My DS9 Rewatch Odyssey

Discussion in 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' started by ananta, Jan 5, 2021.

  1. LadyMondegreen

    LadyMondegreen Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    I also didn't love the ending to this three-parter, particularly in comparison to the second episode, but there were for sure some great moments -- I loved the part where Bashir leans out of the conduit with his phaser and says some snarky one-liner, just because you can tell how much the doctor enjoys getting to do the dashing action hero bit.
     
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  2. DonIago

    DonIago Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I think one reason why these events are tied up as tidily as they are is that the writers wanted the Bajorans to fundamentally be good people, even at least some of the ones who joined The Circle, so when the Cardassian involvement is revealed it takes a lot of wind out of their sails. They may still be opposed to the direction of the Provisional Government, but they've been shamed by realizing that their radicalism was actually serving the beings who had oppressed them for fourty years.

    I wish Krim had gotten more to do as well, as I think he's a delightfully complicated antagonist here, and I was happy that in the novelverse he ultimately becomes Bajor's ambassador to the Federation. KRAD made good use of him in "Articles of the Federation".
     
  3. dupersuper

    dupersuper Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    It wasn't a bad scene, but I'm firmly on the side of Jake and Trek, so the beginning of Bens little lecture has me rolling my eyes every time.
     
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  4. ananta

    ananta Captain Captain

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    “Invasive Procedures”

    [​IMG]
    I gotta bad case of worm envy.

    This is a slightly difficult one to review. When it comes to Trek, what I generally look for is a solid, entertaining hour of television, with some well-crafted drama, decent pacing, and good characterisation, along with strong performances and directing. “Invasive Procedures” has pretty much all of that, which is why I’m inclined to give it a good rating. It’s also got some substantial flaws, however. Sometimes I can overlook such flaws because, heck, what in life is ever perfect? The more I think about this one, alas, the more dissatisfied I feel.

    For a start, the juxtaposition with the previous episode is pretty annoying given that both feature an abandoned DS9 with only a skeleton crew (in this case I have no idea why the skeleton crew comprises the entire senior staff—you’d think they’d have been ushered to safety and they could have left behind some poor ‘expendible’ red shirts?). The easy way around this would have been to delay the return of the evacuated civilians from the end of ‘The Siege’ and simply have set this prior to their return? The fact the clock was ticking and the rest of the crew’s return imminent would have given Verad and co even greater urgency. Surely this episode was being written as the previous one was being finalised, so I don’t know why that one couldn’t have neatly led into this.

    Oh well, that’s a minor niggle I guess. Another niggle is the fact Quark DOES cross the line here by selling out the crew, and when Kira tells him he’s “done here” you feel she means it—yet, there are no consequences for what he does here. I guess he does help the crew retake the station, and I did find him pretty entertaining throughout (as always, I consider Shimmerman an absolute gem).

    The basic idea is a good one, and it makes sense that, given how much the symbionts are prized and how much prestige joining evidently carries, there would be some underhanded shenanigans going on—a black market in symbionts, if you will. Verad is an interesting character; a guy who set his sights on joining and failed, only to feel like a hopeless failure. It’s pretty sad seeing a guy who feels so lacking in himself that he’s pinned all his hopes and dreams on the attainment of one particular goal. It seems the Trill need a better after-care system for their initiate programme. Verad isn’t so much a bad guy as a desperate one; someone who feels he cannot be happy without attaining this object of his obsession. Unfortunately, this leads him to commit some terrible crimes.

    The takeover and hostage scenes are quite well executed and nicely tense. I do feel rather sorry for Terry Farrell. This is the second Dax episode and both times she was basically window dressing; the character more of a plot point than...well, a character. She does acquit herself well though, and is particularly affecting in the poignant scene where Jadzia wakes up to find the symbiont gone. DS9 was attracting some fantastic, well known guest stars at this point, and John Glover is brilliant as both versions of Verad (I love how the moment he’s joined he gets a subtle hairstyle change; gone is the nerdy look and in comes a slicked back hipster look). The scenes with Sisko are tense and nicely done, with Avery Brooks giving another strong, commanding performance (and becoming eye-openingly feral when he gets to attack the Klingon guard). It’s fascinating watching the two, and the way Ben basically weaponises his friendship with Dax to manipulate Verad.

    The main problem I have with the episode is...Dax. You’d think that when Verad joins with Dax, the symbiont would make Verad a better person and he’d see the error of his ways and refuse to let Jadzia dies. But that isn’t what happens! If anything, Verad becomes much MORE of a monster after joining. He becomes even more determined to get his own way and to escape judgement for what he’s done. He becomes colder and more calculating, which allows Sisko to appeal to his lover Mareel (nicely played by Meghan Gallagher).

    Eventually, the only way Sisko can stop Verad Dax is by shooting him, risking the symbiont’s life in the process and forcibly returning Dax to his rightful host. I can see why the writers did this. It makes for much better drama than simply having Verad see the error of his ways and decide to undo the joining. But it really makes me wonder about the symbionts—are they inherently sociopathic? Or is it just the Dax symbiont that’s sociopathic? Frankly, after watching this episode I actually think the Trill would be better off without symbionts. I wouldn’t want one near me...and not just because they look disgustingly icky (and rather obviously cheap plastic in this episode, along with Verad’s unconvincing stomach pouch). Even a line of dialogue to suggest the joining had caused a psychological imbalance and that it had impaired Dax’s judgement or something would have made this easier to take.

    Overall, I did find this an engaging and taut episode. It kept my attention throughout, which is always a plus (and I forgot to mention how great Tim Russ was as a Klingon; so good that in my mind I couldn’t link him with Tuvok whatsoever). It does suffer from some fairly fundamental story flaws which is unfortunate, because they could easily have been resolved with some minor tweaks. Rating: 7 (but only just...)
     
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  5. ananta

    ananta Captain Captain

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    That is a cute moment, he delivers the line with a kind of charming, almost boyish glee.
     
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  6. ananta

    ananta Captain Captain

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    “Cardassians”

    [​IMG]
    Hairstyle woes, like father like son.

    This episode frustrates me even more than “Invasive Procedures”. It has the hallmarks of greatness: the return of Garak, who is a delight throughout, Dukat in his most sizeable role yet, and an uncompromising look at the unforeseen cost of war and the prejudices and racial tensions that long simmer afterward. Much of it works really well—it’s an engaging and well-played episode which asks some challenging questions. It’s just unfortunate that it all falls apart in the final few minutes.

    The episode kicks off with the introduction of a Cardassian war orphan raised by a Bajoran father. Garak introduces himself (in a rather creepy way, it has to be said, booming in his campest voice “my, what a handsome young man!”) and duly gets his hand bitten. The plight of Rugal is an interesting hook and should have been the episode’s main focus, but around halfway through gets shunted to B-plot status. Which is unfortunate, because this should have been the emotional core of the episode. If “Duet” set the gold standard for DS9 drama, I get the impression this episode wants to be another “Duet”, but the writing simply isn’t up to standard and we’re saddled with a deeply unsatisfactory conclusion. Which is, as I said, frustrating, because so much of this episode is GOOD. I loved the fact Rugal forces O’Brien to confront his own prejudices, which we’ve seen as far back as TNG’s “The Wounded”. This episode is subtly cathartic for Miles, and there’s a great moment where Keiko calls him out for his racist BS. Keiko is less sympathetic during the dinner scene, however, where her decision to serve Cardassian cuisine seems in monumentally bad taste (quite literally, it would seem).

    Unfortunately, this episode doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. I’d have liked to see more of a friendship developing between Rugal and O’Brien. The writers instead veer off into different tangents. The claim that Rugal was abused by his Bajoran father is raised, and there seems to be no reason the informant was lying. This ought to have been a big plot-point and one that needed to be expanded upon and/or resolved. But the writers seem to forget it was even raised, which left a very bad taste in my mouth. TNG’s “Suddenly Human” did the very same thing and, to me, it’s just not acceptable. The writers basically don’t know where to go with it, so they just drop it.

    The worst, of course, is yet to come. Having done a good job setting up the episode’s central dilemma, the episode unravels itself in the final act. The writers seem to think that the political machinations deserve to be centre stage, and we get a hearing scene that is less about Rugal and more about Garak exposing Dukat’s convoluted scheme. It’s certainly fun watching Dukat storm off in a strop, but the episode’s unforgivable sin is resolving Rugal’s custody issue off screen, via a Commander’s Log voiceover, which is extremely LAZY storytelling. Don’t TELL us, damn it, SHOW us! We were expected to be emotionally invested in Rugal’s story, and we don’t even see what happens when Sisko makes what is, at best, a controversial decision. Didn’t we at least deserve to see Rugal’s reaction, and Sisko justifying his decision—which, frankly, is a terrible one from my perspective (because they’d jettisoned the child abuse angle, I think we’re meant to assume that Rugal wasn’t abused and genuinely loved his adoptive father). Did Sisko just ruin that boy’s life, taking him from a father and home he loved and sending him to what was essentially a world and culture alien to him, and one that he actively despised? Sucks to be him, huh?

    Again, I’m just left frustrated. The episode does a lot right—a decent central premise, good performances and some brilliant moments, raising some intelligent, compelling and nuanced questions. And then they just ruin it with a rushed, botched ending that does absolutely no justice to the characters or the dilemma at the heart of the story. It’s almost as though the writers got so carried away with the political shenanigans that they ran out of time and had to stick on a “P.S.” at the end in the form of Sisko’s log. That is just bad storytelling, and I can’t quite forgive it. Rating: 6 ...averaging out from probably an 8 up til the last act, then a 4 after it.
     
  7. LadyMondegreen

    LadyMondegreen Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    I felt like this episode sold Keiko short -- not necessarily because of the dinner thing, which rings true to the awkward way some people who are genuinely well-meaning and not bigoted can be awkward and insensitive about racial issues, but because I feel like she should have been much more involved in O'Brien's change of heart. We know he has deeply held, to a degree understandable prejudice against Cardassians and that Keiko thinks his views are wrong, that Keiko attempts to reach out to Rugal and (successfully or not) make him feel comfortable...but it's O'Brien who gets to have the real connecting moment with Rugal after a change of heart that feels sudden and unearned (after, I guess, he realizes they both don't like Cardassian stuff).

    I wish that after-dinner conversation scene had instead been Keiko and Rugal, where she apologizes for screwing up with dinner and he ends up opening up to her -- and O'Brien, who sees it happening from another room, has a guilty change of heart when he sees Rugal acting like the scared, vulnerable teenage boy he is, and is able to go to bat for him later.

    It seems to me Keiko has so far been in general pretty undeserved by this series, though.
     
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  8. Bad Thoughts

    Bad Thoughts Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Basically, there was not way they could manipulate the structure of the story to make the intrigue and deception the A plot of the story. The weaker story about how Rugal was raised always was the main story.
     
  9. Farscape One

    Farscape One Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Regarding the Dax symbiont's apparent behavior in "INVASIVE PROCEDURES", I always thought that what we eventually learned in "EQUILIBRIUM" with it being possible for a sociopath like Joran to successfully join with a symbiont explains the behavior... the cold, ruthless, calculating person Verad became when joined. That later episode, I think, seems to retroactively explain that symbionts are more vulnerable, psychologically, to a host rather than the other way around. I also don't think it's a coincidence that the mental barriers fell barely a year after this incident occured... Dax switched between the same two hosts in such a short time, it was said to be dangerous. They got lucky it didn't kill either Jadzia or Joran, but it may very well have been what made the barriers start to break down in Dax.

    With "CARDASSIANS", the resolution of Rugal was never going to be a satisfying one. If he went back to Bajor, it is quite possible his father would never be able to see him again simply based on Rugal's reactions. I think Ben put himself in those shoes... how would he feel if he could never see Jake again? Honestly, what Sisko decided was the lesser of two evils, which honestly is closer to how real life decisions are made. Very few custody battle decisions are made neatly and feel right. There was every chance Rugal might see his adoptive father again... it was just a shame we never got another look at that situation.

    This was one of those early episodes that truly set DS9 apart from TNG... instead of being wrapped up in a pretty bow at the end, it feels like a lesser of two evils choice. Real life virtually never ends TNG style. DS9 was more accurate there.
     
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  10. LadyMondegreen

    LadyMondegreen Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    I also don't think the ending is that shocking, and in my opinion it's probably what would happen in a similar case in real life...even though Rugal's Bajoran parents are for all intents and purposes his parents after all these years, if it was discovered that someone had stolen a person's child and tricked him into believing the child was dead, I imagine the usual default course of action would be to return the child, who had never been intentionally or legally relinquished in the first place.

    I think the right thing for Rugal's Cardassian father (too lazy to go look up the names) to do would be to let him stay on Bajor or split custody, and work out a legal agreement that guarantees he has the chance to build a relationship with his son. But if the two fathers aren't willing to work that out between themselves, I don't know that any other choice is really "good."
     
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  11. Farscape One

    Farscape One Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Kotan Pad'ar, if I remember right. (Punctuation of his name might be off, though.)
     
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  12. ananta

    ananta Captain Captain

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    Ah, I actually had forgotten about Joran. This line of thinking definitely helps ease my concerns about the episode and the Trill concept, thank you. I guess it maybe goes to highlight the importance of a good host/symbiont match, and demonstrates what happens when things don’t go so well.

    I believe a fairer and more humane resolution would have been to send the boy where he wanted to be, on the stipulation there was some kind of joint custody until he came of age and could make his own decision. Of course, joint custody between planets in different sectors wouldn’t be easy, but heck, they can do whatever they want in Trek when the plot demands it. :)

    To me it still seems an inhumane ending and very un-Star Trekky. They chose legality and “blood is thicker than water” over a child’s love of his parent and right to self-determination. Rugal had, unfortunately, grown up hating his own people, so tearing him away from the only father he’d ever known and throwing in a completely different culture, one he had fiercely rejected, could only have been deeply traumatising. Also, as far as I know, in the real world, once a child is adopted that adoption remains legally binding—so even if a birth parent who was not previously in the picture does show up, they have no legal claim to the child. But, I do agree that a split custody arrangement, one where he got to go back to Bajor but also could still see and forge a relationship with his Cardassian father would have made the ending a whole lot more palatable, had an element of hope and healing, and also been truer to the spirit of Star Trek.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2021
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  13. DonIago

    DonIago Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I think "Cardassians" is an episode that's not necessarily meant to leave us feeling happy or agreeing with Sisko's decision. I also feel that leaving Rugal with his Bajoran parents and hating his own race isn't an ideal solution though; not that I think an ideal solution was really possible under the circumstances.

    I can't recommend highly enough that those who wish to know more of Rugal's story or Cardassian society pick up a copy of "The Never-Ending Sacrifice".
     
  14. LadyMondegreen

    LadyMondegreen Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    A previously-absent parent has no rights in that situation, but at least in the US, an adoption can (and almost certainly will) be nullified legally without the consent of the adoptive parents if it's proven that the circumstances were fraudulent, as they were in this case (even if the adoptive parents did not perpetrate the fraud). I agree the ending was a downer, and I think a shared-custody situation would be best, but I don't think sending Rugal back to Bajor without any contact with his Cardassian family would have been a strictly better solution than what did happen.
     
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  15. LadyMondegreen

    LadyMondegreen Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Also, I should say I've really been enjoying your recaps and the discussion on this thread. I'm watching through DS9 for the first time with my partner (we're a bit ahead of where this thread is at the moment) and it's nice to be able to talk about the episodes as they come.
     
  16. dupersuper

    dupersuper Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Yeah, as some one who's adopted I always hated that ending. Give me Suddenly Human any day.

    Hard disagree.
     
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  17. ananta

    ananta Captain Captain

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    “Melora”

    [​IMG]
    “I’m not being a creep, honestly, but you have the loveliest...forehead ridges.”

    While starting to type this review, autocorrect insisted on changing “Melora” to “Melodrama”. Make of that what you will!

    This is one of those episodes that you come to in a series rewatch and, if it weren’t for a completist/slightly OCD streak, you might be tempted to skip. It’s certainly not one I’d ever throw on for sheer enjoyment. Nevertheless, I try to set aside any preconceived notions about an episode before I begin and endeavour to watch with a fresh eye. “Melora” isn’t a horribly bad, but it is pretty poor in my opinion.

    It’s the first of a handful of romance-of-the-week episodes this season, and if memory serves, they’re all varying degrees of “meh”. I really don’t know why the writers kept insisting on these formulaic romance episodes back in the day. Star Trek has a pretty appalling track record when it comes to ‘love stories’ because, frankly, it’s almost impossible to tell a convincing love story in the course of 42 minutes. For every “City on the Edge of Forever” we get a dozen “Aquiel”s. Besides, I see love as a whole lot different from infatuation and elevated brain chemicals, which is pretty much what this “love at first sight” schtick amounts to. You can also be pretty much guaranteed that the relationship will be over by the end credits, which makes a fair percentage of these stories feel a little pointless. It won’t be until season four’s “Rejoined” that DS9 delivers a genuinely good love story.

    Of course, “Melora” is not just a love story but a look at disability. Technically, Melora is not disabled per se, but anywhere outside of her home planet she struggles with the heightened gravity, leaving her largely wheelchair bound. It’s an interesting concept (and was, I believe, the original concept for Jadzia before they realised how restrictive that would be on a week by week basis). If Trek were a little more realistic, it would make sense that every other species would have gravity-related issues, because generally it’s assumed that pretty much every species and planet we encounter has the same gravity as Earth—which is, well, highly improbable. But, like the universal translator, that’s just one of those things it’s best not to think about too much.

    I think the writers’ hearts were in the right place here. But sadly, the execution is shoddy. Melora herself comes across as terribly unlikable for the first couple of acts. She’s hostile and belligerent, accusing the crew of giving her special treatment when they’re doing nothing of the sort. Apparently in the original script they were going overboard to make sure she was comfortable. This was cut from the script, and yet Melora’s angry rant was left in, making it seem to come out of nowhere. The way she introduces herself to Sisko (“how DARE you start this meeting without me!”) and questions orders and generally gets people’s backs up is not only rude but rather insubordinate for an ensign.

    That’s part of the problem with the character: she claims that she doesn’t want to be treated differently to anyone else, but she behaves differently and not very professionally at times. Furthermore, she makes it clear that she doesn’t want to be defined by her disability, yet it’s virtually all she talks about. That’s my big problem here: there’s really nothing else TO the character. Apart from some minor biographical details, we really don’t learn who she is as a person. Even the “girl talk” scenes with Jadzia don’t much help. Daphne Ashbrook does her best with a weak script and underwritten character, and it’s to her credit that once she softens, we almost manage to forget what a jerk she is in her first few scenes. By the end, I wasn’t unsympathetic to her, but there still wasn’t enough to make me care.

    Same with the Bashir romance. Siddig is quite charming throughout, even though initially I was worried we were going to be in for some Geordi/Leah Brahms levels of creepiness. But he gives an earnest performance, and is definitely far more likeable than he was in some of the early first season episodes. The romance, however, is strictly by the numbers stuff (albeit with the novelty of zero-gravity canoodling) and had zero emotional resonance for me.

    The moralistic tone also gives the episode a kind of “Very Special Episode” feel, and while I think the issue of disability is an important one that Trek hasn’t really delved into sufficiently, the overall message seems to amount to “my disability is actually my super-power and I wouldn’t want to get rid of it even if I could.” Is that a life-affirming, hopeful message, or is it a little crass and condescending for real-world disabled people who don’t have such a choice? I think it’s well enough intentioned, but I honestly don’t know. Of course, the climax on the runabout is meant to show how Melora’s ‘disability’ saves the day, complete with the naff Superwoman flying lunge. While I liked that the sub-plot dovetailed into the main plot, it was also a little weak, too, with Quark’s aggrieved nemesis altogether lacking the menace he needed (contrast this with Steven Berkoff in season five’s “Business as Usual”).

    What did I like? Well, some of the scenes between Bashir and Melora had charm, and I LOVED the Klingon restaurant scenes. The chef was a hoot and might have made for a fun recurring character if they’d brought him back beyond another singular appearance. There’s also a fun scene with Odo and Quark, but all in all, it’s a forgettable and weak instalment with a well-intentioned but ineffective and muddled message. Rating: 4
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2021
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  18. ananta

    ananta Captain Captain

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    Aww, glad to hear :) I’m almost envious you get to see DS9 for the first time! Give it time and it blossoms into a truly brilliant series, with so much wonderful character development and twists and turns. I’ll try to avoid including explicit spoilers for future episodes in these reviews.
     
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  19. ananta

    ananta Captain Captain

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    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I did wonder how a person who was adopted might view this twist, much as I wonder how a person with disability might view the “Melora” episode. My strong feeling was that, in matters of adoption, the physical and emotional wellbeing of the child should always be forefront.
     
  20. Farscape One

    Farscape One Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I'm not sure if you knew this or if this might alter your view on the episode, but Evan Carlos Somers, who did the story and co-wrote the teleplay for "MELORA", was wheelchair-bound.
     
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