Monday, September 7, 2015

Deep Space Nine, Season 6: One Little Ship

Deep Space Nine, Season 6
"One Little Ship"
Airdate: February 14, 1998
135 of 173 produced
136 of 173 aired


When the runabout Rubicon is shrunk by a space anomaly, its crew find themselves presented with a novel challenge as their mothership, the Defiant, is captured by the Jem'Hadar.

Worf greets the little woman.


Matthew: Let's just get this out of the way - the mechanism for shrinking the runabout and its crew was pretty silly. I might be willing to believe that some phenomenon out there in space could reduce the distance between subatomic particles, and in such a way that you wouldn't die. But that you need to fly in and out of such a phenomenon by the same path, otherwise you're stuck? That starts to strain my credulity. The distance between our subatomic particles is governed by various universal constants. Like I said, I'm willing to believe in some region where those constants are altered. But once you're out of said region, you're back in our universe, and you should revert back to normal size, different pathway or not. Now, with that said, I really enjoyed the "shrinking" sci-fi in general. I especially liked the thought that they couldn't breathe normal air, and the scene in the isolinear chip bay was gangbusters. Is it breath-takingly original? No. People have been telling this story since at least the 1950s (See: The Incredible Shrinking Man, Fantastic Voyage, Honey I Shrunk the Kids). But there's a reason it keeps being revisited, and that's because it's fun.

Kevin: Yeah, this is right up there with the mysterious and never explained or revisited energy field from Rascals. That said, because of the fine grain they applied to the effects of the shrinking, my concerns about the cause tend to fade. Noting that the Chief would shrink slightly more than the Doctor because of being incrementally closer to the phenomenon or, as you say, realizing they would not be able to breath normal air, really make the episode sing. I also really enjoyed watching them suss out an entry plan.

Matthew: The Jem'Hadar takeover story was well done, generally speaking, with one or two caveats. For one thing, the Second starts out saying that the prisoners should be kept alive, but then for the rest of the episode keeps harping on how they should be killed.  For another, the way the crew is allowed to conspire and delay really makes the Jem'Hadar look stupid. Also, shouldn't a runabout, even if it is the size of a deck of cards, register on the ship's sensors in some conspicuous way? It has a reactor more powerful than anything on today's Earth, after all. Now - despite having to look and/or act stupidly for the plot to progress, the idea of an Alpha/Gamma split is interesting and mostly well done (though I think the First probably could have and should have killed the Second after more than one instance of rank insubordination). The fact that this was not followed up on is not the fault of this episode - it's set up nicely here.

Kevin: At least the Jem'Hadar security is no more stupid than Starfleet security, for whatever that is worth. I would have liked a little more fine tuning on the difference, other than being bigger jerks. Had they said that the Alphas were designed to be less dependent on the white due to a limited supply and the consequence was more independence, that would have been a super fun way to also solve the fact that they never followed up on the destruction of the white facility in the opening arc. That being said, there has been enough groundwork on the internal life of the Jem'Hadar despite their apparent status of near-automatons that the episode feels like a piece with the others on this subject like Hippocratic Oath or To the Death.

Matthew: As an action story with tension, this episode functions pretty well. I enjoyed the final showdown in Engineering, and was never bored throughout the episode. That said, I think there were some real missed opportunities. In the podcast, Kevin aptly points out the conceptual similarities to TNG's "Rascals." I think there should have been a similar level of uncertainty over whether they would ever return to normal size, with the attending scenes with their normal-sized colleagues/relationship partners (it must be asked... WHERE IS KEIKO in all of this?!?!?!). Or, even better, there could have been tension added by making it so that they would embiggen within a set amount of time, this putting a potentially fatal time limit on their various shrunken escapades.

Kevin: I enjoyed the joke about teasing Bashir and O'Brien about their height, though I found the whole poem thing a bit...lacking. I agree that over the last few years of the show there should be some kind of conversation between the O'Briens about the insane things that have happened to them.


Matthew: As far as the main cast goes, I'd say that Meaney and Siddig are the highlights. They have a good comic rapport, and their scene in the isolinear circuit bay was really well acted. They portrayed hypoxia well, and still maintained their comic timing. The Defiant crew scenes gave Sisko the most to do, and he was pretty good.

Kevin: I liked everyone overall, too. I agree that O'Brien and Bashir had the best scene in the isoliner housing. I really liked Terry Farrell this episode even though she didn't get a lot to do. There was an ease and an almost enjoyment of the adventure sense to her performance that underlies the character they have built of someone who seeks a bigger adventure because she's had so many.

Matthew: I really liked the tension between the First and the Second, portrayed by Scott Thompson Baker and Fritz Sperberg, respectively. I think Sperberg really was the highlight and sold the Alpha/Gamma tension. His frustration at what he deemed foolish leadership decisions was palpable, and I'm sure something we can all identify with.

Kevin: Both actors did a great job of acting under the make up, and that's no small compliment for relative newbies to the Trek universe.

Production Values

Matthew: I really enjoyed seeing the close-up shots of the Defiant model when the miniature ship was flying by. The depictions of the Defiant flying though various conduits were really good. Basically, every space shot and shot containing the runabout was excellent, with good lighting and shadow and no visible seams or image degradation. It really is a triumph of VFX for a mid-budget syndicated show in the 90s.

Kevin: The compositing was really spot on, it never looked artificial. All the lighting and shadows were great. The shot in the plasma conduit was really well done, and I liked a lot of the lighting and smoke effects in the final battle sequence.

Matthew: Even if the story problems had derailed the show for me (and they don't, really), the scene in the isolinear chip bay practically makes the episode. It is so imaginative and interesting, and ambitious. OK, were some of the props a bit on the cheap side? Sure, the wires were clearly paper ducts with light bulbs run through them. But this level of imagination is rarely seen, which is quite a thing to say for Star Trek. I guess usually the ambitious ideas are realized in story and dialogue, rarely in effects and sets. Well, this episode bucks that trend.

Kevin: Wouldn't you have killed to be on set that day? Whoever made that scene happen should have took home some hardware for it. I'm hard pressed to think of even a TNG set design beyond the Enterprise herself that tickled me so much.


Matthew: If any one aspect of this show had been developed further, I think a 4 would be on the table. But the setup is silly almost beyond belief, and some really interesting avenues for increasing tension were missed. I think the decisive blow that keeps this in average territory was how stupid and inconsistent the Jem'Hadar had to be to progress the plot. So it's a solidly enjoyable but problematic 3 for me.

Kevin: The set up and resolve are a bit silly, and the tension of the prisoner plot was a bit artificial, but that isolinear chip set alone could pull a bland episode into 3 territory. Happily, this episode was a fun action romp that I was thoroughly enjoy rewatching. I agree the problems keep it from higher scores, but I agree with the 3 for a total of 6.


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