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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Bar Association (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.

The politics of Star Trek can occasionally be difficult to pin down.

There are obvious reasons for this, of course. Television is a collaborative medium, the result of lots of different creative voices. It is hard to argue that Star Trek has an consistent set of politics, because those creative voices have very different politics. Even on the original show, episodes like Errand of Mercy and The Omega Glory suggested that Gene L. Coon and Gene Roddenberry had very different perspectives on the Vietnam War. Certainly, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine have very different viewpoints.

Don't beat yourself up, Quark...

Don’t beat yourself up, Quark. We have some Nausicaans to do it for you.

However, it is also the case that the franchise has always been quite careful when engaging with political discourse, particularly in the context of its nineties incarnation. The myth of Star Trek paints the show as progressive and liberal, but the truth is that the series rarely broke new ground in the nineties and into the new millennium. Episodes like Rejoined and Judgment were very much the exception rather than the rule, engaging with big political and social issues in a very clear manner. A lot of the time, the franchise played it fairly safe.

That is part of what makes Bar Association such an interesting episode of television. As with Rejoined, there is a sense that the Star Trek franchise should take the liberal politics of Bar Association for granted. After all, while there is some ambiguity as to exactly what form of economic theory is employed by the Federation, it certainly isn’t capitalism. However, it is interesting to hear the franchise (perhaps literally in this case) put its money where its mouth is, allowing a major character to quote Marx and Engels.

Strike while the bar is hot...

Strike while the bar is hot…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Little Green Men (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.

Little Green Men might just be the best Ferengi episode from the seven-year run of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

It helps that the episode is very clearly a passion project for writers Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe. More than any other Star Trek show, Deep Space Nine had a deep and abiding affection for classic cinema. Michael Piller might have tried to steer the first two seasons of Star Trek: Voyager back to classic western storytelling tropes, while Rick Berman and Brannon Braga might have promised that Star Trek: Enterprise would be a “back to basics” reimagining of the show, but Deep Space Nine was a show that adored old-school Hollywood.

Quark's Family Vacation...

Quark’s Family Vacation…

This was reflected in a number of ways. In Past Tense, Part II, B.C. planned to escape to Tasmania because Errol Flynn was born there. There was also the fact that Ira Steven Behr could never resist the lure of a good homage to classic cinema – even when it was not the best of ideas. Meridian was written as an attempt to adapt Brigadoon to the Star Trek universe; Fascination was based on the 1935 adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s DreamRules of Acquisition was basically YentlProfit and Loss was Casablanca.

It seemed almost inevitable that at some stage the cast and crew of Deep Space Nine would find themselves colliding with classic Hollywood.

"Well, it's not a saucer..."

“Well, it’s not a saucer…”

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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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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Rules of Acquisition (Review)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is twenty years old this year. To celebrate, I’m taking a look at the first season. Check back daily for the latest review or retrospective.

The Nagus was a surprising high-point of the first season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It represented a conscious effort to rehabilitate and reappraise the Ferengi, the aliens introduced as potentially major adversaries in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, only to wind up as mostly unfunny comic relief. The Nagus dared to suggest that the Ferengi might not be the monsters the Federation considers them to be, suggesting that their culture – while different – was no less worthy of respect or consideration than that of the Klingons.

Rules of Acquisition is a clear follow-up, right down to the way that it includes Grand Nagus Zek. However, it’s nowhere near as charming and successful as The Nagus, because it feels like it’s just treading water. It teases potential developments down the line, but the story seems locked in a familiar holding pattern – right down to the rather convenient ending that inevitably sees Quark snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

It’s not quite a bad episode, certainly not on the scale of the colossal misfire that was Melora, but it’s also not a particularly good one.

Nothing to see here...

Nothing to see here…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Siege (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.

The Siege wraps up the first ever three-part episode of Star Trek in a surprisingly efficient manner. There are a few missteps, a lack of nuance and an over abundance of convenience and simplicity. However, it succeeds in doing what this opening three-parter set out to do. It tells a single story which could only ever have been told on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It gives a sense of scale to the show which is unique to the series, and it creates a palpable sense of uncertainty about the Federation’s mission to Bajor.

"He's letting me know, he'll be back..."

“He’s letting me know, he’ll be back…”

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Annihilators (Review/Retrospective)

It’s a bit of a shame that Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s run on Marvel’s “cosmic” comics ended up ending like this – whimpering away rather than finishing with a bang. The pair have been responsible for one of the most cohesive and entertaining aspects of Marvel’s publishing line over the past half-decade, producing some of the best events in recent years, and even providing the Guardians of the Galaxy run that will (apparently) inspire the upcoming blockbuster. I sincerely hope to see an omnibus collection of that run. However, Lanning and Abnett seem to fade from the scene, following up the climax to their cosmic events, The Thanos Imperative, with two Annihilators miniseries, the second of which didn’t sell well enough to merit a hardcover collection.

It’s a bit of a shame because, despite some admittedly serious flaws, their Annihilators four-issue miniseries actually has a lot of promise, and is something I wouldn’t have objected to seeing extended past the two miniseries.

Talk about an Ikon-oclast…

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