Friday, September 9, 2011

Star Trek Deep Space Nine's First Dud Is "Babel"

The Good: Acting!
The Bad: Plot, the premise is very hard to take seriously.
The Basics: Watch "Babel" only if you're a Deep Space Nine or Star Trek fan; this is NOT their best work!

No series can perform at 100% every single episode and Star Trek Deep Space Nine is no exception. The closest to an exception I've yet seen was Sports Night (reviewed here!) during its brief tenure on the air. Even the highest caliber television shows have their off days. "Babel" is the first - of, fortunately, very few - outright dud of the Star Trek Deep Space Nine series.

"Babel" opens with Chief O'Brien dealing with his customary repairs to the station that has been breaking down on him since day one. While repairing the replicators, O'Brien inadvertently activates a mysterious device. It doesn't take long at all to become apparent that The Device is bad as O'Brien gets stricken with aphasia. Aphasia is a condition where the brain cannot recognize and interpret information and words. So O'Brien begins speaking gibberish and soon thereafter, others contract the same unlikely condition and it becomes apparent that there's a viral outbreak on the station.

"Babel" has one redeeming characteristic and that is the acting. Colm Meany, especially, delivers his lines perfectly once stricken with aphasia. And this is no easy matter considering he has to earnestly declare things like "Salt the dark way!" The rest of the cast gives similar great performances managing to get their way around the oddest lines ever because they are random collections of words put together. It's awkward to watch, but the actors certainly deliver on this one.

The problem is largely in how dependent the episode is on the somewhat absurd plot. An aphasia virus is not terribly useful, especially when it is revealed who created it. Add to that that the episode falls into a pattern of being part of the franchise. That is, early in the Star Trek series', it seems there must be at least one contagion episode. Star Trek had it with "The Naked Time" (reviewed here!), Star Trek The Next Generation had it with "Angel One" (reviewed here!) and now Star Trek Deep Space Nine has it with "Babel."

Fortunately, Deep Space Nine will not often be dependent on what the other series' have done. Instead it tends to break the mold. Unfortunately, "Babel" is very much a molded story and pretty much all we expect to happen does with the virus wreaking havoc until the hour is almost up.

This episode is a bit of a disappointment to Star Trek Deep Space Nine fans, who tend not to be prone to easy gimmicks and the dialog created by the aphasia virus certainly qualifies as a gimmick. It's impossible to recommend to anyone not a fan because it comes across as silly and has limited appeal as far as a television show goes. The only people who would benefit from this are people studying actors, because the straight faces and strong deliveries are testaments to the professionalism of this cast.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete First Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the first season by clicking here!


See how this episode stacks up against other episodes and movies in the Star Trek franchise by visiting this index page where the reviews are organized best to worst!

© 2011, 2007, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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