Monday, June 30, 2014

Deep Space Nine, Season 5: Trials and Tribble-ations
Deep Space Nine, Season  5
"Trials and Tribble-ations"
Airdate: October 28, 1996
102 of 173 produced
101 of 173 aired


A magic plot device whisks the DS9 crew back into the past, where they discover a plot to change history, and a lot of furry creatures, to boot.

Grow some hair, Space Hippie! What a Herbert.

Matthew: Any discussion of this episode needs to begin with how contrived the setup is. The crew (all of them, for some reason) is sent back in time by the ORB OF PLOT DEVICE. Oh, sorry, the Orb of Time. This unspeakably powerful artifact was given (GIVEN!) to the Bajorans by the Cardassians, for no reason that we or the writers can discern. The Cardassians' best minds apparently couldn't figure out what a century-plus old Klingon refugee did in the space of an hour or so - that this thing can deposit an entire starship at any point in space and time. And Darvin had learned of the orb by hearing rumors about it as a time travel device. Then, Kira "discovers how to use the orb to return us to the present." Why did the Cardassians give this up again? It's times like these that the contrived setups of episodes like "Past Tense" seem almost elegant. At least they are purported to be accidents that cannot be replicated (more than once, anyway, to end the episode). Here, an Unlimited Destroy The Universe device is given to one faction in the Trek milieu, never once to be mentioned or used again. Sigh.  

Kevin: Yeah. Especially since it's an Orb, they could have solved it with a throwaway line about the Prophets permitting the trip for some inscrutable reason. It even could have served some more serious purpose in the Sisko arc if there was some consequence or something he learned during the trip. As it stands, it may even be worse than the silliness of the set up of Rascals. At least that was a one-off random accident, and not as you say, a universe altering device. That being said, they do use it again, as it facilitates Kira's trip in "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night." So apparently, Kira can use it whenever she wants.

Matthew: Setup aside, the nuts and bolts of this plot are pretty standard time travel fare. Villain X conspires to assassinate historical personage Y, team Z must prevent it. This one has the added wrinkle of occurring in the backdrop of an episode we've already seen. And as it is written and filmed, I'm pretty much OK with that, mainly because this episode doesn't change the plot of the original "Tribbles" one bit. To me, that speaks to fans who hold the original sacred doing their best not to tread on it.  The fan service is excellent all the way through. The Doctor gets an "I'm a Doctor" joke that lands well. Uniform color switches are commented on. O'Brien gets a voice command joke in the turbolift. The best stuff is Dax pining for the good old days, gushing over "classic 23rd century design," and basically acting how any die-hard fan might act in this situation. The Klingon makeup question was deftly handled, with humor.

Kevin: Of the numerous sins Enterprise commits, trying to elaborate on this joke was among the worst. They had two choices regarding the 60s Klingon make-up. Ignore it, or explain it by not explaining it with a joke. The latter joke lands perfectly and is in fact the explanation: there is no explanation. Especially given that Dax knew these men ostensibly before and after their transformation, it makes O'Brien and Bashir's lack of even basic knowledge on the subject silly. Beyond that, all the jokes sing. There is an undeniable glee on both sides of the camera that really come through for the viewer. Even the jokes at characters' expense are in character and they don't have to be stupid to work.

Matthew: How is the original "Trouble With Tribbles" 105 years prior to this installment? Have 20 years passed since the beginning of TNG? If they have a record of Arne Darvin on the ship's computer, how did they not detect at least his non-human heritage in a routine medical scan? How can the DS9 crew impersonate commissioned officers on a starship with 400 people? How does Temporal Investigations know that the timeline has been altered, if they are a part of it? How did they beam an explosive tribble into space for detonation without anyone noticing? I also think this plot could have been improved by fleshing out the dispute between Dax and Sisko - the drama could have been amped up a bit if Dax were to argue for some sort of intervention and Sisko against it, with the intervention actually proving necessary.

Kevin: All of those are valid points, but somehow, like Rascals, I just plain don't care. "And women wore less..." easily matches, "He's my number one dad," for lines that just make me happy to be a fan. I agree that a little tweaking could have elevated this to an easy 5 with a little more focus on the plot, but I just can't be mad at what they gave me.


Matthew: Of the main cast, the two standouts for me are Terry Farrell and Michael Dorn. Farrell plays her nostalgia perfectly, giving the fans a great Mary Sue character to identify with. Dorn on the other hand trots out his honed-to-perfection straight man skills, perfectly playing the butt of several well-executed jokes.

Kevin: We've discussed Farrell's acting before, and overall, she tends to do the best with the most relateable stuff. Nerd geeking out in a shrine to nerdiness is as relateable to the audience as it gets with Star Trek, and it does really shine. Dorn, has of course, honed his straight man act to a razor sharp edge, and it helps contrast both the silliness of the plot and his colleague's enthusiasm.

Matthew: I didn't love Charlie Brill as Darvin. He just played it a bit too cheeky, as if he isn't really inhabiting the universe. Essentially, he acted like someone who was amused to have been called back after 30 years. The other new "period" actors were good, though. Leslie Ackerman played a good Go-Go waitress,  Deirdre Imershein (what a name) was effective as Watley, and Charles Chun was almost Harry Kim-esque as an Enterprise engineer. All of these three seemed to fit the era and the story.

Kevin: I liked all the new actors in the TOS setting. There was a slight...I guess 'broadness' is the term I am looking for, though that feels pejorative when I don't mean it that way. Acting was just bigger in those days as a matter of course, and without chewing the scenery, all the actors gave a slighty bigger pitch to their delivery than I think they would have if they were acting in the 'modern' DS9 era. Little stuff like the way Watley's mouth was in a bit of a permanent pout just felt very authentically in the TOS era.

Production Values

Matthew: Put simply, the sets are replicated with a level of precision and care that almost brings tears to the eyes of a dedicated fan. The handles on the turbolift. The communicators and tricorders. The holo-foil in the ladder tubes. The tables and classware in the bar. The wall panels and red alert lights. The bridge controls with the jewel candy buttons. I could go on. The uniforms too, are spectacular, especially the sex-bomb red ensemble on Dax. The plethora of extras in TOS togs really sells the effect, too.

Kevin: Not to go off on a rant, but it's episodes like these that make me question the prevailing wisdom that TOS was somehow underdone or needed updating. The colors and texture sing in a higher definition. It's an older aesthetic, sure, but not an under-realized one. The large fields of primary colors really give life to all the internal scenes. The lighting guy deserves a muffin basket and a hug, too. The soft pastel accents were pitch perfect. In all the new built stuff, I never noticed the seams. A sense of the TOS ship and the DS9 rebuild looking even slightly different in any way could have tanked the episode from the start, and instead it's one of its strengths.

Matthew: I want to dedicate an entire paragraph to the beauty shots of the Enterprise. They are absolutely fabulous. The angles chosen mimic some of the TNG shots we know and love, which makes them instantly familiar but quite breathtaking all the same. The music cues heightened the emotions involved in seeing them too, mixing TOS cues with DS9 ones. The space station and Klingon cruiser also looked fabulous.

Kevin: It was the first shot of the Enterprise through the static that sold me on the whole thing. The ship is beautiful. Again, that was the very model from the show sitting in the Smithsonian that they used. There was apparently some minor repair work, but otherwise, that was the ship the producers saw when making the show. It was the limitations of the film and tvs of the time, not the imaginations or skill of the makers that stopped us from getting that 40 years ago. Reminding us how beautiful and well crafted the production side of things was back then serves as much as a love letter as any part of this episode.

Matthew: Integration of old footage with new elements was mostly excellent. I really liked how the sound was brought down to indicate that the TOS dialogue is being spoken across the room. Only one or two shadows and character edges betray the tinkering (I'm thinking especially of the shot with Kirk and Spock in the foreground Sisko and Dax in back).

Kevin: It's definitely some of the most consistent green screening work they have ever done. That one shot of Sisko and Dax was the only weak point. I understand they only had so many choices for that last scene with Sisko, but those were some serious bedroom eyes that Shatner was giving Brooks there.


Matthew:  Normally, the stupidity of the setup would have me in 2 territory. But the story itself is inoffensive to the original, the fan-friendly touches abound, and the visual feast is sublime. Average to above-average acting lets this squeak into 4 territory, albeit with a formal reprimand on its record for the "Orb of Time."

Kevin: This is a more unambiguous 4 for me, for a total of 8. I get a big, goofy grin on my face whenever I see it. There is charm and wit and energy to this episode that is undeniable. The reason may be simply to prove they can do the technical side of things, and otherwise serve as a love letter to the long time fan, but on both counts the episode succeeds in droves. As a fan, I feel the love.


We are joined this time by our friend Andrew. This was a fun episode and a delight to podcast. Enjoy everyone.

No comments:

Post a Comment