TheGodBen Revisits Deep Space Nine

Discussion in 'Deep Space Nine' started by TheGodBen, Oct 16, 2011.

  1. TheGodBen

    TheGodBen Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Oh my, yes. Grand Theft Auto completely removed all my empathy for other people. Not because of the violence, but because the cars don't use their indicator lights when changing lanes, and they'll pull out right in front of you. That lousy piece of AI programming has encouraged me to kill thousands of NPCs.

    Speaking of senseless violence...


    The Siege of AR-558 (****½)

    AR-558, the planet so unimportant that nobody bothered to give it a name. You'd think they'd call it Chin'toka VI or somesuch, but then the show would lose the point that people are fighting and dying to secure a planet that in peacetime wasn't important enough to have a name. But there's some sort of Macguffin on the planet that the Federation are fighting to secure, and now Sisko and his crew are stuck in the middle of it. And Quark is there. Why? Because fuck Quark, that's why.

    There are four main characters on the planet:

    • Lt Larkin is a woman that's not wearing make-up, thus proving how serious a situation this is.
    • Reese is a soldier that wears the ketracel-white tubes of all the Jem'Hadar he has killed, because wearing neck-bones would be too grisly for a human in a Star Trek show.
    • Vargas is a meth dealer who tried to expand into the ketracel-white business, but things went south and now he's stuck on this rock.
    • Lennier is a Ranger, but after an incident involving President Sheridan he ran away and joined Starfleet.

    This episode uses every war movie cliché in the big book of war movie clichés, and that does harm the episode a little. But overall this is a vital tale that DS9 needed to tell before the end of the war. What we mostly see of the Dominion War is the epic space battles where spaceships and torpedoes wizz by one another in an exciting light-show of computer-generated explosions. You can't convey the horror of war that way. DS9 needed to visit the troops on the front lines and see how they were holding up, and the unsurprising answer is that they're not doing well. For all the pressures we've seen the DS9 cast have to go through in this war, they've been living in luxury compared to the troops on AR-558.

    While I make fun of Quark being on the mission for no good reason, he does serve an important role in the story as the observer who can see what the war is really doing to these people. I wish we had seen more of this Quark than the greedy misogynist he often is. And this is a major episode for Nog, obviously, but I guess I'll leave that are of discussion for It's Only a Paper Moon.
     
  2. apenpaap

    apenpaap Commodore Commodore

    I wonder if he's weating a wig or
    if he underwent the same procedure as Delenn...

    Anyway, I fully agree with our assessment of AR-558. It's a really powerful, and painful, episode, despite it's huge amounts of cliches. It's impressive for making Nor the Battle to the Strong seem cheerful by comparison too.
     
  3. flemm

    flemm Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I can get bored with Klingon episodes pretty quickly, but I've always really liked this one. Martok is awesome, there are some interesting dimensions added to Klingon lore, and I've always liked how the Klingons break out into song at the end.

    I wish we'd seen more of it, too. Quark is a character that could have been handled much better as the show evolved over time, imo. He's a real strength of the show in the early going because he works so well as part of the ensemble cast, but as the show started to focus more on smaller chunks of the cast, he tended to get shafted a bit. Vic Fontaine's emergence didn't help either.

    In retrospect, I think a better choice overall would have been to stay away from developing the Ferengi culture, or trying to use them for slapstick comedy, and instead focusing on making Quark the show's wry or cynical commentator on human nature. He has some great moments in the later seasons when he is doing this, but they tend to be a little brief.
     
  4. Sykonee

    Sykonee Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I was quite stunned to discover that B5 episode and this aired the same week. It does make you wonder... *X-Files Theme*
     
  5. lurok

    lurok Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    That felt a bit forced by the writers for me to give the ep some fake antagonism. But the actors pulled it off. I love Colicos' Kor, even if he is a bit ripe :) Just as a good klingon should be. Just about works as a last hurrah. AR really is dull and cliched, follow-up even more so.
     
  6. TheGodBen

    TheGodBen Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I agree completely. Quark is a great character that is sadly remembered for a lot of bad, silly episodes. The insistence on centring comedic episodes around him devalued the character, and by the final season he was treated less seriously than his nephew.


    Covenant (**½)

    Over the Christmas period, I found myself reading about Jim Jones and the Jonestown massacre. I know what you're thinking, it's not the most festive story in the world, but it was one of those events that I knew of but didn't know much about, so I read through the wikipedia articles on the subject. Reading that story made me feel anger, revulsion, fear, and sadness... and all my nerdy brain could think was "I wonder why Star Trek never did a story about cults and mass suicides." Then I remembered that Covenant existed and thought "Oh yeah. I wish they'd have given it a proper go."

    Cults are fascinating, tragic things, and Covenant fails to capture that fully. The problem is that Covenant is a Dukat episode above all else, the cult is just a way for us to see a new side of Dukat and set up his allegiance to the Pah-wraiths. As such, it's not a bad episode. Dukat's motivation in this episode makes sense, he finally has what he has sought all along; the adoration of Bajorans that he rules over. But at the same time, he genuinely does believe in the Pah-wraiths and presents himself as the anti-Emissary as a direct challenge to Sisko. He's mad, but there's a twisted form of sense to his madness.

    Some people take issue with the fact that the Bajorans in this episode are really dumb, and it's a legitimate complaint. But cults don't operate on a wavelength that most people can understand. The idea of poisoning my child before poisoning myself as a form of "revolutionary suicide" makes no sense to me. Poisoning myself in the belief that I'll be transported to an alien spaceship is one of the most ludicrous concepts I can imagine. But some people believe enough in order to do those things. Nothing the cult believes in this episode is particularly outlandish when compared with what people can be made to believe in the real world.

    Except, perhaps, the ending, which is far too simple. It's revealed that Dukat isn't planning on killing himself, and the entire cult instantaneously get some sense and turn on him. Then Dukat gives a mad rant and runs away to pester the DS9 crew another day. It's a rushed ending that doesn't do the concept justice. How did the cult-members react after the initial anger wore off? Nobody knows, the episode wasn't interested in addressing it, instead we get a lame statement from Kira about how Dukat is "more dangerous than ever!" :rolleyes:
     
  7. apenpaap

    apenpaap Commodore Commodore

    I find Covenant a mostly okay episode, mainly thanks to Dukat and Kira being such great characters. But I do agree the episode kind of fails to portray the cult well. I find it rather ironic that Babylon 5 portrayed a far more creepy cult who were supposed to be more or less sympathetic than DS9 portrayed a more or less villainous cult. I suppose that's a bit of a failure for both shows.
     
  8. flemm

    flemm Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Yeah, it's one of those cases where an episode introduces and then dismisses too many ideas, or too much material, at once for the whole thing to be really convincing.

    Kira and Dukat work well together, though. Always have. There's a sense in which Kira is really a much more natural protagonist for the show than Sisko. The writers try to wrap up the Eddington story and make Dukat Sisko's nemesis, but Kira and Dukat are more natural adversaries. Especially since there's this sometimes-a-little-creepy sexual tension between them.

    On the whole, as a fan of DS9, I do wish the whole Prophets/Emissary storyline had been handled in a way that stands up to more scrutiny and repeated viewings. There are quite a few good ideas there, but they never get the development they deserve, and are tied off too abruptly.

    Probably he needed to be given something to do other than "be the bartender." In the early going, that was ok, because DS9's world had not yet expanded very far beyond the station, and the ensemble cast was still relatively small.

    In the later seasons, though, it's no longer enough to keep Quark involved in ways that matter. He even starts to be over-shadowed a bit by Vic Fontaine.

    Nog really benefits from getting involved with Starfleet and the Dominion War in a direct way, of course, but that wouldn't work for Quark. Occasionally, Quark can be brought along, as is the case in The Seige of AR-558, but that doesn't work as a regular thing. So, I'm not sure what that other role would have been, exactly. But... probably he needed to be given some more or some different responsibilities somewhere.

    Edit:
    Now that I think about it, perhaps the thing to do would have been to expand his role as a galactic business man, but in ways that weren't mainly comic (though maybe they occasionally could have been). He could keep the bar, but also have other interests elsewhere, and perhaps sometimes in ways that were relevant to the war in the later seasons.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2013
  9. TheGodBen

    TheGodBen Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Maybe if the cult of the Pah-wraiths had better hair we would have had a better impression of them? Dukat has a bit of a mullet going on, it's hard to respect that. Byron's hair was dreamy. :luvlove:

    Agreed, Kira/Dukat is a more interesting dynamic than Sisko/Dukat. But I guess Sisko is the captain and the star of the show, so he's the one that gets to face off against the villain.


    It's Only a Paper Moon (****)

    I'm going to say something utterly unsurprising and say that Nog is the best Ferengi character in Star Trek. It's not because he's the least Ferengi-like Ferengi, it's because he's the Ferengi that most closely matches the spirit of 20th century humans, which is what it's claimed the Ferengi are all about. Modern humans care about profit and accumulating things, sure. But that's not all we care about. Nog wants to be rich in the same way that the rest of us do, but it's not the driving force behind his whole life. He has other things he wants to do, he wants to be a better person, and if he makes some money along the way then that would be swell.

    This is part of the reason why Paper Moon works so well, Nog's not just an eager Ensign out to prove himself, he's more like the audience than most of the characters in the show. O'Brien, Bashir, and Sisko all seem like they could handle losing a leg, even Jake seems like he could come to terms with it. But for Nog it's a huge deal, just like it would be for any of us. What they've done with this character is really impressive, and as the only episode to centre on the character this episode earns extra credit. This episode is also the final step in Nog's transformation from young thug to respected officer, which is easily one of the most impressive character arcs in the franchise.

    This episode was also about Vic, and they did a damn good job here as well. Before, Vic was unnecessary fluff added to a show that already contained a lot of fluff. This episode finally proves Vic's worth as a member of the ensemble, not just because of his role aiding Nog through his trauma, but also because this is the first time Vic actually gets to act like a real person. He gets to live a life and develop a real friendship with another person, and he's willing to sacrifice the former for the good of the latter. Thankfully, this episode mostly avoided the over-indulgence problem that hurt His Way, and while there are several musical numbers in this episode, they work better with the story. Vic's singing actually serves a purpose here, it's not in the show just because Ira Behr wanted to hear some of his favourite songs. I'm still not a fan of 60s lounge singers, but I'm more willing to give it a pass.

    I have my problems with the idea of Nog living in a holosuite for several weeks, and the fact that Vic's program is left to run permanently from here on out, but it makes for a nice story, so whatever.
     
  10. Worf'sParmach

    Worf'sParmach Commander Red Shirt

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    There are only a few episodes of DS9 that I haven't seen, mostly in seasons 1 and 2. I kind of treasure those episodes because it's like a treat, getting to see a new DS9 episode after all these years. That said, Paper Moon was one of those and I went ahead and watched it a few weeks ago. I really enjoyed it. I wasn't crazy about the Vic chcracter, but I like Nog (who doesn't?). I totally agree with your assessment, Nog is the character most 20th century humans can identify with the most. I like that they showed that losing a leg is a big deal, because it is. Likewise, I think it having him get hooked on the holosuite is a lot like the dependence on pain meds that people often develop after serious injuries, but without them having to go there, you know?

    Logistically, promising Vic that his program will run all the time seems a little problematic, but it's the last season so whatever. (Doesn't Quark own the holosuites? Why would be be cool with losing profit on renting that one out?)
     
  11. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    I always liked James Darren. I first saw him in The Time Tunnel (one of the best stage sets ever), but I knew of his singing career and Moondoggie days, though I didn't watch beach movies. He did well on T.J. Hooker too. And I have both his film death scenes (The Guns of Navarone and "The Emperor's New Cloak").

    Not sure why some seem to genuinely hate Vic. Maybe they felt DS9 was turning into a musical variety show. I thought Darren did well with him, though the whole Vegas lounge thing did seem a bit odd.
     
  12. lurok

    lurok Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Two of the most boring episodes of S7. Which was pretty dull anyway.
     
  13. flemm

    flemm Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I have to say the DS9 writers were really, really good with this type of thing: taking a new element and adding it to the overall tapestry of the show in ways that you don't necessarily expect.

    I'll never be a huge fan of Vic, but I can't just write him off either, the way I might like to, because of episodes like this. That's impressive stuff, and good writing.

    It's especially obvious, I think, in the case of Vic, who is such a blatantly self-indulgent and somewhat silly addition to the show.
     
  14. Seven of Five

    Seven of Five Commodore Commodore

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    Jesus slow down a bit will you? I checked every frickin day I was on holiday for more updates, but now I'm back at work you're back pumping them out like easy Scott Bakula jokes.

    Why GodBen, WHY?

    Ahem.

    Yay! :rommie:

    AR-588 is a very grim story, but I agree that the use of Quark as a commentator on all the craziness going on was a brilliant move. He's far more interesting than the Quark that pines after Ezri, or is trying to sort out the latest Ferengi shenanigans.

    And of course blowing Nog's leg off at the end was ultimately a very good move by the writers. The episode does very well at showing how shitty war is, and I appreciated it very much.

    Then we have to pause for Covenant, which is another boring one for me. On the one hand, Kira and Dukat sizzle on the screen together, and I find myself gripped to whatever they're talking about.

    That particular week they were reading from Introduction to Cult Writing apparently, as the rest of the episode was plodding and predictable, which is a shame really.

    Luckily, things are back on track with It's Only a Paper Moon, which is excellent. Nog has certainly earned the right to an episode to himself, and it's fascinating watch him retreat away from his real life into Vic's world.
     
  15. Paper Moon

    Paper Moon Commander Red Shirt

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    So I feel I should chime in here. As one might gather from my user name, It's Only A Paper Moon is an episode very close to my heart.

    First, on a "ur-level" (as opposed to a "meta-level"), I love the story. I think TheGodBen nails it: using Nog is a great way for the writers to deal with the trauma of war and the trauma of recovery. Vic is used masterfully, in depicting both his unique skills and his unique limitations, in a way that keeps him from becoming a Mary Sue, but at the same time injects some very different material into the story.

    Ezri's counseling background comes in handy here, allowing further differentiation of her from Jadzia, and is a nice continuity nod to her established position. (As opposed to Worf and his position as Strategic Operations Officer; not much is done with that.) Generally speaking, I'm not a fan of the Incompetent-Psychotherapist trope; even though it makes for easier story-telling, the reality is that psychotherapy is extremely helpful for many people and is a critical component of recovery for many trauma victims. On the other hand, Ezri is still a very young counselor, one who actually hasn't even finished her training. So, in-universe, her limited success with Nog makes some sense. And, as Ben said, we get a (imo) great story out of it, so I'm fine with overlooking it.

    Now, on a more "meta-level": to me, this is a respectful story about Star Trek fans like me.

    A little background: I found Star Trek at a young age in the midst of the greatest trauma of my life. It is possible, of course, that there are worse things yet to come for me; however, I believe that they will not surpass this episode in my life, because I will have emotional coping skills and maturity to help me deal with those traumas, in a way that I could not as a child.

    Star Trek became something for me to hold on to, as my life was turned on its head. Over the course of a summer, I became a die-hard Trekkie. I watched every episode of every series that I could find on TV, then convinced my parents to buy me the (then quite new) DS9 DVD box sets, since it was the only series not available on the air at that time. I plumbed the depths of EAS, DITL, startrek.com, the list went on and on. Lucky enough to have an extremely good memory, I memorized detail after detail, quickly developing a core of knowledge about Star Trek that allowed me not only to enjoy the episodes themselves but also to synthesize, on my own, new stories, theories and observations consistent with the established canon.

    Star Trek, as a universe, became an escape in which I could totally immerse myself.

    I have been fortunate. Unlike Nog, Star Trek has never become an unhealthy escape, a way for me to avoid dealing with real life. In many ways, Star Trek gave me additional tools to deal with real life.

    But there is always this voice in the back of my head, a reminder to be mindful to not lose myself in this, my favorite pastime.

    Paper Moon, I think, speaks to the real healing power that escapes can have when someone has had "too much reality." It acknowledges and respects the healthy ways they can be used, and does not portray Nog as being foolish or weak for seeking refuge in the holosuite. In some ways, he is shown to be very wise and self-aware, enough so that he goes of his own free-will to the place where he can begin to heal.

    But Paper Moon also speaks honestly about the way such an escape can be overused. And it confronts, in a very cathartic way, the reality that you eventually need to go back to living your life. If you don't, you'll die; not all at once, but little by little.

    David Mack, John Ordover and Ronald Moore take us on an emotional journey that is extremely effective, at least, for me. The result is an episode that tells a great story, one of the few of its kind, in the great epic that is DS9, and to a lesser extent, Star Trek, but also a story that transcends its context and becomes relevant in a wide range of circumstances.

    Obviously, Ben, I understand why this episode does not get 5 stars under your rating system. But, for me, it's a 10 out of 10, and one of Trek's finest hours.
     
  16. TheGodBen

    TheGodBen Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I suppose it's possible that they set up a majigger like the one they fooled Moriarty with in Ship in a Bottle so that Vic's program is constantly running, but not being projected in the holosuite unless someone pays to visit. That's probably the best way it interpret it, although it does open the possibility of Bashir wanting to visit Vic late at night and discovering that Vic's sleeping.

    Okay then, just for you I'll take another month-long break. :p


    I was close to giving it 9/10, but settled on 8 at the end. There was a moment in the episode when Vic and Nog were talking when I realised that a weird-looking alien was talking to a holographic 60s lounge singer, and I felt a little embarrassed by the silliness of it. It was only a moment, but it was enough to convince me to keep the rating at four stars.
     
  17. flemm

    flemm Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    You know, it's surprising, in a way, that we don't have that reaction more often when watching these episodes. It shows you, I guess, how much our perceptions of things are determined by conventions and what we expect to see.

    For example, I watched Call to Arms not too long ago. And there's a moment where it's like: the lizard guy is annoyed with the sickly pale/strange ears/weird hair guy, and they are both wearing some sort of elaborate monocle thing that they are staring into. LoL :lol:
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2013
  18. TheGodBen

    TheGodBen Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Funnily enough, I was thinking of Call to Arms when I wrote that yesterday, and how the outbreak of war between silly looking aliens was treated with absolute seriousness, but it didn't come across as weird there. It probably has something to do with the mixing of genres; humans and aliens fighting wars in the future makes sense for a sci-fi show, but the inclusion of a 60s lounge singer causes the mind to wobble and realise just how weird the show really is.
     
  19. Seven of Five

    Seven of Five Commodore Commodore

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    I would say Star Trek on the whole is pretty weird. Isn't a lot of sci-fi?

    Or maybe I'm watching the wrong stuff.
     
  20. TheGodBen

    TheGodBen Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Prodigal Daughter (**)

    On this week's very special episode of Deep Space Blossom, Ezri deals with the emotional impact of discovering that her brother is a murderer. In the beginning, the episode seems to be setting itself up as a sequel to Honor Among Thieves, which wasn't an episode that particularly needed a sequel, but I wouldn't say no to such an episode either. Sadly, it's probably this element of the episode that weakens it the most and drags Ezri's story into something of a melodrama.

    The best bits of the episode are towards the beginning as Ezri attempts to make sense of her family life from the new perspective of being joined. It's strange that we're actually meeting Ezri's family considering we never met Jadzia's. Truth be told, I don't remember Jadzia even mentioning any members of her family, all her stories about family life involved previous hosts of the Dax symbiont. (A quick check on Memory Alpha reveals that Jadzia had one sister who sent her glassware at some point.) While it is a little odd that we're meeting Ezri's family, it is one aspect of Trill society we haven't seen before; how families cope when one member of the family essentially becomes a different person. Ezri's relationship with her mother is particularly usual considering Ezri now has more experience in all walks of life than her domineering mother ever will.

    But then O'Brien shows up and we learn that the woman O'Brien was searching for was somehow connected to Ezri's family. This would be a big coincidence on a planet of 7 billion people, in a galaxy of untold trillions it's downright amazing. It turns out that Ezri's brother killed her because nobody ever took him seriously, and it's all the mother's fault. Okay, Ezri's mother isn't the galaxy's best parent, she isn't even worthy of a mug declaring her so, but blaming the murder on her seems a bit harsh. Norvo apparently had psychopathic tendencies and his mother may have exacerbated those, so maybe she deserves some of the blame for that, but Ezri choosing not to console her mother during this crisis seems cruel, and unbecoming of a therapist.