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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 – The City on the Edge of Forever by Harlan Ellison/Cordwainer Bird (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

The City on the Edge of Forever had a troubled history, not that you’d know it based on what appeared on screen. Like quite a few classic Star Trek episodes (The Enemy Within, The Doomsday Machine, Amok Time), it was developed from a script written by a giant of science-fiction. Harlan Ellison is a respected author with a considerable reputation. However, the version of The City on the Edge of Forever which eventually made it to screen at the end of the show’s first season is radically different from the version Ellison original wrote. “It’s not the vision I had,” Ellison quotes at the start of the paperback edition of his original screenplay, released in 1996.

The book is a fantastic read, and well worth a look for anybody with any interest in Star Trek or Ellison, or even good science-fiction or the craft of television writing. Reading the various drafts, there’s no denying that it is a phenomenal script, as good as the script that eventually went into production. At the same time, it’s also quite clear that it would not have made for as classic a Star Trek episode.

Into the vortex...

Into the vortex…

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Star Trek – The Devil in the Dark (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

There are any number of ways to “get into” Star Trek, to jump on board the cult phenomenon. Despite decades of continuity, a lot of the franchise is accessible on its own terms, and it’s easy enough to come across a list of recommended classic episodes for a neophyte to sample. There are over seven hundred hours of Star Trek, so there’s something for everybody. And it’s perfectly possible to tailor a recommendation to the new viewer’s preferences.

Want proof that Star Trek can do credible drama? Stick on The City on the Edge of Forever. Fascinated by Spock? Try Amok Time. Want to watch William Shatner take on another leading character with a similar amount of gravitas? Give Space Seed a go. Want some high-concept sci-fi android stuff? Maybe What Are Little Girls Made Of? is right up your street. Want a contemporary commentary on the Vietnam War? Watch A Private Little War.

However, if you asked me to recommend an example of the franchise’s philosophy and its humanist values, executed with a superb level of craftsmanship, The Devil in the Dark is really the only choice. There’s a reason that Arthur C. Clarke considers it to be the most memorable episode of Star Trek ever produced.

Spock would have to have a heart of stone not be affected by this...

Spock would have to have a heart of stone not be affected by this…

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Star Trek – The Squire of Gothos (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

It’s easy to see why The Squire of Gothos has become such a Star Trek touchstone. The show is iconic, but there are particular images and ideas that resonate beyond the core fanbase. Captain Pike’s wheelchair from The Menagerie is one such example, as is the fight with the Gorn from Arena. It’s amazing that Star Trek could produce so many memorable and distinctive images so quickly. Trelane might not have the same name recognition, or even the same pop culture cache, but The Squire of Gothos makes quite an impression.

Indeed, the image of a god-like being acting like a spoilt child, dressed in all manner of period military clothing is a great visual, and it’s little wonder that Roddenberry would return to that idea when he was writing Encounter at Farpoint, the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Similarly, The Squire of Gothos is one of the major influences on Futurama‘s superb parody/homage, Where No Fan Has Gone Before, right down to the wonderful “twist” ending that has been spoiled by almost half-a-century of pop culture osmosis.

Still, even apart from its massive influence on pop culture, The Squire of Gothos is still a fantastic piece of television, and an example of Star Trek at its very best.

It's hip to be squire...

It’s hip to be squire…

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Star Trek 103: The Best of Deep Space Nine

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, we’re holding a month full of Star Trek related fun. We’re reviewing every episode of the show’s first season, from The Cage through to Operation — Annihilate!, one-per-day for all of May. We’re also looking at some of the various spin-offs, tie-ins and pop culture intersections, so there’s always something going on to do with Star Trek. Anyway, with the release of the new film, we thought it might be interesting to make some recommendations for fans of the new films who wanted to “dip their toes in the water” so to speak. Today, we’re making recommendations from the second of the 24th century spin-offs, and the first to broadcast concurrently with another Star Trek project, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

ds9-emissary2

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Star Trek – The Conscience of the King (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

The Conscience of theKing continues the work of Balance of Terror in fleshing out the fictional universe of Star Trek. While the first few episodes of the show gave little thought to this universe’s shared history and our characters’ origins, The Conscience of the King offers us a glimpse into the past of Captain James T. Kirk. Like Dagger of the Mind, another episode borrowing its title from Shakespeare, it builds off the suggestion that humanity is still a long way from perfection, and that the fact we have reached the cold expanse of space does not mean that our troubles can be left entirely behind. In contrast to some of Roddenberry’s later decisions about the Star Trek franchise, it is clear that utopia is a path, and not a clear destination.

His mask is slipping...

His mask is slipping…

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Star Trek – Miri (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

It is amazing how Star Trek manages to deftly balance the absurd with the horrific, the bizarre with the terrifying and the camp with the truly haunting. It’s something that’s really unique to the first iteration of the show, that deft ability to go completely for broke, willing to look completely ridiculous without any hint of embarrassment or modesty. Any of the spin-offs would be too conservative and too dignified to attempt anything quite as insane as Miri, with the failure of episodes like Move Along Home demonstrating that it’s impossible to replicate the freedom and the enthusiasm of the original show.

As a result, Miri is a wonderfully weird hour of television, one which is – on just about any level – incredibly wacky. And yet, despite that truly “out there” approach, it’s also a strangely compelling and engaging example of Star Trek.

Feels like going home...

Feels like going home…

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