Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Episode Review - Favor the Bold (Deep Space Nine, Season 6)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here.

Overview – As the war rages on, Sisko finally convinces Starfleet that now is the time to retake Deep Space Nine. On the space station, Rom is awaiting his fate in a holding cell, Damar has found success in being able to destroy the minefield, and Dukat tries to connect with his now estranged daughter, Ziyal. All this while Kira and her conspirators try to warn Sisko of the impending destruction of the mine field and Odo further falls into the lure of the Link.

Kira and Quark demand to see Odo

Score: 9/10 – In a multi-episode story arc such as the Season 6 opener is understandable that we would expect the next-to-last episode show some signs of fatigue. That would be understandable, but that is far from the case with “Favor the Bold”. The purpose of this episode is to build up to the conclusion of this six-part season opener, and it does so with flying colors. The focus seems to be centered on Kira and what is happening on the station, but that does not mean that Sisko and the Defiant are ignored. Nog receives a promotion to Ensign (I guess this is a field graduation), and Jadzia takes Sisko to task for the lack of success they are having in the war. While there is a bit of action, it is on a much smaller scale. This is good, because all the stops are pulled out for the next episode, which will feature an epic fleet battle that DS9 became famous for. Important plot pieces are moved into place, key characters are positioned with effectiveness, and the anticipation gets ramped up to the hilt. We learn some interesting tidbits about certain groups or characters through some great dialogue. As an example, Weyoun explaining both the Vortas lack of aesthetic appreciation for art and their poor eyesight yet excellent hearing is a true showcase of how well Jeffery Combs knows and plays this iconic character. Similar performances by Marc Alaimo, Casey Biggs, Max Grodenchik, and Chase Masterson are also noteworthy. Indeed, this episode seems to be a real showcase for some of the recurring characters that have become almost as important as the core cast of leads. Even Morn gets to play a significant role in how the story progresses, acting as the courier to deliver the message to Sisko. And all of this guides us to the thrill ride that will be “Sacrifice of Angels”.

Leeta and Quark speaking to Rom.

Relevance – 2 points. Of course we see the fallout from the previous episode, “Behind the Lines” with Rom being sentenced to death and the mine field getting closer to being deactivated, Odo’s further descent into the influence of the female Founder, and Sisko trying to organize a plan to finally retake Deep Space Nine. We also score a point for Sisko telling Admiral Ross about his plans to build a house on Bajor when the war is done. This idea will continue to develop for the remainder of the series.

Starfleet has concerns with Sisko's proposal.

Continuity – 3 points. The story continuity and universe continuity both are intact in this episode. The character continuity is especially good here. As Damar becomes more pompous and boorish towards Kira, she eventually lets him have it. She has had enough of his bullying and levels him in quick and brutal fashion when he tries to grab Ziyal. This is just one example of how the characters remain true to themselves as the important events unfold around them. I could write an entire article on this point in itself, but just trust me, here we really get to see the characters develop as we would expect they would.

Worf and Martok agree to convince Gowron of accepting Sisko's plan.

Character Development – 3 points. So while important recurring characters see their development grow (Weyoun, Dukat, Damar, Ziyal, Rom, Leeta, and Nog in particular), what about the core cast of characters? Well, as I mentioned previously, Kira finally has the throw down with Damar that she has been itching for since the whole occupation started. Odo also continues to delve further into the allure that the female changeling offers him, including a physically sexual encounter. Sisko, meanwhile, gets back into the captain’s chair of the Defiant, but it his growing love for Bajor that truly begins to blossom in this episode as he reveals his plan to live on Bajor once the war is over. This will be an important development in the development of the captain. 

Weyoun wonders if this art would be better if it were blue

Social Commentary – 1 point. OK, here is where the episode comes up a bit short. Yes, with all the intertwining storylines there are snippets of social commentary that can be extrapolated. Themes such as betrayal and loyalty, boldness and courage in the face of overwhelming odds are sprinkled throughout the episode. Nothing really sticks out, though, as a poignant comment on our lives. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it just means that I can only give this criteria a single point. The absence of serious social commentary is hardly noticed and does not diminish the episode in itself, but it does diminish the points I can award it for this category.

The trap is about to be sprung

Cool Stuff – 3 points. One point for the opening scene of the Defiant and the Rotarran springing a trap on a pair of Dominion ships. Another point for the scene where Kira totally kicks Damar’s sorry butt. As viewers we have been waiting for this to happen for some time now. Finally, the closing scene shows the two fleets approach each other, hinting at the bloody battle that will kick off the next episode. It creates the perfect mix of dread, excitement, and adrenaline that will have you anxious to see how it concludes. A well created scene with Sisko’s line of “There’s an old saying: Fortune favors the bold. Well, we’re about to find out” sets the stage for a thrilling conclusion.

Kira puts Damar in his place.

Rank – Admiral (21 points). Leading up to an exciting conclusion, the fifth of the six episode story arc is definitely a solid showing. Of course you have to watch the episode to follow the overall DS9 story, this episode could have easily reflected fatigue and weariness in the writing and viewing of it. Instead, it keeps you on the edge of the seat. For those of us that watched this when it was first aired, it made the following week a delightful mixture of eager anticipation and gleeful frustration for the time between this and the next episode.

Fortune favors the bold. Off to fight the Dominion.

If you would like to read other reviews from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, please click the following link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Episode Review - Pen Pals (Next Generation, Season 2)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here.

Overview – Data makes contact with a young girl from a pre-warp civilization and develops a friendship. The Enterprise soon learns that her planet is undergoing extreme seismic activities that threatens the lives of its inhabitants. The Enterprise is faced with a difficult decision: follow the Prime Directive or save the planet. Meanwhile, Wesley Crusher is assigned to lead a scientific team to analyze the planet’s stability.

Score: 7/10 – This is a cute story that had some great potential. A moral dilemma that puts, in the center, the friendship between a little girl and an android. The premise is promising, yet the execution was not quite what it could have been. It seemed as if the B-story of Wesley’s science team took away from some of the relationship between Data and Sarjenka. Sarjenka is a well-developed character of innocence and is portrayed with great success by actress Nikki Cox. So while not the best of Season 2, it is a decent episode.

Relevance – 2 points. Pulaski’s memory altering technique will be used again in the following season in the episode “Who Watches the Watchers”, although it will not be successful. Another point is scored for the opening scene with Picard riding his horse on the holodeck. This is the introduction of one of Picard’s favorite hobbies that will be revisited multiple times throughout the series and even in the movie “Generations”.

Continuity – 3 points. Story is good here as the Prime Directive continues to be something that is not entirely cut and dry. Character continuity remains intact, especially during the debate as to whether or not the crew should help Sarjenka’s planet or not. Worf and Picard predictably take the point of view of keeping the Prime Directive, while Pulaski and La Forge side for the more compassionate approach. Universe continuity is also good here. Everything seems to be working out the way it should.

Character Development – 3 points. Wesley and Data both receive some serious attention in this episode. Wesley is put in charge of a team of adults, forcing him to learn to be assertive in leadership. Data, meanwhile, continues to develop his quest to become more human. I thought it fitting that he would be the one to respond to Sarjenka’s request for communication. The ever curious android shows much compassion and empathy for one who is supposedly void of emotion.

Social Commentary – 2 points. It is important to do the right thing. Sometimes this means breaking, or perhaps in this case, bending the rules a bit. As soon as Picard heard Sarjenka’s plea for help, he ruled that the Prime Directive no longer applied and that they were obliged to assist. There is also the issue that is shown in Wesley’s story of having confidence in yourself, even if you are in charge of those older and more experienced in you. This part is a little less subtle and presented in a far too obvious manner, but it is something.

Cool Stuff – 1 point. I thought Sarjenka’s makeup to be quite intriguing. I particularly liked her long fingers and how her features were appealing yet very alien at the same time.

Rank – Captain (18 points). While this could have been a better episode if it had dropped the Wesley Crusher B-story, this is still a sweet little tale. It is nice to see Data develop an innocent friendship with a child as only the android could. I would recommend it as one of the highlights of Season 2.

If you would like to read other reviews from the Next Generation, click this link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Star Trek: Head to Head - Khan vs Chang

Star Trek has had some pretty great villains, and in many instances they have stolen the show. After all, what better way to show how great your heroes are than to have them go up against a fantastic villain? I earlier ranked the Top Ten movie villains from the Star Trek franchise, and thought to myself: “How would one villain do against the other?” Obviously to have some of the weaker villains (looking at you, Sybok!) go toe-to-toe with the greats would be unfair, but an idea popped into my head of having two of the all-time best go bad guy-to-bad guy would be a fun idea. So, in today’s blog post, I decided to pit two real heavy weights against each other for the (fictional) first time! I give you “Khan Noonien Singh vs General Chang”.

One is a genetically modified superman hell-bent on revenge. The other is a crafty warrior that just cannot let the past of glorious battle fall into oblivion. One can lift you up with a single hand, the other can read your soul with a stare from his single eye. One quoted Melville, the other Shakespeare. Both gave Kirk a run for his money, and in both cases they lost their respective battles by the slimmest of margins. So, who was the more villainous of these two villains? Let’s explore this further by comparing them on various criteria.

Kirk's reaction to this matchup

Category 1: Motive.
Khan blamed Kirk for the death of his wife and people, for stranding him on Ceti Alpha V, and for forgetting to check up on him. His desire to not only kill Kirk but to destroy him was based solely on revenge. He was determined to see his adversary fall, and he had no lack of resolve to accomplish it. However, in addition to settling a personal score, Khan further complicates the matter by seeking the information on the Genesis project. While his motivation towards this is somewhat unclear, he once was the ruler of man and in “Space Seed” had desired to use the Enterprise to once again place himself atop the hierarchy of the human race. It is very likely that he was planning on using the Genesis device to allow him to once again rule the known world. Some may argue that his attention was divided, which would remove some of his focus. He could have taken Genesis and ruled the galaxy, but his thirst for vengeance was insatiable, which some say led to his downfall.

General Chang, on the other hand, was a grizzled veteran of countless untold battles. His motivation was much more political in nature. He did not see his battle with Kirk as a personal vendetta, but as a means to continue the way of life that the Klingon Empire appeared ready to abandon. Granted, he relished the opportunity to match steel against a worthy opponent such as James T. Kirk, but that was a layer of icing on his Empirical cake. He was driven by ideology, a warrior’s code, and a desire to embrace the old ways. While the Klingon Chancellor was talking peace because their military mission could no longer be afforded, Chang feared that he would become obsolete in the new frontier. This would not do for our fearsome warrior, so his motivation was to force the war to end all wars with the Federation.

So which motivation is more of a challenge to overcome? Is a personal vendetta coupled with galactic domination more dangerous than being driven by an ideological force to maintain a combative way of life? Both reasons are, to my understanding, very dangerous to the greater good. The motivation for both runs deep into personal territory. With an ideological and political motivation, the aggressor may choose to back away if facing a losing venture. Live to fight another day, as the saying goes. When it comes to personal revenge, the adversary may not back down ever, feeling that they have nothing to lose. That may make Khan’s motivation far more dangerous than Chang’s, so this category goes to the Wrathful One. Point awarded: Khan

Category 2: The Plan
Khan was a genetically enhanced human, giving him not only superior physicality but a superior intellect as well. While he undoubtedly imagined what he would do to Kirk if and when they crossed paths again, he had to make up his plan as he went along. He took advantage of every opportunity that was presented to him. A starship arrives and beams down its captain and first officer? Capture and brainwash them to get control of the ship. A potentially devastating device that could be used as an intergalactic weapon of mass destruction? Take it and kill all the scientists associated with it. Khan took every single opportunity that came his way, and yet he still made some crucial mistakes along the way. He let his guard down at the wrong times. He treated the nebula battle as a two-dimensional game, which allowed the Enterprise to think in 3-D and strike from below.

General Chang is a respected military commander. His plan was meticulous, intricate, and likely benefited from months of planning. He was also advantageous, conspiring with those to who he was enemy to. He invested in technology that would give him an advantage. He planned the assassination of his own Chancellor. He had an elaborate plot to frame Kirk for the assassination and carried it out with great skill. Chang may not have had Khan’s superior intellect, but he had instinct and experience on his side, and he used those tools as effectively as one could. He made some key mistakes as well, but when there was a flaw in the plan, he had something else up his sleeve. His cockiness got the better of him, though. He made a couple of key mistakes near the end, and paid for it dearly.

As we look at the plans these two masterminds laid out, it is time to decide which was the most cunning and devious. Khan was thinking on his feet most of the time while Chang’s plot was well scripted. Chang had the advantage of technology and co-conspirators, while Khan had a ship full of devoted followers and a ruthless aggression that is unmatched. In the end, however, I must concede that Chang gets the edge here. Perhaps Khan could have fared better in this round had he been given more time and resources, but the Klingon wins this part. Point awarded: General Chang.

Category 3 – Execution
Here we will look at the execution of their plan. How close they came to success and what their fatal mistakes were. Chang had an excellent and convoluted plan, and every detail was meticulously made. He set up Kirk perfectly as the man to take the blame for the assassination of Chancellor Gorkon. He had co-conspirators among Starfleet, the Klingon Empire, and even the Romulans. The master plan was executed with brilliance and came very close to succeeding. His errors were few, but costly. He had to rely on many others to complete their portion of the plan. He had hoped that the trial would have resulted in the execution of Kirk and McCoy, but instead they were sentenced to life on the penal colony Rura Penthe. The warden there was to have disposed of them quickly, but he failed. Valeris failed in her part on the Enterprise and gave Kirk the information he needed to defeat Chang. Even during the battle at Khitomer, the Enterprise looked as if it was going to fall to Chang’s advanced Bird of Prey that could fire when cloaked, but Sulu and the Excelsior arrived to draw their fire. This is where Chang made a tactical error. He was unaware that Spock and McCoy were working at arming a torpedo that could track them while cloaked, so when Excelsior arrived on the scene Chang turned his attention to the newest threat. In hindsight, I can’t fault his logic, but if he had ended the Enterprise then and there instead of gloating with Shakespearean quotes, he likely would have won the day with the Federation President dead and with him all hopes of peace. So while so many unforeseen outcomes were met with good backup plans, ultimately things changed too much for him, and it was not to be.

Khan was a man with nothing to lose. Vengeance was his driving force. His people were loyal to him, and nothing they did was anything less than perfect obedience. When an opportunity arose, he seized it and squeezed everything he could from it. His plan was being made up along the way, but he met every setback with renewed determination to destroy the man he hated most. His mistakes in the execution of the plan arose from his inexperience in starship warfare and his ego. He too took the opportunity to gloat to Kirk after the initial attack that crippled the Enterprise, and that allowed Kirk a chance to use the command prefix codes to cause Khan’s ship to drop its shields. In the nebula, Khan demonstrated two dimensional strategy in navigating the gas clouds. Most of all, however, his pride got in the way. Each time he had Kirk beaten, he couldn’t resist taunting his adversary. He had to do more than win, he had to make sure Kirk knew about it. He could have killed Kirk on several occasions, but instead let Kirk live a little longer just to satisfy is insatiable desire for revenge. He had the Genesis device and its research and could have left Kirk where he was multiple times. He could have regrouped, used the device as leverage against the entire quadrant, and been supreme ruler again, but no. He had to make Kirk suffer as much as he had. That cost him his life.

So, both mighty foes made some crucial errors. Whose error was the most devastating? I think if roles were reversed, Chang might have been successful where Khan had failed. He would have taken Genesis and regrouped, or at least finished Kirk off sooner. Khan likely would have failed in Chang’s spot, needing to further punish Kirk again and again. This one goes to the Klingon as well. Point awarded: General Chang.

Category 4 – The Cost
Chang brought the Klingon’s and the Federation to the brink of all-out war that likely would have destroyed one or both parties. He played on the inherent suspicions of both parties. His prototype vessel was set to wreak havoc across the quadrant. He had almost destroyed the Enterprise under Kirk’s final command, and may have been able to take down Excelsior as well. Imagine if he had successfully destroyed the two most respected Starfleet vessels in one battle. Perhaps the war would not have started, but instead it would be the Federation that would be surrendering. Instead, both ships were banged up but in functional. The peace accords were saved, and if Kirk was able to put aside his hatred of Klingons, then a lasting peace was definitely possible. The cost of Chang’s actions was high, but could have been worse.

Khan, meanwhile, brought Kirk to the brink of defeat. He caused the death of Captain Terrell, murdered some of the Federation’s brightest scientific minds on Regula I. Untold numbers of Kirk’s training crew were killed during the battle, bright potential snuffed out in the darknessof space. The Enterprise was crippled, and would have been destroyed by Khan’s activation of the Genesis device had it not been for Spock’s heroic sacrifice. The cost of Khan’s actions hit Kirk harder than almost anything else in his life. Perhaps, in his own way, Khan did deal Kirk a most devastating blow, because to save the ship, Kirk had to lose his closest friend. That crippled Kirk emotionally. A mighty sting to his soul.

So which villain extracted the heavier cost? Perhaps Chang’s destruction brought the Federation and Klingon Empire to the brink of war, but his defeat solidified their alliance. When the Undiscovered Country ended, there was a sense of celebration. Khan brought Kirk to his knees like he had never been before. The cost to Kirk was more personal, and more severe. At the end of Wrath of Khan, there was a more subdued sense of victory. It was a victory to have survived, and as Kirk himself said, they paid for it with their most precious blood. Spock himself remarked that to defeat Khan required great cost. The emotional toll that Khan took outweighs the damage that Chang inflicted. Point awarded: Khan Singh.

Category 5 – Presence
Looking at the overall presence of each villain, we will see how they stack up in the sheer effect they have just by appearing to their adversaries. This will include the look, the charisma, and intimidation factor.

Chang is one of the coolest looking foes the Enterprise had ever come across. Where most Klingons appeared to be simple variations of the standard long hair, moustaches, and goatees, Chang makes his own mark. He is bald, grizzled, and cold. He presents himself with an air of power and importance. One of the most effective aspects of his presence is his eye patch. While not the first one-eyed character to have appeared, he is the first to have his eye patch bolted to his skull. Now that is Klingon style intimidation! That is only a part of his presence, however. You might be impressed upon first seeing him, but wait until he speaks. He is articulate, versed in literary classics and diplomacy, and has a razor sharp wit. As he speaks his eloquent dialogue, you can’t help but feel that he is sizing you up as a potential adversary in the battlefield. While you are distracted by his missing eye, his good one is delicately dissecting your abilities. His mere presence demands immediate respect, and only a fool would dare do otherwise.

Similarly, Khan also instills a sense of awe and respect upon those he encounters. His presence involves a healthy dose of dread as well. Recall the expressions of both Chekhov and Kirk when the first lay eyes upon Khan in Star Trek II. You can almost see their guts doing swan dives into despair. It is true, and must be considered, that both of these men had a difficult run-in with Khan before, which definitely will impact their reaction. Khan is also articulate and no stranger to the classic works of literature, but he is much less flamboyant in his delivery. He speaks with the coldness of steel, the edge of a knife, and the forcefulness we expect from a coming storm. He also allows his actions to back up his words. While Chang challenges with his words, Khan will lift you off your feet to prove a point. His can vary his emotions with the expert agility of an artist, using his calmness to inflict terror as he approaches you with a helmet containing a Ceti eel. He exudes a coolness that is imposing and terrifying. He also has an impressive look to him. When I see him, he reminds me of a mighty lion; strong, fierce, and deadly.

So who has the more ominous presence? Both look dangerous, both speak with intelligence and power, and both give you ample reason to approach them with caution. Each has their own unique style and charisma, and each will have you be on yellow alert. In the end, there are a couple of deciding factors. First, Chang is quite the performer, playing one role while secretly concealing another. He instills caution because you know he is hiding something. Khan, meanwhile, is deliberate and cold. When he speaks, every word is measured and calculated. When he reveals himself, you are scared beyond what you have ever felt before. And when he is angry, you are silenced for fear of your life. I would never want to encounter either of these warriors in a dark alley at midnight, but I give the ever slightest advantage to the genetically superior Khan. Point awarded: Khan Singh

Results: Khan (3 points) vs CHANG (2 points). Winner: Khan Noonien Singh.

In full disclosure, I have always thought that Khan was one of Trek’s most impressive villains. With this new idea of pitting legendary villains in a head-to-head comparison, I thought that Khan would easily win against anyone else. I selected Chang as the most qualified candidate to give Khan some competition, but expected Khan to win easily. As I examined Chang more closely, I found that he was a far better opponent than I had originally perceived. So while Khan wins in the end, Chang has honored himself the way any Klingon warrior would desire. He won more points than I expected, and the decisions that went Khan’s way were not as easy to make as I had thought. So no matter which side of the debate you are on with this one, your pick is definitely a great choice. Do you agree or disagree with my choice? Let me know in the comment section.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Episode Review - Behind the Lines (Deep Space Nine, Season 6)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here.

Overview – Sisko is reassigned and must send the Defiant and her crew on a dangerous mission without him. Meanwhile, on Deep Space Nine, Kira’s resistance cell is organizing several strikes against the Dominion-Cardassian alliance, but a revelation that the mine field is close to being destroyed and the arrival of the Female Changeling puts everything at risk.

Score: 8/10 – Wow, do things heat up in this episode. Right from the beginning we see Rom and Kira watch the fallout of a cleverly obtained and placed PADD containing inflammatory material erupts in Cardassian brawl with Jem’Hadar soldiers. We also see a ritual of the Defiant crew when a discharged power cell is brought to the mess hall. It gives a sense that even with the war going badly, Sisko and his crew are keeping it together. Friction between Odo and Kira continue to grow, and the arrival of the female Changeling adds to the tension. Sisko gets reassigned and has to send Jadzia in command of the Defiant on a risky mission. We see a lot of change to some of our characters in this episode, and the limits of friendship are tested like never before. Quark gets some information out of Damar about the minefield, which leads to a funny performance as an inebriated Quark informs the resistance cell about the future of the minefield. Lots of good stuff going on, although I personally would have liked to have seen the Defiant complete its mission. Levar Burton directs this episode and finds a good balance at action and character focus, giving several of the main characters some good moments.

Relevance – 2 points. A point for Odo and the Female changeling discussing the punishment that the Link gave Odo when they made him solid a while back. This is also the episode that first shows Damar’s emerging alcoholism, an indication that not all is right with the newly promoted Gul. This is an important insight into Damar that if you are not careful you can easily overlook.

Continuity – 3 points. Story continuity works well here, as does the universe continuity. Some may argue that Odo’s behaviour is not like him, but Odo always had a weakness with regards to the link. That he would be seduced by the Female Changeling is not a stretch of the imagination. I could totally see Odo giving into the link and being distracted to the point where his priorities have changed. This means that character continuity remains intact.

Character Development – 3 points. Who sees development in this episode? Odo, Kira, Sisko, and, to lesser extents, Dax and Quark all undergo significant development. Dax is given command of the Defiant and proves herself to be a capable one. She carries on the discharged power cell ritual established at the beginning of the episode, but makes it her own. Quark shows a change in heart, finally picking a side in the current conflict. Before then, he was a strict businessman, always looking out for his profits. In this episode, he comes to the realization that the Dominion is bad for everyone, and wants the Federation back. This will be important in a couple episodes. Sisko has to watch his crew from the sidelines. You can tell he really wishes to be out there with them, but more importantly comes to the conclusion that his crew will be just fine without him. That’s a tough pill for any good leader to swallow. Odo and Kira, of course, undergo a huge change. Odo turns his back on her, and Kira with all the rage and emotion that we have come to expect from her, hits back with a vengeance. Honestly, I wondered how the two were ever able to finally put this behind them, but that is for a later review.

Social Commentary – 2 points. I think the theme found in this episode between these two stories is when to step back. In the case of Sisko, he learns with his reassignment that he is not essential to the success of his crew. He has brought them to where they are, and when he is removed from the scene, he has the bittersweet revelation that he trained his crew so well that they no longer need him. In the case of Kira, she learned (a bit too late, I may add) that sometimes the ones we care for the most must be the ones we step away from. She relied on Odo because of his past loyalties, but she had doubts and concerns aplenty leading up to Rom’s capture. Sometimes, the smartest thing to do is to step back from the relationship to help you see how much you can really count on that person.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. I have to score a point for the opening bar brawl at Quark’s. It’s quick, but brutal. The visual of a Jem’Hadar breaking the back of a Cardassian across his knee alone is worthy of a point. I also scored a point for a nice little tip of the hat to a famous “real-or-not-real” place in science fiction lore.  When Rom opens a secured hatch to access the sensor array and sabotage the Dominion’s attempt to bring down the minefield, the hatch is labeled “A51: Restricted Area”. Get it? Area 51! Ah, I love the little touches.

Rank – Captain (20 points). Like much of these first six episodes, “Behind the Lines” does not disappoint. The action may be less than previous episodes, but it is there. This time it is well balanced with character development. Yet another strong showing for the season 6 multi-part opener.

If you would like to read other reviews from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, please click the following link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Episode Review - And the Children Shall Lead (Original Series, Season 3)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Overview – The Enterprise responds to a distress call from a Federation outpost on Triacus. When they arrive, all the adults are dead, seemingly from killing each other. Only the five children from the colony are found, and in relatively good spirits. The away team beams the children up to the ship to determine if they have been harmed in any way, either physically or emotionally. When they are alone, the children summon Gorgon, a mysterious being who congratulates them on successfully defeating their parents on the planet, and orders them to take over the Enterprise using their special powers. As the work their influence over the crew, Kirk must face himself with the distinct possibility that to save his ship, he may have to kill the children.

Score: 2/10 – While the idea of children doing evil is not new (see “Children of the Corn” and a few Steven King stories as examples), in the 60s this may have been a relatively interesting idea. The children have been coerced into killing their parents, and have been given special powers to do so. The premise of the story is promising, but the script is the biggest problem with this show, followed by the casting of lawyer Melvin Belli as Gorgon. I found that the child actors were all convincing, for the most part, but Melvin Belli was clearly not a trained actor. His performance is wooden, lacked depth, and seemed more akin to a low grade middle school performance. Apparently, Gene Roddenberry was so upset with his performance that he ordered it to be as distorted as possible with visual and sound effects. The dialogue is pretty dull, and Shatner gives a few performances that are over the top, even for him. Oh, and the children work their black magic by pounding their fists in the air like some sort of demonic rock-paper-scissors game. Not an effective choice. Most of all, the ending of this episode bothers me. The children finally come to grips that they are responsible for the deaths of their parents, and are crying over it. By doing so, Gorgon is defeated, and as he disappears from the ship, he threatens all of them with death and destruction. When he is gone, Kirk offers a few reassuring words, and everybody is all smiles and hugs after. The kids, who have likely been through the most traumatic and frightening experience for anyone to endure (not just children), are now laughing and carefree with McCoy and Kirk smiling proudly in their midst. It just seems to me that the ending should have been much more somber. Yes, this story was never picked up again, but it was just glossed over as having been nothing more than a routine mission with no long lasting negative consequences to follow. Definitely not one of Star Trek’s finest episodes.

Relevance – 0 points. Nothing in this episode relates to anything else in any series. It is almost as if in looking back the writers decided to leave this tale alone. Can’t blame them.

Continuity - 2 points. Character continuity is intact here, but barely. As various crew members are shown their fears (aging ungracefully for Uhura, disobeying direct orders for Chekov, losing the ability to command for Kirk, and somehow an endless ring of swords on the view screen for Sulu), they react as we would expect them to. Universe continuity also is fine here. I am going to take a point for story continuity, as Kirk is the one that uses the name Gorgon first, before anyone else does. Not even the entity reveals his name. Apparently this is dealt with in a deleted scene, but slopping editing is no excuse.

Character Development – 0 points. I am really at a loss as to which characters actually progress or develop in this episode. The script really does not allow for it.

Social Commentary – 2 points. OK, one redeeming feature of this episode is that it does try to give a moral to the story. It talks of how evil often tries to either destroy or mislead the innocent, and what better way to show that than by having a malicious entity goad some children into killing their parents. Spock and McCoy, in one of the better written exchanges of the episode claim that evil seeks to maintain power by supressing the truth or by misleading the innocent. We see that happen here, and it is a timely warning today as it will likely always be. So while the message is given in words, I find that it does not live up to it in the delivery, hence 2 points instead of 3.

Cool Stuff – 1 point. I found one cool thing about this episode. One of the children is played by Brian Tochi, who will appear (all grown up) in a TNG episode “Night Terrors” as an ensign on the bridge. That TNG episode is a far more enjoyable story than this one, but it is neat to see one of the kids all grown up and still acting.

Rank – Ensign (7 points). Before I married my wife, she had not seen many of the original Star Trek episodes, so at night we would work through them on DVD. Sometimes she would fall asleep, and I would either try to keep her up or turn it off and continue it the next night if it was a good one, or let her sleep if it wasn’t. This one I let her sleep. The kids were a bit creepy, but the rest of the episode did not live up to its potential.

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