Thursday, 5 December 2013

Don't tell him your name, Alfred!

(With apologies to Lethal Weapon).

This is actually a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine post. Having just moved back to Blighty and with a new job to occupy my days, I've decided that I enjoyed the last rewatch so much that I'm going to start again. After all, I stopped the last one about… three months ago. I was just into season seven but Ezri annoyed me so much (for so many reasons I shall bang on about another time) that I've decided to go back to the good old days. And so to season one.

The pilot and its second part, 'Emissary', will always have a special place in my heart for the way they get the band together in the first place. It begins by ripping your heart out and eating it in front of you (Jennifer), making you agonise over which side to take (Sisko's or Picard's - in one of the best scenes ever filmed), before bringing you a bit of fun (Julian's first lines), and then some mystery and non-Starfleetness (the Kai). I liked it way more than I remembered. Some memorable meetings (Kira's "Oh… hello") and some great moments (Sisko manipulating Quark to get the promenade on its feet again), and the feeling that this is going to be a very different Trek. I grew up on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and there's nothing wrong with the series. But toward the end I was a little tired of the alrightness, of the way most things were settled, or a giant reset button was punched so people could be brought back to life, or healed, or helped so they were better off than when the episode started. Over time, it began to make the series feel a little dull. So this new series, this DS9, piqued my interest. This bloke in charge, this Starfleet commander - he uses Ferengi tradition to get what he wants out of local barkeeps. He requested a local as his liaison officer - and although he's already had a few fights and rough patches with Major Kira, he also seems willing to trust her, given enough reason. He is Starfleet, underneath it all.

And then came episode 1x03: Past Prologue. Excellent episode about trust, new beginnings, and the meaning of life. Well, the meaning of present time life, anyway. Major Kira meets a colleague from her terrorist days and vouches for his request for asylum, getting him to give up and be a force for Bajor - only to find out he lied and used her, to put his latest terrorist plot into action. (And we get Lursa and B'Etor! Yay!) Kira has terrific scenes with both Sisko and then Tahna, as she has to decide who she goes to, to reveal what the other side knows. It's only when she confides in the only person she trusts - Odo, another non-Starfleet bod - that she has time to take stock. Odo's advice that it doesn't matter who she betrays, as long as it's not herself, puts her on the right track. We're treated to a slice of sci-fi life that TNG didn't seem to give us; two non-humans, non-Starfleet personnel, talking over a murderously sticky problem. And they work it out - Kira finds her footing and goes with her instincts. She's right - but she could so easily have been wrong. That's what makes DS9 different for me - she could have got it very wrong. She very nearly did - but that's another episode in the future. By the time we get to the end of the episode, two very disparate, very forthright people are walking together in silence, united by the feeling that they accomplished something together, even if they really didn't want to. Prickly, difficult, hard-won and easily breakable, these two have a long way to go. But it's fascinating to think how shaky anyone's decisions really are. 'Your choices are half chance - just like everybody else's.' Indeed.

And here we are, at 1x04: A Man Alone. At first glance, it's about Julian and his constant friendly, if slightly annoying, chasing of Jadzia. But hold on - now we have Sisko and Jadzia having lunch because Sisko has been friends with this 28-year-old woman for two lifetimes. He calls her his mentor, his friend - "like a father" to him. That dynamic - such a young woman being a father figure to a strapping great rugby prop of a man like Sisko - is again fascinating. But wait - now it's Chief O'Brien and his wife Keiko arguing about what she's supposed to do on the station to be useful, productive. And Jake Sisko, trying to make friends with the only other lad his age - Nog the Ferengi. And oh look, now it's Odo and Ibudan, the adversary of the week, having a spat over some bad history from years before.

So it's all about relationships - some are family, some are spouses, some are old friends and some are lonely kids wanting to make friends.

Then we get a murder. Odo is suspected but Kira stands up for him - she doubts there's a "more honourable man on this station" (more old friends business). Odo begins the investigation himself - finding Ibudan departed 'Alderaan Spacedock' the day before. Well he had a lucky escape, didn't he? Even Quark has a go at defending poor Odo - he rattles off a list of his problems, but then says he knows Odo isn't a killer. Old enemies? Everyone's relationships are laid out for us to see.

Julian does some vacuuming-up of forensic evidence and we actually get to see him do some doctor science in the background. A bunch of pissed-off Bajorans, stirred up by some other Bajoran bloke, go to Ops and actually complain to Sisko about how Odo is still chief of security. Sisko is polite in telling them he's heard them, but it's Kira who tells them in no uncertain terms to piss off and take their suspicions with them. (The look Sisko gives her when she's staring down the head of the peaceful posse is suspiciously like gratitude - or admiration, perhaps.) While Julian is onto something big and plot-worthy, Sisko has the unenviable task of relieving Odo of duty, due to a conflict of interest. Kira and Jadzia Dax take over the investigation, but obviously Odo can only take this to mean Sisko thinks he did it. Whether he gets the idea of 'conflict of interest' or not, or how it pertains to him, he's still royally pissed off. When he finds the security office vandalised, including racial slurs on the wall, it's obvious he's hitting his personal rock bottom. Quark drops by and, quite curiously, gives out free information. Feeling sorry for his old enemy? Or missing him already?

Julian and Sisko chat about the lives of Dax - just to hammer home how Jadzia might be the same, but different to Dax's last host. But even Morn leaves when Odo tries to sit at Quark's bar. I'd expected better of you, Morn. On a bright note, Keiko sets up a new school and its only classroom, and Miles turns up with little kid Molly to present her with a new school bell. Trouble is, Odo is trying to walk down the promenade when an ugly mob turns up to hound him into the security office. Kira grabs a few security dudes and off they go, before someone does the poor shapeshifter some damage. It's Sisko who asks them to think about what they're doing, who asks them how they'll feel in an hour when they've all cooled off. Luckily, Julian discovers the truth through science (because SCIENCE!), and it doesn't take long to wrap up the episode.

So what do we get from this? Relationships make the most interesting stories? Hate, revenge, loyalty, faith and treachery. Lovely. Some ace acting and good writing. The season is still getting better, but it's not bad to begin with. Sisko's end log, about how Odo hasn't even received any apologies for how half the people on the station treated him, bodes well for the future. I know it has a good one.

It's one of those shows - you can't do just one. Think I'll stick around for the next one.



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