[DS9] Lynch's Spoiler Review: "Rivals"

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Timothy W. Lynch

Jan 8, 1994, 8:07:48 PM1/8/94
WARNING: This article contains many spoilers for DS9's "Rivals", all of
which are competing to be "most important spoiler of the article". Pay their
antics no mind, but avoid the article if you don't want spoilers.

In brief: some very amusing bits, some slightly amusing bits, and some
fairly dull bits. Another piece of Quark-centered fluff, in essence.

"Rivals" is the third new DS9 in a row that's left me with a feeling that can
be summed up in one word: "And?" None of them has been particularly bad,
but none of them has possessed that certain spark that makes me sit up and
take notice, either. Neither particularly good nor particularly bad,
"Rivals" was just mostly, well, there.

Take Chris Sarandon's performance, for instance. Given the popularity of
"The Princess Bride", I'd be surprised if most viewers didn't have Prince
Humperdinck rather strongly in mind from the moment Martus showed up on
screen. I definitely did, I'll say that much. And while Sarandon did a
reasonably decent job, it was evident that he wasn't enjoying himself nearly
as much as he did in TPB. There were a few scenes where Martus was supposed
to be bored, but more often the feeling I got out of it was that _Sarandon_
was bored walking through the role. There are a few things out there that
can turn me off a portrayal faster than seeing signs that the actor's bored,
but not many.

Basically, I think "Rivals" didn't quite manage to live up to its comic
potential, except in a few places. Quark's frustration had the potential to
be hilarious, and wasn't. Quark's underhandedness in the "grudge match"
should have been hilarious, and only was occasionally. The racquetball plot
should have been great fun, and ... well, okay, so most of *it* was pretty
good. :-) "Rivals" was a pretty good case of _attempted_ humor.

Let me go into a few things that did work, though, because so far this review
has felt pretty negative. For starters, the racquetball plot was the one
part of the show I more or less connected with. Both O'Brien and Bashir
seemed well in character (especially O'Brien) and great foils for each other,
as usual. As soon as it became apparent that we'd have an O'Brien/Bashir
series of matchups, I figured that section of the show would be good, and I
was right.

It was many of the little things in that plot that worked best. O'Brien's
little jog around the Promenade after his first loss, for instance, was a
scream. Bashir's concern for O'Brien's health was a little overplayed, but I
was on the floor watching his relentless search for a working ketchup bottle.
:-) Their mutual frustration at Quark's "promotional" setup was cute, and
was also about the only time Quark seemed even remotely sly. Also, while
Quark's attempt to slip Bashir a mickey was visible from the other end of the
wormhole, Bashir's absolute no-nonsense demeanor in response was fun.

Plotwise, however, I have to say I'm not impressed. I can deal with Martus
using the Infinite Improbability Drive, more or less. I can deal with it
making strange things happen on the station (even if the definition of
neutrino spins they used is, shall we say, a bit misleading). However, I've
got two problems with the whole premise, one of which is fairly crucial from
a character standpoint:

1) The lesser objection is that it wasn't at all clear how the odds were
determined of actually winning or losing. If it's random chance, shouldn't
someone who wins once be able to basically win forever, barring great
improbabilities *against* those set up by the gizmo? Not a big problem, but
it felt odd.

2) Much more importantly, Martus gaining possession of this device depends
entirely on Odo never having confiscated *a completely unknown device* from
an alien prisoner. Odo is not that stupid -- if he finds a machine he
doesn't recognize, he'll hold onto it until he's convinced it's not
dangerous. I would have greatly preferred it if Martus had simply shown up
with it, or if he'd cheated someone out of it in a business deal or
something -- this way tends to go against characters we know.

[As an aside, I recently saw a special on Douglas Adams in which he mentions
that he invented the Infinite Improbability Drive because he needed to save
his characters, and the only solution was so incredibly improbable as to be
stupid to write. Thus, he created something that deliberately let him do
incredibly improbable things. This device seemed similar, but is a little
out of place in a show that usually tries to be serious SF.]

Basically, the broad strokes of the plot -- Martus gets a luck-changer,
causes Quark's problems while he's lucky, then gets screwed over when his
luck changes -- are ones that I could have, and *did* in most relevant ways,
predict as soon as the device was displayed on screen. Now, I usually prefer
character over plot anyway (such as in "Lois & Clark", which I'm really
enjoying -- end of free plug), but only when the character moments are enough
to compensate. This was sometimes, but only sometimes.

One twist of the plot I didn't predict until very near the end, however, (and
even then, Lisa beat me to it by half an act), was Alsia also being a con
artist, and managing to successfully scam Martus. _That_ was great comic
irony, and made the ending a lot of fun.

The single best _scene_ in the show, incidentally, had to be when O'Brien and
Bashir realize something's off on the laws of probability by O'Brien throwing
the racquetball off walls. I don't know why, but something about hearing a
few dozen ricochets and then having the ball land right in O'Brien's hand
just struck me as screamingly funny. Good job.

Character-wise, it was a pretty mixed bag. O'Brien was excellent,
particularly in his grumbling to himself about Bashir and in his reactions to
Bashir's all-too-obvious "defeat" early on. Bashir was pretty good, though a
bit less ... mature than we've seen from him recently. The bits we saw of
Kira and Dax were good, particularly because for once Dax actually figured
out the mystery rather than coming on clues someone else then had to
translate for her. (I also liked little touches like Dax having her feet up
on the science console, personally -- it just seemed to fit.) Quark had his
moments, but far too few. Sisko felt a bit off to me, and Martus wasn't
nearly the entertaining character I expected him to be.

That pretty much takes care of all the major points. A few small points,
then, and I'm off:

-- The entire plot with Roana (the widow Martus romances) seemed a complete
waste of time to me. Martus philandering and covering it up was done fifteen
years ago on "Soap", and was much funnier there. (Incidentally, until Alsia
was revealed as a con artist, it looked like DS9 had a two-for-one sale on
widows this week. What gives?)

-- "Never trust a man wearing a better suit than your own." Not difficult in
Quark's case, but I _loved_ Martus's suit once he became club proprietor.
Tacky as all hell, but I'd love to have one around for special occasions.

-- Speaking of clothing, we seemed to have a lot more _male_ exposure here
than is normal for Trek. Between the two shirtless shots of O'Brien and
Bashir's what-religion-am-I racquetball outfit, it seemed a serious gender
reversal from the usual skimpy Dabo girl outfits (though, of course, we had
one of those as well). Nothing particularly wrong with that -- it just stood
out as notable (particularly Bashir's outfit, I imagine -- but I'll leave
that up to the drooling Siddig el Fadil fans to comment on ;-) ).

-- Keiko gave O'Brien a scarf with her perfume on it? Mightn't that be a wee
bit _distracting_ during a game? Just a thought.

That about covers it. "Rivals" wasn't terrific and wasn't awful -- it just
*was*. It's a show worth watching once, definitely, but I have to hope that
DS9 gets back to the promise it's shown in several of its shows this year --
this sort of thing should be an occasional break, not the status quo.

So, to wrap up:

Plot: Where? Oh, you mean that collection of standard cliches ... well,
fine. The racquetball subplot was a lot of fun.
Plot Handling: Not up to David Livingston's usual standards. A few scenes
and shots stood out (such as the racquetball shot I mentioned
earlier, and a great turbolift shot), but kind of pedestrian.
Characterization: Very good O'Brien and Bashir, decent Quark, seriously
dull Martus.

OVERALL: Call it a 6. Okay, but not great.


Odo's mentor shows up, and Odo searches for home again. Some definite
potential here...

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
BITNET: tlynch@citjulie
INTERNET: tly...@juliet.caltech.edu
UUCP: ...!ucbvax!tlynch%juliet.ca...@hamlet.caltech.edu
"I think that is the first time someone has _dared_ insult me."
"It won't be the last."
-- "The Princess Bride"
Copyright 1994, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...

Dennis F. Hefferman

Jan 9, 1994, 2:50:47 PM1/9/94
In <2gnld4$k...@gap.cco.caltech.edu> tly...@cco.caltech.edu (Timothy W. Lynch) writes:

Spoilers ho!

|One twist of the plot I didn't predict until very near the end, however, (and
|even then, Lisa beat me to it by half an act), was Alsia also being a con
|artist, and managing to successfully scam Martus. _That_ was great comic
|irony, and made the ending a lot of fun.

This is a joke, right? Alsia was playing up an obvious con right from
word one. When she showed up later crying over having run out of money, I
expected Odo to arrest her on the spot....

Other than that, I agree; mediocre at best.

Dennis Francis Heffernan IRC: FuzyLogic heff...@icarus.montclair.edu
Montclair State College #include <disclaim.h> Computer Science/Philosophy
"For god so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever
would believe in him would believe in anything." -- anonymous


Jan 9, 1994, 2:31:22 PM1/9/94
Is is just me, or does Chris Sarandon (the protagonist in "Rivals") bear
an uncanny resemblance to Richard Beymer (Ben Horne from "Twin Peaks)? My
wife and I almost came to blows over this.

- sli...@indial1.io.com

Kathy Moser

Jan 13, 1994, 12:35:53 PM1/13/94
: Take Chris Sarandon's performance, for instance. Given the popularity of
: "The Princess Bride", I'd be surprised if most viewers didn't have Prince
: Humperdinck rather strongly in mind from the moment Martus showed up on
: screen.

With The Princess Bride in mind, I nearly died laughing when he said "I'm
not listening" in exactly the same tone of voice Miracle Max used in TPB.

Kathy Moser
Hewlett-Packard, Network Printer Division
Boise, ID

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