WARNING: This article contains spoilers concerning DS9's latest episode,
"The Circle." If you don't want details about the plot, don't read the
article -- 'nuff said.
In brief: Wow again.
After my review of "The Homecoming" was posted, several people wrote me to
say "if you thought *that* was good, wait 'til you see 'The Circle'." My
appetite, understandably, was whetted -- and I wasn't disappointed.
I'm not sure, though, that I agree with those who wrote me. I think I liked
"The Homecoming" a little bit better than I did "The Circle"; not by more
than marginal amounts in either direction, mind you, but I don't think "The
Circle" truly blew "The Homecoming" away, either.
It was, however, amazingly good. As with "The Homecoming", I felt as though
I was watching history unfold in spots. As things slowly built towards the
(inevitable? hmm) revolution on Bajor and threat to the station, there was a
real sense of powerlessness to change anything being felt -- or I felt it,
anyway. It was a rare, and very welcome feeling for Trek.
By far, the most overwhelming feeling in "The Circle" was the feeling of
impending disaster from the Circle itself. As we slowly find out that it can
infiltrate the station on any level, including vandalizing cargo bays and
even marking Sisko's quarters, we get worried -- but when we see that they
can even violate the monastery grounds on Bajor itself with impunity, we get
_really_ worried. Given the snail's pace at which things seem to get done by
the Bajoran government (such as the delay in transporting "Gul Darheel" back
in "Duet"), it seems that the Circle truly is better organized and better
equipped than the government to get things done. Given the ever-present
threat of coups in many countries to this day (such as the recent
unsuccessful one just this past week in Russia), the mere thought of one
happening on Bajor tends to chill the blood a bit.
There are several stories happening here, all intertwining. There's Kira's
departure (and, presumably, subsequent reinstatement, though it hasn't
happened yet), the spiritual crisis within the Vedek Assembly and the
election of the next Kai, the revolution on Bajor and possible overthrow of
the government, and the looming Cardassian threat on the station. All four
are separate stories worthy of consideration, but all four also intertwine a
hell of a lot. This is one of the most _textured_ storylines I can remember
seeing from Trek in a long time, and that's a very valuable feeling.
Kira's story, as the most personal, was one of the strongest parts of the
show, and contained what are probably the two best scenes of the show. By
those, I mean the "goodbye, farewell, so long, best wishes, get the hell out
of my quarters already!" scene at the start of act one and the vision she is
given by "the orb of prophecy and change." The former was absolutely
hilarious in spots, reminding me of Tom Stoppard in terms of wordplay and
several different film scenes in terms of director's conceits :-), and the
latter was, like Data's dream in "Birthright", breathtaking.
The vision sequence was extremely odd, somewhat disturbing in spots (at least
to me -- somehow the image of Kira and Bareil together is a little worrying
for me, and I don't know why), and very, very good. There's a lot of hidden
information in there (I think -- I can't tell, because it's hidden! :-) ),
and a lot of meaning that I hope we get to figure out in "The Siege". I also
thought that the revelation of differing orbs having differing _properties_
was a fascinating point, as was the most mature use of sexual imagery I think
I've ever seen on Trek. Too often, any sort of sexual feeling on Trek has
been over-the-top or played for laughs -- here, there was a lot of passion
and a lot of ... well, I want to say "reality", but it's just the reverse; as
a dream, it's completely unreal.
There's also the further question of this: did Kira and Bareil have exactly
the _same_ vision? Just what was Kira doing in Bareil's vision, and just
what is it going to mean down the line? I'm looking forward to finding out
the answers -- and given that "The Siege" is already likely to be a very full
show, I'm not entirely sure we'll find out until another few episodes have
gone by. As long as it *is* answered, I've no problem with that at all.
The spiritual crisis in the Assembly was an expected turn, and actually
didn't work for me nearly as well as it might have. While I think all of the
ideas within it are excellent ones, and I think it's going to turn out fine,
I thought Louise Fletcher was a bit off in the Winn/Bareil scene. Winn was
_written_ just fine -- as mocking as ever -- but somehow I thought things
were a little too singsong, at least until Winn brought up the "consultation"
issue, which I thought was excellently done.
The plot to overthrow the government was probably the closest thing to a
"main" plot that "The Circle" had, and worked just fine. While much of it
was foreshadowed and predictable ahead of time (I'm not sure *anyone* was
surprised to see Jaro as the Circle's head), it was all well played out and
smartly done. In particular, of course, Frank Langella was a beautiful
casting choice to play Jaro. Some actors might have turned lines like "I
know the future. It belongs to me." into fairly pretentious stuff, but from
Langella they sound legit -- a scary thought, in some ways. Langella looked
and sounded like just the sort of person who'd be heading an organization
like the Circle: Jaro's one of the _truly_ dangerous people in the world,
one with a cloak of respectability and an unswerving sense of his own
perfection. Even his motivation, about not letting Bajor be victimized, is
suspect -- I'm not sure Bajor would be any less victimized under his rule
than under any other one. The scene between him and Kira while she's
imprisoned is, aside from the orb sequence, one of the best of the show.
Then, of course, there's the wider issue of what happens to the station.
While it's no surprise at all that the Cardassians are involved and trying to
get the Federation out, it was at least a mild surprise that they're doing it
as completely behind-the-scenes as they are. And, more to the point, all of
the fifth-act scenes about the looming threat to DS9 were beautifully
menacing. In particular, the conversation between Sisko and Admiral Chekote
("The Prime Directive applies, Ben.") really brought home for me why so many
fans get frustrated by said directive. Halfway through the conversation, I
realized where it was headed and got _very_ annoyed at the attitude there --
just as the filmmakers clearly intended. Beautifully done.
So, in general, "The Circle" was wonderful. A few more, smaller issues:
-- Li Nalas was much more subdued, and I'm sorry to say much less
interesting, than he was in "The Homecoming." However, I suspect that that's
the point. Li wasn't the focus here, because he's stuck on the station,
where he _is_ basically useless. He will, no doubt, figure much more
strongly in "The Siege", and I have a fairly large suspicion that he won't
survive the show. Pity, as I still think there's a lot of mileage to be had
in the character.
-- The rescue of Kira was, as in Li's rescue earlier, a good example of
"action for a point" rather than a be-all and end-all, but I have two mild
problems with it. First, there was a little creative continuity-bending with
O'Brien being able to get everyone out of there at once when he couldn't get
more than two Bajorans at a time a mere episode earlier. (A mild glitch, but
one worth spotting.) Second, I don't really understand what the need was for
Bashir to even _be_ there. I realize that he wants to be the dashing hero a
lot of the time, but there's no reason to expect that he's going to do much
good down there, because no one would expect him to have any time to be
medical. It was good, but considerably more contrived than the rescue of Li.
-- The Odo/Quark scene where Quark is deputized was an absolute scream.
These two still tend to be at their best when they play off each other, and
this was no exception. Good job to both. (It was also nice to see some of
Quark's self-preservation resurface. Getting out probably _is_ a very good
idea for him at this point...)
-- The direction throughout was extremely interesting. In particular, there
were a lot of strange camera angles whenever someone used the lift from Ops
to anywhere else. It was striking, and pleasantly so. Good job.
-- The scenes where Odo plays spy on the Kressari ship were good for Odo's
detective work, but a little on the slow side for me.
-- Since I forgot to mention it last week: Congratulations to Dennis
McCarthy for his Emmy for the DS9 theme. While I didn't take to the theme
immediately back in January, I think it's a theme that creeps up on you and
grows on you very subtly, and I think the award is well deserved.
That's about it. "The Circle" suffered slightly, I think, from being the
second act in a three-act show (a difficult position to be in), but it was
still very impressive. If "The Siege" manages to give us as satisfying a
resolution as we've had buildup, then I'll be overjoyed. I think that these
two parts alone demonstrate pretty well that story arcs _can_ work very well
on Trek, provided that the effort goes into them. I can't wait for next
So, to sum up:
Plot: One or two small contrivances on the rescue, but basically top-notch.
Lots of intertwining stories, all leading to one massive ending.
Plot Handling: Some great directing moments (particularly the vision and
Kira's "farewell" to her friends), that more than make up for the
occasional slow bit.
Characterization: Marvelous. Everyone shines.
OVERALL: Another 10. If "The Siege" matches it ... wow.
The situation gets worse.
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"Will someone _please_ explain this conversation to me?"
Copyright 1993, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...
RE: Kira's impromptu farewell party. This is absolutely the first time I have seen American television directed so that actors "step" naturally on each others' lines. (I HAVE seen this, very ocassionally, on the best British shows)It's very nice to see the standards coming UP!
RE: Kira's vision. Anybody have a clue why Vedek Bareil first appears in
Bajoran military uniform? It's a great vision sequence, open to a lot of
interpretations, but that one has me stumped.
Two things differ.
1. The "attack party" had communicators, which makes it easier to lock
2. Watch the scene again. You'll note that the transport beam times
differ. In other words, the foreground group is enveloped in the
beam and the background group is then enveloped. This could imply
there were two beams, which can then make the previous scene over
Cardassia IV sensible (they could only pick up two people separated
by distance, but if the people had been grouped together, they might
have been able to get a group).
My guess is that it confirmed to Kira that he was on her side, since she
is part of the Bajoran Military.
Disclaimer: The above represents my views and not those of my
Certainly a lot more entertaining than TNG recently, that's for sure.
>By far, the most overwhelming feeling in "The Circle" was the feeling of
>impending disaster from the Circle itself. As we slowly find out that it can
>infiltrate the station on any level, including vandalizing cargo bays and
>even marking Sisko's quarters, we get worried --
(Actually, that was the only thing in this episode that really bothered
me... you'd think that their might at least be guards somewhere *near* the
commander's quarters, ro perhaps a camera in the vicinity... you don't leave
your commander unprotected! On the other hand, maybe the guards are *in*
the circle... :-)
>There are several stories happening here, all intertwining. There's Kira's
>departure (and, presumably, subsequent reinstatement, though it hasn't
>happened yet), the spiritual crisis within the Vedek Assembly and the
>election of the next Kai, the revolution on Bajor and possible overthrow of
>the government, and the looming Cardassian threat on the station. All four
>are separate stories worthy of consideration, but all four also intertwine a
>hell of a lot. This is one of the most _textured_ storylines I can remember
>seeing from Trek in a long time, and that's a very valuable feeling.
What I like is the lack of predictability. Oh, I know that nothing will
happen to kill off the Good Guys, and that Kira will eventually return.
Other than that, though, anything goes. TPTB aren't locked in to Deep Space
Nine the same way that they are into TNG; at the start of most every episode,
we have to have the Enterprise in a peaceful Federation setting, and we know
that, at the end (probably in the last five minutes of the episode :-),
everything will return to normal, because TNG is so situation-oriented. DS9,
however, can have the Bajorans and Cardassians turned upside-down and
still remain within the format of the show.
I honestly have very little clue as to how this current plotline will be
resolved... I hope that, afterwards, it's not just "business as usual."
> I also
>thought that the revelation of differing orbs having differing _properties_
>was a fascinating point, as was the most mature use of sexual imagery I think
>I've ever seen on Trek. Too often, any sort of sexual feeling on Trek has
>been over-the-top or played for laughs -- here, there was a lot of passion
>and a lot of ... well, I want to say "reality", but it's just the reverse; as
>a dream, it's completely unreal.
And completely metaphorical, possibly (though see my earlier post on Kira's
evolving need to see even religious authority as mortal and susceptible to
human (Bajoran) needs and desires -- once the character gets this through her
head, she'll be more effective at helping Bajor make needed changes. This, I
think, is the purpose of the vision.
>The plot to overthrow the government was probably the closest thing to a
>"main" plot that "The Circle" had, and worked just fine. While much of it
>was foreshadowed and predictable ahead of time (I'm not sure *anyone* was
>surprised to see Jaro as the Circle's head),
Well, er, um, heh heh, now that you mention it, I now at least one person
who was surprised...
> In particular, the conversation between Sisko and Admiral Chekote
>("The Prime Directive applies, Ben.") really brought home for me why so many
>fans get frustrated by said directive.
Writers, too, probably... :-)
Matt Gertz, mwge...@cs.cmu.edu
Dept. of ECE, The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.