Fri
Apr 4 2014 2:00pm

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

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Muse“The Muse”
Written by Rene Echevarria & Majel Barrett Roddenberry
Directed by David Livingston
Season 4, Episode 20
Production episode 40514-493
Original air date: April 29, 1996
Stardate: unknown

Station log: Jake makes character notes based on people disembarking from a transport, some based in reality, some more fanciful. (The Bolian with a toupee is my favorite.) One woman, traveling alone, catches his eye. Later, she introduces herself in the replimat when Jake is writing on a padd. Her name is Onaya, and she name-drops a Cardassian architect, which impresses Jake. She also takes credit for helping him get out of his shell and making him known and remembered. Jake says he mostly writes because he likes to tell stories, but he admits to Onaya that he wants to be remembered as well. He mentions his goal of going to the Pennington School, and she promises to teach him techniques for bringing out his storytelling.

Meanwhile, Odo finds Lwaxana in his office crying—and pregnant. Turns out she married a Tavnian named Jeyal, but Tavnians raise children along gender lines: boys raised by men, girls raised by women. They aren’t even told the other sex exists until they’re teenagers. Jeyal had told her that, because she’s a Betazoid, they wouldn’t have a typical Tavnian relationship, but after they married, she practically became a prisoner in her own house, and he informed her that he would take their son away from her when he was born.

So Lwaxana ran away. She came to Odo because she needs his friendship—and his protection. She can’t go to Betazed, as that’s the first place Jeyal will look for her. (One assumes the second place is the Enterprise, but we don’t know that there’s a new Enterprise yet...)

Jake backs out of a trip to the Bajoran outback with Sisko and Yates—a trip that was his idea—because he’s really really focused on the story he’s writing.

Lwaxana sits with Kira, Dax, and Worf in Quark’s. They’re all dressed for the holosuite, but her depression is contagious, and they just sit there all mopey. Quark gets Odo to get rid of her—she’s bringing the whole place down, which is bad for business—and Odo takes her for a walk. He invites her into his quarters for tea, and he’s impressed that she figures out that his monkey bars are for shapeshifting—everyone usually thinks it’s a sculpture. She asks if he’s over Kira, and he obviously isn’t. Her advice is to not do what she did: try to mend a broken heart with a bad marriage and wind up pregnant and on the run. Odo dryly allows as how there’s not much danger of that. She winds up falling asleep in his lap, and he shapeshifts his arms into a blanket, which is actually kind of adorable.

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

Jake brings some stories for Onaya to read. Her quarters are decorated with gauze curtains and candles because the set designers wanted us to really know that she’s mysterious and weird. (What, casting Meg Foster wasn’t enough????) Onaya is less concerned about what he’s written but rather what he’s going to write. He talks to her about a semiautobiographical novel he’s contemplating, and Onaya reveals that she knows that he knows the first line already. She gives him a pen (which belonged to Revalus, another writer she knew, and another name-drop that impresses Jake) and paper and encourages him to write, letting the words tumble out, while she massages the back of his neck and his temples and whispers in his ear. It’s not at all creepy, especially when her hands start to go all glowy.

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

Odo and Lwaxana play an entertaining variation on hide-and-seek: Odo shapeshifts into something when Lwaxana isn’t looking, and she has to figure out what thing in the room he is. They both admit that it’s the most fun they’ve had in ages—but then fun is cut short by Jeyal’s arrival on the station. Odo has been studying up on Tavnian law, and there’s an entertaining loophole: a male child must be raised by the mother’s husband, not the father of the child. If Odo marries Lwaxana in a proper Tavnian ceremony, her marriage to Jeyal is annulled, and he loses all claim to her son.

However, Lwaxana knows all about Tavnian marriages. Odo must proclaim his love for Lwaxana and desire to be her husband, and must do so in a way that convinces everyone at the ceremony. If anyone doubts his sincerity, he can be challenged—and Jeyal intends to stay for the ceremony, which means that Odo has to convince him.

Jake is writing like a madman—though he somehow manages to keep his handwriting neat and on a straight line (something I could never manage when I took notes in college, and that paper had lines on it to guide me)—so much so that he gets a nosebleed, though that doesn’t even slow him down.

Odo invites much of the senior staff and a bunch of his deputies (and Quark, amusingly) to his quarters and begins the marriage ceremony. His initial recitation is rote, at best, but Jeyal challenges him to be more convincing in his declaration. So Odo tells everyone how Lwaxana helped him stop being ashamed of what he was. He feared that people would recoil if they saw what he truly was, but when Lwaxana saw him turn into a pile of goo in the busted turbolift, she didn’t recoil, but wanted to see more. He stopped being alone when she came into his life, and he wants her to stay in his life.

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

When Odo invites anyone to challenge the marriage, Jeyal remains quiet. Afterward, he tells Lwaxana that she was his most cherished possession (and she winces), and then he asks her to speak well of his father to the boy. Then he leaves without another word.

Jake is so consumed by the work that he refuses to stop and rest—even Onaya wants him to take a break. Eventually he admits that he’s tired, but promises to come back later, saying he needs her. He goes to the replimat to get some orange juice, and then collapses. Sisko returns from his trip to Bajor just in time to find his son in the infirmary. His brain is overactive, neurotransmitters going off the scale. He wakes up long enough to ask for Onaya before falling back asleep. Then Onaya appears, beats up the nurse and takes Jake away with her.

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

O’Brien finds traces of psionic energy on the bulkhead, so Sisko has Odo’s people search for that trace. Sisko joins the search—it’s his kid, after all—so of course he finds the trace in one of the maintenance crawlways. She sucks more glowy energy out of him, and he’s got another nosebleed. Sisko gets her to move away from his son, when she admits to being the inspiration for lots of creative folks over the centuries. When Sisko tries to fire on her, she turns to energy and buggers off.

Lwaxana has secured transport to Betazed. Odo actually wants her to stay, but she knows that it’s better to leave because she’s in love with him, and he isn’t, though he does care for her deeply.

While Jake recovers, Sisko reads the beginning of his novel, and really likes it. Jake does intend to get back to it once he’s recovered. He puts his byline on the title page, which he wasn’t sure he should do, because he wasn’t sure it was really his work. Sisko convinces him that Onaya took the words from him—but they were still his words.

And so we’re left with the title page: Anslem by Jake Sisko.

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

There is no honor in being pummeled: Worf’s entire contribution to the episode is to stare blankly into space and tell Odo he wants to go for a walk with him. For that, Michael Dorn sat in a chair for several hours to get crap put on his face. (I was also disappointed that in the one Lwaxana episode of DS9 that had Worf in it, we didn’t get a single “Mr. Woof” reference.)

Preservation of matter and energy is for wimps: Odo gets to be all white-knight-ish for Lwaxana, and does so very well, keeping her company, listening to her ramble about her first daughter, being a blanket for her, playing hide-and-seek with her, and then, finally, marrying her.

Rules of Acquisition: Quark throws a party for the newlyweds in the bar, admitting that he’s a hopeless romantic.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Jeyal loves Lwaxana, but his love is that you have for a possession. Lwaxana doesn’t love him, but married him because she knew she couldn’t have Odo. Odo still loves Kira, but is happy that she’s happy with Shakaar. And Sisko and Yates are taking trips to the Bajoran outback, so that’s going well...

Keep your ears open: “I trust I can count on you to accept me even if I just stand there and read last week’s criminal activity report.”

Odo, rightly assuming Lwaxana’s regard for him.

Welcome aboard: Majel Barrett makes her final appearance as Lwaxana, in an episode that was based on a pitch of hers, thus concluding the streak of her appearing as Lwaxana once in each television season since the 1987/88 season (the first for TNG). Michael Ansara, last seen as Kang in “Blood Oath” (not to mention “Day of the Dove” on the original series), plays Jeyal and Meg Foster—she of the magnificently freaky eyes—plays Onaya.

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

Trivial matters: Majel Barrett’s original pitch was for Lwaxana to show up pregnant and claim that Odo was the father (neat trick).

One of the aliens whom Jake observes disembarking onto the Promenade was played by John Paul Lona, who won an alien-creation makeup competition run by Playmates Toys, and judged by head maekup dude Michael Westmore, executive producer, Rick Berman, costume designer Robert Blackman, and Dan Madsen, the head of the official Star Trek Fan Club. Lona’s prize was to appear on the show wearing his award-winning makeup design. He named the alien species the Rasiinians, and they’d be seen again in Voyager’s “Infinite Regress” as part of a hallucination suffered by Seven of Nine.

Lwaxana tells Odo about Kestra, her first child, whose existence was revealed in TNG’s “Dark Page.”

Two of the writers Onaya claims to have inspired are Catullus, the Roman poet, and John Keats, the English Romantic poet. Another is Tarbolde, a Canopus Planet-based poet who was quoted by Gary Mitchell in the original series’ “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”

Jake was first accepted into the Pennington School in “Explorers.” He toured the school in “Homefront.”

The followup to this episode, in which Lwaxana has the baby (and her daughter Deanna Troi finally finds out that her mother is pregnant, and only then because Worf tells her), occurred in the eBook The Insolence of Office by William Leisner, part of the Slings and Arrows miniseries. Her son is named Barin, and he also appears in the tenth and eleventh issues of Marvel’s DS9 comic book, written by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin (and which have the titles “Lwaxana Troi and the Wedding of Doom” and “Four Funerals and a Wedding”), your humble rewatcher’s short story “The Ceremony of Innocence is Drowned” in Tales of the Dominion War, and the novel The Battle of Betazed by Charlotte Douglas & Susan Kearny.

In the alternate future seen in “The Visitor,” Jake’s first novel was called Anslem.

Walk with the Prophets: “The spelling is terrible!” One of the hardest things to write about is writing. Writing is quite possibly the most visually uninteresting task in the world, and it’s really hard to make it interesting.* Think about TV shows where a writer is the protagonist—in most cases, we almost never see them writing, but doing other things. Oscar Madison was mostly Felix’s slobby roommate. Richard Castle is mostly a police consultant.

* About the only person who can write well about writers is Aaron Sorkin. The West Wing in fact, had three different writers during Sorkin’s tenure, and what was most impressive was that they were each different types of writers from the other two. Tellingly, when Sorkin left the show, his successors had no idea what to do with the two writers who were left, sending one to a totally different job with the vice president and doing very poorly by the other one before writing him out unconvincingly.

The notion of Jake being attacked by a creative succubus posing as a muse probably seemed like a good idea in the writers room, but holy crap does it not work. Seriously, the big threat of the week is Jake writing on a piece of paper while Onaya gives him glowy-hand neckrubs. Mind you, Meg Foster is the perfect person to play Onaya with her whispery voice and weird-ass eyes, but the role itself is just awful.

Having said that, the B-plot actually works quite well. Yes, it’s a pretty tired trope, but it’s sold by the continued unlikely chemistry between Rene Auberjonois and Majel Barrett. It helps that Barrett’s Lwaxana is more subdued than usual, so we’re not subjected to the character’s excesses, but mostly what sells it is Odo’s caring for her. It’s fun to see Odo let his whimsical side out, and the moment when he reveals himself to be disguised as the surface of the monkey bars and then triumphantly sitting atop the bars in humanoid form with a big grin on his face is an infectiously delightful visual. The scene stands out in an episode that is mostly pretty leaden and desperately trying to be dramatic and serious and is mostly just tiresome.

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

And what a waste of Michael Ansara. Jeyal doesn’t really call for much beyond posturing a couple of times, and Ansara does the best he can, but he’s a straw antagonist, an easily hated person for Lwaxana to set Odo against.

Still, Auberjonois sells it, as usual. His explanation of what Lwaxana means to him is magnificent, and does a nice job of showing how “The Forsaken” and “Fascination” fit into Odo’s ongoing development in ways we may not have even realized (mostly because they’re Lwaxana episodes, and we try to forget those).

 

Warp factor rating: 4


Keith R.A. DeCandido reminds everyone that he has a bunch of stuff coming out over the course of the rest of 2014: his latest Star Trek book, The Klingon Art of War; two anthologies that have Cassie Zukav stories in them, Out of Tune (edited by Jonathan Maberry) and Bad-Ass Faeries: It’s Elemental (edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jeffrey Lyman, L. Jagi Lamplighter, and Lee C. Hillman); and the “Merciless” adventure for the Firefly role-playing game Echoes of War. If you’re not following Keith on Facebook or Twitter or reading his blog, why the heck not??????

25 comments
Christopher Bennett
1. ChristopherLBennett
You pretty much summed it up. The Odo-Lwaxana stuff is sweet and effective, and the rest was forgettable and pointless. It's always weird when an episode is named after its less important and interesting subplot (cf. Voyager's "The Swarm").
Jeff Patterson
2. Jeff Patterson
Dissappointed Odo never got the chance to extend his arms several feet to either side and say "I love you THIS much..."
Jason Parker
3. tarbis
Two B-plots mashed together rarely, if ever, makes a good hour of television. This is a fine example of the form.

On reflection if they had really committed to the creativity parasite plot then they might have gotten an interesting vampire/son-growing-away episode out of it, but then they would have needed a smaller B-plot and I would miss the interaction between Odo and Lwaxana.
Jeff Patterson
4. TBGH
Maybe I just liked the idea, but this was a standout episode for me. Would you give up years off your life to accomplish something great? Onaya is creepy and encouraging all at the same time.

Not the best acted episode, but to me the story makes up for so much.

On the other side, Lwaxana's story seemed so contrived to lead to the wedding. Plus, the best Trek examines the benefits and drawbacks of alien ideas and cultures. Here they were just trying to figure out how to get around it. Yes Odo and Lwaxana are entertaining together, but the story took away from that a little for me.
David Levinson
5. DemetriosX
There's just nothing here for me at all. I tended to react to Lwaxana like a combination of Deanna and Picard. About the only thing going for her appearance here is that she isn't the butt of the joke as she so often was on TNG. Unfortunately, the whole pregnancy plot is really hard to buy. Wasn't her going through menopause the MacGuffin for one of her appearances on TNG? The one where her sex drive is cranked up to 11?

As for the other plot, as much as Trek has always loved psychic/emotional vampires, I've never been able to buy into it. In fantasy, sure (Tim Powers' The Stress of Her Regard *cough*cough*), but not in an sfnal situation. And they never do a good job of convincing us that Jake is a decent, let alone good or potentially great writer.
Christopher Bennett
6. ChristopherLBennett
@5: "Manhunt" did refer to "the phase" as similar to human menopause, but not the same thing. Deanna's line was, "It's only at mid-life that a Betazed female becomes, well, fully sexual, if you know what I mean." It was never stated that Lwaxana would lose the ability to procreate; if anything, a heightened sex drive at midlife suggests the opposite.
Thomas Thatcher
7. StrongDreams
Are there any good Trek episodes that involve mysterious energy vampires? After 3+7+4 years of various Trek, who thought this was still a good idea?
Christopher Bennett
8. ChristopherLBennett
@7: "Wolf in the Fold" was about an energy being that fed on fear, and that's pretty well-regarded, I think.
Jeff Patterson
9. ROBINM
I enjoyed the Odo and Lwaxsana story because it was sweet and she is not massively annoying for once. Michael Ansara is wasted in his role here. Energy vampires are never a good idea but Meg Foster's eyes always freak me out. Wolf in the fold is kinda scary the first time you see it but mostly because it's Piglet with a scary demon voice. Demon Piglet is Wrong!
Shelly wb
10. shellywb
@7 , Michael Ansara's original appearance was in The Day of the Dove, which featured a creature that fed off the energy of negative emotions. I liked that one.
Christopher Bennett
11. ChristopherLBennett
@10: Of course, how could I forget "Day of the Dove?" That was a classic.
Keith DeCandido
12. krad
I always found "Wolf in the Fold" to be sexist drivel even by the appalling standards of 1960s television, plus the evidence by which Hengist is convincing is ridiculously thin. I always liked Steve Lyons & Chris Howarth's theory of the episode, seen in The Completely Useless Unauthorised Star Trek Encyclopedia, to wit, that Scotty was the killer and Kirk, Spock, and McCoy engaged in a coverup by concocting a ridiculous story and conveniently beaming the "perpetrator" into space to hide the evidence.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Jeff Patterson
13. Crusader75
@12 - "Wolf in the Fold" is at least memorably creepy with the voice of Piglet as the psychotic minor cosmic horror.
Jeff Patterson
14. Eduardo Jencarelli
The Sorkin reference is probably the best analogy I've ever seen about writing the plight of tortured writers. The Muse really doesn't work at all. I see what Echevarria was going for, and it really missed the mark.

Also, this episode really makes Jake's actions look questionable, given that it immediately follows his decision to enter the Mirror Universe without informing Ben, which led to Alt Jennifer's demise. That's two episodes in a row where Jake makes the same mistake.

I definitely prefer the Lwaxana plot this time around. Great chemistry with Odo, and a nice send-off to the character (even I though I felt she had more stories to tell, especially when the Dominion invaded Betazed two seasons later).

So, in a way, even though Majel would live another 12 years, this is where I said RIP Lwaxana. You were an endearing part of Gene's universe.
Jeff Patterson
15. Ashcom
Many years ago my brother, who has a mental illness, came under the influence of a woman who convinced him that there was nothing wrong with him and that he should stop taking his medications. The result was that he went increasingly off the rails until eventually my parents had no choice but to have him sectioned (something they had been very much trying not to do) while they went to court and took out an injunction against her.

As with the situation with Jake here, this was not a sexual relationship. The woman was married, and besides my brother is gay. Rather it was one where she was someone who fed her ego through her control over others, and who played on my brother's desperate desire to be "normal".

It was a very scary time, and this episode in many ways reminds me of it. I agree that it is not a good episode, but having gone through that experience it is, for me, a very memorable episode. In some ways the failing is the usual failing of the 45 minute episode format, that this should have been a creepy story where the Meg Foster character gained a gradual insidious hold over Jake, rather than him leaping straight into full-blown obsession and changing his character almost overnight. It should have played out like a psychological drama, but instead we have Grand Guignol, and it feels like a missed opportunity.
Keith DeCandido
16. krad
Eduardo: You should read my short story "The Ceremony of Innocence is Drowned" in Tales of the Dominion War and the novel The Battle of Betazed by Charlotte Douglas & Susan Kearny. The first tells of the attack on Betazed from Lwaxana's POV, the second of the liberation of the world from Dominion control by a fleet that includes both the Enterprise and the Defiant, and Lwaxana is the leader of the on-world resistance.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Jeff Patterson
17. Annika Handsome
It seemed like an enormous missed opportunity to me to have a psychic villain and a psychic protagonist in the same episode, and then never have their plotlines intersect at all. Even if Lwaxana wasn't going to do anything as important as noticing that there's a psychic monster on the station or realizing that the monster was attacking Jake while it was happening, it might have been nice for her to be brought in to help with the diagnosis or to point out which direction Onaya fled in, so that we could be spared from tricorders detecting "psionic residue," which I'm pretty sure contradicts the way we've previously been told that technology interacts with psychic phenomena on these shows.
Jeff Patterson
18. Eduardo Jencarelli
@krad

I'll be sure to check it out.

I haven't read too many Dominion War novels besides the Carey ones that novelized the DS9 season 6 arc (haven't even read the Vornholt ones).
Christopher Bennett
19. ChristopherLBennett
@17: I don't recall anything in prior Trek which was incompatible with the idea of psionic energy being detectable by technology. On the contrary, we've seen examples of psionic interaction with technology before. Spock was able to mind-meld with Nomad and V'Ger; Sargon, Thalassa, and Henoch intended to implant their incorporeal consciousnesses into android bodies; the Camus II machine was able to transpose Kirk and Janice Lester's minds; and the Stone of Gol from TNG: "Gambit" was a psionic resonator, a device that functioned as a telepathic weapon.
Jeff Patterson
20. tortillarat
I hate this episode. I find it totally unwatchable. The entire thing is just awkward and embarrassing. I place it alongside episodes like Valiant and Voyager's Threshold. I just really can't stand this one...
Phil Parsons
21. Yakko
I'm not crazy about this one either and would rate it about the same as krad for all the aforementioned reasons. However I do absolutely love the continuity touch of having Anslem be the book that Jake is writing. Even more so do I love that in that final moment when the novel's title is revealed composer Paul Baillargeon reprises Dennis McCarthy's haunting melody from "The Visitor".
Jeff Patterson
22. Nix
Oh gods. I just noticed that Onaya claimed to have inspired *Catullus*. The assumption, one very much hopes, is that she was inspiring him to write his poetry in honour of Lesbia, and not, say, Catullus 16 (possibly the single most obscene work of poetry ever written, and surely the work that went censored for longest).

If she *does* inspire stuff like Catullus 16, I fear for Jake's writing. :)
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
23. Lisamarie
I really enjoyed this episode, but mostly for the Lwaxana/Odo parts. I agree that the portion with the 'muse' was pretty mediocre and her breathy way of talking was really annoying.

But, I really like how Lwaxana has developed as a character, and the way the friendship between her and Odo have progressed.

As an aside, the plot reminded me of 'Not Without My Daughter' (which I have not seen, but I remeber in the nineties there was a lot of fuss about it and general fear of that sort of thing).

Another aside - I thought the idea that Betazoids can sense their babies' thoughts/feelings in utero was really cool.
Andrew Hogenson
24. totalperspec
I didn't hate this episode but it's really a mess. The A-plot with Jake and Anaya reminds me a lot of 'Sub Rosa', another terrible episode I didn't hate, solely because Gates McFadden was actually really good in it.

For this episode the meat is actually the B-plot with Odo and Lwaxana, which is charming but poorly paced. It ends pretty early in the episode to give time for a sudden motivation change from Anaya, who before wanted Jake to rest (Enjoy your food woman. Don't just wolf it down!). The abduction is out of character and is only done so we can have a race against time ending sequence.

Still, the performances are good, and as far as ideas to make writing an interesting thing to show on TV you could do far worse than this.
Charles Olney
25. CharlesO
Amazingly, as much as I hate Lwaxana episodes, her half of this one is by far the better part. Her scenes with Odo are quiet and sweet and entirely lacking the manic absurdity that usually marks her character. The plot itself is pretty weak, but whatever. It gives Odo a chance to connect with someone and gives Lwaxana about as good of a sending-off as she could have. Their connection feels real – not overstated and also not played for laughs. Odo doesn’t love her, but he really does care about her, which makes his speech at the wedding work tremendously well. It’s not enough to sustain the whole episode, or overwhelm the fundamental silliness of the plot, but it’s really pretty nice.

But the other half is just god-awful. It would make for a pretty weak season 1 TNG episode. Stuck here in what has been a great season of DS9, it’s just wildly out of place. I like Cirroc Lofton as an actor and Jake as a character, but it sometimes seems like the writers don’t have very many ideas for how to use him. So we get stuff like this.

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