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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Paradise Lost (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.

Part of what is so remarkable about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is how prescient it seems.

The Star Trek franchise is renowned for its central metaphors and allegories, its fondness for addressing contemporary issues through abstract philosophical discussions. Even the most casual of television fans can point to episodes like Let That be Your Last Battlefield or A Private Little War as examples of the franchise’s engagement with contemporary social issues. (Of course, they may not be able to actually name those episodes.) Of course, the reality was always more complicated than that, but this social engagement is part of the popular memory of the franchise.

Armed and dangerous...

Armed and dangerous…

While there is a tendency to overstate the importance of social commentary and engagement in the history of the Star Trek franchise, it is a massive part of the cultural behemoth. Although not every (and arguably not even most) Star Trek episodes are explorations of moral philosophy that apply to the contemporary world, they are an essential part of each and every Star Trek series. Sometimes these episodes are brilliant, and sometimes they are heavy-handed. Sometimes they are earnestly sincere, and sometimes they are hopelessly misguided.

However, Deep Space Nine stands out in comparison to its contemporaries. Even twenty years after the show aired, it seems like Deep Space Nine speaks to contemporary anxieties and uncertainties.

The Changeling Face of Evil...

The Changeling Face of Evil…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Homefront (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 for the latest review.

Homefront and Paradise Lost are a fascinating example of what Star Trek: Deep Space Nine does best, both in terms of theme and storytelling.

In many ways, Homefront and Paradise Lost are among the most culturally relevant episodes produced during the series’ seven-season run. The two-parter speaks to a lot of concerns and anxieties that were part of the public consciousness during the nineties, but exploded in the early years of the twenty-first century. Homefront and Paradise Lost feel more powerful in the era of airport security screenings and extraordinary powers than they did on their original broadcast. These are among the most important episodes the franchise ever produced.

Broken link...

Broken link…

However, the two-parter is also a great example of how the production team on Deep Space Nine approach storytelling. Not just in terms of arc-building and serialisation, but also in terms of structure and pacing. Unlike The Way of the Warrior, which was very clearly a single ninety-minute episode of television, Homefront and Paradise Lost are very clearly structured as two separate episodes of television. It is a subtle distinction, but one which has a significant impact in how the creative team tell their story.

More than that, Homefront and Paradise Lost represent a great example of the strengths of the production team’s improvisational approach to long-form plotting.

More like Starfleet INsecurity, amirite?

More like Starfleet INsecurity, amirite?

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – In the Hands of the Prophets (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.

Both Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation allowed their first seasons to run an episode too long. The City on the Edge of Forever, the penultimate episode of the first ever season of Star Trek, is a genuine classic. I don’t envy any story that has to follow it, especially not something as mediocre as Operation — Annihilate! While Conspiracy, the second-to-last episode of the first season of The Next Generation, is hardly a classic in the same league, it does up the stakes on the show’s first year, and tie up a dangling plot thread. The Neutral Zone, on the other hand, is a bland return to form, with a particularly insufferable b-plot.

So the excellence of Duet might offer the viewer cause to worry. A penultimate first-season episode which is significantly above average? One would be forgiven for wondering if the first season might have been best served to wrap itself up at that point, going out in a high, safe in the knowledge that it had contributed one classic episode to the Star Trek mythos and with the potential to offer quite a few more. Quit while you’re winning, and don’t tempt fate with another superfluous episode.

In the Hands of the Prophets, however, puts those fears to rest. Serving as a companion piece to Duet, it’s another one of those “only on Deep Space Nine stories, closing out the first season with a reminder of what makes the show unique. In the Hands of the Prophets is another classic piece of Deep Space Nine. It might not pack quite the punch that Duet did, but it’s a compelling piece of drama which demonstrates just how much Deep Space Nine has to offer the Star Trek mythos.

Beyond belief...

Beyond belief…

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Paradise Lost & Found: Milking Milton

Sometimes you hear a movie pitch and you think “man, that’s a good idea”. This is not one of those ideas. Apparently Hollywood has run out of modern fantasy books and comics to adapt and have set their eyes to a somewhat higher brow work: Milton’s Paradise Lost. I loved that book in secondary school almost as much as I loved Dante’s Inferno (the rest of The Divine Comedy I could take or leave, to be brutally honest). Anyway, you’d think I would be rejoicing at the news of the adaptation, but my cynical nature betrays itself here. You see, here is exactly what the producers had to say about the proposal:

…the project tells the story of the epic war in heaven between archangels Michael and Lucifer, and will be crafted as an action vehicle that will include aerial warfare, possibly shot in 3D.

Yes, it’s a 3D “aerial warfare” movie. I’m waiting for the announcement that Sam Worthington will play Satan and Vin Diesel will play the “one day away from retirement” Archangel “my friends call me Gabe” Gabriel.

That pitch meeting obviously didn't go well...

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