Thursday, December 15, 2011

Exploring The Heritage Of Deep Space Nine In "Explorers"

The Good: Decent special effects, Nice character work, Humor
The Bad: Very weak plot
The Basics: When Jake and Sisko go off in a Bajoran sailing vessel, they quickly begin to learn about one another and come to rely on each other.

One of the least recognized episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has to be "Explorers." It's not a bad episode, but it's not a terribly superlative episode either. Instead, it is one that is often buried beneath the episodes with more impressive character work or more pivotal character developments. But this small episode actually does a lot to frame certain characters in the series.

When Sisko gets plans for an ancient Bajoran space vessel, he becomes obsessed with building the craft. His purpose it to build the craft to prove that ancient Bajorans could have been a spacefaring race that traveled as far as Cardassia. When Jake shows no interest in the journey, Sisko becomes dismayed. As Sisko builds the ship, Bashir learns that an old classmate is arriving on the station and he dreads her presence as she was the valedictorian to the class he was salutatorian to. As Sisko prepares to depart, Jake relents and joins him in the space sailing ship and the two leave the station together.

The important developments in "Explorers" occur after Jake and Sisko leave the station. I do not refer to the way they prove that the Bajorans did reach out for the stars, but rather in the character development they achieve in the cramped space of the vessel. There, Jake reveals that he wants to be a writer and that he has received a scholarship to a school on Earth. He also comes to admit his reservations about leaving his father behind. In the Bashir plot, resolution comes rather quickly when he finally confronts his old nemesis.

"Explorers" is probably neglected because it has a meandering plot. It's a slow episode. It does not feel like all that much actually happens in the episode. Instead, it's an episode where the teaser sets up what is going to happen and then the rest of the episode executes it. So there are no real surprises in "Explorers."

The episode is funny, though. When the episode opens with Bashir being hit on by Leeta, a dabo girl, Bashir must brush off Dax and the execution of that is funny. Add to that the drinking scene between O'Brien and Bashir is outright hilarious.

The a-plot is essentially a father-son bonding story and the reason it works as well as it does is that Avery Brooks and Cirroc Lofton have great chemistry as actors together. Avery admits at conventions that he took Cirroc under his wing as an actor and as a result, the scenes where the two are interacting as father and son have a very organic feel to them. Cirroc, for his part, gives a very realistic impersonation of a young artist seeking the approval of his father. So while little happens in their plot other than sailing through the stars talking, it feels very real, as if they are a family working through transitional issues in their relationship as they journey from adult father, child son to adult father, adult son.

The best acting in the episode does come from Colm Meany and Siddig El Fadil. When Bashir becomes depressed about not being recognized by his old competitor, he and O'Brien get rip roaring drunk. The scene they pull off is hilarious and the reason it's so funny is it is written and acted as if the two were actually plastered. Their dialog is ridiculous, non-cohesive and their facial expressions and body language illustrates completely how very wasted they are. Great acting considering they were not drunk at the time they filmed it.

The special effect of the Bajoran space ship is pretty nifty, though it was quite obviously computer generated.

"Explorers" is a worthy episode for all fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and it has enough important character elements to make it a part of the essential Deep Space Nine. It is also one of the easiest episodes for a non-fan of the series to get into and enjoy. It reads often as a slow family saga or a ridiculous comedy, but it's a fun episode. It's also a nice episode for those who are not traditionally fans of science fiction as this episode is rooted in essential bits of human development.

[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 or DVD set reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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