Fri
Jun 7 2013 3:00pm

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “The Storyteller”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Storyteller“The Storyteller”
Written by Kurt Michael Bensmiller and Ira Steven Behr
Directed by David Livingston
Season 1, Episode 13
Production episode 40511-414
Original air date: May 2, 1993
Stardate: 46729.1

Station log: Sisko has been asked to mediate a land dispute between the Paqu and the Navot. The provisional government fears that a civil war will erupt between the two factions. Complicating matters a bit is that the tetrarch of the Paqu is a fifteen-year-old girl named Varis Sul.

A village on Bajor has a medical emergency, and so Bashir goes down on a runabout, accompanied by a very reluctant O’Brien, who has no desire to be stuck on a runabout with the effusive doctor. In fact, they spend two hours in silence before Bashir breaks it by trying to find out if O’Brien finds him annoying. It’s blindingly obvious that O’Brien does find him annoying, but the chief is far too professional to say so out loud. Bashir also tries to convince O’Brien to call him “Julian,” which O’Brien struggles with to say the least.

They beam down to the village, and Bashir is surprised to find that the medical emergency that is endangering the village is simply one sick old man, who is the Sirah, or Storyteller, for the village. However the magistrate, Faren Kag, insists that if the Sirah dies, they all die. Bashir’s examination reveals that he’s basically dying of old age. The Sirah talks about the Dal’rok and claims that O’Brien is the person he’s been waiting for, none of which makes any sense to either Bashir or O’Brien. Faren explains that the Dal’rok is a creature that comes every night for five nights at this time of year and the Sirah is the only person strong enough to keep it from destroying the village. It’s come for three of the nights, and will be back this evening. Bashir points out that right now the Sirah isn’t strong enough to get out of bed, much less repel a Dal’rok.

Sisko meets informally with Varis and the leader of the Navot, the very pompous Woban, who talks down to Varis while insisting her father would never do what she is doing. The dispute is over the common border of their territory: a river that the Cardassians diverted during the occupation. Varis insists that the land on the Paqu side of the river is all hers now, while Woban insists on the river’s old position being the border. The last straw for Varis is when Quark brings her a “bubble juice” and calls her “little lady,” at which point she throws the drink in the Ferengi’s face and walks out.

Jake and Nog are sitting on the railing over the Promenade. Jake’s attempts to get Nog to join him on the holosuite for some baseball fall on deaf ears (Nog insists the game is stupid, Jake insists that Nog just won’t admit that he can’t hit Jake’s curve ball), especially once Nog catches sight of Varis, with whom he’s immediately taken. They track down her quarters and pose as the “unofficial welcoming committee.” They offer to show her a ship going through the wormhole—which she’s never seen, so she takes them up on it.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Storyteller

The Sirah insists on coming out into the town square that night, against Bashir’s advice. He tells the story of the Dal’rok as a giant creature that looks like a glob of shaving cream appears in the sky. O’Brien can’t detect anything on his tricorder. The Sirah insists that the village is strong and he rallies the villagers against the Dal’rok—until he collapses, at which point the Dal’rok starts to destroy the village. The Sirah insists that O’Brien is his successor, and makes him say the words he would say. This inexplicably works and the villagers rally against the Dal’rok again. It disappears and the Sirah then dies. Faren declares a very nonplussed O’Brien to be the new Sirah. O’Brien is very not happy about his new role, especially when Faren talks about sending for Keiko and Molly so they can live here with him. Bashir is enjoying O’Brien’s discomfort, but they both agree that they need to find out what the Dal’rok actually is and destroy it.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Storyteller

The Paqu-Navot negotiations are going poorly. After five hours of fruitless talking, Kira goes to Quark’s for a very large drink, while Sisko asks to speak to Varis in private. But she’s insisting on holding a hardline position. She goes to sit on the railing, where Jake and Nog find her. Nog suggests she view this not as a problem but an opportunity—find out what her opposite number wants that she has. Nog then convinces Varis and Jake to help him break into Odo’s office and steal the bucket he regenerates in. Nog finds it, and then pretends to trip, spilling its contents all over Jake. Jake thinks it’s Odo and panics, until Nog reveals that it’s oatmeal. All three collapse into a fit of giggles—at least until Odo and Sisko walk in on them.

Varis goes to Sisko and takes responsibility for what happened. She also says that she spent time with Jake in part for the insight it gave her into Sisko. But she also takes Nog’s advice, and comes up with an opportunity to allow both sides to win.

O’Brien tries to figure out what’s going on, but he’s hindered by villagers all clamoring for his blessing and by the Sirah’s apprentice, Horvath, trying to kill him. Horvath should be the Sirah, and he’s a little pissed that the title was granted to someone who didn’t even want it. Horvath reveals that the Dal’rok is a manifestation of the villagers’ fears that was created by a bracelet that contains an orb fragment. The first Sirah used the orb fragment to create the Dal’rok, giving the villagers a chance to defeat their fears. The storytelling focuses the villagers’ thoughts and allows them to drive the Dal’rok back. But the first night when the Dal’rok appeared this year, Horvath failed in his attempt to tell the story, and several people were injured. While O’Brien is more than happy to let Horvath take the mantle he trained for, the villagers will only accept O’Brien in the role of Sirah.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Storyteller

That night, O’Brien very reluctantly goes to the square and then makes an absolute pig’s ear of telling the story. (One hopes that Keiko is the one who reads Molly her bedtime stories, ’cause damn...) Seeing the Dal’rok attacking the village, Horvath steps in and takes over once Bashir convinces him that the Sirah chose O’Brien because he knew he’d mess it up, thus giving Horvath a chance to redeem himself by rescuing O’Brien and the village. The villagers embrace Horvath as the new Sirah, and O’Brien and Bashir beat feet as fast as they can before they change their minds.

In the end, Varis makes her proposal, Jake and Nog are forced to clean the security office of all traces of oatmeal, and Bashir tells O’Brien that he doesn’t have to call him Julian if he doesn’t want to.

The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko is charged with negotiating between two squabbling Bajoran factions.

Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira tells Sisko that there’s an old Bajoran saying: “The people and the land are one,” adding that the land over which the Paqu and Novat are fighting is harsh.

Rules of Acquisition: Nog quotes the Ninth Rule: “Opportunity plus instinct equals profit.” Varis actually takes that to heart.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Nog falls hard for Varis, made all the more frustrating that she seems to find more in common with Jake. Having said that, it’s Nog’s advice that proves most useful, and she rewards him with a kiss on the cheek at the end of the episode, which sends the young man over the proverbial moon.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Storyteller

Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: It’s already been established that Odo has to regenerate every sixteen hours. This episode establishes that he does so in a bucket (since he reverts to a liquid state, this makes sense), which we see for the first time.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Storyteller

Keep your ears open: “Do I—annoy you?”

“Annoy me? What sort of a question is that?”

“Well, the thing is, we’ve just spent two hours alone together in this runabout, and you’ve hardly said a word to me the whole time.”

“Really? I hadn’t noticed.”

Bashir asking an honest question and O’Brien avoiding answering it, followed by Bashir making an observation and O’Brien lying through his teeth.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Storyteller

Welcome aboard: The late Kay E. Kuter, having appeared as the big giant head at the end of TNG’s “The Nth Degree,” gets to have his entire body appear as the Sirah. Jim Jansen plays Faren Kag; he’ll return in “Trials and Tribble-ations” as one of the Temporal Investigations agents. Jordan Lund, having previously appeared as a Klingon in “Redemption II” on TNG, plays Woban; he’ll be back on Enterprise’s “Bounty” as a Tellarite. Lawrence Monson plays Horvath; he’ll also return on Enterprise as Matthew Ryan in the episode “Fortunate Son.” Gina Phillips plays Varis Sul, while Aron Eisenberg is back as Nog.

Trivial matters: While the events of this episode are never referenced again onscreen, they are followed up on in the post-finale DS9 fiction, particularly the Bajor segment of Worlds of DS9 Volume 2 by J. Noah Kym (in which the village is destroyed), Warpath by David Mack, and Fearful Symmetry and The Soul Key by Olivia Woods. The village and the Sirah’s orb fragment bracelet from this episode are also identified as, respectively, Sidau and the paghvaram (or soul key).

The Paqu-Navot conflict is mentioned in the short story “Ha’mara” by Kevin G. Summers in the Prophecy and Change anthology, and it’s also referenced in the novel Wrath of the Prophets by Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, & Robert Greenberger.

Kurt Michael Bensmiller, who also wrote the story for TNG’s “Time Squared,” pitched this episode back in TNG’s first season. It never went anywhere then, but Michael Piller saw it when he joined the staff in the third season and liked it, eventually having him repurpose it for DS9.

Jake refers to a great-hitting baseball player named Buck Bokai, who will be seen (kind of) in “If Wishes Were Horses.”

Walk with the Prophets: “Once upon a time, there was a Dal’rok.” Yet another reworked TNG script, and even more so than “Babel” and “The Passenger,” this time the seams are definitely showing. We haven’t seen much of Bajor so far, but what we know of the world is that it’s an ancient planet with a great history of art and civilization that was crushed by the Cardassians.

The Paqu-Navot conflict actually makes sense. Any conflict between the two would have been subsumed by the Cardassians, but now that the conquerors are gone, they’re free to squabble. And a teenager thrust into a leadership role also is plausible. Still, there’s nothing really all that exciting going on here. Varis’s attempts to be a normal teenager with Jake and Nog are kinda cute-ish, and the subplot is one of the better vehicles for Cirroc Lofton and Aron Eisenberg, whose friendship continues to be convincing, and gives the episode what little heart it has. (I shudder to think about what the TNG version might’ve been like with Wes in the Jake/Nog role—probably as dire as “The Dauphin” was.)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Storyteller

Still, you can see the paint dripping off the numbers of this half of the story, and it goes nowhere unexpected or particularly interesting.

Which puts it one up on the A plot, which is just embarrassingly stupid. Sledgehammering this into Bajor makes absolutely no sense, as I can’t imagine the Cardassians just let these guys fight off a fear monster that looks like shaving cream in the sky five nights a year ever year. Plus the whole rally-the-villagers-round trick is utterly unconvincing, the people’s rapid-fire changes of heart absurd. Also, did I mention that the Dal’rok looks like a giant shaving cream monster and is therefore impossible to take seriously?

It’s entertaining looking back on this episode, knowing where the O’Brien-Bashir friendship is headed, to see them still in the phase where O’Brien wants nothing to do with the babbling ponce of a doctor. And I love how O’Brien basically sneers the word “Julian” every time he uses it, to the point where Bashir rescinds the request to call him that, to O’Brien’s obvious relief.

But two good pairings do not a watchable story make, and the episode is ultimately completely forgettable.

 

Warp factor rating: 3


Keith R.A. DeCandido reminds everyone that his newest book, the short story collection Tales from Dragon Precinct, is now on sale.

43 comments
Christopher Bennett
1. ChristopherLBennett
I tend to agree -- the stuff with Jake, Nog, and Varis is okay, and maybe it deserves credit for showing the tentative beginnings of the O'Brien-Bashir friendship. But the stuff with the village and the Dal'rok is ridiculous. What I hate about it is how it portrays the Bajorans, who as you say are an ancient and sophisticated civilization, as a bunch of superstitious, easily fooled villagers. Even the Paqu and Navot are portrayed as small groups squabbling over water, the kind of dispute that civilizations at even the earliest level could have. It's just so... so colonialist. It perpetuates a problematical narrative of the natives of the frontier or of another country as simple, backward people who don't understand things as well as our great explorer heroes and need their help to figure things out. (It reminds me of how mass-media depictions of Africa always ignore its many modern cities and industries and armies and the like and portray it as a land of thatched-hut villages, loincloth-wearing hunters, and wildlife-filled savannas.)

Fortunately the show later on would get better at portraying Bajor as an advanced civilization (albeit one impoverished by Cardassian occupation), but unfortunately a lot of the tie-in comics and novels would follow this episode's precedent and paint Bajorans as a backward people quick to succumb to violent religious fervor or superstitious panic.
Mike Kelmachter
2. MikeKelm
There are some good aspects to this. First and foremost is the beginning of the friendship of Miles and Julian, which is the best friendship in the entire Trek series, in my opinion at least. These two genuinely grow to love each other like brothers, showing concern when one goes missing, spending copious amounts of time with each other, and in general bonding in a way we hadn't seen other characters bond before on any trek show.

Second, we see Jake and Nog acting their age. Trek's only other adventures in children was Wesley Crusher, and that was a spectacular disaster. But here are two teenagers acting like teenagers. They have a crush on a girl, they try to impress the girl, they do stupid teenager stuff together. They aren't rescuing a ship and a planet and curing cancer and transcending the known boundaries of time and space. Nogs Ferengi upbringing comes into play as he helps her look at a problem differently. I can even overlook the "teenage leader" thing, since a village might have a ruling family, even on a democratic world like Bajor. Alien world, alien rules.

But the A-Plot was an absolute disaster. We created a fear monster that we can fight off by getting together and singing Kumbaya at. Really? As Keith put it, the Cardassians just let this happen for 50 years without blowing up said fear monster? (Or maybe trying to reproduce it in every other village to keep the population in check?) If Miles and Julian had gone to the village because the leader was sick, he dies and the doctor and engineer have to keep the peace and mediate new leadership, that would have been interesting. After all, mediation and peacekeeping are Starfleet missions. It would have actually made a nice tie in to the B-Plot since you now have a lot of leaders who aren't used to doing it. But instead they fight the smoke monster from Lost's kid brother by telling a bed time story in it's general direction. It's just stupidly hokey.

There was absolutely no way that you could take this basic plot and turn it into "The Inner Light" or "Far Beyond the Stars" but you could have done a nice story about people being thrust into leadership situations they weren't prepared for as well as looking at different friendships that cross lines (officer/enlisted & Veteran/Newbie with Miles/Julian and Human/Non-Human with Nog/Jake.
Matt Hamilton
3. MattHamilton
I don't even know how this episode would have worked on TNG. That would have been far worse than it was here. Having said that, making it a DS9 episode, even a bad one, was a good move because, despite the fact that the plots don't go anywhere and are quite silly, it's more background noise to show character development. It's still quite unforgivable, don't get me wrong. There are far better ways to do it than with a bad episode rewritten from a completely different show. But even with Bashir being as annoying as he is, and as he will (IMO) continue to be for pretty much the entire run of the series, whenever he is onscreen with Colm Meany, he is suddenly one of my favorite characters. The two are great together and it's too bad I never got to see them in anything other than DS9 to see if the chemistry remained as strong in another show/film. But having that "Shaving cream" monster on Bajor, yeah, that doesn't make sense. The Cardiassians never thought about doing anything about that or taking the orb shard from them? Perhaps they thought of it as entertainment, setting up chairs and drinks and watching for five nights hoping they would fail and the village destroyed, all to the clinking glasses of Canar!

Even Jake and Nog, it showcased their friendship nicely. Though the story really went nowhere, it showed a young leader just trying to be young (and using it to her advantage as well). Jake and Nog, as friends, is brilliant, realistic and often heartwarming. Plus, Jake thinking that he was covered in Odo was actually very funny to me.
George Salt
4. GeorgeSalt
Like "Move Along Home" before and "If Wishes Were Horses" to come, "The Storyteller" is a fantasy story masquerading as sci-fi. I have no problem with the idea of wormhole aliens who communicate with the Bajorans with devices called orbs; however, it's never explained how the orbs work. The idea that someone could create a "Dal'Rok" with the shard of an orb smacks of magic.

It appears that safety engineering is a lost art in the 24th century. On TNG we saw the safety locks on the holodeck repeatedly fail and put the users at mortal risk; here, the creators of the Dal'Rok didn't think to incorporate an emergency shutoff switch.

I've always felt that DS9 did not find its identity until the third season. The series premiere was a pretty good space opera yarn but after that the episodes drift from small-bore space drama to fantasy. It's interesting how fantasy invariably seeps into an ostensibly sci-fi/space opera TV show. Among the Star Trek TV series, DS9 was the weakest when it came to hard sci-fi.

I have a soft spot for Jake and Nog stories, so the second plotline that unfolded on the station was bearable if uninspiring. Overall, an episode best forgotten. Unfortunately, it's about par for the first season.
Rob Rater
5. Quasarmodo
I'm a stickler for starting at the beginning of shows, so when i decided to try DS9 again, I started watching from (somewhere around) where I'd left off originally. However if I could give my past self advice, I would absolutely insist on me skipping the first 2 seasons. The first episode that I consider good doesn't happen until the first ep of S3.
Mike Kelmachter
6. MikeKelm
@George Salt #4...

This is another example of how DS9's writers were creating a genre (while Michael Stracyznski was doing the same with Babylon 5) of Space Station sci-fi. TV shows in space (Star Trek and Original Battlestar Galactica for example) were basically built on the concept of "one night stands." The ship would be somewhere else next week. It might have a familiar foe (Klingons, Cylons, etc) or a similar mission (exploration, rescuing miners, etc) than what it had last week- but at least the ship had gone somewhere else. DS9 doesn't go anywhere (yes, O'Brien can technobabble the station across the sector, but it's still in the same general place). How do you write a series where you can't up and move the show next week?

Later seasons used story arcs (the Klingons, the Dominion war, Dukat) to do it, while having the Defiant around could give them opportunities to do the "went somewhere else and drama ensued" type missions, but that wasn't possible in Season 1. In this case, we got fantasy masquerading as sci-fi, which was NOT the way to go with the series. As you said George, it took a while to get right.
Kristoff Bergenholm
7. Magentawolf
I recently went and watched every DS9 episode... and I have absolutely zero memory of this one in the slightest. A defensive reaction, maybe?
Christopher Bennett
8. ChristopherLBennett
@6: Reading your post, I had a thought that the difference in focus between TOS and DS9 may reflect the shifting focus of television writing in general between their respective decades. In the sixties (and carrying forward from the fifties), the classiest dramas were the anthologies, the shows that told a different, self-contained story every week. Serialization was the stuff of cheesy daytime soaps, so it wasn't what classy dramas aspired to. Also, they didn't have home video or Internet episode guides, or even as many reruns as there were later on, so if you missed an episode you might never see it at all. So the emphasis was on making each story complete and satisfying in itself, without depending on anything else. Anthologies were the ideal -- but there were advantages to ongoing series with regular casts that the audience would come back for each week and standing sets that could be reused to save money.

Thus, Star Trek, like quite a few other shows of the era, had a format that was specifically conceived to allow it to be as anthology-like as possible. Since it was a spaceship traveling to a different world every week, each story would be an isolated episode, and each one could be as wildly different from the previous one as in any anthology. (The reason Roddenberry pitched it as "Wagon Train to the stars" wasn't just to make it sound like a Western, but because Wagon Train was a show known for its pseudo-anthology format where each story was built around a different guest star as a member of the wagon train.)

But by the early 90s, TV was becoming more serialized. There were still plenty of episodic shows, but with more continuity and developing story arcs (q.v. TNG). So with DS9 -- and its near-contemporary, B5 -- we started to get space shows whose settings were tailor-made to allow ongoing storylines and events with lasting ramifications.
George Salt
9. GeorgeSalt
@8: In addition to Wagon Train, another TV series from the 1960s that employed the anthology format built around guest stars and a new locale every week was Route 66. The postwar generation felt a vague restlessness that was first captured in Jack Kerouac's novel On The Road. The US interstate highway system was completed in the 1950s and many parts of the country that still had a distinctly provincial atmosphere became accessible. There were lots of young people who wanted to hit the road and see what was out there and Route 66, Wagon Train and even TOS tapped into that wanderlust. Yet, within 10 years both the Western and the anthology largely disappeared from prime time TV. Although the signifcance of sixties era is often overblown, there was indeed a sea change in popular culture that started in the mid 1960s.
Christopher Bennett
10. ChristopherLBennett
@9: There were plenty of other "anthology with continuing characters" shows too. The model of The Fugitive, used on multiple other shows like Run for Your Life, The Incredible Hulk, etc., had the lone hero traveling to a different place each week, adopting a new persona and job, and getting involved in the lives and problems of a new set of people. Mission: Impossible was in a similar vein -- the main characters spent most of every episode pretending to be other people, so in a way it was like a theater repertory company doing a different play each week.

(Just recently I was watching the movie Dark City, in which the residents of the city were all programmed with artificial memories and identities that were periodically changed, and I thought it could be a good basis for an anthology-esque series where every week the same actors play different people, albeit with an underlying thread of some of them clinging to a sense of identity and beginning to learn about/challenge their masters. Although in a way that's already been done with Joss Whedon's Dollhouse, and the anthology-ish aspects pretty quickly gave way to the kind of serialized story arcs that are pretty much de rigeur today.)
Chris Nash
11. CNash
I wasn't aware that this episode started out as a TNG pitch, but it does explain a lot. Knowing what we know about Bajor and its people, it's difficult to take the villagers' "plight" seriously when the rest of the planet had to contend with the horrors of the Cardassian occupation. It would've been slightly more believable - though no less stupid - if they were the inhabitents of a typical TNG planet-of-the-week. I did enjoy Kay E. Kuter's theatricality as the Sirah; plus, I'm a sucker for traditional rituals in general, so that aspect of the Dal'Rok "performance" was at least interesting to watch. I agree with MattHamilton that the Cardassians probably saw it as quaint form of entertainment put on by the poor, backwards Bajorans...

As for the B-plot, it's typical Jake-and-Nog fluff, but entertaining nonetheless. One thing that both the A-story and the B-story have in common is in their depictions of distinct Bajoran villages or peoples - it's a refreshing departure from the monocultures that we typically see on Star Trek. They're not just "the Bajorans" as a homogenous group, there are different cultures within Bajor, all with their own traditions and problems.
AndrewV
12. AndrewV
Thanks for another great rewatch, KRAD. You do an amazing job on this every week.

Also: I want a regular column by Christopher L Bennett, because-- holy crap. Best commenter ever.
Alan Courchene
13. Majicou
@10: Don't forget Quantum Leap--oh boy, did he ever adopt new personae!

On an utterly unrelated note, I recently saw part of a Quantum Leap episode that a) guest starred Terry Farell, and b) had as its antagonist a "Commander Riker." Pre-DS9, but inter-TNG.
Phil Parsons
14. Yakko
@5 Oh that would be a mistake Quasarmodo.... if you skipped the first two seasons entirely you'd miss some great episodes like "Duet", "Necessary Evil", "Whispers", "Blood Oath", "The Maquis", "The Wire", "Crossover" and "Tribunal". I think the quality of the show overall improves quite a bit for DS9 in the second season.
Phil Parsons
15. Yakko
@12: Great idea Andrew! I'd totally enjoy a Christopher Bennett column...
AndrewV
16. Ashcom
In all fairness, this episode does suffer from something I am going to call "rewatch syndrome", which is that we are viewing it in light of information about the Bajorans that we actually learned later, and were not aware of when it first aired. The Bajorans, throughout the show, were presented as a people who had interstellar politics thrust unwillingly upon them and were struggling to cope with it. At this point they seemed to have been being presented as a lot less sophisticated, pre-occupation, than we would later be led to believe.

In a way this episode had an intriguing premise, and it's just a shame it was so badly handled. I actually found the story on the surface quite compelling up until the moment that the Dalrok appeared, particularly so if you treat the village as being on a planet more backward than Bajor would later be established to have been. It seemed to be going somewhere intriguing and had something to say about what happens to a culture that relies on tradition, when that tradition is unavoidably broken. Then the Dalrok turned out to be a big blob of shaving foam, the Sirah turned out to be essentially a primative motivational speaker, and it all got a bit dumb.

The result being that the B plot, which was lightweight fluff, benefitted by being at least a relief from the dumbness happening elsewhere. But essentially, if looked at as an episode about friendship (the beginnings of the Miles/Julian one, the cementing of the Jake/Nog one) it is at least tolerable.
Matt Hamilton
17. MattHamilton
@11, I always kind of assumed that the reason so many of the species we encounter througout Star Trek being "The Klingons" "The Romulans" "The Bajorans" is because of civilzation types. If you look at it, Earth in the Federation is the same way, we just don't think about it because we're used to seeing it, we're looking at them, butwe are "The Humans". Scientists always describe a Type I, II and III civilization and I kind of figured that by the time a species reaached the level of advancement that they could travel interstellar distances, if they ever did, then they would be a unifed species. We are moving towards a global government with global economics, a unified language system etc. Scientists always say that the most dangerous time is between a type 0 civilization and the transitioning to a type I civilization and that, I guess, would unify that planet's population so that is why. That's my opinion on that anyway. Stargate SG-1 did a better job of having some civilizations on far away planets not being unified. Some had warring countries like we do and things ofthat nature, but most of those weren't space farring species, rather, the travelling devices, the Stargates, were planted here by a much more advanced culture that was a unified species.
Christopher Bennett
18. ChristopherLBennett
@12 & 15: Thanks! Tell that to the Tor.com folks, please.

@13: Good catch -- Quantum Leap was definitely an "anthology with continuing cast" type of show.

@16: The problem, though, is that when the Bajora(ns) were first introduced in TNG's "Ensign Ro," Picard said, "I read about the achievements of the ancient Bajoran civilization in my fifth grade reader. They were architects and artists, builders and philosophers when humans were not yet standing erect." Now, he probably misspoke a bit there, since hominids began standing erect millions of years ago, long before they could be called human. But the Bajorans were clearly meant to be an advanced civilization far more ancient than humanity, a formerly great people reduced to impoverished refugees by the Cardassian occupation. So the episode's treatement of the Bajoran villagers as "backward" and "unsophisticated" was itself a retcon, a contradiction of the original concept as well as a rehash of a condescending colonialist stereotype.
Matt Hamilton
19. MattHamilton
Yeah, we've actually seen it before. Just because they were artists and philosphers and the like didn't make them backwards. In fact, they were very ancient, the Bajorans, but didn't seem liked strived for the stars the way we, or other cultures did. We reached for them to explore while others to conquer.
Christopher Bennett
20. ChristopherLBennett
@19: Except as we'd later discover, the Bajorans had made it into space by the 16th century.

And I was citing Picard's statement about their artistic and cultural achievements as evidence that they weren't "backward."
Matt Hamilton
21. MattHamilton
I need more sleep. I was actually agreeing with you and making the point just because they could go into space and be just like Starfleet didn't mean that they had to...I just had my tone wrong and it came out like I was correcting you. My fault
AndrewV
22. Mac McEntire
I agree that the Bajorans are made to look pretty dumb in this episode. I guess you could make the case that their village is really remote and isolated from the rest of Bajor, but still. If these had been random aliens-of-the-week instead of Bajorans, maybe the craziness would have been an easier pill to swallow.

The story I always heard about this one was that when it was going to be a TNG script, Geordi was in the O’Brien role, and this storytelling business would have started his transition from engineer to novelist. True? Not true?

Shaving cream or no, I thought the Dal’rok was kind of cool, especially the way its smoke tentacles smashed up those buildings. Or maybe I’m just looking at the episode through nostalgia-colored glasses.

I like Varis a lot. Too bad the Jake/Nog duo couldn’t have become the Jake/Nog/Varis trio (Jake’s the nice one, Varis is the serious one, and Nog’s the goofy one). Gina Phillips appearing in Jeepers Creepers isn’t enough to get her Robert Knepper-ized? Shame.
Raymond Seavey
23. RaySea
One thing irritates me: why does Bashir have to go to the village at all? There are doctors on Bajor, aren't there?
Christopher Bennett
24. ChristopherLBennett
@23: That's just part of the same overall problem with the episode's portrayal of Bajor as a bunch of superstitious primitives. It doesn't fit the way Bajor was portrayed earlier or later in the series.
Christopher Hatton
25. Xopher
Forgettable? No kidding. I don't remember this one at all. Just as well, probably. I think I remember the oatmeal bit, actually, so it's not that I never saw the episode. Pathetic.

And really, isn't it CONSERVATION of mass/energy, not Preservation?
Keith DeCandido
26. krad
No one's going to let me get away with "preservation of mass and energy," are they? Sigh.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Matthew Ernest
27. radarskiy
Nog and Varis make me think of _Kelly's Heros_
Crapgame: Then make a DEAL!
Big Joe: What kind of deal?
Crapgame: A DEAL, deal!
AndrewV
28. Ashcom
@18 (&13) - It's not like that kind of "anthology" show ever went away. The character and situation changes but the same idea still appears today. Take Mission Impossible. A defined team solve a new problem each week by adopting different characters and personas and inserting themselves into a situation. That became the A-Team. Today it's Burn Notice.
Christopher Bennett
29. ChristopherLBennett
@28: Sure, plenty of shows still have case-of-the-week formats, but they also usually have ongoing character arcs and overarching seasonal plots, and the cases-of-the-week tend to reflect or resonate with whatever stage of the seasonal arc the characters are in at that particular point. I'm sure Burn Notice is no exception; just about all USA shows, and most of the original shows on its sister network Syfy, use that formula. Few modern shows are willing to have enough faith in the case/client-of-the-week format to rely strictly on that -- at least, not since the flagship Law & Order ended, and even that had continuing arcs to some degree.

People always talk about episodic and serial formats as if they were mutually exclusive, and while that may have been largely the case up through the '70s, it's rarely true today. Most shows are a mix of both formats, just in differing ratios.

What's changed is that in the past, the episodic format was considered more respected, because of the prestige of the early "playhouse" TV series that adapted a different play, or presented a different original play, every week and employed the great TV playwrights like Paddy Chayefsky, Norman Corwin, Rod Serling, and Reginald Rose. But ever since Hill Street Blues, serial storytelling has gained more prestige and respectability, to the point that attitudes have reversed and now strictly episodic storytelling is considered simplistic. There's also the fact that home video and the Internet enable us to experience a series as a unified whole more than viewers in the past could do, so the emphasis has shifted more to the whole and away from the individual installment. Case/client-of-the-week formats are still useful for drawing in the casual viewer, but they're usually taking place within a larger framework, where the characters change and grow from episode to episode rather than each episode restoring the status quo.

Heck, in a lot of '60s and '70s shows, continuity was something to be actively avoided. Sometimes it seemed as if every episode took place in a different reality -- like when the Mission: Impossible team would show their faces on national or global television to expose a criminal or traitor, yet next week would be anonymous again and able to pull off impersonations without being recognized. Not to mention that no matter how many heads of "the Syndicate" they managed to bring down, organized crime remained every bit as strong and dangerous. Law & Order often felt that way to me too, since there was no way to fit two dozen of the lengthy investigations and trials they showed in a single calendar year -- plus how come every single case the DA characters prosecuted happened in the same precinct and was investigated by the same pair of detectives?

That's what really defines an anthology format: Not just that each installment is a different story, but that there's no continuity or cross-referencing among the stories. Sometimes '60s shows had a little more continuity than that, like featuring recurring foes or supporting characters, but it was generally infrequent at most.
George Salt
30. GeorgeSalt
@29: Another good example of the modern format you are describing is the long-running CW series Supernatural. It features two brothers who drive from town to town in a 1967 Chevy Impala to battle monsters. Each season there are a few standalone monster-of-the-week episodes, but the series also uses season-long story arcs that build up to a season finale cliffhanger. There is one thing about Sam and Dean's journeys that I find unconvincing: apparently, all of the continental US looks just like British Columbia!

One format that seems to have disappeared is the "pure" anthology which told a self-contained story and showcased a completely new cast every week -- shows like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. In the '80s Steven Spielberg created Amazing Stories and there was the reboot of The Outer Limits, but that seems to be it.
Christopher Bennett
31. ChristopherLBennett
@30: These days it's hard to find shows that aren't examples of the hybrid case-of-the-week/overarching saga format. I think shows like Lost and Heroes that were purely serialized wore out their welcome because there wasn't enough payoff in each episode. So there are still occasional shows like that, but most have a case-of-the-week formula.

There have been occasional attempts in recent years to do anthologies, but they tend not to last long. Currently Bryan Singer is developing yet another Twilight Zone revival, which would be the fourth series under that title, or the fifth if you count the '80s CBS version and its syndicated successor separately (which most people don't because they had the same title sequence, but which I do because they had different creative staffs and I felt the syndicated one came much closer in style to the original). The previous TZ revival was on UPN in 2002-3. Then there was the very short-lived Masters of Science Fiction a few years back.
AndrewV
32. CounsellorDeannaTroi#1Fan
I agree with the previous poster who said they liked the Julian/Miles relationship that began here. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Julian/Miles friendship and I think the actors had perfect chemistry together. The relationship was totally believable. I get the feeling that Miles eventually became drawn to Julian because he was so "out there" with his incessant chatter that he always wanted to hear what he was going to say next. It's like he could never know what to expect with Julian. Julian, I believe, liked Miles because he felt that Miles was a dependable person on whom he could count at any time.
AndrewV
33. CounsellorDeannaTroi#1Fan
@ChristopherBennett: I would say that daytime US soap operas are a good example of a purely serialised genre. They don't have a "case-of-the-day" plot like most US drama/mystery shows like [i]Law & Order [i]or Psych. [i][u]Granted, they are a moribund genre (only 4 of them are still in existence) but it cannot be said that they do not have staying [i]power. The Days of Our Lives on CBS has been in continuous production every year since 1965. Can you imagine a show like Star Trek lasting that long? I couldn't! So they must be doing something right.[/i]
AndrewV
34. CounsellorDeannaTroi#1Fan
In fact, elaborating on #33: The Simpsons did a parody of 'Days of Our Lives' in one episode. The name of the parody? "It Never Ends." haha!
George Salt
35. GeorgeSalt
@31: Lost and Heroes were interesting because those shows started off with a bang. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two seasons of both shows, but by the third season the stories seemed to get bogged down in a morass of dangling plotlines and neverending plot twists that led to nowhere. In contrast, the Trek TV series seem to go through a calibration phase in the first two seasons and then hit their stride in the third.
AndrewV
36. Happytoscrap
This to me, is the worst episode of the 1st season and I'm not sure yet (i'm almost finished with season 2) but perhaps the worst episode in the entire history of DS9.

Colm Meany seems to know how horrible the episode is even and he (rightfully) seems embarassed at having to read his lines when he is chasing the evil cloud away.
Christopher Hatton
37. Xopher
krad 26: No. No, we're really not.

Did you really not expect to attract a majority-nerd audience here? :-)
AndrewV
38. Patrick Depew
About the previous episode I said it was an episode that made me cringe because of my dislike for season 1 Kira.

This episode makes me cringe because, in my opinion, it really makes the Bajoran people look like idiots. They know plenty of technology, they know alien species exist, yet they believe this thing in the sky is a monster out to get them? Ooh, boy.

Other than that, not a lot of interest in this episode except some little moments between O'Brien and Bashir.

Now can we please get to some good episodes? (eagerly awaiting the review of the next one...)
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
39. Lisamarie
We're a bit behind since the library had this DVD checked out and we had to wait for it to come back, but we're catching up.

I also would like a Christopher Bennet column :)

Most things have been said - I really wish they had just stuck with the arbitration sub plot and allowed there to be more with Nog/Jake/Varis, as that was the most interesting of all of it to me...and perhaps exploring more the ideas of what makes a strong leader.

I found the scenes on Bajor to be incredibly ridiculous and was actually finding myself wondering why all civilizations are portrayed with this pastoral, simple brush. And it was glaringly obvious to me that it was one of those 'the villagers have the power themselves' plots. To be honest, I was really hoping the villagers would REALIZE that and not need a storyteller to 'direct' their unity (although mabe it doesn't work without the orb thing?). Actually, it kind of reminded me of the Archangel books by Sharon Shinn (which is maybe why I saw the whole plot coming), but I don't want to spoil anything...let's just say the 'forced unity to prevent destruction from some supernatural being' is a theme there as well.
AndrewV
40. Data Logan
Christopher L. Bennett definitely seems like a guy who likes to write. I've seen him write very long (and interesting) notes on many discussion boards. I wouldn't be surprised if he would jump at just about any excuse to write more. You write, Christopher, and I'll definitely be around to read.
Joseph Newton
41. crzydroid
@40: He has also written many books. He has a list on his website.

I agree wholeheartedly that the villagers seem really stupid and easily swayed. Not much else to say. This is the first one so far since Emissary that I really remember having seen before, though Vortex tickles my memory a little.

I shall start a topic and possible flamewar here: The stereotypical women to perform sexual favors for the new awesome dude trope is here. However, should we be offended that this is even a joke? I know that the show does not present this kind of treatment of women as a good thing, but it does present the fact of a society that treats women this way as something to be laughed at. Should we laugh at such a society, even in fiction? Should we not be a little mad at that scene instead? Is it a sign of our acceptance of the mistreatment of women in television that we think nothing of this? Discuss.
Dante Hopkins
42. DanteHopkins
I'm laughing too hard at "giant glob of shaving cream" to focus. Give me a second...

Whew. Okay, okay. The only positive parts of this episode are the beginnings of the friendship between O'Brien and Bashir and the continuing friendship between Nog and Jake. By DS9, Trek writers figured out the best way to write kids: let them be regular kids. And its fun to watch O'Brien and Bashir at this stage, as even here we see the very beginnings of their eventual friendship.

Beyond that, pretty lame and uninteresting plots that mercifully do allow for major character development.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
43. Lisamarie
Oh, man I'll bite - yes, the bevy of women 'offered' to O'Brien irritated me too (although one presumes they at least were there of their own free will, which makes it a little more palatable, although I still don't like the general message).

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