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Star Trek: The Next Generation – A Matter of Honour (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 second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation might be a bit rough around the edges (among other places), but there’s still a sense that the show is trying to improve itself, struggling to find its own voice. Most of the first season seemed content to offer a pale imitation of the classic Star Trek show, ignoring the fact that a lot had changed in the two decades since Kirk and Spock took to the air.

A Matter of Honour is an example of The Next Generation engaging the late eighties instead of trying to evoke the lost spirit of the sixties. Taking the “Klingons as Communists” metaphor as far as it could logically go, and serving as a companion piece to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, A Matter of Honour is a tale of deep space détente.

Guess who's going to dinner where?

Guess who’s going to dinner where?

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Season 2 (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.

Well, that’s more like it. The second season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine might not rank with the very best of the franchise, but it doesn’t have to. Deep Space Nine is still a young show, and Star Trek spin-offs have a long history of taking their time to find their feet. The second season of Deep Space Nine contains its fair share of classic or memorable episodes, but it’s defined by a sense that the producers are still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

While the first season occasionally felt like the series was stumbling back towards safety, trying to become a lighter version of Star Trek: The Next Generation as faith in its premise wavered, the second season is a lot more confident in itself. It’s willing to play around a bit to figure out how to be the show that it wants to be. And there’s a sense, as the season winds to a close, that we’re almost there.

By the time we hit the second half of the season, it seems the show has learned to churn out inoffensive episodes that feel unique and distinctively Deep Space Nine – episodes like Playing God or Shadowplay. However, it’s in the final third that the show seems to figure out how make truly great episodes of Deep Space Nine.

ds9-playinggod22

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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 – Tribunal (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.

Tribunal is probably the weakest episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in quite some time, hampered by the fact that it never seems too ambitious and the fact that the episode ends because we’re three minutes away from the closing credits rather than because it feels like the story has been told. Tribunal is hardly the deepest or most sophisticated episode of the show’s second season, spending most of its time riffing on Kafka and Orwell, but it’s still solidly entertaining – a rare example of black comedy on Star Trek that works surprisingly well.

I suspect the biggest problem with Tribunal is where it’s placed. The second season of Deep Space Nine has been hitting it out of the park since around Blood Oath, giving us the strongest run of episodes we’d see until the start of the fourth season. Indeed, had the show found its groove a little bit earlier, the second season of Deep Space Nine could have been on par with the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation as “that season the show found its groove.”

However, it remains an impressive run of episodes, a rallying of the show in the last third of the season, showing just what Deep Space Nine was capable of. Most of the episodes in that run felt very different from anything done on The Next Generation and most offered some major insight into how the world of Deep Space Nine works as distinct from the rest of the franchise.

A broad cast of characters...

A broad cast of characters…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Collaborator (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.

It’s surprising how long we’ve had since a solid Bajoran episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Barring the dark reflection of Bajor as a power-broker (and brief allusion to a colony in the Gamma Quadrant) in Crossover, the last episode to really explore the planet’s political and religious structure was probably Sanctuary, which aired more than half a season earlier. After a reasonably high concentration of Bajoran political adventures in the first season and the first half of the second, it seems that further explorations will be more broadly spaced.

Indeed, the first season ended (and the second season began) with a five-episode run that was heavily anchored in the show’s Bajoran surroundings. However, as of late, it feels we’ve been strangely disengaged from the show’s stated objective of welcoming Bajor to the Federation. With episodes like The Maquis, it seems like the show is making a conscious effort to disentangle Cardassian politics from those of Bajor.

In a way, this probably represents Deep Space Nine growing into the form that it will take for the rest of its run. The second season has really been about Deep Space Nine figuring out what it wants to be, and what it doesn’t want to be. With The Collaborator‘s focus on Bajoran politics feeling conspicuous by the lack of other Bajor-centric episodes in this half of the season, it seems like Deep Space Nine doesn’t want to be a show about Bajor.

Enough rope to hang himself...

Enough rope to hang himself…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Crossover (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.

At the time, Crossover must have seemed like a very odd choice for a late-second-season episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Of course, the mirror universe episodes would become a quasi-annual occurrence on the show, similar to the “O’Brien must suffer” adventures. However, in May 1994, it must have seemed like a really strange choice to do an entire episode as a sequel to a much-loved second-season installment of the original Star Trek.

Still, Crossover remains the strongest of Deep Space Nine‘s mirror universe episodes, most notably because it treats the rather absurd premise with a certain amount of weight and integrity, but also because it feels so delightfully weird.

Half the cast has been waiting two years to do that...

Half the cast has been waiting two years to do that…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Maquis, Part II (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.

Oddly enough, for an episode designed to serve as a launching pad for Star Trek: Voyager, The Maquis, Part II really feels like the point where Star Trek: Deep Space Nine becomes Ira Steven Behr’s show. Deep Space Nine had been created by Michael Piller and Rick Berman. While Berman oversaw the franchise as a whole, Piller had been a guiding influence during the first two seasons of Deep Space Nine. However, his attention would wander to both Voyager and the pending films based on the Star Trek: The Next Generation film franchise.

As a result, producer Ira Steven Behr would be left in the driving seat of Deep Space Nine. Behr had some experience with the franchise. he was part of the wonderful writers’ room responsible for the massive upswing in the quality of The Next Generation, but left after a year on that show – describing it as “the Connecticut of Star Trek.” Years later, he was aggressively pursued by Piller to work on Deep Space Nine, where Piller felt his philosophy might be more at home.

The Maquis, Part II is far from Behr’s first writing credit on the show, and it’s certainly not the first time his influence has been felt. It is, however, the point at which it feels like Behr’s creative vision is firmly cemented the show’s outlook. Piller would move further away over the course of the next year, and Behr’s influence would grow even stronger, but this is the point where Behr’s vision of Deep Space Nine really takes hold.

Burning bridges...

Burning bridges…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Maquis: Soldier of Peace (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.

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

The Maquis: Soldier of Peace is a rather interesting little miniseries, produced while Malibu comics held the rights to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine spin-off comics in the early nineties. Malibu owned the rights to the earliest comics, publishing just over thirty issues of the main Deep Space Nine title between August 1993 and December 1995. Due to Paramount’s desire to exploit the license as much as possible, Malibu only had access to the Deep Space Nine rights, and not to Star Trek: The Next Generation or the original Star Trek.

Malibu would eventually be bought by Marvel, allowing the company to briefly publish Star Trek comics related to all on-going series. However, the company managed to generate an impressive amount of content in the time that it held the rights. Cynics would suggest that company was trying to cash in on the comics boom of the nineties, trying all manner of gimmicks, including one-shots and even a “celebrity” prestige series featuring stories written by Mark Lenard or Aron Eisenberg.

As such, these comics offer an interesting snapshot of where Deep Space Nine was at this point in its history.

The three amigos...

The three amigos…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Maquis, Part I (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 Maquis is an interesting episode, because it really illustrates the weird place that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine holds in the pantheon. It’s the middle act of an arc designed to play out across the final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the second season of Deep Space Nine and into the first year of Star Trek: Voyager. This was all part of gigantic lead-up to Voyager, a way for the producers to generate friction between the regular cast of the show.

However, with The Next Generation ending and Voyager being set on the other side of the galaxy, Deep Space Nine wound up stuck with this plot thread. As Michael Piller concedes in The Deep Space Log Book: A Second Season Companion, “DS9 is the true inheritor of the Maquis since there is no long term benefit to Voyager.” And so – despite the fact the Maquis were never intended for the show – they wind up become a perfect vehicle to explore the show’s world view.

Picard's not the only one who can get a good face palm going on...

Picard’s not the only one who can get a good face palm going on…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Playing God (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.

Playing God is – structurally – quite similar to Shadowplay. The episode follows the same basic format. We have three plots running concurrently. One of these plots is a science-fiction plot while the other two are centred around character development. What’s interesting about Playing God is that the script essentially changes the priority of these plot threads. In Shadowplay, the central plot concerned the science-fiction mystery in the Gamma Quadrant, while here the ethical quandary is pushed firmly to the background. (Much to the chagrin of writer Jim Trombetta.)

Instead, Playing God brings the character plotline to the front, giving us the first Dax-centric episode firmly based around Jadzia rather than the symbiote inside of her.

Quark smells a rat... er... I mean vole...

Quark smells a rat… er… I mean vole…

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