WARNING: Ponder not the wisdom of spoilers for DS9's "The Muse"; muse instead over the spoilers themselves.
In brief: A pretty pedestrian show (in both plots), but the ending to one of the plots is superb to those paying attention.
Brief summary: A pregnant Lwaxana Troi arrives, asking Odo for protection -- and a strange woman takes an interest in Jake's creative side.
Since I'm sure there are people who read my DS9 reviews and not my Voyager ones, I'll start this review off with the same caveat that the one for "The Thaw" had. I was involved in a rather substantial car accident this week. Fortunately, I'm fine (the bruises are fading, the nightmares are working on it) -- but as my car was totaled, I was not exactly in the best frame of mind while watching this week. As such, my review may not be as even-handed as I generally try to make them. Just so that's known.
Anyway ... I have to say that I'm not really much for psychic soul-vampire stories, particularly not of the seductress variety (which in some ways this was). That made the likelihood of me enjoying the "A" plot of "The Muse" a bit slim to begin with. Toss Lwaxana Troi (one of my least favorite recurring Trek characters) into the "B" plot, and you have a show that I'm about as likely to love as one featuring Quark and Rom playing Klingon opera for 60 minutes.
I found the "muse" plot of some interest nonetheless, but entirely for its effect on Jake and for the way it dealt with Jake's willingness to obsess. That gave the show a bit of unexpected strength, but that strength kept getting undercut by the manipulative ways Onaya was using. I was reminded in ways of TNG's "The Bonding": the original story for "The Bonding" had a child who'd lost his mother deliberately calling her up in a holodeck program and refusing to live in reality, but the eventual episode had the program as an alien construct. Here, it's the same issue: had Jake somehow stumbled on a way to let himself soar to new heights and become "addicted" to it himself, that could have proven very powerful. Instead, we got "breathy-voiced siren leads Jake astray" -- and even the fact that she's leading him astray as a writer doesn't go far enough to really help.
Additionally, this is the second week in a row that's portrayed Jake as perhaps not overly bright about who he chooses to wander off with. "Shattered Mirror" had him heading off to the mirror-universe with the doppelganger of his mother; okay, so that's understandable, but he seemed totally unwilling to acknowledge any substantial differences with anyone for a good long time. Here, he decides to head off to the quarters of some strange woman he's barely met, without perhaps letting anyone know his whereabouts. (Even a note in his quarters would have sufficed; it would have provided an "out" in case of danger, without causing him undue embarrassment if everything had gone smoothly.) I like Jake as a writer, and I like him as a kid -- but you'd think he'd learn eventually that not everyone or everything is as it appears.
Moving on for a while, there's the Lwaxana plot. Elements of this story worked to a certain extent, perhaps better than most other Lwaxana stories -- it was a damned sight better than "Menage a Troi", "Cost of Living", and "Fascination", for instance, all three of which have a special spot in Trek hell reserved for them. That still, alas, doesn't necessarily make it all that enjoyable.
The overarching idea of the Lwaxana plot, that of Odo volunteering to marry her to save her from her previous husband, seems somewhat okay, and as with the "muse" plot I liked it for its effects, this time on Odo. Odo's speech about being alone and why he wanted Lwaxana to marry him was one of the few genuinely moving moments in the show, in fact. What marred this plot was some unwise decision-making in terms of scenes to show. The "Lwaxana depresses everyone" scene in Quark's for instance, was just terrible, both dragging the show to a halt and belittling Kira and Dax a bit in the bargain. (The only even palatable moment in that scene was Worf's "I would" when Odo asked Lwaxana if she wanted to take a walk.) The "hide and seek" game in Odo's quarters was okay to a point, but just as I had difficulty buying Odo as giddy in "Crossfire", so I had
difficulty seeing him as this jovial pal here. The last two acts of the Odo plot, however (the wedding onwards), seemed to do a good job with Odo -- the fact that Odo wouldn't want to call the wedding off later was more than a bit telegraphed as soon as he made his speech, but it still felt right.
The Jake/Onaya plot, however, never really took off. Even after Jake had begun writing, the obsession only came through in glimmers, and it was really weakened by all the shots of Onaya draining the metaphysical <tech>-of-the-week out of Jake. In addition ... perhaps it's just me, but something about Meg Foster's voice and manner bugged me. It was too breathy, too seductive; it felt like a parody, which made the temptations more annoying than enticing. Add to that some forced-in shots of technobabble in the infirmary and tracking people through the Jeffries tubes, and this story left me far less than enchanted.
Some of that damage, however, was made up for by the last scene. The scene would have been good even without the closing shot; Sisko reminding Jake that the words were his, even if it took an external "push" to get them out was, if not wholly original, at least necessary and well done. However, the final shot of Jake's unfinished novel, Anslem, made me sit up and take notice. Anslem, for those not familiar with it, was the name of the future Jake's first novel in this season's Hugo-nominated "The Visitor" -- and that small reminder
added a substantial wallop of emotion, at least for me. I don't know if that idea was Echevarria's or Barrett Roddenberry's, but it was a good one.
Now, a few smaller points:
-- Having Lwaxana talk of losing Kestra was a good idea; it does lend a bit more credence to her fervent wish not to lose her unborn son, even temporarily.
-- Line glitch: the first time we see Jayal, he refers to Lwaxana as "Laxwana". Geez, he was married to her; you'd think he'd get the name right. :-) (And no, I won't buy any arguments that it was intentional, particularly since he gets the name right later.)
-- Familiar faces: Michael "Jayal" Ansara is turning up all over the place. He's been on DS9 (and TOS) before as Kang, and was on B5 last year as a technomage. Unmistakable voice, that one.
-- "The spelling's terrible." I've no idea why, but I adored that line. :-)
-- As Lwaxana was looking at rocks while searching for a disguised Odo, was I the only one to say "mmm, Changeling scat; I must be getting close"? I was? Oh ... never mind.
That about covers it. "The Muse" was perhaps better than I expected, at least in those times when Jake and Odo really got to shine through -- but I still wouldn't really recommend it. So, wrapping up:
Writing: Some godawful "alien influence" and "Lwaxana depresses everyone" work, including lots of exposition -- but also some glimmers of good character work for Jake and Odo.
Directing: I wasn't enchanted with the Jake/Onaya presentation, but the wedding came off well, as did the final scene.
Acting: Neither Meg Foster nor Majel Barrett really impressed me, but most of the regulars did.
OVERALL: 4.5. Certainly not great, but not as terrible as I was fearing.
Kasidy's dark secret.
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"I especially like the father."
-- Sisko, on a character in Jake's novel