Thursday, September 27, 2018

Episode Review - The Begotten (Deep Space Nine, Season 5)

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

Overview – Quark sells Odo what he believes to be a dead Changeling. It turns out that it is actually an infant, albeit sick, Changeling, and Odo begins to nurse it back to health. As Odo begins to raise and teach the infant, he is visited by Doctor Mora Pol, the Bajoran scientist who raised Odo. The two individuals clash and then cooperate in the endeavor, but when the infant takes a turn for the worse, it gives Odo a special gift. Meanwhile, the O’Briens are preparing for the birth of their son, who has been carried by Kira to full term. When her romantic partner Shakar shows up, he and Miles clash over how the birth should be handled.

Score: 8/10 – In one of the most important episodes of the fifth season, we see Odo come to a major turning point. Not only does he get to bond with an infant Changeling, but through the unfortunate passing of it, it restores to Odo his ability to shape shift. For much of the season we wondered whether or not Odo would forever be a solid. In addition to regaining his abilities, he is able to reach a new level of understanding and resolution with his own “father”, Doctor Mora. We also have the birth of the newest member of the O’Brien family, and the end of Kira’s pregnancy that was written in to deal with the real-life pregnancy of actor Nana Visitor. Here is where the story weakens just a little bit. Miles and Shakar arguing with each other gets a bit annoying, and you can’t help but cheer when Kira kicks them both out of the delivery room. It is too bad that this is the last time we see Shakar, and I also think there was a missed moment with Kira here.  In the ending of the episode Kira expresses to Odo some remorse over no longer having the baby in her life. It is a nice moment as each reflects upon the loss of their pseudo-child and the gifts they gave them. It would have been interesting to have followed up on Kira’s missing the baby and wanting to be a bigger part of his life as she had just spent about five months being the surrogate mother. Still, this is quite a moving episode.

Relevance – 3 points. More than anything, this episode is relevant in that we see Odo regain his shapeshifting abilities as the young Changeling reverts Odo back to his previous self. Whether or not he Founders wanted this, Odo’s sentence from “Broken Link” to live as a solid has finished. Second, the birth of Kirayoshi O’Brien ends the Kira-pregnancy storyline. Finally, we see Doctor Mora Pol for the second and final time, as well as the last appearance of Shakar Edon. We also have mention that Miles missed the birth of Molly (which occurred in the TNG episode “Disaster”).

Continuity – 3 points. Character continuity is a big check. Odo’s journey through parenthood/teacher/mentor sees the Constable face a variety of emotions, and he behaves as one would expect. We also see Miles, Kira, Keiko, and pretty much everyone else involved in the delivery act in their comedic ways as well. Story continuity is a bit of issue here. When people factor in dates and events, it is the Changeling masquerading as Bashir that delivers Kirayoshi and witnesses the death of the infant Changeling. This is has caused some fans to question whether or not Changeling-Bashir would have or should have done more for the Changeling. As I thought about this, I felt that it made sense that things progressed as they did. To keep his cover, Bashir-Changeling was very limited in what he could do. Universe continuity is also good here, so full marks for this section.

Character Development – 3 points. Definitely an important episode for Odo’s development. It is one of his Top 5 episodes for his character. He goes through a roller coaster ride of emotions, experiencing hope, joy, fear, and loss, with his ultimate high point of becoming a Changeling again. I would offer that this journey allows him to reconcile with Mora and he finds himself in a far better place than he has been in for a long time. There is also some for Kira and, to a lesser extent, Miles with the delivery of Kirayoshi. I stated earlier that I wish they would have developed the post-partum separation a little more, but we at least het a glimpse of it at the end of the episode as Odo and Kira share what they have gained in the loss of their “children”. I was quite touched by the parallel that these two characters had with being parents. It brought two close friends even closer.

Social Commentary – 3 points. I have touched on this already but let us examine the idea of losing a child more closely. Both Kira and Odo lost their respective child. Odo’s was due to death, and Kira gave hers up. Yes, Kira was a surrogate mother, but she still formed a unique bond with it. In both instances having the child, no matter how briefly, gave something to each of them. Kira gained an appreciation for the power of motherhood, something she had previously discarded as being something she wanted. Odo, in addition to regaining his shape-shifting abilities, gained something equally if not more valuable. He gained an appreciation and understanding for his own “father”, Doctor Mora. Odo came to understand what Mora experienced raising Odo. It allowed the two of them to repair their relationship. One thing that being a parent does is cause you to fully appreciate your own parents, in spite of their flaws.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. A point is scored for the scene where Odo regains his shape-shifting abilities. In this scene Odo emerges onto the Promenade and takes the form of a hawk, flying through air. There are several things that makes this scene work. One is the fact that he leaves behind his uniform, which not only makes sense from a logic viewpoint but is symbolic on Odo’s leaving behind his solid state once and for all. The music is also essential in making the most out of this scene, and Odo’s expression upon landing conveys so much powerful emotion. It is a credit to actor Rene Auberjonois to be able to express such strong feelings through his prosthetic makeup. I also am going to score a point for the infant Changeling. There is a scene where the infant takes the image of a face, mimicking Odo’s. It is just a neat little scene that forges a strong connection between Odo and the infant. When the scene cuts to a shot from behind the Changeling, it is apparently a puppet designed by assistant director Louis Race. Apparently there was no budget for the effect, so he went ahead and made and performed the puppet. It worked well and shows how using practical effects can be just as good as CGI.

Rank – Admiral (22 points). This episode gives Odo a real turning point and provides us with an important step forward in his overall story. We have the birth of Kirayoshi that brings to an end the pregnant Kira episode. We are treated to a story that is warm, sometimes funny, and deeply touching. A real gem of an episode.

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, September 21, 2018

Episode Review - Future's End, Part 2 (Voyager, Season 3)

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

Overview – Janeway and the crew of Voyager continue in their attempt to prevent Henry Starling from using the timeship and causing a disastrous event in the 29th century. Tom Paris and Tuvok discover that Starling has the Doctor (who can now exist outside the holodeck), and together with Rain Robinson try to rescue him. Torres and Chakotay are captured by an anti-Us government group after the shuttle they are in is damaged by Starling’s men. As Starling tries to outsmart Janeway’s crew, they find themselves destined for a showdown that could spell an end to humanity’s future.

Score: 8/10 – The tricky part with multi-part episodes is that it is difficult to keep the pace and energy going from part one to part two. This episode is able to successfully do that for the most part and keeps the action going. We get less of the fish-out-of-water treatment on the crew and more into the story. Torres gets into the action as she and Chakotay are captured by an anti-government militia. This part seemed a bit thrown together, and as I researched this story learned that originally Future’s End was to be a three-part episode (or more) and the militia was to play a bigger role. More might have been nice but trimming down their involvement helps this episode more than hurts it. It is a much more plausible adversary than, say, a gang from the streets of LA. Some great banter between Janeway and Starling, a new technology to expand the Doctor’s character, and some good action sequences all add to a great end to this entertaining story.

Relevance – 2 points. We can’t help but score a point for the Doctor’s mobile holo-emitter, a piece of 29th century technology that will allow our favourite holographic medic to exist out of sickbay. This is a major development for the EMH character as it will allow him to expand his role on the show. He can now be a part of away teams and be present in staff meetings and other ship events, even to the point where he can host concerts. Another point for Captain Braxton, who will next be seen in the fifth season.

Continuity – 3 points. Story continuity works. I liked how once the timeship was destroyed that Braxton appears as if nothing had happened, and he informs Janeway that he is not familiar his counterpart that they met. Time travel episode are notorious for plot holes, but they seemed to tie up all the loose ends on this quite well. Universe continuity is also good, especially the Temporal Prime Directive that Braxton works under that prevents him from returning Voyager to Earth in their time. For everything we understand about Starfleet and the UFP, this makes perfect and logical sense. Still, it is just like Janeway to ask, just in case, which takes us into the character continuity. In all the circumstances that the crew find themselves in, they respond and act in the ways that fit their characters. Of particular note, the Doctor with his new-found abilities to exist outside a holodeck is particularly amusing. Apparently, Robert Picardo improvised the scene where the Doctor is looking at a leaf, of all things. That is exactly the sort of thing the Doc would do when he would first encounter a leaf. Continuity police should be fine with this episode.

Character Development – 3 points. Obviously, the Doctor gets a great deal of attention with this episode, as the mobile emitter will set him up for a whole new experience. While the Doctor is little more than a bargaining chip in this, it is a significant development for his character that will be further fleshed out in future episodes. Tom Paris builds a closer relationship to Rain Robinson and Tuvok, and the latter Odd Couple pairing continues to work its magic. Torres gets more, Chakotay gets a little less, and Janeway tests her mettle against the unscrupulous and clever Starling, which gives her some great moments. Full points on character development here, with the Doctor’s newfound freedom pushing it ahead of Part 1 in this category.

Social Commentary – 1 point. A lot of the same issues that were brought forward in Part 1 are the main gist in Part 2, and like Part 1 we have the same limited development of them. A great adventure story just does not have as much to say about the world around us.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. The Doctor’s mobile emitter was a cool way of getting the Doctor out of sickbay on a regular basis and added so much to his character that it has to be included in this section. I also have to include Ed Begley Junior and Sarah Silverman for their performances. For Begley, he has been a mainstay in Hollywood for a long time, and this episode was at the beginning of Silverman’s successful stand-up career. For different reasons the appearance of both guest stars was cool, and they do a great job with their roles.

Rank – Captain (19 points). A satisfying end to a fun two-part story that delivers excitement and a taste of home. I loved it and found it fit well with Part 1. Definitely something to watch every time you work your way through the series.

If you would like to read other reviews from Star Trek: Voyager, click on the link here.

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.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Episode Review - Patterns of Force (Original Series, Season 2)

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

Overview – The Enterprise travels to the planet Ekos to find John Gill, a Federation cultural observer who has gone missing. On Ekos, they discover the planet in conflict with its neighbor, Zeon, and Ekos has developed a regime almost identical to Nazi Germany. Kirk is shocked to learn that the Fuhrer of this regime is the missing Gill. While investigating on the planet, Kirk and Spock are captured by the SS. As they plot their escape, they must find a way to reach Gill and undo the cultural damage he has done.

Score: 8/10 – An interesting example as to why the Prime Directive must be adhered to, “Patterns of Force” gives us a chance to see how Kirk and crew would fare in Nazi Germany. I found this episode to be somewhat compelling and relevant to today’s climate. It is not unusual for science fiction to take lessons from Earth’s past and put a sci-fi twist on it to teach us something, and this episode is a prime example. We an ingenious jailbreak on the part of Spock, something we will see again. We are given excellent performances by all the actors involved, with special commendation given to Skip Homeier who plays a malicious Melakon. A solid episode that highlights the best that Trek can offer.

Relevance – 1 point. As I mentioned earlier, in this episode we get a glimpse into Spock’s ability to find ingenious ways to break out of jail cells. This is mentioned in “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier”.

Continuity – 2 points. Character continuity works. We see disappointment in Kirk as he learns what his former Academy instructor had done. We see resiliency in both Kirk and Spock as they are tortured by the Nazis. Universe continuity is also intact here. Of particular note, I appreciate how after Spock’s lashings he is shown to have green blood streaks across his chest. Story continuity bears a closer examination, however. We were told in “Bread and Circuses” about Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planetary Development, implying that it is possible for familiar historical events to develop independently between two worlds. In this episode, such a theory is either discarded or disregarded. That could be a bit confusing for the viewer that pays attention to such details, so we will have to deduct a point here.

Character Development – 3 points. Kirk and Spock are given the most character treatment, which is normal. Kirk has to deal with the mistakes made by an academy professor that he greatly respected and admired, a sort of “fallen hero” idea. It causes Kirk some concern. Spock shows off his intelligence and ingenuity by using the crystals in their transponders to make a laser that melts the lock of their cell door, establishing him as a master escape artist. Both of these developments and experiences do provide some significant development to these two characters, so full points are scored in this category.

Social Commentary – 3 points. The familiar “if you do not learn from history you are doomed to repeat it” warning and why the Prime Directive is the most important law in the Federation are fully on display here. Some people argue that because the Nazi regime was quite efficient (a point that has been disputed and to some discredited since) that it would be worthwhile to adopt some of its practices while hoping to avoid the more unsavory aspects of it. That is a slippery slope that is wisest to avoid rather than attempt to traverse. As with so many historical examples, this story shows that power corrupts the individual and the society. Nazism is not something to be admired, even and especially through the lens of history. Today we see examples of how people turn to extreme ideologies when pushed, either through fear or hardships. It is as important today as it was fifty years ago to be committed to resisting such rhetoric that not all equal.

Cool Stuff – 1 point. Spock’s use of the transponder crystals to make a laser is quite fun. Yes, some may describe it as a convenient plot device to help them escape, but it still made for a cool scene, so a point is scored.

Rank – Captain (18 points). A well-written episode that tells a compelling story and gives us a timeless message. It also cements the importance of the Prime Directive by showing us the worst-case scenario that results from its violation. This is one of the reasons why Star Trek was such a ground breaking series for its time in that it did not hesitate to tackle serious issues head on.

If you would like to read other reviews from the Original Series, click on the link here.

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, September 7, 2018

Episode Review - Hide and Q (Next Generation, Season 1)

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

Overview – While Picard and his crew are traveling to a Federation colony to provide medical assistance, Q returns to the Enterprise. This time the omnipotent being comes with an invitation for none other than Commander Riker. Q is offering him a chance to join the Continuum and inherit all the powers of the Q. Riker is sorely tempted by the offer even to the point where he is able to give his friends and crewmates gifts beyond their wildest dreams.

Score: 6/10 – I always enjoyed the character of Q. He started out as a villain and over time evolved into a pseudo-ally of Picard. This being the second of his episodes, he is still largely seen as the antagonist. He continues his ploys and shenanigans as this time he focuses on Riker. This seems to be the only time that a Q story pairs up our imp of the galaxy with the first officer. Considering the context of this episode, it made sense to try to pass Q around a little to see how his chemistry works with others. This episode shows why this was the only real time that Q and Riker ever got some quality time together. We will learn that Data, Worf, and definitely Picard were better matches, but Riker does OK here. The idea is solid, and we get to see some fun things. Worf dies for the first time, and the haters of Wesley’s character get a bit of glee when they see him get skewered by one of Q’s animal/soldier things. Still, while this is a pretty decent episode, it is by far not the strongest of Q’s stories. His character is pretty two-dimensional, even compared to “Encounter at Farpoint”. Almost every other episode with Q is better, but this one does have some good moments making it worth a viewing.

Relevance – 1 point. A point will be scored for Riker being offered the powers of Q, something that is referred to in the next Q-centered episode “Q Who” and refers to the series premier episode “Encounter at Farpoint”. It is a good Segway episode that links Q’s story together. That, for now, is the only connection between this episode and others, so only one point will be scored here.

Continuity – 3 points. Character wise things check out here. Riker originally scoffs at the idea of having the powers is something that he accepts at first, and then it starts to corrupt him. How the rest of the crew help him realize it makes sense. Story wise, it also works. It is a classic tale of the corruption of power. Universe continuity is also good. Q continues to meddle, and Picard continues to wear a pained expression on his face.

Character Development – 2 points. This is a Riker tale. He goes through the typical path of being given extreme power and falling down the hole of corruption. It is a fairly typical story that it does little to really advance his character. We are given more insight into some of the other characters with less time. We sense that Geordi has a little crush of sorts on Tasha, Worf is able to move quickly over rough terrain, and Wesley would rather get to adulthood on his own. Picard and Yar have a moment that in hindsight is a little bit awkward. Not enough to give it full marks, but still something.

Social Commentary – 2 points. Ah, the old “power corrupts” tale. Again, given the context of when the episode was filmed, the message is formulaic at best, but it still works. Riker has the power of a god and tries to keep his humanity. As the temptation grows, he starts to see himself as being above his crewmates and captain. When confronted with how the power is getting to him, he realizes that he has been a fool and turns his back on the power. It is effective in its message, yet not very ground breaking, so only two points here.

Cool Stuff – 1 point. The part where Riker is giving his friends gifts that he thinks they want is my favorite part of the episode. We see the first female Klingon in the show and we are given a glimpse at Klingon romance. We see a really good casting decision for the adult Wesley Crusher, and we see Levar Burton’s actual eyes for the first time. It is a cool scene.

Rank – Lieutenant (15 points). Many years ago while TNG was on the air I once attended a video store opening that had John de Lancie as the guest of honor. He did a Q and A session and an autograph signing after. During the Q and A he mentioned that “Hide and Q” was his least favorite Q episode (if memory serves correct, we were in season 4 or 5 at the time). I can understand his sentiments as Q was terribly lacking in depth here. Still, it’s not a horrible episode, but if one chooses to skip it, I would understand.

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.