Thursday, 21 August 2014

Progress written by Peter Allan Fields and directed by Les Landau

What’s it about: Kira is torn between her newfound friendship with a Bajoran farmer and her duty…

Single Father: Highlighting Sisko and Kira’s growing relationship in some unexpected ways, Progress is an episode all about character and pushes them into revealing how they really feel about each other. Sisko has to rein in Kira’s fiery temper when she lunges an insult at the Minister and takes the very revealing step of beaming down to talk his first officer out of making a mistake that will ruin her life. He tells her that when he first met her he thought she was hostile and arrogant but he was wrong and that Bajor needs her and more importantly he likes her. Already they have come a long way from the fractious relationship of the first two episodes and things would just continue to get more complicated and respectful from hereon. 

Tasty Terrorist: Here’s another episode that stretches both Nana Visitor as an actress and Kira as a character but in a very different way to the psychological nightmare in Battle Lines. The relationship between Kira and Mullibok is beautifully written and performed so that both characters are instantly likable despite their differences and as a viewer it is easy to invest a lot of emotional weight in the friendship. Kira doesn’t like uniforms but they come with the job. She can see through Mullibok’s manipulations straight away even when he tries to get her mad by point how fabulous her arse is. As soon as Mullibok makes Kira realise that he is in exactly the same situation being forced to leave the moon as she was during the Occupation, that oppression is just a matter of interpretation, the episode suddenly gets a whole lot more interesting. When he tells Kira she is backwards for not just sweeping them all out of there it is almost as if she took the phaser blast. The most crucial moment, however, comes when Sisko tells her that she is on the other side of being oppressed now and that she has to make uncomfortable decisions and she hates it. Kira’s final decision to destroy Mullibok’s life to save it is deeply affecting for her and just as Battle Lines showed her that she still had anger inside of her this episode reveals that she has stepped over a line now and accepts her new life. All she needs to do is realise that Cardassians aren’t all evil (Duet) and we will see some of the strongest character growth over a single season for any Trek regular. A lot of time is being invested into this character and it is really paying off. 

Starfleet Ferengi: I have to get this little confession out of the way but I just find Nog the cutest thing on the planet. I don’t know if it is the cheeky way that Aron Eisenberg plays him or if it’s the delicately humorous writing or even just the adorable freckles and little ears (at least in comparison to his father and uncles) he has but every time he is on screen I find him an absolute delight. He’s still in the money grabbing stage of his youth her and when his lobes start tingling it can mean only one thing…opp-or-tun-ity. Watch as he waltzes his way through the station on his way to his first big profit. 

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You know those seven or eight little wiry hairs that come out of his forehead? They make him look kind of cute’ – one of the most charming facets of Jadzia’s personality is her willingness to see past surface appearances and fancy the most outrageous of people, starting here with Morn. Her taste does not improve with age, she also has a thing about Captain Boday (with his transparent skull), Ferengi’s and most heinous of all...Worf!

‘If I leave here I’ll die so I’d rather die here.’
‘The Cardassians probably told you that you didn’t stand a chance either, did you surrender?’ ‘No’ ‘Why do you expect me to act any different from you?’
‘You know you’re causing a lot of trouble’ ‘I can’t tell you how delighted I am to hear that!’
‘You have to realise something Major…you’re on the other side now.’
‘Last one…’

The Good: It might have one of the worst backdrops ever seen in Star Trek but the studio set for Mullibok’s house and garden is charmingly designed and lit (I love how the sunlight stretches through the front door like one of those perfect lazy afternoons). I wouldn’t want to leave such a lovely place either. I remember reading that Mullibok was supposed to be a much more unlikable character, vicious and unsympathetic but it would have gutted the episode of its emotional worth had they played it that way. Brian Keith gives a very strong performance as the stubborn farmer who simply wants to be left alone to get on with his life. You genuinely believe that this man has rebuilt his life from nothing and tamed the harsh land of the moon on his own and fully support his decision to stay even though it will cause so many more people to suffer. Mullibok proves to be the master of diversion and tells all manner of wonderful (and probably wildly exaggerated) stories – I have no idea what a two headed Malgorian is but it's one hell of tale. The subplot that sees Jake and Nog venturing on their first business deal has absolutely nothing to do with the main plot whatsoever but dovetails with it beautifully so that the episode never feels slow or unappealing. I love how they are always a gnats hair away from actually earning some latinum and up their merchandise with each successive deal. I have a big grin on my face every time I watch the ‘what do you want?’ ‘I’m here to see Major Kira’ ‘Well she doesn’t want to see you and neither do I!’ exchange and then he goes on to take the piss out of Kira’s tree story (she looks so embarrassed). This is character gold. Tapping the core of one of Bajor’s moons will provide power for thousands of homes. Perhaps they should have reminded Minister Jaro of that when he tried to boot them off the station. Mullibok’s two friends don’t talk at all and when he says ‘the Cardassians took care of that’ it brings home the horrors of the Occupation more than a thousand descriptions of torture and bodies. 

The Bad: It’s a shame that they had to include an action sequence in the middle of the episode because we were getting on perfectly well without it – I probably would have had Mullibok suffer a heart attack of some other reason for making it easy to be able to get him off the moon. 

Moment to Watch Out For: The last scene which is quietly one of the most devastating scenes the show ever gave us. I am so glad we never heard from Mullibok again because it would have cheapened this terrifically ambiguous ending.

Only DS9: How comes DS9 can get these cute little touches of character so right that bolster the episodes whether the other shows fail? How cool is the scene where Sisko orders Bashir to give him a recommendation that Kira stays on the planet and says he will ‘take it under advisement.’

Orchestra: The music in the last scene is genuinely beautiful. Go and listen to it again, it builds to a superb climax.

Result: Oddly for a show that flaunts such impressive technical ability, DS9 is often at its best when it scales right down and tells a powerful story between two people. This is probably the sort of episode that people bemoaned about in the first few seasons for being boring but for me it is anything but and both the writing and the performances are so sensitively handled I was captivated from the first second to the last. DS9 doesn’t need to juggle empires to be great television, two of the best episodes of the first season feature nothing but Kira spending a whole episode chatting to a Bajoran and a Cardassian and makes outstanding character out of them. Progress adds a lot of depth to the shows Bajoran setting and to Kira and Sisko and there is even a highly engaging subplot to break up the intensity of the character scenes: 9/10

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