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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Past Tense, Part II (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.

Past Tense, Part II is a nice way to close out Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s solo run, the only period in the show’s history where it was the only Star Trek on television. Caretaker, the première of Star Trek: Voyager, would be the next episode of the franchise to air. Deep Space Nine spent a lot of its early third season attacking various foundations of the Star Trek universe, as if hoping to demonstrate how profoundly different the show was from its predecessors.

The Search promised a war brewing on the horizon, and presented a cynical view of Starfleet foreign policy, where pacifism amount to appeasement. House of Quark reduced the Klingon Empire to a joke. Equilibrium suggested that Sisko could live with (and passively enable) a government lie if it kept his friend alive. Second Skin hinted that things might not be as they appear to be. The Abandoned embraced the idea that sometimes people are incapable of being anything more than what their genes might tell them to be. Defiant was the story of sibling desperately trying to prove his unique identity.

Everything is under control...

Everything is under control…

Part of me wonders if this very cynical stretch of episodes is responsible for the perception of Deep Space Nine as an incredibly cynical and pessimistic television show – one consciously at odds with the utopian ideals of the franchise. After all, this was the stretch where Deep Space Nine was most in the spotlight. It had the spot previously allocated to Star Trek: The Next Generation in most markets. It had no televised competition. If ever Star Trek fans were going to jump on board Deep Space Nine, this was the moment. It seems quite possible that this run of episodes cemented the show’s reputation.

So it seems strange that Deep Space Nine should wait until its last possible moment in the sun to embrace the humanism and optimism at the heart of the franchise. Past Tense is a story about building paradise, and about how humanity has the capacity to be so much better than we currently are. In short, it’s quintessential Star Trek, right down to the occasionally heavy-handed moralising and utopian idealism.

Keep your hat on...

Keep your hat on…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Past Tense, Part I (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.

It’s weird to think that Past Tense aired at the very end of the period where Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was the only Star Trek on television. The two parts were broadcast in early January 1995, after the release of Star Trek: Generations but before the broadcast of Caretaker, the pilot episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

In a way, these are the most “Star Trek”-y episodes of the third season of Deep Space Nine. Embracing the franchise’s utopianism and optimism, the two episodes are even structured as a gigantic homage to The City on the Edge of Forever. Unlike the somewhat cynical and jaded run of episodes leading into them, Past Tense seems to exist as an episode that could draw fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation into Deep Space Nine.

Panic in the streets...

Panic in the streets…

It would have made sense to position the episodes earlier in the season, where they might have done a better job of attracting casual Star Trek viewers jonesing for a fix after The Next Generation went off the air. Unconnected to the serialised long-form plot of Deep Space Nine, engaging with important social issues of contemporary society and playing with familiar Star Trek tropes like time travel, it’s hard to imagine an episode of the third season of Deep Space Nine better suited to reeling in viewers.

As it stands, though, Past Tense aired at the last possible moment where Deep Space Nine could truly claim to be “the only Star Trek on television”, making the two-parter feel more like a footnote than a crescendo. It’s a shame, as Past Tense remains a vastly underrated instalment of the show’s third season.

Arresting drama...

Arresting drama…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Jem’Hadar (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 terms of sheer quality of execution, The Jem’Hadar is probably the weakest of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s season finalés. It lacks the gut punch of A Call to Arms, the shock twist of Broken Link, the atmosphere of The Adversary or even the timeliness of In the Hands of the Prophets. It is, at its most basic level, a story about a disastrous first contact that occurs during a father-son bonding trip that goes horribly wrong, ending with precious little actually advanced.

However, in terms of conceptual ideas, The Jem’Hadar is a game-changer. It is the cornerstone upon which Deep Space Nine would construct its most iconic narrative arc. It caps off two years of trying to develop the Ferengi as more than one-note jokes. It’s a bold statement about the freedom that Deep Space Nine would enjoy with Star Trek: The Next Generation retiring from the airwaves. It cemented the notion that Deep Space Nine never really dealt in two-part episodes to bridge seasons.

For Deep Space Nine, season finalés did not exist simply as pieces of Lego designed to snugly fit those other pieces at the start of the following season, crafting some illusion of continuity flow between two different seasons of television. Instead, cliffhangers on Deep Space Nine changed the rules, shook up the status quo, and teased the changing face of things to come.

A Jem?

A Jem?

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