Charles Phipps wrote:
Yes, absolutely. The Dominion fleet disappearing in the wormhole was de facto
a deus ex machina
This was also my personal shark jumping point
in DS9. ("The plot is resolved with one too many plot twists which are inconsistent with the overall narrative, poorly executed, or are just plain stupid, turning the audience away
The problem with this assertion isn't arguing over a Deus Ex Machina, it's the fact that any other ending to the scenario would have made no sense either with Star Trek's themes or the ones established by Deep Space Nine. For the Dominion War arc to make sense, the Prophets had to play a role (because they're a major part of the show), and it couldn't end in a big space battle.
"Errand of Mercy" is pretty much the Sacrifice of Angels writ large. It's also the basis for Star Trek and war. Star Trek repeatedly highlights that actual military conflict is both useless as well as counterproductive to civilized societies.
Errand of Mercy ends with the Organians enforcing a peace treaty. "Arena" is also about seemingly higher beings enforcing a similar peace. Star Trek is riddled with the idea that "greater entities" view war and conflict as disgusting and we need to move past it.
Virtually all of Star Trek's great moments do NOT end in a space battle. Instead, it's about making peace with your enemy of finding a way around a problem other than shooting it to pieces.
Our heroes winning because of military strategy is about the absolute least Star Trek thing imaginable. If they'd just blown up the fleet with a technobabble bomb that's Anti-Trek in its themes. Asking the Prophets to do it isn't very Trek either, but it's at least NOT a big space battle.
Deep Space Nine's themes (apart from Trek as a whole) are about religion and it's importance. Anti-Roddenberry as they may be, they're a HUGE frigging part of DS9. The Prophets are more important than the Dominion and fans who want to ignore them are sort of missing the point. Like the BSG fans who kept tuning out Baltar talking to God. Yeah, you may not like that part of the show but it's there, it's been there from the beginning, and it can't be ignored.
First of all, it's important to point out that deus ex machina
is not necessarily a bad thing. The germs defeating the Martians in The War of the Worlds
is an example where it works, and the usage there is really part of the point of the story.
In discussing Errand of Mercy,
it should probably be made clear that it, too, is arguably only a de facto example of deus ex machina,
since there were clues dropped all along that things were not as they seemed with the Organians. These included their immediate knowledge that Klingons were in orbit and beaming down, the unlikely
stagnant culture, and their bizarre lack of concern.
Also, although it doesn't look like you claimed it was, just to be clear, Arena
doesn't really qualify as an example of deus ex machina
on any level. The revelation of the Metrons is still part of the extended set-up for the main drama, in the eponymous arena. Without the contest on the asteroid, the episode has no real story at all. Also, anyone familiar with the story by Frederic Brown indicated in the credits would be aware of the similar device in it.
However, the outcome of Arena
the Metrons imposing peace. All they did was stop the two ships fighting in their space, and pit their captains against each other in the arena. They would have destroyed the ship of the loser, if the victor had wished it. Overall peace between the Gorn and the Federation was left to be worked out on its own terms.
I agree there are similarities between Errand of Mercy
and Sacrifice of Angels.
But there are important differences. For one thing, Errand of Mercy
is a one-off. Despite a namedrop or two, the Organians basically never figured into the story of any episode ever again.
On the other hand, Sacrifice of Angels
stood at the climax of drama that had been building for seasons. There was a great deal of investment in all of the nuances leading up to all out war between the Federation and the Dominion. DS9 had set itself out to be Star Trek
's edgier cousin, and spent a lot of time trying to make the case that that's what it was. Also, because DS9 set itself up as being about story arcs, Sacrifice of Angels
can't be separated from all the seasons of buildup and anticipation that had preceded it.
Then, as the great battle is about to begin, the show has this epiphany. After all those seasons, it's suddenly time to finally get back to its roots. Assuming we can cope with the whiplash of that, what do we get afterwards, in the remaining time the show runs? Total silliness,
such as that involving the Pah-wraiths.
The problem wasn't that the theme turned out to be that war isn't such a good idea after all. That is
consistent with the ideals generally associated with Star Trek.
By way of clarification, the problem was twofold. First, what little dramatic payoff we got was all out of proportion to the buildup. That's it being "poorly executed". Second, and moreover, it was all downhill from there, and yet the show meandered on for almost two more seasons. This, what I called jumping the shark, was the actual nature of my criticism.