Friday, September 25, 2009

Classics: DS9 1:14 – Progress

Plot Synopsis:

As the Bajoran government prepares to tap a neighboring moon for its desperately needed energy reserves, Kira discovers that a few residents were overlooked in the general evacuation. Beaming down to see to this oversight, she comes to identify with Mullibok, a grizzled old farmer who stubbornly refuses to leave what has become his home. When Mullibok is injured in a failed evacuation attempt, Kira, who is already questioning her government’s approach, disobeys her orders to stay behind and care for him. Sisko, wisely recognizing the sympathies driving his first officer, gently reminds her that her duty is to all of Bajor, and Kira, heartbroken, ultimately does what she has to do to save Mullibok’s life. Meanwhile, Jake and Nog conduct a series of trades in pursuit of “opportunity.”

The Ratings:

Overall: 8.7 – Only a failure to fully develop the episode’s principal dilemma prevents this episode from being perfect.

Writing: 8

My late grandfather was famous for claiming that he and his friends once single-handedly captured an entire regiment of German soldiers in the closing months of World War II – a highly dubious claim, naturally, but a claim of a sort that’s very common among grandfathers of every background. Mullibok, the central figure of this episode, evokes that proud grandfather figure who has fun weaving tales of adventure and triumph over adversity – with, of course, quite a few exaggerations and embellishments along the way. He makes you smile in spite of yourself; you feel simultaneously angry with him and sympathetic to his plight, for however unreliable his anecdotes might be, it is definitely apparent that he has suffered and has tenaciously overcome that suffering to build a life and a home for himself. This is very skilled characterization – but that is a signature characteristic of a Peter Allan Fields script, as is rich – and often funny – dialogue. The highlights section in this review is long for a reason.

Progress does fall short of the very high scoring episodes we will be reviewing shortly, however, because it does not provide us with a tangible sense of the 100,000 Bajorans who are depending on Mullibok’s personal sacrifice. As a general rule, I accept that the few must sometimes sacrifice their desires for the good of the many – it’s one of the trade-offs inherent in living in society - but a few more lines of dialogue could’ve clarified why phased energy retrieval was not a viable option – why the energy stored in Jeraddo was needed so urgently. Some mention of the current state of Bajor’s energy reserves and a description of the lethality of a Bajoran winter would’ve helped this episode a great deal.

Acting: 9

Nana Visitor and Brian Keith (Mullibok) are this episode’s core performers, and they struck very few - if any - wrong notes.

Message: 9

Governments must make decisions every day that subordinate the needs of the minority to the needs of the majority. But if you believe that each individual human life is of infinite dignity and value, these trade-offs should sometimes feel uncomfortable - and political conservatives in particular should especially feel uncomfortable when the force of the state is employed. Laudably, this episode is shot through with this required sense of discomfort to the very end.

In the meantime, this episode also has a subplot that makes the case for capitalism. As with the previous episode, The Storyteller, the pursuit of opportunity is portrayed as a fulfillment of a series of desires – and in the end, everyone profits.


“But you know those seven or eight little wiry hairs that come out of his forehead?”
“Well, they make him look kind of cute.” – Dax re: Morn. Kira’s reaction take is hilarious.

“You’re halfway pretty.”
“Does that mean I can come in?”
“No. No, I don’t like uniforms either. I’m scared of them. See, we had our fill of uniformed bullies.”
“I’m no Cardassian. You know you were supposed to be out of here by now.”
“All I know is this farm, girl. Now, if you want proof, just look at my crop.”
“Ah – I’d rather you didn’t call me girl.”

“You know, you look real good even from this angle. But you know something? You walk like a carnivorous rastapod.”
“Now, look-” (Then Kira comes to a realization.) “You’re trying to make me mad.”
“How am I doing?”
“Not well enough to get rid of me.”

“You look like a bit of a fighter yourself.”
“Well, on Bajor, we had to be.”
“To get rid of the Cardassians, eh? Mindless butchers.”
“We paid them back.”
“I bet you did! They probably didn’t know what hit ‘em. I’m sorry I missed the fun.”
“Must’ve been like spearing kandipers in a bottle.”
“Wait a minute – are you serious? You know what the Cardassians were like – what weapons they had. We didn’t stand a chance against them!”
“How’d you beat ‘em, then?”
“Well, we beat them because… because we hung on like fanatics.”
“Hung on like fanatics. I gotta remember that.”

“Don’t make us take you by force! Please! I promise you, it won’t be so bad. You can plant whatever you want to on Bajor – stay by yourself if you want to, that’s fine. Take some seeds with you for those terrible roots I had to eat. Just… listen to reason.”
“Listen to yourself, Major. Tell me what you hear.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I mean you sound like a two-headed Malgorian I knew when I was a boy. You ever try to talk to a two-headed Malgorian?”
“This is no time for one of your stories.”
“See, the thing with two-headed Malgorians is, it can never figure out what it wants to do – and that can be very confusing, believe me.”
“You know, eventually, you’re going to have to stop talking and deal with this.”
And - the trouble with my Malgorian friend was, he had all kinds of problems, and he couldn’t figure out how to solve ‘em, and so he always came to me, you see?”
“You know what I finally said to that Malgorian? ‘Fellas – deal with it yourselves.’”

“He doesn’t have latinum. Exchange for something.”
“I don’t want ‘something.’ I want latinum.”
“I can’t hear you. Can I interest you in a piece of land?”
“Land is good!”
“For what? It’s nothing but dirt.
“How much land?”
“I can let you have seven tessapates.”
“Seven sounds good.”
“First yamok sauce, then stembolts, and now tessapates – and still no profit!”
“We’re getting closer – I can feel it.”
“You can?”
“I think so.”
(Then, after the deal is concluded, Jake attempts to console Nog:)

“Another uniform.”
“Dr. Julian Bashir, Starfleet. Major Kira sent for me.”
“Oh, she did, did she? You’re backwards, Nerys - I told you.”

“She didn’t offer a word of explanation, sir. She simply removed her uniform tunic and started… building.”
“Well, doctor – right now she stands a pretty good chance of being out of uniform permanently. I’m going to tell Minister Terran that she’s remained temporarily on Jeraddo at your request.”
“But, sir – that isn’t true.”
“Make it true, doctor. Now, please.” – Wisely, Sisko decides to buy time for Kira.

“What are they gonna do to you for staying here?”
“Probably the same thing they’re going to do to you. I don’t really know.”
“What are you so angry about?”
“I don’t really know… When I was very small, I remember there was this tree right outside my window. It was ugliest, most gnarled and battered old tree I’d ever seen. Even the birds stayed away from it.”
“But you loved it, eh?”
“I hated it – because it had grown so huge, its branches blocked out the sun for kelipates – and its roots buried themselves so deep in the soil that nothing else could grow there. Oh, it was a big, selfish, annoying-”
“Nasty – nasty old tree.”
“Sounds to me like it had a lot of character.”
“A lot.”
“So what happened? You cut it down?”
“I don’t know yet.” – Kira tells Mullibok how she feels in Mullibok’s own language – the language of fable.

“Look – I understand you’re used to sympathizing with the underdog. You spent your entire life fighting against impossible odds, just like he’s doing. But you have to realize something, Major – you’re on the other side now. Pretty uncomfortable, isn’t it?”
“It’s awful.”
“When I first met you, Major, I thought you were hostile and arrogant – but I was wrong. Bajor needs you, and I need you. I like you, and I don’t want you to be hurt. So – as a friend, I’m here to remind you that his fate has already been decided. Yours hasn’t.” – This is a continuation of a thread that is woven throughout the first season: Sisko and Kira coming to respect and care for each other.

“What the hell are you doing?”
“Saving your life.”
(Then, after Kira lights Mullibok’s cottage on fire:)
“So you chose your uniform over me after all.”
“That’s not true. The time we’ve spent here has meant so much to me – but it’s time we move on with our lives, yours and mine.”
“You say you’re my friend. Prove it. Use that weapon on me.”
“… I can’t.”
“If I leave here, I’ll die.”
“No, you won’t. I won’t let you.” - But in the end, Mullibok turns away. It is not a happy ending.

1 comment:

  1. You can certainly feel the show picking up momentum now. Fewer really bad episodes and more of its own fact the rest of first season there is not one episode that I don't enjoy on some level and the horrid missteps get more and more rare with time.

    It's hard not to get excited about this series when the characters are already growing and changing and it's only 14 episodes old. The same cannot be said for any Trek series other than DS9