Monday, March 4, 2013

Deep Space Nine, Season 2: The Maquis, Part I

Deep Space Nine, Season 2
"The Maquis, Part I"
Airdate: April 24, 1994
39 of 173 produced
39 of 173 aired


The "morally superior" members of the Federation are tested when it is revealed that its own citizens are engaging in terrorist activity against the Cardassians.

See that model on my shelf? Sweet, huh? Maybe they'll do a show about it someday... sucka!


Kevin: You know me. I'm a sucker for a good Star Trek political drama, and this episode certainly has it in spades. There are several threads to look at here. First, I think, even more than the Dominion, at least at this point, represent Star Trek's first real, concentrated effort at a multi-episode, series altering set of events. I like that both TNG and DS9 engage the arc, and eventually a major early plot of Voyager is based on it. Journey's End had premiered a few weeks before, and Preemptive Strike will show up later in TNG's final season. This is more a compliment of the second part, but I like that everything is not tied up by the end of the story, like it was in the season 2 opening trilogy.

Matthew: Yeah, as I was watching this, I kept thinking, "ooh, neat, Voyager picked up on that," or "TNG picked up on that." Of course, the viewer would not know this when watching just this episode, but this show itself picked up on numerous threads started in TNG "Journey's End," such as the Native American among the colonists, the whole treaty/border dispute, and all that. It's funny how sometimes a story by committee ends up being really good, probably because more cooks in the pot can ensure that interesting past ingredients get re-used. And indeed, though it is not a virtue of this episode properly, the fact that "Preemptive Strike" and "Caretaker" follow up on it is great.

Kevin: Judging this episode for itself, I think they did a good job of actually laying out the players and their motivations, and the results was some pretty good drama. The Maquis themselves seem to be made up of a diverse group of people with different goals and tactics, and that feels very realistic. They should not have the cohesion of a culture or military organization. I like the Hudson subplot. It shows the antipathy for the treaty runs deeper than the displaced colonists. And between Evek and Dukat, I liked seeing the nuances of Cardassian politics. The Sisko/Dukat stuff was great. Sisko is forced to confront unpleasant realities and Dukat's real motives are kept wonderfully vague. So, much like the Klingon arc in TNG, I think this story definitely has some energy and life that keep me engaged. I like that the twist upon twist built well up to the finish.

Matthew: Here's the thing about elaborate story arcs. They can actually be a killer if they're dull. The mere fact of being an arc does not justify the existence of story elements (see: Lost, later seasons of RDM's BSG...). Well, you know me, and I think that Dukat has been criminally underutilized to this point. Finally, he gets a chance to shine in a longer appearance, and his ambiguities are in great part what makes this particular part of the arc fun to watch. Overall, the introduction of Sisko's friend Hudson feels like an "oh, boy, I sense a dramatic betrayal coming" story device, but it still precipitated a few nice scenes with Sisko. I didn't like how he said that Dax knows more about him than any woman, including his wife. The notion that Curzon was just as good a friend to Hudson cheapened the Dax relationship with Sisko.

Kevin: What I really like about the episode is that it directly engages a lot of what I think DS9 is ultimately about. It seems to acknowledge that part of the Federation's behavior is their material wealth and security. Remove that and the behavior changes. It's pretty much challenging Roddenberry's view of humanity established in TOS, and as long as they do it well, its an interesting examination. I like that Kira calls Sisko on her perception of Federation naivete. I think the episode could have gone further in making the colonist's cause a little more plausible. I've never quite bought the image of colonists on hard-scrabble worlds eking out an existence given that the Federation has invented magic. I think things could have been drawn with a little more nuance. Sure the Federation can provide a lovely home almost anywhere in the universe, but it also comes with the strings that the Federation can tell you have to leave if they deem it prudent. I think this was an opportunity to show how the bounty the Federation provides may come with unexpected and unpleasant strings, and that would give some basis for all the people who avoid the Federation, because as it stands, I never quite got why these guys couldn't find a new home that would be practically indistinguishable from the old one and have the benefit of not being under Cardassian threat. I mean, seriously, for all the kvetching about the treaty, the alternative was being the front line of a war with a major galactic power. Would it make everyone feel better to be blown up by a fleet from orbit in a declared war?

Matthew: I very much agree on the lack of nuance and backdrop. I think we could just as well identify with the colonists if they had worked hard using sweet-ass 24th century technology to make their world a paradise, and had strong feelings of connection and ownership to the fruits of their labors. The very idea of colony worlds ought to be explored in greater depth. "Journey's End" did give us a more plausible motive for colonization, that of creating an alternative culture separated from the Federation by a great distance. Here, it just seems like a bunch of people who felt like moving to Gaza for no reason. Anyway, the simple fact is this - you're spending dozens of minutes with non-Starfleet Federation citizens. Please give us some more information about the universe we love when you do that.


Kevin: Everyone did a pretty good job. I don't think Sisko ever veered into scenery chewing. His biggest scene was the blow up with Kira, and I think it struck the right chord of frustration. He parlayed well with Dukat in the various scenes. Speaking of Dukat, welcome back, sir. It's nice that he actually has something to do. Hudson was just okay for me. I don't know if it was just a style choice, but his performance read a little wooden. He was fine with the character scenes with Sisko, but the politics stuff didn't quite come off.

Matthew: Avery Brooks was quite good in this episode. I know I've been a bit tough on some of his choices in the past, but it's because I know that, when restrained, he can be quite enjoyable to watch. Aah, Marc Alaimo. The scene where Sisko doesn't know whether Dukat has endangered Jake is terrific. Both actors play it well, and Alaimo adds just the right inflection to Dukat's indignation at the suggestion to make us wonder whether he actually did, or whether he now wishes that he had thought of it himself. Their scenes in the runabout were good, too.

Kevin: Richard Poe is great as Evek, and I like that he was brought back to reprise the role. I love Bertilla Damas as Sakonna. I really appreciate that she played it as a straight Vulcan rather than one who had abandoned emotional control. A strict adherence to logic is not in itself a value system. It can tell you with emotionless clarity if your actions will hew to your values, but they can't tell you what those values should be. So I actually have no problem believing a Vulcan could logically conclude that an armed response to the Cardassians is appropriate. Her scenes with Quark were great, and as always, Armin Shimerman does a great job with a small scene.

Matthew: Armin Shimerman. Well, coming so soon after his romantic episode with Natima Lang, I was a little weirded out by his hots for the Vulcan (who, to be fair, was quite a sexy Vulcan). But this had nothing to do with Shimerman, and everything to do with the writing. Shimerman was funny and dark as per usual. His shock at her forthright request for weapons was quite amusing - and he didn't even need to do the spit take to sell the scene.

Production Values

Kevin: I know I am not the biggest fan of the ship disappearing behind a layered shot of an explosion, but it seem to work fine here. They used the oft-reused model that began life as the Merchantman in "The Search for Spock," but I thought the choice was fine since its general shape mimics other Cardassian craft. The shot of the explosion over the station was cool, but shouldn't at least the pylon have been destroyed?

Matthew: The explosion of the Bok'Nor was neat. But there was another shot, of the runabout departing the station, that was one of the worst exterior space shots I've seen in the modern Trek era. The station was totally blurry and indistinct, and not in a cool focus effect sort of way. It was as if they used the smaller model  to really quickly do a mock up of the shot, and then forgot to replace it in the final show.

Kevin: You certainly can't call this a bottle show. The runabout, the colony  the jungle. We got lots of places with lots of things happening, and I enjoyed that since it helped give a sense of the scale of the events of the episode. I also liked Sakonna's outfit. It's layered and certainly conservative by any human standard, but I liked the pattern blocking and the way it gave the actress a figure. The colonist's garb won't be setting Milan or Paris on fire anytime soon, but it looked put together as opposed to thrown together.

Matthew: The colony saw a blatant reuse of the aqueduct matte painting from "The Ensigns of Command," and I can't say it really looked great. I did like the colony shots generally speaking, both interior and exterior. The episode overall had lots of variety, as you say, and was never boring visually.


Kevin: This gets a 4. If the focus or at least a more developed undercurrent of life in the Federation and how it gives rise to the Maquis, this could be a 5, but still, the politics are well done. Everyone's motivations make sense and the actions moves at a decent, but not ridiculous pace. I really want to know what happens next, and that means it did its job as the first half of a two-parter.

Matthew: For me, it's all about pacing, and Gul Dukat. The absence of failure of either aspect would have made this just another politics story that might fail to grab the viewer. But since both succeeded, I think it's a 4 as well, for a total of 8. DS9 is starting to actually excel at things, and I think it owes itself to the group of story contributors (Jeri Taylor, Michael Piller, and Rick Berman, in addition to writer James Crocker who penned a somewhat similar episode in "Paradise") who are working to both lay down and weave in continuing story threads. DS9 really floundered for a while with one shot stories that failed to cohere into anything particularly entertaining. I wonder if it was because individual writers just didn't have a handle on the concepts or the characters. Now that a larger group of talented creators and editors is deliberately creating a more complex brew, DS9 is finally getting interesting.

1 comment:

  1. The Maquis episodes are hard - and with that i mean annoying- for me to watch on DS9. I guess it has to do with me both sympathizing with the Maquis and their cause very much as well as just fucking hating Cardassians. I mean making concessions to Cardassians and seceding territories to them at the expense of millions of innocent people is sort of like giving Nazi Germany someone else's territory as part of appeasement policy. I have _never_ understood why the Federation did that and why they vilified and went after the Maquis and came down on them so hard.

    The Cardassians are a war mongering genocidal, treacherous species. They just stole someone else's land and systematically murdered its population. Why the hell would the Federation ever assume good faith with them and make such concessions? That never sat right with me, which is wy episodes that try to make the case for the Federation are hard to watch.

    The episodes about the Maquis in DS9 are starkly biased against the Maquis and i guess the idea here is we are all supposed to see Sisko's point and view the Maquis as rogues and terrorists. But since i dont feel that way (also largely influenced by VOY where half the crew is Maquis and I really like them and empathize with them) watching these episodes has the exact opposite effect on me: i am frustrated. I think the Federation is wrong, Starfleet is wrong, Sisko's sanctimonious crap is wrong and annoying .... Maybe if i had not seen Voyager (or episodes like The Wounded in TNG) I may side with Sisko et al, but since i have, I just have a hard time siding with them. I wish the writers had talked to each other at some point so that the Maquis are not portrayed so differently in each show.