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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Empok Nor (Review)

Empok Nor is effectively a slasher movie.

It is Bryan Fuller’s second story credit for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and it shares a number of tonal and thematic similarities with his story for The Darkness and the Light. Both episodes are essentially pitched as serial killer horror movies, in which monsters from the past stalk our lead characters. These are fascinating tonal departures for the Rick Berman era of the Star Trek franchise, even if they feel like the logical extension of early horror-tinged episodes like The Man Trap or Charlie X or The Enemy Within.

The great game.

The great game.

Empok Nor is not as well developed or as effective as The Darkness and the Light. It lacks the thematic and character-driven punch of that earlier episode, even suffering as a little derivative. While Kira’s efforts to reconcile her past as a terrorist with her current status quo was the driving force of The Darkness and the Light, the contrast between O’Brien as a soldier and O’Brien as an engineer feels a little underdeveloped in Empok Nor. More than that, Empok Nor suffers from casually transforming Garak into a gloating nineties serial killer.

At the same time, there is a cheeky thrill to watching the Deep Space Nine production team try their hand at a particularly trashy and visceral genre, offering jump scares and atmosphere on familiar sets with the lighting turned way down low. Empok Nor is not a standout of this most spectacular of television seasons, but it had its charms.

Sleeping beauties.

Sleeping beauties.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Civil Defense (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.

Civil Defense is an episode that really worked a lot better than it should have. The third season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine hit a bit of a stumbling block in the early part of the third season. Indeed, Second Skin had been shot from what was pretty much Robert Hewitt Wolfe’s first draft of a teleplay. The Abandoned felt like a good premise pushed in front of the camera too early. Civil Defense was similarly rushed into production, with very little turn around from the production staff.

However, despite these production concerns, Civil Defense turns out to be an enjoyable pulpy adventure. The production team wouldn’t royally screw up until the next episode. The biggest problem with the script is that it feels like we’re seeing it far too late in the show’s run. Civil Defense is a fun third season episode, but it would have been a spectacular first season adventure.

"Free dissident suppression system with every purchase over twelve bars!"

“Free dissident suppression system with every purchase over twelve bars!”

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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 – Cardassians (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.

Cardassians suffers a bit from the same problems that haunt Invasive Procedures. Here’s another solidly constructed piece of world-building featuring a wonderful guest cast and an intriguing high concept. However, in the midst of all this, it seems like the human (er, Cardassian) element gets a bit lost. It’s great to have Garak and Dukat back on the show, and it’s great to deal with more fallout from the Occupation, but Cardassians never makes the emotional connection that a story about war orphans probably should.

Keeping up with the Cardassians...

Keeping up with the Cardassians…

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