DS9 3×06 The Abandoned

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This episode suffers from some serious pacing errors. We’ve seen a mysterious baby that ages rapidly before (TNG: “The Child”). However, last time the effect was much more believable (and creepy). This time we go from baby to 8-year-old equivalent before Dr. Bashir even bothers to call Sisko. The baby is equivalent of an 18-year-old before anybody really starts paying attention to him — the growth rate is simply not believable as presented.

Upon reaching maturity, the baby’s mystery is over and everyone realizes we’re dealing with a Jem’Hadar. Immediately we have the moral question about whether this is a person with rights or an enemy to be studied, but when the impassioned arguments are presented the Jem’Hadar has had so little screen time, we hardly care. We haven’t had a chance to get invested in the Jem’Hadar because up until this point, far too much screen time has been squandered on the throw-away B-plot concerning “Jake and the Dabo-girl.”

The second half of the episode, which focuses on Odo’s attempt to teach the young Jem’Hadar to be an individual, is an improvement over the first half because we finally get to know the young Jem’Hadar, but that development is far too little too late. According to Sisko’s final supplemental station log: “Starfleet has expressed disappointment over what it considers to be a missed opportunity to learn more about the Jem’Hadar.” That’s a pretty fair summary for this episode.

Rating: 3/10

  • Remarkable quote: “Sixteen years old, and dating a dabo girl. Godspeed, Jake.” (O’Brien)
  • Remarkable fact: This episode introduces Ketracel-white, although the enzyme/drug is, as yet, unnamed.
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DS9 3×05 Second Skin

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At first blush, the concept underlying “Second Skin” doesn’t look promising. It was only the previous year in TNG: “Face of the Enemy,” that we had Counselor Troi kidnapped and surgically altered to look like a Romulan and now we have Kira kidnapped and transformed into a Cardassian. (We even have the involvement of the two powers similar intelligence services, with the Cardassian “Obsidian Order” being substituted for the Romulan “Tal’Shiar.”) However, as silly as the premise of “Face of the Enemy” was, the premise of “Second Skin” is even worse. Troi was merely surgically altered to appear Romulan — we aren’t forced to imagine that her iron-based half-Betazoid/half-human blood was replaced with copper-based Romulan blood. But “Second Skin,” we are expected to believe that Cardassians and Bajorans, despite radically different appearances, are similar enough biologically that a Cardassian can be medically altered to be indistinguishable from a Bajoran. (Indeed, the original premise, written out of the episode as filmed, was apparently to leave the question open as to whether Kira actually might be Cardassian.)

Thankfully, like “Face of the Enemy,” “Second Skin” manages to be a much better episode than its premise. This is because with Legate Tekeny Ghenor we begin to see a different side to the Cardassians than we had seen before. In the episode as realized, neither Kira (nor the audience) are ever convinced that she is actually a Cardassian; only Ghenor is fooled. And when Ghenor reveals to Kira that he’s secretly part of the Cardassian Underground in order to try to save her, she immediately realizes that Ghenor is the subject of the plot and she is merely the bait. In the end, Ghenor is a very likable character and it’s nice that we will revisit him in season 5 (DS9: “Ties of Blood and Water”).

The episode’s B-plot involves Sisko’s attempt to rescue Kira from Cardassia. In the course of the episode, Garak essentially sheds all pretense of being a “simple tailor” by proving that he knows some extremely high-level (and current) Cardassian security protocols. It can be argued that he does so to save his own skin, having been black-mailed by Sisko to come along on the rescue mission, but the question lingers why Garak would have told Sisko that the Obsidian Order was holding Kira in the first place.

Rating: 5/10

  • Remarkable dialogue: “Mr. Garak, I believe that’s the first completely honest thing you’ve said to me” (Sisko) – “How perceptive of you, Commander” (Garak).

DS9 3×04 Equilibrium

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Jadzia’s behavior at the beginning of this episode is so confrontational, there’s no question something is seriously wrong. Her hallucinations are meant to be terrifying, but (frankly) they bored me. After some scans from Dr. Bashir, we immediately find out that the problem is Jadzia’s “isoboromine levels” (yawn!) Once the problem is a bunch of Treknology, we might as well just fix it using the transporter. Instead they decide to fix it by visiting the Trill homeworld, which means everyone gets in the Defiant for a “road trip.” On the way Jadzia tells Dr. Bashir about her fear of doctors, along with boring sob stories about her life as a Trill initiate. Meanwhile, the hallucinations continue (and continue to leave us ho-humming).

The Trill doctor at the Symbiosis Commission seems bizarrely disinterested (and ignorant) of Jadzia’s condition, but a Trill “Guardian” turns out to be equally bizarrely well informed about her condition. Things pick up when it turns out that the underlying mystery is actually a murder involving one Jadzia’s past hosts (and simultaneously when Jadzia’s condition becomes critical). However, the solution (that Dax had a secret past host) is let out of the bag prematurely, leaving the duration of the episode for a long-winded (and totally predictable) exposition between Dr. Bashir, Sisko, and the Trill physician.

Although this episode was an opportunity to get to know more about the Dax character and about the Trill, it was largely squandered by failing to explore more than totally predictable and dull tropes.

Rating: 2/10

  • Remarkable quote: “If you want to know who you are, it’s important to know who you’ve been.” (Dax)

DS9 3×03 The House of Quark

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This is actually quite a cute episode, I found myself laughing out loud in more than one place. The episode is split between an A-plot and a B-plot.

The B-plot is relatively weak. Sadly, the Keiko O’Brien character hasn’t gone anywhere good since she was introduced in TNG: “Data’s Day,” an episode that included the day of her marriage to Miles O’Brien on the USS Enterprise-D. For all of the advances women should have made in the egalitarian 24th century, most of the women of Star Trek find themselves stuck backward, subordinate, and traditional roles. Keiko is the rule, rather than the exception. When Miles is promoted to be DS9’s chief of operations, Keiko follows her husband, even though it means sacrificing her own career. A botanist, she has no role on a deep space station. In DS9: “A Man Alone,” she decided to keep herself busy by opening a school for the station’s children — reinforcing a traditional stereotype by taking a job historically reserved for women. In this episode, the threat of the Dominion has caused families to flee the station, forcing the school closed. Rather than pursue her own interests, Keiko merely mopes, and Miles finds himself trying to figure out something for his wife to do. Initially he imagines she’ll be happy creating an arboretum as a hobby, but eventually he realizes that he needs to get her back to work in her own field (botany), even if it means that she and Molly will be away on Bajor for months at a time. I’m not sure that this resolution makes up for the subordinate role the character has been forced to assume since she was introduced — especially given the fact that she’ll now be raising Molly single-handed.

Fortunately the unfortunate B-plot hardly detracts from the cute A-plot. The main story is a clever interaction between two unlikely Star Trek cultures: the Ferengi and the Klingons. Although the idea that Quark could head a Klingon noble house is laughable — and is deliberately played up for comedic effect — everything in the episode appears to be in keeping with established Klingon custom. The conflict between Grilka and D’Ghor is clever, and it’s a nice touch that Quark has the capacity to uncover the underlying financial threat D’Ghor is making to Grilka’s house by sullying himself with the financial ledgers, Ferengi style. Of course, it makes all the sense in the world that Klingons can answer Ferengi charges with trials by combat — an answer Quark is particularly unsuited to face. Quark’s solution cleverly shows D’Ghor is dishonorable and Gowron responds by discommendating D’Ghor (a nice nod to TNG: “Reunion”). Grilka is especially well-rounded and likeable. All in all, this was nice development for Quark’s character, and Gowron’s cameo actually showed him to be a wise leader for once.

Rating: 7/10

  • Remarkable dialogue: “The House of Kozak is gone. For the time being, it will be known as…as the House of…” (Gowron) – “Quark” (Quark) – “Quirk…”(Gowron) – “Quark!” (Quark) – “…The House of Quark.” (Gowron)

DS9 3×01-02 The Search (1 & 2)

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“The Search” is a two-part continuation of the second season finale “The Jem’Hadar.” Someone at Paramount must have sent a memo that (1) viewers were bored of all the Bajoran politics, and (2) these little runabouts aren’t cutting it. In short, we need to “reboot.”

The Dominion threat revealed in “The Jem’Hadar” and further developed here handles the first issue by taking DS9 politics to a new level. The runabout issue is fixed by the addition of the USS Defiant — a tiny Federation warship equipped with a Romulan cloaking device. Initially the cloaking device is controlled by a Romulan officer (T’Rul) and is to be used only in the Gamma Quadrant, but it doesn’t take many episodes for those niceties to fall by the wayside.

The story in the first episode starts very slowly; it takes about 22 minutes before the eponymous “search” even gets going. Before that, there’s a lot of talking and musing and not a lot of substance. When the search finally gets going, it proceeds oddly. Quark is tapped to negotiate with the Karemma (first seen in DS9: “Rules of Acquisition”), who apparently know nothing of their Dominion overlords. The Karemma send the Defiant to a communications relay station on Callinon VII, where Dax and O’Brien find another set of coordinates before getting trapped under a force field. Rather than fight Dominion patrols, Sisko simply abandons them to the Jem’Hadar and moves on to the next coordinates! Before they can arrive, his unprecedented caution goes unrewarded when the Jem’Hadar are able to use anti-proton scans to detect the cloaked Defiant, board, and seize her.

Meanwhile, “The Search” is underpinned by a massive coincidence. While Sisko and his crew are on a hapless, weird quest to find the Founders, Odo happens to see a picture of the Omarion Nebula, is mysteriously, obsessively drawn to it. And when Odo and Kira travel to a rogue planet inside the nebula, they discover what everyone else is looking for: the homeworld of the Founders. Of course, at first we don’t realize that; we just know that Odo has found the homeworld of his own people, the Changelings. It is only with the climax of the second episode that we realize that the Changelings and the Founders are one and the same. However, our ignorance doesn’t make the coincidence any less convenient in the end.

The story of the second episode is split between Odo and Kira on the Changeling homeworld and the rest of the crew back on Deep Space Nine. Both groups encounter mysteries. While Odo tries to learn about his people, Kira discovers a subterranean power source and hidden base, which ultimately proves to be a Dominion command center. Back on Deep Space Nine, meanwhile, Sisko and the crew are confronted with a Federation in closed-door negotiations that rapidly result in an alliance with the Dominion. Unfortunately, the cost of peace is ceding the wormhole and Bajor to the Dominion while provoking a war with the Romulans. Indeed, this universe is so wrong it’s a relief when Kira and Odo discover that Sisko and the others are actually being held prisoner in the underground station, and the whole negotiated alliance was merely a Dominion simulation. In the end, the resolution of Sisko’s mystery is so simple it would a let down, if it weren’t coupled with the revelation that the Changelings are the Founders.

“The Search” marks the brief introduction of Lt. Cmdr. Michael Eddington, who will have a larger, recurring role. Eddington is given charge over Starfleet security on the station and Odo immediately resents his presence. The two-part episode also marks the introduction of the Female Changeling, the leader of the Dominion. We also have a cameo from Admiral Alynna Nechayev (in the Dominion simulation) — one of my favorite admirals from TNG.

Despite its various flaws, this two-part episode has a lot going for it. There’s a good deal of suspense and although the mysteries are either too easy (the Dominion simulation), or too much of a coincidence (the Changelings are the Founders), they are engaging. Finally, the episode sets up elements for the major story arcs of the rest of the series: the conflict between the Federation and the Dominion. If this two-parter was envisioned as something of a “reboot” for the series, it proved to be a worthwhile reboot.

Rating: 7/10

  • Remarkable quote: “I admit this link of yours is appealing. But you see, I already have a link — with these people.” (Odo)
  • Remarkable dialogue: “When did I start thinking of this Cardassian monstrosity as home?” (Sisko) – “I think it happened last Thursday.” (Jake)
  • Remarkable ship: The Defiant: Introduced here for the first time, the Defiant is remarkable for a Starfleet vessel in several ways: (1) It’s a tiny, but over-powered warship developed to fight the Borg, (2) it has a cloaking device, and (3) its warp drives are built into its primary hull. The ship is a critical part of the series up through its destruction at the second battle of Chin’toka (DS9: “The Changing Face of Evil”).

DS9 1×03 Past Prologue

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Although the old saw says that Star Trek series only get going in their third season, this was clearly much more true for TNG than DS9. While the first season of TNG is hard to watch, “Past Prologue” is already quite a reasonable episode. Later first season DS9 episodes may not confirm this assessment, but “Past Prologue” is a fine follow-up to “Emissary” and can’t be compared to TNG’s wretched “The Naked Now” follow-up to the rather dismal pilot, “Encounter at Farpoint.”

Set on a space station, DS9’s story lines can’t easily be about exploration. The series is at its best when it focuses on politics and we have some of the beginnings of that here. In this case, the political players are the Federation, the Cardassians, the Bajoran Provisional Government, and the Kohn-Ma (a Bajoran terrorist group), along with the “House of Duras” Klingon faction.

Since all the players have different interests, their actions and even their alliances can shift, depending on what the others are doing. For example, the Federation is primarily interested in stability and the rule of law, so when it’s just a question of fighting terrorists, Sisko is prepared to work with the Cardassians and possibly even hand a Bajoran terrorist over to them. However, if the Kohn-Ma have renounced terrorism and have been granted amnesty by the Bajoran Provisional Government, Sisko is more than happy to snub the Cardassians.

When it turns out that Tahna Los and the Kohn-Ma have no intention of renouncing terrorism, the main question falls to Kira. Like Bajor itself, Kira is in transition. She has been a resistance fighter, willing to commit all sorts of acts to liberate her world from the occupying power. However, now that the occupation has ended, both Bajor and Kira realize that the time has past for Tahna’s kind of extremism.

Although she doesn’t want the Federation to remain at Bajor in the long term, Kira decides to work with Sisko to catch Tahna while he purchases dangerous weapons from the Klingon Duras’ sisters, Lursa and B’Etor. In the end, Tahna’s plot is a little lame as is Sisko’s plot to catch Tahna. More disappointing still are Lursa and B’Etor who do little with their cameo. (Their decision to meet up with Tahna at Quark’s bar ensures that their secret deal is hardly secret!)

This episode also marks the beginning of the Bashir/Garak relationship. Although the Bashir character has yet to be ironed out in this first season, Garak comes on the scene as instantly intriguing. His own double-dealing and the question of his relationship with the Cardassian government are among the most interesting aspects of the episode.

Rating: 5/10

VOY 1×04 Time and Again

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Unfortunately, this episode is all kinds of pointless. Ostensibly, we have a prime directive ethics lesson wrapped up inside a time travel paradox. We start off at the extreme edge of prime directive morality — a pre-warp civilization has apparently destroyed itself one day in the past. However, when Captain Janeway and Tom Paris are transported back in time a day prior to the accident, Janeway argues firmly that they must not interfere. Paris doesn’t know why that should be and Janeway doesn’t really make her case. Is she enforcing the prime directive because she understands the ethics or has the Federation’s philosophy become a religion? (Tom even describes the almost religious ritual his father used to perform annually in deference to the prime directive.) This is obviously an extreme prime directive scenario and the opportunity to discuss its ethical implications was essentially squandered.

In any event, the question of violating the prime directive was moot, because it eventually turns out that the planet’s destruction actually resulted from Voyager’s attempt to rescue Janeway and Paris. B’Elanna apparently caused the destruction by ripping open a hole in subspace within a “polaric energy” power plant. This is particularly foolish on her part because she actually is attempting to open the hole at the place and time she knows is ground zero for the accident. Even if she didn’t anticipate that her activity was potentially the cause (because the time paradox here is somewhat silly), she might at least have worried that the polaric explosion itself could make its way through the rift and disintegrate members of the rescue away team.

When Janeway corrects the error by using her phaser to seal B’Elanna’s rift, she and Tom are not trapped in the past. Instead, everything is returned as if the whole pointless episode never happened — and, indeed, it essentially did not happen, except that Kes retains some sort of psychic memory of the event. But in what timeline did B’Elanna ever create a rift that Janeway failed to seal? The only reason B’Elanna plowed forward was because Kes had a psychic awareness that Janeway had died at the source of the accident. And, being at the accident, Janeway immediately saw that the problem was the subspace rift. How do we account for a scenario where the rift would appear when Janeway was not there to seal it? In other words, the accident whose results led Voyager to the planet could never have occurred and, indeed, never did occur.

Rating: 3/10