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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – What You Leave Behind (Review)

Ending a television series is always a daunting proposition, even with ten episodes allocated to that purpose.

There are very few “perfect” television finales, very few final episodes that perfectly encapsulate everything that made a television series great. Indeed, many popular television series end with underwhelming finales. Some are even retroactively tarnished by this legacy; The Finale for SeinfeldDaybreak for Battlestar GalacticaThe End for Lost. To its credit, the Star Trek franchise arguably has one perfect finale with All Good Things…, the final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

A touching conclusion…

It might have been greedy to ask for two such perfect finales, especially in such close proximity to one another. What You Leave Behind is not a perfect finale by any measure. It is clumsy in places, it makes bad choices in others. The audience can feel the budgetary constraints on the production team at certain points, and the time constraints on the writing team at others. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine does not end with a “perfect” two-part episode. It ends in a messy fashion.

Still, even if What You Leave Behind is not a perfect television finale, it is a good one. What You Leave Behind doesn’t do everything that it could do, but it does everything that it needs to. While clumsiness and awkwardness hold the episode back from perfection, they exist in such a way as to add to its charm. What You Leave Behind captures the spirit of Deep Space Nine, in its successes and its failures. What You Leave Behind is a finale that speaks to the core essence of its show, to its best and its worst selves in the same breath.

The big goodbye.

The result is a finale that feels satisfying and earned, despite its narrative miscalculations. What You Leave Behind is true to Deep Space Nine, and focuses primarily on trying to pay off seven years of character threads and two years of story. Its gravest mistakes are inherited, the result of decisions made more than a year earlier in episodes like Waltz or The Reckoning that were allowed to fester and grow over the following thirty-odd episodes. Even in its failures, What You Leave Behind is trying to do right by its story.

There is a large gulf in quality between All Good Things… and What You Leave Behind. However, that gap is smaller than the space that separates What You Leave Behind from Turnabout Intruder, Endgame or These Are the Voyages… For all its issues, there is something heartbreaking in What You Leave Behind. There is a sense that this is truly the end of the line, that things have changed and the world keeps right on spinning.

We all need a little space…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Penumbra (Review)

Penumbra represents the beginning of the end, kicking off the epic ten-episode conclusion to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

To be fair, Deep Space Nine had already embraced serialised storytelling, whether in the seeding of gradually-building plotlines or its long-term character development. The show was most serialised in the audacious six-episode arc that opened the sixth season; A Time to Stand, Rocks and Shoals, Sons and Daughters, Behind the Lines, Favour the Bold and Sacrifice of Angels. In some ways, the ten-episode closing arc is ultimately an extension of that basic idea. However, it is also something more complex.

When the moon is in the seventh house in the Kendra Province…

In some ways, this last narrative experiment would be the boldest creative decision of the entire seven year run. The production team had strained a little bit in structuring and pacing those six linked episodes; Sons and Daughters was notably the runt of the litter, telling a relatively standalone story about Worf while essentially repeating Kira’s character arc from Rocks and Shoals in a much less effective manner. As such, trying to tie ten hours of television together into a single cohesive narrative was a bold move. Then again, Deep Space Nine had never been short of ambition.

It is tempting to treat this ten-episode run as a single story, and it kinda is; Netflix labels the forty-five minute episodes as “Part 1”, “Part 2”, “Part 3”, “Part 4”, “Part 5”, “Part 6”, “Part 7” and “Part 8.” However, the run can also be broken down into smaller chunks. ‘Til Death Do Us Part and Strange Bedfellows were originally titled Umbra and Eclipse, suggesting a three-parter. In contrast, TV Guide listed the first four episodes in the run as a four-parter. When It Rains… and Tacking Into the Wind are definitely a two-parter. Extreme Measures is practically standalone.

Build a final arc.

Admittedly, the storytelling falters in places, as the production team’s reach occasionally exceeds their grasp. Some of these issues are outside the control of the production team, such as the budgetary concerns that hinder Extreme Measures. Some of these issues are entirely within the control of the production team, such as the pacing of the subplot with Winn and Dukat that leads to the most transparent stalling tactic in When It Rains…. Individual story choices are occasionally misguided, such as the emphasis on the Breen or the Pah-Wraiths.

Nevertheless, these ten episodes hang together surprisingly well. There is a sense of purpose and momentum running through these episodes that strengthens even the weaker hours. More than that, this ten-part saga includes some of the strongest episodes in the entire franchise, with episodes like When It Rains… and Tacking Into the Wind feeling like the culmination of more than nine years of storytelling across two different series. Though individual elements of this sprawling epic might miss the mark, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The Dukat is of Bajor…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Accession (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a look at the 1995 to 1996 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily Tuesday through Friday for the latest review.

In its third and fourth seasons, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is undergoing something of a transformation; a metamorphosis.

This is only natural. Shows evolve and grow as they go on. The production team discovers what works and what doesn’t, allowing them to play the strengths of the premise and the ensemble. It happens to most shows, if they live long enough. It happened to Star Trek: The Next Generation when Michael Piller came on board in its third season. It will happen to Star Trek: Voyager when Michael Piller departs in its third season. Change and transformation is inevitable, for television shows as much as for people.

That healthy orb-experience glow...

That healthy orb-experience glow…

The third and fourth seasons of Deep Space Nine saw a change taking place. Ira Steven Behr had taken more and more control of the show since the late second season, starting with The Maquis, Part II. Michael Piller had stepped back from the show in its third season, completely ceding control with Life Support. The show was changing in a material sense. The Dominion came to the fore, Bajor faded to the background; Worf joined the cast, Odo found his people, the Klingons were an on-going concern again.

By this point in the fourth season, the transformation is almost complete. Deep Space Nine is very close to its final form, standing on the edge of its biggest departures from the established Star Trek canon. Part of those changes involves a reconfiguring of what Bajor means to the series. Accession begins the process of drawing down the curtain on the Bajor arc as it began with Emissary all those years ago, allowing Sisko to find some peace in his position and a sense of closure in his appointment before the show’s emphasis on Bajor changes dramatically.

Gotta have faith...

Gotta have faith…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – In the Hands of the Prophets (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.

Both Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation allowed their first seasons to run an episode too long. The City on the Edge of Forever, the penultimate episode of the first ever season of Star Trek, is a genuine classic. I don’t envy any story that has to follow it, especially not something as mediocre as Operation — Annihilate! While Conspiracy, the second-to-last episode of the first season of The Next Generation, is hardly a classic in the same league, it does up the stakes on the show’s first year, and tie up a dangling plot thread. The Neutral Zone, on the other hand, is a bland return to form, with a particularly insufferable b-plot.

So the excellence of Duet might offer the viewer cause to worry. A penultimate first-season episode which is significantly above average? One would be forgiven for wondering if the first season might have been best served to wrap itself up at that point, going out in a high, safe in the knowledge that it had contributed one classic episode to the Star Trek mythos and with the potential to offer quite a few more. Quit while you’re winning, and don’t tempt fate with another superfluous episode.

In the Hands of the Prophets, however, puts those fears to rest. Serving as a companion piece to Duet, it’s another one of those “only on Deep Space Nine stories, closing out the first season with a reminder of what makes the show unique. In the Hands of the Prophets is another classic piece of Deep Space Nine. It might not pack quite the punch that Duet did, but it’s a compelling piece of drama which demonstrates just how much Deep Space Nine has to offer the Star Trek mythos.

Beyond belief...

Beyond belief…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Prophecy & Change: Ha’Mara by Kevin G. Summers (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.

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

Comparing and contrasting the anniversary short story anthologies for Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine can be highly informative. The Sky’s the Limit, released to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of The Next Generation, features fourteen stories. Most of these stories serve as prologues or epilogues to existing Next Generation episodes. Suicide Note provides closure to The Defector; Turncoats follows a character from Face of the Enemy after the camera stops rolling; Four Lights is an epilogue to Chain of Command.

In contrast, Prophecy and Change, released to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Deep Space Nine, tends to focus on short stories that fit gracefully between episodes – fleshing out connective tissue and explaining how one plot development or character decision led to another. That says quite a lot about the two shows and the way that their stories were told, with much of Prophecy and Change feeling ling deleted scenes or inserts loosely inserted between what was seen in television.

Ha’Mara is the first short story of the collection, following the introduction and the mysterious Revisited – a book-ending wrap-around written by an author who has yet to be publicly identified. Written by Kevin G. Summers, who provided Isolation Ward 4 to Strange New Worlds IV, the short story is set in the immediate aftermath of Emissary, attempting to smooth over the rough edges transitioning from the pilot to the rest of the show.

ds9-prophecyandchange

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Past Prologue (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.

Past Prologue is a pretty decent second episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It does what it needs to do, serving primarily to build the world of Deep Space Nine just a little bit. After all, a story like this was inevitable with a character like Kira in the main cast, so it’s probably for the best that the show deals with it so early. It’s not a classic episode by any means, feeling as if the show was obligated to tell this particular story. Then again, I suppose that’s what the first season of any television show is for. Set up and development.

Past Prologue continues to hint at the strengths of Deep Space Nine, investing considerable effort in crafting a tangible setting for the series. However, there’s also a hint of the weaknesses of the first season to be found here. Like just about any of the Star Trek spin-offs, Deep Space Nine is going to spend its first year searching for its identity. While Past Prologue indicates the series is looking the right direction, it hasn’t quite found its footing.

Los cannon...

Los cannon…

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Star Trek: Terok Nor – Day of the Vipers by James Swallow (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.

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

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine comes with back story. A lot of back story. In fact, the opening scene of Emissary establishes the show in the context of The Best of Both Worlds, Part II, introducing a lead character whose tragic origin is rooted in an encounter that we had only fleetingly glimpse in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Due to the setting and nature of the show, history and continuity were major parts of Deep Space Nine‘s identity, and a large part of what set the show apart from its predecessors. (And successors, for that matter.)

Although the Klingons would dominate the show’s fourth season and remain a presence throughout the show’s run, and the Romulans might occasionally be glimpsed lurking in the back ground, the series largely focused on two alien races that had been introduced in The Next Generation. The Cardassians had been introduced in the show’s fourth season, in The Wounded, and the Bajorans first appeared during the fifth season in Ensign Ro.

Officially part of The Lost Era series of novels designed to flesh out the history of the shared Star Trek universe, the Terok Nor trilogy exists as a bridge into Emissary, something of an extended history lesson that contextualises the events of Deep Space Nine by providing an account of the Occupation of Bajor, an atrocity that only ended shortly before Emissary actually began.

teroknordayofthevipers1

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