ups. Viewing is currently ahead of writing schedule, so going to do hit the first 11 episodes of Deep Space Nine at WARP SPEED. Ha-ha, because WARP SPEED means fast!!!1! Also my memory of some of them is already fading.

Background (comma) Your Author’s

My complete experience of watching DS9 up to this point is:

  • Watching a few random episodes in college without ever watching much TNG, so having no context except for TOS, which resulted in my being generally mystified by the focus on the Bajoran-Cardassian feud and Ferengi money-obsession. Every episode seemed to be idiotic Quark schemes.
  • Watched the tribbles episode because aw, tribbles.

That’s it. But! Compared to college-me, I have so much more TV-watching experience, particularly the Star Trek variety of TV. I watched TNG around 8-9 years ago, getting into the habit of writing up brief reviews starting with ep. 517 back on the ol’ LiveJournal. Then did a systemic watch of TOS (here ya go: reviews of all of them).

So I feel that I would be a strong asset to this organization and a good fit for the position of “guy who is going to watch DS9 now”. Joining me will be my swell wife who has more recently watched TNG, remembers shows she’s seen without having to write online reviews of them, and can be pretty darn insightful. She is also a power TV watcher that will keep me churning through the episodes. You, the reader, will benefit.

S1E1 – “Emissary”

Pilot episode. Mostly Sisko focused, we learn about how his wife died, which is sad, and Avery Brooks is still learning how to portray a space boss, which is awkward. “Do I hyper-enunciate everything, mostly bellow my lines, and otherwise act as stiffly as possible? I’ll try that for this first episode,” he says. However, Patrick Stewart is around to help kick things off, and he says, “No, don’t do that. Just be cool.” But we still have to get through this first one. We also meet all the primaries and get a little sketch of them:

O’Brien: Has accepted a promotion and transfer to DS9 so he can fix more stuff. Though he had to leave behind his favorite transporter on the Enterprise.

Major Kira: Hothead Bajoran liaison that is definitely going to kill a Cardassian at some point and cause a galactic incident.

Odo: Security officer and shapeshifter that can perfectly replicate anything except a human, I guess.

Quark: A Ferengi bar & casino owner. Armin Shimerman in the role he was born to play,  Great at playing a weasel and barely even needs the makeup. Wait, that sounds mean–this is actually a compliment. He’s so bloody effective at being Quark that he’s established the archetype of what Ferenegi is. So when I think, “What does a Ferengi–a member of a fictional TV race–look like?” I think of Armin Shimerman. So in practice, when I see normal pictures of him, I think “He just looks like a Ferengi!” Such is his blessing and curse. Leonard Nimoy and Brent Spiner are like, “Well, cry me a river, Shimerman.”

Dax: A Trill, which is a race where the controlling lifeform inhabits numerous hosts over its lifetime, and assumes new corresponding identities. It’s really sort of gross.

Dr. Bashir: Ostensibly a doctor, mostly has a crush on Dax despite the gross thing.

Anyway it’s been several weeks since I watched the episode, so while I remember the character stuff, the plot has grown fuzzy. (Also a reminder: no one is paying me to write these.) But I do remember it as a great first episode, sets up the feel and the premise of the series. Instead of flying around the galaxy encountering stuff, we have a stationary perspective (except when DS9 has to use its kinda strange puny thrusters, that is) at the frontier edge of space. Right next door, a wormhole to a totally unexplored quadrant, and who knows what could be in there? Which sounds like a good setup for a TV show.

OK, well it’s been 41 days since I said I was going to do some more posting and I have posted precisely once. Not that anyone is waiting around for me to start doing some daily writing again, but this is a wonderful example of what happens when you set VAPID goals. I don’t really have a good excuse that doesn’t sound like an excuse (but it boils down to: lack of time & mental energy). Point is, I was serious that I wanted to get back in the habit of writing, but the execution has has been lacking. I do have a bunch of stuff half-written. And maybe once a day was ambitious even if I have no scope.

Well anyway I’m not as young as I once was and it may take this train a while to get up to speed. But on the agenda:

  • Lots of stuff about being 40, an age which I have somehow arrived at. Nothing like having a midlife crises or lamenting my lost youth or whatever, mostly like in the vein of: how is this possible? I thought I was like, 25.
  • Various thoughts before and after the August 21 eclipse. I’ve been excited for it for years, and will be traveling to see it.

And, yup,

  • Reviews of Deep Space Nine episodes. Just started watching. Because I have still not gotten around to confirming if there are already capsule reviews of Star Trek episodes online.