Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Petty Odo and Righteous Quark Duke It Out On "The Ascent"

The Good: Acting, Moments of plot, B-Plot character development
The Bad: Ridiculous character twist in a-plot
The Basics: When Quark and Odo desperately fight for survival, Rom and Jake try to learn to live together on Deep Space Nine.

Some episodes manage to be the pretty typical a-plot, b-plot story where one or the other is just incongruently better than the other half. "The Ascent" is one such episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It has a rather fractured feel to it and it is somewhat difficult to watch as a result of that.

In "The Ascent," Odo is escorting Quark to a Federation Grand Jury regarding the Orion Syndicate, a vast criminal organization that is essentially the Mafia of the Star Trek universe. En route to the Grand Jury, the pair hears something, opens a bulkhead and discovers a bomb from the Orion Syndicate. The bomb detonates and the Runabout crashes, stranding the pair on a world not quite suitable for humanoid life and the two must attempt to survive long enough for help to arrive. On Deep Space Nine, Nog returns from the Academy to do his field study. He and Jake bunk together and discover they have significantly different lifestyles now. As they find conflict on the station, Quark and Odo find nothing but conflict on their ascent up a tall mountain where they will attempt to get a transmitter to send a signal that might have a hope of reaching DS9.

The a-plot is frequently annoying and has moments that feel very untrue to the characters, especially the character of Odo. Odo is someone who has always wanted justice and if "The Ascent" is any indication, the punishment wherein his people made him fully human was a punishment to the viewers as well as the Changelings made Odo into a jerk. In "The Ascent," Odo is petty, whiny, and utterly unlikable as he complains, hits and cajoles Quark halfway up the mountain. He makes the episode almost unwatchable. Almost.

Odo opens the episode, prior to the Runabout accident, with a great deal of humor. Rene Auberjonois deserves a lot of credit for making Odo's mockery of Quark's complaints more funny than flat out obnoxious. He provides some great deliveries for the character in the beginning and throughout the episode, Auberjonois succeeds in making Odo a character on edge. That works out nicely and is quite believable. So, even when the character is unlikable, it's obvious the actor is working quite hard to pull off the material.

The b-plot, though very much a standard for the sitcom, is surprisingly well-executed in this dramatic setting. The conflict between Jake and Nog feels very organic, especially given how self-centered both of them are and the drastically different directions their lives have taken since the early fourth season when Nog left to go to the Academy. Jake, being a slovenly writer, has something of an "Odd Couple" relationship with the very militarily rigid Nog.

In the end, "The Ascent" is saved by the acting of Aron Eisenberg. Eisenberg returns to the series as an almost entirely different character. Eisenberg's new Nog is more inflexible and bound by StarFleet's rules than the young mischief maker originally introduced in "Emissary." Instead, Eisenberg here has a straighter posture, a great deal more eye contact and he plays Nog with far less smiling than ever before. This change in Nog, while clearly staying true to the fundamentals of the character, prove he is a good actor.

But most of the episode is Odo and Quark making a difficult journey up a mountain and the b-plot is shoved to the background. This episode is hard to enjoy unless you are a fan of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It's a character conflict episode and that wears thinner than some of the other conflict episodes. It's a part of the essential Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for the return of Nog.

[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 Star Trek Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the Star Trek works I have reviewed!

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