Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Deep Space Nine, Season 2: Whispers

Deep Space Nine, Season 2
Airdate: February 8, 1994
33 of 173 produced
33 of 173 aired


Chief O'Brien returns from preparing for a peace conference to find everyone on the station, acting strangely. Even Keiko seems oddly distant and evasive. To make matters worse, it seems as if everyone is trying to keep him from being a part of the security preparations for the conference that he should be a part of. Is there really a conspiracy growing against him, or is he losing his mind?

Get AWAY! Some good parent told me daddy was replaced with a zombie replica!


Kevin: I think the strongest part of this episode is the tone it sets and builds really effectively. The things the chief notices that seem off are innocuous enough to start and build well to the confrontation in the security office. I like the basic twist a lot. It's the ultimate extension of the secret double agent. He's such a perfect copy that he's trying to stop the plot he's actually a part of. The scene with Keiko and the stew in particular was just awesome. The first time through, especially with her refusal to eat it, makes you think it's obviously poisoned, but once you know the twist, the scene becomes creepy for her, trying to fake a dinner with a man not her husband. It was also a really effective device given how often the familiar, warm relationship between the two anchors stories involving the O'Briens.

Matthew: Yeah, the emotional tone of the episode was pretty great. Conspiracy stories are fun by nature (which explains the persistence of even the dumbest conspiracy theories, e.g. Beyonce flashing Illuminati signs during the Superbowl), precisely because they overturn our assumptions, and raise the stakes for characters in new and unexpected ways. This one is written pretty well, with only small exceptions (scenes that linger beyond O'Brien's scene exit, a lack of substantial payoff after the reveal). As you say, the individual scenes all really work. I liked the switch in Odo's behavior, too.

Kevin: Where I think the episode falls a little short is not developing the philosophical aspects of the story enough. If he is that good a copy, is he meaningfully different than our Chief? If regular Chief O'Brien were somehow brainwashed into being an assassin, the crew would absolutely feel a responsibility to help him rather than just stop him. Does the same obligation extend to the replicant? A denouement discussing it would have really elevated the episode.

Matthew: The whole replicant thing is a huge can of worms, and severa aspects should have been addressed. Indeed, if this being has all of O'Brien's memories (literally all of them, apparently) and is completely convinced that he is O'Brien, it sure seems like he ought not be treated the way he is, by Keiko for instance. Why does Molly know he should be treated badly? How long doe these replicants last? How often are they created? I think one problem was never showing the dark side of the replicant, or at least a hint of what he could become under the wrong circumstances. Perhaps if a Paradan secret agent had been on board, he could have activated latent programming, or at least added a mystery element to the story, pretending to be his friend against the "conspirators."

Kevin: The other major problem for me is the lack of development of the Paradans. I don't really care about them. Maybe it would have helped if like in "The Mind's Eye," there was a covert operative there as well, as that could have made the Paradans more interesting and fleshed out. As it is, the threat to the Paradan's peace process seems pretty distant. Still, even given these complaints, I still really enjoy this episode. The creepy, claustrophobic tone coupled with watching O'Brien suss out the mystery makes for a pretty entertaining episode.

Matthew: Yes! Who are these people? What is the plot? Is their culture riddled with other replicants? What are the negotiating over, anyway? What is the plot - assassination? Sabotage?The conclusion leaves these things so vague as to render everything but the paranoia in the episode unsatisfying. Luckily, it was pretty satisfying as it stood.


Kevin: In news that I am sure will shock our readership, Colm Meaney is a very good actor. The writers will come to love screwing with him, and it's easy to see why. Watching him feel off about Keiko, or frustrated with Julian, you can really feel the tension building. The chase scenes were great as its fun to see his personality be something other than genial and dependable.

Matthew: Yeah, I thought it was really cool to see O'Brien as action hero, similar to Picard in "Starship Mine." Colm Meaney is one of those easily identifiable everymen, who any audience can root for and feel along with as a character. It's a great boon to the show, especially since so many other characters are so distant or aloof-seeming to the viewer.

Kevin: Rosalind Chao really knocks this one out of the park two. The actors have great chemistry, and it's a challenge to work against that, and she succeeds in spades. Tapping into the familiarity but turning it on its head is really an accomplishment.

Matthew: I enjoyed Rene Auberjonois quite a bit, for similar reasons. Here, we got to see the Before and After behaviors in quick succession, and it shows how good he is. It's sometimes easy to think of his performance as very one note, because of what he's asked to do by the writers.

Production Values

Kevin: Like "The Big Goodbye" or "Necessary Evil," this episode really nails a claustrophobic noir tone. I enjoyed the subtler homages without having to bust out a dark and stormy night or a dame with a long cigarette. I liked the choices of how they filmed the security office and Ops from different angles.Overall, I would say that this show has a pretty good track record of creating visual interest out of what are essentially a lot of bottle shows. I'm never bored or lost in the staging choices.

Matthew: We got to see things we normally don't, like the insides of panels, infirmary dressing gowns, Jeffries tubes, and other little nooks and crannies of the station. It was a good thing, because things might have otherwise been a bit stale.

Kevin:  I really liked the planet and moon shots in the Paradan system. They looked great, especially for the time. I liked the Okudagrams for the chase scene as well. The final Paradan caves were not great. Those archways look really familiar, but I can't quite place them.

Matthew: Yeah, I think generally the runabout stuff looked good, both interior and exterior. The use of extras throughout the episode was good, too, adding a certain feeling of crowdedness and anonymity that worked with the episode tone.


Kevin: This gets a 4 from me. A little more exploration of the Paradans or the philosophical implications of the duplicate O'Brien would have knocked this up to the five, but the episode we have is a well crafted and atmospheric outing. The acting is top notch, and it's fun to see everyone have to act slightly weird so successfully  particularly Rosalind Chao. This is definitely a highlight of season 2.

Matthew: It's a close call for me, but the acting and the creepy tone pushes it to a 4 instead of a 3. That makes our total an 8. It's a nice return to form after a stretch of "meh" episodes.


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