II. Season 2 -- General Commentary |
DS9 definitely had a season of transition -- and for the most part, a lot of
the good elements of last year were kept while some of the bad ones were
diminished or removed. There was definitely a good year to be found here,
with fully half of the episodes falling in the "8 or higher" realm. Not
surprisingly, most of the good shows fell in either the beginning (e.g. the
opening two parts of the arc, "Necessary Evil", etc.) or the end of the
season (e.g. "The Maquis", "Crossover", "The Wire", etc.).
In fact, there was a definite mid-season slump. Only two shows of the middle
nine fell in the "8 and up" region so far as I could see: "Whispers" and
"Shadowplay", the latter by a whisker. By comparison, four of the first nine
were very strong, and fully seven of the final eight were major successes.
This would suggest that there's room for improvement, but mid-season is where
you'd expect people to get tired without seeing an end in sight, so it makes
some sense to me.
Character-wise, I think there were a lot of gains. Kira is finding more and
more that being "on the other side now", as "Progress" put it, is far from an
easy task: "Sanctuary", for all its faults, put her very much in touch with
that point, and "The Collaborator" made her realize how much of what she
idolizes is even more ambiguous than she thought. That's a rather nice bit
of complexity in a genre that too often lacks it -- more power to it.
Also making a lot of progress were Bashir and Odo. The good doctor, while
still youthful and idealistic (and damned annoying about it at times, too
:-) ), is starting to have to deal with more difficult matters, in
"Cardassians" and "The Wire" in particular. While so far he has a good track
record, I have my hopes that he'll run up against problems he *can't* solve
with a pure heart once in a while; it'll do him good. Odo, on the other
hand, is going the opposite route: his intense preoccupation with safety is
proving to have some rather sinister undercurrents to it. I can't say
strongly enough how much I *like* that: extremism in virtually _any_ cause
can be damned dangerous, and Odo can be dark without turning into a "bad guy"
character. (Care needs to be taken not to try the latter without proper
precautions, though: "The Alternate" is proof enough of that.)
O'Brien is about where he was last year, so there's not much to say beyond
"give the man some growth!". Dax is slowly starting to come to terms with
how she differs now from what she was, and both "Playing God" and "Blood
Oath" helped her along considerably; I hope to see more of that development.
Sisko is a surprisingly mixed bag. While his command presence is generally
good, and I think Avery Brooks is usually doing a fine job, I get the
impression that more often than not, the writers don't quite know what to do
with him. It's a telling point that many of Sisko's blown-against-the-wall,
absolute *best* scenes this season were playing off of _Gul Dukat_, of all
people. Not to detract from Dukat, who's turned into one of Trek's best
recurring villains, but shouldn't Sisko have some powerful moments with his
*crew* every so often? For the most part this year, he hasn't; stuff with
Dukat has been strong, and most of his scenes with Jake have also held up --
but other than that, there's, well ... not much *there* there. I'm not sure
myself what might be good to do with the character at this point (if I did,
I'd be writing it :-) ), but I get the impression the character's drifting.
As I said last year, we need to see more of what *he* thinks and feels,
rather than simply having him react to others.
Then, lastly, we've got Quark, who's the only character I think has regressed
a bit. When we don't have cases of the "Quark's scheming gets the station in
trouble, but he never gets serious consequences" syndrome a la "Invasive
Procedures", we get Meaningful [tm] Quark stories such as "Profit and Loss"
and "Rules of Acquisition." The problem: those stories are laughably
mediocre most of the time. Quark may, unfortunately, be stuck in the comic
relief role most of the time. That's not bad, but the more scenes like
Quark's speech in "The Jem'Hadar" the better; the character deserves a little
depth that actually rings true.
Plotwise, DS9 is turning remarkably intricate, and I can't say I'm sorry
about it. We've got political turmoil on Bajor (the opening arc) which
should still be unresolved, a religious leader who is opposed to the
Federation and many of the regular character, internal dissension within the
Federation (the Maquis), and the looming threat of an invasion from the other
side of the wormhole. That's an awful lot to bring up in a season.
In fact, if anything I'm worried there may be *too many* balls in the air
right now. Done right, a lot of these storylines can interweave together and
reinforce each other, and I'm hoping to see it. Done wrongly, however, the
eventual resolutions of these crises may seem very color-by-numbers: "okay,
we resolved the major Maquis problem last week; how about the Kai this time?"
I'm not sure how that will look, and I hope very much to see some subtle
blendings of all of this together. The writers have already proven they're
capable of bringing up intricate ideas: now it's time to hope that they can
take it a step further without blowing the resolution (which, alas, *did*
happen in the opening arc, and has certainly happened with distressing
frequency in Trek history).
If it were up to me, I'm not sure I'd have brought in the Dominion. There's
nothing wrong with it per se, but my tastes run more towards internal,
cultural/political issues such as the Maquis and the feuding over the next
Kai -- not a looming "Threat from Beyond the Wormhole!". I said last year
that we can see a lot more of the internal workings of the Federation and a
lot more of the recruitment process to bring a planet together and into the
Federation given this setting, and I'm still hoping to see it. The
Dominion's presence may blunt that, which would be a shame.
However, the initial look we've gotten at the Dominion seems strong enough to
support a lot of stories, but I hope it doesn't fall into the trap that the
Borg did, namely that of an overwhelmingly powerful enemy beaten by
technobabble. The Dominion are an alliance, and before they fall (as they no
doubt will, eventually; I can't imagine the series getting so radical as to
have the Feds *lose* in the end), I think we ought to see a lot of how the
Dominion ticks. That would still give us a look into how the Federation
ticks, by contrast if nothing else; and it would give us a feeling of a real
enemy rather than as "something to be blasted and nothing else". If this is
to be a conflict of cultures, let's see the *cultures*, not just the
That said, I've two other points: one a question, and one a wish.
The question is this: why *did* Peter Allan Fields leave DS9? The official
explanation, that "the writing didn't measure up" or something akin, doesn't
make any sense; the man wrote "Duet", "Necessary Evil", "Crossover", "The
Circle", among others -- and those are among DS9's very best. The only
plausible explanation I can come up with (assuming it was a business reason
and not a personal issue -- contrary to rumor, Hollywood does have such
things :-) ) is that Fields's work was probably somewhat expensive to
produce: major set redresses for "Necessary Evil" and "Crossover", and lots
of new sets and makeup time for "Blood Oath". I wonder if that was a factor.
As for the wish: It is my fervent hope that DS9 doesn't fall into the old
trap of not letting actions have consequences. There were disturbing signs
of that here: Odo's feelings of betrayal in "Necessary Evil" seemed to
vanish as soon as the plot demanded it, and Dax's actions in "Blood Oath"
seem to have gone without repercussions [not to mention Quark's work in
"Invasive Procedures", but that's a weak point in and of itself]. That makes
it all too easy to let a series turn into "magic shows": shows where
anything outrageous can happen or be introduced, because it will never come
back to haunt anyone or anything. We're seeing a lot of character growth
already; don't duck it just because it might mean character conflict (*real*
conflict, not O'Brien getting annoyed at puppy-dog Bashir).
That would seem to about do it. DS9 had a thoroughly enjoyable season this
year, and I hope it can continue to improve even more as the next season
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"Well, it's easy to be a SAINT in Paradise."
-- Sisko, "The Maquis, Part II"
Copyright 1994, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...
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