July 16 2024


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Retro Review: Dramatis Personae

6 min read

A telepathic energy field delivered by a dying Klingon pits the crew against one another as Kira leads a revolt to remove Sisko.

Plot Summary: A Klingon vessel comes through the wormhole and explodes just as one of its officers beams himself to Deep Space Nine, proclaims victory, and dies of his injuries. Sisko, who is already perturbed because of Kira’s protests that Valerian ships should not be allowed to dock at the station until Bajor can investigate whether the Valerians are providing weapons material to the Cardassians, orders Dax and O’Brien to find out what happened to the Klingons. Quark tells Odo he heard that the Klingon scientists had discovered something to make enemies of the Empire tremble, but before Odo can report on this, his head appears to split in two and he screams in pain. Bashir is able to revive him but Odo finds that the doctor has suddenly become obsessed with tensions between Starfleet officers and Bajorans, particularly between Sisko and Kira. Meanwhile, O’Brien tells a distracted, nostalgic Dax that she had better remember her loyalties to Starfleet. They find the Klingon log recordings, which suggest that there was a mutiny aboard the ship. Meanwhile Kira approaches first Odo, then Dax, behaving in an unusually seductive manner, telling them she expects their support when she displaces Sisko over the Valerian situation. Quark overhears and, despite Kira’s threats, goes to warn Odo, who in turn seeks out Sisko. But the commander is hiding in his quarters, building a clock. Kira prevents the Valerian ship from leaving the station and cuts off all contact with Starfleet; O’Brien in turn cuts off contact with Bajor and sets out to sabotage Kira’s plans. In the Klingon logs, Odo learns that an ancient telepathic race left energy spheres discovered by the now-destroyed ship. He asks Bashir for help controlling the energy from the spheres brought to the station by the dead Klingon, convincing Bashir that this is the key to dominating whoever wins the station’s power struggle. Kira launches her plan against Sisko but Odo helps him and O’Brien to escape, convincing Kira all the while that they are heading into a trap. When he has the entire command crew in a cargo bay, Odo activates Bashir’s field to drive out the telepathic energy, restoring the crew to normal. Sisko agrees to overlook Kira’s attempted mutiny.

Analysis: I’ve never been much of a fan of “aliens alter the crew’s brains” episodes unless they’re played for humor – you know, the sort like “The Naked Now” where everyone wants to have sex with everybody else, which every sci-fi series does at least once, a cliche so memorable that it gets parodied in Galaxy Quest. Sadly, “Dramatis Personae” is not only deadly earnest, it’s also painfully reminiscent of The Next Generation‘s “Power Play.” (Is O’Brien always such a crankypants when he gets possessed? Couldn’t he be more like flirty Kira or dreamy Dax?) Yet again we see a story that could have happened on any Star Trek series – indeed, that has happened on other Star Trek series – and since it’s so early in the show’s run, it looks like the writers have so little confidence in the personalities they’ve created for the main cast that they’re already looking for excuses to warp them. We’ve already suffered through the aphasia virus with the crew, another instance in which Odo had to save the station. Admittedly “Dramatis Personae” is more fun than “Babel” because personality upheavals are more entertaining to watch than communication failures, but it feels like cheap, unoriginal gimmickry in place of storytelling and parodies of characters instead of characterization. Flaky Sisko, angry O’Brien, ditzy Dax, and let-me-try-your-drink-lieutenant Kira might be a refreshing break two seasons in, not when we’re getting to know the real things.

What’s fun about watching “Dramatis Personae” after the series’ run is the realization that the writers became so infatuated with some of these characters, they created an entire alternate universe for them. The ambitious Bashir and emotional Dax who will turn up over there make appearances here, and we see shades of the Intendant – a woman not afraid to use her charm and sexuality to get what she wants – in mutineer Kira. I love how she tests her charm on Odo, whom she already considers an ally, before prancing into the Promenade and hitting on Dax. There’s really no other word for it: she swipes a sip of Dax’s drink, finds excuses to touch Dax, gives Dax personal reasons for supporting her rebellion even as Dax is saying she thinks of Sisko as a son or a nephew or some other close relative, and only then does Kira get around to making threats. (Apparently it works, since Dax calls to warn Kira from Ops when Sisko is attacked and plans to kill Kira in retaliation.) It’s curious that Dax indeed is so easily swayed by Kira given that long history with Sisko, much less surprising that O’Brien becomes a jingoistic Starfleet defender through and through, and Bashir’s calculated refusal to commit until he can see which side will win makes me think he’s been studying Garak quite closely already.

It’s no surprise whatsoever that Odo can convince Kira she’s won him over even as he’s manipulating her and Sisko so he can remove the alien influence. When I first saw this episode, I was writing occasional reviews for Nana Visitor’s fan club newsletter, and I noted that I thought Odo had a bit of a crush on Kira. That turned out to be the understatement of the decade, but at the time I had little hope that the DS9 writers would do any better with potential series relationships than had TNG’s writers. Who knew that by the finale there would be four committed couples among the major crewmembers? It’s a pity we’re led to believe that the personality changes are random, rather than emphasizing either polar opposites in everyone or consistently bringing out traits that people have tried to suppress. I have no trouble believing that Dax could spend hours wallowing in nostalgia for her past lives and that Sisko wishes he could chuck all his responsibility and go build a clock while someone else runs the station (he keeps the clock, it appears throughout the rest of the series). But we’re not supposed to believe that Kira really wants violent insurrection, even though the source of her anger at Sisko exists before the Klingon arrives and apparently other Bajorans on the station are affected by the same concerns.

Kira’s personality changes the most dramatically, apparently to clue us in to the fact that while the source of the conflict may be the same, this is not the Kira we know. But how much more interesting if it were the Kira we know, just without filters! What if the writers had had the courage not to split her into Good Kira and Bad Kira the Intendant, but to let her embody all those elements as a single person. And what a cop-out that the Klingons are absolved of all responsibility since they supposedly found the telepathic energy spheres by accident, even though Quark has heard rumors that they tracked down and intend to use a powerful weapon. If this had been a test of the Klingon discovery – or better yet, if the Cardassians had found the spheres – it would add a far more interesting layer of conflict to what ends up being a meaningless crisis from a Gamma Quadrant species we will never get to know. On a first viewing I thought they’d be connected somehow to the Valerians and the weapons trade with the Cardassians, a situation that it never resolved, which I suppose means Sisko gets his way and Kira does not get to bring up the Bajoran concerns even though we get evidence that the aliens truly are providing materials for Cardassian weapons. The fun of watching Sisko call for Kira’s head and Kira hit on Dax can’t make up for the weaknesses in the story.

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17 thoughts on “Retro Review: Dramatis Personae

  1. I think everyone knew your opinion on this episode before ever reading the review. All we have to ask ourselves is, “Does this episode feature homoeroticism in any way, shape, form or hint?” If the answer is yes, great episode. If the answer is no, it might still be okay, it depends on how much homoeroticism can be unnaturally forced into the episode… if it can, there was at least a hope for the show. If it’s just straight? Oh my… what’s even the point of Star Trek without homosexuals…

    So, just to review:
    Men loving women and objectifying them in the 24th Century? Absolutely not cool.
    Men loving men? Even if it’s not true, we can pretend ad nauseum!
    Women loving women, even if it’s Kira being both objectified and actively objectifying other women? The best of all worlds.
    Women loving men? What? This is science fiction, but let’s not go overboard… why would a woman love a man?

  2. I liked this episode, for the simple fact that the DS9 crew at each others throats IS shocking. At this point in the series we weren’t 100% sure about the characters intentions, so unlike TNG (a discipled all Starfleet crew) there is a sense of jeopardy and surreal tension that would not work later in the series. – Although I was suspicious of the Salthina Spheres from their mention, it is still a clue that enables the audience to enjoy the story, ahead of the characters from that point onwards.

    Re the randomness of the personality changes and motivations -I think you missed the point. Its that randomness that makes the situation overall odd and out of place, so we pick up on it the same way Odo does. Anything more defined would have been too neat and tidy and unbelievable. Ditto leaving the Cardassians out this story. – Voyager would later make the mistake of Borg, Borg and even more overused in massive numbers Borg! Keeping the Klingons and the Romulans popping back and forth alongside the Ferengi, Bajoran and Cardassian characters helps to keep DS9 imbedded in the overall scope of Trek.

  3. Yes, it is odd that TrekToday would want to have a series of reviews from someone who says essentially the same thing every time: homo slashfic fodder good, men otherwise bad.

  4. And for hundreds of reviews she clearly hated men… indeed… but it has only been since she started reviewing DS9 that all this other crap started to surface… But, I’m not the one who put a comments section here… they did… so, I guess that means they want comments. That was my comment. If you don’t like it, you’re more than welcome not to read or respond to it.

  5. Having read most of her retro reviews, I look forward to them very much. That said, I agree with both perspectives here. I pretty much know what I’m going to get. She was very open in the beginning about reviewing this show in the context of already knowing how the character relationships will end up. That’s a good strategy.

    That said, I don’t agree with the homoerotic qualities she assigns to Bashir/Garak or Bashir/O’Brien, and she does seem to get awfully excited about any female/female sexual subtext. If that’s her opinion, that’s great. I don’t have to agree. Star Trek is NOTORIOUSLY squeamish about even alluding to homosexual relationships, particularly in the early seasons of DS9 when Berman was still mostly calling the shots. Later seasons, different story. I don’t think the producers or writers of this episode had any intention of people interpreting the Kira/Dax scene as Kira “hitting on” Dax. Seduction of the mind maybe, but not the body.

    It’s her opinion, she’s the writer. It’s our choice to agree or disagree.

  6. Funny, I saw this episode today (currently re-watching all of DS9), I open TrekToday after a long while and here it is…

    I didn’t like this episode much. To me, it’s one of the weakest in the first season. The plot thread of the Valerians is left hanging, the changes in personality do not make much sense as they aren’t justified (now if ALL of them were acting paranoid, at least it wouldn’t have looked so random), the clock comes out of nowhere and seems yet another random stuff thrown in. Also the acting isn’t that good, but that is perfectly understandable with such a bad script.

    DS9 is a superb series, but this particular episode is terribly boring and stupid.

  7. All of you who are getting bent out of shape regarding Michelle’s alleged homoerotic bias… did you even read her review? She did NOT think it a particularly good episode. Nor did I, although I got a kick out of Sisko’s reaction to his clock after the fact.

  8. Comments are welcome, even if you don’t like them. This reviewer is SO predictable. She’s also pro-homoeroticism, pro-DS9, and anti-men. It’s annoying for those of us who love Trek and like to review old eps to always know what’s coming from this person.

  9. She didn’t think it was a good episode… but not because of the elements she made up or is fixated upon as fantasy. Sure, she was disappointed… but disappointed that Kira and Dax didn’t end up in bed together… which isn’t remotely what the show is about… even tangentially. One wonders if you read the review or the previous ones where she keeps trying to force this twisted little fantasy on the rest of the review reading public. She can pretend the homosexual undertones are there. I can point out that they aren’t and that she’s a hack as a result… and everyone gets to have their opinion… ahhhh… feels like the 24th century already.

  10. I personally have been enjoying these reviews, and think that Michelle is an excellent writer. She does a great job of analyzing the story structures and themes, and she obviously likes the characters (especially Kira). That said, I do wish that she’d tone down the homoeroticism that I think was never intended by the writers.

  11. I really love this episode. I don’t expect much ‘meat’ in the stories in season 1, so just enjoy the episodes that are a fun ride. And this was one of them.

    As to the people bitching about reviews… move on. If you know a reviewer is like something, and always is, why keep coming back to read them? You’re wasting your time reading them, then wasting more of your time commenting on them.

    Reviews are personal viewpoints… she can say whatever she pleases. If you want her to yapper on about how the phasers didn’t come out of the right hole or something, go to another site.

  12. My usertag on this site is mvdelaney77… if you don’t like what I consistently post, you’re free to move on, too.

    As for wanting her to comment on the phasers being fired from the wrong place, no… but it would be nice if she weren’t fantasizing about genetalia going in the wrong place from time to time.

  13. Nice try at trying to be clever. But fail.

    I was commenting on a wealth of different comments, and quite frankly will carry on reading comments on the site because they will vary in intelligence and content.

    However, you are clearly complaining about ONE feature ONCE a week CLEARLY marked as a retro review. Written by the SAME person every week.

    Yet you keep on going in, getting yourself upset and then repeat again next week?

    Grow up.

  14. So, I’m not allowed to have an opinion unless it’s a glowing one? A review is an opinion by definition. I can’t express an alternate opinion? That’s awfully convenient.

  15. i disagree. I think mvdelaney77 is right on the money.
    In the first episode review on this DS9 series. my post was deleted for pointing out these fairly dubious assumptions on social behaviours.
    Anyone arguing that others can’t make statements you think is wrong or disagree just shows the narrowness of you own arguments.

    One thing in you favour, that I cannot agree with you, though, is that I too enjoy episodes that are a fun ride. Mostly I want to be entertained rather than expecting some political or social statement that expects to sway our point of view.

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