Star Trek Deep Space Nine: In the Cards

'Lions. Gigers. Bears.'
'Oh my.'

By nature I love brevity: For my money, this is one of the funniest and most enjoyable episodes of Star Trek ever made. Starting out grim and dour, it balloons into a crazy ride through the ins and outs of the station, featuring some of the most dramatic elements of the series in a comedic light.

This episode hits sort of differently in our current times. Yes, I am of course talking about Dr. Giger's refusal to shake hands with Jake. But everything involved with Giger is interesting from our current perspective. I can see Giger's crackpot scientific theories being spread widely on social media and lapped up by the gullible masses in our day. I imagine his Cellular Regeneration... and Entertainment Chamber would have a nice little cottage industry. And Giger's craziness spurs Jake and others to believe and create ridiculous conspiracy theories. We laugh. And yet.

But with that out of the way, let's talk about what makes this episode work no matter when you watch it. It's interesting watching it and knowing what to expect, because it makes the opening that much more of a contrast. I remembered all the craziness that was to come, so when the first scene established an air of darkness and grim dread, I was a little blindsided. It's fascinating how the script weaves together the deadly serious arc with a hilarious one-off farce. We get some very interesting material subverting the normal dynamic between Sisko and Kai Winn, who find themselves suddenly allies and very much in agreement with one another. The decision to then cut straight from Jake and Nog's confrontation of Winn to Sisko's reaction was probably for the best, although I would have loved to see her reaction. Weyoun was the perfect choice as the Dominion's representative, fitting neatly in with both the comic and dramatic portions of the show.

The structure also accomplishes a key purpose. You need to care deeply about Jake's quest before he and Nog get into the weeds of their tasks. The first act does an excellent job of giving you the reasons why getting the card for Sisko is so important to Jake. In the end, this is a story about a son trying to please his father. It grounds it and makes it easier to keep caring when Jake continues to insist it must be a secret.

The first inklings that this will roll into comedy come from the auction, where Quark dryly comments about the Bajoran War Orphans fund. But the first truly funny element is of course Dr. Giger. What a delight the man is. From the first 'soulless minions of orthodoxy', Brian Markinson had me chuckling. By the time he was showing off his Cellular Regeneration... and Entertainment Chamber, I was in stitches. The look he gets in his eye when he asks Jake and Nog, and later Weyoun, if they want to die is equal parts menacing and pathetic, and it's absolutely perfect.

It was a ton of fun watching Jake and Nog complete all the tasks the various crew members had for them. It reminded me a lot of the hijinks they used to get up to in Season One, like the infamous Noh-Jay Consortium in 'Progress', another favorite of mine. Everyone brings their a-game here, as Cirroc Lofton sells ridiculous monologue after ridiculous monologue. Aron Eisenberg (may he rest in peace) is, as always, the perfect counterpart to Jake's antics. The interesting thing about Jake and Nog's dynamic is that I can't really place which one of them is the straight man. Usually it's Jake, but here his craziness is tempered by Nog's reason. They tend to trade places, and it's never out of character.

I love this episode, if you couldn't tell. I specifically requested it in the review schedule and I'm so glad I did. I had a blast rewatching it.

Pensees:

-This episode was the directorial debut of Michael Dorn, who effortlessly juggled tonal shifts like it was nothing. Dorn's talents as an actor are well-established, but his direction here is delightful. Dorn will go on to direct several more episodes of the show as well as one of Enterprise.

-It has previously been established that the conversion rate of Gold Pressed Latinum is twenty strips to one bar. However, in the auction scene, Dr. Giger follows a bid of one bar, twenty five strips with a bid of two bars. This is in fact a lower bid according to the conversion rate in DS9's 'Body Parts'.

-It turns out, unsurprisingly, that Dr. Giger was named for the explicit purpose of making the Wizard of Oz reference work.

-Even Ron Moore's own work, Star Trek: First Contact, is not safe from satirization in his teleplay here. Jake's line about working to better ourselves and the rest of humanity is quoted directly from Captain Picard in that film.

Quotes:

Jake: "We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity."
Nog: "What does that mean exactly?"
Jake: "It means... It means we don't need money."
Nog: "Well, if you don't need money, then you certainly don't need mine."

Dr. Giger: "You, the unwary victim of cellular ennui, are quite literally bored to death."

Jake: "I'm not crazy. I'm just a little obsessed."

Dr. Giger: "I still get a little bored after the first five hours."

Weyoun: "I feel we are very much alike."
Kai Winn, feeling his pagh: "No. We are nothing alike. Nothing at all."

Jake: "The entire future of the galaxy may depend on us tracking down Willie Mays and stopping him."

6 out of 6 soulless minions of orthodoxy.

--
This is what CoramDeo gets for missing staff meetings.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

ITA love this one endlessly and when making a start of the Dominion Wars playlist for people I INCLUDE THIS ONE Then Call to Arms & S6 Episodes 1-7(include Worf/Dax wedding) you get a perfect 10episode season binge!
always gobsmacked annoyed by fanbois who basically don't like DS9 whine how this is too silly when SERIOUS story arc points are covered but as a byline to a comedic story.

Poodlerat said...

I also love this episode. I didn’t expect to the first time I saw it, because Star Trek does not always do humour well, and because the episode before a season-ender is often a low point in American television, so I was very pleasantly surprised.

Aside from everything you already mentioned, I love seeing the two smarmiest, most insincere characters in the series be smarmily insincere at each other. Kai Winn shutting down Weyoun in the quote above was just so awesome.

Victoria Grossack said...

The best scavenger hunt in all of Star Trek!