The first episode of DS9's magnum opus - a ten-part war arc that concludes the show with gusto - is pretty uneven. Lots to enjoy but lots that feels forced to me.
A pithy synopsis can be found here, courtesy of the all-knowing Wikipedia.
First the good stuff:
- I love the interplay between Damar and Weyoun as usual. Damar is a brilliantly written character and he gets in some of the best lines of the episode taking pot shots at the wayward religion of the Dominion.
- Ezri is very sweet in this episode. Nicole DeBoer, to her credit, plays nausea better than anyone else in Trek history. I seriously almost feel like I'm going to hurl watching her act space sick while sitting still on a sound stage in front of a twisting camera. LOL Her initial confusion over how to feel about Worf is very understandable, not that I approve of that line in the plot (more on that in a moment). But once you make the decision to go down that road, the execution in the dialogue and acting is very good.
- Sisko's almost boyish reverence for Bajor is quite a thing to behold, and his interactions with Kassidy Yates are charming. I also like that Sisko's vision is treated with appropriate weight and that Kira is now his go-to adviser on spiritual matters.
- Talk about some classy writing on the part of Rene Echevarria. For the most part, the characters are right where they should be here, right down to Quark lovingly comforting Ezri while the Defiant searches for Worf. When Echevarria misfires on a script, it's never because he screws up a character's motivation.
Now...the not-so-good stuff:
- The whole Ezri/Worf sexual tension thing seems to come right the hell out of nowhere. Did we see Ezri and Worf tempted to boink in any other episode of the seventh season? And um...should't Dax have been condemned to exile from Trill after re-association with a previous host's husband? It's not poorly written per say...but...why do this at all? Your ultimate plan is to hook Ezri up with Julian (which also appears to come right the hell out of nowhere, but that's for another episode), and in this episode, your plan is to get Ezri and Worf captured by the Breen. So...why bother with the giggity? I don't really see the need.
- The graphic they showed to convey the likely course of an escape pod from the Koraga was laughably bad. I shouldn't notice these things, but in this case I do because it leads to Ezri's search tactic (a tactic that also doesn't make sense IMHO, because the currents in the badlands are supposedly CHAOTIC, rendering sensors useless...chaotic currents won't lead you to the same place twice!). Thanks for that swath arrow thing that's bigger than the Koraga, Computer. Good to see that 24th century tech is no better at forecasting flight paths than, say, a TI-82 calculator.
- Speaking of sensor interference...um...why the hell can the Dominion see with perfect clarity everything that is going on in the Badlands? Just saying...even if they're smarter and have better sensors, chaotic plasma storms are still chaotic plasma storms!
- Overall, the episode feels a little on the sluggish side. It's a funny way to launch an epic war arc...a series of minor personal issues (in the grand scheme of things) isn't exactly the ideal choice for how to spend one of your final ten hours when you have so much you need to accomplish.
- I don't really like the montage of thoughts that they used while Ezri was stalking Worf in his quarters (oh...how does a junior officer have the code to break into a senior officer's quarters? Do medical personnel get that code for everyone?)...I think it would have been more poignant if we had watched her in silence and given her the chance to show what she's feeling, rather than having the thoughts tell us.
I would say that this is weak for a transition/set-up piece despite being written ably and having a lot of enjoyable little moments peppered throughout it. Hence the par score.
As I said, Penumbra is well-written...it just isn't ambitious enough for my taste and the romantic plot makes little sense to me despite the fact that both characters involved are acting like themselves throughout.
The acting is solid as well...Nicole DeBoer does a well above-par job with her weighty content, as does Avery Brooks.
No messages are delivered quite yet...the brief romantic entanglement is better-handled in later episodes and Sisko's defiance of the Prophets is better handled in the final two-part episode.