Monday, March 13, 2017

Deep Space Nine, Season 7: The Changing Face of Evil

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.htmlDeep Space Nine, Season 7
"The Changing Face of Evil"
Airdate: April 28, 1999
168 of 173 produced
168 of 173 aired

IntroductionThings come to a head all over the Alpha Quadrant, as the Breen attack Earth, the Federation launches a counterattack, Dukat is revealed to Kai Winn, and Damar begins his rebellion against the Dominion. Exciting!

 Poor Solbor is unexpectedly penetrated.

Writing

Matthew: So, an attack on Earth. I think that's a fine story angle, and the image we get is cool. But I can't help but feel that it's a little removed from us watching DS9, and it blunts the emotional impact. Enterprise dramatized an Earth attack better, giving one of the main characters a personal stake, and showing much more reaction to such an attack. So I conclude that springing this story element this late renders it a bit toothless. Sisko and Kasidy sparring over her schedule was a reasonably diverting piece of character filler, though it probably could have been dispensed with. I kind of enjoyed the Alamo model as metaphor, but how did O'Brien get his Alamo model into the bar, and why does Quark allow it to take up such valuable real estate? Did he beam it there?

Kevin: I know it would have been cost prohibitive, and the pull away from the shot of the Academy was a good a stand in as any, but a life shot of the city would have upped the tension. Alternately, some sense that Federation society was rocked. What if Federation worlds started contemplating leaving the Federation to pursue separate peaces with the Dominion? I'm getting off topic, but there was a way to up the drama just a skosh. I liked the scene between Sisko and Kassidy, though found Sisko's attitude a little off putting. The better tack would have been to make it more urgent. He's lost a wife in the line of fire before. If he had acknowledged it was irrational and he was doing it anyway, that would have made it more interesting. (Aside: Christ, the writers keep turning men in LTRs into a bit of a jerk.)

Matthew: It's pretty obvious that I'm in love with the Dukat/Winn story line. It reached the first of its dramatic reveals last time, with the Pah Wraiths making themselves evident, but now it reaches the most delicious reveal - that Winn has literally been sleeping with the enemy. It played out very nicely and built tension the whole time. Solbor's death scene seemed both inevitable and unexpected, which is a nice feat of construction. Now I can't wait to see if Kai Winn hops back in bed with Dukat, and how the Pah Wraith thing plays out.

Kevin: Any rational analysis should find a book that is 1) invisible until it comes into contact with Bajoran blood and 2) reveals itself in a wave of fire is just ridiculous in a narrative shattering way, but darn it if I wasn't completely into it. I agree that Solbor getting killed was a surprise, but in retrospect was inevitable. Overall, the story is just compelling. I am invested in a way I have not been in the Bajorans since probably season 2's opening three parter. Especially in today's political climate, there's a bizarre surreality to these scenes. "The Pope would never sleep with Hitler and try to unleash the devil. That's crazy." And then I read a new tweet, and it takes on a disturbingly plausible air.

Matthew: The best scene so far between Damar and Weyoun (and that's saying something) is Weyoun's "you've regained your confidence" scene. The way he pokes at Damar, and the way Damar now controls himself, is excellent, and loads of fun to watch, because the viewers know more than the characters do. Damar's speech at the end of the episode was also good - it was a pretty effective political speech (though I wish it wasn't from that same stinking room yet again), and I enjoyed how the Starfleet personnel seized it as an opportunity to tilt things back in their favor after a crushing blow.

Kevin: Much like the hat trick of making Sobor's death inevitable but surprising, they make Weyoun's mistake plausible for the story and the character. Weyoun didn't have to be dumb to not see Damar's change, he just had to be the character they have carefully sketched out for three seasons. Watching the interaction and knowing what it really means when the characters don't is one of the most effective shortcuts to dramatic tension. In concert with the Breen attacks on Earth and Chin'toka it manages to up the drama and the stakes without losing control of the story. Everyone takes steps forward and backwards in a conflict as huge as this.

Matthew: The big fleet battle was cool enough for what it was, though I was a tad unclear as to why it was happening. The Chin'toka system is under threat, and it's the Federation's only foothold. So? Anyway, having a new weapon that disables the Federation fleet is interesting, and seeing the Defiant destroyed was reasonably effective. I will say that I never really cared about the Defiant the way I did the Enterprise or Voyager. I also don't really understand why Ezri and Bashir are on the bridge during a battle, besides that their names are in the credits.

Kevin: I agree on all counts, save to say that I was more shocked the "went there" with destroying the Defiant. Most of the time when the main ship (or station) gets destroyed, it gets resolved by the end of the episode, or at least the next time loop. I'll be annoyed in a few episodes when they cheat and introduce a new Defiant, but for now, I'm impressed with the ambition of the writing.


Acting

Matthew: The writers and producers wanted to bring back James Otis' Solbor after they were impressed by his first appearance. They were right. He's perfect in the role - seems like he has settled into this life and resigned himself to how high he can climb, but also jealously protective of his power. His outing of Dukat and his dawning realization that the Kai is an apostate was perfectly played. Speaking of perfectly played, Louise Fletcher really impresses this time around. She eased into her murder of Solbor very realistically.

Kevin: This episode builds a lot of tension successfully out of characters misreading another character, doesn't it? He's soooo proud of himself for having the information about Dukat and it goes south so quickly, but Otis manages to layer a lot in a brief performance. Part of him loves the position his information puts him in, but part of him is genuinely upset at the revelation about Winn. It's that kind of workhorse character actor work that really fleshes out the Trek universe. Fletcher is as usual fantastic. She also does a good job with being genuinely shocked and hurt about the turn of events, but not...you know...that busted about it.

Matthew: Casey Biggs does a really nice job of showing a transformation but keeping it under the surface. He doesn't have the shifty-eyed, passive-aggressive obsequiousness that he did before, but he seems to have most of the same external affect, which makes his snow-job on Weyoun realistic. Jeffrey Combs is also excellent at almost sniffing Damar out.

Kevin: Combs and Weyoun could teach a master class in doing a lot with a little. It's just the tiniest shadings in reactions that make a world of difference. And, as much as we lament their isolated little room, I wonder if it hasn't impacted the acting. In a practical sense, they must spend hours together and very few with anyone else. They really feel like people who spend most of their professional lives together. Also, on a separate note, I don't know where you learn to act like you are looking at "so many tiny escape pods" through an imaginary proto-Google Glass, but dear God, does Combs nail it. Again, it's the little things.


Matthew: Michael Dorn makes Worf appear like he is not a dickhead in this episode, which may show us that, given the right material, he can run with it. All told, the kinds of scenes our main cast were in, namely shouting stuff on the bridge during a battle, are not conducive to great acting moments, and I assume they are not fun to act.

Kevin: I don't have many complaints about this arc, but I agree that while the primary focus on the Damar/Weyoun and Winn/Dukat stories is good for the show, it does short shrift the main characters, and sadly you mostly don't feel their absence.

Production Values

Matthew: For years (years!) I have been begging for a set that opened up onto a vista. WE've finally gotten it, and it adds so much to the scenes on Bajor. This is how you make a scene with three characters seem like it is taking place on a real world with a thriving culture. We also get a nice matte that shows some people walking, which adds something as well. The Kosst Amojan book looked OK on the outside, but I found the interior a bit strange, like it was filled with tracing paper or something. The effect of the blood making the book light afire was cool and well done.

Kevin: Yeah, they were going for aged parchment and landed and the tissue you stuff gift boxes with. I agree the vista was great, and the statues and iconography, especially in the DVD as opposed to VHS versions, looked really good.

Matthew: The space battle was probably the best in the series so far, with good spacing and choreography between ships, and nice optical effects. The Defiant explosion was somewhat reminiscent of Runabout explosions past, and in a good way. Seeing the different parts break up was effective and was fancy enough to fit the destruction of a hero ship.

Kevin: Yeah, the lattice work in the ship's hull, and the ship breaking into various different piece rather than disappear behind a poof of explosion looked really good. The long shot of the burning wreck of the Romulan Warbird was really great, too.

Conclusion

Matthew: I think this is probably a borderline case between a 4 and a 5. It's clearly above average, but how much? With the terrible Worf/Ezri story having been shed for the most part, almost everything here works to varying degrees. But yet again, it's our four guest characters who are really elevating things. I think this, combined with the general level of excitement and "wow, that just happened," pushed this into 5 territory.


Kevin: This makes it into a 5 for me. If nothing else, in terms of raw story, I spent the hour glued to my television, and the acting is nothing less than top notch. It's not just sour grapes, people. Several of these people were denied Emmys that the same lines in House of Cards would have netted them. I'm just saying. Tack on an ambitious and well executed battle sequence, and you get enough credit in each area to clear the bar of a 5, making a total of 10.

(podcast link to come)

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