August 6, 2014

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: "The Storyteller"

On their first away mission together, O'Brien and Bashir discover a Bajoran village where every night a storyteller recites a magical litany to dispel a terrifying monster. When the storyteller dies, O'Brien finds himself as the unwilling replacement - and the monster's due to return that night. Meanwhile, Jake and Nog compete for the affections of a teenage faction leader from Bajor.

First and foremost it's worth noting there's a lot in this episode that's right: it pairs up Miles O'Brien (Colm Meaney) and Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig) for the first time, and it's a pairing that will come to in part define Deep Space Nine over the coming six and a half seasons. It also further cements the friendship between Jake and Nog in ways that are at least a little different and progressive (example: romantically she prefers the Ferengi to the human).

It's worth noting all the good, because in terms of execution and the central plot, "The Storyteller" simply doesn't work.

It is based around this fairytale concept of telling a story to keep monsters at bay, and while it does throw in a science fiction explanation for what's going on it's an explanation that feels cursory at best. For the bulk of the episode O'Brien is muttering and flustering his way through a charming children's fantasy that grates badly against both Star Trek as a whole and the more spiritual edge of Bajoran society expressed thus far. The storyline was actually developed very early on for Star Trek: The Next Generation, and bounced around the production office until it wound up here. That's half of its problem right there - you could swap Bashir and O'Brien with Geordi and Data and the story would be almost exactly the same. The O'Brien/Bashir pairing works beautifully, however, so if nothing else we have this episode to thank for it.

The production values of the episode are actually rather good. The billowing alien cloud that threatens the village each night looks sensational: it's been 21 years and it honestly stands up.

Jake and Nog's attempts at teen romance are fairly cursory and stereotypical, but as I mentioned above it was genuinely refreshing to see a character actually like a Ferengi and not simply make some kind of racist judgement upon them for expressing their own culture. I've always liked Nog, and while the episode as a whole may fail he gets some great material here - stumbling awkwardly through conversations until it suddenly reaches something he knows (commerce) at which point he simply excels.

Odo makes a few brief appearances here, and I mention them only because Rene Auberjonois makes them sing. His little smile after gruffly sending Jake and Nog on their way speaks more to his character than some entire episodes have this season.

So good bits, nice character development, bad episode. That leaves us with seven good episodes out of 12, back down to a season score of 58%.

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