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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Sacrifice of Angels (Review)

Sacrifice of Angels goes like the clappers.

If Favour the Bold worked so well because it took its time and invested in character dynamics in the shadows this epic confrontation, then Sacrifice of Angels works so well because it just powers through to the end of the story. Sacrifice of Angels is an immaculately paced piece of science-fiction television, an episode that kicks into gear that the spectacular effects shot of the Starfleet fighters swooping down over those Galor-class destroyers in a haze of phaser fire and chaos. The episode doesn’t let up, powering through the plot to get back to the familiar status quo.

Fields of fire.

Fields of fire.

Sacrifice of Angels is also a meticulously constructed piece of television, with all of the dominoes aligned over the previous five episodes dropping at just the right point in a way that seems organic and natural, allowing for moments that are both surprising and inevitable. It is a very clean and sleek episode of television, one built to a singular purpose with a minimum of superfluous material. It really is a triumphant conclusion to an ambitious six-episode opening arc, one of the most daring narrative experiments in the entire history of the Star Trek franchise.

More striking is the sense that Sacrifice of Angels is very pointedly not the end of the larger arc. The Dominion War that began with Call to Arms does not end in Sacrifice of Angels, even though Sisko retakes the station and the characters return home. The Female Changeling even acknowledges as much in her dialogue, “Contact our forces in the Alpha Quadrant. Tell them to fall back to Cardassian territory. It appears this war is going to take longer than expected.” This is not over, despite the assurances that the writing staff gave Rick Berman on launching the arc.

The whole damn ballgame.

The whole damn ballgame.

Then again, this makes perfect sense. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was constantly and continuously reinventing itself over the course of its run, with several of the show’s season premieres serving as de facto pilots for a new and improved version of the show and several season-enders serving as de facto series finales bookending a particularly iteration of the series. The Way of the Warrior and Call to Arms are a great example, the fourth and fifth seasons bookended by the First and Second Battles of Deep Space Nine.

As such, it is probably more satisfying to look at Sacrifice of Angels as the end of another new beginning for the series, the end of an extended opening arc that is setting up themes and ideas that might hope to pay off over the following two seasons. In some ways, Sacrifice of Angels brings the show back to the end of Emissary. Once again, the Cardassian Occupation has come to an end. Sisko finds himself affirmed as the Emissary of the Prophets and the Commander of Deep Space Nine. This is the order of things.

Going for gold.

Going for gold.

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Batman Special #1 (1984) – The Player on the Other Side (Review)

This March sees the release of Batman vs. Superman. To celebrate, we’ll be looking at some iconic and modern Batman and Superman stories over the course of the month.

Mike W. Barr is one of the great Bronze Age Batman writers, a writer with a clear vision of what he expects Batman to be and with a body of work that seems build around that principle.

One of the interesting aspects of Batman is the character’s flexibility and ubiquity. Batman can be virtually anything that a writer needs him to be, and it does little to dilute the brand because there are so many other writers working on the character – often at the same instant. Even when a particular writer is working on the character, they cannot claim exclusivity. Grant Morrison’s version of the Dark Knight is distinct from Scott Snyder’s take on the Caped Crusader, for example.

Long Dark Knight of the soul...

Long Dark Knight of the soul…

Perhaps, as a result of this, there is more freedom for writers to craft their own unique take on Batman. Mike Barr wrote Batman across a variety of different titles over a considerable stretch of time. Barr had written random stories in Detective Comics dating back to the seventies, and had provided occasional scripts to Batman since the start of the eighties. He would continue to work sporadically on the character into the nineties and the new millennium, contributing scripts to stories like In Darkest Knight into the nineties and beyond.

However, Barr’s longest sustained work on the character came in the eighties. He wrote Batman as the headline character of Batman and the Outsiders for the first thirty-two issues of the title, collaborating with artists Jim Aparo and Alan Davis. He enjoyed a sustained run on Detective Comics with artist Alan Davis that overlapped with Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s iconic Batman: Year One run. The run culminated in Batman: Year Two. He and Davis also collaborated on Full Circle. He wrote Son of the Demon and Bride of the Demon.

"Face my Wrath!"

“Face my Wrath!”

Barr had considerable influence on the evolution of the character Batman. Grant Morrison’s creation of Damian Wayne, for example, was heavily influenced by Barr’s work on Son of the Demon. In a larger sense, Barr’s willingness to reintroduce classic Silver Age concepts into continuity following Crisis on Infinite Earths paved the way for more flexible interpretations of the Dark Knight. Barr is frequently overlooked in discussions of the character’s history, which is entirely understandable given that his most high-profile work overlapped with one of the greatest Batman stories ever told.

Still, as influential as Barr was on future depictions of the Dark Knight, it is clear that the writer had an internally consistent vision of the Caped Crusader, with a number of themes and ideas that he would visit time and time again in his work featuring the Dark Knight. Although The Player on the Other Side comes before Barr’s most extended and high-profile solo work on the character, those themes are most definitely present.

Batman Special I: The Wrath of Wraith.

Batman Special I: The Wrath of Wrath.

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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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A Matter of Time – Doctor Who: Season 5

Sorry… Sorry! Dropped it!

Hello, Stonehenge! Who takes the Pandorica, takes the universe. But bad news everyone… cause guess who! Listenw you lot, cause you’re all whizzing about – it’s really could distracting. Could you all just stay still for a minute? Because I. am. talking!

Now, question of the hour: who’s got the Pandorica? Answer: I do. Next question: who’s coming to take it from me?

C’mon!

Look at me: no plan, no backup, no weapons worth a damn – oh, and something else I don’t have? Anything to lose! So if you’re sitting up there in all your silly little spaceships with your silly little guns and you’ve got any plans on taking the Pandorica tonight, just remember who’s standing in your way; remember every black day I ever stopped you; and then – and then! – do the smart thing: let somebody else try first.

– The Doctor, The Pandorica Opens

Well, the first season of Stephen Moffat’s run of Doctor Who is over. And what a ride it was. On one hand, you had budget cuts at the BBC, putting an even great financial strain on the show’s transition to high definition, the first wholsecale chance of the entire cast between seasons since the show’s transition to colour in 1970 (and, fittingly, this was the show’s transition to high definition), and you had the World Cup skewing ratings towards the backend of the season. On the other hand, you had the writer of some of the show’s best episodes directing the entire run behind the scenes, the exploration of the time travelling nature of the central protagonist, and a blatant admission that the show is more a fairytale than a science fiction epic. And along the way, there was barely enough time to catch your breath.

No time to lose...

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