Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Deep Space Nine, Season 7: Field of Fire

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.htmlDeep Space Nine, Season 7
"Field of Fire"
Airdate: February 10, 1999
161 of 173 produced
161 of 173 aired

Introduction

A series of gruesome and inexplicable homicides plague the station. The killer manages to leave no physical evidence at the scene, so Sisko to turns to Ezri to try use psychology to find him. Doing so requires confronting another killer, the one who lives in her memories, her former host Joran.

It picks up the rifle and puts on the eyepiece...





Writing

Kevin: There are two problems with this episode that I want to get out of the way right up front. First, from Vulcans to Trill to the Borg, I hate freighting alien powers with whatever the writer wanted to do that week. Based on "Facets," I get that this isn't exactly that far afield, but the ability to summon a talking, apparently sapient separate self from the memories the symbiont has seems a little much. If you can do it in your head, what both with the zhian'tara at all? Also, why is Ezri on this? They pay some lip service to the idea of forensic psychology, but I wondered why Ezri got this assignment. There have to be actual forensic psychologists in Starfleet, or at least more experienced counselors on or near the station. It's not like we haven't inexplicably given a specialized task to a senior officer before, but it nags me all the same. That said, at least we were spared the Sherlock-like asshole savant who swoops into the room and tells you about your childhood based on your footprints or something. That shtick has worn thin.

Matthew: Somewhere between "refreshing change of pace" and "complete mess" lies this episode. On the plus side, I enjoy the notion of the war taking an emotional toll on Starfleet officers, and that there might be some violence as a repercussion. I also, in principle, think the idea of a police procedural within the confines of the Trek universe is an interesting one, if only to see how different technology might be brought to bear on it. But yeah, there were some holes in the story. If they were going to lampshade the fact that Ezri is in charge of this investigation, then they should go into how homicide is almost completely absent from the Federation. Or, hey, mention the fact that her brother was just indicted for homicide not two episodes ago? I did not mind the Joran stuff terribly, since Dax host history is all retcon at this point, but there were a few problems with that as well.

Kevin: We didn't quite get a clear picture of what precisely was wrong with Joran back in "Equilibrium" and the problem persists here. In Equilibrium, he was a man with a temper he couldn't control. He killed a man as revenge for a perceived slight, but here he's painted more as the Lecter type, killing for the pleasure of it. I don't mind a retcon that works, but this one left me flat. I never got a sense of who Joran was, and thus I didn't connect to how Ezri was trying to empathize with the suspect. We also didn't learn as much as we could about Trill psyches, either. Ezri in particular has struggled with the balance of being joined, so they could have dug deeper into what it means to have the personality of a murderer inside you. I would have also liked some at least lip service to the Federation view on criminal behavior. Maybe nothing as hippie dippy as "Dagger of the Mind," but Ezri seems ideally suited to believe that criminal behavior is a problem that can be corrected by the magic of the Federation.

Matthew: Something should have been said about how and why Joran got through the purportedly super-rigorous background checks for Trill hosts. Or, yes, actually reliving those murders in flashback, or having Ezri somehow go through their motions in the present. The first time I watched this, I actually thought they would make Ezri the killer, and have it be because, as an untrained newbie, she was unable to control the symbiont's memories and inclinations. This would have been an interestingm, if problematic, story angle.

Kevin: The murder plot itself left me a little cold as well. I get the nuts and bolts of what they are saying. There exists trauma so extreme that even a Vulcan will lose it.  Okay, but we don't really spend enough time with the character to make that all connect to the story. I think her jump from "There are happy people in the photos" to "A mentally disturbed Vulcan did it" is a little extreme as well. Maybe had the episode dispensed with the mystery element and just had Ezri focusing on either treating him or even just determining his competence to stand trial, we could have gotten a fun "Duet" style back and forth between our character and someone who stands for the opposite of what she does. It could have also been a fun look into the actual working of the Vulcan psyche. That last line about "logic" feels like a placeholder line that got left in the final draft.

Matthew: I think the whole episode would have benefited from there being multiple suspects with real histories, for we the viewers to evaluate. So yeah, going more into the Vulcan guy's life and times. But also "gun enthusiast guy." And maybe a Bajoran or two. That would have made the mystery more compelling.

Acting

Kevin: Nicole de Boer does a pretty good job here. Her normal character is a bit "deer lost in the woods" and it aids the sense of being even more so here. I'm still not quite sold on her extremes, like when she tries to shiv the officer who collects weapons. But overall, I brought her frustration and confusion.

Matthew: I think her best portion of the episode was when she was describing her feelings holding and sighting the rifle. Otherwise, like you say, this was pretty standard Ezri "deer in headlights" stuff. I will say this - her lisp is beginning to irritate me just a tiny bit. 

Kevin: Leigh McCloskey was okay as Joran. I will thank him for not taking the weird fey route Avery Brooks chose back in Facets, but I didn't really get either menace or cool calculation from him. I enjoyed his snark well enough. I looked him up on Memory Alpha and Wikipedia and he seems to be a soap actor, and I can see that. Maybe they should have sketched the details of Joran's particular brand of homicide to suit that emotional arc.

Matthew: McCloskey was worlds better than Brooks. I kind of liked him in this role, personally. He read as "creepy sociopathic alpha male," which is an emotional tone that has a great deal of currency today as a viewer.

Production Values

Kevin: (adopting my best Faye Dunaway portraying Joan Crawford voice) No dream sequences EVER!!! (done now) Seriously, people. The shaky cam with visual lag and the jump cuts do not impart the surreality of a dream sequence. You can't really, and it always slows down the episode. I think a better tack would have been portraying the daytime trauma Ezri would experience both engaging the cases of the multiple murder victims while also reliving/remembering Joran's experiences. I'm not saying she needs to go full on PTSD, but giving the emotional/psychological load a little more teeth in the real world could have elevated the episode.

Matthew: The less we say about DS9's dream sequences, the better. Is it just that they are used so much, or were TNG's dream sequences simply better? Was it because of the dark setting versus the bright interior of the Enterprise D?

Kevin: The ethics of the PervMaster 7000 Spy Goggles aside, the effect was well achieved. The going through the walls was a nice touch. The prop work on making the melon explode was some good squib work. Beyond that, this was pretty much a bottle show. I'm also never going to enamored of nonsense syllables. Faux Trill is as bad as faux Bajoran.

Matthew: Sure, the goggle HUD looked nice, but the mechanics of it were completely baffling. The rifle looked like a real-ish weapon, and it added to the episode.

Conclusion

Kevin: I'm gonna give this a 3 in the balance. I know I spend the review criticizing it a fair bit, but I think on the strength of de Boer's charm and some neat ideas, if not resolution in the murder plot, I was entertained sufficiently throughout.

Matthew: As full of holes as this one was, there is a reason police procedural thrillers work, and it's the baseline narrative momentum. An interesting mystery will cover a lot of story sins. I agree with the 3 for a total of 6.

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