Friday, November 9, 2012

Deep Space Nine, Season 1: The Forsaken

Deep Space Nine, Season 1
"The Forsaken"
Airdate: May 23, 1993
17 of 173 produced
17 of 173 aired


An alien probe threatens to overrun the station's computer system. Meanwhile, Dr. Bashir escorts some annoying visiting dignitaries on a visit to the station. Lwaxana Troi, one of the dignitaries, gets trapped in an elevator with Odo.

Never let them see you sweat when you're being sexually harassed.


Matthew: OK, look. I'm going to get this out of the way. This is a better Lwaxana episode than her last outing in the franchise, "Dark Page" (in other news, Mussolini is slightly better than Hitler). Does this mean it's anything close to a good episode? No. No it doesn't. This story is riddled with problems, the first and foremost being that there are three plots that basically have nothing to do with each other, one of which is a rehash, and the other two being basically superfluous and pointless. Which plot is the "A" plot? It's hard to say, but I'll go with the alien probe. This is a clear re-do of TNG episodes like "Contagion," but it has no teeth whatsoever. So it's a computer program, and it wants to be... where the action is? Ugh. The fact that they make a pet dog joke at the end indicates how non-threatening and uninteresting this plot strain is. And then there's the fact that it's only really discussed for about 10 minutes worth of screen time. What a waste.

Kevin: This is almost not really a plot. Given that we never get to interact directly with the alien at work really ensures that I don't care about what happens. There's got to be a dozen spins they could have put on it. Just sitting here, I came up with one. It is a technology based life-form and assumes the station and its programming is a kindred spirit and doesn't realize the people on board are life forms or that they're being put in danger. There. Bam. Done. You have a discreet character for the program, a sci-fi twist on the nature of life, and a chance for a good ol' fashioned bridge-crossing first contact. I should not be able to so easily outpace the writing staff, is all I'm saying. Even as a kid, I didn't care about this story.

Matthew: Let's call the "B" plot the abortive romance between Troi and Odo. I was annoyed that Lwaxana spent the early part of the episode being alternately shrill and comedically horny, yet again. Haven't we heaped enough indignity upon her character yet? When she is played so obviously for laughs, it raises internal logic questions with respect to why she is an ambassador at all. Just once, I'd like to see her mediate a dispute, or solve a galactic crisis, to establish some credibility for her character. Anyhow, things calmed down a bit once they got stuck in the turbolift, but I felt there was not enough revelation about Odo to justify the time spent. We had already covered this emotional territory and gotten a lot of this sort of stuff already in "Vortex" and "A Man Alone." Then, when Odo goes liquid on Lwaxana's dress (just had flashbacks of the late 90s), I again have questions: how much does Odo weigh? If it's not 150 pounds plus, does his density change? What is his maximum or minimum volume?

Kevin: Especially as I've matured into adulthood, I've grown increasingly less amused to outright hostile to the "won't take no for an answer" played for laughs. Where Urkel was funny in my youth, he is now really creepy. How could a normal human, let alone a telepath not just fail to pick up on lack of interest, but outright discomfort? When you could read it as knowingly, winkingly tweaking Picard's stuffiness, it was a little fun, but here, it's just creepy. If nothing else, in real life, this behavior gets you a restraining order, and I have long wearied of its enshrinement in romantic comedy. However! I actually love the scene in the turbolift. Lwaxana was sensitive and...wait for it...empathic about Odo and his needs. The line "No one's ever paid me a greater compliment," was genuine and touching, and should be reverse engineered as the through line for the character. Not creepy and horny, but sensitive and passionate and unafraid of bucking expectations.

Matthew: The C plot (or D plot?) of Bashir escorting the ambassadors was totally superfluous. I guess it was supposed to develop the Bashir character by showing him to be resourceful under pressure. But it was kind of pointless. I can't help but think that, if the A plot had been jettisoned, then the B and C plots could have been given more breathing room. Maybe a diplomatic incident could have arisen, requiring Troi's special talents, and putting Bashir in an uncomfortable, career-threatening position. I dunno.

Kevin: The problem was the part could have been played by any of the characters. There was nothing that required it to be Bashir, and honestly, watching O'Brien be flustered probably would have been more fun.


Matthew: Once she calms down, Barrett is involving to watch. But the writing, yet again, kind of overcomes her as a serious and interesting screen presence. I think she acted the wig scene well. But she annoyed me during the bar scenes, and while she was sexually harassing Odo. The rest of the guest cast was pretty pointless. They were more caricatures than characters, but the actors probably can't be faulted, since they were given so little screen time by a poorly structured story.

Kevin: I kind of like (read: love) the bar scene. Its implications about warrantless searches and racial profiling aside, I still crack up when Lwaxana says "Yes, and I know where it hurts the most." It's a nice nod to continuity, even if it was a bad part of it. I've said it before, I can never fault Majel Barrett for not attacking her scenes with gusto. As I said above, I continue to find the wig scene touching, and one of my favorite moments for her character. If nothing else, it reminded me of her performance in "Half a Life."

Matthew: Auberjonois does a good job with both his straight man and pathos material, and, whether or not we've seen it before, really can't be faulted here. I believed his emotional story, and he gave it a suitably alienated quality. Siddig El Fadil was pretty good, until he was called upon to deliver his "ambassadors of unhappy" line. Yikes. The rest of the main cast was pretty non-descript.

Kevin: Auberjonois really does a great job throughout the series of portraying the ambivalence he feels about his nature as a shapeshifter. He clearly portrays someone who has internalized the bigotry he has faced in other episodes, and it's always compelling to watch. Little side note. O'Brien's Bajoran assistant was supposed to start a multi-episode arc before the events of the season finale, but she "didn't work out" as they say, and she was replaced by Robin Christopher in the last episodes of the season. I can't say as I blame them. On rewatch, she really didn't have a handle on the technobabble.

Production Values

The elevator optical was interesting, but not mind-blowing. The morphing effect when Odo shifted into Troi's dress was pretty blah and was never really convincing. But I do appreciate that they spent the money and time doing it. There was a nice job done on the deterioration makeup for Odo before his reversion to liquid.

Kevin: They turn the dial up to eleven on that in "The Die is Cast," but it's good here too. The problem as far as his gelatinous state is that even by the end of the series, when in it, he is always obviously not in the room as a real thing. I don't know how they could have fixed it, but it's always painfully clear that it's an optical effect. I did like the detail on the inside of the turboshaft.


Matthew: It doesn't get more "2" than this, if you ask me. So much of this episode was pointless and irritating, but it was redeemed by a few nice scenes. This joins a litany of both subpar Lwaxana shows, as well as a run of really blah Season One episodes in DS9. Move along home, people, there's nothing to see here.

Kevin: For the scene in the turbolift alone, I want to give it a three, but my love for the character couldn't save "Menage a Troi" or "Dark Page" and it can't save this one. That scene is lovely, but this episode is still a 2 for a total of 4.

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