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Retro Review: Second Sight

Posted by Michelle - 27/04/12 at 07:04 pm


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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Season: 02 Episode: 09 (s02e09)

Original US airdate: 11/21/1993

Sisko begins to fall in love with a mysterious woman, then discovers that she has a connection to a visiting scientist.

Plot Summary: As the fourth anniversary of Jennifer’s death passes, Sisko meets a woman named Fenna, who shares his love of the unknown yet disappears just as he offers her a tour of the station. The next morning Sisko meets with the legendary genius Seyetik, who has stopped at Deep Space Nine en route to reignite a nearby dead star. That evening Sisko again spots Fenna, who admires the perspectives on space offered by the station but who flees when Sisko inquires about her background. After asking Odo to find out when Fenna arrived on the station, Sisko goes to a dinner on Seyetik’s ship, the Prometheus, only to discover that Seyetik’s wife Nidell looks exactly like Fenna, though she seems subdued and shows no recognition when Sisko asks why she didn’t tell him that she was married. Later, when Sisko tells Odo that he found Fenna on the Prometheus, Odo informs him that no one but Seyetik has left that ship since it docked. Puzzled, Sisko returns to his quarters, only to find Fenna waiting for him. She has no idea who Nidell is. Convinced that she cannot be Seyetik’s wife, Sisko kisses her, only to watch her turn into energy and vanish. When he and Dax accompany Seyetik on the Prometheus mission to reignite the star, Fenna appears again and Sisko has Dax scan her, learning that she has no DNA or cellular structure. Just then the Starfleet officers are informed that Nidell is unconscious. When Sisko brings Fenna to her quarters, Seyetik is furious to see her, explaining that Nidell is a psychoprojective telepath and that Fenna is a creation of her subconscious mind. Because Nidell is so unhappy in her marriage, Fenna has grown powerful enough to threaten Nidell’s life. Sisko asks Fenna to return to Nidell and save her, but before Fenna can do so, Sisko is alerted that Seyetik has taken a shuttle and plans to restore the dead star by himself, sacrificing his life in the process to set Nidell free. The solar ignition destroys Seyetik’s shuttle. Fenna once again vanishes, and when Nidell recovers, she can’t remember Fenna, nor any relationship she had with Sisko; she wants only to return to her home planet.

Analysis: Not even Richard Kiley can save this mess of an episode, despite the best efforts of the regular and guest cast and an explosive ending. It starts off feeling like a contrived effort to give Sisko a romance – he literally falls for the first woman he meets after realizing he’s still mourning Jennifer – and ends up with a scientific suicide so implausible that it’s difficult to feel anything but scorn at the bad plot device. The story of “Second Sight” is only half-baked in every regard: the romance, the question of whether Seyetik is abusive or merely egotistical, the theory behind reigniting a star (which is probably not even described in technobabble because it’s so nonsensical). Even the humor seems forced, with Dax cajoling Sisko to tell her about Fenna because Sisko always told Curzon everything and Seyetik trying to have a chuckle about his own arrogance, hoping for more volumes of autobiography than serial wives. I find it hard to swallow from the very beginning that Sisko almost lets the date of Jennifer’s death pass unnoticed, considering that she died in the Battle of Wolf 359; among Starfleet officers, I would expect that date to be treated like 9/11 for many years after the tragedy, with memorial services and moments of silence all across the Federation. I might buy that Sisko feels guilty he’s thinking less of Jennifer, but not that anyone can forget that particular date so soon after it happened, even if he were busy with something more engaging than waiting for a visiting scientist. And how convenient that on that very night, he meets a woman who vaguely resembles Jennifer and talks about the stars with the same wonder he feels!

I would like Fenna as a fantasy projection so much better if she reflected the hopes and dreams of Nidell than the precise things Sisko wants to hear. Not that the episode bothers to tell us anything about Nidell besides what her completely self-absorbed husband chooses to share, but I can’t see why a someone who grew up on an isolated world, fell in love with a celebrity, and now apparently wants nothing more than to return home, forever, would create a projection that wants to fly around the stars – again with a companion whom she barely knows. Is the self-assured woman sexy red dress how the circumspect Nidell really sees herself? Being liberated from her husband certainly doesn’t set that side of her free in life; she’s as quiet and tight-strung at the end as she is on the Prometheus. When she asks Sisko what Fenna was like, he’s apparently following some sort of Prime Directive toward individuals, because he says she was like Fenna rather than explaining that she talked about freedom and the excitement of the unknown. Was Nidell raised to be entirely submissive to her husband, or has she become that way because Seyetik demanded it? Has she been neglected and overpowered by his demanding personality, or has she been oppressed or cheated on? Apparently Sisko either thinks it’s none of his business or just doesn’t want to get involved, but it’s very frustrating that, knowing what Nidell keeps inside her, he can’t be bothered to help draw out the real woman behind the gorgeous fantasy. We never even learn why Seyetik says he’d give her the give her the galaxy; he says he knew she was something special from the start, but apart from her beauty, her cooking skills, and her ability to project other selves, which doesn’t seem to be much use to her selfish husband, we are never shown anything about her that doesn’t compare unfavorably with her colorful doppelganger.

Seyetik could easily be the first cousin of Paul Manheim, the arrogant scientist who married Jean-Luc Picard’s first love – another woman having issues living with a man who thought he was the greatest thing since sliced gagh. The similarities with that storyline are annoying, as are the scientific similarities to Carol Marcus’s work terraforming and creating new solar systems, particularly since there are links that could be made yet are left hanging – for instance, no one bothers to tell us when it became acceptable to use protomatter for things like reigniting stars, since the last time we saw protomatter it was being used disastrously on the Genesis planet in The Search For Spock. The rest of Sisko’s crew is barely there – Jake to assure his father that he misses Jennifer too but is okay with his dad dating, Kira to roll her eyes at Seyetik’s arrogance, Bashir to provide a bit of assurance that Seyetik really is as larger-than-life as the exposition tells us he is, Dax to support Sisko both as a scientist and as his old friend. I get that it might be as strange to date someone you call “old man” as it would be to date someone you knew as a callow youth in a previous life, but I always thought Sisko and Dax had both great chemistry and similar values and in a different version of reality would have made a great couple, as they did in the mirror universe. He’s pure intensity here – he talks to Jake intensely, falls in love intensely, investigates intensely, even jokes with Kira about boring Bajoran ministers intensely – while Dax is full of warmth and wit and the spirit of exploration, exactly the things that draw Sisko to Fenna. She can make him smile. When the plot is plodding and the direction can’t lighten it up, even a wry grin at Seyetik’s last, ironic words, “Let there be light!”, might be forgiven.

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  • SJStar

    Excellent review, Michelle.
    Read it with my head nodding in agreement.

  • Guest

    “I get that it might be as strange to date someone you call “old man” as it would be to date someone you knew as a callow youth in a previous life, but I always thought Sisko and Dax had both great chemistry and similar values and in a different version of reality would have made a great couple, as they did in the mirror universe.”

    Would the Trill rules about reassociation prevent that? I was never quite clear on those.

  • Enterprise1981

    Since he was never married to her/him as Curzon Dax, it wouldn’t be a reassociation. It was the same deal with Beverly Crusher being the one to end things with Odan rather than the other way around. On the other hand, “Rejoined” did hint that keeping in touch with parents and siblings of a previous host was also frowned upon.

  • Enterprise1981

    As with the first two seasons of TNG, the first two of DS9 had some real head scratcher episodes. And “Second Sight” was certainly one of those episodes. Of the various continuity errors of this episode, I hadn’t considered the use protomatter after the Genesis planet fiasco as one of them.

  • hostile_17

    This one just felt like an absolute muddle. Like they started off with a concept – probably the love interest – then just started layering on story to try and justify it yet making it more muddled.

    Compared to Necessary Evil… well, just leagues apart. This felt like something they pulled off a shelf as they were desperate.