(My review of Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel is not relevant to this post but something went wrong when I posted it Monday and it never appeared in the WordPress Reader so I thought I’d mention it again in case you missed it and wanted to see it. Moving on…)
This is the first installment of a new series in Featured Futures where I log the science fiction and fantasy television and movies I’ve watched recently along with any thoughts that may occur to me (hopefully fewer of them in future installments). I may do this monthly or so because I’d like to include some visual media but don’t want it dominating this print-oriented site. With this post, I’ll pick up where I left off previously with my laughably prolonged re-watch of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
DS9 1.4: “A Man Alone”
In this, among other things, Bashir hits on Dax, Sisko takes Dax (in her guise as “the Old Man”) out to eat (in an awkward scene that’s perhaps acted a little more awkwardly still), and Quark drools over Dax. On the other hand, Odo complains about women second-hand, and O’Brien and Keiko fight verbally, and Odo and a Bajoran fight physically, as well.
The verbal fight is related to the B story about Keiko (Mrs. O’Brien) feeling useless and unhappy until she notices the kids on the station are also at loose ends and getting into trouble. (It is funny how, after Jake and Nog make friends, Rom doesn’t want Nog hanging out with that Human boy and Sisko doesn’t want Jake hanging out with that Ferengi boy when kids can be wiser about such things.) She finally hits on the idea of opening a school and amusingly tries to convince Rom of the profit in understanding other cultures. That story culminates in a classroom being outfitted and a handful of kids showing up to sit in computerized desks that look more suited to Plan 9 than Deep Space 9.
The physical fight is from the A story. When Odo was doing security when the Kardassians ran the station, he put Ebudan, a Bajoran war profiteer, in jail. Ebudan is now free, but Odo wants him gone. When the Bajoran is killed in the “locked room” of the holosuite, it looks like he might have wanted him gone very badly. This results in Odo being removed from duty and in the Bajorans on the station turning into a mob out to get the “shapeshifter” they’ve decided is guilty. So both storylines involve multiculturalism, with Odo being easily scapegoated for his differences.
When Odo runs into his office to escape the mob, it’s questionable, but when he comes out again with the mob still there, it’s plain dumb (even if it’s arbitrarily written to work out). Both storylines end rather awkwardly and easily (though Rom’s line of telling Nog to sit down, but “Not next to that Human boy!” was good). The stories aren’t all that great conceptually or all that well-acted, but much of the interpersonal character stuff does work. Perhaps the best part is when a Bajoran is amazed that Quark would defend Odo, saying, “You’re his worst enemy,” and Quark replies, “I guess that’s the closest thing he has in this world to a friend.” In this episode, you can see the potential if everyone could just relax into their roles and gel.
DS9 1.5: “Babel”
This is the traditional Star Trek Plague Episode but gets points for being less silly than the first TOS or TNG ones. In this, nothing on the station works properly and, while repairing a replicator, O’Brien accidentally sets off a device that infects the food (and then the air), causing everyone to lose the ability to produce or understand speech and which seems to ultimately be fatal. The perpetrators of this biological warfare are unclear and learning more results in no moral comfort. And, as if a plague wasn’t enough, a crazy starship captain is so desperate to avoid getting sick that he’s wrecked his ship trying to break quarantine and may destroy half the station as well.
This episode was a little too close to the bone to be watching now, not least when people were shown filling up Quark’s bar. When Odo challenged him, saying everything was closed, Quark claimed an exception for himself as part of “essential station operations.” And then everyone got sick, of course.
Perhaps because this was such a dire situation needing contrast, there was a surprising amount of humor, though. As is often the case, wily Quark and stiff Odo provide much of it. (Quark and Odo are like brothers in ways: they mess with each other constantly but, when a guy at the bar tries to abuse Quark, Odo puts a stop to it. Nobody beats up Quark but me.)
The first of my three favorite exchanges is when Quark gets caught using replicators that don’t belong to him because his are broken. (I’m attempting quotes, but may be paraphrasing.)
Quark: How’d you figure it out?
Odo: You claimed Rom fixed your replicators.
Odo: Rom’s an idiot. He couldn’t fix a straw if it was bent.
Later, Quark is yelling and gesticulating at a patient in a temporary sick room and claims “They could be faking the illness to avoid paying their bills!” Sisko is passing by and says, “No one could be that devious,” and Quark mutters, “I am.”
Finally, when Odo needs to be transported and Quark’s the only one left to do it, he tells Odo not to worry, as he served on a Ferengi freighter, then adds, “I must have witnessed the procedure hundreds of times” and, as Odo holds up a hand to protest, Quark happily shouts, “Energizing!”
I thought everyone, especially O’Brien, did their word salads well and particularly enjoyed Kira’s role in saving the day in her classic “cut the crap” style. On the other hand, the last episode ended with Sisko saying “life on the station has begun to return to normal” and this one ends with “things are slowly returning to normal,” which would be fine in fantasy and is often hard to really shake up in a TV series, but the show got much better when things began to sometimes change permanently.
DS9 1.6: “Captive Pursuit”
“I am Tosk.”
After the Federation has sent plenty of ships through the wormhole, DS9 encounters its first visitor from the other side when a strange and damaged ship appears with an even stranger being inside. Because O’Brien handled tractoring the ship in, Sisko also gives him the job of meeting the stranger and finding out what’s going on with him. The being will only say “I am Tosk” when asked his name and species and is obviously worried about something but won’t say what it is. The closest he’ll come to saying is, “I live the greatest adventure one could ever desire” and that he only wants to “die with honor.” Despite Tosk’s evasiveness, O’Brien develops a trust in and affection for him, though it’s an uneasy and conflicted feeling. Nevertheless, Odo catches Tosk trying to bypass security to get to the station’s weapons. A tense scene of Odo apprehending Tosk with forcefields follows, and he puts Tosk in a cell. Odo asks him if he’s running from the law having committed crimes and he seems shocked. “Never! I am Tosk.” At the midpoint, just where they should, things get exciting as another ship arrives from the other side, scans the station, begins transporting, is blocked by the now-raised shields, fires at the shields to lower them, and beams faceless, helmeted, armed soldiers aboard. A suspenseful break follows as phasers are drawn. Then station security (and command staff) exchange fire with them as they march into the security cells and we find out what’s going.
That’s all I can really say without spoilers and all I can say by way of impressions is that this is by far the best episode so far and one of the better ones of all. If you’ve seen this or don’t mind spoilers, carry on…
SPOILERS FOR “CAPTIVE PURSUIT” FOLLOW
It’s not much of a spoiler at first, because it’s probably no surprise by this point that Tosk is Big Game, being hunted by the helmeted warriors and under an oath of silence about it to prevent his actively soliciting help. Turns out that they have uplifted these beings into being an honored part of their society and Tosk more than accepts this, but demands it. Sisko is pretty thoroughly disgusted and argues with the aliens who turn out to be strangely reasonable despite having blasted their way onto the station without warning. The leader insists on Tosk being returned to them where, alas, he’ll live out a life of shame for having been captured alive. To pacify Sisko, he says that the newly discovered wormhole will be declared out of bounds for future games. Sisko, in obedience to the Prime Directive, may not like the aliens’ society but has no grounds for refusing. However, Kira has the idea that Tosk could at least ask for asylum and O’Brien runs to get Tosk to do so. Tosk insists this would be against everything he believes and that, though the shame he faces on his return is great, “to stay would be a greater dishonor.”
Another perfect break follows on this refusal for asylum and O’Brien moves into his end game. When the aliens begin to take Tosk to their ship, he gives Odo a load about Sisko saying this was a Federation matter and sending Odo away. Odo (convenience writing!) doesn’t use his communicator but goes to complain about this to Sisko in person. Then O’Brien gives the alien leader a load about it being the human way to accompany the aliens on the transfer. When the alien is leading the collared and leashed Tosk through the airlock, the enhanced weapons check O’Brien has set up zaps the alien leader, O’Brien punches him, and he and Tosk flee. Sisko has learned something is amiss from Odo and it’s determined that the pair are in the ducts. Odo says he’ll seal them off and they won’t get far. In one of the best moments, Sisko says, “Constable. There’s no hurry.” Odo looks perplexed but then understanding and confusion oscillate briefly and he slowly departs. Meanwhile, the leader’s response to having been temporarily knocked unconscious is, “The hunt has resumed,” and the aliens go after the loose Tosk, too, with much more urgency.
There are only a few problems with this episode. Usually very careful to make a point of the 26-hour Bajoran day, the writers have O’Brien talk about his eight hours of sleep and let Tosk later describe it as “a full third” of the day (which is true for humans but we’re not on Earth anymore, Toto). They have O’Brien talk about the Kardassian corridors being made such that he’s never seen a scanning device that could penetrate it (which I’m sure is never used again and, of course, the Tosk-hunters have no trouble with it). The physical action is mostly mediocre (though Tosk has a nice leaping moment) and, early in the episode, Tosk even accidentally kicks O’Brien in the face when they’re coming out the lower area of Tosk’s ship. I’m not sure if this is scripted or not, though I can’t believe it was. But this is all utterly minor stuff the like of which is present in almost every Star Trek episode.
While this episode is pretty good on the level of sheer drama, what makes this episode great for me, is the weird, polite, possibly dangerous character of Tosk, the weird, arrogant, possibly harmless hunters, the strange relation between them, the dilemma that Federation-types find themselves in, and the ultimate decision on what to do about it. There’s nothing real easy here. Early on, Tosk is surprised that the Federation is looking to attract attention from the Gamma Quadrant and O’Brien explains that, “Our mission as Starfleet officers is to seek out new lifeforms so we can learn about each other.” What they learn in this event is that they may find some other societies repugnant but that situations can be complex and without simple answers. Early on, Tosk tells O’Brien “We are very different,” and, by the end, we certainly know that to be true in a very deep sense.
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