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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – One Little Ship (Review)

“It was the sixth season, so why not do it?” observes Ira Behr, providing all the rationale the writing staff needed. “How many series can do a salute to Land of the Giants, to The Incredible Shrinking Man?” he demands. “We had to do this show! We owed it to all the schlock science fiction that had come before us. If we hadn’t done it, it would have been a crime – a creative crime, and, dare I say, a crime against humanity itself. And it just became clear to me, you know? Maybe the tumour moved a silly centimeter in my brain. But we just had to do it. And that was that.”

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion

Isolinear jungle.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Soldiers of the Empire (Review)

Soldiers of the Empire is a very effective illustration of just how far Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was willing to push the Star Trek franchise.

It is an episode that unfolds primarily on a Klingon Bird of Prey. This is nothing new. After all, Star Trek: The Next Generation produced A Matter of Honour in its second season, assigning Riker to serve on a Klingon ship as part of an exchange programme. However, that episode was told primary from a human perspective, the story centring on Riker adjusting and adapting to an alien culture before saving the day. When Worf joined the Klingon fleet in Redemption, Part II, the story kept cutting back to life on the Enterprise in his absence.

"Mahk-cha!"

“Mahk-cha!”

In contrast, Soldiers of the Empire is primarily focused upon the Klingon cast and the Klingon crew. Worf and Dax join the IKS Rotarran to support General Martok in his first command since escaping the Dominion prison camp at the end of By Inferno’s Light, but they are very much bystanders. Although Worf and Dax provide vital narrative functions in introducing the audience to Klingon customs and cultures, the narrative arc of the show belongs to Martok and the crew of the Rotarran. This is not a story about Worf and Dax, this is a story about Martok.

The result is an episode that really pushes the limits of the storytelling possibilities on Deep Space Nine, a reminder that the production team remain as ambitious as ever in the show’s fifth season. Soldiers of the Empire suffers from a few minor plotting issues, but it is exciting and compelling in a way that captures the very best of Deep Space Nine.

A sharp stabbing pain.

A sharp stabbing pain.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Ship (Review)

It seems we’re approaching an impasse.

We’ve already arrived.

– Kilana and Sisko sum up the fifth season

Under siege.

Under siege.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – To the Death (Review)

This February and March (and a little bit of April), 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 for the latest review.

To the Death continues the late fourth season shift in focus back towards elements unique to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

At the end of the third season, the production team found themselves receiving notes and input from the network, who wanted Deep Space Nine to go in a different direction. The writing staff on Deep Space Nine were willing to compromise, and took some of the network input on board. As a result, The Way of the Warrior added Worf to the cast and brought the Klingons back to the fore. However, it was clear that Deep Space Nine was not particularly interested in telling a long-term story about new hostilities between the Federation and the Klingons.

The Weyoun of the Warrior...

The Weyoun of the Warrior…

Over the course of the fourth season, the writing staff’s original plans and interests began to reassert themselves in an organic and logical manner. A story similar to Homefront and Paradise Lost had originally been planned to bridge the third and fourth seasons; instead, it was pushed back to almost half-way through the fourth seasons. The Bajoran religion was still the focus of Accession. Gul Dukat received a character arc in Indiscretion and Return to Grace. The Jem’Hadar got a focus episode in Hippocratic Oath. Ferengi politics popped up in Bar Association.

However, these aspects of the show really galvanise towards the end of the fourth season, with the production team really focusing on the elements that had been important during the third season and which would become even more important during the fifth season. For the Cause marked the return of the Maquis as a political player. Body Parts focused on Ferengi culture. However, three of the season’s final four episodes focus on the Dominion, working to reestablish the Dominion as the most credible of threats and the show’s primary antagonists.

Boy, does Sisko ever break out the welcome wagon...

Boy, does Sisko ever break out the welcome wagon…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Starship Down (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.

It is surprising that the Star Trek franchise has not done more “disaster” episodes, given the science-fiction setting and the occasional budget overruns that make a simple and effective bottle show all the more effective.

Starship Down is not the first time that the franchise has attempted to emulate the classic disaster film formula. Star Trek: The Next Generation had produced an episode (called Disaster, appropriately enough), which used many of the classic disaster movie tropes to explore various cast dynamics. Starship Down is arguably structured more like a submarine thriller than a disaster film, but the point of comparison still stands. There are conflicts over command styles, characters caught in lifts, high stakes and higher tension.

"Hanok, would you care to assist me in performing surgery on a photon torpedo?"

“Hanok, would you care to assist me in performing surgery on a photon torpedo?”

It is interesting to compare Starship Down to Disaster, if only as a point of comparison between the two shows in question. In many ways, the contrast serves to highlight the difference between the respective shows and their ensembles. In Disaster, the show was careful to give every combination of the cast something to accomplish. Picard and kids escape the turbolift; Geordi and Beverly vent the containers; Riker and Data’s head have excellent adventures; Worf delivers Molly.

In contrast, the character combinations in Starship Down are less goal-orientated. Worf and O’Brien defeat the Jem’Hadar while Quark and Hanok disarm a torpedo. However, Kira simply tries to keep Sisko awake while reflecting on their relationship and Bashir and Dax huddle together in a turbolift waiting for their oxygen to run out. There is a sense that Starship Down is much more interested in its character dynamics than it is a sense of narrative momentum or objective-orientated storytelling.

"Thank goodness only the LED's were affected."

“Thank goodness only the LED’s were affected.”

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Hippocratic Oath (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.

Hippocratic Oath represents a return to normality for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The Way of the Warrior was a feature-length war epic tasked with introducing a new regular character and a new status quo, while The Visitor was an intimate character study that stood quite apart from the show around it. With Hippocratic Oath, the show gets back to business as usual. It even has a classic a-story/b-story split with Bashir and O’Brien’s Gamma Quadrant hijinx juxtaposed with Worf learning his place on the station (and the show).

This is not to suggest that Hippocratic Oath is a bland hour of Star Trek. Indeed, it is a tightly-constructed story that hits on some of the show’s core themes and most interesting dynamics. One of the problems with the third season of Deep Space Nine was the fact that it had a strong start but no idea on how to build from that. Hippocratic Oath seems to serve very much as a “business as usual” episode of the fourth season, helping to set a baseline of quality of the show going forward.

Awkward bromantic moment...

Awkward bromantic moment…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Abandoned (Review)

The 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 Abandoned is a problematic episode.

It’s brave and provocative and challenging, but it’s also incredibly grim and cynical. In fact, it is probably the most relentlessly pessimistic episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s third season. And, given the episodes surround it, that is quite an accomplishment. Deep Space Nine has subverted classic Star Trek storytelling before. The Maquis was really a watershed moment for the series, suggesting that paradise itself might be unsustainable – attacking Roddenberry’s utopia rather brutally.

However, The Abandoned pushes things even further. There’s a social and racial subtext to this episode that grounds it in the racial politics of Los Angeles in the mid-nineties. The story of a young angry drug-addicted killer can’t help but feel associated with the increased profile of Los Angeles’ gangland in the early-to-mid-nineties. Casting the episode’s young Jem’Hadar soldier using African American actors invites this comparison, something that director Avery Brooks himself has conceded.

The racial politics of The Abandoned are decidedly uncomfortable, but they are clearly meant to be. Still, there’s something rather cynical and pessimistic about the episode’s conclusion that this young boy cannot be saved from a life of brutality and violence.

A Jem?

A Jem?

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