Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Past Prologue written by Katharyn Powers and directed by Winrich Kolbe

What’s it about: A Bajoran terrorist seeks asylum on DS9 and has a plan up his sleeve to get rid of the Federation for good…

Single Father: Wowza, what fiery exchanges between Sisko and Kira in this story. This is one relationship that is going to take a while to settle down. On TNG things were terribly amiable between Picard an Riker and on Voyager despite the latent tension in their different ideologies the relationship between Janeway and Chakotay never really took off or had the fireworks that it was supposed to. In comparison Sisko and Kira are at each others throats for some time before they develop a mutual respect and understanding of each other through their work together and their experience of each other. This is a very early step in that direction. There's is a friendship that is earned through understanding. It's nice to see that Sisko can chew out his staff with the best of them – I certainly would not want to get on the wrong side of this guy. He can lecture like all Starfleet Officers but it is the gentle threats that come from this guy that really unnerve me. The look between Kira and Sisko at the end of the episode speaks volumes - by clashing so explosively here they have come to understand something about each other. 

Tasty Terrorist: The wounds of the Occupation are still very much open and she spits out her disgust at the Cardassian ship firing at Tahna’s scout ship in Bajoran space. Everything about Kira is severe in this episode; her attitude, her dialogue, even down to aesthetics like her uniform and hair. As soon as Kira goes over Sisko’s head and contacts Starfleet I was thinking ‘you’re in big trouble now…’ Kira sees the Federation as a means to an end, nothing more and that’s a refreshing viewpoint. To be fair to Tahna, when he tells Kira that once she gets into her comfortable bed with the Federation she wont be able to get out he is absolutely right. That is precisely what happens. It's great to see the character so conflicted between what she perceives to be her duty to her world and her allegiance to their new allies. It wont be the last time this season Kira is placed in an uncomfortable situation like this. Even though she has had nightmares about some of the terrible things she did as a terrorist at least she new who her enemy was then. 

Unknown Sample: Odo’s gruff exterior makes his tenderness with Kira all the more poignant. They share a quiet conversation about all her doubts and then he makes her mind up for her about which side of the fence she should be on. It's lovely character moments like this that really elevate this show. 

GE Doctor: Poor Bashir, he hops around Ops with his exciting news about Garak and everybody ignores him like he is a mild irritant. In the second episode the writers have found a way to make the character work by pairing him off with Garak, a relationship that would continue to develop and flourish until the very last episode of the series. Bashir is hopelessly naive at this point and is pretty much a tool for Garak to wield whenever he needs Federation assistance but it would prove a worthwhile experience watching Bashir 'come of age' and gain his independence and show some confidence with the Cardassian spymaster over time. O’Brien can barely look at him when he starts gabbling about Federation medical secrets. He’s not very good at this subterfuge lark, actually trying out the suit jacket that Garak insists that he buys despite the fact that it is a ruse to eavesdrop on the Duras sisters. 

Plain and Simple: Garak makes an immediate impression and would continue to thrive as the series goes through its many phases of development. A simple tailor who (possibly) used to work for the Cardassian Obsidian Order and is (potentially) stationed on DS9 as a spy for his people. That’s a golden character spec. His first scene with Bashir is unforgettable, he is so charmingly camp it seems as though he is almost coming on to the poor chap and later in the episode Garak dares to offer silk lingerie to a Klingon. What’s interesting about the scenes between Garak and the Duras sisters is how much more appealing this fresh Cardassian character is compared to the old TNG stalwarts. It shows great promise for future semi-regular roles in the series. 

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I’m so glad to have made such an interesting new friend today.’ 
‘Go over my head again and I’ll have yours on a platter!’ 

The Good: There is something about the fixed location of DS9 that means I don’t really mind when they have bottle shows. When TNG and VOY do shows that are set entirely on the ship it feels like an exercise in budget saving because their mission statements are to constantly move on and see what’s out there but with DS9 a station-bound story feels like a bonus. A chance to catch up on the current affairs on the station and it's political position. Sisko and his Federation officers cannot simply walk away from the problems they face in Bajoran space like the characters in a spaceship set series can. The Bajoran/Cardassian conflict is here to stay and it's about time that a Star Trek show tackled that sort of long term problem. It’s great to see a franchise that is seen as bland and as toothless as Star Trek handling a weighty theme such as repatriating terrorists. Clearly this show means business from the off. O’Brien’s quiet exchange about the Cardassians with Sisko in Ops shows the benefit of having such distinct personalities on board. I love all the nonsense about Bashir buying a new suit, it's exactly Garak’s style to lure the young Doctor into his shop with such an obvious and irreverent cover story. The plotlines dovetail beautifully towards the climax with the reason for the Cardassians pursuing Tahna and the purpose of the Duras sisters coming together to form a gripping terror plot to destroy the wormhole and ensure Bajoran independence. Nice to see there is plenty of room in a Runabout for a good punch up. Mind you I don't enjoy seeing a woman punched in the face quite this violently. 

The Bad: Whilst it isn’t unpleasant to see Lursa and B’tor on DS9, it still feels like a ploy to bring TNG fans over to give the new show a chance. With Q, Vash and Mrs Troi still to turn up in season one DS9 is playing it safe before forging its own unique identity. How comes Odo can change himself into something as small as a rat? Where does the rest of him go? Some of these early DS9 episodes have a very claustrophobic feel to them. It is before they establish the enormous Empires that the show juggles in its latter years where the show feels a little insular and inward looking. 

Result: Highlighting Kira’s character proves that she is one to watch and considering the little screen time she has had the character is already developing significantly. Past Prologue is a strong episode on two counts, for introducing Garak and for exploring meatier themes than they would only occasionally dare to touch on TNG. Andrew Robinson is a delight as the Cardassian tailor, like no character we have ever seen before and it came as a surprise that it took an entire year before we saw such a successful character again. The uneasy alliance between the Bajorans and the Federation is encapsulated in Kira and Sisko and their tasty conflict makes for a refreshing change from the usual touchy feely relationships that the franchise is keen to promote. Whilst there are a fair few stumbles in the first season of DS9 this gripping little thriller shows no signs of a show in its infancy. Engaging political drama would turn out to be one of the series strengths: 8/10

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