Monday, January 28, 2013

Deep Space Nine, Season 2: Armageddon Game

Deep Space Nine, Season 2
"Armageddon Game"
Airdate: January 30, 1994
32 of 173 produced
32 of 173 aired


Dr. Bashir and Chief O'Brien assist two long-warring races in disposing of their stockpile of biological weaponry. Things take a turn for the worse, though, when those races also decide to dispose of anyone who has worked directly with the weapons, to prevent their ever being re-created.

Do you think we're still invited to the party, Chief?


Matthew: This story has at its core a nice sci-fi idea that recalls all sorts of contemporary struggles - nuclear non-proliferation, biological warfare, and land mines. It raises interesting questions about the knowledge involved in creating such weapons, too - how imperative is it to control the knowledge that might create doomsday weapons? Does it answer these questions? Not really. But it at least raises them. I would have appreciated a deeper investigation into whether this impulse has a chilling effect on scientific development overall, and the ethical dimensions of killing individuals to save societies. It might have been nice for the disease to be more virulent, creating some good "Outbreak" drama (apparently it doesn't even transmit between people in the same household, which really has be questioning how so few harvesters could really endanger multiple worlds). It might have helped if more disease horror had been depicted, to justify the killing of the scientists and to really make us sympathize with the aliens' goals in eliminating them.

Kevin: I liked the basic idea of the plot as well, but the ambassadors did seem to be going a little overboard a little early. I think there a couple of avenues they could have explored to justify killing all the scientists. Maybe they could have found evidence that pieces of the research were being sold, and they didn't know who, so rather than risk it, they decided to kill anyone with knowledge of the Harvesters. A line or two about less than 100% transmission or lethality in humans would have helped, as well. As much as I hate to say it, this episode may have really benefited from a redshirt, maybe one with a bit of a backstory to die of the disease to give the disease a bit more teeth.

Matthew: Although I generally enjoyed the plot as it was given, I was left with some real nagging questions. Why not shoot the damn things into the sun? That ought to be enough "radiation" to eliminate them entirely, muons or not. Why did the assault team come in so soon? They were firing before the last batch of harvesters were destroyed. Seems counterproductive to me, if the goal at hand is the destruction of th weapons.Why not just blow up the ship with a core breach, as opposed to shooting people (with potential close combat wrinkles) and fabricating computer records (with potential detection wrinkles)? Where is this planetary system? Whether it is the Alpha or the Gamma quadrant does bear on the story, since an Alpha Quadrant society might not want to piss off the Federation so readily. Presumably it is in the Alpha Quadrant, since Sisko talks to them via subspace, and the wormhole is never depicted. Since Bashir cures the harvester infection by the end of the episode, doesn't that obviate the entire story?

Kevin: The difficulty of destroying the Harvesters was a little odd for me too. Maybe the problem could be changed to trying to eradicate it from an ecosystem without destroying the ecosystem. The exact nature of the attack and the staged explanation seemed artificially crafted to set up Keiko's doubts and eventual solutions. I think it would have actually been a better ending for Bashir not to cure it, but because of a fluke of the disease in humans, O'Brien survived. Bashir could have guilt for not being able to solve it and it could have been an interesting final scene. I will say, that despite everything being a little too neat to set up the Keiko plot, I really enjoyed watching it. Sisko's condolences and the way they try to listen to her without patronizing her were great, and the emotional payoff at the end when they are reunited makes the rest of the episode more than worth its small flaws in construction.

Matthew: The character development is pretty good. We get some good back story for Bashir, with his choices as a young Academy graduate. The contrast between he and O'Brien is a good one. I didn't like how Bashir cut off O'Brien's last message to his family  - he should not have been so confident in his survival. The thing about Julian giving his medical school diaries to Dax is perfect for the character - it's just the sort of vain and egotistical thing that fits him perfectly, but it's also oddly earnest and kind of pathetic.

Kevin: I had forgotten about the diary thing. It is pompous, but pathetic, isn't it? Much more than Storyteller, their buddy comedy antagonism really worked here. Any time they don't have Bashir chasing skirt, it really makes his character much better. I totally buy a young Starfleet officer as full of himself; it's just that when they show it in romantic contexts, it's just too creepy. I also liked the scenes with Keiko and Sisko regarding Bashir and O'Brien's deaths. For Sisko, it had a sense of familiarity and for Keiko the right sense of anticipation. He's given this speech before, and she's always worried one day she'd hear it, but that didn't make actually hearing it easier. It's as much a credit to the actors, but the low key approach the writers took gave the seen a sense of numbness that really made it affecting.


Matthew: Clearly this episode is heavy on Sidding El Fadil and Colm Meaney, and both actors deliver. Unlike "The Storyteller," this episode is structured specifically for extended character moments. Survival, illness, and "last stand" scenes generally allow actors the chance to shine. El Fadil in particular is less annoying than has been par so far in the series. Of course Meaney is his stalwart self - even when he's unduly pissy with Bashir, I still like him.

Kevin: The two of them really are in the upper tiers of "opposites attract" buddy comedies. What both actors do well is layers in their performances. Bashir is an eager puppy dog for O'Brien's approval, but without thinking would show off his medical knowledge and professional status. O'Brien is genuinely annoyed but also a little jealous of Bashir's youth. Like Spock and Kirk, I get the sense these two will become friends because they actually recognize something in each other they need, and the actors really carry that off.

Matthew: Ah, Rosalind Chao. Why couldn't you have been in more episodes? She elevates every story she's in, by being a perfect, clear, resonant "normal human being." This was a pretty blah Kira and Odo episode for me. Dax and Sisko were good. Quark was played by Armin Shimerman with his usual perfect pitch, even in short little scenes.

Kevin: Rosalind Chao has always been awesome, from "Data's Day" on. Obviously her chemistry with Colm Meany is a large part of that, but more than almost any other guest star, she acts like she's part of the universe, not merely a modern day person dropped into the episode as an avatar for the audience. Her quiet delivery in the scene when Sisko breaks the news is devastating. I was okay with the ambassadors. Maybe the hair was distracting, but I never really got a read on them. They weren't bad certainly, but didn't really stand out.

Production Values

Matthew: The spaceship was reused from TNG, and it's a cool model, so why not? It was neat seeing the runabout next to it in scale, too. The lab looked really nice, and the shot of the planet out the window really placed us in the scene. The slow pan of the harvesters in the teaser was pretty good, but I'd have liked a lot more harvesters for dramatic effect, perhaps with a matte painting. Speaking of paintings, the devastated planet matte with a bit of 3-D effect was really cool, and they mixed well it with a nice set for the domicile that our heroes hole up in.

Kevin: The feint with the two runabouts was well done visually, and I agree the scale comparison was awesome. I liked the sets for the ruins. The lighting guy earned his paycheck that week. It really felt like it was the interior of some real, outdoor building, and not a soundstage. It was also a nice change of pace from the station set.

Matthew: This episode was nominated for a hairstyling Emmy... really? I'll admit the beehives were elaborate, but I have a hard time believing everyone in such an advances society has the same hairdo. Maybe it's a rank thing?

Kevin: I really think certain styling Emmys must heavily weight a degree of difficulty over aesthetic concerns. I liked the uniforms though. They had a nice texture without veering into Romulan upholstery territory.


Matthew: Although there are some obvious, even prominent logic issues in this episode, I find it enjoyable to watch. I find myself wavering between a 3 and a 4. I think I'm going to have to go with a 3, because the story issues really are somewhat glaring, and the shape of the plot ought to have been significantly different based on them.

Kevin: I agree with the 3. The character interactions are really top notch, and the besic idea of the story is good, even if it's not executed perfectly. This is still a pretty entertaining episode that really starts to sell me on the Bashir/O'Brien friendship. That makes a 6 from us.

1 comment:

  1. "You know, I wouldn't mind a cup of coffee right now."
    "Miles, you never drink coffee in the afternoon."
    "Sure I do!"
    "You do?!"

    This interaction made the whole episode ten times better. It's always wonderful that the writers let them be such a *human* married couple.