DS9: Greedy, misogynistic, untrustworthy little trolls

Quark

S2E7, “Rules of Acquisition” (writer: Hilary Bader)

On Ferengi:

Kira: “They’re greedy, misogynistic, untrustworthy little trolls, and I wouldn’t turn my back on one of them for a second.”
Dax: “Neither would I. But once you accept that, you’ll find they can be a lot of fun.”

Maybe ten minutes in, Kristen tagged this the zaniest episode in the series. It acquired some gravity along the way, but for the most part this was a straight-up Ferengi antics-fueled crowd-pleaser. Grand Nagus Zek returns with a profit scheme in the Gamma Quadrant for Quark to get in on. All Quark has to do to get a cut is perform all the work.

The scheme itself goes kinda nowhere, the Dosi people they are trying to deal with are ridiculous, and we only get a hint of the Dominion and where the real deals might come down the road. The real takeaway from this episode is a deeper look into Ferengi culture:

  • Ferengi women: Early last season I was wondering about them–we’ve never seen a female but their bottom-rung social status within the staunchly patriarchal society has been inferred. The usual expectation is that they are homebound and naked, and it’s illegal for them to be involved in business affairs. Quark and the Nagus are so dang charismatic that their brutal sexism and casual harassment comes across as pretty funny actually, but objectively, what a couple of twerps.
  • Pel: She becomes the first, but she’s undercover, dressing and acting like a male. She’s way more competent than the hapless Rom, though, and Quark takes her under his wing as an assistant. Eventually she can’t help falling for Quark, who evidently is pretty charming for a profiteering troll, although what constitutes “charming” among such a people is obviously unclear to me as a human. For his part, he does defend her talents once Zek gets wind of things, which is, in this context, as progressive as we’re going to get.
  • Rules of Acquisition: Gosh, we learn a lot of them in this episode. This episode, entitled “Rules of Acquisition”, you understand. Memory Alpha says there were seven. My favorite was #59, “Free Advice is Seldom Cheap”.

Morn watch: Odo rouses him from sleeping one off on a bench in the promenade, and it’s implied this is far from the first time. He heads right back to the bar, but it’s been closed up for the night while the Ferengi play some tongo.

Overall: Largely ridiculous. I loved it. 5 out of 5.

S2E8, “Necessary Evil” (writer: Peter Allan Fields)

S2E9, “Second Sight” (writer: Mark Gehred-O’Connell)

I’ve been thinking about these two together. They’re a pair of character-building episodes, and both good ones. But their resolutions are total opposites. One succeeds in a fascinating, unusual way, and will have ramifications for the rest of the series. One doesn’t.

Kira and Odo have the most mysterious backgrounds among the regulars (not counting Morn), so from the beginning we could anticipate there would be episodes meting out bits and pieces throughout the series. “Necessary Evil” reveals more about how long they’ve been on the station, and their relationship prior to the DS9 (the show) era. But it’s also an episode about the backstory of DS9 (the station). It manages all this while also being one of the best-plotted episodes of the series so far, even threading in flashbacks.

I won’t recap the complex mystery that spans both present day and the past, but we learn that Odo began his constabulary career during Dukat’s reign over DS9, then known as the much more Cardassian-sounding Terek Nor. It was also more Cardassian-looking: grey, poorly lit, dismal. Dukat recruits Odo to investigate a murder, knowing he has a strong, neutral, fair reputation among the various factions around the station. It’s not his job at that point—actually I’m not sure what he’s even doing on the station. But turns out he’s a natural, and this is just the beginning of a notable career in law enforcement. Score one for Dukat’s HR prowess.

Turns out one of the prime suspects is Kira. She feeds Odo a story that explains her presence on the station, which is quickly ferreted out as a lie, only it’s a super ingenious multi-layered lie that Odo doesn’t entirely unravel until after most of the major details are sorted out and the Cardassians have closed the case.

What we’re left with is Odo knowing Kira lied to him, and a very ambiguous state of trust between them. It’s a difficult, memorable ending that you rarely get in serial TV. It shades Odo and Kira’s relationship and is bound to factor into future episodes. Justice is complicated, relationships are complicated.

What’s not complicated is the hapless Rom. I didn’t mention Quark either, who is involved mostly as a catalyst and dirty-deeds-done-dirt-cheap-doer. An illegal but highly delightful scheme goes awry and surfaces the larger mystery of the episode. Quark is nearly killed by an assassin, and Rom’s reaction is something like a 30-70 mix of concern for Quark and eager anticipation that he’ll end up owning the bar. When the assassin comes back to finish the job by smothering Quark in the infirmary with a pillow, Rom happens upon them and shrieks like a terrified possum. His futile attempt to deter the murder buys security time to get there. They save Quark, and Rom is cast as the reluctant hero, who has ironically saved his brother but lost possession of the bar. Resume shrieking.

“Necessary Evil” overall: Outstanding episode with a perfect ending. 5 out of 5.

Kirk and Picard both had their share of one-off fling episodes, and occasionally could be found brooding about someone that they especially liked, but could never make it work because of their adventuresome careers. These glimpses were always both fun and effective ways of showing the non-professional sides of the characters. Sisko’s backstory as a widower dad, on the other hand, doesn’t exactly set up these kinds of stories. It makes him sympathetic, but also hems his character in as much as his stalwart bureaucrat job does. How soon can you really try to hook him up with someone else? Plus it means they’ll need to work in an abundance of father-son time, which risks being clunky or underdeveloped in a skiffy-focused show.

Well, they couldn’t leave the poor guy grieving and filling out runabout paperwork forever, so now that we’re comfortably into the second season, the showrunners decided to take a shot. Sisko is feeling guilty that he nearly forgot about the anniversary of his wife’s death, so he’s having trouble sleeping. Rather than toss and turn he aimlessly wanders the promenade and meets a woman named Fenna. They chat quietly for a bit and things click. But then he turns his back and she disappears. If this was me, I’d be like, “Welp, it happened again” but it does seem a little odd in Sisko’s case. The next day he goes with the high school crush playbook and hangs around the same place, hoping she’ll wander by again. She does! And things pick up where they left off, they are definitely into each other and getting all cute and gross and the like, but then she pulls her Harvey the Rabbit and disappears just as suddenly as before.

Meanwhile, duty calls. Sisko attends a dinner hosted by a visiting scientist, Seyetik. The guy is brilliant genius but also an arrogant blowhard, and mostly the dinner is him talking about how great he is. Things take a turn for the weird when his much-mentioned but never-seen wife Nidell emerges, and in what was an extremely not surprising surprise, it’s Fenna. She seems to not recognize Sisko at all, and totally ignores him, like they never met. If this was me, I’d be like, “Welp, it happened again” but it does seem a little odd in Sisko’s case. After dinner, he gets a minute alone with her and is like, “Hey, uh, what the hell?” But she doesn’t seem to know what he’s talking about. When he sees Fenna again later she can’t explain it either.

After a few similarly baffling scenes they figure out what’s going on, and like many things in life, it’s resolved when a guy hurls himself into a star. Fenna turns out to be a psychoprojection from Nidall, evidently so dispirited by her loveless marriage to Seyetik that she’s subconsciously living out her dream to be single again. This requires so much energy it might kill her. But she can’t just leave Seyetik because her species mates for life. He calmly explains that he’d have to die to free her, which he’s about to do, as he’s saying this from on board a ship he’s plunging into the sun as a new experiment. He says that all of his wives eventually tire of him anyway, which he’s starting to feel bad about and this experiment makes for a pretty great death anyway, so suicide it is!

I don’t think I appreciated how truly weird the final act was when I was watching it. The premise is a good mix of sci-fi mystery elements with some Sisko character stuff. Sisko and Fenna’s love story was a properly understated widower letting this happen rather than a Kirk-style bold conquest. The scenes with him and Jake were great. But the ending is a classic “Well, someone’s gotta die” thing that reeks of one of the producers demanding some extra stakes that weren’t really there to be had. Maybe they felt like they couldn’t do two ambiguous endings in a row after “Necessary Evil.” So they cram in an arbitrary imminent death, which can only be messily resolved with extra death. What about this: Fenna continues to exist, but Sisko tells Fenna this can’t happen, she’s just a dream, so she recedes, and it ends on a pensive note as Seyetik and Nidall leave the station, with Nidall and Sisko giving each other some doleful gazes. DS9 is good with characters, I think they could have made something more subtle work. See: literally the last episode.

“Second sight” overall:┬áIntriguing story and something that needed to happen to break the ice on Sisko a bit, even if they couldn’t develop it that well in just an hour. But the ending, I dunno. 3 out of 5.

S2E10, “Sanctuary” (writer: Gabe Essoe and Kelley Miles)

A bunch of refugees called the Skrreans find their way through the wormhole and arrive at the station. They look distractingly weird, with gross flaky skin and super tall hair. It’s just one of a bunch of odd choices in “Sanctuary” that made it perhaps the least enjoyable entry in the series so far.

It starts off with an interesting idea that their language is so bizarre the universal translator doesn’t even work. Trek doesn’t talk about the universal translator enough, really. It’s implied that it instantly parses all alien languages so the crew (and us viewers) only hear Standard (AKA English, but “Standard” because THE FUTURE) and it works so well that it’s simply a fully integrated, forgettable part of life, like the Internet or Reebok Pump technology. I’m sure I’m forgetting others, but the only time I can remember language barriers being important before is “Darmok” from TNG, which was pretty darn good. But I guess overcoming alien language is an old skiffy problem we could just get bogged down in, like O’Brien’s endless polarity reversals or questions about Odo’s mass. Mostly we’ve moved on to more complex stuff. I guess that’s what happens here, in real time, because eventually the translator just starts working, and the whole sequence is forgotten about immediately and doesn’t matter at all in the end.

So the Skrreans get a temporary home on DS9 while Sisko and Bajoran authorities sort out what to do with them. This is an excuse for some cultural conflict. Surely this will be interesting. Nog and Jake are even involved! Well, this amounts to Nog playing a prank on one of them that we don’t see and has no resolution other than that the Skrrean kid is annoyed about it. Jake tries to make peace but the kid blows him off, or more accurately, is a war refugee and has his own problems and no amount of Jake Sisko charm is going to smooth over Nog dousing him with a stink spray. Or something. I feel like it was played as funny, but fell flat, but then Jake’s peace offering should bring them together, but that flubs too. Basically the whole sequence is undercooked and overplayed.

Finally Sisko finds a perfectly suitable planet for them. Space is great because there’s a lot of it. We got a whole mess of totally safe, habitable planets that no one lives on. But…the Skrreans reject it, in what I guess is a bold attempt by the show producers to make a bunch of refugees as unsympathetic as possible. Giving only a hint of reason about some kind of prophecy or something, they want to live on Bajor. Kira tells them that (1) Bajor is recovering from a war itself and can’t support millions of additional refugees, so you will probably just die, and (2) anyway the area they want to live is uninhabitable and like, why are we even talking about this, just go to the good planet. (I actually sort of wondered why Bajorans didn’t just go to the good planet themselves. Obviously it’s their home and origin, but if it’s so easy to just up and move to a new good planet, wouldn’t cultures do that all the time?) Well, this makes the Skrreans take a baffling turn to the snotty, they insist they are such awesome farmers that they’ll overcome and help Bajor, fulfilling their prophecy. There is some stupid haggling at this point (Kira: “Don’t go, you will die” Skrreans: “But we are FARMERS!”), but the solution comes down to: No, that is stupid, just go to the perfectly good planet please, because that is a way, way better idea you knuckleheads. So it ends on a downer when they leave in a huff, like, fine, we’ll go to this great planet and not just die out if that’s the way you want it. But we’re not friends anymore. Good day.

Morn watch: Huge news: Morn apparently has a girlfriend. The opening sequence takes place in Quark’s, where patrons are listening to a Bajoran musician. We see Morn at the bar, enthralled, with a woman hanging on his arm. Good for him. Maybe after the last time he woke up on the promenade and found he couldn’t get back into the bar, he trundled back to his quarters, looked in a mirror, and was just like, “Morn, you’ve got to get it together, man.”

Overall: I see what they were trying to get at here. There is no question that dealing with refugees is a major worldwide social problem today, and this episode attempts to address some of the issues. But what a mess. Every single part of this one is underdeveloped. 1 out of 5.

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