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Star Trek: Myriad Universes – Echoes and Refractions: Brave New World by Chris Roberson (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

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

Quite a few of the Myriad Universe stories feel like “for want of a nail” stories. Changing one little detail of Star Trek history and the entire universe comes apart at the seams. In the Echoes and Refractions collection alone, The Chimes at Midnight offers a nightmare glimpse of a universe where Spock died in childhood, while A Gutted World explores what might have happened if the Cardassians had never left Bajor. Neither alternate universe represented a sustainable alternative to the Star Trek we know and love. The subtitles might as well have been “… and then things got worse.”

With the final story in the collection, Chris Roberson takes another tack. Brave New World isn’t a story about how removing one vital thread of the Star Trek tapestry causes the whole thing to unravel. Instead, it’s something quite a bit bolder. It’s a genuine alternate universe, one boldly different – not inherently better or worse, but just an example how things might have unfolded if just one little thing had been different.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Tribunal (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.

Tribunal is probably the weakest episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in quite some time, hampered by the fact that it never seems too ambitious and the fact that the episode ends because we’re three minutes away from the closing credits rather than because it feels like the story has been told. Tribunal is hardly the deepest or most sophisticated episode of the show’s second season, spending most of its time riffing on Kafka and Orwell, but it’s still solidly entertaining – a rare example of black comedy on Star Trek that works surprisingly well.

I suspect the biggest problem with Tribunal is where it’s placed. The second season of Deep Space Nine has been hitting it out of the park since around Blood Oath, giving us the strongest run of episodes we’d see until the start of the fourth season. Indeed, had the show found its groove a little bit earlier, the second season of Deep Space Nine could have been on par with the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation as “that season the show found its groove.”

However, it remains an impressive run of episodes, a rallying of the show in the last third of the season, showing just what Deep Space Nine was capable of. Most of the episodes in that run felt very different from anything done on The Next Generation and most offered some major insight into how the world of Deep Space Nine works as distinct from the rest of the franchise.

A broad cast of characters...

A broad cast of characters…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Collaborator (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 surprising how long we’ve had since a solid Bajoran episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Barring the dark reflection of Bajor as a power-broker (and brief allusion to a colony in the Gamma Quadrant) in Crossover, the last episode to really explore the planet’s political and religious structure was probably Sanctuary, which aired more than half a season earlier. After a reasonably high concentration of Bajoran political adventures in the first season and the first half of the second, it seems that further explorations will be more broadly spaced.

Indeed, the first season ended (and the second season began) with a five-episode run that was heavily anchored in the show’s Bajoran surroundings. However, as of late, it feels we’ve been strangely disengaged from the show’s stated objective of welcoming Bajor to the Federation. With episodes like The Maquis, it seems like the show is making a conscious effort to disentangle Cardassian politics from those of Bajor.

In a way, this probably represents Deep Space Nine growing into the form that it will take for the rest of its run. The second season has really been about Deep Space Nine figuring out what it wants to be, and what it doesn’t want to be. With The Collaborator‘s focus on Bajoran politics feeling conspicuous by the lack of other Bajor-centric episodes in this half of the season, it seems like Deep Space Nine doesn’t want to be a show about Bajor.

Enough rope to hang himself...

Enough rope to hang himself…

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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.

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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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