I am black, I have spent time in a mental hospital, and much of my adult life, for both sexual and social reasons, has been passed on society’s margins. My attraction to them as subject matter for fiction, however, is not so much the desire to write autobiography, but the far more parochial desire to set matters straight where, if only one takes the evidence of the written word, all would seem confusion.
– Samuel Delany, The Straits of Messina
To be fair, it is not entirely unique. In some ways, it mirrors the storytelling arc that unfolded across Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Both Kirk and Sisko are separated from their home and from their first officer and from their iconic command, before eventually finding their way to reunite with both. Obviously, a three-film trilogy is distinct from a six-episode arc, even before talking about the tonal, thematic and plotting differences between those three iconic films.
More than that, the success of the this arc would embolden the production team. They would attempt an even more audacious experiment to close out the seventh season of the series. The sixth season opened with six interconnected stories following the Cardassian reoccupation Terok Nor, building to Sisko’s retaking of the station. The seventh season pushes that even further, with a much more tightly integrated ten-episode arc that attempts to tell a single cohesive story. It is an even bolder creative decision than this arc, committing more strongly to the premise.
Ronald D. Moore’s departure from Star Trek: Voyager early in its sixth season would turn these experiments in serialisation into an evolutionary dead end for the franchise. It would be four years before Rick Berman and Brannon Braga would attempt to a tell a story on that scale. Indeed, faced with declining ratings and the spectre of cancellation, Star Trek: Enterprise attempted what was (on the surface at least) the even more ambitious attempt at a season-long arc across the entirety of the third season.
Still, the six-episode arc that opens the sixth season of Deep Space Nine remains an impressive moment in the history of the franchise. Indeed, contrasted with the sprawling ten-episode arc that closes the series or the season-long arc on Enterprise, it could reasonably be argued that this six-episode stretch does a stronger job of balancing the integrity of individual episodes with the demands of the larger arc. These six episodes are all very strongly connected to one another, with a clear sense of story and character progression, but they also retain their own identities within that.
Rocks and Shoals might be the best example of this, an episode that delicately balances its own storytelling with the needs of the arc as a whole. Rocks and Shoals is at once a great episode in its own right and an essential part of a much larger story.
Filed under: Deep Space Nine | Tagged: deep space nine, Dominion War, Ira Steven Behr, Rick Berman, rocks and shoals, ronald d. moore, serialisation, star trek, star trek: deep space nine | 9 Comments »
And so Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has changed once again.
A Time to Stand represents a new beginning for Deep Space Nine, kicking off an ambitious six-episode arc that effectively sets up both the status quo and the tone for the final two years of the series. To be fair, this version of the show is very clearly the model to which the fourth and fifth seasons had been building. It is not quite a second (or third, or fourth) pilot in the style of The Search, Part I and The Search, Part II or The Way of the Warrior, but it is very clear that Deep Space Nine is entering a new stage of its evolution at the start of its penultimate sequence.
More than that, this opening six-episode arc very clearly serves to set up and establish themes and ideas that will play out across the series’ remaining episodes; Kira suggests she will support Odo’s decision to return home in Behind the Lines, Damar’s alcoholism and the shame it hides is introduced in Behind the Lines, Sisko talks about the house that he plans to build on Bajor in Favour the Bold, the Prophets promise that a price will be exacted from Sisko in Sacrifice of Angels.
Although the formal declaration of war came at the end of Call to Arms, the sixth season premiere truly ushers in the era of the Dominion War.
The release of atomic energy has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an existing one. One could say that it has affected us quantitatively, not qualitatively. As long as there are sovereign nations possessing great power, war is inevitable. This does not mean that one can know when war will come but only that one is sure that it will come. This was true even before the atomic bomb was made. What has changed is the destructiveness of war.
– Albert Einstein, “Einstein on the Atomic Bomb”, The Atlantic, November 1945
Can war ever be justified? Can war ever be inevitable? Can war ever be necessary?
These are very tough ethical questions, particularly when posed in the abstract. In fact, the vast majority of policy decisions about warfare are rooted in living memory rather than philosophical certainty. It has been repeatedly suggested that Bill Clinton’s reluctance to intervene in Rwanda was a consequence of the spectacular failure in Somalia, and that his eventual intervention in Kosovo was an act of atonement for the moral lapse in Rwanda. This is to say nothing of how Obama’s policy on Syria is shaped by Bush’s actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Star Trek universe is a utopia. It is a world where technology has eliminated poverty and hunger. The replicator, the holodeck, the transporter and warp drive are the building blocks of an idealistic future in which mankind seems to have found peace with itself. Dating back to Star Trek: The Motion Picture at the latest, Gene Roddenberry proposed that the franchise represented an idealised future for mankind. It was a world in which nobody ever wanted for anything, in which mankind were free to explore the universe.
This idealism is a cornerstone of the franchise. It is one of the most recognisable and universal aspects of Star Trek. This is a franchise that genuinely believes that mankind can be better than we are today. That is a large part of what makes the show so powerful, particularly in its original context. As the Doomsday Clock ticks closer and closer to midnight, Star Trek is a franchise that seems to argue that mankind has a future worth aspiring toward; a future beyond the end of the world or some corporate dystopia.
The franchise was never particularly interested in exploring how mankind reached that level of enlightenment. Star Trek: Enterprise was nominally a prequel series for the franchise, picking up in the wake of Star Trek: First Contact, but it opened after mankind had eliminated warfare and famine and nationalism. In some ways, the franchise could seem like a rather surreal experiment. If you imagined a world without warfare or without greed or without hunger, maybe people would get along? There is undoubtedly value on this, but it feels simplistic.
In contrast, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine dared to ask tough and uncomfortable question by challenging these assumptions. If these characters did not live in a perfect world, would they still aspire to betterment? If hunger and greed were still a part of everyday life, could mankind still work to improve themselves? If warfare is the inevitable outcome of statesmanship, then how do these twenty-fourth century people retain their values and ideals? These are legitimately tough questions for the franchise to ponder, but Deep Space Nine embraces them.
It is hard to overstate just how shocking Call to Arms was on broadcast. The actual plot mechanics are fairly standard Star Trek season finale stuff. The ominous and mounting sense of dread coursing through the episode evokes The Best of Both Worlds, Part I, the first season-ending cliffhanger from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The decision to have the recurring antagonists hijack the eponymous space station recalls Basics, Part I, the cliffhanger that Star Trek: Voyager broadcast at the end of the previous television season.
However, Call to Arms is more shocking for the one element of the episode that has been building since the first encounter with the Dominion in The Jem’Hadar. It is the beginning of the franchise’s first extended war story. This is bold new territory for the franchise, something that remains controversial to this day.
Filed under: Deep Space Nine | Tagged: a call to arms, cliffhanger, deep space nine, Dominion War, gul dukat, Robert Hewitt Wolfe, second world war, star trek, star trek: deep space nine | 4 Comments »
Star Trek: Myriad Universes – Echoes and Refractions: The Chimes at Midnight by Geoff Trowbridge (Review)
This August, to celebrate the upcoming release of Star Trek: Into Darkness on DVD and blu ray, we’re taking a look at the Star Trek movies featuring the original cast. Movie reviews are every Tuesday and Thursday.
We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the movies with tie-ins around (and related to) the films. We’ll be doing one of these every week day. This is one such article.
The death of Spock at the climax of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is one of the definitive Star Trek moments. Pop culture has assimilated the moment, to the point where any half-decent nerd will identify “the needs of the many…” or “I have been and always shall be…” or maybe even “of all the souls I encountered…” It’s an absolutely massive moment for the franchise, where the film series dared to kill off the show’s most iconic and best-loved character.
It’s no wonder that the moment is such a strong focal point for those seeking to explore Star Trek. Star Trek: Into Darkness riffs mercilessly on that iconic scene, inverting it and counting on the iconography to generate enough emotional resonance for the film to get away with a fairly half-hearted homage. (The effects of The Wrath of Khan last until Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, while the consequences of the climax of Into Darkness don’t even last until the closing credits.)
So that famous sequence serves as an effective focal point of Geoff Trowbridge’s The Chimes at Midnight, which offers a parallel continuity of the Star Trek films in a universe where Spock died after the events of Yesteryear.
Filed under: The Original Series | Tagged: Chimes of Midnight, Cold War, Dominion War, kirk, Napoleonic Wars, Saavik, second world war, spock, star trek, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, Star Trek Into Darkness, star trek iv the voyage home, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, StarTrek, Vietnam War, World War I, world war ii, Wrath of Khan | 4 Comments »