Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Deep Space Nine, Season 4: Accession

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.htmlDeep Space Nine, Season 4
"Accession"
Airdate: February 24, 1996
87 of 173 produced
87 of 173 aired


Introduction

Sisko is forced to reevaluate his role in Bajor's spiritual life when a renowned poet from the planet's past emerges from the wormhole, claiming to be the Emissary of Bajor's Prophets.

Folks, when your D'jarra involves sculpting clay butt plugs, you need to rethink your culture's caste system.

Writing

Matthew: This is a Bajor episode, and it has a prohpet scene. But thankfully, it's not wretchedly boring. By focusing on Sisko's role as the Emissary, it keeps us rooted and gives us something to care about besides the vagaries of Bajoran politics. The timing of Sisko's scene acclimating to his Emissary role is a bit cute, happening right when the lightship comes through. But the basic conflict is sound drama, with the potential to tell us interesting things about Sisko. One provocative scene I wish had been followed up on was Kira's statement that the Bajorans would try to do anything he asked, no matter how difficult. Really? Is Kira naive (Winn et al. don't strike me as very pliable), or is she right? Sisko almost looked like he regretted not taking advantage of that power, if it existed.

Kevin: This episode was written by Jane Espenson, a writer for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I eventually came to like that show a lot, and Espenson's episode in particular, so I am a little disappointed I did not like this episode more. I can also see some parallels between this story and a lot of Buffy, as both center around a character thrust into a role, and watching what happens when they resist the role, seek to escape it, and eventually, reluctantly embrace it. I think there is more meat on this episode, and I think the solution is to focus the episode not just on Sisko as Emissary, but Sisko as Starfleet captain. They discuss how Starfleet was never comfortable with Sisko in this role, but I wonder how they feel about it now, as Sisko taking on the role saved Bajoran membership in the Federation and secured a vital strategic outpost for them. Sisko challenging Akorem would seem to be tantamount to a violation of the Prime Directive, so that could have been a more interesting angle to explore. We've seen Picard risk his life to dispel a society's false belief if his divinity, but what if Sisko has to do the opposite? There is in inherently good drama with the idea of Sisko choosing to take back the label he so wanted to discard, and I think the episode should have kept its focus there, rather than try to have a homily on class systems.

Matthew: What is the message of this show with regards to caste systems, besides "it sucks?" It's not a particularly hard hitting topic to take on. It's sort of like coming out against child abuse or kicking puppies. I think one of two things would have helped - either showing that it wasn't all bad and that some individual benefits and/or some social goods could have come of it (otherwise, why would it have evolved within such an ancient culture?), or to show that the Bajoran culture is so dysfunctional at this point that they are searching for the kinds of meaning that this sort of system bestows. Instead, a jerk priest murders some guy, and Kira makes some crappy statues. Not exactly a full-bodied investigation of the topic. Then, the resolution with the prophets was a bit straightforward, wasn't it? He's wrong, you're right. Did no one suspect Sisko of killing Akorem? Did no one's faith get threatened by this whiplash back and forth between two conflicting ideologies?

Kevin: This could have been another angle that really could have spun the Bajoran stories in other directions. What if some people (like Winn for purely political reasons) chose to continue to believe Akorem is the Emmissary? The most interesting ground to cover for the Bajoran religion is seeing how it binds or separates the people, so rather than focus on how it is bad for all Bajor, focus on how it divided Bajor, and that could have also been more fun. I will say, I always like seeing Kira trying to balance her (nicely arced, I will add) working relationship with Sisko with her faith. Much like in Destiny or Starship Down, I think there is a lot there to propel a story.

Matthew: Though the Prophet scenes do not derail this episode, they still aren't good. Their behavior just doesn't make a ton of sense, and not in that good "mysterium tremendum" sort of way. Why would they leave any ambiguity about who is their Emissary and what they want them to do? On the other hand, if that aspect of their being or intent is so vague, why would they give a crap about the d'jarra system? Why say it's a relic of the past? If they could return him to the moment they found him, why the hell didn't they? Don't even get me started on Kira recognizing "new" verses in the poetry. I could see Sisko realizing it, because he was in the wormhole when the change was made. But does everyone on Bajor know about it, too, since Kira does? Why even go there? Wouldn't it be better for this guy to have quit after his humiliating brush with the completely indifferent Prophets? Ugh. Look, I'm not saying that there can't be reasonable explanations to all of these issues. I'm saying that no satisfying ones were offered here.

Kevin: I never understood the appearance of Kai Opaka. I'm not saying they need to spell everything out right away, but if felt a little left field. These Prophet scenes are at least the least somnolent so far. I still don't have any sense of what the Prophets' motivation was. That's the big problem, because I don't think the writers do either. That could have even been another thread to pursue. God exists, and you can meet him, but he's absolutely unaware or unconcerned with your existence and every act of his to which you have ascribed meaning had nothing to do with you.

Matthew: The B plot of O'Brien not being enthusiastic about a coming baby is interesting. It shows us that O'Brien really kind of lives in his own head when it comes to other people - he assumes he is expected to stay home every night without asking, when in fact Keiko wants to get him out of the house. He's a fundamentally good guy, and that's why he can be lived with, but he's not high up there on the sensitivity to others scale. Quark's line about "see Brak acquire" was cute, and I liked the fun Worf reference to delivering Keiko's baby during TNG's "Disaster." Speaking of continuity, having Akorem show up in a lightship was a great touch.

Kevin: I always read that as more O'Brien overcompensating than a lack of awareness. Still, it is a great episode for Keiko. It's a really sweet scene when she tell him to go with the sad Bashir story and then feeds Bashir the opposite. I agree on the Quark line. It's a hoot, as was the Worf humor. Normally I would object here to the lack of connection, but it was sweet enough to not bother me.

Acting

Matthew: Avery Brooks and Nana Visitor have a lot of nice scenes here. I don't think Brooks was given the lines he needed to really get deep, but he did fine with what he had. Visitor was excellent when discussing her faith and Sisko's role in it.

Kevin: More than any other character, Visitor has really infused the Bajoran faith with a sense of personal import. It may be cultural or something deeper, but I have almost always gotten the sense that her profession of faith is not pro forma, and it makes the conflicts it gives her more interesting, as it's not a straw man against the other parts of her life and personality.

Matthew: Colm Meaney came off a bit badly in some scenes here. He didn't seem like much of a doting father, and he didn't seem like a very attentive husband. I got the feeling he didn't like the script. Rosalind Chao, on the other hand, finally gets a chance not to be a shrew, and runs with it. Her scenes are very charming and she reminds us of why we liked her so much in TNG.

Kevin: I liked O'Brien more here than you do did, but I completely agree with your assessment of Chao. From the beginning, there has just been something sweet and genuine and identifiable about them as a couple. More than that, I always find myself pulling for them. Through all the crap (and it's a LOT) they go through, I always really want them to be okay.

Matthew: Richard Libertini was the producers' second choice to play Akorem Laan, and Ira Steven Behr really insults him by comparison to their first choice, David Warner: "To this day I still wish David Warner was in it... It's a good show, and Avery was great, but I wanted him to have a better opponent''. I think that's a bit harsh, personally. I am probably David Warner's biggest fan, at least when it comes to Trek. I think he may just be the single best guest actor in the franchise (which is saying something, considering the John De Lancies of the world). But let's not tar and feather anyone else by comparison here. Libertini did not play the character as an accomplished public speaker or a Svengali. Frankly, I think that worked, since the dude was a little-known poet.  I thought he held his own against Avery Brooks, too.

Kevin: He gave it a quiet certitude that was interesting, especially against the grander issues. Like Kira, I get the impression this was not a mere power grab but real faith. That doesn't make it better in my opinion, but it certainly makes it interesting.

Production Values

Matthew: Ugh, the backwards clapping. Uuuugh. It's exactly the kind of thing a sci-fi show does to indicate that a race is different, but just ends up looking stupid beyond belief. Choose important things to differentiate, not silly ones. I liked Akorem's wardrobe. Why isn't Sisko's blessing translated by the UT?

Kevin: Hey...at least there are no unnecessary apostrophes in Akorem's name.

Matthew: The Jenolen model from Relics is used as the commuter shuttle here, which I enjoyed. The lightship CGI was not among the best we've seen. The prophet scenes were, as per usual, rather dull, but not quite to the excess of quick cutting and strobe lighting that we've seen before.

Kevin: I was just thrilled they remembered to use the lightship, as it is both a continuity nod and it prevents a retroactive continuity problem with Family Business. And yeah...over the years I have grown to really not like the Prophets scenes.

Conclusion

Matthew: This is a 3 for me. There is a good amount to like, but nagging questions and lack of follow through leave me scratching my head a bit too much to elevate it to a higher rating.

Kevin: There's some fun ideas here, and the actors all do a good job. Really what needs to happen is in 1995, Berman needs to sit everyone down in a room and not let them leave until they have a skeleton of a sketch of what Sisko's role as Emissary means and where it is ultimately going. This meeting, in say...2004 or 2005, would have really benefited Battlestar Galactica. Still..there is certainly enough here to make this a 3 from me as well for a total of 6.

1 comment:

  1. What I find interesting about this episode is how people are willing to do all sorts of (terrible) things to themselves and others in the name of faith. Like that Vedek who just murdered the guy from a lower d'ejarra and did not even understand why that was wrong. "well, my, of course I murdered him. my religious asks it of me."

    I especially liked the scene between Odo and Kira, where Kira comes to see the new Emissary, Akorem, speak, calling him "The Emissary" the same way she used to call Sisko a few days ago and how Odo tells her exactly that: "but 2 days ago you believed Captain Sisko was the Emissary." She responds that he doesnt want the role anymore. Odo wonders whether that means that Sisko then was never the Emissary to begin with as they both cannot be and Kira says No, gets uncomfortable, and then runs out of answers, because - of course she does - and then she gives the standard response religious people give when they run out of answers ' it is a matter of faith. You dont understand." etc etc - which was basically Kira's way of saying to Odo "yeah I know you are right and I cannot defend my position, so now I am going to make an appeal to "faith" because that is a way I know how ot easily shut up and deny reason.

    I really enjoyed how all this way laid out in the story - whether intentional or not. How religious people, people of faith, are apparently nothing but these mindless entities that go with whichever way the wind blows depending on who the self announced religious leader is at the time, no questions asked. I mean these people were even willing to toss their Federation membership and everything they had fought for because of this guy.

    I mean here you got Kira, an intelligent, reasonable woman who is willing to just give up her life as she knows it to sculpt ugly clay birds on the countryside - all based on what her emissary du jour - who is some dusty, old relic she just met 5 days ago - tells her. .It was pathetic and the thing is that she would have gone through with it too had it not turned out he was a fraud. She had misgivings, yes but what I thought was amazing was the steadfastness of her faith and we all know Kira is a woman of faith. She would have gone through with it. She was really going to shit on all her accomplishments and that of her peoples and Federation membership etc., to do what someone else tells her based on blind faith, no questions asked. This episode really captured the absurdity of religion pretty damn well.

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