Friday, September 19, 2014

Deep Space Nine, Season 5: A Simple Investigation
Deep Space Nine, Season 5
"A Simple Investigation"
Airdate: March 31, 1997
113 of 173 aired
113 of 173 produced


Odo investigates a murder, and falls for his prime suspect.

 Have I shown you the one where I pretend to be an overhead sprinkler system and shower you with pointless lights?


Kevin: I like this episode personally, though I fully acknowledge that this is not necessarily a value judgment, just one of personal taste. Anything that borrows from the film noir playbook is going to make me at least a little happy. In that spirit, I am starting with the positives. This relationship, moreso than the one with Kira certainly, at least feels somewhat organic. I kind of like that idea that Odo would fall for the basically decent but morally flexible femme fatale. They have in common their willingness to ignore the rules; they just have different aims when they do. I really loved the scenes when he's interrogating her and once pinned, casually acknowledges what she's done. The scenes had genuine chemistry. We've seen him be nurturing or protective before, so it makes sense he would go out of his way for this person once he decided she needed help. I also liked the scene of them throwing off anyone following them. That being said, in a world with transporters, would it be worth your time to tail someone?

Matthew:  I get kind of antsy when too many days pass between reviews here on Treknobabble. And as such I am antsy while writing this. But I kid you not, it has taken me three attempts to get through this episode. I review these shows with a computer in my lap, so there is an omnipresent temptation to wander away and surf, one which overcame me on each run-through of this story (including this current one). It's just sooooo-ooo-ooo BORING. I stipulate to all of your basic likes. Film Noir? Cool. Investigation stories? Great. Chemistry between the principal relationship partners? Yep. So what is it that just doesn't work here? I think it is the nebulous nature of the mystery. We never meet Draim, for one thing. He is bad, but we never are shown this badness or any of its effects. Arissa is searching for something, we know not what, for more than 36 minutes of this plot. None of these nebulous motivations seems to have any interface with our crew or the station itself, either, making it especially hard to care about it when coupled with the vagueness. Minute 37 is when we finally get the relatively minor sci-fi twist, that somehow this data crystal contains the real Arissa, and not the undercover plant persona that she is currently displaying. Why not make the episode about this for the prior 90% of the run time? Vagueness does not a mystery make. Having a character break down, lose memories, have flashbacks? That could work (and in fact has worked, with the O'Brien duplicate in "Whispers.") Instead, it's a MacGuffin that moves this completely rootless plot along until it just sort of gets revealed. The memory implant story should have been revealed by minute 20 at the latest so that we could really dig into it. Also, can I just ask, why did Odo jump on the guy not holding the weapon during the action climax?

Kevin: I am neutral overall on the relationship between Arissa and Odo. On the one hand, I do think the actors have chemistry, and the noir notes of hard-boiled gumshoe and the mysterious criminal delight me. On the other, I don't like the reveal. They were riffing on a movie from the 50s where the woman turned out to be an undercover cop pretending to be a key witness whom the cop who doesn't know that falls for her. I think the element of a suppressed and artificially created personality is a little too neat. I would have rather she actually have been either a bad guy, or consciously complicit in the deception. It gives Odo a choice in how to perceive the relationship, and that would have been dramatically more interesting.

Matthew: As in my previous criticism, I think they should have gotten to the emotional punch of the story before the final scene, which was quite nice. But as romantic dyads go, I was pretty on board with this one. It hit the noir notes it needed to, and was bolstered by the actors' chemistry. I agree that having her be the actual villain might have been more interesting, or being a callous manipulator of Odo in service of her mission. What would have been most interesting in my opinion is the idea of her wanting to stick with Odo, and her husband being the guy who prepped her for the undercover mission. Then we could have had some CONFLICT, which this snooze-fest was sorely lacking.

Kevin: I like some of the peripheral universe building. I liked the idea of allowing someone mental but not physical access as a form of prostitution. It reminded me, positively, of stuff like Total Recall. I also liked the idea of people adding technology to their bodies to better interact with technology. I do wonder how the Orion Syndicate makes money in a universe without scarcity, but it is fun to explore life for non-Federation citizens even if it makes no sense that there are non-Federation citizens anymore. In the balance though, the plot of the nebulously defined Orion Syndicate seems pretty thin. I would rather that the plot have involved the Dominion in some way, if only to maintain the momentum built by the recent episodes.

Matthew: The problem was that this exploration was done entirely in dialogue and was left undramatized completely.  Show us this mind-sex interface! Show us the seamy underbelly of Orion vice! Show us the putative villain of the piece? This whole episode was plagued by narrative blue balls.

Kevin: Lastly, this episode should have taken place while Odo was a still a solid. It would have made the physical intimacy more complicated and interesting. The quick shot of the two hands seems like the same wishy-washy attempt at portraying sexuality that torpedoed "Let He Who is Without Sin." There a more interesting way to portray this and if they can't do it on network television, then don't show a watered down version.

Matthew: I had the impression that they did the nasty, human style, before that scene. So I was OK with it. It is light years better than the doofus sprinkler light show (fully clothed) that we get with Kira/Odo.


Kevin: Whatever my issues with the story and its resolution are, I can't fault the acting. Dey Young was great as Hannah Bates in Masterpiece Society, and she's great here. She really felt like she was taking a page from the inspirational source material, very noir femme fatale. She nailed that slightly smoky voice and there was something about the way she carried herself physically that made someone falling for her make sense. I actually felt bad that this woman doesn't actually exist.

Matthew: Indeed, Dey Young was about the only element of this show that held my interest. She was really subtle, but effective, at portraying that "is she lying?" element that all great femme fatales share. It's just a shame that the story never let her truly be "fatale."

Kevin: I think Auberjonois did a good job. He kept his reactions well restrained. More importantly, I bought the chemistry and attraction to Arissa, which goes a long way to making an episode centered on that attraction work.

Matthew: As we will see quite soon in "Children of Time," Rene Auberjonois does a terrific job when not shackled by the constraints of the character. I mean, it is a compliment to him as a performer to say that when he makes Odo painfully uncomfortable, it's believable to the point of inducing discomfort in the viewer. But how much of that do we really want? In the rare scenes in which he gets to portray something other than "I'm trying to hold in a fart," he really shines.

Production Values

Kevin: This was largely a bottle episode. I will say I was not a fan of the make-up on Sorm and Traidy. It was just too muddled for me. I will say the costume department overcame many of its own worst instincts and picked an outfit for Arissa that was low-key and flattering, and she had a haircut that a humanoid woman might actually choose to wear.

Matthew: Arissa's dress was flattering, but I think we might have benefitted from one slightly less mundane outfit in her ensemble - though your point about worst instincts is well taken, I am not advocating Lwaxana Wear (tm) by any means. I agree on the hitmen. They were forgettable, in part because of their makeup.

Kevin: I liked the bit in the holosuite in the limo. It's a cute way to imply the scope of the James Bond knock-off on the cheap. It's my favorite kind of production trick, one almost enhanced by the limitation.

Matthew: I liked what it suggested about the holodeck, that it only creates the bare necessities to create a simulation (like a car on a soundstage). This was of course belied by the O'Brien character then capturing him in story after Odo's story-breaking intrusion. I just want to note the music - or lack of it. This episode was so quiet that it lulled me to sleep the first two times I tried to get through it. I'm not clamoring for one of those episode scores that telegraphs how I should feel at every moment. But give me something!


Kevin: The episode may have sold me at that first shot of Arissa draped over the bar, but I can't help it. I love a noir homage. It's not the best episode in the world, and sure it's a little slow in places, but there is more than enough here to make this a 3 for me.

Matthew:  I'm too bored to go above a 2. A 2 is a story with severe flaws (e.g. not actually developing its plot, somnambulent pacing and music) that contains redeeming futures (Dey Young and her chemistry with Auberjonois). I think this fits the bill entirely. That makes our rating a 5.


  1. I agree with Matt, this episode is boring. But once you get past the boredom and decide to focus, it is interesting and quite beautiful at times actually.

    That said, the part where she says he has bedroom eyes feels kinda cheesy. I dont know. I always feel embarrassed FOR him. She said it with such a straight face, I am never sure if the writers were a little fucking with us maybe.

    By the way, I too get antsy between your guys' reviews. It's good to see you are keeping up the pace and I look forward to your review of Season 3 VOY :)

  2. Well, I'm working on Business As Usual presently, so hopefully we can squeeze two in this week.

    I can't wait for VOY S3, because I think there's a lot to love in it.