Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Deep Space Nine, Season 1: Q-Less

Deep Space Nine, Season 1
Airdate: February 7, 1993
6 of 173 produced
6 of 173 aired


An unexpected human visitor from the Gamma Quadrant arrives on the station - Vash. As usual, she trails trouble in her wake, not just from the artifacts she has brought with her, but from the unpredictable Q, as well.
Even his moustache is omnipotent.


Matthew: Many times, when a show seems to be struggling to find its legs, there is a temptation to engage in stunt casting and storytelling. Bring in a guest star, or do something sensational. I don't think it's terribly unfair to consider Q's presence here just such a stunt. Q was an integral recurring character on TNG, who fit in thematically to the show's overall ethos. But does he translate here? I can imagine ways in which the character might. But none of them are these ways. Instead of questioning the progress of humanity, Q is disrupting an auction and stalking a human female, neither of which seem like activities worth his time. The anemic development of the B plot also indicate that this was a rather poorly thought out effort.

Kevin: Even as a kid, this felt like stunt casting. As an adult, the sin feels even worse, given that there was an opportunity to both use Q at his best and even tie in elements of his presence in TNG. Q's whole point there was that humanity had not in fact progressed. What better place to test it than where Federation ideals will be pushed to their limit? It really felt like they just said "Let's have a Q episode," and stopped there.

Matthew: Vash in the Gamma Quadrant, and on DS9, is an inherently interesting idea. Her moral ambiguity is a perfect match for the show, and her scenes with Quark are the highest points of the episode. Unfortunately, her story is undercut by the screen time devoted to Q. This was an opportunity to learn about the Gamma Quadrant (which we still haven't done, despite being more than 5 episodes in) through her character. Instead, we get her fending off Q's lecherous advances. Now, having said this, I could possibly see Q working if he only appeared to Vash. But instead, there seems to be an arbitrary edict to run him up against the DS9 cast. This not only raises all sorts of questions (how much would they know about him? Why wouldn't O'Brien immediately divulge Q's connection with Vash?), but it invites all sorts of unflattering comparisons. Folks, Sisko saying "I'm Not Picard" while wearing a 19th century boxing costume is not a high moment for the character. We know, Benjie, we know.

Kevin: I think Vash being in the episode alone could have worked really well. She could have made a sufficiently tantalizing reference to some indeterminate, from her perspective, time with Q and deciding to go off on her own in the Gamma Quadrant. Her scenes were Quark are a riot, and the pair work really well together, so giving them an episode together would have been an early coup for the so far flat season one. The Q stalking theme comes very close to character assassination. He's been terrifying and menacing before, but with purpose. Here, it's both creepy and pointless. The two lines at the end about seeing the universe through a human's eyes read as too pat, and Vash too cynical to fit the bill. Picard is a better companion to have that experience. Q sees physics, but Vash sees latinum, so the paean to "wonder" doesn't quite work.

Matthew: I think the theme which would have worked far better than Q stalking Vash or some sort of random space alien (I mean, how half baked was that part? Yeesh...) would have been the theme of profit vs. science. Vash already has a good history of mercenary tendencies, and the Gamma Quadrant must have a quarter galaxy's worth of Tox Utahts and so on to exploit. Even if the space alien had been an energy source, or a good luck machine, or something, there could have been an ethical conflict to hang this episode's hat on, and Vash would be forced to check her conscience.

Kevin: Yeah. There's just nothing else here to talk about. It's ultimately a waste of both characters.

Matthew: Bashir the character is kind of dealt a grave insult by this episode. The opening scene acknowledges his annoying nature, but doesn't connect to the episode at all. Then, about halfway through, Q dispenses with him. Exit stage right, you're not needed for this plot. And can I just ask, why doesn't a spaceship have a manual hatch? Designing it to need power simply to open seems really dumb, on the level of designing Fukushima Daichii to need power in order to drain hot water during a... power outage.

Kevin: That wasn't the only contrived part of that scene. I normally like when Q replaces an existing crewman for a moment, but he was just an extra body in the wrong uniform. It was the worst kind of nod to the audience.


Matthew: John DeLancie is John DeLancie. Even given a crap script, his presence on screen is welcome. Does he rescue this material? No. But he doesn't embarrass himself. Jennifer Hetrick is just as charming as during her previous appearances. So, it's not the acting on the part of the stunt casting guests that sinks this episode. They do their jobs more than adequately.

Kevin: The scenes with Quark in particular sing. Shimerman plays the scene as if he knows he's being played, but doesn't quite mind and it is a riot to watch. Both guest actors were clearly giving it their all and it makes it sadder, since they could have certainly done more with a better story.

Matthew: Part of the danger of filling a show with guest stars is that they might overshadow the main cast. This definitely happens here. The Bashir and Dax characters are complete blanks. O'Brien acts inscrutably, and Kira just sort of shouts at stuff. Avery Brooks gets the most to do, but his "I'm angry and I'm going to grab your collar to demonstrate this" schtick is wearing thin by this point. Armin Shimerman is still the best reason to tune into this show. He is hilarious while receiving oo-mox, and charmingly rapacious during his auctioning and negotiating, as well.

Production Values

Matthew: The assay office looked nice, and most (but not all) of the artifacts looked neat. The crystal was interesting enough to serve as an adequate McGuffin for the story. The earring necklace? An absolute travesty. Probably the single worst accessory in the history of the franchise.

Kevin: Hey Matt, let's not say things we can't take back. There are a lot of awful costuming choices over the last thirty years of the franchise. The shrug made of a muppet from TOS, anyone? Anyway, it is still awful and obviously unflattering. I liked the details of the assay office, though it does seem like the set was designed to double as the morgue.

Matthew: I liked the parade of aliens during the auction. The big purple guy was interesting looking, and a good large actor was chosen to portray him. The creepy masked blue people were neat, too. Overall, it created a lot of visual interest and helped the episode go by a little quicker.

Kevin: I was so intrigued by the aliens, I wish the story had been about them. That's a credit to production and a debit against the writing.


Matthew: This is pretty much the definition of 2. Fatally flawed in its story, but containing some redeeming facets here and there. This was an ill-conceived and artificial-feeling mishap of a show, that both diminished the Q character and made DS9 look like a red headed stepchild in comparison to TNG.

 I really wanted to give this the 3, on the strength of the guest acting, but it's not enough. This is a 2, and it's not hard to see why they never dipped their toe in this particular little pond of goo again. That's a total of 4 from the both of us.


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