Category Archives: Phil

Deep Space 9 WatchParty (Phil) – Season 1 Summary

Phil’s Season 1 Summary

So, we’ve finally completed season one of Deep Space Nine.  Was it worth it?Maybe.  The show to this point has been very up-and-down, with a lot more downs than ups.  I’m told that it does get better in season two, but that it doesn’t really start to shine until season three. 

We had nineteen episodes in season one, which is an odd number for a show. In the nineties it was pretty common to have between 22 and 24 episodes per season, and generally leaning hard towards 24, so I wonder what happened there with DS9.  Of course, I don’t wonder enough to try to go look it up.  Maybe Drake knows or remembers.

I have a spreadsheet where I have kept track of the ratings I’ve given each episode, and based upon that the entire season averages out to a “C-.”  A very low “C-” at that.  I think that matches my subjective opinion as well.  While there were some good highpoints and even an episode I gave an “A” to, as a whole the first season was very, very skippable.  For me it was at the lower end, and sometimes below, the threshold of “barely watchable.”

That isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy it, however.  I did enjoy it.  I think I enjoyed it a lot more because of this project of reviewing the episodes.  It gave more motivation to finish each one, and to keep watching them.  Without that, I am certain I would not have made it through the first season.  It was also really nice to be able to read and react and talk about things with Drake as we went through it together.  It added a lot to the experience and tempered my emotions (mostly negative) about the show and kept me going through it. 

And I am really glad I went through it.  There was some really good TV in there, sprinkled among some of the not-so-good.  I understand the tone of the series is going to change over time, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that evolves.  I really have no idea what to expect.  It is rare that one can come into a franchise decades later and be almost completely ignorant of what to expect.  I really wonder what I would think of some classic movies now if I watched them for the first time at this point.  Stuff like Star Wars, or Indiana Jones, or Ghostbusters.  Would I like them as much as I did when I first saw them?  Would I like them as much as I do now?  Would I pick them apart and find flaws?


Questions Drake wants to ask Phil:

Drake: What gave you the idea to do this project and why’d you come to me? (I’m very glad you did)
Phil: It just kinda happened. DS9 had been recommended to me several times by various folks, and there was a discussion occurring with Jon Del Arroz and others. You mentioned that you were going to watch it, and I knew you had a blog and were interested in getting more active with it. I took a flyer and said that if you were ever interested in watching it in a book-club-style setting, I’d be interested in participating. It all just came together at the right time. 

I’m not a big Trek fan. I’m a more casual fan with no specific knowledge or attachments to the lore, setting, characters, etc. I actually liked the Abrams Trek reboot a lot more than I had any other iteration, plot holes and ridiculous astrophysics/astrodynamics notwithstanding. 

I had enjoyed TNG in my youth, but it was not a frequent thing. I had seen only a handful of episodes of DS9 and couldn’t tell you a thing about it. I had watched at least part of a season of Enterprise, but it didn’t air on any TV I had access to when it was being broadcast, and I just never got into it. 
Based on previous conversations with friends who were Trek fans, and their opinions that DS9 is the best Trek but takes a while to get good, I believed that I would have a hard time getting into the series. Doing this as a writing project kept me plowing through it. Without that, I’m certain I would have given up long before I completed season one.

Drake: What’s your overall opinion of the season and the series so far? 
Phil: It is pretty rough. I tried to get my wife to watch it with me, and she quit very quickly. Instead, she went and started watching TNG without me. I have definitely seen more of TNG, but not a lot. She used to watch that with her dad, though, when he was still alive.  He came to live near us towards the end of his life, staying in a nursing home that was very nearby. I bought the first season of TNG on DVD at the time, and we went over together to his place to watch an episode every week.  I think we finished the first season, but did not have a chance to even purchase the second season before he died.

Needless to say, my wife has a strong emotional attachment to TNG. She’s currently getting her Master’s degree, and she likes to put it on in the background while she works on her schoolwork, or while she grades papers and the like for her 5th grade class.  She tore through TNG, and periodically would stop and come let me know about how good it was. It wasn’t her direct intent to make me jealous, but it sure worked.

I watched a couple of episodes of TNG during the middle of DS9 season one, and it was kind of a bad idea. TNG is just so much better. It isn’t even close. Don’t get me wrong. TNG has issues, and their first season was pretty rough too. But TNG gets going, most of the issues tend to be of scale and budget. The shuttle bay, for instance, is just a big, square warehouse with some bad CGI props. But it is forgivable, because we know the constraints the show was under, and the writing is just so gosh darn good.

DS9, on the other hand, struggles across the board. The only thing that really works well on the show (in my opinion) during the first season are Quark and Odo. I don’t know if that is because of the acting talent, the writing, or something else, maybe a combination. But Quark and Odo have the best chemistry in the first season, and they do such a good job of conveying thought an emotion as well as really getting each other’s goat and playing off each other as actors. They are phenomenal. Everyone else seems rather forgettable at best in comparison.

Drake: Are you enjoying the project more or less than you expected so far? What aspects are different than you expected?
Phil: Both more and less. That doesn’t really make sense, but I thought this would be a bit of a slog before we started. I wanted to do it as a project like this to help me get through it, and also to experience it with someone who knows Trek better than I do. I wanted someone to help explain things to me and answer questions when I needed it, and to talk me off the proverbial ledge. I figured there would be a few times I would just want to throw in the towel and want to quit because it was so bad, and someone who could coach me through it was something I knew I needed. That has worked out splendidly.

There have been some nice surprises in season one. We had a really, really great episode in Duet. After the rest of the season, that was a really splendid surprise. I did not expect, nor did I think the creative team for DS9 had it in them, to see such a great episode after all the stinkers that we’ve had. There is some truly terrible TV in season one. 

Comparing it to the tar monster of sin in season one of TNG, though… Well, I’m not sure what I’d grade that one as I haven’t seen it in a long time. But it would be a low score for sure.

To put it another way, I’m enjoying it enough that I want to keep going, and I want to do other series as well. It’d be nice if Drake and I had unlimited time and we could do all of the Trek series and movies, popping out at least one a day. But there’s no way that’s going to happen. We may decrease our output, not step it up.

We are agreed that we will definitely do Enterprise at some point. That’s good. I’d really like to watch that one too.

Drake: Excluding Quark and Odo, who I think it is safe to say we both really like and appreciate, which characters do you like on the show?
Phil: I like O’Brien, but he’s been a bit of a disappointment. He’s gotten a few episodes where he’s had more screen time, but he’s only really had one where he got to really have any character development. He’s a comforting presence on the show, providing some continuity and an emotional anchor point from TNG, but he hasn’t really stood out yet. He’s the stereotypical competent technician who doesn’t get along well with others. He needs some fleshing out.

I also like Kira, up to a point. Her character doesn’t have a ton of depth or range, or so it appears to me at this time. But what she has she sticks to consistently, and she plays it up loud and frequently. If you find yourself playing the hand you’ve been dealt in life, who can really blame you?

Sisko is just kinda there for me. He seems like a nice guy, a decent fellow. He’s a bit of a calming presence, and I guess that’s his role. He reminds me just a little of the principal from Boston Public, if you’ve ever seen that show. Of course, I think the guy in Boston Public pulled that role off better than what Sisko has. Sisko just isn’t anyone to write home about. I don’t particularly care for the way he’s handled a few things, but that seems really nitpicky in a Trek show where the writers are the real problem there. I don’t know… Sisko is just basically background noise to me at this point.

Dax is too. She had that one episode where she was on trial, that I really didn’t care for all that much. I don’t like the concept of the Trill, and outside of that, she’s just a bit of a foil for others to react to.

I actively dislike Doctor Bashir. I don’t know why. I don’t care for his demeanor, I guess. He tries to be a bit of a womanizer, but he’s not likeable when he does it. Most womanizers aren’t likeable, but an example of someone who was likeable is Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother. He’s an unforgiveable ass, but he’s so much fun to watch as he does it, and his character just oozes and drips charisma all over. It is easy to see why all the women fall for it in the show. Doctor Bashir is just the ass without the charisma. He also really hasn’t had an episode where he was allowed to shine and really come into his own yet. I hope that happens and we get some good character growth from him.

Drake: I think The Forsaken was the episode we disagreed on by the most. I know you really hated it, but I didn’t get a good sense of what you didn’t like about it. What was it that was so bad?
Phil: It was a little bit of everything. I dislike Lwaxana Troi as a character, which doesn’t help. I especially dislike that this is more-or-less a repeat of the episode in TNG where the same thing happens—she falls for Captain Picard and follows him like a lost puppy dog while also trying to seduce him. It was annoying the first time, but to do it again is lazy and stupid.

The entire side plot that was almost a second main plot with the other ambassadors I thought felt really tacked on and meaningless, and it didn’t really go anywhere. They got on Doctor Bashir’s case for no real reason, and it just seemed a massive waste of time for me.

The main plot with Odo and Lwaxana in the turbolift I thought was super cringy. I did not care for it at all. They tried to have an intimate, vulnerable scene, and instead it came off really poorly. It was painful and unpleasant to watch, and it was a little comical for all the wrong reasons. It also doesn’t help that they had “plot setting,” which is a lot like “plot armor.” They have had a tendency to show a fair amount of turbolifts in DS9 season one, and they are all the same. They are slow, they are open air, with minimal guard rails, no safety equipment, no walls, etc. But of course, Odo and Lwaxana get stuck in one that is built like an earth-elevator, because otherwise they wouldn’t be trapped at all and that whole cringe scene couldn’t happen.

Then there was the bizarre probe/malware explanation and O’Brien tricking the code into a software cage and keeping it as a pet…

It was an episode full of some of the worst writing, the most pointless writing, the cringiest writing, and the laziest writing that we’ve seen on the show yet this season. I don’t think I can point to a single redeeming or worthwhile moment in that episode. I just felt the entire thing was garbage and not worth my time, nor anyone else’s.

Drake: Which, if any, episodes would you recommend a newcomer skip if they are trying to get into DS9 for the first time? Which episodes should they definitely watch?
Phil: I think I would recommend anyone new to DS9, and with no or little experience with Trek in general, to skip quite a lot of season one. I think you can safely skip all of these episodes:
1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 13, 16, 17, and 19.

That’s half of the first season. There are a few more to bypass if you really only want to watch the good stuff, but that is a pretty safe list of marginal (or worse) TV that I don’t recall has any major plot info that will make it hard to pick up what is going on later. The only exception to that last was the pilot, but that was a two-hour episode that I felt really only had about 10 minutes of good content in it. The rest was pretty rough, and a 30-second session on a wiki somewhere can probably get you what you need to know.

Episodes that I think should definitely be watched, and really set the tone, are the following:

· Episode 4, Babel: A mysterious virus plagues the station, causing speech distortions and eventually death. A good, but slightly irritating episode. Good drama, good scene setting, but lacking in execution. Still, it helps get a feel for DS9.

· Episode 5, Captive Pursuit: O’Brien befriends an alien from the Gamma Quadrant who is being hunted. This one has a lot of bad Trek along with some good Trek, but it is a great episode for O’Brien and definitely worth a watch.

· Episode 6, Q-Less: Q and Vash arrive on Deep Space Nine. However, Vash has realized the annoyance of Q and wants him to leave her alone. Pretty much any episode that has Q in it should be required viewing.

· Episode 11, Vortex: Odo discovers he may not be the only one of his kind when a visitor from the Gamma Quadrant claims he can contact Odo’s people. This one is extremely important, maybe even vital, for Odo’s character and understanding him.

· Episode 12, Battle Lines: The spiritual leader of Bajor, Kai Opaka, travels with Sisko on a trip to the Gamma Quadrant but is stranded with him on a world where the dead are resurrected. I suspect that the death of Opaka will have larger ramifications throughout the series, making this one more important to watch. If that isn’t the case, and there aren’t significant down-timeline effects, then this would be borderline and not must-see.

· Episode 14, Progress: Kira has to deal with a stubborn farmer who refuses to leave his home even though it is slated for destruction. This is a really important episode for Kira, and I thought one of the better episodes this season. I wouldn’t skip it.

· Episode 18, Duet: A visiting Cardassian, Marritza, may in fact be the notorious war criminal Gul Darhe’el, butcher of Gallitep Labor camp, and Kira is determined to bring him down. By far easily the best episode this season, and just a great episode in general. It should not be missed.

Drake: Could you give some predictions on where you think the show is headed? What would you like to see explored further and what would you like to see dropped?
Phil: From bits and pieces of other conversations, I believe that a war will become the primary plot driver of future DS9 episodes. However, I think that may not happen until season 3 or so, and I’m not sure that I can see DS9 actually becoming all that militarized. 

I also believe, from other sources I can’t recall, that the show starts to leave behind the “status quo reset” at the end of each episode, and starts to tell more stories with plot lines that span episodes. I hope that does happen, but I guess we’ll see. I don’t have a lot of foreknowledge or expectation. 

As far as things I’d like explored: More of the station. I’m confused, actually, by the size of DS9. At various places they both act like the thing is huge (and it seems to be, based on shots of the Enterprise D docked there in episode one), and like it is a tiny, humble, intimate gathering. I think at one point it was stated there are only three hundred people living on it. That seems like a ridiculously small number, but it does explain why we don’t run into a lot of other cast members, why Quark’s bar/casino is the only hangout, etc. I believe the TNG Enterprise had a full complement of over one thousand, so the DS9 population seems really small.

Anyway, if it were a big station, I think it could be fun to have Jake exploring the bowels of the station, running around, getting lost, sneaking into other bars or something, etc. It would probably take a lot of money for their limited sets, though, so I’m not too optimistic. Having Odo have somewhere else to chase people other than to Quark’s would be a good thing, too.

I think I would like to see the station retrofit up to Federation or Bajoran standards. The Cardassians made an ugly station, and I keep wanting to comment about their terrible monitor bevels. Every time Dax is working on something, she has this tiny screen surrounded by feet of blank, empty space doing nothing.  And for the love of all, fix those turbo lifts into something safe!

Deep Space 9 WatchParty (Phil) – Season 1, Episode 19 – In the Hands of the Prophets

I’m going to be honest on this one, folks. It isn’t very good. It was so not-good that I didn’t really pay it a lot of attention, and I went and did dishes while I watched it. This review is going to be short.

Primary Plot

The plot this time around revolves around campaigning on who is going to be the next Kai, the Bajoran Pope. This becomes an issue because one of the high-up muckety-mucks in the Bajoran religion had discovered that kids in the DS9 school were not being taught the Bajoran faith as it pertained to the wormhole, the non-orbs, and the prophets.

I’m sure this is going to be one of those long-term political threads that runs throughout the show, and we get a bunch of fake drama over made-up religions and made-up politics that frankly makes the disputes over trade policy in the Republic in The Phantom Menace sound thrilling.

What we do get here, however, is a lot of tripe about how all cultures are equal, but some are more equal than others. We get a lot of hot air about how all are welcome on DS9, and how tolerance is such a lovely virtue. And, of course, we get a lot of rhetoric about how religion is backwards and dumb and science is god.

Other Thoughts

The writers couldn’t quite grasp some of the logical inconsistencies in their writing here. Based on their earlier work on DS9, this is not surprising. I had no real desire to sit through a lot of cultural Marxism and proto-SJW tripe, so I didn’t.

One thing I would like to point out: Tolerance is not a virtue. Tolerance is forced upon someone.

A virtue is chosen freely, and acted upon freely. A virtue consists of moral righteousness and moral excellence Only literal God-forsaken idiots think tolerance is a virtue. They are getting it confused with patience, an actual virtue, and one might see how midwits and those of even lower IQs could get the two confused.

Tolerance is the noun form of the verb tolerate. To tolerate is to endure without repugnance; to put up with. One tolerates that which is not chosen, but must be born. One tolerates an evil or an oppression or an annoyance that cannot be eliminated. One does not choose to tolerate anything. One is forced to tolerate.

It is not virtuous to deal with an evil, to make an accord with evil, nor to put up with an evil. You can only tolerate that which is an evil and that you refuse to give into or make an accommodation with. It is the demonic that attempt to spread the concept of tolerance as a virtue, and they do so in direct opposition to and mockery of true virtues such as patience, humility, prudence, etc.

If you currently believe that tolerance is a virtue, I encourage you to get your soul right with God and let Him grant you wisdom and understanding.

Final Grade:  F-

I get the feeling that the ideas and concepts pushed in this episode are more or less endemic to Trek. I’m really not terribly surprised, as I also get the idea that Trek seems to idolize and idealize Marx and Marxism to a large extent. That’s really too bad for a variety of reasons, but it is understandable coming from atheists. Atheists are so incredibly dumb, and so incredibly historically ignorant, that they think that science can exist outside of Christianity. Science was philosophically conceived of, invented by, and developed by Christians. Science is completely impossible without the Christian framework to underpin all of it.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Atheists, those who supposedly worship science, are currently destroying science because they don’t like what it says, what it might say, and even more importantly what those fathers of science did say and believe.

Evolution and survival of the fittest selects for superior genetic adaptation and results in superior species. This, of course, is racist:
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9558737/Sheffield-University-tells-staff-Charles-Darwin-racist.html

Deep Space 9 WatchParty (Phil) – Season 1, Episode 18 – Duet

Ah, we’ve finally arrived. I didn’t know we were journeying to this destination in season one of DS9, but none-the-less, we find ourselves here. It turns out the journey was worth the wait.

Primary Plot

I’m sensing a trend here. The best episodes of DS9 so far seem to be the bottle episodes.

The plot of Duet is simple. The plot of Duet is complicated. The plot of Duet takes place entirely via exposition disclosed during conversation. It is the least “Star Trek-y” of plots that has occurred so far this season, but it has the biggest impact on me.

A Cardassian is on a ship that just happens to be passing through, and he has some extremely rare disease and has suspiciously forgotten his medication. The ship stops at DS9 for medical assistance.

It turns out the disease was only ever contracted by those in a particular place at a particular time. The place was a prison/labor camp run by the Cardassians where they kept Bajoran dissidents and political prisoners. The particular time was at the end of the camp. There was some kind of event and those there were exposed to and contracted this MacGuffin disease.

Kira the Defiant is, but this time possibly not needlessly. She really is showing growth. Her emotions, however, are off the charts and nearly incontrollable. She believes this Cardassian to be an evil villain, and she aims to see justice done upon him.

The Cardassian is played by this man, Harris Yulin:

He’s in just gobs of stuff. It is rare that he has a major role, but if you know who he is you’ll see him all over the place. He’s the judge during the courtroom scene in Ghostbusters 2 during Louis Tully’s “short, but pointless” speech. He plays Cutter in Clear and Present Danger. He’s the mafia guy who fixes tickets in Frasier. He’s in so many shows and movies that it is hard not to recognize him, but you’ll usually have a difficult time placing him. That is a shame, because he’s a damn fine actor, and he shows it here.

DS9 plays all their trope cards on this one. The Cardassian is clearly the Nazi, and he’s dressed appropriately for the role. He denies, denies, denies to Kira’s interrogation, insisting that it is all one big misunderstanding, that Kira has been lied to and deceived by both her memory and the political propaganda of her own side. He gaslights her for all he’s worth, and he’s absolutely believable for every minute of it. He says he was just the clerk at the camp, and there were no screams, no murders. Deaths, yes, but labor camps are hard and brutal, and people do die there, but no, the Cardassians didn’t kill anyone.

Until Kira catches him in a lie. Then he not only admits, but he revels, revels, and revels some more in his evil doings. He taunts Kira. He exhibits no remorse, he makes himself out to be a monster, and then he laughs and says it doesn’t concern him at all. He makes it clear that the Bajorans are not people. Who cares if they die? Again, he plays the part perfectly. He is absolutely believable in this new role as well, and you marvel at the deception he has portrayed earlier. He was the camp commandant, and he reveled in the screams and the deaths.

And still the plot unfolds, with additional twists, turns, and discoveries. Kira confronts him three or four times, and each time he’s a different character. He isn’t the camp commandant after all. That Cardassian has been dead for years, with a very public State funeral. He’s had surgery to look like the guy he’s impersonating, but why? He denies all of that still, says the funeral was a fake. Do they have evidence of who was truly buried? He is playing for a public show trial on Bajora, to be convicted and sentenced and executed in a very public manner.

Kira continues to push him, coming back for confrontation after confrontation, doubting herself, putting herself through an emotional wringer. We discover that he was at the camp. He does have the disease. He was the clerk, and he did hear the screams, and he is tortured even now. He longs for death. He longs for justice. He could do nothing for the Bajorans who were tortured and killed, but he didn’t even try. He is a self-declared coward who desires to be executed for what he has done, and what he has failed to do. This is suicide not by cop, but by firing squad.

Kira and Sisko let him go! He’s distraught. He knows not what he will do. He desired to force the Cardassian empire to face their crimes through his public show trial and death, and now nothing will come of it.

Before anyone can determine his fate, before he can decide what to do next, he’s stabbed in the back by a Bajoran looking to kill him because he’s a Cardassian. The Bajoran doesn’t know who he is, what he’s done, or what he is guilty of. He’s a Cardassian, and therefore fit to die, and die he does.

His death, long wished for, is now an unfulfilled tragedy, lacking in all meaning.

Other Thoughts

There are no side plots in this one. Just one fantastic story told with expertise from the writing, the direction, and certainly the acting. This one episode rises further than I thought DS9 could achieve, and it does it with someone I consider one of the weaker characters in Kira.

This episode explores so many things. Guilt, innocence, forgiveness, sins of omission, damaged and broken psyches, self-hatred, racism, propaganda, temperance… it is ALL here.

Watching Mr. Yulin act under the Cardassian makeup was pure joy. He really is a great actor, and he exhibits it here. He’s never over-the-top, but he is very intense when he wants to be and needs to be. He plays the maniacal villain; the innocent victim; the fragile, misunderstood young man; the lost soul; the idealogue; the hero; and someone looking for a friend—and he does it all nearly at the same time, moving effortlessly between these aspects of his character when the scenes and the plot needs it.

It is an amazing performance, and you shouldn’t miss it. If you are reading this, and haven’t seen this episode of DS9, go watch it at your earliest option. You don’t need any background on the setting, and even non-Trek-fans can appreciate and enjoy what is done here. I have no complaints, no critiques.

Final Grade:  A

Drake wanted to know if I was going to give this one an A+. It was close. This is one of the best Star Trek episodes I’ve seen, rivaling some of the best TNG and Enterprise episodes. It is truly a great episode of TV regardless of the series or genre, and it works so well partly because it isn’t tied to the genre.

The MacGuffin is the MacGuffin, but it doesn’t matter. You know there’s a MacGuffin, here’s the actors, and go. The rest could be a scene from a WW2 movie, or a courtroom drama, or nearly anywhere else in history. Nothing in this episode requires it to be a Star Trek episode to work, and because of that it breaks out of the Star Trek mold and becomes primal and timeless.

It is great TV. Is the one of the best TV episodes you’ll ever see?  Well…

I don’t know. I’m not sure of that. Maybe, but I kinda doubt it. A+ episodes need to marinate a bit in memory. They need to really stick with you and be remembered, and even influence you, long into the future.  I’ve seen this episode exactly one time.

Was I impressed by it?  Heck yes, I was. I would recommend this episode to anyone.

But the best of the best of TV?  Too early to say.

Deep Space 9 WatchParty (Phil) – Season 1, Episode 16 – The Forsaken

A diplomatic envoy arrives on DS9, hilarious hijinks ensue!

A Vulcan and two other aliens walk into a bar. They bitch to Dr. Bashir about their quarters.

A randy, boomer cougar cradles Odo in her lap.

All this, and more, on this week’s Deep Space Nine!

Primary Plot

Lwaxana Troi is part of a diplomatic delegation of various Federation ambassadors who are all visiting DS9 for some reason. That may have been addressed in the episode, but if so, I missed it. If it was, it was just a technobabble MacGuffin anyway, and has no bearing on anything that takes place this week.

Three of the four ambassadors are clearly moody at the prospects of being stuck on such a “dignified” and “highly regarded,” “cultured,” and “prestigious” a locale as DS9. Upon arrival, they immediately corner the doctor and gripe to him about their accommodations. Since they are diplomats from the Federation, this probably makes good political sense. One wouldn’t want to talk to anyone actually in charge, who might be able to make improvements, as that would remove one avenue of discontent. Then they might have to actually get results as diplomats, reaching agreements in discussion, etc. Of course, they could always bitch about the shape of the table at any negotiating session…

Anyway, Lwaxana Troi is the capable, sensible member of the diplomatic grouping. She immediately has her brooch stolen at Quark’s. Quick thinking by Odo not only proves that Lwuxana is barely capable of rubbing two brain cells together, but also (again) that Odo and Quark are the two most capable and intelligent individuals on DS9 at any time.

Systems break all over DS9 for no discernable reason. Lwaxana, having been outsmarted by Odo, desperately wants to pretend to have his babies and ends up getting stuck in the only elevator on DS9 with walls and doors. Odo must turn into a liquid form every 16 hours on the dot (biology being a careful and always prompt mistress) in order to rest, and is still stuck on the elevator with Lwaxana when it happens.

This is supposed to be a character development moment for the two of them, sharing and taking care of each other, etc. Odo is concerned, as no one has ever seen him in his liquid form. She pulls off her hair (she’s been wearing a wig this whole time), being vulnerable with him too. She then cradles his goo-ness in her lap, holding him on her dress. Conservation of mass is still non-existent, and his liquidness does not stain or leak through the fabric of her dress.

Hero O’brien eventually figures out all the malfunctions are being caused by sentient code downloaded into the DS9 systems from a probe. He coaxes the nefarious code into its own virtual pen and asks Sisko if he can keep it as a pet.

Dr. Bashir saves the rest of the ambassadors from an explosion, and they all treat him with newfound respect, having never gotten an upgrade on their quarters.

Other Thoughts

There’s boring, there’s bad writing, there’s pointless plots, there’s cringe, uber-cringe, gamma-cringe… and then there’s this DS9 episode.

I’m not even bothering with grabbing any screencaps on this one. The less I have to deal with it, the better. There’s certainly no reason to inflict it on anyone else.

Final Grade:  F

Zero out of ten on this one. I’m sure there is worse TV out there, but I wager you’d have to put in some serious man-hours looking to best The Forsaken in awfulness. The title is appropriate. This episode is forsaken. Abandon all entertainment, ye who enter here.

Deep Space 9 WatchParty (Phil) – Season 1, Episode 15 – If Wishes Were Horses

This is a “let your hair down” episode of DS9. Something light, frivolous, meaningless, but fun. I guess the writers got tired of working so hard the last few episodes with all that character development and decided what we really needed was some pin-ups!

Well, that’s OK.  Fun and frivolity can make decent TV too, and this episode is pretty imaginative, if not particularly  meaningful.

Primary Plot

The crew discovers they can summon things by thinking about it. Their imaginations plop out into the real world, sort of like Ray when he tried to empty his mind, but something just popped in there. He tried to think of the most harmless thing, and could only think of roasting marshmellows back at camp Waconda…

Yes, DS9 faces the StayPuft Marshmallow Man, except in the form of a Rumplestiltskin, a baseball player, an extremely horny Dax, some snow, and space pin-up girls straight from Quark’s imagination. 

The plot on this one is pretty low. Some aliens show up and decide to mess with the DS9 crew as part of a social experiment.  You know, to learn about them.  ‘Cause that is what enlightened aliens do…

Anyway, it really is an excuse for some cleverness, and lots and lots of screengrabs.

Hero O’Brien ends up summoning Rumplestiltskin by reading a bedtime story to his daughter.

Creepy Rumplestiltskin

We get lusty Dax…

Lusty, playful Dax just can’t keep her hands off of Doctor Bashir.

And we get seductively amused Dax.

Slight smirk? Check. Looking up through eyelashes? Check. Yep, the real one wants you too, Doctor.

We even get 2.5 inches (6 cm, according to Odo) of snow on the main concourse.

But most importantly, we get space pin-ups!

Look at that grin on Quark’s face…
Look at the expression on Odo’s.

Once again, Quark and Odo in one scene, in one quick shot, do more storytelling with their faces, while wearing immovable masks, than most of the rest of the cast does in the entire episode. These two deserve gold stars on every outing. If they didn’t receive awards for their talents and abilities, then they were surely robbed.

Other Thoughts

The plot was pretty terrible in this one.  It was a lot of fake drama, mixed with a lot of creativity.  I didn’t hate it. Nor did I really think it was very good. It was more fun than the no-good and no-fun stodgy episodes from earlier in the season, so it has that going for it.

Final Grade:  C+

C+ for space pin-ups!

Three cheers for Space Pin-ups! At long last, the Space Boobs update has returned!

Deep Space 9 WatchParty (Phil) – Season 1, Episode 14 – Progress

I apologize for my lateness, friends.  I’ve been dealing with a health issue that has both consumed a lot of time, and also sapped some of my ability to keep up with everything I want to get accomplished.  Better late than never, though.  Still, I’m going to be trying to catch up a bit here, and I will be forgoing screenshots in this one.

Primary Plot

Nog (and Jake) are trying to break into profit. His father has made an ill-advised purchase and is stuck with product that Quark doesn’t want and can’t sell. Nog has taken it upon himself to make deals and trade it away to DS9 cargo freighters, hoping to score gold-pressed latinum. He is not finding any takers.

The boys keep trading and swapping, never knowing the relative value of any product they barter for.

Meanwhile, a stubborn resident, and his servants, of a Bajoran outpost has refused mandatory evacuation orders as an attempt is made to drill into the core of the moon to tap it for energy. He doesn’t want to leave his lifetime home, preferring to perish than leave.

There are alternative options for the moon energy project, including a different methodology that would take a year to yield energy results but would not require the removal of the populace. Major Kira even compares the forced removal to Cardassian attempts to deal with Bajorans during the war.

Bajorans attempt to remove the stragglers by force and the old man resident is shot. Kira-the-possibly-still-Needlessly-Defiant defies the attempt to remove the hardcases, requesting the doctor and making sure they aren’t removed by medical staff during treatment.  She then stays with the old, cantankerous fellow, staying close by him and acting as his nurse, caring for him through the night. She even helps him continue to build his little kiln in his garden as he adamantly swears he’ll never leave.

Meanwhile, the Bajorans are ready to remove everyone by force, and are prepared to do so immediately. Sisko asks (really flat-out orders) Dr. Bashir to request a stay and an exception for Kira and the old man on medically necessary and humanitarian grounds, even though the doctor says there is no reason and would like the man moved to DS9 immediately for treatment even if that is against the old man’s will.  Still, Dr. Bashir acquiesces, buying Kira some time.

The two boys, Jake and Nog, have bartered their original product of sauce through several trades into land. Nog was strongly against this last trade, upset to own only dirt with no value, but it turns out this land is the last holdout to allow Bajorans to implement their mining. They now have leverage, and can turn it into hard profit, turning it over to Quark to conduct the negotiations.

Kira remains with the old man until he is healthy enough to be up and about again. They finish the kiln and light a fire in it. The man says as long as his house remains, here is where he’ll stay. Kira then destroys the kiln with her phaser. She takes the long stick (torch? It looks like a hammer, maybe) that is lit with flame and uses it to set the old man’s house ablaze in several areas. She tells him it is time to go, and he tells her that if she’s really his friend, she’ll use her phaser on him. She doesn’t, of course. He says if he leaves, he’ll die. She says he won’t, and together they beam out.

Other Thoughts

The ending was a bit abrupt, but I really liked it.  It didn’t feel like everything needed to be wrapped up.  Kira got a lot of much-needed character development. The episode felt very comfy to me. I thought the plot with the kids was a bit tacked on, but even it wasn’t bad. Nog and Jake needed some help with their characters too.

Final Grade:  B

It might surprise you, but I liked this episode.  I guess it was a bit of a bottle episode. Very few effects, very simple, probably very low budget.  Still, I enjoyed it.  It is rare when I like an episode more than Drake, but this one did it for me.

Deep Space 9 WatchParty (Phil) — Season 1, Episode 13 – The Storyteller

Happy Friday, everyone! We’re back with another DS9 WatchParty review, as Drake and I continue to pour through these old episodes of Star Trek. We’re having a lot of fun doing these, and we have talked about potentially expanding the scope to include not just DS9, but also at least Enterprise.

It will be a while before we’re able to get to that, however, and will likely not happen until after the completion of our DS9 watch-through.

Primary Plot

There are three plots to this particular episode, and the writers and directors did a good job of interleaving them. There are lots of cuts back and forth to prevent things from bogging down and getting too boring. This is extremely important, as none of these plots really held my interest. By cutting back and forth between them, the episode kept me more engaged than I otherwise would have.

The primary plot is about Hero O’Brien accidentally stepping into a savior role for a small village hounded by an angry monster, who comes once a year to destroy the village. The savior must confront the monster for five consecutive nights, the villagers are rallied and united together, and they all chant the monster away. The monster itself is a boiling cloud formation that appears in the sky.

The current savior is old and dying. Doctor Bashir is unable to save him, as he’s just dying of old age. Even in Star Trek, they can’t cure or prevent death. O’Brien gets roped into “assisting” the old man in leading the village to unite their wills and common purpose to thwart the monster and is thrust into the role.

Of course, the whole thing is rigged. It is a scam. A psyop. It is manipulation at the hands of the savior/priest to keep the village united and prevent fights, fragmentation, etc. The scam is revealed by the apprentice who tries to murder Hero O’Brien in order to take his place. He’s stopped by the combined efforts of Doctor Bashir and O’Brien. The two DS9 officers immediately hold no ill will against him, find out from him that it is all a scam, and Hero O’Brien immediately just wants to give up the role to the apprentice who tried to murder him so that he can continue manipulating the superstitious, ignorant, and gullible villagers.

The villagers prevent the role switch from happening, and O’Brien has to instead go be a terrible savior and allow the apprentice to save the day, uniting everyone to once more thwart the evil sky-god monster by their ties of unity. The only thing they didn’t do was chant “diversity is our strength.”

Secondary Plots

One of the other two plots going on in this episode is a land dispute between two Bajoran factions on the planet. They appear to be small stakeholders, maybe something at a county level, and the dispute involves the movement of a common border. The marker of the border has always been a river, but the river has changed its course and one side has lost a little bit of territory while their “enemy” has gained.

A diplomatic pow-wow is held on DS9 to sort things out, and one side is represented by a teenage girl. She’s been left in charge of one faction by the death of her father. She’s a hardliner and ready to go to war to prevent the loss of the territory. Her position seems to be that it isn’t her fault the river moved, the river is the border, and tough cookies to anyone who doesn’t like it. Sisko tries to convince her that peaceful compromise is the proper way forward by letting her know her people may not be as eager to die over the land as she is.

The other plot involves Jake and Nog. They like to check out the Promenade by sitting at the railing and dangling their feet off the balcony, much to Odo’s annoyance. Nog sees the teenage girl in the negotiations and is instantly infatuated, dragging Jake along to try to woo her.

We see the two act like idiots, Nog literally, while Jake is more of a pompous ass. However, they show her around and eventually make friends.

Other Thoughts

All is well that ends well, I suppose. Nothing much of consequence happens in this episode. The technical aspects of the episode are pretty good. It moves well due to the good editing, but there just isn’t much to work with here. No one really seemed to care or have any interest or urgency in the outcomes of anything, even Hero O’Brien.

Overall, it seemed like a placeholder episode where they were able to throw in some shade against religion as a mind-control device for controlling sheep, so that the evil elites can fleece the flock for themselves, and yet still keep the villagers aligned to their “own best interest.” 

The episode may be a bit more revealing about elites running things than they may have wanted to be. Certainly, it has the ring of truth to it.

Final Grade:  D

Unfortunately, the episode just falls flat for me. I was uninterested in most of it. It was executed well as far as technical production. The editing was good, they did well with pacing, etc. It just didn’t mean anything to me or move me. I was unpersuaded and rather bored throughout.

Deep Space 9 WatchParty (Phil) – Season 1, Episode 12 – Battle Lines

Welcome to this week’s DS9 WatchParty. We are watching the episode wherein Kira-the-Needlessly-Defiant gets needlessly defiant about someone else’s failure to perceive her as sufficiently defiant.  She is then defiant some more, and ultimately is forced to confront her tendency to be needlessly defiant, but not before she gets a little more defiance in. 

I’m wondering if there will need to be a change in nicknames for her. I guess this will depend on how future episodes go.

Primary Plot

The DS9 crew find intel files kept on all station personnel and sundry by the previous owner/occupants, the Cardassians. Shockingly, they don’t think very highly of the people who stuck around and are now living and working on DS9. This is what Kira-the-Needlessly-Defiant gets upset about. They seemed to think she was a messenger girl at best, a mook, a minion, a flunky. She’s quite indignant about this, but as the case with most of these opening scenes, this goes nowhere. It is just a fun little cookie to throw out and provide a sense of depth and other events taking place on DS9.

The Bajoran Pope-ette (I can’t remember the name now) comes aboard DS9 for diplomatic nicety. She spends some time looking out the viewport towards the wormhole, which is not visibly present, as there is no traffic today. She makes a wistful comment that she’s never seen it, so Kira and Sisko make it a point to put her in a Runabout with them and take her out to see it. Of course, this means they are going through the wormhole. They have the doctor tag along for good measure.

While on the other side, somewhere in the gamma quadrant, they pick up a strange signal. That never happens on Star Trek! Sisko, keeping in mind his passenger, decides to send a probe in to check it out. They can follow up on it later. But the Pope-ette convinces them to not change their normal procedures on her account, so they go in closer to take a look.

Effects have gotten a lot better since even the original TNG run.

The Roundabout gets shot down by a satellite system, and they crash on the planet. The Pope-ette is killed during the crash, and Kira-the-Needlessly-Defiant is, of course, defiant towards death in her overly dramatic scene. It is unintentionally amusing in what should be a moment of high drama.

Kira, less needlessly, but still defiant over death.

The party encounters a group of humanoids who behave aggressively towards them. They’ve been marooned on the planet as criminals and have no way off. There is another band also marooned on the planet, and they fight a meaningless war against each other.

The leader of this new band is played by Mike Erhmantraut from Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad (actor Jonathan Banks). I LOVE this guy. He’s one of my favorites. He plays the same character here that he always does, same vocal intonations and speaking patterns, but all Star Trekked up with long hair and such.

The Pope-ette gets resurrected, and Kira-the-Needlessly-Defiant loses her shit again for the third time this episode, letting Mike have it for not setting sentries, utilizing scouts, and fighting the war appropriately.

The Kira we all know and love!

Mike points out that when you lose your fear of death, there’s not much point to a lot of caution or other survival tomfoolery, and we find out that they’ve been marooned here for a long, long time. They’ve fought an endless war with their rivals, nothing ever changes, and this is basically a living hell.

Sisko decides to try to help and offers them refugee status when they get rescued. Mike takes the band to meet with their rivals, letting them know they can have peace and will be settled on different worlds, if they can work together to get rescued now. The rivals think it is all a trick, things escalate quickly violence ensues, and everyone dies except for the DS9 crew thanks to some fast intervention by the doctor. He’s determined that there is a bacterium that patches everyone up after they die, but if anyone who has died and been resurrected by the bacteria they become completely dependent upon it. If they leave the planet, they’ll die, as the bacterium can’t survive or work there magic anywhere else, for reasons.

Hero O’Brien engineers his way around the satellite defense system and comes to rescue everyone. The Pope-ette decides to honor prophecy and stay behind, ministering and teaching and helping these people. That’s lucky, ‘cause she couldn’t leave anyway.

Kira is forced to confront her needlessly defiant behavior and has a confession of sorts with the Pope-ette.  The doctor breaks the bad news to Mike about their status and offers to try to find a way to reprogram the bacteria to help out. Mike wants to use that to deprogram the bacteria in his enemies and finally win the war, and everyone just bails.

It is an interesting, albeit probably unintended, illustration that those mired in sin will remain in sin and need a savior. Those in Hell find themselves in Hell because of their choices, and once in Hell cannot choose to leave it. They remain chained and enslaved to their sin, having lost all charity and grace.

Other Thoughts

The best thing Star Trek ever did was coming up with their standard User Interface that they started in TNG and used in everything else since. It is attractive, unobtrusive, elegant, and most importantly, it prevents the effects team from having to make something up and produce it every time they want to show something on a monitor or panel. Consistency is great for both the audience and the design/execution.

The effects team just has to plug in whatever doodad or gizmo effect or overlay they want to show, and then move on.  It looks nice enough and everyone can pretend in the same manner that they’re manipulating the same sorts of things.

Final Grade:  B-

This was a fairly good episode, even though it was mired and chained by some writing and execution issues. It was thoughtful and provoking, and Kira got some good character development. Things seem like they are really starting to look up for DS9.

Deep Space 9 WatchParty (Phil) – Season 1, Episode 11 – Vortex

Happy Friday, everyone! This entry is going to be a bit different from my usual rants about DS9. There are a couple of reasons for this.

One, Drake and I actually watched this together, simultaneously, using Amazon’s “WatchParty” feature.  It was a very pleasant time.  Normally we watch these separately, write up our posts, and then discuss them after-the-fact, more like a book club. That works pretty well, but the actual watch party was different, and nice.

Two, this was actually a pretty good episode. I don’t much to rant about. Whatever will I say?

The episode opens with Odo in Quark’s bar, irritating Quark. There’s a new guy on the station, and he lurks in the background, but they studiously avoid involving him in any way. Of course he’s going to be the primary focus of the episode!

The interchange between Odo and Quark is gold, as usual. DS9 should just be a series about them, because they are by far the best, most interesting characters, and the conflict between them is natural and just breathes out little plot arcs all on its own. In this particular instance, Odo is scoping out the bar and ordering nothing, his “usual.” He manages to step on Quark’s tail, and Quark tells him to order something or get out.

Quark then arranges for special bottle service for some unique “customers,” and Odo crashes that party via his clever magic trick of shape changing.

Here’s my rant for the episode: whenever they pull the shape-changing trick of Odo’s, I always think I’ve missed something. The clues are there, but because Odo’s shape-change ability doesn’t respect the law of conservation of matter (or his density fluctuates greatly as he masses only a few ounces in his humanoid form), you can’t ever really be sure what is going on with him. It is just “magic” and you have to wait for them to tell you what happened.

Odo takes the form of a glass on a drinks tray to sneak in where he’s not wanted. The bartender is Quark’s younger brother Rom, who, in previous episodes, has already been established as an idiot. He doesn’t notice the extra glass on the tray. They make sure to really focus on the glasses on the tray as it is carried, too. The camera lingers on it. But still, when the reveal happens, I wasn’t fully sure that I hadn’t missed something and that this wasn’t a different entity other than Odo, because it doesn’t follow any physical laws. Odo’s mass changes with his form.

How many glasses do you see, Picard?

There are FOUR glasses! (and one Odo, and a bottle of something.)

Anyway, we proceed forward. Two aliens are trying to fence a stolen MacGuffin via Quark, who is skeptical. Our main interest in the episode shows up and crashes the party, killing one of the aliens, Odo turns back into Odo from the broken glass and arrests everyone, and Quark plays up his legal righteousness being on the proper side of the law this time.

The plot hole on this is why the main interest was involved at all in this interlude. He has no reason and no interest to be there or be involved. Odo even fingers this plot hole in his interrogation, but the audience is distracted by Rom making a mess of things and Quark having to quickly usher him out. The hole is never mentioned again. Still, it is a great scene with Odo and Quark.

Primary Plot

The main plot is the newcomer. He’s a liar, but a good one. He convinces Odo that he knows and has dealt with other shape shifters in the gamma quadrant. The newcomer is wanted on another planet in the gamma quadrant for various crimes, and DS9 is going to extradite him there.

Odo is tasked with delivering him safely, and there are few minor hiccups that are dealt with in due course. The long and the short of it all is that he has a key that shape changes and appears to share a great many characteristics with Odo. It is a shape shifter artifact, and possibly a lower form of life from the shape-shifting world.

Everything the newcomer says is a lie, or close enough to make little difference. He will be executed on the planet he’s being extradited to, however, and Odo slowly learns enough of him to bond with him somewhat. They are chased by an alien, the brother of the guy the newcomer killed on DS9. He has a faster ship than the roundabout Odo is in, so they duck into a vortex with explosive gas pockets to try to lose him. Odo is forced to trust his prisoner, they work together using teamwork to save the day and each other, and the prisoner lies again and takes Odo to where the key can be used. Odo thinks it will lead him to shape-shifters, but instead it unlocks the prisoner’s daughter from some kind of sleep/stasis chamber.

Odo is moved by the family, the risk the guy took to save his daughter, and the understanding of what it is to be alone in the universe. Odo lets the guy go and even helps him escape, and keeps the shape-shifter artifact-key. It ties him to something larger and gives him a clue about who he is. It lets him know that his people are out there, somewhere, and he’s going to look for them.

Other Thoughts

This is the best episode of the season up to this point. This was a genuinely good show. It did a lot for Odo’s development. He is by far the most fleshed-out character on DS9 at this point, and the writers did the right things with this one. They set him up with something meaningful that will have future hooks.

We understand Odo better, we have seen his character, and we have felt his loss. We now value that little MacGuffin, the shape-shifter key, and it will have as much of a hold on the audience as it does Odo in the future. Hopefully they will not forget about it, and will use it to great effect to continue to build on Odo’s character.

Final Grade:  B

Had this been my first exposure to DS9, this episode would have definitely brought me back to watch another. It isn’t fantastic, mind-blowing, or paradigm altering. It was a solid, good episode, with compelling characters and a story well-told. What else do you want from a TV episode?

I’m hopeful that this episode is the start of a trend with DS9, and we’ll start climbing to new heights. I’m sure there are going to be more valleys, but they have shown they can make some good TV. I’m looking forward to more of that.