You know, I went into this episode expecting another one that felt a lot like The Next Generation, like the last couple. My thinking was basically this one’s plot involves characters directly from TNG, how much more TNG-like is it gonna be? And yet, weirdly, despite the presence of Q and Vash, it feels a lot more like the show Deep Space Nine will become than most of what’s come so far. Everyone is messy, everyone is horny, and absolutely no one has any chill whatsoever.
Which I say as a joke, but also, a big part of what I love about DS9, and what’s bored me about the last couple of episodes, has been the lack of any major character stuff. It’s all been pretty straightforward plot-driven Weird Space Thing Of The Week. This episode, the Weird Space Thing was almost an afterthought to the character interactions: they figure out that the Big Glowy Space Manta Ray’s thing — egg? Chrysalis? Do they even say? I don’t think they even say — is what’s causing the station’s power issues, beam it out, and it glides on its merry way in the space of maybe thirty seconds. It’s all about the characters.
Brief meditation on the bigger Star Trek picture
I get that this is one of the things a lot of the fandom doesn’t like as much about DS9 — the move away from Weird Space Thing Of The Week — and Discovery as well. I mean, I can’t help but notice that the series certain parts of the fandom complain about the most are also the ones led by Black characters, what a weird coincidence — but I do believe that at least part of the fandom does, in good faith, just prefer the Weird Space Thing Of The Week format. It’s a stylistic preference, fair enough.
But I’m also really glad that the franchise has tried to make room for other kinds of stories. There’s a whole universe sitting there — to only use it for one kind of story really seems like a waste. So while I’m as tired as the next person of the Franchise Grind in pop culture, and a little leery about the rate at which Star Trek is launching spinoffs, I’m also cautiously pleased by the fact that they don’t all appear to be TNG clones. Hell, that was my biggest criticism of DSC’s second season, that they seemed to be backing away from the things that made the first season unique — and doing so in an attempt to win over a segment of the fandom that, for the most part, they never had in the first place, at the expense of the enjoyment of those of us who actually liked what they were doing.
(See also: the Democratic Party and the ~white working class~. Liz and Anika titled their episode on the DSC S2 finale “Making the 23rd Century Great Again” and that is…not wrong.)
Also, if they want to ask me about my spinoff ideas — one about the Cardassian occupation of Bajor that covers a few years before DS9 begins, and one a half-hour sitcom that’s basically Parks and Recreation at Starfleet HQ — I am here anytime.
Uh, so, that spiraled a bit. Returning to the more immediate topic of this particular episode…
The subtle horror of Q
You know, from TOS’s “Charlie X” through to DSC’s Gabriel Lorca, Star Trek really has made a theme out of how fucking terrifying entitled white men with a lot of power can be. Q spends a lot of his time just moderately irritating people and putting them in silly costumes, and then suddenly he’ll turn around and remind us that oh, fuck, he absolutely has the power to do much, much worse.
As a woman, watching his interactions with Vash is…uncomfortably realistic. “I’m the Q and you the lowly human. I’ll decide when this partnership is over.” How many times have I been friendly and polite to a guy who I couldn’t stand because I had no way of knowing whether he would be dangerous if I didn’t?
Also, every time I rewatch one of his episodes, I remember that I really, really need to write the essay about Q as the Jewish devil that’s been bouncing around in my head for a couple of years.
Julian needs to get his life right again
…and all is right with the world once more. I didn’t even know who I was when I couldn’t yell at him to get his life right.
From O’Brien’s face while sitting next to Bashir in the opening teaser, through Q just putting him to sleep for a few days, to Dax’s “lol buddy you have no idea” expression when she realizes he slept through all the excitement, this episode continues the pattern of “everyone is trying their best to ignore Bashir until he settles down a little” and I am extremely amused by it. Like, I don’t think that’s what the writers were doing consciously, but I’m definitely enjoying it as my own interpretation.
OK, Quark, I’ll allow it
In “Babel”, Quark was mostly tolerable because he wasn’t actually doing much hitting on anyone; in this one, he and Vash actually seem to be on the same wavelength, and it’s…kind of hilarious? If Star Trek is still looking for more spinoffs, I would watch The Quark and Vash Dirtbag Variety Hour every damn week.
Also, I am perhaps disproportionately entertained by Quark taking it in stride when Q just wishes him into the cornfield and back. Armin Shimerman is all in and even when Quark is at his worst I appreciate the hell out of that commitment. (Also, given that for a couple of years there he was doing both this show and Buffy the Vampire Slayer I feel like those of us who were in our formative nerd years during the late 90’s/early 00’s really owe Shimerman our gratitude.)
- Vash hiding her PIN as she locks her stuff in the vault just struck me as a really nice little touch that made the episode that much more real.
- “Vash and Captain Picard were…friends. Close friends, if you catch my meaning, sir.” I love how O’Brien is trying to pretend to be halfway discreet about his tea-spilling. Like, that significant pause before “friends” may not have been enough, let’s just make it a little clearer. And Sisko’s comment on how Vash doesn’t seem like Picard’s type, ugh, everyone on this station is a messy bitch who lives for drama and I love it so much.
- Kira’s solution to the jammed door being to pull out her phaser, lord I love her so much.
- SISKO PUNCHES Q, LORD I LOVE HIM SO MUCH
- Quark: Isn’t there anything you desire?
Odo: I have my work. What else do I need?
Everyone. Everyone is horny. Quark is horny, Q is horny, Vash is horny, Bashir is horny, Bashir’s date in the opening teaser is horny, even Odo feels a stirring of something approaching horniness at the prospect of a latinum-plated bucket. Everyone is horny. This may be the horniest, thus far, that an episode has been without Dukat in it; truly, DS9 is coming into its own.
- Bashir’s date