Friday, June 20, 2014

Deep Space Nine, Season 5: Nor The Battle To The Strong

Deep Space Nine, Season 5
"Nor The Battle To The Strong"
Airdate: October 21, 1996
100 of 173 produced
100 of 173 aired


When Jake is waylaid by a detour into a battle zone, he thinks he will find good material for journalistic writing. He finds a lot more than that when things go south.

Commando Jake! Kung Fu Grip! Go, Joe!


Matthew: So this may be it.... the "Good Jake Episode." And no, "The Visitor" doesn't really count. This is Jake as Jake, no alternate reality or continuity. And you know what, the basic Jake story is pretty good. Using him as a vehicle to show a different side of life in this universe, showing how a product of the Federation utopia is unprepared for the reality of war, really works. I like the father-son worry quite a bit, too. This is not to say there aren't any nagging issues, but there is a basic competence with the setup.

Kevin: Overall, I like that the episode doesn't pull too many punches. We lauded Homefront/Paradise Lost for being prescient about a security state, and I have to applaud the balls, for the lack of a better word, for a blunt exploration of how war is hell at time when America's military record was pretty sterling. We won the first Gulf War by a mile, and any American involvement abroad was for at least ostensibly humanitarian purposes, so it wasn't like the idea that war was bad would have been an easy sell. This is also a good use of Jake since it takes advantage of his outsider status. Jake has never been my favorite character, and I probably don't rewatch this episode as often as I would if it were about another lead, but this is a good use of the character they have drawn to this point.

Matthew: So in terms of annoyances, for one, the medical stories are basic M*A*S*H tropes, e.g. generators going out, man shooting self in foot, exhausted doctors feeling giddy and using gallows humor after a wave of casualties. Also, um, why are we fighting the Klingons again? I would like at least a short expository scene indicating the stuff I looked up on Memory Alpha. The narrative whiplash could have stood some explaining. Why was a medical conference being held so close to what is (apparently) a hotly disputed sector with huge troop buildups both ways? I also thought the smiley ending, with Jake showing no ill effects, leaves no room for PTSD.

Kevin: Like Genesis and horror tropes or any of the Dixon Hill stories and noir, sometimes, the field trip to another genre is fun in and of itself. I never really watched M*A*SH or China Beach or the like, or even many hospital dramas in general, so this isn't one that resonates with me personally. That said, it felt like they hit their marks. I agree, the episode should have ended on a more somber note. I do, again, applaud them for not giving Jake an out, like eventually finding heroism against the Klingons. He was totally a coward, as I imagine most of us would actually be. I also liked Sisko admitting what he saw of himself in Jake's story.

Matthew: Some of the dialogue was a bit hackneyed, really straining hard to telegraph the point of the story. The dying soldier, for instance, was quite a douche, with conspicuously timed last words: "Sorry kid... I'm about to die to teach you a lesson!!! --croak--" Similarly hackneyed was the REEEALLY on the nose dialogue by self injurious soldier after Jake's running away, i.e. "you do something that makes you realize you're not who you thought you were..." He may as well have added "DIDN'T YOU, JAKE?!?!?"

Kevin: It's creaky and a little too neat.  I think the place the story fell a little flat for me is Bashir's disgust at the self-wounded solider. He's a Federation doctor. He should have not only an understanding but also a sympathy for battlefield mental trauma.


Matthew: Cirroc Lofton turns in easily his best work in a serious role (he was fine when he was just being a kid in early shows). He does a good job showing inner life and conflict without being too obvious or shouty when the cracks show. I thought Terry Farrel had a really nice scene reminiscing about her previous host's sick child, and Avery Brooks also turned in restrained work. I wish they would just place a moratorium on Sisko ever raising his voice, basically, because when that's the case, Brooks is extremely good. Siddig was fine, too, though in my opinion he had a rather easy role without anything too complex to handle. The smugness crept out a few times.

Kevin: Yeah. I agree. Any uncertainty or seams in the performance served the underlying idea that Jake is out of his depth. Like I said above, I was just never the biggest fan of Jake's character, so I had to separate out the boredom before taking a look at this, but I have to agree. It's good. Full stop. I also totally agree that the scene of Dax discussing parenthood felt very real. That got to me. As for Bashir, I hate whenever they return to anything in the neighborhood of his first season smugness without knocking him down a peg, like they did in "The Quickening."

Matthew: The guest cast ranged from pretty good to kind of "meh." I liked Karen Austin as Dr. Kalandra. Lisa Lord was really sexy as the female nurse. Andrew Kavovit, despite ridiculous eyebrows, did a good job of being the young turk orderly straight out of an 80s movie. Danny Goldring... certainly was grizzled, I guess. I imagine casting directors in the 90s had a digest with character descriptions, and they'd just flip over to "Grizzled" and find 4 or 5 go-to guys, Danny Goldring among them. He didn't transcend his dialogue, but he looked the part.

Kevin: I really liked Dr. Austin. She had the gravity you want in your field doctor. It's easy to see why they cast her as B'Elanna's mother on Voyager. I will admit to having a total crush on Kirby. He is adorable. I liked the unnamed ensign who shot himself in the foot. He gave off the appropriate vibe of bewildered and remorseful.

Production Values

Matthew: There were lots of extras, and they did a good job of making limited sets and props look like a pretty convincing cave-bound temporary hospital. Starfleet battle costumes were different, I guess, though I wonder what all the padding is supposed to be. Makeup and blood effects were judiciously used. The practical explosive effects were mixed well with the optical effects of phaser and disruptor blasts. Overall, this was a pretty plus episode when it came to stretching a thin budget.

Kevin: They really worked that Planet Hell set for all it was worth, and the outdoor work in the battlefield was fun. I like the battle uniforms, personally. I don't really have anything to add your summary other than to say, I think the camera work was good for the tight space. It added to the claustrophobia of the story.


Matthew: Had the writing been a bit more surprising and less hackneyed in spots, this would be a 5. But as it is, it's a solid character story that does a fine job of shedding light on a different aspect of this universe, a military one. So I think it's a 4.

Kevin: I always have to be careful that my personal feelings don't overly cloud my analysis. Jake is not my favorite character and I have to be sure I'm not punishing the episode because of focusing on Not Quark. I ultimately agree with the 4, for a total of 8. The use of the qualities that normally make Jake a non-entity really serve in giving the episode some bite.

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