Tuesday, July 20, 2010

S01E04 - A Man Alone

This episode sets up or reinforces the long-standing relationships between several characters: Odo and Quark, O'Brien and Keiko, Sisko and Dax, and even the friendship between Dax and Bashir (poor Julian). It's a nice bit of character development that I've always liked. It also sets up a theme that runs through the entire series: governments are useless.

Situation: A con-man named Ibudan comes aboard the station. Odo threatens to throw him out the airlock, and they get in a fight.

What Sisko does: Give Odo a sharp dressing-down: the Federation is ruled by law, not by lone vigilantes.

What I would do: The same thing. However, as we will see in the future, Odo's not entirely wrong on this one: governments are hopelessly useless in the universe of DS9. The Bajoran Provisional Government is completely dysfunctional; the Federation is hopelessly out of touch; the Cardassian High Command is more concerned with placating the Feds than with protecting their interests, and even the Romulan government is drifting aimlessly. When the time comes to defend the Alpha Quadrant, it's entirely up to Sisko and Odo personally, and to the KGBs of each of the stellar governments (oh, Starfleet has one too, don't be fooled) to get the job done.

Situation: A bunch of angry citizens confront Sisko and Kira in Ops, complaining that Odo, the chief suspect in Ibudan's murder, is also in charge of the investigation.

What I would do: Instruct my security personnel to politely turn the angry citizens away from the elevator that leads to Ops, and direct them to Greeting Room A.

What Sisko does: Welcome the angry mob into Ops, the command and control center for the entire station, because everyone is welcome in Ops.

At the end of the episode, Sisko shows Odo the benefits of the rule of law: it protects Odo himself even when he's out of power, just as it protects everyone else. As far as Star Trek's moral messages go, this one was surprisingly subtle and even reasonable.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

S01E03 -- Past Prologue

Situation: We begin with some amusing interplay between Garak, Bashir, and his world-weary colleagues (which was actually done pretty well), which is interrupted by an approaching Cardassian warship. The Cardassians are chasing a Bajoran scout ship. Its pilot asks for assistance, as his destruction by massed Cardassian fire is imminent.

What I would do: Beam the pilot directly to Greeting Room A -- a heavily retrofitted cargo bay. It is tastefully furnished with comfortable chairs, couches, booths, and coffee tables. A few stacks of pamphlets, scattered here and there, proudly discuss the many cultural and scientific achievements of the Federation. Soothing ambient music permeates the room, and soft light glistens invitingly on the bottles of the fully-stocked bar in the back. Greeting Room A has its own computer core, power supply, and life support, all of which are isolated from the main station systems. Its outer walls are made of reinforced duranium, and covered with forcefields. The inner walls are studded with hidden phaser emitters and high-resolution sensors, capable of scanning for any known hazards, including but not limited to biological, technological, energy-based, and memetic. Emergency medical, xenological, and tactical teams are stationed just outside Greeting Room A around the clock, ready to do their duty at a moment's notice.

What Sisko does: Beam the pilot directly to Ops, which is the command and control center for the entire station. This is a pattern that repeats quite often throughout the series: strange aliens, crazed terrorists, enemy hostiles, it makes no difference: everyone is welcome in Ops.

That said, after displaying his tactical ineptitude, Sisko immediately switches to doing what he does best: intimidate people. I can't help but enjoy the air of calm and collected menace that he's able to project:

Cardassian Captain: blah blah give up the Bajoran blah blah !
Sisko: I will investigate the matter immediately. In the interim, if you'd care to dock your vessel, I'll be glad to hear your explanation for having violated Bajoran space and threatened a Federation facility.
Cardassian Captain: We've made no threat to your facility !
Sisko: I stand corrected. Sisko out.
He doesn't quite add, "you punk-ass", at the end -- but you can almost hear it.

Later on in this episode, we get to see Kira argue with Tana Los (our Bajoran asylum seeker and former terrorist) regarding the nature of the Federation. Is the Federation a ruthless conqueror, a worthy ally, or something in between ? DS9 generally does a much better job of portraying the Federation as compared to TNG or TOS, by hinting the answer isn't quite as clear-cut as Starfleet would have you believe. The Federation does treat Bajor as a subjugated province throughout the entire season; Starfleet holds all the cards and all of the guns, and they know it, and they know that Bajor knows it... But everyone except for former Bajoran terrorists is to polite or too scared to mention it.

Anyway, later on the Duras sisters make a cameo appearance.

Situation: Odo breaks up an impending firefight on the Promenade, between his own security officers and two Klingon women who refuse to surrender their weapons.

What I would do: Nothing, because I'd have some basic security checkpoints in place that all legitimate visitors (i.e., those who aren't beamed directly to Greeting Room A) must clear before entering the Promenade. I wouldn't make them quite as tedious and dehumanizing as the TSA checkpoints in our modern airports, but still, a basic weapons scan might be in order.

Situation: Bashir begs Sisko for guidance about Garak, who seems to be about as well-informed about the plot as Sisko himself.

What Sisko does: Tell Bashir to go on with his plan.

What I would do: Tell Bashir to go on with his plan. Immediately begin a quiet investigation of the station's entire command structure, because it obviously leaks like a sieve.

Situation: Tana Los constructs an explosive device, installs it in a Runabout, and sets course for the wormhole.

What I would do: Order DS9 to power up all its weapons, as well as any of the defensive weapons platforms around the wormhole that are in any way functional (granted, most of them would still be under construction at this point); prepare to open fire on the stolen Runabout the instant it comes out of warp. As soon as the crisis has passed, devise a better plan for dealing with those kinds of situations.

What Sisko does: Hope that Kira can stop Tana Los in time -- though he does listen to O'Brien, who gently suggests that the benefits of blowing up Tana Los's Runabout might outweigh the risks.

Lest I seem overly critical, allow me to say that I actually enjoyed this episode quite a lot. Most of it is concerned with Kira's character development, as she struggles to re-define her identity in a post-Cardassian world. There's some great dialogue between her and Tana Los, Odo, and even Sisko. Unlike so many other Star Trek episodes, this one is all about realistic human relationships, with some politics thrown in for good measure -- as opposed to mere technobabble and space anomalies.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Pilot: Emissary

Situation: The show begins with the scene at Wolf 359, as Locutus of Borg (formerly Jean-Luc Picard) informs all Federation vessels opposing him that resistance is futile. Captain Sisko and his fellow Starfleet captains attempt to stop the Borg cube before it can reach Earth.

What I would do: Get all civilians off the ship before zerging the cube.

What Sisko does: The opposite. His inadequately armed and armored ship is immediately hit; many civilians, including Sisko's wife, die in the process. Seriously, Sisko, WTF ? What kind of a captain attacks a vastly superior foe with civilians on board ? If that's what they teach at the Academy, I wonder how the Federation even still exists.

Situation: At the end of the episode, the Federation learns that their latest acquisition -- the stripped down and virtually abandoned Deep Space Nine station -- is now parked right in front of the only stable wormhole known to exist. It is now a key asset which will open up new avenues of exploration, cultural exchange, research, resource acquisition, you name it.

What I would do: Immediately dispatch a Galaxy-class cruiser (at the very least) to DS9, fully loaded with Runabouts, phaser banks, shield emitters, SIF generators, photon torpedoes, sensor probes, and any other equipment I could think of. Begin installing all that stuff as soon as the cruiser arrives. Inform the engineering teams that if they can't find enough space on the hull to install an extra phaser bank, they're not looking hard enough.

What Starfleet does: Deliver three (count 'em, three) Runabouts to the station, and wish them luck. Put DS9 under the authority of some guy whose idea of battle tactics is to zerg a full-fledged Borg cube with civilians on board (granted, he was recommended by the de-Borgified Picard, but still). If I didn't know better, I would've thought that Starfleet doesn't care much for the wormhole.

That said, though, Sisko makes several commendably shrewd decisions right after setting foot at DS9; he may be a lousy combat officer, but he's a great administrator. He also completely ignores the Prime Directive when dealing with the wormhole aliens, a.k.a. The Prophets -- which is fine, it's what I would do, and besides, no one follows that directive anyway.

What, and why ?

So, I finally made it to the endgame in STO. In the process, I've had a chance to visit Deep Space Nine, and then it hit me: there are tons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes I haven't seen ! What kind of a trekkie (or trekker, if you prefer) am I ? Ok, the answer is, "You're not a trekkie at all", but that's beside the point.

Since the pilot of the show opens up with a big "WTF?" moment, I've decided to roll with it, and record my impressions, just for fun.

So, stay tuned for DS9 pilot: The Emissary.