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René Auberjonois

René Auberjonois passed away at the weekend.

Auberjonois was a tremendously prolific and talented performer. Indeed, one of the most striking things about his passing has been the sheer diversity among his fans. It seems like everybody has a different memory of Auberjonois, a different role with which they associate him. Some people remember him from M*A*S*H, some people remember him from Benson, others associate him with cult roles like King Kong. However, it seems like everybody remembered Auberjonois in one form or another.

I have a long and deep attachment to Auberjonois. He was an accomplished voice actor, and I knew him well from various cartoons that I would have watched as a child and even beyond that; Chef Louis in The Little Mermaid, Flanagan in Cats Don’t Dance, his vocal turns in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. However, perhaps unsurprisingly, the part that I most associate with Auberjonois is his work as Constable Odo on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It is a performance with which I grew up and to which I have frequently returned.

It is a performance which has seemed richer every time that I have watched, a fantastic demonstration of the actor’s talent.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – A Simple Investigation (Review)

A Simple Investigation is a quiet little episode.

This is particularly true in the context of the crowded second half to the fifth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In Purgatory’s Shadow and By Inferno’s Light radically upended the status quo and set the fifth season on a march towards A Call to Arms. The threat of war looms large over the second half of the season, following the admission of Cardassia into the Dominion. There is a creeping sense of inevitability to episodes like Blaze of Glory and Soldiers of the Empire.

Strange bedfellows...

Strange bedfellows…

At the same time, Deep Space Nine takes a little while to adjust to that dramatic shift. The Dominion and Cardassia only come back into focus with Ties of Blood and Water, the episode that reintroduces Weyoun to the series. Still, episodes like Doctor Bashir, I Presume and Business as Usual have a sense of weight to them as they offer up high-stakes family drama and arms-dealing morality plays. In contrast, A Simple Investigation feels relatively low key. It is not an episode with profound consequences or shocking revelations.

Instead, A Simple Investigation plays as a small-scale cyberpunk noir romance in which Odo falls head-over-heels in love with a guest star whom he will never see again. With all the chaos unfolding across the length and breadth of the fifth season, A Simple Investigation feels surprisingly… simple. The problems of these little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, but A Simple Investigation still takes the time to fixate upon them.

Star struck.

Star struck.

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

From a mechanical perspective, The Begotten is very much about clearing up the leftover pieces from the first half of the season before the second half can really begin.

Watching the fifth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine with the benefit of hindsight demonstrates just how carefully the production team have paced the season. The fifth season clearly turns on a number of different points, pivoting over In Purgatory’s Shadow and By Inferno’s Light in the middle of the year. However, a lot of the first half of the season can be seen as a build to that two-parter. The production team are very consciously lining up the remaining dominoes for that big plot development.

A life in his hands.

A life in his hands.

The most obvious example is the prophecy of Rapture, which foreshadows the events of both By Inferno’s Light and Call to Arms while keeping Bajor neutral for what is to come. But there are others. Apocalypse Rising folds the Klingon War into the looming battle with the Dominion. The Ship and … Nor the Battle to the Strong are proofs of concept for a Star Trek series about war. Things Past and The Darkness and the Light keep the Cardassian Occupation fresh in the viewers’ mind. The Ascent is a story that could only work while Odo is humanoid.

There is a clear purpose to most of the storytelling decisions made during this stretch of the season, designed to streamline what is to come. The Begotten takes care of two rather major plot points that need to be addressed; Odo’s status as a humanoid following Broken Link and Kira’s surrogate pregnancy from Body Parts. Sure, For the Uniform sits between this episode and the big mid-season twist, providing the opportunity to do one last Maquis story before the political board is reset. But that feels almost like an afterthought.

Soaking it in.

Soaking it in.

The Begotten dedicates itself to wrapping up the two biggest plot elements hanging over from the end of the fourth season, closing that chapter of the show before a new one is opened. There is a certain functional quality to The Begotten, a utilitarian approach to plotting. It would be very easy for The Begotten to feel stale or trite, contrived or obligatory. It is to the credit of writer René Echevarria that The Begotten never feels forced. The subplot focusing on Kira’s birth has a number of very serious issues, but the primary plot driven by Odo is genuinely affecting.

It is a testament to the writers working on Deep Space Nine that even the act of decluttering the long-form narrative can lead to affecting television.

Free as a bird.

Free as a bird.

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Oasis (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This January, we’re doing the first season. Check back daily for the latest review.

Oasis is an interesting story.

It was also an interesting story that time it was produced as Shadowplay during the second season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Ghosts of Star Trek's past...

Ghosts of Star Trek’s past…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Search, Part I (Review)

The 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.

The Search, Part I is interesting. It is an episode that, in effect, serves as something of a second pilot for the show. It’s an episode that re-conceptualises the show, while taking a great deal of trouble to ensure that any new viewers will be brought up to speed. In fact, The Search is a rather disjointed two-parter as a whole. The first part feels like a lot of set-up with a cliffhanger tacked on to the end of the episode, while the second part is very clearly its own story.

It makes sense. At this point, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the only Star Trek on television. It’s a period that doesn’t last, and which is really just a scheduling fluke. The show’s second season continued on past the airing of All Good Things…, the final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The third season began broadcasting before the airing of Caretaker, the pilot of Star Trek: Voyager. Star Trek: Generations was released somewhere in the middle. So the stretch where Deep Space Nine was “the only Trek on television” feels largely illusory.

Still, The Search, Part I feels like a conscious attempt to welcome any wayward Star Trek fans. Including, appropriately enough, new staff writer Ronald D. Moore.

Staring into space...

Staring into space…

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