Thursday, September 24, 2009

Classics: DS9 1:13 - The Storyteller

Overall Rating: 7.4

This episode, rather than having a primary and secondary plot, has two stories sharing equal screen time. The story that lends the episode its title is a little hokey, but kind of endearing in its own way. The other story is full of great moments and sends two very nice messages which I'll discuss shortly.

Plot Synopsis:

DS9 has received a distress call from a village on Bajor. Bashir and a very reluctant O'Brien are dispatched to answer their request for emergency medical assistance and upon their arrival, the village champion - the Sirah - a dying elder and the source of the medical emergency - proclaims that O'Brien has been sent by the Prophets to protect his people. He and Bashir must learn about the enemy of the village - the Dal'Rok - or the village will be destroyed the next evening. O'Brien's efforts are interrupted when the Sirah's apprentice attempts to kill him, and after he is disarmed, he reveals his intention to tell the story and the reason the Sirah chose not to trust him.

Meanwhile, on the station, delegates from two rival tribes - the Paqu and the Navot - in a remote an inhospitable part of Bajor convene in an attempt to settle a territorial dispute with the assistance of Commander Sisko. Upon their arrival, Sisko is startled to learn that the Paqu representative - Varis Sul - is a teenage girl. Her age makes her completely unwilling to compromise for fear of being made to seem weak by the other side. That is, until she meets Jake Sisko and Nog. She learns from Jake that his father is a trustworthy, honorable man. And from Nog, she discovers the value of profit-motivated compromise. The two also teach her a little bit about being a kid again.

Writing: 7.5

There are a lot of very nicely crafted moments in this episode. From a writing standpoint, we begin to establish the relationship between Bashir and O'Brien, we enjoy the character-specific strengths of Nog and Jake, and the author (Kurt Michael Bensmiller) shows a pretty nuanced feel for all of the characters in his story. DS9's unique ability to allow us to see the virtues in character traits (like Nog's acquisitive streak and Bashir's persistence) that might otherwise be viewed in a negative light never ceases to amaze me.

Acting: 6

The script was perhaps betrayed a bit by some of the background acting. The story occurring on Bajor is filled with some rather unappealing overacting (even Colm Meaney gives a pretty uneven performance, and that's rare). Unfortunately, Gina Philips' portrayal of Varis is a uninspired too, or this could have been a much more meaningful episode. Big props to Cirroc Lofton, Avery Brooks and Aaron Eisenberg for saving this episode from a much worse score on the acting front. Avery is always better when he's playing the cool, calm and collected leadership role, and Cirroc and Aaron have always played well together.

Message: 8.7

Stephanie S. commented (quite rightly) that it was inspiring to see Jake act as a sort of missionary and bring a more enlightened western philosophy on education to his friend in need with love and understanding. By the same token, it is equally refreshing to see Nog bring the virtues of his own race as skilled survivors and negotiators to the table to resolve a major dispute...we'll see in our next episode (Progress) that some of Nog's better qualities are rubbing off on Jake too. The writer of this episode managed to slip in the key message that capitalism WORKS. A decades-long feud over land between rival tribes is resolved by a classic tenet of capitalism. You have something I want...I have something you want...let's trade.

Meanwhile, the other story, while not quite as interesting to me, carried a DS9 twist on a Trek trope. Many times, the role of religious icon has been thrust upon an unwilling Starfleet officer - generally resulting in a big anti-spiritual rant followed by a big reveal scene that proves to the natives that we are not Gods and that they should stop believing in things other than themselves. This time, however, the apparently impossible spiritual phenomenon (the Dal'Rok) is never scientifically explained, the faithful townspeople go right on being faithful, and the Starfleet Officer spends the entire episode - despite his own skepticism - respecting their customs and doing his best to live by them while trapped in his uncomfortable predicament. Even so, he manages to stay faithful to his wife in the face of what had to be a rather tempting offer by three young Bajoran girls from the village. :) It's enough to draw an eyebrow raise from me, at the very least.


ODO: "Mr. Sisko! Nog! What have I told about dangling over the Promenade?"
JAKE: "We're not going to fall, Odo. The view is better from down here."
ODO: "And what, may I ask, is so fascinating today?"
JAKE: (sigh) "Nothing."
ODO: "Well can view nothing just as well from up here. Now...on your feet!" They reluctantly stand and Odo nods and exits. They immediately sit back down. :)

QUARK: "Let's see...two synthales, a glass of Sorian brandy..." (affects a really patronizing tone) "...and a Trixian bubble juice for the little lady."
VARIS: "I am NOT a little lady!" (throws the drink in Quark's face)
QUARK: "I'm still charging her for that drink." - hee

FAREN: "Gifts! For the Sirah!"
O'BRIEN: "Tell them I don't want them!"
BASHIR: "Come in...put them anywhere you like." O'Brien glares angrily at Bashir. "We're guests here, Chief. We can't insult them by refusing their hospitality." (said with an evil smirk - Bashir loves attention...even when it's attention paid to a colleague...LOL Three young women arrive to offer themselves to the Sirah)
O'BRIEN: "Can I help you ladies?"
BASHIR: "I think they're the ones who are offering their services, Chief." (O'Brien VISIBLY blushes...LOL!!)

JAKE: What's wrong? You seem kind of depressed."
VARIS: "Oh it's nothing. There are these people...they want something of mine and I don't want to give it up."
NOG: "How badly do they want it?"
VARIS: (thoughtfully) "Very badly."
NOG: "Do they have anything that you want?"
VARIS: "That...I?...want?"
NOG: "Maybe this doesn't have to be a problem. Maybe it's an opportunity!" - awesome

ODO: (following the oatmeal stunt) "Let's go gentlemen! You two are going to clean every inch of the security office until it shines!" - heh


One thing I have to point out regarding the Dal'Rok. I know it's a mystical thing and cannot be explained by science, but it doesn't make sense for the creature to be able to affect the physical world enough to leave traces of its destructive power behind in the form of neutrinos (as O'Brien observes while trying to figure out how the creature works), but not be detectable in any way while it's actually attacking the village. Either it's leaving traces or it's not. Make up your minds!

Closing Comments:

I used to be underwhelmed by this episode, but I have developed an appreciation for it over time...perhaps because I am viewing Trek with a more critical eye when it comes to the messages it sends and this episode is a welcome break from the liberal Hollywood agenda. It's nothing special, but it has a certain charm and the ratings reflect that.

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