Saturday, February 23, 2013

4-21. The Muse.

Jake falls under the influence of a mysterious alien.


Lwaxana Troi (Majel Barrett) returns to Deep Space 9, fleeing her Tavnian husband, Jeyal (Michael Ansara). The Tavnians regard women as possessions, a situation Lwaxana was already finding intolerable. Then she became pregnant with a son, leading Jeyal to insist that the son be raised in the traditional Tavnian way: entirely cut off from all women, including his own mother.

Odo agrees to help, allowing her to stay in his quarters while he searches for a legal solution before Jeyal arrives. The meticulous constable finds one. Tavnian law states that any child is the property of the mother's husband, even if that husband is not the father. Jeyal will have no claim to the baby, so long as Odo marries her before the child is born.

Meanwhile, Jake meets Onaya (Meg Foster), an alien woman who promises to help him unlock the creativity he has inside him. She invites him to her quarters to work. She sits him down with paper and pen and has him begin writing his novel, Anslem. "Write whatever comes to you. The idea is to create a stream of consciousness and see where it takes you. You can edit later."

As Jake works, so does Onaya. She uses mysterious powers to stimulate the creative part of his brain. The novel flows out of Jake, seemingly effortlessly. But this perfect storm of creativity comes with a price - one that may cost Jake his life!


Capt. Sisko: Of course Ben has to get off-station, simply because the Jake/Onaya plot will never work if he's present. Sure enough, once he returns, it's a matter of minutes before he confronts Onaya with phaser in hand. Faces with The Wrath of Sisko, she takes the only sensible course of action: She flees. Sisko's heart-to-heart with Jake at the end is a good scene, as he encourages Jake to learn to unlock his creativity on his own - after a good rest, of course.

Odo: Though this is not a particularly good episode, it's an excellent one for Rene Auberjonois' Odo. We see him genuinely enjoying Lwaxana's company, relaxing and having fun with her in a way that is rare for him. He is entirely sincere when, at the wedding ceremony, he recalls his past shame in how different he is from others, and how Lwaxana helped him to feel less shame in that. Lwaxana recognizes, however, that what Odo wants from her is "company... someone to take care of," and gracefully (mercifully) leaves for home at the first opportunity.

Jake: Is instantly fascinated with Onaya, even before she approaches him. After she invites him to her quarters, he is tantalized both by the possibilities of being in her quarters and by what she promises for his writing. That is enough for him to blow off a trip he had planned with his father and Kasidy. Once under the spell of the creative tidal wave Onaya unleashes within him, he is absolutely hooked. His youth and enthusiasm leads him to push himself harder than even his new muse wants. As she observes, he is willing to burn himself out completely in a single creative push.

Creepy Alien Space Babe of the Week: There's always been something sinister about Meg Foster. Even in early '80's films which attempted to play her as some kind of sex siren, her presence was always a bit disconcerting. Some combination of her voice and her eyes makes her seem creepy even in the mildest roles. This makes her a good choice for Onaya, a soft-spoken siren whose tender ministrations inevitably result in death. Onaya does give what she promises: She unlocks Jake's potential, allowing him to write a sizable chunk of his novel in a very short time period. But even as she coos to him to "get some rest," the way she feeds on the energy coming from Jake's mind is more than a little vampiric.

Lwaxana Troi: Another year, another Lwaxana episode. Lwaxana remains much better-characterized on DS9 than she was on TNG, and this script at least avoids the pitfall of playing her for bad comedy. Majel Barrett is, once again, quite fine with what she's given to work with, and she and Rene Auberjonois share the screen nicely. But it's no joy to see her again. Much as I enjoyed Barrett's acting, particularly in the "hide-and-seek" game with Odo and in her final scene, I would be very happy if this turned out to be this show's final Lwaxana appearance.


At the tail end of what has been Deep Space 9's strongest season to this point, we get this momentum-killer. Much as with Season Two's Rivals, The Muse is an episode that seems to have been constructed out of two "B" plots. Neither story is entirely without merit, and there are good scenes and performances in both. But neither story is really up to carrying an episode.

The two strands also feel completely unconnected. They are linked by neither plot nor theme, nor do they even brush up against each other. This adds to the sense of an episode made up of two "B" plots lifted from the cutting room and pasted together (and yes, I know that wasn't the case - but it sure plays like it was). The best "A" plot/"B" plot structures allow each strand to advance the other, if not in story then at least in atmosphere, each strand making the other stronger for its presence. This is the opposite of that: Each strand simply interrupts the other, preventing any kind of real dramatic flow to take hold.

The Muse is at least better than the previous Lwaxana episode, Season Three's dire Fascination. There are some good moments here. All of the scenes between Lwaxana and Odo feature good character writing, and Barrett and Auberjonois play very well off each other. The "hide-and-seek" scene is genuinely charming, and it's a pleasure to see the usually stiff Odo seem relaxed and even happy. In the other stand, Jake's determination to write his entire novel in one sitting is convincingly played, and there is something genuinely sinister in Onaya's ministrations.

But the good moments simply stand alone as good bits, not really doing much to bolster the surrounding mediocrity. Both plots are thin and obvious, and both are resolved with minimal difficulty. The Muse isn't a horrible viewing experience by any means - I don't even necessarily think it's the worst episode this season. But save for its scattered good moments, it's rather dull - dull, and entirely forgettable. 

Overall Rating: 4/10.

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