Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Assignment

*** (3 stars out of 5)
Fellas, level with me: has your lady love ever suddenly become a terrifying demon of unfathomable purpose and gut-twisting menace? Well, I'm sorry to hear it! I don't know what that would be like, of course, seeing as how my wife is the very avatar of human wonderment, kindness and love. Also, mercifully, she's never been to the Fire Caves of Bajor. I can't say the same for Keiko O'Brien.

Miles O'Brien can't go a season without something awful happening to him! Why can't the writers ever give him an adventure rather than an ORDEAL? Whatever the reason, Keiko is the first to encounter a legendary evil Pah-Wraith, which seizes control of her mind and body.

Just in time for Miles' birthday, September 2373, his wife is taken hostage by a being bent on destruction. Much as he once threatened her when he was possessed by an Ux-Mal thug. What are the odds? And how is this guy not dead or crazy a thousand times over? That's neither here nor there, as the demon runs him ragged with surreptitious sabotage to the station.

And, out of left field, the hero of the tale is the least obvious man for the job. The lowest engineer on the totem pole, Rom. As Miles desperately casts around for an ally with the Keiko-Wraith threatening to kill his wife if he breathes a word of her scheme to anyone, he finds a helpful, loyal, surprisingly astute Ferengi. Rom is willing to go to any lengths, even get arrested, for his boss.

There's no moment quite as chilling for me as when Rom chimes in with the earnest, well-meaning: "Chief, why are we trying to kill the wormhole aliens?"

"The Assignment" is tense and creepy. The first story with the False Prophets of the Bajoran faith in pursuit of their ancient vendetta against their own kind, and their efforts to burn the Celestial Temple. There's constant pressure from the Pah-Wraith, full of sadistic enjoyment, even to brushing Keiko's child's hair as a threat or forcing Miles to sleep next to it like nothing's wrong. It's got a high ick factor.

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