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WARNING: This article contains spoiler information regarding DS9's "Armageddon Game". While reading these spoilers without seeing the show isn't likely to result in armageddon, anyone sensitive to having shows
spoiled for them should look elsewhere.

Now that was rather nice...

It's no secret that since "Necessary Evil" back in the fall, I've been rather underwhelmed by DS9, and hoping it wasn't permanent.

Fortunately, it wasn't. Oh, "Armageddon Game" isn't perfect, but it is what many DS9's this season have utterly failed to be: engrossing. Virtually every scene had something that was keeping me hooked -- and
bottom-line, that's got to be the goal of any dramatic presentation.

The episode had three basic parts to it: Bashir and O'Brien's forced "bonding" as they try to stay alive, the station dealing with the apparent death of the two, and the detective work once they realize something's
strange. I think the first element was probably the strongest, but all three of them were quite decent.

The Bashir/O'Brien scenes were definitely the highlight of the show, I thought. These two are starting to compete with Odo/Quark and Sisko/Kira for most successful DS9 pairing. The pairing has always had an "old soldier vs. idealistic hero-wannabe" feel to it, but it came into much sharper focus here, with O'Brien seeming almost paranoid about some of the actions they had to take when they fled to the surface of the planet compared to Bashir's "get what we need and move on" position.

Not only did their positions complement each other nicely about their situation, though, the subsequent conversation about marriage gave us a lot of insight into Bashir, I thought. Granted, we were getting that by having Bashir get his foot into his mouth down to mid-kneecap; but even that definitely seemed to fit, given the circumstances. More importantly, this wasn't a situation where one point was held up as Definitely Right vs.
Definitely Wrong [TM]; rather, both stances made sense given the particular characters involved. It also made sense that all O'Brien would want to do is react (pissed, of course :-) ) to Bashir's statements rather than volunteer his own opinions; at least, until O'Brien figured he'd never be able to volunteer his opinions to anyone, ever. This all turned into a set of very strong scenes.

(Of course, the humor factor wasn't bad either here. "Engineering extension courses" at the academy ... I love it. Poor Julian -- he really means well...)

The station reaction, I'm pleased to say, was just as strong. There was no public wailing and browbeating, but there was a serious element of shock. Looking at Kira, Odo, Dax, and Sisko standing there watching the doctored data-clip was one of the more wrenching scenes DS9 has done in a while; without saying more than a few words, all of them managed to project a lot of pain very well. I'm very impressed. Similarly, most of the Keiko scenes were good as well. Sisko telling Keiko of her husband's death hurt like hell to watch, which it was supposed to.

What didn't work nearly as well as it should have was Keiko's "revelation" that the tape had been doctored. (The tape itself, incidentally, was the only way I'd have believed the station crew believing a bald statement of
"oh, they're dead". Smart thinking.) Part of it was that the delivery was a bit off, but part of it was also that I couldn't keep memories of "Airplane!" from coming to mind. My statement during the next break was Besides, Miles never vomits at home." :-) A friend mentioned to me that maybe the "coffee" bits were something Keiko could consciously "notice", and that she really just had a good subconscious feel that something was wrong, but something she couldn't put her finger on. Could be -- it's about the only way I can take the scene seriously (and it still doesn't save the final few lines of the show).

Then, there's the detective work in finding the lost pair. There was a nice bit of misdirection in the show, I thought -- I'd heard in advance that both races were setting Bashir and O'Brien up, but the show itself made a good case for the Kelleruns being the only ones involved until E'Tyshra made her move. That part was definitely nice, and Sisko's and Dax's actions made a lot of sense.

What didn't make sense, and the one significant negative I saw in the show, was the behavior of the conspirators right after they find Bashir and O'Brien again. These are people who are cold-blooded enough to plan the destruction of both races' top scientists; I have difficulty thinking that they'd have enough remorse to bother telling Bashir and O'Brien why they're about to be killed, much less stand there like idiots for a good thirty seconds or more while Sisko and Dax get a transporter lock. It was a standard comic-book cliche of an escape, and it felt wrong.

What's worse, we got it again a few minutes later. I liked Sisko's strategy in directing the other runabout into harm's way while they escaped, but again, I can't see the T'Lani and the Kelleruns as people who would have
even bothered to call Sisko and demand the return of the captives; they'd have just blown the runabout up. Here, what's more, Sisko's plan could still have worked if they'd done so, without much more handwaving than we had -- so this one was just a chance to make the viewer sweat. I wasn't sweating; I was taunting. :-)

Plot weaknesses aside, though, the show was very strong. The only weak scene that wasn't plot-related was the scene in Quark's, and even that only had a few bad moments, mostly when Dax describes the diaries' contents. I like the idea, but it was a ton of telling and no showing -- and when it's telling us
something about the character we might not have already known, it feels like a cheat. Even that's a minor point, though.

On the whole, then, "Armageddon Game" is well worth watching. It's not the most powerful show DS9 has ever done, but it's got a good mix of powerful moments, action, and character humor that didn't disappoint me one bit. A keeper -- the first one since November, alas.

A few short points, then:

-- I was glad to see that even after being taken ill, O'Brien at least talked Bashir through the repairs. I was dreading the idea of Bashir managing to be Wonder-Doc, and taking care of it all on his own. This was good -- and also showed that it was only O'Brien's body that was affected.

-- I do have to wonder about the Harvesters' effectiveness, though. I mean, it's apparently spread only by touch (and possibly not well then -- did we ever see skin-to-skin contact between Bashir and O'Brien?). This is a
bioweapon so deadly that people will go to any lengths to make sure it's not repeated? Hell, we've got worse than that here and now. [For that matter, the cure was a little on the easy side, too.]

-- Colm Meaney does a good Bashir impression. :-)

So, to sum up:

Plot: The weakest of the bunch. The Harvesters are a little implausible, and the conspirators were too stupid towards the end, but on the whole it was good.
Plot Handling: Nice and taut. I was paying rapt attention. :-)
Characterization: Strong. Not perfect, given the "coffee" bit and the Quark scene, but strong.

OVERALL: Call it an 8.5. Nicely done!

NEXT WEEK:

O'Brien gets a case of serious paranoia...

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
BITNET: tlynch@citjulie
INTERNET: tly...@juliet.caltech.edu
UUCP: ...!ucbvax!tlynch%juliet.caltech....@hamlet.caltech.edu
"I'm not blind, you know."
"Course not -- but you are married."
-- O'Brien and Bashir

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