WARNING: This post, although probably not paradisiacal itself, does contain spoilers for DS9's "Paradise".
In brief: nice ideas, not-so-nice execution. Okay, but I've definitely seen better.
"Paradise" isn't a bad show on a first viewing, but it does not age well at all, at least so far as I can see.
However, the core idea of "Paradise" seems to me a decent one. In particular, shows that have Sisko vs. X in a battle of wills tend to, at the very least, have some power packed into them, and this was no exception. What's more, the issue of "is technology really all good" is one that's both currently raging and worth thinking about, and given the right story, could have worked beautifully.
Did it, then? Only in part. There are a few problems that resulted from shoe-horning the episode to fit the issue.
For starters, we have Sisko taking a joyride in a runabout with O'Brien. Sisko? The commander of the station? I don't think so. It was plausible but reaching in "Armageddon Game" when he left to go look for O'Brien --
here, it was simply absurd. There was no diplomatic effort involved here; this was a routine mapping mission of sorts. There needed to be a better rationale for putting Sisko where he was. (I might not have griped about this had a different series not made a strong point about commanders putting themselves in harm's way just the night before, but it's a dumb move on the show's part regardless.)
(What's more, of course, we have Kira and Dax then heading out in search of the missing pair later in the show. Excuse me, but who's in charge of the station at this point? Bashir? Quark? Morn? :-) )
Beyond that, the structure of the show seemed fine. I suspect some people may have strong reactions to the merest hint that technology isn't a great improvement all the time, but I think the idea of "there are tradeoffs, and for some they may be too high" is a perfectly reasonable one. As such, I was quite comfortable with seeing the colony thriving (more or less), and Joseph's speeches didn't rub me wrong at all.
Alixus's speeches, on the other hand, did. I realize that the attitudes themselves, given her closed-mindedness, were supposed to; but it was the delivery that got to me. Unfortunately, Gail Strickland seemed to be delivering all her lines in that tone of voice that says "I'm about to burst into tears." That was fine in the few scenes where it was appropriate, like Meg's death, but the halting, breathy style did not make her seem like a strong leader at all. That's a pity, because if it weren't for that I think the show could have been very strong indeed. Alixus's body language worked beautifully for me, but most of the dialogue just fell flat on its face.
Other scenes didn't work for other reasons. I liked the initial meeting between Ben, Miles, and the villagers -- the questions weren't all deep and meaningful, but were about various people's interests (soccer, for instance)
-- and I particularly liked that they couldn't remember who'd won the last soccer championship. However, the close of that scene, with Alixus clearly plotting already, was unnecessary. It said "well, we'd better make it
obvious who the bad guy is instead of letting it develop and making those poor viewers at home think." Ugh.
Another "make everything well beyond obvious" point came after Sisko came out of the box for the first time. The entire scene invited comparison to the Picard/Madred scenes in "Chain of Command, Part II", or at least they did with me. Unfortunately, this scene had Alixus come out and lay her strategy on the table: "let's make Ben change by getting rid of little things first." Yes, Alixus, it was obvious you were doing that twenty minutes ago, and until now was nicely done. Are you worried people hadn't realized that? In "Chain of Command", by contrast, it was always clear that the "how many lights?" routine was meant to break Picard on something nonessential, but Madred never came out and said he was doing it -- he never had to. Neither did Alixus, but she did anyway.
The only other colony scene that really, really didn't go over well for me was Cassandra's attempted seduction of Sisko. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for such a scene, but it just seemed blatant and, to be blunt, boring.
Sisko then going on to find Alixus "contemptible" also seemed a little much, given that he's been letting Quark hang around the station ever since he took over.
On the good side, the O'Brien/Joseph relationship was one of the highlights of the show. O'Brien managing to convince Joseph to let him escape felt right through and through, from Joseph's reluctance to O'Brien's "I can make it so it won't hurt at all." Definitely a strength. What's more, I really, really liked Alixus's response to Joseph's defense of O'Brien. Her reasoning was a bit off (extreme strawman arguments, basically), but it did a
good job of making someone taking the right position feel like dirt for it, which is exactly the sort of thing Alixus must have been doing for years to keep the colony in order. A strength all around, really.
The "Vinod hunts O'Brien" chase at the end was also strongly done. If Corey Allen thought anyone was tricked by the "arrow through the uniform" idea, he was probably wrong, but it was easy to think that Vinod might have been tricked.
Moving on, the sequences with "the box" were the most powerful in the show. Although a little of the speechmaking when Stephan was taken out got over the top, nothing in the show compared to Sisko's stumbling back out of the cabin towards the box he had just been released from. Pure theater, and purely riveting. Good job to Brooks, and to Corey Allen for the direction there.
On the Kira/Dax scenes, well ... I liked the joking around on the station, but the scenes in the runabout didn't work at all. The first one, namely "lassoing" the runabout, was evidently supposed to be suspenseful somehow. I didn't see it -- neither Farrell's laying out of the situation nor the surprisingly cheesy FX during the drop to impulse made me react beyond "okay, we know they'll get it, move on already." The later scene, where Dax deduces that the runabout obviously had been flown near a star, was okay, but seemed a bit of a reach for Dax. Better to just retrace the course, I think -- why bother with the "they tried to destroy it" other than to make it more clear that Alixus is dangerous?
Speaking of which, I have to confess to a little skepticism about all the technology Alixus managed to keep access to. Remember, she's the one who's so opposed to doors, for heaven's sake -- how is she managing to keep what must be a functioning communications system up and running without anyone else knowing about it? (She must have a comm system or a transporter; doing what she did with the runabout without it would be rather difficult otherwise.)
Lastly, while I expected and appreciated the point that, regardless of means, the end result of the colony would convince some to stay, I find it extremely difficult to swallow that nobody would want to leave. Cassandra all but asked to leave when Sisko and company first arrived, after all -- why would she suddenly be reluctant when the colony was revealed as a fraud? Joseph, I can understand and support; but to have no one from an entire
village want to leave didn't work at all for me.
I think I'm coming off sounding more negative than I intended. "Paradise" is a show that's decent to watch, but you more or less have to let it carry you along without stopping to think. Then, the only problem is Strickland's
delivery. There are some very good scenes -- almost anything with Joseph is good, for instance, and the initial Sisko/O'Brien scene in the teaser is excellent. I also appreciated the fact that Alixus, at least, wasn't some
incredible megalomaniac who ended up being killed: she believed in what she did, but also had enough of a grip on reality to accept defeat. That's a strong touch.
All in all, then, "Paradise" is okay -- certainly not bad, and not something that made me wonder what the point was. It was just flawed, that's all.
So, to wrap up:
Plot: Flawed but fairly decent. A couple of logic points were stretched, though.
Plot Handling: Good in most of the cases it absolutely needed to be, but a bit slow much of the time.
Characterization: Iffy, but mostly on the acting side.
OVERALL: A 6.5. Not bad, but not a shining moment either.
A planet disappearing from under one's very nose -- I've heard of being absent-minded, but...
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"An interesting philosophy -- and while we're debating it, a woman is dying."
"We're doing everything we can for her." "No, we're not!"
-- Sisko and Alixus