Friday, July 12, 2013

Deep Space Nine, Season 3: The Adversary

Deep Space Nine, Season 3
"The Adversary"
Airdate: June 19, 1995
71 of 173 produced
71 of 173 aired

Introduction

Sisko and crew are called upon to investigate a coup on the Tzenkethi government, but soon discover that they have been set up by the Founders and that their ship has been turned into a careening harbinger of doom for the fragile peace between their two peoples.


 Does it hurt when I do... THIS?




Writing

Kevin: I like this episode a lot. Much like the home stretch of season 3, it has direction and focus and energy and despite the problems we'll identify below, the final product has a crispness and energy that always makes me enjoy watching it. By this point, other than Ron Moore, the only people in charge of the show who were on TNG have left to focus on Voyager, and the result is that DS9 episodes feel more like DS9 episodes. Things like not having a superfluous B plot really serve this episode well. I also like that last season's "Jem'Hadar" this episode sets up a tone and direction for the next season without restricting the show to resolve an immediate cliffhanger.

Matthew: I agree on your general statements about the direction of DS9 since "Improbable Cause." I disagree on the effectiveness of this particular episode. We'll get to the Tzenkethi problem below, but my main beef is that many scenes in this episode are done twice. We have two fundamentally similar jokes about Sisko becoming a captain. We get two Jeffries Tube scenes in which someone thinks they're being followed. We get two blood test scenes. We get two phaser showdowns in which we don't know who the changeling is. It just started to feel like padding after a while. In addition to that, some of the tropes involved in this episode (the self destruct scene, yet again) are sorely tested by some of the other elements of the show. If a changeling effectively become an sensor-indistinguishable replica of a thing, why can't the changeling just replicate Sisko and Kira and turn off the self destruct device?

Kevin: The central focus of the episode is what happens when the crew stops being able to trust each other. I think part of what I like is that there's actually a reason here. It's not alien mind control or lack of sleep, but the very real threat that people are not who they seem to be. The increasing snapping at each other felt real and well paced. In terms of problems, I do think that the serial "let's assemble everyone to reveal the murderer" scenes got a bit much. Also, they eventually start to rely on the bloodtest, which is odd, given its obvious failure this time around.

Matthew: The fact that no one saw Fake Bashir switch the test tubes was silly. Anyway, the overall chase tension worked pretty well and made the episode an enjoyable watch despite some of my nagging questions. The shooting down the corridors stuff, people getting hot and tense, various crew members becoming unhinged, that was good stuff.


Kevin: I agree with Matt that the whiff on the Tzenkethi takes the episode down an entire notch. Even if they had referred to them as some kind of North Korea, where they aren't large enough to pose a threat on their own, but war with them would quickly involve other powers, I would have been satisfied. The two officer self destruct process and last second shut down also felt pretty artificial. In the end, these are not fatal to the episode, as inside the four walls of the episode, we get good tension and pacing. It's just not as scintillating a piece of the larger franchise as it could have been.

Matthew: Look. A retcon is a retcon is a retcon. The question is what you do with it. The Cardassians were a retcon, for instance, but it was made OK by the fact that they created a history, gave O'Brien a personal interaction with that history, and then spun it out into a detailed plot structure which could sustain and entire series. Here, we never meet the Tzenkethi. We are told that there was yet another border war, and most galling, that Sisko had "bad memories" of it. When? Which memories? He hasn't chosen to discuss them for three on-screen years, especially with his (apparent) fellow war vet Chief O'Brien? We're supposed to feel a lot of tension from the notion that a war might be caused. But who cares? It must not have been that bad the first time around if we have so little story weight attached to it. It should have just been the Romulans, or the Cardassians for that matter.

Kevin: Smaller character moments like seeing what kind of "career officer" Eddington and hearing Sisko plan a date with Kassidy help round out the episode. In particular, the gentle mocking and gossiping with Dax felt very real.

Acting

Kevin: There aren't any Oscar performances, but no one, literally, misses the mark this time. I love Lawrence Pressman and wish we got more time with him. The main cast did a good job. Sisko was subdued and tense in appropriate measures. Visitor looked increasingly pissed at the whole situation. I really liked the scene between Eddington and Odo in the Jeffries' tube. It served the plot well and showed us things about both characters.

Matthew: Kenneth Marshall had two scenes that were quite good, one with Sisko and the other with Odo. He brings a good everyman quality to Eddington that really grounds us and makes Starfleet feel real. It's too bad he was dispensed with so quickly. Avery Brooks was very restrained, and I love the restrained, non-scenery-chewing Brooks.

Production Values

Kevin: This is pretty much a bottle show. The cinematography was great. Everything felt claustrophobic but not lazy or cheap. The shots of the looooong Jeffries tubes was great. The engine room grew on me. There are tons of neat displays, right down to an image of a warp bubble right out of "Where No One Has Gone Before."

Matthew: The Defiant really becomes a real-seeming place with this show. From the cramped turbolift to the corridors to the many angles of Engineering, I finally feel like I have some handle on what this ship is like as a space. So I enjoyed the Defiant scenes quite a bit.

Kevin: The morphing effects were solid. The quick exit that knocked everyone down on the bridge was good, and I liked the effect of the goo in the test tube. The flash change from Odo the Krajensky changeling was great. The split screen of the two Odos was good, but not perfect. I did like the ashes the dead changeling leaves behind. It was creepy and effective.

Matthew: Observant viewers will see a faulty shadow on the left-most Odo. But int he main the changeling effects were quite nice. A few definitely have a 90s feel, but some of them are quite nice even today, especially the morph from Fake Odo to Creepy Changeling Guy.

Conclusion

Kevin: This is a four for me. There's a tension and energy that just crackles for me and leaves me wanting to see next season. The episode has flaws that keep it from a 5, but as it stands, this is an above average episode.

Matthew: I'm stuck at a 3. I think it's solidly entertaining, but the lack of stakes caused by using a retcon alien, combined with the general repetitiveness of some scenes, keep this merely average for me. That's a total of 7, but indeed it is still a worthy installment in a continuing string of good shows for the newly unshackled creative team. 

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2 comments:

  1. There's a hole in the plot that prevents me to enjoy the episode. How come an ambassador has the power to order a Defiant's mission? And, if it was just a suggestion, they leave without informing Starfleet? And the coup d'etat.. they are just satisfied with this information and nobody searches for Starfleet reports?

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  2. That doesn't bother me that much. Before the age of modern communication, ambassadors had a lot more latitude since getting messages back and forth would take so long, and they've done in Star Trek before, so even if it's peculiar, at least its consistent. The lack of double checking even works since it shows how really unprepared for the Changelings they are.

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