Monday, October 29, 2012

Deep Space Nine, Season 1: The Storyteller

Deep Space Nine, Season 1
"The Storyteller"
Airdate: May 2, 1993
13 of 173 produced
13 of 173 aired


O'Brien and Bashir are summoned by a local Bajoran leader who says his village is in grave peril. Sisko must mediate a dispute between two different local governments to prevent war from breaking out between them. Will the crew get through this episode without being bored, literally, to death?
The specter of horrible green-screen loomed over our village once more!


Kevin: You're killing me here, DS9. I can't keep defending you to Matt if you keep handing me these episodes. Let's pick apart the A plot first. It not only doesn't make much sense, it's boring as all hell. If a cloud monster were appearing at regular intervals in the sky, wouldn't that merit some objective scientific attention prior to this? How did they get a small piece of Orb? And really...why did the last guy summon O'Brien? Our characters have nothing to do other than watch, except for the painfully awkward scene of O'Brien trying to lead the ritual. It's pretty unwatchable, all things considered. And not that I wish to delve too deeply into the plot here, but just so we're clear, the spiritual leader of the village whose only job is marshal positive feelings in times of stress to prevent the village's violent destruction totally tried to cut a dude for taking his job? How is he not in jail for attempted murder? Just saying...

Matthew: I was willing to suspend disbelief insofar as scientific attention went, since there was the Occupation and all that. What kind of blew me away was that there was no social or cultural attention paid to this. Is this village completely isolated from every other on Bajor? I mean, it has a magistrate (apparently a total ignoramus), and they can contact DS9. How could neighboring towns, visiting traders, and so on, not have heard of this? How could it not have become either a serious part of the Bajoran religion, or a serious threat to it? How could this orb fragment not have been weaponized, or stolen? How could generation after generation of people not notice that the thing appears on a rigid schedule, and that a dude with a glowing bracelet always seems to be the one controlling it? I get that there are sometimes esoteric cults that spring up, where adherents don't know everything that initiates do. But if my stuff were being destroyed annually, you'd better believe that I'd start asking some serious questions, and wouldn't willfully overlook the obvious answers staring me in the face.

Kevin: The B-plot also fails to move me. Two tribes fighting over a border. Exciting, right? Maybe we could have gotten a glimpse into how the Bajorn government works at various levels, but nope...none of that here. The scenes of Varis and Jake and Nog were not as painful as the rest of the episode, but neither were they dramatic gold. It had some life, at least, but not much more than that. And again, I couldn't possibly care less about their conflict, or really about the struggles of a teenager in a leadership role. There were no stakes, and as a result, no story.

Matthew: I hate it, and I mean absolutely hate it, when a B story is completely unrelated to the A story. And I'm pretty generous. I don't need a trite and obvious thematic connection, or even a really abstract connection I have to work for. Just being on the same ship or station is usually enough for me. Well, we don't even get that here. Couldn't either the Paku or the Navot been the endangered village? I think what this overall lack of relation did was to make the Bajorans feel totally random, and gave me, the viewer, the impression that there was little or no plan for them in the series to this point.  It's as if two plots that weren't good enough to sustain an entire episode were smashed together in a pathetic attempt to cobble together 44 minutes of story. I guess the real sin is that both plots were utterly inconsequential. The A plot saw O'Brien and Bashir not really make any progress as friends or even colleagues, and the B plot saw neither Jake nor Nog get laid. Neither plot taught us anything. Some more notes - so compulsory prostitution is something that is viewed as OK in this society that just survived a long occupation by a rapacious enemy? If Varis Sul was so keen on appearing grown up, why did she order a "Trixian Bubble Juice," and then throw it at Quark in a fit of pique? Also, can I just ask, how in the hell are two factions on Bajor willing to or even capable of killing each other after the Occupation?


Kevin: This was painful to watch, and I can't but imagine it was painful to act. All I can say is no one rose above it, certainly. Hovath and Varis were insufferably whiny at points. Everyone else was pretty bland. I don't even know what else to say here. I'm just marking time to the end of the paragraph so it looks like I've actually written something.

Matthew: I know that acting like a bad actor is a challenge. It is not a challenge that Colm Meaney surmounted, here. His line readings as the storyteller were excruciating. Siddig El Fadil was actually somewhat endearing in the shuttlecraft, but that quickly dissipated as he smirked his way through O'Brien's dilemma. In many ways, though, I think story and dialogue were the main culprits here. Everyone else was pretty much OK, and I even kind of liked Kay E. Kuter as the Sirah. I think he did a nice job of physically acting out the part of a spiritual leader, high on the hill, channeling his peoples' fears and hopes.

Production Values

Kevin: I'll say this for DS9, when their effects guys miss the mark, they do so with gusto. The Dal'rok is ridiculous. It's clearly a gas someone filmed and tinted blue and then badly green-screened into the episode. Beyond that, the village was okay and I kind of liked the crude map of the disputed river.

Matthew: This is definitely the worst green screen effect that I can recall in the franchise. The shot looking up from under O'Brien at the sky was laughable, even for 1993.


Kevin: Is this as bad as Move Along Home? No, and that's almost another problem. If you want to be bad, do it full-throated. This is boring to the point of being painful. If nothing else, I have watched this episode exactly three times. Once, when it aired. Once when I got the DVDs, just to make sure, and once to prepare this review. That should say something about the episode, if nothing else. This is a 1 from me.

Matthew: I'm actually kind of conflicted on this one. This is the first time I've liked an episode of DS9 more than Kevin. Apparently this was a script that TNG passed on, and it was reworked into a DS9 story. It shows, since the DS9 characters don't really gain from the tale, and the Bajorans' behavior makes almost no sense, given what precious little we've learned about them before this point. It's certainly poorly developed, but there is a germ of a good idea here. Something kept threatening to keep me interested in the A plot, and the B plot, though boring in its political aspect, wasn't altogether bad in terms of the Jake-Nog relationship. So does it rise above a 1, with enough redeeming facets to earn it a 2? I think it does. The image of an old man raising his arms against a storm was interesting. I at least understood the apprentice's rage, especially given all the prostitutes he was apparently in line for. There were so many interesting was this story could have been broken, and unfortunately the least interesting manner was the one we received. But it's not as annoying as Move Along Home. Character motivations make some sense, at least the guest characters. So I will give it as low a 2 as I can muster (which, coincidentally, is worth the same as the highest 2), and that brings our total rating to a 3.


  1. I thought for sure there would be commentary on Jake's outfit.

    It was memorable.

  2. I enjoy the B plot, always fast forward through the A plot upon rewatch. It was complete and utter boring bullshit.