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New Podcast! The Pensky File – Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Season 3, Episode 9 (“Defiant”)

This weekend, I had the pleasure of dropping by The Pensky Files to discuss one of the more interesting episodes of the third season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Defiant is a gleefully insane episode of Star Trek, in which William Riker’s evil transporter duplicate hijacks the Defiant to lead a mission into the heart of Cardassian territory to expose a government conspiracy that might threaten the security of the entire Alpha Quadrant. Along the way, there’s discussions of terrorism and heroism, of missed family birthdays, and of just how absurd Picard’s log entries must sound when they are read aloud.

It was a pleasure to record with Wes and Clay, diving deep on everything from Riker’s “woman in need of relaxation”-dar to the franchise’s complicated attitude towards the Maquis. You can find more from The Pensky Podcast here, and listen to the podcast by clicking the link or just listening below.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Defiant (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.

Defiant is a cheeky piece of work.

On the surface, it appears to be a rather lame bit of cross-promotion for the release of Star Trek: Generations. The first movie featuring the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation had opened three-days before Defiant aired, and so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get a nice cameo from a well-loved cast member and remind audiences that the film was currently in cinemas. Jonathan Frakes is a likeable actor, and Riker has been used as an ambassador for the series before. He appeared in Cybill, after all.

However, then Defiant takes one sharp left-turn, massively upsetting expectations and becoming something a lot more interesting than a cross-media tie-in.

Guess who's coming to Quark's...

Guess who’s coming to Quark’s…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Best of Both Worlds, Part II (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

The Best of Both Worlds, Part II was always going to feel like a bit of an anti-climax. After all, the show had spent so much time building up the Borg as this implacable and undefeatable adversary. In Q Who?, it had taken the interference of a god-like entity to allow the Enterprise a chance to escape their unstoppable foe. In The Best of Both Worlds, Part I, the Enterprise had been able to run for a while – but the Borg eventually caught up with them and took what they wanted.

Since The Best of Both Worlds, Part II was never going to end with the Borg destroying Earth, and since Star Trek: The Next Generation was never going to be a show willing to exact a dramatic cost high enough to justify victory against such overwhelming odds, the resolution to the two-parter was never going to live up to the heightened drama and impossible stakes suggested by The Best of Both Worlds, Part I.

Still, the second part of the adventure is charming and exciting enough that it never completely falls apart. While the resolution to the crisis does seem a little trite and convenient, The Best of Both Worlds hangs together as the show’s best two-part adventure until at least Chain of Command in the sixth season.

A Number One fan?

A Number One fan?

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Imzadi by Peter David (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

As far as tie-in novels for Star Trek: The Next Generation go, Imzadi is the big one. It’s Peter David’s magnum opus for The Next Generation – a wonderfully clever character study that allows David to bask in the character dynamics of the show, while playing with big ideas and grand themes. It’s very easily the strongest Next Generation novel published while the show was on television, and remains a strong contender for the best Next Generation novel ever published.

tng-imzadi

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Defector (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

The Defector is the script that earned Ronald D. Moore his place on the writing staff of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The writer had contributed the first script produced by Michael Piller, The Bonding, but it was his second pitch – improvised in the heat of the moment – that cemented Moore’s place with the franchise. He would stay on The Next Generation until it finished, before moving on to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and eventually Star Trek: Voyager, although he departed Voyager quite quickly.

Although Moore retains the credit on the finished episode, apparently – like so many third season scripts – the final draft of The Defector was a collaborative effort involving the whole writing staff. The episode, the first instalment of The Next Generation to air in the nineties, turned out surprisingly well. Indeed, The Defector is one of the strongest episodes of a very strong season.

A defective defector?

A defective defector?

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Up the Long Ladder (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

It’s been a while since Star Trek: The Next Generation has been openly offensive. So, just in case you’d forgotten that this was the same production staff that gave us “Riker beams down to a planet of beautiful women and screws their heads on straight” or “Troi’s womb is occupied by an alien intelligence, isn’t that cute?”, the writing staff have conspired to remind us that just because prejudice doesn’t exist in the 24th century (tell that to the Ferengi!) doesn’t mean that it can’t exist inside a late twentieth century writing room.

Begosh and begorrah! The space Oirish are coming!

"Wait, we're actually filming this?"

“Wait, we’re actually filming this?”

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Star Trek: The Next Generation (DC) Annual #2 – Thin Ice (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

Riker is a character caught between a rock and a hard place. According to the series bible, Riker was imagined as one of the “dual lead characters” for the show and clearly envisioned as an impulsive and brilliant Kirk to Picard’s more rational and stoic Spock. However, it didn’t quite work out that way, for a number of reasons. For one thing, the writing on the early years of Star Trek: The Next Generation tended to be a bit more sterile and bland, so Riker was never really allowed to step too far out of Picard’s shadow.

Instead, we got lots of characters talking about how ambitious Riker was, without seeing it for ourselves. It’s implied that Riker’s career led him to separate from Troi, something Peter David ran with in Imzadi. Everybody is constantly telling everybody else how Riker desperately wants to be a starship commander. And yet, when it come to the actual characterisation of Riker on the show, none of this shines through.

Due to the constraints imposed on the early years, interpersonal conflict was impossible in early Next Generation scripts, putting Riker in a paradoxical position as a character. We’re repeatedly told how ambitious and career-orientated he is, but none of that shines through.

Dead space...

Dead space…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Icarus Factor (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

The Icarus Factor is a character-driven story. At least, it wants to be a character-driven story. The problem is that Star Trek: The Next Generation hasn’t reached the point where it can really do character-driven storytelling with a measure of consistence. (The fact that Picard confronting his future failures in Time Squared worked was more down to Patrick Stewart than the episode’s script.)

The Icarus Factor is a story focusing on Riker as a character, and it suffers from the fact that Riker hasn’t really been well-defined to date. We’re repeatedly told that he’s ambitious and career-driven, but most his on-screen characterisation has fluctuated between reckless, jerkish and horny. So The Icarus Factor tries to compensate by giving Riker the most generic back story possible for a lead male character on a television show.

This is the story of Riker’s daddy issues.

Somehow, this image just sums up Riker as a character...

Somehow, this image just sums up Riker as a character…

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Star Trek: The Lost Era – Deny Thy Father by Jeff Mariotte (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

In theory, you can probably tell a good story about just about anything. There’s a knack to constructing a narrative and in making particular characters fascinating or compelling. In the right hands, even the most tired and boring premise can generate some measure of excitement and over a glimpse of depth that we never thought was there. For example, I didn’t come out of Star Trek: Generations thinking that I’d ever read a classic story about John Harriman, and then I read the superb Serpents Among the Ruins.

However, some ideas strike you as a little less exciting than others. Some concepts seem a bit riskier to pull off, a bit more daunting in scope. Constructing a compelling narrative around the youth of Commander William T. Riker, probably one of the blandest members of the Star Trek: The Next Generation ensemble, seems like an uphill struggle.

Unfortunately, Jeff Mariote’s Deny Thy Father isn’t up to the task of making the boring father-son relationship glimpsed in The Icarus Factor seem any more exciting.

tng-denythyfather

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Measure of a Man: Extended Cut (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

This is a rare treat.

The Measure of a Man is generally regarded as one of the best episodes that Star Trek: The Next Generation ever produced, and a crown jewel in the entire Star Trek franchise. As such, it’s a prime candidate for this sort of lavish restoration treatment, with the blu ray collection featuring not only the televised version of the episode, but a special extended edition.

This extended edition was the version originally filmed and edited together, until the production team realised that it ran almost a quarter-of-an-hour over the slot allocated to the show on syndicated airing.

tng-themeasureofaman23

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