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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Prophet Motive (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.

Now that Star Trek: Voyager is on the air, there’s a sense that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine can be more relaxed. The show was undeniably contrarian during the short period when it was the only Star Trek on the air, presenting a series of uncompromisingly cynical episodes to assure viewers that it would not be trying to fill the void left by Star Trek: The Next Generation. At the same time, there’s also a sense that show was acutely aware of it potentially wider audience watching during that window.

During that first half of the season, a new adversary was pushed to the fore, the show did a story about Klingons and featured three guest stars from The Next Generation – although not necessarily the guest stars anybody would have chosen. More than that, though, the show seemed to consciously avoid its more controversial types of episodes. Even by the show’s third year, it had become clear that certain “types” of episodes appeared a few times a year – a couple of “old favourites” for the writing team to fall back on while constructing a twenty-six episode season.

'Ear me out 'ere...

‘Ear me out ‘ere…

As such, it’s telling that the most divisive parts of any Deep Space Nine season were pushed into the second half of the season.  So Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe’s two Ferengi-centric scripts came after Voyager had premiered. Sure, Quark got to be the focus of the season’s third episode, House of Quark, but he shared that with the popular Klingons. The season’s two big Bajoran plot lines (Life Support and Shakaar) were positioned towards the end of the year.

Prophet Motive feels like the kind of Star Trek episode that could only be produced on Deep Space Nine as part of Ira Steven Behr’s unique vision for the show. It’s the kind of weird script that the show seemed to get away with by virtue of being “the other Star Trek on television.” That doesn’t mean that it’s particularly good, mind you, just that it’s distinctly a Deep Space Nine story.

Quark is a by-the-book Ferengi...

Quark is a by-the-book Ferengi…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The 34th Rule by Armin Shimerman & David R. George III (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.

The 34th Rule is a particularly notable piece of Star Trek fiction. It is the first Star Trek novel credited to a main cast member while their show was still on the air. Armin Shimerman, Eric A. Sitwell and David R. George III had pitched the idea for The 34th Rule as an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. When the producers were not interested in developing the idea, Shimerman and George decided to expand the idea out into a full-length novel. The 34th Rule was released during the seventh season of Deep Space Nine.

Shimerman was not the first actor to be credited on a Star Trek novel. William Shatner had already launched his own “Shatner-verse” series of novels following the “resurrection” of James Tiberius Kirk after his death in Star Trek: Generations. However, Shatner was pretty much done with the franchise at this point – having officially passed the torch to his successors as part of Generations. However, Shimerman was the first to publish a novel while the show was on the air.

The 34th Rule is a decidedly ambitious piece of work. It is clumsy in places, perhaps a little heavy-handed and on the nose. Nevertheless, it is a well-constructed and thoughtful Star Trek epic – one the feels in keeping with the mood of Deep Space Nine, even if it occasionally veers a little too far.

the34thrule

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Non-Review Review: Mr. Turner

Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner is a stunningly beautiful naturalistic period piece. It is a little messy and unfocused, indulgent and uneven, but such is life itself. Covering the life of J.M.W. Turner, Leigh takes an expansive look at the life of one of Britain’s most distinctive and influential painters. Mr. Turner is perhaps a little over-long and meandering, and occasionally just a little bit too sly for its own good, but it does feature a charmingly larger-than-life performance from Timothy Spall and fantastic cinematography from Dick Pope.

Portrait of the artist as Timothy Spall...

Portrait of the artist as Timothy Spall…

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Star Trek: Voyager – Eye of the Needle (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.

Eye of the Needle really should be a bigger deal than it is.

Looking at the basic premise of Star Trek: Voyager, a story like Eye of the Needle should be an “event.” It should, at the very least, be a mid-season finalé. Ideally, the episode would serve as the season finalé, bringing a sense of closure to year of adventuring by our crew, suggesting that there is some measure of hope for them. Perhaps home is not as far away as it might seem.

"Hm. You appear to have beamed me up in my pyjamas..."

“Hm. You appear to have beamed me up in my pyjamas…”

Voyager is a show about a ship stranded on the far side of the galaxy. The crew are isolated from friends and family. The return journey will take seventy years. It is quite possible that this will be a generational voyage. The Voyager crew will return home to a world that has changed without them. It’s heartbreaking even to think about.

So the ship’s first chance to get home should be something to get excited about. It should be cause for celebration; it should feel like a lifeline dangling just within the reach of our characters. There should be a sense that this sort of think might only happen once, and everybody best be prepared for it. Instead, it happens six episodes into the season, and the audience spends forty-five minutes waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Thoughtful Janeway pose #452...

Thoughtful Janeway pose #452…

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Doctor Who: The Caretaker (Review)

“Why do I keep you around?”

“Because the alternative would be developing a conscience of your own?”

As with Time Heist, it is interesting to look at the development of the way that the writers on Doctor Who have developed during Steven Moffat’s tenure as executive producer. Although the show does not maintain a “writers’ room” in the literal sense of the phrase, there is a sense that certain writers have recurred often enough to develop and distinguish their own voices on the show. There is enough precedent to firmly identify Robot of Sherwood as a Gatiss script, and Time Heist as a Thompson script.

As such, The Caretaker definitely feels like a Gareth Roberts script. It shares a very clear thematic throughline with Roberts’ other scripts for the Moffat era – The Lodger and Closing Time. The idea is that the Doctor has waded into the normal world and finds himself dealing with situations that normally affect normal people. In The Lodger, the Doctor rented a room. In Closing Time, the Doctor got job. In The Caretaker, the Doctor imposes himself upon his companion’s everyday life.

Watch the man...

Watch the man…

As with Roberts’ other scripts, there is a sense of fun to the adventure. Doctor Who is frequently a show about the Doctor wandering into different kinds of stories – from horrors to science-fiction to period pieces to westerns. Throwing the Doctor out of a more conventional story and into something resembling the real world is always a source of fun, even if the Moffat era has touched on this quite a bit. While The Caretaker is similar to The Lodger and Closing Time, it is perhaps closer in theme to The Power of Three.

However, Peter Capaldi’s performance is distinct enough from that of Matt Smith that The Caretaker never feels like a retread. Watching the Twelfth Doctor intersect with the real world is very different from watching the Eleventh Doctor, because he is a fundamentally different character. The Caretaker is one of the highlights of the season so far.

Robot!

Robot!

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Non-Review Review: ’71

Harrowing. Claustrophobic. Intense.

’71 is a powerhouse experience. Charting one night in Belfast for a young soldier separated from his regiment, there is a constant sense of dread pushing in from the edge of the frame. As one might expect for a movie set off the Falls Road in seventies Belfast, ’71 is paranoid and unsettled. It is a movie that constantly pushes the viewer to the very edge of their seat, offering an uncomfortable glimpse into something that would seem excessively brutal were it not anchored in historical fact.

71d

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Destiny (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.

The biggest problem with Destiny is that it doesn’t feel fully-formed. The show plays more like a series of vignettes than a single story. There are some nice character beats, and a sense that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is an ensemble show, but Destiny meanders far too much. It seems like it wanders around without any singular purpose, any strong central point to tether it.

Is it about Sisko’s relation to the title of “Emissary”? Is about peace between Bajor and Cardassia? Is it about O’Brien and flirty Cardassians? Is it about Kira’s faith and her position on Deep Space Nine? Is it about end time prophecies?

It seems to be about all these things, but with no real commitment to any of them above the others. The end result is that it’s not about any of them particularly well.

Picture perfect...

Picture perfect…

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