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Star Trek – Journey to Babel (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

Journey to Babel is pretty influential, as episodes of Star Trek go. It is an episode that really cements idea of the Federation that came to be at the heart of the franchise, suggesting that the organisation really is a diverse intergalactic alliance of diverse alien species, rather than a union between Earth and Vulcan. More than that, the episode suggests that the individual members of the Federation might not exist in perfect harmony with one another, but may each operate with their own agenda and motivations.

However, what is really remarkable about Journey to Babel is how much of this unfolds in the background. All this world-building and -embellishing is very much a secondary concern for writer D.C. Fontana. Despite its scale and its scope, Journey to Babel is a decidedly personal story about a family in crisis. It works remarkably well, offering viewers a bit more insight into Spock as a character and where he came from.

Party on, Gav...

Party on, Gav…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Q-Less (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.

And the first season of Deep Space Nine continues its trend towards mediocrity. I feel I should qualify that. The first season of Deep Space Nine is never truly terrible. Even the (very) dodgy Move Along Home is superior to any number of episodes from the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, like Code of Honour or Angel One. The first season of Deep Space Nine just winds up feeling like it’s treading water, as if it is trying too hard to emulate The Next Generation, instead of exploring the unique storytelling opportunities offered by the show’s setting.

Q-Less is arguably the most obvious example of these attempts at imitation. While episodes like Babel and The Passenger could have been reworked as episodes of The Next Generation with a minimum of fuss, Q-Less rather cynically takes two recurring guest stars from The Next Generation and allows them to steal focus from an ensemble that is still finding its feet. It feels not only a little ill-judged, but also a bit rude.

Guess Q...

Guess Q…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Babel (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.

With Babel, we hit the most significant flaw in the first season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Put frankly, Babel is the first story that could easily have worked as an episode of the original Star Trek or of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Indeed, Michael Piller concedes in Captains’ Logs Supplemental – The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages that Babel had a history longer than that of Deep Space Nine itself:

We had this premise for over five years at Next Generation. It was written by the same person who wrote “Hollow Pursuits” for us, and we had always been attracted to the idea that you could suddenly lose the ability to use language and communicate, and how people are able to communicate with each other.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s worth noting that the first season of Deep Space Nine was airing concurrently with the sixth season of The Next Generation. If people wanted to see stories that could work on The Next Generation, it made more sense to see them executed on that show by a production team with experience in these sorts of plots.

While Babel isn’t a bad episode by any means, there’s a sense that it has been cobbled together from leftovers at another table, and the result isn’t nearly as satisfying as it should be.

Chief concerns...

Chief concerns…

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