Saturday, April 21, 2018

Episode Review - The Search Part 2 (Deep Space Nine, Season 3)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Overview – After the Defiant is defeated in battle, Odo finds himself and Kira among his own kind. As he learns what it means to be a Changeling, he is overcome with emotions over finding his way home. Meanwhile, Sisko and the rest of his senior officers are rescued and brought back to Deep Space Nine, where the Federation is already in peace negotiations with the representatives of the Dominion. As the peace talks progress, however, Commander Sisko becomes concerned over the concessions that Starfleet is willing to make, and soon finds that not everything is going as he had hoped.

Score: 9/10 – Picking up right where Part 1 left off, Part 2 of this season opener (the first DS9 episode to be directed by Johnathon Frakes, incidentally) continues to be full of intrigue, suspense, discovery, and heart. Two storylines are played out, with it appearing that the main focus is on Sisko and the negotiations with the Dominion. As it turns out, the real story is about Odo finding his people, and the two tales are revealed to be far more intertwined than originally believed. Indeed, the big reveal at the end is that everything that Sisko and his officers experienced were simply recreations in an induced setting. Yes, the entire DS9 story occurred on their minds, making this one of only two episodes where the characters are not actually on the station. Jake, Quark, Garak, Admiral Nechayev, and Michael Eddington do not actually appear in this episode as they are only seen in the recreation. This is good for fans of our resident tailor as Garak is killed near the end of the episode. On its initial run through, it really hit the fans hard when Garak was killed. Some may consider the big reveal at the end as a typical deus ex machina cop out, but I think it worked well. It kept us on our toes for an even bigger reveal, that the Changelings are the Founders of the Dominion. In what could have been just a major turning point for Odo’s character turned out to be a mind-blowing development for the character, and the audience is fooled into thinking that Odo was just a nice sub-plot. In essence, with the end of this episode, we see that the Dominion means business, and the stakes are raised higher than we imagined.

Relevance – 3 points. In the episode “Vortex”, the character Croden calls Odo a changeling. In this episode, the spokesperson of the Founders says that the name “changeling” was indeed used by many solids as a term for their kind, and they adopted it as a means of not allowing the solids to have power over them with that given name. When Commander Sisko meets Borath, they make reference to the events of the second season finale “TheJem’Hadar”, and the character of Eris. Finally, the female Changeling, played by Salome Jens, is introduced here. She is a key figure in the Dominion/Odo story and will return many times. Salome Jens will do a remarkable job with this character, and her introduction here is perfect. There is also important details about the Founders that are established here, most notably the creed that no changeling has ever harmed another. We’ll see that idea come back to haunt us at the end of the season.

Continuity – 3 points. I have to give full marks here. Some may have an issue with how the story is resolved, but it works. We are led to believe that the Dominion is making serious inroads into destabilizing the Alpha Quadrant, when in actuality they are simply gaining intelligence on their new foes. This is consistent with how the Dominion does things (universe continuity) and gives us an exciting roller coaster ride without disrupting the story established so far (story continuity). As for character continuity, there is nothing that comes across as going against anyone’s character. Anything odd from Quark and Jake can be explained away with the explanation that it wasn’t really them (although there really wasn’t anything that was off about them in this story). Sisko and his officers are absolutely acting the way we would expect when facing a Dominion take-over. As for Kira and Odo, it makes perfect sense that Kira would be supportive of her friend, while Odo would be at first overjoyed at being reunited with his people, then frustrated that he could not learn the lessons they wanted him to learn with shape-shifting right at the start. When the truth of his people is revealed, Odo stays true to the one principle that has guided him his whole life: justice. He sees the actions of his people for what they truly are, and he wants no part of it.

Character Development – 3 points. There is a fair amount of insight into the Starfleet officers as they react to the Dominion situation that seems to get worse every minute. While Sisko seems to be the main focus of this, we do see it followed up with Dax, Bashir, and O’Brien. They would do whatever it takes to protect the Alpha Quadrant and the Federation, even if it even if it means turning against them. The real character development comes with Odo. For two seasons we have wondered what his origins are, who his people are, and where he came from. We get the answers sure enough, but they instead turn everything on its head. Odo, much like Worf did in TNG, had to choose between his friends and his people. Justice has always been Odo’s guiding light, and he stayed true to it here. Of course, this sets him up for all kinds of trouble in the years to come, but that is the joy of his character.

Social Commentary – 3 points. Unlike the previous episode, this one has a much stronger sense of social commentary. At what point to you turn your back on that which you held dear to do what is right? For Sisko and the others, it became a question as to whether or not they would turn their backs on Starfleet in order to save the Alpha Quadrant. For Odo, it was turning his back on his people. Sometimes the concept of loyalty is expected to overrule one’s sense of integrity, but that is never the right choice. Indeed, sometimes we have to take the more dangerous and difficult path away from those we think we owe our loyalty to and do the right thing. It is hard, but worth it.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. Scoring a point for the whole virtual reality scenario that allowed the writers to really take the gloves off and hit is with a “What the heck is happening?” story. It’s not often that we get to see a beloved recurring character killed, only to find out that it was all in someone’s head. A second point is scored for the twist that reveals that Odo’s people are the Founders and biggest threat to the Federation since the Borg. This changes everything in a big way, especially for Odo.

Rank – Admiral (23 points). What a way to wrap up the season opener. Odo learns that the people he has been looking for are his friend’s greatest threat. We have a wild story of Sisko rebelling against the Federation that turns out to be a big surprise in the end. Overall, an excellent conclusion to a strong season opener.

If you would like to read other reviews from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, please click the following link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Episode Review - The Search, Part 1 (Deep Space Nine, Season 3)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Overview – The crew of DS9 are discussing the threat of the Dominion when a ship decloaks at the station. They are shocked to see that it is commanded by Commander Sisko, and it is a new Federation battleship, the USS Defiant. With the help of a Romulan cloaking device, the Defiant and Sisko’s crew are assigned to make contact with the Founders in an attempt to establish diplomatic relations as well as show the Dominion that they have the ability to defend themselves. With a new Starfleet security chief on the station, Odo is feeling on the outs in his role as head of security on the station, and contemplates resigning. At the request of Kira, he agrees to join the mission. As the crew, with the help of Quark, establish contact with the Karemma, Odo is drawn to a particular region of space on a map, the Omarion Nebula. Dax and O’Brien are captured on a Dominion relay station, and the Defiant continues on its mission. The Defiant comes under attack from Dominion ships, and Odo manages to escape with an unconscious Kira on a shuttle, where he makes his way to the Omarian Nebula, where he makes a startling discovery.

Score: 9/10 – Season 3 sure starts off with a bang in this episode. Many plot points that began in Seasons 1 and 2 are moved ahead here, and there is a lot going on. We get the best action we have seen in a while, and some important elements of DS9’s mythos are established. Most notably we see the USS Defiant, which will become the show’s signature ship. There is great humor and suspense, plus some touching moments. We are given some great character development, especially for fan-favourite Odo. The Dominion is still somewhat of a mystery, and the mystery deepens throughout this episode. Being a two-part episode, we are left on edge with the fate of several characters. What happened to Dax and O’Brien? What is the fate of the Defiant and the crew? And, most importantly, has Odo truly found his people? The only better slot for this episode as a season opener would have been as a season finale.

Relevance – 3 points. There is so much that is relevant in this episode, far more than necessary for the three points given. There is the introduction of the Defiant, which was a much needed ship for the station that was supposed to be the major line of defense for the quadrant. There is also the introduction for future Maquis leader Eddington, starting out as the Starfleet security officer that once again ruffles Odo’s feathers. Sisko shows that his feelings for Bajor have changed, showing us the love that he has for the planet is growing. He is beginning to feel that this is home. We see the follow-up from the episode “Rules of Acquisition” where Quark is sent by the Grand Nagus to establishing trade relations with the Dominion. It is the reason needed to have a place for Quark on the mission. We meet the Karemma for the first time, and we definitely pick up where Season 2 left off. All of this makes the relevance of “The Search” very high.

Continuity – 3 points. Story continuity gets a pass here. They came up with a great explanation about how the Federation was allowed to use a cloaking device in one of their ships. Having the Romulans involved was necessary to get around the treaty between the Romulans and Federation, and having T’Rul on board was a nice feature. Sadly, we do not see this character again (outside of Part II, at least), though it is good that the actress, Martha Hackett, goes on to play Seska in Voyager. Character continuity is also good here. Odo, in particular, is his typical grumpy self when a new security officer from Starfleet is given a larger role is security. His threat of resignation in light of these changes is nothing new. His own frustration is in full force here, with Kira remaining fiercely loyal to him and Sisko being caught in between his respect for the constable and following the wishes of Starfleet. Universe wise, all works here as well.

Character Development – 3 points. Odo surprisingly becomes the central focus of the story, although this is a slow and gradual build. It initially seems that Sisko would receive the bulk of development, and for the first half there is some truth to that. Dax comments that she has never seen Sisko so passionate about anything since the death of his wife, Jennifer. We see that Sisko has come a long way since the first episode, and his growth is refreshing. Odo, however, comes in from the periphery to be given a central focus. His mutual frustration with Starfleet continues to be a thorn in his side, and he again is contemplating resigning. His friendship with Kira is shown again as she goes out of her way to include him. It is when they reach the Gamma Quadrant that Odo’s story starts picking up some steam. When he first sees the Omarian nebula he becomes inexplicably drawn to it. His desire to return home overrules his rational thinking, and the end moments when he is face-to-face with his own people is a large moment for his character.

Social Commentary – 1 point. Odo continues to be the outcast, and at the beginning of this episode he is once again at odds with Starfleet expectations. Those that work with him, especially Commander Sisko, know him, understand him, and value him. It’s the upper bureaucrats that don’t get it, and this causes tension between Sisko and Odo. We ourselves can find that the way we do things seem to work, but others who do not know us may not approve of our actions. This seems to be the theme for Odo in this episode (at the beginning). There is also a theme of the mission that Sisko undertakes: find the Founders, negotiate for peace, and show them that they are not going to be pushed around. The theme is, in essence, “speak softly and carry a big stick”.  Still, the themes within the context of this episode does little to convey any great meaning to the audience, so I really could only score it one point here.

Cool Stuff – 1 point. I have to score a point for the Defiant. When it is in battle we see what this little ship can do. I remember thinking how cool the ship was when it obliterated the first Jem’Hadar vessel. I also like that the Federation now has a cloaking device. While there were many good parts to this episode, there is little else that I can say was really cool.

Rank – Captain (20 points). Season 3 is largely seen as a defining season for DS9, marking a transition from more lacklustre stories (such as the political situation on Bajor) into more tense action with the Dominion. While things really pick up in Season 4, the third season is very important, and the season premier does not disappoint. Both parts of “The Search” are excellent, with Part 1 giving us the Defiant and setting us up for an intriguing part 2.

If you would like to read other reviews from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, please click the following link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Episode Review - Gambit Part II (Next Generation, Season 7)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Overview – Picard and Riker continue their subterfuge aboard the mercenary ship as they try to determine what Baran is looking for. One of the mercenaries, Tallera, becomes suspicious of them. Eventually, she reveals her own identity as a Vulcan intelligence officer named T’Paal. Together, they learn that Baran is looking for the fragments of the Stone of Gol, an ancient and powerful Vulcan weapon. Meanwhile, on the Enterprise, Data assumes command and continues to search for his missing commanding officers.

Score: 8/10 – I found that this episode was a bit better than Part I, which itself was a solid episode. The story flowed a bit more smoothly. We get to see more depth to Tallera/T’Paal, played by Robin Curtis (the second actress to play Saavik). In addition to some good action and mystery, we have some history of one of Star Trek’s most popular alien species, the Vulcans. We get some great humorous moments as well. In particular, the closing scene with Riker and Picard, back on the Enterprise, telling Data reasons as to why he should remain in command. There is also the tallest Klingon ever seen (played by former NBA star James Worthy), and his scenes are also quite entertaining. The Stone of Gol is an intriguing weapon with a neat twist, one that fits perfectly with Vulcan mythos. I also liked how it worked, amplifying negative emotions. It was perfect in providing a method for explaining why Vulcans rid themselves of their emotions.

Relevance – 1 point. A point is scored here for the history given about Vulcan. It is in this episode that Vulcan is established as one of the founding members of the United Federation of Planets. The story of the Stone of Gol gives us a great insight into Vulcan’s history.

Continuity – 3 points. I believe that all three categories of continuity are maintained here. The characters are acting the way that they should. I totally get how Worf would initially act the way he did with Data. I also liked the ending, when Data was escorting Riker to the brig. We, as the audience, didn’t quite know if Data was being serious, or if he was finally starting to understand humor. Story wise, the tale is well told. Finally, universe wise, everything lines up. The idea of an extreme sect in Vulcan society that is xenophobic that it would have gone to these measures to acquire a deadly weapon.

Character Development – 3 points. In addition to Riker and Picard continuing their development from the last episode, Data and Worf get thrown into the mix. Data is now the acting captain, and Worf is acting as the first officer. Data’s decisions irritate the Klingon, and this causes some friction between the two of them. They are able to hash things out, and in a way that was a little more civil than what we saw in Redemption Part II when Data commanded the Sutherland. It was interesting to see Data put his proverbial foot down with Worf, and Worf was quite humbled by the experience. I did find the whole “sorry for risking our friendship” to be a bit simple but given how much was going on it can be easily overlooked.

Social Commentary – 1 point. The power of emotions is the final lesson in this episode. We learn that negative emotions can only be defeated by feelings of peace and compassion. Positive is the best way to combat negative. Yeah, that lesson is a little on the weak side. Like part 1, the action in the story takes away from potential social commentary, so whatever lessons we do learn is highly watered down.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. Scoring a point for Koral, a Klingon that even stood above Worf. I am also scoring a point for the Stone of Gol. It was a great artifact that gives us an important insight in Vulcan history and culture. I loved how the trick to defeating the stone was simple and fit perfectly with Vulcan philosophy.

Rank – Captain (18 points). Much like I said for Part I, this was a good two-part episode, but there are far better examples to enjoy. When this episode first aired, we were in the seventh and final season. Fatigue had set in, and while there is nothing really wrong with this episode, it didn’t quite live up to the previous bar that had been set. Still, a really strong episode with a good mix of humor, action, and revealed history. I definitely recommend it.

 If you would like to read other reviews from the Next Generation, click this link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Episode Review - Gambit, Part I (Next Generation, Season 7)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Overview – The crew of the Enterprise is investigating the apparent death of Captain Picard. They end up following a mercenary ship that is difficult to track and has been linked to several raids on archeology sites. As Riker wrestles with his grief over the Captain’s death, and his new duties as captain, they engage the mercenaries on Barradas III. Riker is captured and taken back to the ship where he is shocked to discover Picard on the mercenary ship, going by the name Galen. Together, Riker and Picard formulate a plan to infiltrate the mercenary captain’s crew to figure out what their mission is. Meanwhile, Data is left in command of the Enterprise and continues the search for mercenaries.

Score: 7/10 – This was a fun action story that gives us a few twists and turns. While there is little philosophical meat for the viewers to chew on, there is a fair bit of excitement. They open with the apparent death of Picard, but at the time nobody even suspected that the Captain was truly dead. This lessened the twist of seeing Picard working with the mercenaries a little bit, but it was still a bit of a shock. There are some great casting choices in this episode, primarily Richard Lynch as Baran, and Robin Curtis (who played Saavik in the third and fourth Trek films) as Tallera, a mysterious Romulan (or is she?). So, while this episode may not be the best of Trek’s two-parters, it is quite enjoyable. Baran is an especially sinister villain, and we get to see Picard punch out Riker. Always a good time.

Relevance – 2 points. One point is being scored for Picard using the alias name Galen, a tribute to his late archeology professor and mentor Richard Galen. It was fitting that he selected this name. Another point is scored for Picard/Galen referencing the incident of Minos Korva as an example of Riker’s “insubordinate past”. This is something that could be easily confirmed by the mercenaries and shows that sometimes the best way to deceive someone is with the truth.

Continuity - 3 points. Story wise continuity is intact. Things go along a standard format, but it all woks. Universe continuity also works well. Character continuity is especially intact. I really liked how they played the argument between Riker and Troi as they were dealing with the loss of Picard. All is well here.

Character Development – 3 points. The captain and first officer receive the most character attention, Riker most notably. It was Riker who we see early in the episode dealing with a difficult situation where the captain is supposedly dead, and he feels an obligation to bring those responsible to justice. This causes him some tension between him and Deanna, who also has her moment when she stands up to him in a strong and impassioned manner. Picard also has some good moments as he orchestrates his under-cover plan, which he is able to adapt when Riker enters into the fray.

Social Commentary – 1 point. One area where this episode falls short is in what this episode says about current society. This story is more of a straight up action adventure with little social relevance to us. The closest I can come up with is how sometimes the loss of a loved one through unjust means can lead to one focusing their anger into a determination to see justice is served.

Cool Stuff – 1 point. I have to give a point for casting Richard Lynch as Baran, the tyrannical leader of the mercenary group. While Baran may not be the most devious or deadly villain in Trek history, Lynch had presence about him that was effective in making Baran a force to be reckoned with. His voice and delivery really added to the character.

Rank – Captain (17 points). There are definitely stronger two-part episodes in the Trek universe, but this one is a decent enough. This seems to be a theme for this episode. There are several villains who are more imposing than Baran, yet Baran is quite sinsitger. There is some good action and suspense, but we can see better examples in other episodes. All in all, a solid outing, but it definitely shows signs of the fatigue that set in during TNG’s seventh and final season.

If you would like to read other reviews from the Next Generation, click this link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Episode Review - The Lights of Zetar (Original Series, Season 3)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Overview – The Enterprise is on its way to Memory Alpha, a planetoid that is home to the Federation’s largest computer library. On board is Lieutenant Mira Romaine, who has won the affections of Chief Engineer Scott. A strange storm approaches the ship, and it incapacitates the crew in different ways. Romaine collapses after the encounter and is heard speaking some sort of garbled language. Shortly after, the same storm engulfs Memory Alpha and kills the majority of the people stationed there. As Kirk and his away team explore the outpost, they encounter a woman who speaks the way Romaine did earlier. After the woman dies, Kirk questions Romains. The storm returns and this time, Lt. Romaine is overcome by the lights. It turns out that the storm is the remnants of the population of Zetar, a planet where all life was wiped out long ago. They seek Romaine as a vessel to inhabit and survive. Kirk and his crew risk Romaine’s life to drive out the aliens.

Score: 6/10 – It’s always nice to see someone other than Kirk get the girl. This episode, it’s Scotty’s turn. He is ever the gentleman towards the lovely Mira. The story, which was co-written by legendary ventriloquist Shari Lewis (best known for her act with Lamb Chop). The story is interesting, but the writing is a bit slow paced. I liked the idea of Scotty being in love, but he was portrayed as being a bit on the mushy side. The idea of Memory Alpha, an interstellar library of the Federation’s knowledge, was also interesting.

Relevance – 1 point. Not much connects this episode to anything else. I will give a point for Memory Alpha itself. If you look closely at the star charts in Kirk’s quarters, you will see the location of this planet. Other than that, there is nothing relevant to this episode. I will note here, however, that the online Trek reference site is called Memory Alpha for this place. It is the site that I get a lot of information from and would highly recommend you use it to learn more about all things Trek.

Continuity - 3 points. A point is scored for character continuity. Scotty has always worn his heart on his sleeves, and he does so in this episode. Kirk, at the end, makes a surprising conclusion when Scotty, Spock, and McCoy are all in agreement, and he makes a little joke about it, just as we would expect him to. Universe continuity is also good. Story wise, well, despite being a basic story, it follows along nicely.

Character Development – 2 points. Scotty definitely gets some attention, this time around with a love interest. The rest of the characters are not really given anything to build upon, as most of it is either commenting on Scotty’s love, or discussing the current dilemma. It is very refreshing to see our beloved chief engineer get the girl. While his love for Mira causes him to act terribly lovestruck, it is a different side of him that we see. Mostly, Scotty’s true love has been the Enterprise, but it is good to see that there is room in his heart for human companionship.

Social Commentary – 0 points. I really could not come up with any real connection to social commentary. This is a story, nothing else. It gives us nothing to really think about or ponder. Yes, there is the idea that we will go to great lengths to stay alive as the Lights of Zentar did, but to go to that extent is just not something most, if any, people can relate to.

Cool Stuff – 1 point. For its time, the effect of the sparkling lights was quite a cool effect. I liked the idea of having the souls/consciousnesses of former Zentarians was an interesting concept. While the effect may not be spectacular now, at the time they were worthy of note.

Rank – Lieutenant (13 points). A bit of a ho-hum episode. It’s nice to see Scotty in love, but beyond that there is not much else to it. For a better Scotty story, I would suggest “Wolf in the Fold” instead.

If you would like to read other reviews from the Original Series, click on the link here.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do.