WARNING: You must rise up above your desire for spoilers for DS9's "The Ascent" -- but hey, if you can't, they're below.
In brief: Nothing special; a few good moments and a few awful ones, but mostly neutral.
Brief summary: Odo and Quark are stranded on a remote, barely habitable planet due to sabotage, and once there must work together to survive and try to reach help.
DS9, meet "Enemy Mine" and "The Odd Couple". Now, shake hands, go to your corners, and give me a good, clean fight. :-)
More seriously ... as a general rule, if you think Odo/Quark scenes where each tries to get under the other's skin are one of DS9's greatest successes, then you're going to like this show a lot; a great deal of the show is Odo/Quark, and the squabbles take their usual path.
Me? While I liked Odo/Quark as a good pairing early in DS9's career, I've gotten rather tired of them; like Spock/McCoy in the original series, they always tend to fall along the same patterns, and unlike Spock/McCoy, they aren't generally representing two real sides to a coin or two possible ways for another character to analyze a situation. What they are, as I alluded to above, are "Odd Couple" sequences (or perhaps "Grumpy Old Men" is a better parallel these days) where you have two people whose mindsets are diametrically opposed arguing about something, and it doesn't generally matter what the something is. Since I tend to find those scenes a little tiresome, I found a lot of the episode equally such -- but hey, if you like Odo/Quark more than I do, go ahead and knock yourself out.
The plot was more of an excuse to throw Odo and Quark together than it was much else. Once the situation was set up -- the two of them had to ascend a mountain with no food and little protection in order to call for a rescue -- anyone betting that the two wouldn't gradually get angrier and angrier with each other and eventually come to blows, or that one of them wouldn't be seriously injured and insist that the other leave him behind, or that one of them wouldn't manage to save the day and force the other to grudgingly admit some kind of respect would have gotten very long odds from me. It's formula storytelling -- and while DS9 has certainly managed to break out of the box once in a while, Quark-centered stories rarely manage it. As such, the saving graces of the show really had to be in the growth of the conflict and the execution of the various dialogue pieces.
Those pieces managed about 50/50 with me. The various complaints about having to be together didn't do very much for me most of the time, although a few were cute: Odo's deliberate "bzz bzz bzz" was fun, for instance, and Quark's insistence that he was taking Odo "as emergency rations" was quite good. The bigger issues, though -- Quark's attempted involvement with the Orion Syndicate, Odo condemning Quark as a permanent small-timer, and Quark pointing out that Odo's thus been going after a small-timer with limited success -- generally came off well. The only substantial beef I have with them is that it really isn't anything we haven't heard before. We know that Odo considers Quark a small-timer, and we know that Quark thinks Odo's way too joyless and too obsessive about everything. This was relatively cute, but there's really nothing new; apart from the mention of the Orion Syndicate and the actual use of Quark's seized assets, this could have been from any season or at any stage of the pair's relationship, and if I'm going to watch a DS9 rerun it isn't likely to be of an Odo/Quark show.
The Jake/Nog stuff came off rather better, mostly due to Cirroc Lofton. That's one young man who needs to be watched; he's spun a lot of dialogue into gold in the last couple of years. (The Sisko & son scenes have pretty much always been good, but it's only been somewhat more recently that Lofton's turned Jake/anyone-else scenes into equal quality.) The "son moves out into his own place and finds that his roommate annoys him" or "two roommates find they have more differences than they think" is hardly any more original a story than the Odo/Quark stuff was, but the difference is here is that it's a more universal story. I don't know anyone who hasn't been a part of many conversations like the ones Jake and Nog had here -- I certainly have, on both sides -- and whether it's someone being slovenly or perceived as such, a debate over a phone bill, or anything else, those issues can explode into Big Disputes [tm] with amazing speed. As such, this material felt a whole lot fresher than the Odo/Quark bits, even given the "parents force them to stay together so they can learn something from each other" ending.
There's not much else to say about "The Ascent" -- and given that it's Thanksgiving weekend and I've just spent three days at an SF convention, that suits me fine. So, a few little points:
-- I particularly liked Jake's blowing up over Nog's editing his story. I've had that exact reaction a lot, but I also know the temptation to correct an obvious mistake in something.
-- The Jake/Sisko scene at the start of the show was probably my favorite scene. "I have raised a very generous son," indeed.
-- The material surrounding the discovery of the bomb was okay, and the tension dealing with it and its explosion was quite good.
-- Quark talking himself into getting up fell very flat for me. I've seen those speeches a lot, and Ferengi-type reasons just don't cut it.
-- Being a local, I'm wondering where the outdoor scenes were filmed. I'm guessing somewhere in the Idyllwild area; the combination of snow, blue sky and trees matches what I've seen there.
That should do it; so, wrapping up:
Writing: The stories were definitely same-old-same-old; a couple of nice twists here and there, but generally standard fare.
Directing: Nothing really jumped out.
Acting: Praise to Lofton in particular (and Brooks to an extent) for rising above the story.
OVERALL: 5.5, I think; just on the positive side of neutral.
NEXT WEEK: A rerun of "Accession" -- worth seeing. See you all
for new episodes in about a month.
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"You wouldn't last a week at the Academy."
"You're right. I'd die of embarrassment wearing those pajamas."
-- Nog and Jake