#DS91sttime: Season 4, Episode 21, “The Muse”

February 16, 2015 in #DS91sttime, General Topics

DS9: "The Muse"

That look, whatever it is–I like it. DS9, Season 4, ep 21, “The Muse”

Writers–the ones that believe in their bones that they were made to write–are very driven people, given to not only burning the midnight oil, but the morning and afternoon oil as well. Like all artists, there’s the potential for obsession, sometimes foisted upon us by outside influences. George Orwell, one of my favorite authors, was basically killed by the demands of his publisher; as a consequence Nineteen Eighty Four became his last work.

“The Muse” asks a question: is an artist’s legacy worth the cost of losing everything else? Of risking their very life? One of the characters present in this episode seems to think so, but their nefarious deeds wind up having less impact on us than the other half of this tale.

We’re presented with two plots in “The Muse”, as is the wont of Trek since the earliest days of the Berman-helmed shows, at least by my recollection. The first finds Jake Sisko abandoning a vacation with his father in the name of working on a story. What’s really happened is that Jake has been captivated by the offer of a female alien to help him with his novel. There’s clear sexual interest on Jake’s part toward the woman, named Onaya, and the episode dances carefully around the subdued eroticism of Onaya’s candlelit quarters. This is a coming of age tale, of sorts, both for Jake as a writer and as a young man, and like any good coming of age story, Jake finds himself in over his head. It’s a little uncomfortable for us, as it is for him.

The other plot was one I found more interesting–not to say Jake’s story isn’t, it’s just this other was executed better. In the second arc of the show (I hesitate to call it the B plot, as only the show’s title suggests Jake’s dilemma is more important), Odo is surprised by the sudden reappearance of Lwaxana Troi, who has come aboard DS9 on the run from her husband. This is for two reasons. The first is that Lwaxana has married a decent man, but he comes from a very patriachal culture, and her unborn child will be raised on his terms as a result, which–

“Wait, Lwaxana’s pregnant?”

Yes, your reaction is the same one I had. It’s an absurd premise. Granted, fertility technology is probably amazing in the future, but Lwaxana’s got to be pushing her late fifties at this point in ye olde timeline. The presence of a child is a plot point that’s completely unecessary. It probably got the hardcore fans in knots, too, and we can understand why. Troi is going to find out about this kid, or should find out about this kid, or…ah, forget it, it’s a mess.

Which, by the way, is what happened in the rest of the universe after this–they forgot about it. No mention is ever made, ever again (by my knowledge), about miracle baby Troi.

But while I find the new baby angle irrelevant and pointless (I would have just had Troi on the run from a husband she realized she no longer loves), the rest of her time with Odo is rich and poignant. Lwaxana has always been awkward, eccentric, and never quite fit in with those around her. She carries a mound of regret over past actions. She is an outsider, forever trying to find her place within the Universe; even her titles are more burden, it seems, then blessing. She’s a perfect friend for Odo, himself forever the shape-shifter molded into a solid’s world, currently (if we’ll ever get back to it) excised from his own people.

So their story is adorable, as each finds a natural comfort and mutual understanding with the other. We get to see the sides these characters don’t show to anyone else. And the payoff for all of this? It’s both bittersweet and underscores the special connection the two have. I’d call it a friendship, not a romance, but friendship doesn’t seem a sufficiently strong term. It’s something else. Whatever it is, it’s unique in this show’s run, and presents one of its most nuanced relationships.

Also unique is Ciroc Lofton’s performance as Jake Sisko. I have to give the actor credit–he’s nailed a young, unsure adolescent through this show’s run without coming across as an obnoxious character. He’s believable yet again in this episode, too. In fact, I think Jake Sisko is the character Wesley Crusher should have been. Crusher doesn’t get fair play in the Trek fanbase, because he’s a superkid in too many episodes, but later on the writers seemed to learn what to do with him; how to give him realistic foibles of personality. With Jake, they hit the right note earlier, and so has Lofton, to be honest, and it’s paying dividends.

When the plot finally resolves for Jake, it’s in an ambiguous manner; the good guys don’t really win. I love it when DS9 does that, and it’s been more content to do so than any other Trek I’ve seen. It takes courage to let your characters fail (or partially fail) at their objectives. It adds a dose of realism and makes more believable the stakes hinging on their actions.

I found out later on that this was Lwaxana’s (and thus, Michelle Barrett’s) last appearance on-camera in Trek. We lost Mrs. Barrett in 2008, and this humble episode of DS9 probably marks the end of the line for her best-known character. That’s a shame, but at least Troi and the actress behind her went out on a high note, in my opinion, having brought yet more depth to a character most of the fandom hasn’t fairly appreciated.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars.

Wifeometer: “Their friendship [Odo and Lwazxana’s] is so sweet”.

See the rest of the review series here.

"Beacon" Part IA young couple’s miracle at the last star left in the Universe will lead to a specter from the past returning to confront mankind…and the end will become the beginning. Try Part I of the Beacon Saga Serial, for your choice of ebook platforms.