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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Circle (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.

Drama naturally lends itself to a neat three-act structure. At the most basic level, it’s as simple as beginning, middle and end. However, it’s also a format taught in just about every screenwriting course, and it’s even used as the conventional model for those with more innovative approaches. With that in mind, it’s interest that Star Trek has done relatively few three-part stories. The Circle sits in the middle of the first such attempt, in the second season of the second spin-off. The format would not see use again for over a decade, when it would become a feature of the final season of Star Trek to air on television.

Given the franchise is relatively fond of two-parters, it seems strange that there haven’t been more attempts to extend that out an episode. Perhaps the reason is obvious. Of the three acts, the beginning and the end are the most essential. Both come with a certain in-built amount of energy. The first part introduces the problem, while the conclusion deals with it. However, it’s the middle which proves problematic. It’s the point in the story after you’ve set up the conflict, but before you resolve it. Given how much difficulty Star Trek: The Next Generation had with conclusions, imagine how difficult the second part of a three-parter would be.

Even when Star Trek: Enterprise adopted the three-parter format it ran into basic structural difficulties, with a couple feeling like a two-part episode with an additional prologue or epilogue added on. The Circle isn’t a terribly flawed piece of television, but it suffers from the fact that Star Trek has never really tried storytelling in this mode before.

The writing's on the wall...

The writing’s on the wall…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Homecoming (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 Homecoming is notable for a number of reasons. It kicks off the franchise’s first three parter. Sure, Family provided a nice epilogue to The Best of the Both Worlds, but The Homecoming, The Circle and The Siege represents the first explicit three-part story in the history of the franchise. Star Trek: Enterprise would develop a fondness for the format in its final season and one of those three-parters (The Forge, The Awakening and Kir’Shara) would owe a conscious debt to this opening trilogy.

It also pretty much sets the tone of season premieres on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager would both display a fondness for bridging their seasons with two-part adventures. The opening episode would air as a season finalé, with the resolution airing as the opening episode of the following season. Deep Space Nine was not so literal minded. While each season premiere was informed by the themes and events of the last season’s closing episode, Deep Space Nine tended to favour opening with multi-part episodes rather than conclusions to narrative hooks.

Rather than wrapping up the threads hinted at in In the Hands of the Prophets, The Homecoming only builds on them. It suggests that the problems and the difficulties facing Bajor won’t magically disappear because ninety minutes of screen time have elapsed.

Dynamic Kira action pose!

Dynamic Kira action pose!

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