Thursday, September 24, 2009

Classics: DS9 1:11 - Vortex

Overall Rating: 5.3

Odo's plight - no idea who he is or where he came from, living alone in a society that he fears will never accept his differences - is certainly one worth exploring, but DS9's writers never adequately captured the tragic elements of his story. In their second attempt, they produced a rather dull tale full of minor flaws.

Plot Synopsis:

A nefarious plot concocted by Quark and a mysterious new arrival to the station from the Gamma Quadrant named Croden goes awry when the Miradorn privateers they attempt to swindle with a staged robbery pull weapons, forcing a phaser fight that results in the death of one of them. As it turns out, twinned Miradorns are linked in some unspecified intimate way and the surviving brother makes it his mission to kill Croden for his treachery. Meanwhile, Odo interrogates his prisoner after he hints at knowledge about other changelings in the Gamma Quadrant. To keep him interested, Croden hands Odo a locket containing a small morphing stone which Bashir likens to a distant cousin. When Odo is ordered to take Croden back to his home world (Rakkar), he is pursued by the blood-thirsty Miradorn and the attack drives the pair into the Chamra Vortex. There, we learn that Croden has been lying about any real knowledge of changeling colonies, but we also learn why Croden is a criminal on his home world.

Writing: 5

I am, perhaps, too easily annoyed by minor holes in canon-based logic and by "on the nose" writing, both of which are present in abundance here. Not only is the episode lacking in emotional resonance despite the potentially powerful story of Odo's search for home, it's also riddled with minor inconsistencies. For example, when Odo is hit by rocks from a cave in, the writer apparently forgets that he's a changeling, because he is somehow knocked unconscious (as I understand changeling physiology, no part of his "morphogenic matrix" specializes in any one part of his life sustaining properties (in other words, if a large rock hits him, he should simply keep right on going since not every cell in his body is struck by the collision). And when he wakes up, he acts as though he is a human who has just been struck on the head. As far as I know, changelings don't get headaches because they HAVE NO HEAD! Not really, anyway.

I am further troubled by the writer's indecisiveness about whether Croden is to be viewed as a tragic hero or a killer (even if he's a killer with some redeeming qualities). The way he describes the crimes that led him to his current position makes him sound like a crazed serial killer - "Imagine my surprise when the gullets of the security officers were no more difficult to cut than the birds..." That's just creepy and downright unlikable, no matter what the circumstances. Croden is a liar, apparently habitually (because he's very good at it), and describes killing people as though he enjoyed doing it...and we're leaving his daughter in his capable hands...and we're supposed to feel good about it, because he was unfairly persecuted by his government? Am I the only one who finds this disturbing? This would be under the heading of the message except that the problem seems to be with the writing, not with the intended message.

The final quote from the episode is equally graceless..."Home...where is it? Some day we'll know...cousin." (Odo to the morphing stone) A little on the nose, wouldn't you say? This writer must have been having a bad week when he came up with this script, because this reads like something that a Freshman creative writing student at Berkeley would write. Mixed messages, inconsistent characters (the new ones, helps when you're a hack to have predefined characters to work with), on the nose dialogue and scientific flaws galore.

Acting: 6

Rene Auberjonois does his usual professional job as does Armin Shimmerman. The guest stars (particularly Croden) aren't very convincing, however. Some of this might be caused by the script deficiencies, but I thought Croden came across as a little too unemotional for a man who'd been through what he supposedly had. He reunites with his long lost daughter, Odo agrees to release him, and his reaction is to barely crack a smile? It wasn't a BAD performance, just, not a particularly moving one.

Message: 5

I'm not sure if there's much to discuss, morally, beyond my confusion over what Croden was supposed to represent. The lack of a message is a failing in my book...every story should be told for a reason. This one didn't seem to be motivated by anything other than a need to give Odo some screen time.


QUARK: "I assume we're free to go?"
SISKO: "Do we have enough evidence to hold them, Constable?"
QUARK: (defiantly smirking) "As Odo will inform you, I was just as concern as anyone else that this was a stolen objedar." (apologies of that word is misspelled...I don't speak French :) )
ODO: "Yes...strange, but it's true." (Quark starts to leave) "You know what else is strange? The fact that Croden had a Ferengi disruptor."
QUARK: "Available in many port!"
ODO: "It's also strange that he knew that the Miradorns were trying to sell you something of value."
ROM: "How dare you accuse my brother of setting up this robbery!"
ODO: "What an interesting theory!"
QUARK: "If that theory ever got out, I'd wake up DEAD one morning! So I'd appreciate you not spreading wild accusations." (drags Rom out with him) "You lobeless imbecile!"

I highlight that exchange because it does two things - once again demonstrates how good at his job Odo is, and allows us to enjoy the intrigue between Quark and Odo.

(after Quark is forced to reveal Odo's intended destination)
ROM: "Oooh, very clever, brother! Now he'll kill Croden AND Odo and we'll be in the clear!"
QUARK: (said almost hopefully) "Unless Odo gives up his prisoner..."
ROM: "Then Croden will tell Ahkel about out plan! We're dead...weeeee're dead!"
QUARK: "Calm down, you idiot. Odo's never going to give up his prisoner. He'll just get himself killed..."
ROM: "But that's a good thing, right?"
QUARK: (obviously annoyed) "Get out of here you lobeless halfwit! Get!"

Isn't it cute how much Quark wub's Odo? Aawwwww. :)


DS9 is not the only Trke to have this problem, but it seems Star Trek writers have problems visualizing how big the space they're using actually is. Supposedly the wormhole has existed for at least 10 thousand years. And this is now the third episode in which an alien species that has long had space travel has just stumbled on the "anomaly" at the same time we did while living within a few light years of it. If warp capable vessels are all busily traveling around a region that is apparently very close to dozens of star systems that support advanced intelligent species, how is it that all of them discovered the wormhole at the same time? On our side, the writers tried to explain how we just discovered it with the hand waving about it opening in the Denorios Belt, which is a "charged plasma field" that ships intentionally avoided. But if it's dangerous enough for ships to want to the heck are we running a space station there now with ships coming and going without any trouble? I don't think the writers thought it through enough, is my point. Either the wormhole is in a remote part of space not close to anyone who might accidentally find it, or it's in a part of space that's dangerous to fly through...those are the only explanations that work. But clearly it is neither remote, nor dangerous.

Final comments:

The fact that I cannot find a decent highlight from any scene involving Odo and Croden pretty much tells the story here. Dull episode with mediocre writing technique and no message. One of the weakest episodes of the 1st season.

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