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Sunday, 1 January 2017

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 1-17: The Forsaken

Episode:17|Writer:Don Carlos Dunaway and Michael Piller|Air Date:23-May-1993

This week on Sci-Fi Adventures, I've reached the final disc of my Deep Space Nine season 1 DVD set! The finish line is within sight. But first I need to make it through... a Lwaxana Troi episode.

The Forsaken is the first of three Lwaxana Troi episodes on DS9 and I'm surprised to have reached it so early; I didn't think she appeared until season 2 or 3. In fact I'm surprised she shows up on the series at all, considering how tied the character is to her daughter Deanna Troi, who was making appearances on every Trek series besides DS9.

It could've been worse though. In the series bible Lwaxana's listed as one of the recurring characters, alongside Jake, Nog, Keiko and Gul Dukat! Though the actress, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, has made at least five appearances in the series so far... playing the computer on board Starfleet ships.

I'm going to be recapping and reviewing the whole episode, with big screencaps everywhere, so there will be SPOILERS. For this episode and some of the ones that have come before it (perhaps including Next Gen eps). But I won't say a word about what happens afterwards, aside from just then when I mentioned how many episodes Lwaxana was in, and that Deanna shows up in everything.



The episode begins with Dr. Bashir struggling to look after a delegation of annoying ambassadors (Federation ones this time), and amongst them is Lwaxana Troi, daughter of the fifth house, keeper of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed, and Deanna Troi's mother! Also hater of Ferengi, especially when she believes they're stealing from her.

She's been 'wigged' apparently, and her latinum hair broach has gone missing. She's a telepath so finding the criminal should be easy for her, but she's sensing no guilt from anyone... therefore the thief must be Quark, as Betazoids can't read Ferengi.

Fortunately Odo's around to jump to Quark's defence and find the real culprit. As tempting as it is to assume that all Ferengi are criminals, it's really not true! It's just that all the Ferengi we've met are criminals, aside from maybe the Nagus (and that scientist on Next Gen a couple of weeks earlier). Man Star Trek really loves to paint entire alien races with the same brush.

Odo's above the racial profiling of humanoids though, so he works through the situation logically. Then he grabs the first Dopterian he sees and empties his pockets to find the broach (plus a Starfleet combadge amazingly).

If Lwaxana was telling the truth about not being able to read guilt, and it wasn't Quark, then it had to be the only other person in the room Betazoids can't read. Well, aside from Odo I guess, as he doesn't even have a humanoid brain to read.

Okay Odo, if you're such a good detective, how come you haven't realised that Lwaxana sounds identical to the runabout computer? He also hasn't noticed that she's become a little... fascinated by him. This is the end of the teaser, so the writers were relying on the promise of more of her antics to keep the Star Trek audience around through the opening titles.


ACT ONE.


Up in Ops, O'Brien's wrestling with the Cardassian computer system with his new apprentice Anana, who immediately stands out from all the other officers we've seen hanging around as she's got a name and a speaking role. She's actually able to verbally communicate instead of just nodding her head, it's really strange.

O'Brien's annoyed at the computer tripping him up and getting in his way while doing maintenance, to the point where he tells Sisko he wants to rebuild it from the ground up and he's serious. It'll take three years of work, but it'll be worth it. Sisko actually agrees, so I guess for the next three seasons they're going to be huddled around heaters in the dark, working the airlocks by hand and having food and oxygen shipped in.

But hey he's made O'Brien happy at least. Then he notices that the turbolift's coming up... with ambassadors on it.

Sisko's reaction here is amazing, as he goes from 'oh no', to 'I want to stick my head in the fusion reactor', to 'please make yourselves at home, really' in the seconds before he turns around to greet them.

But he saves his 'I gave you one job' glare for Dr. Bashir, who was supposed to keep these folks on the other side of the station to him. Well at least Lwaxana isn't here.

Just then the wormhole kicks into life, spitting out a mysterious probe from the Gamma Quadrant. The ambassadors are all eager to start interfering with the crew as they're doing their jobs, with one even claiming that Dax doesn't have enough experience to scan the computer systems to determine its potential compatibility. Bashir has to point out that she's actually waaaaaaay older than he is (but really she's only been scanning computer systems for a few years at this point).

Sisko helpfully informs them about a window on the extreme outside edge of the station that'll give them a great view of the probe and then schedules a briefing for them at 04:00 hours, presumably hoping they'll have fallen asleep before then.

Meanwhile Odo's got ambassador problems of his own as Lwaxana makes her interest in him abundantly clear. She manages to do something few people are capable of: cornering a shape-shifter. Wow, it's just occurred to me how much this looks like the shot of the alien cornering Ripley in Alien³. He's got the same look of panic on his face:

I was able to borrow this image from a Doctor Who review where I made the exact same joke.
Eventually he has to lie about being called to Ops just to get away from her. I think he's planning on disguising himself as one of the seats until she's off the station.


ACT TWO.


We're getting some nice views of Ops this episode. They're pulling the camera back at bit more than usual. Unfortunately it also shows off how ridiculous the console layout is.

O'Brien's managed to get the station to interface with the probe with little trouble, which doesn't sound like the smartest thing to do really. They've no idea what's on that thing and yet they've connected it to the computer that keeps everyone on the station alive, didn't they ever watch Battlestar Galactica? They could really do with an isolated system for this kind of thing.

They discover that the probe has no scientific or communication equipment, but it's got a computer system on it powerful enough to run the Enterprise. Also I think Anara's trying to squeeze her way into a recurring role here.

Oh, I should mention that Kira's got a new uniform! It looks very similar to her old one at first glance, but this is a one piece jumpsuit without the separate jacket. Seems a bit weird for them to change it now, when there's only four episodes left until season 2, but I guess they had some money spare. This doesn't feel like the most expensive episode.

After getting no help from Sisko, Odo returns to the Promenade only to find Lwaxana waiting to ambush him. The woman's like a cartoon character, and that character is Pepé Le Pew. She explains that she's been chatting with Quark to arrange a picnic for them in a holosuite, to his absolute horror.

Unfortunately he doesn't make it back into the turbolift in time and she manages to join him in there. So now he's trapped in a lift with the only humanoid that's ever truly scared him.

It's shot from inside the lift looking out! I was wondering if a barrier came out to protect the occupants while it's in motion, but nope. It's a miracle no one's lost a limb yet.

Odo tries to explain that he can't have a picnic because he doesn't really have a mouth, or a digestive system. He's a gelatinous puddle that can form a humanoid shape for 16 hours at a time. "I can swim" she replies, not even remotely put off. That's a line straight from her character description in the series bible by the way:

Then, just to make the nightmare complete, the turbolift suddenly stops, trapping them both in there. And the transporter's broken down too.


ACT THREE.


The crew can't figure out what's wrong with the turbolift system, and Odo can't just turn to liquid and slip out because he'll get electrocuted by an exposed circuit in the positioning mechanisms. So he'll be stuck there a while... with Lwaxana. The character reactions have been solid gold this episode.

Personally I think that the Cardassian computer's feeling miserable because O'Brien doesn't like her, so she's taking it out on the voice of the Federation computers.

Lwaxana ignores Odo's pleas for silence and starts talking at length about the time she was trapped on a Ferengi cargo ship, to the point where Odo starts to serious consider taking his chances with the exposed circuit.

Meanwhile Bashir's up in Sisko's office complaining about the Ambassadors of Unhappy. Everyone's coming to Sisko for help this episode, it's great. They're acting more like people than ever.

The conversation ends with Sisko admitting that people stopped asking him to escort ambassadors as a junior officer after a minor misunderstanding. He caught one of them trying to persuade a young ensign to join him in his quarters against her will and punched them. It's funny how every story we hear about Sisko's past involves him getting ready to knock someone out.

Meanwhile, back in the IT department, O'Brien still hasn't gotten Odo out of the turbolift and he's no idea what's up with the thing. Every time he goes to take a break, something else goes wrong to keep him busy... like the computer wants attention.

You know who doesn't want attention though? Anara. She's basically become part of the background now and it's bothering me even more than when she had lines earlier.

She was actually meant to be a minor recurring character and the producers had cunning plans for her, but that didn't work out and her plot was transferred to someone else. If you're keeping track of inadvertent DS9/B5 similarities, that's a big one right there, but I can't explain why without spoiling both series.


ACT THREE.


The crew theorise that connecting with the probe left them with an AI lifeform playing around inside their computer, so they try to copy the files back where they came from. Doesn't work.

Also Sisko can't remember what turbolift Odo and Ambassador Troi are trapped inside, as he says 'turbolift 4' instead of 'turbolift 7' in his station log. I can forgive him though as I have no idea how anyone can tell which is which and where they are in the first place. The lifts don't have numbers on and the lift shafts are a network of identical tubes that go vertically and horizontally across the whole station.

Odo's been trapped in the lift for four hours now and Lwaxana has finally ran out of things to say. So she begins asking questions about him instead. We get a bit of backstory for him here, as he reveals that he got his look by imitating the Bajoran researcher who was studying him. I'm sure the guy had eyebrows and those nose ridges, but Odo never mastered them for whatever reason. He basically grew up in a lab, trying to fit in by entertaining people with his shape-shifting powers, and he hated it.

Lwaxana finally notices that he's suffering, but it's not just because of her. He's been holding this shape for over 15 hours now and he can't manage it much longer. But if he turns to liquid he'll drip out of the lift and get electrocuted!

Back in Ops, O'Brien's keeping the computer busy while Anara copies the probe files to isolinear rods. It's going pretty well, aside from the sparks... plus the explosion in the habitat ring.

It's like the computer's deliberately targeting the ambassadors. Every time a disaster happens they're the only ones who are ever in danger. Well them, plus anyone unlucky enough to be near them at the time. Like Bashir in this case.


ACT FIVE.


So Sisko and Kira get their guns out and start trying to cut through the emergency doors to get the ambassadors out. They manage to burn away the outer layer, but the inner door is undamaged. So that's something else O'Brien will have to fix later.

Meanwhile in Ops, O'Brien figures out that the AI craves attention, so all their attempts to get rid of it are just giving it more reason to stay. All they have to do is make another part of the computer more interesting to it and it'll go off and play there instead.

He's too late to save Odo though, the poor guy's really melting now, though he's too embarrassed to let Lwaxana seem him like this.

So she takes her wig off. No one's ever seen her like this, boring and ordinary. Not exactly the same thing as dissolving into a puddle of goop, but he really appreciates the gesture.

He appreciates it even more when she catches him in her skirt, keeping him from pouring out of the lift and saving his life. Aww.

Though I guess they had no money left for a goopy uniform, not after making Kira's new outfit.

Speaking of Kira, she and Sisko have stepped up to more powerful cutting tools now, but it's still going to take a while to get Bashir and the others out. Still, it means they get to hang around in the moody blue smoke for a bit. It's a nice look, they should set the corridors on fire more often.

Kira tells a crew member to get something that can treat plasma burns and have a runabout ready to evacuate the ambassadors to Bajor if necessary.

Hang on... the runabouts! They're not connected to the station computer and they all have working transporters on board. They could've use them to beam people to safety at any time! I guess I can't be too hard on the characters for not figuring this out though, seeing as it didn't occur to me until now.

Up in Ops, O'Brien creates an interesting subprogram called "Pup" and moves the probe files over to it. All the lights come back on, the lifts start working, the emergency doors open, and all is well!

Well, except for the fact that the corridor that Bashir was trapped in is now a charred wreck filled with debris. Nothing could've survived in there, not even an ambassador.

It'd be funny if parts of the station started to resemble a Federation station as the original Cardassian decor continues to get wrecked and O'Brien doesn't know how to replace it. But I think the corridors actually remain more or less unchanged for the whole run.

Oh Bashir survived! Turns out he got everyone inside the access tunnels where they were safe. The ambassadors are all incredibly impressed by his quick thinking and he'll be getting a commendation. So I guess that worked out then.

I've seen the episode before and I knew that Bashir was going to have to rescue the ambassadors from a disaster, but I couldn't remember anything about how he did it and it's been bothering me. But now I know why I couldn't remember... because he saves them all off screen!

Odo and Lwaxana are also safe. Apparently Odo doesn't need to spend long as a puddle as he's back to his normal shape. And he's grown to like the crazy ambassador a little.

The episode ends with a redundant scene where O'Brien explains what we already know: the lifeform wanted attention, so he gave it a place to live where it won't interfere with system functions.

They're all decent Starfleet folks so they decide they're just going leave it there, where it's happy. It's the humane thing to do! So we get a nice ending.


CONCLUSION

That wasn't actually so bad! It was more entertaining than an episode about being stuck in a lift with Lwaxana Troi while the station's IT department fixes the computers has any right being.

Most of The Forsaken was built from shots of the crew sitting around in Ops trying to troubleshoot a broken computer, with the help of that mysterious new Bajoran technician who has a name and lines, but it offsets its tedium by tormenting O'Brien and blowing up Bashir. Plus they found some good angles to show off their Ops set and the crew are actually acting like people here. DS9 has been at its best so far when the characters are just hanging out and being funny and this gives them given plenty of opportunities. And we get a couple of great reaction shots as they struggle to be polite to the comically irritating ambassadors as well.

It's also nice to get a bit of backstory for Odo, and an explanation for why he's not burning through the series' budget by shape-shifting all the time. If I'd been forced to entertain Cardassians at parties, I'd be grumpy too. Lwaxana serves her purpose here, as it's her persistence that gets him to open up, but she also gets to grow to be a little more three dimensional herself as she reveals that her annoying persona is at least in part an act, as she can't stand to be ordinary. So congratulations to everyone involved for finding a way to make the character bearable... perhaps even likeable.

Trouble is that an episode about fixing computers is never going to be a classic. Well okay Contagion in the second year of Next Gen was a season highlight now that I think about it, and to be honest this kind of is for me too. I mean I didn't think it was a great episode, but it was consistently enjoyable, so I'd put it way above most of the episodes I've seen lately in my personal rankings. Not bad for an story built around a Next Gen guest star.


COMING SOON
Deep Space Nine will return with Dramatis Personae. But next on Sci-Fi Adventures, I'm going back to Babylon 5 with The Quality of Mercy.

You're welcome to leave a comment. Encouraged, even!

2 comments:

  1. Oh no, Lwaxana Troi. I never understood why she kept coming back, when surely the point is that she's a one-shot joke about making Picard uncomfortable; why she started appearing on programmes that didn't feature Picard makes even less sense to me.

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    1. She was a running joke about making Picard uncomfortable!

      Also I imagine that the actress being married to Gene Roddenberry was a big reason for why she came back at first, and I can imagine the writers decided to keep using her when they found that she's more fun to write scenes for than the Starfleet characters. Plus they were all big Original Series fans on DS9, and she's played by both Number One and Nurse Christine Chapel!

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