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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Visitor (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.

To my father, who is coming home.

Daddy's home...

Daddy’s home…

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Star Trek: Enterprise – The Forgotten (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This August, we’re doing the third season. Check back daily for the latest review.

The Forgotten opens with a funeral service.

It is nominally a service for the eighteen people who died in the Xindi attack. (The total was given as seventeen in Damage, but it is possible that Archer is counting the death of Fuller from Anomaly or that another crew member died in the interim from their wounds.) It is a nice illustration of just how strongly the final stretch of the third season embraces serialisation, with the episode’s teaser serving as a coda to the events of the previous two episodes. It is a nice, small touch that sets the mood for the episode ahead.

Funeral for a friend...

Funeral for a friend…

However, it also seems like a very self-aware sequence. Archer is nominally talking about the death of eighteen characters, but he might as well be talking about the looming death of this iteration of the Star Trek franchise, or of the death of innocence that featured in Damage. “We’re in bad shape, I can’t deny that,” Archer tells his crew. He could just as easily be talking about the show, which seemed practically under siege at this point. “But we’re still in one piece. Enterprise is a tough ship. She took more than anyone could ask her to and then some.”

In many ways, the beating that the Enterprise took in Azati Prime reflects the beating that Star Trek: Enterprise had taken over its three year run: from a fandom hostile to the idea of a prequel and unsatisfied with an overly familiar storytelling structure; from a network that had changed hands during the first season of the show; from an eager Hollywood press that could smell blood in the water that had been ripely aged eighteen years; even from former allies like Majel Barrett, William Shatner and Ronald D. Moore.

Tripping over his emotional state...

Tripping over his emotional state…

The Forgotten is a story that is very consciously symbolic and metaphorical. It is also something of an oddity. In a way, it feels like a more successful version of what the show attempted with Harbinger, offering a light character-driven story falling between two bigger beats in the larger plot arc. With its fixation on sex and violence, Harbinger was goofy and pulpy in equal measure. In contrast, The Forgotten is an episode that is morose and sombre. It is an episode that very clearly articulates where the third season is going – and where it always has been going.

If Damage was a show about how Star Trek could easily get lost in a grim and gritty War on Terror metaphor, The Forgotten reveals that the third season was never about rationalisation or justification. The Forgotten is a show about how the Star Trek franchise needed to find a way back to its more traditional values.

A massive breach...

A massive breach…

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Millennium – Blood Relatives (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season of The X-Files and the first season of Millennium.

Blood Relatives is the best episode of Millennium to air within the first half of the first season. It is an episode that seems to recognise the potential of a show like Millennium to be more than just a formulaic procedural, acknowledging that the show needs to find its own unique narratives in the same way that The X-Files did during its first season. Blood Relatives adheres rather loosely to the serial-killer-of-the-week format, but is rather more interested in the stories of the characters around the murders than in the murders themselves.

Blood Relatives is also notable as the first Millennium script written by Chip Johannessen. Johannessen would go on to become one of the defining voices of the show’s run, writing some of the best episodes of the first two seasons and steering the show through its troubled two years. Johannessen was good to Millennium, and Millennium was good to Johannessen. It transitioned the writer from shows like Married… With Children, Beverly Hills 90210 and The Monroes towards 24, Dexter and Homeland.

Not cut out for all this...

Not cut out for all this…

As with his next script, Force Majeure, Johannesson hones in quite beautifully on the potential of Millennium. Blood Relatives is an episode of television that is almost perfectly tailored for Millennium. While it retains the elements of a procedural, it is hard to image the episode working on something like Law & Order or CSI, more rigidly-structured television shows with clearer boundaries. Indeed, it seems like Johannessen recognised Millennium as a show spun out of Irresistible, and chose to play Blood Relatives on the same sort of themes about loss and dysfunction.

Blood Relatives is a superbly constructed piece of television, one that marks Johannessen as a talent to watch going forward.

Wading in...

Wading in…

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Non-Review Review: My Sister’s Keeper

Dying kids are a story device that should always be considered very carefully before you use them as a storytelling device. On one level it’s because it’s a very tough blow to deal the audience, but – on a more sophisticated level – because it can horribly misfire and seem like blatant emotional manipulation. Which, in fairness, all movie-making is – but you don’t want the audience cottoning on to that fact or you’re ruined. The illusion is shattered. Unfortunately My Sister’s Keeper isn’t smart enough to be aware of either of these risks in framing a story around a dying child suffering from cancer, so it smashes through both ideas like two large window panes before staggering blindly through the china shop of the tangental moral issues it raises. And yes, even those awkward and ham-fisted analogies I just fed you are more subtle than the movie itself.

Cameron Diaz really wants the part of Blofeld in Bond 23...

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