April 21, 2008

On Shattered Expectations

Otherwise known as the dashed hope. A tool of magicians of stage and screen, it allows them to forge new pathways and thoughts in the audience's brains. Even though I'm about to go to Star Trek-land again, an exploration of this idea is the cause.

Last night, I was watching the end of ST:DS9's second season, "The Jem'hadar," when I came across an interesting application of this principle. In it, Quark and Sisko are captured by a previously unseen species, the titular Jem'hadar. To aid in their rescue, Starfleet sends the USS Odyssey - a Galaxy-class starship, same as the Enterprise (1701-D model). They do this in order to set us up with expectation that this should be a comparatively smooth operation. After all, the Enterprise could handle nearly anything, short of the Borg, without major damage.

I'm sure you've already guessed where I'm going with this, however. After getting the captives off of the surface of the planet, the Federation forces turn to run because the Jem'hadar are too much to handle. While they're attempting to do so, though, a Jem'hadar ship does a suicide run on Odyssey, destroying it.

See what they did there: you think everything should turn out fine. This is a Federation ship, Galaxy class, so most of the audience knows what they're capable of doing. They - the writers - have just shown us that the Jem'hadar are a) very powerful and b) very dedicated, willing to die to achieve victory, even against a fleeing opponent.