Friday, November 25, 2011

If The Enemy Won't Visit You, Take A Trip to See Them . . . “The Search, Part I”

The Good: Characters, Acting, Plot
The Bad: Pacing, Obvious set-up
The Basics: An episode that changes much on Deep Space Nine opens its third season with a bang and a new starship.

. . . Which leads us to "The Search, Part I," an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that is refreshingly direct in its approach. We know from the start of the first act that it's a first part. In truth, it's a middle act, sandwiched between "The Jem'Hadar" (reviewed here!) and "The Search, Part II." This episode occurs some months after the events of "The Jem'Hadar."

While preparing battle drills for a potential invasion by the Dominion, the shields raise and a starship decloaks. The surprising aspect is that it's a Federation starship that appears out of nowhere. Historically, the Federation has never used cloaking devices. So when Sisko appears on the screen confirming that the starship is a Federation ship, the crew of Deep Space Nine (and the viewer) is surprised. And this is only the contents of the teaser!

"The Search, Part I" is mostly a series of introductions. The Defiant, the new starship, is introduced. It is a warship and has been sent to help defend Deep Space Nine. T'Ruth, a Romulan attache to the Defiant, is introduced. She is acerbic and, in short, Romulan, sent to defend the cloaking device the Defiant is only borrowing. Lieutenant Commander Michael Eddington is introduced. He is a StarFleet security officer and the security chief of the Defiant. There's another introduction, but as it occurs in the last seconds of the episode, I'll not ruin the surprise.

Eddington's arrival casts some ambiguity on the position of security chief Odo. Odo confronts Sisko in a characteristic move and when Sisko admits that he has wanted Odo to make some changes, Odo resigns as the security chief.

There is little time to indulge Odo; the Defiant has arrived with a mission. Sisko is supposed to take the new starship through the wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant. Presumably, the warship will be the first vessel since "The Jem'Hadar" to go back into what is now being claimed as Dominion space. Sisko has been ordered to establish contact with the Founders of the Dominion and attempt to make peace.

The irony of the episode is that Sisko ends up doing largely the opposite. After losing O'Brien and Dax on a Dominion outpost, Sisko destroys a Jem'Hadar ship. Perhaps the message of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is that there is no peace in our time; there isn't in this episode.

The strengths of the episode are in the basics. The plot is solid, if a bit obviously a set-up episode for the conclusion. Sisko is ordered to make peace with the Dominion by showing the Federation's teeth. The characters are wonderfully utilized. Kira, Odo and Sisko are all extended in new directions. Kira illustrates her loyalty to both Odo and Sisko with greater depth than previously displayed. Odo encounters life without purpose for the first time as he loses his job and begins his quest to find his people. Sisko shows the new side of who he is. He is a man healed at last. If season two would be entitled "Dominion Rising," Season three would certainly be "Dominion Exposed." Sisko's role in that is to encounter the Dominion as a healed individual, no longer pining for his lost wife. He accepts DS9 as his home for the first time ever.

The acting is solid. Armin Shimerman plays Quark with a relieving amount of humor and Avery Brooks finally comes into his own, showing some real range with his changed character. Gone is the simple brooding of the past two seasons; it is replaced by confidence and security.

The enjoyable aspects of the episode are in seeing the new directions of the series. The Dominion is real and vital. Odo is conflicted, Sisko is confident and there's a new starship and it kicks some serious butt. The episode has some excellent action sequences.

The failings are in the feel of the episode. The pacing is off. The action sequences come after labored character development scenes. The sequence between the meeting with Orinthar (Quark's Dominion contact) and the final battle sequence seem like they are killing time. Losing Dax and O'Brien seems a minor plot point to waste so much time and effort on.

And the subject of Dax. Poor Dax! Somehow she was convinced to make the worst hair style ever in a Trek series! Fortunately, it won't last long.

All in all, a solid season premiere that leaves us wanting more. Part of the essential Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

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


For other Star Trek reviews, please visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

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