Advertisements
  • Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives

  • Awards & Nominations

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Behind the Lines (Review)

Behind the Lines is an exemplary demonstration of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s embrace of serialisation.

More than any other episode in the opening arc of the sixth season, Behind the Lines is an episode that exists in relation to the other episodes around it more than a self-contained unit of narrative. A Time to Stand set the tone for the final two seasons of the show, but its also featured a daring raid on a Dominion facility. Rocks and Shoals was about a ground conflict between Sisko and a Jem’Hadar platoon. Sons and Daughters was about Worf’s long-neglected relationship to Alexander. Favour the Bold and Sacrifice of Angels are an ambitious two-part finale.

Meldmerising...

Meldmerising…

In contrast, Behind the Lines is very much about taking what has already been established and streamlining it in preparation for the bombastic conclusion to this story. Behind the Lines is the episode in which Kira uses her “new resistance” formed in Rocks and Shoals to actually do something, in which Damar finally figures out how to dismantle the minefield that went up in Call to Arms, and in which Odo betrays his friends and colleagues in pursuit of his own gratification. More than any of the episodes around it, Behind the Lines cannot really stand in isolation.

However, it is also a stunningly brilliant piece of storytelling and a reminder of just how skilfully the writing staff on Deep Space Nine had adapted to the demands of serialisation.

Terror cell.

Terror cell.

Continue reading

Advertisements

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.

Continue reading

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – … Nor the Battle to the Strong (Review)

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.”

– Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms (1929)

Far a field.

Far afield.

Continue reading

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Facets (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.

Facets in more than a little muddled. It’s an episode that is all over the place. It’s a script that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be, leaning in one direction and then another. The episode’s big plot point isn’t dropped until half-way through, and there are any number of points where the script offers a feint towards a plot that never quite develops. As befitting a story called Facets, this is an episode with quite a few different (and often conflicting) sides.

It’s a disjointed little story, and perhaps an effective demonstration of just how much trouble the producers were having with Dax as a character. And yet, despite all this, Facets works surprisingly well. This is likely down to the fact that – like Playing God and arguably Blood Oath before it – it feels like a Dax story that is as interested in the character as it is in the concept.

A little piece of herself...

A little piece of herself…

Continue reading

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Improbable Cause (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.

Improbable Cause is an episode that should be a mess. It was originally conceived as a sort-of-sequel to Second Skin, building off Garak’s murder of Entek in that episode. The idea was that Garak would face the consequences of that action, with the Obsidian Order planning an assassination attempt. However, the script was incredibly difficult to break. The resolution felt contrived and forced, closing the story out with Garak blackmailing is adversaries into compliance using a never-before-referenced isolinear rod felt overly convenient.

With the script not working, desperate action was taken. It was decided to extend Improbable Cause into a two-parter at the last minute, tying it into the proposed sequel to Defiant. The decision was made so late in the production schedule that it was impossible to pull the script back out of production. Even though Improbable Cause aired after Through the Looking Glass, it was produced beforehand. Writer René Echevarria re-wrote the last two acts of Improbable Cause with The Die is Cast screenwriter Ronald D. Moore in a frenzy, to tie both parts together.

Everything burns...

Everything burns…

This is the very definition of “production nightmare.” It recalls one of those stories that you hear about blockbuster movies that start shooting without a finished script, or directors being locked out of the editing suite. By all accounts, Improbable Cause should have been a trainwreck held together by duct tape and good thoughts. Instead, there’s a credible argument that Improbable Cause is the strongest episode of the third season. It’s certainly the strongest episode broadcast since Star Trek: Voyager came on the air.

And that’s down to one simple fact: every single aspect of Improbable Cause works extraordinarily well.

Odo has the scent...

Odo has the scent…

Continue reading

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Destiny (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.

The biggest problem with Destiny is that it doesn’t feel fully-formed. The show plays more like a series of vignettes than a single story. There are some nice character beats, and a sense that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is an ensemble show, but Destiny meanders far too much. It seems like it wanders around without any singular purpose, any strong central point to tether it.

Is it about Sisko’s relation to the title of “Emissary”? Is about peace between Bajor and Cardassia? Is it about O’Brien and flirty Cardassians? Is it about Kira’s faith and her position on Deep Space Nine? Is it about end time prophecies?

It seems to be about all these things, but with no real commitment to any of them above the others. The end result is that it’s not about any of them particularly well.

Picture perfect...

Picture perfect…

Continue reading

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Equilibrium (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.

Equilibrium is another troubled Dax episode. Dax is probably the hardest character on the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine cast to write for, if only because of the character’s central premise. “Well-adjusted functionally immortal alien slug inside a young woman’s body” is a nice character description, but it’s hard to ground a character-driven story in that. It’s tempting just to turn the Dax symbiote into a convenient macguffin that can drive various plots.

To date, Playing God is really the only Dax-centred episode of Deep Space Nine that has placed the emphasis on Jadzia rather than the slug inside here. (Although Blood Oath did at least try to deal with how a current Trill host deals with obligations incurred by past lives.) In Dax, the symbiote was a gateway to a pretty conventional and generic murder mystery story. In Invasive Procedures, the symbiote was something particularly valuable to be stolen and exploited.

The biggest problem with Equilibrium is that – like Dax and Invasive Procedures before it – the episode uses the Dax symbiote as a springboard to a story that is more driven by Sisko and Bashir than it is by Jadzia Dax. While Equilibrium does have a great hook and some biting social commentary, Dax feels more like a plot point than a character in her own right.

Shocking behaviour...

Shocking behaviour…

Continue reading