Episode 5.12: The Begotten

•May 6, 2018 • Leave a Comment

The foray into exploring who Odo would be as a solid opened up some excellent storylines. Odo learned his core identity is more than just a shapeshifter (Apocalypse Rising, Ep. 5.1); he was forced to confront his past failures and move beyond them (Things Past, Ep. 5.8); and he learned of solids’ limitations and the accompanying fear (The Ascent, Ep. 5.9). But leaving Odo as a solid would be impractical, and it would really diminish the character in the long run. Odo being so very different (he’s an entirely separate phase of matter, even!) opens up a lot more storyline possibilities and allows the writers to challenge the viewers’ preconceived notions. There were three solid Odo-centric episodes prior to The Begotten (Ep. 5.12), and plenty of small one-off opportunities. Using a baby Changeling to “melt” Odo back into being a Changeling is very satisfying to me. He forms an intimate connection with the baby, giving it a love he felt he never received from Mora (or the Founders). In return, the baby gives Odo an immeasurably valuable gift. The Founders, who don’t understand Odo, took Odo’s shapeshifting life away. The baby Changeling did understand and bond with Odo, and gave him back his shapeshifting life.

Mora’s other appearance in DS9 was in The Alternate (Ep. 2.12), and Odo reacted similarly to his presence. Odo is determined to give the baby Changeling the kind of care and love he believed he never received. Odo treats it like a sentient being from the start. Odo wants to introduce the world to the baby Changeling and teach it to shapeshift. Mora’s approach is more clinical. He wants to measure it to see if it’s healthy and forcefully prod it into growing. Much of Odo’s solitary nature can be traced to his experience with Mora. This episode redeems Odo and Mora’s relationship. Odo sees that Mora had Odo’s best interest at heart, even if Mora missed many of the emotional needs Odo had. Odo also understands more strongly why Mora was so pressured to produce results. Along with Odo’s interaction with Kira this episode, I think these events have a softening effect on Odo. The symbolism of Odo becoming less rigid emotionally is mirrored by his ability to shapeshift again.

In ways that I feel only my brain works, I got to thinking of the afterlife/heaven because of this episode’s theme. In my faith tradition, heaven is this place of no pain, no tears. But I wonder at that. Is all pain negative? I don’t think so. The point that Mora makes is very poignant. Without discomfort, the baby Changeling would never have realized it’s potential to become other things. I wonder if our lives are similar. We need occasional discomfort to be propelled to become better versions of ourselves. Too much discomfort can severely negatively impact us, and I think that threshold is easy to cross. But I wonder if I rail too quickly at hardships in my life and don’t take time to realize that the difficulties spur me to be better. I wonder if I value my contentment far too much. I think to do that requires me to surrender a fair amount of control over my life, something I’m averse to doing. I know this particular paragraph may have seemed totally random, but that’s where my thoughts drifted while watching this episode.

As a side story, they finally end Kira’s pregnancy. I liked the effort they put into making the birth just a little bit alien. Needing to be calm, needing the rhythm to give birth. The birthing shawls were a nice touch. This felt like a way to simply end the pregnancy for Kira. They got a few interesting storylines out of it. Shakaar’s appearance here felt very limited. He only appears in DS9 in three episodes (the others are Shakaar, Ep. 3.24; Crossfire, Ep. 4.23), and this feels like he provides the least to the story. The rivalry between Shakaar and O’Brien felt very contrived. All in all, I’m glad they finally ended Kira’s pregnancy. I liked that element more for the knowledge that the writers accommodated Nana Visitor’s pregnancy (and didn’t hide it) than for any storyline it created. After the pregnancy, however, does have important meta-narrative implications. Odo and Kira both lost a child in this episode. At the end, they bond over their mutual, immense loss. This further cements their friendship in a unique and intimate way.

Changeling-Bashir Watch. I saw no kinks in the facade. Once again, Bashir plays a modest role in the episode, but almost entirely as his professional persona. The Changeling-Bashir has that down well. He is very invested in saving the baby Changeling, but that would be something the real Bashir would do. If there is any minor, minor dent in the facade, it is that Changeling-Bashir in this episode (and past ones) is too professional. But that would be scant evidence to indict any Changeling on.

Random Thoughts: 1) Shakaar does get mentioned a few more times in the series. He’s obviously referenced when Kira breaks up with him, but also a few times as First Minister. 2) Miles references Molly’s birth, which was in The Disaster (TNG Ep. 5.05). 3) I was really disappointed that Worf was on the station for this episode. When he learned that the O’Briens were having another child, he declared he would be far, far away (Accession, Ep. 4.17). I’m sad they didn’t follow through on that. 4) This is one of the last times we see Keiko. She appears in Time’s Orphan (Ep. 6.24) and What You Leave Behind (Ep. 7.25). I think the on-screen reason was “the war”, but I’m not sure if there was a behind-the-scenes reason too. 5) Odo was becoming quite the hypochondriac. 6) I think they let Quark get way too little for the baby Changeling. Easily should have been a few bars of latinum for a living creature, not mere slips. 7) I was impressed at Rene Auberjonois’s acting toward a jar of ooze. 8) Worf gets the best lines: “Constable, why are you talking to your beverage?” 9) Mora’s speculations that Odo was forced into a solid form because he has limited ability turn out to be true. A foreshadowing of the end of the episode. 10) Thanks to Changeling-Bashir, the Founders should instantly know Odo is back to his old self.


Episode 5.11: The Darkness and the Light

•April 17, 2018 • Leave a Comment

This is a beautiful, artistic episode. I love how Occupation-reminiscent episodes hinge on the morally ambiguous nature of heroic or villainous actions. There are very few actions that are purely black or white nor are motivations easily categorized. This truth is so important for us to know deep in our souls. This is what helps break down and destroy barriers between people. Our worst enemy has some good in them. Our adversaries are the same kind of struggling people we are. These realizations can soften our hearts, I think, to our adversaries. They help us realize that our true enemies are not flesh and blood. These sorts of episodes frequently end with the Bajorans and the Cardassians being quite similar. I see this episode as a foil to Duet (Ep. 1.19). In Duet, the episode ends with the Cardassians and Bajorans both portrayed as heroes. This current episode ends with both the Cardassians and Bajorans portrayed as villains. There are some fascinating comparisons between Prin and Maritza (from Duet), who are foils of each other. The former was filled with rage and festering hatred while the latter found repentance. Yet both were Cardassian non-combatants. Both were injured from the Occupation. Both were connected to the Shakaar cell. Both shrouded themselves in a cloak of mystery. I think these two episodes form an excellent commentary on the unintended horrors of the Occupation.

The artistry at the end of this episode is excellent. In particular, I want to focus on the final two scenes: in the medical bay as Kira tells her story to Odo and Kira’s captivity with Prin. In the medical bay scene, Kira is lying there on the table, deeply in mourning at the loss of so many of her loved ones. Elements in this scene amplify her loneliness. Odo as her counterpart is quite important; he is her closest friend at this time, but she’s separated even from him. She’s in a pillar of light while Odo is in darkness. She’s horizontal while Odo is vertical. Her back is to Odo. At the end, she shuts Odo out by stealing his list and running off on her own. In the captivity scene, Kira is well lit again, and Prin is shrouded in mystery and darkness. The debate between Kira and Prin is punctuated by the lighting separating them. Prin went out of his way to be the exact opposite kind of killer as Kira was, and the lighting highlights that. Also in an artistic vein, I want to point out how gruesome this episode is. Burnt corpses. Disfigured villains. A total of 6 deaths, 3 on-screen. Very much DS9-style Trek.

Kira and Prin debate in the final scene over who is in darkness and who is in light. Kira was a freedom fighter, brutally oppressed by a merciless regime. Her people are tortured, enslaved, and killed on a daily basis. She targeted a military figure, a Gul, but she didn’t do so with enough finesse to hit only her target. Her actions incurred innocent casualties and fatalities, including children. She claims she is righteous because she was fighting for libration of her homeland. Prin was a non-combatant, non-military launderer who was physically disfigured in Kira’s attack and lives with post-traumatic stress disorder. He oppressed no one, but he was complicit in his non-action for the brutality of the Occupation. He was a member of the powerful racial class, a race who pillaged an innocent world. Like Prin, every Cardassian who stood aside and did nothing is culpable. Prin claims he is righteous because his actions brought justice to indiscriminant killers. He killed with extreme precision, targetting only those who committed the alleged crime. Who is in the light?

I think the brutal reality is that neither of them are. At the end, Kira claims Prin used his innocence (he was non-military) as an excuse for his guilt (his lack of action during the Occupation). I see darkness in us all. Brokenness in us all. Prin is disfigured both physically and mentally, twisted by neglect and self-centeredness. He didn’t have the courage to find repentence. At times, Kira was forced into horrible decisions (like her planting a bomb that killed children); other times, she gleefully accepted her task as a freedom fighter (like the story she told Odo about joining the Shakaar cell). Both of these characters dwell in darkness. I think the difference lies in which of them allows the light into their darkness. Over the past 5 years on the station, Kira has gradually dealt with her scars from the Resistance, slowly becoming a more holy, wise person. While both are in darkness, Kira has allowed the light to enter. Only light can drive out darkness. Prin, who chose to stay in darkness, never realized that.

Changeling-Bashir Watch. The writers are hammering home that this Changeling-Bashir is great at being a doctor. They are highlighting his professional side. After two episodes, they have only ever shown him being a doctor. They haven’t shown him being social or personal. These other sides of Julian Bashir aren’t present. There’s no banter with O’Brien, no romantic pursuits, no enjoying himself in Quark’s. Still nothing to indicate this isn’t the real Bashir, other than the seeming absence of certain personality traits. Something that is common in DS9’s single-character-focused, episodic format.

Random Thoughts: 1) I think that the deaths of Furel and Lupaza were well used here, but I am sad they didn’t get more than a couple episodes (2 for Lupaza, 3 for Furel). I liked them as characters. 2) Almost as an aside, the death of Latha is tragic in it’s own right. Latha found forgiveness with the Prophets and devoted the remainder of his life to their teaching. Will our pasts always follow us? 3) Rule of Acquisition #111! From Worf, no less. 4) The banter between Dax and Nog over lobes was amusing. 5) Lupaza made Kira her earring, which is seen on her at all times. 6) I like the little touch of Odo being suspicious when he saw his chair was moved. A nod to his observant nature. 7) At one point, Kira falls on her stomach. Clearly, this isn’t a real pregnancy anymore for Nana Visitor. 8) Randy Oglesby, the actor who portrays Prin, is also the Miradorn twins in Vortex (Ep. 1.12).

Episode 5.10: Rapture

•April 10, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Like in previous seasons (Rules of Acquisition, Ep. 2.7; Defiant, Ep. 3.9), the writers slip in profound arc significance regarding the Dominion into an episode with a completely different focus. To someone who expects an episode about Roddenberry’s paradise, this episode is a shock. It should be the end of the series when Bajor is triumphantly admitted to the Federation! But the Federation would lead to destruction for Bajor; paradise would obliterate them. Only by standing alone can Bajor survive the Dominion (the locusts). By standing alone, Bajor can sign a non-aggression pact with the Dominion. This is a natural extension of the peace treaty signed with Cardassian in Life Support (Ep. 3.13). Remaining independent is very counter-intuitive to the typical Roddenberry/TNG Federation. Shouldn’t we always be stronger together than we are if we stand alone? Generally, yes, I think so. But here, the wise move for the Bajorans is to stay out of the coming fight as much as they can. Bajor can neither provide strong support to the already massive Federation military nor would Bajor be valuable enough for the Federation to commit resources to defending her. Staying neutral lets them survive the takeover of DS9. Getting to this point took a lot of work in prior episodes. Vedek Bareil had to give his life to create the original peace treaty. Sisko had to be convinced of his spiritual path with the Prophets and acceptance of his role as Emissary. Bajor had to forge an independent, stable society, one able to initially stand aside as a 3rd party. Season 5 is full of important hinges in the meta-narrative, like this episode.

Despite all the arc significance, this episode is actually themed around a sacred vision quest. Sisko is being shown a prophecy through his visions. Sisko has finally, fully accepted his spiritual connection to the Prophets, and here he leans into his visions, trying to figure out what the visions mean. This is a worthwhile pursuit! Those around Sisko form two camps. One camp is dismissive (Dax, O’Brien, the Admiral) and find the vision quest an archaic ritual. They fail to see any benefit that could come from it; the Admiral even sees only pain from it. All of Sisko’s claims of clarity fall on deaf ears. The other camp is supportive (Kira, Worf, Winn), and respect Sisko for his persistence to finding the purpose of the visions. The episode ultimately endorses the value of the mystical visions Sisko is experiencing by having them provide clarity needed for Bajor to survive the opening salvos of the War. At the height of his mystical experience, Sisko himself becomes more peaceful. More than that, he brings peace to those he encounters. The inward journey powerfully changes Sisko and his path.

The episode does offer its own critique to the mystical journey. Sisko becomes so focused on his vision quest that he ignores much of his regular life. I think the end of the episode holds this tension nicely. Sisko’s vision provides him with enough clarity to divert Bajor away from the Federation, but the vision quest does have an end. There is much wisdom in holding these two ends in tension. Mysticism can allow us to see beyond the everyday world, but most of us still have to live in that everyday world. This is an important lesson for me personally. At the end, Winn accuses Jake (a non-believer) that he doesn’t have enough trust in the Prophets. I love Kira’s rebuttal to her: as believers, it is Kira and Winn’s job to have more trust in the Prophets. The Prophets gave Sisko exactly what he needed. Bajor’s path is rocky, but the Bajorans are strong enough to handle that path.

Once again, DS9 weaves together the spiritual and the natural world. The sacred vision quest has physical manifestations. I love how they continually refuse to fully explain any spiritual experience with natural explanation, either with real physics/biology or technobabble. This drives home the idea that one cannot separate the two NOR can there be one without the other. We are absolutely spiritual creatures, but we are also composed of physical matter, influenced by it. Physical experiences (getting shocked by a holosuite) induce spiritual experiences (vision quests). I also love how Sisko’s mystical journey is interwoven into broader events in his life. Amid the imminent dangers of this mystical journey and the massive arc significance of this episode, the episode quietly acknowledges that our faith has tangible effects on our lives. DS9 regularly does this with faith-themed episodes.

It’s nearly impossible to detect a priori, but the uniform change here has tremendous significance for Bashir. That’s because the Bashir seen on the station now and through By Inferno’s Light (Ep. 5.15) is a Changeling! When Bashir is found in the Jem’Hadar internment camp, he is wearing the old uniform. That means in this episode, this can’t be the real Bashir. There are 4 episodes of deception before this is revealed during In Purgatory’s Shadow (Ep. 5.14)! As far as I can tell, there is no foreshadowing or hint that this isn’t the real Bashir. Bashir could have been replaced before this point, but for parsimony (and for the lack of any other indicators), I interpret this episode as when the infiltration occurs. I would certainly argue that it must have happened at least after Trials and Tribble-ations (Ep. 5.6); if that was a Changeling, they would have stayed in the past to wreck havoc.  I’m going to scrutinize Changeling-Bashir these four episodes to find any hint of foreshadowing. In this episode, the Changeling-Bashir is a brilliant doctor who speaks firmly for his patients. I think the writers gave us some medical technobabble from the Changeling-Bashir just so to not raise suspicions.

Random Thoughts: 1) Sisko finds Common ground with Kai Winn. I absolutely love this. Villains in DS9 are not evil caricatures (Dukat is grey too). Winn, for all her conniving and deception, can be an ally in seeking the Prophets’ guidance. At least at this point in the series; later in the series, she abandons pursuit of the Prophets because she cannot surrender her lust for power or need for control. Her having a past of being beaten for resisting the Cardassians also makes her a little more grey as a villain.2) Dax is so anti-faith that when she looks at the painting of B’hala, she only sees art. 3) I like how Zocal’s 3rd prophecy leads to another prophecy given by Sisko. 4) Floating bicycle wheel! This is a standard phrase in my life. 5) I was highly amused at Quark being prepared and having multiple banners for many ruling empires. 6) “You cannot loosen a man’s tongue with root beer” – Ancient Klingon Proverb. 7) Kira deserves a mention too, at how much she’s changed over the past 5 seasons. Here she fully supports membership, yet in Emissary (Ep. 1.1), she was furious at the Federation’s presence. 8) Sisko greets Kasidy picking up right where they left off. That’s Sisko, not the vision quest. 9) Winn asking Kira if Sisko would still accept her is the closest Winn ever gets to siding with the Prophets, I think. 10) I like the form the vision takes, of a plague of locusts. 11) It’s important to point out that Bashir was not present whenever Sisko talks about the vision of locusts heading to Cardassia.

Episode 5.9: The Ascent

•April 6, 2018 • Leave a Comment

This is the story of two friendships, of two odd couples. In both cases, each of the characters is imparting their own wisdom onto to their partner; when this happens, the partner is made more holistic and balanced. Each of the characters is a foil to their partner, where they are alike in many ways, but have unique, exaggerated differences between them. I like how one of the subtle themes here is that our friends can make us more balanced, and that’s a positive thing. In both cases, the exaggerated differences are mitigated, to the benefit of all parties involved. I’m seeing the benefit of balance frequently throughout my life. Many of the wise people I know or traditions I respect have an element of balance to their philosophy. I think this idea is more than just “being kept in check” or avoiding extreme positions. There is something truly admirable about integrating diverse elements into a singular whole. Using two illustrations, this episode demonstrates that benefit of balance. In the case of Odo and Quark, balance comes through their reliance on each other to survive. They are matched physically, but need each other to survive emotionally. In the case of Jake and Nog, balance comes through respecting each other.

This is the defining episode for Quark and Odo’s relationship. They viscerally learn why they appreciate each other. Both Odo and Quark are good at two things: they both are spectacular at fooling themselves, but utterly fail at fooling each other. Odo is rigid and has no capacity to trust anyone other than himself. Repeatedly, Quark comments on things that Odo believes he’s kept to himself. Quark doesn’t buy Odo’s proclaimed mourning at being a solid. Odo got what he secretly wanted, and now he’s struggling with the tension of losing his identity with no longer being an outsider. Quark knows Odo has feelings for Kira, and Quark knows that Odo is in denial about his feelings. To survive this planet, Odo must trust Quark. Quark lacks discipline and has an inflated self-ego, but Odo is always trying to keep him honest. Odo knows Quark tries to be the conniving businessman every Ferengi should be, but Odo sees the real outcomes of Quark’s dealings. Odo doesn’t let Quark surrender to despair and die on that planet. Dying there has no dignity for Quark. To survive this planet, Quark must be driven by Odo beyond his superficial self and tap into his own capacity for heroism. This episode is summed up well in the scenes where Odo is calling out to Quark and where Quark is struggling up the cliff face in the wind. At the heart of Odo and Quark’s relationship is love that is satisfied with being known intimately by someone else and a hate that despises the superficial personas they both project.

As a quick side note, I really appreciate the elements they added that show Odo and Quark rely on each other emotionally. When Quark failed to wake up, Odo began to panic (a rarity for him). Quark’s resourcefulness kept Odo’s hope alive. When Odo’s leg was broken, Quark found endurance deep within himself to keep going and save them. Odo won’t let Quark’s complaining get out of hand. They constantly keep each other in check. They also know how to hurt each other emotionally. Quark is a failure at business; Odo’s efforts at seeking justice amount to little more than stopping petty crime. Another indicator that these two really know each other well.

Jake and Nog’s story here is a bit more superficial, but it parallels nicely with Odo and Quark. Jake is a free-wheeling artist; Nog is the neat-freak, shining cadet. Nog has taken great pride in who he has become. So much so that he tries to force Jake into becoming exactly like himself (bedtime, cleaning, the gym). Jake takes pride in his independence as a creative individual, and he has no concern for how his habits affect others. Neither character respects the needs of the other. Rather than let them escape from their discomfort, Sisko and Rom force them to stick it out (thanks to Sisko’s authority over each). This shows the benefits of working through tough situations. Jake learned a bit of discipline, and Nog learned to relax a smidge. Neither of Jake or Nog could learn these things from their fathers; at times, a friend’s perspective is more powerful. I like Sisko’s actions here as a father to Jake. In Jake’s journey to manhood, we’ve seen him figure life out on his own, and that’s a necessary component. In this episode, Sisko won’t let Jake perpetuate foolish behavior. A wise father knows when to utilize each.

Random Thoughts: 1) The Rio Grande runabout is damaged, but not destroyed. Since it appears later, it was obviously salvaged and returned to service. The Rio Grande will survive the entire run of the show, from Emissary (Ep. 1.1) to What You Leave Behind (Ep. 7.25).  2) I got a new TV for this episode. The movements of the characters in the episode seem much cleaner and smoother. I think this TV up-scales 24 fps into 60 fps. It makes a noticeable difference! 3) I think it is sweet justice that Quark is being summoned as a witness, and that Odo thinks Quark did something illegal. On-screen win for Quark. 4) There are again weird travel timings in DS9. 8 days to travel to a world is unusual. 5) I was highly amused when Jake explodes over Nog’s anal-retentive, grammar-correcting reading of his story. 6) Excellent touch to use real outdoor shots. The mountains there look gorgeous! I’m a sucker for mountain scenery. 7) The final shot of this scene is why I named this theme “Odo & Quark Love/Hate”. They use hate as a safe way to say they love each other. 8) When death is near, Odo does show Quark respect by communicating what Odo knows Quark would want as his last rites.  9) Jake’s story, “Past Prologue”, is the same name as Episode 1.3.  10) This is the last episode to feature the old style uniforms introduced in Emissary (Ep. 1.1).  After this, the uniforms match those introduced in the movie First Contact.  As we’ll discuss next episode, this has important implications for Bashir…

Episode 5.8: Things Past

•March 29, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I greatly enjoy the episodes with an Occupation era theme. The Occupation is, without a doubt, horrifying and unjust. In the face of that tyranny, heroic an beautiful actions were taken. But even this most extreme of periods is not black and white. Garak advocating for a positive view on the Occupation foreshadows Odo being cast as the villain. Garak broaches the reality that even something like the Occupation has moments of grey. Seeing only perfect heroes and villains is a form of extremist thinking that gets into our heads very easily. It can be yet another path to create barriers between us. In that mysterious way, our failures are a path toward bringing us together, if we choose to take it. Kira and Odo experience that at the end of this episode. Leading up to that point, Odo is gradually forced to face one of his own demons.

Though he was highly respected, Odo carries a shame with him; a moral failing. At this early point in Odo’s life, he is making a very naïve mistake; a mistake which cost the life of 3 innocent Bajorans. The Thrax-Odo character has equated justice with the rule of law. He doesn’t seek out innocence; instead he simply assumes circumstantial guilty. The truth that Odo learned because of this mistake was that the rule of law is secondary to justice; law is a consequence of justice. This view of law and justice being equal is, I think, an extremely simplistic view. It’s a view held by a person who has yet to appreciate the nuance life has in store for us. The Thrax-Odo character, stubbornly, only sees life through this simple lens. He doesn’t care about the socio-political ramifications of the Resistance. He doesn’t care that those Resistance fighters must break the law to bring justice. All he sees are law-breakers. He actually thinks that Bajorans accepting the Occupation would result in more justice.

Like the theme of this episode, it is my experience that such simple viewpoints lead to horrible behavior from those who hold them. I see this quite regularly in my faith tradition. Fundamentalist Christian viewpoints try to force simple truths out of highly complex, nuanced situations. It’s almost like there’s a fear that if the world can’t be made simple, then truth doesn’t exist. Personally, I find the opposite to be true; if someone claims a very simple thing, I’m highly skeptical. My career is in research in public health (I’m a biostatistician); nearly nothing I think about on a daily basis is simple. Everything requires deep thinking to understand the nuance and draw helpful inferences. I have similar experiences in my spiritual life and in my relationships with spiritually-inclined people. Nearly nothing in faith is simple.

A couple comments on Dukat and Quark, since we get a good look at their Occupation-era selves. Dukat is at the height of his power and the height of his hypocrisy. Dukat wants to “help” the Bajorans (increase rations), but he’ll only ever do so as long as they remain in their servile place. He feeds his ego off his power trips. He is correct that he is a complicated man, though. He honestly thinks that his viewpoints are beneficial to the Bajorans. Dax exploits his arrogance and self-absorption to escape. Quark is also in a height, in a different sense. He isn’t yet burdened by Odo or the Federation’s rules, so he is more confident in the illicit side of his business. He can run the establishment he wants and under-pay his staff like he wants. A little freer hand in being the kind of Ferengi he wants to be.

I want to end with the final scene of the episode. The end of this episode mirrors strongly the end of Necessary Evil (Ep. 2.8), but the roles are reversed. In this episode, Odo is forced to admit the wrongs he committed during the Occupation; in Necessary Evil, Kira does the admitting. Both scenes have an unanswered question left hanging. Even the shot is similar, with each of them standing on opposite sides of Odo’s desk. Both episodes have a moment where one of them is unsure they can trust the other anymore. I think this pairing of episodes is extremely powerful. No one escaped the Occupation without stains upon their soul, even the good guys. They each have to forgive the other to restore that trust. It’s humbling to be so vulnerable before someone you care about. Humbling to realize that we all fall short of our own internal code. These episodes bind them together because they have share the experience of compromising their morality during the Occupation. Admitting that failure requires vulnerability, and vulnerability leads to bonding. This seems so counter-intuitive, yet it is true. This is a deep mystery of life and utterly fantastic.

Random Thoughts: 1) Odo “not being as solid as he thinks” foreshadows Odo regaining his shapeshifting ability (The Begotten, Ep. 5.12). 2) Odo is the most incapacitated throughout the episode. This is a hint that he is the link between them all. 3) I like how the technobabble part of the episode leads the crew to nowhere. This isn’t some technical problem. It’s an emotional problem with Odo that requires an emotional solution. 4) I think Dax puts on a fantastic show of being a scared Bajoran girl for Dukat. Manipulates his pride. 5) The Bajoran signal is very elegant and simple. Nice touch. 6) Garak: “It’s only a hobby.” I love that man’s retorts.  7) Kurtwood Smith plays Thrax.  Another excellent actor in a guest role.  His big role has been playing a lead character in That 70’s Show.  He was also in a season of 24.  He’s also done a couple different Star Trek roles.

Episode 5.7: Let He Who Is Without Sin…

•March 18, 2018 • Leave a Comment

This episode seems frivolous on the surface. However, I think there are several interesting themes running through this episode. The background of paradise helps accentuate each of the elements in this episode. I think this is very fitting as an episode in the season before the Dominion War. This planet sports a cultural peace the Federation will soon lose. On the one hand, the Risian philosophy (“What is ours is yours”) is to be admired. This is a utopian peace. Worf, however, would consider it naïve. The peace of Risa is entirely artificial and a farce, given what the planet would be like without the weather satellites. To Worf, vigilance is necessary to sustain what one has, and the Risians are ignorant of what it takes for them to have their peace. In a way, I think the tension between these viewpoints is a healthy place for a culture. Both positions seem like extremes, and in nearly every case I can think of, an extreme position is a poor one. The openness and relaxed attitude of the Risians is what fosters peace and prosperity in a society; constant vigilance can be destructive to prosperity. Yet real threats exist for the Federation. Striking a balance seems necessary.

Fullerton is a characterized Christian street evangelist (the “turn or burn” kind), and I’m sorry to say that the caricature is pretty close to things I’ve seen. He speaks on “moral and cultural foundations” and condemns what he sees as indulgence. Pleasure is a sin. His superiority comes out in his philosophy (his religion), and he insults others for not following his message. He is hypocritical; he calls for vigilance to maintain peace, but he acts regularly to disrupt that peace. And he uses fear mongering tactics. He dredges up old enemies (Borg, Romulans, Klingons) and new ones (the Dominion) to scare and shock people into following his message. It’s all too familiar. Are there arrogant Christians who act hypocritically in an effort to scare people into following a message? Certainly. I offer no excuse for this behavior of Christians. Our faith, despite the truth I think it holds, has lead to prideful actions and attitudes that have hurt and insulted others. For me, caricatures like this are tools I use to remind me to maintain my humility and accept the critiques of others. I wonder, “Who have I done this to?”

Worf and Dax are an interesting couple in this episode. They each sail so far to their respective extremes. Dax is an unfettered, nearly chaotic personality. Worf is an all-or-nothing personality, and he only sees truth through his own lens. Neither are easy to figure out. For Dax, I think having both Quark and Bashir along on this trip is poignant. She rightfully chafes under Worf’s demands for fidelity in her innocent, plutonic relationships. She doesn’t have Worf’s trust, which is painful to her. Both Quark and Bashir pursued Dax in the past, and they offer insight for her. Dax is joyously free, but she is extremely difficult to figure out. To Dax, some things should be obvious (like her relationship with Captain Boday being plutonic), but Quark and Bashir inform her she is tough to figure out. And she needs to hear it from trusted friends. She has to communicate with Worf…which is what Worf has been asking for (“Jadzia, we need to talk”). On the other side, Worf is rigid and makes sweeping assumptions. He accuses Bashir and Leeta of infidelity, when he had almost no information on the status of their relationship. He makes similar assumptions of Jadiza. He thinks he needs Dax to conform to his view of a “Klingon woman”. The fact that Worf went so far as to disrupt the weather is indicative of how deeply troubled he is at the rift between him and Dax. Through his confession about killing a boy, Worf is also brought away from his extreme. Dax gets him to trust that absolute control cannot be the way to live life. I actually really like having the soccer accident in Worf’s past. It helps describe why he is so formal and regulated in his life.

Perhaps my favorite part of this episode is what Bashir and Leeta are doing on Risa. I wish rites or traditions like this Rite of Separation were more present in our society. Bringing closure to a relationship through a joyous celebration seems so enlightened to me. This allows them to step away from each other slowly and without harsh words. It’s clearly mutual. They have an opportunity to meet other people while still feeling emotionally safe with each other. There isn’t an abrupt feeling of abandonment. We (usually) don’t start relationships abruptly; why do we end them so harshly and suddenly? The human heart is a delicate thing, and I think we can abuse it without realizing it.

Random Thoughts: 1) Morn is in love! 2) I loved: “Do not hug me.” 3) Vanessa Williams as a guest star is one of the most non-Trek names to appear in Star Trek, I think. I think she does a fine job here. 4) Worf never changes out of his uniform during the episode. That symbolism is obvious. He never relaxes. 5) Quark amusingly eggs on the friction between Leeta and Bashir about Rom. 6) The conflict at the end, where Fullerton endangers people with earthquakes, is entirely unnecessary in my opinion. The story didn’t need that kind of conflict. The conflict between Dax and Worf was sufficient. 7) The title references the book of John, chapter 8, verse 7 in the Christian Bible.

Episode 5.6: Trials and Tribble-ations

•March 12, 2018 • Leave a Comment

This episode is a tribute to the 30th anniversary of Star Trek. It is an homage to one of the iconic episodes of The Original Series, The Trouble with Tribbles (TOS Ep. 2.15). There is a lot of information out there for this episode. The technical aspects in particular have been discussed at length. The episode was nominated for 3 Creative Emmy Awards (art direction, hairstyling, and visual effects), but didn’t win anything. I don’t have a lot to say about the technical aspects that haven’t already been said elsewhere. As a viewer, I certainly was impressed with the insertion of the DS9 crew into the TOS scenes. For the purpose of this entry, I wanted to give my personal reaction.

I got lot of comedic joy out of the episode. The story is light-hearted and a stand-alone episode. I liked it, I enjoyed it, but it’s a fan-service episode filled with nostalgia. Those kinds of episodes aren’t bad, but they don’t leave an impression on me. There isn’t any connection to the grand narrative of DS9, no real character development, nor any social theme addressed. These are the kinds of elements that create a fantastic episode for me. I know a lot of folks list this in their top episodes list, but it won’t go there for me. Other episodes with deeper themes rank much higher. There were certainly a few references to other areas of the Trek universe, as would be expected. The Enterprise-E is mentioned obliquely (when the two investigators talk about 5, no 6, Enterprises). The change in forehead ridges for the Klingons was acknowledged, but also brushed aside in a comedic way. I don’t mind they didn’t address that here; this isn’t the right kind of episode for that. The predestination paradox is a common Star Trek (and larger sci-fi) time travel trope.

Most of my notes on this episode are about single story elements. So rather than have a massive Random Thoughts section, I’ll list a few story elements here that caught my eye. The infestation of tribbles on the station at the end is never mentioned again. Three Orbs of the Prophets are directly mentioned: The Orb of Time, Orb of Wisdom, Orb of Prophecy. Bashir comments on the color swap of Engineering and Command uniforms. He also says the obligatory “I’m a doctor, not a…” line. Odo was keenly fascinated with the tribble; I speculate that it was he who brought one back to the station. Worf’s over the top rage at the tribble species is one of the best moments of the episode. The Emony host of Dax is the one who met McCoy. That is host 3 while Jadzia is host 8. Also, Dax’s simmering sexual attraction to half the TOS characters in this episode was off-putting to me. Sisko throwing tribbles and hitting Kirk in the head was another amusing element. And finally, Kira being the one who figured out how to use Orb of Time is a fitting end.

Random Thoughts (on non-story elements): 1) Voyager had a similar 30th anniversary episode, Flashback (VOY Ep. 3.2). 2) Actual time travel is a nice element (the Voyager counterpart was only memories). 3) The temporal investigators are reminiscent of Dragnet. 4) The DVD menu has sounds of cooing tribbles instead of the usual Ops sounds. 5) The gentle growth into the TOS theme as the Enterprise was being shown on the viewscreen was a nice touch. 6) Ecological Menace is my new band name. 7) The fight scene was integrated extremely well in my opinion. It was a nice scene to choose to show off the technical skills. 8) While reading some notes over at Memory Alpha for the next episode (Let He Who Is Without Sin…, Ep. 5.7), I learned that Nana Visitor is still pregnant here.  This episode was shot before The Assignment (Ep. 5.5).