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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Doctor Bashir, I Presume (Review)

Doctor Bashir, I Presume is a strange little episode.

It directly follows In Purgatory’s Shadow and By Inferno’s Light, a two-part story in which it was revealed that Doctor Julian Bashir had been abducted by the Dominion at some point during the fifth season and replaced with a changeling infiltrator. Although the maths can be a little difficult to work out, it is suggested that Bashir was replaced by a changeling at some point before Rapture. With that in mind, it seems strange that the very next episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine should reveal that the recently returned Julian Bashir is himself an imposter.

"Oh, shiny."

“Oh, shiny.”

However, even on its own terms, Doctor Bashir, I Presume is a very odd piece of television. The hook of the episode is a guest appearance from Robert Picardo as Lewis Zimmerman. Picardo is making a crossover appearance from Star Trek: Voyager where he played the EMH, who had also made an appearance in Star Trek: First Contact. Picardo is a fine dramatic actor, but the character is notable for being comic relief. Doctor Bashir, I Presume begins as a light-hearted quirky piece, turning sharply at the half-way point to become a gritty science-fiction family drama.

All of this is quite jarring. However, Doctor Bashir, I Presume works surprising well. A large part of that is down to how strange the episode is, often feeling like an intimate family drama about recrimination and disappointment set against the backdrop of a massive science-fiction franchise.

A selfie with himself.

A selfie with himself.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Our Man Bashir (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.

Our Man Bashir is an underrated masterpiece.

It is possibly the best holodeck (or holosuite) episode in the history of the franchise; only Ship in a Bottle can really compete. A lot of this is down to the production value of the episode; Our Man Bashir looks and sounds beautiful, a delightfully detailed throwback to its source material. The production team on the Star Trek franchise seldom get enough credit for their skill at realising alien worlds and cultures from scratch, but their beautiful evocation of sixties design is breathtaking. Our Man Bashir is a clear forerunner to Trials and Tribble-ations, less than a year away.

"The name's Bashir, Julian Bashir..."

“The name’s Bashir, Julian Bashir…”

However, there is more to it than that. Like Little Green Men, Our Man Bashir succeeds as a (relatively) light-hearted run-around that never loses track of its characters. The first three seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine struggled with the character of Julian Bashir; audience members could wait entire seasons for a good Bashir episode. With the fourth season, three come along at once. Our Man Bashir might look light and fluffy – and it largely is – but it never loses sight of its core character dynamics in the midst of all the fun unfolding around them.

More than that, Our Man Bashir plays into the broader themes and strengths of the fourth season. The climax of the episode feels like Deep Space Nine is ruminating on its new-found place dictating the direction of the Star Trek canon. Bashir’s decision to “save the day by destroying the world” feels oddly prophetic. The fifth season of the show would find the writers destroying some of the most fundamental rules of the franchise in an effort to keep things vital.

Got some bottle...

Got some bottle…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Season 3 (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 third season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was a turning point for many reasons. The most obvious was that Star Trek: The Next Generation had gone off the air, meaning the first half of the third season was broadcast during a window where Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was the only Star Trek show on the air. The show was no longer the goofy kid brother to a much beloved mainstream television show. It was out in the syndication market place by itself.

More than that, though, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was no longer the child of the franchise. With Star Trek: Voyager on the way, launched as the flagship of UPN, Deep Space Nine was left to its own devices for the first time since it was created. Voyager was the high-profile standard-bearer for the franchise, serving as the cornerstone of a new network. In contrast, Deep Space Nine chugged along in syndication, with the powers that be working overtime to bring Voyager to screen.

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In some respects, this was a tough time for Deep Space Nine. It was no longer the newest and freshest Star Trek. It was no longer the bright promising future of the Star Trek franchise. The novelty of having a second Star Trek show on the air had worn off. (Indeed, the decision to treat Voyager as the eighth season of The Next Generation was largely a response to how Deep Space Nine was not filling the niche.)

At the same time, the fact that Michael Piller and Rick Berman were focused on other projects meant that Deep Space Nine really came into its own during the third season. Ira Steven Behr had helped run the writers’ room towards the end of the third season of The Next Generation, and was the logical choice to take the reigns on Deep Space Nine. His influence on the show had been obvious since the beginning, becoming more pronounced after The Maquis.

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However, the third season saw Behr becoming the driving creative force on Deep Space Nine, a changing of the creative guard. Ronald D. Moore and Rene Echevarria joined the show from the staff of The Next Generation. Given all this drama behind the scenes, the third season was as chaotic as you might expect. There were all manner of production problems that haunted the third season, with a sense that Deep Space Nine was being produced by the seat of the producers’ pants.

Episodes tended to get shifted around in production order. Various scripts ended up produced under time constraints so tight that there was no opportunity to properly polish them before putting them in front of the camera. There were rumours that Colm Meaney might have been considering leaving;. Episodes had to be extended into two-parters at the last minute. The show had great ideas, but difficulty realising them. The season as a whole was rather oddly paced, plotted haphazardly. And yet, despite all this, the chaos felt necessary.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Distant Voices (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.

Poor Julian Bashir. Even at two-and-a-half seasons in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the character is still a blank slate. Distant Voices is a story that takes us inside the character’s head, but it winds up feeling very generic. It turns out that Bashir is afraid of getting old, as awkwardly pointed out in the opening scene. He also might have some self-esteem issues. For an episode that journeys into Bashir’s brain, Distant Voices is really pretty bland. There’s really not too much going on there.

Indeed, the most interesting thing about this glimpse inside Bashir’s mind is that it is so generic that it manages to avoid conflicting at all with the character-shattering revelation that Ronald D. Moore proposes in Doctor Bashir, I Presume. While it’s a nice piece of trivia, it’s hardly a compelling hook.

"So this is what a 100,000th episode party looks like..."

“So this is what a 100,000th episode party looks like…”

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Schizoid Man (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

I should probably hate The Schizoid Man. It is certainly a very, very flawed piece of television. It would be a lot more forgivable had it aired during the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, when the show was still trying to find its feet – including it early in the second season feels like the show is pushing it a little. In many respects, The Schizoid Man embodies a lot of the (legitimate) complaints about the weaknesses of The Next Generation as a television show: the performances from the peripheral members of the main cast are a bit ropey, there’s an incredibly false sense of urgency generated by techno-babble and the dialogue is just terrible.

And yet, despite that, there’s quite a lot here to like. Stripping away the terrible dialogue and the unnecessary convolutions, The Schizoid Man is a very basic morality play, one touching on themes the show will handle a lot better a few episodes down the line. Brent Spiner is surprisingly creepy as Graves-as-Data, and W. Morgan Sheppard is pretty great in an admittedly thankless part as the misogynistic and creepy Ira Graves.

23rd century Schizoid Man...

23rd century Schizoid Man…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Crossover (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.

At the time, Crossover must have seemed like a very odd choice for a late-second-season episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Of course, the mirror universe episodes would become a quasi-annual occurrence on the show, similar to the “O’Brien must suffer” adventures. However, in May 1994, it must have seemed like a really strange choice to do an entire episode as a sequel to a much-loved second-season installment of the original Star Trek.

Still, Crossover remains the strongest of Deep Space Nine‘s mirror universe episodes, most notably because it treats the rather absurd premise with a certain amount of weight and integrity, but also because it feels so delightfully weird.

Half the cast has been waiting two years to do that...

Half the cast has been waiting two years to do that…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Wire (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 Wire might just be the best episode of the second season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In fact, it ranks with Duet and In the Hands of the Prophets as one of the best episodes of the show so far. Written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe and showcasing the dramatic talents of both Siddig El Fadil and Andrew Robinson, The Wire is a powerhouse of dramatic writing – an intimate character study capable of provoking tensions and ambiguities on par with the season’s universe-altering installments.

Garak has only appeared a handful of times so far. Indeed, considering how important he would become to the series, it’s interesting how rare his early appearances are. However, The Wire is really the episode that pins Garak down and tells us everything that we could possibly need to know about Garak, without ever actually telling us everything we might want to know. It’s a careful distinction, and Wolfe’s script walks that line skilfully while Andrew Robinson’s performance is perfectly modulated.

Bashir's bedside manner...

Bashir’s bedside manner…

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