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Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 2-04: Invasive Procedures

Episode:24|Writer:John Whelpley and Robert Hewitt Wolfe|Air Date:17-Oct-1993

This week on Sci-Fi Adventures, I'm writing about more Deep Space Nine. Season 2, episode 4: Invasive Procedures, to be precise.

The series' second season kicked off with a big flashy three-parter with a phaser fight every episode, plus location shoots, Odo morphs, an elaborate dogfight sequence, stuntmen falling off cliffs... it was basically a two-hour apology for season one. But those kinds of episodes come at a cost, and in this case, the cost was money, so I expect these next few stories are going to be on the cheap side. Though they did pay to put a smokey space-fog background behind the station this week, which is cool.

We're also done with serialisation for a while, probably because certain people in certain positions of authority wanted to keep everything contained to single episodes that could be watched in any order. To be fair though this was still a fair few years before DVD season box sets and Netflix, and the ridiculously expensive VHS tapes only had 2 episodes on.

Anyway, I'm going to sharing screencaps of the whole episode and writing down my thoughts underneath, so there's going to be massive SPOILERS past this point. Plus I'll probably end up spoiling something from an earlier episode of Trek along the way, but nothing from anything that came after this. As far as I'm concerned it's October 1993 right now, and I don't even know what a DVD or a Netflix even is.



Station log, stardate 47182.1, the station's been evacuated again! Two episodes in a row this has happened now, so the civilians would've barely had the time to unpack their stuff before getting sent back to the runabouts. It's a shame the writers didn't plan ahead because then they could've had this take place during the time people were still on their way back and used continuity to their advantage.

Though this time the evacuation is due to a plasma disturbance and absolutely everyone but the core crew is gone. There are no Bajorans voluntarily staying behind, no Starfleet teams hiding in conduits, no Quark hanging around the airlock because his brother sold his seat to a Dabo girl...

...oh hang on.

Man, they were just determined to squeeze this guy into every episode somehow weren't they? I mention various Deep Space Nine/Babylon 5 similarities sometimes but in this regard, they couldn't be more different. B5 would have had Quark show up just 3 times a year and would've still put him in the opening credits just to drive me mad.

It's so rare to see an airlock without a ship behind it like this and I remember Quark being in there the last time it happened as well... just a single button press away from a horrible death at the hands of his brother. You'd think that Quark would've learned something from that experience, but he seems pretty chill in there right now.

Quark actually volunteered to stay behind because "there wasn't enough room on the evacuation shuttles for 600 bars of gold pressed latinum", so I guess he got his money back after dragging it around conduits last episode. Though the case didn't actually seem all that huge back then.

Oh it was a bullshit story and he actually stayed behind to plant this mysterious device in an airlock. It's been a while since they've ended a teaser with an ominous blinky light.


ACT ONE


Act one begins with the station getting a distress call from a ship caught in the plasma storm. The crew immediately races to give assistance, but Dax is in such a rush that she accidentally presses the wrong button and vaporises them with a phaser beam. Oh hang on, DS9's just got a really deadly looking tractor beam.

Poor O'Brien and Odo; they just spent ages sealing airlocks due to the storm and now they're going to have to open one up again to let these guys in.

Oops, it was full of Klingons who immediately hold the two of them at gunpoint. Though on the plus side, they're not wearing the typical Star Trek: The Motion Picture Klingon uniform for once! Not that there's anything wrong with the costume, it's just nice to have a change.

You can't really see him in this shot, but that Trill back there in the smoke is played by special guest star John Glover, of Smallville, Brimstone and Gremlins 2 fame! He played Lex Luthor's dad, the Devil and a billionaire property tycoon called Daniel Clamp respectively, so chances seem good that he's a villain in this. Right now though he's mostly cowering in the background and getting ordered around.

Here's another actor that'd be immediately familiar to everyone if you could see his face, as he's Tim Russ from Star Trek: Voyager! The series began airing about a year after this, so I'm going to assume he's actually Lt. Tuvok undercover on a mission for Starfleet Intelligence. Either that or he's Tuvok's Klingon cousin Kuvot.

They force Odo into a box by threatening to shoot O'Brien's and then go down to the infirmary to force Bashir to put him into a stasis chamber by threatening to shoot the box. Of course, Bashir has no idea Odo's in there, from his perspective a Klingon just came up to him and threatened to shoot his own box, so O'Brien has to explain the threat he's trying to make.

Fun fact: the woman holding the box, Mareel, is the same species of alien as the woman who invented the exocomp robots in that episode of Next Gen (The Quality of Life)! There's nothing special about that species, they just had the prosthetic lying around and decided to reuse it to save money.

Now that Odo's out of the way, they all head up to Ops to seize control of the station and take the entire crew hostage without a fight. Our heroes have ended up in a Starship Mine kind of situation, except without a Jean-Luc McClane character loose to single-handedly save the day. This wouldn't have been so bad, except it comes immediately after an episode where the crew heroically outmanoeuvred three transports worth of Bajoran troops invading the nearly abandoned station. To let them be captured this easily now just seems embarrassing.

Though to be fair the intruders had a bit of help, as Quark's blinky light device disabled their security systems. Quark arranged to get them onto the station because he was told they wanted to buy something from him, so he's as surprised as anyone when he finds himself thrown in with the other hostages. Now that they're all together, John Glover can explain what they're really here for. Plot twist: the timid Trill is the one calling the shots and he's come to steal Jadzia's symbiont!

But the symbiont's where all of her character traits come from, if he takes it out she'll be even more dull! Plus she'll die!


ACT TWO


John Glover (who we learn is called Verad) seems genuinely apologetic about the whole thing. He realises that hiring mercenaries to take over the station and steal a woman's parasitic brain worm has caused everyone inconvenience. But he's still willing to burn O'Brien's shoulder to convince Bashir to cooperate.

Verad spent his whole life studying to qualify for a symbiont, but after all that work he was told that he was unsuitable for joining and it's sent him a little loopy. He feels that they condemned him to a life of mediocrity and that the Dax symbiont is rightfully his, so he's going to take any steps required to get it. He has to murder an innocent woman to steal her self-confidence, because he deserves it and he doesn't have a choice!

Well okay, he could've just taken an unjoined symbiont from the Trill homeworld without killing anyone, but it's far easier to make a getaway afterwards if he steals one that's right next to the Gamma Quadrant wormhole.

Dax points out that only 1 in 10 Trill are ever joined and she knows people who "lead happy and productive lives" without a symbiont, but for some reason the guy who's become desperate enough to take over a Federation-run outpost is unswayed by this fact. But then she talks about the reasons that most Trill are found unsuitable, like a risk of permanent damage to the host and symbiont, and this finally gets him to change his mind, put his gun away and call the whole thing off.

Actually it turns out that Verad doesn't give a damn about that either, and he puts his girlfriend Mareel in charge of keeping watch in Ops while he goes down to the infirmary to get Jadzia's coprocessor removed.

Back in Ops, Sisko explains to the others that hosts usually die a few hours after their symbionts are taken out, so if the procedure goes ahead they won't have long to put Dax back into Jadzia. Klingon Tuvok suddenly decides he's had enough with the pacing in this episode and goes over to kick O'Brien in the shoulder for talking.

This gives Sisko a chance to grab him, while Kira goes for Mareel (because the rules of 90s television state that the guy has to fight the guy and the woman has to fight the woman). But Mareel grabs Kira's arm when she tries an official Star Trek™ double-handed hammer attack and knocks her down with some quick elbow strikes!

Hang on, Kira lost a fight? I-I don't understand. Why would the writers have her getting utterly Worf'd against a single opponent with no obvious alien super strength or special training?

Sisko has better luck and actually manages to beats the crap out of Klingon Tuvok, but now that Mareel's got her phaser drawn it's all over. That expression on Sisko's face says it all.

Well, I have to give Deep Space Nine credit for subverting expectations and doing something crazy and unpredictable, because I never would've predicted that Kira, O'Brien and Quark between them couldn't take down one person with Jadzia's life at stake if they fail. Sure O'Brien's currently in agony, but there's a Klingon disruptor on the floor and if he or Quark had gotten to it they could've ended this fight. Then they just had to beam that other Klingon keeping guard in the infirmary over to one of the cells and the crisis would've been over!

Meanwhile Bashir's busy removing the Dax symbiont from Jadzia's kangaroo pouch and cutting the cord linking it to her nervous system with his high-tech space scissors. It's not the first time the series has shown Dax itself, as we got a flashback to when Jadzia became joined back in Emissary. And now she's become unjoined.

Bashir takes the symbiont over to the other bed and plugs it into Verad, who's now become Verad Dax!

The camera then pans across Ops to show that everyone's bored and miserable up there now. The crew had their chance to save Jadzia and they blew it. Plus O'Brien's still in agony and Kira's made it clear to Quark that even if they survive this, his days of running a bar on the station are over. They've let him get away with a lot, but letting "four armed terrorists" on board is a step too far. Uh... it's a bit of a stretch calling them terrorists Kira, seeing as they've absolutely no interest in spreading terror. They're clearly just thieves and murderers.

Though Mareel seems a bit remorseful about wiping the floor with Kira a minute ago. She explains that they're not here to hurt anyone, they just want to kill one of them and then leave. By her reckoning Verad had no choice, he had to steal the symbiont, and she has to stick by him because he saved her from living on the streets and working in an... accommodation house.

Sisko warns her that if she lets Verad goes through with the joining she'll lose the person she loves, but she already knew he'd try that argument on her. There's not much she can do about it now anyway as Verad Dax comes walking in, all confident and Daxified.


ACT THREE


Done in the infirmary, Bashir's so determined to keep Dax alive that he even manages to convince Klingon #2 to run his sci-fi gadget back and forth over her stomach to speed up the healing (or slow down the dying I guess). Though the guy does it in a really obviously exaggerated way like a sulky child, to show that he's still a badass who's totally in control of his own life. Which kind of describes the actor's performance all episode now that I think about it. I kind of wish the character would stop being on screen.

Then Jadzia wakes up and we finally get to see what her personality was like before she was merged with Dax! Well, for a few seconds anyway, while's she's terrified, dying and sleepy. She says that she's scared and then falls back asleep again.

Well that's good, for a moment I worried we were going to get an episode about Trills that gave Jadiza more to do than nobly sacrifice herself.

Back in Ops, the rest of the main cast get to sit around in silence some more as Sisko goes to talk to his old friend Dax... well, a new being possessing the same memories as his old friend at least. The two of them are able to laugh about old times for a bit, but it soon becomes obvious that while Verad may have gotten a confidence boost, he's still low on moral fibre and is perfectly okay with the idea of sacrificing Jadzia to attain his goal of not being a loser.

Man, how cold do you have to be to be entirely okay with murdering an innocent person that you used to be 10 minutes ago? He's had a second brain installed with its own personality and the memory of being his victim and this still isn't enough to get his empathy and guilt to kick in.

Everyone's getting uncomfortable with Sisko joking around with the man who gave Jadzia a death sentence, but he seems to have two plans going here. He's leading Verad into thinking about his time as Jadzia and he's getting Mareel to see how much of a stranger he's become to her. In fact Verad actually snaps at her for interrupting them as he talks to his old friend, but Sisko tells him they're not even friends anymore! Fade to commercials!


ACT FOUR


Act four begins with Evil Dax sitting in Sisko's office, staring into Ops, waiting for his turn to get a line. But all the cast can do is sit (or stand) around the background in silence while Sisko and Mareel have another chat. Sisko's still trying to convince her that Verad's changed and they need to get the symbiont out of him, but his persuasion skill check fails yet again.

Just then Quark gets an idea...

Maybe he's got a plan to save the day, maybe he's just so bored he'd rather pick a fight with a Klingon than hang around as a background extra any longer, it's hard to tell at this point. He must be really desperate though... throwing away money like that.

I've edited this scene down a lot, but basically what happens is... he doesn't win.

But it was all a trick so that he could distract Klingon #2 in the infirmary and give Bashir a chance to knock him out!

I'd be impressed by their teamwork, except Bashir actually needed Quark to give him a hint before he figured out what he was meant to be doing. Plus to be honest I kind of expected him to drug the Klingon in the scene earlier where he handed him the thing to wave around.

It's probably for the best he waited for Quark to turn up though as he needs his skills to crack the lock on Odo's box (though Bashir assists during the surgery as his nurse).

So Quark's just got himself beat up by a Klingon, tricked a second Klingon, freed Odo from his tiny jail and he even sacrificed some of his money! I feel like the writers suddenly noticed there was only 10 minutes of episode left and they needed to redeem him in a hurry before Kira kicked him off the series forever.

Wait... I just realised that he threw a coin earlier. The Ferengi trade in slips, strips, bars and other rectangular gold containers of liquid latinum, but I don't remember ever seeing them using coins on the series before.


ACT FIVE


With the storm outside finally dying down, Evil Dax and Klingon Tuvok take Kira as a hostage and head to their ship, while Mareel stays behind to... keep an eye on Sisko and O'Brien I guess.

But this time Sisko actually wears her down with another one of his 'Verad's not the man you knew' chats and finally convinces her to turn on him! Mostly because before Verad left, he changed the plan from 'I'll wait for you at the rendezvous point' to 'You wait for me at the rendezvous point'. She knows this means he's going to slip away because he doesn't want or need her anymore, but Sisko turns that around, saying that Verad does need her... to save him from being Evil Dax!

"If you hurt him, I'll kill you," she says, while handing over the only means she has to back up that threat.

Down at the docking bay, Evil Dax completely ignores the obvious trolley that wasn't there before and tries to open the airlock twice before realising that the cold vacuum of space is on the other side of the door.

Okay, my new second favourite thing about this episode is that the people responsible for such things actually took the time to make it blue and stormy outside the airlock window during the teaser and clear and black now. My first favourite thing is that the trolley is Odo.

Odo surprises them, giving Kira a chance to elbow the Klingon in the ribs. And between the two of them they're finally able to get a win, taking T'Vok down together! T'Kar I mean, sorry.

Evil Dax has a phaser so he could've ended the fight by walking down the corridor a little and then pointing it at them, but nope he runs away.

The editing makes it seem like he's only gone across to the next docking bay along on the station's outer ring, but he actually ends up at a runabout pad C on the inner ring, so by my quick calculations that would mean he's jogged about... a kilometre or so.

But he probably just used a turbolift off-screen.

Evil Dax opens the runabout pad airlock and runs inside...

... straight into Sisko, who was waiting behind the door with a phaser drawn. Does Evil Dax have window blindness or something? There's a window on all of these airlock doors, you can see what's on the other side!

Evil Dax calls Sisko's bluff, saying that he won't shoot him, even on stun, as he'd risk killing the Dax symbiont. Hang on, is that a Trill fact or is it just because Verad was only joined a few hours ago? Should I be worrying about Jadiza next time she's stunned?

Anyway Sisko just stuns the guy, problem solved.

I was actually expecting him to punch him out though. Or inject him with something. Or just grab him. You don't need a gun to stop a man from walking past you.

Verad wakes up in the infirmary and realises he's lost all the knowledge and confidence, but Mareel going to stick with him! Hope that works out for them when they're both thrown in prison. Jadzia, on the other hand, will be stuck with Evil Dax's memories forever.

Abrupt ending!


CONCLUSION

Well I was expecting Invasive Procedures to be a low budget bottle show after they spent so much cash on the the Circle trilogy, but I wasn't expecting to be bored to tears. It's like 20 minutes of story stretched out to 40 minutes, with no room left for a proper resolution. I think my main problem with the episode... is that I can't remember my main problem with it. It's fading from my mind so fast!

Okay I think my main problem with the episode is that it sets up interesting scenarios and then comes up with really unsatisfying payoffs for them:
  • The station is caught in a dangerous plasma storm for the whole episode! This leads to... waiting. 
  • Jadzia has her symbiont removed revealing her original personality for the first and perhaps only time! This leads to... her saying that she's scared and then falling asleep. 
  • Ops is taken over by thieves who hold the crew hostage! This leads to... a bit of a fight and then Sisko having the same conversation over and over until it eventually sticks.
  • Quark betrays the crew putting Dax's life at risk! This leads to... nothing, the episode ends before we learn his fate. Or anyone's fate for that matter.
Personally, if I'd written it (in an alternate dimension where I am a competent scriptwriter), I'd have made it a Jadzia-focused episode, because she is the Trill and it's about Trills. Maybe she could've had a John McClane role, where she was left for dead after surgery and had to inject herself with stimulants to keep herself going as she went around the station trying to foil the thieves before Verad escaped and she died. Make it the Deep Space Nine equivalent of Next Gen's Starship Mine! It would've been doubly great because Tim Russ was a villain in that episode too. Jadzia could've been talking to someone on the radio as she crawled through the conduits, allowing the episode to explore what kind of person she is without the symbiont, and how driven she had to be to earn it. Plus the storm could've been throwing a spanner into everyone's schemes, with consoles exploding and stuff needing fixing.

Okay fair enough, they didn't want to do the Die Hard thing, and it probably would've cost more anyway. Maybe the best they could do was an episode about a bunch of people trapped in a room together during a storm. That's fine, you can do a lot with that set-up, have lots of great interactions between the characters as tensions rise. But it feels like most of the time everyone sat silent in the background while Sisko tried to convince Mareel that being joined turns Verad into a different person for the 15th time. It's such a tedious, predictable episode, with a mundane, lifeless script and static, dull direction.

It's funny, I was kind of looking forward to this one as I remembered it being pretty good, but now I'm thinking that it's my least favourite episode of season 2 so far. Okay, that doesn't mean much right now as it's only the fourth episode and it comes after an epic three-parter, so I'll say this instead: I'd rate this lower than Move Along Home, Q-Less, Battle Lines, The Passenger... almost all of season 1 in fact. And not just because they should've known better by now.

On the plus side, John Glover is good as the two versions of Verad, Mareel's actress does well with what the lines she'd been given to say, uh... I liked it when they remembered to put the storm outside the airlock window and how Odo was a trolley. Sorry I haven't got much else nice to say about this one. Did I mention that I didn't like Klingon #2?

ODO'S MORPH OF THE WEEK:

A hilariously suspicious trolley.



COMING SOON
Deep Space Nine will return with Cardassians. But next on Sci-Fi Adventures, I'm watching Babylon 5's The Coming of Shadows!

Thanks for reading! There's a comment box down there if you're into that kind of thing.

4 comments:

  1. Hang on, if they take Dax out of Verad, are they not condemning him to death? Or was Dax not in him long enough for that to be a danger? I feel like this is the kind of thorny moral problem they would have done an entire episode of TNG about before handwaving a solution in the last five minutes.

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    Replies
    1. I haven't seen this episode in ages, but I think they said that it'd only kill the host after they'd been joined for a few days.

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    2. That would make sense, otherwise the DS9's crew is being cold here.

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  2. Now I wish DS9 had a rotating light shining into that fog.

    I think I've figured out why Quark isn't the success he thinks he should be: he stuffs his money into his mattress instead of investing it! C'mon, buddy. A little rainy day fund is one thing, but you keep 600 bars of latinum in a safe? You aren't Scrooge McDuck.

    I wonder how the first joined Trill got the idea of cutting their gut open and stuffing a giant worm inside. This has always bugged me about the concept. It's not like Trills come with symbiont pouches or whatever like you'd expect if they actually evolved as symbiotic species. Were joined Trills extremely rare before they discovered antibiotics and anesthetics?

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