Sacrifice of the Angels Ending A Deus Ex Machina?

Discussion in 'Deep Space Nine' started by M.A.C.O., Oct 27, 2012.

?

Was the ending Deus Ex Machina?

  1. Yes

    24 vote(s)
    37.5%
  2. No

    40 vote(s)
    62.5%
  1. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    In one of my unused DS9 pitch ideas from years back, I planned to have a scene where a character -- I think it was Dax -- convinced the Prophet to help them or let them know about a problem they needed to address, and afterward she asked, "If you already knew this was going to happen, why did you need me to tell you first?" And they answered, "If you know you will exhale, why do you inhale?" The idea being that even if you know in advance that something will happen, that doesn't mean you can skip over the steps that lead to it.

    Yes, all time is one to the Prophets, so they would've known "all along" that they would get rid of the Dominion fleet at Sisko's urging -- but the reason they knew that is because he urged them at that point in his timeline. It doesn't make sense, therefore, to say that they should've acted without him having to ask, because then he wouldn't have asked and they wouldn't have known to help. The process of cause and effect still had to play out in order to produce the shape of events. The fact that they can see all causes and effects simultaneously doesn't change that.
     
  2. Pavonis

    Pavonis Commodore Commodore

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    They might be capable of seeing all, but only if they're looking. I don't think they consider our corporeal plane something worth paying attention to continuously. If they are all-seeing, then they can see across billions or trillions of years. Getting them to pay attention to what you want them to address has to take some effort.
     
  3. Vanyel

    Vanyel The Imperious Leader Premium Member

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    Getting them to pay attention to you, is a point in time. If you have to point it out to them, it invalidates their whole premiss. What was, what is and what will be either is all one to them or it's not. If you have to get them to see one point in time, then they cannot see all time.
     
  4. Vanyel

    Vanyel The Imperious Leader Premium Member

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    If they had not helped Sisko would have died. They knew they would have to destroy the Dominion fleet.
     
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    But "they knew" -- in the sense that they knew in advance -- is a meaningless concept when talking about the Prophets. To them, all times are one. It's all right now to them. So there is no "when did they know it," there's just "what did they know."

    Besides, what are you suggesting? That they should've stopped the fleet earlier? The fleet wasn't coming through the wormhole earlier. They acted at the only point where that particular action was relevant.
     
  6. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I always liked that DS9 was willing to take chances and do things that are unexpected. At the beginning of the episode I was fairly certain they'd stop the Dominion from taking down the minefield either by sabotage or the fleet breaking through.

    Well surprise both the saboteurs and Defiant were too slow! Sure it's a convenient handwave solution, but it's one that was surprising and it worked. It's not as if this came completely out of the blue and it's perfectly feasible that they have "godlike" power in the wormhole they constructed for themselves to live in.

    Things like this were really why DS9 was my favorite series. They'd go out on a limb and do something against the grain or unexpected. Actually my biggest gripe with the episode was why did the Klingon fleet not go directly at DS9 itself? The Federation fleet had the Dominion/Cardassian forces tied down and the stakes were clearly outlined as victory or else death. Personally I thought it'd be very in character for Gowron to have the Klingon forces take all the glory and let the Federation take it on the chin.
     
  7. Knight Templar

    Knight Templar Commodore

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    A complete cop out that comes out of nowhere in the current story.

    Sure, the wormhole prophets had been well established in the SERIES.

    But during the Dominion War, IIRC they had never been seen or even referred to in any way whatsoever.

    I think the writers basically pulled them out of their ass when they realized that "Hey!, there is no way we can plausibly have the Federation/Klingon forces win".

    or more probably

    "Hey, we've already blown the effects budget. No way we can show a big battle in and around Deep Space Nine now".

    By the way, I've always hoped to do a YouTube video where the Dominion reinforcements are actually wiped out when the Defiant releases a monstrously huge specialized warhead inside the wormhole.

    And only a fraction of the Dominion ships escape into the Alpha Quadrant (following the fleeing Defiant)...but they are then cut down by the Federation/Klingon fleet along with DS9s firepower (controlled by Rom).
     
  8. Tosk

    Tosk Vice Admiral Admiral

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    So...a tech-based cop out instead? The Prophets are a well-established part of the DS9 universe. Unlike a brand new super-duper warhead that is never used again.
     
  9. M.A.C.O.

    M.A.C.O. Commodore Commodore

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    I consider the act Deus Ex because it's basically phenomenally cosmic beings waving a magic wand and solving an unsolvable problem for the protagonists. That's not heroic no matter what way you spin it. Sisko being a religious figure to the Prophets, and part Prophet due to his conception. Really doesn't help. It's basically Sisko begging his extended supernatural family for a REALLY BIG FAVOR. He even says he needs a "miracle". By Sisko's admission during his conversation with the Prophets, the Prophets had sent the Bajorans, Orbs, Emissarys, and "encouraged" the Bajorans to create a religion based around the Prophets. Sisko proved the Prophets are very much involved in corporeal matters.

    With regards to Sisko's Pah set to follow a different path. Wasn't season 6 episode 21 'The Reckoning' also slated to be the final destiny for the Emissary? It's amusing how all knowing, all seeing beings as the Prophets can't foresee so many alterations to their own designs.

    With reagrds to 'Q Who', the Enterprise is transported to what I assume is the Delta Quad. by Q, in an attempt show Picard how unprepared he and the Federation are against the then unknown threat. After an exchange in battle and a desperate run away attempt, Q taunts Picard saying that he's locked in combat with a force he can't win against and should've stayed where he belonged. Humbled Picard asks for Q's help, in which Q sends the ship right back to where they were before he transported them to the Delta Quad. After that Q doesn't gloat but acknowledges Picards admission in a no win situation he had put them in. Picard didn't ask Q to destroy the cube/fight his battles for him.

    While I do enjoy the theme SFDebris brought up about the Founders being false gods and the Prophets being the true gods. There is something diminishing about the Federations victory because it's basically "Fuck the Dominion we have GOD on our side".
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2012
  10. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    Being a cop-out is not the same as a deus ex machina.
     
  11. Tiberius

    Tiberius Commodore Commodore

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    Pretty much what I think as well.
     
  12. TheGodBen

    TheGodBen Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    This argument can easily be dismissed with a single change to the episode: Rom disables the station's weapons one second earlier. Bam! No need for the Prophets.

    The writers did not write themselves into a corner, that's a nonsensical argument and it's about time that people stopped using it. The writers made the conscious decision to have the Prophets intervene when they could have written any number of other more mundane endings. You may not like that they made that choice, and I can understand why, but it was a choice and not the desperate last resort of a resolution that some people make it out to be.
     
  13. Knight Templar

    Knight Templar Commodore

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    Ever read the ST:DS9 Technical Manual?

    The huge warhead in the nose of the Defiant for use as a last resort weapon is specifically mentioned.

    As for cop out vs. deux ex machina?

    A distinction without a difference.

    Abysmally poor writing no matter how you cut it.
     
  14. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    But that was exactly why it was valuable to bring them in at this point. The Prophets were a major part of the DS9 backstory. They lived inside the wormhole that gave the Dominion access to the Alpha Quadrant. It would've been a huge oversight and missed opportunity if the series hadn't involved them in the story sooner or later. And it made sense not to get them involved until we reached a point where the stakes were this high and the crisis depended so heavily on passage through the wormhole. It was logical to involve them at some point, and this was a logical point at which to do it.



    More likely, they deliberately crafted a situation that the Federation and Klingons couldn't win on their own in order to justify Sisko demanding help from the Prophets. It's a mistake to say this came out of the blue, because the tension between Sisko's duties as an officer and his role as the Emissary had been a developing thread in the series for years. Here, the writers created a situation that was designed to bring that tension to a head -- a situation where what Sisko needed to do and what the Prophets needed him to do came into conflict, and somebody needed to give.


    You do realize that would probably destroy or at least severely damage the wormhole, right? It's not just an empty bridge, it's a "foreign country" where powerful beings live. It's rarely good strategy to defeat an enemy by devastating the homeland of one of your most powerful allies (or at least, of neutrals you don't want to get mad at you).


    Again: That would only be true if the Prophets had intervened spontaneously. But that's not the case. It was Sisko's words and choices, Sisko's determination and force of will, that persuaded the Prophets to act against their own wishes. And it was Sisko who made the sacrifice necessary to earn their intervention, who had to pay the price later in the series.

    A lot of Trek episodes involve the heroes convincing more powerful beings or forces to take action. Pike and Number One convinced the Talosians to set them free. Kirk's refusal to kill convinced the Metrons to let him and the Gorn go. Kirk and Spock's retrieval of George and Gracie enabled the whales to convince the all-powerful Probe to give up and go away. Picard swallowed his pride and asked Q to save them from the Borg in "Q Who." And so on. Many stories are resolved, not by the heroes taking direct action themselves, but by the heroes persuading others to take the decisive action, or not to take it. But it's still the hero whose words and choices set that outcome into motion, and that's what keeps it from being a deus ex machina.


    Yes -- Sisko proved it. That's a major step forward in the entire arc of the series, and Sisko brought it about himself.

    Not to mention that asking the Prophets for a favor at all was a major step for Sisko personally. I think the mistake some people are making is in looking at this purely on the level of plot and overlooking the far more important level of character. If there's one thing that Michael Piller and his proteges -- including Ira Steven Behr -- believed above all, it's that the most important question in any story is how it affects the characters. Looked at from that standpoint, a deus ex machina ending would've been one that resolved the plot without forcing any character to face any real challenges or consequences. But this wasn't that kind of ending. This ending forced Sisko to go to a difficult place personally, to force a change in the status of one of his most basic relationships in the series, and to face painful consequences in the future.


    First off, it's a mistake to call them all-knowing or all-seeing. They just perceive past, present, and future as a simultaneous whole. That's a different perception from ours, but it's not the same as omniscience. Think of it like being at the end of your life and being able to look back on all of it with perfect recall. You could access any moment of your personal experience instantaneously, relive your wedding day and then immediately jump to your third birthday and then to your granddaughter's third birthday. It would feel to you as if they were all happening at the same time. But is that omniscience? No, because you could only perceive those things you personally experienced. You could instantly call up any event from your own life, but you couldn't remember something that happened on the other side of the world on your wedding day, because you weren't there.

    Second, the Prophets don't "foresee" anything, because they have no concept of "before." They just see. You can't define how they perceive and act as long as you're trapped by our concepts of time and causality.


    But he did ask Q to resolve the crisis for him, so that's a meaningless distinction. Deus ex machina is a term of literary criticism, so the relevant considerations are those of plot structure and character dynamics. It doesn't matter whether the particular crisis of the plot involves blowing up an enemy, escaping from an enemy, or getting to a dinner date on time. It's still the defining crisis of the plot, and if it's resolved by random intervention by an outside force, it's a deus ex machina. But if it's resolved by the protagonist convincing that outside force to intervene, then it isn't.


    Again, that would only be true if the Prophets had intervened spontaneously -- and continuously. This was something they did with only the greatest reluctance because Sisko convinced them to face their hypocrisy.
     
  15. Knight Templar

    Knight Templar Commodore

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    ^Christopher.

    You're making a huge mistake that lots of professional writers make.

    You're thinking like a "writer" and not like a "fan".

    To you, as a writer going back to an element previously introduced into the series years earlier was a natural development in the series.

    But to lots of fans (perhaps the majority).

    The "prophets" were just one more ridiculous element of the very annoying Bajorans that lots of fans wanted forgotten.

    Thus having them suddenly come from nowhere to stick their noses into the biggest story in 24th century Star Trek continuity was galling.
     
  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^And you're making the mistake a lot of fans make: assuming that your own personal opinion is somehow a widely held consensus among fandom as a whole. It's easy for online fans to convince themselves that their views are the majority view, because the Internet tends to segregate us into our own echo chambers of those who agree with us. But there's really nothing that all of fandom agrees on. Yes, there are fans who disliked the religious aspects of DS9, but there are plenty of other fans who found them intriguing and refreshing and wished that Trek would deal with spirituality more often. It's not a mistake for a writer to avoid worrying too much about what some particular group of fans might like or dislike; it's a necessity if you want to be able to function as a writer at all. Since there's nothing that all fans agree on, if you try too hard to pander to one group of fans, you'll just alienate other groups of fans. The only way to proceed is to tell the story that works best for you, the writer -- to tell it with as much integrity as you can, to tell the story that you feel needs to be told in the way it needs to be told.
     
  17. Knight Templar

    Knight Templar Commodore

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    ^ So you are arguing that writers should ignore their fans and target audience because "they can't please everyone"??:wtf::wtf::wtf:

    Is it any wonder that Star Trek eventually tanked?:guffaw::guffaw:
     
  18. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    But the very fact that they have gone back to a previously established element prevents it from being a deus ex machina.

    But isn't that what writing is partially about, building upon previous elements?
     
  19. Elias Vaughn

    Elias Vaughn Captain Captain

    I... don't think it counts as 'coming out of nowhere' when their presence has been mentioned at least every other episode for five seasons.
     
  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    This isn't about Star Trek. This is about how all writers work. It's not about "ignoring" the audience, it's about not making the mistake of assuming you have to pander to any one faction of the audience. Because there's never going to be universal consensus. There's no one formula or approach that all fans will like equally. There is simply no way to please everyone, so you can't think of it in terms of that kind of pandering. Writing isn't about taking requests. Those writers who work in that way produce empty, soulless hack work. Good writing is about creating something that comes from within you, something that has substance and integrity to it. If you do that, then hopefully audiences will respond to it. You'll never satisfy everyone, because audiences are diverse and have a very broad range of tastes. So you have to accept that no matter what you do, some people will dislike it. But if you put enough integrity and care and feeling into it, then with luck, a lot of people in the audience will respond well to it.

    It's not our job to give you only what you already want or expect -- and you shouldn't want us to. After all, if all you get from our work is what's already within you, what have you gained? Nothing. What makes good fiction or art powerful and worthwhile is that it shows us things we don't already have within us -- offers us new ways of seeing things, challenges us to expand our minds beyond their current limits. Sometimes that's going to be unpleasant to a given member of the audience; it's always a risk to try new things. But for another member, it might be an enriching and moving experience. If you're not willing to risk upsetting anyone, you'll never do anything with enough substance or impact to delight anyone either.