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August 2, 2013

Star Trek: DS9 - Ep 30 - Rivals

This third in a string of lackluster second-season Deep Space Nine episodes, "Rivals" is quite uninspiring, though at times amusing. Yet again, we get a Quark-centered episode that just falls a little bit flat. When you add a surprisingly wooden performance from Chris Sarandon (most notably from The Princess Bride), and you get a rather blah episode. Average, but that's about it.

Over a drink at Quark's, Martus (Chris Sarandon) is listening to Alsia (K Callan) tell her life story, especially about the mining expedition that she wants to fund with the money she put back over the years. Just as Martus is about to offer to co-fund it, Odo (Rene Auberjonois) swoops in and arrests him for an earlier con. Martus ends up sharing a prison cell with an old alien named Cos (Albert Henderson, giving a very bland performance) who lost everything gambling on an electronic gambling machine that has always brought him bad luck. He activates it again, wins, and promptly dies (which is something that he had said he really wanted to do).

This gives Martus an idea, especially after tangling with Quark (Armin Shimmerman) trying to sell the machine, and he sets up his own gambling establishment, taking most of Quark's customers. Meanwhile, O'Brien (Colm Meaney) has installed a racquetball court and discovers that Bashir (Siddig El Fadil) used to play all the time. He gets his dander up when Bashir keeps beating him, and keeps demanding a rematch. Is Bashir really that good? Why are so many people having minor accidents all over the station? Something's affecting the entire station, and Sisko (Avery Brooks) is determined to find out what it is.

Much like "Sanctuary," "Rivals" has a lot going for it, and a lot going against it. It was a lot more fun than I remember it being, though it's just as silly. Thankfully, the stronger scenes were enough to partially overshadow the weaker ones, as well as the guest acting, at least for the most part. One scene I loved was Bashir's lunch with Dax (Terry Farrell) as he's telling her about the racquetball game with O'Brien, and how O'Brien almost had a coronary trying to beat him. The conversation itself isn't what's funny (though hearing the description of the competitive O'Brien was good), but Bashir's ongoing search for a sauce bottle that actually worked was priceless. Bashir never let his search stop him from talking, and I was busting a gut with that scene.

In fact, most of the best scenes were between O'Brien & Bashir, which is often the case with Deep Space Nine. The opening scene when Bashir discovers O'Brien in the racquetball court and says how his Academy team won the championship when he was there as well as Bashir's unconscious arrogance that just rubs O'Brien the wrong way ("old style rules" indeed!). Meaney plays it beautifully, especially the scene where Bashir tries to let O'Brien win. "Do you think I'm stupid too?" he seethes, before storming off the court.

These two were so wonderful, it's sad that the acting in the other side of the story was so lackluster. I haven't seen Shimmerman give a performance this weak in a long time. He forces a laugh a couple of times (the actor does, I think Quark was actually *supposed* to be laughing) that just grated on me, and much of the rest of it is a bit over the top too. He does have a great scene with O'Brien at the bar where he begins trying to be as good a listener as Martus is (Martus' race is a race of listeners), but ends up going on to his own tangent when an idea occurs to him. But mostly, he's pretty weak.

The other side of that story is even more surprising. Chris Sarandon almost seems to sleepwalk through his performance. I don't know what was going on, whether the script bored him or what, but he doesn't give any energy to the role. There were times that I saw a spark of the old Princess Bride Sarandon (especially the "I’m not listening!" that he shouts out in the jail cell, which has a nice double meaning, with the Bride reference along with the fact that his character is supposed to be a Listener). But overall, he was exceedingly dull. The rest of the guest cast was fairly unremarkable as well, though none of them were actively bad.

As for the rest of the episode, the plot definitely had its moments, though it didn't really seem to flow logically that well. The explanation for the changes in luck doesn't really add up (and that's as far as I can go without spoiling the episode).

Plus, the thing that sets off the entire plot wouldn't even happen normally. There is no way that Odo would allow a prisoner to hide a possession on his person, so how did Cos still have his machine to show to Martus? There had to have been some better way for Martus to get a hold of the thing, some way that wouldn't make Odo look uncharacteristically incompetent.

One good thing (though others might consider it bad) is that the episode does not attempt to give us a technobabble reason for what's going on when it's finally discovered. There is a part of me that wanted an explanation (even as I was writing this review, I was thinking about it), but I then realized that the explanation would probably sound horrible and I should just go with the flow.

So, ultimately, we have a bit of a snoozer of an episode with some hilariously funny moments. Not enough funny moments to bring this above "average," but enough to keep it above "dire." At least it's not Second Sight.

Memorable Quotes

"I’m not listening!" Martus

3 Stars


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