Friday, April 12, 2013

Deep Space Nine, Season 3: The Search, Part II

Deep Space Nine, Season 3
"The Search, Part II"
Airdate: October 3, 1994
47 of 173 produced
47 of 173 aired


The crew of the Defiant is brought back to the Alpha Quadrant, where treaty negotiations with the Dominion are already well underway. At first the crew is pleased at the success of their mission, but soon it seems the Federation is willing to give up too much in the name of peace. Meanwhile, Odo is exploring his home world, where Kira discovers that not everything is as it seems.

The Nechayev in your mind has an answer for everything.


Kevin: This is an enjoyable episode, I'll start with that. It has energy and momentum and it's fun to watch and I as learned knocking this one out on the ellipitcal yesterday, fun to rewatch. So let's start with the elephant in the room. Most of the episode was essentially a dream sequence. Normally, those bother the hell out of me. It's cheap storytelling and lets you get away with things without consequence. That being said, I like this one, and I think I have figured out why. The dream sequence itself has a purpose in the broader politcal arc they are building. Unlike more esoteric "weird alien learning things about humanity" stories, this one has at least some point. They also balanced it well in terms of ramping up the insanity. Given the treaty with the Cardassians, you can actually see the Federation making a somewhat lopsided treaty in the name of peace. Necheyev is a total bitch with an eye on the big picture, so so far so good. The first moments where things start to feel off is probably (fake) Eddington dismissing the assault on O'Brien. It's a bit much, particularly the tone, but we don't know Eddington yet, maybe he is a jerk. The first time I watched it, I remember being shocked, SHOCKED, that they killed Garak. It was just inside the line of credulity because he was a recurring character, not a main one, so you could see the producers pulling a K'Eylehr on us. This long explanation is by way of saying that somehow they struck the right chord for me of making the dream sequence engaging and entertaining and shocking, but so shocking that it flagged what it was, but shocking enough I actually felt relief rather than cheated when it turned out to be a dream sequence.

Matthew: I was convinced, almost from the beginning, that it was a changeling trick - the question was merely whether it was a holodeck or a group of changeling impersonators. Dax and O'Brien exchanged a bunch of weird looks and pregnant pauses very early on which raised my suspicious, which was weirder still because they were not in fact simulacra. The fact that it turned out to be some sort of linked mind thing only added questions. How much time passes in the mind vs. in the body? Did the Dominion acquire the information necessary for the simulation from the minds of the crew, or from intelligence operations in the Alpha Quadrant? If it was from the minds, how did they resolve different people's mental versions of persons X Y and Z? If it was from intelligence, how did they get characterization and personal information (Garak, Sisko's admiralcy ambitions, Jake Sisko) to be so convincing?

Kevin: In terms of problems, my quibble is Garak. He's part of the simulation, so his energy and resourcefulness in helping the crew rebel seems odd. I think they should have balanced better. Necheyev offering the captain's chair felt smarmy and like the buy-off it was, so it doesn't really feel like there's a choice. If the Dominion really wanted to see how they would respond, shouldn't the simulation have some credible path for playing along? Still, it doesn't damage it too much for me, even on review. I enjoyed the politicking and the plotting.

Matthew: Yeah, the big reveal is something that, if you press too hard, calls into questions lots of what precedes it in the story.

Kevin: The Odo plot, though less bombastic was pretty satisfying  The small moments of him learning what it is to be a Changeling were great. I also liked the "we took their word for us and made it our own." It's one of the less heavy handed bigotry references the show has made and it worked. I do wonder how you 'beat' a shapeshifter to death, but eh, it's not fatal. The female shapeshifter sold her belief in the correctness of their actions. The scenes with Kira and Odo were also very nice. Her happiness for him was sweet and compelling. I also like that they managed to find Odo's people without destroying Odo's raison d'etre as a character. He's found them, but he's now kind of worse off. That's good drama.

Matthew: I agree that the Odo story really advanced the character. The sex scenes (I don't know what else to call them) were a fascinating change of pace for the character, and his rapport with Kira was really organic. I do think the scenes were paced a bit slowly, and I was always relieved to return to the parallel DS9 plot, for excitement's sake. I had a big problem with the Odo story, though, and it was this - for a race that prides itself on "never harming one another," the notion of sending infant changelings out into the galaxy, hundreds of years of travel distant, with no information, upbringing, defenses, anything, seems unaccountably cruel. How many of these hundred infants were sentenced to death by the Founders' hare-brained scheme for exploration? How was this better, more efficient, or more humane than sending out mature changelings who could easily blend into foreign societies by using their natural abilities and fully formed intelligence? Remember, Odo didn't even know he was alive for a long time. How many of these changeling infants have been turned into motor oil or sex lube by now? Frankly, the whole organization of the Founders makes no sense, either internally or in terms of drama generally. I think it would have been much cooler if, being shape-shifters, the Founders were everywhere, not just on one dark, boring planet that was super hard to find except in the half episode it took last time on DS9. As far as the wrap-up for Odo, I think it would have been more powerful if he had actually had some serious, stake-raising conflicts with Sisko and the others, to have eventually opted to stay on DS9 instead of joining the Great Link. Instead, his resignation seems to be so much bluster, and the consequences are blunted for him as a result.

Kevin: Beyond practical concerns for wrapping up the episode, I do wonder why they brought the crew to their super-secret homeworld. That seemed overly convenient. At least put them on their own island or something.

Matthew: Given that this simulation seemed to be the overall objective, the whole plan seems too complicated by half. What if they had miscalculated, and the Defiant had been able to resist capture long enough to firebomb the great link? Why did the female Founder admit to Kira that she was a founder, and then let her go? It seems unbelievably reckless for such an apparently xenophobic and controlling species as the Founders to allow anyone to find them, not to mention that it belies the whole ultra-mysterious buildup that they had received not one episode prior.


Kevin: I think the main cast was pretty good. Odo's frustration at being home but still not quite fitting in was nice, and he looked genuinely pained in the final scene with the female changeling. Nana Visitor did a great job being pleased and concerned for him by turns. Avery Brooks brought out the shouting where appropriate.

Matthew: Indeed, Shouty Sisko was actually appropriate and pitched well for the scene. I wonder if Director Frakes gave him notes gleaned from his years of experience being both bad and good at shouting for a scene. I didn't love Auberjonois, his physical acting, flapping wings, etc, didn't really do it for me, but I did buy his emotional investment. Visitor was indeed good, despite having to deliver some pretty hackneyed treknobabble regarding polymetallic alloys (um, aren't all alloys poly-metallic?) and quantum interference.

Kevin: The guest cast really shined this time. Garak is always a treat. Even hearing him discuss hypothetical political scenarios inside a dream sequence is pretty good. Necheyev was fun, though a bit more abrasive than normal. Salome Jens has a really compelling voice and an air about her that just sells whatever scene she is in. I bought the history of the changelings, and believed through all of it, she is genuinely concerned for Odo.

Matthew: Salome Jens is the lynchpin of the episode. Whatever story or pacing problems I think the episode might have, her relationship to the Odo character is absolutely essential for us to believe that the whole changeling half of the story is worth watching. And it is. The way her character switches between care and menace really works well to establish that these people are truly "other," and helps sell the idea that they'd be both persecuted and feared.

Production Values

Kevin: This is a less spectacular episode than part 1, but what we got was good. I liked the obelisk in the arboreturm, looking quietly similar to the one we saw in "The Alternate." The morphing effects were pretty good all around.

Matthew: Maybe I've been spoiled by the Trek Blu-Rays, but at this point, dark equates to boring for me. When I can't see what is going on, I am in danger of tuning out just a little bit. I don't know if it was Frakes, the lighting crew, or the SD transfer. But it was visually blah whenever the scenes were on the rogue planet.

Kevin: I really liked the sheer number of extras they got for this episode. There were Jem'Hadar fricking everywhere and it really helped give the episode a sense of claustrophobia. Overall, this wasn't the grandest episode in terms of production values, but what it did, it did well.

Matthew: It was interesting how they saved on model shots here. We didn't really see much of anything in the way of space exterior shots. But as you say, the bottle scenes on the station were by no means lacking in terms of visual interest.


Kevin: This is between a 3 and a 4. Given that most of the plot has not actual effect on the story, that's a minus. Maybe they could have found a way to affect an existing relationship via the actions that took place in the fantasy. Maybe one of the crew could have refused to help and then they have to deal with the fallout. Still, I think I am going with the 4. The Odo stuff was well acted enough and had enough emotional resonance and the dream sequence had enough energy and whiz-bang to keep entertained, so in the balance, I still feel comfortable calling this an "above-average" episode.

Matthew: I'm stuck on a 3. I just had too many nagging questions of both logic and sci-fi. The planet scenes dragged a bit in the pacing department, too. But it was still an entertaining 45 minutes. It just didn't rise to the heights of the great shows for me. That makes our total a 7.

1 comment:

  1. So I dont understand: if the Founders think that to become a thing is to understand its existence and what have you, then why do they want to murder the solids? They often say hatred is born out of fear, of the unknown, of not understanding. But if by becoming a solid, including a humanoid, they understand it, then why do they still view it as evil and want to exterminate it?

    The Founders have genocidal ambitions. They dont just want to control. Remember the episode where they unleashed a horrible disease onto a planet in the Gamma Quadrant just to teach them a lesson?


    The Founders and their role in this show, and the rationale for and extent of their actions and even existence =, theor raison d'etre (i.e. waging a war in half the galaxy) never made sense to me. It is all just so hyperbolic. And their hatred of the solids both irrational and blown out of proportion.

    Also, if they do have the means to turn little tree monkeys into intelligent humanoids (ie. Vorta) and create an army of ruthless, sentient soldiers, as well as just inflict a deadly disease on a Planet to wipe out its population, why couldnt they have come up with more sophisticated ways to conquer the Federation? Why engage in standard regular war fare?

    Finally, I find it hard to believe that any one species would claim an entire quadrant in a galaxy. I mean ok they dont want anyone encroaching on them and their territory, but why are they basically claiming the entire Gamma Quadrant as their jurisdiction?