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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

Overall: Peak DS9. 5 out of 5.

S1E12, “Vortex” (writer: Sam Rolfe)

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

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

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

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

Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

Well if you are Commander Sisko, yes you do.

And also:

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

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

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

Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QuarkDS9 quick early recaps, continued:

S1E3, “Past Prologue”

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

S1E4, “A Man Alone”

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

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

S1E5, “Babel”

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

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

A Human man

S1E6, “Captive Pursuit”

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

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

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

Background (comma) Your Author’s

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

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

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

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

S1E1 – “Emissary”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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