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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Hard Time (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.

Hard Time is a fantastic (and vastly underrated) episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

The episode tends to get overlooked in discussions about the fourth season of Deep Space Nine, perhaps owing to the high average quality of the season or the fact that it arrives in the middle of what is admittedly the season’s weakest run of episodes. However, in spite of all that, Hard Time is an exemplary piece of Deep Space Nine. It is certainly the best of the series’ “O’Brien must suffer” episodes, and a showcase for Star Trek veteran Colm Meaney. In its exploration of trauma and recovery, and cycles of violence, it taps into the heart of the show.

Not phased in the slightest...

Not phased in the slightest…

That said, Hard Time arrives at a point where Deep Space Nine is nudging closer and closer to serialisation. The show has begun to embrace long-form storytelling, as evidenced by the ripple effect of the changes to the status quo in The Way of the Warrior and the way that little plot threads weave through the season. The show has not yet reached the point at which it can structure six- or ten-episode arcs, but it is getting close. Deep Space Nine is clearly moving towards what is (for Star Trek at least) a fairly novel style of television storytelling.

As such, Hard Time is particularly striking for the fact that it is a purely episodic adventure. The episode puts Miles O’Brien through hell, having him struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder while trying to reintegrate into society. This is the kind of plot that feels more suited to a long-running mini-arc than Worf and Dax’s arguments about the relative merits of bladed weapons or Worf’s decision to move to the Defiant. Instead, O’Brien’s trauma is dealt with over the course of a single episode. Hard Time plays as a defence of the tradition television episode structure.

Growing the beard...

Growing the beard…

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Space: Above and Beyond – Stay With The Dead (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

There is a nice story buried somewhere in Stay With the Dead. Space: Above and Beyond has generally worked better as a story about warfare than an action-adventure science-fiction show. As such, it’s telling that the best parts of Stay With the Dead have less to do with the plot-driven flashback-ridden mystery at the heart of the episode, and more to do with the aspects of the script that confront the uncomfortable realities of war.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is an absolutely terrifying aspect of armed conflict. War claims lives; countless soldiers and civilians are sacrificed in the name of the greater good. However, even those who survive are left scarred by the experience. The trauma need not be physical. Exposure to combat and warfare can leave a lasting psychological scar. It has widely been suggested that shell-shock and other post-traumatic stress disorders have been under-reported among veterans of previous conflicts.

The wages of warfare...

The wages of warfare…

Stay With the Dead broaches the topic when West is recovered from the field of battle suffering from anxiety attacks and struggling to recall the details of his experience. He is unable to sleep, with even the smallest noise reminding him of his experiences. Army doctors are unable to help him, and make suggestions that seem more interested in what is most convenient for the war effort rather than addressing his own needs. There’s a lot of potentially compelling commentary about how warfare works, and the conflicts of interest that arise.

However, instead of exploring these issues, Stay With the Dead instead becomes a flashback race-against-time mystery. It is not a very good one.

Purple haze...

Purple haze…

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