DS9 Episode 1.15: Progress

In which there are self-sealing stem bolts. Need I say more?

Memory Alpha says: An old farmer refuses to leave the moon where he lives, even though it is about to be made uninhabitable by toxic gases. Meanwhile, Jake and Nog set out to turn an inordinate amount of seemingly worthless condiments into profit. (Please click the Memory Alpha link for detailed information.)

My Review

Well, I just coined the tag ‘kirasode’ to denote episodes that focus on Kira Nerys, and my spotty, pidgin-like knowledge of Japanese is telling me it means ‘sparkly sleeves.’ That’s neither here nor there. I seem to have a vague memory of watching this when it first aired – actually, I think I was watching it on the little TV at my grandparents’, the one that crouched under the breakfast bar and beside the liquor cabinet. Either that or the little TV in my parents’ bedroom. Definitely a memory of littleness. Also neither here nor there.

I don’t remember being particularly captivated by Kira’s role in this episode. I think it’s the sort of faintly dull character-building that you sometimes have to go through in order to lay a foundation that you can build a more interesting story upon. I do like the Noh-Jay subplot, though, because I’ve always enjoyed the type of story in which someone has to make a series of unlikely trades to get the object they actually desire (I seem to remember at least one episode of M*A*S*H* which followed this structure, and of course a lot of folk-tales, and something in one of my favourite kids’ books, The Great Brain), and because I like the fact that in DS9, the kid characters are underdogs who sometimes manage to pull off something clever. They don’t bear a charmed life like Wesley Crusher (nor, on the other hand, do they get told to shut up for no good reason). A story in which spunky kids get one over on adult authority figures has a lot of appeal, but not if the victory comes too easily.

Incidentally, today I was reading this Glee episode review, in which Mr Schue finally telling Rachel off is compared with the ‘Shut up, Wesley!’ incident. Important difference: Rachel deserved it. If at any stage Glee would like to have Patrick Stewart march into the choir room, bark ‘Shut up, Rachel!’ and then stride out, I would not mind at all.

Gates McFadden can guest star as a choreographer who helps the choir with their moves, and tells Rachel to shut up, too!

On to the actual episode. Bullet-point form unless I start to feel inspired.

  • Instead of the customary exterior shot of the station, we start with Jake and Nog very quietly playing cards in the bar and overhearing Quark and Rom argue about Cardassian condiments. Jake is a pissy little bitch about Nog’s slowness to play his hand.
  • Money can be exchanged for goods and services, Jake!
  • Now we get the exterior shot of the station, and Sisko explaining some Science Plot. What kind of moon has a molten core? Kira’s hair is looking really badass – this is the haircut the SA goons call The Battledyke, and it is formidable.
  • Girl Talk in the runabout. I really enjoy Dax being so bizarrely broad-minded that she finds Morn kinda cute, and Kira’s look of complete WTFery. It’s because of things like this that I find the eventual Ezri-Julian hookup so irritating and inconsistent. It’s a consolation prize of a relationship, fuelled by nostalgia and pity, and sooner or later it simply has to crash and burn, whether because Julian accidentally calls her ‘Jadzia’ in bed (or ‘Garak’) or because she actually wants to be free to date guys with see-through heads. But I’m getting way ahead of myself.
  • I like how exterior shots in Star Trek tend to have this very soft, misty, Vaseline on the lens lighting. It’s like the whole of Bajor went to Glamour Shots.
  • Poor Kira, threatened by mute farm folk with rusty implements!
  • ‘You’re halfway pretty.’ You condescending old fuck. She is all the way pretty and then some, and it’s not your place to comment on it.
  • Jake is wearing his horrible multi-green outfit again. This alien captain’s head-frill reminds me of a Minbari from Babylon 5 – which seems appropriate given the vexed, Lost In Space/Star Trek relationship between B5 and DS9. Loved ’em both, don’t care who ripped off who, completely stopped caring about B5 after they lost Ivanova.
  • I like that they introduce the distinction between original and replicated foods, with original being a bit premium.
  • Self-sealing stem bolts.
  • Interesting that Jake is more alive to the possibilities of a barter economy than Nog is.
  • Nog is so cute.
  • The farmhouse kitchen set is absolutely beautiful and clearly designed and dressed with love.
  • Obviously, a strength of this episode is the natural, warm, folksy performance given by the old farmer, but it actually goes somewhat against the writers’ intentions – they wanted him to appear more manipulative and selfish than he comes out.
  • Manipulative, for example – giving Kira one job, then giving her another before she can finish it, then commenting on her looks and her walk while she’s trying to do the second job. But his effort, which Kira recognises, to piss her off, just comes off as cute because of the chemistry between the actors, which you can’t really predict when you write a scene. Actor chemistry can take you by surprise – when I watched The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe the warmth and sparkiness between James McAvoy and Georgie Henley made me a helpless shipper of Tumnus/Lucy-once-she-grows-up-and-it’s-not-creepy. Like, I hope they had kids.
  • ‘Sit down and relax yourself, child.’ Because suddenly I am a hillbilly Bajoran!
  • This is one of those classic Star Trek ‘the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few’ arguments, and yet, of course, Kira is concerned with the fate of the few – she doesn’t want to leave anyone behind to die when the moon’s core is tapped.
  • Nog, you are not just a good boy, you are a smartie! A nice tiny detail – when Jake and Nog make their victory signal to each other across the bar, a woman sitting next to Jake looks confused.
  • Waist belt? What other kind is there?
  • I do like the tall tale writing of this scene, and the way both the old dude and Nana Visitor are playing it. Since I just reread American Gods (the ‘author’s preferred text’ edition) he’s making me think of Hinzelmann, which does support a more sinister reading of his character.
  • Self-sealing stem bolts in their packages look kind of like candy bars. Interesting that ‘gross’ is still used (as a quantity, not as in ‘ew, gross’).
  • Hurrah, O’Brien on deck! I love how everyone just keeps repeating what the captain told them about the bolts verbatim, because they have absolutely no other information about them, and there is no Google. There isn’t even an encyclopaedia.
  • Aw, poor Kira, having to be the bearer of shitty news. This is a good conflicty scene!
  • Ah, she’s back with brownshirts. I’d like to know what they mean about these people not speaking – are they elective mutes because of emotional trauma, or are we talking some yukky tongue-torture? I guess they deliberately want this to be enigmatic because it’s creepier that way.
  • The top of Kira’s uniform always looks slightly too short to me, and she does seem to Picard Manoeuvre it a lot, trying to make it more comfortable.
  • Action! I am really not in recap mode.
  • Cunning little Noh-Jay Consortium! Although I love how they’re agreeing to a plot of land without knowing what the unit of measurement means. Land! Dirt!
  • Another uniform. This one is at least three-quarters pretty! But you are still a stubborn old fart.
  • Time to tile a kiln, apparently.
  • I like how distant the relationship between Sisko and Bashir remains, in a way – how Sisko doesn’t think much of Bashir as a person, and Bashir wants but never quite knows how to satisfy him.
  • Awkward use of Bajoran unit of measurement!
  • Ooh, manipulate, manipulate – ‘He doesn’t have much faith in you, does he?’ Well, no, at this stage he doesn’t. It takes Sisko quite a while to warm up to people and he does view Kira as at least partly unreliable.
  • The cut of Kira’s uniform over her stomach and groin looks even more awkward when she doesn’t have her jacket on. She doesn’t look dressed. Nana Visitor has a beautiful figure but I could still appreciate it in less clingy garments.
  • I appreciate the fact that Sisko crouches down to speak to Kira – a literal unbending, although I don’t fully believe him when he says he likes her. That is, I think he likes her in a distant way, rather than a warm way. Does that make sense? There’s something a little condescending about it.
  • That chair looks terrible to sleep in. I suppose the writers didn’t intend this character to become so much Kira’s grandpa figure, within the episode at least. I can see how this scene with the same dialogue could be played far less tenderly.
  • I feel a tiny little bit sad that Jake and Nog are playing with ordinary rectangular cards, not the novelty round ones used in the mess hall on TOS (I believe you can see them in ‘Charlie X,’ one of my favourite episodes – it’s got Spock-Uhura flirtation, it’s got ass-slapping, it’s got Captain Kirk’s absolutely traumatising workout tights, it’s got Q-like powers in irresponsible hands – all grade-A stuff).
  • Can someone who’s more card-savvy than me identify the game Jake and Nog appear to be playing? All I can tell is that it involves making discards. Crazy Eights?
  • Convenient overheard conversation is convenient! It almost seems like Odo and Quark are staging the conversation for Noh-Jay’s benefit – but I think that’s just clumsy writing, unless Odo is playing a very deep game.
  • Well, Quark, I think you should be darn proud of the boy! Give him his five bars and a Knickerbocker Glory.
  • Again with the fuckin’ kiln.
  • Symbolic jacket is on again! Symbolic last tile is placed! Even though they don’t tesselate to cover the whole surface. And is it smart to light the kiln before the cement dries?
  • I think that might be Vash’s duffle-bag from ‘Q-Less’ getting recycled.
  • Well, you’ll die, eventually, anyway. We all do. So stop guilt-tripping Kira, who has done everything she could for you and is a lovely person.

Next time, we return to TNG for ‘Too Short a Season,’ which features some really shocking age make-up, and ‘When the Bough Breaks,’ which serves to remind me that ‘Rock-a-bye Baby’ really is a horrifying nursery rhyme.

Sorry this wasn’t very funny or interesting. I seem to be a bit off my game.


6 Responses to “DS9 Episode 1.15: Progress”

  1. solo Says:

    I think this episode is a nice peak into how awesome this show can and will be. It’s kind of like a proto-Duet, showing both sides of a hard issue. I felt so bad for Kira during this.

    I love how self-sealing stem bolts are apparently super important, but no one knows what they are.

    Totally agree about Ezri/Julian. When she said “if it weren’t for Worf, it would have been you’ I was like ‘what about Morn? And clear-headed dude? And, basically, ANYONE BUT JULIAN.” argh I’ve no problem with Ezri digging him, but Jadzia obviously didn’t.

    • picardigan Says:

      Yeah, if I were suddenly transposed into the Star Trek universe I guess I’d try to get into the self-sealing stem bolt business.
      You’re so right – if they had just presented it as ‘Jadzia wouldn’t have gone there, but Ezri is different’ I wouldn’t have cared.

  2. Curuchamion Says:

    * “What kind of moon has a molten core?” – …A really big one with near Earth-normal gravity? 😉 I know some moons (notably Io of Jupiter) really are volcanically active, but that’s the mantle being molten, not the core.

    * I love how there is no Google in space. It really shows how incredibly far Internet tech has come in the past 20 years, that the “magic look-it-up technology” is still individual data banks in the station computers.

    (Although… *begins to wonder about subspace Internet connection speeds and whether Bajor would have a Google cache if it’s not in the Federation*)

    * “unless Odo is playing a very deep game” – I expect he has his suspicions. He must know there aren’t any official trade consortia based on Deep Space Nine, and the name “Noh-Jay” is pretty obvious… but he’s not going to ask the kids directly, because 1) it would be REALLY embarrassing if he’s wrong and 2) there’s no way the buyers would take them seriously. So he asks Quark, who if he’s not already using the kids as a front will definitely wind up as their middleman to the Bajoran government anyway – but makes sure the kids can overhear, in case Quark’s not involved yet. 😀

    • picardigan Says:

      – I’m sure you can’t make an internet work between planets and star systems – but you’d think the station computer would have a fairly encyclopaedic encyclopaedia.

      – And also he secretly deep down thinks it’s kind of cute.

  3. Sparklynn Says:

    I think that when Ezri acclimates to being a host she will be ridiculously different. I loved finding out that Jadziya was meek and bookish and after the joining she became the BAMF lady we knew and loved.

    I could write a lot about how much I love Dax. She’s that cool lady I wish I could be. She’s smart and capable without, in my opinion, coming off as a total Mary Sue. Also, if she wants to have sex, she has sex. If she wants to fight a Klingon and eat a ridiculous food, she will. She’s headstrong and far too proud sometimes, but I think that’s what makes her so awesome (I love Kira a lot too, but I have a special place in my heart for Dax).

    Also I love how I think stem bolts come up later in the series very very subtly. Hooray continuity!

    • picardigan Says:

      Jadzia Dax was so awesome that it would have been hard for Ezri NOT to be a disappointment. In some ways, I think it was a mistake to keep Dax in the series. Send the symbiont home.

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