WARNING: Many spoilers for DS9's "Shadowplay" are lurking in the shadowy
corners of this article. Play if you must, but only with caution.
In brief: Almost two plots out of three, with one of them the main plot.
Hardly perfect, but not bad.
First, a quick "humph!" to whoever decided to put not two, but *three*
unconnected plots into the same show. That tends not to work unless the show
is a lot more serialized than Trek has ever been, and "Shadowplay" suffered
the consequences for certain. One of the two subplots worked all right, in
part because it *was* led into; the other one, though, came out of nowhere
and was annoying in way too many ways.
First, the main story: I liked it. A lot. We did catch on that the village
was a holo-village before Odo and Dax did, but not by much. (We guessed that
Rurigan was real long before they did, though.) The story was fairly
straightforward, but there were a lot of points around the edges that made it
First and foremost, I found the point of Odo's about Taya to Rurigan very
telling. Given that she is younger than the original program he ran, *is*
she in a sense a completely independent lifeform in every way but
physicality? We didn't get an answer (at least not outright), but we got the
*question* -- and that's all I want. I liked that a great deal.
I also thought that every single bit of Odo's character relevant to his
relationship with Taya was used about as effectively as it ever could have
been. The parallelism with Odo's missing parents, the return of the
"changeling" reference, his response to her statement about making friends
through shapeshifting -- every single one of them is the sort of thing that
_demanded_ to be said to keep faith with the character, and every single one
of them was said in exactly the way I think it should've been. Robert Hewitt
Wolfe had a remarkable sense of character history with Odo, and used it well.
I shouldn't overlook the other half of the Odo/Taya scenes, though. Noley
Thornton was one of the few good things about TNG's "Imaginary Friend" three
years ago, and with "Shadowplay" is now on my list of favorite child guest
stars. Both she and Odo were written well, to be sure, but it's far too easy
for kids to end up acting cuter than written. Thornton didn't -- she nailed
every single emotion that I think was called for, and stayed away from
everything that could have caused problems. I was really moved by some of
their scenes -- enough so that there was a lump in my throat as Odo *did*
shift for her right before leaving. I want to see her back again in some
other guest role -- she's way too good to waste.
Both Rurigan and Colyus were written and played well, as well. I will
confess that I kept flashing back to Kenneth Mars's character in "Young
Frankenstein" [the inspector with all the artificial limbs] whenever Colyus
was on screen, but that's my own fault. :-) Colyus seemed to me like what a
usually relaxed, now befuddled and slightly desperate protector really
*should* be, and although Rurigan's role was a little stereotypical, Kenneth
Tobey did a good job with it. Good job to everyone there, too.
[Incidentally, having Odo prove their good intentions by abruptly leaving and
returning via transporting was a smart bit of thinking on his and Hewitt
In fact, there's very little about the main storyline that I disliked at all.
About the only objection I have is this: I'd have thought the sensible
person to bring when inspecting the outskirts of the village would be
*Colyus*, not Taya. I could see Taya deciding to take them on impulse, but
not Odo deliberately deciding to bring her along. That didn't ring true,
really. Everything else, however, did.
I only wish I could say the same for the primary subplot, that being the
Kira/Bareil plot. The main story did virtually everything right; this one
did virtually everything wrong. It started off on a bad foot, by having Kira
and Quark seem *far* more at odds than they have been aside from in "Invasive
Procedures" [which Hewitt Wolfe also wrote] -- but from there it got worse.
Kira was fairly off for most of the show, but what absolutely annoyed me to
no end about this subplot was that it effectively _ruined_ the promise of the
Kira/Bareil vision back in "The Circle". That vision was meaningful, it was
eerie, and it was wondrous. It said "there's some kind of very strong bond
between these two -- we will see more of it." I interpreted that to mean it
might do so gradually.
What was the message we got from this subplot? I think it can be boiled down
pretty well to "Bareil's in heat." This is a disservice to Philip Anglim,
who until now managed to make Bareil one of my favorite recurring DS9
characters; and it's a major, _major_ disservice to Bareil. Had he been
motivated by other visions to seek Kira out _now_ rather than later, that
might be one thing; but as it is, he just seemed horny. That's not Bareil;
or, at least, it shouldn't be. Ugh.
Lastly, there's the Jake subplot. I have a feeling it will rub lots of
people wrong as being too "cute", but I rather liked most of it. Part of
that is probably because I see parental pressure and the idea of conforming
to expectations all the time as a teacher, and have felt healthy doses of it
in my time as well. (Let's just say I encountered some initial ...
skepticism when I elected to leave grad school for a teaching career.) It
made a great deal of sense for me to have Sisko want *and expect* Jake to go
to the academy, and also that Jake might not be comfortable with the idea. I
liked that, and I liked the continuity both in O'Brien's stories and in the
fact that we saw Sisko ask O'Brien about this earlier.
The place where it fell down a bit for me was at the end. For a second I
thought I'd slipped dimensions and crossed DS9 with "The Cosby Show" when
Sisko proved *that* accepting of Jake's decision. Again, some of this is my
own personal history talking in all likelihood, but from what I've seen I'd
have expected anyone, especially someone with a temper like Sisko's, to have
some resistance to the idea before eventually being the Perfect Father.
Given how well the plot was set up beforehand, it would have been nice to
resolve it more slowly as well. Oh, well.
So, the main plot was a big win; the main subplot, a big loss; and the
secondary subplot, a minor win. Not too bad, I must say. I think
"Shadowplay" will probably appeal to most people, except for the Kira/Bareil
bits, which I'd be happy to consign to the trash heap.
So, a few short takes and I'm off.
-- Kira's final exchange with Quark wasn't too bad, but I wish we'd ended
just with Kira's finding Bareil "diverting" rather than having Quark pound
the real meaning of the word into our heads the line afterwards. Thanks,
guys, but we _did_ get it the first time.
-- One disappointment I had in the Odo plotline was that he referred
explicitly to Kira as a friend. I was hoping we'd see more fallout from
"Necessary Evil" before we got back to this stage. That's hardly the fault
of "Shadowplay", but it's too bad.
-- "Garak has been lecturing me on surveillance techniques." Something tells
me Bashir is in *way* over his head. :-)
That about covers it. So, to wrap up:
Plot: Basically fine. The Odo one was very tight, and the others were fine
in terms of *plot*...
Plot Handling: Excellent. The Kira/Bareil scenes were a waste of space, but
the planetside scenes were expertly done and the Jake scenes were
Characterization: Utterly fantastic for Odo's plot, good Jake, iffy Sisko,
and rather nausea-inducing for Kira and Bareil.
OVERALL: A 7.5 -- it would've been at least a point higher if the
Kira/Bareil bits had been excised.
Worlds within worlds...
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"That's a rather personal question."
"Sorry, but after seven lifetimes, the impersonal questions aren't much fun
-- Odo and Dax
Copyright 1994, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...