Friday, March 29, 2013

Deep Space Nine, Season 2: The Jem'Hadar

Deep Space Nine, Season 2
"The Jem'Hadar"
Airdate: June 12, 1994
45 of 173 produced
45 of 173 aired

Introduction

Commander Sisko has taken Jake and Nog to Gamma Quadrant to do a planetary survey for a school project. Much to his chagrin, Quark has tagged along. However, the trip is cut short when Quark and Sisko are captured by the Jem'Hadar, fearsome soliders of the Dominion. Now Jake and Nog are left to find a way to help them, and the station is left preparing to face a new and powerful threat.

This one totally wasn't Counselor Troi's fault.




Writing

Kevin: We finally pull the trigger on the quietly building Dominion story, and thank the Blessed Exchequer. I think they gave as many hints as possible before it got silly, and I like how they turned it on its ear by showing that the Dominion was already fully aware of the Federation. Their introduction was also intimidating, but not monolithic in the way the Borg were. The destruction of the Bajoran colony and the Odyssey give a real sense of how powerful they are, but I don't feel like they wrote themselves into a corner the way they kind of did with the Borg. The scene in Ops in particular was pretty chilling and well constructed. They beam through the shields, walk through the force field, and then Kira recognizes the Bajoran data padd. It was a really efficient way to portray how scary they are with a very short scene.

Matthew: The only thing I wasn't quite clear on was how and why the Jem'Hadar infiltration of the Alpha Quadrant happened concurrently with the camping trip of Sisko and Quark. The Jem'Hadar commander from the planet made the trip personally in order to... posture? I guess he was announcing Sisko's capture but I just don't see why it was necessary. What sort of plan was this, in which the Vorta attacks, then befriends, then spies on Sisko? Were they waiting for Sisko specifically? It's a bit threadbare of a plat for me. That's not to say it doesn't result in some fun scenes. I agree that the posturing was cool and sets up nice tension.

Kevin: The episode starts as a bit of a fakeout with the Jake/Nog story, but unlike other unrelated B-plots, this one has a lot of life to it. The sparring between Quark and Sisko about humanity and bigotry is pretty fantastic, and a shining example of how DS9 can examine Star Trek's basic ethos. It was handled really well by the actors and kept what could have been fluff scenes from being wasted.

Matthew: Yeah, pitting Quark against Sisko was a great juxtaposition. Their argument was good. The Jake/Nog rescue scenes were interesting but problematic, as you mention below. I find the notion that removing a widget from a console would cause a warp core breach in TEN SECONDS ridiculous in he extreme. The story had an oddly disjointed structure, in that we spend most of the first 2/3 with Sisko on the planet, but then go back to the Odyssey and mentions of New Bajor on the back end. I kind of wish the plots had been running concurrently, it might have answered some of my questions re: coincidence.

Kevin: Cliffhangers are a mixed bag in TNG. Best of Both Worlds is gripping, but I would say they never quite hit that height again with either the set up or payoff of cliffhanger, so I like that this episode leaves a little more room. The threat is there, but since it's clear it won't and shouldn't be resolved in one episode, the writers are free to approach it how they want. Season 3 can premiere seconds after Sisko's last words, or as we see eventually, weeks. It allows the same amount of tension without boxing the writers in.

Matthew: I agree, and I think perhaps this story as structured couldn't really end with a cliffhanger. More time would have been necessary to spend on setup. I loved the dialogue about the Dominion that was delivered by the Jem'Hadar commander. The question of whether the Founders exist, and his disappointment at not meeting Klingons was cool.

Kevin: A few nitpicks. Why isn't there some kind of emergency process for the runabout? All they wanted to do was return to the station. What if Sisko had had a heart attack or something? This is the Federation. They have triple backups for everything. It seems a bit of filler to have Jake and Nog dismantling the runabout.

Acting

Kevin: Avery Brooks was spot on in this episode. He never chews the scenery or shouts too much. He walks the line well with both Quark and the Jem'Hadar soldier. Armin Shimerman was great, too. He clearly enjoyed rubbing Sisko's nose in humanity's past, and it's clear these scenes were a bit of atonement for the initial Ferengi portrayal. The way he nailed the line "We remind you of who you used to be," was just genius. The comedy bits played really well too. I still crack up at the campfire bits.

Matthew: Very much agreed on both actors. I wonder if Brooks over-acts when he has only a few scenes, but is more comfortable when he anchors an episode. Shimerman is his usual excellent self, both as a comic as well as a dramatic actor. Cirroc Lofton and Aron Eisenberg were just OK for me. Lofton doesn't change much from show to show. Eisenberg was kind of grating. Alan Oppenheimer was sufficiently captain-ey.

Kevin: I liked Eris. She has a other-worldly quality and her pivot to Evil Voice after her exposure was great. I liked Talak'Talan a lot as well. He gave the Jem'Hadar an aggressive, but not mindless quality. He really acted through the make-up well. I got the sense that everything he was doing was sizing up his prey, which is of course what it was.

Matthew: Cress Williams made this episode. Had his performance failed, the show would have been lackluster. It's not plot heavy, so it needs atmosphere and tone. Williams provides it in spades. His voice is great, he walks really well, and as you say, he acts through make-up well. Just as crucially wrong as the first Ferengi appearance was in TNG, this performance gets everything crucially right.


Production Values

Kevin: Well...no complaints here. I really like the design of the Jem'Hadar ships. The scarab design gives them a low, swift profile and I like the violet color scheme, one not already identified with  an Alpha Quadrant race. The battle sequence was amazing  It had real energy, but it didn't lose focus. The explosion sequence, while it was the explosion overlay over disappearing ship, has enough awesome looking debris to avoid my normal problems with that. I would have liked them to use an actual Galaxy class bridge, as whatever side room they were using just felt odd.

Matthew: My only issue with the battle sequence is one of writing - I have a hard time believing that a runabout could hang in there with a Jem'Hadar ship. But visually it was probably the best space battle in the franchise so far. The use of the Galaxy model was superb, and the explosion aftermath was one of the best effects in the series.

Kevin: I like the rhinoceros hide of the Jem'Hadar. It does a good job of leaving their eyes and mouth free to express emotion. The look genuinely intimidating, but not plastic, and each solider has a visibly different look. Planet California looked pretty good as well. I also have a to give a great deal of praise to the scene in Ops with the solider. The walkthrough of the force field looked great and really contoured his body. It made a great written scene even better when it was seen.

Matthew: The location shoots really helped widen the feel of the episode. Also, kudos to the pyrotechnics team and to Shimerman for personally doing a flame suit bit.

Conclusion

Kevin: This is a 4. It's an action episode, but it's very well done, though the Jake/Nog bits while cute, read a little as filler. There's no denying though that after seeing a Galaxy class starship get creamed, your jaw, especially as a long term fan, was on the floor for the balance of the summer.

Matthew: This is averagely entertaining as a plot, but several standout performances make this a 4. Shimerman and Cress Williams specifically really sold their parts and made the relationships between characters really interesting.That makes a total of 8 from the both of us. This was a nice conclusion to an uneven season.

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