DS9 3×14 Heart of Stone

heartofstone_144 (1)

The heart of this episode is not the inexplicable stone/crystal formation, slowly encasing Kira — it’s the twist that the woman being encased is not Kira at all, it’s the female Changeling. I didn’t anticipate the twist, but I found it rather satisfying. I imagined we were getting a typical Star Trek episode where two characters explore each other’s emotions while they are trapped on a planet, usually in a cave, fighting some disembodied force that they ultimately defeat (e.g., TNG: “Final Mission”). The problem with an episode like TNG’s “Final Mission,” is that the audience never really believes that a character like Picard is going to die this way. Likewise, although Odo is convinced he’s losing Kira, causing him to finally admit his love for her to her, the audience still is thinking that they’re going to find a way to rescue her. The typical consequence, therefore, is that Odo is going to have to live with the fact that his secret is out of the bag and he and Kira are going to be uncomfortable; his crush may even be the end of their friendship.

When Kira responds to Odo’s confession by admitting she loves him too, this is an immediately odd disconnect — Kira’s actual love just died the previous episode. This unexpected response tells Odo that something is very wrong, causing him to penetrate the female Changeling’s ruse. However, unlike the phony scenario simulated by the Dominion a dozen episodes earlier “The Search” (Part 2), this one didn’t smell wrong right from the start and its revelation is more satisfying. We haven’t been thinking much about the Changelings or the Dominion since the beginning of the season, so it’s a pleasant surprise to have them back and it makes sense that they remain focused on Odo. Finally, it’s nice that Odo’s secret love is revealed not to Kira herself, but to the female Changeling, Odo’s enemy.

Back on the station, the B-plot once again focuses on Nog. This time, he’s angling to get into Starfleet because he recognizes that he doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps as a failed Ferengi businessman. Sisko is appropriately reluctant at first, but he’s legitimately won over when he realizes that Nog is sincere.

Rating: 6/10

  • Remarkable dialogue: “Well done, Odo. You really are quite a skillful investigator.” (Female Changeling) – “And you’re quite a skillful Changeling.” (Odo)
  • Remarkable fact: Odo’s name is short for “Odo’ital,” a Cardassian euphemism for “unknown sample,” which literally means “nothing.” It derives from his background as an unknown specimen in a Cardassian supervised, Bajoran lab.

DS9 3×13 Life Support

life-support_076 (1)

“Life Support” is one of many medical ethics episodes in Star Trek. TNG’s “Ethics,” filmed just three years earlier (and also with a teleplay by Ronald D. Moore) comes immediately to mind. “Ethics” also had odd problems, but at least the choices were not clear cut. And in the TNG version we had a conflict between a responsible physician who put her patients first and used only proven procedures (Dr. Beverly Crusher) and a radical and irresponsible physician willing to gamble her patient’s lives on experimental procedures in order to further the science of medicine (Dr. Toby Russell). In “Life Support,” by contrast, Dr. Bashir plays both roles and his choices always seem clear cut (even when he chooses wrong). And while Bashir enjoys initial success as he walks down Toby Russell’s path, he quickly learns that he would have preferred to stay on Beverly Crusher’s path.

The fact that Vedek Bareil Antos is the patient means we have some investment in the character. Bareil is Kira’s love interest and he’d already appeared in six previous episodes. However, any concern we might have over risking his life is somewhat mitigated by the fact that he starts off the episode dead, and both Kira and the audience have started to accept his loss. But Dr. Bashir’s radical treatment unexpectedly resurrects Bareil and from this moment on the medical gambles feel like playing at a casino with the house’s money — we’d already lost it once, so we’re much more willing to go for broke. The critical moment comes when Dr. Bashir mentions an experimental drug treatment called “vasokin,” which has an unacceptable potential to degrade Bareil’s organs. Given that Bareil’s priority is the overriding treaty under negotiation, the fact that he wants to gamble his life on the drug should come as no shock to Bashir; if Bashir felt the risk was unacceptable, it was irresponsible to mention the drug. Later, when the drug has the predicted consequences — Bareil’s organs, including half his brain, are eventually degraded and have to be replaced with synthetic alternatives — Bashir’s path is again clear. And by the time it dead ends, Kira’s plea to replace the remaining real half of Bareil’s brain with a positronic implant becomes grotesquely absurd. Anyone should understand, without having to be told explicitly, that if you “replace” a person’s entire brain with a robot brain, you have killed the person!

Meanwhile, the politics are equally clear cut. Kai Winn remains irredeemably evil. She’s ready to sacrifice Bareil (who is, after all, a political enemy) to gain a successful treaty, but she is just as eager to use him as a scape goat, should the negotiations fail.

While the A-plot is literally death-and-life dramatic, the B-plot is a comedic farce. Jake and Nog go on a double date, which Nog sabotages by laying his Ferengi sexism on super thick. Jake is rightly mortified and angry, but his father convinces him that it’s important to be tolerant of Nog’s bigotry. After all, Nog is a sexist because he’s Ferengi; so if you hate him for it, you’re a racist and being racist is worst than be sexist. No! Sorry, folks, that’s not how it works.

In the end, the two halves of this episode don’t fit well together and neither really works on its own.

Rating 3/10

  • Remarkable quote: “Just one thing, Jake. You’re still pretty new at this dating business. Just promise me you won’t do anything to embarrass me.” (Nog)

DS9 3×11-12 Past Tense (1 & 2)

pastense2_175 (1)

“Past Tense” fits the general Star Trek genre, but it’s a particularly odd outing for Deep Space Nine. The Defiant is back at Earth for no particularly good reason, other than to set up the episode’s time travel premise. Often an episode filmed in 1995 would see our crew travel back to that time period (e.g., TOS: “Tomorrow is Yesterday,” “Star Trek IV: The Journey Home,” VOY: “Future’s End”). “Past Tense,” by contrast is set in 2024, which was nearly three decades in the original audience’s future.

Normally I’d be thankful for that bit of originality. Unfortunately, in this case, the writers fail to give us a glimpse of the Star Trek universe’s near future. Other than Jadzia’s time in Chris Brynner’s apartment, we see nothing of the year 2024 outside the dilapidated Sanctuary District. The so-called “sanctuary” for homeless people is the focus of the episode, but as a future historical prediction, it seems unlikely. Why would every major U.S. city rope off valuable real estate to create lawless zones for squatters? Since the zones are effectively lawless, what’s to stop residents from simply burning them down?

The point, of course, is to be preachy, Star Trek style, by making the point that Americans need to address the problem of homelessness, instead of just ignoring it. As the police keep reminding Sisko, that’s easier said than done. The episode reminds us that many of the homeless are mentally ill. But even Sisko decides to ignore the plight of these individuals in order to focus attention (and sympathy) on people who could work but are simply unemployed. One of the sanctuary residents asks Sisko, “Don’t you get it, there are no jobs.” That possibility seems vastly more realistic than Sisko’s play for national sympathy. In other words, if the government in 2024 actually were exiling people who are perfectly fit to lawless zones, the underlying economic situation probably includes a chronic surplus in the labor market. If so, what the world of 2024 needs is a way to create jobs; not just publicity for the plight of the unemployed.

If the history were cool and the cause were handled well, we may well be able to forgive the fact that the time travel here is totally absurd, even by Star Trek standards. The fact that Sisko changes the past wipes out the Federation. Bizarrely, however, this doesn’t happen in the Defiant’s “present” immediately after Sisko’s time jump, even though anything Sisko did in the past is long since done in the Defiant’s present. Instead, the changed future happens only after the point in the episode where the important historical figure Gabriel Bell dies, changing history. This effect is completely different from what we normally see in Star Trek, e.g., TOS: “The City on the Edge of Forever,” where incursions alter the timeline immediately. (As an additional insult to injury, just as the writers fail to show us much of anything in 2024, they likewise fail to do anything with the alternate timeline. Earth is a void and we’re told nothing beyond the fact that there’s apparently a Romulan outpost on Alpha Centauri.)

While Sisko and Dr. Bashir are raising awareness about homelessness, Kira and O’Brien are attempting to rescue them by beaming into different timelines. This is meant as comic relief, but it’s never really funny. Even though they don’t have enough “chroniton particles” to check all the timelines, they decide to guess — and fortunately guess right! — rather than simply acquiring records from one of the later times and using those to trace the change in the timeline. (They could potentially even get those records from the Earth they are orbiting in their own, alternate present, if they decided to check.)

“Past Tense” is meant to be a weighty and dramatic 2-part episode, but it doesn’t achieve half of what it sets out to do. TOS: “The City on the Edge of Forever” seems like the clear inspiration, but this ain’t no city on the edge of forever.

Rating: 3/10

  • Remarkable quote: “Twenty-first century history isn’t one of my strong points. Too depressing.” (Dr. Bashir)

DS9 3×10 Fascination

fascination_228 (1)

Pretty much the instant Lwaxana Troi steps off the shuttle, you know things are going to be bad. This unfortunate character ultimately makes nine appearances (6 in TNG; 3 in DS9). Only one of these (TNG: “Half a Life”) is worthwhile; many others (e.g., DS9: “The Muse”) are among the franchise’s worst offerings. “Fascination” falls squarely in this latter camp. There’s no reason Counselor Troi’s mother should ever be on DS9, but I guess we should be thankful that she steered clear of the Delta Quadrant and Voyager.

(As if Lwaxana wasn’t enough, Keiko’s back from Bajor, and she’s just as pissy as if she never left. Poor Miles.)

The general premise of the episode is DS9’s attempt to revisit the drunken characters explored in TNG: “The Naked Now” and TOS: “The Naked Time,” but this time around is far and away the worst of the bunch. Ultimately, every minute of this episode is torture and there are no redeeming elements. I happily consign it to the franchise’s dregs with a perfect “0.”

Rating: 0/10

  • Remarkable quote: “Peldor joi, chief, you look terrible.” (Quark)

DS9 3×09 Defiant

defiant_356 (1)

“Defiant” is a rather satisfying episode. We return to galactic politics (a hallmark of the better DS9 episodes) and are reminded that just because the Dominion threat looms on the horizon, it doesn’t mean old players like the Maquis are out of business. As the Cardassians have become more fleshed out, we now realize that the Obsidian Order (the Cardassian intelligence service) is operating independently of the Central Command (the Cardassian military). Once again, we see that the Federation is most interested in stability, and Sisko is willing to work with Gul Dukat to destroy the Defiant (if necessary) to keep the peace. But when the opportunity to play the Central Command against the Obisidian Order presents itself, Sisko prefers to devise a political solution that gets his ship back intact.

The return of the Thomas Riker builds nicely on his introduction in TNG’s “Second Chances,” and the fact that the individual is Thomas (rather than William) is a nice, initial twist. Thomas’ desire to differentiate himself from his doppelganger makes his conversion to the Maquis plausible, and Kira’s assessment of him — that he remains more Starfleet than terrorist — is more plausible still.

The Cardassian plot Riker attempts to uncover sets up the future activities of the Obsidian Order (and Tal’Shiar) against the Dominion, which will be developed in “The Die is Cast.” And the battles in this episode finally illustrate the Defiant’s firepower; its engagements against the Jem’Hadar in “The Search,” by contrast, had been lack-luster at best.

Rating: 7/10

  • Remarkable quote: “Tough little ship.” (Thomas Riker)

DS9 3×08 Meridian

meridian_255 (1)

This episode is bad all around. The B-plot takes place on the station as Quark attempts to covertly acquire Kira’s image for a custom holosuite program commissioned by a shady client. There is some humor here, which means that this isn’t the worst B-plot of the series. The same can’t really be said for the A-plot.

The A-plot takes place on a 30-person planet called Meridian that is shifting between dimensions. As a general rule, I pretty much always hate Star Trek episodes where the entire planetary population can fit in a shuttlecraft — at this scale it’s not really a “planetary” emergency. This 30-person planet, however, is significantly lamer than most. Meant as a paradise, Meridian is actually just dull. There’s nothing of interest naturally, physically, or in the culture of the people — the writers give us nothing to care about at all. The whole is just a backdrop for Dax’s romance with Deral, Meridian’s primary scientist. Unfortunately, there is likewise nothing of interest to Deral’s character, and to make the picture perfect, the romance between Dax and Deral is likewise utterly uninteresting.

Deral initially decides he’ll leave Meridian to join Dax in the Alpha Quadrant, but when that proves inconvenient, Dax makes the absurd decision to leave Starfleet and shift into a non-corporal dimension for 60 years, in order to stay with this boring guy she hardly knows. I don’t dislike the Dax character in general, but by the time the planet starts to shift away, I’m pretty much ready to write Dax off. “Bye, Dax! If you really want to do this, good riddance.” When the planet leaves without her, I was almost sad we were left with her.

Still, as bad as this is (and it is bad), I can’t think this is TNG: “Sub Rosa” bad. So, I’m giving it a “1”.

Rating: 1/10

  • Remarkable dialogue: “I was admiring your markings. Are they decorative?” (Deral) – “No. Are yours?” (Dax) – “No. If you don’t mind me asking, how far down do they go?” (Deral) – “All the way.” (Dax)

DS9 3×07 Civil Defense

civildefense_399 (1)

Overall, this is a low-budget episode, shot entirely on the station with only Gul Dukat as a guest star. The situation with the computer program is initially amusing, becomes somewhat tense, and ultimately becomes annoying. The best part is when Dukat beams aboard Ops to taunt Kira and the others, only to fall victim himself when he tries to beam away, making the computer think he’s abandoned his post and triggering a recorded dressing down from his superior.

Given the dozen or so recordings encountered prior to that point, Gul Dukat must have spent months recording messages for every eventuality! (It’s probably too obscure a reference, but I’m reminded of the old “Saturday Night Live” sketch where Dana Carvey plays TV-anchor Tom Brokaw who is pre-taping broadcasts for every potential scenario, “Tragedy today, as former President Gerald Ford was eaten by wolves.”)

The episode follows three groups: (1) Sisko, O’Brien, and Jake below decks, (2) Kira, Dax, Dr. Bashir, and ultimately Garak and Dukat in Ops, and (3) Odo and Quark in Security. Considering how little is happening with the first two groups, it’s noteworthy to mention that even less is happening for Odo and Quark. They literally have nothing to do and do nothing the entire episode.

For all these shortcomings, the episode fails to be really bad; it just never gets very good.

Rating: 4/10

  • Nitpicking: Remarkably, when Sisko orders the station evacuation, he has Kira direct everyone to the runabouts and the Defiant and Jake argues that he should come along with his father and O’Brien because they’re too far away. However, it should be obvious that the station’s population can’t be crowded into 4 small vessels, and most everyone would evacuate on its Cardassian lifeboats and Starfleet ASRV escape pods.
  • Remarkable quote: “Garak — groveling in a corner — that alone makes my trip worthwhile.” (Dukat)