Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Deep Space Nine, Season 5: Things Past

Deep Space Nine, Season 5
"Things Past"
Airdate: November 18, 1996
104 of 173 produced
104 of 173 aired


When their runabout is caught in a plasma storm, Odo, Dax, Sisko and Garak find themselves together in a strange environment - the DS9 of nearly a decade prior, known by the Cardassians as Terok Nor. Strangely, they are all viewed by the residents there as Bajorans - Bajorans accused of a capital crime.

One hundred bottles of raktajino on the wall...


Matthew: So, I get what they were trying to do here. "Necessary Evil" was fun to watch, and the portrayal of Odo's role in the Occupation needs to be muddied a bit. Fine. But wasn't there some better way to go about it? Although the flashback element is interesting, the "shared dream" brought about by shapeshifty remnants inside Odo's brain was a pretty tortured way of getting us there. The thing about injuries in dreams affecting bodies in waking life is such a stupid trope that it drags me kicking and screaming from the episode... but then it isn't even used for drama for more than about 2 minutes. This strikes me as an editorial note that the screenwriter grudgingly threw in.

Kevin: I agree. It's the biggest gap in his story, how did he manage to survive the Occupation with his reputation intact? If he were really such a force for good, how did he get or keep the job in the first place?  I think the best way around the problem of how to not have merely another "flashback" episode or deal with (Heaven forbid) time-travel is too abandon the need for a framing sequence all together. What if the entire episode were just in the past? Like they will eventually do with the Mirror Universe in Enterprise, freed of the need to tie it into another story, that episode really sang. Even more interesting, we could learn about Odo, but none of the characters. It would color everything before and after in a really interesting way. I also liked the framing device of having Kira and Odo in his office, like the end of "Necessary Evil," talking about what had happened. That was a nice touch.

Matthew: As far as sullying Odo, I think it's a fine storytelling goal, but this episode was SOOOO ham-fisted about it. The music cues and story beats of Odo having visions of executions past were so obvious as to make them not only insulting, but boring by their repetition. Anyone who hadn't figured out the BIG TWIST (dun-dun-DAAAAA!!!) by about minute 15 needs to be hooked up to an EEG machine and monitored for a while. The repetition in the story gave it a sort of plodding feeling, pace-wise, as well. Also, just on the story's face, how could Odo have such a sterling reputation if this execution had been made public by Dukat as a show of force?

Kevin: I think Odo's reactions were too extreme to not telegraph what was going on, from the word go. They also flagged it too often, with Odo knowing their 'real' names and Sisko not pushing enough for the explanation. Also, I don't think the actual conflict/reveal was pitched the right way. He was essentially sloppy and in a hurry. I think we could have done more to make it more interesting. What if he found out they weren't guilty of this crime, but were guilty of something else, maybe something worse. This was a failure of Odo to make a decision, and I think it would have been more interesting had it been about him being forced to make a decision and choosing wrong.

Matthew: The Dax/Dukat subplot was curiously toothless. Either rape her or don't, but don't waste my time. The plots of the other three people also call into question what was going on in the first place. If this is Odo's mental space, how can people be having experiences while he is elsewhere? Can Dax hack computers, konk NPCs on the head, and blow up walls without Odo knowing about them, and what effect does this have on Odo, if any?

Kevin: I won't complain too loudly about getting more Dukat time, but honestly, it would have been more fun to watch Odo and Dukat spar about something that mattered to the plot instead.


Matthew: For me, this was a bit of a regression for Rene Auberjonois. I like his performance so much better when he isn't yelling and emoting and instead is being restrained and subtle. I imagine him lowly intoning his scenes with Thrax, and they seem so much better in my mind than what we got. Speaking of Kurtwood Smith, he is totally wasted here. I would have loved to see a show where he and Odo were at odds for much longer.

Kevin: I think it's the makeup that makes his intense faces fall right in the uncanny valley. His subtle choices make the most impact because he has a subtly featured face, and it just fits better. An episode pared down of the silly set up could have left lots of time for Dukat, Thrax, and Odo to play off each other and that would have been a hoot.

Matthew: The rest of the principal cast was pretty decent. Terry Farrell got some nice scenes with Marc Alaimo, and I would have liked for them to be expanded as well, plot permitting. Brooks wasn't shouty for the most part, and Robinson was typically Robinson. Alaimo got lots of interesting stuff to do, perfectly pitching his pathological need for affirmation from his victims. I wish he had gotten a sexual assault scene to do.

Kevin: I get why that might be an interesting story development, but I'm pretty okay not have to process that. I agree his need to be loved is an interesting and perfect layer to his character. I liked everyone here, but I think the script leaves them a little groundless. They wander around not understanding anything and don't really do anything to figure it out. The episode just kind of happens to them.

Production Values

Matthew: Loads of extras made the Terok Nor bits feel populated and real. Lighting and set decoration did the rest of the job of letting us know that this is a different place quite well. I do of course still wonder how all of this grime, smoke, and explodey stuff could possibly be on a space station.

Kevin: We haven't said this a lot in this series, but I really want the bluray of this episode. I think as long as they don't go noise-reduction happy, it would be a really interesting look at the station. 


Matthew: I was flirting with a 2 based on plot silliness, but in the balance I think this is a 3, given the solid acting and production values. The complete and total telegraphing of the big reveal takes anything higher off the table for me.

Kevin: The pacing and the wonky setup do rob this of a drama. Simply giving us a pared down story about hard choices and personal failure could have been the perfect companion piece to "Necessary Evil," but overall, I still agree with Matt that this squeaks into average territory, and I am going with a 3. That makes a total of 6.

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