Discussion in 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' started by ananta, Jan 5, 2021.
I still want to know whether the Valerian ship actually was smuggling dolamide...
Dramatis Personae is one of my favorite S1 episodes -- Sisko and the clock, Kira flirting with Dax and Odo (and the latter being clearly weirded out by it), old-man Dax, and Bashir being even more weird and dramatic than usual were all delightful to me. It's not particularly substantial, and I honestly can't recall the actual plot/resolution, but I find it a joy to watch for the performances alone.
Is this one where people tend to wish we'd had more time to get to know the characters' normal personalities first? I can't recall...
I still want to know how the Sisko clock works. That design is amazing and I love that TPTB recognized that and kept it around in future episodes.
I feel that being toward the very end of the season, it doesn't suffer from the "uh, who are these people again?" problem the same way, say, The Naked Now does. I think being relatively early in the series possibly worked in its favor, at least in my opinion -- it took me a little bit into the episode to firmly solidify my conviction that something was "off," when at first I was thinking maybe I just hadn't noticed how strange Dr. Bashir acts normally. Once I realized what was going on (and everyone started sliding deeper and deeper into the alien influence) I thought the performances worked really well.
I like these reviews, and am enjoying reading them. I do feel I MUST defend an episode.
I feel "MOVE ALONG HOME" is actually a really great episode for a number of reasons.
1. The concept is fantastic. Who among us has not wanted to actually be inside one of their favorite board/video games?
2. We get another great look at a Gamma Quadrant race. It is quite telling how much more technologically advanced they all seem in comparison to the Alpha Quadrant. It also shows just how different their values are in comparison. We rarely saw a Gamma Quadrant race outside the Dominion, and this was a treat.
3. Speaking of the Wadi, while I do think their makeup was rather dull, their costumes were very good and memorable.
4. We get to see just how good Sisko and company are at problem solving. It's rare and refreshing to see our heroes from a STAR TREK show figure things out without relying on their technology.
5. Quark. He really shines here. We see how his greed gets him in trouble, but how he still has a conscience when he realizes he is playing with their lives. Armin is a fantastic actor, and he brought a lot of nuance, character, and layers to Quark. This episode is one of the best examples of why he is a great character and actor. (And my wife's favorite of all, along with Garak, in spite of her never really 'taking aliens in weird makeup seriously'.) His plea, along with his interactions with Odo at the late part of the game, were true highlights.
6. The hopscotch... I'm sorry, but it's damned fun. A catchy tune, too. And hearing Avery Brooks singing is a rare treat.
I know I'm in the minority of those who truly love this little gem of an episode, but I accept that. I will keep defending it so long as I live.
(Though I hope I have made some feel they can rewatch it in a new way...)
I always felt "DRAMATIS PERSONAE" was placed exactly right in production and airdate order.
Any later, and we would find it unbelievable they could all do these things. Any earlier, and it's "who are these people, and do we care?"
It's one of those rare times where the placement of the episode was in perfect harmony with a series.
While I appreciate the defense the whole show becomes too mean spirited in how it handles Quark. Armin is an excellent actor and he definitely shows that layering of Quark. But, oof, are the Wadi just frustrating.
Great to hear your thoughts, LadyMondegreen. It’s amazing how much the performances and character moments elevate the first season in general. I don’t agree at all with those who claim that DS9’s first couple of seasons are unwatchably bad. Simply not true! Even the worst of episodes were lifted by some fun and compelling characterisation. I did feel that ‘Dramatis Personae’ had a lot of untapped potential. The cast were having so much fun and were compelling to watch. Sadly, I feel the plot let them down. I only rewatched it a couple of days ago and I’m struggling to even remember the main thrust of the plot. I’d love to have seen more of a struggle for control of the station, more along the lines of TNG’s ‘Power Play’ which was a similar premise, better executed (although less subtle admittedly). Imagine a battle for Ops with people being ejected into space and hostages and real damage to the station. There is the seed of a great idea in there: a war that keeps recreating itself throughout time, with different players.
I kinda like seeing people stand up for ‘Move Along Home’! I’m glad you enjoyed it, FarscapeOne. I gave it a low rating because, to me, the misfires exceeded the things it did right, but I disagree with the fan consensus that it’s contender for the worst episode of Star Trek ever produced. Heck, I don’t even think it’s the worst episode of this season. I liked the idea behind it, and if the writers had better thought out the game and been a bit more imaginative in the challenges the players faced, I think it could have worked fairly well. As it stands, I’d MUCH rather watch it than legitimately painful dreck like ‘Code of Honor’, ‘And the Children Shall Lead’, ‘Threshold’, ‘Profit and Lace’.
The face of evil?
Wow. Where to even begin with this one? I sometimes get a little nervous when rewatching some of my favourite Trek episodes for the first time in many years. After all, some episodes age better than others, and, indeed, some series themselves age better than others. But I can safely say that ‘Duet’ is every bit as brilliant, as electrifying and heart-wrenchingly moving today as it was upon its first airing nearly 3 decades ago.
Although I’ve greatly enjoyed re-immersing myself in DS9, critically speaking, the first season has been...uneven at best. Which makes it all the more remarkable that they crown the season with an episode of this caliber. Only TOS was capable of delivering such a bona fide classic in its first year—the other spin-offs haven’t come remotely close.
Part of the episode’s power is that it has obvious parallels to one of the darkest and most devastating episodes of human history—the Nazi Holocaust. But the parallels are in no way crass or unmerited. This is a powerful look at both the worst acts human beings are capable of perpetrating, and also the lesser crimes of compliance and inaction. ‘Duet’ is uncompromising in its detailing of Cardassian brutality and war crimes, but what makes it interesting is that it also acknowledges the shades of grey bridging the spectrum of evil and good. Can any of us, hand on heart, say that if we happened to live in some awful regime such as Nazi Germany, that we would have the courage to act against the state? We all know that it’s wrong to hurt others regardless of whatever propaganda a government might spew. But the sad truth is that, faced with such circumstances and being part of such a system, how many of us would be courageous enough to be an Oskar Schindler as opposed to, in the case of this episode, a Marritza cowering and sobbing beneath his desk?
‘Duet’ is a powerful character piece for Kira, who is pulled into Marritza’s ploy and overcome by an obsessive need to seek justice and vengeance for all the suffering she’d seen and witnessed in the Occupation. Of course, as the plot twists and turns, she eventually comes to see beyond her grief and rage and realise that Cardassians may not all be guilty by the mere fact they are Cardassian. It’s a very Star Trek message, pure and simple, and Trek has rarely managed to convey this with such power and emotional punch.
Nana Visitor is phenomenal throughout, selling every single beat, and conveying so much through her eyes alone. Her performance really is an emotional tour de force. Harris Yulin is just stunning as Marritza—I’d happily go on record as saying this is a contender for best guest performance ever on Star Trek. He goes from feigning innocence to howling genocidal bluster as he tries to break Kira and hang himself with his own words. His breakdown upon being confronted by Kira’s evidence is masterfully played and gut punchingly moving. It’s remarkable that a character you perhaps moments before felt hatred toward can now elicit so much compassion and sorrow. The way Kira reaches out to him is cathartic for the character and beautiful to witness. The closing moments are genuinely heart-breaking, demonstrating the terrible danger of dehumanising another, and seeing only an object of one’s hatred and prejudice rather than a three-dimensional living being. The episode’s final act makes me cry every damn time I watch it.
I can’t say much more. This is a simple episode in many respects; a budget-saving bottle show and much of it is simply a dialogue between two characters in a room. The execution is sublime, however; the script is perfectly woven, the dialogue sparkles and the performances are breath-taking. It makes me sad that this episode was never considered for any awards, because it deserves multiple. It’s not only one of DS9 and Star Trek’s very finest, it remains one of the best hours of television I’ve ever seen. Rating: 10
Peter Allan Fields really was one of the best writers of the franchise.
"The Inner Light", "PROGRESS", "DUET", "NECESSARY EVIL", "BLOOD OATH", "FOR THE UNIFORM"... the man didn't do a lot of episodes, but when he did, he really brought it to the table and then some.
Absolutely agree, he was one of the GREATEST writers Trek ever knew. I mean, what a selection of classics to have on a resume! Whenever I saw his name in the credits I knew I was in for something just a little bit better than usual, and it’s amazing what an emotional punch his work packed. I was upset that he left the writing staff at the end of the second season (I can’t help but wonder if it was as a result of the show’s new direction and the Suits’ directive that Bajor stories be phased out?). He was missed, especially during the third season as the show took a little while to find its new groove.
“In the Hands of the Prophets”
“My child, please attend my Make Bajor Great Again rally on the Promenade.
P.S. If you love the Prophets you’ll do it.
P.P.S. Bring explosives.”
It comes as an enormous relief that, following the powerhouse that is ‘Duet’, the writers didn’t drop the ball and end the season with some generic piece of re-worked TNG; the type that has sadly comprised all too much of the first season. No, I can happily say that the writers seem to have a new-found confidence in their storytelling—and, in particular, storytelling that plays to DS9’s unique strengths and themes. While not as powerful as the previous episode, ‘In the Hands of the Prophets’ is an excellent piece of television in its own right; intelligent, sophisticated, thought-provoking and gripping. In my opinion it’s an underrated classic in it’s own right and one of the best explorations of politics and religion ever done in Trek to this point.
This is the first and probably only time that Keiko’s time as a school teacher has any great relevance or dramatic payoff, and we begin with a fascinating take on the old religion vs science debate with regard to school teaching. Apparently this is still a big issue in America to this day (I live in the UK where religion generally has less influence). This leads to some wonderful, heated debate, and the episode is deftly written, considering all angles, even though it’s clear from her very first scene that Vedek Winn is Trouble with a capital ‘T’. What I especially like is that the writers here resist the temptation to dismiss religion as some kind of lowly aberration that humanity should outgrow (as TNG did at least a couple of times). The scene between Sisko and Jake where Ben tells him that it was their religion that helped the Bajorans get through the Occupation is a nice little touch. As someone who is semi-religious (I veer toward the philosophical branches of Hinduism and Vedanta), I appreciated this nuanced discussion and the fact the writers acknowledge that there is no black and white when it comes to spiritual belief.
Of course, the ultimate crux of the story has little to do with Keiko’s classroom teaching. I get the impression that Winn was just using it as a way to stir up dissent and division. The actual plot veers into even darker territory as we see that Winn, overcome by her lust for power, is plotting an assassination. In retrospect, quite a lot of DS9 has turned out to be prophetic; from the social uprisings predicted in the early 21st century (‘Past Tense’), to the post-911 erosion of our personal liberties in the wake of a devastating attack (‘Homeland’ and ‘Paradise Lost’).
Here, rewatching this episode in January 2021, it’s impossible for me not to think of the Capitol Riots in Washington. My intent is not to start a political debate (I’m not American, so I’m neither Republican nor Democrat), but watching this I couldn’t help but see Vedek Winn as...well, I’m not going to name him. Whereas this episode explores the ways religion can be used to radicalise people to the extent that they’re willing to kill for their beliefs, today something more prevalent and arguably more dangerous are conspiracy theories and “alternative facts”, which are being used to radicalise regular folks until they are willing to perpetrate domestic terrorism and attempt to overthrow the state. People driven by emotion are easily controlled by authority figures who simply use them to their own ends and ultimately don’t give a stuff about them at all (“the sacrifices the Prophets call on us to make are often great”, to paraphrase Winn, who doesn’t care about Neela or the sacrifice she’s asking of her one little bit).
It’s disturbing stuff, all the more so because it’s happening right now, in countries long thought to be politically and socially stable, such as the USA. Britain, where I live, is affected just as badly by Brexit; another case of populist leaders being able to manipulate the public into shooting themselves in the face while believing that it’s in their own best interests.
The episode is beautifully crafted. The plot strands begin converging in the final couple of acts as what began as an examination of clashing philosophies settles into a gripping political thriller. Any time the other Trek shows tried their hands at politics, the results were invariably simplistic and superficial, because those shows, by their episodic nature, simply didn’t have the time to build up complex and nuanced cultures. By this point DS9 is finally playing to its strengths, and this episode is the culmination of a fair bit of world-building throughout the season. We finally get to see some exploration of Sisko’s role as Emissary to the Prophets, the disconnect between how the Bajorans and Starfleet view the Prophets/Wormhole aliens, and the fallout from Kai Opaka’s departure in ‘Battle Lines’ and its resultant destabilisation of an already highly unstable world. It’s complex, satisfying and it serves as an excellent prelude to what would be the opening trilogy of season two.
The climatic scenes on the Promenade are beautifully executed and stand out as a highlight of the entire season. The directing and judicious use of slow motion (something Trek rarely used) as well as the rousing music are extremely effective. Sisko’s slow motion “NOOOOOOOOO” as he plunges into the crowd was a bit of an unfortunate choice, but thankfully it’s nowhere near as cringe-worthy as say, Darth Vader, and wasn’t enough to ruin the moment.
Vedek Winn is a fantastic creation, gloriously duplicitous and sanctimonious, and brought to perfect life by Louise Fletcher (and her fantastic Sydney Opera House hat). Vedek Bareil is a character I am less fond of, but he’s perfectly fine in this, his first appearance in the series. He serves as a nice counterpoint to Winn, although as Sisko notes, he is still just as concerned with worldly politics as he is about spiritual matters. Kira gets some more terrific characterisation as goes from inexplicably supporting Winn to seeing her faith unravel when Winn’s true colours are revealed. I loved her scenes with Sisko, particularly the brilliant closing scene. Speaking of which, it’s really Sisko that carries this episode. I seem to remember being unimpressed by Avery Brooks in these first couple of seasons, but upon rewatching I realise that, when he’s given strong enough material (which was, admittedly, not often enough at this point) he really steps up, and I’ve found him a quiet yet strong and at times passionate presence.
All in all, I thought this was superb and one of the series’ strongest episodes. It really gave me a lot of hope going into season two that the series had found it’s footing and was finally playing to its own strengths. Of course, it would be a while yet before DS9 truly decided the type of show it wanted to be. Rating: 10
The real moral of the story? Good staff are hard to find.
It committed the crime of being memorable.
“Top quality merchandise! You won’t find a better Bajoran in the sector!”
With the exception perhaps of “Emissary” and “Way of the Warrior”, most of DS9’s season premieres open not so much with a bang as a comfortable, confident click. “The Homecoming” is a prime example. Right from the opening scenes, there’s a newfound confidence and ease evident in not just the writing, but also the performances (everyone seems to glow in this episode—you can tell the cast are refreshed and raring to go following their between seasons holiday), the new and improved sets, and the directing which is above average. While certainly not among DS9’s finest seasons, this second season ran concurrently with TNG’s final season, and frankly put it to shame in terms of quality. Whereas TNG limped from the starting line with the dreadful “Descent, Part II”, DS9’s opening episode is pretty darn excellent; a subtle, nuanced and beautifully executed tale with something interesting to say.
Part of DS9’s success was to abandon TNG’s increasingly tired formula of ending a season with a big cliffhanger and then having to begin the next season desperately scrambling out of whatever corner they’d backed themselves into. Instead, DS9 customarily ended the season with a self-contained story that nevertheless foreshadowed what was to come. The result is a more energised and refreshed commencement to each season. “The Homecoming” is the first in a trilogy, of course, but it actually pretty much works as a self-contained episode in itself. I enjoyed the slow build-up, because the characterisation was fun and engaging and the premise intriguing. Kira and O’Brien’s jailbreak of the labour camp is wonderfully executed; O’Brien acting as Kira’s pimp is bleakly humorous and the escape sequence is thrillingly done. While we all expected some fallout from the Cardassians, Dukat’s unexpected apology is an interesting twist, and it helps to keep the Cardassians unpredictable and far from just a one-dimensional villain.
Richard Beymer gives a subtle but effective performance as Li Nalas. He really captures the character’s awkwardness and unease at being cast as some mythical hero when in fact he just seems like an unassuming introvert who would happily fade into the background. This is another strong episode for Sisko, with Avery Brooks in particularly good form, and his scenes with Li are well written and performed. The underlying theme; that people need legends and mythology to rally their spirits and give them something to believe in and aspire to is a good one and nicely conveyed. Li simply wants to run away, but as Sisko points out, that’s the easy way out. I’m happy that the character’s arc will continue through the next two episodes. I actually think he’d have made a wonderful recurring character—far better than Bareil or Shakaar—but that’s a discussion for another time.
I love how the introduction of the Circle is at first subtle yet unnerving, starting with graffiti on the station and culminating in a horrific act of violence against Quark in the episode’s most shocking moment. It’s a slow-build plot which will kick into gear in the next episode, but the setup is excellent. It’s also unsettling to watch given how much darker our world seems to have become since this episode was first aired in the 90’s. The notion of extremist/supremacist groups threatening violence and dissent feels particularly relevant to our times, sadly. All in all, an understated yet highly promising start to the new season. Rating: 9
You scratch my back, I’ll get you a new and less ridiculous hat.
What an excellent run of episodes! I rarely see The Circle trilogy get that much love or attention from fans, as I guess as it gets overshadowed by the larger scale Dominion storyline in later seasons, but this is the writers’ first foray into long form storytelling and the results are impressive. I don’t think Star Trek had ever done a three parter before, but it really allows the plot unfold at a nice pace, gradually setting things up and bringing them to simmering point while allowing the characters to shine. Whereas the second part of a trilogy often suffers simply from being in the middle, ‘The Circle’ transcends those limitations largely due to a deftly written script, skilful pacing and some great character moments. I love the way it juggles multiple strands, each interesting in themselves, and gradually weaves them together into a momentous cliff-hanger.
First of all, I have to say that Frank Langella simply ACES it as Minister Jaro. His performance is understated, yet he has such incredible screen presence that he oozes a palpable sense of ominous menace. The guest stars in this trilogy are utterly first class (with one exception I’ll mention in a moment). I can’t believe that Jaro and Winn share only one scene in this episode, I was certain they were in it more—that’s just how memorable this duplicitous, nightmarish pairing is. Louise Fletcher makes a welcome turn and steals the episode with her hilariously passive aggressive quasi-confrontation with Kira (“please stay as long as you wish—even a week if necessary.”). Richard Beymer continues to impress as Li, even though he doesn’t get a heck of a lot to do other than settle into his new role as First Officer, and he seems a pretty good fit, too.
Unfortunately, the weak link is Philip Anglim, whose Vedek BOREeil has already become a wet blanket. The character is so undefined as to be unreadable, although I think we’re meant to take him as a good guy and see some chemistry between he and Kira. Unfortunately, Anglim portrays the Vedek as less of a monk and more a lobotomy patient. That said, Nana Visitor is good enough to carry most of those scenes and I appreciated the beautiful location work. Two episodes in and this season already feels infinitely less claustrophobic and confined than season one. Kira’s reactions seem true to character and it’s nice to see her again contemplate her spiritual side, even if by nature she is more a warrior who needs to be in the thick of the action. Her capture by the Circle, confrontation with Jaro and subsequent rescue make for superb drama.
How could I not mention the brilliant scene in Kira’s quarters at the start of act one? This is literally one of my single favourite scenes in the entire franchise. It’s beautifully written, perfectly performed and at once hilarious, quirky and touching. It also demonstrates how well this cast has gelled after a bumpy first season, and how DS9 has a much more natural sense of comedy than perhaps any of the other Treks. While it’s true that, say, TNG had humour, it usually necessitated an outside character such as Q or Lwaxana coming in to make the crew awkward and poke at their slight pomposity. Here, the humour comes naturally from the characters and their interplay. It’s just an adorable scene. The entire script, by the superb Peter Allan Fields, is on point. Again, as the middle part of a trilogy there’s a sense of moving chess pieces around a board with no immediate payoff, but fortunately the getting there is enjoyable and utterly engaging.
As with ‘In the Hands of the Prophets’ I’m again struck how this storyline mirrors recent events in the USA. All you need to do is substitute the Circle for Qanon or Proud Boys or any of the other extremist groups involved in the recent insurrection. And, of course, we discover the Cardassians are involved behind the scenes, attempting to destabilise Bajor in a way that would make the Russians proud. A prophetic, masterful and frighteningly realistic insight into how governments can fall. Rating: 9 (including an extra point solely for the scene in Kira’s quarters.
I think "THE CIRCLE" breaks the mold of 'middle of trilogy' issues because Peter Allan Fields was the writer.
Obviously, the cast and guest casting make it shine, but without that Fields touch, it could very easily have not worked.
Yes, the Sydney Opera House hat!
The Circle is the first meaningful appearance of the baseball as a dramatic device.
Bashir doesn’t know what’s worse: the food or the company?
Given Star Trek’s tendency for disappointing resolutions to two-parters, it was perhaps inevitable that the writers would drop the ball a little with this trilogy. Oh, it’s certainly not bad. It is, in fact, a thoroughly entertaining episode with a number of great little touches and some well-executed action sequences. It just feels a little rushed in its resolution of the plot, which is unfortunate given how good the setup was.
The initial scenes of the station being evacuated give this the feel of what would become a traditional DS9 season finale: it’s engaging, filled with nice little character moments and feels as though something momentous is coming. The Quark/Rom scenes are fun, as is the notion that hapless Rom would ditch Quark to take a Dabo girl away with him.
The episode then basically becomes Die Hard on DS9, and it’s nicely done on the whole, even if the scenes of the Bajoran militia wandering through the darkened station only to be apprehended by Sisko’s people get a little tired toward the end. Still, it’s a nice change of pace to have some solid action following a largely languid first season. Stephen Macht’s Krim provides a good adversary for Sisko. Like Frank Langella’s Jaro, it’s an understated performance but Macht’s strong screen presence makes the character memorable even if he’s not given a whole lot to do.
The Kira/Dax scenes are even more fun, and their interplay is feistily entertaining. I wish we’d gotten to see more of this pairing over the years. Terry Farrell seems so much more relaxed as Jadzia this season and she’s simply a delight to watch, displaying a flair for comedy timing. That said, this still doesn’t feel entirely like Jadzia 2.0–she’s a little too upright and uncomfortable in the moon and fighter scenes, whereas latter-series Jadzia would have been altogether more relaxed and having a blast. It’s not often we see aerial combat in Trek, and the attack scenes are well done with some excellent, if brief, special effects.
Unfortunately, the resolution feels too easy and simplistic, especially given all the complex and compelling manoeuvring of the previous episode. Given that Jaro has overthrown the government, are we really to believe he’d concede so easily? I mean, look at the Circle-esque extremist and conspiracy groups of our time. They linger by shifting the goalposts and adapting themselves even when all their predictions come to naught and their actions fail. I find it hard to believe that the Circle would disband just like that, especially given all the support and widespread influence it had. Surely they’d had managed to spin the Cardassian involvement as ‘fake news’ and paint it as an attempt by the opposition to smear them? And surely most of their gullible followers would have swallowed that, too?
I actually feel the Circle storyline might have worked better if it had spanned the large part of the season. It certainly had the potential to run in the background for several weeks and then build to a climax as it does here. The resolution just feels it comes too soon and too easily (for all our crew do struggle and suffer here). That said, Paramount were probably already horrified by the emerging serialisation on DS9 and the writers were no doubt under orders to scale it back, as they do from hereon for much the rest of the season. When Sisko tells Li that dying is taking “the easy way out”, and the writers kill him off in the final few moments for no real reason, basically it’s the writers taking the easy way out. I’d love to have seen Li remain as an occasional guest star, but sadly that was not to be. Perhaps the character’s arc was over, anyway. I’d also loved to have seen more of Jaro and Krim, although I’m aware it may have been difficult to get (or perhaps afford) Frank Langella on a regular basis. Plus, the writers do unfortunately steer focus away from Bajor after this episode and ‘The Collaborator’ later in the season. Ah, what might have been.
Overall, an entertaining and engaging hour, with some good action scenes and sparky characterisation. The downside is the ending feels rushed after such a wonderful build up, and I’m left with a slight sense of missed opportunity. But, this trilogy is nevertheless a triumph, and it shows just how strong, original and powerful DS9 can and will be when it embraces its unique voice and tells the stories only it can tell. Rating: 7
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