Friday, December 5, 2014

Deep Space Nine, Season 5: In the Cards

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Deep Space Nine, Season 5
"In the Cards"
121 of 173 produced
121 of 173 aired
Airdate: June 9, 1997

Introduction

With the threat of the Dominion seeming ever more urgent, Jake knows his father is under a lot of pressure. The opportunity to do something to cheer him up presents itself in the form of an antique baseball card going up for auction at Quark's. Unfortunately, the apparent lack of fiat currency in the Federation is only the beginning of the problems he'll face in trying to get it.

 Before we begin, would you like to touch my pod? ...Touch it!

Writing

Kevin: I will admit that I did not love this episode when I watched it the first time. I think it was just residual apathy for the Jake character that prevented me from really engaging in it. On subsequent viewings, I think its a very good episode. I'll get to the comedy in a second, which is top notch, but I what I appreciate most about the comedy is how its fit into the broader story. Jake's desire to do something nice for his father is the plot, but it's coming war with the Dominion that drives the story, so bits and pieces like the dinner party in the teaser and the Bajoran politics with the Kai make sure that while the episode is a diversion, it's not arresting of the season's plot. My one nitpick on this side is using the Kai rather than Shakaar as the on-point political representative. It's been pretty well established that while deeply religious, the Bajorans have a wholly distinct secular government, so I'm chalking it up to being unable to get Duncan Regehr again. That being said, the "I have some experience in that area," line in response to Sisko's observation about political intrigue was genius.

Matthew: I've never had any antipathy towards Jake as a character, I just rarely want him to be the focus of an episode. There needs to be some bigger theme or story at work. "Muse" is a complete disaster. "The Visitor," on the other hand, works because it puts filial love as a major theme and works a good solid sci-fi angle, too. This story works too because of filial love, the Dominion backdrop, and the effective comedy. What I really liked about the Kai Winn story is that she advances a position that isn't just villainous - her position is rational. And then she even listens to reason and delays at Sisko's behest. So it actually makes some sense, at least in terms of the show, that she is the character to do it - it makes her much more interesting and nuanced, something Shakaar was probably never going to be (yawn). The politics of her decision are a lot of fun to ponder for someone steeped in early 20th century history, as well, with non-aggression pacts and untrustworthy alliances in play.

Kevin: The comedy itself works, really in every regard. All of the chores are character focused, like giving O'Brien time to kayak or Bashir's bear, and of course, Sisko's love of baseball. No one had to be stupid to progress the plot, they at worst had to look silly, which turned out to be great fun. I also like the character work for Nog again. I think it will reach its peak with season seven's "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River," but I like when the Ferengi commerce approach to life is given a fair shake rather than being dismissed as simple greed. I like that Starfleet ended up giving him the confidence to be a better Ferengi rather than not a Ferengi at all. It's a nice and subtle nod to the Federation's practicing of what they preach about multiculturalism.

Matthew: What really makes the comedy work for me is that Jake and Nog must take pains not to acknowledge how silly Geiger's plan seems.Geiger's pitch starts out well, promising a cure for death (a fine science fiction idea if ever there was one). But when he transitions to cellular ennui, the farce attains really wonderful heights. If it had just been outright acknowledged as foolish, it would lose interest. But the tension of watching the characters try not to let their disdain show through was really delicious in several scenes.

Kevin: Dr. Geiger and the Soulless Minions of Orthodoxy (totally the name of my new band) actually stuck quite the dismount on this one. The plot is absurd and even the tiniest wobble would have sent it into comedy territory not visited since The Outrageous Okona. Fortunately, Geiger and Weyoun's gravity was played perfectly and it made sure that since the characters took it seriously, so should I, even if what they were taking seriously was an attempt to get a laugh. That kind of comedy is hard and they haven't always succeeded, so well done, everyone.

Matthew: Yeah, you know, I think what really sets this comedy apart is that it doesn't try for laughs or punchlines. It's all about heightening the setup and hoping it pays off. The way it dovetails with the Dominion story is excellent, and the writing creates the opportunity for a wonderful scene between Weyoun and our young heroes.

Acting

Kevin: For all our kvetching about the silly "Jake and Nog Get into Trouble" plots, this one works because the goal, rather than some attenuated attempt to portray what adolescents might find interesting (like stembolts, apparently), was something much more relatable, doing something nice for a father and a mentor. I think that gave both actors some grounding their previous paired outings have lacked. Lofton's always been at his best when he is just trying to act like Sisko's son, so making that the focus of the episode really paid off.

Matthew: As I mentioned above, I think it was the attempt to contain disdain that worked well, for both actors. Trying not to let something show is probably easier for an inexperienced actor than a real barn-burning emotional release sort of scene. Eisenberg was typically excellent, holding up his end of Ferengi culture quite well.

Kevin: Brian Markinson previously played Vorin in "Homeward," and Durst and the Vidiian who killed him in Voyager's "Faces," so the dude has range. He really commits. He never for a second lets it slip that he is trying to be funny, so he is in fact hilarious. Combs brings his A game like always. His scene with Jake and Nog was perfect, no two ways about it. Fletcher got a little range this episode, and I liked to see her machinations played for the benefit of her people and not just her own. It does round the character out that, while self-interested as most politicians are, she's not a straight up super-villain.

Matthew: Markinson is the real highlight of the show. His deadpan delivery of the most outrageous lines completely sells the setup. The way he delivers "soulless minions of orthodoxy" is so perfect. Like someone who has been using the phrase for years, but keeps having it confirmed by slights real or imagined. All three big guest actors were really top notch, easily among the best of the season.

Production Values

Kevin: This was very much a bottle show, but it played well. We went all over the station and back again, and that was nice. I liked the prop of the baseball card itself. Beyond that, the other big production piece was the mashup of stuff in Geiger's quarters. I liked the obvious TOS Movie era Okudagrams, and the egg itself was great. I can't imagine that was sitting around in storage, so making that had to be a bit of a chore, but it totally paid

Matthew: Geiger's room didn't have the blinky light tube thing. So that's something to be said for the amount of effort that went into the effects. The shot of the Dominion warship docking with the station looked really cool, too.

Conclusion

Kevin: My cells certainly had at least of few days of life added to them by the entertainment value of this episode. I am going with a 4. The character work is very nice, and the comedy, for once, expertly handled by both writers and actors. It lacks a grander point or punch that would make it a 5 in my book, but I do very much enjoy this one, and it is a nice way to catch your breath before diving into the season finale.

Matthew: I think it is a perfect comedy, with broader themes in the background, and three stellar guest performances. The production values are fine, too. I don't tire of rewatching this episode, which can't be said for a fair portion of DS9 for me. So personally, I think this is a 5, a top decile effort. That makes our total a 9.

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1 comment:

  1. The soulless minions of orthodoxy - that's Republicans right?

    ReplyDelete