Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Deep Space Nine, Season 3: Destiny

Deep Space Nine, Season 3
"Destiny"
Airdate: February 13, 1995
60 of 173 produced
60 of 173 aired

Introduction

An experimental communications array for the wormhole becomes a lightning rod for religious controversy when an apocalyptic prophecy is brought to light, and Sisko must choose between his roles as Starfleet officer and Bajoran religious figure.

The Cardassian Neck Trick?

Writing

Matthew: The A story has some problems. In theory, a story in which religious belief conflicts with commercial or military development could be a great look into a culture with a strong theistic element. The problem with this is that there is no conflict. We hear that the Vedek with the apocalyptic prophecy has some agitated followers, but we never see them. They never make a peep. There is no conflict. Instead, the A story's drama rests entirely on whether or not the prophecy comes true. Since it doesn't, and we have strong reason to suspect it won't, the drama is blunted significantly. How fun is it to wait for something that doesn't happen? The Vedek's followers should have actually made trouble on the station, which would have raised stakes for the A story. When his interpretation was proved wrong, he should have been pilloried by his followers, instead of reacting with bland amusement. At the end of the day, the prophecy was verified, it was just verified to be boring (i.e. nothing bad happens). The final exposition scene in which Sisko and Kira explain it all to the dumb audience was really painful. It might have been better if the prophecy had remained ambiguous.

Kevin: Part of my problem is with prophecy in general. Usually the prophecy is so vague that you don't know it happened until after it has happened, so what's the point? You can tell an interesting story about how fighting the prophecy brought it to be (see Oedipus Rex), but that didn't happen here. Sisko makes it clear he would behave the same way prophecy or no, so I kind of don't care what the prophecies are since they are two vague to meaningful inform my decisions proactively. I also agree on the lack of stakes. We've Bajorans get pretty riled up about their religion, even if they were being callously manipulated to do so, so actual believers should be a lot of dramatic fun.

Matthew: Criticism of the main story aside, it did allow for a nice conversation between Sisko and Kira. It was nice to finally put a point on her belief in Bajoran religion, and what that means for serving under Sisko. Her discussion of the "wormhole aliens" showed a nice version of the two sides we might see of the story, secular humanist and faith-based. I like how Dax gave Sisko a bit of a smackdown, basically telling him to grow up and stop believing in fairy tales.  


Kevin: I really liked the portrayal of Kira's faith in this episode. It's important to her identity, but she does not necessarily take every aspect of her faith at face value. Particularly in her early conversation with Yarka, it was nice to see a Bajoran whose faith is a little less absolute than Winn or Bareil's. I really like the scene with Sisko on the Defiant where she tries to support the prophecy using Sisko's interpretation of "wormhole aliens." While I think they never go deep enough into the question, I think its a fun, an unexpected way to approach the religion question in Star Trek. Rather than ask, "Does God (or the Prophets) truly exist?", the question is "What does that mean?" Even though they portray the powers and the flair for the dramatic of a god, does that mean they are truly "divine," whatever that means anyway. Overall, the idea is interesting, but just a tad underdeveloped in the episode we got.

Matthew: The B story of the mistaken attraction between O'Brien and Gilora was fun, and well executed comedy. If anything, given the limp status of the A story, I might have preferred this part of the episode to get more focus. I've started to feel that there should be bigger problems in the O'Brien's marriage, given their time apart and their being at odds about career choices. I'd have kind of like to see O'Brien score some Cardassian tail. It would have been interesting for his character, too, given his past fighting them.

Kevin: I love the B-plot. It was handled really well. A lot of the credit goes to the actors, but the jokes are funny, they are based on a simple idea that expands our knowledge of Cardassian society, and they never go too far. That last quality really makes me happy. I laughed; I never groaned at any of the punchlines. It also helps that Gilora and Ulani actually both seemed liked real characters with real internal lives. Like when they were talking about the politics of Cardassian sciences, it both expanded our knowledge of Cardassians while fleshing out the characters in front of us. It certainly helps any romance or comedy with the other half of the pair is not two-dimensional.

Acting

Matthew: Avery Brooks and Nana Visitor bear the main load of the acting in the A story. I think they do a fine job. Their conversations feel real and natural, which is a big plus for a story that is rooted in religious fantasy. Visitor especially does a good job of portraying her character's inner conflict. I also loves Kira's eye roll when Sisko calls her out from the bridge. It's the kind of acting choice that makes a character feel truly real, as opposed to someone trying to fit in to a fantastical situation.

Kevin: I think she really nailed the moment in any fantasy or horror story where the skeptic gets converted by witnessing something they can't explain away. The moment on the bridge with the comet really unnerved her, and it was fun watching her respond. I enjoyed seeing her try to engage Sisko on his terms in the argument rather than fall back on mere dogma or rhetoric.

Matthew: Tracy Scoggins and Colm Meaney had great chemistry in the B story, and I wish we had gotten more of it. We've touted Meaney's virtues before, so it doesn't feel necessary here.  He plays prideful workingman better than almost anyone. Scoggins was the real star, stealing almost all of her scenes. Her sarcasm came off perfectly, and she did a great job on technobabble. When she showed her character's attraction, it could have gone too far, but it stayed on the funny side of the line.

Kevin: She really nailed both the physical and verbal comedy of her scenes, a particular feat given the ten pounds of makeup she is wearing. It's one thing for Shimerman or Auberjonois to have developed an acting technique for their characters, but Scoggins really nailed it first time out of the box. When she delivers the line about being fertile but that's really O'Brien getting ahead of himself, I die laughing every time.

Matthew: Erick Avari was wasted in this role. He has a great look and voice, and we should have seen him giving firebrand speeches or something. Wendy Robie and Jessica Hendra both did well as the other Cardassians. Basically, all the guest acting was solid.

Kevin: Agreed. Avari has a great voice and there's a reason he is the "Hey, it's that guy," any time the script calls for someone from between Morocco and India. Seriously, he was the Egyptian father in Stargate, the Pakistani ambassador in the West Wing, a rabbi on Babylon 5. It goes on. Matt mentioned this on the podcast, but it would have been great to see either scientist in a recurring role in the series. Either could have handled it.

Production Values

Matthew: The transceiver array looked really neat. Kevin was right when he suggested in the podcast that it was a re-use of the Amargosa Observatory from Generations. It's great when models get re-used like that, but for different purposes. It adds a lot to the episode as far as feeling rich and detailed. The wormhole and comet effects were quite competent. There are really no VFX quibbles here.

Kevin: I'm not gonna lie. I do like being proved right. I may give this episode an extra point just for providing me the opportunity. Kidding aside, I liked the model in Generations, and I liked it here. The comet was good for me, and I like any trip through the interior of the wormhole.

Matthew: Cardassian hair, makeup and wardrobe was quite good. Each woman looked different, as opposed to the sometimes samey looks we get for aliens in Trek. They looked like individual people with their own fashion senses, despite sharing a cultural similarity. It really is one of the best jobs done in this respect in the whole series. Speaking of which, I liked Vedek Yarka's outfit a lot, much more than the orange-purple clown suits they've had other Vedeks in.

Kevin: I liked how they managed three different, complicated, but very recognizably Cardassian hairstyles for the women. I've always thought Cardassian fashion is among the best and most consistently achieved on the show.

Conclusion

Matthew: This is a 3 in my book. It's not boring, and there are a lot of nice things, but the A story never really gels or goes far enough. The stakes are kept low throughout, and it's too bad. A good comic B story keeps this in average territory.


Kevin: I always really enjoy watching this one, and that gets you pretty far with me. It dodges some bigger issues with prophecy and faith, and that would have bumped the episode higher. That said, the acting is great and really keeps the story afloat when the writing doesn't necessarily do that. I agree with the 3 for a a total of 6.

Podcast

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