Star Trek Voyager: The Cloud

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 19:21

Time to review another Voyager episode…

The Cloud: D

With energy reserves nearly depleted, Voyager investigates possible resources inside a nebula, which – as it turns out – is not really a nebula.

Air date: 2/13/1995
Teleplay by Tom Szollosi and Michael Piller
Story by Brannon Braga
Directed by David Livingston

“Find yourself a seat with a good view because just like Jonah and the whale, you’re going in.” – Captain Janeway

This episode dances all over the place, with an A story that takes forever to get going and B and C stories that wander aimlessly.

The main story features the titular cloud, a Nebula-like thing, which Voyager investigates. After beginning as a mystery, it turns into a medical drama of sorts, but it’s a weak story all around filled with more technobabble than substance. To fill out the episode, Paris creates a pool hall and Chakotay teaches Janeway how to find her spirit animal. It’s all about as memorable as one of the redshirts from the Original Series, though it is rather funny to see the Doctor give a description of Dr. Zimmerman and jokingly throw out the idea of programming a family, both the subject of future episodes. Truth be told, however, the episode’s story lacks much of a story. It does not, however, lack extras, probably because the episode’s director, David Livingston, is also Voyager’s supervising producer, the guy in charge of how many are allowed for each episode!

Star Trek Voyager: Phage

Wednesday, April 15, 2015 5:57

Phage: B

Neelix’s lungs are removed by a race that suffers from a deadly phage that is slowly destroying their population prompting them to harvest replacement organs and tissues from other species.

Air date: 2/6/1995
Teleplay by Skye Dent and Brannon Braga
Story by Timothy DeHaas
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

“The Doctor says whoever did this used some kind of transporter to beam the lungs directly out of his body.” – Chakotay

Boy, when you’re creating a Star Trek episode, it takes guts to remakes “Spock’s Brain”, but that’s basically what this one is, with Neelix’s lungs serving as the MacGuffin. This time, the writers get it largely right, turning it into a medical drama that gives Robert Picardo an opportunity to show off his stuff. Stepping into his first “Doctor” episode, Picardo has plenty of sardonic wit, but he hasn’t developed too much more for the character, leaving plenty of improvement for future episodes. Fortunately, starting simple before growing throughout the series works for a hologram who was just “born”, giving him an interesting arc. In the meantime, Picardo needs help carrying “Phage”, and he gets it. Ethan Phillips (Neelix) and Jennifer Lien (Kes) step into the roles of a paraplegic and his loved one respectively and turn this into arguably their best episode together. Lien has already established Kes as assertive but polite by this point, and it works especially well within the context of this plot. Phillips meanwhile, gets plenty of opportunities to develop the Talaxian, with Neelix experiencing a broad range of activities, from setting up makeshift kitchen to exploring a planet to waking up on a medical table unable to move. He uses the spectrum to add depth to his character, allowing us to draw closer to him.

In the B story, Janeway hunts down Neelix’s lungs, thankfully not running into any miniskirted girls in the process. It’s pretty standard fare for the most part, but it does lead to an unexpected conclusion and gives us the first real display of how protective the captain is of her crew.

The organ harvesting Vidiians return for several more episodes, beginning with “Faces” later in the first season, but “Phage” provides a strong and memorable foundation.

Star Trek Voyager: Time and Again

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 15:52
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This continues my reviews for every Star Trek episode ever. I’m assigning a letter grade to each Voyager episode.

Time and Again: B

While investigating a massive explosion that destroyed all life on a planet, Janeway and Paris are swept back a day in time to just before it happens.

Air date: 1/30/1995
Teleplay by David Kemper and Michael Piller
Story by David Kemper
Directed by Les Landau

“You wanted the truth? Alright, here’s the truth. We’re from the future. Exactly one day in the future.” – Janeway

This one has quite the concept! Like the previous episode, “Parallax”, “Time and Again” has some fun playing around with cause and effect; but whereas “Parallax” uses a time distortion (or reflection), “Time” uses time travel. With Janeway and Paris one day behind the rest of the crew, each on opposite sides of an apocalyptic disaster, the episode cleverly weaves its A and B story together by intercutting between the past and the present at the same locations. (It’s sort of like the second Lord of the Rings film where the story intercuts between Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli on the borders of Fangorn Forest and Merry and Pippin at the same location the night before.) It’s an interesting way to integrate the two parts and make every scene matter.

Unfortunately, the premise, which requires Janeway and Paris to fit in with the aliens, dictates that the planet’s culture be just like Earth. It’s something other Trek incarnations do once in a while, but for with Voyager being on the other side of the galaxy, it seems out of place and certainly fails to highlight how far they are from home. Perhaps worse, the script attempts to turn Kes is into Guinan, a character with an intuitive sense that goes beyond the limits of space and time. Whoopie Goldberg knows how to pull it off, but Jennifer Lien isn’t a good enough actress to make it work. (To make matters worse for Lien, her character’s visit to the doctor gives Robert Picardo a chance to upstage her, and he takes full advantage of the opportunity.)

Still, the premise itself is strong, and “Time and Again” has enough interesting to bits to make it one of VOY’s better first season episodes.

Star Trek Voyager: Parallax

Sunday, March 29, 2015 20:12

This continues my reviews for every Star Trek episode ever.

Parallax: C+

Investigating an apparent distress call, Voyager becomes trapped inside the event horizon of a quantum singularity.

Air date: 1/23/1995
Teleplay by Brannon Braga
Story by Jim Trombetta
Directed by Kim Friedman

“Wait a minute, let me get this straight. We were cruising along at warp seven, then we pick up a distress call and moved in to investigate. But now you’re saying that the other ship is actually just a reflection of us and that the distress call is actually just the captain’s opening hail.” – Paris

Taking the baton from TNG, VOY uses a sci fi conundrum to bring B’Elanna and Janeway closer together in the first bottle show of the series. Beneath the technobabble, it’s purely a paint by numbers plot as old as the hills: people have doubts about B’Elanna, but the plot provides her a test and gives her a chance to prove herself to everyone.

Fortunately, the story includes quite a bit of Janeway, who proves herself no dummy. A trap for plots of this kind is to suddenly have the leader appear more incompetent than usual to set the stage for the lesser character to save everyone. But here, Janeway hangs with B’Elanna each step of the way as they work through the crisis, keeping Janeway a strong character and turning a story about “earning respect” into a two way street. (Janeway also has some great moments with Chakotay, with the early part of the plot drawing him into the mix and weaving some drama out of their new working relationship.)

B’Elanna, of course, goes through all the motions of the typical TV redemption plot. It’s somewhat uninspired, and the crisis itself is similar to dozens of TNG episodes, but that’s not really the point of it all. It’s really about establishing her character, and it does a so just fine.

Star Trek Voyager: Caretaker

Monday, March 23, 2015 17:42
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I’m continuing my reviews for every episode of Star Trek, but I’m going to handle Voyager a little differently. I’ll be doing one episode a week, beginning today with the pilot, and I’ll grade the episodes based on an A through F school-style scale. So here we go!

Caretaker (Series Premiere): A

The newly commissioned starship Voyager and a Maquis raider are flung into the remote Delta Quadrant by a powerful entity known as the Caretaker.

Air date: 1/16/1995
Teleplay by Michael Piller & Jeri Taylor
Story by Rick Berman & Michael Piller & Jeri Taylor
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

“Captain, if these sensors are working, we’re over seventy thousand light years from where we were. We’re on the other side of the galaxy.” – Ensign Kim

Written primarily by the same man who stabilized TNG’s writing staff and wrote DS9’s pilot, Caretaker skillfully launches Voyager with a two hour romp that simultaneously works well as a beginning and as a standalone story. Like TNG’s pilot, the story is basically a mystery mixed with a powerful alien, though here the elements are better interwoven and no expense is spared. At $23 million, this is Star Trek’s most expensive episode of all time, giving the story ample location shooting, visual effects, and whatever it needs to jumpstart the series and launch a network.

Benefitting from exposition planted in TNG and DS9 episodes (“Journey’s End”, “The Maquis Part I and II”, and “Preemptive Strike”) Voyager’s pilot opens with a Star Wars-like crawl and then kicks into gear immediately, cutting a quick pace as it moves along and introduces the characters.

Dodging the obvious choice of the captain as its central player, the episode uses Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) as the way into the story and makes him more or less the primary character. It’s an interesting choice, with Paris being an outcast, getting a character arc that helps sum up what the show’s all about: a new life. (Interestingly, the idea that Paris is unpopular because of a piloting accident that killed some popular crewman is remarkably similar to something that happened to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. One day in the South Pacific back in 1943, where Roddenberry was serving as a pilot in World War II, his B-17 didn’t pick up enough speed to become airborne and the brakes wouldn’t respond. The plane ended up crashing into a sea of palm stumps, and two crewmembers died. Many in Roddenberry’s squadron questioned why he didn’t perform a ground loop maneuver that could have saved everyone’s lives, unaware or not wanting to understand that there wasn’t enough time. On a side note, the crash prevented Roddenberry from participating in a search for survivors of a Navy PT boat that was destroyed that same morning, forcing someone else to rescue John F. Kennedy.) TNG fans, of course, will remember McNeill as Nicholas Lacarno from the fifth season episode “The First Duty”, a character with nearly the same backstory as Paris. Naturally it’s easy to wonder why the show invents Paris and doesn’t just use Lacarno (which the producers did consider), but really, it’s better for Voyager to start from scratch. The truth is that McNeill’s character in “The First Duty” is (appropriately) selfish and arrogant, which is what really gets him into trouble. Paris, on the other hand, though similar in demeanor, is more selfless and full of self doubt. While VOY could (and almost did) reuse Lacarno and try to recharacterize him, there’s no reason to go to so much trouble because of one TNG episode some years back. With Paris a blank slate, the show is able to introduce him to us the way they wish and develop him throughout the episode and series without being tethered down.

In the meantime, the pilot offers Kate Mulgrew plenty of opportunity to put her stamp on Captain Janeway, creating a character that’s vulnerable in private but unquestionably in charge in public. Mulgrew, who was brought in to replace Geneviève Bujold, gives a performance that’s not just extraordinary but extraordinarily important for Star Trek and television. It might seem sexist today, but after a poor performance by Bujold (who quit the second day), there was some doubt from the executives as to whether a woman could actually front a show they were relying on to launch UPN. Mulgrew, however, owns the part, giving it a Kathryn Hepburn quality and proving she’s just as good as any leading man, Shatner and Stewart included.

Meanwhile, with nine regulars to introduce, some characters get shortchanged. The Doctor, who would go on to be one of the show’s breakout characters, gets in a couple funny lines but doesn’t have much more to do than his cameo later on in the eighth Star Trek film. Seska (who is not a regular but does prominently factor into the first two seasons) doesn’t appear at all. But while some have more to do and some less, most of the major characters get a chance to at least outline the basics of their personalities and relationships. (Meanwhile, a visit to Deep Space Nine gives us a Quark cameo.)

Always remaining a favorite for the cast, crew, and fans alike, the events in “Caretaker” come back into play in several episodes of the series, starting with second season’s “Projections”. Unfortunately, “Caretaker” is the last Star Trek pilot by Piller, who died of head and neck cancer in 2005. With his ability to successfully create Star Trek out of thin air, it’s a shame he didn’t get to do more, even if was through standalone TV movies featuring new characters. (George Lucas tried this very thing with The Ewok movies, but he couldn’t replicate the spark he carefully developed in the Star Wars movies. Piller didn’t seem to have this problem within the Star Trek universe.)

For the debut of Voyager and UPN, “Caretaker” is a heck of a beginning. In fact it’s so good, the show never has to employ an idea planted in the pilot specifically to set up a quick finale if the show were to be cancelled early on: the idea of a second caretaker. (They bring back the idea, nonetheless, for the sake of completion in second season’s “Cold Fire”.)

DS9 Reviews Part 46

Sunday, March 8, 2015 21:16
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Welcome to another installment of my reviews for all 715 episodes of Star Trek. Today I continue with Deep Space Nine, finishing season seven. I’m rating these episodes on a scale of 1 to 10 with the following meaning:

1. Abysmal, 2. Terrible, 3. Bad, 4. Poor, 5. Mediocre,
6. Fair, 7. Good, 8. Great, 9. Superb, 10. Perfect

In addition, I’ll be rating (on a scale of 1 to 10) the historical importance (HI) of the episodes – looking at how much they tie into other Star Trek episodes or lay down important precedents.

When it Rains..: 7.5

As DS9 prepares for war and sends emissaries to Damar, Bashir discovers that Odo has the Founders’ disease.

Air date: 5/3/1999
Teleplay by Rene Echevarria
Story by Rene Echevarria & Spike Steingasser
Directed by Michael Dorn

“You’re going to have to put your personal feelings aside. Now, whether you like Damar or not is irrelevant. We need him. The Dominion knows they have to stop his rebellion before it spreads, and it’s up to you to see that they don’t.” – Sisko to Kira

Starting up the second half of “The Final Chapter” (DS9’s final 9 episodes), “When it Rains…” introduces several new plot lines, moving from story to story until it ends so abruptly, the credits can come as a surprise.

Balancing the predictable and unpredictable, Echevarria and Dorn cut a quick pace from the get-go and throw everything but the kitchen sink at the viewers. Gowron returns to replace Martok. Bashir must deal with a bureaucratic run around, like someone in our time trying to get help from customer service. Kira and Garak, former friends of Ziyal, are forced to help Damar. And Dukat finally goes too far and gets a lecture from Kai Winn about humility, which is sort of like Kanye West giving a sermon on manners. They’re all such diverse ideas, and they’re all thrown out so quickly, there’s no time for the viewer to stop and process it all until the credits suddenly appear out of nowhere.

What to make of it all? Well, it’s like a DS9 sampler, with a taste of the next two DS9 episodes thrown together before the subsequent episodes share the proper servings. Yet as an episode itself, it works splendidly, perhaps even better than the episodes it sets up. Perhaps Michael Dorn and rain aren’t such a bad combination after all!

HI: 7

Tacking Into the Wind: 7

While Kira and the Cardassians plot to steal a Breen weapon, Gowron begins reckless attacks against the Dominion.

Air date: 5/10/1999
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Mike Vejar

“Who was the last leader of the High Council that you respected? Has there even been one? And how many times have you had to cover up the crimes of Klingon leaders because you were told it was for the good of the Empire? I know this sounds harsh, but the truth is, you have been willing to accept a government that you know is corrupt. Gowron’s just the latest example. Worf, you are the most honorable and decent man I’ve ever met, and if you’re willing to tolerate men like Gowron, then what hope is there for the Empire?” – Ezri

With the DS9/Cardassian alliance as the one story and some Klingon political intrigue as the other, “Tacking” is a fast moving, somewhat satisfying episode with some resolutions to “When it Rains…” while its C story teases what’s coming next.

The Kira/Damar story is really a character-based caper plot, with the two leading a risky undercover heist. It’s a fun story that tucks in some touching moments between Odo and Kira, but it winds its way to an end that’s as predictable as the conclusion to an episode of Gilligan’s Island. (Personally, I wish I could see Weyoun, with the Founder prodding him on, chasing Damar around the galaxy.) Damar himself proves one of the show’s surprise successes, thanks in large part to Casey Biggs; but after what the Cardassian does to Ziyal early in season six, it’s difficult to accept the character’s redemption, and looking back, the writers probably wish they hadn’t taken his character so far down that road.

Meanwhile, we have an episode where Ron Moore is once again writing Klingon stuff for Worf and Gowron five years after we figured the conclusion of TNG put an end to it. “Tacking” marks Robert O’Reilly’s last Star Trek appearance, allowing him to bring a conclusion to the Klingon Chancellor he introduced to us in TNG’s “Reunion” nine years prior. Gowron’s new ambition is sudden and feels contrived, and there’s really not much more to the story other than Worf’s internal struggle, but there’s something to be said for a Klingon plot that’s quick and to the point – especially at this stage. The Klingons would return in Enterprise, but from a chronological standpoint, this is their goodbye.

HI: 7

Extreme Measures: 5

Bashir and O’Brien lure Sloan to the station in a desperate search for the cure to a disease.

Air date: 5/17/1999
Written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Directed by Steve Posey

“If you’re determined to go on this lunatic mission inside Sloan’s head, then somebody with an ounce of sanity has to be with you.” – O’Brien

William Sadler, last seen a few episodes before in “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges”, returns to reprise Sloan, with Bashir and O’Brien taking a journey inside the mysterious agent’s head (which conveniently takes on the appearance of the station, giving the series a cost saving bottle show). The concept has an early season feel to it and is particularly reminiscent of third season’s “Distant Voices” but feels out of place in “The Final Chapter”, the serialized nine episode finale for the show.

The premise itself, built on the idea that Section 31 is behind Odo’s disease and knows of a cure, is based on assumptions from Dr. Bashir. Yet unlike real life, instead of making an ass out of himself and mption, he turns out to be right. Unfortunately, the “Inside Sloan’s Head” gimmick never develops enough substance to make it a serious drama, with too much time spent on Brannon Braga-like mind games and not enough time developing a story. What the script really needs is more money, allowing Bashir and O’Brien (and/or Odo) to visit the headquarters of Section 31 and seek out information about the disease that could lead Bashir to develop a cure. (In fact, this was the original plan until the producers needed to find a way to save money for the final episode of the series.) Instead, the cure becomes a MacGuffin with a simplified “behind door number three” climax. It’s a disappointing waste of Sloan who deserves better in his final appearance.

HI: 3

The Dogs of War: 7

While Kira, Damar, and Garak are ambushed on Cardassia, Quark receives a message from Grand Nagus Zek asking him to be the next leader of the Ferengi Alliance.

Air date: 5/24/1999
Teleplay by Ronald D. Moore & Rene Echevarria
Story by Peter Allan Fields
Directed by Avery Brooks

“If you don’t mind hiding in a basement, I guess I don’t mind having you down here.” – Mila

Getting very near the end, Avery Brooks get a chance to direct the penultimate episode of his Star Trek series just like Patrick Stewart before him. This one is another smorgasbord of storylines that throws a lot at the viewer, though its various flavors don’t always go well together.

The meat of the episode takes place on Cardassia, with Kira, Damar, and Garak trapped on the world now occupied by the Orwellian-like Dominion. It’s an interesting juxtaposition for Kira, who formerly was in the same situation on Bajor when it was occupied by Cardassia; but the real story here is about Damar becoming a Cardassian folk hero. It’s the same story the show tries with Li Nalas to open the second season, but it works better in “Dogs” because it’s developed more organically and Casey Biggs is a better actor than Richard Beymer.

Meanwhile, the Ferengi have their story tied up with a Quark comedy runner that features the final appearances of Grand Nagus Zek, Quark’s mom, Brunt, Rom, and Leeta. (Happily, Brunt and Weyoun, played by the same actor, finally appear in the same episode, with the writers/editor even having fun cutting from one character to the other. Sadly, we never get a “Brunt meets Weyoun” gag, which would have been even better.) Not surprising for the Ferengi, we get a typical sitcom plot, weaving comedy out of confusion, but that’s probably a fitting conclusion to these characters. Quark, in particular, deserves an episode to bring his story to a close, and Shimerman has some great moments. (The best part is writer Ron Moore parodying his own work, having Quark summon his inner Picard by declaring, “The line has to be drawn here! This far, and no further!”)

There are also C, D, and E stories, with virtually every other character getting their own moment, but some are more effective than others. Sisko has a couple of standout scenes, with Brooks again proving that he knows how to direct himself; meanwhile, Ezri isn’t so good repeating her “awkward relationship” storyline from a few episodes ago, this time with Bashir in Worf’s place. The diverse stories all lead to a bit of a disjointed episode; but for one that’s set just before the finale, the whole thing is remarkably self contained… until the last scene. Serving as a cliffhanger, it feels like the first scene of the series finale.

“Dogs of War” received an Emmy nomination for “outstanding makeup”.

HI: 7

What You Leave Behind: 9 (Series Finale)

The Federation Alliance attempts to defeat the Dominion.

Air date: 5/31/1999
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by Allan Kroeker

“The Emissary’s task is nearing completion.” – Sarah Sisko

Taking a more leisurely pace than “All Good Things”, DS9’s two hour series finale brings the Dominion war to a close and sends the characters off into the sunset in a way that TOS doesn’t and TNG, with its move to feature films, can’t. It’s a character-based emotional roller-coaster filled with action, suspense, comeuppance, laughter, tears, and goodbyes.

Closing the book on the series, the episode has to hit a number of plot points (and a record setting number of guest stars), but in the sure hands of director Allan Kroeker (who would on to direct the finales of Voyager, and Enterprise), each beat hits at the right time, giving the war’s endgame a satisfying layout and turning the aftermath into an engaging coda. With previous episodes carefully positioning the characters into different facets of the war, the finale is able to bring us its conclusion from a wide variety of viewpoints, giving us a less of a comic book close and more of a realistic representation of victory and defeat than television is known for. (How ironic for this to happen in a sci fi series!) There aren’t one or two actions that will ultimately decide the lives of billions; there are many events happening simultaneously that form the conclusion, cutting off options and hemming in the losing side before the leader is finally cornered and forced to accept the checkmate.

And yet it all leaves room for the aftermath to breath. with the characters embarking on separate paths in a way that leaves no question that this is the end.

Is the episode perfect? Not quite. The pilot indicates that Sisko’s mission is to prepare Bajor to join the Federation, but the finale fails to address the issue. Instead, Sisko feels a disturbance in the force and journeys to the cave set to give us a good versus evil fight that seems more Star Wars than Star Trek. (Although, come to think of it, it does have the same climax as “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, the second pilot for the Original Series.) The events bring closure to the characters of Dukat and Winn, a must for the series, but the sequence is cartoonish compared to the rest of the episode and gives the series an anticlimactic finish.

To be fair, however, that’s a small piece of the puzzle, and what the finale does well, it does very well. There are some thrilling space battles with impressive visual effects (garnering an Emmy Nomination, even though the sequences are filled out with stock footage). We get death scenes that are all the more dramatic for not being overly so. And there are emotional montages dedicated to the main characters, comprised of footage spanning the seven seasons of the show. There’s even the first fully CGI shot of the station, used for a breathtaking final shot.

In the end, the series remains true to what it’s always been: the Star Trek that isn’t afraid to get some dirt under its finger nails but finds a way to remain classy.

HI: 10

Seventh Season Thoughts:

With few standout episodes and eroding ratings due to increased competition and franchise fatigue, Deep Space Nine’s seventh season is largely forgettable except for one homerun shot: “The Final Chapter”, a nine part finale tying up most of the loose ends of the series. Ratings-wise, the serialized format did nothing for the show. (In fact, the final episode only did a 5.4 Nielsen rating, a number the series routinely beat its first four seasons.) But today, with fans easily able to watch them all in order without missing an episode, it’s become one of the show’s most popular bits.

The final episode itself was nominated for an Emmy (for visual effects), joining “The Dogs of War” (makeup), “Badda-bing, Badda-bang” (hairstyling), and “Prodigal Daughter” (art direction) for the honor, bringing the series’ total to thirty nominations in all with four wins.

Behind the scenes, Hans Beimler moved from supervising producer to co-executive producer and Bradley Thompson and David Weddle moved from story editors to executive story editors, with all three helping to supervise the staff. Meanwhile, with cinematographer Jonathan West frequently absent (including for most of the final arc) to help buddy LeVar Burton with a Disney Channel movie, camera operator Kris Krosskove was given an opportunity to serve as director of photography.

Avery Brooks, Michael Dorn, Rene Auberjonois were able to direct their final episodes, though it’s Steve Posey who proved the most prolific , crossing over from Xena and Hercules to direct his first four (and last four) Star Trek episodes.

Of course, it was Executive Producer Ira Steven Behr who had the most to do. In addition to overseeing the show, he worked with Beimler to pen seven of the twenty five episodes for the season. Interestingly, Behr was given only one directive from the studio : don’t make the finale about the war! Running two hours, it is, but it’s also about much more.

And so what does the series, giving us 176 hours of television, leave behind? A high quality product that challenges and rewards its audience while remaining true to itself.


Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015)

Friday, February 27, 2015 14:41
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Leonard Nimoy Dies At 83

Leonard Nimoy died this morning in his home. He was 83 years old and is survived by his wife, two children, and six grandchildren.

A few days before his passing, Nimoy shared his final public statement on twitter: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP [live long and prosper]”.

In honor of Nimoy, here’s my review of a classic Star Trek episode.

The Galileo Seven:

Spock commands a stranded away team after their shuttlecraft crashes on a planet with hostile giants.

Air date: 1/5/1967
Teleplay by Oliver Crawford and S. Bar-David
Story by Oliver Crawford
Directed by Robert Gist

Inspired by the 1939 disaster film Five Came Back and taking advantage of a new licensing deal with AMT, Star Trek gives us our first Mr. Spock character study, placing the Vulcan in command of an A story about him and his crew of six others trapped on a planet. Meanwhile, Kirk attempts to find the shuttle and its crew in the B story but is constantly reminded the Enterprise is needed elsewhere by High Commissioner Ferris, the authority figure of the week. It’s a classic Star Trek plot and a breakthrough episode for Leonard Nimoy, who was already finding his character before but finally gets to establish him here.

It all begins with the launch of a shuttlecraft, a setting introduced to the show courtesy of AMT (originally called Aluminum Model Toys) which agreed to build a miniature shuttle model, a lifesize exterior set, and even the interior set in exchange for merchandising rights. With this triple play, the writers are able to have the characters interact with the setting any way they want, and it provides Spock, McCoy and company with a great setting for rich character interplay as the story moves from inside to outside (the planet set) and back again. The basic idea behind the drama is that Spock assumes his step by step logical approach is the best way to command, but the others don’t trust his judgement. In the end, he’s not only fighting an external battle with the others to reaffirm his command but an internal battle with himself as he begins to question his own actions. (In fact, the real issue isn’t even about logic versus emotion but what it takes to make decisions and be a leader.) The beauty of the script is that it doesn’t provide easy answers or predictable outcomes to prove who’s right but continues to throw out curveballs throughout the episode, making us wonder throughout the episode just who does have the best idea. (There are times it’s easy to agree with Spock, but there are other times it’s just as easy to agree with someone else.)

But it’s Leonard Nimoy, for once getting an episode without “you know who” by his side, who makes the whole thing work. With a script that allows his character to make mistakes and learn from them, Nimoy plays up Spock’s stubbornness and self assured nature on the surface, layering it with a subtext of soul searching and self doubt. It’s this ability to create a facade while simultaneously letting us in that Nimoy does so well, and what makes Spock work. By the end of the episode, Spock’s character arc has played out under the surface, as if his Vulcan half is trying to disguise it from us, saying “Nothing to see here” while we see through it and admire him all the more for his humanity.

Meanwhile, Kirk orders searches for the shuttle from the bridge of the Enterprise, a B story that’s there partly to give William Shatner something to do and partly to serve as a ticking clock counting down to zero, personified by Ferris. When the mission does end, Kirk’s relief can come across as bizarre if you think about it. (Why doesn’t he wonder who has made it and who’s been left behind? And why doesn’t he ask if the missing crewman are still alive on the planet? And, come to think of it, if the Enterprise is so desperately needed elsewhere, why is he leaving at the leisurely speed of warp 1?)

But really, this isn’t a Kirk episode, and these are just issues for nitpickers. This is about Mr. Spock’s journey; the same Mr. Spock who always loses to Kirk in chess, because Spock’s logic ultimately loses to Kirk’s intuition. Here, it’s Spock who finds both to win his own game of chess by himself against the great unknown.

(All this said, I do wish the episode had a little more in it in defense of Spock’s logical approach. Mr. Boma’s assertion that they should hold funeral services seems rather boneheaded when time is of the essence and there are killer giants on the surface of the planet. In the end, the writers leave it to the audience to say, “Man, that Boma’s a jerk.” But it would be nice if McCoy or Scotty were to defend Spock a little more here.)

Remastered Version (2007): For this episode, CBS Digital lets their hair down and creates some new effects unlike anything seen before. The truth is that while the original effects were passable in 1966 (indeed, they are reused in subsequent episodes), they barely give enough visual information to make out what’s happening. The quasar is a blob. The planet within is a poorly colored version of the planet from “The Man Trap”, and the shuttles look like toys. (In fact, the trail the shuttle leaves near the end, a key story point, is barely visible.) For the new version, the quasar is distinct, the planet is properly shrouded, and the shuttles get the star treatment, complete with a new shuttle bay (and a much more visible trail). They even update the ship’s chronometer to match “The Naked Time” and “The Corbomite Maneuver”. In the end, with the new effects better telling the story, CBS turns an already great episode into a better one.

DS9 Reviews Part 45

Thursday, February 26, 2015 20:50

Welcome to another installment of my reviews for all 715 episodes of Star Trek. Today I continue with Deep Space Nine, season seven. I’m rating these episodes on a scale of 1 to 10 with the following meaning:

1. Abysmal, 2. Terrible, 3. Bad, 4. Poor, 5. Mediocre,
6. Fair, 7. Good, 8. Great, 9. Superb, 10. Perfect

In addition, I’ll be rating (on a scale of 1 to 10) the historical importance (HI) of the episodes – looking at how much they tie into other Star Trek episodes or lay down important precedents.

Penumbra: 6

When Worf goes missing, Dax takes matters into her own hands. Meanwhile, Sisko begins making plans for his future.

Air date: 4/5/1999
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by Steve Posey

“I talked to Benjamin this morning. He said that according to the Koraga’s crew, Worf was the last one to leave the bridge. No one knows if he made it to the escape pod.” – Dax

DS9 starts up what it calls “the final chapter”, a nine part finale, with this Ezri/Worf romance episode that’s great for fans of the Daz/Worf relationship but a bit of a snoozer for everyone else.

Ezri and Worf get the A story, but it seems more like a Jadzia thing than an Ezri one. (If Terry Farrell was still with the show at this point, they could do the same plot.) It’s an “Out of the frying pan, into the fire” adventure away from the station, giving the two a chance to bicker and quarrel, and ending with… well, as it always does in this sort of thing. Joining the series so late, it’s a challenging for Nicole de Boer to establish Ezri as a beloved character even with the best of scripts, but having to deal with old Jadzia stuff doesn’t even give her a chance. Unfortunately, Michael Dorn is dealing with the opposite end of the spectrum. He’s played Worf in so many Star Trek episodes (holding the Star Trek record for most hours on screen) that it seems as though the writers have run out ideas for him, and they’re trying to return to the well once too often (or more).

The station-based B story, on the other hand, shows more promise, though it’s more abstract. Sisko and Kasidy decide to get married, but Sisko’s status as Emissary complicates the situation. It’s a lot of fun to see Sisko so excited about his future beyond Deep Space Nine and undeniable that some interesting things are going to happen no matter how it all turns out.

Meanwhile, there’s some exposition from Cardassia, where The Dominion, Damar, and Dukat begin to set some new schemes in motion.

As the opener of a multi-part finale, it’s easy to give the episode a pass; it’s not meant to pay anything off, it’s meant to set stories in motion. But with old Jadzia/Worf issues forming its spine, as an episode on its own it’s underwhelming.

HI: 7

‘Til Death Do Us Part: 6

Sisko agonizes over whether to marry Kasidy.

Air date: 4/12/1999
Written by David Weddle & Bradley Thompson
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

“If you do this, you will know only sorrow.” – the Prophets

Providing the characters with an episode to discuss their issues with each other and come to decisions, “’Til Death” doesn’t do much to advance the storylines but lays the foundation for the episodes to come.

Sisko gets the weightiest matter, with his heart telling him to marry Kasidy and the prophets saying otherwise. The subject matter plays to Brooks’s strengths, with Sisko having an internal struggle; unsure what the right choice is to make… or if there even is one.

Meanwhile, Worf and Ezri spend the episode in a Breen holding cell, giving them plenty of opportunity to continue their bickering in a repetitive plot line that doesn’t really go anywhere but circles. The idea works for Waiting for Godot because the circular nature of the story includes subtle variations to sustain interest. Here, however, it’s just a stall that draws attention to the fact that these two characters have no chemistry together.

As for the “evil forces”, the Dominion continues to plot (giving Jeffrey Combs an opportunity to steal a scene) but isn’t yet in position to press the Federation. The most perverse (and interesting) plotline, however, sees Dukat, disguised as a Bajoran, courting Kai Winn and winning her heart (appropriately enough) through falsehoods. Proving the DS9 writers are a sick, twisted bunch (which is great, by the way), the sequence of scenes between the two just gets creepier and creepier as it moves along. Still, DS9 gets ahead of itself with this particular thread, starting up the Dukat/Winn stuff (by their admission) too soon, leading to some stalling in later episodes. Looking back, “Penumbra” and “’Til Death” would be better if they were combined into one fast moving episode focusing on Sisko, with the Dukat/Winn situation postponed for later. As is, “’Til Death” is sort of like sitting in a waiting room.

HI: 7

Strange Bedfellows: 7.5

While the Dominion and the Breen negotiate an alliance, Ezri and Worf are sentenced to death.

Air date: 4/19/1999
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Rene Auberjonois

“The alliance between the Breen Confederacy and the Dominion will end the destructive war that has torn this quadrant apart. With the Breen at our side, the Federation will not be able to stand against us.” – Changeling leader

With a focus on the antagonists, this piece of the nine-part “Final Chapter” is an exciting look at one character turning to the “dark side”, another experiencing a rebirth, and another experiencing a quick death.

In the roles of Anakin Skywalker and Chancellor Palpatine we have Kai Winn and Dukat, with Winn struggling to reject the power evil offers. (And really, does it get any more evil than the two of them getting it on?) With Winn’s history and the Marc Alaimo’s consistently strong performances, it would be easy for the writers to turn this into a “Dukat moment”, where the Cardassian wins her heart just as easily as he wins his followers (if temporarily) that appear in “Covenant”. But instead, Ron Moore wisely uses Dukat as merely a supporting player and sets the episode on Louise Fletcher’s shoulders, giving her an internal struggle which ties together all the sympathetic and not so nice things we’ve learned about her over the years.

At the same time, the writers (with Behr, Beimler, and Echevarria finishing the script after Moore’s wife unexpectedly went into labor a month early) also effectively mine the history between Weyoun and Damar from previous seasons, giving the two some terrific scenes to drive the other half of the plot. (There’s also the climax of the Worf/Dax storyline that begins as a comedy runner before finally getting the point.)

It’s all exposition for future episodes, of course, and the writers don’t really need a full episode to show us how all these characters, most notably Winn and Damar, have arrived at their decisions. (Indeed, originally this episode was to include Sisko’s wedding, but it was shifted into the previous episode late in the game.) But in this case, there’s something more exciting about seeing the decisions drawn out. The fun isn’t seeing what choices the characters make; it’s seeing how they arrive at them. And the episode is another of many that shows how even the secondary characters of DS9 are important enough to be treated respectfully by the writers.

For Rene Auberjonois, helming his eighth and last Star Trek episode, it’s a heck of way to finish off his time in the director’s chair.

HI: 7

The Changing Face of Evil: 8.5

As the Breen ally with the Dominion and attack the Federation, Kai Winn begins to read forbidden texts about the Pah-wraiths.

Air date: 4/26/1999
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by Mike Vejar

“Abandon ship. You heard me. Everyone get to the escape pods now!” – Sisko

Living up to its title, the fourth part of “The Final Chapter” is a game-changer that puts a cap of sorts on the first block of episodes of the nine part finale (four episodes written together and coincidentally usually appearing on one DVD disc) while also leaving a cliffhanger for the remaining episodes to follow up upon.

Full of bold strokes and political intrigue, “Changing Face” finally brings several plot lines to their breaking points, balancing its big war story with small, personal moments. With fast-paced scenes that give each character (not named Jake) at least one moment to shine, each of the regulars get a chance to contribute, including an exciting battle with unexpected consequences stuck right in the middle. But the real substance of the episode lies with Kai Winn and Dukat on Bajor and Damar and Weyoun on Cardassia. “Strange Bedfellows” shows us Winn and Damar coming to decisions. This one shows us the consequences. The beauty of it lies in the reactions, whether it be Winn coming to terms with herself, or Weyoun coming to terms with the new Damar. (Combs’s icy look is priceless.)

Being stuck in the middle of a giant multi parter, “Changing Face” is easy to overlook when reflecting upon the season and the series as a whole, but stands up with some of DS9’s best work and gives “The Final Chapter” the kick in the pants it needs.

HI: 8

DS9 Reviews Part 44

Saturday, February 14, 2015 23:48
Comments closed

Welcome to another installment of my reviews for all 715 episodes of Star Trek. Today I continue with Deep Space Nine, season seven. I’m rating these episodes on a scale of 1 to 10 with the following meaning:

1. Abysmal, 2. Terrible, 3. Bad, 4. Poor, 5. Mediocre,
6. Fair, 7. Good, 8. Great, 9. Superb, 10. Perfect

In addition, I’ll be rating (on a scale of 1 to 10) the historical importance (HI) of the episodes – looking at how much they tie into other Star Trek episodes or lay down important precedents.

Field of Fire: 5

After several crew members are murdered, Ezri summons the memories and personality of Joran Dax to help her find the murderer.

Air date: 2/8/1999
Written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by Tony Dow

“You want to find out who killed Ilario, don’t you? Then what are you waiting for? Perform the Rite of Emergence and just ask for my help, and then we can get to work.” – Joran

This Ezri Dax episode, written by the former writing partner of Ira Steven Behr, is a dark murder mystery with an emphasis on Joran, a former host of Dax introduced in third season’s “Equilibrium”.

Its premise, somewhat in the spirit of Showtime’s Dexter series, is that no one can understand a serial killer like a serial killer, necessitating sweet Ezri summoning a part of her she generally buries. It’s quite a recharacterization of Joran, who in “Equilibrium” is presented as a troubled musician with a violent temper who killed someone out of anger, as well as Dax, who in the same episode accepts Joran into her life. Joran here, played by a much older different actor (Leigh J. McCloskey), is presented as a thrill seeking murderer who wants to manipulate Ezri into killing strangers for sport.

The investigation itself plays out slowly to build the suspense, though Wolfe does layer it with an interesting new weapon concept that allows director Tony Dow (“Wally” from Leave it to Beaver) to create some interesting x-ray visuals for its scope (I’m not really sure, however, why Odo needs to wear goggles to see a demonstration of it, considering the shapeshifter doesn’t even have real eyes.) In the end, Joran proves rather useless, though it’s Ezri (and Wolfe) who insult a whole planet, insisting that anyone who doesn’t like seeing people smile must be from there, leading to a final confrontation and some answers.

It’s all a rather dreary mess that does Nicole de Boer no favors.

HI: 2

Chimera: 7

Odo meets another of the hundred Changelings who were sent out to explore the galaxy.

Air date: 2/15/1999
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by Steve Posey

“I don’t want to see you make the same mistakes I made. You’re wasting your time trying to be a humanoid. You’re limiting yourself. Let’s leave here, Odo. Let’s find the others. A hundred were sent away, and they’re out there somewhere. If we can find even a few of them, we can form a new Link. Think of it, Odo. We can exist the way we were meant to. As changelings.” – Laas

Taking its title from Greek mythology, this quiet, character-based Odo episode uses a long lost Changeling as a figurative mirror for Odo to look into and reflect upon himself. (In a non-figurative sense, the new Changeling is a real jerk.) As Odo begins soul-searching, he once again starts to waffle about what he really wants, which is really the point of the story. (It is a bit odd to see him go on about “Changelings” getting no respect, when he’s always been given respect by both sets of humanoids he’s worked for on the station; but it is true that no one has cared as much as him about other Changelings. Probably because of how the Founders act!)

Guest star “Garman Hertzler” (J.G. Hertzler) is fine as Odo’s new pal (using a completely different voice than his usual General Martok gravel), but this one is really carried by Auberjonois, who teams up with Echevarria to point Odo in the direction he needs to be to finish the series. In fact, Odo could really use a counselor here, and yet it’s one of the few episodes the season without Ezri!

HI: 4

Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang: 8

When holographic mobsters assume control of Vic Fontaine’s lounge, Bashir, O’Brien, and others plot to run Vic’s rival out of business and restore the program to normal.

Air date: 2/22/1999
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by Mike Vejar

“I just talked to Felix. I know what’s been affecting Vic’s programme. It’s a jack in the box.” – Dr. Bashir

Star Trek does Ocean’s Eleven two years before the George Clooney film (which would mean more if the episode didn’t happen 39 years after the Rat Pack original) in this ensemble caper episode that gives the DS9 cast another chance to cut loose and have some fun.

With a flimsy premise that’s another variation of the old malfunctioning holodeck idea, even the writers know the audience is going to have to suspend its belief more than usual. (They do help themselves by establishing that only a holographic character is at risk, which is easier to swallow than a real person… though the episode’s promotional spot is artfully edited to make it sound like everyone is in danger.) But like “Our Man, Bashir” and “Take Me Out to the Holosuite”, the plot itself is secondary; what this one is really about is a chance to get the cast into some new clothes and to do something left of center for the franchise.

Veteran character actor Robert Miano stars as Frankie Eyes, the episode’s heavy, which would seem like an opportunity for hamminess, though Miano (apparently taking this a little too seriously) plays it straight. With Mike Starr as his right hand man Cicci, and 89 year old Marc Lawrence as his boss, Mr. Zeemo, however, there’s plenty of scene stealing performances. (In fact, the replacement accountant, played by a “Bobby Reilly”, is pretty good in his own right. Maybe they should turn him into a Klingon leader or something.)

Perhaps the most notable character in the whole deal, however, is Sisko. Used initially as an audience surrogate for those who dislike Vic Fontaine, he’s ultimately won over and steals the show at the end with a special coda stuck in by the writers to show off his talents and send a message to the fans about the last few episodes of the series.

It’s all tied together by Jay Chattaway’s score, a throwback to the 60s with classics like “Night Train” thrown in that perfectly matches the old style cinematography.

All in all, it’s not something DS9 would want to do every week (especially since it’s one of the most expensive episodes of the season), but for a breather before the big war stuff that’s upcoming, it’s a lot of fun.

HI: 1

Inter Arma Enim Silent Legas: 7.5

Attending a medical conference on Romulus, Dr. Bashir becomes embroiled in an elaborate scheme devised by the mysterious Section 31.

Air date: 3/1/1999
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by David Livingston

“Let’s make a deal, Doctor; I’ll spare you the end-justifies-the-means speech, and you spare me the we-must-do-what’s-right speech. You and I are not going to see eye to eye on this subject. so I suggest we stop discussing it. This mission is reconnaissance.” – Sloan

With a title that’s Latin for, “In the presence of arms, the laws grow silent”, this Bashir spy episode is a sequel of sorts to season six’s “Inquisition”, bringing back special guest star William Sadler as Sloan. In a way, it’s vintage Ron Moore, with a storyline that’s meticulously laid out and sci fi that’s made understandable and relatable. In another way, it feels like Chris Carter’s X-Files, insinuating a lot going on offstage and playing up the paranoia. Either way, it feels like we’re in the hands of a good storyteller who knows what’s he’s doing.

Like Thompson and Weddle’s “Inquisition”, Moore is sure to give Sadler a meaty part, finding a way for Sloan to accompany Bashir on the mission. He also uses Barry Jenner well as Admiral Ross, giving him his first one on one scenes with Alexander Fadil. Meanwhile, Adrienne Barbeau replaces Megan Cole as Romulan Senator Cretak, redefining the part in a more sympathetic light. With new characters introduced (most notably, Romulan Senator Koval, generically played by John Fleck) and much of the episode taking place on Romulus, there’s always a sense of tension in the air, with the multitude of characters scheming behind the scenes leaving Bashir unsure whom to trust. As the plot spirals out of control and gets really crazy, it’s tempting to believe it’s all another elaborate mindgame by Section 31, but to the episode’s credit, it doesn’t take this easy way out and delivers a satisfying conclusion instead.

Supervising Producer David Livingston, directing his last of seventeen DS9 episodes, does a great job of fleshing it all out, even borrowing Voyager’s sets as a stand-in for her sister ship, the Bellerophon, showing off the advantage to having a sister show.

As with “Inquisition”, the end result proves entertaining enough to warrant a sequel. And sure enough, William Sadler returns to reprise Sloan for the final time in “Extreme Measures” later in the seventh season. Truth be told, however, “Inter Arma” is probably his best episode.

HI: 3

DS9 Reviews Part 43

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 20:41
Comments closed

Welcome to another installment of my reviews for all 715 episodes of Star Trek. Today I continue with Deep Space Nine, season seven. I’m rating these episodes on a scale of 1 to 10 with the following meaning:

1. Abysmal, 2. Terrible, 3. Bad, 4. Poor, 5. Mediocre,
6. Fair, 7. Good, 8. Great, 9. Superb, 10. Perfect

In addition, I’ll be rating (on a scale of 1 to 10) the historical importance (HI) of the episodes – looking at how much they tie into other Star Trek episodes or lay down important precedents.

Covenant: 7.5

Air date: 11/23/1998
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by John Kretchmer

Kira is abducted by a Bajoran cult led by Dukat.

“You believe the Prophets are the true Gods of Bajor. I believe the Pah-wraiths are. Let’s just leave it at that.” – Vedek

Dukat is back for another Kira episode about the two at odds. Turns out that the Cardassian has done a pretty good job of making a copy of all he’s lost. Taking over Deep Space Nine’s abandoned sister station, Empok Nor, he’s become the head of a cult of Bajorans that worships the Pah-wraiths. In a way, it’s better than his time as head of Deep Space Nine; he has no superiors, and the Bajorans love him. The only thing missing from his fantasy life is Kira, whom he fetches (or abducts, depending upon your choice of words) to begin the episode. And with that, we’re off and rolling.

Like he does in TNG’s “Birthright Part 2″, Rene Echevarria sketches out the characters and layers them into the battle of wills between the protagonist and cult leader. But whereas Birthright is more like a prison escape story, this episode draws from the Heaven’s Gate Cult (which ironically borrowed from Star Trek, with members, including Nichelle Nichol’s brother, wearing “Away Team” patches when they committed suicide in 1997). Kira sees the group descending into madness but is powerless to stop it.

Mark Alaimo, of course, chews the scenery and is great as Dukat; but it’s Norman Parker with an outstanding performance as Vedek Fala who really anchors the episode.

Unfortunately, Echevarria’s exploration of cult life (and death) must fit inside the hour (with time for commercials too), limiting his plot points and forcing a quick conclusion. But even if the ideas are oversimplified, the issues of the cult mind that are addressed here make for interesting television.

HI: 3

It’s Only a Paper Moon : 7.5

After being injured in battle, Nog seeks shelter in a holosuite within the fictional world of Vic Fontaine.

Air date: 12/28/1998
Teleplay by Ronald D. Moore
Story by David Mack & John J. Ordover
Directed by Anson Williams

“Can I stay with you?” – Nog

With a title referring to an old jazz standard (originally a 1933 Broadway number) about a fake backdrop, this Nog and Vic Fontaine episode is direct followup to “The Siege of AR-558″ with Nog’s mental recovery (lagging behind his physical recovery) taking place in Vic’s fictitious holosuite world.

It’s a fun use of Vic the hologram, giving the lounge singer his own little story about what’s it’s like to finally live a full life as opposed to having his world turned on and off each day (something more fully explored with the Doctor in Voyager). But the meat and potatoes of the episode lies with Nog, allowing Aron Eisenberg to carry the show for the first time with a story that Star Trek hasn’t really done before. The idea of post-traumatic stress disorder immediately brings the military to mind, but physical stress can cause mental stress in all walks of life and is something even civilians identify with. When someone becomes ill or injured and can’t work, or a student misses significant time at school, or someone suffers a great loss, it’s not always easy to jump back on the horse and carry on, even with no threat to life. An injury, absence, or traumatic event can crush the spirit, and emotional recovery can be as painful as physical therapy. Feelings of inadequacy and anger surface, and facing everyday life once again becomes a daunting task. Fictional universes are a tempting escape because they offer a place of interest that’s disconnected from the real world, with no reminders of real problems or tragedies past and present. So people lose themselves in worlds online, or in music and books, or even films and television shows. (And yes, there’s more than a bit of irony for just such a kind of entertainment providing a forum to explore the issue.) This sort of escapism is even more extreme than Barclay’s “Walter Mitty” fantasies, because instead of being an occasional diversion or being woven from reality, it’s a complete bail-out, with all connections to the real world cast away. The end result is like the ending of Shane, the 1953 Western on television that Nog questions: there are no real consequences. There is no real life.

Aron Eisenberg handles it all like a pro, and James Darren works well with him. But it’s Nicole de Boer who sneaks in the back door and gives the episode a lift as Counselor Ezri Dax. Unlike “Afterimage” where Garak’s problem seems manufactured by the writers for her benefit, Nog’s problem brings Dax into the fold more organically and even opens the door for her to counsel Vic, albeit more subtly (which is all the better). This time, (with apologies to Echevarria), the writer gets her dialogue right and create a believable therapist as a result.

All that said, while this is Aron Eisenberg’s magna opus, it is just an hour of Nog moping and “Moon” isn’t going to crack any top ten lists. (And sadly, while Nog indicates he likes The Searchers, he doesn’t mention how much John Wayne’s sidekick looks like a young Captain Pike.)

HI: 5

Prodigal Daughter: 6

Ezri returns to her home to ask her family’s help in finding Chief O’Brien, who disappeared while searching for the widow of a dead friend.

Air date: 1/4/1999
Written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Directed by Victor Lobl

“I’m not suggesting anything, but you have to face the possibility that somebody in your family may have been involved in her death.” – O’Brien

This Ezri Dax family character study tucks in a followup to sixth season’s “Honor Among Thieves”, with Dax and O’Brien visiting Ezri’s home planet. Most of the story revolves around Ezri and her family, playing out like a soap opera, with internal friction and self righteous characters giving each other speeches. The plot itself becomes almost secondary, and it’s certainly not necessary to know anything about “Honor Among Thieves” to understand it.

Leigh Taylor-Young heads the fine guest cast, playing Ezri’s mother, and she establishes from the outset that her character needs to be in control of everything. That includes her son, Norvo (Kevin Rahm) who is constantly made to feel in adequate and doesn’t know achieve his dreams. It also includes, to a lesser extent, her other son, Janel, who shows more promise running the family business. But when O’Brien makes it clear that someone is hiding something, the episode turns into a “whodunnit”. (Well, truth be told it’s more of a “who cares?” for those of us wanting to get back to Deep Space Nine and more familiar characters.)

Shooting began with a rushed script and ended with a result that’s considered the weakest episode of the seventh season by the cast and crew. It’s actually not that bad; it’s just underwhelming. What they should have done was beef up O’Brien’s part with the Orion Syndicate and turn the whole thing into a two parter. But they would have had to plan ahead better for that, and the truth is they were just trying to get something out there to meet their airdate.

HI: 2

The Emperor’s New Cloak: 6

When Grand Nagus Zek is kidnapped in the “mirror universe”, Quark and Rom attempt a rescue operation.

Air date: 2/1/1999
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by LeVar Burton

“You’re probably wondering how I got here well, you’re going to have to keep on wondering, because I don’t have time to tell you. You see, I’m in a bit of trouble. I’m being held prisoner by the Alliance and I’m going to need you to help me regain my freedom.” – Grand Nagus Zek, in a message to Quark

It’s once more unto the mirror universe with this Ferengi comedy featuring Quark and Rom. We might as well throw out the rating system and intelligent analysis because it’s clear from the outset that the plot (such as there is) is just an excuse for the cast to cut loose and have some fun (and to get Nicole de Boer in a leather costume).

With Zek, Vic Fontaine, Brunt, Garak, and most of the regulars getting their moments to play against expectations, the story emphasizes the comedy of its preposterous nature, completely self aware that the alternate universe makes no sense. (In fact, it uses the cloaking device as a MacGuffin under the theory that the mirror universe doesn’t have the technology, despite previous episodes establishing that it does.)

No matter, it’s all in good fun, and director Burton (doing his second episode in a row with mirror universe characters) ensures that no moment is played too seriously. But it is a bit of a shame that DS9, throughout the course of the series, increasingly sees this setting as only a backdrop for silliness.

The mirror universe comes back into play in a more serious way with Enterprise’s two parter “In a Mirror, Darkly”. As for “Emperor’s New Cloak”, it’s the last DS9 episode to visit the alternate reality and is dedicated to Jerome Bixby, the writer of the original “Mirror, Mirror” episode, who died in April of 1998.

HI: 3

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