"The Sound of Her Voice" 
Season Six, Episode 25
Written by Ronald D Moore
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Music by Dennis McCarthy
Main Cast:
Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko
Rene Auberjonois as Odo
Michael Dorn as Lt Cmdr Worf
Terry Farrell as Lt Cmdr Jadzia Dax
Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
Colm Meaney as Chief Miles O'Brien
Armin Shimerman as Quark
Alexander Siddig as Dr Julian Bashir
Nana Visitor as Major Kira Nerys

Guest Stars:
Penny Johnson as Kasidy Yates
Debra Wilson as Captain Lisa Cusak


The Defiant picks up a distress call from a Starfleet Captain marooned on a distant planet. Sisko promises that he will rescue her and the Defiant gets under way at top speed, but will they make it in time? As they speed to her rescue, the crew talk to Captain Lisa Cusack on the comm and learn not only about her, but a little more about themselves.

Well, The Sound of Her Voice certainly gets full marks for its refreshingly novel approach. Whether or not it succeeds in achieving its lofty goals is another matter -- the episode has some interesting touches and real sparks of potential, but also one or two major blips that tend to pull the rug from under its own feet. 

For a start there was a lot of potential in the premise, which allows us to get under the skin of the regular characters and see just how much the war has affected them --  a bit like a montage of informal counselling sessions (though this notion is refuted during a conservation between Miles and Lisa). Sometimes these character vignettes were poignant and well-observed and sometimes they fell flat by virtue of being too obvious and/or forced. 

This approach was most effective in O'Brien's case. It's easy to relate to Miles' sense of isolation and it has been noticeable lately that stories have tended to isolate just one character and focus solely upon them. As I noted back in my review of The Reckoning, there haven't been as many ensemble shows this year, and that helps give a ring of truth to O'Brien's comments. It also helped that this exchange was well-written, brilliantly performed by Colm Meaney and very well-shot by director Winrich Kolbe. If all the character "commentary" had been as genuine and insightful as O'Brien's was, this episode would have been a winner, and then some. But on the whole, whilst the actors were certainly up to the challenge, they would have benefited from a stronger, more purposeful script. 

Julian's vignette left me cold and confused, and I still haven't a clue where his speech about having a heart came from. I usually think of Jules as a rather friendly, hospitable chap, so his admission that he comes across as an "arrogant and God-like" workoholic who neglects his friends seemed really odd. As for Sisko and Kasidy -- well, I was left pretty much indifferent. Part of the problem with Sisko and Kasidy as a couple is that we've only seen her twice in the past two years and as such it's hard to buy much into their relationship, let alone care. Most of the scenes between them were slightly overplayed on the "discomfort" level and Lisa's final "diagnosis" of their problem was obvious and...well, did you care? To their credit Avery Brooks and Penny Johnson managed to muster up some of the chemistry they displayed in Far Beyond the Stars in the final scene, but it was pretty much a case of too little, too late. 

And then there's Lisa herself -- I'm still not sure whether I liked or loathed her. Probably a bit of both! She sounded more like Ally McBeal than a Starfleet Captain which at times was refreshing (can you imagine how boring Picard or Janeway would have been on that comm channel?!) and at times quite annoying. We actually got a reasonably good feel for her as a character and it came across that she genuinely cared for our people and presumably people in general. But sometimes her incessant yatter got on my nerves (do you blame Julian for switching off?!) and sometimes the advice she dispensed was too forced and too on-the-ball. When people give you advice, you usually accept and consider it, but how often is that person's opinion dead, in-your-face, one hundred percent accurate? At times the character felt over-ridden by the big red, flashing letters on the bottom of the screen reading "plot device, plot device!". Oh, and her prank on Julian was distasteful and unfunny -- if I'd been him I'd have told her where to go and refused to speak to her again! On the whole, I can't say I liked Lisa enough to really care that much what happened to her. 

And what did happen to her? Well, it turns out she's been dead for years and her outward signals went through some technobabble anomaly and made their way into the future. And so goes our stunning twist-ending. About all I have to say about this is, so what?! This twist is pointless, brought about by an excess of technobabble and adds virtually nothing to the overall story. So she's from the past, which is all good and well, but who cares? Whilst sometimes she was amiable (as well as irritating!) I didn't care enough about Lisa Cusack to feel any sense of loss. Which leads to to a very big problem I have with the whole episode... 

At it's core The Sound of Her Voice is an episode devoted to a stranger and attempts to manipulate us into feeling a sense of loss at her death. Well ordinarily that would have been OK, but this is the episode before Tears of the Prophets which, as we all know, features the departure of Terry Farrell after six years as Dax, one of the show's most popular characters. And yet whilst Dax's death is given short shrift we're meant to feel a sense of loss at Lisa's death. Why the hell is the death of this character, who we have never even set eyes on, given more importance and consideration than the death of a main cast member? And speaking of Dax, where the hell was she?! This is Terry Farrell's second last ever appearance and while one might have hoped this episode would see Dax as part of the team one last time, she is instead relegated to one scene and about two lines! I believe Ron Moore has even admitted that we didn't get to see Dax's funeral because we'd seen Lisa's the episode before -- well, excuse me, but isn't that getting their priorities a bit muddled? Whatever happened, this story was ill-timed and the fact Lisa gets a better send-off than Dax did little to endear me. 

Anyway, calm down, deep breath...I loved the sub-plot! It was great fun and at times more enjoyable than the main plot. It was fun watching Quark trying to manipulate the smitten Odo and having Jake study his nefarious dealings (OK, so no one involved in illegal activity thinks of himself as "nefarious"!) was cute. I also liked that Odo decides to deliberately let Quark get the upper hand for once. It's nice to see Odo soften a little bit -- I disagree with those that feel this damages the character, I think it shows growth. Odo has grown a lot over these six years as is only natural; it's nice to see him more at peace with himself and others. Quark flatters himself, though -- he didn't do anything to help Odo and Kira get together! He basically told him to like it or lump it; I'd hardly saying that was supporting Odo through the heartache or helping the pair get together. Still, Odo obviously felt he owed Quark some debt. 

Yup, the sub-plot added a fair bit to the episode. So does the acting, with a number of fine turns by the ever-reliable cast and an exceptionally good directorial job by Kolbe. For the most part he keeps the pace going and he managed to stop some of the more dull exchanges from grinding the episode to a total halt with some nifty camera shots. I was also impressed with Dennis McCarthy's score which sounded particularly fresh and vibrant. The special effects were also very impressive and even those damned polystyrene caves looked real for once! 

When all is said and done, The Sound of Her Voice is a decent episode but it doesn't really do justice to its premise. The script could have tried to dig a bit deeper and been a bit clearer on its intent and the unfortunate juxtaposition with Dax's impending demise left a distinctly bad taste in the mouth.

Rating: 6.5

....the highest rating we've had since The Reckoning, four episodes ago. I do believe we've witnessed something of a slump.

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