Monday, June 17, 2013

Deep Space Nine, Season 3: Distant Voices

Deep Space Nine, Season 3
"Distant Voices"
Airdate: April 10, 1995
63 of 173 produced
63 of 173 aired


Bashir is attacked by a Lethean, a species with telepathic powers and a really self-referential name for themselves. Trapped inside his own mind, he must find away to escape before his body dies around him.
Do they really still sell crappy paper hats and birthday horns in the future?


Kevin: Well... where to start? This is not a good episode. We mentioned in the last post how the episode was pulling from TNG and this episode does the same. This is part "Remember Me," part "Frame of Mind," part "Dark Page." With the exception of Dark Page, this episode is worse than its TNG progenitors. The problem, like last week's Visionary, is that the reveal is too obvious too soon. The minute Bashir leaves the infirmary after the attack, we know it's not the real station, and from the first words out of Dax's mouth in the wardroom, we know they are not themselves, but figments of Bashir's personality. Worse, he explains it in numbing detail at minute twenty. All the drama left is whether Bashir will wake up, and we kind of know he will.

Matthew: Kevin, I congratulate you on an expert and thorough analysis of why there is precious little drama in this plot. When you compare this to an episode like "Whispers," its deficiencies become that much more glaring. Say what you want about that plot and whether it contained holes, but it kept you guessing until the dramatic reveal. I think the major problem with any fantasy (or holodeck, for that matter, I'm looking at you "Cost of Living"...) episode in Star Trek is that, unless a Herculean effort is made to ensure that the fantasies themselves actually illuminate the character, they just become boring and annoying. For instance - what the hell was with the dabo girl singing Happy Birthday? The tennis balls? Yeesh. There is a conversation between the Lethean (or whatever he represents in the fantasy) and Bashir that goes into his "fear of success." This did tell us something about the character, but none of it was earth-shattering enough to justify the 40 minutes of buildup. "I'm glad Dax and I are friends" and "I'm happy I'm a Doctor" aren't exactly mind blowing conclusions to arrive at.

Kevin: More than that, the internal fantasy is dull and lifeless. The idea of various parts of his personality being manifested as other people was ham-fisted and weird. All the constituent parts of his personality seem like jerks. I mean, really, do Doubt and Suspicion get their own personification? Are the no important people in his life but the crew of the station? I bet my comatose metaphysical crisis would have a broader cast than my coworkers, is all I'm saying. The solution was also pretty blah. Crusher just needing to "click her heels three times" in Remember Me made sense and was effectively worked into the story. Needing to be in the infirmary versus Ops and defeating the Lethean with confidence felt like deus ex machina of the worst kind.

Matthew: The mechanics of the personality thing were troubling to me. Are we to take it that this type of experience is common of Lethean victims? The notion that we have different portions of our personalities that play particular roles in our minds is kind of, well, stupid. In attending to my own thoughts, when I am faced with some decision, I don't feel Good Homer and Evil Homer dueling it out in my psyche, as if they are advocating for different positions. I tend to view doubt and suspicion as emotions that creep into and sometimes permeate the flavor of my thoughts, not as independently existing advocates (just trying to imagine the evolutionary survival value of an actual personality that doubted everything gives me an headache). And yeah, as you say, the roles personified were weirdly limited. Professionalism? Ooh, interesting. Look, I hate to bring up "Masks" as an exemplar for any reason, but that episode had much more subtle, mysterious, and interesting personalities being characterized by Data.

Kevin: Worst of all this all ended up being really boring. I don't care enough about Bashir to care about a crisis of confidence about him and since I knew his struggles were imaginary, I never got invested. Also, the answer to what part of Bashir that Garak represents is YOUR REPRESSED HOMOSEXUALITY, DOCTOR. Some of the Garak scenes were fun, particularly the opening and ending, but not enough to save the episode.

Matthew: It's unfair to judge this episode for not squaring with future ones. But it's true that knowing about Bashir's actual character story (bashful genetic superbeing) does diminish one's enjoyment of this episode quite a bit. Anyway, an episode coming up, "Explorers," gives a much, much (MUCH) better exploration of Bashir's past. How? By having him interact with a real person from his past. Sometimes I think sci-fi writers generally and Trek writers particularly get too cute for their own good. Is it really more efficient and effective to delve into a character's past by some convoluted means when you could just have him hook up with an old girlfriend or something?


Kevin: The acting didn't set me on fire in this episode, but I think that's more problem with the script done with the acting. The main cast, other than Bashir, all played their parts adequately, they just weren't very interesting when they did it. We got dangerously close to shouty Kira, but I think she stayed inside the line. Even Garak read a little flat for me this time. I don't think it was a bad job, per se, but I think without a real plot to back it up Garak is not as interesting.

Matthew: When Kira shouted "I am not some figment of your imagination!" I thought to myself, yep, these actors have checked out of this episode. You can't really blame them, can you? I think Andrew Robinson did a Yeoman's job trying to keep us rooted and entertained. He was funny and interesting throughout. I found the Lethean boring. Victor Rivers surmounted neither the makeup nor the script.

Kevin: I think Siddig did the best job he could with material in front of him. I found his older acting to be pretty solid, and I thought his sense of unease was well portrayed, the script just didn't supported very well.

Matthew: To me, this was the saving grace of the episode. I'm not saying he approached Gates McFadden levels of solo acting bliss, but his performance was the only thing that kept me engaged at all.

Production Values

Kevin: The Lethean makeup was just a little too on the nose, much like the species' name. It just reads as too obviously evil. The age makeup was ok, especially when compared to other Star Trek attempts at age makeup, like Too Short a Season. He goes too gray too quickly. It helps destroy any sense of mystery about what is going.

Matthew: I felt like there were some continuity errors with the aging. He seemed younger in some scenes than the ones that preceded them.  Maybe it was just lighting. One thing I've rarely seen done well is "old hair." Bashir's hair stayed too thick and full of body. I agree that the Lethean look veered into cliche. It looked fine, though.

Kevin: Normally the station provides lots of opportunities for good shots off  interesting things, even when its dark. This time all the uniform mushy background in a dark purple or black color made the episode less interesting for me.

Matthew: When the Lethean was punching in the turbolift, I thought some plywood was clearly visible. It took me out of the setting, which is never good when it's the 24th century.


Kevin: When I sat down to review this episode, I expected to be defending a two. Instead I find that I have talked myself into a one. The episode is boring to watch, darkly lit, and the mystery is solved quickly, before it really has a chance to sink in. The result is a pretty lackluster outing.

Matthew: This is a real close call for me. I want to reward Siddig El Fadil's for a performance that was good enough to almost make me care about what was on screen. But you're right, it wasn't enough. Any gains he makes are undercut by a story that lowers all possible stakes and basically forbids us to care about what it on display. It's a real shame, but I agree with the 1 for a total of 2. DS9 has really started to backslide a bit into some mediocrity, or even worse, in Season 3. Luckily, you and I both know that brighter days are very close, with the Dominion arc finally getting its day in the sun.

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