Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Star Trek Deep Space Nine (Season 3a)

Season 2b  Season 3b

Well, thus far in, “Deep Space Nine” has not quite measured up to what I was promised, and this first half of season three is a low point. It isn’t terrible, but it is not as compelling as other Treks have been. Sure, it does carry more complex storylines across multiple episodes the way previous Treks had not, but with today’s television the way it is DS9 is hardly impressive. For its day it was cutting edge, but no longer.

Beyond plot, there is also a theme apparent this time around. Nearly every episode is dealing in some way with the concept of identity.

Episodes 1&2 “The Search”

The big revelation in the lengthy two-parter (3 if you count the last episode of season 2) is that Odo finally finds his people. He learns who he is. Or does he? It turns out he is one of the Dominion, the big, scary, unseen adversary on the other side of the wormhole. They don’t deal with this much for the next half-season, but ultimately, Odo decides he is his own person. His values and ethics are more important to him than those of his “home” culture.

Episode 3 “The House of Quark”

Quark gets lucky when attacked, but tries to use his luck to build himself a tough reputation. That is, until his reputation may cost him something. As it turns out, this episode takes things even further, addressing cultural expectations and ethics beyond the simple “lies will cost you” truth.

Episode 4 “Equilibrium”

Every once in a while, Trek takes a high concept story too far and the concept is so out there that we can’t overlook its problems and simply enjoy the story. This is one such case. There is an attempt at addressing some cultural, political injustice here, but we can’t consider it due to the stretch they are asking us to buy.

Episode 5 “Second Skin”

An attempt at a twisty story involving espionage and sleeper advents. It would be more suspenseful if they hadn’t asked us to believe that Kira is the one that might be a double agent. As it is, we are not in the least bit worried.

Episode 6 “The Abandoned”

In a bit of an attempt at carrying the season-long plot forwards, a baby is found that turns out to be one of the enemy aliens. Odo explores his own struggle against his “nature” and projects the same struggle onto the boy when it isn’t really there. The thing about a “sinful” nature is that not everyone will want to fight it. Some people do not want to be better than their nature.

Episode 7 “Civil Defense”

The station becomes a silly trap when they activate some old defenses.

Episode 8 “Meridian”

Every once in a while Trek asks us to believe that their characters will fall completely in love with someone they just met. It never amounts to much, but it does seem to go against the basic values that Trek tries to push. Characters in Trek that are good examples of committed relationships are rare indeed.

Episode 9 “Defiant”

This is a gimmick episode. We get the “guest star” but with a twist. The identity theme this season should make it obvious that Riker is not what he seems, but we had all probably forgotten about his ill-conceived, hard to believe, alter ego.

Episode 10 “Fascination”

Lwaxana shows up with her eyes set on Odo, but has an easy to predict, easy to cure condition that causes everyone to act on unknown desires towards each other. Would be laughably forgettable if it weren’t for one of those rare examples of true love in Trek, the O’Briens, giving us something to care about and root for.

Episodes 11 & 12 “Past Tense”

You want to just hate this story due to its time travel. (Trek really does some terrible time travel!) But this is an episode with (more than usual, even) preachiness. Just in case we didn’t know that ghettoisation, racism, and insensitivity to mental illness was wrong, the writers make up a future event that feels very close to actual historical events that could have been used. That at least would have made the story more fun and it would have had more of an emotional impact. As it is, we get a story set in near contemporary earth that feels somehow more foreign than the 23rd Century.

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