Monday, June 23, 2014

Deep Space Nine, Season 5: The Assignment

Deep Space Nine, Season  5
"The Assignment"
Airdate: October 28, 1996
102 of 173 produced
101 of 173 aired


Keiko returns from a trip to Bajor, apparently possessed by an alien entity that threatens to kill her if O'Brien doesn't do exactly what she says.



Kevin: I go back and forth on this one. The plotting is a little ridiculous. I can buy that since Bajoran gods exist, so do Bajoran devils, but the set up is too neat by a mile. Given the previous off-hand references to the fire caves, it seems odd that this has never happened before, and I wonder how Keiko did whatever she did to let one out. The solution is also a little too neat. How did the pah-wraith, ostensibly trapped for centuries, know that the station could make a signal that could kill the Prophets? How did this plan as opposed to the others not result in Keiko's death? Also, I think Keiko should have been more traumatized by the experience. This is pretty much an inversion of "Power Play" where she and her family were threatened by non-corporeal possession, and I could see it as being the straw that broke the camel's back. On top of that, even if she wanted to leave, she couldn't because another bizarre experience you only get at the fringes of Starfleet has resulted in an another woman carrying her child. I would have liked to have seen some frustration or anger or anything more about the situation from her.

Matthew: Yeah, for me the tale of reviewing this is whether it surmounts the fact that this tale has been told twice already on two different series, and pretty effectively to boot. The sci-fi aspect was done on Power Play, while the emotional angle was done on Whispers. The fact that both episodes involved the O'Briens just makes me wonder whether the editors have just thrown their hands in the air and said "f*** this, we need another hour to fill this season out." I had never considered the plot issues you bring up. So overall, this A story has severe problems. I en joyed the B story for the most part. It had a bit of a Lower Decks feel (a very small bit). I think this episode might have broken out better story-wise had Rom been the focus (a sentence I can scarcely believe came from my typing fingers). I think it would have been more novel to have O'Brien be the unwilling saboteur in the background of the tale, and have Rom discover and foil him, despite everyone else disbelieving him (and/or relieving him of duty).

Kevin: All that said, the emotional feel of the story is spot on. Like Whispers, the sense of tension and isolation is great. The tension builds well and constantly. I loved the party scene. Watching everyone else act like everything is normal but you, the audience member, knowing better is just always going to be fun. The scenes of the pah-wraith coming close to killing Keiko to demonstrate its powers were really creepy. The whole episode, whatever its other shortcomings, has a great Hitchcock feel to it.

Matthew: The party scene, or any scenes with the O'Briens faking it in front of others, worked well. Keiko brushing Molly's hair was also superbly creepy and tense. That's what makes judging this episode tough. Many of the scenes work well in a vacuum. They're just retreads.

Kevin: On a final note, one line I love without any reservation is when Keiko first announces that she is not his wife, O'Brien slips seamlessly into assuming this is some form of sexual role play. The actors have always had great chemistry and I really like the way the writers and the actors portray the characters as still being hot for each other.

Matthew: Hey, O'Brien's doing pretty well to have bagged Keiko. I'm sure he knows it. And you know what? She's a lot sexier when she is being mysterious and dangerous, as opposed to being a chronic nag. From a writing standpoint, it might have been nice to see the Pah Wraith actually dig up some of their marriage baggage to use against Miles.


Kevin: My questions about the story aside, I have no criticisms on the acting front, and I would go so far as to say it keeps the episode on track, whatever the plot issues are. Anytime we get to see a non-cuddly version of O'Brien, it's fun to watch. I bought his emotional arc pretty cleanly. The sense of powerlessness was palpable, and his visible discomfort at trying to act like everything was normal was great. He also has a great handle on the technobabble and the one-sided conversation with computer trying to suss out solutions was spot on, much like his runabout scenes in Whispers.

Matthew: Seme scenes of his I especially liked were his waking up in bed with Keiko,the sly sexual innuendo you mentioned at the top, and his expressions as he was asking the computer how long each method of incapacitation would take.

Kevin: I liked getting to see Chao spread her wings a little. She walked the line well for me between evil and EEEEVILLLL that the episode required. There felt like genuine menace, and the casual way she discussed her ability to kill Keiko was really chilling. Overall, whatever issues there were with plotting and motivation, Chao definitely sold the emotional menace of the story. I'll also say I think Grodenchik did a good job of supply the one piece of information O'Brien needs and comic relief. He was as goofy as necessary without being really annoying.

Matthew: Rosalind Chao gets to play Keiko as actually interesting and alluring for once. And she delivers completely. Too bad that it had to occur under the influence of an alien possession! Anyway, she is so much more interesting and vital with this edge.

Production Values

Kevin: The scene of the runabout at the mouth of the wormhole was well done, beyond that, this was a bottle episode. I liked a lot of the camera work, though. It aided the tension in the story. My only real criticism is that I do not like Rom's Bajoran uniform.

Matthew: Those stupid triangular pillows bug me every time I see them.It's just one of those design decisions that reminds me "this is not a real place where people live." It's really unfortunate. During the climax, I could not help but imagine trying to hold it together while Rosalind Chao screamed and flailed with no actual external stimuli. The lightning effect was just OK.


Kevin: I am going with the 3, largely on the strength of the acting and general sense of tension that the episode achieves throughout. Had they reached deeper on either the setup or the consequences of the story, this would easily reach a higher rating. As it stands, it's a good, entertaining hour.

Matthew: The rehashed elements of this story really nag me. REALLY nag me. I suppose we've said before that a good story is worth retelling. But... is this story of alien possession particularly worth retelling? I don't think this tale really did anything with it that hadn't been done before. Some possibilities - what if the host was actually changed, permanently? What if O'Brien liked her better with the alien presence intact? (I sure did...) That said, I do agree that three or four scenes, which comprise a good chunk of the episode, are at a level of basic competence and keep me entertained despite the pervasive "aw, come on" feeling I had. This just squeaks into a 3 for a total of 6.

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