Friday, January 3, 2014

Deep Space Nine, Season 4: The Quickening
Deep Space Nine, Season 4
"The Quickening"
Airdate: May 20, 1996
93 of 173 produced
94 of 173 aired


Doctor Bashir finds a planet in the Delta Quadrant infected by an engineered Dominion plague. It dooms the people to a slow, agonizing death, but not until well into adulthood, so the suffering population can serve a warning to those who would disobey the Dominion. Can he find a cure? Will the defeated, skeptical people accept it if he does?

Reminds me of Detroit.


Kevin: This is a good episode. The set up is at least decent, but I think the episode succeeds in a lot of the small details, particularly in the realm of character development. I'll start with the set up. The story has notes of any number of plague or dystopia stories. I like at least the nominal attempt to tie it in to the larger Dominion plot. The idea of a disease designed to be fatal, but tailored to ensure the society continues to exist just to suffer is pretty horrifying. I would have liked a more in depth look at their society. Would people really continue to have children in this environment? Extreme poverty is one thing, but it's almost like the Jem'Hadar gave an entire people Huntington's disease. The ethics aside, would people really choose to continue reproducing? I did like what look we got, and appreciate they did the work. A culture now focused on early, painful death might respond by elevating the experience to something quasi-religious, as they do here with Trevean. In the grand tradition of good Star Trek characters, he's not a two-dimensional bad guy. He genuinely believes, and not unreasonably, that the euthanasia he is practicing is the best outcome here, and he is right that false hope is its own kind of danger.

Matthew: I thought this was going to be an "issue" episode about assisted suicide. Of course this had been done in TNG's "Ethics," but I thought this would provide a good platform for a deeper, more nuanced take on the issue. Well, it didn't, really, instead Bashir sort of just barked at Trevean and didn't go into any of the deeper issues involved. This whiff didn't take me out of the episode, because I too found the culture interesting, in the same way that the Vidiians are interesting. They hinted at some nice stuff with art and culture, but never quite went there, which was a tad disappointing. I would have liked to see how art had changed - like the Mona Lisa with and without blue lesions. I would have liked more insight into the effects that a random time limit between 20 and 40 might have on a race - would they live faster and die younger?

Kevin: I like the character work on Bashir in particular. He's always at his best when he is actually being a doctor and not an annoyance. I like that they avoided having Bashir or Ekoria fall in love with the other. I like that his first attempts are not only unsuccessful but counter productive. I also like that even after discovering a treatment that will eventually cure these people, he doesn't just take a victory lap. It really feels like the wide-eyed noob that came aboard in season one has actually matured as part of his work. My only complaint on this front is that this episode was desperately needed in season one or two, not season 4.

Matthew: I agree on ever aspect except one for Bashir - his wholesale rejection of Trevean's euthanasia, even after seeing the effect the blight has over a longer period of time. It just seems out of step with his instincts for palliative care, which are even shown in this very episode. This is not even to mention his frankly bizarre treatment of Kurn not half a season ago. Anyway, I would have liked to see him struggle with it more than just reject it outright.

Kevin: Another feather in the cap of this episode is the lack of an extraneous B-plot. The teaser with Quark was a tad afield, but it always cracks me up. The lack of B-story helped give the episode a sense of time passing because the viewer stayed so much with him, and it is more interesting that Bashir did not stumble onto it during the commercial break. Ekoria's pregnancy, aside from the heartstrings it pulled also helped reinforce the idea that time was really passing. On the downside, I think Ekoria was drawn a little too perfectly. She's too immediately and permanently trusting when she has no real reason to be. Also, and I know I have largely praised the episode thus far, but the final package is a tad slow and talkly. It feels about five minutes longer than its actual runtime, if that makes any sense, and as a result, despite being a solid, well executed story, I don't rewatch it that often.

Matthew: The Quark teaser was indeed extraneous, but I don't think it detracted from the A plot. I agree that they could have tightened things up a bit, leaving space to add the deeper details I was pining for. As far as story problems go, I found the "cure" to be a bit pat. If the Jem'Hadar delivered this disease as a tailor-made punishment for this race, wouldn't they visit it tenfold upon them for accepting help from Starfleet? Also, can a Starfleet Doctor just take 6 weeks off of his duties like that?


Kevin: I think Alexander Siddig is a good actor when asked to perform a role that is not bombastic. To the extent I wanted to throttle him in the early seasons, he was being written that way. His role as doctor as always come off pretty solidly, it's only the Pirate Bashir or (ugh) Rao Vantika from season one that really hit sour notes. He was enthusiastic and empathic and acted like a doctor, and I bought his frustration in the middle and melancholy at the end.

Matthew: I have no problems with Siddig's performance here, and it even had a dash of the insouciant Bashir we used to get in early seasons.  Basically, as you point out, when he doesn't have to do an accent or a demonic possession, he's solid. I thought Terry Farrell was strong in a supporting role, too. She played "keeping him in check" well, and did some scienc-ey stuff, too.

Kevin: Ekoria was written a bit to perfectly, but I think Ellen Wheeler did a good job. Particularly in the birth scene, I really bought all the emotions and physical pain she was trying to portray. I think Michael Sazzarin's Trevean was a little flat, but he didn't get too much to do beyond makes speeches to Bashir.

Matthew: Ellen Wheeler had a nice "too skinny" sort of sickly look. She was cast perfectly. I wanted to see much more of Trevean - a script that had them really debate the issues would have been welcome for me. I thought Sazzarin was underutilized.

Production Values

Kevin: The lesions looked good, particularly in their enflamed for, and I think the team did a good job making the few standing sets look like a larger city. The matte work of the decaying buildings looked pretty good. I also liked the sheer number of extras they got to fill out the population. Beyond the matte work and the several sets we got, it's a good swing at making this place seem like a large city.

Matthew: I loved the mattes and the locations. LOVED them. They're among the best in the television franchise so far. I don't know what they built and what they found, but it looked very much like a decaying industrial superstructure, like something out of the "Life After People" TV series. AS you say, the extras added a lot to the proceedings, and I think the set design really did a great job of creating atmosphere, too.

Kevin: On a side note, was I the only one who wanted the Quark branded mug from the Defiant mess? I really hope someone kept that.

Matthew: I thought they were tacky. But then, that was the point, wasn't it?


Kevin: This is a 3. The idea is solid; the character work is good and is the final pieces in rehabilitating a character the writers almost destroyed by making him an irrelevant pest. The final result is a little slow for my taste, but like we say here, "average" is not an insult here. Like I said, this is a good episode. A more in depth look as the philosophical impact of the disease on the culture would have elevated this.

Matthew: Yep. I wanted to like this more than I did, because it was easy to see how strong the foundation of the story was, and what could have been built upon it. But it wasn't. We can't rate the episodes we want, we can only rate the episodes we get. I agree with the 3 for a total of 6.

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