Monday, January 2, 2012

Deep Space Nine's Twist On A Next Generation Standard Comes With "Our Man Bashir!"

The Good: FUNNY, Excellent acting, Interesting execution and character expression
The Bad: Well, it's another holodeck gone wrong episode
The Basics: When Star Trek: Deep Space Nine does a twist on James Bond in the holosuites, fans get a decent make-out episode.

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, every season there was at least one episode that dealt with a misadventure in the holodeck, a place on the ship that could create any environment or character. It became a standard in the Star Trek universe, enough so that when Worf came aboard Deep Space Nine in "The Way Of The Warrior," O'Brien notes that the only thing the crew of the Enterprise could not do was keep the holodecks running properly. For the most part, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has avoided this standard, though many holosuite programs are run throughout the series. In "Our Man Bashir," that changes.

When Bashir gets a new program that puts him in the role of a super spy (a la James Bond), he becomes enough of a recluse to pique the interest of Garak, the station's resident spy. Garak finds the 1960s setting fascinating and tags along with Bashir for what seems will be an adventure in the holodeck. Things go wrong when a runabout carrying Sisko, Worf, Kira, O'Brien and Dax is destroyed near the station. Barely beamed out in time, Commander Eddington saves their patterns in the only system that will hold them; the holodeck imaging array. As a result, character's in Bashir's program are replaced with DS9 crewmembers' bodies. While Odo and Eddington work to recombine the neural energies of each member of the runabout crew with their body, Bashir works to keep the characters alive on the holodeck.

This is a funny episode and it is a fun episode, which works well considering how dark the series will get in the next seven episodes. This is the calm before the storm and it is more clever than simply realizing that Julian Bashir has the same initials as James Bond and running with that. More than most of the Star Trek: The Next Generation holodeck adventures, this one feels organic and has a sense of menace to it.

Unfortunately, it's still a holodeck standard in many ways. So, almost immediately, the holodeck safeties go off-line and that feels silly. In fact, were it not for that simple tried and true aspect of EVERY holodeck gone awry story, this might have been the best holodeck adventure yet. Even with that, it has a very different feel from the other holodeck adventures for one simple reason: Garak.

Garak is a wonderful character because he has no real affiliation. As a result, his loyalties seem to lay exclusively with self-preservation. Given that, he adds genuine menace to the episode as more and more danger enters the spy plot. If the scenario ends, the patterns for the characters based on the officers will be erased and there is some fear that even activating the holosuite computer will do that. Garak poses a real threat to attempt to do that.

Add to that, the conflict between Garak and Bashir in the holosuite makes a great deal of sense. Bashir playing at what Garak did professionally does seem reasonably offensive and it "reads" as true that Garak would be offended. It makes sense as well that Bashir would come to rely on the more brutal and realistic advice that only Garak could give. In that way, "Our Man Bashir" does a nice job of expressing the characters.

What works better than the characters is the acting. I'm not even talking about Alexander Siddig and Andrew Robinson playing their characters playing 1960s spies. No, the real acting talent comes in the form of the five runabout disaster survivors. While Michael Dorn plays DuChamps as a heavy with little real difference between his more subtle moments as Worf, Colm Meany gets the chance to let loose as a fictional villain Falcon. As Falcon, Meany has the chance to expand his repertoire even farther, playing someone very obviously below the actor's intelligence with convincing body language and tone.

And while Terry Farrell is underplayed as the somewhat simple Honey Bare, Avery Brooks is given the chance to be insanely wild as Dr. Noah. Brooks gives his most unpredictable performance as the nefarious super villain set to thwart Julian Bashir. The best performance comes from Nana Visitor. Visitor is trapped in the role of Colonel Kamoninov, a Russian operative. Visitor provides a convincing accent that puts Chekov's to shame. Add to that, Visitor has a wonderful body language to portray the Colonel with the same slinky sex appeal that the "Bond girls" tend to have. She does an amazing job of differentiating herself from both Kira and her recurring role as the Intendant.

In the end, this is an episode that kicks back and it's a fun time for anyone who likes James Bond-type action films. For fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, this is essentially a make-out episode as it is fun and adventurous and more amusing than anything else. The acting pushes it up several notches and it's easy to enjoy it on those merits alone. Great, even for those who do not enjoy science fiction.

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


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

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