Friday, January 20, 2012

Conflict In The Darkness Of "The Ship"

The Good: Mood, Character, Acting
The Bad: Abruptness of the climax, Death of an officer comes a mile away
The Basics: In an incredibly dark, insulated episode, Sisko and crew find themselves trapped in a Dominion ship on a planet under siege.

In Star Trek Deep Space Nine's fifth season, one of the first pieces of the plot that needed to be changed was the conflict with the Klingons. The fifth season is all about bringing back the Dominion Threat and with the second episode, "The Ship," the Dominion returns to the forefront of the series.

"The Ship" finds a runabout crew stranded on a distant planet where a Jem'Hadar attack ship has crashed. When another Dominion ship comes by and destroys the Runabout, Sisko, Dax, Worf, O'Brien and two others find themselves trapped in the crashed ship. While Sisko negotiates with the Vorta representative, a Jem'Hadar soldier infiltrates the ship and nearly kills O'Brien's protege, Muniz, who has been in several episodes. As Muniz dies and tensions in the crew rise, they try to find out what it is the Vorta wants from the damaged ship that they are unwilling to leave the ship or simply turn the whole thing over to StarFleet.

This is a dark episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, with most of the episode trapped in the claustrophobic, upside down ship. The sets are dark and the quests to find the object the Vorta is looking for and Muniz dying keep the mood of this episode is quite oppressive. There is a foggy quality to the Jem'Hadar ship as well, which lends itself well to keeping the mood dark and murky.

The characters in this episode bear the brunt of the work, given how physically dark the work is. It's a wonderful thing to see them degenerate into frustration and anger. Sisko is consistently tense, Worf becomes short-tempered and boastful and O'Brien becomes desperately attached to Muniz, wanting only to believe that he can save his friend. Dax, then, becomes something of an inappropriate comic relief and it's refreshing to see Sisko call her on her behavior. This is a tense situation and all of the characters begin the episode with an ease for the find, pleased that they have this salvage. As the Dominion ship in orbit bombards the area, the crew becomes more and more frazzled and it has a very real feel to it. Throughout the piece, the crew we're used to seeing cool and calm fractures and it feels very genuine.

The actors go quite a long way to making "The Ship" successful, though they cannot save the piece from some things. The first would be that the truth about what is aboard comes about rather abruptly. When it is revealed, the explanation for the events leading to the discovery are somewhat disappointing and underplayed. After all of the tension - and cost, for Muniz's death is pretty inevitable and overplayed - it seems somewhat anticlimactic and inexplicable.

But the actors do go a long way to saving the episode from the climactic flaws. F.J. Rio does a great job at playing Muniz in his final Star Trek: Deep Space Nine appearance. Rio does a fine job of playing a man delirious near death and he has a strange humor come across his facial expressions, which works out wonderfully. Terry Farrell, similarly, does a decent job of putting stress in her voice, making Dax's humorous remarks seem more the result of stress and difficulty.

The actor who does the most work, though, is probably Avery Brooks. Brooks does an excellent job of playing both cunning and scared. He makes Sisko both cautious and desperate to solve the mystery of what is on the ship, a little edgier than he usually does. Brooks balances the different aspects of his character throughout the piece rather well, keeping his performance more understated when forced as opposed to going over the top in his scenes of anger and triumph.

"The Ship" is an episode that is less likely to be enjoyed by those who are not fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine than those who are, mostly because this is a coup for the crew, but not terribly revealing for those who do not understand the significance of the Dominion and the Federation getting a Jem'Hadar ship. Moreover, the resolution would seem rather inexplicable to those who are not fans of the series.

Even those who like a good suspense are likely to be intimidated by "The Ship," it's too insular in this particular corner of the Trek universe. But, it is a part of the essential Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for the importance of the salvage.

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


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

© 2012, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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