Saturday, October 5, 2013

Deep Space Nine, Season 4: Starship Down

Deep Space Nine, Season 4
"Starship Down"
Airdate: November 13, 1995
77 of 173 produced
77 of 173 aired


While on a mission to mediate a trade agreement with a species in the Gamma Quadrant, the Defiant is drawn into a conflict with the Jem'Hadar. This conflicts sees them stranded deep in the dense and poisonous atmosphere of a gas giant planet. 

Well... at least they found a way to cover that awful hairdo...


Matthew: So, this is an action show, and we're supposed to like action shows, right? But honestly, I'm a little underwhelmed. I feel like this story is caught in sort of a no-man's land in between an episode like TNG's "Disaster," which focused successfully on vignettes, and a more robust action show like "Yesterday's Enterprise," which is about a big plot and engages you on that level. This was a mix - it tried to develop a plot with the Karemma, rescuing the ship. But we never even see them, and can't really muster up much care. Then it tried to have character vignettes - the story seems designed to put Kira/Sisko and Bashir/Dax together for touchy-feely scenes. But most scenes were very short, probably due to the sheer number of them. And can I ask, why is the Federation trading with the Karemma anyway? For fleece?

Kevin: I think, by design, this was an obvious homage to submarine thrillers. I don't think it is as successful as other attempts, but it's not without its charm. I think episodes like "Balance of Terror" were better because the tension was anchored between the two captains, who we learned are not as different as either might think. Either focusing on the Karemma or even the Jem'Hadar ship could have provided a similar insight or contrast. I like that they explored the character moments they did, but agree there were probably one too many for the stories own good. In theory, any one is actually a pretty solid basis for an episode. Worf learning to lead non-security staff is interesting. Kira and Sisko further exploring their friendship and the tension over his status as Emissary is also good.

Matthew: This sort of scattershot, quick approach has the drama feeling forced to me at only minute 12, with hull breaches, sealing off decks and (ostensibly) sacrificing crew, etc. It all just hits the fan way too quickly for dramatic coherence, and makes Sisko's decision to rescue these aliens we've never seen look really foolish. Sure, some of these tried and true tropes, like the unexploded torpedo, were fun. But there were just too many of them. Like the character stories, there was never time for the individual action or character set pieces to sink in.

Kevin: Sisko going after the Karemma felt like pretty standard-issue Federation heroism and self-sacrifice, so that worked okay for me. I thought that they kind of turned up the dick quotient on Worf a little too high. He worked under Picard for seven years. I think he would have picked up on how to loosen the reins to get better results. I actually liked the Kira/Sisko story for itself, as I think it makes letter episodes where Sisko starts to embrace it, even grudgingly, make sense. By no longer holding Kira at arm's length, he also has to stop holding the description there as well. The Dax/Bashir stuff was nice as it acknowledged the growth that character has undergone, but part of me always flinches at the idea Dax enjoyed the attention. I get that it's certainly possible, but particularly for your average socially maladjusted teenage boy, the message "No, really...keep asking. She secretly wants you to," is just not a good one. The highlight of the episode is definitely the torpedo comedy in the mess. It's a master class in comic relief.

Matthew: At the end of the day, what really happened? The ship got stuck, destroyed some Jem'Hadar, lost some crew members, but then everything is fixed and reset and people are smiling and heading off to baseball games. Worf learned how to manage employees. Bashir and Dax play darts. Huh? It almost felt like the "laugh to the credits" of TOS days of yore. Personally, I think Starfleet should have investigated Sisko for a possible Court Martial.

Kevin: I think if the denouement of the episode is going to be a playful look at how everyone has grown, rather than the practical political or tactical fallout of the crisis, then the crisis should have been pitched differently. It's not quite as bad as a laugh to the credits, but it's definitely a little too "up."


Matthew: I think the main cast does a fine job, particularly with Alexander Siddig continuing his character's rehab. I thought Avery Brooks' sunny line readings at the end, despite being incongruous with the larger story, were very sweet and fun to see.

Kevin: I agree on the main cast. I like vulnerable Kira. Ever since "The Duet" pretty much, she's always done a really good "breakdown." I thought her line reading in the story of the three brothers was really great too.

Matthew: James Cromwell was... basically Rene Auberjonois. He had good chemistry with Armin Shimerman, which I guess owed itself to both skill and a prior friendship between the actors. There were a ton of Starfleet extras. The actors portraying the engineering staff were adequate, but nothing to write home about.

Kevin: Shimerman really deserves separate praise for the scene when he removes the diode. The laughing was really great and just on the razor's edge of manic, right where it needed to be. Your comparison of Cromwell to Auberjonois is appropriate and I can't believe I didn't see it before. You almost have to wonder why they bothered casting a guest actor in the first place. That being said, Cromwell is great, and I will take even the flimsiest excuse to cast him for an episode.

Production Values

Matthew: The Karemma ship design was really neat. This episode was very CGI heavy, but for the most part looked pretty good, at least in terms of the ships and effects. The clouds were just so-so.

Kevin: The effects I think were above average overall, given the era. I enjoyed the submarine elements of ships emerging from the depths. It was well done technically and well paced narratively.

Matthew: The interior shots of the ship were quite nice, all told. The various states of damage were convincing. The torpedo casing was neat looking, though the glowing aspect of it seemed odd. This seems to be the introduction of the Defiant coffee mugs, too.

Kevin: For how dark most of the show was, nothing looked mushy or underdone. Everything worked in service of the isolation of the ship in the story.


Matthew: This is a 3 for me. I think there were story issues, but everything comes together into a reasonably entertaining whole. I think cutting perhaps two threads from each of the sides of the tale could have really helped this one out. It tried to cram too much in for coherence and impact.

Kevin: I agree on the 3 for a total of 6. A four was never really in the cards. Nothing goes off the rails, but maybe shorn of one or two elements, this could have gotten the space to breath to really elevate one or two of the threads. Still, this is at least a "good" episode.

1 comment:

  1. why has DS9 turned Worf into such an utter asshole? I was watching TNG the other day and he is much more likable (well except for how he is with Alexander). In DS9 he is just such a plague. I will never understand how anyone can find him lovable.