Monday, 25 August 2014

The Forsaken written by Don Carlos Dunaway & Michael Piller and directed by Les Landau

What’s it about: Mrs Troi visits the station and falls for a most unusual man…

Single Father: The look on Sisko’s face when he turns away from the Ambassadors who have just invaded Ops is priceless. Somehow from deep inside he manages to conjure up a smile but you can see it is painful for him. Suck it up, Sisko, we've all had to toadying up to our superiors like this. Curzon used to delight in giving Sisko some dreadful assignments when he was a junior office and so now he enjoys torturing Bashir in the same way. He doesn't even hide the fact that he is getting off on watching his medical officer struggling. What a guy. 

Unknown Sample: Poor Odo doesn’t quite know how to react when Lwaxana visits him in his office in her sexiest wig (and her sexiest ever outfit) and literally starts climbing the furniture to paw at him. ‘Odo…it rolls of the tongue!’ His take on procreation is typically unique (it doesn’t require changing how you smell or sacrificing various plant life to serve as tokens of affection!). Odo understands thieves and killers but doesn’t have a clue how to handle women. He also doesn’t handle delicacy very well. The look on his face when he realises he is stuck in a lift with Mrs Troi is one of sheer horror (and very funny). When Mrs Troi starts going on about her lurid sex life with Ferengi’s Odo wonders wistfully how many volts are in the exposed circuit…whether to try and escape or commit suicide I’m not entirely sure. Odo is so used to people accepting him for what he is but not understanding him that when Lwaxana starts asking him about how he made his hair and about his past he talks about it tentatively. He never grew up per se, it was merely a transition between what he used to be to what he chose to become. Mrs Troi is right, it does sound very lonely. By the end of the episode she seems to have thawed out his metaphorical heart a little as he melts into her lap.

GE Doctor: How delicious that Bashir is lumbered with the ‘Ambassadors of Unhappy’. This bunch of complaining, opinionated, insulting and thoroughly miserable Federation representatives put him through the wringer and no mistake and it's wonderful to see Sisko palming off this rotten assignment on the young Doctor. 

Everyday Engineer: Remember when O’Brien was having a tiff with the computer in Emissary? Well that is nothing compared to the domestic he has to cope with it here. He’s so pissed off with its constant opinions he insists on doing a root canal and digging out the guts of the thing and putting back together so it does what he says. Shouldn’t take any more than two or three years.

Mrs Troi: I love Mrs Troi! I know people found her tiresome on TNG but for me she was the complete opposite. Here was somebody who spoke her mind, who took great delight in taking the piss out of the crass, middle class lot of them (even her daughter with the spectacularly insightful ‘Deanna dear I love you dearly but you do turn everything into an epitaph.’). So naturally she fits in perfectly with all the misfits and exiles on DS9, gambling and flirting generally having a great time. She turns Oo’max into some serious pain for Quark when he refuses to compensate for her missing hair brooch (‘I know where it hurts the most you little troll!’) and then falls for the enigmatic Constable Odo when she sees how unique a man he is. The chemistry between Rene Auberjonois and Majel Barrett is very natural and their quick fire exchanges have the witty repartee of a good Noel Coward film. Lwaxana heads off down memory lane and recounts the events of Ménage a Troi. The scene where Lwaxana tries to comfort Odo as he tries to resist regenerating is like none we have ever seen from her before, it completely redefines what the character is capable of beyond being a comic caricature. When she takes off her wig and offers Odo a rare glimpse into how ordinary she really looks your heart melts with the intimacy between the two characters at that moment. The writing is so sensitive and has taken two of the strongest willed Trek characters and broken them right down to their barest state and the result is that we understand them both so much more and invest a great deal in their relationship. Who saw any of that coming? 

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You are the thin beige line between order and chaos!’
‘Every sixteen hours I turn into a liquid!’ ‘I can swim.’
‘Even we non shape shifters have to change who were are every now and again’ ‘You are not at all what I expected’ ‘No-one has ever paid me a greater compliment.’
‘When it comes to picnics the only thing that really matters is the company.’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘That’s it?’ says the Bolian Ambassador ‘I was expecting more somehow.’ You really want to punch this guy in the face! 

The Good: Why is it when there are explosions and fires on DS9 they feel so much more dramatic than on other Trek shows? Afterwards the corridor is a wreck and screaming with sparks and filled with smoke. O’Brien's computer/puppy metaphor is one of the cutest (‘keep it off the furniture’). 

The Bad: Sisko schedules a briefing at 0400. In the morning? Is that the same corridor explosion from If Wishes Were Horses?

Moment to Watch Out For: The scene where Odo melts into Mrs Troi’s lap. My mum watched this with me on its first transmission and she was reaching for the tissues.

Only DS9: ‘Are you actually suggesting that we indulge in one of those disgusting Ferengi sex programmes?’ – this show is obsessed with sex! Every episode seems to have a reference! ‘I’ve never been with a shape shifter’ ‘Been with?’ The scene where Odo visits Sisko to complain about Mrs Troi’s voracious sexual appetite could only happen on DS9 (and not just because its these characters). It’s a delightful scene that sees Sisko loving Odo’s discomfort at being sought after ‘like a Wanoni tracehound!’

Myth Building: One thing I have noticed is that nine times out of ten if Michael Piller is involved with a script he literally brings the best out of the characters on this show…and Les Landau is extremely good at directing intimate dramas like this (see also Progress).

Result: Not content with having a gorgeous A story that sees Mrs Troi set her sights on Odo, The Forsaken also chooses to torture Bashir in an amusing B story and even feature a C story that uses technobabble in a really fun way. I’m not sure how they manage to pack it all in but none of these narratives feels undersold and they weave around each other effortlessly. Every scene is imbued with character that skips through everything from romantic comedy to intimate drama and the performances are sublime. Because it has so much going on it doesn’t quite have the focus of the best episodes of the season but it is still ridiculously entertaining and has some really moving scenes between Odo and Lwaxana. Both Vortex and The Forsaken offer tantalising glimpses into a softer Odo without diminishing the character in the slightest and have provided some of the most touching moments of the season: 8/10

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