Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Deep Space Nine, Season 5: Apocalypse Rising

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Deep Space Nine, Season 5
"Apocalypse Rising"
Airdate: September 30, 1996
97 of 176 produced
97 of 176 aired

Introduction

With the revelation that Gowron may be a Changeling, Sisko is tasked with infiltrating Klingon military headquarters to prove it. He orders Odo to come with him, but still reeling from his forced transformation at the hands of the Great Link, he doesn't think he is up for the job. 


Folks, this is how diseases get spread. We don't all have redundant livers.



Writing

Kevin: I'm going to start with the positives. I think episode definitely does a lot of heavy lifting in terms of setting up the season, one that will be increasingly serialized, a first for the franchise. It draws together the numerous threads of season 4, and focus the series on the Dominion again. The character work is excellent at well. There's a great moment when Dukat destroys the Bird of Prey. That is Dukat's credible reaction, as is Sisko's disgust at becoming an unwilling accessory to murder, especially given the pains to not make the plan to simply assassinate Gowron. It elevates the cameo to something more. Since he acts like Dukat, his presence is not mere stunt casting or a waste. In the same vein, it makes sense that Gowron would try to keep the seized territories, even in the light of the revelation. It's, again, a credible and competent and complex portrayal. I'll get to the episode's flaws, but as a result of the good character work, it remains an interesting episode.

Matthew: Indeed, the first half of this show was solid. In some ways it kind of felt like the episode was reintroducing concepts and characters from previous seasons, and there was a bit of artificiality as a result. But you know what, I liked it. The way we're watching Star Trek at this point here (one season of a show at a time, alternating) means we don't see a given show for several months, so I liked the reintroduction. I was interested in the problem that a Gowron changeling presented, if not in how they eventually weaseled out of it (see below). As you say, Dukat was a lot of fun and his presence served the story.

Kevin: I also liked the Martok twist. It leaves a lot of doors open, one they will walk to with gusto later in the season. I liked seeing Odo get to suss out the mystery. I think they could have gone a step further in helping to establish that Odo can still contribute. They made him a shade too mopey to still seem like a good officer. Still, the reveal was fun and very taught in execution.

Matthew: I agree that the reveal itself was fine, but there were aspects of it that made me uncomfortable. We were told in no uncertain terms that Gowron was the changeling. Now... he isn't. Because... deception or something. What do the changelings have to gain by deceiving Odo as to who is the changeling (for that matter, how can they, if the Great Link is supposed to be such a communion of souls)? Before you say "to get them to assassinate him," any number of Klingons, including the Martok changeling himself, are much better positioned to do so, especially given the stupid plan that the DS9 crew concocts. No, this smacks of retconning, and one that is uncomfortably close to what we will see RDM do in BSG. The writers got cold feet, and didn't want to follow through. Then, they kill the Martok changeling, instead of interrogating him. Lame.

Kevin: In the minus column, the plan is too complicated by half. The devices are absurdly and irrationally difficult to use, and we are again left with the question of how a specially trained operative wouldn't be a better choice than say...O'Brien. He is a good man, but he is also a middle aged father. Shouldn't some 24-year-old graduate of the Academy be a better choice? I also wonder how they would not give themselves away. It's more than looking like an alien; you have to figure they were doing a hundred things that even if they didn't give away their true identities per se, would still arouse suspicion.

Matthew: The DS9 crew infiltrating the Klingon Empire made no sense on soooo many levels. You've got three people with no experience, who don't know the language, and who would get their asses thoroughly whooped in any fight that seems bound to break out. Then, you have Worf, the one Klingon in the universe who everybody seems to recognize on sight, and who Gowron himself has a personal beef with. Then, you give them some doohickeys that have to be placed just so in the room but not before you (somehow) surreptitiously disassemble and reassemble them in a crowded room full of rowdy warriors who are itching for a fight. Then, Sisko proceeds to pick physical fights with everybody in the room, while on his secret mission, while being grossly underpowered in comparison with his antagonists. Basically, every single aspect of this part of the plot strained credulity.

Acting

Kevin: Everyone did their job really well, I have to say. Auberjonois and Meany did a good job of acting like they couldn't act. Alaimo proved he doesn't need to be the focus of the episode to act like he is, and that was a treat. Hertzler's performance completely justifies why they decided to revisit the character.

Matthew: Yeah, though I hated the story idea of O'Brien and Odo being uncomfortable (send someone else!), the actors did a fine job. Avery Brooks kept the ham in check, too. Dorn was suitably stern as their sort of drill sergeant/coach.

Kevin: In the main characters, I am pleasantly surprised that I don't think that Sisko crossed the line, even with the Klingon propensity for doing so. No one really had to turn in Shakespeare, but everyone certainly kept their performances tight and energetic and it helped move the story.

Matthew: I think Robert O'Reilly did a good job of not overselling his lines, bugging his eyes out, etc. Hertzler was the star of the episode,with excellent line deliveries.

Production Values

Kevin: This is a bit of a mixed bag. The space ship shots looked a little cut and paste, and the overall effect of the hazy hall was blurry and claustrophobic. On the other hand, certain smaller details were great. I loved the trophies on Dukat's uniform and the statues in the hall looked great.

Matthew: We're going to see this cut and paste look a lot. I think we're in sort of the mid 90s doldrums as far as space shots go.  They have ambitions to create a wider tableau, but not the budgets. And so we get these cheap-looking optical doubling effects instead of individual model shots. I wonder how these shots will fare in HD, if we're lucky enough to see them.

Kevin: The makeup was really, really good. They all looked like themselves, but not, and all four looked distinct. Especially on Sisko, the effect was quite dramatic in the way it recast his eyes and mouth. And I was just getting used to him bald...

Matthew: The episode did a good job of making it look like there were a LOT of Klingons. I never once detected any cheap filler makeup, and everyone looked different enough to not be obvious repeats. The fight scenes were also choreographed well.

Conclusion

Kevin: In the balance, this is a 3. The creakiness of the intrigue plot really holds this back. It is buoyed by some good performances and a general sense of energy and tension. It has a lot of balls to keep in the air, and I have to say that I think it achieved them in terms of focusing the story for the upcoming season.

Matthew: I think this scrapes into 3 territory on the strength of the acting, for a total of 6. Having Marc Alaimo, J.G. Hertzler, and Robert O'Reilly all in one show makes it tough not to enjoy at least on a sheer entertainment level - which is good, because the story itself had some severe deficiencies. Nonetheless, this did the job of resetting things with the Klingons so that we can get back to the Dominion as the main enemy of the season.

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1 comment:

  1. Yeah I totally agree about the idea of the DS9 crew going on the mission. This seems like a job for Section 31. I think the idea of the federation killing Martok and hopefully be exposed doing so would make sure that a war between the Federation and the Klingons would take place whereas if the Martok changeling killed Gowron it might not happen.

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