Monday, March 11, 2013

Deep Space Nine, Season 2: The Wire

Deep Space Nine, Season 2
"The Wire"
Airdate: May 8, 1994
41 of 173 produced
41 of 173 aired


Garak begins exhibiting odd and increasingly hostile behavior. He refuses Dr. Bashir's initial attempts to treat him, but when Garak finally collapses, Bashir find's a strange implant embedded in his brain. What does the implant do? Is it causing Garak's condition? What's the connection between what's happening to Garak and to his mysterious past?

Did I ever tell you about my experiences in Turkish prison, my dear doctor?


Kevin: This is a good episode and there's a lot to like about it. For starters, I think the science fiction angle is pretty good. The idea of a device that could cause a constant pleasure high is one Trek has explored before, but I like the way the technology is used, as an anti-torture device. Garak becoming addicted is an interesting way to explore his character and it's an interesting take on the consequences of the technology, and a far more interesting one than, say, the game from The Game.

Matthew: Agreed on sci-fi credibility. The possibility of such a device is interesting for anyone today, and it calls to mind the same sorts of questions we've seen done in some of the classic TOS "unlimited happiness" episodes ("This Side of Paradise" chief among them). I will say that I think Garak gets off the hook a tad easily by the end of the tale, from a purely scientific perspective. At least in the human central nervous system, artificially boosting the production of dopamine and endorphins actually trains the brain to produce greater quantities of the re-uptake chemicals that eliminate dopamine and endorphins from the system. This means that when the artificial boost is removed, the body is left more efficient at removing "happy chemicals," thus sending the former addict into a deep depression that involves years of recovery, if at all. Now, of course, Cardassian neural anatomy may be different. But I think it represents a missed story opportunity. What if Garak's use of the device renders him unable to feel strong happiness ever again?

Kevin: I like the exploration, albeit an obscure one, of Garak's past. Apparently, the writers got some flak for telling so many lies without revealing the truth, but I say bah to such critics. Bah! Revealing all would be character suicide. We get confirmation on a few of the broad strokes and that's enough for me. The introduction of the Obsidian Order was great and goes lots of great places over the series. His intentional, almost pathological need to obfuscate makes the character more interesting.

Matthew: Yeah, it's frustrating to be sure, but the questions really are: does the story sell it, and does the actor sell it? We'll get tot he acting, but I think the story is interesting enough to make us give the lack of payoff a pass. I liked the dueling narratives of the prisoner escape, both made the character deeper and more interesting on their own, and together suggest very odd mysteries about Garak. The only flaw I think exists here is that the revelations were too close together, story-wise. Only about two minutes seemed to separate the scenes. I think they'd have been more effective further apart.

Kevin: I liked the withdrawal scenes a lot. They felt authentic and well paced. His disgust at his life and his lashing out at Bashir were particularly well done. I will say I think the episode gets a little soft in the middle when it becomes more of a medical mystery story, but it picks right up again with the introduction of Tain. The scene was riveting and Tain helping so he could further consign Garak to suffer was truly chilling.

Matthew: I do question Bashir's ability to see Tain so easily. I get that Tain allowed it to happen, but it kind of diminished the majesty and mystery of the character for it to be so easy for Bashir to get to him. Also, why see him at all? Presumably a Cardassian medical doctor would have the information Bashir needs.

Kevin: This was a good Bashir episode (finally). His brashness is actually in service of a patient, and it's good for the character. I don't mind him being a young, cocky upstart when the absurd things he does are personal gambles to help a patient. That makes sense and makes him likable,  if not still a little irritating. I also liked he got to be the mature one for a change by weathering rather than responding to Garak's attacks.

Matthew: It was definitely the scenes of Bashir putting up with Garak's hostility that made this a great turn for the character. It shows that he is a doctor first and foremost, and wants to be a friend. It's a nice step away from the character's previous self-absorption, which wasn't very appealing to watch.

Kevin: One other small problem I have is with the Odo surveillance scene. I would like some actual rules about search and seizure on this station and some consequences for when Odo crosses the line, and they discuss it which is good, but it still nags me.


Kevin: Andrew Robinson is a great actor, and thank God, because the episode would have failed if he brought anything less than his A-game. The way he told his multiple stories with complete conviction was great. What really shined through consistently was the rage and loss he felt at his life, and it was great seeing it seethe through. It's fun to picture to the outcast spy from Bashir's perspective, but thinking about it from Garak's, it's heartbreaking. He also portrayed the physicality of withdrawal well, from manic energy to breakdown, I bought it all.

Matthew: DS9 has had its share of deep, endemic issues that impair viewer enjoyment to this point. But weakness in the recurring guest cast is definitely not one of them. I think there is basically a 1:1 correlation between the writers focusing more attention on Garak and Dukat and the show improving steadily. The more Alaimo and Robinson are on screen, the better the show gets. This is really a master class in subtlety. Portraying such an unreliable character can veer off the rails easily, but Robinson keep us engaged by the lilt in his voice, the set of his eyes, every little choice.

Kevin: I think Alexander Siddig does a good job here, and it's partly the writing, but I think the actor is getting a handle on how to portray the callowness of his character without making you want to stab him in the face. I liked his confrontation with Odo, and I loved his scene with Tain. There's still clearly a part of him that's having fun being a spy, and it gets deflated a little when he realized that Tain already knows what kind of tea he drinks, and the game gets a little more real.

Matthew: One of two things has occurred here. Either Siddig El Fadil has become a better actor, or the writers are better playing to his strengths. I think it's probably the latter, and it's a welcome change. When the actor isn't tasked with being "charming,"  the character is actually much, much more palatable. He imbued the performance with a real warmth, even with some of the old "brashness" remaining.

Kevin: Tain was originally intended as a one-time character, but Paul Dooley's portrayal changed their minds, and it's easy to see why. He was great. It was like he had walked off the set of some Cold War spy drama without skipping a beat. He conveyed all kinds of menace through the make-up, and in addition to seeming to have a real handle on the universe, I really felt there was a close relationship with Garak that was fueling everything else. For a short scene, he made a huge impression. I was left wanting to know more about him and the Order.

Matthew: Dooley's voice is what makes the character. She starts his scene with a jovial, high-pitched tone, but then drops down every now and again when things get serious. It really works wonders for a spymaster who was responsible for untold pain and death in his career. It makes him powerful, and a little scary.

Production Values

Kevin: The Okudagrams of Garak's brain were nice and the overlay scene was nicely detailed. I liked the scenes in Garak's quarters, lots of props and whatnot. The camera work during Garak's breakdown was great. It was tense and claustrophobic and energetic, and it served the scene well.

Matthew: Yeah, there were lots of nice dissolves. This is really a bottle show (only one external set which was still on a soundstage), and it could have gotten boring. The direction really added to the experience.

Kevin: I liked Enabran Tain's study and the man himself. It felt like the retired man version of previous Cardassian fashion, and the Cardassian make-up job was excellent. I also think they made a good call with the physical choice in casting the actor they did. Cardassians to date have been lean, almost feral, creatures, so especially in their society, a doughy old man would ostensibly not be threatening, but like all great deceptively weak villains, the menace shines through and is enhanced by it coming from the unexpected place.

Matthew: I think we've kind of been shorted on Cardassian exteriors to this point in the show. I'd have liked to have seen a matte painting, at least. I agree on makeup and wardrobe generally, and on the Cardassian interior. More!


Kevin: I am going with a 4. It's a great episode with a neat idea, and serves to explore a really interesting character. I was contemplating a 5 on terms of the acting alone, and while I disagree that not getting the true story of Garak's exile is not necessarily a mark against the episode, I do think there should have been a bigger outcome of the episode than Garak now being resigned to his fate, but without drugs. Some larger change for the Garak character may have put this at a 5 for me, but still, this is a damn good episode and another in a long line of shameful examples of Star Trek's lack of acting awards.

Matthew: I think this is just lacking a teensy bit of extra ambition, to tell a slightly more sweeping tale. The acting is unimpeachable all around (including Siddig El Fadil!), and the episode is consistently enjoyable.I agree witht he 4 for a total of 8.

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