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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Shakaar (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.

There are really two versions of Shakaar.

There is the episode that Shakaar very clearly wants to be. It’s intended to offer Kira a bit of closure, following on from the events of Life Support. It’s very clearly meant to explore Kira’s grieving process and to allow her to come to terms with the loss she suffered. After all, the episode opens establishing that Kira still mourns Bareil, while the episode closes with Kira extinguishing the memorial candle she lit for him. (Which does invite the audience to wonder if it was burning the whole time she was on Bajor.)

Carrying a torch...

Carrying a torch…

As such, it makes sense to offer Kira an opportunity to get back to her roots – to suggest that Kira might secretly want to return to the relative simplicity of a rebel fighter resisting an oppressive government; fighting a war is a lot less complex than navigating the peace. Kira’s reunion with the Shakaar Resistance Cell is meant to offer her a way to escape into something comfortable, to avoid moving forward; because moving forward is tough and painful. Shakaar should be about Kira learning that she has to push forward. It should be a companion piece to Progress.

The episode can’t quite manage this. Instead, we end up with an episode about how Kira gets swept off her feet by a dashing hunk of a man – an episode that leaves the viewer with the unfortunate implication that Kira only needed to find another weirdly paternal man to help her get past the death of the man she loved. Shakaar is an episode with a host of interesting ideas, but isn’t quite sure how to best bring those ideas to the screen.

You Winn some, you lose some...

You Winn some, you lose some…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Civil Defense (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.

Civil Defense is an episode that really worked a lot better than it should have. The third season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine hit a bit of a stumbling block in the early part of the third season. Indeed, Second Skin had been shot from what was pretty much Robert Hewitt Wolfe’s first draft of a teleplay. The Abandoned felt like a good premise pushed in front of the camera too early. Civil Defense was similarly rushed into production, with very little turn around from the production staff.

However, despite these production concerns, Civil Defense turns out to be an enjoyable pulpy adventure. The production team wouldn’t royally screw up until the next episode. The biggest problem with the script is that it feels like we’re seeing it far too late in the show’s run. Civil Defense is a fun third season episode, but it would have been a spectacular first season adventure.

"Free dissident suppression system with every purchase over twelve bars!"

“Free dissident suppression system with every purchase over twelve bars!”

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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 Circle (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.

Drama naturally lends itself to a neat three-act structure. At the most basic level, it’s as simple as beginning, middle and end. However, it’s also a format taught in just about every screenwriting course, and it’s even used as the conventional model for those with more innovative approaches. With that in mind, it’s interest that Star Trek has done relatively few three-part stories. The Circle sits in the middle of the first such attempt, in the second season of the second spin-off. The format would not see use again for over a decade, when it would become a feature of the final season of Star Trek to air on television.

Given the franchise is relatively fond of two-parters, it seems strange that there haven’t been more attempts to extend that out an episode. Perhaps the reason is obvious. Of the three acts, the beginning and the end are the most essential. Both come with a certain in-built amount of energy. The first part introduces the problem, while the conclusion deals with it. However, it’s the middle which proves problematic. It’s the point in the story after you’ve set up the conflict, but before you resolve it. Given how much difficulty Star Trek: The Next Generation had with conclusions, imagine how difficult the second part of a three-parter would be.

Even when Star Trek: Enterprise adopted the three-parter format it ran into basic structural difficulties, with a couple feeling like a two-part episode with an additional prologue or epilogue added on. The Circle isn’t a terribly flawed piece of television, but it suffers from the fact that Star Trek has never really tried storytelling in this mode before.

The writing's on the wall...

The writing’s on the wall…

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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 – The Passenger (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.

And here we hit what amounts to the rock bottom of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s first season. The Passenger and Move Along Home exist as the two weakest stories in this first season, and the point from which Deep Space Nine begins to map a path towards recovery, climaxing in the best final two episodes of any first season in the history of Star Trek. We’re a long way from that, and we seem furthest from it here.

While Move Along Home is a legitimately bad episode, one with flaws that probably should have been spotted in any of the episode’s troubled development history, The Passenger suffers because it is the most bland and generic of the first season Deep Space Nine episodes. It accomplishes nothing, but it feels worse because its ambitions were so low. It’s the kind of story that could easily have been told on any Star Trek show, or any science-fiction series, but with no sense of local colour to give it distinctive flavour.

The Passenger is just as bland as the title makes it sound.

The not-so-good Doctor...

The not-so-good Doctor…

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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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