Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Deep Space Nine, Season 6: Valiant

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.htmlDeep Space Nine, Season 6
"Valiant"
Airdate: May 6, 1998
144 of 173 produced
144 of 173 aired

Introduction

Jake and Nog find themselves behind enemy lines on a Starfleet vessel heretofore thought missing. They both must decide where they stand in relation to its unorthodox crew and mission.

Jake... may I call you Jake? That vest is totally dope, Bro.

Writing

Matthew: The setup is really difficult to believe. Even if I buy a Defiant-class starship crewed by cadets, with only a handful of real officers on board (all of whom conveniently die); even if I bought that their mission was to circumnavigate the entire Federation (which seems like it would take far more than the final year of a cadet's schooling); I simply cannot believe that no one on board would argue for contacting Starfleet for orders once they survived their initial engagement. If these truly are the best and brightest, someone, anyone, should be willing to say "uh, guys, hadn't we better coordinate our activities with the actual military strategists running things?" If there isn't one among them, then it seems like the whole mess was intended to be filled with fanatics who don't understand the chain of command, and that's something I can't buy. Another aspect that I can stomach, but that still strains my credulity, is how a bunch of 17 to 21 year-olds can hold it together over the course of months - still following orders blindly, not hooking up and breaking up incessantly, not simply going apeshit insane without the experience or the cognitive development to process what they're going through. There's not even a counselor - I think having a remaining adult counselor would have really helped the story, actually. He or she could have been trying but failing to rein the cadets in.

Kevin: I like the idea a fair amount actually, though I agree execution is problematic. On the upside, I like seeing what Wesley Crusher could have turned out like. Given the hoops these kids have to jump through from practically birth, you figure they have had it drilled in their heads that they are the best for a while. So watching it go all Lord of the Flies is certainly an interesting story. But yeah, it's pretty creaky as far as set ups go. I enjoy the basic question, and it's one Star Trek has explored before well, of what a person with the power and talent of a starship captain but not the restraint to balance the ego would look like.

Matthew: The progression of the plot, regardless of any setup deficiencies, was pleasing. The episode certainly wasn't boring. I enjoyed seeing Nog drink the Kool-Aid while Jake remained skeptical. It made total sense for their characters. If anything, I think we should have seen more of Jake and Nog arguing, and less of the Valiant crew interactions, specifically between Watters and the First Officer. The "Watters slamming Tic-Tacs DUN DUN DAAAAHHHH" thing was a bit overdone. The "Red Squad! Red Squad" scene was certainly an interesting portrayal of groupthink, but when do the cheers stop, and how do they do so without awkwardness that would kill the emotion?

Kevin: One quibble I have is that I think they had Jake take the wrong tack. "My father would never do this so you shouldn't," in a way validates the very execeptionalism that Watters is feeding on. The crews of the Enterprises and the Defiant and Voyager may succeed because they are in fact exceptional, but with rare exception, I don't think they seek out a mission or make a decision depending on their own sense of that. As you say above, there are many objective reasons not to do it, and ones that have nothing to do with its difficulty. I think it would have been fun if Quark were the one along instead of Jake. It would have given his objections to Nog a more personal potential bias and Quark is just gang busters at busting hew-mons back down to size.

Matthew: As far as the resolution, this must be the ship of incredibly convenient "fireworks-in-control-panels" deaths. First all the adult officers, then everyone on the ship but our principals and the one ironic survivor? Also, how in the hell did Jake and Nog's escape pod escape simply being picked off by a Jem'Hadar pot shot? The coda was effective, though. I guess I would have liked to see Nog wrestle with things a bit more, since he was completely on board, until he just sort of wasn't.

Kevin: If we had an episode or two to span over, maybe they could have made Nogs conversion a little more gentle, but as it stands, I wasn't overly bothered by it. Overall I found the character arc for Nog engaging and sufficiently satisfying to tie the whole episode together.

Acting

Matthew: Well, the nailed the casting on this one, didn't they? Paul Popowich was perfect as the douchy douche-bro Captain Watters. When he said "Can I call you Jake?" I just wanted to punch him in his big, stupid, admittedly handsome face. He was able to project that sort of snottiness, but also just enough leadership ability to explain why anyone would follow him. Courtney Peldon, who actually was 17 at he time of filming, also had a perfect "mean girl" sort of vibe, and you could see why someone would choose her as the sort of "whip" to keep the less cool kids in line. It was nice to see David Gallagher reprise his role from "Paradise Lost" as Riley Aldrin Shepard (most ridiculous name ever?).

Kevin: Blogging ethics require I cop to the hardcore crush I had on Watters as a teen. He was exactly the mean straight guy that closeted Kevin went for. I agree on all the crew. Ashley Brianne McDonogh (why do all child actors go by three names?) as Dorian Collins was good. She really nailed that ability of a teenager to be scared in a way that immediately renders them looking five years younger. Everyone's body language was spot on, like they were all trying to impress the grown ups in their first internship.

Matthew: I don't know that we'll ever sling unadulterated praise at Cirroc Lofton. He was effective when he was looking uneasy, and when he was chastising Nog. But this was sort of undone by how silly he was when he was shouting how he wanted to Valiant to "tear that ship apart piece by..." KABOOM! Aron Eisenberg was typically good, bringing the viewer along on his journey to peer pressure indoctrination and then ultimate realization.

Kevin: Eisenberg is really up their with the other "outsider" characters used to explore humanity. More than many of the main cast, his story really gets an arc and he's always sold it to the hilt. The conversion may have happened quickly, but I still bought his lingering desire to fit in, even though he seems now fully integrated to the DS9 crew. That sense of isolation can twinge sometime, like an old injury.

Production Values

Matthew:
The Ill-fitting, ugly cadet uniforms seemed to be a production choice, not a foible. They certainly add to the ill-at-ease feeling a viewer gets, perfectly underscoring how unsuited (literally and figuratively) these cadets are to the job they've taken on. But speaking of uniforms, why the hell is Nog named a Lieutenant Commander, but wears a set of JG pips? Were Mike and Denise Okuda on vacation that day?

Kevin: I loved Peldon's hair. It's the exact choice a late teen girl would make because she thinks it makes her look older and more serious and only highlights how young she is. Casting generally was just spot on. They found every baby-faced actor in the greater LA area for this one.

Matthew: The preparation for battle musical montage was kind of ridiculous. Why does the CPO have to press one button on each cadet's rifle? Come to think of it, why is a CPO a member of Red Squad in the first place, when it is supposed to be the elite of the officers' academy? The Tic-Tac pills were faintly ridiculous, too. Speaking of ridiculous, projection of screens on faces... sigh...

Kevin: That one always gets me too. If the screen were doing that, it would be like sitting in front of a projector. I can at least handle overly resolved mirror images in glasses, but yeah. It's annoying. Stop doing it.

Matthew: As far as optical effects, the big battleship was nice looking, and there was some really nice space choreography on the battles. The explosions on the battleship are a little video toaster-ey though. That said, the Valiant explosion and the escape pods were pretty kick-ass.

Kevin: Agreed. I think the effects were solid to awesome all around. The explosion on the bridge really went for broke. Watters' death by support beam was pretty grisly when you think about it.

Conclusion

Matthew: For me, this is a 3. The story is riddled with holes, but the acting and the production values make up for it. I don't think this is as deep and meaningful as it was intended to be. We probably needed to see Jake and Nog more at odds, Stanford Prison Experiment-style, to get that. But it's never boring, and I wouldn't skip it on a rewatch.


Kevin: This just makes it into four territory. I kind of see it as a piece with TOS episodes about rogue starship captains, like Garth of Izar, and an interesting tonic to the worst offenses of the writing of Wesley Crusher on TNG. The acting and effects are certainly above average, well above in places. The thread of Nog's character development seal this in 4 territory for me, for a total of 7.

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4 comments:

  1. I guess I'm a little late to the party on this one, but I remember re-watching this episode after the last two Abrams-trek movies, and thought this could be taken as a pretty good deconstruction of those films (with Watters being new bro-Kirk). "Guys, I know I'm not even a real officer yet, let alone a real captain, ...but instead of returning to federation space for a confab... we can so totally kick the Narada's ass!"

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  2. I think that's pretty on point. I like the fact that the upstart, foolhardy kids actually fail. That makes sense. I would argue it goes far enough to even further valorize the main crews in that it clearly demonstrates that raw talent and daring do not actually guarantee success. The best captains also have discretion and the ability to see the big picture. If the last five minutes of Star Trek 2009 had been Kirk being sent back to the academy to finish to his schooling, or even posted immeidately as an ensign, and a brief speech about how he got lucky this time and he shouldn't learn to depend on it, it would have instantly elevated that movie.

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    1. Agree on all counts. I really do miss the more mature characters in the original trek incarnations.

      On an amusing note regarding the development of the episode, I believe I read in the DS9 companion book that Ron Moore originally wanted two non-Starfleet characters from DS9 to be rescued by the Valiant to more explicitly avoid chain-of-command issues. He started writing the episode with Major Kira and Jake, but had to change that when he couldn't think of a good reason why the episode wouldn't end 5 minutes in because Kira would physically incapacitate Watters and/or brow-beat all the cadets to stop being a bunch of naive idiots.

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    2. I would actually pay good money to watch Kira smack Waters right in his pretty little mouth.

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