WARNING: The following post contains heavy spoiler comments on "Move Along Home", the latest offering from DS9. Those who don't wish to gamble on being spoiled should choose the safer path, and avoid this article.
Just *what* was that?
Not overly good, for one thing. "Move Along Home" had some nice elements here and there, and some nicely surreal moments, but all packed into what was, if not truly bad, at least an extremely *shaky* piece of celluloid.
[My time is exceedingly short this week, so I'll keep this brief.]
The key plot ideas, namely Quark's cheating getting him into trouble and the station bigwigs getting caught up in an alien game, certainly had their strengths. Hardly original, perhaps, but the key to "alien-game" stories is
usually how interesting the game itself is and how well it's set up.
This one had serious problems in motivation from the get-go, though. Quark's cheating was certainly in character and reasonably done, but the "punishment" of the game does not ring true. The Wadi, for one, had no way of knowing if Quark would even find *out* that he was playing with Sisko et al. -- and even if they did, most of the contact they'd had with both Quark and Sisko suggested they weren't that fond of each other. If the intent was to make Quark somehow regret his actions or squirm for his cheating, it didn't work for me. The threat seemed contrived -- both within the show as outlined above, and from without, since we knew no one would *really* die.
The elements of the game itself were also mixed. Some of the establishing shots, such as the ceiling-shot when Sisko first arrives, were impressive, and some of the challenges (such as the Chandra) were smartly done (and very "Doctor Who"-like, as others have no doubt noticed). However, once again there were problems.
Some of the problems revolve around the fact that the regular "players" of the game on the Wadi homeworld undoubtedly must get a different version without Falow's annoying comments (and I refuse to believe they custom-made the game solely for this encounter). However, far more crucial a flaw here was in something I rarely object to on DS9. Namely, the acting was in many cases, *atrocious*.
The number of scenes or moments that made me cringe with embarrassment on DS9 as a whole may have just doubled with "Move Along Home", and while some is surely due to the scripting, I think much more of it suggested an off-week on the part of the actors this time. For instance:
-- Falow's extremely unpleasant laughter and commentary. I've seen Joel Brooks before, and he's been loads better. Who suggested that?
-- Bashir yelling to wake himself up. No, *thank* you.
-- Kira's attitude virtually all throughout. "I am a Bajoran administrator; this is not what I signed up for!", indeed. There have been times when Nana Visitor has managed to make Kira strident without making her a (pardon the phrase) "screaming bitch" -- this wasn't one of them, and I'm worried that it's more likely to be the norm. Her frustration was fine, and her non-verbal reactions (such as the eye-rolling with the Chandra and having to
do the rhymes) were good, but the verbal outbursts (every last one of them) were rotten. Blah.
Moving on to acting problems outside the game, we have...
-- Both exchanges between Odo and Primmin. Yee-ARGH. James Lashly wasn't fantastic in "The Passenger", but his weak spots were mainly in the Primmin/Odo scenes -- and here, that's all we got. The whole pair of exchanges, with lines like "Don't call me Constable -- I'm chief of security!" and "Is it against Starfleet policy to push a few *buttons*?", was quite simply embarrassing to watch, particularly given that similar exchanges have come off without a hitch (especially over the "Constable" issue; remember that conversation he had with Sisko about it?). Again, scripting bears *some* of the blame, but it felt to me a lot more like the fault of the actors this time. A slap on the wrist to both Lashly and Auberjonois for them.
-- Then, of course, there's Quark's groveling, easily the least watchable minute DS9 has had to date. I don't know *who* to blame for that one, so I'll just let out a loud groan and hope never to see it again.
Finally for bad points, there are places where the characters seem either too swift or too slow. Odo and Quark, in my opinion, made a truly bizarre leap of logic in concluding that the four pieces were the four missing officers, especially Odo. (What, he just got in there and could immediately tell what was going on?) And on the other hand, I think Sisko and company were way too *slow* on the uptake to realize they were probably trapped in a game, given the fact that they *knew* it was the Wadi, they *knew* the Wadi loved games, and that the whole atmosphere seemed game-like. The latter's a minor point, but the former's a big one.
On the good side, there were some things to like about "Move Along Home. Most of them were in little details here and there or the execution of those scenes that went right.
One thing in particular I liked was the trio of scenes with Jake Sisko. This and "A Man Alone" way back are doing a lot to convince me that we're going to see a very realistic kid for once (and I'm seeing a few hundred of them every day nowadays, so I think I have a clue about what realistic behavior is :-) ). The Sisko/Jake talk sounded just shy of perfect on *both* sides, and Jake's shyer manner around Odo combined with the blush when Odo called him on "watching the girls" rang true as well. Someone on the writing staff is doing a far better job on kids' dialogue, and I'm all for it. (Hmm. I know Rick Berman's got a son not much younger than Jake's supposed to be -- anyone know if Piller's got family?)
There were also a lot of little touches that were enjoyable. Bashir's mistake with his dress uniform was about right for such an academic ("now where *did* I leave that jacket?" ;-) ), and Sisko's comment to Bashir about
his screaming worked nicely. Sisko getting drunk and frustrated in the bar also felt right, and his argument with Jake sounded like many parents I've known. Also, while the execution of *getting* Odo to the Wadi ship was, as I've said, rotten, the results of his expedition were superbly managed. Lastly, when Joel Brooks wasn't being overbearing as Falow, he did a nice job of being menacing in an understated way.
Another highlight would be the discussion between Sisko and Dax when Dax was wounded. While the "I'm done for, leave me behind" bit is old, this particular pair was ripe for such a scene, given their pasts. Her "seven lives is enough" and his "yes, I've heard that somewhere" struck a chord that ran through the whole scene.
That takes care of all the key points. Now for the shorter ones:
-- While there was some cute teasing about *which* of the final three would be "killed" in the game, I find it a little disturbing that Sisko always seemed unlikely to die. That in itself is no big deal, but it seems to me that *every time* someone on a mixed-gender away team is wounded seriously enough to cause a problem, it's always a woman. Isn't this a stereotype we could do without?
-- I'm certain I've seen Clara Bryant (the young girl who played the Chandra) somewhere, but I can't recall where. Anyone who recognizes her care to suggest places?
-- "What *IS* a Shappe?" Well, given that I lived with Mike "Uncle Mikey, now-Moderator of r.a.s.reviews, Keeper of the Holy Reviews Mailing List, and Official Co-R.a.s.Reviewer of My Wedding" Shappe for two years, I must admit that my first comment was "It's a small furry creature from Rockaway, New Jersey, why do you ask?" :-) :-)
-- To those reading on r.a.s.current on Usenet: this is the final time you'll see my review posted directly here by me. In the future, all my reviews will first go through r.a.s.reviews and be crossposted -- but that may mean a delay or two. So don't blame me if you don't get your weekend fix until the following Monday. :-)
That takes care of it, I think. Nice idea, but flawed -- deeply flawed.
So, numbers please...
Plot: 4. Ugh.
Plot Handling: 6. Some nice direction here and there went a long way towards atoning for a lousy setup.
Characterization: 4. Good random bits, but shoddy, *shoddy* acting on the principals' part. Give 'em a rest.
TOTAL: 5, rounding up. Highly mediocre.
And we thought Quark was full of himself *before*...
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"Oh, that's right ... you were there for the groveling."