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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Chimera (Review)

Chimera is a welcome return to form for the seventh season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, following an underwhelming run of episodes from Prodigal Daughter through The Emperor’s New Cloak and into Field of Fire.

It is another example of how storytelling real estate in the seventh season is at a premium, the production team understanding that their remaining time is finite and that there are a number of key plot and character beats that the show needs to hit before it can begin the massive final arc that will run from Penumbra through to What You Leave Behind. As such, Chimera has a very clear purpose in the overall arc of the seventh season. As with Treachery, Faith and the Great River, this is an episode designed to clarify that Odo cannot remain on Deep Space Nine forever.

Their Laas.

However, Chimera is more than just the writing staff moving pieces across a chessboard. It is in many ways an exploration of one of the fundamental (and often unspoken) tensions within the larger Star Trek universe. As with a lot of Deep Space Nine, there is a sense that Chimera is consciously exploring and interrogating some of the underlying assumptions of Gene Roddenberry’s massive universe. In particular, Chimera is an episode that wonders whether mankind can ever be truly comfortable with the alien, and whether there is a difference between assimilation and multiculturalism.

The result is a powerful and provocative piece of science-fiction, a story that has aged as well as the show around it. Chimera is a story about what it means to be different, and what it means to part of a society. It is a cautionary tale about the unspoken conditions that are often attached to membership of a community, and of the conflict between blending in and standing out.

Changelings. Together. Strong.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Adversary (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 Adversary is a strange little episode. In many respects, barring the last line, it really doesn’t feel like a season finalé. While Star Trek: Deep Space Nine typically eschewed the season-ending cliff-hangers that came to define Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager, the last episode of a given year typically ended with a major shake-up to the status quo. They may not have ended with the promise “to be continued…”, but they usually carried a great deal of weight.

In contrast, The Adversary feels like a fairly standard episode of Deep Space Nine. It doesn’t radically alter anything. Although Odo’s last line hints at the shape of things to come, it’s not much more than what Lovok assured us in The Die is Cast. The episode is well-executed, well-constructed and it’s distinct enough from a standard Star Trek episode that it works, but The Adversary feels like it’s not really positioned to close out the year.

There's blood on the Defiant's floor...

There’s blood on the Defiant’s floor…

This is, of course, because it wasn’t intended to close out the year. The third season of Deep Space Nine was quite troubled. While not anywhere near as troubled as the third season of The Next Generation, it was a year where plans were constantly changing and scripts were frequently written on the fly. It seemed like the writers were constantly struggling against deadlines while trying to keep track of all the moving pieces.

Second Skin was filmed from little more than a first draft; Improbable Cause was extended into a two-parter at short notice. Scripts like The Abandoned looked like they needed a bit more work before being put in front of the camera. Shows like Meridian, Facets and Life Support seemed stitched together out of desperation. Indeed, The Adversary was produced at only a week’s notice. It’s to the credit of the episode – like Second Skin before it – that it holds up remarkably well.

There won't be blood...

There won’t be blood…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Die is Cast (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 Die is Cast is, like Improbable Cause before it, a wonderful piece of television.

As with most Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine two-parters, The Die is Cast maintains continuity and consistency with its predecessor, but it feels like a very different episode than Improbable Cause. After all, the curtain has been pulled back. The assassination attempt is no longer the driving force of the narrative (in fact, it’s barely referenced), with the plot focusing on Enabrain Tain’s pre-emptive strike against the Dominion.

A bruised ego...

A bruised ego…

It’s interesting that it falls to the Cardassians and the Romulans to drive the Dominion plot onwards. There’s been no real development of this long-form plot since Sisko and his crew escaped at the end of The Search, Part II. Episodes like The Abandoned and Heart of Stone have seen the crew encountering individual members of the Dominion, and shows like Visionary have had characters sitting around talking about them, but nothing has actually happened. It is mostly business as usual.

As such, the episode’s title feels beautifully appropriate – it’s the crossing of a threshold, a point from which there can be no return. Not just for Tain or the Cardassians, but the show itself.

Odo's sympathy for Garak runs dry...

Odo’s sympathy for Garak runs dry…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Search, Part II (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.

In a way, The Search feels almost like a parody of the classic Star Trek season-bridging cliffhanger. It is a story told under the same title, but with both halves of the story feeling distinct enough to stand on their own two feet. Written by two different writers and directed by two different directors, it very much feels like two very different stories linked primarily by an efficient cliffhanger.

It’s not radically dissimilar to the two-parters from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Redemption and Descent come to mind, two-part adventures that very much feel like two different stories melded together rather than one single over-arching story. This disjointedness makes a great deal of sense, given the standard operating procedure when it came to Star Trek cliffhangers, as established by Michael Piller with The Best of Both Worlds, Part I. The logic is simple: write part one; go away for a few months; return and try to write part two.

Of course, The Search very clearly isn’t a season-bridging cliffhanger. It’s a season-opening two-parter. And it’s so cleverly and consciously structured as two very different episodes that it can’t help but feel like a sly nod at the inevitable outcome of that approach to writing – playfully self-aware of how disjointed the whole experience feels as a single story.

A whole new Vorta problem...

A whole new Vorta problem…

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