Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Deep Space Nine: Season 7: Badda Bing, Badda Bang

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.htmlDeep Space Nine, Season 7
"Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang"
Airdate: February 22, 1999
164 of 173 produced
163 of 173 aired

Introduction

Vic Fontaine's program undergoes a sudden change for the worse, with his club now under the control of the mob. The only technical options would require wiping Vic's memory. To save Vic and his lounge, the crew has to find a way to defeat the mobsters using only the period specific options the program makes available to them. Plus, there is a ton of fun costume work.

Look, out, Gowron! She's going to slip you a mickey!




Writing

Kevin: I like this episode, a lot. But there are some nagging questions. First, the utility and mechanics of Felix's jack-in-the-box don't quite make sense. Did he anticipate Vic running constantly? If not, it seems a bit of a stretch that the crew would be expected to go to this much trouble. I can't imagine Captain Picard having any trouble resetting Madeline in the Dixon Hill program is all I'm saying. And this all of course leaves hanging the ongoing question of Vic's status as a sentient being. I think Worf's dismissal of the caper would have been a good place for the crew to really articulate some actual position, even if it weren't precisely philosophically fleshed out. I could buy that based on their experiences, they at least question Vic's sentience, and he will get the benefit of that doubt. I would have also loved someone, anyone to mention Data as a point of reference.

Matthew: See, my problem with previous Vic Fontaine stories has always been the complete and total punt on artificial intelligence and consciousness questions. Now, to be fair, consciousness is the "hard problem" in modern philosophy of mind. So it is probably too much to ask television writers to solve it. But not when they make it a part of their story. Vic is conscious, all these other episodes say. He's different! He is meaningful as a conscious being! How? Why? By what standard? These questions, raised by the episodes themselves, irritate the shit out of me while I watch them, and pull me out of enjoying them. This episode, by contrast, focuses on something different: what Vic Fontaine means to the other characters. With this subtle shift, I don't have to care what sorts of qualia Vic's experiences are, or what it means for a computer to have generated them. The "Jack in the Box" aspect of the program is not problematic for me - I can totally buy a programmer deciding to use such a ploy as an entertainment source in a program, especially given that it worked here. Perma-death upon failure is a bit rough, to be sure, but again, not out of the realm of possibility even with today's games.

Kevin
: The caper itself is fun, if not an obvious retread of Ocean's Eleven and its brethren. I want to say that I appreciate they found a way to do a holodeck story where no actual main characters were anomalously in danger. The safeties were always working this episode. Let's take a second to appreciate that. The "let's act out the robbery" as a means of explaining it was a bit too expository, but I can't complain that I wasn't having fun. I was left with the question that if they had done all their planning in the real world, would the program have adapted so quickly and specifically to foil that plan, but that's a small complaint. In fact, I would have even enjoyed them realizing Felix is cheating and one step ahead of them now. Once we get into the actual caper, I was having a ball. Kira always has to play the slut, for some reason. Deer in the headlights Ezri was fun and felt like her taking advantage of how she is perceived. Everyone in various ways got to improvise in ways that were not too outlandish and made them all seem competent. I have enjoyed thinner plots than this with similar ambition and verve. My one complaint about the mechanics of the caper is that O'Brien starts by saying the solution has to be period specific, but then Odo gets to use his shape shifting ability. Now, obviously I didn't expect the program to actually account for that, but I wanted the writers to do so.

Matthew: I agree that the roles the crew were given in the caper were fun departures for most of them, or played to their strengths. I particularly enjoyed Ezri and Kasidy. But I found some of the aspects of the caper itself a bit tough to believe. The one that really stuck in my craw was the alternate count man downing the drink. For one thing, couldn't he just be held up or debilitated? He was alone in the count room. But for another, the reason he drank it was kind of tough to follow. Ezri should have been a little bit more annoying beforehand in order to elicit that level of scorn. All that said, I agree that the setup allowed us to care about the characters, and in a way that did not involve a malfunction, so that's relatively novel (though I do believe arguments can be made for "Hollow Pursuits and Voyager's "Fair Haven").

Kevin: The last element I want to discuss is Sisko's initial reaction. The tone and intensity of Sisko's objections felt a little too extreme, but I don't think it's entirely out of left field. Sisko has been portrayed on several occasions in his taste in art and culture and cuisine as feeling connected to his African and/or African American roots. Add in the couple of trips to the Far Beyond the Stars alternate(?) universe, and I think it at least is not out of character. I also enjoy Star Trek directly confronting an issue that TOS and certainly TNG left silent. Is the reason all the races seem to get along in Star Trek because there has been actual progress on diversity and racial equality, or that those distinctions eventually faded away in the face of a more universal sense of "humanity" in the face of meeting non-humans. I liked it that Sisko says "our people" in the scene, and Kassidy does not seem to be jarred by that identification. That is interesting, and if this is the lesson they wanted to tell, they should have drilled down more into everyone's take on this. I also get Sisko's critique. It's entertainment that white washes human history. On rewatch, I couldn't help but draw mental comparisons to how the non-white park guests in Westworld might process the glamorizing of that period of history. I also get Kassidy's point that she can have her cake and eat it too, if she wants, Maybe like Hamilton, this color-blind Vegas is an attempt to reclaim a part of history or the world that was denied to her ancestors. I know this section has gotten a little long, but both at the time and now, this plot thread intrigued me, and my issues with the temperature of Sisko's reaction aside, I kind of wish it had been more the focus of the story.

Matthew: This is a perplexing element to the episode. I'm not opposed to the idea per se, as it is a cogent commentary on the difference between the prior era and the Trek era, but I do think it is a bit out of left field for the character, especially if you do not reference the events of "Far Beyond the Stars." Sisko should have said something like "I hadn't really been aware of this in a deep, meaningful way until I experienced it myself." Also, how can he play classic baseball games in the mid-twentieth century without that same level of disdain?

Kevin: I'm going to conclude my remarks that Sisko's performance at the end, any musical analysis aside, landed with a thud for me. The sequence went on too long, and it undercut Sisko's initial objection that he would have been allowed in as an entertainer, but not a guest, to conclude the episode as an entertainer. It just felt very artificial, and for a holodeck episode that is saying something.

Matthew: Ugh. Agreed. It read completely as "the actor asked us to shoehorn this in." I guess, in some ways, this was similar to Riker's trombone playing in TNG. But those sequences usually tied in better to the story, or were shorter. As you say, this one almost ran counter to the story.

Acting

Kevin: Everyone was game, you have to give them that. No one was phoning it in, and honestly, who doesn't love playing dress up every now and again? Darren interacted well with all the crew. Nicole de Boer really landed how to work her doe eyes tactically. Visitor did a good job as the moll, a part she seems almost born to play with her dancer posture and movement. When they all do that strut to the holosuite, I was having a ball, no two ways about it.

Matthew: James Darren bears none of the responsibility for my disliking Vic Fontaine generally. That's all on the writers. He's a charming guy and he's easy to root for. He delivers his lines well and blends in to the world. I think Nicole de Boer was probably my favorite main cast member here. And it wasn't just her outfits, honest. It's for much the reasons you indicate - her shy, earnest routine really fits the role she's been given. It's not that I didn't like her "bad girl" act in "Emperor's New Cloak," but this really fits and feels right. Similarly, Nana Visitor totally gives us the impression that, in a different milieu, Kira would totally be the seductive femme fatale.

Kevin: The guest cast was great. Mike Starr may be type cast, but hey, when it ain't broke... For some reason, I always laugh, more than the joke warrants when he asks Odo to do his stretching trick. His set up and reaction is just like the Shakespeare of mob flunky/enforcer. Seeing Robert O'Reilly out of make-up as the count man was a revelation. I mean, the bug eyes are imminently recognizable, but whoo, does Westmore deserve credit for his radical transformation abilities.

Production Values

Kevin: I liked just about everything. I wish the casino felt like it had more rooms, but I like Vic's suite. The costumes were great. I loved Ezri's cocktail waitress outfit which was just ridiculous in a completely appropriate way. I also loved that green and gold dress Nana Visitor wore when the real heist went down. I sincerely hope she stole it at the end of the season.

Matthew: Capaciousness aside, the casino props looked good, as did all the extras. It was an upgrade from "The Royale" (an episode I do not dislike) in terms of realism. Almost every costume worked for me, except for Sisko's. It just didn't strike me as something a man in the fifties or sixties would wear. This is admittedly an impression that is the result of no specific wardrobe research besides watching various films and documentaries of the period over the years.

Kevin: The one production note that always tickles me is that when the crew is walking to the holosuite in slow-mo, the scoring is a slow, jazzed up version of the DS9 theme song. I always get it stuck in my head for a few days whenever I watch this one.

Matthew: The music in this episode worked well to set mood. They've done a good job with licensed or free-use music in the Vic Fontaine episodes. This is, of course, excepting the musical finale with Sisko, here.

Conclusion

Kevin: Stepping back from some of the finer grain plot issues, there is a production quality that can't be denied, and damn it, it's fun. Star Trek has done other genres as a fun field trip, and I think this is up there. While not every episode this season has been explicitly about the war, most have been pretty damn serious, so if nothing else, I appreciate the palate cleanser before the home stretch. Purely on my ability to enjoy myself and watching several of the actors turn in fun performances that they clearly enjoyed giving, this notches a 4 for me.

Matthew: I think I'm still on a 3 with this one. It is basically entertaining and fun, and nothing about it made me hate it vehemently. But I still kind of question why it exists at this juncture in the overall DS9 tale, and all of the annoying questions have already been raised and left unanswered in prior episodes. Throw in a dud musical number, and you're stuck in middling territory. That makes our total a 7.

2 comments:

  1. I really like this episode! I wanted to respond to the issue of Odo's use of his ability to basically solve the problem. I don't think this breaks the time period solution issue. After all there might have been shapeshifters on Earth in the 1960's we just didn't know about it.
    Also totally agree about the dress on Dax.

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