WARNING: The following post contains lots of spoiler information about "Progress", the most recent DS9 episode. Be warned.
Very understated -- but it grows on you if you give it a chance.
"Progress" is a very, very "quiet" episode of DS9 -- in fact, thinking about it, it may be the quietest one to date. There's not a lot of danger, not a lot of plain old "excitement", and certainly not a lot of action -- just an attempt to see one character having to deal with her past and present colliding.
As such, I suspect lots of people will hate it.
I didn't exactly *love* it, but as I said above, it grows on you. While flashier episodes may have been more fun to watch initially, I bet this one will age a lot more gracefully, just as "Family" did for TNG.
The key scene for me was the Sisko/Kira conversation outside Mullibok's home. Anyone who's been saying Nana Visitor can't act should take another look at this scene -- both she and Brooks do a bang-up job on cutting right through to the real issue. And considering that we've only seen these characters for a few months, it's testimony to how much work has been put into them already that the line "But you have to realize something, Major -- you're on the other side now." really, _really_ hit me in the stomach. (Its nearest analogue in TNG, I think, would be Picard's big speech to Admiral Jarok about being a traitor in "The Defector", but that was much more ... er ... "grandiose" a scene than this was. Both worked very well, though.)
My only complaint about that particular scene was that Sisko seems to have come a little too far over to the side of being friends with Kira. My hunch about this is that it's the sort of friendship that never comes out except in times this tough -- it's not the sort of thing _either_ character could ever acknowledge under normal circumstances. They'll continue to snap at each other, but when push comes to shove, they'll be at each others' backs instead of throats.
We're also seeing hints that character changes are being followed through, at least a bit more than they _tend_ to be on TNG. Although I find it a bit implausible that the Bajorans are going to be so easygoing with the Federation shortly after the Federation left Kai Opaka on a planet full of bloodthirsty lunatics, Kira's reaction to "sorry I missed the fun [of the fight against the Cardassians]" is one that could only have come up after her experiences in "Battle Lines". Very good.
Speaking of "Battle Lines", Kira's reaction to Mullibok's injury was *far* more in line with the Kira I know than the parallel scene in BL. She was upset and felt helpless, and so lashed out at everything and everyone, getting frantic in the process. Much better.
This isn't to say that the Kira-centered plot was faultless. It wasn't. There were two basic problems I saw with it:
-- One, in an effort to show how much she snaps _back_ to being with the underdog, Kira was made entirely _too_ matter-of-fact about the project at the start. The Kira we saw in the runabout was very mellow, and almost *bored*, which simply didn't ring true.
-- When the story was on, it was very on -- but sometimes we got scenes that felt like filler. Kira taking care of Mullibok on that final night qualifies: there wasn't much there that really drew me in at all. The story was good, but the padding to make it fill out its half of the show wasn't.
Before I head away from the Kira plot, though, I should mention one particular directing moment that really caught me. The camera work when Kira arrives back on the station was very nice, but in no way I can easily
describe. I just ... well, I just liked it. So there. :-)
Then, there was the Jake/Nog plot. This wasn't much more than comic relief, but it was perfectly good comic relief. The only disappointment I had with it was that I figured the stembolts (pardon me: *self-sealing* stembolts) were completely useless items -- sort of the Bajoran equivalent of a snipe hunt. It certainly looked from their interaction with O'Brien that he thought so. I figured they'd been completely taken -- there's nothing wrong with what really happened, but I'd have preferred it my way.
(What I was initially reminded of, believe it or not, was a chapter in one of John D. Fitzgerald's _Great Brain_ books from years and years ago. There's a long bit where the youngest brother tries to become a wheeler-dealer and starts trading his way from item to item, only to end up with something he couldn't use or unload.)
Aron Eisenberg still isn't quite doing the job with Nog I'd like to see, but after all my griping about it last week he did a much better job this time. He may end up looking perpetually weak because he's paired with Cirroc Lofton, who's doing a great job when given the material -- if so, there's not much that can be done. And Eisenberg did a _great_ job when Nog was convincing Quark to let him have the yamok sauce.
Now, I've a point on the ending. While Kira's way to let them both get on with their lives was good, it seemed a bit convenient that the cottage was *that* much of a tinderbox. More importantly, DS9 appears to have tackled
the "shortened resolution" problem TNG has by having *no* resolution at all and ending right at the climax. Sometimes, like in "Battle Lines", it works beautifully. Here it didn't.
That covers the broad strokes. Now, some shorter takes:
-- The Kira/Dax friendship looks like it'll be a nice development in shows tocome; it felt very natural and unforced. However, I wish we'd seen some signs of it before now -- it *did* seem to rather spring from nowhere.
-- "But sir, that isn't true." Poor, naive Bashir -- he should be lucky he never got the dashing secret-agent job he seems to want. He wouldn't last ten minutes. :-)
-- "Eventually you're going to have to stop talking and _deal_ with this." Kira said the line -- but to whom?
That's about it. If you'd asked me shortly after the first time I'd seen "Progress" what I thought of it, I wouldn't have been very impressed -- but a few days and a second viewing later, it has a lot of meat in it that's worth
So, the numbers:
Plot: 8. Not exactly stellar, but nice.
Plot Handling: 6. Too much filler at the cost of a too-abrupt ending.
Otherwise, it was nice.
Characterization: 9. Quite good.
OVERALL: 8. Good job.
Be careful what you wish for...
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"You have to realize something, Major -- you're on the other side now.
Pretty uncomfortable, isn't it?"
-- Sisko and Kira