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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Search, Part I (Review)

The 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 Search, Part I is interesting. It is an episode that, in effect, serves as something of a second pilot for the show. It’s an episode that re-conceptualises the show, while taking a great deal of trouble to ensure that any new viewers will be brought up to speed. In fact, The Search is a rather disjointed two-parter as a whole. The first part feels like a lot of set-up with a cliffhanger tacked on to the end of the episode, while the second part is very clearly its own story.

It makes sense. At this point, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the only Star Trek on television. It’s a period that doesn’t last, and which is really just a scheduling fluke. The show’s second season continued on past the airing of All Good Things…, the final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The third season began broadcasting before the airing of Caretaker, the pilot of Star Trek: Voyager. Star Trek: Generations was released somewhere in the middle. So the stretch where Deep Space Nine was “the only Trek on television” feels largely illusory.

Still, The Search, Part I feels like a conscious attempt to welcome any wayward Star Trek fans. Including, appropriately enough, new staff writer Ronald D. Moore.

Staring into space...

Staring into space…

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Mike W. Barr and Gordon Purcell’s Run on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (Malibu Comics) (Review/Retrospective)

The 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 nineties comic book market was an interesting place. It enjoyed a huge boost due to the rise of speculation and collectors. The industry was massively successful in the early years of the decade, fuelled by high-profile artists, hype, and events. The industry imploded in on itself in the middle and towards the end of the decade, but it looked surprisingly profitable in the early years. Against that backdrop, Malibu Comics emerged.

Malibu had become the publisher of record for Image Comics in 1992. Image had been founded by a number of popular artists who had departed Marvel to set up their own shop and found their own company. Malibu distributed their comics for about a year, which gave Malibu access to a larger distribution platform. Although Image soon grew strong enough to publish its own comics, there was a point where Malibu had surpassed industry veteran DC Comics in the market place.

"Think of it—five months ago no one had ever heard of Bajor or Deep Space Nine. Now all our hopes rest here."

“Think of it—five months ago no one had ever heard of Bajor or Deep Space Nine. Now all our hopes rest here.”

Against this backdrop, Malibu secured the rights to publish comic books based on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Up until this point, DC comics had been publishing comics based on the original Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Paramount’s decision to award the Deep Space Nine license to Malibu effectively split the comic book license up. DC Comics continued to publish comics based around the first two Star Trek shows, while Malibu had exclusive rights to the characters and world of Deep Space Nine.

As such, the decision to recruit writer Mike W. Barr and artist Gordon Purcell to write the first six issues of the comic was a pretty big deal. Barr and Purcell were incredibly associated with Star Trek comic books. The duo had done popular work on the movie-era comics, and had demonstrated an obvious and abiding affection for the franchise. Assigning these two creators to work on Deep Space Nine was a very clear message. Malibu were taking this license very seriously, indeed.

Triptych...

Triptych…

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The X-Files – F. Emasculata (Review)

This August (and a little of September), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the second season of The X-Files. In November, we’ll be looking at the third season. And maybe more.

The wonderful thing about the second season of The X-Files is the spirit of experimentation. There’s a sense that the show is consciously pushing itself to try new things, to figure out what works. Watching the second season of the show, you can see the series’ outline beginning to take shape, even if it’s not full developed yet. The third season of The X-Files would seem a lot stronger and more cohesive, but it was building off the lessons learned during the second season.

Sometimes those experiments worked well. For example, the first stretch of the season demonstrated that the show could do an arc spanning multiple episodes. Colony and End Game established the foundations of the larger “colonisation” mythology even beyond “the government knows about aliens and they sometimes abduct people.” Episodes like Die Hand Die Verletzt and Humbug demonstrated that the show could do comedy stories and step outside its comfort zones.

Has everybody caught the Ebola bug?

Has everybody caught the Ebola bug?

Of course, there were a few narrative dead-ends as well, a few experiments that did not work as well as they might. Most notably, the tail end of the season leans rather heavily on science-fiction high-concepts. The elements introduced in Colony and End Game work well enough, but shows like Soft Light and Død Kälm feel almost like episodes of some other science-fiction anthology show. Still, there’s a sense that the show is trying to figure out what exactly it wants to be.

F. Emasculata is a wonderful example of that spirit of experimentation, effectively tapping into nineties health scares within the framework of a conspiracy thriller.

Everything burns...

Everything burns…

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Doctor Who: Into the Dalek (Review)

Fantastic idea for a movie. Terrible idea for a proctologist.

- the Doctor’s ten-word review of Fantastic Voyage

If you’re looking for a writer to collaborate with on a “dark Doctor” story, it would seem that Phil Ford is your man. Phil Ford collaborated with showrunner Russell T. Davies on Waters of Mars, the penultimate story of David Tennant’s tenure. Here, he finds himself writing with showrunner Stephen Moffat on the second story of Peter Capaldi’s tenure. So he also does symmetry where Scottish Doctors are involved.

Both Waters of Mars and Into the Dalek are stories that serve to problematise the Doctor; but each does it to a different purpose. Waters of Mars was positioned as the second-to-last story of the Davies era. It serves as the point where the Tenth Doctor’s hubris reaches massive proportions and explodes. It serves, in a way, as the justification for his departure in The End of Time. In contrast, Into the Dalek serves to solidify a character arc that was hinted at in Deep Breath, the Twelfth Doctor’s existential crisis.

doctorwho-intothedalek3

Into the Dalek is the source of the much-hyped exchange between Clara and the Doctor. “Clara, be my pal and tell me: am I good man?” the Doctor asks. The best that Clara can manage is, “I don’t know.” The Doctor responds, simply, “Neither do I.” This isn’t the first time that the show has dared to present a morally ambiguous lead character. Colin Baker’s infamous Sixth Doctor comes to mind, but Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor was arguably a more successful attempt to give the audience an ambiguous Doctor.

As such, Into the Dalek cannot help but invite comparisons to Eccleston’s morally charged confrontation a broken Dalek in Dalek. Sadly, it’s not a comparison that does Into the Dalek any real favours.

doctorwho-intothedalek2 Continue reading

The X-Files – The Calusari (Review)

This August (and a little of September), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the second season of The X-Files. In November, we’ll be looking at the third season. And maybe more.

The Calusari is very heavily and very clearly influenced by classic horror cinema. With its demon child and dramatic ritual sequences, the episode seems constructed as a gigantic homage to The Omen and The Exorcist, two of most iconic horror films of the seventies. On paper, this isn’t a bad idea. The show hasn’t done a straight-up quasi-exploitation horror episode since Fresh Bones, and “scary kids” worked well enough for the show in Eve.

On the other hand, the show has historically had trouble doing straight-up classic horror stories – Shadows was a misfire of a ghost story, while Shapes was a questionable werewolf tale and 3 was a disaster of a vampire show. More than that, The Calusari pushes the show into fairly uncomfortable territory, dealing as it does with the religious beliefs of immigrant communities. The Calusari is not as bad as it could be, but it’s also not particularly good, either.

A haunting tale?

A haunting tale?

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The X-Files (Topps) – Trick of the Light (Review)

This August (and a little of September), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the second season of The X-Files. In November, we’ll be looking at the third season. And maybe more.

The X-Files tie-in comic book was a massive success for Topps. It’s interesting to note the amount of cross-promotion that went into the comic. Factoring in short stories and tie-ins and annuals and other obligations, the output from writer Stefan Petrucha and Charles Adlard was nothing short of astounding. Topps worked very hard to promote the book, an approach that paid off – the comic would frequently appear in Diamond’s top 100 and was the publisher’s most successful monthly book.

Trick of the Light was a short twelve-page comic that was published as part of the The X-Files/Hero Illustrated Special, featuring an interview with Petrucha and packaged with Hero Illustrated #22 in March 1995. It was something of a glorified advertising gimmick, but one that demonstrates the popularity of the comic in question.

Don't go into the light!

Don’t go into the light!

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The X-Files – Humbug (Review)

This August (and a little of September), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the second season of The X-Files. In November, we’ll be looking at the third season. And maybe more.

The world is a weird place, but it seems to get a little less weird all the time.

One of the great recurring themes of The X-Files is that globilisation and rapid development have cast light on the deepest nooks and crannies, having a homogenising effect. There’s little room in the world for the eccentric and the strange, as Starbucks opens an average of two stores every day and access to the internet in the United States doubling between 2000 and 2014. In 2009, the furthest a person could be from a McDonalds in the United States was 107 miles. The world is getting smaller.

Funhouse mirror...

Funhouse mirror…

Paradoxically, the only wins up pushing people further apart. This happens on both a community and an individual level. Small towns find themselves struggling to survive in the current economic climate, despite the increased accessibility. Despite the growth of social media to make interpersonal communication easier than ever, the number of people feeling socially isolated has doubled since 1985.

Humbug is the show’s first script from writer Darin Morgan. While not as polished as his later work, it perfectly captures that mournful sense that a certain kind of weirdness is passing.

Something fishy is going on...

Something fishy is going on…

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