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The Storyteller

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WARNING: This post, while not a story in itself, contains spoilers for DS9's "The Storyteller", so those wanting to avoid details should avoid the article as well.

Well ... hit and miss, with more misses than I'd have liked.

After the intensity of last week's "Battle Lines", something lighter was definitely in order -- but not this light, in my opinion. "The Storyteller" was pure fluff, and I think some of it wasn't meant to be.

Where to begin? Well, how about with this: When neither of the two focal guest stars can act their way out of a paper bag, you've got trouble. And unfortunately, that's what we had here. Lawrence Monoson (Hovath, the
Sirah's apprentice) sounded woefully unconvincing in every single scene he was in, including his rescue of the village -- though there, at least, he had O'Brien's storytelling to make him look better. Gina Philips (Varis) was
no better: "I am not a little lady!" was, like Worf's "I am not a merry man!" in "Qpid", a line better off unwritten and unspoken. (Philips, in addition, seems to have attended the William! Shatner! School! Of! Dramatic! Pauses! For! Emphasis! .!)

I should amend that slightly. Philips had one scene that worked well: her scene with Sisko near the end, after the "bucket" incident. She was hardly stunning in the scene, but she held up her end enough to let Brooks shine, which he did not manage to do in earlier scenes with her.

Moving on, "The Storyteller" also suffered from the "A/B plot" syndrome, something which TNG used to have trouble with all the time. One could try to argue that "filling a legend's shoes" is a thematic link between the
"storyteller" plot and the "negotiations" plot, but I think it's a tenuous link at best. And we've seen time and time again that multi-plot stories without any strong connections between them usually don't work very well on
Trek.

I also had difficulty finding Sisko believable as a negotiator -- in fact, if anything I get the impression this might have been originally intended for TNG and Picard, and was at some point moved over. Sisko's character, from
what we've seen so far, doesn't describe a particularly accomplished diplomat; while he doesn't fly off the handle as much as, say, Kira would, he doesn't seem the most patient of people.

The village plot, while flawed in some ways, did have some strong elements to it. In particular:

-- O'Brien's immediate assumption was that the Sirah had some secret method of controlling the Dal'Rok, and not that any mysticism was really involved. That's very in keeping with what we've seen of 24th-century attitudes, and even more so in line with O'Brien's "salt-of-the-earth" personality. If he can't see it, so far as he's concerned it's not there.

-- Even more intriguing, though, was the fact that it was all fakery on the part of the Sirah. Between that and the non-mystical explanation now existing for the orbs, one wonders if the true religious "leaders" on Bajor actually believe any of what they're saying. And whether they do or not, the normal Bajoran people may be in for a shock at some point. That should be interesting to see.

-- Fine, I'll admit it -- I got a big laugh out of watching Bashir's flip response to O'Brien's "messiah" situation. "Oh, don't worry, Chief -- I have faith in you," for instance, was priceless, and his reaction to the women offered as gifts fit quite well. Bashir may end up having some of the more understated wit on the show, as opposed to the broad-based humor of, say, Quark.

Unfortunately, those things above didn't save the plot from being rather tedious to follow, or from some logistical problems. The most interesting thing it did was throw O'Brien and Bashir together, and that by itself isn't enough to carry a show, or even the half-show it had to here. The "common danger as unity" explanation for the whole thing was laid out with straight exposition, and was also done far, far better back in "Darmok". The two scenes with the Dal'Rok's attack were both treading dangerously on that line between hopelessly bad drama and deliberate camp, and Hovath's attack on O'Brien was even worse to watch. (The last started out as though it was going to be a failed Marx Brothers routine, with the parallel-window ideas. Now that might have been amusing. :-) )

As for the negotiation-related plot back on the station ... well, it was better, but not by all that much.

Part of the problem here was in Jake and Nog. While Cirroc Lofton continues to be a very realistic Jake, he's also playing Jake as very young for 14, which is how old he's supposed to be. Some of that might be Nog's influence, but most of the time I see Jake as 12 rather than 14.

Aron Eisenberg, on the other hand, just doesn't quite work for me. Now, granted, I don't know exactly how a Ferengi kid is supposed to behave, and he may be doing a good job there -- but he's turning in the kind of performance which led to my general dislike of Ferengi in the first place. Add to that the bluntness and tongue-tied-ness of being whatever age he's supposed to be, and you have a character I simply don't enjoy watching.

Unfortunately, a lot of this means that I have great difficulty watching Nog proving so helpful in negotiations. It may make some sense in terms of the character, but it's simply not something I like watching. The pile of "parents are wonderful" moments here went way past the point of palatability for me, and some of the moments about Nog's "opportunity" just turned into great doses of talking heads. Ugh.

This plot, like the other, did have some merit to it, though. The whole bucket-swiping stunt was pretty dumb on their part, but it worked, right down to the oatmeal. In addition, it was nice seeing the kids' view of Odo: Forget chief of security, he's a hall monitor to them. :-) And, while Philips didn't do a particularly good job of pulling it off, the idea of using Jake to find out about Sisko was a good one, if one that shouldn't be used too often.

That's the main points. On to some shorter takes:

-- By the end, Sisko was almost openly taking sides with the Navot. Not a good idea for a negotiator -- why?

-- Kira's frustrated "better make it a double" to Quark was one of the most understated bits the character's had yet, and it worked. More of these and less screaming.

-- Bashir's awareness of how annoying he can be was a big plus. I've met a few Bashirs in my time, and most of them didn't have any idea of their shortcomings. This one has a good chance of becoming fully human. :-)

-- We already knew that O'Brien didn't care for Bashir, but what's interesting here is that he probably still won't, even after this.

-- I'm not at all clear on the Dal'Rok itself. If the Sirah had created it out of the villagers' minds, was it a one-time creation, or did he have to do it each time? If the latter, then there's no problem for the village with
O'Brien, since he won't make it in the first place.

-- Loose end: So why didn't the tricorder detect anything about the Dal'Rok? If it's a construct rather than a mystical entity, shouldn't it be able to be picked up?

-- Finally, an atrociously bad pun that's been dogging me ever since I saw the show: "Que Sirah, Sirah..." There, now you can suffer too. :-)

That ought to do it. Very disappointing, all in all. So, the numbers:

Plot: 6. Both were reasonably competent, if uninspired.
Plot Handling: 3. This was the big surprise, coming from the director of "The Mind's Eye"!
Characterization: 4. Some good Bashir and okay for the other regulars, but atrocious guest stars.

TOTAL: 4.5. One of the most disappointing to date.

NEXT WEEK:

Kira gets another loyalty check.

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
BITNET: tlynch@citjulie
INTERNET: tly...@juliet.caltech.edu
UUCP: ...!ucbvax!tlynch%juliet.caltech....@hamlet.caltech.edu
"I think they're the ones offering services, Chief..."
-- Bashir, on three of O'Brien's "gifts"

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