Wednesday, April 18, 2012

“Shadows And Symbols” Oversimplifies The Conflicts Brewing At The Outset Of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Final Season!

The Good: Acting, Character development, General plot elements
The Bad: Very predictable/blasé plots
The Basics: “Shadows And Symbols” weakly concludes the events set up in the seventh season premiere of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, despite having some admirable qualities.

There are several episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that I actually enjoy quite a bit more when I am actually watching them, as opposed to considering them after the fact. So, on a visceral level, I enjoy “Shadows And Symbols” quite a bit when I am watching it. However, when I sit and consider the episode objectively, my dominant thought is that it is troublingly simple. In other words, “Shadows And Symbols” is one of those rare episodes where exactly what one thinks will happen does and there is little in the way to excite new viewers, much less fans of the series.

That said, outside the inherent simplicity of the episode, there is nothing particularly wrong with “Shadows And Symbols.” The episode marks the first full episode in which Ezri Dax appears and while some might chalk that up as a serious detraction to the episode, I honestly found that the producers and writers had a strong idea of how to differentiate her from Jadzia. The efforts they made are worthwhile and Nicole de Boer leaps onto the screen as instantly distinctive, if not entirely likable. The result is an episode that is not bad, but is hardly the most exciting and one that is not at all unpredictable.

With Captain Sisko on Earth, preparing to depart for Tyree, Ezri Dax enters. Surprising three generations of Sisko men, Ensign Ezri Dax, part of the ship’s counseling staff aboard the U.S.S. Destiny, arrives and explains how she came by the Dax symbiont. As Sisko and his family – with Ezri in tow – head to Tyree in search of the Orb of the Emissary, tensions rise on Deep Space Nine. Admiral Ross refuses to back Colonel Kira when it appears the Romulans are arming the Bajoran moon Derna, suggesting their hospital will not easily be shut down after the war.

With Kira and Odo taking Bajoran ships to form a blockade, Worf, Bashir, O’Brien and Quark take Martok’s ship on a seemingly impossible mission to destroy a Dominion supply facility. Worf’s hope is that by winning an honorable battle, he can get Jadzia into Sto-Vo-Kor, Klingon heaven. But the task is a tough one and as Dominion forces respond, it looks like Worf and his friends might fail, just as Kira’s ships have no chance against the newly arriving Romulan battle fleet. As Sisko draws nearer to discovering the Orb of the Emissary, all hopes rest on him, if only he can resist the most intriguing distraction of the Pah-wraiths!

“Shadows And Symbols” picks up immediately where “Image In the Sand” (reviewed here!) left off and it makes a lot less sense without all of the backstory from the first part. The episode also marks the return of Benny Russell from “Far Beyond The Stars” (reviewed here!). While the episode fits remarkably well into the larger Star Trek: Deep Space Nine mythos, it is a fairly lackluster episode on its own. Indeed, it is basically a brief set-up that quickly resolves a number of complicated plot and character problems. This is not typical for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and, as a result, it stands out the way the episode makes such obvious resolutions.

So, “Shadows And Symbols” is largely the story of how Captain Sisko finds what he needs in order to return to Deep Space Nine while Kira illustrates her newfound leadership potential and Worf finishes the most moody portion of his mourning process. It’s a surprisingly plot-heavy episode and the overall lack of character development in it makes it feel a little off on the pacing. The episode plods along until it finishes pretty much exactly where viewers might expect it to.

So, the real reason to watch “Shadows And Symbols” is to get the first taste of Ezri Dax and Nicole de Boer. Ezri Dax is characterized in this episode as a nervous motormouth and part of what works for her is the fact that she establishes very early on that she was not prepared to become a joined Trill. As a result, she is talkative and very much confused by all of the new voices in her head. She came looking for Sisko for his guidance, which allows Captain Sisko to take on a role that he never plausibly held with Jadzia Dax, that of mentor. That sets up an interesting dynamic and the crazy Benjamin and confused Ezri play off one another well for those moments of the episode.

Nicole de Boer does a decent job assuming the mantle of Ezri Dax. She is given quite a bit of dialogue and she delivers it with an appropriately nervous energy at a somewhat disturbing speed, making for an interesting performance. At the very least, de Boer arrives with an energy that effectively shakes up the cast in an episode where Armin Shimerman is playing a somewhat obnoxious incarnation of Quark, Colm Meany’s talents are wasted as O’Brien as sidekick and Michael Dorn plays Worf through yet another series of scenes wherein Martok must mentor him on how to be a Klingon. Nicole de Boer provides the cast with a new energy that works well, something that final seasons cannot always handle.

Ultimately, “Shadows And Symbols” serves its purpose, but it is not the most exciting way to get everyone back together that the series ever devised.

[Knowing that the season is a much better investment, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Seventh Season on DVD, which provides the full story for the conclusion to the series. Read my review of the final season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek episode reviews, be sure to visit my Star Trek Review Index Page for an organized listing!

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