Episode #36: Shadowplay

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Episode #36: Shadowplay

Post  BoG on Sun Sep 12, 2010 10:29 pm

SHADOWPLAY (prod. #436; 16th episode of 2nd season)
written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe; Directed by Robert Scheerer

In the main story, Odo and Dax are investigating omicron particle emissions from on the other side of the wormhole and come across a peaceful village. Checking out a strange contraption in the center of the village, they are confronted by the head villager (Kenneth Mars) who, leveling a gun on them, accuses them of being responsible for the disappearances of 22 villagers. Odo & Dax convince him that they are innocent and offer to help; the missing villagers disappeared one-by-one over a period of months, including the mother of a little girl whom Odo unexpectedly gets a bit attached to. There's also the girl's grandfather (played by veteran sf actor Ken Tobey).

The story is a nice little mystery in the first half and seems like it's right up Odo's alley for his detective skills; some of his alarm bells go off when he finds out no one ever leaves the area, but the answers are... a bit unexpected. Dax & Odo determine that
the entire village and its inhabitants are a hologram (like a holodeck on a ship but outside on a planet, the field spread to a limited distance; if a villager walks far enough, they would disappear), generated by the holographic projector in the center of the village. The villagers have been disappearing because the device is breaking down. Dax says she can probably fix it - just that she needs to turn it off first. There's another surprise when we find out who is NOT a hologram.

This episode plays around with perceptions of reality and these kinds of stories are always intriguing - how real is this particular reality, for instance? This
holographic technology also hints at nearly godlike ability; the 'holo-people' think of themselves as real and the programming necessary to create something like this is staggering - the village has existed for about 30 years, with holo-people growing and even being born. In a way, it's just an advanced version of watching a TV show but Odo voices a possibility that it may actually represent an alternate form of life. There were similar episodes on TNG (Future Imperfect) and the later Enterprise (Oasis,also with Rene Auberjonois!), as well as films like The Matrix, but this one was the most poignant.
The old Twilight Zone series had a same-titled episode, one involving dream reality/quasi-reality.
There are a couple of secondary stories in this one: Vedek Bareil comes aboard DS9 once more and he and Kira find time to smooch; check back to the first episode trilogy of this season (THE CIRCLE) and you'll find that this was foreshadowed. Also, Sisko prompts his son to get a job, helping O'Brien with his work. This leads to Jake's proclamation that he doesn't want to join Starfleet. I was puzzled that Sisko assumed that Jake would join Starfleet and then wasn't very stunned at Jake's admission; this was all kind of by-the-numbers and cliche. BoG's Score: 7 out of 10
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