Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Deep Space Nine, Season 4: The Muse

Deep Space Nine, Season 4
"The Muse"
Airdate: April 29, 1996
91 of 173 produced
91 of 173 aired


Lwaxana shows up on DS9 again for some reason - this time, pregnant and fleeing her babydaddy. Meanwhile, Jake meets a creepy old lady who gets off on watching young men write things.

Also, Odo gets married. There's something for everyone!


Matthew: If ever there were two less related story threads in an episode, I can't recall it. So I guess we should treat them in turn. The "Muse" concept is an interesting if somewhat unoriginal one, psychic vampirism having been done in TNG's "Man of the People" and a long lasting entity having effects on historical figures in TOS "Wolf in the Fold." I can't say much new really occurs here, though it does give us a nice callback to a much better episode, "The Visitor," with the "introduction" of Jake's novel. All told, I wasn't horrified by how the story played out, but the scenes just go on for too long. Watching someone massage someone else's temples while they write in longhand isn't exactly the most scintillating television. Also, what's to stop Onaya from just coming back?

Kevin: This story was at least one rewrite away from being awesome. I always got hung up on Jake writing long hand. Did Onaya give him that ability? We don't teach kids now, and I have a hard time believing they do in an age of universal computer ownership and apparently flawless voice recognition. I wished they had delved deeper into both the creative process itself and the nature of the "genius." They discuss a few artists who created one great work and died, and that could have been an interesting look at Jake's character. Knowing the cost, would he knowingly make that exchange?

Matthew: Then we have Lwaxana. Believe it or not, this wasn't all that bad as a Lwaxana tale. It's probably even in the upper half of them (ranked list to come). She is never shrill or insane. But it does have a severe case of the dum-dums. How in the hell could Lwaxana, one of the most powerful living telepaths on Betazed, have been convinced of this guy's wonderfulness, when he so obviously has strong cultural beliefs about this child-nabbing tradition, and is also an obvious total dick? How is any Tavnian divorce possible when the person being divorced can just show up and stop it? Why not get an abortion? Where is the follow up on the child story? Apparently, this was a story idea cooked up by Majel Barrett. According to Ira Steven Behr, this resulted in the longest session of script breaking in the history of the show. And to fix it, they decided to add a strong B story. Folks, if there is a better indication that they can't say no the wife of the boss, I don't know what it is. This is not a recipe for a great episode, and we saw the results.

Kevin: I don't mind the idea that she could not, or what would have been a more interesting discussion, would not detect his duplicity. People without telepathic abilities convince themselves of obvious untruths about their partners all the time. I think it was a step back from previous outings, like Cost of Living when she refused a bad marriage to not be lonely. I agree that the core of Lwaxana's interactions were good. The wedding scene was quite touching for me, and I liked that Lwaxana knew to leave before the half-relationship made her resent him, and it's awareness like that both gives the actress something interesting to do and makes the character more entertaining.

Matthew: In the end, I think the major problem here is that we didn't learn a whole lot about characters. Odo is lonely. Jake is a writer. Lwaxana acts inexplicably. Sisko will shoot an alien who is attaching his son.The only real threat of character development is with Odo and his apparent willingness to stay with Lwaxana, but that was quashed in dialogue pretty quickly, with Lwaxana minimizing his feelings. So at the end of the day, nothing really changes. Why does this story exist again?

Kevin: Like I said, I like the idea of Lwaxana knowing better than to have less than the relationship she wants with Odo, but overall, there's not a lot there. Even something like The Foresaken left you with a sense that Odo had taken a small step toward being more open, but there wasn't even that here.

Matthew: Kevin, you bring up a great point about Lwaxana being emotionally aware enough to nix a relationship with Odo. Where was that awareness with the dude she had a kid with, then? Are we to take this as permanent character growth for Lwaxana? Has there ever been such a thing?


Matthew: Cirroc Lofton has some nice handwriting. He also showed some nice physical acting, with his scenes of falling down sick. It was a somewhat bland, but ultimately effective performance. His rapport with Brooks remains as strong as ever, and he played reasonably well off of Meg Foster. Foster, who played Cagney (the second of three in the role) in Cagney and Lacey, was just fine in her role here as Onaya. I believed her ethereality and her appeal to young creative men.

Kevin: It's a shame the story wasn't stronger, because in terms of playing "otherworldly," she really did great. I don't have much to otherwise add, but I will reiterate that even when the Jake character has fallen flat in the writing, the actors have always come off as not just having a rapport, but really seeming like a father and sone.

Matthew: Majel Barrett was pretty good. Her scenes with Rene Auberjonois showed nice chemistry and even some restraint. I really liked that she dialed it down after her last few episodes. I believed her as an expectant mother, too. Auberjonois was good, and didn't show pain, which is my least favorite Odo emotion. Michael Ansara still has a great voice, but I think he was wasted in this role. He was nowhere near as commanding as he was in his last appearance on DS9 as Kang.

Kevin: Like I said, I liked the wedding scene. Everyone played at a quietly unexpected revelation of Odo's feelings, so it was pleasant and charming and not at all shrill or silly. There's a better way to play the Aunt Mame of Alpha Quadrant, and it's a shame we only hit the fairway a couple of times. We've scene both in this role and others that Majel Barrett can really act, and it would have been nice to see her get to do more over her time on the franchise.

Production Values

Matthew: Onaya's quarters looked ridiculous. Is that all she carried in her space luggage - candles and wispy cloth? The energy effect on her disappearances was adequate. Cirroc Lofton has some nice handwriting, I must say.

Kevin: I liked her make-up, but agree the set pieces were a little much. The disappearances were good, but found the "feeding" scenes a little on the nose.

Matthew: Lwaxana's maternity clothing was shockingly reasonable looking. I liked the wedding gear, too. There were some pretty decent shape shifting effects, too, with the blanket and the sculpture surface. 

Kevin: The wedding gear looked a bit like scrubs to me, but the little light orb was nice, and I agree, the shapeshifting has come a long way. I really liked the entire scene of the Hide and Go Seek game.


Matthew: I'd call this a 2 based on the strength of some of the acting. Barrett and Auberjonois had some nice scenes. They don't salvage the episode's two weak stories by any stretch, but at least Lwaxana didn't go out on "Fascination."

Kevin: When the Bird of Prey goes back in time to get the humpback whales, I am going to hitch a ride and stick around to talk some sense into the writers when it comes to Lwaxana. Her best work is hands down Half a Life, and her worst when she is nothing but shrill. When there are depths her brashness and a reason for her actions other than broad comedy, both the episode and the actress shine. As it is, her last appearance in and of itself is solid, I would argue. I agree that her much quieter rapport with Odo buoy an otherwise weak episode, and I am also giving it a 2 for a total of 4.

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