WARNING: This post contains spoiler information regarding the DS9 episode "Sanctuary". A Ctrl-L will provide a brief sanctuary from those spoilers, but if you wish to avoid them in full, avoid the article,
In brief: well, not great, but decent.
"Sanctuary" was DS9's statement about immigration, it seems, and all the various issues it provokes in the US and other countries. All well and good, and I think a lot of it made sense -- but, as in several other shows this season, the problems seemed to stand out much more than the good points. (It could be that I'm just getting jaded, but I don't think so -- "Sanctuary" just didn't have a lot of scenes that really wowed me.)
The best bits had to do with Kira, probably not surprisingly. From someone who immediately sympathized with the underdog against her own government in "Progress", she now appears to have fully come over to the government's side in things; despite her friendship with Haneek and her pain over what was happening to the Skrreeans, she agreed with the decision that Bajor couldn't afford the risk. Right or wrong, that's an interesting decision, and I hope the progress Kira has come through will parallel developments on Bajor.
Haneek was, for the most part, a very interesting character. Although her points about the Skrreeans being female-dominated were way too blunt and completely unnecessary, she did a good job of acting the reluctant leader. (Not quite as good, say, as Richard Beymer did in the season opener, but that's a whole different standard.) Her direct, unforgiving nature seemed good for this race of desperate, then bitter farmers, and I had no problems with seeing her represent the best of the Skrreeans.
What I did have a problem with was Tumak, and it's the same sort of problem I've had with other characters like him. That problem is that a lot of actors can't quite seem to differentiate between playing characters whom the
other characters find unpleasant and playing characters who will make the viewers want to do a little house-cleaning rather than watch. Andrew Koenig, sad to say, was one of the worst offenders in this regard -- between his snarling delivery and the Quasimodo-like way he carried himself, in most scenes with Tumak I found myself saying "okay, so it's a Skrreean twit; we get the point, move on!" We're not given any reason why Tumak is the one to risk himself in rebellion (aside from him being an emotional male child), and I for one found his whole presence deadening Bajor's dilemma. (He had precisely two scenes where he was bearable, and those were his last two.)
The early problems with the translator seemed a bit forced as well. The language and syntax were so different that the translator couldn't handle it? They seemed to think a lot like humans once the translator started working -- certainly a lot more than, say, the Tamarians in "Darmok" -- and for them, the UT did work off the bat. I didn't buy into it, and I also think the immediate jump on "look! she used 'need'!" was silly; "need" is not that uncommon a syllable, after all. I can see why the writers might have wanted a language barrier up for a short time, but I simply didn't buy the method.
The station's general reaction to the Skrreeans made a lot of sense, particularly Quark's, and a lot of the strength the show did have came from that fact. Nog wanting to play a trick on Tumak seemed perfectly in
character, as did the slight discomfort everyone must have felt at the Skrreeans' flaky skin. It set the stage nicely for Haneek's later hurt and for Bajor's rejection of the Skrreean plea, and I've no real complaints on
Although I think Bajor's rejection of the plea was in character (right or wrong, and I'm really not sure which it was), I think some of the plot elements were no more than convenient hooks on which to hang that rejection.
The sudden existence of a Bajoran famine, for instance, is too obvious; yes, it makes for a good reason to reject them (and for Haneek's counterargument), but famines are Big Deals; why have we never heard of this before? That, combined with the fairly stilted way Minister Rozahn was presented, undercut the scene somewhat. (Vedek Sorad, on the other hand, was fine.)
One guest character and new situation that I would love to see again, on the other hand, is the musician Varani. I know I've seen William Schallert before in probably a dozen different places, and it annoys me that I can't remember where -- but Varani was the only guest character besides Haneek that was completely and utterly believable. I appreciated his urgings about Bajoran culture (and agreed with them to the hilt), and felt him to be a great vehicle for addressing some of those concerns. (Besides, the music was GREAT. :-) ) I'd definitely like to see more of him -- with luck, Quark won't fire him yet. (In part, I'm also curious -- why did his gift help to tip the Skrreeans off that Kentanna may have been Bajor? There's a story hiding in there...)
The final crisis was not unexpected and not all that bad, but again I had a little problem buying into them. Bajor is not supposed to be THAT repressive, and it's not like Tumak was carrying some fatal illness. The
easiest thing by far would have been to let him land and then bring him back -- frightened or not, I think it puts Bajor in a very bad light, substantially worse than even Haneek tried to say.
That pretty much takes care of the brought strokes. The message of "Sanctuary" was solid, if unsubtle; while a lot of the scenes getting us to the central issue seemed forced, there were also some good character bits.
A few short takes, then:
-- The "Skrreeans explore the station" bit before the translators worked seemed to be about an hour long in and of itself. Did we really need that kind of padding?
-- On the other hand, Odo pumping Nog about what Quark might know of weapons sales was a perfect moment, and one of the best throwaway bits of the show. Odo can be damned sneaky at times.
-- The reference to the Dominion this time, unlike in "Rules of Acquisition", actually does have me curious. I'm intrigued to see where this leads.
-- Lastly, giving the Skrreeans free rein of the station without so much as an orientation session or something is just dumb thinking and dumb plotting. Of course you're going to get friction if you wait for them to screw up without saying anything!
So, that should do it. Without further ado, then, the wrapup:
Plot: Somewhat forced, but on the whole fairly decent.
Plot Handling: Some very slow bits, with not enough oomph in the rest to make up for it.
Characterization: Good Kira and the rest of the regulars, fairly good Haneek and Varani, but most of the other guests were awful.
OVERALL: 6. On the positive side, but nowhere near top-notch.
NEXT WEEK: The start of at least four weeks of reruns, beginning with the three-part season opener. Enjoy!
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"I am way beyond frustrated."