Star Trek: DS9 Season 2 “Paradise” and “Shadowplay”

Odo can also provide the vital function of spare toys as necessary.

I’ve completed my re-watch of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Now it’s time to start Deep Space Nine! I am much less familiar with this show, though I’m pretty sure I’ve seen about 80-90% of the episodes. It’s been so long that I’m sure it will all feel brand new. My wife has never seen the show. She and I will go through, review every episode, and give commentary and a grade from A-F. There are SPOILERS for each episode below. Without further adieu, here’s:

“Paradise”

Synopsis

Sisko and O’Brien get marooned on a planet as they try to figure out how to contact the lifeforms on its surface. They are discovered by other humans who have apparently come from Starfleet ten years ago and been stranded since then because of [space magic] blocking their electronic equipment. But, don’t worry! A kind of utopic society has been created on the planet by following the teachings of Alixus, who believes technology is the worst. Moreover, they punish people with THE BOX – a metal box that is super hot and potentially fatal to stay in. Sisko gets put in the box for stirring up trouble, but finally figures out that there is a machine that is making the [space magic] that prevents other electronics from working. He confronts Alixus with this and she admits she brought the colonists here on purpose. A timely arrival by Kira and Dax allows them to arrest Alixus and her son, but everyone else chooses to stay behind in their ‘paradise.’

Commentary

Elements of this episode were stolen from all kinds of inspiration, but I was willing to forgive that because it was pretty dang cool. The idea of a utopic society that has utterly brutal punishments that somehow lead to unity? Chilling, but weirdly plausible. And think about it for a moment: before Sisko and folks showed up, the whole thing was pretty much working. It’s just because Sisko and O’Brien are so opposed to what’s happening and confounded curious about the problem with power units that the society starts to collapse.  It’s a cool idea.

What made it even better was THE BOX and the idea that lurking behind this kind of “paradise” setting was some pretty awful, brutal punishment and horror. Moreover, this awfulness was accepted as not just okay but good by pretty much everybody, including the punished. Wow.

I think the biggest problem here, though, is the ending. Nobody is genuinely peeved that their entire way of living has been built completely on a lie? Or that they had to watch loved ones die because of some maniac’s idea of what the perfect society would be? Oh, or that a bunch of Starfleet-trained people wouldn’t have shown more curiosity about the problem that managed to prevent all their tech from working? (Oh I know THE BOX was punishment if you got too curious, but surely it took some time to establish that as an acceptable way to stop people from doing things detrimental to the society.) Or that the Starfleet people wouldn’t, I don’t know, realize that the population size they have is unsustainable? Yeah, sorry, not buying almost any of this. If everyone had gotten pissed and left, I would have liked this a lot more. Sure, show some of them wondering about whether some Luddite ideals wouldn’t be for the best, but staying? Heck no. Sorry, but this ending really didn’t sit right with me.

Grade: B “I found it to be an awesome premise with good execution, but the ending really lets this one down.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B- “It was a bit predictable and the resolution was unbelievable.”

“Shadowplay”

Synopsis

Dax and Odo investigate a particle field in the Gamma Quadrant, where they discover a large group of humanoids in a village where apparently more than twenty people have disappeared. After convincing Colyus, the local lawman, that they aren’t the baddies, Odo and Dax help try to track down the missing persons. Meanwhile, back on DS9, Sisko tries to get Jake to work with O’Brien to get trained up for Starfleet. He hates it though, and Sisko agrees Jake can do whatever the heck he wants when he grows up. Yay. Back in the village, Dax and Odo discover that everyone is, in fact, a hologram. People are disappearing because the projector is breaking down. They have to try to fix it or everyone will be gone. They shut it down, discover that one of the villagers is not, in fact, a hologram but rather a lonely guy who fled here to live a life in peace. He does love the people, but suggests leaving it off and going home. Odo and Dax convince him to stay and keep living his life with the “people” he loves. High fives and hugs all around.

Commentary

One problem is that the people of the village seem to have a rather amorphous knowledge of technology. Sheriff Colyus (okay, probably not a sheriff) was blown away by the transporter, but is later asked if he scanned to see if people were being transported away from the village as a way to kidnap them and acknowledges that was one of the first things he checked for. Uh, what? I thought the transporter had convinced him Dax and Odo weren’t nefarious people to begin with because they had space magic? Oh well. A few other things like this happen (eg. the tricorder replacements they have) which I suppose you could chalk up to them all being holograms and maybe, maybe that is supposed to be a hint early on of what’s happening, but I just don’t buy that explanation much.

Another problem is Odo’s argument about what makes someone a person or valuable or whatever. It was kind of similar to the arguments about Data back in the good ol’ TNG days, but it also was similar to Odo’s thoughts on himself. But come on, we’re talking about holograms here. Are we supposed to take seriously the notion that now holograms are people, too? I don’t know about that one. Guess you could never erase a program, then.

Still, those are small gripes for an otherwise excellent episode. I mean, yes, it is a huge stretch, but also, yes, it is touching and heartfelt. Seeing the Jake storyline was good, but totally predictable. Finding out the village was made up of holograms wasn’t a big surprise. But what was great about it was that it showed the way human emotions and love can be so strange and amazing all at the same time. I mean, the angry old grandpa guy did truly love the holograms. Weird? Definitely. Okay? Sure. I liked it. Plus, Odo and Dax get some great screentime here, and that is a good reason to watch, too. Oh, and that touching scene with Odo and the hologram girl at the end, where he finally shows her he is, in fact, a shapeshifter/changeling? Gold.

Grade: B+ “It has some continuity issues, and it is fairly easy to see coming, but it is still a good, heartfelt episode.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was also a bit predictable, but it was fun to see Odo take center stage.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: DS9- For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.

Star Trek: TNG Season 4- “Data’s Day” and “The Wounded”

Data, this might not be the right kind of dancing for a wedding...

Data, this might not be the right kind of dancing for a wedding…

I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. I’ve also included a score and comment from my wife, who has never seen the show before. There are SPOILERS for each episode below.

“Data’s Day”

Plot

Data is recording his day aboard the Enterprise in order to send it on to Starfleet to study the observations of an android. The day involves Chief O’Brien’s marriage to Keiko, Romulans and a potential diplomatic emergency, and the standard routines of Data’s day. It turns out the ambassador the Enterprise is ferrying is actually a Romulan spy that is now returned to them, and Data acts as father of the bride in Keiko’s marriage to O’Brien (after some ups and downs).

Commentary

An episode narrated by Data! What could possibly go wrong?

Well, actually, not much. It’s a very solid episode that introduces Keiko–O’Brien’s fiancee/wife–along with following Data throughout a day. The Romulan subplot (more on this below) is introduced to add suspense. Data’s breaking of the news regarding Keiko’s decision to cancel the wedding with Miles O’Brien was hilarious. The integration of humor throughout the episode helped keep it from ever getting bogged down. Data learning to dance with Dr. Crusher was another fun and very believable bit of the story.

The best part of the episode is how it simply shows what Data does throughout a day. People who have watched the series this long are necessarily drawn to learning more about the “mundane” activities of the ship, and “Data’s Day” is simply fantastic at showing some of these details. One is the way the ship powers down the lights for the “night watch”–a nod to a potential human need to experience “night” even aboard a ship going all over the galaxy. Little tidbits like these are welcome and infuse TNG with some reality that is totally endearing.

Perhaps the only real shortcoming of the episode is that it tries just a little too hard. The Romulan plot is frankly superfluous. Though interesting, the episode could (should) have jettisoned it without any loss. Simply following Data’s life throughout one day would have been enough without the attempt to add suspense to the situation.

That said, “Data’s Day” is just a really fun episode that blends a conspiracy, a wedding, and a standard day into one. The insights into life on board the Enterprise was welcome and surprising. It’s so fun to see the show succeed at an episode that could have gone terribly wrong. Well done!

Grade: A- “A pretty awesome blend of three episodes that actually works.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was a fun change of pace from the normal episode structure and Data was delightful.”

“The Wounded”

Plot

A Cardassian ship attacks the Enterprise, claiming the Federation has violated the treaty with the Cardassians and that they are at war. After tensions are calmed momentarily, Picard is instructed by Starfleet to investigate and the Enterprise brings aboard some Cardassians as they explore the possible misunderstanding.

Commentary

Miles O’Brien gets even more screen time in this episode and that is a very good thing. He really does not like the Cardassians, though through the episode he seemed to be in denial of this fact. Finally, he comes to realize he hates his own confrontation with killing and the atrocities of war. He integrates this into his discussion that convinces the renegade Captain Maxwell to stand down in a frankly stirring scene reflecting the loyalty bought by side-by-side struggles. O’Brien is just spectacularly acted by Colm Meaney and I can’t wait to see more of him. The ascent of O’Brien in TNG has come to glorious fruition and to see him carry an episode in many ways was just fantastic.

The moral questions found in the episode related to war are also worth mention. Retaliation is not justice, and the episode does a fantastic job of introducing this concept through its narration of events and the use of Captain Maxwell. The increasing tension as we watched Maxwell blow away Cardassians on-screen was done really well simply by showing red blips disappear. It was a great juxtaposition of simplicity–blips representing ships–and reality–those ships were 650 deaths. Questions of the morality of these actions were not overdone and the subtlety with which they were conveyed was done quite well.

The Cardassians themselves are an intriguing race. Seemingly warlike, but not tempered by the same concepts of honor that the Klingons have or the subtlety of the Romulans, they present what feels like a more imminent threat than some others introduced in the series.

The final conversation between Picard and Gul Macet was a great way to close out the episode and show that some ambiguity remains in the relationship between the Federation and the Cardassians.

“The Wounded” is an impassioned narrative that deserves its place among the great episodes of TNG.

Grade: A “The introduction of the Cardassians to the universe is a stirring story of conspiracy, morality, and loyalty.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was fun to meet a new race and the storyline was very good.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: TNG– For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.