Monday, 18 August 2014

The Storyteller written by Kurt Michael-Bensmiller & Ira Steven Behr and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: Chief O’Brien is used as a pawn to reaffirm the identity of the new Sirrah…

Single Father: Sisko is swaggeringly confident about his dealings with the Nevat and the Paku which proves entirely unfounded when he realises that he is going to be handling a stroppy little Bajoran madam. I’m almost willing to bet that Ben has done plenty of silly things to impress girls when he was younger, probably with Curzon in tow. He seems very proud to hear that Jake speaks so fondly of him. 

Starfleet Ferengi: As much as I hate to promote anarchy over order I find Jake and Nog hanging out on the Promenade, flicking peas at the passing aliens and flirting with girls far more believable than that swot Wesley Crusher constructing intercom announcements out of Picard’s speeches. Nog is good at spotting opportunities and offers that gift to the girl that he fancies. When he gets a little kiss as a reward for his troubles and Nog is glowing with joy and it is a charming moment. 

Everyday Engineer: O’Brien tries very hard to keep his poker face on but this is a hearty Irishman who isn’t used to disguising his feelings and a trip alone with Bashir is about as appealing as having his pubic hairs extracted one by one with a pair of tweezers. The early runabout scene reveals just how uncomfortable the pair are in each others company which hilarious given that come the final season they will be in throes of the greatest bromance in the Trek universe. Watching O’Brien blessing a child is really funny and his discomfort at being such a recognised figure is very in keeping with his character. He likes to slip into the background and do the dirty work. The Storyteller pushes Meaney's comic talents to the fore, exposing another talented side to the actor. Is there nothing that he can't do?

GE Doctor: When Bashir asks O’Brien to call him by his first name it sounds like he is flirting with him – no wonder he finds it uncomfortable to get his mouth around it. Watch as Bashir basks in the attention that they receive thanks to O'Brien's position as the Sirrah, accepting the plenitude of gifts on his behalf! 

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I’m not a little lady!’ 
‘Opportunity plus instinct equals profit!’
‘Where the bloody hell are those lights?’
‘Lets get out of here before they change their minds’ – at least O’Brien can see how fickle these Bajorans are!

The Good: It’s the reaction shots in the first scene that make it work so well with Sisko not comprehending why O’Brien doesn’t want to go on this mission until Bashir comes strolling in boasting his usual youthful exuberance. The caught-with-a-hand-in-the-cookie-jar look from O’Brien and the pained anger from Sisko made me laugh my head off whilst Bashir is grins away obliviously. It's nice to be in on a secret little joke between the characters. Bajor is always so bright and sunny, it makes for a visually delightful planet to visit whenever we get the opportunity. The sequences with Jake, Nog and Varis Sul see DS9 entering sitcom territory with comic play fights between the boys outside her quarters, Nog getting tongue tied in her presence and the wonderfully silly moment with Odo’s bucket and oatmeal in security. It should be painful to watch but the performances are delightful and the tone is pitched just right. Just when I was thinking that Jake seriously needs to get some trendier clothes Nog throws ‘Odo’ all over him. Every now and again Trek pulls out all the stops and produces an interior set that really impresses and I was blown away by all the nooks and crannies in this Bajoran town that the designers added for the director to film in. 

The Bad: The whole Sirrah plotline lacks punch, especially after the drama of the last two episodes. Dramatically it is well plotted and the characters all act in natural ways but it feels too lightweight and disposable to be of consequence. You get the feeling whilst watching that you will never hear from this colony of Bajorans ever again and low and behold we don’t. The Dalrock cloud is quite a menacing sight but unfortunately the actors are rather unconvincingly plastered against the effect. Frightening away a monster with good vibrations – what an odd premise! The handheld cameras come out for the sequence where Hovath attacks O’Brien (to be fair it is such a limited space David Livingston had no real choice but to film an action scene this way) and while the execution is dramatic the tone of the actors is vaguely comic and it jars. 

Moment to Watch Out For: O’Brien atop a cliff face wearing robes that make him look like Father Christmas and crying out: ‘Once there was a Dalrock! And it's here!’ Proof that DS9 could, on occasion, be as camp as all other Trek shows.

Teaser-tastic: Odo is a glass! The Kai is on the station! The leader of a group of Bajorans is a young girl! I’m not sure at this stage if DS9 has quite grasped the idea of hooking the audience in with its teasers.

Foreboding: Once again there is talk of civil war on Bajor…the pieces are moving into place for the impressive three part opener to season two.

Result: I really don’t understand why Voyager and TNG don’t highlight their subplots in the same way that DS9 does because it is the delightful Nog/Jake mischief that saves The Storyteller from being a dud. There is some fun watching the odd couple O’Brien and Bashir dancing around each other but the main plot of the episode belongs in a fairytale book and not a Star Trek episode. It's neither entirely comic or satisfyingly dramatic and falls between several stools and as the middle of three Bajoran episodes in a row it falls way short of the greatness of the two surrounding it. However with the negotiation subplot on the station this episode remains amiable enough and the Jake and Nog interaction continues to be one of this series’ most delightful surprises: 6/10

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