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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – … Nor the Battle to the Strong (Review)

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.”

– Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms (1929)

Far a field.

Far afield.

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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: Deep Space Nine – The Jem’Hadar (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.

In terms of sheer quality of execution, The Jem’Hadar is probably the weakest of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s season finalés. It lacks the gut punch of A Call to Arms, the shock twist of Broken Link, the atmosphere of The Adversary or even the timeliness of In the Hands of the Prophets. It is, at its most basic level, a story about a disastrous first contact that occurs during a father-son bonding trip that goes horribly wrong, ending with precious little actually advanced.

However, in terms of conceptual ideas, The Jem’Hadar is a game-changer. It is the cornerstone upon which Deep Space Nine would construct its most iconic narrative arc. It caps off two years of trying to develop the Ferengi as more than one-note jokes. It’s a bold statement about the freedom that Deep Space Nine would enjoy with Star Trek: The Next Generation retiring from the airwaves. It cemented the notion that Deep Space Nine never really dealt in two-part episodes to bridge seasons.

For Deep Space Nine, season finalés did not exist simply as pieces of Lego designed to snugly fit those other pieces at the start of the following season, crafting some illusion of continuity flow between two different seasons of television. Instead, cliffhangers on Deep Space Nine changed the rules, shook up the status quo, and teased the changing face of things to come.

A Jem?

A Jem?

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Alternate (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.

Well, at least the second season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is experimental. It might not always pay-off, but there’s a clear sense that the show is trying new things, bending various genres to make them fit within the broad outline of a Star Trek show. Necessary Evil was a fascinating attempt to construct a noir episode, while Rivals was a less-than-successful sit-com in space. The Alternate is very much doing “Star Trek as monster movie”, which is surprisingly fun.

To be fair, it’s not a subgenre new to the franchise. Indeed, the first episode of the original show to air, The Man Trap, was essentially a monster horror in space. Still, The Alternate feels a bit more sinister and dark than  anything that Star Trek: The Next Generation might attempt. (Schisms probably comes closest, but – even then – there’s no sense that the monsters are stalking the starship. They have to abduct their victims to experiment on them.)

More than that, though, The Alternate is also a fascinating exploration of Odo as a character, looking at the relationship that Odo has with his co-workers and how that is rooted in his relationship with the man who claims to be his “father.”

Melting! Melting! Oh what a world!

Melting! Melting! Oh what a world!

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Second Sight (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.

You know, this the first real Sisko-heavy episode we’ve had since Emissary. He’s the lead, so he’s never too far from the heart of the story, and episodes like Dramatis Personae and Invasive Procedures gave Avery Brooks an opportunity to demonstrate his acting chops (and ability to be just as bad-ass, albeit in a different way, as Kirk and Picard). However, Sisko never really dominates or towers over Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in the same way that Kirk and Picard seemed to anchor their shows. Deep Space Nine is closer to an ensemble show than any other Star Trek series, and characters like Odo and Kira (and even Quark) have received as much (if not more) definition than Sisko, despite the fact he is the lead.

That’s not a bad thing. Over the run of the series, Deep Space Nine would produce a number of classic hours of television centred around Sisko as a character. The Visitor, Far Beyond the Stars, and In the Pale Moonlight are all hours that lean heavily on Brooks and can all be counted among the very best episodes of Star Trek ever produced.

Second Sight, on the other hand, is not.

Burning passion...

Burning passion…

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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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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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