Star Trek 444: The Siege of AR-558

444. The Siege of AR-558

FORMULA: Nor the Battle to the Strong + Valiant + The Ship

WHY WE LIKE IT: The music. The direction. The strategies.

WHY WE DON'T: Vargas.

REVIEW: The cast goes to the front to experience some wartime horror first hand in an episode that seems to take its cues from the Vietnam conflict. The people at AR-558 have been holding out too long, have lost two thirds of their numbers and suffer from precarious mental health. Sisko decides to stay and help, driven by circumstances, but also by the anguish he already feels vis-à-vis the war. In an odd turn, Quark is there to act as the outsider, commenting on the situation. The point he makes about humanity being civilized so long as our bellies are full is a valid one that justifies his presence. It's also nice to see him care for someone other than himself (i.e. Nog), and he'll get his hands bloody as well.

The Siege itself features some pretty smart strategies on both sides which certainly keep the conflict interesting. Though the basic set-up would now inevitably be compared to that of the Spartan 300 ("THIS. IS. AR-558!"), there's the idea of projecting holograms to make the enemy reveal their position, nasty subspace mines ("Houdinis"), and then of using the Houdinis against their makers. Music is used effectively, first with a practically ironic Vic Fontaine song while the soldiers wait, and then the use of a moving new theme - used throughout - to underscore the action. This isn't exciting so much as it's tragic and melancholy. Sisko's POV as he passes out is as tense a moment as any. Great direction all around.

And since this is about the horrors of war, we perhaps shouldn't be surprised most of the guest characters don't make it. As the sympathetic main guest star, you'd think Bill Mumy's Kellin would survive, but shockingly, no. Most poignantly of all is Nog's loss of a leg, showing that even "our" characters aren't safe. Though Quark is an annoyance to Sisko most of the time, here it's harder for the captain to shoo him away when he becomes the righteous parent. It also relates to the final moments when the troop replacements arrive and are just "children". "Not for long," Sisko answers. War as a maker and destroyer of men.

Where the episode falls down is with its use of stock characters. We've seen these types in war movies before and in Vargus' case, it's way overplayed. Even Kellin, sympathetic as he may be, is just that "sympathetic engineer" who befriends the crew and does well, but that we're sad to see die. Reese is probably the better character - not by virtue of his special knife and ketracel tube necklace, which hardly packs the punch of Cardassian neck bones - but because he seems very much part of this gritty, desperate world, and yet, writes it off as soon as he leaves. When he abandons his knife, he abandons this part of his life. You get a sense that he'll never speak of it again. Reese tells us more by saying less.

LESSON: Vic Fontaine can't spot a comedy act when he sees one. (Check out Rom's audition.)

REWATCHABILITY - Medium-High: In an episode where we're reminded that the dead aren't just names and numbers, but real people, I'd have liked to see them better fleshed out generally. However, AR-558 is still powerfully scored and directed, with real consequences for one of the cast.

2 comments:

billjac said...

I'm not going to say that this was a bad episode but it certainly doesn't feel like it fits in DS9 and it's a bit of a stretch to get the regular cast there and involved.

Aren't there war-is-hell cliches for the Navy and Air Force that more closely parallel Starfleet? Suddenly turning the characters into infantry so you can use the Army cliches makes it all feel forced to me.

Siskoid said...

You make a very good point. What is Sisko doing on a supply run, for example?

It's still more plausible than, say, O'Brien infiltrating the Orion Syndicate, but it's still plot manipulation.

 

Blog Archive

Category

5 Things to Like Activities Advice Alien Nation Aliens Say the Darndest Things Alpha Flight Amalgam Ambush Bug Animal Man anime Aquaman Archetypes Archie Heroes Arrowed Asterix Atom Avengers Awards Babylon 5 Batman Battle Shovel Battlestar Galactica Black Canary BnB 2-in1 Books Booster Gold Buffy Canada Captain America Captain Marvel Cat CCGs Charlton Circles of Hell Class Comics Comics Code Approved Conan Contest Cooking Crisis Daredevil Dating Kara Zor-El Dating Lois Lane Dating Lucy Lane Dating Princess Diana DCAU Deadman Dial H Dice Dinosaur Island Dinosaurs Director Profiles Doctor Who Doom Patrol Down the Rabbit Hole Dr. Strange Encyclopedia Fantastic Four Fashion Nightmares Fiasco Films Within Films Flash Flushpoint Foldees French Friday Night Fights Fun with Covers FW Team-Up Galleries Game design Gaming Geekly roundup Geeks Anonymous Geekwear Gimme That Star Trek Godzilla Golden Age Grant Morrison Great Match-Ups of Science Fiction Green Arrow Green Lantern Hawkman Hero Points Podcast Holidays House of Mystery Hulk Human Target Improv Inspiration Intersect Invasion Invasion Podcast Iron Man Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsen JLA JSA Judge Dredd K9 the Series Kirby Motivationals Krypto Kung Fu Learning to Fly Legion Letters pages Liveblog Lonely Hearts Podcast Lord of the Rings Machine Man Motivationals Man-Thing Marquee Masters of the Universe Memes Memorable Moments Metal Men Metamorpho Micronauts Millennium Mini-Comics Monday Morning Macking Movies Mr. Terrific Music Nelvana of the Northern Lights Nightmare Fuel Number Ones Obituaries oHOTmu OR NOT? Old52 One Panel Outsiders Panels from Sheena Paper Dolls Play Podcast Polls Questionable Fridays Radio Rants Reaganocomics Recollected Red Bee Red Tornado Reign Retro-Comics Reviews Rom RPGs Sandman Sapphire & Steel Sarah Jane Adventures Saturday Morning Cartoons SBG for Girls Seasons of DWAITAS Secret Origins Podcast Secret Wars SF Shut Up Star Boy Silver Age Siskoid as Editor Siskoid's Mailbox Space 1999 Spectre Spider-Man Spring Cleaning ST non-fiction ST novels: DS9 ST novels: S.C.E. ST novels: The Shat ST novels: TNG ST novels: TOS Star Trek Streaky Suicide Squad Supergirl Superman Supershill Swamp Thing Tales from Earth-Prime Team Horrible Teen Titans That Franchise I Never Talk About The Prisoner The Thing Then and Now Theory Thor Thursdays of Two Worlds Time Capsule Timeslip Tintin Torchwood Tourist Traps of the Forgotten Realms Toys Turnarounds TV V Waking Life Warehouse 13 Websites What If? Who's This? Whoniverse-B Wikileaked Wonder Woman X-Files X-Men Zero Hour Strikes Zine