DS9: Mostly Glop and Sacs

Quark and Odo hugging

S2E23, “Crossover” (story: Peter Allan Fields)

This episode exists for two reasons:

1. We we overdue for a revisit to the “Mirror, Mirror” universe from TOS.

Kira and Bashir have a warp drive malfunction and are accidentally cast into the mirror universe, where they come across a gross evil version of the station, and it’s still known as Terek Nor. There, they learn about the fate of the mirror universe the TOS crew left behind. As it turns out, Kirk screwed everything up. His encouragement and influence on mirror Spock leads to him rising to great power within the Federation on a platform of peaceful reform. Well, that is a very stupid idea in a pathologically evil universe because it just leaves them vulnerable to hostile takeover by a Klingon-Cardassian alliance (in which Bajor has a strong influence).

The story is mostly Kira-centric. Mirror Kira is the Intendant of DS9, brutally ruling in the name of the Klingons and Cardassians, including evil Garak. Most of the regulars are around. Odo is a similarly brutal bureaucratic boss of the ore-processing wing of the station. O’Brien is one of many Terran slaves, although he is employed doing technical work instead of crushing physical labor. Sisko is some sort of pirate. Quark owns an even sleazier bar. But most of the story is about our Kira, given a pretty long leash by evil Kira (who is sortly weirdly into her…self) to conspire about and eventually orchestrate an escape.

I wouldn’t say the plot is especially interesting compared with the original “Mirror, Mirror”. But both really work as executions of great ideas and performances. “Crossover” clips along fine, though. It broadens the scope of the mirror universe in an interesting way, and was worth doing for that. But plotwise it’s really more of a throwback to TOS, being more focused on scrappin’ than talkin’.

2. What’s inside Odo?

An ongoing subject of fascination. From the moment a Nog splattered a bucketful of oatmeal on Jake in “Storytellers“, we have all wondered: what’s inside Odo? What is a changeling’s purest unrefined form? Kind of like a Terminator 2-style liquid metal? Or is he indeed a chunky oatmeal-like glop? Or like us humans, packed full of slimy organic sacs? Well, during Bashir’s escape from the ore processing center, we are given a perfect chance to find out! He blasts alt-Odo, who explodes with extreme splatter. We don’t see what happens next, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that he slowly regathers himself like the aforementioned Terminator. But from the on-screen evidence he appears to be a combo of the latter two: mostly glop and sacs. And now we know!

Overall:┬áThis is a nice addition to the “Mirror, Mirror” canon, if not as iconic. Great performance by Nana Visitor as both regular Kira and ruthless vixen queen Kira. 4 out of 5.

S2E24, “The Collaborator” (story: Gary Holland)

Vedek Bareil has crossed into the unenviable realm of characters which cause me to elicit a sigh immediately upon their entrance. I know I’m supposed to be like, “Oh cool, some more Bajoran political intrigue!” But: sigh. I’m finding the performances by Philip Anglim to be dead stiff. I know he’s going for understated. Vedeks are the Bajoran equivalents of Buddhist monks, they aren’t going to be vivacious. But I’m not super interested in political/religious philosophizing anyway, vapid mumbling about it isn’t going to help. Now combine that with Vedek Winn, whose insipid fundamentalist nonsense is basically any smarmy TV preacher, or Mike Pence, and barf. I like Louise Fletcher, who is obviously great at self-righteous icy villains. (Who is the DS9 equivalent of Randle Patrick McMurphy that’s going to fix this? The closest Trekster I can think of to the charismatic outsider who disrupts the system and makes everyone question themselves is Q. An episode about Q harassing Winn would be something.) So anyway, yeah, these two again. Bajoran political intrigue: like a rice cake, but with a dash of salt!

And…I didn’t hate it? Actually it was a pretty clever story with a building, complex mystery, and an unexpected reveal at the end. I’m honestly a little stunned! Also interested in what happens next, because the outcome–Vedek Winn falling backwards into the role of Kai–has longstanding ramifications. We’re not done with this, but I can hope this is a turning point.

Highlight: Odo and Kira getting Quark to help hack into a computer because they need to circumvent the usual legal channels. I guess this is why they keep him around: dirty deeds done dirt cheap.

Overall: 4 out of 5. Don’t let it go to your head, Vedeks.

S2E25, “Tribunal” (story: Bill Dial)

Memory Alpha references the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, which refers to this as an “O’Brien Must Suffer” episode. I want to say this is the third or fourth of the series to this point. Why do they like putting O’Brien into every terrible situation? I guess his stoic demeanor and middle-aged physique ensures he’s just gotta power through rather than fight (Kira), charm (Bashir), negotiate (Sisko), weasel (Quark), or transmogrify (Odo) his way out. Powering through can fill out an episode.

And so it does. Largely that’s what “Tribunal” is all about. O’Brien gets framed for running weapons and is arrested by Cardassians. He endures “processing”, imprisonment (actually better than processing, he gets to keep his clothes and all his teeth), and a show trial. Which brings us to the real point of the episode, the portrayal of the mercilessly efficient Cardassian legal system. We are reminded many, many times that the trial is a sham, O’Brien has already been ruled guilty and the execution is already scheduled and will Tuesday work for him.

Nevertheless, the DS9ers push their way into the proceedings and eventually compel the court to overturn the verdict. Mostly this is Odo’s handiwork. He manages to worm his way into the position of nestor, which is a sort of extra attorney behind the court-appointed milquetoast pushover O’Brien has otherwise been granted. He spends most of the proceedings badgering the judge but basically getting away with it. (I couldn’t help but thinking of the episode of Futurama where they keep asking for increasingly insane legal privilege and the judge keeps saying, “I’m going to allow this.”)

“Tribunal” is sort of an “Amok Time” for DS9. The real treat is seeing the Cardassian homeworld. Although “Amok Time” is more about Vulcans at their craziest and most primitive, “Tribunal” is maximum Cardassia: efficient and unmerciful. Also we see several new Cardassian hairstyles.

Odo tidbit: He doesn’t have any teeth. Have we gotten around to figure out how Odo eats? Does he just, like, absorb stuff?

Overall: A lot of the atmosphere stuck with me, although I can’t really recall the thread of the plot even a week later. We had to see Cardassia eventually, perhaps this is the best way. I guess maybe you can’t have a tense legal drama in a system of preordained verdicts. So, I dunno, maybe a different excuse to get planetside? Let’s go 3 out of 5.

S2E26, “The Jem’Hadar” (story: Ira Steven Behr)

Two distinct, strangely paired halves. First half is setup in the form of delightful farce. Sisko thinks he’s going to get to spend some time with Jake helping him with a science project. Instead Nog gets to tag along and Quark weasels his way aboard too. Sisko’s sitcom-style reaction suggests four’s a crowd! They visit a planet in the Gamma Quadrant to commence some science and ensue some hijinks, mostly in the form of laughing at Quark’s expense as he battles sunburn and bugs in his food (the wrong kind of bugs). Sisko finally tells him to stop complaining in a fierce enough tone that Nog is insulted by proxy, and he storms off into the forest. Jake chases him down, leaving Sisko and Quark alone, and abruptly things shift as a strange humanoid barges into their campsite, apparently being pursued by someone else: the Jem’Hadar. Sisko, Quark, and the humanoid (we learn her name is Eris and she’s a Vorta) are captured and taken away, and Jake and Nog return to an empty campsite.

A bunch of action happens in the second half, but it’s mostly a demonstration that the Jem’Hadar are for serious. There’s a bit more Jake/Nog silliness but mostly it’s just Jake failing to get the runabout to work and Nog screeching. More relevant are the Jem’Hadar proving repeatedly that they have better technology and are real jazzed about killing everyone. It’s a scary new concept for Trek, excepting maybe the Borg. In the old days we had Klingons and Romulans and Cardassians, and they were all formidable, but rarely superior to the Federation. They’d occasionally unveil something like a cloaking device as a potential game changer, but the Federation was able to keep up. The Jem’Hadar are way ahead. They can beam on and off DS9 at will, have fantastic shielding technology, are voraciously violent, and willing to engage in suicide runs. It’s, uh, not a good situation.

But it is a good teaser for future seasons! More to come.

Last note: While they’re in captivity, Sisko tells Quark to pick the lock on Eris’ neckband so she can use her body phaser or whatever it is to damage their holding cell. Quark’s fed up with being ordered around and lays into Sisko about his human superiority complex. He says he’s figured out why humans are so disdainful of Ferengi: they represent human characteristics like greed which are thought to be repulsive and left behind, but remain base instincts and absolutely present. Further, the Ferengi have no history of barbaric practices like slavery or genocides. Quark’s attack is out of left field (and crammed into the episode in such a way that it’s underdeveloped and hard to properly react to) but does try to re-frame how we are viewing Ferengi. Sisko doesn’t know how to respond immediately, but I kinda think it’s a weak argument. Yes I will concede it’s good Ferengi never had concentration camps, but simply not being shockingly, shamefully terrible doesn’t mean they’re good guys. Sisko might have retorted, “Yes, humans are pretty awful. But you have a systematically oppressive society and are constantly engaged in crime, including petty theft via lockpicking. So shut up and get at it so we can avoid getting murdered by Jem’Hadar, who are probably actively trying to do some genocides while you’re bickering with me.”

Morn watch: Now they’re just teasing me. Morn is nursing his drink and Quark invites him to open up and discuss what’s bothering him, and just as he’s about to…Quark tells him to hold that thought so he can get with Odo about something. Naturally, he forgets all about poor Morn.

Overall: Half silly and half scary. Not a lot is developed here, it’s mostly opening the door to what’s to come. But effective. 4 out of 5.

2 comments

  1. Jem’Hadar — I really like stories that start off seeming like they’re one kind of story and then they become a different kind of story. DS9 could and would do an entire lighthearted Ferengi and Siskos camping story, and having the Jem’Hadar invade that sort of story makes them a lot scarier. Good stuff.

    1. I wonder if it was intentional to introduce the Jem’Hadar like that, or if the story just happened to develop that way. One could argue they wanted to show Federation life at its most frivolous to contrast how nasty the JH threat would be. “They want to take away our way of life” is usually an ignorant xenophobic cliche but it’s so totally true this time. The JH aren’t an exploited culture fighting for freedom, they aren’t pushing an ideology, they just want to kill everyone who isn’t them. I’m really curious to see what happens.

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