Thursday, October 25, 2012

Deep Space Nine, Season One: Battle Lines

Deep Space Nine, Season 1
"Battle Lines"
Airdate: April 25, 1993
12 of 173 produced
12 of 173 aired



On a tour through the wormhole to please Kai Opaka, Sisko and crew become mired in a strange situation on a Gamma Quadrant prison moon. The Kai dies in a shuttle crash, but is resurrected by the prison planet's strange properties. Now, they are all caught in a never-ending war between the immortal prisoners of this world, and must find a way to escape before they die themselves.

Why, why, WHY can't this show be consistently good?!


Matthew: This episode has a fair amount going for it, but it also suffers from some major problems. On the plus side, I think the sci-fi concept of nanites (essentially what would later be called Borg Nanoprobes) being used to punish people with immortality is a novel and interesting one. Of course, it raises loads of questions, none of which are answered in this episode. But it's thought provoking. Another good point is how the episode deepens Kira's character and sheds light on the importance of the Kai in Bajoran culture. I enjoyed learning about this stuff, and felt this was one of the first instances in which Bajoran culture was actually rendered in an interesting way.

Kevin: I agree that this episode has a lot in the idea department, even if the execution fumbles a bit. I take this episode as the inversion of TOS' "A Taste of Armageddon." Rather than war going on forever because it carries less immediately horrifying consequences, we get the reverse. A vicious war goes on forever because they don't know any other way. I also liked that they used the episode to engage Kira's past. A lot of fiction, sci fi or otherwise tends to gloss over the violence committed for a good reason, as if the good reason makes it all okay, so confronting the fact that living a life of violence, even if it's for the greater good, has changed Kira, is interesting. Any episode that uses the science fiction conceit to do some character development gets at least some credit in my book.

Matthew: OK, problem time. The whole setup felt really arbitrary. It was obvious from the get-go that something bad was going to happen to the Kai. They just layered on the foreshadowing too thick. She's going on about prophecy, she gives jewelry to a girl she's never met, and the Doctor goes along for... script reasons? Speaking of prophecy, you know what's interesting about prophecy? ACTUALLY HEARING IT. It is utterly asinine to have the character go on and on about it without actually telling the audience about it. Prophecies can add mystery and strangeness to a story, that is, if we actually know what the prophecies are. In many scenes, I felt like something had been cut for time, and that thing would have made the episode measurably better. Speaking of holy people and mysterious things, why do we get no questions of the afterlife, near death experiences, and so on, from the holiest person in Bajoran culture?

Kevin: Particularly the scene with O'Brien, it was all just a little too precious. The Kai seems possessed not only of a knowledge of prophecy, but somehow her own prescience  and it doesn't quite make sense. Some, any explanation would have helped, but we didn't get any, and Bajoran religion had not been explained enough to stand without it at this point.

Matthew: A similar lack of information plagues the prison plot. I was yearning to hear about the planet that had banished them, what the substance of their struggle was, how long they had been on the prison for, who designed the satellites and nanites and whether these technologies granted them immortality, etc. etc. Really, I had no end of questions, as it was a thought provoking premise. How many answers did I get? Nigh on bupkus. Wouldn't it be more interesting if they'd been there for tens of thousands of years forgetting even their names, their pasts, switching sides back and forth, and their planet had actually crumbled to dust in the meantime? Maybe they could have built utopias, seen them fall, and so on? On the other hand, how does a computer system stay up for that long? Basically, these two undercooked aspects of the plot leave Opaka's decision to stay and her rationale seeming like a bunch of bland, unsatisfying platitudes (they've forgotten how to live, etc.).

Kevin: I agree they did not take the plot far enough. Details about both their experience on the moon and the circumstances of how they got there would have added depth to the story. They could have even drawn more parallels to the Occupation. Maybe both groups started out fighting an oppressive genocidal force and turned on each other without a common foe to fight. Maybe at this point, the episode would have ended up too heavy handed as a message for Kira, but a deft hand could have done something intersting.

Matthew: Can I just ask, how does Sisko's reputation survive him killing the pope on a vacation trip? I'm not docking this episode, because of future episodes' failures to answer this question. Also in this vein, "Your power and mine will cross again..." sounds really cool, but it's apparently an idle boast.

Kevin: My nagging question involves the scars they have. Is it just immortality or is there some broader regeneration ability? If they cut off an arm, does it grow back? Wouldn't vaporization work? A few lines of dialogue could have helped, and it's not too big a problem, but still.


Matthew: I'm not a huge fan of Nana Visitor's initial grief acting, but I like her more reflective stuff later on, both lamenting the Kai's loss as well as not wanting the Kai to see her as violent. As far as other main cast members go, Terry Farrell and Colm Meaney did... not really save their heavily technobabble-laden lines.

Kevin: I liked Kira in the death scene. I appreciate any actor who commits to ugly crying in a scene. The later stuff with the Kai was great and the first glimmers of the Kira I will eventually come to really like, since she is not reading her lines like I think Michelle Forbes would have read them.

Matthew: I really liked the Ennis leader, played by Jonathan Banks, for some reason. He's a veteran character actor, and he really imbues the role with a weariness but also a hard quality that is really compelling. In my book, this was one of their better casting choices for the season.Camille Saviola is charming and compelling as a screen presence. Unfortunately, she is completely wasted in this episode. She is literallly given nothing interesting to say.

Kevin: Agreed on both counts. The episode has some slight pacing issues, but could have been much worse if the Ennis leader were a snooze. Opaka is a great character, and Saviola is a good actress, so it's sad they got rid of her so early, particularly because they never brought her back.

Production  Values

Matthew: There is a nice CGI Okudagram of the planet and its satellite system. I was disappointed, though, that we didn't get a more elaborate look at the planetary system itself, in a beauty space shot. There were some nice crash scenes through the shuttle window, as well. I liked the explosive emergency door on the shuttle.

Kevin: Sometimes an episode works where all the action takes place via Okudagram, but this is not one of them. A few shots of the satellite system would have gone a long way.

Matthew: Unfortunately, the planet surface was beyond boring. The ground was obviously a flat soundstage and the rocks were obviously not true terrain features. This episode would have benefited from a location shoot, and some daylight. Why does a prison planet need to be drab? The fight scenes were pretty well done, thought he wounds could have used some more detail, and it might have been nice to see a nanite in action, actually repairing a wound.

Kevin: The fight scenes were pretty gruesome for television, I remember thinking as a kid. The cave system did look like every other Planet Hell set in existence. A more open, maybe jungle setting, would have made the episode more interesting to look at.


Matthew: I wanted to give this a 3 due to its strong concept. But it's just so half baked, I was too annoyed to go beyond a 2, yet again. The actors were underutilized, and the conflict of the episode fails to be memorable, for lack of detail.

Kevin: I think this, like last week's entry, just makes it into a 3. The idea is sound, and enough production and acting is good enough to make this an average, if unremarkable episode. That makes a total of 5 from the both of us.

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