Greetings intrepid sci-fi lovers!
Last time I broached this topic I was praising Deep Space Nine for the multifaceted storytelling and unique take on Star Trek. This time my critique for this classic is a bit more mixed.
First, the episode ‘Babel’ came on and I sat down with my bag of popcorn. I sat back and watched the mundane interactions aboard DS9 until O’Brien starts rambling nonsense. Dr. Bashir tries to reason with him but to no avail. Quickly, the good doctor concludes that O’Brien is stricken by a virus. Once the Chief of Operations’ condition worsens to a fever the whole crew is alarmed. The spread of the virus inflicts fear on everyone in the station.
In the mayhem, a bewildered merchant attempts to flee the station against Commander Sisko’s orders. This unpermitted escape almost causes a massive explosion. Constable Odo moves to stop the rogue ship. When all seems desperate Quark mans the teleporter and assists Odo in disabling the damaged ship.
At this point in the show, Quark has been portrayed as a shadowy character who only serves the Federation to serve himself. However, in this episode Quark willingly jumps in to help Odo. Though it can be argued he did so to prevent the explosion I believe he did so out of a sense of duty to Deep Space Nine. The shady Ferengi definitely shined here.
As for the virus, Kira finds a rogue Bajoran to create an antidote. Kira’s involvement put her at risk of infection. Sisko commands her to stay out of it, but both Kira and Odo persuade him to let her. This is the second time that the crew has overridden the commanding officer.
I must say I’m impressed. Challenging the chain of command like that would be heresy on The Next Generation or Voyager. Despite that, it works here in this setting. I like this more free-spirited approach than the other rigid hierarchical expectations of the aforementioned shows. It feels more organic to me than The Next Generation.
In the following episode ‘Captive Pursuit’ I was treated to an episode revolving around Chief of Operations Officer O’Brien and the mystery of a new alien character. My popcorn was all gone so I sipped my soda and watched attentively as O’Brien welcomed the scaly visitor. O’Brien befriended this visitor who had passed through the wormhole and told him all about Deep Space Nine. I shook my head as I witnessed this seasoned officer making such rookie mistakes; telling the station’s secrets to a guy who just arrived and whose motives are unclear.
Just as I feared O’Brien began to let his guard down due to the feeling that Tosk (the apparent stranger’s name) was harmless. This allowed Tosk to find the weapons. He attempts to access them until the tough-as-nails Constable Odo stops him in his tracks. The shapeshifter questions the scaly reptilian as he watches him bounce between force fields. O’Brien arrives and tries to soothe Tosk. Tosk is trying to defend himself and asks to die with honor.
Finally, a group of strange ships with technology never seen before burst out of the wormhole. They scanned Deep Space Nine and blasted it with a new bizarre radiation ray. To the crew’s (and my) relief the bombardment stopped. The strange visitors beamed aboard in corny looking space suits straight out of a bad 60’s sci-fi film. Commander Sisko, Odo and Kira all show up and blast the strangers with multiple phaser shots. Surprisingly, the phaser fire does not kill the alien beings, merely stunning them. Mind you, they shot them at the highest setting!
Tosk and O’Brien talk before the strange aliens appear before the scaly prisoner. The lead alien unmasks and berates Tosk for hiding in this fortified place. The aliens reveal to the crew of Deep Space Nine that they are chasing after Tosk on this ritualistic hunt. This will result in Tosk’s death but this hunt is part of their custom. Sisko, though disgusted by this, gives them Tosk back since the fact the hunt is their custom means the Prime Directive maintain their neutrality.
O’Brien, acting under conviction and seeing Tosk’s harmless nature, releases Tosk under a pretense, lying to the aliens and mentioning nothing to Sisko. Once escorted out of the cell, Tosk and O’Brien shoot down the armored aliens. O’Brien happily leads his new friend to his ship where he can escape. OBrien explains to him what he is doing and why. Tosk, in the context of his culture, thanks the Irishman by telling him to ‘die with honor.’
I was fascinated by the character interaction in this episode. I loved how O’Brien saw something good in this alien stranger and sought to protect him at any cost to himself. That speaks volumes of a character I have seen for years but never known. I am also fascinated by how the alien race from the Gamma Quadrant was very unconcerned with discovering the Federation or conquering them. The alien leader cements this by refusing to even speak to anyone until he has found his prey: Tosk. Once he does speak he asks nothing about Starfleet, choosing only to request that Tosk is returned to them.
Another fascinating character moment in this episode was when O’Brien’s deception is found out. Sisko strongly reprimands him…but indirectly admits to helping his crewmate though it violated the Prime Directive. I was thoroughly enthralled by this; seeing the Commander himself stick his neck out for his crewmate and for what he thought was right.
I loved these two episodes and I enjoyed how I got to see deeper character development than I thought I’d get in a Star Trek show. What I didn’t like about these episodes was the lack of imagination and less-than-impressive dialogue.
In regards to the lack of imagination, DS9 could have developed the virus plot further. One way to do this would have been to have a whole scene where O’Brien (or some other crewmate) babbles for three minutes until their body language gave away their message. Heck, they could have hand-drawn cartoons to depict what they were saying. This would have been comical and showed us how each of the crew handles difficult situations differently. I feel that the whole distorted speech idea was wasted because it wasn’t developed further. The same applies to ‘Captive Pursuit’ where the writers of this show could have given us a scene where the crew analyzes Tosk and his species, giving us a bigger idea of what’s out there. Heck, we could have gotten a scene where the alien leader explains WHY the hunt is so important to his people.
Secondly, the dialogue here isn’t as impressive as in ‘Emissary.’ Most of the conversations of the crew don’t seem special or unique, save maybe Quark. This makes me think of the original Star Trek television series where the dialogue was just as standout as the action scenes. I mean, we remember Kirk, Spock and McCoy because they had the driest banter with each other. We didn’t just hear them talk…we saw them converse…in a way that was natural to them. I hope DS9 takes a cue from the old crew.
In summary, I like Deep Space Nine. I enjoy the character development and the fresh setting of a space station. However, the dialogue and show’s creativity is leaving much to be desired. I look forward to seeing the show fix these shortcomings and continue to develop this unique crew.
Thanks for reading!