Quark

S1E15, “Progress” (writer: Peter Allan Fields)

(A) Somewhere I’m sure there’s a famous Cardassian tale of irony where a man sells all his yamok sauce to pay for the self-sealing stem bolts his wife needs, and unbeknownst to him, and she sold her [whatever the hell self-sealing stem bolts are for] to buy the ingredients to make [some indescribably vile Cardassian dish that goes well with yamok sauce]. It plays out in real time here. Jake and Nog act out this age-old legend, taking it even further and eventually parlaying the initially useless yamok sauce surplus into a profit that makes Quark proud.

I love that the Jake and Nog antics of ep. 14 are trimmed of the needless meta-lesson in international relations, and developed into a full-blown scheme. In literally the next episode. For no ostensible purpose other than laffs and some character building. And that is just fine with me. The show tends to be rather serious in nature, every single episode seemingly has the fate of an entire race hanging in the balance. So the little bits of comic relief from Jake & Nog or Odo & Quark or a well-timed eye-roll behind Bashir’s back are tremendously effective.

Kristen especially loved the self-sealing stem bolts. She was chuckling continuously at them, they were just the most perfectly useless-seeming thing, and Jake and Nog managed to acquire a whole bloody crate of them. There’s a brilliant turnaround too, when O’Brien gets wind of them, we are lured into thinking, “Oh, an experienced engineer running an entire space station. Certainly he’ll have a use for them, will make them an offer, and it’ll go down as a standard Ferengi profit maneuver.” Instead he has no idea what they are either, kicking things into a higher, stupider gear.

(B) An old Bajoran guy doesn’t want to leave his home, but they are going to turn the moon he lives on into a massive power plant which will render it uninhabitable. Kira visits, in an attempt to convince him to leave, but his simple, contemplative attitude towards life charms her onto his side.

Kira has been such a hardass thus far, this setup is almost too perfect a way to see her caring side. It might have come off as corny, except the old guy is tremendously mellow and likable, and it’s very easy to sympathize with him. Really liked his performance. (I just learned that the actor is the same guy who played the dad in the original Parent Trap. I always like that dad, too!)

Really liked how this part contrasted the all-plot, subtext-free zany-ness of the other story too. There’s not much actually going on here plot-wise, it’s all subtext of the unstoppable force of progress, life sucks and changes and will break your heart, there are dirty jobs and someone’s gotta do ’em, and everyone has deeper complexities and is capable of surprising you.

Morn watch: The legend grows. In an inexplicable bit, Dax mentions to Kira that Morn asked her out (!). I choose to imagine he was all awkward and shy and a total gentleman gentle-whatever-Morn-is. Not like, he was drunk and slobbering and barely coherent and she didn’t have a clue who he was and now can never go back to Quark’s for fear of bumping into him.

Overall: The two stories have nothing to do with each other, but both parts show what DS9 can do well. Recommended. 5 out of 5.

S1E16, “If Wishes Were Horses” (writers: Neil McCue Crawford and William L. Crawford)

OK I wrote a lot about #15 because I liked it. I’m not going to write much about #16 because I didn’t.

  • They imagine stuff and it appears because of some space phenomenon. Most of this territory is covered in “Where No One has Gone Before” and “Imaginary Friend” from TNG and Shore Leave from TOS. The lesson is that space really wants to materialize stuff from your imagination. Bashir’s imagined Dax is especially embarrassing. Let’s uh, not go to space actually.
  • Only this time, with a creepy Rumplestiltskin (spelled right? who cares). To her credit, Kristen immediately ID’d the actor here with a “that gum you like is back in style.” Maybe it helped that things got a little Twin Peaks around DS9 this week.
  • Something mysterious space thing almost obliterates the station but then at the last second it doesn’t something something.
  • Apparently the greatest baseball player in history is a short guy with the physique of an egg. Well, Babe Ruth was no looker, either.
  • Odo fun fact: he doesn’t have a sense of smell.

Just didn’t do it for me. Mysterious imagined beings jumping in and out of your space and messing up your day has not only been done in Trek but is as irritating for the characters as it is irritating to watch. There’s a minor twist in that they are just assuming these forms to get to know the crew. Maybe more of that story would have been good instead of them just being pests.

Overall: Trek filler. Sorry. 1 out of 5.

S1E17, “The Forsaken” (writer: Jim Trombetta)

This episode also has some Trek filler in the form of: Something the computer didn’t work until we tricked it something something. Whatever, a weird probe visited and infected the computer and eventually O’Brien and Dax develop a workaround. One might call it a hack. Oy the next sys admin is going to be really annoyed. It might also be setup for future plotlines where they really explore what this advanced computer can do. Anyway, I dunno, this framework doesn’t matter much. It’s sort of forgettable and TNG taught us that it’s not that interesting to watch them Geek Squad. Though I did sorta dig the 2001 homage of removing pieces of the computer to break its memory down.

But the emotional core of “The Forsaken” is a different story. Lwaxana Troi makes an appearance and latches onto Odo, whose comfort level with her attentions make Picard’s sorry ruses to evade her seem dignified. The writers Fate traps Troi and Odo together in a turbolift during the hairiest part of O’Brien’s epic computer fiddling-about haxx0ring, and it goes on for so long that Odo starts desperately needing some rejuvenation bucket time.

Lwaxana episodes can wear a bit thin, but I liked this part quite a lot. After she exhausts her ample initial idle chatter reserves and we get some truly amazing pained Odo expressions (which is something for his featureless void of a face), they eventually get into some deeper conversations. For all her flaws, Troi is capable of some tremendous warmth and empathy–well, she is a betazoid–and she even loosens up the overstarched Odo. We get a little of his background and learn that he hates parties because everyone just expects him to do shapeshifter tricks. Eventually the emotional climax of the episode comes around when Odo reaches his breaking point and has to give up his shape, and Troi is there for him to pool in a fold in her dress rather than randomly puddle on the floor, which actually probably would be pretty dangerous for him. It’s weird. But it’s effective.

Overall: The Odo & Troi stuff was memorable. 3 out of 5.

Three more this season so I’ll break it up here.

I turned 40 this year. Now I am not even lured by those “Want to feel old?” clickbait things because the answer is no, I do not. It has started to bother me when I hear twenty-somethings claim they are old because they are experiencing their first-ever occasions of being tired before midnight. The gift of middle age is in realizing that there is very little, if any, time left in which you will not be legitimately aged, and no one older than you wants to hear you say you are old. Anyway most of those clickbait things are about trends that came and went after I was already too far beyond trendy to notice, frankly.

The stages of aging as I understand them:

  1. You don’t understand things that are cool because you are too young to have any idea what’s happening in the larger social sphere. In a way, very young kids are as cool as they come because they readily embrace trends–every single kid loves some combination of Star Wars, Batman, princesses, and Thomas–and also completely do their own thing. My niece’s favorite activity is belly-flopping off the couch onto a giant beanbag. Had she developed the vocabulary, I feel certain she could discuss the nuances of couch-leaping in crushing detail.
  2. You understand things that are cool but can’t do anything about it because your bedtime is 8:00 and you have a life savings of like 6 dollars in nickels. Also Mom says no.
  3. You understand things that are cool and engage in them with parental approval.
  4. You understand things that are cool and engage in them without parental approval.
  5. You understand things that are cool but you find that sometimes you don’t care.
  6. You still know what is cool but occasionally there are new cool things that you don’t understand.
  7. You start losing track of what is cool.
  8. You completely lose track of what is cool.
  9. You don’t go to parties anymore. You attend get-togethers. And a major conversation topic is everyone’s changing metabolism. The gathering breaks up around 9pm because everyone is tired.
  10. Someone tells you that they don’t call it “cool” anymore, they call it “smibs” or some damn thing.
  11. Things you think of as happening last decade actually happened multiple decades ago.
  12. Your doctor labels you a “weekend warrior” when you develop achilles tendinitis.
  13. You insist that your life experience makes it so that you understand at a more meta-level what is and isn’t cool, and they just say that’s exactly why you don’t have the smibs.
  14. No, old dude, let me help you out. You say, something “IS” the smibs. You don’t “have” the smibs.
  15. Why do they only sell clothes I want to wear at Sears in that weird alcove near the lawnmowers. That’s not the smibs.
  16. Wow is that guy still saying “smibs”?
  17. Gradual living degradation of your biological systems.
  18. Death etc.

I’m not obsessed with 40, especially. It’s a round number but it’s really just continuing various downward trends that begin sometime in your mid-thirties: which is everything beyond step 7 or so above, plus inexplicable weight gain. Sometime in the last five years I transitioned from healing from injuries in hours to weeks. About six weeks ago I took a weird step off a curb and went down in a faceward sprawl into the crosswalk. The various patches of road rash healed in a week or (except for a badass elbow scar). My back and hip took a few additional weeks to fully sort themselves out. But my left shoulder, the hero who accepted the forceful bulk of the downward plummet, is still screwed up. Mentally, I have transitioned from embarrassed about the clumsiness to acceptance that these things happen to actually feeling lucky I didn’t do something much worse like knock out a tooth or crack my glasses.

I don’t want to be all negative, even though that’s sorta more fun. For every bad thing about early middle age, in my fortunate case there are two good things (I’ll write a happy list at some point). I’d never go back anyway. Being a teenager was terrible and I was lost in my twenties. Though this raises the big open question of if/when I will ever stop thinking of my past self as an idiot. Since I was self-aware I always thought the same thing:

  1. Man I was dumb X years ago, I didn’t know anything.
  2. Luckily I’ve figured things out now.

Perhaps the great sign of maturity is realizing that you can’t keep pairing these two statements. The person who thought #2 always eventually becomes the person described by #1. It’s just a matter of realizing you are still the dumb one who doesn’t really know anything, just incrementally more than before, and acting accordingly.