Fri
Jun 21 2013 3:00pm

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Dramatis Personae”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Dramatis Personae“Dramatis Personae”
Written by Joe Menosky
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 1, Episode 17
Production episode 40511-418
Original air date: May 30, 1993
Stardate: 46922.3

Station log: Kira is recommending against Sisko allowing Valerians to dock at the station because they provided the Cardassians with arms they used against the Bajorans during the occupation. She thinks they’re still running weapons, and wants to search the Valerian ships. But Sisko can’t allow that without evidence. If she can give him some, then the Federation can put diplomatic pressure on the Valerians. Kira is skeptical, but she’s willing to try it Sisko’s way. To that end, she gets a report from Odo on the Valerian captain.

A Klingon ship comes through the wormhole from a survey in the Gamma Quadrant a month ahead of schedule, and as soon as it clears the event horizon, it explodes. The first officer beams off just as the ship goes boom, says, “Victory!” and then dies on the transporter pad, having taken multiple disruptor hits. Sisko sends Dax and O’Brien to take a runabout to investigate the debris and try to find the Klingon ship’s mission recorder. (Dax delays getting up to leave, seemingly lost in a private joke of some kind.)

Kira delays letting the Valerians dock until she finishes a background check on the ship—it’s made two of the three stops it used to make when it was running weapons for the Cardassians, and if she can confirm that it made the third stop, she’ll have the evidence Sisko demanded—but Sisko won’t allow her to delay the docking procedure.

Odo gets Quark to admit that the Klingons thought they’d be coming back through the wormhole with a weapon that would make their enemies tremble—then Odo has a kind of seizure and collapses. Bashir examines him, but he has no idea what Odo’s body chemistry is supposed to be like, so he’s relieved when Odo wakes up. Bashir then expresses concern about “the Valerian situation,” speculating that the “uneasy alliance” on the station will fall apart soon.

Kira interrupts Sisko, who’s working on something on his desk that he doesn’t want to show Kira. She says she has the proof that the Valerians are arming the Cardassians. She plans to send an armed party onto the Valerian ship, but Sisko won’t let her; she comes within a hairs breadth of challenging his authority, but she backs down—for now.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Dramatis Personae

Dax and O’Brien search for the flight recorder, and O’Brien expresses concern to Dax about the Bajorans getting all uppity and stuff and militantly states that anyone who’s against Sisko is against him. Dax, for her part, is barely interested in the conversation, and seems to be lost in her own world.

Kira goes to Odo and asks him to infiltrate the Valerian ship, but he sees through her claim that Sisko authorized it in short order. Kira backs off from her attempted mutiny, but reminds Odo who his friends are in case he has to choose sides.

The flight recorder is badly damaged, though there is a mention of the captain going insane and executing two officers. Kira speculates that the mission went badly; Sisko looks bored, and has no interest in finding out what happened, retreating back to his office and making it clear that, whatever they find, they should not bother him with it.

In Quark’s, Dax has a drink and is approached by Kira, who basically tries to recruit her for her side in a manner that is almost flirtatious. She also makes it clear that she’s determined to get rid of Sisko, and she doesn’t want to have to get rid of Dax as well. After throwing an eavesdropping Quark into a wall, she leaves.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Dramatis Personae

Quark, now in a neck brace, reports Kira’s actions to Odo. Odo then goes to ops to find O’Brien in Sisko’s office—Sisko’s in his quarters where it’s “safe.” The Klingon first officer’s log seems to be about a power struggle between him and the captain. Odo goes to Sisko’s quarters—where two Starfleet guards have been assigned by O’Brien—and reports the abnormality of several officers’ behaviors. But Sisko is too busy sketching a design for a clock and doesn’t seem to give a good goddamn.

Kira is in Odo’s office, making it clear that she intends to get rid of Sisko and O’Brien and either get a Starfleet commander they can control or they’ll go it alone. After she leaves, Odo tries to contact Starfleet Command, but communication with Federation space has been restricted by Kira. When he tries to contact Bajor, the computer tells him that communication with Bajor has been restricted by O’Brien.

The computer has completed the reconstruction of the first officer’s logs. Odo finds the one entry that specifically mentions contact with an alien species: they found energy spheres that appear to be a telepathic archive of a culture called the Saltah’na, which destroyed itself in a power struggle.

Sisko’s back in his office, now building the clock he sketched, and O’Brien is expressing concern over Kira’s locking down the Valerian ship and taking control of half the station. Sisko orders the arrest of Kira and every Bajoran officer, but O’Brien points out that they’re outnumbered. He suggests a strategic retreat, and coming back with a large Federation force. The Valerian captain has agreed to provide transport for Sisko, O’Brien, and those loyal to them back to Federation space.

Odo walks in on Bashir giving something to a Bajoran officer. Bashir is still cautioning Odo about choosing sides, and Odo plays along, saying that his autopsy on the Klingon could determine who controls the station. Bashir reveals an anomaly in the Klingon’s brain that could be accounted for by telepathic intrusion, leading Odo to theorize that the Klingons’ brains “downloaded” the Saltahn’an power struggle from the telepathic archive they discovered, and they reenacted it, and now the same thing’s happening on the station. Odo wasn’t affected because he doesn’t have a normal humanoid brain. Odo convinces Bashir to find a cure for this malady as it would give them an advantage in the power struggle.

In ops, the Bajoran who met with Bashir tries to assassinate Sisko. O’Brien warns him in time. Dax tries to contact Kira, but O’Brien backhands her while Sisko beats the holy hell out of the would-be assassin. That’s when Kira makes her move, showing up in ops with a couple of armed Bajoran Militia people to take over. O’Brien, though, beams himself and Sisko off ops. Kira’s blocked the Valerian ship with force fields, so they wind up in a corridor. Hoping they can trust Odo, Sisko and O’Brien ask him to help them get to the ship—Odo gives them a route to take through cargo bay 4. Kira then wants to know why Odo is lowering force fields, and he tells Kira that he’s leading O’Brien and Sisko into a trap in cargo bay 4 for her. Bashir, admiring Odo’s duplicity, says he’s set up an interference pattern in the cargo bay that will get rid of the telepathic matrix.

Kira and Dax confront Sisko and O’Brien in the cargo bay. As they face off, Odo and Bashir enter the bay and Odo activates a program. Energy comes out of all their heads, which Odo then blows out of the cargo bay by opening the doors.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Dramatis Personae

Everyone and everything is back to normal. Kira feels the need to apologize, but Sisko agrees to let it go—this time.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity?: Dolamide can be used as a weapon only in its purest form. When it’s less pure, it has other, more mundane uses, which is why Sisko is reluctant to go after the Valerians just for that.

Also, explosive decompression can be withstood if you hold loosely onto a crate. Right.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Dramatis Personae

The Sisko is of Bajor: The telepathic matrix turns Sisko into an obsessive-compulsive, and easily distracted, leader. Writer Joe Menosky patterned him in part after the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II.

Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira uses all the charisma at her disposal to get Odo and Dax on her side, including some pretty obvious flirting with the latter. (She seems to flirt with Odo a bit, too, but quickly changes tacks when it doesn’t work.)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Dramatis Personae

For Cardassia!: Kira is legitimately concerned that the Valerians are still providing weapons-grade dolamide to the Cardassians and that they might use it against the Bajorans again. This provides the telepathic matrix with a basis for the conflict between her and Sisko.

The slug in your belly: The telepathic matrix turns Dax into an easily distracted older person who barely makes any sense. On four different occasions, she starts to reminisce about some old story from her past, only to be interrupted.

Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: When Odo hangs onto the console in the cargo bay when he opens the doors, why does he just use humanoid hands? Why not shift his arm into a lasso or something to wrap around the console so he’s guaranteed not to be blown into space?

Keep your ears open: “Did you really build that?”

“Apparently so.”

“Why?”

“I have no idea.”

Kira and Sisko on the clock the latter built while under the influence of the telepathic matrix.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Dramatis Personae

Welcome aboard: Tom Towles plays the Klingon; he’ll be back in Voyager’s “Rise” as Dr. Vatm. Randy Pflug, a regular background extra on both TNG and DS9, got a line for once as the guard outside Sisko’s door, while longtime stuntman Jeff Pruitt got to try to kill Sisko as the Bajoran junior officer.

Trivial matters: This is the first Star Trek title in Latin. It is far from the last. TNG will do “Sub Rosa” in its seventh season, Voyager will give us “Ex Post Facto” and “Non Sequitur,” Enterprise will do “Terra Nova” and “Vox Sola,” and DS9 will in the seventh season provide us with the classic, “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges.”

The clock Sisko builds will continue to be seen in the background of his office.

This is Joe Menosky’s first time writing for DS9 (and his only solo effort for the show), and also Cliff Bole’s first time directing for DS9. Both are veterans of TNG, and both will continue to work for this show and Voyager.

Dax and O’Brien mention that Keiko has taken her schoolkids on a field trip to Bajor, which conveniently keeps O’Brien’s wife and Sisko’s son from having to deal with them being weird.

An early example of the Valerians supplying dolamide for the Cardassians shortly after the occupation of Bajor began is seen in the Terok Nor novel Night of the Wolves by S.D. Perry & Britta Dennison. However, that is the only other mention of dolamide, possibly because saying it out loud makes it sounds way too much like the 1975 Rudy Ray Moore blaxploitation film.

Walk with the Prophets: “Put the shoe on the right foot first, but put the left foot first into the bathtub.” Yet another Joe Menosky weird-ass culture that communicates in ways that we have trouble understanding (cf. “Darmok,” “Masks”), this one is entertaining to watch while it happens, but really kind of falls apart upon examination. It doesn’t help that—like so many of Menosky’s scripts—the practical consequences are brushed aside, which is even more of an issue on a space station than it would be on a ship. The Enterprise is a closed, isolated community. Deep Space 9 is a port of call with ships coming and going all the time, plus it’s tethered to a planet in Bajor, even though it’s not directly in orbit of it.

Which makes it hard for me to believe that the ops crew was able to be this crazy for this long without anyone noticing. The station just has too many external elements for that to be in any way convincing. Somebody besides Odo should’ve been able to step in and say, “now cut that out.”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Dramatis Personae

Having said that, it’s a very entertaining acting exercise for the cast. Avery Brooks and Nana Visitor in particular shine, the former as a slightly crazed despot leaving no piece of scenery unchewed, the latter perhaps warming up for her role as the Intendant in the Mirror Universe episodes as a slinky, plotting, scheming, flirtatious Kira. Siddig el Fadil instantly makes himself more mature and devious, and I was incredibly entertained by Terry Farrell’s senile-old-man act (I especially love the way she was never able to finish any of her stories about the past). The only weak link is Colm Meaney, oddly enough, who pretty much acts like O’Brien often does when he’s cranky (there’s not much difference between this O’Brien and the sleep-deprived one we saw in “Night Terrors” on TNG).

DS9 also continues to be the only Trek show that understands the function of security chief and allows that person to be competent. The job is more cop than soldier, but neither Yar nor Worf nor Tuvok nor Reed were treated as much other than the guys who fire the weapons. Freed from that responsibility by virtue of the show’s structure, Odo gets to actually be more of the cop the role often requires him to be, and Rene Auberjonois beautifully plays it as Odo has to figure out what’s going on, and play all three sides (Sisko’s, Kira’s, and Bashir’s) against each other so he can get them into the cargo bay to make the technobabble work.

So ultimately an episode that doesn’t really mean much in the grand scheme of things, and doesn’t make a lot of sense when you think about, but is also tremendous fun to watch.

 

Warp factor rating: 5


Keith R.A. DeCandido is one of the guests at PortConMaine in Portland this weekend. If you’re in Maine’s capital, come see him!

41 comments
Alright Then
1. Alright Then
I want that clock!
Nick Hlavacek
2. Nick31
Isn't it convenient that the telepathic alien entities are a) only attached to the command crew and b) corporeal enough to be sucked out into space with the cargo bay atmosphere? The summary here is exactly right, except I'd' add completely forgettable to the mix and give it a solid "meh" for a rating.
Christopher Bennett
3. ChristopherLBennett
I guess it's not surprising that this is a Menosky episode, since it's another of his stories where the enemy is an archetype or abstraction reified by technology -- in this case, a slew of personality archetypes. But you're right -- aside from being a good acting exercise for the cast, it's not much of a story. There's no real reason to care about it when the motivations driving the conflict have nothing to do with who the characters actually are. There are so many legitimate bases for conflict among these characters, and it's early enough for the trust among them to be less than complete, that this could've been far more powerful if there'd been some genuine Federation/Bajoran conflict of interest that had driven Kira to the point of mutiny.

It is a nice twist that, instead of having two characters conveniently immune from the evil space thingie so they can have dialogue about how to fix it (e.g. Odo and Quark in "Babel"), here there's just one unaffected character but he's able to manipulate one of the affected characters into helping him solve the problem. It lets us see Odo's devious side.
George Salt
4. GeorgeSalt
This episode reminded me of The Naked Time/The Naked Now in that it was an opportunity for everyone to play out of character for an episode. It was probably a lot of fun for the cast. Colm Meaney is the only member of the regular cast who didn't take this opportunity to have some fun with his character.

I didn't find the "telepathic infection" very interesting as it's a stock TV sci-fi scenario that's been done so many times before.

Is the first season over yet? Watching it again after so many years, the first season seems much weaker than I remember.
David Levinson
6. DemetriosX
A terrible story made semi-palatable by decent acting. I think, though, that a lot of this would have been more effective if we'd been more familiar with the crew. Yes, we are well into the season, but the personalities of the crew and the ways in which the actors portray them are really only just beginning to solidify. As a result, the personality changes only leave us befuddled, which makes it harder to really be interested in what's going on.
Joseph Newton
7. crzydroid
I think the story could've been a little more interesting if I didn't feel it had been done to death in sci fi shows. Granted, some of the episodes that have this kind of story may have originally appeared after this one, but I've still seen them before.

At one point it was mentioned that everyone in Ops was affected, and this is given credence by the random assassinating Bajoran. Yet, only the principal cast was in the cargo bay. So what about the rest of the random people in Ops? Also, they just diffuse these entities into space. Is that a good idea? Also, like you say, what did those security officer's outside Sisko's door think was going on? Did they know it was protection against Kira?

I've decided I wouldn't want to live in the Star Trek universe. It's one thing when the Enterprise was always running into this crazy types of things, but now we're on a space station with a lot of traffic coming through. Why would I ever want to dock my ship on DS9 when it might be locked down for the random crazy encounter of the week. As much as I sometimes like the strange sci fi (or fantasy, if you will) stories (I think I did moreso in my youth), it makes me appreciate stories like "Progress," because at least those episodes craft an interesting story that fits within the realm of routine operations.

It was interesting to see the origin of the clock though.
Joseph Newton
8. crzydroid
Wow, kudos to the mod for slicing out the spam @5 so quickly.
Alright Then
9. Kyle A.
I always wondered what the deal with Bashir in this episode was. He didn't seem to be taking sides, but he was obsessed with the goings on and seemed to be acting weirder than usual, even if he seemed "neutral" in the conflict.

@4. The First season has 2 more episodes and the recap. But the next episode to be recapped is considered to be the best of the series. So, take heart. It gets better.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
10. Lisamarie
This was really meh for me, maybe because I felt like we'd seen it before in 'Masks' (although that one hadn't aired yet if I am remembering correctly) or episodes like 'The Naked Now' - another chance for the crew to act like NOT the crew, instead of seeing who the characters really are. I agree it was a fun acting exercise, but that's about it.

Also, it was yet another variation on a 'Data saves the ship' plot because he isn't affected by whatever crazy thing is going on, except without Data. And I am finding through this rewatch (first time watch for me) that I am SORELY missing Data. I do like Odo a lot, don't get me wrong. I am just feeling like I want to cozy up with some TNG episodes though ;)
Alright Then
11. critter42
krad, something you mentioned bring up a question. When you talk about the actor playing Bashir, are you going to refer to him as Siddig El Fadil until his name changes in the credits?
Christopher Bennett
12. ChristopherLBennett
@4 & 10: The difference between this and "The Naked Time/Now" is that those episodes were about removing the characters' inhibitions and bringing out their own personalities -- along the lines of the saying that you never truly know a person until you've seen them drunk. So in those cases, the stories were about exploring and revealing the characters, stripping them bare and getting at the core of what motivated them.

But this is about suppressing the characters' own personalities and having the actors play out a conflict among a completely unrelated group of beings, ones that we'll never see again. So we don't learn anything about the characters here. It isn't even really about them. It's basically just an acting exercise for the cast.
Alright Then
13. RichF
For some reason this episode reminded me of TNG "Power Play", where crew members are taken over by the non-corporeal alien du jour, except for one who is immune (Riker in this case).
Cain Latrani
14. CainS.Latrani
Dolamide can be used as a weapon only in its purest form.

I was hoping I wasn't the only person who saw that and went, wait, what?

Cause, I really cannot watch this episode without snickering like a loon because of that.
Cain Latrani
16. CainS.Latrani
@15: This part.

However, that is the only other mention of dolamide, possibly because saying it out loud makes it sounds way too much like the 1975 Rudy Ray Moore blaxploitation film.
Alright Then
17. RYON_P_CO
An enjoyable episode that is pretty much empty and one certainly has to suspend disbelief for a lot of it. As with a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, if you just buy into it and not try an over think this episode it is truly enjoyable. Seriously, do anyone know where the clock is? Has it ever been auctioned off? I tried a quick google search and did not turn up anything. If the money from an auction went to a good enough cause I would easily give four figures for it.
Alright Then
18. RYON_P_CO
Wow. I apologize for my terrible grammar and spelling.
Alright Then
19. Scavenger
I think, though, that a lot of this would have been more effective if we'd been more familiar with the crew.
My friends and I had a joke when this aired...

ODO: "Commander, something's happened and everyone's personalities have changed!"
SISKO: "Constable, you handle it, I don't care."
ODO: "Good, Sisko is unaffected."
Mike Kelmachter
20. MikeKelm
First I need to do the rare correction of our hero, Keith... the capital of Maine is Augusta, not Portland. Please open your eighth grade textbook to page 135...

Second, this again seemed like a generic Star Trek story with everyone loses their identities and fight against each other. This is TNG "Conundrum" again... *POOF* Everyone is someone else and hilarity will ensue. Even late in season 1, the writers still haven't fully crafted the DS9 identity. As you pointed out, this is a active spaceport around an important planet.... someone else besides Odo should notice that Sisko is out to lunch, O'Brien is paranoid, Kira is trying to seduce everyone and Dax has alzheimers... But apparently this was the week nobody felt like coming to the station...

I did like that Kira still hadn't stopped trying to get revenge for the occupation. My concern was that by the end of the season she was going to have entered the shiny happy forgiving starfleet mentality, but this is one of DS9's strengths. Not everybody on the station is pulling on the same oar... Sisko and the Starfleet personnel are trying to operate a starbase and get Bajor ready for admission to the Federation. Kira and the Bajorans on the other hand have additional motives. They dont always mix very well...
George Salt
21. GeorgeSalt
@12: In the "The Naked Time/Now" the crew behaved liked drunken sots; here they behaved liked they were high on crystal meth. This didn't strike me as an alien posssesion story. The crew was under the influence of the "telepathic archive" or "telepathic matrix" or mind virus or whatever but I didn't get the sense that they completely lost their identities and became different people. They still called each other by their real names and did not assume the names of Saltah’nan entities.

None of it made much sense. I was just another weird story from Joe Menosky.
Christopher Bennett
22. ChristopherLBennett
@21: Sure, they still believed they were the same people, but they were being manipulated to adopt the archetypal roles (Menosky and his archetypes) imposed on them by the archive. That's the point of the title. "Dramatis Personae" is the heading used for the listing of characters in a play. The ops crew were being made to act out their scripted roles in a predetermined drama. They still thought of themselves and each other by their own names, but their own motivations and beliefs were suppressed and replaced with others.

Remember, the Klingon ship was destroyed because its crew was also forced to act out the exact same drama to its prescripted conclusion. That means that anyone who'd been exposed to the archive would've acted out the same events -- and that means that those events had nothing to do with the crew themselves, with their own actual personalities or motivations.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
23. Lisamarie
@12 - I think that is an important distinction, and probably explains why I find the Naked Now a much more interesting episode (even though I see some people give it a lot of flak, I always enjoyed it).

Although Nana Visitor definitely seems like she was having fun with this one... :)
Chris Nash
24. CNash
I wouldn't say that the conflict is entirely scripted. It's clear that the telepathic archive took the conflict that was already there - the Valerian ship - conflated it with the general Federation vs Bajoran awkwardness that we saw in several earlier episodes, and made only the general flow of events and outcomes fit the predetermned "script".

(I wonder what the archive would've latched onto had it come across a ship full of people who got on really well and had no exploitable conflict? Perhaps they'd enact a vicious power struggle based on who gets the last hot dog in the mess hall, or something...)

I remember that a Voyager episode, "Memorial", also had a similar theme of the crew being influenced by alien telepathy into acting out a past alien conflict, though I haven't watched it in years so I don't know how it compares to this. As has been said, it's also very similar to the (then-forthcoming) TNG episode "Masks", but in reverse - instead of different personalities taking over Data and the crew having to figure things out, the personalities here take over everyone, leaving Odo alone to solve the mystery.
Rob Rater
26. Quasarmodo
It seems like every show has an "everyone in the cast acts like they're on drugs" episode. If I wasn't such a completionist, I'd fast forward past every one of 'em.
Alright Then
27. hestiashearthfire
I'll be the dissenting opinion; I've always loved this episode, especially in relation to the rest of the season. Thematically, I've always found Deep Space Nine to be the richest of the Treks, and this episode really shines in that way. Some commenters have noted that many first season episodes feel like fantasy dressed up as science fiction; I guess I don't have a problem with that. (I find the "science" part of much science fiction to be oversold anyway.)

All season we've had simmering tensions between the crew : Sisko's detachment, Kira's and O'Brien's intense loyalty to Bajor and Starfleet respectively, Odo's devotion to justice and order. The alien menace (which, yes, is both improbable and disposable) brings these tensions to a head, and the characters act out extreme versions of their personalities and attitudes. In the aftermath, some of these tensions are resolved, leaving them a much more cohesive team going into second season.

Overall, I found this to be an organic and interesting way to pull the characters together. And I think "Duet" follows this ep; I thought they were quite the double punch the first time through.
Christopher Bennett
28. ChristopherLBennett
@27: Science fiction is many different things. What's generally presented as science fiction in film and television is rarely more than the narrowest cross-section of SF as a genre. So it would be a mistake to generalize. Most SF on film and TV is pretty sloppy with the science, yes, but there are many, many works of prose SF that have a far more solid scientific grounding. (Indeed, the films with the most solid science tend to be ones based on novels, like 2010, Contact, or -- up to a point -- Jurassic Park.)
Sean Dowell
29. qbe_64
I enjoy this episode. Especially Sisko. More excited that we're getting to the end of season 1, and the start of the war.

I literally got a chill through my entire body at the mention of "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges". Holy crap what an episode. Can't wait for 2 years from now when we review it.
Jack Flynn
30. JackofMidworld
Kira uses all the charisma at her disposal to get Odo and Dax on her side, including some pretty obvious flirting with the latter. (She seems to flirt with Odo a bit, too, but quickly changes tacks when it doesn’t work.)

Oh, if only she'd tried that on Odo a couple of seasons later...
Jack Flynn
31. JackofMidworld
Kira uses all the charisma at her disposal to get Odo and Dax on her side, including some pretty obvious flirting with the latter. (She seems to flirt with Odo a bit, too, but quickly changes tacks when it doesn’t work.)

Now, if she'd tried that a couple of seasons later...
Alright Then
32. hestiashearthfire
@#28: Jurassic Park had wonderful science concepts, although those concepts were used in what was, essentially, a disaster thriller, with the requisite cardboard characters. One of the rare instances where I liked the movie quite a bit better.

I enjoyed both the book and movie Contact. I have to admit, I never did read 2010, but the movie did strike me as somewhat magical. And certainly books like Benford's Timescape and Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness have a solid grounding in science that, if not real, is dealt with as if it could be. Even Robert Charles Wilson's Spin, in which some pretty bizarre things happen, has solid science underpinnings. And all of those books, for my money, combine solid scientific ideas with literary quality and thematic interest.

I read, too.

I never claimed that science in science fiction was nonexistent, just oversold. I guess, while some people only like "hard" science fiction, I'm just fine with the many, many fine science fiction novels that only nod in the direction of science, or even the ones that are fantasy dressed up like SF . YMMV. That does include television and movies, which are often doing different things, and interest me in different ways, than books do.
Christopher Bennett
33. ChristopherLBennett
@32: Fair enough. I just get edgy when people talk about science fiction as if it were all one thing. It's arguably the least monolithic literary genre in existence. (It can even be argued that "mainstream" fiction is simply a narrow subset of speculative fiction -- just limiting the speculation to hypothetical people and events rather than hypothetical science, technologies, planets, etc. Heck, I've always felt The West Wing could be considered alternate-history SF, or political science fiction. Indeed, it did as good a job of prognostication re: the 2008 presidential race as just about any SF I've ever seen.)
Kit Case
34. wiredog
@32
"science that, if not real, is dealt with as if it could be."
That is a pretty good definition of Hard SF right there.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
35. Lisamarie
Regarding science fiction, the funny thing is, as a young pre-teen/teen, I was totally against watching Star Wars because I 'didn't like science fiction' and tended to prefer fantasy. My mom had to practically drag me to see it when it came into the second-run theater in our hometown for the Special Edition. And that ended up being an actual turning point in my life, but that's another thread ;)

I'm not even totally sure where my assumption that I would dislike science fiction came from, since I always loved science. I think in my head, I had conflated science fiction with rather mindless adventure movies that just involved flashy battles and lots of tech (and to this day, I'm really not as interested in the tech aspects of sci fi - my husband loves getting the technical manuals for various franchises he is into, can recognize ships, weapons, etc - although he's also really into the costumes too and is one of those people who can point out all the little inconsistencies between one version from the next in a costume. I'm always more interested in the character guides or the planet guides or the alien guides, etc. I have a hard time with visual details in general so a lot of that stuff flies right by me).

But even now that I consider myself a sci-fi fan, I don't really consider Star Wars science fiction, at least not in its themes or storytelling. But YMMV and I think genre lines are often blurred and maybe even a little subjective.
Matthew Clark
36. clarkbhm
I appreciate your commentary about security being different from a tactical officer. Military Police are not the ones going around firing artillery shells at the enemy. Why is Worf, the head of security, acting like a police officer?
Christopher Bennett
37. ChristopherLBennett
@35: The frustrating thing is, Star Wars was never intended to be science fiction at all; in George Lucas's own terms, it's space fantasy. It's a sword-and-sorcery fairy tale (or, in the prequels, political allegory) with the trappings of space opera; there's not a shred of science in it, either in the sense of containing plausible scientific concepts or in the sense of featuring characters who are scientists or who need to resolve scientific or technical problems in the course of the story. And yet the past couple of generations of the moviegoing public have grown up seeing it as the archetype of what science fiction is.
Heather Dunham
38. tankgirl73
I also have always loved this episode. There's just something about the way each character's change starts out so subtly, and only gradually do we realize that something is really, really wrong. And Sisko's insane clock-making was, for me, spellbinding. A real triumph of characterization. I could really see what the 'original' character had probably been like.

Oh I agree that when you look at it, it's full of holes. How did the 'matrix' know which person was the commander, in order to give him the role of the commander being usurped? Etc etc. Usually that kind of stuff bugs the hell out of me. But I can remember being utterly charmed by this one when it first aired, and I still like it. I don't care if a theme has been overdone, if it's done well. So many characters in so many shows get the overdone trope of Crowning Moment of Awesome, and we still cheer pretty much every time -- if it's done well.

So for my own subjective taste, this was one where the subtle changes gradually morph into the completely different characters, and the fun power play squabbles, and the over the top characterizations, and the clock, enabled me to ignore the plot holes and just enjoy it, a lot.
Alright Then
39. Charles O.
While I don't think the episode really manages it, there is a lot of interesting potential to explore here. Sure, there's a script that says there needs to be a battle, but does it literally conscript people into specific roles, or does it simply make them so edgy that a fight is inevitable?

It seems like the episode suggests the former, but I think it's a lot more interesting to consider the latter. That would allow us to learn *something* about the characters. Why does Dax side with Kira, for example? Why does Bashir stay nominally neutral? Why does Sisko go all OCD?

I think it's interesting to consider what can be learned from characters by the specific way in which they go nuts. I just don't think this particular episode does that. Oh well.
Christopher Bennett
40. ChristopherLBennett
@39: Again, I think the title "Dramatis Personae" makes it clear that the intent of the story is that they're acting out a pre-scripted "play," being plugged into predefined roles in an archetypal power-struggle drama. Maybe it's Menosky's riff on the idea that all stories are variations on just a few basic structures.
Dante Hopkins
41. DanteHopkins
I agree with krad's review. I always felt the same way about this episode. It may not have a lot of consequence for the series as a whole, and parts don't make sense, but its damn fun to watch the cast act this one out, and the do it superbly. If nothing else, this one was very entertaining, and I'd give it a 6.
Alright Then
42. David Sim
Dramatis Personae is one of my favourite S1 episodes and far more deserving of a 9/10 rating.

This episode could never have been made at the beginning of the season, because the effect all comes in watching the people we've gotten to know over the past 16 episodes getting to break out of character and play out a situation as a whole different cast of characters.

What I especially liked about Dramatis Personae is that its an episode that takes the crew to some interesting new places. Kira's is the most interesting, and the best written. Joe Menosky uses Kira's disapproval of a Federation presence on Ds9 and allows an alien influence to draw upon that and amplify it until she's ready to lead a full scale mutiny against Sisko. I've seldom seen Nana Visitor have so much fun in an episode (she was definitely warming up for the Intendant here) as she spreads lies and innuendoes among the senior staff to get them to join her side.

Siddig el Fadil gets to show a new maturity here as a more self-serving, devious Bashir. He refuses to take sides in Sisko/Kira's conflict, but he's willing to aid either side for the right price. All you have to do is compare his subtle performance here to the amateurish villainy in The Passenger to see how far he's come.

Sisko is hilarious the way he fiddles with a clock even when there's a mutiny going on. It eventually takes a threat on his life to shake him out of apathy and actually take a stand against Kira. Dax is a bit obsessive herself, and spends the episode lost in the past even as things are coming to a head (I love the way she forgets to disable the transporters). As Krad said, its only Colm Meaney who doesn't get to have fun with his new persona; he's just playing a more paranoid O'Brien and there's nothing more to it than that.

The calm at the center of the storm is Odo, who remains immune to the alien matrix (or uncorrupted as Kira puts it). Yet for all that, Rene Auberjoinois gets to play a slightly different Odo as well, as he quietly pulls the strings of the crew like a puppeteer in order to free them. I really enjoyed and admired Dramatis Personae for being bold enough to attempt something so outside the box before the show was even out of its first season.

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