Quark and Odo huggingS2E15, “Paradise” (story: Jim Trombetta and James Crocker)

What is the archetypical first-world problem? Here are some possible runners-up:

  • Starbucks barista misspells your name on your coffee cup
  • It’s not eligible for Prime shipping
  • It’s not on Netflix/Spotify
  • Cash only

But I don’t think the Number One answer is much of a discussion: it’s when the wi-fi goes down. Of course there’s always something else to do..for a while. Even if you were just about to go do yardwork all afternoon, you peek at the router every time you come back in. Even if you were just headed out to dinner, someone eventually broaches the topic: what are we gonna do if it’s still down when we get back? Did you restart the modem? Naturally. Did you check for area outages? Of course. What can we do? The ISP basically controls our lives. Maybe we should ditch them for satellite. Or maybe we should get off the grid entirely, take back control of these absurd modern lives. This isn’t how people were meant to live. Oh, hey, it’s back on! All good again.

“Paradise” is a story of the wi-fi never coming back on. Sisko and O’Brien are doing some surveying and come across a planet with a peaceful idyllic village. We’ve been around the block with Trek enough times to learn to fear all peaceful idyllic villages. Everyone is under the influence of spores or there’s a giant stone snake head that you have to constantly feed and worship. Or it’s some kind of cult. But this bunch just has no technology. No electronic gadgets work, in theory because of some weird interference from local ore deposits generating a weird EM-disabling field. Sure, that sounds like a thing that can happen. But they’ve adjusted and flourished. The village boss, Alixus, actually turns out to have written philosophical tomes about humanity’s overreliance on technology, and haha wow what a coincidence that she ended up being stranded on a planet without it!

Well, O’Brien and Sisko aren’t all that interested in staying on full-time, eventually someone will come looking for them. I asked myself at that point how rescue was even going to work, because naturally they’d beam down and then be stranded. Then someone else would come, and they’d beam down and be stranded. Stranded landing parties all the way down. It’d be like the Monty Python gag about the fatal joke. But in the meantime, O’Brien’s in “maybe the wi-fi is back?” mode and restlessly investigating the cause, while Sisko is not working or playing well with the boss. One way to look at this is that they break down the slim facade of the false paradise both technologically and socially, making everyone self-aware, so they were free to choose what sort of life to have with full information. Another way is to say that they broke everything, and obliterated the Prime Directive doing it. But I’m not sure anyone has even mentioned the Prime Directive this entire series, so I guess we are all good.

Overall: Pretty familiar territory for Trek, but well done. Part of postmodern life is wondering, basically daily, if we’d be better off with a significant technological pullback. Maybe let’s keep Prime Shipping though. 4 out of 5.

S2E16, “Shadowplay” (story: Robert Hewitt Wolfe)

At this point I’m writing several weeks behind viewing and my memory is not always great about how I felt about each episode. But I remember this one: it was great. I keep watching more Star Trek shows because they have an ability to kick out a purely great SF episode at any time, but they also never fail to emphasize characters. As an excellent example of Trek at its best, I’d like to welcome “Shadowplay” to my 5-star club.

Three threads here. Primarily it’s a story about a small village that presents an interesting SF mystery: the mystery of why aren’t these people wanting to ever leave some dumpy village in the middle of nowhere, where the best available toy is a top. Plus a bunch of people are missing but like, where would they even go? Weirdly it never occurs to any of the locals that they might leave this place for somewhere with, I dunno, Xboxes. The writing is very strong, the crew works through the problem in an interesting way, and eventually we learn there is sort of a portable holodeck problem happening. Of course, all holodecks break eventually and need to get turned off and turned back on. I just realized I got tricked into liking a holodeck episode!

While the SF story is interesting, Odo’s friendship with one of the villagers, a young girl named Taya, ends up being the bigger character takeaway. He assumes she will either be scared of him or expect him to do tricks like any other jerk kid, but she doesn’t judge him at all. So, the perpetually lonely Odo’s best new friend ends up being a holographic young girl. He likes her enough that he does a cool spinning top trick for her after all. (Luckily she’s easily impressed.) It was all very sweet but also extremely sad for Odo. I kind of thought he should get a copy of Taya so they could keep being friends back on DS9, but that’s probably even more sad.

What else is going on:

  • Sisko puts a little light pressure on Jake to start thinking about his future with Starfleet by making him intern with O’Brien. Jake already feels like Starfleet isn’t for him, and a baffling day sorting out problems with isolinear rods with O’Brien somehow doesn’t sway him. We learn that O’Brien was similarly almost steered into a nightmarish career as a cello player by his father, where he would probably never get to work with isolinear rods. But he had a heart-to-heart with his father, who eventually came around, and he tells Jake that Benjamin probably would be more supportive than disappointed. Later Jake talks to him, and he’s fine with it. I mean, of course he would be. He’s a good dude. Jake and Benjamin are so nice I sometimes think they are there just to have one conflict-free relationship in the show.
  • Quark is engaged in some kind of smuggling scheme and Kira’s onto him. Quark gets out of it by setting her up with Vedek Bareil. It seems like an un-Kira thing to forget about dealing with a serious problem because she’s feeling all mushy, but Quark is an expert at getting out of trouble, so there we go.
  • We get a very disappointing tease that Bashir has been learning about surveillance techniques from Garak, and Kira wants him to use them on Quark, but then she forgets all about it when Bareil shows up. Ugh, that guy. Got a party you want to make awkward fast? This is your dude. He’s the opposite of charisma. He’s watered-down 7-Up. He’s a beige ball of boring. Luckily his relationship with Kira is more of a setup here that will be more relevant later.

Overall: 5 out of 5. Lots happening and a great story. Really liked this one.

S2E17, “Playing God” (story: Jim Trombetta)

This one didn’t stick with me as much, so just some notes:

  • It’s most about Dax and Arjin, her Trill initiate. Like Jake from the previous episode, he’s sort of just playing out the string on what his family wants him to do, but since we don’t know his character, I’m not sure we care about him too much. It’s a better episode for Dax, who is pretty interesting when she’s not being the science officer. The problem with her actual job is that I’m actually not even totally sure what it is. In TOS they always needed a science officer to analyze stuff, but mostly she’s just waiting around for things to come to DS9. Outside of work, she gambles with Ferengi, she likes Klingon food (make mine extra squirmy!), she tries to get Arjin to loosen up by not constantly giving her his resume, and also walking around in just a towel. (Which was not actually a good way to get him to relax.)
  • Some weeks later, I’m not really sure what the heck was actually going on in this one. Definitely leaning on the technobabble: some kinda weird field, some made-up particles, a proto-universe that doesn’t seem to respond to physical laws. This is typically a proxy for “listen, we just need something to happen and move things along” and rarely works. Not sure why. Too fantastic? It’s just a hazy danger that will kill everyone.
  • Also the space voles were super gross and I’m not sure it’s that interesting to push the plot forward on account of vole hijinks like having them eat some critical wiring, although if we’re being realistic about a universe with a lot of animal life, shouldn’t this kind of thing be a constant nuisance? At present we live on one planet, and there’s no end of invasive species. My house always has bugs. DS9 is a major port! I know they’re decontamination technology is way ahead of ours, but they should be constantly dealing with some kind of weeds or viruses. Like tribbles! The universe must be loaded with stuff like that, except usually grosser.

Overall: Not terrible, just didn’t stick with me. 2 out of 5.

S2E18, “Profit and Loss” (story: Flip Kobler and Cindy Marcus)

When I see upcoming episode summaries, I’m probably most excited by Quark’s name. Maybe they’ll get old if he doesn’t develop any more as a character and just continues to be a semi-bungling schemer. I liked the first few holodeck episodes of TNG I saw, too. But for now, he’s easily the most lively character and I can expect something other than depressing interstellar politics. (I should make it clear DS9 is doing some fantastic stuff with depressing interstellar politics. It’s not that they aren’t good viewing, just not what one would call “fun.” As a show that can be light on laughs, Quark is a pretty vital character.)

The premise: a small group of Cardassians reluctantly board the station when their ship is damaged–“reluctant” because they are political radicals on the run from Cardassia. Which normally wouldn’t involve Quark, except that he’d try to sell them some kind of black market weapon or fake IDs or something. But he gets involved because it turns out their leader Natima is an old flame he’s still desperately in love with. So we have Quark AND interstellar politics. Which I, I don’t know. Maybe? Does that work?

It follows that it only sort of does. Most of the episode is various forms of negotiation (1) between DS9 and Cardassia about how to handle the situation, or (2) between Quark and Natima about whether they can make things work when she’s got bigger problems. The former makes for pretty typical DS9 fare. It’s tense and complex and handled well, if a bit slow-developing. The Quark part, I’m not sure. Felt a little off to me. Quark drifts fairly well outside of his usual boundaries, namely by displaying actual courage. He’s done it before–as recently as “Rules of Acquisition“–and if he’s not careful he’s going to wreck his reputation as a money-grubbing sleaze merchant. But I didn’t feel like it was out of character for him in “Rules of Acquisition.” It just made sense to keep up the ruse, it was making him money. Here he’s just a lovestruck doofus, which is fine for a human or betazoid or something but for a Ferengi? Ferengi males don’t seem to be in the habit of grand gestures.

Trivia bit: Memory Alpha tells me the writers are a wife & husband team that wrote a bunch of straight-to-video Disney sequels.

Overall: The premise is an interesting experiment, but the outcome is mixed. 3 out of 5.

The ultimate privilege of developed-world living is that you may devote exactly as much of your mental bandwidth as you wish to basic biological functions. We largely transform them from their pure function into pleasurable rituals. Food is a tasty daily highlight–not only delicious but it’s family time, a break from work, a prime opportunity for socializing. Trips to the bathroom are also “breaks”. Bathrooms accomplish exactly what you need them for, are clean, climate-controlled and plentiful, with locking doors and pipes that blissfully carry everything away. And sleep! The ultimate break. On a bed, comfortably alone or with extremely select company.

Now what if I told you there exists a place within this privileged society in which people go, quite regularly, usually on purpose, where all of this is taken away. We call those places airports.

Airports are the Western world’s closest non-war-zone approximation of Hell, though the torture is more subtle. Food: decidedly not fun, but pure sustenance gathering, joyless calorie acquisition. Forget finding something you would like to eat, the goal is to find anything you are willing to eat, at scarcity pricing. Bathrooms: oh there are plenty, especially if you like them crowded and vile. Sleep: oh goodness, no.

What could make this nightmare even worse? A flight delay. Now it’s still the airport, but for longer. The airport as a place has already stripped you of physical comforts. Flight delays work on your emotions. “Why is this happening?” “I’m never getting home.” “I’m stupid to have paid for this, should have driven.” “I’m suing everybody.” You’re mad if you can blame someone (overbooking, airline trying to stretch out a crew) you’re mad if you can’t (weather, mechanical issues). Further, you’re surrounded by dozens of people in the same state.

Now we are at the true dark heart of all this: all of the above, but also enduring everyone else. Usually in life you can ignore almost everyone almost all the time but in this situation, you are trapped overhearing all the little comments, everyone’s lizard-brain opinions, fears, questions, non sequiturs.

“This is the worst airline ever. Never flying them again.”

[Cable news blaring on TV]

[Commercials for cable news blaring on TV]

“I heard this airport can keep a flight on the runway for six hours.”

“Why won’t they tell us what’s happening?!”

Outraged business guy on earpiece phone at maximum volume for the third straight hour: “Still delayed! They say it’s paperwork! What a joke! Paperwork! Anyway, better get back to these sales reports.”

“You see Game of Thrones last night? I thought it sucked.”

[Kid screaming. Then laughing. Then screaming again. Now parent screaming too.]

This. This is what Twitter is like.

Every minor thought that anyone ever thought about everything, many under stress, no matter how reactionary, inconsiderate, fear mongering, insipid, all presented in an endless scroll**. Of course there are some nuggets in the firehose. Good Twitter exists. Funny Twitter exists. You can also try following only people who are smart and you whose opinion you’d actually want. Ideally you’d think that is how to stifle the flight delay-level comments, but that’s not what really happens. Instead Twitter is a sewer-like platform where the worst of the worst rises to the top. Even the well-meaning re-tweet all the terrible. They see something stupid, it makes them mad, they re-tweet to get confirmation on how truly terrible it is. Also they have a good joke about it that would be killer if the offender ever saw it. (They won’t see it.) This is the same as being the passenger in a car that just got cut off and the driver is yelling at the other idiot. Of course the other idiot can’t hear that, but all the afflicted passengers get to. Similarly, one can never escape the cascades of re-tweets and .@s. The general theme being: “Wow, look at this asshole!”

Listen, I *know* they’re out there. I don’t need reminders. It’s why flight delays are so bad, way beyond any inconveniences. Nothing good will come from me absorbing everyone else’s reactions other than to start wondering, in the absence of facts, whether they might all somehow be right? At least I can put on headphones, or take a walk. But Twitter makes sure I notice. Whether it’s some unfathomably horrendous human in an actual elected job who engenders so little trust I wouldn’t ask them to water my plants for a weekend (e.g., the current President of the United States), or some Fox News talking head, or Martin Shkreli, or a Twitter egg who created an account just to rant at SportsCenter anchors: I *know*. I don’t read tabloids or eat batteries either. I have a general sense of things that are good and bad for me. But Twitter became a place where the worse you are, the more attention you will get. And the effect is that the object of scorn just sees all the re-tweets and thinks, “The people are with me on this.”

I have never hate-followed anyone. Especially not *rump because I am unclear on the appeal of reading the incoherent spew of a incendiary senile idiot. There are a million Twitter users with bald eagle avatars saying the same garbage. Only the cosmic coincidence of his birth into wealth has put him into a situation where anyone knows his name, otherwise he’d be stuck distributing his rants on moist pamphlets from a dingy street corner like a normal crazy person. Since it’s later than 2010, he isn’t confined to the crackliest corners of AM radio, either. Instead, the ultra-privileged son-of-a-millionaire with a gift for the attention grab became of the voice of angry old white America because that’s the way Twitter works. It follows that the ultimate mechanism for identifying assholes would eventually surface their King.

We learn more and more about the toxic effect of social media daily. […he blogs. But I think blogs never had the same problems: they require more energy and focus, so they aren’t just emotional car honks. Blogging is also a medium without the constant reward-generating effect of the endless scroll. It doesn’t have any of the same horrifying privacy issues. It can have a similarly isolating bubble effect, but it’s not so baked in.] We know that social media makes you depressed. It cuts you off from opposing views and in fact, is downright awesome at reinforcing pre-existing beliefs. People legitimately thought Hilary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of a pizza place–they wanted to believe she was doing something, anything, illegal. Then they received evidence, via social media. Fox News invents some similar rumor every time the Democrats have a good day, no doubt they hope each will spread on Facebook in the same way. And somehow social media is still managing to get worse. We’re only just starting to learn how thoroughly it’s been compromised by trolls and bots. Facebook’s money-grubbing algorithms have been insidiously helping polarize people for years. Millions of Twitter bots retweet everything *rump says to millions of users. Even back when they were both just feeds of humans posting, you are always seeing people at their best or worst. No wonder everything started to feel black or white.

This obviously starts getting tied up with more deeply frustrating problems. Social media can only partially explain how a thoroughly incompetent out-of-touch millionaire with no policies and no experience gets elected president with millions fewer votes thanks to extreme tribalism and a broken electoral college system. Whether Hilary was a good choice or not, if he had been running against a bucket of warm barf no one should have voted for him. Almost a year in, a theoretical President Barf Bucket would have done exactly as much to create blue collar jobs, wouldn’t have appointed a transparently corrupt cabinet, and wouldn’t be pointlessly taunting a rogue nuclear state. But certainly Twitter’s propensity for normalizing crazy by constant, repeated exposure should get some of the blame for how that insane thing actually happened. Just the fact that *rump loves it tells you it’s probably bad. It’s the perfect medium to eschew nuance, avoid criticism, and yell at strangers. It’s made for politics.

Social media has its positives. I’ve had some laughs. I did occasionally connect with old friends or make new ones. In spite of its limitations it’s an amazing window into real ongoing issues which I never properly understood as a white, middle class, cisgendered dude. Likewise I found solidarity knowing there were others with the same baggage as me. That’s some genuine good.

But I think the moment is past for me. Speaking of baggage, Twitter is overloaded with it now. They just upped it to 280 characters, which I don’t imagine is going to add nuance as much as provide the ignorant the ability to double down on stupid. Also years of Twitter memes are about to resurface and be twice as tiresome. Blogging, even very occasionally, and sticking with RSS on a few vetted sites has a lot more value for me. I think we got it right getting away from mainstream dominance for all media with some bits of the internet. But not having to listen to EVERYONE is the happy medium. So that’s why I’m quitting.

Also because of Awards Show Twitter.

** I have also seen Twitter compared to the river of hate-slime from Ghostbusters 2. Exactly what I’m talking about.

Quark and Odo huggingI’m further behind than Morn in a foot race. Let’s get at it.

S2E11, “Rivals” (story: Jim Trombetta and Michael Piller)

Here is the summary from Memory Alpha: “Quark feels threatened when a con artist arrives on the station and opens up a competing bar. Meanwhile, Chief O’Brien is determined to beat Doctor Bashir at racquetball.” Now, that is a premise for a sci-fi show. Maybe not surprisingly, it’s kind of a silly distraction of an episode. But it is indeed fun, and the two threads come together in an interesting way.

The rivalry between Quark and Martus Mazur might have worked better as a smaller, more nagging thing over several episodes, where Quark and Mazur spar over customers with ever-more-elaborate less-dignified scheming (as referenced in this episode, Rule of Acquisition #109, “Dignity and an empty sack is worth the sack”) but they paid for the guest star so they were going to wring everything they could out of him in one go. The foundation for Mazur’s place (the delightfully/ridiculously named “Club Martus”) is a weird little game of chance toy he takes off a dying cellmate in the brig, where he was staying after his previous scam. Intrigued by it, he has several large versions built for his bar, which are such a hit they drain clientele from Quark’s.

Meanwhile, the O’Brien/Bashir thread is another entry for the “O’Brien kinda hates Bashir” file. They discover their mutual love of racquetball (only, SPACE RACQUETBALL because the court is all weird angles). O’Brien is an old pro and thinks he can beat some young upstart, but it turns out Julian was Team Captain at the academy. More notably, Julian is a lot younger and in better shape, and trounces the oafish and increasingly sweaty O’Brien. This was easily the most relatable part of the episode to me, naturally, as an increasingly oafish and sweaty man myself. But: we are all O’Brien, remembering our youthful accomplishments with high precision, only to flail about miserably when tested years later. And yet: who among us is the absolute best or worst at anything? So: we are all also Bashir, way better at some stuff than others—maybe some game, maybe something at work—to the point that you have to make excuses to avoid the conflicts which you’ll inevitably win, just to avoid the social awkwardness of making someone else look bad.

Meanwhile, increasingly weird, inexplicable stuff is happening all over the station. It climaxes during the final racquetball grudge match (which Quark has managed to bill into some kind of major sporting event that people are actually watching and gambling on, and it must be boring as hell on DS9 sometimes) when suddenly O’Brien can’t miss a shot. Like, literally can’t miss a shot, even if he tries to avoid it, which is as oddly improbably as all the other phenomena. With something to trace, they are able to determine that the weirdness points back to Club Martus, and the gambling devices. I liked this as a general sci-fi idea, like you could have some sort of quantum generator that flipped the probabilities of everyday life. If you didn’t immediately die of the most quickly metastasizing cancer in medical history it could be a rich source of stories.

I enjoyed this episode more for its metaphorical lessons than in actual execution. The effect of the devices was fuzzily explained, with random, weird macro-level consequences—we are to believe that quantum mechanical mucking about can make the proximate middle-aged into racquetball supermen? The device itself was unsatisfyingly convenient, too. The dying prisoner’s entire life was ruined by it over years and years, from a life of success and luxury to croaking in a ratty cell on DS9. Then Martus picks it up and wins right away. It’s the stupidest game, too. You hold down a button and either win or lose, with no onstensible reason for the outcome. Though the one time I played Super Smash Brothers that seemed like how it worked, and people love it.

Last note: Keiko tries to be supportive of O’Brien when he comes back from the first match sweaty and depressed. [Keiko for president.] She basically just tells him, like, what did you expect, you’re 36. Which seemed a very optimistic age to peg for O’Brien’s character. I looked up Colm Meaney’s age and he would have been 40 when this aired, so it was indeed optimistic, but not as far off as I’d originally guessed. (Unlike me, Colm probably wasn’t still getting carded at 40.) Still, probably felt pretty natural to him to play a guy grappling with his initial physical decline. For his part, Julian still fits into his shiny academy racquetball outfit, which is accurate, as Siddig El Fadil was just 29.

Morn watch: He misses out on a free drink when he loses an game of chance at Quark’s. We can assume it was rigged, or Morn’s natural luck, rather than some quantum oddity, I think.

Overall: 3 out of 5. Some fun takeaways but sort of a silly one.

S2E12, “The Alternate” (story: Jim Trombetta and Bill Dial)

Mostly just DS9 doing a monster-of-the-week-style X-Files episode, and largely forgettable. At least by me, since I have largely forgotten it. But I never liked monster-of-the-week so could be just me. So anyway, I don’t have much to say about this one. There’s a creature. They chase it around and eventually figure out what it is. Some episodes like this are intriguing, but I felt like this one was a little flat. The most important question never even got answered: how does the monster’s presence affect O’Brien’s racquetball game??

Rather than the plot itself, which hints that it might explain something about Odo’s origin, but ultimately doesn’t (and how many times is that going to happen before we actually get there), the main takeaway here is an establishment of Odo’s early years with guest-of-the-week Dr. Mora. Mora is clearly an influence on proto-Odo, he was Odo’s first teacher, and Odo sports the same slicked-back hairstyle. (I certainly didn’t remember this detail, but Memory Alpha reminds me that Odo mentioned that he had his mentor’s hairstyle back in “The Forsaken” when he was talking with Lwaxana.) In fact, he seems more like a father. Odo denies that he views Mora that way, though that might be because they are a bit estranged. But by the end they agree to some future visits.

So this is best remembered as a character builder, mostly for Odo. There are some good moments between Bashir and Dax, too, as they try to figure out more about the monster. Late nights in the lab seem like a possible key to Dax’s heart, so Bashir might eventually look back on the monster’s rampage of terror as an important building block of their future relationship. (Dax: “Feel like getting a raktajino before we call it a night?” Bashir: “My replicator or yours?” Me: Nice.) We’ll see.

Odo medical notes: Odo has no respiratory system.

Morn watch: Among a group of suckers looking to buy a dubious Ferengi relic from Quark, which he claims are some remains from a famous Ferengi named Plegg. Odo happens by and shares the pertinent fact that Plegg isn’t actually dead. Unclear whether Morn bought it anyway.

Overall: 2 out of 5.

S2E13, “Armageddon Game” (story: Morgan Gendel)

The writer credit immediately caught my attention, as it did for his other DS9 credit, “The Passenger”. Seems like he’s evened out now that he’s got a great, a bad, and a good episode under is belt. This one is also good. Bashir and O’Brien are helping some aliens get rid of a stockpile of ultra-powerful bioweapons. But just as they are dealing with the last of it, some terrorists break into the lab and kill all the scientists. Bashir and O’Brien escape to a nearby planet where they hole up and wait for rescue, only they realize O’Brien got splattered with a little bioterror in the mayhem and he’s rapidly getting sick. Meanwhile, the aliens report back to DS9 and instead of reporting the terrorist incident, present a fake video of O’Brien and Bashir getting vaporized along with the rest of the scientists in a lab accident. This sets up a classic two-tracker: one plot-driven mystery on DS9 about the accident, and one character-building track about Bashir and O’Brien.

The Bashir/O’Brien thread is the meatier, and more important one for the series. They go back to the “O’Brien finds Julian irritating” well, seems their last adventure together and aborted racquetball rivalry hasn’t quite sold O’Brien. As an introverted, happily married guy, he’s a bit bewildered by Julian’s endless yammering and glorification of the bachelor lifestyle. It should be noted for all of Julian’s girl-craziness, in practice it seems like mostly idle boasting. There hasn’t exactly been a Kirk-level string of disheveled conquests awkwardly sneaking out of medical. Thought maybe that’s implied, and we should accept the lack of visual evidence as a limitation of the show, which despite being produced in the swinging ’90s, seems more PG than TNG, and certainly moreso than TOS. Anyway, their situation is a good setup to further get to understand each other. Bashir makes some good points about the difficulty of family life while serving in Starfleet, so he’s not necessarily such a selfish guy, but mostly his competent handling of both O’Brien’s health and the damaged communication console finally earns hims some genuine respect. Left for future episodes: How does this affect their racquetball rivalry??

The DS9 mystery thread is also neatly presented. It finds an interesting space to tell the story: we know the DS9 crew is being misled, but we are just as unaware as to how or why. At first they don’t even realize there is a mystery, there’s no reason for them to doubt the story, so it’s about them grieving about the loss of O’Brien and Bashir. Well, O’Brien, anyway. He’s got a family, so Keiko has to be informed, and generally everyone likes him anyway. Julian, well…we probably ought to get a new doctor. But things shift when Keiko notices a crucial detail in the video: O’Brien drinking coffee. She insists he never drinks coffee in the afternoon because the caffeine keeps him up at night.  Something is not right! [As always: Keiko for president.] This kicks off the deeper investigation that unravels the alien conspiracy, and eventually gets O’Brien and Bashir back home.

I loved that the key overlooked detail is truly as stupid as “O’Brien would never drink coffee in the afternoon.” (I nudged my wife to keep this in mind should she ever be watching a video of my vaporization, as I have the same caffeine issue.) I recently saw a Twitter gag about how the difference between American and British mysteries is that the American detective solves the crime by breaking all the rules, and the British detective solves the crime by noticing a specific type of umbrella. The coffee detail is only marginally less arbitrary. Moreover, I love the big twist at the end where actually O’Brien does drink coffee in the afternoon. But it just hard-closes after Keiko’s “You do?!” What a blown opportunity for some TOS-style endcap banter with a lighthearted music cue.

Note: Per Memory Alpha: “This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Hairstyling for a Series.” There are some good hairstyles, as usual: Sharat, for one, and I also liked the E’Tyshra Vulcan-eared basket weave thing.

Overall: 4 out of 5. A very good episode. Maybe a little contrived, so I won’t go the full five, but it was certainly more memorable than the last one.

S2E14, “Whispers” (story: Paul Coyle)

I recently learned about the Simulation Hypothesis, which posits that since the universe is a big, old place, inevitably there must be some where or some time when aliens had/have/will have the capacity to simulate a universe. If they can do it once, they can do it any number of times, which implies that most universes are, in fact, simulations, which leads to the conclusion that any given universe—such as ours—is more likely to be a simulation.

It’s intriguing, but Cory Doctorow makes several good arguments against it at the link above. The most straightforward being: actually computers can never simulate the universe with any precision. The number of atoms you’d need to store sufficient information about even the smallest portion of the universe would rapidly exceed the number of atoms in the universe.

Anyway I like the style of the setup even if it’s flawed. It sort of does a reverse-logic statistical sleight of hand, implying that something statistical ought to be true because the opposite is false. Like how about: if essentially 100% of all humans who are alive or who have ever lived are not me, the math implies even I am not me. Doctorow brings up another similar example. It starts with the premise that the universe exists on an unfathomably long timescale by human standards, but yet, you are alive right now. That is an extremely unlikely occurrence given your pathetic human lifespan as a fraction of the universe’s existence, which is essentially zero. Unless you are immortal*.

*You’re not. It’s just observation bias. You weren’t around for the previous 14 billion years to notice you weren’t alive.

“Whispers” also leans on a few bits of fanciful, highly improbable sci-fi. One, that you could create a perfect replica of a person. So perfect that even their family and friends weren’t sure of the difference, and an elaborate interplanetary scheme would be required to ferret out the replica. (Couldn’t they just look for the guy with more atoms that the rest of the universe??) It also has a bit if the same reverse deductive essence—O’Brien thinks everyone is acting weird so there must be some external force at play, which he has somehow eluded, and must fight against. The actual truth just never occurs to him.

I really enjoyed this one and didn’t understand it at all while I was watching. But once the ending sunk in I appreciated all the little touches and everything fell into place. Keiko is great in the awkward position of having to pretend Replicant O’Brien is her husband, oh yeah hon it’s totally normal for me to go to work at 5:30am and also I’m bringing our daughter with me. Also liked that Quark almost inadvertently blew the scheme by telling him, “The odds are against you, O’Brien.” Which has several layers of meaning in this context, although most notable is that he’s just thinking about the next O’Brien/Bashir racquetball showdown. It always comes back to racquetball.

Overall: 5 out of 5. A mindbender with a great twist. Maybe a bit of a soft ending but super enjoyable throughout.

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: Intriguing 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.

When I took a bad step off a curb over the summer and ended a-sprawl in the street, I mentioned that I had lingering shoulder injury. I finally got around to seeing a doctor and was told that I have a rotator cuff strain (apparently these just take a really long time to heal and I have to take some anti-inflammatories and do some physical therapy to help that happen). The obvious joke would be: “There goes my curveball.” Except that it was my left (non-throwing) shoulder and I never had a curveball anyway. What this post pre-supposes is: but what if I did?

Well not exactly. I actually just wanted to use the tools on Baseball Reference and Football Reference to see how many professional sportsfellows continue to play who are older than me. If one relatively minor accident could hinder my athletic potential for months, I wonder how anyone my age could perform high-level competitive physical activity day after day. This list is a fairly easy delineation at this point: basically it’s a list of active 40-somethings.

Baseball first:

Baseball players older than me

Eight results at first glance. But Joe Nathan is out: he hasn’t played this season due to injuries and announced that he was retiring over the summer. Oscar Robles and Walter Silva are not active MLB players either, though they do continue to play professionally in Mexico (hence their inclusion in the results). Really we’re down to just five active MLB players. Four of them are pitchers. Bartolo and RA Dickey aren’t going to blow anyone away but they continue to be reliable innings-eaters, which counts for something. We might even see Bartolo in the playoffs if the Twins can escape the wild card game. Jason Grilli’s ERA is well over 6. Koji’s had the best year of any of them, he continues to be effective in a bullpen role for the Cubs. Ichiro is the only non-pitcher, and an unquestioned Hall of Famer, but hasn’t been all that good for years.

How much longer will they be around?

I think I can count on a few more years of knowing there are baseball players older than me. I’d guess Koji or RA Dickey will be the last one standing. Koji is still effective and Dickey, notably, is a knuckleballer, so he avoids the usual arm wear and tear. A starter with an average ERA who doesn’t get hurt will continue to have a job, however unglamorous. Bartolo, maybe about the same. Grilli is probably done though. Ichiro is the mystery. He seems to not mind just kinda hanging on. One suspects he’d play anywhere, maybe he’ll end up back in Japan for a while. What if he ends up just being a baseball vagrant like Rickey Henderson, playing for Independent League teams forever, just because they’ll keep him around.

Football

Players older than me from football reference

Tom Brady misses the cut–he’s 40 but didn’t get there until this summer. So all we have is four: three kickers and a punter. Adam Viniatieri is the oldest in either league. He might make it into is late forties.

How much longer will they be around?

Honestly no way to predict anything here. There’s no real age limit on these skillsets, but eventually you’re bound to have a bad month or get a nagging injury and that’s the end. As a forty-something myself, I would not want a job where much younger, larger, faster, stronger humans are battling, sprawling, brawling, diving, or jumping anywhere near me. That might dawn on any of these guys at any time as well.

Now: we wait.

Quark

S2E4, “Invasive Procedures” (writer: John Whelpley)

Sisko was always going to be a shift in the role of the Trek Captain, whether that was the intention of the showrunners or not. The nature of the role means there would be no boldly going where no one has gone before, mostly you’ll be doing some boldly staying. (They don’t have any “boldly” preambles in this one at all, I just realized.) Plus you have to follow William Shatner and Patrick Stewart, so I mean, good luck. Kristen observed that Sisko is really more of a bureaucrat than the bold captain type anyway. His job is like 50% diplomacy and 50% administrivia like signing off on everyone’s ideas and letting people check out runabouts.

After the station is cleared down to a skeleton crew due to an impending plasma storm, a group of rogues manage to dock and take over the station. They are able to circumvent the usual security with an assist from Quark. He just hides during the evacuation and disables security screens, as he has been tricked into thinking this is all a ruse so he can sell the pirates some fenced liquid data chains. (I guess, data clouds don’t exist in interstellar space, so the “cloud” metaphor checks out.) Instead, the real ruse has nothing to do with him. The leader of the gang, Verad, is a Trill who is bent on hijacking Dax’s symbiant for himself. This episode balances three tracks:

  1. Lots of insight into Trill society and psychology. Verad is sort of a meek weasel by nature, and bitter about not being bonded with a symbiant. We learn that this isn’t a thing that all Trills have, actually only 1 in 10 people make good matches. But this is determined by some Trill administrative process, and he didn’t match up. He was devastated, and specifically wants to bond with Dax. I think this episode has finally helped me internalize the identity of the Trill person, Jadzia, as a separate entity from the symbiant, Dax. The symbiant goes from host to host, and is known as “Jadzia Dax” or “Verad Dax” or “Lester Dax”, what have you. Also that the bonding experience makes a Trill feel like a more complete person, with sort of like a super partner, complete with multiple lifetimes of memories and experiences. Verad can’t get over missing out, and Jadzia tells him it’s totally normal, and plenty of Trill are fine without, even though it totally does rule to have one.
  2. Really strong episode for both the character of Sisko, and the performance by Avery Brooks. Since he’s been friends with Dax through multiple incarnations, he knows how much things will change for Verad once he’s bonded. So he immediately starts working on Verad’s partner and girlfriend Mareel, knowing that helping Verad accomplish his goal is the same as helping him be a different person. Of course as soon as he becomes Verad Dax, he becomes an overconfident brash jerkbag [this is probably why the Trill didn’t give him a symbiant in the first place?]. Sisko picks up on it immediately and is back to work on Mareel, eventually making a compelling case for her to switch sides.
  3. All the gross medical stuff. Symbiants are just big gross worms that are just as horrifyingly invasive as the ear slugs in Star Trek II, only these are nice slugs. Symbiant surgery looks pretty straightforward…disgustingly straightforward, frankly.

Endnotes:

  • The gang is prepared for Odo, they have a nifty little security box to contain him. It was curious to me that once they got him in there they could just pick it up. So he weighs, like, next to nothing? I guess he’d have to, he also was able to pool into Lwaxana’s dress just a few episodes ago. I don’t want to go all Trek nerd and wonder how he could have this near-weightless property and also wail on bad guys or disturb a chair he sits on, etc., so I’m going to let this go now.
    • Wait, one thing. Maybe you could argue this containment box has some kind of antigrav technology otherwise it’d be sort of impractical. One could also argue Troi’s dress had the same, for fashion and flattery reasons. Let’s go with that.
  • Quark is outed as a co-conspirator here and should absolutely be prosecuted, right? He does help straighten things out, including hacking Odo’s security box. But he’s only fixing a situation he created. Anyway I think he’s up to 2 or 3 legitimate on-screen crimes that are forgotten once the episode runs its course.

Morn watch: No appearance. Since the station has been cleared, presumably he’s left. But we never do see the bar, so we can’t rule out Morn isn’t just sitting in there wondering where everyone went.

Overall: An important episode for Trill stuff but maybe a little contrived in the setup and payoff, and some of the symbiant stuff was a bit hokey and convenient. They kept saying how dangerous it was to swap a symbiant or use a phaser on someone with one, but then whey went ahead and did it anyway. 3 out of 5.

S2E5, “Cardassians” (writers: Gene Wolande & John Wright)

I always really dug Worf episodes in TNG as a way to frame culture clashes, postwar reconciliation, or racism, and we’ve got a similar setup here. The Bajoran/Cardassian situation might still be a little raw to have an actual Cardassian crewmember aboard, but there is Garak, a Cardassian shopkeeper on the station, who apparently has continued to have coffee meetups with Bashir. This is presented like a regular thing but I couldn’t remember when he’d even shown up before (it was only once) and had to look it up. It was back in the third episode, when he got friendly with Julian, and helped the crew ferret out a Klingon/Bajoran plot (it was an early episode I waited to long to recap and skimmed some details). Bashir still vaguely suspects him of being a spy, without any reason other than that he’s a Cardassian, because I guess their coffee meetups are made more interesting with a hint of racial profiling. Garak seems to shrug it off because he seems to enjoy hiding whatever it is he’s hiding.

The story centers around a Cardassian war orphan that had been left behind on Bajor. He was adopted by Bajoran parents and has been raised to hate Cardassians. Understandably, the Cardassian kid is pretty messed up from a lifetime of hearing that Cardassians are evil criminals by nature. When Garak gives him a friendly greeting he’s rewarded with the kid up and biting a chunk out of his hand, the news of which spreads quickly and brings attention to the whole orphan abandonment issue at both Federation and Cardassian higher levels.

The episode forks in two directions, and like the best Trek, simultaneously covers both an intricate plot and more subtle cultural ground. An elaborate Cardassian scheme is unraveled by Bashir and Garak, but mostly Garak, whose detective instincts are so accurate one might suspect he knew exactly what he was looking for. Bashir can barely keep up and isn’t getting anywhere trying to figure out what Garak is really all about. The episode resolves itself but Garak’s role doesn’t. I suspect we are going to see more of him.

The victim in all this is the Cardassian boy. It’s hard to know what to make of him though. He hates Cardassians, but of course, he is one. He loves Bajor, but is spewing all this Bajoran spiritual rhetoric he’s been indoctrinated with. I mean, none of this can ultimately be good for his mental health. No matter how much his parents love him, they’ve also pretty much warped him. Keiko takes charge while he’s on the station, and one has to think he’d have a lot better off with a little more Keiko-style no-judgement authority in his life. [Keiko for president.] Sisko is set to arbitrate a hearing to determine whether it’d be better to keep him on Bajor or return him to Cardassia. Then — I was sort of shocked by this — we barely see any of the hearing. Instead the poor kid’s fate is glossed over with some Captain’s Log narration that amounts to: “Oh yeah we decided to send Rugal back to Cardassia.” That is some stone-cold resolution, Sisko. Maybe they just ran out of time in an otherwise busy show. Though I was kinda wondering if Keiko and O’Brien would somehow end up adopting him as a neutral third party. I’d have liked if they did. Pretty ripe for material and he could get in on some Jake & Nog schemes.

Endnotes:

  • Enjoyably vile scene of Keiko preparing some Cardassian food, thinking it would be a nice gesture for Rugal. It looks like some sort of blue stew. O’Brien and the Bajoran-raised Rugal both hate it.
  • Like Armin Shimerman for Ferengi, Marc Alaimo is totally owning the role of Gul Dukat, and has entrenched himself in my brain as the prototypical Cardassian. Now I have the same problem I do for poor Armin Shimerman in that I think Marc Alaimo just looks like a Cardassian. He does have an exceedingly long neck that they factor into his makeup and costume.

Overall: Felt like the resolution with Rugal was a bit cruel, but otherwise lots of good stuff here, with some rich plotting. I did get a bit confused by the rapidly shifting revelations, and it’s quite probably I didn’t even catch everything, as intriguingly hinted at by Garak. This might be one to re-watch later on. 4 out of 5.

S2E6, “Melora” (writer: Evan Carlos Somers)

Definitely not limited to Trek, there’s a standard TV trope where a character looks forward to an opportunity to meet someone they know only by reputation. Naturally they’ve built this person up into an amazing, brilliant, wonderful human whose work has demonstrated that, finally, this will be someone who GETS IT, who understands them, who represents all of their hopes. Then they meet…and their hero turns out to be a jerk.

We recently finished a watch-through of Frasier and they went to this particular well so many times I think you could build a whole season of that show solely out of episodes with this setup. As it happens, Bashir is a bit of a poor-person’s Frasier: he’s also a cultured doctor who views himself as a naturally charismatic ladies’ man, but in practice, his smarmy courtship persona ensures he will be forever trapped in a comedy-rich cycle of excruciating dating failures.

Bashir’s object of interest is the eponymous Melora Pazlar, who has been assigned some work at DS9, but is from a race that evolved on a low-gravity planet and as such, requires accommodations to work in standard Earth gravity. They have to retrofit DS9 with accessible ramps and build a wheelchair for her–apparently regular Earth accessibility needs have been completely solved with medicine or other technologies. In preparing for her arrival, Julian has become rather smitten with her through her work and ability to overcome handicaps, which brings us around to our trope & setup. The payoff pretty much follows the formula: her tough exterior is, of course, a cover for feeling vulnerable about being dependent on others, or ever being perceived as unfit for her work, but Julian sees through it and recognizes her for who she is, eventually eroding her defenses through persistence and charm.

Despite the familiar feel, as a whole, “Melora” is a success. It’s maybe the first real glimpse past Bashir’s oily surface to understand that he’s a genuinely caring and thoughtful person. Melora isn’t just a bland foil for him, either–she’s cultured, enjoying both pleasant Vulcan classical music and horrifying Klingon cuisine, and she’s complex, learning to understand how she can work and play well with others, even if that means recognizing she occasionally needs help. I really liked how they addressed the larger ambiguous question of whether or not she should accept medical treatment to improve her adaptation to Earth-strength gravity. There’s no right answer. Damned if you do, etc.

Also someone from Quark’s past is trying to revenge murder him. It’s probably unnecessary since like, that’s probably SOP for him. But it does serve as a good vehicle for some Odo editorials about Quark’s overall negative contribution to society, and it moves the plot along.

Endnotes:

  • Greatly enjoyed the Klingon chef and musician. Klingon food and music is exactly as one would expect.
  • Standard Trek ending to a romantic story: the guest character is reassigned and (probably) never seen again. Welp.

Overall: I think writing up a review made me appreciate this episode more. Watching it felt pretty familiar, I feel like I’ve seen a million stubbornly independent characters who eventually admit some variation of “no man is an island”, but it’s a quite well-crafted skiffy example with lots of good character stuff. 4 out of 5.

QuarkWelp, I was already pretty far behind on my DS9 recaps anyway, then we went on vacation for a week, and I spent another week catching up on inessential non-DS9 aspects of my life, such as employment. So I’m going to crank this one out to get caught up.

S1E18, “Dramatis Personae” (writer: Joe Menosky)

TOS had multiple episodes where some kind of space madness would take over the ship and the only ones with immunity were Spock, because he wasn’t human, and Kirk, because no space disease could overcome the force of his sheer bold willfulness. Maybe you can’t always have a Kirk around, but you can at least have an insurance non-human aboard. Odo, you got the ball this time, buddy. A telepathic space virus or some damn thing overtakes everyone else, which causes them to lose their minds and start conspiring against each other, going a little feral, or in Sisko’s case, makes him weirdly obsessed with clocks. (It’s played sort of non-seriously but it’s a neat way to portray the emperor losing his sanity.) The non-humanoid Odo is immune and left to sort things out. It should also be noted that Quark, who is ready to turn on anyone at any time, and having never suppressed a primitive urge before, is also unaffected by the virus.

It’s a throwback plot with a throwback effect: which is to say it’s sorta boring. Lacking the usual complex plot DS9 episodes are going for, it’s a gimmick episode for the characters and their interrelationships. Some of their underlying feelings are emerging, e.g., when it comes down to it, Kira thinks she ought to be in charge. And it’s fairly fun but a few weeks later I barely remember how each of them changed.

Note for future reference: we learn that Bashir doesn’t have the first clue how to provide Odo with medical care.

Overall: 2 out of 5. Some fun touches but the setup is a little flimsy and contrived, and mostly I just got sleepy. I’ve seen this before and this time we didn’t even get to see a shirtless Sulu running around with a sword.

S1E19, “Duet” (writer: Peter Allan Fields)

This is the kind of thing that’s hard to rate because it’s decidedly not delightful. “Entertaining” is not the word I would use to describe a grim dissection of the horrific reality of wartime. The episode was indeed great. But it’s also about the aftermath of suffering Bajoran war prisoners and a low-ranking Cardassian military guy’s distress over his inability to do anything about it. Jake and Nog, where are you when we need you.

It’s framed as a mystery about the Cardassian’s real identity and Kira’s interrogation of him the comprises most of the plot. It’s well-done, we’re not at all clear who he really is or what Kira has gotten herself into, and the reveal is satisfyingly meted out as they get closer and closer to the truth. Along the way we learn more about Kira and some additional details about what the Bajorans have gone through under the Cardassian regime. Crack performance by Harris Yulin (a classic That Guy) as the Cardassian.

Overall: 5 out of 5. But I’m not watching it again.

S1E20, “In the Hands of Prophets” (writer: Robert Hewitt Wolfe)

I’m already tired of the battle for political/spiritual leadership among the Bajorans. It combines my disinterest in fictional political intrigue with my disinterest in fictional religious fanaticism. (I find even their nonfictional counterparts extremely pointless, so this is not a template for successfully garnering my interest.) So we’ve got the extreme conservative faction headed by Vedek Winn, who busts into Keiko’s school with some “wormholes are actually spirit temples” nonsense and proves that even in deep space they still have flat-Earthers. Keiko’s not about to knuckle under and drop the science curriculum aboard a bloody space station. [Keiko for President, fwiw.] But the Bajorans on the station get huffy and stop coming to school and work over the dispute, and Sisko tries to head things off by calling on Vedek Bareil–also an influential Bajoran leader, but at least one who has joined the 23rd century. But he’s got political considerations to worry about and can’t take too firm a stand against Winn, and if this ain’t a parable for modern politics I don’t know what is. And it’s just as frustratingly destructive, complete with the fracas erupting into some domestic terrorism.

Overall: 2 out of 5. Not a bad episode, if a little tiresome. But that could just be me, plus an episode about the scourge of regressivism is just really the last thing I want to think even more about these days.

S2E1, “Homecoming” (writers: Jeri Taylor & Ira Steven Behr)

S2E2, “The Circle” (writer: Peter Allan Fields)

S2E3, “The Siege” (writer: Michael Piller)

Ambitious three-parter to kick off season two. Following up the events of “In the Hands of Prophets”, we see that vying Bajoran factions are getting increasingly vocal well beyond the scope of just the station. Without recapping the entire three-episode arc, I can discuss the major players:

  • Li Nalas, the extremely reluctant Bajoran folk hero. Circumstances once forced him to fight off several Cardassians but he ended up a prisoner, and Kira (with an assist from O’Brien) rescues. In the meantime the stories about him have grown into legends. It’s hard to pull off a good reluctant hero, too often they basically end up being, well, Harry Potter/Luke Skywalker/Katniss Everdeen/every American saga forever. Li Nalas is a good one, though. He doesn’t morph into a Jedi badass, he just tries to be useful.
  • Jaro Essa, Bajoran governmental minister trying to re-establish provisional leadership. He barges in to DS9 and reassigns Kira to Bajor, replacing her with Nalas, which neither of them are happy about. I would describe this character as effectively hateable.
    • This leads to the best scene of the arc, when Kira is packing for her reassignment to Bajor, and all the regulars keep showing up on some flimsy pretext to say goodbye to her. Some good farce here, as pretty soon the entire cast is in her bedroom somehow. And for the first time, she claims some allegiance to them. Awww.
  • The Circle, a group of Bajoran extremists whose influence has started to appear on the station in the form of obnoxious graffiti that Odo or someone has to clean up. (I bet he gets Morn to do it for like, next to nothing. Cost of the cheapest swill at Quark’s.)
  • Some militant Bajorans, including an extremely wooden and forgettable performance by fellow ’90s TV guy Steven Weber, who I guess just had an off-week over at Wings or something and wandered over to the DS9 set, so they slapped a Bajoran nose on him for a cameo.

Eventually the larger conspiracy that’s agitating the Bajoran rift is unraveled and things go back to normal after some zap-zap phaser battles around the station. Good job everyone.

Overall: 3 out of 5. Lots of Bajoran background and some larger themes covered but the execution is a bit meh. Two tighter episodes instead of three, padded out with zap-zaps and silly bellowing Bajoran Bad Guys, would have been better.

I am an astronomy dude but I don’t remember exactly when I learned a solar eclipse was going to be visible from the United States in August 2017. I knew about it by at least ’09 or ’10, Kristen says she remembers me bringing it up when we were still dating. But it was far enough out that despite my excitement, I couldn’t actually even get the exact year it was happening straight. Just a mysterious “sometime in the future” year, which is any year that is sufficiently far enough out to seem mildly fantastic. (Did you know there will be a year 2024? Wow! Amazing.) At some point I internalized that the eclipse would happen in 2017, when I would be 40, as if either of those things was ever actually going to happen.

Well, as it turns out, they both did.

What follows is a travel recap of our trip to see the eclipse and subsequent Tennessee/North Carolina mountain vacation last week. Read it…or don’t!

Vacation stops

Vacation stops in western NC and eastern Tennessee, including shaded path of 21 August eclipse (from eclipsewise.com).

Eclipse Pre-gaming:

We solidified plans to travel to see totality last year, booking something off VRBO in Highlands, NC. Our general plan was to find a good place to see the eclipse Monday the 21st, then spend the week in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Asheville, NC. We landed on Highlands because (a) it was quite close to the center line of totality–how far you are from the center line determines how long totality lasts, much more so than where you are along the length of the path–and (b) we actually found an available place there. It wasn’t extraordinarily hard to find a rental, but it was our third or fourth try before we got a confirmation. This was last fall–the eclipse wasn’t at all on the national radar yet but my fellow astronomy peeps were obviously already on it, and rental proprietors were starting to get wise. The mild difficulty prompted me to get some eclipse glasses ordered as well.

Because I am not smart, none of that got me thinking there might be crowds or traffic for this first-time-in-four-decades phenomenon. So in the months leading up to it I figured we would just drive from our base to wherever good weather might be that day. That presumption slowly shifted to anxiety as dire predictions of cataclysmic traffic or record crowds turned up in the news. But I went back and forth on worrying about human factors. The media thrives on disaster porn, but ultimately it was hard to believe conditions would be especially awful. I saw a few different maps trying to show the nearest point on the eclipse path from anywhere within a day’s drive. (This was an especially thorough estimate.) Since it crossed the entire continent, there were not going to be any real pinch points. It also became clear that oft-quoted figures like “200 million people within a day’s drive” didn’t really mean anything. It’s not like all 200 million were going to go. Or even 20 million. The estimate at that link thought even 2 million would be a lot, but probably getting down to the right order of magnitude at least. (Some cursory internet research suggests no major sources have bothered to follow up on putting together actual numbers, presumably since no one died or was stranded in traffic for two days or something else horrific. Also it’s just hard to figure out.) I mean, I am the kind of guy who’s into this sort of thing, and I am friends with a lot of people who are into these sorts of things, and maybe 1 person in 20 that I knew was going to travel. It’s still a lot more than a normal day but actually probably less than a busy holiday.

In spite of this coldly reasoned logic, I definitely experienced what a friend of ours termed “eclipse anxiety”. What if the estimates were wrong? What about the weather? Traffic? Gridlock? What if the towns are unprepared and there’s no food, no parking, overwhelmed plumbing, gas shortages, looters, eclipse-crazed bears? Another person we know was taking four days’ worth of food along just in case. I mean, none of this seemed reasonable, but when nothing’s definitive, anything’s possible.

Sunday, August 20: Pre-eclipse Day

Most of that worry seemed misplaced when there was no traffic or any real crowd impacts Saturday. We still packed enough food and snacks to cover us for at least a few days, but didn’t bother to leave especially early Sunday or anything to beat a potential rush.

The bulk of this day was a relatively boring drive from Raleigh to Highlands. It took longer than anticipated, but that’s just because I had never driven further west than Asheville while I’ve lived in The NC, and my mental model of the state is that it pretty much ends there. It doesn’t! It’s actually quite a bit longer, with several more hours of mountainous slow-driving state beyond. But traffic was light and we made pretty good time.

Our place was cool, a nice little rental above a garage called the Treehouse. Our host Mike gave us a bunch of good food recommendations and also vouched for the quieter-than expected atmosphere of the town over the weekend, mostly easing our concerns about traffic or parking for the next day. We were about two miles up a mountain from downtown and were thinking we’d even walk in if necessary, but it wasn’t going to be.

After dinner we took a drive into town to get familiar with the layout and scout out a good eclipse-viewing spot. They were setting up something called EclipseFest in a park, with a band and various tents, but with no assurances on the quality of the local band, we settled on a small, quieter lake close by with an unobstructed southern view. We took a hike up to a local attraction known as Sunset Rock, which as the name implies is a good place to watch a sunset. Basically it’s a big rock at the top of small mountain, under half a mile hike but moderately graded, that faces west. But it’s pretty cool. It was certain to be a fantastic eclipse-viewing spot but would likely be overcrowded, and also you’d be spending all day on a big rock with no cover, so we ruled it out.

Having arrived in and returned safely from town, with no evidence of mounting apocalyptic local or national conditions and an improving weather forecast, I went to bed with optimism for eclipse day.

Monday, August 21: Eclipse Day

We woke up to a less optimistic forecast, but clear skies to start. Clouds were expected to roll in starting about mid-day, with 30-40% coverage expected during totality, up to rain in the evening. Nothing really mattered after 2:38, though. This was our eclipse timetable:

Start of partial eclipse (C1) :
2017/08/21
1:07:14.3 EDT
Start of total eclipse (C2) :
2017/08/21
2:35:56.4 EDT
Maximum eclipse :
2017/08/21
2:37:13.3 EDT
End of total eclipse (C3) :
2017/08/21
2:38:29.9 EDT
End of partial eclipse (C4) :
2017/08/21
4:01:24.9 EDT

 

A bit of clouds wouldn’t be a huge issue. Most of an eclipse is pretty long, actually. Almost an hour and a half of the moon slowly subsuming the solar disc, before just two and a half minutes of totality. Then another hour-plus of the moon sliding off. So the full experience requires most of the afternoon. If clouds come and go, no problem. As long as you get a break at 2:35. This is what I told myself as cover for my seeping anxiety.

We had brunch in town–it was very quiet, plenty of parking, no crowds at all. EclipseFest was being set up and all the townies had some spiffy tee shirts for sale marking the occasion, but I couldn’t get one because they were down to the dregs of the youth sizes only. We set up camping chairs after that, maybe around 11am. Still plenty of space to be had but people were starting to stake out turf so we did the same and settled in to wait for a few hours. By noon or so, a large enough crowd of idle bandwidth users had gathered that phone service started degrading and we could only get blips of weather or news updates. This was a problem because it coincided with the clouds starting to get pushier. They overtook the sun at some point, and only got worse from there.

By first impingement, a bit after 1pm, things were looking grim. We had almost total cloud cover except for a spot off to the west. Clouds totally obscured the sun. There was no need for eclipse glasses. There was barely a need for sunglasses. I even felt a couple of raindrops. Bitter, teasing raindrops. I began mumbling about the hugely wrong “30-40% cloud cover” prediction; admittedly I lost my cool, as I usually am a steadfast defender of the science of meteorology (one of the laziest willfully ignorant jokes I can think of is the one about how weatherman is the only job where you can be wrong that much and still keep your job–they ARE right! they are using models and that’s the most right they can be! conditions change, is all). Basically I was angry at the atmosphere. Anyway K and I started wondering if we should take some action by heading west to try to get out from under the clouds. Of course, that being balanced with the haunting thought that we could go west, the clouds might just follow us, leaving brilliantly clear skies where we had waited around all morning. I mostly still couldn’t get any data on my phone, but managed a meager blip of updated radar data that made it seem like we should go for it, and the roads were clear. So we made the call.

We got out of the greater Highlands area and saw some blue skies from a Dollar General parking lot maybe 10-15 minutes away. In fact, they sky started looking promising enough that we finally actually needed the eclipse glasses. We tossed our layin’-about blanket onto some nearby grass and got our first glimpses of the eclipse happening, at about 50% coverage. We promised that we would patronize the General afterwards for use of their space. (Not that they cared. The employees were outside themselves, smoking cigarettes in a roped-off corner of the lot.) The parking lot started filling up as other cars materialized from the same cloudy direction, although conditions were already deteriorating again, and some people went further west. One guy bought ice cream bars at the store, but had extras since he could only get a minimum of a whole box rather than individual treats, so he shared with anyone nearby, including us. So at least, if we stayed cloudy, at least we scored some ice cream.

We overhead someone say that they had a GPS radar and it looked like the patch was blowing over, but that seemed hopelessly optimistic, the sun was completely gone again and things weren’t really improving. We had about 15 minutes left until totality, but with no phone signal, all we could do was guess what might happen. I proposed that rather than continue to chase the sun, we go back to Highlands, or hopefully even somewhere clear along the way, with the hope that maybe if the clouds were moving west, going back east they’d pass right over us. (Also I didn’t have a good handle on how much further west we could actually go and stay in the zone–although I determined later that we were nowhere near the edge. From the map above I think we were basically right at the NC-Georgia border.) At the very least, we’d rule out the potential humiliation of hearing that Highlands had gone clear without us. Kristen agreed, but mostly had fallen into despair. On the way back she likened the situation to the Carolina Panthers’ tremendously disappointing defeat in Super Bowl 50, when they rolled in with a 17-1 season record plus playoffs, only to play a thoroughly shitty game when it meant the most. So was the season worth it after all? Was anything? It was hard to disagree.

No good spots turned up on the way back, so at about 2:25 we found ourselves in a small parking lot back in Highlands with a bunch of other people hoping for the best. There was nowhere else to go, nothing else to try. It didn’t look good. Kristen couldn’t even muster the enthusiasm to get out of the car. We were going to have to settle for the darkening, but nothing else.

Totality

It’s easy to recall times when things went terrifically wrong. You remember with painful clarity when you dropped your phone off a bridge, but not the 4,000 times you didn’t. A lot of people in the North Carolina mountains planned as much as us, did everything right, are good humans, wanted to see it just as much. They could have been ten miles north, south, east, west, and had very different experiences. Our neighbors traveled separately to a nearby town: they didn’t see it. Maybe we’d have seen it fine from the Dollar General parking lot, maybe our decision to head back saved us. I don’t know if the eclipse chasers we intersected with there ever made it to sunlight. I don’t know what happened to the nice man who gave us ice cream. Many of them likely didn’t get to see totality.

We did.

With less than five minutes to go, the sun peeked through what had been an imperceptible gap in the clouds. It was down to a narrow sliver of light only, though town hadn’t gotten much darker at all. That was maybe one of the bigger surprises to me about the whole thing. I imagined it getting darker throughout the eclipse, then gradually lighter as the moon cleared away. But really nothing seemed to change until just the last few minutes, when it suddenly faded to an eerie mid-day twilight. All the bugs perked up and started into their nighttime chirping routine.

The moon choked off what was left of the sun, and we were at totality. We saw it happen. We did it. Dark moon, gauzy solar corona. I felt like I could hear a hum, which is ridiculous, or if anything it was my dangerously high blood pressure. My arms went up like the Panthers scored that Super Bowl winning touchdown that never actually happened.

The two-and-a-half minutes of totality went by in about ten seconds. I looked at it. I looked at Kristen. I looked around. I looked back at the sun. Repeat. I knew all our iPhone pictures would be trash but I took them anyway. We did get some good ones of each other in semi-darkness. A random woman nearby didn’t realize she could take her eclipse glasses off, I told her it was OK. (She probably was going to do it anyway.) She volunteered to take a picture of us, and she kindly took what was by far the worst picture ever taken during an eclipse. Then, the flash of the diamond-ring effect, and it was over. Glasses back on, moment gone forever. Someone in the parking lot had been playing Revolver and timed it so that “Good Day Sunshine” came up just at that moment. Not exactly right in concept but well played, IMO.

To be continued. But that was the best part.

Coming up: eclipse aftermath, the Smokies, the postmodern horror of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville, and home.

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.