Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Playing In The Shadows Of Deep Space Nine: "Shadowplay"

The Good: Feeling of transition, Acting, Character development
The Bad: Pacing, Thematically heavyhanded
The Basics: A surprisingly good episode, "Shadowplay" is in the essential DS9 as a mystery that may be appreciated by most fans of television.

Every now and then in a series, there's an episode that evades the Top Ten lists and the attention of those who market the show. Usually, it's an episode that is substandard. Thus, it's a mystery to me as to why "Shadowplay" is constantly overlooked by fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

"Shadowplay" is a fine little episode that is a necessary evil episode, though it doesn't feel like one. By a necessary evil episode, I refer to any episode that is needed to progress plot and character to a point that it needs to get to, while taking up time. That is, it fills up space, usually. In this case, it does more than that. "Shadowplay" is a neat addition to the essential Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

In a rare three thread arc, the episode focuses on: Odo and Dax exploring a planet with a village of colonists who keep disappearing. As they try to figure out why the people are disappearing, they discover that all is not as it seems and the inhabitants of the colony aren't who they thought they were. That is, they are not the simple folk Dax and Odo assume them to be.

In the first sub-plot, Quark attempts to smuggle aboard artifacts using his cousin. Thwarting him is Major Kira. That is, until Vedek Bareil arrives on the station. Last seen in "The Siege," (reviewed here!) Bareil comes to lecture at the shrine, but more to see Kira and explore his feelings for her.

In the second sub plot, Jake Sisko gets a job. His first job is working with Chief O'Brien as an engineering assistant. In the course of the episode, Jake admits what StarFleet isn't for him and he works up the moxy to tell his father the same.

What works well is the level of character. It seems all of the characters are learning and growing in this episode. It's the first time we see Kira romantically involved, Jake makes an important life move and Odo displays a level of caring we've not seen before in him. It's clear he cares about his work, but here we see he also cares about people. In the course of the episode, Odo develops an emotional bond with Tea, a little girl who shows knowledge of Changelings, Odo's people.

I'm not terribly impressed by child actors/actresses usually. The little girl who plays Tea is impressive. Nana Visitor and Philip Anglim (who play Kira and Bareil, respectively) have real chemistry on screen. Rene Auberjonois give his usual excellent performance as Odo. All of the characters are vibrant and interesting, pieces of them are from the acting. Even Cirroc Lofton, who plays Jake, is hitting his stride better than usual in this episode.

So, what's not to like about this episode? Well, there are moments where it does feel like a "filler," as if the producers had arced out the entire season and had one episode more to fill up. The Quark part of the Kira plot seems contrived, the Jake plot is minimized. The Odo plot, is significant enough and it is enjoyable. That plot lends itself to recommending to those who aren't - classically - fans of DS9. It's a mystery that is contained in the episode.

Largely, however, this episode is more accessible to fans of the series. This is a clear episode of character movement. Odo, Kira and Jake are growing here. I include it in the essential DS9 because of Odo and Kira's arcs, as well as the mention of the Dominion. Plenty to enjoy.

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


For other Star Trek episode or movie reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2007, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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