Monday, January 9, 2017

Deep Space Nine, Season 7: The Emperor's New Cloak

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.htmlDeep Space Nine, Season 7
"The Emperor's New Cloak"
Airdate: February 3, 1999
160 of 173 produced
160 of 173 aired


Introduction

Quark and Rom are taken to the Mirror Universe in order to deliver a stolen cloaking device as a ransom for Grand Nagus Zek. Hilarity fails to ensue.

Episodes like this make it really hard to maintain my "All Real Star Trek is better than the Abrams movies" stance...




Writing

Matthew:
I am racking my brain, trying to come up with an episode of any Star Trek series that bored me more than this one. I have not been successful as yet. I've had it playing in my disc player something like four times, now, and I drift off to some other activity within ten minutes each time. I have not been a fan of any of the DS9 mirror shows, but this one least of all. Why? Well, placing a plot in the Mirror Universe almost immediately eliminates caring about the plot's outcome unless: 1. It tells us something interesting about a prime universe character; or 2. It casts some dynamic from the prime universe in a compelling new light. About the only thing that threatened to make me care about this teleplay was Brunt. It was interesting to see him in an alternate version, and to contrast his pining for Mirror Ezri with Quark's pining for Prime Ezri.

Kevin: Of the many options for what to be most annoyed at, the "steal a cloaking device" plot was the most annoying for me. I distinctly recall going to find my VHS tapes of previous mirror universe episodes to prove that I did in fact recall seeing Alliance ships decloaking in other episodes. So, right from the beginning, I was disinclined to like this episode. The fact that the rest of episode was painfully boring and unfunny did not change my opinion.

Matthew: I guess a big element of this plot is Intendant Kira and Regent Worf, their conflict with each other, and their battle with the rebels. I... just don't care. It's a very convoluted plot to begin with, and it isn't helped by the ridiculous vamping on the parts of both characters. The only potentially interesting aspect is where Mirror Ezri's loyalties lie.But she switches back and forth so much that I just lose interest.

Kevin: I've said it before, but in a vaccuum, I liked Intendant Kira's first appearance in the mirror universe. I think it had the potential to be a fun meditation on seeing someone as focused and ruthless as our Kira can be, but focused on only her own gain, not that of her people. That said, by now, even I have tired of the drag queen schtick. We get that this alternate universe has some bad people in it, but at the point they were actually laughing at Quark and the others being executed even after cooperating just tipped right over the edge into cartoonish super-villainy, and worst of all, it wasn't fun. We've done the ridiculous in this franchise before and as long as it was fun to watch, we can be if not outright forgiving, at least accommodating.

Matthew: No discussion of this episode can elide the absolute plethora of stupid, stupid "humor" that the writers went for. First and foremost has to be making Vic Fontaine a living humanoid. Look - there's winking to the fans and then there's kicking them in the proverbial nutsack. This is definitely the latter. We love Star Trek, and we take it seriously. We want there to be rules and logic to our beloved universe, and we want them followed. Do we want humor? Yes. Do we want romance? Yes. Do we want surprises? Yes. But making Vic human is kind of like revealing that Captain Picard has a second, sentient head named Cletus that he's been concealing under his uniform for all these years. It violates rules and expectations in service of a gag, and not even a particularly funny one (the punchline apparently being "I can't believe it. Julian just shot Vic Fontaine..."). If they had even named him something different, it would be a non-rule-violating in-joke. Then we have the litany of Rom bits, in which he tries to "understand" the mirror universe by reversing everything. Not only does this beat the "Rom is Dumb" horse to death one more time, it also insults the intelligence of the viewer, as if this is the best explanation we could come up with, too. Then we have the cavalcade of lesbian sequences, commented on wryly by the other actors, culminating in Ezri/Leeta, with Grand Nagus Zek opining "isn't this universe fascinating?" It's crass and exploitative, and again insulting that they thought we viewers would be both titillated and amused. "Rejoined," this ain't.

Kevin: I think one of the other great sins of this whole series of episodes was writing Garak as incompetent. I mean, seriously, that just hurts to watch. Find some other way to make him different. Or don't. Just give us more of regular Garak. Hell, if there were some winking joke that the Garak in our universe and the one here were both somehow the same contiguous person, I probably would have been fine with that. And yes, the Everyone is a Lesbian model of storytelling is frankly offensive. It is literally just making the hot girls kiss for the sake of titillation.

Acting

Matthew: Hmm. I guess I enjoyed Nicole De Boer's performance in a vacuum. You know, isolated from script, story, and dialogue. It's clear she had fun, and she can actually play a "bad girl" pretty well. I also thought Armin Shimerman gave it his best shot, especially when he had his "He's My Nagus" speech.

Kevin: She was okay. I found her dark version of Ezri a little off the mark, but it's so hard to judge what I actually think about the acting since like some kind of barnacle, the terribleness of the writing just sticks to everything. And as for Shimerman, if he didn't completely lose it during Profit and Lace, this had to be a walk in the park, right?

Matthew: Michael Dorn was bad. Nana Visitor was bad. Andrew Robinson was bad. Alexander Siddig was bad. And three of these four actors are pretty consistently good. So that tells you something about the material and the direction. Max Grodenchik and Chase Masterson are typically pretty irritating, so I can give them a bit of a pass here. Wallace Shawn... yeah, I don't need to see any more Zek stories.

Kevin: You really have to put in effort to get Andrew Robinson to turn in a bad performance. Like, did they explicitly ask for that? How else does that happen? And whoever was responsible for doing that to Andrew Robinson, how do you sleep at night?

Production Values

Matthew: This was a bottle show that re-used standing sets. So in that respect, it was fine. But I was kind of off-put by some of the weird integrations of space opticals - there is one shot in particular with horrendous black levels, looking at the Defiant from the Klingon ship's viewscreen.

Kevin: Like much of the Mirror Universe, they just made everything so dark. I could barely see any of the interrogation scenes when I first watched this on TV, though I suppose that was actually proof of God's mercy.

Conclusion

Matthew:
Story-wise, this is about as stupid and uninteresting as the other DS9 mirror shows, in which case it would rate a 2. But the attempts at humor mentioned above really put me off of this episode. I felt insulted watching it. That sounds like bottom decile Trek to me. I give it a 1, and never want to watch it again. I'll take "Code of Honor" or "Threshold" over this steaming pile of excrement any day of the week, month, or year.


Kevin: I have to say, I am hard pressed to think of an episode that I wrote a more perfunctory review for. Even for other bad episodes, hell even for the Abrams stuff, we normally spend some time finding the good and contemplating what could have been built on it. Here, I just want it to be over. I agree with the 1, for a total of 2.

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