Saturday, January 30, 2010

DS9 Season 1

Star Trek's second, and in my opinion best, spinoff series started as a mid-season replacement in first-run syndication. Originally aired from January through June of 1993, Season One of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine ran concurrently with TNG's sixth season and, incidentally, the first season of Babylon Five. Like Star Trek: The Next Generation, it is set in the 24th century, in the sci-fi universe created by Gene Roddenberry; though, as Roddenberry had died in 1991, DS9 was created by TNG producer Rick Berman and head writer Michael Piller. Unlike TNG, but perhaps uncomfortably like B5, the show is set not on a roving starship, but on a stationary base on the outer edge of the Federation's sphere of influence.

Station Deep Space Nine actually belongs to the Bajorans, who have recently broken free of the neighboring Cardassian Empire and are slowly trying to pull a stable government together. Starfleet comes into the picture at the invitation of Bajor's "Provisional Government," ostensibly to administrate the spaceport. Bajor's motive in seeking the Federation's help is to stave off the threat of Cardassian attack. Starfleet's motive is, eventually, to bring Bajor into the Federation -- a mission that becomes even more critical when a stable wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant (70,000 light years away) is discovered in Bajor's backyard. Suddenly, the war-ravaged, resource-poor planet is thrust into galactic prominence as a center of trade, exploration, and first contact with aliens from a distant region of the galaxy. And DS9's importance as the guardian of that passage, and a meeting-place for all kinds of aliens, increases proportionally.

From the beginning, it is clear that DS9 will be the setting off ongoing storylines of breathtaking scope and complexity. And though the vision of mankind's future potential, and their goal of establishing cooperation between vastly different beings, continues to hold true to Roddenberry's basic tenets, DS9 immediately confronts us with a darker, grittier tone and a higher level of tension between even the main characters - and thus, with the potential to tell a wider variety of moving and thrilling stories.

Briefly, let's acquaint ourselves with the principal cast of DS9's first season. Running the station on behalf of Starfleet is Commander Benjamin Sisko, played by "Spenser for Hire" co-star Avery Brooks. Sisko is a widower and single father of 14-year-old Jake (Cirroc Lofton), who is everything Wesley Crusher isn't -- in a word, ordinary. Crossing over from TNG is Chief of Operations Miles O'Brien (Irish character-actor Colm Meaney of Mystery, Alaska; The Commitments; Layer Cake; etc.), who also brings a family aboard - wife Keiko (Rosalind Chao) and their two-year-old daughter Molly, to start with - though they never rise above the level of "recurring characters." The station's whiz-kid doctor, Julian Bashir, is played by Sudanese-born British actor Alexander Siddig (Reign of Fire, Kingdom of Heaven, Syriana, etc.) Rene Auberjonois (who played the original Father Mulcahy in the 1970 film M*A*S*H, starred in TV's "Benson" and "Boston Legal," and held character roles in many other movies) stars as the shape-shifting security chief Odo, who at the beginning of the series is the only known being of his kind. Terry Farrell (who left the series after Season 6 to co-star with Ted Danson in TV's "Becker") plays the Trill science officer Jadzia Dax, the latest in a succession of humanoid hosts to the wormlike "Dax" symbiont. The station's highest ranking Bajoran, somewhere between Sisko's executive officer and a Bajoran government liaison, is Major Kira Nerys, a freedom fighter turned bureaucrat who can never quite shake off her violent past; she is played by Nana Visitor, late of TV's "Wildfire" and Jason's mother in the most recent Friday the 13th flick. Frequent Ferengi Armin Shimerman (who simultaneously played the evil high school principal on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") plays sticky-fingered Ferengi barkeep Quark with a blend of unrepentant avarice and gleeful debauchery. Quark's recurring family members include his brother Rom (Max Grodénchik) and Rom's son Nog (Aron Eisenberg), both appearing in the pilot episode.

"Emissary," not to be confused with TNG's Season 2 episode "The Emissary," is DS9's two-hour pilot movie, later aired as a two-part episode. It brings together all of the characters just described, and a few more - such as the frequently-seen but never-heard barfly Morn, whose name (apropos "Cheers") is "Norm" spelled backwards. This episode shows the arrival of Sisko and his Starfleet staff on DS9, which the departing Cardassians have brutally stripped and vandalized. As Sisko's command gets off to its rocky start, the Cardassian captain (or rather "Gul") Dukat, recurringly played by Marc Alaimo, hovers in the offing, waiting for an invitation to offer his "help." He eventually thrusts his "help" upon Sisko when the wormhole is discovered, reckoned by the deeply religious Bajorans to be the Celestial Temple of their Prophets. If by Prophets they mean wormhole-dwelling aliens who have no concept of linear time, they may not be wrong. The result is a standoff between the Cardassians and the station, which has amazingly moved out of its orbit around Bajor to a strategic position near the wormhole. We see Sisko struggling to move on after his wife's death, his difficulty accepting orders from the Enterprise's Captain Picard given that the latter (as "Locutus of Borg") was responsible for that tragedy, and his reluctance to accept the mantle of "Emissary from the Prophets," even while it gives him credibility with the Bajorans. From this chaotic beginning, so many rich stories flow! And unlike virtually every other Trek pilot episode, this one hits the right tone from the beginning.

"Past Prologue" is the first of many episodes mining the story possibilities of the Bajoran culture; and, as such, it is the first of at least three "Kira episodes" in this season alone. Here Kira is challenged by an old colleague from the Bajoran resistance movement, who seeks asylum on DS9 while being sought for crimes against Cardassia. Tahna Los (played by Jeffrey Nordling, pictured) puts a lot of pressure on Kira, disparaging her turn toward public service while he continues to plan violent acts. Among his co-conspirators are Klingon sisters Lursa and B'Etor (crossing over from TNG) while, in his first appearance, Cardassian tailor-spy Garak - possibly also tinker and soldier - seduces the boyish Bashir into the exciting world of secret agents. I always admired the way Andrew Robinson (late of Dirty Harry) played Garak. It may be interesting to note that he initially played the character with a gay subtext, only to be asked (based on fan feedback) to reign that aspect in. Also on the guest cast is frequent Trek guest Vaughan Armstrong, here playing a Cardassian Gul in only his second Trek appearance.

"A Man Alone" is DS9's first "Odo episode," a sort of hardboiled murder mystery in space. The victim, known to be on violently bad terms with Odo, comes to a sticky end in one of Quark's holosuites, though there is no way the killer could have gotten in or out... unless, like Odo, he could ooze under a locked door. Here we first learn that Odo must revert to a liquid form every 16 hours, sleeping in a bucket. What's never explained is how Odo survives without eating, drinking, or doing any other metabolic functions to speak of. The station's Promenade (commercial district) erupts in a riot over Odo's presumed guilt, but it turns out the victim was actually a clone, and the supposed victim was actually the killer, his intent being to frame Odo for his own murder. Also in this episode, Keiko begins her new role as the station's schoolteacher, and Jake and Nog begin their fateful friendship. It's an interesting episode to look back on because, for example, Rom's personality is decidedly different from how it was played later on.

"Babel" is the episode in which everyone on the station, beginning with O'Brien, comes down with a genetically-engineered virus that robs them of the ability to communicate verbally. At first it seems like another gag-gift left behind by the Cardassians; then it turns out to have been planted by the Bajoran resistance years ago. While Kira races against time to track down the only scientist who can cure the plague before people start to die, things become so desperate that Quark ends up in command at Ops. It must have been fun to write the gibberish sentences heard and seen throughout this episode.

"Captive Pursuit" marks the first appearance of aliens from the Gamma Quadrant side of the wormhole. DS9's first "first contact" situation involves two races: the crocodilian Tosk and the somewhat more humanoid Hunters. The former, played by Scott MacDonald in his first TV appearance (as the first of 5 characters he played in 4 Trek series), befriends O'Brien, who at first doesn't understand the morality by which Tosk lives to be tracked down and killed by the Hunters. While Tosk is being held in Odo's jail, the Hunters arrive and shoot up the station, demanding to be allowed to take Tosk home as a humiliating example of prey that has failed to provide an exciting chase. Eventually O'Brien comes to Tosk's rescue, giving him a chance to show the Hunters some real action and (in the words of the customary Tosk greeting) to "die with honor." Apparently the Tosk and their Hunters were originally meant to be portayed as part of the complex Gamma Quadrant system known as "the Dominion," but in the actual event they were never seen again.

"Q-Less" brings two more crossover characters from TNG: Q (John de Lancie) and Vash (Jennifer Hetrick). Neither of them really clicked with the chemistry of the cast, so unsurprisingly, they did not return to DS9; though Q went on to make three guest appearances on Voyager. In this episode, the relationship between the rascally entity and the archaeological adventuress, established in TNG's "Qpid," seems to be breaking up. Vash wants to move on with her life, but one of the Gamma Quadrant artifacts she is trying to sell turns out to be the embryo of a powerful alien creature which, as it prepares to hatch, sends out increasing amounts of (insert technobabble) which threaten to tear the station apart. It's a wonderful episode for spotting exotic aliens, and there is lots of fun repartee between Q and Vash, but when Q finds Sisko boring, you immediately know it's an experiment not to be repeated.

"Dax" is the first episode to mine the motherlode of potential stories latent in the concept of a "joined race" such as the Trill. Jadzia was already an accomplished, educated, 28-year-old Starfleet officer when she became the sixth or seventh host of the "Dax" symbiont, whose previous host Curzon was an old man when Ben Sisko knew him. Now Dax is charged with treason and murder, based on something Curzon may have done before Jadzia was even born. Sisko is with child to find a way to save her, but Dax seems unwilling to say anything in her own defense. Eventually Odo tracks down the widow of the victim, who provides Curzon with an alibi ("He was in my bed") that could tarnish the memory of a military hero. This episode's guest cast includes Fionnula Flanagan (The Others, TV's "Lost," and 2 other Trek appearances), Gregory Itzin ("Murder One," "The Mentalist," and 4 other Trek appearances), Anne Haney ("Mama's Family," "LA Law," and TNG's Season 3 episode "The Survivors"; pictured), and Richard Lineback (a widely-seen character actor who made 2 other Trek appearances).

"The Passenger" is the episode in which a master criminal, expert at eluding capture, dies in Dr. Bashir's arms... then continues his life of crime. Soon it becomes apparent that the late Rao Vantika isn't as deceased as previously thought. As Bashir helps an alien cop (played by B5's Caitlin Brown) figure out how Vantika managed to survive, a dastardly plan to highjack a shipment of (insert more technobabble) continues to play out. Ultimately it turns out that Vantika has transferred his brain-wave patterns to Bashir's body, enabling actor Siddig to demonstrate his (at that time) very limited acting skills. I don't know how the man kept his job after delivering a performance like that, but all's well that ends well; post-DS9, Siddig has had more success in Hollywood than all his costars combined. It just goes to show... something or other.

"Move Along Home" features another first-contact visit from a Gamma Quadrant race. The Wadi, identifiable by the bold tattoos scrawled across their foreheads, seem more interested in gambling at Quark's than in diplomacy. Nevertheless, when Quark tries to cheat them out of their Dabo winnings, he triggers something akin to a diplomatic incident. The Wadi break out a game of their own, called "Chula." Quark becomes increasingly freaked out when he realizes that his game pieces represent Sisko, Kira, Dax, and Bashir, who are experiencing everything that happens to their figurines with each roll of the dice. Realizing that his friends are in deadly peril, Quark is reduced to a groveling wreck - but it turns out that they weren't really in any danger. "It's only a game!" the Wadi laugh as they pack up to leave. In spite of some charmingly surreal imagery, an unforgettable rhyming game ("Allamaraine!") and a bizarre but memorable tag-line ("Move along home!"), it tends to come across as a lame, visually and dramatically flat episode.

"The Nagus" introduces Zek, the Ferengi CEO, Pope, and Poobah rolled into one, played (under wrinkly Ferengi makeup) by Wallace Shawn of The Princess Bride, Toy Story, and other notable films, mainly either animated ones or Woody Allen projects. In his first appearance on DS9, Zek anoints Quark as his successor - to the shock and fury of every ambitious member of his Board of Directors - and then, promptly, dies. As Quark struggles to take control of the Ferengi economic system, he begins to feel threatened by the people around him. It's not just paranoia, either. Rivals such as Zek's son, and even Quark's own brother Rom, really are out to get him! Luckily it turns out Zek isn't really dead, but was just lying low to see what would happen. Though the story is, thus, essentially pointless, the episode comes across as a highly entertaining first look into the inner workings of Ferengi culture, with their inverted ethical values giving them a curious blend of adorable silliness and sinister depravity. Every time the Ferengi appear, Trek is saying something about capitalism... but it's easy to forget when they're always so much fun!

"Vortex" is another "Odo episode," tantalizing the shape-shifter with his first clue as to where he came from and what kind of people he might represent. An alien named Croden, wanted for serious crimes on his homeworld in the Gamma Quadrant, kills one of two Miradorn twins - who, according to the surviving twin, are essentially two halves of a single self - and thus becomes the target of an unstoppable vendetta. Meanwhile, this Croden tells Odo he has visited a colony of "changelings" like him, and can lead him to it. The opportunity to test Croden's claim comes up while Odo is transporting him to his homeworld, where he will surely be executed. The Miradorn chases them into the nebula where, Croden insists, the other changelings live under the surface of a certain asteroid. Naturally, this turns out to be a ruse, enabling Croden to rescue his daughter from a stasis chamber. After luring the implacable Miradorn to his doom, and realizing that they are on the run from political enemies, Odo helps Croden and his daughter escape. This episode was notably inspired by the 1953 film The Naked Spur, whose screenwriter Sam Rolfe furnished the teleplay. Its guest stars include Gordon Clapp of "NYPD Blue" and Randy Oglesby, who (besides playing both Miradorn twins) appeared as five other characters in four Trek series, including the recurring character of Degra in Enterprise.

"Battle Lines" co-stars Camille Saviola as the Bajoran spiritual leader Kai Opaka, who is somewhat like a female cross between Pope John Paul II and the Dalai Lama. When Opaka leaves Bajor for the first time to visit DS9, she insists on a trip through the wormhole. Once on the other side, she is killed when the runabout crashes on a penal planet where two warring factions have been confined for all eternity. Then Opaka comes back from the dead, reanimated by mechanical microbes supplied by the planet's defense grid. It seems that anyone who ever dies on this planet is condemned to live there forever, dying and coming back to life endlessly as the two factions continue their pointless war. When the crash survivors (Sisko, Kira, and Bashir) are finally rescued, Opaka declares that she will stay - as if she has any choice! - because she knew, before she left Bajor, that this was to be her calling. Her parting words to Sisko are mysterious: "Our paths will cross again..." The leaders of the warring factions are played by Jonathan Banks (TV's "Wiseguy") and Paul Collins (who, as a child, lent his vocal talents to Disney's Peter Pan).

"The Storyteller" is an important episode because it establishes the friendship between O'Brien and Bashir. At the beginning, O'Brien can hardly stand being cooped up in a shuttlecraft with "Julian," as the doctor wants to be called. And though, even at the end, they aren't yet the bosom buddies they will become, their experience on a mission to a Bajoran village begins the trajectory that will bring the two friends together. At first they think the medical emergency is a village-wide plague. Instead, it's only the local storyteller, or Sirah, who's feeling poorly. When Julian says that the Sirah is dying, the local leader declares that the village will be destroyed. It seems only the Sirah has the power to summon a creature whose annual visits, on five successive nights, embody the fears of all the villagers. Then the Sirah must convince the villagers that their united will can drive the Dal'Rok away. Meanwhile, Sisko attempts to mediate a dispute between two Bajoran clans who both claim the same land. The young leader Varis Sul is played by Gina Phillips of Jeepers Creepers. Jordan Lund (Woban) also played a Klingon on TNG and a Tellarite on Enterprise. James Jansen (the mayor) guest-starred in DS9's "Trials and Tribble-ations." Kay Kuter (the Sirah) was also the adorable Cytherian in TNG's "The Nth Degree." And Lawrence Monoson (the young Bajoran who takes a knife to O'Brien), star of The Last American Virgin and briefly a regular on "ER," also had a guest role on "Enterprise."

"Progress" guest stars Brian Keith of "Hardcastle and McCormick" as a farmer who refuses to be evacuated from a Bajoran moon that is about to be (insert technobabble), a process that will poison the atmosphere. A survivor of Cardassian labor camps, old Mullibok has scratched a life out of the soil of Jeraddo, and claims that he will die if he is forced to leave. Kira is caught in the agonizing position of having to represent governmental power against the rights of individuals like Mullibok. Unwilling to force him to leave, Kira eventually pulls a page out of the Data playbook (TNG's "The Ensigns of Command") and burns down the old man's house. The episode ends with this heartbreaking exchange: Mullibok: "I'll die." Kira: "I won't let you. Two to beam up." On the B-side, Nog and Jake have a misadeventure in the world of profit, trading packets of a Cardassian condiment into "self-sealing stem bolts" (for which there is no known use) into a tract of worthless Bajoran dirt into... It's a rare bird: a really enjoyable B-story, developing the Jake-Nog friendship into the bargain.

"If Wishes Were Horses" presents the crew of DS9 with a test of the power of pure imagination. In studying humanoids, a curious alien race creates a wish-fulfillment crisis. Thus Bashir is visited by an amorous version of Jadzia; a flesh-and-blood Rumpelstiltskin appears in Molly O'Brien's bedroom; and a holographic baseball player from the 22nd century follows Jake Sisko home from holosuite batting practice. Unfortunately, a buildup of bad wishes in the form of a space anomaly threatens to tear the station apart. To tell the truth, this isn't a very memorable episode.

"The Forsaken" brings another crossover character from TNG to DS9. This time it's Lwaxana Troi (Majel Barrett), appearing out of the context of her relationship with Deanna. Nevertheless, she does strike up a good "chemistry" with the DS9 cast, particularly Odo. These two lonely yet very different people form a touching bond while trapped in an elevator, due to the effects of an attention-loving "puppy" program that has gotten into the station's computer system. Among the other guest stars, the Bolian ambassador is played by Jack Shearer, the Vulcan one by Michael Ensign; each of them played 3 other guest roles on Star Trek.

"Dramatis Personae" is the episode in which mutiny breaks out on DS9, spurred on by the living essence of a Gamma Quadrant race whose telepathic archives were plundered by a Klingon ship. As happened with the Klingons, the same tragic pattern that wiped out the Saltah'na now begins to repeat itself among DS9's senior officers. Sisko becomes serenely indifferent, focusing on the design of an elaborate clock and occasionally unleashing explosions of sadistic fury. O'Brien becomes Sisko's paranoid toady. Kira, on fire to bring charges against a crew of Valerians (who had supplied arms to the Cardassians), starts gathering co-conspirators for a coup against Sisko. Young Jadzia begins acting senile. Bashir suddenly develops a morbid interest in political gossip. Only Odo seems unaffected, following a strange seizure in which his changeling brain threw off the influence of the Saltah'na lifeforce. So it's up to Odo to maneuver the factions into a position where he can exorcise the beings that possess them. This is one creepy episode, folks. It's amazing that anybody survived!

"Duet" is, as the title suggests, essentially a two-character story furnishing Nana Visitor (Kira) and guest star Harris Yulin (Marritza) with an opportunity for some virtuoso acting. Marritza comes aboard DS9 for medical treatment, but his condition could only be the result of having been at the infamous Gallitep labor camp, where the Cardassians did unto the Bajorans what the Nazis did unto the Jews. As Kira probes more deeply, she learns that this supposed filing clerk was actually Gul Darhe'el himself, the Butcher of Gallitep. But then it transpires that Darhe'el has already died and been buried, having never contracted the disease that brought Marritza under suspicion. Kira realizes that Marritza has surgically altered himself to look like Darhe'el, and has given himself up to the Bajoran authorities on purpose, so that Cardassia will be forced to face up to its crimes against Bajor. No sooner does Kira insist on releasing the innocent Marritza, than a Bajoran hooligan fatally stabs him. Kainon: "He's Cardassian. That's reason enough." Kira: "No, it's not." This episode also introduces the character of Neela, played by Robin Christopher of Daytime TV fame. When she returns in the next episode, you think she's just an innocently recurring character. This makes her mission as an assassin that much more surprising!

"In the Hands of the Prophets" introduces recurring DS9 villain Vedek (later Kai) Winn, played by Oscar-winning actress Louise Fletcher (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest). As the leader of a fundamentalist sect in the Bajoran religion, Fletcher vibrates on a peculiar wavelength of icy saintliness that, at times, can be quite terrifying. Here she begins her holy work by yanking all the Bajoran children out of Keiko O'Brien's school, citing Keiko's refusal to teach a Bajoran religious interpretation of the wormhole (Celestial Temple) and the aliens (Prophets) who live in it. Surprisingly, the Trekfolk don't take the expected "up science, down religion" position on issues that are clearly meant to remind us of the origins debate in public schools. Instead, Sisko urges that room be made for all points of view. He enlists the aid of Winn's main rival in the race to become the next Kai, the also recurring Vedek Bareil (played by Philip Anglim of "The Elephant Man"). But when Bareil visits DS9 to view the bombed-out remains of Keiko's school, he becomes the target of a sleeper assassin. Kira, initially supportive of Winn, switches loyalties when she realizes that Winn planned the whole controversy in order to lure Bareil to DS9. But of course, she can't prove it - leaving the way open for a tragic plot arc spanning literally the entire series.

By the end of DS9's short first season, most of the pieces were on the board. In the six full-length seasons to come, huge stories unfolded out of these promising beginnings. A true ensemble cast, including a huge range of recurring characters, was well in development. We had begun to explore the fascinating mysteries of Bajoran, Cardassian, Trill, and Ferengi culture. We had hints and foreshadowings of Odo's people and the Dominion (which, however, had not yet been mentioned). We sensed that a great destiny was in store for Sisko, a destiny bound up with the wormhole aliens (a.k.a. Bajor's "Prophets"). And though there was no reason to think, as Season One ended, that an overarching story was planned in anything like the detail of Babylon 5, the series showed excellent signs of being a fertile field for stories to grow in. Here's to Deep Space Nine!

Want a refresher course on previous seasons of Star Trek? Click the following links to see my reviews of TOS seasons one, two, and three, and of TNG seasons one, two, three, four, and five. For comparison purposes, see also my review of Babylon 5 season one.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

TNG Season 5

Season 5 of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1991-92) coincided with my freshman year in college. Although I made sure to stake a claim to the a dorm TV lounge every time a new episode aired, I seemed to have missed a few. Before I saw this season on DVD, I was aware of one episode I had never seen (“The Masterpiece Society”). As I watched this set, however, I realized there were several others I was seeing for the first time, or at least seeing them in full.

Nevertheless I have good memories of TNG Season 5. I remember one of my RA’s watching it with me and saying of Deanna Troi: “She’s my wife. She just doesn’t know it yet.” I remember wondering what the heck was going on in “Conundrum,” because I tuned in late and missed the crucial before-the-credits teaser. I remember groaning with vexation through “Cause and Effect,” in which the Enterprise exploded four times, starting again after the commercial break at the most recently saved restore point. I remember how my eyes were glued to the screen as Famke Janssen shared pre-X-Men scenes with Patrick Stewart. Above all, I remembered a season with a lot of great episodes and very few not-so-good ones. And my recent review of Season 5 confirms that memory.

"Redemption II" completes the two-parter left hanging at the end of Season 4. Worf has redeemed his family honor by going to bat for newly-installed Klingon Chancellor Gowron (recurringly played by Robert O’Reilly of the crazy eyes, until his character was killed in the final season of DS9). Now all Worf has to do is secure Gowron’s victory in a civil war against the Duras family, led by the busty bad-girls Lursa and B’Etor (recurringly played by Barbara March and Gwynyth Walsh, until their characters were killed in the TNG feature film Star Trek: Generations). Meanwhile, Data gets his first command of a starship, and we get our first glimpse of an honest-to-goodness fleet action in Trek history, as Picard leads 23 starships in a blockade along the Romulan-Klingon border. This proves frustrating for Sela (Denise Crosby), who reveals that she is Tasha Yar’s daughter, born as a result of the timeline shenanigans in Season 3’s “Yesterday’s Enterprise.” My goodness, there’s a lot going on in this episode! It switches point of view more times than the average Trekisode, but it covers a lot of distance in developing the characters (especially Worf and Data) and alien races (especially the Klingons). And the best thing is that, now that TNG is out on DVD, you don’t have to wait a whole summer between Parts 1 and 2!

"Darmok" is the episode that should be required viewing for all linguistics students. In it, Picard and an alien captain (played by Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’s Paul Winfield) share an ordeal on a wilderness planet, in spite of the fact that their languages are mutually unintelligible. The “universal translator,” which enables people from distant planets to sound like they’re speaking English with a So. Cal. accent, is no help with a language made up entirely of mythological allusions, such as the phrase “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra!” After umpty-two repeats of this riff, mixed up with several additional references, Picard learns that his alien abduction is not a hostile act, but a way of making friends. An energy monster kills the alien captain, but it all ends well anyway, with Picard making one of the most ridiculous speeches in the Trek canon and totally selling it. The episode also marks the acting debut of Ashley Judd, who later became a big movie star.

"Ensign Ro" is the episode that introduced the Bajoran people, soon to become very important in the Trekiverse with the development of DS9. It was also meant to introduce a new regular character to the show—edgy Bajoran babe Ro Laren, played by Michelle Forbes, late of 24, Prison Break, In Treatment, and True Blood. For one reason or another, Ro’s role in TNG didn’t last much beyond the half-dozen Season 5 episodes in which she appears. Ro was meant to cross over to DS9, but her character was replaced by Kira Nerys. Then she was supposed to be a regular on Star Trek: Voyager, but got replaced by B’Elanna Torres. Three times unlucky, it’s perhaps a symptom of TNG’s overall lack of success in generating durable, regular, female characters. Apart from Tasha Yar (who died in Season 1), Ro would have been TNG’s only female main character who doesn’t serve in a nurturing role. She could have advanced Trek’s treatment of women by light years. She also could have spiced up the chemistry between Riker and Troi with the makings of an exquisite romantic triangle. But instead, she appeared in only eight episodes, of which this tale of a Starfleet admiral’s corrupt crusade to destroy a Bajoran terrorist cell is typically excellent.

"Silicon Avatar" brings back the life-force-draining Crystalline Entity, previously seen in Season 1’s “Datalore.” This time it attacks a new colony while several Enterprises are present, somehow only managing to kill two people. The Federation’s expert on the Crystalline Entity, Dr. Kila Marr, joins the Enterprise to study the entity’s trail while it’s still fresh. At first, Marr distrusts Data, suspecting that (like his “brother” Lore) he might have lured the Crystalline Entity to the colony. When she learns that he carries memories of her late son, a victim of the entity’s previous attack, she grows closer to him. Nevertheless she never overcomes her anger and hatred of the creature, turning Picard’s attempt to learn to communicate with it into an opportunity to destroy it. It’s one of those episodes that begins with intense action and ends on a note of deep, personal sadness.

"Disaster" is the episode that puts every character on the Enterprise outside his or her comfort zone. After running into a cosmic filament, whatever that is, the ship is badly damaged and members of the crew are cut off from each other. Deanna Troi finds herself unexpectedly thrust into her first command. Worf delivers Keiko O’Brien’s baby (“Congratulations. You are fully dilated to 10 cm. You may now give birth”). Picard gets trapped in a stuck turbolift with three small children. Geordi and Beverly are forced to expose themselves to the vacuum of space. And Data’s head proves capable of talking while separated from the rest of his body. It’s a neat little “stir up the formula” episode, revealing lots of the fiddly bits of the ship that you never usually see because they’re hidden behind a bulkhead. The production designers must have had a field day!

"The Game" is one of TNG’s small handful of paranoid conspiracy episodes. It is also the first of Wil Wheaton’s two Season 5 guest appearances as Wesley Crusher, and furnishes Ashley Judd with her first film kiss. Wheaton really looks the part of the BMOC come home for the holidays, and he gets a good workout as he runs from his friends and loved ones, who have become hooked on a brainwashing game. It’s an interesting treatment of the theme of addiction, along with some romance, action, “you can never go home” family drama, and a pleasant surprise (Wesley doesn’t save the ship after all). The ending (in which Data snaps out of his coma just in time to prevent the whole ship from becoming a glorified drug mule) gives new meaning to the phrase Deus ex machina.

"Unification I" is the first half of a two-parter in which Picard and Data, as seen here, go undercover to chase down a prominent Federation diplomat suspected of defecting to the Romulan empire. Though his identity is revealed right off the bat, it isn’t until the last shot of the episode that we see Spock (TOS’s Leonard Nimoy), just in time for a title reading “To Be Continued . . . ” Meanwhile, a parade of big-name guest stars crosses the screen, including Mark Lenard as Sarek, Stephen Root (late of “News Radio”) and Erick Avari (late of Stargate and The Mummy) as Klingons, Malachi Throne (who guest-starred on TOS) and frequent Trek guest Norman Large as Romulans. While Data and Picard visit the Romulan homeworld, Riker & Co. follow a trail of clues connecting a crashed Ferengi shuttle to a derelict Vulcan ship.

"Unification II" features Trek’s nearest approach to the bar in Star Wars, another attempt by Romulan villain Sela (Denise Crosby) to get one over Picard, and a suggestion that the Romulan people might be moving toward reunification with their distant Vulcan cousins. Or maybe it’s all a ruse to enable the Romulans to invade Federation space. In a loose, sprawling, big-casted two parter, TNG attempts to do for the Romulans what “Redemption” did for the Klingons. And with the help of Spock, it mostly succeeds. The exterior views of Romulus are quite impressive. Of course, like any episode focusing on the divergent evolution of Romulans and Vulcans, it leaves lingering questions behind . . . such as: How can the common ancestry of these two races be shrouded in prehistory when at least one of them, at some subsequent point in history, moved houses to another planet? Wouldn’t the development of interstellar travel occur after the invention of writing and non-mythological literature? Oh, well. If it wasn’t goofy, it wouldn’t be science fiction . . .

"A Matter of Time" stars Matt Frewer (the 1980s’ “Max Headroom”) as Berlinghoff Rasmussen, a time traveler who visits the Enterprise. He claims to be a historian from a future century, dropping in to see history in the making at first-hand. While Picard ponders a plan that may either save a planet’s ecosystem or destroy it completely, he finds it hard to accept Rasmussen’s anti-spoiler policy, though as a sort of temporal “Prime Directive” it moos just like Picard’s sacredest cow. Eventually it transpires that Rasmussen is really a struggling inventor from the past, and he doesn’t scruple against a bit of industrial espionage, whereby he might (for example) steal a 24th-century tricorder, go back in time, and take credit for inventing it. Wisely, the writers made sure Rasmussen’s time machine didn’t fall into the wrong hands . . . e.g., the crew of the Enterprise . . . Now that Frewer’s star has faded, so has some of the luster of this episode; nevertheless, it’s reasonably entertaining and it does provoke thought.

"New Ground" brings back Worf’s human mother (played by Georgia Brown, and previously seen in Season 4’s “Family”). Mrs. Rozhenko pays her foster-son a surprise visit, and brings along an even bigger surprise: 10-year-old Brian Bonsall (who played Andy Keaton on “Family Ties” during the late 1980s), got up in Klingon makeup as the second actor to play Worf’s son Alexander. Suddenly forced to take responsibility as a single parent, Worf takes a break from his regular duties to establish discipline, enroll the kid in school, and cry (after a Klingon fashion) on Counselor Troi’s shoulder, while the rest of the crew copes with a potentially disastrous experiment in warp-speed propulsion. Yes, folks, the “villain-free jeopardy” plotline is back! All told, it’s not a bad episode—though perhaps a little on the dull side.

"Hero Worship" follows a pattern, established in previous seasons, of episodes featuring children being presented back to back. This time the kid is a human boy named Timothy, the sole survivor of a disaster that wiped out the entire crew of a starship, including both his parents. Timothy copes with the trauma by imprinting on Data—who, by the way, saved his life—and adopting android mannerisms. On advice from Deanna, Data plays along . . . until it becomes clear that whatever destroyed the boy’s ship now threatens the Enterprise. The young actor who played Timothy put in a touching performance, particularly in the scene where he confesses to destroying his parents’ ship (though he didn’t). Nevertheless, after a second consecutive villain-free jeopardy episode (unless you count resonance waves in a nebula as a villain), any Trekkie might understandably scream: “Enough with the cute kids, already!” EDIT: According to the special features included with these DVDs, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry died during the filming of this episode. A title in Roddenberry's memory still graces the opening of both halves of "Unification," which evidently aired at that time.

"Violations," on the other hand, is a very adult episode exploring the concept of rape. In sci-fi terms, that translates into a series of psychic assaults perpetrated by a telepath with a sociopathic streak. The telesociopath in question is a member of a team of historians who specialize in helping people recover lost memories. For a few extra kicks, Jev likes to enter a mind uninvited, insinuate himself into a certain memory, and mess with it until its owner goes into a coma. The relevance to rape is underscored by the nature of the first memory he so abuses, when he attacks Deanna. Nevertheless, he seems likely to get away with it due to his ability to plant false memories implicating another member of his team—until Data and Geordi do a little old-fashioned detective work. This is one of TNG's more visually disturbing episodes, thanks to its three nightmarish “mind-rape” sequences.

"The Masterpiece Society" closes with a crushing moment in which a heartbroken man tells Deanna, “I'm in love with you, and I will be until the day I die.” There have been other attempts to give Counselor Troi a romantic storyline – who doesn't shudder at the memory of “The Price”? – But this is the one episode that I can think of where it really worked. The (un)lucky guy in this case is Aaron Conor (played by the same John Snyder who guested in B5 Season 1), the leader of a hermetically sealed, genetically engineered colony. By helping the colonists survive an impending natural disaster, the Enterprise inadvertently – but irreversibly – contaminates the culture. Now that the long-sheltered colonists have seen the wonders of the outside world, some of them want to leave – which would be a disaster for a world where there is a place for every person, and a genetically ideal person for every place. In spite of the poignancy of the story, however, I couldn't help wanting to shake the earnest, tragic Conor by his shoulders. What's wrong with this guy? If letting people leave is going to disrupt their planned environment, why not just open their society and let other people in? Sure, that genetic purity won't be there, but at least all the important jobs will be covered. Hotels, casinos... heck, a place like that could be a tourist magnet! But never mind... and forgive my irreverence.

"Conundrum" begins with an itty-bitty alien ship scanning the Enterprise with a weird energy beam that erases everybody's identity. While Picard and crew stagger around the deck doing variations on “Who are you people? And who am I?” a complete stranger insinuates himself into their midst. Later, when they manage to pull up a crew manifest out of what's left of the ship's computer, they discover that this new person is Kieran MacDuff, the first officer of the ship (above Riker, even!). While the officers enjoy the benefits of a shared case of amnesia – benefits such as a steamy affair between two normally antagonistic people – MacDuff rigs things so that the Enterprises think they're at war with somebody or other, and that they're on a hush-hush mission to blow up the enemy command center. Unfortunately for MacDuff, Picard realizes that their so-called enemy is so ridiculously outgunned by the Enterprise that they couldn't possibly be at war. Like Season 1's “The Naked Time,” it's a fun episode for the way it shows what happens when the characters forget themselves.

"Power Play" begins, as so many Trekisodes do, with a shuttle crash. Starfleet really should look into shuttle safety issues. Nevertheless, the only casualty is a broken arm, which ironically spares Riker from being possessed by an electrical-storm-borne entity. Troi, Data, and O'Brien aren't so lucky. They develop nasty new personalities, brutal types who attempt to take over the ship and eventually settle for a hostage situation in Ten Forward. The entities claim to be the souls of a starship crew who perished in a crash long ago. Actually they're convicts in a really cool type of penal colony – sort of like hell, actually. Seeing Data turn into a creep is nothing new; but what's really impressive about this episode is how it brings to light an entirely new, butch side of Deanna.

"Ethics" is the title of Season 5's sermonette on medical ethics and the ethics of death and dying. An injury reduces Worf to a paraplegic. He decides that he would rather commit ritual suicide than live with this disability. His friends, and particularly his son, disagree with this decision. While their debate keeps him momentarily breathing, a maverick medico beams aboard, claiming to have in her bag of tricks an operation that can restore 100% of Worf's mobility. The trouble is, it has never been tested on real people. Dr. Crusher understandably takes issue with Dr. Russell's methods, especially when the latter treats a triage patient with an experimental drug, and the patient dies before conventional meds can be tried. You know those bumps on Worf's forehead? This episode reveals that they continue all the way down his back and even to the top of his feet.

"The Outcast" is Season 5's thinly veiled homily on gay rights, complete with a character who wraps up a long harangue with the words, “What makes you think you can dictate how people love each other?” Soren actually belongs to an androgynous race that considers gender identity of any kind aberrant. When she takes a shine to Will Riker, her lifelong secret is revealed and she is subjected to “psychotectic therapy.” Doesn't that sound rotten? It's a very sad episode, leaving Riker brokenhearted, and the whole androgyny thing is an interesting concept. For all that, however, it's a bit of a bore, with too many too-long speeches by the rather low-key actress Melinda Culea (late of “Knot's Landing” and “The A-Team”).

"Cause and Effect" is the episode where everything happens four times, leading inevitably to the Enterprise blowing up in a remarkably hokey manner. The crew keep re-living the same day over and over, complete with a host of trivial incidents whose repetition proves almost as maddening for them as it does for us. It's deja vu all over again, until Data figures out a way to send himself a simple, subliminal message that may get them all out of the loop. In the final scene, Kelsey Grammer (late of “Frasier”) puts in a cute cameo as the captain of the ship that has been caught in the same time loop, only for much longer than the Enterprise.

"The First Duty" brings Wesley Crusher back for a visit – or rather, the Enterprise goes to visit him. It's commencement time at Starfleet Academy, and Picard is set to deliver the keynote address. Meanwhile, Wesley and his flight team are caught up in a scandal over the death of one of their teammates during maneuvers. The charismatic, take-one-for-the-team squad leader is played by Robert Duncan McNeill, who went on to play Tom Paris on Voyager – a character probably inspired by this role. Boothby, the Academy's longtime groundskeeper, is played by Ray Walston of “My Favorite Martian” fame. In spite of their great performances, the guest star who leaves the most indelible mark on the memory is Jacqueline Brookes as the Academy commandant whose intense scrutiny would make even the most honest cadet squirm.

"The Cost of Living" is another reasonably boring episode playing up the family dynamics of the characters. Worf's struggle to bring discipline to his son's life collides fatefully with Deanna Troi's trials with her mother. In mentally preparing herself to marry a stiff, prudish alien she has never met, Lwaxana whisks Alexander off to a holodeck version of the freethinking Parallax Colony, which bears comparing with Lewis Carroll's Wonderland. Their mud-bathing is interrupted only by the harping of her intended's protocol expert, the persistence of Worf and Deanna, and yet another villain-free jeopardy featuring glittery space-dust that eats nitrium (a metal found in the Enterprise's computer components) and poops a reddish slime. Boy, if the Enterprise is susceptible to so many computer-baffling organisms, maybe it should be redesigned!

"The Perfect Mate" co-stars Tim O'Connor (late of “Peyton Place”), Max Grodenchik (later to play a recurring role on DS9), and best of all, Famke Janssen in her first TV appearance. Wearing the spots that would later characterize the Trill race (typified by DS9's Jadzia Dax, a role that nearly went to Janssen), she plays Kamala, an alien peace-bride whose empathic ability to adapt her personality to suit her mate is about to come to full maturity. She is meant to imprint on the leader of the other planet involved in the peace talks, though all he cares about are the trade concessions. Unfortunately, a couple of nosy Ferengi unzip her stasis pod earlier than planned, and she imprints on Picard instead. The captain's discomfort is exquisitely apparent as the (by definition) most irresistable woman in the galaxy throws herself at him, and his duty requires him to resist. The moment when she reveals that she has imprinted on him, rather than on her intended, is at least as gut-tearing as the equivalent bit in “The Masterpiece Society.”

"Imaginary Friend" is a strong candidate to be TNG's “Spock's Brain.” It is such an atrocious episode that it's actually funny. I truly, heartily laughed when the little blond girl stared woodenly at the camera while a special effect turned her eyes bright red. It is such an egregiously bad piece of television that it deserves to be studied. Noley Thornton, who played Clara (the “real” girl), was actually all right; she went on to guest-star in a DS9 episode and held a recurring role on “Beverly Hills 90210.” The spooky Isabella, cut from the same cloth as about a thousand hellspawn brats in the horror film genre, is portrayed – perhaps appropriately – with nary a flicker of humanity by Shay Astar, who had a recurring role on “3rd Rock from the Sun.”

"I, Borg" is one of TNG's most enduringly popular episodes. It humanizes the unlikeliest villain—the machine/human hive-mind known as the Borg—and forces the most understandably prejudiced characters (Picard and Guinan) to reconsider their feelings. First, a young Borg drone is rescued from the crash of a small scouting vessel. The Enterprises nurse him back to health, partly with a view toward using him as “Patient Zero” to infect the Borg Collective with a computer virus. But one by one, they start having second thoughts as “Third of Five” (later named “Hugh”) develops an individual personality and even a friendship with Geordi. There is a crushing scene in which Picard tests Hugh's individuality by pretending to still be “Locutus” and plotting the assimilation of mankind. Eventually, Picard realizes that the “personality bug” that Hugh has developed on his own might be far more pernicious on the Collective than any computer virus his crew can devise. Sadly, Hugh has to return to the Collective in order to save his new friends from being absorbed. But even after being rejoined to his cybernetic homies, Hugh manages to sneak a private look in Geordi's direction... a promising sign!

"The Next Phase" brings tragedy to the decks of the Enterprise... or almost does. While assisting a crippled Romulan ship, Ro and Geordi are apparently killed in a transporter accident. In reality, they have been “phased” into a state of matter in which they can pass through solid objects and are visible only to each other. This turns out to be the result of an experimental cloaking device, which the Romulans are so keen to keep secret that they plan to blow up the Enterprise as soon as their repairs are completed. The only people who can stop this plot are unable to get the message across to their friends... unless Data stops to think about all those chroniton (?) fields popping up all over the ship... It's a fun episode, exploring a weird state of existence which Ro initially interprets as the afterlife. As a result, it does a lot to develop the Bajoran culture, which in another half-year or so would be spotlighted on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Unfortunately, it was the last we saw of Ensign Ro apart from one episode in each of the remaining seasons of TNG.

"The Inner Light" won a Hugo Award – an honor shared by only three other Star Trek episodes – and it remains one of TNG's best-loved outings. An alien space probe zaps Picard, knocking him unconscious for about 25 minutes, during which he relives 45 years in the life of a man named Kamin whose culture perished in a supernova over a thousand years ago. At first Picard fights to hang onto his identity as the captain of the Enterprise, but after a while he goes with the flow and experiences a side of life he might otherwise have missed – marriage, fatherhood, grandfatherhood, community service, and a struggle to preserve something of a dying culture. He even learns to play a sort of alien penny-whistle. This graceful and poignant episode, guest-starring Patrick Stewart's real-life son Daniel, ends in scenes that will wring your tear glands.

"Time's Arrow" – Season Five concludes with this cliffhanger in which Data's head turns up in a cavern underneath San Francisco, where it appears to have lain since the late 1800s. A microscopic clue leads the Enterprise to a planet where, on a plane of existence .004 seconds out of phase with ours, something strange and alien appears to be threatening the well-being of 19th-century Earth. In spite of Picard's hope to keep Data safe during the investigation, the metal man gets blasted into the past. There he makes a wad of cash playing poker, befriends a charming bellhop, meets Mark Twain, and bumps into Guinan – though, as she is no time traveler, she doesn't know him! This must somehow be connected with the reason Guinan (back in the 24th century) tells Picard that if he personally doesn't go back in time to search for Data, their friendship will never happen. Guinan: "Do you remember the first time we met?" Picard: "Yes." Guinan: "Don't be so sure."

What a fine season of Trek that was – a tribute to the memory of the series' creator, who passed out of this world during it. Roddenberry enjoyed a career as a posthumous astronaut when his ashes took a ride on the space shuttle. Meanwhile, the starship he launched went on to explore the territory covered a couple years later by the film Groundhog Day ("Cause and Effect"). It played a riff on such film genres as disaster movies ("Disaster"), action ("Power Play"), horror ("Imaginary Friend"), and romance ("The Perfect Mate"). It generated episodes that should be required viewing for linguists ("Darmok") and naval cadets ("The First Duty"). It tugged the heartstrings ("The Inner Light"). It pontificated on medical issues ("Ethics") and gay rights ("The Outcast"). It touched more lightly on rape ("Violations") and addiction ("The Game"), using those issues as a starting point for disturbing and exciting stories. And in its fifth season, TNG proved that it had matured enough to stand on its own – so the visit from TOS's Mr. Spock is a pure gift ("Unification").

Want a refresher course on previous seasons of Star Trek? Click the following links to see my reviews of TOS seasons one, two, and three, and of TNG seasons one, two, three, and four.


I've gotten a bit behind on my posts about food, music, and movies. Here's a quick roundup of what I've experienced in the last few weeks...

Last weekend, I took a friend to dinner at the Best Steakhouse on Grand, down by SLU and Grand Center, and enjoyed a juicy, delicious ribeye. The place is a bit of a dive; you might want to go with a friend ("safety in numbers" and all that). But the food is terrific! Afterward, we enjoyed a concert by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Stéphane Denève of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. They played Berlioz's Roman Carnival Overture (which I have loved since I was about 10 years old), Mozart's 18th Piano Concerto with the exciting young pianist Piotr Anderszewski, a twenty-first century piece by Guillaume Connesson -- inspired by an article in a French science journal and written for Denève and his RSNO -- titled "A Glimmer in the Age of Darkness," and Respighi's glorious tone poem The Pines of Rome. I had told my guest that Respighi's reputation as the loudest classical composer is based in part on this piece; when it was over I grinned at her over the roaring ovation and said: "Was that loud enough for you?"

The musicians created an audible mosaic of beautiful images, from the festive atmosphere and rich romanticism of the Berlioz, through the wit and delicate pathos of the Mozart, the atmospherics and surprising beauty of the Connesson, and in the Respighi a succession of moods ranging from a childlike romp to the haunting stillness of a Roman catacomb, from a nightingale's lyricism in the moments before dawn to the steady approach of a Roman army along the Appian way. The chaotic end of the first movement made me laugh aloud -- it was as close as music can get to the screeching of tires and blaring of horns -- but the last movement was one awesome crescendo to a breathtaking finish. I must note that, visually, it was interesting to see a conductor who (at least from behind) looks like Penn Jillette. The pianist looked like a kid they pulled in off the street. Yet I was in a great seat to watch him gently coaxing beautiful phrases out of the piano and, at times, almost ejecting himself off the piano bench with the force of his own emphasis.

I recently used a free movie pass to see the George Clooney opus "Up in the Air." Vera Farmiga, Jason Bateman, J. K. Simmons, and other more-or-less familiar faces populated this film, partly filmed in our own St. Louis, about a consultant who flies all over the country, firing people on behalf of employers who are scared to do it themselves, and delivering motivational seminars on his philosophy of living out of a carry-on bag and having nobody waiting for you at home. When his boss forces him to take the "new kid" in the firm out on the road to show her the ropes, he finds his lone-wolf ethic put to the test. It threatens to be a movie about the unemployment problem, and turns into a film about loneliness, and whether it's possible to live a good life without home or family in it. I must say it was a concept that touched pieces of my own life. It makes me sad to imagine how many people nowadays could say the same thing.

On the food front, I visited an Italian place called Favazza's, on the corner of Southwest and Marconi, just west of Kingshighway in the city. I meant to order Cavatelli Melanzani, a pasta dish with tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, and slices of eggplant. As a result of a miscommunication, my waitress brought me Cavatelli Shrimp Mario, which has all the same stuff except shrimp instead of eggplant. I decided to go with the flow and enjoy the shrimp dish anyway. It was very zesty, and the portion was enough for even a big guy like me to take half of it home for a meal of leftovers. I thought it was strangely appropriate that the pasta was shell-shaped. And my goodness, the garlic toast at that place is magnificent! I made sure the whole basketful got added to my carryout box.

Somewhat farther back, I stopped on the way home from work and tried the Longhorn restaurant. It's one of those virtually interchangeable places, like Chili's and Lone Star Steakhouse, but I wanted to mention it because the night I stoped there, I enjoyed one of the juiciest, tastiest, thick hamburgers I have ever had.

Finally, I wanted to mention the Bosnia Gold restaurant, which I visited the first time I "scoped out" Laganini's (and found that it was closed). In common with another Bosnian restaurant nearby (Grbic), its appearance is designed around stone and polished wood, and its menu focuses on Central and Southeastern Europe. Perhaps because of these common themes, I couldn't help comparing Bosnia Gold to good old Grbic at every stage of the meal. The comparison was not flattering to Bosnia Gold.

I ordered a plate of goulash, which in that slice of the cultural pie is basically chunks of beef in a reddish sauce (not tomato, but broth with lots of paprika). I remembered having a better goulash at Grbic; the meat at Bosnia Gold was a little on the tough side for me, and the flavor of the broth was less interesting. I also missed Grbic's better selection of beer; Beck's was the only imported brand. But most of all, I missed Grbic's delicious, buttery spaetzle. Bosnia Gold's idea of a side of noodles was undercooked elbow spaghetti flecked with herbs. Apart from the attractive setting and the reasonably good bread, I was not highly satisfied at Bosnia Gold. Maybe Grbic has spoiled me...