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December 31, 2012

Star Trek: DS9 - Ep 14 - Progress

We all feel for the underdog. When you're watching a fight, or a game, and you don't particularly care who's going to win, you usually root for the underdog. You want to see an upset. David vs Goliath. The little guy against the giant corporation. What if you're that underdog, though? And what if, after winning, you become Goliath? How do you adapt, or do you even want to adapt?

Major Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor) has spent her entire life fighting for a cause. Fighting against oppression. Fighting against people in uniform trying to impose their will on others. Now, however, her home planet Bajor is free, and she finds things aren't quite so cut and dried anymore. "Progress" tells that story in a wonderful fashion. With a powerful script and wonderful acting from both Visitor and guest star Brian Keith as Mullibok. "Progress" is another great character piece for Kira, and continues a string of great episodes in Deep Space Nine's first season.

Bajor is preparing for its first large scale energy transfer project to give aid to hundreds of thousands of Bajorans. To do so will involve tapping the resources on its fifth moon, and they have had to evacuate all forty-four inhabitants of the moon to do it. However, during a routine check to make sure everybody's gone, Kira and Dax (Terry Farrell) discover that there were actually forty-seven inhabitants. Kira beams down to get them moving. She finds a cantankerous old man, Mullibok, and his two friends who help him on the farm. This is Mullibok's home, and he refuses to leave.

He tells her wild stories about how he overpowered six Cardassians on the ship that was transporting him, came to this moon, and conquered the land, carving out a life for himself. He resists every attempt to move him, saying that he will die if he leaves, so he might as well die here. Kira sees a lot of herself in Mullibok, especially as he points out that he's doing exactly what the Bajorans did against the Cardassians: fighting against impossible odds to live his life the way he wants to. But Kira's not a rebel anymore. She can't afford the luxury of allowing him to stay. When things get ugly, Kira finds herself torn between a man who she has come to respect, and doing her duty to Bajor.

I've never really thought much about Brian Keith. He was good in Family Affair, but I've never classified him as "a good actor." However, he is outstanding in "Progress." He plays off of Visitor flawlessly, just hugging the line between lovable old coot and annoying old guy. He's softly passionate, using old stories and quiet determination to demonstrate what others would loudly proclaim. He's not moving, and nothing Kira can do or say will convince him.

While Keith does very well, Visitor is just as good. At first she's annoyed that this old man is standing in the way of something that she knows is being done for the good of Bajor. But the more Mullibok goes on about "uniforms" and draws parallels between how he's fighting for his livelihood and how Kira fought for Bajor, she sees more and more of herself in him. It hits her very hard that she's now on the side of the "oppressors" and she doesn't like it.

When the fracas breaks out and one of the Bajoran security forces shoots Mullibok, it puts her over the edge. You can see the agony on Visitor's face as this man who she greatly respects lies dying. When Bashir (Siddig El Fadil) tells her that he has to be moved to a medical facility, Kira quietly takes off her jacket (her "uniform") and becomes one with him. At the end, when she puts that jacket back on, you know she's come to a decision that she knows she has to make, no matter how much it pains her.

The B-story doesn't have anything to do with this. Nog (Aron Eisenberg) and Jake (Cirroc Lofton) overhear Quark (Armin Shimmerman) yelling at Rom (Max Grodenchek) for buying a huge supply of Cardassian yamuk sauce. Nog feels his lobes tingle, which is the Ferengi sign of opportunity. Nog thinks only of the latinum that he wants, but nobody seems to have any to give them. They go on a series of trades until things finally work out for them in a good way.

While the story is predictable, Eisenberg and Lofton play it well, and it is kind of funny. The scene where they meet O'Brien (Colm Meaney) and try to get him to tell them what "self-sealing stembolts" are is priceless. I did think the story was a little too light-hearted and took away a bit of the drama of the Kira story, but overall it was quite harmless. Dramatic stories need comic relief, but this one may have been a bit too much. Again, Rene Auberjonois has to get made up as Odo for one little scene, so I hope the catered lunch was good that day.

Overall, the acting ranged from very good (Visitor & Keith) to pretty good (everybody else). The only minor slip-up was Michael Bofshever as the Bajoran official in charge of the mining operation. He was almost comatose at times and his one attempt at emotion (when Kira tells him that if they forcibly remove Mullibok, they'd be "no better then Cardassians") falls very flat. That accusation should cause righteous indignation, and Bofshever misses it.

Brooks and El Fadil have one classic scene where Sisko has to tell Bashir to recommend that Kira stay down on the moon in order to give her some time. Bashir's confusion is written all over his face until he realizes what Sisko is doing. It's even better when Sisko, after hearing the recommendation he asked Bashir to give him, says "Thank you, doctor. I'll consider it."

"Progress" is a powerful episode, and continues Kira's growth as a character. In "Battle Lines", Kira learns to deal with the violence that she has lived with for years. Now, she has to learn that there are other ways to deal with things than fighting. She also learns that there are some things that aren't worth fighting for, no matter how much the odds are stacked against you. She goes far enough to help Mullibok complete the task that he had set out for himself (building the kiln he's been working on), but then she realizes it's time to stop.

The final scene is powerful. While it's unclear what will eventually happen to Mullibok (he says he'll die if he leaves), we know what will happen to Kira. She'll continue to grow, and know that sometimes what's best for Bajor isn't fighting.

Memorable Quote:

"But you have to realize something, Major. You're on the other side now." - Sisko

5 Stars

Those of you expecting to see "The Storyteller," don't panic. The episode doesn't work on my disc, so I didn't do a full episode review. Instead, look to my Season 1 wrap-up in January


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