Friday, February 10, 2017

Deep Space Nine, Season 7: Penumbra

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.htmlDeep Space Nine, Season 7
"Penumbra"
Airdate: April 7, 1999
165 of 173 produced
165 of 173 aired

Introduction

As Deep Space Nine enters its final stretch, our crew finds itself in a bit of upheaval. Worf is lost in the badlands when his ship is destroyed and Ezri decides to go after him. Captain Sisko makes an important decision about his relationship with Kasidy. Meanwhile on Cardassia, the Founder is suffering the effects of the disease afflicting her people.

During this proposal, snippets of classical music passed through Kasidy's mind: "My milkshake may perhaps bring the boys to the yard, but thenceforth they are obligated to put a ring on it."





Writing

Kevin: These kinds of episodes can be a little difficult to judge. We ran into this problem with the opening arc of season 6. How do you rate an episode that by design is not its own self contained story, or even the set up of a two-parter. By definition, this episode isn't going to resolve really any of its plot points by the end, and in a 'normal' episode that would be a bad thing. Here, I am comfortable giving the episode a little leeway to start laying the groundwork. I think as long as the episode pulls me along in each of its threads, we can comfortably call the episode a success, so now we have to examine each of the threads and see how they did.

Matthew: I do think we have precedent for episodes that are satisfying on their own even when part of a larger story. In TNG, for instance, I think Gambit Part 1 stands as a good example. Chain of Command's independent parts work well, too. Why do these episodes work? I think they explore and resolve an interesting dimension of some character or other within the confines of one show. Gambit got into what the crew would do and feel without Picard. Chain of Command did something similar with Jellico, and then the second part focused entirely on Picard facing off against Gul Madred. You see? The individual parts tell self contained stories, while still forming part of an arc. I think one challenge DS9 has in doing the same is just how many characters in separate places there are. There's a lot of "meanwhile..." in these plots. It can be tough to do when it becomes difficult to see how they relate to the overall plot.

Kevin: The Cardassian stuff is probably the most successful, largely on the strength of the acting though. It is always fun to watch Weyoun and Damar just HATE each other. The stuff with the Founder was good, and especially with that fantastic exchange between Damar and Weyoun about the Founder's status as a god, was just super fun to watch. I remember being really intrigued by the Dukat story line when I first saw it. I agree with Matt's general critique that nuanced Dukat was more interesting than crazy Dukat, but I can't deny that crazy Dukat has its charms.

Matthew: I think he's gone back to a bit more nuance here, actually, and it works much better. How much does he believe? How much is still a part of his self-serving sociopathy? How much does that matter, given what the Pah-Wraiths represent? I think this plot works, because it is based in solidly interesting character interactions. Because we have established what and how their moods are in relation to each other, watching them wrestle with events works. I do wish they had escaped their Undisclosed Location little room, to give us a sense of a larger culture and army.

Kevin: The Sisko/Kasidy storyline is on a slower burn, but I found myself really liking it. I like that they tied Sisko's current desire to live on Bajor to his initial desire to be anywhere else when he got here seven years ago. Especially in finales, that kind of bookending is good. Their relationship, again largely due to the acting, has always felt very lived-in and very natural. As a human being, I am always concerned when a woman seems totally surprised by a proposal, since that is the kind of thing she should probably know is in the cards before it happens. But in the bounds of the show, there's a warmth and unforced intimacy between the characters that I have always responded to.

Matthew: The same praise I have above applies here, too. They have had their ups and downs as a couple, and we have seen them grow and change. So watching their new growth works. Will Sisko settle down and remarry? Will he embrace his Bajoran destiny or his Starfleet one? Will Kasidy Yates keep being the independent woman she has been or does she want to be more tied down to a domestic life? Then of course there is the Prophet wrinkle. Although I don't quite get whey they should care about the Emissary getting a little action on the side (are they against marriage, or any relationship?), the dilemma it puts Sisko in is an interesting one.

Kevin: The Worf/Ezri stuff is by far the least successful. It relies too heavily on Worf being a dick again. Even if Jadzia were still alive and still had lunch with Boday, he still doesn't get to be mad. The result is a story that seems to be going for this Tracy/Hepburn vibe and it just falls very flat. The end result is just a series of increasingly unlike events to get them in the Breen's clutches.

Matthew: Ezri needed to establish boundaries with Worf. Jadzia would have, why doesn't Ezri? It's simple none of his goddamned business who she spends her time with in her current incarnation, or who she dated in prior lives (does he get jealous over previous hosts' sexual experiences?). It makes sense that he is jealous and that he is interested. That's not the issue. But the fact that she accepts it, and then somehow screws up the desire required to do it with him, beggars the imagination. It made her come off like a victim (which couldn't be more contrary to her previous character) and him like a manipulative abuser (which, well, isn't too far afield from the Worf of "Let He Who Is Without Sin"). It was miserable to watch, uncomfortable, and incredible.

Acting

Kevin: Far and away the best performances are Combs and Biggs as Weyoun and Damar. I would love to see them tackle a buddy comedy or maybe some Beckett. They could read recipes back and forth at each other and probably produce something interesting. Salome Jens is also good as the Founder. The way she calmly sentences a group of Vorta to death was just compelling.

Matthew: Salome Jens is definitely crushing it as a Founder whose health is flagging. She keeps the steely remove, but adds fatigue.  Combs and Biggs are predictably good, but they will get better scenes in the next few episodes. I really liked Marc Alaimo's return - he seems much more centered and rational, which makes him more compelling.

Kevin: Brooks and Johnson have a very comfortable chemistry in their quiet moments. There's a way she sits close to him on the sofa that telegraphs intimacy without being too obvious. I completely buy that these people live together, and have for some time. I think Star Trek does its best romance when it keeps it at its smallest and most "normal." It's why I like the O'Briens so much. Whatever other issues The Sisko's story line or its revelations about Sisko's parentage may be there, Ben and Kasidy have a real relationship that I care about.

Matthew: I totally agree on their chemistry. I will say, though, that Avery Brooks' dulcet delivery makes their scenes a bit sleepy. Most of the energy is being carried by Penny Johnson.

Kevin: It's sad to say, but Dorn and deBoer just don't have near the chemistry that Dorn and Farrell did. Their chemistry carried the relationship even when the writers seemed determined to make Worf an asshole. Here, the writers probably should have realized that there was no sizzle and find a way to spin a story out of that. If Worf had kissed Ezri and then realized that his wife is actually gone, that would have elevated this episode a whole point.

Matthew: Yep. There's no chemistry, even though both of the actors are capable of good things. It kind of makes you wonder what chemistry is, exactly. Is it between the actors? Is it immediate, or does it develop over time? Is it in the mind of the viewer? The answer to all of these questions is probably "yes." But deBoer and Dorn don't succeed on any of those levels. They don't have Liz Taylor/Richard Burton personal chemistry. They don't have enough time on screen together to build it organically. And the viewers are likely too squicked out by Worf's bad behavior to feel anything on their parts.

Production Values

Kevin: I can't be mad that this is a bottle episode. We get a planet, the runabout, the Badlands, and Cardassia. The matte of Cardassia was really good this time. I do wish they had shown something other than that one room on Cardassia. The particle effects in the Badlands was also very good. The jungle set was a little ho hum for me. Pretty standard Planet Hell, overall.

Matthew: The Breen ship was... very obviously CGI. It was not particularly good CGI - perhaps because the close-ups lingered for so long the low-quality textures were more obvious. The Breen costumes were nice enough, though the helmets are a pretty obvious re-use of designs from other 80s space properties (appearances in Return of the Jedi and Pee Wee's Big Adventure spring to mind).

Conclusion

Kevin: The Worf/Ezri plot pulls this back from a 4 for me. The episode is largely set up, but that's not to say it wasn't interesting. Nothing necessarily got resolved, but I was engaged throughout the episode and eager for next week. It's a workhorse of an episode, but it does what it needs to do and I look forward to the next installment.

Matthew:  While this sets the various plots in motion, this episode doesn't do much within its own confines. The Worf and Ezri scenes are grating and unbelievable. The Weyoun/Damar scenes are fun, but only preliminary. The most successful stuff from a storytelling angle is the Sisko/Kasidy stuff, and the twist at the end was nice. Overall, I agree that this is pretty average. So my 3 makes it a 6 total.

Podcast


1 comment: