WARNING: This post contains spoiler information about "Dramatis Personae." If you wish to avoid the melodrama of unexpected spoilage, then avoid this article.
It works *once*, but definitely loses something in the translation.
"Dramatis Personae" was a series of interesting scenes in search of some coherent thread to hold it together. That thread doesn't seem to exist in any measurable form. Surprisingly enough, that doesn't hurt the episode much on first viewing -- but once you stop to think about it (or watch it a second time), the questions and holes begin to shine through.
For instance, the initial cause of tension between Sisko and Kira, the issue of the Valerian ship, is certainly legitimate enough. Kira's got grounds for griping, and Sisko behaved perfectly sensibly given *his* situation. However, aside from being there to be used as a snowballing agent, nothing happened to it -- including a resolution. We're never told exactly what was done with it, and that's a loose end that should've been dealt with.
A similar, though far less important issue is exactly what it *was* that the Klingons were after in the quadrant. Assuming Quark told the truth (which, despite appearances, is not atypical in that situation), then the Klingons definitely were after something -- after all, a simple scientific mission doesn't usually make one's enemies tremble. But we're given the definite impression that the energy spheres were decidedly not the prize they sought. What was? This is a detail that's not particularly crucial to the story, by all means, but even so it added to a feeling of incompleteness.
The bigger problem is the explanation for the crew's altered behavior. Yes, having a telepathic matrix imprint other people onto the crew we know and love is all well and good -- but here, it was done without any evidence
given for why particular people were mapped onto the ones we knew. When there's no link between them, that basically means that the story was "our characters turn into someone else for half an hour until they're cured".
Somehow, that idea doesn't fill me with anticipation.
It's really disappointing (and somewhat surprising) that no such linkage was shown here, because there were ways to do it quite easily. If each individual had had some particular trait of their own amplified, we could probably still have had the power struggle while keeping the semi-intact and letting us find something out about them. Many of the changes we saw could even be the same -- Sisko *can* get a little detached on occasion, Kira is certainly not shy about fighting in some way or another for Bajor, and O'Brien is nothing if not fiercely loyal. The only changes that would need alteration, in my opinion, would be those of Dax and Bashir -- and so far as I'm concerned, one of them would have been a good idea anyway. It's just, well, disappointing, as I said.
Aside from that, the main thing worth discussing is the changes to each character. So, on we go...
Sisko seemed to be in the situation of having not one, but *two* changes to his character. The combination of bored, above-it-all "imperial" Sisko with the maniacally violent Sisko towards the end is a little jarring, but I actually rather liked it. Avery Brooks certainly had a hell of a time with it, from all appearances. If the projection from the matrix was relatively close to the original Saltah'nan personalities in the war, then I suspect the reason for the original power struggle was the leader going completely insane -- heaven knows Sisko was a long ways down the road to it. (Did anyone else expect his plans for the clock to be an extremely schizophrenic painting? I certainly did...)
Kira was double-edged, in my opinion. I liked her when she was being ruthless and scheming, but for some reason her playing the temptress with Odo (and in a couple of other scenes as well) failed to spark my interest in any way. The highlight of her changes had to be two very small lines: "Put it down ... *sir*," to Sisko near the end, and "Good," after hearing that Quark "didn't hear anything." This one is iffy, probably due more to acting than writing.
O'Brien's change was wonderful. Unlike his rather dull villain in TNG's "Power Play", this new O'Brien played Sejanus to Sisko's Tiberius (with the significant difference being that O'Brien really *was* loyal). O'Brien was the first beyond the two leaders to take a stand, and the most deeply rooted in that stand, down to persuading Sisko to order the "right" things. This is the first time I've seen Colm Meaney really get a villain right, and it made for great viewing.
Bashir was also a lot of fun to watch. After "The Passenger", I was a little worried about how he might work as a villainous sort, but I needn't have fretted. Bashir as Machiavellian schemer (and the sort who'd sell arms to both sides if he could) was a radical departure from the one we know, but one that el Fadil pulled off in virtually every detail. Of all the changes, the new Bashir might have been the one I enjoyed watching the most (even if he still remained a bit gullible :-) ).
Before I get to Dax, I'll tackle Odo, who didn't change. This was a great show for him, and a nice way to bounce back from "The Forsaken". In "The Forsaken", Odo was more or less only reacting to things around him (and doing so rather badly, in my opinion). Here, Odo was the driving force to fix the problem, and had to become far more subtle and devious than I think we've ever seen him before. His initial ploy with Quark was his usual blunt attempt, but it provided a nice contrast with the way he played Bashir like a fiddle near the end. He managed to engineer the solution to the mess as well as any character I could think of, and seemed completely in his element while doing it. Bravo.
Then, there's Dax -- and unfortunately, I don't have nearly the praise for her I do for most of the others. What, exactly, was the point of turning Dax, probably the character who's had the most development problems this year anyway, into a giggling, storytelling oaf here? Dax was well beyond useless here -- she proved somewhat detrimental to whichever side she was helping at the time. (The one useful thing she did, signalling Kira when
Sisko went on his rampage, got her slugged -- somehow that's not the unspoken message I'd have wished for with her character.) There certainly could have been reasons for this particular change, but they weren't given -- and without any such reasons, the suspicion is simply that nobody knew what to do with her, and so somebody said "oh, hell; Terry, just act like a doofus, okay?" Bleah.
As long as I'm mentioning characters, I shouldn't forget Quark, who was definitely on form this week. His scene demanding charges against Kira was terrific, and the line "Don't look at me that way -- I'm perfectly normal," while his eyes were bugged out and he had several pounds of neck brace on, had me holding my sides laughing for a while. (It's all in the delivery, I guess...) Praise to Armin Shimerman.
There really isn't that much else to talk about. The execution of the idea was fun to watch, as were most of the character changes -- but with no particular rhyme or reason for the changes, it was simply a half hour "dream
story", in effect -- and those get old fast.
A few shorter points, then:
-- One very swift bit of thinking on the part of Joe Menosky is worth mentioning. The very early line about Keiko running a field trip to Bajor gets rid of several characters who otherwise might be issues: Keiko, Molly (possibly), and Jake -- particularly Jake, who otherwise would be expected to wonder what the hell was up with his dad. Definitely in the running for this year's "Best Use of a Throwaway Line" award. :-)
-- I expect there may be some discussion of how the other Bajorans and Starfleeters were affected. My guess is that the two guards on Sisko's quarters weren't -- after all, guard duty isn't THAT out of the ordinary, nor
is it something you're encouraged to question. Kira's followers, however, struck me as people who must have been at Ops when the Klingon beamed aboard; even if you're annoyed at the Federation, you usually don't try to assassinate your commander.
-- What the *hell* was going on with that ending? There are several ways to interpret Sisko's final actions with the clock, and I'm not sure I can find any of them that don't give me the willies. Are we *sure* he's cured?
-- I think Bashir may have gotten the two best lines of the show this week. First, there was telling Odo that he could leave, "unless you'd like to pour yourself through my foretic (?) analyzer -- I'd love to see the results," and
then discussing the Klingon later: "He's still dead, if that's what you mean." Love 'em.
That's about it. This was a nice bit of strangeness with absolutely no guidance underlying it -- good once, but it won't age well at all, I bet.
So, the numbers:
Plot: 2. Where?
Plot Handling/Direction: 7. That's more like it.
Characterization/Acting: 7. Kira was a bit off, and Dax was way off, but the others were all top-notch.
OVERALL: 5.5. That's the weakest they've been in a while. Looks like something under the heading of "worth it once", though.
NEXT WEEK: A rerun of "Captive Pursuit", then the last two shows of the season (and, thankfully, the beginning of summer!).
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"We've analyzed their attack, sir, and there is a danger. Shall I have your ship standing by?"
"Evacuate? In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances."
-- "Star Wars"