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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Distant Voices (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.

Poor Julian Bashir. Even at two-and-a-half seasons in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the character is still a blank slate. Distant Voices is a story that takes us inside the character’s head, but it winds up feeling very generic. It turns out that Bashir is afraid of getting old, as awkwardly pointed out in the opening scene. He also might have some self-esteem issues. For an episode that journeys into Bashir’s brain, Distant Voices is really pretty bland. There’s really not too much going on there.

Indeed, the most interesting thing about this glimpse inside Bashir’s mind is that it is so generic that it manages to avoid conflicting at all with the character-shattering revelation that Ronald D. Moore proposes in Doctor Bashir, I Presume. While it’s a nice piece of trivia, it’s hardly a compelling hook.

"So this is what a 100,000th episode party looks like..."

“So this is what a 100,000th episode party looks like…”

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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 – Crossover (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.

At the time, Crossover must have seemed like a very odd choice for a late-second-season episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Of course, the mirror universe episodes would become a quasi-annual occurrence on the show, similar to the “O’Brien must suffer” adventures. However, in May 1994, it must have seemed like a really strange choice to do an entire episode as a sequel to a much-loved second-season installment of the original Star Trek.

Still, Crossover remains the strongest of Deep Space Nine‘s mirror universe episodes, most notably because it treats the rather absurd premise with a certain amount of weight and integrity, but also because it feels so delightfully weird.

Half the cast has been waiting two years to do that...

Half the cast has been waiting two years to do that…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Wire (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.

The Wire might just be the best episode of the second season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In fact, it ranks with Duet and In the Hands of the Prophets as one of the best episodes of the show so far. Written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe and showcasing the dramatic talents of both Siddig El Fadil and Andrew Robinson, The Wire is a powerhouse of dramatic writing – an intimate character study capable of provoking tensions and ambiguities on par with the season’s universe-altering installments.

Garak has only appeared a handful of times so far. Indeed, considering how important he would become to the series, it’s interesting how rare his early appearances are. However, The Wire is really the episode that pins Garak down and tells us everything that we could possibly need to know about Garak, without ever actually telling us everything we might want to know. It’s a careful distinction, and Wolfe’s script walks that line skilfully while Andrew Robinson’s performance is perfectly modulated.

Bashir's bedside manner...

Bashir’s bedside manner…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – A Stitch in Time by Andrew J. Robinson (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.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

A Stitch in Time remains a fascinating read. Sure, Star Trek actors had written novels before. William Shatner had turned his Captain Kirk novels into something of a cottage industry, even turning in a Starfleet Academy novel to cash-in in the success of JJ Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot. However, Andrew J. Robinson’s A Stitch in Time is the first tie-in novel written by a cast member without a ghost writer or a collaborator. A Stitch in Time is entirely about Robinson’s relationship with Garak, the character he played for seven years on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

It’s a very thoughtful, eloquent and beautiful piece of work – providing the reader a great deal of insight into how Robinson sees Garak as a character, stripping away a lot of the mystery and intrigue that surrounded the character during his appearances. It feels like an attempt by Robinson to offer Garak some measure of closure, to put the character to rest.

ds9-astitchintime

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Maquis: Soldier of Peace (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.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

The Maquis: Soldier of Peace is a rather interesting little miniseries, produced while Malibu comics held the rights to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine spin-off comics in the early nineties. Malibu owned the rights to the earliest comics, publishing just over thirty issues of the main Deep Space Nine title between August 1993 and December 1995. Due to Paramount’s desire to exploit the license as much as possible, Malibu only had access to the Deep Space Nine rights, and not to Star Trek: The Next Generation or the original Star Trek.

Malibu would eventually be bought by Marvel, allowing the company to briefly publish Star Trek comics related to all on-going series. However, the company managed to generate an impressive amount of content in the time that it held the rights. Cynics would suggest that company was trying to cash in on the comics boom of the nineties, trying all manner of gimmicks, including one-shots and even a “celebrity” prestige series featuring stories written by Mark Lenard or Aron Eisenberg.

As such, these comics offer an interesting snapshot of where Deep Space Nine was at this point in its history.

The three amigos...

The three amigos…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Profit and Loss (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.

It seems we’ve reached the point where Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has figured out a base level of quality, an “average” zone that it can pitch to without too much effort or breaking a sweat. We’ve had three episodes in a row now that haven’t been brilliant, but have been far from terrible. Solid, watchable stuff. That might sound like damning with faint praise, but it took Star Trek: The Next Generation longer to find that base level of quality, while Star Trek: Voyager settled into a zone where that “average” was a lot lower.

Profit and Loss is unlikely to be anybody’s favourite episode, but it remains thoroughly unobjectionable. It features the cast playing their roles reasonably well, some hints at world-building and even a guest spot for Garak. Nobody will really remember Profit and Loss as a brilliant piece of television after completing a lengthy Deep Space Nine rewatch, but they also won’t curse its name. It’ll simply be an episode in the middle-to-end section of the second season that wasn’t too bad and wasn’t too great.

Love him and leave him...

Love him and leave him…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Armageddon Game (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.

It’s been a while since we’ve had a fairly generic “could have happened on any Star Trek episode of Deep Space Nine. So it’s a lot easier to forgive Armageddon Game its simplicity and lack of nuance. This isn’t a story specific to Deep Space Nine. The basic concept could – rather easily – have been tailored to fit Star Trek: The Next Generation or even Star Trek: Voyager, with two crew members on the run for their lives on an alien world.

Armageddon Game is another story idea from Morgan Grendel, a writer who tends towards extremes. The Inner Light remains one of the best episodes of Star Trek ever produced. The Passenger ranks among the worst episodes of Deep Space Nine ever to make it to the screen. Armageddon Game sits somewhere in the middle.

Talk about chemistry...

Talk about chemistry…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Melora (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.

It’s hard to believe, based on what we’ve witnessed so far, but one day viewers will be able to think “oh, a Bashir episode!” without an involuntary shudder. There will come a time when the writing staff figure out how to write a Bashir-centric episode. In fact, they’ll even revisit this central premise in the show’s final season, in a way that is much less creepy because at least it acknowledges the creepiness. However, we’re a long way from that.

It’s not that Bashir is a bad character. In fact, I’m very fond of him. I think that this version of the character works very well as part of an ensemble, or even teamed up with another major character to carry a story. However, I don’t think that the show has quite figured out how to tell a Bashir-centric story yet. Most notably because – like The Passenger before it – Melora isn’t really about Bashir. At least not in a way that isn’t creepy and disturbing and unnerving.

Instead, Bashir is mostly a vehicle for the guest character of the week, who lends the episode her name and serves as the focal point of some incredibly condescending and patronising writing which doesn’t make the optimistic future of Star Trek look particularly bright.

Floating in a most peculiar way...

Floating in a most peculiar way…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Move Along Home (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 here we hit what is commonly agreed to be the nadir of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s rocky first season. Even the production staff seemed to acknowledge the problems with Move Along Home. Director David Carson conceded that it was “disappointing”, while future writer Ronald D. Moore could help  “wondering if everyone had lost their minds.” And there’s no way of getting around it. Move Along Home is a stinker in virtually every way that counts. It’s messy, contrived, confused, but without the wit to pull off the surreality of the set-up. There are no stakes, and the only way the episode can generate suspense is by lying to the audience.

And yet, despite that, I am actually much fonder of Move Along Home than I am of The Passenger. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like either very much, but I’m more forgiving of the problems with Move Along Home, which stem from the episode’s ambition. There’s a sense that at least the episode was trying to do something a bit novel, even it backfired spectacularly. If I have to choose between flawed ambition and bland mediocrity, I’ll choose flawed ambition every time. Move Along Home might be a pretty dodgy episode, but at least its less generic than The Passenger.

A piece of the action...

A piece of the action…

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