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Star Trek – Day of the Dove (Review)

This July and August, we’re celebrating the release of Star Trek Beyond by taking a look back at the third season of the original Star Trek. Check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the latest update.

It is striking how iconic and influential the third season of Star Trek is.

The third season is often written off, by both fans of the show and members of the production team. There are any number of reasons for this; a slashed budget, an exodus of talent, a new producer, conflicts behind the scenes. There is also the simple fact that the third season is wildly more variable than either the first or second seasons of the series, with its most consistent string of episodes being the three episodes from Is There in Truth No Beauty? to The Tholian Web.

Crossed swords.

Crossed swords.

However, in spite of that, there is a sense that a lot of what modern fans consider to be Star Trek is rooted in this dysfunctional assemblage of episodes. This applies to all sorts of things. The third season offers more than its fair share of continuity minutiae, from the first appearance of a Klingon ship and the first space battle in Elaan of Troyius to the first appearance of the IDIC in Is There in Truth No Beauty? to the memorable appearance of the Tholians in The Tholian Web. However, the season’s legacy is more than just one of continuity.

It occasionally seems like the franchise’s philosophy is truly galvinising over the third season, that Star Trek is coming close to explicitly embracing a utopian humanist philosophy. With The Empath, the show laid out a template for the “humans are special” stories that would dominate the early years of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a much more effective (and less condescending and patronising) celebration of humanity’s potential than later episodes like Lonely Among Us, The Last Outpost and The Neutral Zone.

Into darkness.

Into darkness.

Day of the Dove is an episode that is singularly influential in terms of the future of the franchise, both in terms of continuity detail and in terms of its core themes. Most superficially, Day of the Dove offers the first real suggestion that the Klingons might be anything more than vaguely Asian antagonists, suggesting a culture that makes sense internally and allowing them an agency earlier stories lacked. Kang is in many ways the first true Klingon, who would fit comfortably with the spin-offs’ interpretations of the Klingons.

The episode’s influence runs deeper than that. Like The Empath before it, there is a clear sense that Day of the Dove has embraced the idea of the twenty-third century as a utopia in which mankind has transcended all of their hate and violence. Star Trek is presented as something approaching a paradise.

Don't blame me. I voted for Kodos.

Don’t blame me. I voted for Kodos.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Shadowplay (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.

Shadowplay is a great example of the kinds of things that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is beginning to do very well. While the main plot works very well (so well, in fact that Star Trek: Enterprise would borrow it – and Rene Auberjones – for their first season episode Oasis), it’s remarkable how much of Shadowplay is given over to the two character-development subplots unfolding back on the station. Indeed, Dax and Odo have effectively solved the mystery of the missing villagers by about two-thirds of the way into the episode.

The character-development stuff in Shadowplay is interesting because the two subplots are not written with resolutions in mind. Indeed, they don’t even kick off the respective character arcs. Kira and Bariel have been waiting to become a couple since The Siege at the latest. The last episode, Paradise hinted that Jake might not be cut out to be a Starfleet officer.

In short, what is interesting about Shadowplay is the fact that it’s really just demonstrating that the show has reached the point where it is doing the things that it does relatively well. Deep Space Nine has found its groove, that point in a show’s history when it seems like it’s relatively easy to produce an hour of television of reasonable quality.

A holo crowd...

A holo crowd…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Paradise (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 a really weird way, this second half of the second season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine really has its finger on the pulse of the nineties. Whispers tapped into pre-millennial anxiety, the sort of paranoia that fed into shows like The X-Files and would play itself out through the show’s admittedly underdeveloped “Changeling” arc. In a few episodes, The Maquis will play with the old “freedom fighter/terrorist” debate in a way that was only really possible in an America completely at peace, post-Cold War but pre-9/11.

Paradise taps into some other anxieties. According to The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, writer Jim Trombetta was heavily influenced by the anti-technology philosophy of the Khmer Rouge, the infamous regime where even the stereotypical signs of learning and education (for example, wearing glasses) were justification for execution. However, whatever the inspiration, Paradise seems to tap into something decidedly more contemporary.

"This is my boom stick!"

“This is my boom stick!”

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Batman Beyond – Meltdown (Review)

This September marks the twentieth anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, and the birth of the shared DC animated universe that would eventually expand to present one of the most comprehensive and thorough explorations of a comic book mythology in any medium. To celebrate, we’re going back into the past and looking at some classic episodes.

I was less than impressed with Victor Fries’ last appearance on Batman: The Animated Series in Cold Comfort, written by Hilary J. Bader. So I’ll admit to being quite surprised when she produced the story for Meltdown, a fairly effective conclusion to Mister Freeze’s character arc. Perhaps it’s a result of the bold new setting, or perhaps Alan Burnett’s work on the teleplay, but Meltdown does a rather excellent job wrapping up all sorts of loose ends and fairly effectively using Freeze as an unlikely, yet effective, counterpart to Bruce Wayne.

He never lost his head, and he always kept his cool…

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The New Batman Adventures – Cold Comfort (Review)

This September marks the twentieth anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, and the birth of the shared DC animated universe that would eventually expand to present one of the most comprehensive and thorough explorations of a comic book mythology in any medium. To celebrate, we’re going back into the past and looking at some classic episodes.

As wonderful as Heart of Ice was, offering a classic origin to a bad guy who would have otherwise been a footnote, there is a sense that the reimagining of Victor Fries hemmed the character in a bit. By giving him a moving origin story based around his wife, it meant that the character’s arc would be dictated by Nora. As such, it limits the story-telling opportunities, because there are really only so many stories you can tell. Fries can be seeking revenge (Heart of Ice) or striking a deal to preserve here (Deep Freeze) or responding to her loss (as here), but that’s pretty much it.

Cold Comfort is the first episode featuring the character without the direct involvement of writer Paul Dini. It certainly shows, as it feels like a fairly wasted chapter in the character’s arc.

Has Freeze flipped his lid?

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