Star Trek Deep Space Nine: A Simple Investigation

Odo: "I don't have a heart."
Arissa: "You could have fooled me."

By nature I love brevity: An interesting premise with a lot of potential and an interesting if slightly derivative conclusion, and in between... yeah, they kind of forgot the 'in between' part.

Is it just me, or did it feel like this episode was over before it started? It's difficult for me to review, because it feels like the second act was just removed from the story entirely. The stage is set quite simply: Odo meets an intriguing and mysterious woman, and quickly falls in love with her. She's mixed up in something criminal, and shenanigans with evil bad guy aliens abound. But 'A Simple Investigation' takes its time getting there, in my opinion to its credit, actually. Each scene between Odo and Arissa is given the room it needs to breathe, and the actors do excellent work building an interesting relationship. And then it's over. A man comes in and explains everything. There's a tense climax, of course, but the villains are wholly undeveloped and the character arcs have only just gotten going, so it hardly feels earned.

This is a lush, interesting story for a good thirty-five minutes. The characters are well-drawn and their dynamics are interesting, and at this point I've settled in to see what's going to happen. But the sharp turn it takes into 'time to wrap it up' makes it all feel so pointless and unsatisfying that I'm not even sure if I should give the episode credit for the bits that engaged me. It sort of feels like the experiences I had countless times as a child, when friends would come over and we would play act a story, making it up as we went along. We'd spend a little while deciding what to do, and a little while coming up with our characters and the villain and such. Then we would get into the story, creating our own twists and turns as it went along. But inevitably, just at the moment that something so interesting came up that we all looked at each other, eager to explore our own imaginations more, the parents would come upstairs and inform us that we had only fifteen minutes left. The rest of the time would be spent coming up with a rushed conclusion to the story threads and finishing things up to the tune of periodic calls from downstairs that it was time to leave.

As a writer myself, I understand the struggles of having an excellent beginning and a killer ending, and no idea how to fill the middle. The solution that the writers of this episode employed was simply to flesh out their opening material, and immediately make a clumsy stumble into their conclusion. While as a viewer it made for a very unsatisfying experience, the question I must ask is whether the remarkable and engrossing beginning is invalidated by the rush straight for the end. I can opine all day about how this story was not right for an hour-long television format, but the truth is that it was created and released that way. The decision I am left with is whether to appreciate the value I found despite the disappointment, or to define my experience by the lackluster conclusion. I will leave the reader to make their own judgment, but for me, I do enjoy the first thirty-five minutes.

A few words are in order about the craft beyond the writing and pace. As I briefly mentioned before, both Rene Auberjonois and Dey Young do admirable work. Auberjonois has proved he can be depended on, but I remembered Dey Young as being boring and not very good when I went to rewatch it. I was mistaken. Young crafts a fascinating persona, with an air of mystery that draws both audience and Odo in without fail. Her chemistry with Auberjonois just makes it all the more interesting and entertaining to watch. I didn't notice anything in particular about the cinematography or direction, but I was very much engrossed, which is usually a sign that those technical jobs are being done well. All told, it is a well-produced episode, both in front of and behind the camera.

Strange New Worlds:

As with countless episodes of DS9, this takes place entirely on the station.

New Life and New Civilizations:

Arissa was revealed in the end to be an Idanian. They are a new race, but the dish called I'danian Spice Pudding has been mentioned several times before in the show. The apostrophe makes it debatable whether this is their dish or some other similarly named race's.

Pensees:

-This is the first time Odo has been romantically involved with anyone before. Here he directly refers to the Link as a romantic/sexual sort of experience. Although this parallel has not been drawn in-universe before, many viewers did interpret it that way.

-Also of note is that Odo's romantic interest in Kira has been a known factor for some time.

-Could Odo ever fall in love with someone who wasn't at least a little bit mysterious?

-Bashir and his friends are still using the same holodeck characters that were a part of the disaster in 'Our Man Bashir'. O'Brien, of course, still plays Falcon. The reason it only appears in one brief scene is because the show was threatened with a lawsuit by MGM after 'Our Man Bashir'.

-It's interesting that, while Odo can change his shape effortlessly and is a skilled undercover investigator, he is not fond of or interested in play-acting.

3.5 out of 6 Very Important Crystals.
--
Boy, did CoramDeo pick a lousy day to wear his contacts.

3 comments:

Gary said...

Much as I love DS9, one of the things they never did well was Alien of the week romances -- "Melora". "Second Sight", "Meridian" etc tend to be the weaker episodes of the series. The show did much better with developing relationships over time as with Sisko and Yates, Work and Jadzia, and especially Odo and Kira.

MeganCyber said...

I loved the OPS Kira/Dax gossiping about Odo's possible romance sexual dalliance and you can see underneath Kira being mildly annoyed wondering about how she's known worked with Odo for more than a decade and he's never shown attraction to her - BUT KIRA immediately recognized how this woman mistook Odo's intro noir lines as being sexual come ons as Odo's FIRST LINES meeting to Kira in Necessary Evil was 'A pretty Girl like you shouldn't be eating alone'. A literal CUTE MEET when series is rewatched as a whole.

Sisko sensually responding 'THAT's NIIICE!" to Jadzia mentioning Odo had spend the night with a woman, then turns to Kira basically says *Are You JEALOUS?* underneath saying 'Isn't it!?" =D

Victoria Grossack said...

The only thing that was good about this was giving Odo a little experience. But you're right; DS9's romances of the week are weak offerings. Even Odo's marriage with Lwaxana Troi has more depth.