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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Shakaar (Review)

This September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

There are really two versions of Shakaar.

There is the episode that Shakaar very clearly wants to be. It’s intended to offer Kira a bit of closure, following on from the events of Life Support. It’s very clearly meant to explore Kira’s grieving process and to allow her to come to terms with the loss she suffered. After all, the episode opens establishing that Kira still mourns Bareil, while the episode closes with Kira extinguishing the memorial candle she lit for him. (Which does invite the audience to wonder if it was burning the whole time she was on Bajor.)

Carrying a torch...

Carrying a torch…

As such, it makes sense to offer Kira an opportunity to get back to her roots – to suggest that Kira might secretly want to return to the relative simplicity of a rebel fighter resisting an oppressive government; fighting a war is a lot less complex than navigating the peace. Kira’s reunion with the Shakaar Resistance Cell is meant to offer her a way to escape into something comfortable, to avoid moving forward; because moving forward is tough and painful. Shakaar should be about Kira learning that she has to push forward. It should be a companion piece to Progress.

The episode can’t quite manage this. Instead, we end up with an episode about how Kira gets swept off her feet by a dashing hunk of a man – an episode that leaves the viewer with the unfortunate implication that Kira only needed to find another weirdly paternal man to help her get past the death of the man she loved. Shakaar is an episode with a host of interesting ideas, but isn’t quite sure how to best bring those ideas to the screen.

You Winn some, you lose some...

You Winn some, you lose some…

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Watch! Avengers: Age of Ultron Trailer!

The trailer for Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron has arrived. Check it out below!

Non-Review Review: Friday the 13th, Part II

There is something almost endearing about how direct the Friday the 13th film series is, how comfortable it is in its skin.

There are arguments to be made that the original Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street are genuine cinematic classics, that are frequently underrated because they were followed by decades of sequels, knock-offs, reboots and remakes. Although they rapidly devolved into franchise zombies, Halloween really jump-started a cinematic genre, and Nightmare on Elm Street was slyly post-modern.

Somebody didn't read the signs...

Somebody didn’t read the signs…

In contrast, the Friday the 13th films have no such pretension. Instead, the Friday the 3th films exist as pure and uncompromising slasher schlock. Hack and slash and slice and dice. The Friday the 13th film series is powered not by central themes or ideas, but by a simply desire to churn out movies in which attractive and generic characters get brutally slaughtered. It is a ruthlessly efficient model; there were eight Friday the 13th films released between 1980 and 1989.

It’s hard not to admire the ingenuity at work here – the Friday the 13th films are relentless, refusing to let little things like logic or resolutions get in the way of the next sequel. Friday the 13th, Part II starts the franchise machine properly rolling, by rather efficiently getting around the fact that the first film’s serial killer had been fairly cleanly dispatched. It’s time to meet Jason Voorhees.

If you go down to the woods today...

If you go down to the woods today…

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Star Trek: Voyager – Learning Curve (Review)

This September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

So, Learning Curve is the last episode broadcast as part of Star Trek: Voyager‘s first season. It’s hard to get too excited about – or be too disappointed by – that.

Learning Curve is a bit of limp finalé to a mediocre season. Like a lot of the season before it, it’s a passable execution of what should have been a fantastic concept. (Boy, that really is Voyager in a nutshell, isn’t it?)

Is the show finally starting to gel?

Is the show finally starting to gel?

Learning Curve‘s position in the broadcast order was apparently a bit of blind luck. It was actually the fifth-last episode produced of the show’s first season. It just found itself broadcast in the “season finalé” slot when UPN decided to hold back the remaining four episodes of the season until the Fall, to broadcast leading into the second season.

However, despite this, Learning Curve seems as good a choice as any to close out the first season – and certainly a better choice than Brannon Braga and Jeri Taylor’s preferred candidate, The 37’s. It returns to the conflict between Starfleet and the Maquis promised in Caretaker, but only fleetingly acknowledged in episodes like Parallax or State of Flux. Although the execution leaves a lot to be desired, it does create a sense that the show has come something of a full circle.

It's Chakotay or the high way...

It’s Chakotay or the high way…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Family Business (Review)

This September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

Family Business is surprisingly good, standing as one of the strongest Ferengi-centric episodes produced during the run of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This is largely down to how Family Business treats its central characters. While still broadly played as a farce, Family Business is rooted in character. Like House of Quark (and unlike Prophet Motive), the episode takes care to treat its characters with a great deal of respect.

This isn’t an episode constructed around stock comedy tropes and trying to get the audience to laugh at one-note caricatures. Instead, it’s an episode firmly built around exploring Quark as a character in his own right. Family Business makes the decision to treat Quark (and its other Ferengi characters) with respect, and it’s a decision that ultimately pays dividends.

Naked ambition...

Naked ambition…

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Star Trek: Voyager – Jetrel (Review)

This September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

Jetrel is an interesting episode for a number of reasons. It’s another example of how the first season of Star Trek: Voyager seems anchored in the aftermath of the Second World War. The episode exists primarily as a meditation on guilt over the use of atomic weapon, with the Metreon Cascade attack on Rinax standing in for the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Negaska in 1945. Jetrel aired three months shy of the fiftieth anniversary of the bombing, and amid a national period of reflection about the morality of Harry S. Truman’s actions.

Whatever the context of Jetrel in 1995, it serves as another example of how Voyager seems like a relic from a bygone age, a snapshot of atomic age science-fiction. Cathexis was the show doing Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Faces was an old-fashioned monster movie. Jetrel wasn’t even the first time that the first season had traded in atomic imagery. The aftermath of the polaric detonation in Time and Again was very clearly designed to evoke the aftermath of an atomic blast.

The devil in the pale moonlight...

The devil in the pale moonlight…

Even without all this baggage, Jetrel still feels like a mess of an episode. The heart of the story finds a member of the ensemble confronting a former war criminal while dealing with issues of war guilt and responsibility – a structure that evokes Duet the penultimate episode of the first season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. While that episode worked brilliantly, there’s a sense that Jetrel is burdened a little bit trying to offer a two-hander about guilt while tackling the issue of the atomic bomb.

The problem is compounded by a somewhat messy final act that eschews all the episode’s heavy character-based drama in favour of a contrived techno-babble climax that involves a lot of characters spouting nonsense while playing with light-emitting diodes. Jetrel begins as the strongest and boldest episode of the show’s first season, but ends as one of the prime examples of Voyager‘s preference for techno-babble over character work.

Burn with me...

Burn with me…

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Non-Review Review: Fury

Fury is an apocalyptic glimpse of warfare.

Unfolding in the last days of the Second World War, as Allied forces pour into Germany from all sides, there’s a sense that this is the end. This is the abyss. As the introductory text explained, Hitler had declared a doctrine of “total war” against these invading forces. Every man woman and child was to be mobilised against the advancing armies, in the hope that it might somehow slow down the Allied war machine. If you throw enough people at it, you might do some damage – even if it is just clogging the gears.

He will strike down with Fury-ous anger...

He will strike down with Fury-ous anger…

A movie about a tank crew enduring these last few days, Fury gets considerable mileage out of that image – of human flesh falling before the unstoppable and inevitable machine. At a couple of points in the movie, characters die with their faces quite literally down in the mud. At other points, bodies are crushed beneath the tracks of the eponymous vehicle. Towards the climax, we encounter a body so thoroughly squashed beneath the weight of the Allied advanced that it seems like an empty uniform.

Fury is at its best when it captures the sheer unrelenting terror and horror of the advancing war machine – the nihilism of fighting a war that has already been decided, and the bleak inevitability of large-scale slaughter.

Fog of war...

Fog of war…

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