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August 16, 2013

Star Trek: DS9 - Ep 32 - Armageddon Game

The "genie in a bottle" analogy for dangerous knowledge is often used, because it's so true. Once that genie is released, there is no going back. When the ultimate weapon is created, it doesn't matter how much each side promises to not use it; the chance is always there that somebody won't keep that promise. Knowledge once discovered can never truly be forgotten again. Or can it? "Armageddon Game" doesn't really solve this issue (and it's not really solvable, except with methods that are equally horrific). However, it does address it, and in quite an effective way. Add to that the wonderful interplay between Chief O'Brien (Colm Meaney) and Dr. Bashir (Siddig El Fadil), and you have a great episode that is just this side of wonderful.

The war between the T'Lani and the Kellerun, which involved the use of a mutagenic weapon capable of wiping out the populations of whole planets (Harvesters), is over. Both sides have agreed to have the Harvesters wiped out, and have called in the Federation for help. Dr. Bashir and Chief O'Brien are the two Federation representatives helping in the process, and they are finally successful. Once all of the Harvesters are wiped out, their job should be done, right?

That would be the case, but the Kellerun and the T'Lani can't allow any of the Harvester knowledge to survive either. Kellerun troops attack the lab, killing all the scientists, and they would have killed O'Brien and Bashir too, if not for some quick thinking and some hand to hand combat. They manage to escape down to the desolate surface of T'Lani III, a planet wiped out by Harvesters. Unfortunately, O'Brien has been exposed to the Harvesters during the battle, and starts slowly succumbing to the disease.

Ambassadors from both planets come to Commander Sisko (Avery Brooks) with a recording of a radiation pulse unexpectedly tripped by O'Brien, supposedly killing them all. The station goes into mourning, until Keiko O'Brien (Rosalind Chao) comes to Sisko insisting that the recording was altered, because Miles doesn't drink coffee in the afternoon and the recording clearly shows that he is. Will O'Brien survive long enough to be rescued? Will the rescuers themselves be destroyed? It's a race against time.

"Armageddon Game" is a very good episode, with entertaining dialogue and wonderful character moments. We have only seen the O'Brien-Bashir pairing occasionally, but it sowed the seeds for this episode. The two of them are wonderful together, and a large part of that is because of the chemistry between Meaney and El Fadil. I loved their discussion about marriage, especially Bashir's reasons for not wanting to get married, how it was unfair for them to have to not only worry about their jobs, but also worrying about their family members worrying about them.

They had a great beginning when O'Brien discovers the T'Lani communication device and tries to fix it. Bashir, wanting to feel useful, offers to help, and when O'Brien scoffs, he says that he took the "engineering extension courses" at the Academy. The look in O'Brien's eyes was priceless. It's not a surprise that there were many more episodes featuring these two.

Also good, though less so, was the mourning back on the station for the two of them. Chao is surprisingly effective (surprising because I don't really care much for her as an actress) in the scene where Sisko informs her of her husband's death. Also quite touching was the scene between Dax (Terry Farrell), Kira (Nana Visitor) and Quark (Armin Shimmerman) honouring the fallen. Even knowing that they weren't dead, it still brought a small tear to my eye, and was effectively played by all concerned.

The episode does have a couple of missteps, though. First is the rest of the guest acting, which is hit and miss. Darleen Carr as the T'Lani ambassador is decent throughout most of the episode but really falls down in the final confrontation with Sisko, and Peter White as the Kellerun ambassador never moves above adequate. He never puts much emotion behind what he says, even when it's clear that he's supposed to be doing that. Also, the hair styling on both races just makes them look extremely silly. I feel sorry for the actors when they're forced to wear this stuff. Trek alien hair styles have never been wonderful, but these were especially weird.

Still, with a stellar story and acting from the regulars, bad guest acting can be overcome. The story is great, but it hinges on something else that just strained my credulity. Keiko storms into Sisko's office saying that the recording has clearly been altered because Miles doesn't drink coffee in the afternoon because it keeps him up at night. Never mind the fact that I find it strange that a security recording would have a spectrographical analysis built into it that would show that it was clearly coffee (Kira's objection is that it might have been tea). I find it odd that Sisko would go off like he does on just the say-so of one of the deceased men's wives, a wife who could just be distraught and grasping at straws for a way that her husband might still be alive. He's convinced *very* quickly.

That brings it down some, but what really makes this extraordinarily silly is this:


At the end, Keiko finds out that Miles *does* drink coffee in the afternoon! I know this is just supposed to be a cutesy ending to a tense episode, but it just adds to the inherent silliness of the plot. This is something a wife would know, if it supposedly has that kind of effect on him (keeping him up all night). How could she be wrong about that? The reason that I think Sisko gives in too fast is not because I think Keiko would have been wrong about this. I think he gave in too fast because clearly there could have been extenuating circumstances for why he would be drinking coffee at that particular time.


Unfortunately, this all works against what I think is a terrific premise, with some tight tension (even though, O'Brien being a regular, we know he's not going to die, it's still tense as he lay dying, trying to verbally help Bashir fix the communication device). The episode rises above the problems, and is still a great character piece for Bashir and O'Brien. We find out a lot about the two of them, and we get to see two very good actors play off each other. If it wasn't for this strangeness, "Armageddon Game" would easily be a 5-star episode. As it is, it's still a very high 4-star one. Definitely worth checking out.

Memorable Quotes
"I'm not giving up, Julian. I'm dying." O'Brien

4 Stars


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