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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Time’s Orphan (Review)

In some ways, Time’s Orphan provides a companion piece to Profit and Lace.

A recurring theme of the sixth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has been the suggestion that the series has reached the limits of what is possible within the context of a nineties Star Trek series, that it has really done just about everything that it is possible for a mid-nineties genre television show to do within the confines of Gene Roddenberry’s universe. After the fourth and fifth seasons crashed through boundaries, the sixth discovers new limits on the horizon.

This will not end well.

In some ways, Profit and Lace marks the end of the line for Deep Space Nine‘s Ferengi-centric episodes. It suggests that the production team have done just about everything that they can do within that framework, and that the ideas remaining are somewhat underwhelming. Time’s Orphan does something similar with the annual (or even biannual) “O’Brien must suffer!” stories. The production team have inflicted almost every horror imaginable on Chief Miles Edward O’Brien, and Time’s Orphan represents just about the last idea left.

Time’s Orphan is nowhere near as bad as Profit and Lace, although it taps into the same core problem. The writers on Deep Space Nine have taken a given story thread about as far as they can take it, which means that there is very little left to do within an established framework. Time’s Orphan manages a few moments of genuine emotion, but it also feels strained and tired. Time has caught up with the production team.

Scarred to death.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Honour Among Thieves (Review)

Honour Among Thieves is effectively Star Trek: Deep Space Nine pitching itself as a nineties crime film.

One of the luxuries of Star Trek is the sheer flexibility of the format week-in and week-out, the capacity to tell different sorts of stories depending on the tastes of the writers. The franchise can do comedy episodes like The Trouble with Tribbles or House of Quark, political thrillers like Sins of the Father or Homefront and Paradise Lost, weird science-fiction like Whispers or Threshold. The possibilities are endless, the variety incredible. It is a remarkable flexibility, to the point that the audience is never entirely sure what genre they will end up with in a given week.

To Bilby or not to Bilby…

The writers on Deep Space Nine have long been fascinated with the darker side of the Star Trek universe, the pulpy aspect of the franchise that was largely downplayed in the Rick Berman era. Episodes like Necessary Evil played with the conventions of noir storytelling, while Whispers hinted at some postmodern paranoia. The Orion Syndicate were brought back into twenty-fourth century continuity in The Ascent. Occasionally, the strands would come together, most notably in A Simple Investigation, a cyberpunk noir that blended “net girls” with bantering assassins.

Honour Among Thieves very much continues along that evolutionary line. It picks up the Orion Syndicate thread from earlier episodes like The Ascent or A Simple Investigation. However, it also positions itself very much in the context of nineties gangster cinema. This is Deep Space Nine channelling Donnie Brasco, casting O’Brien as a mob informant finding himself sympathetic to his target.

Miles ahead of the enemy.

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

The Assignment is perhaps the most conventional episode of the fifth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It is also one of the most disappointing.

The Star Trek franchise has long been fond of “possession” and “imitation” stories, dating back through Whom Gods Destroy and Turnabout Intruder to Lonely Among Us and Datalore and Power Play. It is easy to see the appeal of these stories from a production standpoint. An effective possession story can likely be filmed on standing sets and relies primarily upon an established member of the ensemble. For an actor, it provides an exciting opportunity to play against type, which is a great way to keep a weekly television series exciting.

O'Brien must suffer... through a terrible script.

O’Brien must suffer… through a terrible script.

However, it is very much a stock plot. There are only so many variations that a long-running franchise can put on the tried-and-tested formula before it begins to feel a little tired. Deep Space Nine has already had more than its fair share of “out of character” plots, from The Passenger to Dramatis Personae through to Crossover and all the other mirror universe episodes. It gets to the point where “there’s an evil alien inside Keiko O’Brien” feels like a fairly bland iteration of this particular type of Star Trek story.

In a season where Deep Space Nine spends so much time pushing the boundaries of Star Trek, it is frustrating to see the show offer up such a generic installment.

Rom is in a bit of a fix...

Rom is in a bit of a fix…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Visionary (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.

Visionary confirms that “O’Brien must suffer” is to become an annual tradition on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The second season of the show had made a good start with episodes like Whispers and – to a lesser extent – Armageddon Game, but Visionary confirms that this will really be O’Brien’s niche in the ensemble from this point on. Visionary sees O’Brien randomly jumping forward through time, inevitably glimpsing some horrible tragedy that must be avoided. (Boy, it sure is lucky that he started jumping at this point, isn’t it?)

Visionary should feel contrived and convenient, hinging on a pretty flimsy plot hook. That said, the episode ultimately works quite well, even if it doesn’t stand out as a classic piece of Star Trek. Watching Visionary, there’s very much a sense that Visionary only really works as well as it does because Deep Space Nine has built up a larger mythology of characters and long-form plotting that can support what might otherwise be a fairly flimsy premise.

"Why the hell doesn't this ever happen to Julian?!"

“Why the hell doesn’t this ever happen to Julian?!”

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