Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dynamic Characters Make For A Killer Episode With Deep Space Nine's "Heart Of Stone!"

The Good: Acting, Character development, Plot
The Bad: Some say the special effects
The Basics: When Kira and Odo become trapped on a lonely planet, hidden truths come out in “Heart Of Stone.”

One of the most interesting aspects of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the dynamic characters. They do not simply begin with their characterization and stay that way. More than any other Star Trek series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine explores how individuals change based on their experiences. "Heart Of Stone" is a crucial episode for two of the most important characters in the series: Security Chief Odo and the Ferengi youth Nog.

The episode opens with Odo and Kira chasing down a Maquis ship to a rogue asteroid planet that is geologically unstable. They chase the Maquis into a series of caves and rather abruptly, Kira gets her foot stuck in a liquid crystal compound which traps her. As Odo attempts to get her out unstuck, the crystal grows and begins to engulf Kira. As Odo and Kira work through their problem, back on Deep Space Nine, Nog reveals to Commander Sisko his desire to join StarFleet, which shocks all of the officers. As the episode progresses, it becomes clear that Nog is serious and both Nog and Odo reveal deeper secrets about their characters to their confessors.

One of the ironies of this episode is is that it is often neglected by the fans of the series and yet it becomes one of the most important. In interviews, actress Nana Visitor often expresses her disappointment over this episode; she was so happy when she read the script over the power of the episode and what happens to her character and with Odo's character and yet was so dismayed by the special effects in the episode. Personally, I think that she's overestimating the importance of the special effect of the crystal that is engulfing her. The truth is, "Heart Of Stone" remains one of the tightest character studies that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine ever does.

Security Chief Odo is forced to admit what many viewers have likely suspected since the second season's brilliant "Necessary Evil" (reviewed here!) and the way it is brought out over the course of this episode makes it quite realistic and entertaining. But equally important is the character journey of Nog. Nog's sudden desire to join StarFleet stems from previously unstated and unexplored actions that make absolute sense. Nog's reaction is a reasonable consequence to the constant abuse of his father, Rom by virtually every other character on the show. What makes it so smart is that "Heart Of Stone" works perfectly in the larger story, deriving from the consequences of previous character actions and resonating through the rest of the series with consequences for Odo and Nog.

Yes, despite how magnificent this episode is, it is remarkably understated and underrated. Most of the episode involves pairs of people - Odo and Kira, Nog and Sisko - simply standing around, talking quietly. But it works!

Nana Visitor's acting is astounding, especially considering that most of the episode she is robbed of use of her body. Instead of using her body language, she uses her eyes and voice to bring passion and meaning to her every line. Rene Auberjonois gives a great performance as well, in a rare moment where Odo must be completely passionate and dejected. He makes it work while still maintaining the character of Odo.

The real acting credit goes to Aron Eisenberg. Long neglected in the cast, mostly because he is a recurring guest star, Eisenberg here erupts to the forefront by making Nog something more than a juvenile delinquent. While it's easy to credit the writers, Eisenberg clearly expresses more than simply the lines with his eyes and physical bearing. He sells us on Nog being both an individual and a Ferengi and it works; never in this episode does the viewer look at Nog as a person with a lot of latex on his head. Eisenberg convinces us completely and that's what great acting is.

This is, however, essentially a character episode. It's a compelling piece where people are standing up for themselves and expressing their deepest secrets and they all fit together. What Odo has to tell Kira makes a lot of sense. We see hints of it in "Necessary Evil" and "The Search." It makes sense. Similarly, Nog's character progression makes sense, even though it is one of the biggest and best surprises the series ever goes in. His reasoning as he tells Sisko makes a world of sense.

"Heart Of Stone" is essential to the story of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but it is not inaccessible to those who are not fans. People unfamiliar with the series will enjoy the way that the immediately interesting characters express themselves and come to their confessions. Those moments are essentially human and work well to the imagination of all viewers.

Let Nana Visitor complain about the somewhat awkward special effects in the nature of the crystal; this is not an episode about that phenomenon, it's about who these people are. It's a character piece and they dominate. And it works for the viewers. It's worth watching. 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 episode, movie and DVD set reviews, please be sure to visit the specialized index page on the subject by clicking here!

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