The Wrong Means for a Fitting End

by Christopher DeFilippis

DeFlip Side, Vol. 1, No. 1
(First Appeared: December, 1998; First Light fanzine, Issue #76)

For a show often held up as an example of tight writing, rich characterization and engaging plot lines, you’d think the last season of Deep Space Nine would provide a template for how to end a quality SF series in style. But it must be finding its last legs a bit shaky, because since the season opener, DS9 has stumbled forward like a Jem’Hadar low on Ketracel White.

I love Deep Space Nine. Let me make that clear right off the bat. It is to the Star Trek franchise what The Empire Strikes Back is to the Star Wars series—dark, ambiguous, grown-up. It’s the only show on television I make it a point to never miss. But if things keep going as they have been, I may just change my viewing habits.

I wouldn’t call this season so far a total wash, but it’s come pretty darn close. And it’s not necessarily because they’ve been telling bad stories; I just don’t think they’ve been telling the right ones.

For those of you who might need a little refreshing, let me see if I can provide an episode rundown thus far: First, Sisko was in angst; then Ezri Dax and Garak were in angst together; Worf, of course, was in angst; and… oh yeah! We got to see Bashir in angst as well. Then everyone cheered up and played some baseball.

The season opened with Sisko caught up in a Lucasian twist of lineage, discovering not only that his mother was not his mother, but that the woman who conceived him was most likely Prophet-possessed when she did so. One obligatory “after school special” scene later (“She may not have given birth to you Ben,” Papa Sisko shouts, “but she was still your mother and loved you as if you were her own son!”) and Sisko is wandering through the desert having pagh-wraith-induced visions that would have made Jim Morrison proud. Finally, with the aid of the “new” Dax and his trusty baseball, he manages to reopen the wormhole.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but at the end of last season Dominion reinforcements were poised to pour out and take over the Alpha Quadrant. Only Dukat’s blundering prevented it. So, now that Sisko has unlocked the door, where did the bad guys get off to?

Let’s move on.

Worf is grieving for Jadzia, wanting her to get into Stovokor. First off, why would Jadzia want to go to the Klingon Valhalla? Don’t Trills have any religious beliefs? But in a selfish burst of Klingon myopia, Worf decides that she has a Klingon heart and would want it that way. So not only does he commit himself to a suicide mission for her honor, but Quark, Bashir and O’Brien tag along.

Huh? Sorry folks, but allies or not, I don’t really think Starfleet officers would have the latitude to drop everything and put themselves in harm’s way on a Klingon mission behind enemy lines—especially not the key officers manning a strategic Starfleet base in the middle of a war.

Next!

We were all expecting Ezri’s transitional episode, but with the experience of the Dax symbiont to draw from as well as eight additional lifetimes of memories, would she really be such an insecure wreck? I was expecting something more powerhouse from Nicole deBoer. Instead, she could easily play sidekick to Wesley Crusher in the next Trek spin-off.

Despite their flaws, however, these episodes were necessary for continuity. The next offerings have no such luxury.

I’ll sum up the first horror in two words: The Misfits. Yes, those genetically-enhanced screwballs are back, bringing hijinks to Khan-like levels. What will they do this time? Define Pi? Plunge DS9 into an alternate universe? Stick a “Kick Me” sign on Sisko’s back? Actually, it’s worse. Much worse.

Bashir “wakes up” the non-communicative one in the bunch, enabling her to speak for the first time. And what does she do with her new-found ability, this miracle of science and technology? She joins the rest of the Misfits in a rousing sing-along of that old musical favorite “Do-Re-Me.”

Uh, what?

WHAT?!?

And not only do they sing it, they sing it for five minutes straight. It was a scene that sent me channel surfing, flipping back periodically only to see that they were still at it and trying not to cringes as my wife stared at me over the top of her book with a look that said, “And you actually enjoy this geek-fest?” For once, I had absolutely NO defense against her scorn. I was just glad that she was the only other person in the room and had taken a vow to keep loving me no matter what.

When the Misfits hit the scene last season, I hated them instantly. Not only was the episode centered around them boring, but the actor playing Patrick was obviously trying to recapture Brad Pitt’s incredible performance in 12 Monkeys and doing a pitiful job of it. They certainly didn’t deserve a second storyline. But there we have it. The worst had to be over, right?

Well…

“Take Me Out To The Holosuite” was nothing short of criminal to inflict on the fans. This episode was so staggeringly bad that words fail me. I know, I know. I can hear all of you out there telling me to lighten up, that they played it strictly for camp. And I have no problem with that. But the simple fact of the matter is there are only two things that make out-and-out comedy work in Star Trek: Harry Mudd and Tribbles. End of story. But what of Q, you ask? Q was stricken from the list after making his visit to Voyager.

Sure, every episode has its funny moments. But on the whole, Trek humor is only truly funny when it’s an addendum to the larger story. Witness the formula at its best at the end of most TOS episodes with the banter between Kirk, Spock and McCoy. They usually manage to leave me smiling.

Now think of Rom and Leeta. You’re scowling too, right? Shouldn’t they just be shunted out an airlock? I don’t think it’s possible for two people to get more annoying without surgery. They’re certainly not funny. They’re just stupid and geeky and help perpetuate the stereotype that Sci Fi is for dweebs.

The last problem that needs to be put right is one that has wormed it way through all of the episodes like an insidious weed, dragging the overall show quality down. Yep. It’s Vic Fontaine, DS9’s very own smarmy lounge lizard, dead set on teaching those crazy space kids about life, the universe and everything. Witness as Vic wanders through his virtual club with his “pallie” this and “pallie” that, providing down to earth insights that cut through the trappings of the 24th Century. What an incredible load of crap.

It’s not so much a question of Vic’s music. I love Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Tony Bennet and any other crooner you can name. But this stuff belongs on Star Trek about as much as Marlon Brando belongs on a Calvin Kline underwear billboard. The only reason writers include it in the show is to make it more “accessible” to the viewer.

When are they going to realize that viewers already feel a bond with the show and its characters because they exist in such a believable, seamless universe? If anything, Vic Fontaine and other little reminders of the 20th Century (like Odo reading Mike Hammer novels) detract from this believability.

Sadly, Deep Space Nine will soon be gone. But instead of spending the last season focusing on stories that will propel the series toward a climax worthy of the promise evident in the last six seasons, we’re getting episodes that not only don’t mean anything in a larger context, but that aren’t even very entertaining. Instead of continuing to chart the adult side of Star Trek’s touted idealism, we’re subjected to Dukat’s messianic delusions and Ezri’s space-sickness.

This isn’t to say all the episodes have been bad—Odo’s flight with the defective Weyoun and the crew’s standoff against the Jem’Hadar had me on the edge of my seat. And the character development of Nog has been nothing short of excellent. But when balanced against the rest, it’s just not enough.

When asked if the DS9 crew would graduate to the big screen, Paramount’s response was “probably not.” That means we have precious little time left with these characters. When all is said and done, I hope I’m still sorry to see them go.

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