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New Podcast! The Pensky File – Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Season 4, Episode 10 (“Our Man Bashir”)

The Pensky File will return…

Thrilled to join Wes and Clay over at The Pensky Podcast for another episode of their look at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The dynamic duo are fast approaching the midpoint of the fourth season, one of the greatest seasons of television in the Star Trek canon and probably one of the greatest twenty-odd episode seasons of television ever produced.

I was particularly excited to join the pair for a discussion of Our Man Bashir, an episode in which Bashir and Garak become embroiled in a life and death struggle while playing out one of Bashir’s spy fantasies. My position on Our Man Bashir is pretty out there, but I genuinely believe that it’s one of the best episodes of Star Trek ever produced. Do I manage to convince Wes and Clay? You’ll have to listen to find out.

Along the way, we discuss everything from the popularity of James Bond in America, to the evolution of Julian Bashir as a character, to the economics of the holosuite to Avery Brooks’ distinctive performance style. It was, as ever, a huge pleasure and privilege to join the two for the discussion.

You can find more from The Pensky Podcast here, and listen to the podcast by clicking the link or just listening below.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – In the Pale Moonlight (Review)

I can live with it.

I can live with it.

– Captain Benjamin Lafayette Sisko, Stardate 51721.3

In the Pale Moonlight is a masterpiece.

There is simple no way around it. It works beautifully as a morality play, as a thriller, as a character study. It has a powerful script, a set of brilliant performances, a memorable set-up and pay-off. In the Pale Moonlight is a fantastic piece of television production, something that immediately distinguishes itself from the episodes around it. Like The City on the Edge of Forever or The Inner Light, there is just something fundamentally different about In the Pale Moonlight from the establishing shots.

In many ways, In the Pale Moonlight is the flip side of the coin to Far Beyond the Stars. Both are spectacular episodes of television, and stand as some of the best entries in the franchise canon. However, there are clear differences. While Far Beyond the Stars would not work with any other lead character or actor, it is an episode that is arguably quintessentially Star Trek; it is a powerful allegory about racism and the power of an optimistic future. In contrast, In the Pale Moonlight is specifically Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

In the Pale Moonlight is an episode of Deep Space Nine that simply could not exist in any other Star Trek show. This could never have been an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation or Star Trek: Voyager. The episodes that edge closest to this – like The Pegasus or The Omega Directive – lack the same commitment to the premise. Star Trek: Enterprise arguably came closest with the script for Damage, but even that lacked the powerhouse focus of In the Pale Moonlight.

As the title implies, In the Pale Moonlight is a story about what it takes to dance with devil. It is told against the epic backdrop of the Dominion War, against the scale and spectacle of the sixth season of Deep Space Nine, but the real drama of In the Pale Moonlight unfolds in one man’s confession. This is the story in which the Romulans join the war effort, but it is not a story about the Romulans joining the war effort. It is a story about how Captain Benjamin Sisko sets a price for his own self-respect and his own self-regard.

In the Pale Moonlight is that most personal of dramas, the story of a man who bargains away his soul for a far cheaper price than he expects.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Season 3 (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 third season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was a turning point for many reasons. The most obvious was that Star Trek: The Next Generation had gone off the air, meaning the first half of the third season was broadcast during a window where Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was the only Star Trek show on the air. The show was no longer the goofy kid brother to a much beloved mainstream television show. It was out in the syndication market place by itself.

More than that, though, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was no longer the child of the franchise. With Star Trek: Voyager on the way, launched as the flagship of UPN, Deep Space Nine was left to its own devices for the first time since it was created. Voyager was the high-profile standard-bearer for the franchise, serving as the cornerstone of a new network. In contrast, Deep Space Nine chugged along in syndication, with the powers that be working overtime to bring Voyager to screen.

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In some respects, this was a tough time for Deep Space Nine. It was no longer the newest and freshest Star Trek. It was no longer the bright promising future of the Star Trek franchise. The novelty of having a second Star Trek show on the air had worn off. (Indeed, the decision to treat Voyager as the eighth season of The Next Generation was largely a response to how Deep Space Nine was not filling the niche.)

At the same time, the fact that Michael Piller and Rick Berman were focused on other projects meant that Deep Space Nine really came into its own during the third season. Ira Steven Behr had helped run the writers’ room towards the end of the third season of The Next Generation, and was the logical choice to take the reigns on Deep Space Nine. His influence on the show had been obvious since the beginning, becoming more pronounced after The Maquis.

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However, the third season saw Behr becoming the driving creative force on Deep Space Nine, a changing of the creative guard. Ronald D. Moore and Rene Echevarria joined the show from the staff of The Next Generation. Given all this drama behind the scenes, the third season was as chaotic as you might expect. There were all manner of production problems that haunted the third season, with a sense that Deep Space Nine was being produced by the seat of the producers’ pants.

Episodes tended to get shifted around in production order. Various scripts ended up produced under time constraints so tight that there was no opportunity to properly polish them before putting them in front of the camera. There were rumours that Colm Meaney might have been considering leaving;. Episodes had to be extended into two-parters at the last minute. The show had great ideas, but difficulty realising them. The season as a whole was rather oddly paced, plotted haphazardly. And yet, despite all this, the chaos felt necessary.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Fascination (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.

Well, that could have been much more unpleasant than it ultimately was.

Yes, that’s damning with faint praise, but Fascination feels like a long sigh of exhaustion after what has been a tough run of episodes. The last episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to air in 1994, Fascination came at the end of a production crunch that had seen the show desperately grasping for time. Quite a few of the first ten episodes of the season had been rushed through, with varying results – from Second Skin to Meridian.

So the fact that Fascination is not a massive soul-destroying screw-up on the scale of Meridian is a good thing, even if the episode’s plot does smell a little bit of desperation.

Dax can be quite touchy...

Dax can be quite touchy…

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Non-Review Review: Walking With Dinosaurs – The 3D Movie

You never really grow up past the love of dinosaurs. Sure, you are probably never as relentlessly fascinated with the gigantic reptiles as you were when you were a kid, but those prehistoric creatures still garner affection from children of all ages. That was, after all, the basic premise of Jurassic Park, which got a high-profile 20th anniversary re-release this year. It was also the driving force behind Walking With Dinosaurs, the ground-breaking CGI documentary broadcast on the BBC in the UK and on Discovery in America.

So adapting the show to film seems like a logical step, and Walking With Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie is a bit of a no-brainer for a holiday family release, especially with families that have children too young to watch The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug or Anchorman: The Legend Continues and who have already seen Frozen. It’s a concept that really sells itself, which makes it incredibly frustrating that Walking With Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie goes out of its way to sabotage itself.

"It was a night like this, forty million years ago..."

“It was a night like this, forty million years ago…”

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Second Sight (Review)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is twenty years old this year. To celebrate, I’m taking a look at the first and second seasons. Check back daily for the latest review or retrospective.

You know, this the first real Sisko-heavy episode we’ve had since Emissary. He’s the lead, so he’s never too far from the heart of the story, and episodes like Dramatis Personae and Invasive Procedures gave Avery Brooks an opportunity to demonstrate his acting chops (and ability to be just as bad-ass, albeit in a different way, as Kirk and Picard). However, Sisko never really dominates or towers over Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in the same way that Kirk and Picard seemed to anchor their shows. Deep Space Nine is closer to an ensemble show than any other Star Trek series, and characters like Odo and Kira (and even Quark) have received as much (if not more) definition than Sisko, despite the fact he is the lead.

That’s not a bad thing. Over the run of the series, Deep Space Nine would produce a number of classic hours of television centred around Sisko as a character. The Visitor, Far Beyond the Stars, and In the Pale Moonlight are all hours that lean heavily on Brooks and can all be counted among the very best episodes of Star Trek ever produced.

Second Sight, on the other hand, is not.

Burning passion...

Burning passion…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – A Man Alone (Review)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is twenty years old this year. To celebrate, I’m taking a look at the first season. Check back daily for the latest review or retrospective.

To be fair to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, it’s clear that the show’s heart is in the right place. After all, a Star Trek television show isn’t quite the gambit that it was in 1987. The producers expect that the series will be going for quite some time. After all, the regulars signed six-year contracts, one of the reasons that the show managed to make it to its penultimate season without losing a primary cast member.

As such, a lot of the early episodes of Deep Space Nine seem prudent – they effectively amount to good housekeeping. While Star Trek: The Next Generation got its cast together and couldn’t wait to start telling bold Star Trek stories, you can see that Deep Space Nine is laying a lot of groundwork. The ensemble doesn’t gel instantly. Episodes are devoted to little more than set-up for something that will pay off over the coming year. A vast supporting cast is systematically established.

This is world-building, and it’s world-building to a purpose, even if Deep Space Nine doesn’t seem to really know what that purpose is yet. So it’s quite hard to fault these early episodes, even if they feel more like set-up for delayed pay-off.

The writing's on the wall for Odo...

The writing’s on the wall for Odo…

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