Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Ascent

Quark, to Odo: "Deny it all you want. Your people gave you what you wanted. You're one of us now, and I can finally sit on a chair and know with absolute certainty that it isn't you."

By nature I love brevity: This episode has some good relationship bits, but the execution is subpar. Quark and Odo bicker endlessly, Jake and Nog butt heads over nothing, and a mildly enjoyable time is had by all.

This is not an easy episode to review. There's not really anything consequential or major that happens, nothing in the craft of it really sang to me, and the character bits we get, while interesting, are not particularly revelatory. We already have a pretty good sense of Odo and Quark's relationship at this point in the series, and we've also already seen the changes Nog's been through thus far. It's really not surprising that when stranded on a planet, Odo and Quark would go through those particular motions. It's equally unsurprising that Jake and Nog, having not seen each other for quite some time, would have some problems adjusting to each other's patterns of day-to-day living. The key moment that reveals something deeper is when Quark leaves Odo behind and makes it to the top of the mountain to save both of them, but this is not exactly a shock.

Usually I would unpack the journey of the characters through the episode, or the themes that are woven into the story. But I really don't see much change in any of them, and there aren't really any themes that I can pull from the story. The only real parallel between the A story and the B story is that both involve pairs of characters bickering with one another. While this is quite entertaining to watch, there's not a lot there to sink your teeth into, and the Quark and Odo moments especially are almost underwhelming in their predictability.

I also don't feel like it really ended properly. Take Jake and Nog's story, which is wrapped up without much thought. Think about the resolution of Jake and Nog's problems. They did not establish their expectations at the start, so they had all kinds of issues when neither of them met the other's unstated expectations. This led Nog to move out, and at this point Sisko decided to step in. But instead of providing advice, or doing something clever to convince them to talk it out with each other, he just used his authority to stick them back in the same quarters and then left. Even worse, this apparently just solved the problem, because Jake and Nog each immediately began to suggest that they do things the other's way. This is the beginnings of a compromise, but it doesn't actually stem from any real character change. They were fighting, but now they just aren't. You don't get to see a moment of realization or contemplation. They just come to an understanding without even really talking it out with each other. It's lazy.

Odo and Quark have a better ending, but it still doesn't quite sit right with me. We see Quark make the decision to go on and push to the end, but we don't see any more of the struggle. Plus, the episode established the climb as being nearly six days, and then did nothing to explain how Quark managed it in the time that he did. The challenge is overwrought, and the overcoming of that challenge is offscreen. This is also quite lazy. And while the beat at the end is perfectly fine from a character standpoint, the plot is left hanging. There could easily have been a throwaway line about how they're going to take Quark to Inferna Prime once he recovers, or something like that. Instead, we're just meant to assume this situation will be resolved. Remember that this was set up in the teaser as the main conflict of the episode. By the time we get to the end, the writer no longer cares about the Orion Syndicate, or Quark's summons by the Federation Grand Jury. It feels half-baked.

As I type each word, I like this episode less and less.

Strange New Worlds:

Quark and Odo crash land on an unnamed Class L planet. As you may know if you are a regular Trek viewer, Class M planets are worlds that are habitable for humanoids, with perfectly breathable atmospheres and suitable conditions. Class L planets are the next category down from that, ranging from barely breathable atmosphere to adverse but survivable conditions. Obviously this planet was on the more survivable end of the spectrum.

New Life and New Civilizations:

No new species or interesting facts about existing species here. In fact, most Class L planets are entirely devoid of life, like this one was until Quark and Odo came along.

Pensees:

-It strained credibility a bit that Odo was asked to bring Quark to Inferna Prime, but was not even told what level of security measures to place him under, or whether or not he was accused of anything. I get that he couldn't know what was going on, but he should have been told to use caution.

-I loved Rom's suspicion that Nog was a Changeling because he had been changed by Starfleet Academy. His scene with Captain Sisko was a gem.

-The story Jake was writing was called Past Prologue. This was the title of DS9's second episode, or third if you count the second part of the pilot as separate.

-Odo's burial instructions were to cremate him, place his ashes in his bucket, and send them through the wormhole. He appeared to change his mind about this, but was transported before he could say any more.

-Is it just me, or was Sisko feeling unusually sarcastic this episode? See the quotes section below.

-This is the last episode in which the crew all wear the original DS9 uniforms. The next episode will have completely redesigned (and much cooler) costumes.

Quotes:

Sisko: "Let me get this straight. I can visit whenever I want, but I have to call first. You're not available for breakfast or lunch, but I can count on one dinner a week."
Jake: "Some weeks, maybe even two dinners."
Sisko: "I have raised a very generous son."

Nog: "Don't worry, sir. I'll keep an eye on him for you. Keep him out of trouble."
Sisko: "You inspire me with confidence, Cadet."

Nog: "You don't know what you're missing. A healthy body, a healthy mind."
Jake: "Please, Nog. No cliches before breakfast."

Rom: "I wanted to ask you about Nog. You know, my son?"
Sisko: "I think I've met him."

Dax, about Quark: "If it wasn't for his signal, we never would have found you. Looks like he saved both of your lives."
Odo: "I was afraid you'd say that."

Quark: "You remember back there, when I told you I hated you, and you told me you hated me?"
Odo: "Vividly."
Quark: "I just wanted you to know, I meant every word of it."
Odo: "So did I."
*both begin to chuckle*

3 out of 6 beetles with a little meat on them.

--
CoramDeo just wants to have lunch.

1 comment:

Victoria Grossack said...

One thing I liked about this was how the virtues of Star Fleet have seeped into everyone. Quark and Odo encourage themselves to persist by considering what the station heroes would do.